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Archive for January, 2021

Net Worth Update - Jan, 2021

January 30th, 2021 at 07:47 pm

It was a nutty month for investments. It's been a roller coaster watching the GME drama, and I've been feeling some major regret about not joining in when I first saw the WSB chatter last December.

Changes this month:
(1) Funded my HSA for 2021.
(2) Started and funded a new brokerage account at M1 Finance
(3) Rebalanced savings and moved excess to brokerage
(4) Made my very first stock purchase. I usually just buy index funds, and decided to gamble a bit. I know this is more volatile than my VTSAX position. Thankfully this only makes up a small amount of my portfolio. I'm still learning.

79,396.62    Home Equity
10,009.65    Savings/EF
56,412.95    Brokerages
  8,060.74    HSA
29,996.66    SEP - IRA
52,340.76    457 Account
236,217.38      NET WORTH


January 23rd, 2021 at 07:56 pm

I got my COVID vaccine today. I got the Moderna vaccine.

I am so relieved. I knew I would be, but I guess I hadn't realized just how much. My sister is getting hers on Wednesday. I had vague plans of visiting her sometime this year, and this makes it much much more doable earlier in the year than I had dared to hope. Her baby is almost two and a half years old, and growing rapidly. I want to see her. And, I want to be hugged and held. No one has touched me in a year, and I feel so excited to see them and to give and receive giant big hugs.

Weekly Frugal List - 1/16/21

January 16th, 2021 at 05:07 pm

This week's frugal thing:

(1) I am almost done reading two books so far this year - both free through the library. One through Hoopla and the other through Libby. One of them was "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, which I highly recommend. I am pleased with the pace I am keeping of reading so far. A half an hour here or there makes short work of a book, and I am spending much less time watching TV. I don't have a reading goal for the year. However, last year I read 22 books, and hope to read around that many or a few more this year.

There hasn't been much I have been doing in terms of money - my only expense was filling gasoline in my car, and my first grocery trip since mid-November.

BONUS: A lot of people have been blogging about eating from their fridge and pantry this month. Here is a resource that helps come up with recipes that use ingredients you already have on hand. I think there are several of these about, and you can just google them. This just is one that I have used on and off and find easy.

PMI Frustrations - Part 2

January 12th, 2021 at 04:50 pm

I heard back from my mortgage lender. They won't automatically drop the PMI within 2 years of executing a refinance on my mortgage even if I have paid down to 78% of the home value (even if I don't account for appreciation). I can request and pay for an assessment to demonstrate that I have made substantial improvements (they apparently won't consider appreciation of home prices in the area), and even then it's not a guarantee that the assesor's report will make it happen. I am pissed! I have had nothing but trouble with this particular credit union through the whole process, and this is the last straw.

So, after filing taxes in a couple of months, I am doing another refinance as long as the interest rates remain low. This time, I will take out a 15 year mortgage with a different bank. I ran the numbers and it looks like if the mortgage rates remain the same as they are today, and I keep the same accelerated monthly payment amount as I am paying now, and presuming I won't have to pay PMI on this new refinance, I will pay $17k less in interest, and pay off a year earlier. It seems worth the hassle and the refi costs.

I hate debt for the years I spent in debt, and with the one remaining debt I have, I keep being reminded of how little power and freedom a debtor has. Debt is EVIL!

/rant over.

Weekly Frugal List - 1/9/21

January 9th, 2021 at 05:55 pm

What an awful week this has been! I'm sad and angry, but also deeply grateful that the democratic process continues despite the repeated assaults on it.

Here is a roundup of this week's frugal things:

(1) Harvested the rest of the carrots, and a third of the mustard greens this week. There weren't a whole lot of carrots left - about a dozen or so, and most were little ones, but still enough for sides for 3 meals. Cooked up the mustard greens into a frittata. I've still been eating from the freezer and pantry, so no grocery expenses this week.

(2) Got a referral link from one of my friends for M1 Finance. $10 free for both of us for using the link - it's not a lot, but it's free money. I'm going to use this account to play around with investing. I won't add a lot of money to this - most of my money is stashed in low cost index funds that I am going to hold for the long term. This account is going to be to learn to work with individual stocks. I am pretty risk averse, so I don't know if speculating will be fun or stressful. We shall see.

(3) Started crocheting an amigurumi toy for my neice using a free pattern. I almost feel like it's silly to add this to the frugal list since there are so many free patterns out there. But it will be a frugal gift to give the little toddler. She likes horses at the moment, so it's going to be a purple and gray horse since those were the colors of yarn that I had on hand. The bag of polyfill that I purchased for $4.97 will be enough for about 4 toys, so I see more crocheted toys in my future. I also hope it will help me curb the ridiculous habit I have of simultaneously watching TV and browsing on my phone.

