I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

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I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Tue Jan 01, 2019 2:53 pm

Hello all. I’m a year into my FI journey and I come here as a bit of an expat from the MMM forums. I have learned many great things from the knowledgeable people over there, but that forum seems to ultimately be a place for high earners and I have grown wary of the number of people who’s spending goals are very disparate from my own. By MMM forum standards I have really low expenses, though they are not quite as low as many here. I am working on changing that. There are some obvious areas I can make progress in and I’m setting a goal for 2019 to spend under $10,000. 2018 came in at $12,969.74 and a significant portion of that was wants. Before diving too deeply into the nitty-gritty, though, I would like to offer a proper introduction.

My name is Cheepnis, a name I am borrowing from the Frank Zappa song, and the title of this journal is a play on the first line of lyrics from that song. Music has been a foundational and pivotal part of my life, both in good ways and bad. On one hand music taught me what is possible with a little determination and hard work; on the other hand sequestering myself in a small room for hours on end left me woefully ill-equipped socially. I went to school for music performance and ended up having a mid-undergraduate crisis that led me to decide to drop my own music endeavors in order to allow myself time and energy to work on myself (a goal I’m still chasing). I still finished my degree, but the latter half of school I spent mostly focused on my student job as a maintenance worker. Upon graduation I moved into that position full time and after 2 years of that entered a trade union. I am now halfway through my 5 year apprenticeship and life is good.

I have always been somewhat frugal. My parents were not frugal, but spending money was never a thoughtless action, which led to my predisposition for extracting utility from my little green workers. I was turned onto the concept of FIRE (MMM’s blog specifically) by a coworker when I entered the union. The first article I read was “Newsflash: Your Debt Is An Emergency”. Needless to say it resonated. I had already been making double payments on my school loans, but I upped those to nearly triple payments once I read the article. I’ve now been debt free for 13 months.

The past year (as I’ve started my accumulation phase in earnest) I have been a somewhat regular contributor over at MMM. The past month I have been browsing these forums more regularly and have decided posting here will increase my proximity to a group of people more closely aligned with my own goals. A group that can hopefully motivate and push me to do better and better. My goal for this journal is to hold myself accountable to my aforementioned goal, document my trials and tribulations along the way in hopes of continuing to learn and expand my skills, and serve as a general catch- all for my thoughts along the way. I’m in the perfect position to accomplish my goals; I just need to keep my feet near the fire (pun... Ok, I'll admit to it, pun intended).

More to come...

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Tue Jan 01, 2019 3:18 pm

Here's my end of 2018 numbers.

The #'s

Rent: 23.08%
Groceries: 16.58%
Entertainment: 15.5%
Fun Money: 8.17%
Transportation: 7.73%
Car Insurance: 5.46%
Misc: 5.3%
Internet: 3.06%
Eating Out: 2.58%
Gifts: 2.58%
Hobby Projects: 2.55%
Water: 2.47%
House/Garden: 2.27%
Phone: 1.33%
Medical: 1.24%
Clothing: .09%

Fun Facts

- My savings rate this year is going to clock in just barely north of 73%.
- I maxed my 401k and IRA for the first time, plus putting a good chunk in taxable.
- My car cost me more in insurance than gas this year

Goals going forward

My 13k in expenses is a little less impressive than it might be if you did the calculation on my Rent. With my absolute rock bottom housing situation I know I can do better. Particularly the Entertainment category could use some work. Fun money is $100 per month I allow myself to do whatever I want with. Entertainment in many ways is simply me overspending that $100 dollars. My goal is to cut that expense in half for 2019.

Entertainment was 15.5%, or $2015. Over 50% of that was on concerts and another 25% was on records. I can do better. Music is my gazingus pin and I don't think I'll ever want to remove it from my life completely, but I can make use of cheaper local shows to cut down in that category.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by C40 » Tue Jan 01, 2019 3:27 pm

Welcome to the team, buddy.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by prognastat » Tue Jan 01, 2019 3:28 pm

Welcome to the forums. Good job on keeping your expenses low.

