Lifestyle

November 2021 Early Retirement Update – Turkey Time Edition

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Another fun and busy month of early retired life is in the books! During the past month, we hosted a big Thanksgiving celebration at our house. Since the weather was nice in November, we spent a lot of time outdoors. 

I really stretched my DIY muscles in November too. I got out the power tools and replaced some trim on the porch and the shed, then painted all the new trim along with repainting the crawl space door, mailbox, and bathroom ceiling. 

In less than two weeks, we are looking forward to escaping the ever-colder temperatures with a cruise to the Caribbean during Christmas. It’ll happen. I think. Fingers crossed.

Financially, last month was a “rebuilding month” for us. Net worth dropped by $49,000 to end the month at $2,715,000. Income during the month totaled $2,822 while expenses were $4,361 during November. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

Income

Investment income totaled $88 in November. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, we had a low investment income last month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income totaled $1,166 for the month. This is a little lower than the recent average income. But over the years, the trendline on my blogging income has dropped as I have posted less frequently. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) totaled $300 in November. I only completed one consulting session of two hours in length. I don’t mind the reprieve after a few rather busy months. I had some other projects like the DIY home repairs to keep me busy! 

Tradeline sales income was $975 in November. I ramped up my tradeline sales last year and discussed it in a bit more detail in my October 2020 monthly post and in my July 2021 monthly post. Of that $975 total payment, $100 came from referrals that signed up with Boost Credit 101 and mentioned “Root of Good” as a referrer. Thanks to all of you that did so. And good luck making money with tradelines! 

For November, my “deposit income” totaled $106. Of this total, $30 came from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Rakuten.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links). 

If you sign up for Rakuten through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Rakuten, you’ll get a $10 sign up bonus

The remaining “deposit income” included $41 from a Google Pay promotion and a referral bonus for Mrs. Root of Good opening a new Google Pay account. The other $35 of deposit income came from various Chase Offers on my Chase credit cards. Chase gave me $25 for buying $250 of gift cards at Best Buy and another $10 for joining Sam’s Club. The membership itself was free, since Sam’s also sent me a $45 e-gift card as a sign up bonus. 

My Youtube earnings were $186 last month. Here is the channel for the curious. It’s random travel videos, birds, kids, and a couple of DIY videos. There are only a few main videos that bring in most of the traffic (and revenue!).

If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Personal Capital is also a solid tool for investment management. Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks. If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today (review here).

Tracking spending was one of the critical steps I took that allowed me to retire at 33. And it’s now easier than ever with Personal Capital.

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at November expenses:


 

In total, we spent $4,361 during November which is about $1,000 more than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Travel and “general merchandise” were the top two spending categories for last month. 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

Travel – $1,739:

I loaded up on $1,850 worth of Airbnb gift cards during November for $1,739 (plus some free groceries). I usually buy when I can find them for 10% off or more. Our local grocery store offered $25 of free groceries when buying $100 of Airbnb gift cards, so I did that deal a total of eight times in November, along with some other Airbnb gift card discount deals.

We typically use several thousand dollars in Airbnb credit during a normal summer vacation, so these credits won’t go to waste. Right now we have accumulated almost $4,000 in airbnb credits.

At the moment, we are in a holding pattern with our summer 2022 Eastern European vacation planning. We definitely want to go but definitely don’t want to lose hundreds (or thousands) on non-refundable fees and deposits. 

So far, we are keeping everything fully refundable. I have the plane tickets and a month-long rental car booked. I can cancel them all with no penalty. I’ll probably start booking Airbnb lodging in January assuming everything appears to be open for business next summer. 

The only constant I can rely on is uncertainty at this point, so we are hoping and planning as best as we can. 

No need to travel anywhere to watch the wildlife. Just take a look out back.

General Merchandise – $760:

As part of the “general merchandise” spending, I bought $800 worth of Walmart gift cards at a discounted price of $760. We spend quite a bit at Walmart so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about using up this humongous gift card balance. 

One of the purchases we made using these gift cards was his-and-hers DNA tests for us. They were $48 each during Walmart’s Cyber Monday sale. Let’s see what interesting results we get! 

Groceries – $537:

Our grocery spending is slowly trending back down toward the $600 per month that we used to spend a year or two ago. I don’t think we’ll ever get back there long term given the recent food inflation, but at least we aren’t seeing the ~$900 grocery bills from August and September! 

This month’s rather modest $537 grocery bill is lower than normal thanks to gift card promotions that saved us close to $200 (mentioned in the preceding “Travel” category). 

I haven’t done the math, but I imagine hosting our big family Thanksgiving meal at our house actually saved us money compared to normal months. Hear me out – turkey is cheap and a TON of food. We got a 24 pound bird for $0.29 per pound. That’s only $7 for a huge chunk of meat! And all the fixings and side dishes are mostly cheap ingredients, too.

By “cheap” I mean that Thanksgiving food is cheap compared to the imported Asian ingredients and steak that we eat quite a bit of for normal meals. 

We fed twenty three people for Thanksgiving and sent everyone home with leftovers. Then we still had about seven pounds of leftover turkey. We ate the leftover turkey for a couple of meals and I recycled it into turkeychiladas as well. 

24 pound bird, brined to deliciousness.
The full Thanksgiving spread. Somewhat of a potluck Thanksgiving since family brought some dishes too.
Banh Xeo, papaya salad, steak, burgers, and ribs. Good food at our nephew’s going away party.