Thoughts on Last Year's Expenditure

January 6th, 2021 at 05:27 pm

I decided to take a look at my expenditure for 2020. Interestingly, though I have been keeping accounts of every purchase I make for the past 15 years, I have never done this before. While I was in debt, this might have been more a depressing experience than an uplifting one - I imagine I was putting away far far more towards debt than I was to living expenses. But, doing this today has been quite an eye opening and pleasant experience, and makes me feel even more confident that I will be able to achieve financial independence by my 2034 birthday if not sooner.

My total expenses for 2020 were: $52173.23. That alone is pretty impressive to me. But, this includes my regular and extra mortgage payments. This year, I paid $17,916.99 in mortgage payments (principal, interest, PMI and escrow) and an extra $9,083.01 towards the principal. This means that if my mortgage were to be paid off, my total living expenses would be $25,173.23. To me, that is a pretty low amount considering that I don't really deprive myself of anything - I am frugal, but I end up buying everything that I want and doing everything that I want to.

Of course, this has been a pretty unusual year. However, apart from travel costs, the above numbers are similar to a typical year.

The $25,173.23 above includes some pre-pandemic 2020 travel: expenses while I went on a cruise in February, and visited NYC in early March. The cruise had been paid for in 2019 - only the expenses on board and at ports are included in the 2020 expenses.

The total also does not include my health insurance expenses - about $400/mo for health insurance comes out of my business account. I am diabetic, but this is managed entirely through diet and exercise, and I am not on any medicine or insulin. So, healthcare expenses are also negligible for now. All being well, my hope is that this continues for as long as possible.

My grocery bills are pretty low, as are my restaurant expenses. I grow most of my vegetables and some berries in my garden, and freeze or process enough for them to last me all year long. I am vegetarian, so I don't have any meat/fish/poultry costs. I purchase dairy and non-perishables at the grocery stores. I get my eggs for most of the year from local folks who keep backyard chickens - some of this is purchased, and some I get from bartering my excess produce. I also am part of a local food rescue group that goes to organic farms/orchards/backyards and harvests produce that would otherwise have rotted on the plant. The farmers/homeowners get a tax break for donating to our non-profit group, and for a few hours of labor, we get plenty of fruits and veggies. I only went on one harvest this year (about 3 hours of time), and got a wheelbarrowful of delicious Shiro plums that I dehydrated. But, there often is so much produce and fruit, that we share with the group. And over the year, I picked up apples, pears, winter squashes, cauliflower, kale, and zucchini that others harvested. We end up rescuing thousands upon thousands of pounds of perfectly good food that would otherwise have been wasted. I also forage the delicious, but extremely invasive blackberries that are taking over the PNW. For the price of scratching up my hands on the brambles, I can have an unlimited supply of berries for the year. I enjoy going out to restaurants, but it is almost impossible to find vegetarian low carb food at most restaurants. So, my restaurant costs end up being pretty low even in non-pandemic years.

I have about $7600 in atypical expenses this year - refinancing the house, a new couch, a new small freezer, a tree removal, etc. But, there probably will be other things each year that probably will cost around that much - painting the house, a new appliance, a new fence, or other expenses.

So, I guess this means that I have been living on about $2000/month (not including mortgage). If I were to add in more travel expenses, it might mean about $2500 each month post-pandemic but before retirement. And adding in health insurance and more travel post retirement, I might expect to spend about $3500 monthly in today's money.

Provided I keep saving the way I do, if I retired at 55, I think I shall have more than enough money to safely draw this much monthly, and still have enough for periodic larger expenses. If I stick to my plan of paying off my house, this becomes all the more realistic.

All in all, this was a wonderful exercise to do. Having some tentative numbers makes me feel more at ease, and more prepared.

Weekly Frugal List - 1/2/21

January 2nd, 2021 at 04:52 pm


Here is a roundup of this week's frugal things:

(1) Started out the New Year by starting a free book through Hoopla.

(2) Started seeds for shallots on New Year's Day. They will go out into the garden on the 1st of March and all being well will be harvested at the end of July. These are my first seeds for the year. Last year, I started them in mid-Feb and had small-ish shallots. So, decided to start them sooner this year. It was a lovely way to start the new year.

(3) This one cost money, but will save me money. I purchased a National Park Pass. I plan to go on a camping road trip later in the year to visit all of Utah's national parks. I have been to the Zion and Bryce Canyon NPs about 10 years ago, so it will be fun to go again. I paid less for the pass that I would have paid in individual entrance fees on my one week trip. And I can use it to go to other national parks and monuments if I travel any more this year.

Starting New Year's Day with reading, gardening, and travel related things are hopefully something of an auspicious omen for how this year will go. I hope you all have a wonderful 2021.