Given that you spend about as little as MMM does, maybe less if counting housing, chances are you aren't going to get a lot of advise on how to cut it down even further from a place that at best aspires to reach MMM spending.

Good thing is you found out about FIRE early keeping many paths option for yourself.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by RFS » Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:00 pm

Welcome! I'm glad you decided to migrate. And man, congratulations on being debt free. That is fantastic.

What are your FIRE goals, if you don't mind me asking? Are you trying to hit a certain investing number? Semi-ERE? What are you aiming towards?

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Seppia » Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:15 pm

Welcome and big congrats on your progress. You’ll love it here

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by BMF1102 » Tue Jan 01, 2019 4:18 pm

Hey Cheepnis welcome. What trade union? I'm a union Millwright, best move I ever made.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Tue Jan 01, 2019 5:48 pm

Thanks for the warm welcome everyone.

I've always been a goal oriented person, however I would say my goals are still fuzzy at this point. After completing my degree my goal was to find a job and establish my independence. Check. Once that was done I set the goal to find a job that wasn't a dead end, or at least didn't dead end so soon. Also check. I'm still at the start of that point in life where most would settle into "the grind". I'm, for all intents and purposes, settled into it as well and part of the reason FIRE was so immediately alluring to me was that it provided me with an easily definable goal - FI - I could continually work towards.

Reaching financial independence is about as realized a goal I have at this point. It is a ways off, and I'm not exactly sure what I'll do when I get there, but I am actively working towards a life I have greater control over. One very likely possibility will be halting my work in the field in order to save my body. I'm as nice as I can be to it, nonetheless plumbing puts strain on it.

Because I'm still early on in the journey I'm being mindful not to become too attached to any one outcome. Things will inevitably change. For starters, my killer living situation will not last forever and when its time is up my expenses will either rise or I'll have to get creative. Also, through the union I could have a couple compelling options for 1/4 time work (appr. 6-10 hrs/w for 9 m/y) that would more than cover my living expenses, opening up the option of a semi-ERE, maybe even before I meet a WR I'm comfortable with.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by classical_Liberal » Tue Jan 01, 2019 8:32 pm

Another welcome!

I followed a similar path from MMM to ERE. Been over here pretty exclusively for he past 2 years now, although I still spend a little time in the MMM community. I came over for the same reason as you, there just weren't role models for the type of spending MMM exposed in his writings on that forum. You'll find more folks over here walking the walk, there are a ton in the 6-20K range. You'll also find many more in depth discussions in which opposing viewpoints are hashed out legitimately, without one side dominating all others with Ad Hominem's.

Check out the wiki and thread on wheaton levels, if you haven't already. It was really helpful for me to place myself and set goals wrt to spending and thinking (FYI in spending you're already kicking my ass).

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by niemand » Fri Jan 04, 2019 12:52 am

Welcome to the forum! Good taste in music, I love Frank Zappa :mrgreen:

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:06 pm

^^^ Hey thanks! Gotta say I'm a fan of your avatar. That is awesome! Everything Hitchhiker's has been a favorite since middle school. My GF and I (she hadn't read them before) recently read the first three books out loud to each other before bed. We need to start back up and finish the last two!

Beginning of January Update:

I have spent $337.8 this month so far. That includes rent, phone bill, a new outlet from home depot, a burrito, and oil/oil filter and a front headlight from the auto parts store.

I stated above that my car cost me more in insurance than gas last year. I would love to get rid of it if I could, but being as my job location can change unexpectedly and could possibly be outside driving distance that isn't an option. I have been fortunate enough to only have to drive to work several weeks of the past 16 months. However, that could absolutely change. Also my 2x weekly apprentice class is an hour away by bike ride. I have made the trip before and I do not mind it from a riding perspective, but getting out of class at 9pm -> hour ride home -> get up for work the next day is not conducive to my sleep requirements. And as of right now I value my sleep pretty highly. Fortunately, classes will end in 30 months and a work vehicle is probably on the horizon at some point. At that point I'll sell the car or sign it over to my GF so it's her problem (we currently share it and she uses it more than me).

