Lifestyle

April 2023 Early Retirement Update – Party Edition

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Welcome back to another monthly update from Root of Good. We had another busy month in April here at home in Raleigh. Between hosting Easter and a birthday party at our house, and a few appliances breaking, we were glad to be early retired. No time for work! 

As this post goes live, we have less than a month until we take off for our two month summer vacation in Argentina and Brazil. All the big details are booked but we still have to research things to do in the areas we are visiting. On top of all the vacation excitement, our middle child graduates high school the day before we hop on the plane to South America! My guess is that this coming month will also be rather busy for us.

April was a good month for our finances. Our net worth climbed slightly by $48,000 to end April at $2,761,000. Our income totaled $2,062, while our spending was lower at $1,566 for the entire month of April. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

Income

Investment income totaled $388 in April. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, we had a small amount of investment income last month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income totaled $1,031 for the month. Included in this total is a double payment from one advertiser that covers two months of earnings. As a result, next month’s blog income will be slightly lower than normal.

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) was $339 in April. That amount represents two hours of consulting during April. Thank goodness my consulting business was slow because we were busy enough with other things going on last month!

Tradeline sales income totaled $125 in April. Overall, my tradeline income has slowed down in recent months. I ramped up my tradeline sales in 2020 and discussed it in a bit more detail in my October 2020 monthly post and in my July 2021 monthly post

For January, my “deposit income” totaled $28. This comes 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

March Youtube income was $149. Youtube only pays out when you exceed $100 in accumulated revenue. Recently, my Youtube earnings have been just under $100 per month on average, so I only get paid every other month. 

Here is the Youtube 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 Empower Personal Dashboard, formerly known as 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 Empower Personal Dashboard. We have accounts all over the place, and Empower Personal Dashboard makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Empower Personal Dashboard 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 Empower Personal Dashboard 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 Empower Personal Dashboard.

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at April expenses:

In total, we spent $1,566 during April which is about half of our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Groceries and utilities were the two highest categories of spending in April.

Detailed breakdown of spending:

Groceries – $872:

Another expensive month of groceries, at $872. We held two big family gatherings at our house during April, so this increased our food costs to some extent. We also stocked up on some staples like 2 fifty pound sacks of the good “imported from Thailand” rice. 

Food for our big family Easter gathering. Please make note of the name brand Pepsi in the rear of the counter. We are living large! (They were on sale for $0.99 each which is cheaper than the store brand sodas)

Utilities – $380:

We spent $146 last month for our water/sewer/trash bill. 

The electricity charges totaled $156 for the April and May bills. I paid the May bill on the last day of April so we ended up paying two months of electricity bills during the month of April.

The natural gas bill, which provides heating and hot water, totaled $80 for last month.

General Merchandise – $66:

Party supplies and gifts from various places. 

Gas – $57:

With our oldest teenager driving to college or work on an almost daily basis, we end up buying about one tank of gas each month now.

Our neighbor from the lake. A great blue heron perched on our back fence.

Automotive – $47:

Mrs. Root of Good’s driver’s license expires this summer, so we paid $47 to renew her license for another 8 years. Fortunately she could renew her license online since visiting the DMV in person is never pleasant. 

Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $47:

Our current 2023 health insurance costs $18 per month, thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$45,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. We didn’t have to pay the premium in December (for coverage during January) because we paid it in November. 

We signed up for 2023 dental insurance plans and paid a total of $29 in premiums during March.

I chose a very basic plan for $9 per month for me that covers most preventive care but no fillings. Mrs. Root of Good has a different set of dental needs than I do so we kept the more comprehensive $20 per month plan for her (same as 2022’s plan).

By buying insurance, we should save a couple hundred dollars on my dental care. For Mrs. Root of Good, we will still save a few dollars compared to paying cash for the preventive dentist visits throughout the year.

Travel – $36:

Our $36 in travel spending comes from the final set of tickets for our summer trip in South America. I bought 4 tickets from Foz do Iguazu, Brazil to Sao Paulo, Brazil using British Airways Avios points. The cost was 6,000 points per ticket plus $9 in taxes. 

The two months of Airbnbs that we booked in Argentina and Brazil were paid for using Airbnb gift cards that I got for free using my Chase Ultimate Rewards points and the “Pay Yourself Back” redemption option (no longer available for Airbnb gift cards). On average, we spent about $61 per day on the airbnbs in South America. Prices in LatAm are way more competitive than the lodging costs we experienced in Eastern Europe last summer.

If you are interested in getting free travel from your credit card like I do, consider the Chase Ink Unlimited or Chase Ink Cash business cards (my referral link). Right now the Chase Ink business cards offer 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed instantly for $750 in cash. Mrs. Root of Good and I each received our new Chase Ink Unlimited cards during December, and we just picked up a new Chase Ink Cash card during March. The bonuses keep on rolling in the door! 

Chase is pretty liberal when it comes to “what is a business”. If you sell stuff on eBay or Craigslist or do some odd jobs occasionally then you have a business and could get a credit card as a “sole proprietor”. 

Another favorite travel card in my wallet is the Capital One Venture X card. The Venture X card is a “keeper” for me. First off, it comes with a $750 sign up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. The bonus is paid in the form of 75,000 bonus points that you can redeem against any travel purchases from anywhere. Then you earn a solid 2 points per dollar spent forever! The other big perk is airport lounge access. You can get yourself plus unlimited guests into Priority Pass lounges. And you plus two guests can get into Plaza Premium network lounges and Capital One Lounges.