Electronics – $387:

I bought a new computer from Costco similar to this one (but with a newer processor). Just a basic lightweight 14″ laptop that I can use around the house and tote with me on my travels. It was $350 plus $10 shipping and a bit more for tax. The nice thing about “cheap” computers is that if they are stolen or damaged when we travel, they aren’t too expensive to replace. 

Gifts – $266:

Tons of gifts for our kids and the rest of the family. I cannot disclose what these secret gifts are but let me just say I personally think there are a bit too many plushies in the gift budget this year. But I wasn’t in charge of the gift-buying so I am not allowed to complain! 🙂  

Insurance – $234:

The six-month auto insurance bill for me and Mrs. Root of Good came due in November. We haven’t added our 16 year old to the insurance yet because we have been unsuccessful in finding a reasonably priced car for her. Eventually she will get her full driver’s license and we’ll add her to the insurance at a cost of approximately $75 per month (or so we have been told). 

Utilities – $196:

The total utility spending was $196 last month.

We spent $69 on the electric bill and $127 for the water/sewer/trash bill. I paid $23 toward the November natural gas bill during October, so it’s not reflected in this month’s utility spending. 

We didn’t use the air conditioning at all in November so the electric bill was lower than it has been over the past several months. Natural gas expenses will increase in the winter as we use the heat more frequently. 

Fall is here. Time to crank the heat. And escape to the Caribbean.

Clothing/Shoes – $116:

Winter coats for four of us plus some other cold weather apparel. We found a good deal at a local store. Otherwise the coats would have been a couple hundred dollars at least. 

Restaurants – $52:

I spent $41 for a $50 gift card for a pizza place from Raise.com.

We also got a tray of donuts and pastries from Baker’s Dozen Donuts in Cary for $11. Best place in town (and they have a Raleigh location, too). 

Gas – $47:

I filled up the van with gas that cost just under $3 per gallon. Quite a deal given rising gas prices these days!

Education – $31:

The yearbook for our son’s elementary school was $20. His class field trip fee was $11. 

Babysitting our one year old niece. She’s a handful!

Home Maintenance – $0:

I spent $90 at Lowe’s to buy primer, paint, painting supplies, and a few trim boards. I used a Lowe’s gift card I bought at a discount a while ago to cover these items. So the reported cost for November is $0. 

I got the job done. And the weather was nice!

Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $0:

Our current 2021 healthcare premiums are $1.15 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$45,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. I paid for December in a previous month, so there is no cost for December. 

The “American Rescue Plan Act” passed in March 2021 makes the Affordable Care Act premiums even cheaper through 2022. Households with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) below 150% of the federal poverty level get some silver-level health insurance plans completely free. We opted for a slightly more expensive silver plan that comes with $1,000 in cash back incentive rewards. Our total cost is just over $1 per month now!

Cable/Satellite – $0:

We generally pay $18 per month for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload. Right now the cost of the internet service is temporarily reduced to $0 due to the “Emergency Broadband Benefit”. 

Another beautiful sunset over our lake

Total Spending for 2021 – Year to Date

Our spending totaled $28,428 for the first eleven months of the year. This is about $8,000 less than the $36,667 we budgeted for eleven months of spending in our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

We are still on track to finish the year under our $40,000 yearly budget.

In December, we’ll pay our small property tax bill along with approximately $1,000 in various spending for our Christmas cruise vacation. 

When we get back from the cruise, we will continue our travel bookings for summer 2022 in Europe. We’ll probably spend around $4,000 to $5,000 on lodging and $1,000 for a rental car and some bus tickets. Most of the remaining lodging expenses will hit the accounts in 2022 since we probably won’t get around to booking anything until January. And the first $4,000 of Airbnbs will be covered by gift cards in our possession already. 

The used car search has been unfruitful so far. I still can’t part with $10,000 or more for an old beater, so hopefully used car prices will be more reasonable in 2022 as supply chains reopen and the government stimmies disappear. 

College costs look to be minimal throughout 2022, since the FAFSA results indicate we’ll get enough to cover the full cost of community college plus books starting in the fall of 2022. College costs may increase beginning in 2023, however we have dedicated 529 savings that should cover most of the costs. 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2021:

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

Another fun night by the campfire down by the lake.

Net Worth: $2,715,000 (-$49,000)

We were up $77,000 in October then down $49,000 in November. Our investments are bouncing around quite a bit right now. Our total net worth ended the month at $2,715,000 which is more than plenty to fund our modest living expenses in early retirement. No worrying about the stock market over here! 

For the curious, our net worth reported above includes our home value (which is fully paid off). However, please note that I don’t consider my home value as part of my portfolio for “4% rule” calculation purposes. I realize folks ask me about that every month so I just wanted to state that here for clarity.

Life update

What to say? Another successful month of early retirement! 

We were very happy to host a big family Thanksgiving at our house this year. Last year, we had to cancel the 2020 Thanksgiving celebration at our house at the last minute. Case numbers kept rising and it felt like the prudent thing to do at the time. So it’s good that things are getting back to normal for us. 

This year we set up a bunch of tables and chairs outside so we could congregate in the fresh air. The kids had a good time playing basketball and corn hole and running around the yard. The old people sat around and embraced the post-turkey food-coma. 

Family relaxing outside at Thanksgiving.
These kids were really relaxing!

Looking to the near future, our family is excited to finally get back on a cruise ship in less than two weeks. It has been over two years since any of us have been on a cruise, so we are ready for it! I’m still not 100% sure it will actually happen but it’s looking very likely at this point. 

Tune in next month to see if we actually get to sail around the Caribbean or if we spend Christmas at home! 

Happy holidays to all! Any last minute money moves you’re doing during the remaining weeks of 2021? 

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