Looking through parts of this forum more I've found some interesting concepts, such as setting yearly hour goals for certain activities. I don't know why a personal growth tool such as that never made itself apparent to me when I did just exactly that when I played an instrument. I used to have self assigned quotas to meet in a variety of different areas of instrumental proficiency and I kept track of all of it in a log. This has had me thinking of other goals I could set for myself aside from spending under 10k this year, which is a goal I've already done lots of leg work (in terms of developing good habits) in completing and it's only a matter of furthering my efficiency and lifestyle optimization.

Other likely goals:

Keep my reading up. I read 29 books last year with 5 others I made significant headway in before deciding to bail. I'd like to beat that number this year and have at least half be non-fiction. Going to be pretty easy I think. ERE has made it's way from the library into my hands to start the year of right. I suspect that'll be book number one by the end of the weekend.

Do more yoga. Not sure what an good hourly goal would be to set. I work in commercial construction and performing repetitive motions day in/day out in awkward positions is not conducive to my bodily health. I try my best to approach my work in a balanced way by performing tasks equally on both sides (left hand/right hand or left knee/right knee), but it's probably impossible to not favor my right side in small ways that ad up throughout the day. Yoga with it's complete emphasis on balance and equal treatment across or up and down the body has been a great antidote to the aches and pains of the job. Sometimes my lower left back will flare up like a tweaked it, an hour of yoga takes it away every time. I need to perform yoga more consistently, though. I've even considered buying an expensive yoga studio membership because I know that would provide the incentive for me to get out there 4-5 times a week (and it would probably pay for itself in a healthier body later in life). Ultimately I know I can do this myself, though. Regardless, it's a necessity because I don't want to be hobbling around with fucked up ankles, hips, knees and shoulders by the time I'm 45 like many of my coworkers.

Allocate more time toward learning a second language. I really need to take the time to find a good workbook/structure for learning another language. My "attempts" so far have been a couple weeks of messing around with Duolingo then giving up. I can do better.

Complete some chess puzzles. I'd love to increase my Elo rating above 1400. I'm very much a novice, but I think a little tactical study could take me a long way. Looking at maybe buying Susan Polger's book and working through it. Maybe try to get through 5 puzzles a week?

Get better at bread. I make related products sometimes a there are a few things I've got down. I need to stop making those so I can continue getting better at bread.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:25 am

Week 2 Review

Not including a trip to the doctor (that I won't get billed for for some time) the only money I spent this week was $42.14 on groceries and a x-mas gift I bought my dad for $29.94 in early December that didn't ship until this week. Those bring my monthly total to $409.98.

Other planned expenses this month: more groceries, internet bill will come in, probably $20 to go the rock gym for an afternoon with a friend. It's looking like I should come in well under $833.

In other news

I finished Jacob's book. There is a lot packed into that sucker. For now my largest take away is a reinvigorated interest in cultivating skills/general knowledge. I'll definitely need to re-read it again down the road. I'm also taking note of several books from the list at the end to read throughout the year. The two areas of study I would like to tackle are a better understanding of the economy/stock market and to really start hammering out my state plumbing code. I'm miles ahead from where I was a year ago in the former and it's time to take it deeper. I've already got a good grasp on the latter, but I need to take it to the next level as well. There's a lot of nit-picky crap in the codebook and I need to have it down to continue to excel at my job.

Upcoming One Time Expenses

I'm sure many of us have expenses from year to year that are fairly large and not recurring. This year I'm going to be refurbishing a "vehicle" my grandfather built that has been sitting decrepit since he passed. It's got a one lung 4hp International Harvester engine from 1926 and a star car transmission. It's an engine that looks like this except larger.