The Capital One Venture X card does have one catch – a $395 annual fee. But they reward you every year with an easy to use $300 travel credit plus $100 worth of points. Together, that makes $400 they give you annually which more than offsets the annual fee. Another benefit worth mentioning: you can add up to four authorized users for free, and they also get all the benefits of the Venture X card including the valuable airport lounge access. We used this perk to “gift” a pair of Venture X cards with airport lounge access to my brother in law and his wife to use on their family trip back home to Cambodia in April with their two young children. 

Since the annual fee is offset in full by travel credits each year, I personally plan on keeping the Venture X card forever since the card benefits are so great.

Home Maintenance – $35:

$26 for mulch and topsoil. $10 for a new dryer belt. 

It’s springtime, so Mrs. Root of Good has been busy in the yard. We got 10 bags of mulch for the front yard and some topsoil for our new flower bed where we relocated a bunch of these pink flowers.
“What was that noise?!” It turns out that noise we heard was the dryer belt breaking and flying apart inside the dryer. $10 for a new belt from ebay and a couple of youtube videos later, and the dryer got fixed.
I had to improvise a “European clothes dryer” in our backyard to get us through this difficult time. Our neighbor kept checking on us with great concern and offering to let us use her clothes dryer given the dire emergency we were facing. Fortunately we are experienced world travelers and know that clothes dryers are revered as a luxury item in most of the world. We know how to get by without one in a pinch since we rarely have a clothes dryer when traveling in Europe.
Our electric cooktop also malfunctioned last month. The large dual-element burner flaked out. Only the outside ring would get hot because the inside ring burned out. I have replaced this element once already and knew that the replacement part is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. In addition, Mrs. Root of Good HATES the flat cooktop because many of our pots aren’t perfectly flat so they do not heat up quickly. As a result, we replaced the flat cooktop with the old fashioned electric coil cooktop (used but in great condition; acquired free from a neighbor’s full kitchen renovation). A downgrade is an upgrade, in this case. Total cost: $0.

Restaurants – $29:

We got $29 worth of Chinese takeout. 

Cable/Satellite/Internet – $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 “Affordable Connectivity Program”. 

Bright yellow goldfinches on our bright yellow bird feeder

Year to Date Spending – 2023


 

We spent $8,341 during the first four months of 2023. This annual spending is about $5,000 less than what we budgeted for four months of spending in our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

It’s shaping up to be another low-spending year overall. Our big expenses for our summer 2023 trip to South America are fully paid at this point. We’ll just have to cover meals and local transportation while in Argentina and Brazil, plus some admission fees to museums, national parks, and other attractions. 

College costs for our two kids in college should be covered in full by grants and scholarships throughout the remainder of 2023. And we have ample 529 funds should we need to cover anything out of pocket. 

The one large expense anticipated for 2023 will be a used car. We failed in our attempts to acquire one during 2022 but that’s okay. The market appears to be cooling off a bit, since I am finally seeing a few cars under $10,000 that aren’t complete pieces of junk. The tentative plan is to buy a second car when we return from South America in August.

Fortunately, we are underspending our budget by a significant margin, so we should be able to “absorb” the used car purchase in our regular $40,000 per year budget without exceeding the budget by much. 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2023:

Summary of annual spending from all ten years of early retirement:

This is my buddy. Our pet woodchuck. I am pretty sure he lives underneath our storage shed next to the house. He eats a lot of vegetation and has the fastest waddle you have ever seen.

Net Worth: $2,761,000 (+$48,000)

I still see a lot of doom and gloom in financial reporting but our personal situation doesn’t look too bad. Our net worth went up $48,000 to end the month at $2,761,000. 

Looking at the chart of our net worth throughout April, it looks pretty boring. I really don’t look at our portfolio on a day-to-day basis, because it just doesn’t matter since we’re mostly doing a whole lot of nothing. 

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.

This is a piglet. I know it looks like a deer but it’s a piglet, I assure you. They clean out our bird feeders every night.

Life update

During April, we hosted Mrs. Root of Good’s family for Easter and had almost thirty people in attendance. We ate a lot of good food and had an Easter egg hunt for the kids.

Not long after Easter, we had the same group of family come back over for a big joint birthday party celebration for our nephew and our son who share the same birthday. Our nephew turned 7 and our son turned 11. Naturally, Mrs. Root of Good decided to have a 7-Eleven themed birthday party!

Homemade 7-Eleven “Slurpee” cupcakes

 In addition to partying all month, we also started to feel the excitement of summer creeping into the air. It’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and our kids are looking forward to the summer break from school.

Our middle child graduates from high school in under one month and she has finished essentially all of her high school/college courses and exams for the spring semester at this point. She is taking online community college courses during the summer session which starts in a few days but they should be fairly light on work. She’ll continue the courses during our stay in Buenos Aires and wrap up the summer session before we depart for our second destination in southern Argentina. 

In a few more weeks, our youngest child graduates from elementary school and will move up to middle school in the fall. It is a year of big changes for our family! 

Okay folks, that’s it for me for this month. See you next month! 

Got anything going on or any trips planned this summer? 

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