The wheels and tires on the "FunMobile", as my grandpa named them, have always been a nuisance. They're tubeless and have always lost air too fast leading to the beads losing their seats unless you refill the tires very regularly. All that is to say that the first order of business is I'm going to get the tires foam injected and nip that problem in the bud. That's going to cost me in the neighborhood of $150-200. Before that I'm going to sandblast and paint the wheels white. There will be some other miscellaneous expenses related to this project, none this large however.

Unfortunately I do not have a picture of a FunMobile handy, however when the project is done I'll post one for fun.

Reading List

Book one for the year was ERE

Book two is Babylon's Ashes and I'm about halfway through that now. My brother got me hooked on these books; they're good fun!

And today I'm going to the library to pick up Sophisticated Giant (a new biography of Dexter Gordon) and The Paradox of Choice.

And lastly

Hopefully my summaries coalesce into some sort of discernible format.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:48 pm

I took a spill on my ride to work yesterday. It was 33 degrees and when I got to a little wooden footbridge it was just slick enough that I tumbled. The incident turned out to be a harbinger for the rest of the day. It was a bit of a shitshow. Everybody decided they were suddenly in a hurry. Multiple people needed things from immediately and were pissed when I couldn't deliver at that very moment (never mind I could have easily completed these things in the preceding days had they told me there was a schedule - there wasn't and still isn't a schedule, by the way).

Then at lunch I found I had smashed my hummus container when I fell, so that was also a bummer. And then after work when I hopped on my bike I realized I had bent the rear wheel! It still rides, but two spokes are snapped and the wheel wobbles back and forth.

All in all it was a bummer day, but I'm finding that as I continue to mature (or perhaps it's just a function of age) that I can kind of withdraw from myself on those bad days and experience it from outside myself a little bit. A day like yesterday is still a little overwhelming, but I remain calmer than I used to and mostly learn to appreciate how much better most other days are. Gotta take the good with the bad so I might as well let the bad slide off.

Today was better. Very productive and satisfying day today.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Jan 19, 2019 12:31 pm

Well I finished "The Paradox of Choice" and subsequently cannot find the thread I saw that inspired me to read it. Here's a few thoughts that were meant for that thread.

I think I've always been a bit of a satisficer and not much of a maximizer. Using the restaurant analogy: I've always opened a menu, found the first thing that sounded good, and closed it. Never had much, if any, FOMO-flavor regret using the good enough method in all areas of life.

However, the book got me thinking, and I think it's interesting to contrast the satisficer in me with my enjoyment of strategy board games. Many of my favorite games are designed to specifically requiring maximizing. Games where you are building systems to produce goods and/or other means of production require you to weigh the benefits of producing/upgrading your infrastructure with what other players are going, what bonuses are currently available, what options you'll have in the future, or what single use mechanisms are available in order to produce the most points. I eat that shit up. I love learning to work within the rules of the game in order to maximize the outcome.

Games that fall into that category have several very clear parallels to personal finance/FIRE. Tax law, credit scores and investing are similar to a (far more) complex game. You need to have a good understanding of the rules, the options available to you, and concepts like opportunity cost to determine the best course of action that will achieve your desired outcome. While I have already stated that I don't think I'm much of a maximizer, I do think I approach my saving further to the maximizing side of the continuum. I don't sweat every penny, but something like maxing out my 401(k) is an absolute no-brainer. When it comes to the mechanism of saving (i.e. not spending money) I'm 100% happy satisficing with cheaper alternatives to today's standard solutions.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Jan 26, 2019 11:47 am

Since I'm paid weekly I organize my "months" as starting the day after the last paycheck of any month to the last Friday (paycheck) of the next month. January is technically over for me. There's no more spending I was going to do the remainder of this month anyway, it all works out nice nicely sometimes.

The #'s

Income: $3,654.75
Total Spending: $620.13
Savings Rate: 83%

Spending List

Rent - $250
Internet - $35
Phone - $17.5
Groceries - $93.39
New outlet - $1.93
Belated Christmas Gift for Dad - $29.94
Burrito - $4.49
Mouth Guards - $10.97
Car Parts/Oil - $48.98
Bike Parts - $34.93
Wheel Repair from Bike Shop - $21
Afternoon at the Rock Gym - $20
Anniversary Dinner - $52

My spending is artificially low for two reasons. 1 - I paid 6 months of auto insurance in October and didn't amortize it out in my spreadsheet. Starting in a few months there will be another $36 recurring monthly cost that isn't currently reflected. 2 - My trip to the doctor has not been billed to me yet. I have a $250 deductible and pay 20% of all expenses after that. I'm guessing the visit + x-rays will come in around $400-$450 total, which will leave me in the neighborhood of $280-$300. No, this was not terrible timing on my part because I did not visit the doc at all last year, hence paying $0 on the deductible.

I'm hoping that since I will not have car parts or bike parts or an anniversary dinner in February that I will be able to keep my spending in the same ballpark despite the medical bill. At any rate I think I should be able to fall under my average monthly goal of $833 pretty easily.

2019 Reading List

1. ERE
2. The Paradox of Choice
3. Sophisticated Giant - The Life And Legacy Of Dexter Gordon
4. finishing Babylon's Ashes which I set down to read the last two.

Sophisticated Giant was really interesting. I've always loved Dexter Gordon and have known him mostly by his 60's output, which made him a contemporary of the likes of Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, or John Coltrane in my eyes. What I did not realize was how much earlier he was on the scene playing in early bebop bands in the early 40's through early 50's. The 50's were riddled with drug issues for him and his output all but stopped. Once he got himself under control he then proceeded to record his acclaimed string of Blue Note LP's in the 60's. Which, of course, does make him a contemporary of the younger generation of hard bop players such as those listed previously, but he was also a major inspiration to them, having been playing in bands while those players were just kids.

Food Prep

As many here do, I almost exclusively batch cook. This week I'm going to make loaded sweet potatoes for lunches and try a West African peanut stew recipe for dinners. Going try my hand at homemade nan as well. I'm not quite badass enough to build my menu around loss-leaders, but I have been making more vegetarian options lately as a way to constrain my options and expand my horizons.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by wolf » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:37 pm

Well done Cheepnis! That's an excellent SR! What do you rent? How can you manage such a low rent? Is it a shared apartment or very small one?

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:00 pm

@wolf, rent is a shared expense and we rent from the SO's family so we get the primo rate. They are uninterested in renting it out to anyone who isn't family and SO and I are currently the only people interested in living here, so it works out pretty good for all involved. The place isn't super small, but it is a bit of dump.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Feb 02, 2019 10:20 am

This is mostly going to be a number post, which I know is not the main focus around here, but I'm still in the numbers are fun accumulation phase so I'm going to roll with it.


My NW including contributions is up nearly 12% from Dec. 31st. 23.57% is in cash or cash equivalents, 32.02% in an S&P500 index (401k), and 44.39% is in VTSAX (IRA & taxable). This forum is (obviously) more bear-ish than MMM, yet since I'm still a beginner in terms of my investment knowledge I decided to follow the jlcollins model last year. I'm planning on reading some more in depth(*) books on investing this year to hopefully flesh out a more robust personal strategy/allocation. Ultimately I like the low maintenance/low fees blueprint from a conceptual standpoint, but I'd like to have a clearer picture of what I'm doing and why. For now my plan is to add a bond index and/or world index into the mix with my IRA contribution this year and maybe start some rolling CD's with some of my cash.

*about as in depth as I've gotten thus far is A Random Walk Down Wall Street and Financial Fitness Forever.

I decided to check out some withholding calculators considering my income will be greater this year and boy am I glad I did. I was on track to underpay by over $1000. I changed my withholding and am on track to owe $42 now. I'll maybe see if I can wipe that out by learning how to tax loss harvest depending on what the year brings.

My spreadsheet tells me that if my spending were to stay as low as last month (it won't) I'm already a quarter of the way to my "number" at a 3.5% withdrawal rate. Very cool and motivating to see what the power of my spending choices can do.

Reading List

After finishing ERE I made a list of the books from the recommended reading section that sounded most interesting to me. Much to my chagrin the library has very few of the list I made and the only one on the shelf last weekend was The Ingenuity Gap. 5/8 of the way through that and it's very interesting. I'm learning lots because it covers many areas of knowledge I only have an elementary education in.. Being almost 20 years old it's funny how the book dates itself and at the same time is astonishingly prescient. It absolutely puts into context the reasons behind the misplaced optimism of endless growth. I guess I haven't learned anything considering my first big paragraph up this post. Perhaps I'm a fool.

Next up is The Big Short.

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:37 am

I'm already settling into a routine with these journal posts. I'm a morning person, so I'm wide awake at standard weekday wake-up time on the weekends and starting the day with a little reading -> journal update is becoming my new ritual. I have started journal type threads on various other forums before and have never kept up with them. This time I think the slower pace and general tone of this forum, having a new goal I'd like to document, and a little resolve are a recipe for success. This journal is already longer than some of my other attempts!

The #'s

No major spending so far this month besides groceries and standard monthly expenditures of rent/phone/car insurance. Still waiting on the medical bill. More thoughts on my trip to the doc later.

Reading List

Finished book #5: "The Big Short". It was a nice follow-up to "The Ingenuity Gap" considering the entire sub-prime mortgage crisis is a perfect example of how our systems/institutions can rapidly grow in complexity and operate above our understanding. Adding a large dose of greed and perhaps lack of ethics certainly didn't (doesn't?) help either.

I think I'm going to read an old-school sci-fi book next before diving back into something investment related.

Thoughts On Doc

I took the trip to the doctor because I've got some weirdness going on with my knee's. When I get up from kneeling (something I do lots on the job) for too long my knee will be very stiff and there will be a very pronounced bulge in the fleshy area behind the knee that will prevent me from straightening my leg fully, which will cause me to limp. This comes and goes. It generally seems to be worse after the weekend when I haven't used my knee strenuously for a couple days and then after a few days of work my knee will acclimate to the stress. This has been getting more and more frequent in both knees the past year.

Talking to my GF's mom I found out she once had something similar called a Baker's Cyst and upon looking that up it matched all the causes/symptoms perfectly. During a particularly bad bout I scheduled the trip to the doc. Of course I had to schedule out and when the appointment came I wasn't experiencing any symptoms. This particular primary care doc I've only seen a few times, but he's always a little aloof and seemed like he was internally eye rolling as I explained what's been happening. Anyway, all he did was prod my knees for a minute, order x-rays, charge me $480 bucks and send me to a specialist.

The specialist has been calling me to schedule an appointment and I've yet to call back because I am so disenchanted with the entire healthcare experience. I was sent to a specialist a couple years ago when my left elbow kept locking up (as in couldn't move my left elbow at all) and after being referred to a specialist by the specialist, having an MRI, and several months of wrangling with my insurance* , was told they couldn't figure out what might be going on and the only other option was exploratory surgery. I declined the surgery and the issue persisted until it cleared up a while later.

* Due to pre-approval error for the MRI on the imaging center's part my insurance wasn't going to pay. The error, of course, had nothing to do with me, but I nonetheless had to spend well over a dozen hours on the phone in order to get out of the $1200 bill.

I can't help but feel the same would happen this time. A bunch of time and money wasted all to have a bunch of mostly unhelpful docs take a bunch of guesses. I'm still on the fence about scheduling the next appointment. Part of me is feeling a bit of the sunk cost fallacy because I've now paid my deductible while naively thinking the doc would have been able to give some useful knowledge or basic exercises or something.

/healthcare rant

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Re: I Saved Some Money, Accumulated So Good

Post by Sabaka » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:30 pm

Welcome to the forums! Will be following your journal with interest :)

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