m741's ERE Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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palmera
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Post by palmera » Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:28 pm

@dragoncar hehehehe


m741
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Post by m741 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:32 am

November Results
First, a note: I'm going to be putting my observations, tips and thoughts on a blog called SkillsFIRE I started with some of the other people here.
November was a very solid month, though I didn't achieve my spending goal.
Total income was $6,831; total expenses $1972. Savings rate was 71.5%. In sum, I have 84 months, or 7 years saved, I'm about 30% of the way to FI. I had my highest ever amount of actual dividend income this month, and also my lowest expenses thus far (first time total expenses were below $2000). If I use my standard-of-living adjustment of $600, then I have 10 years saved and am 40% of the way to my goal.

Also good was the past week in the stock market. I was tired of another month of stagnation/losses despite my savings rate so the returns were good for my morale.
That's the good. On the other hand, I did not meet my goal of $1900 total expenses. Also, I'm closing in on a point where, even if I reduce my expenses a little bit, there's not much else to cut. That is, with the exception of rent (I wouldn't live in such an expensive area if I were retired, so although reducing rent will allow me to save more now, it doesn't have the same leveraged effect of reducing general expenses). Finally, next month will be more expensive - it's the holidays. If I can spend under $2,400 in December I will be happy.
Expense breakdown:

Housing: 1400
Food: 178
Utilities: 117.57
Social Life: 60
Donations: 32
Health: 51
Transport: 54
Work: 52
Pets: 16

I'm not going to set an ERE goals for December. I have family visiting me and I don't want to be counting pennies when we go out to eat.
However, I do want to start getting healthier. This weekend I'm going to plan out and write down an exercise and dietary program, and start following it next week.
---
This past month I really felt the travel bug. For the first few weeks I was dreaming of camping and hiking the Appalachian Trail, was well as the Pacific Crest Trail. I read a few websites and watched a few youtube videos and I really just wanted to be able to get outside and breathe some fresh air.
Then, the next few weeks I was dreaming about international travel. I read a few travel books and added a few slow travel/long-term travel websites to my RSS feed. I don't know if this is a wise move right now with a few years still left to go. On the other hand, it does help to have a goal in mind, even though things might not ultimately play out the way I had in mind.


bluepearl
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Post by bluepearl » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:29 am

@m741

congrats on the savings %! This was close to 10% improvement over last month! And you have the priority straight about Dec... Enjoy the family gatherings..
Just curious... how can you publish your results so quickly? Are you estimating your interest income? Or is the int inc from your bank posted prior to month end? thanks.


m741
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Post by m741 » Thu Dec 01, 2011 4:57 am

I manually add up all the dividends I received (and usually a few are still pending) each month to get my 'actual' income. This is usually about 10 different sums/month and I enjoy doing it ("Oh, I earned $30 from PEP in November" or "Wow! EHI got me $45 this month"). Dividends received is available as a category on my investment account. I also track theoretical investment income, which is just my ERE-eligible accounts (ie, non-401k), multiplied by 4%. This is what's plotted in the chart. Finally I track 'average investment income'. My investment account calculates what it thinks my annual income from all positions would be, including dividends/coupons, and I divide this by 12.
I like having these 3 measures because they give a good picture. Actual income is what's really hitting my pockets. Theoretical income is what I would earn if I invested all my cash at a moderately high dividend rate. Average income is what should be hitting my pockets based on what I own, but smoothed so it doesn't jump if many dividend dates happen to line up on a particular month.
Does this answer your question?


bluepearl
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Post by bluepearl » Thu Dec 01, 2011 5:25 am

Thank you for the detailed explanations :)


ExpatERE
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Post by ExpatERE » Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:59 am

I'm getting to the same point with expenses. You can only get so low and maintain it. I have a little more wiggle room and then its just maintaining.
You won't be alone in not meeting your spending goals next month. I have some travel plans for the end of the month that will far exceed my own spending goals, but it's the holidays and I'm perfectly ok spending in an area that is important to me versus the mindless spending I once did.
Have a great December.


George the original one
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Post by George the original one » Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:40 am

You know, if you really want to break through the $1900/mo budget, the single biggest obstacle is your housing expense: $1400 of the $1900 is housing... that's 73% of your budget for housing!
I'm really impressed by the low costs you've managed in all other areas. And for NYC, that's really amazing.


m741
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Post by m741 » Sat Dec 03, 2011 5:00 am

No doubt about it, the housing expense is killer. I'm going to be moving in March/April and hopefully I'll be able to find something cheaper. I think if I'm lucky I'll be able to find a smaller place in my area (which is a nice area) for maybe $1100. Still not cheap but $300 is an awful lot each month.
There are apartments for $900 nearby, but they're in a part of town that isn't so friendly.


keansmith
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Post by keansmith » Tue Dec 06, 2011 2:48 pm

Have you ever thought about taking a sabbatical? That is, you could take a year off, hike, travel, develop new programming skills, meet new people. With your budgeting skills, you could probably do this very reasonably.


m741
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Post by m741 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:47 am

It's not something I've seriously considered. I poked around on my company's website and I don't think they're very friendly to taking sabbaticals. The nature of my employment is such that I'd rather gut out a few tough years raking in a ton of cash than go through the trouble of taking time off and trying to find a new job.
Probably better than taking a sabbatical would be relocating within my company; at least that would be a way to maintain a similar salary but do something new. I'm strongly considering the idea of transferring to Europe in 2-3 years. Then I'd be able to easily travel on vacations, weekends, etc. Not cheap but I wouldn't be aiming to save too much at that point.
I suspect that when I reach FI, I'd probably take about a year off, hike, travel, and then relocate to a more amenable city and get a 40 hour/week job focusing on less esoteric programming, and do that for a few years. I don't know if that qualifies as a sabbatical or not.


m741
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Post by m741 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:47 am

The past few days have been a bit difficult. I've spent a lot of money dining out, or ordering pizza, etc. I think I'm still basically under budget. More pressing is a basic family issue.
My mother is getting a bit forgetful/clumsy (she's in her 60s and Alzheimers runs in the family - whether this is the very early stages of Alzheimers or simply old age, I don't know). This weekend, she lost her driver's license - after flying across the country. She's getting a passport mailed to her, but it will only arrive after her scheduled flight. If she's not able to board her plane without photo id, she will have to reschedule her flight, and it will be expensive.
She's on a limited budget. I believe she can afford the cost of the flight but it will stretch her finances (between home repairs and medical expenses she doesn't have much left over). I already paid for most of her flight to visit as a sort of Christmas present so she wouldn't have to spend the holidays alone. Given the circumstances, I feel as though I should pay for the plane ticket. After all, I have plenty of money to spare. It's also not as if she begs for me to pay for anything: I don't think she's entirely comfortable with it. But she seems to have had a run of bad luck (or bad circumstances I can't blame her for) that I can see continuing.
The expense is not an issue to me. What is frustrating is that though I limit my expenses, these big costs really dwarf my savings. For instance, it doesn't matter if I save $1 buying mac & cheese on sale, when I spend $400 on a plane ticket. I understand that in a sense I saved on the little things in order to be able to afford these big expenses.
Nonetheless, it is psychologically draining. Particularly on top of all the "splurge" expenses of the holiday season.


flyer2009
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Post by flyer2009 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:25 am

It must be difficult dealing with family problems. I wish I had better advice for you. If there are other family members (her husband, your sibling, or others) it might be time to get them involved so they take some of the responsibility for the care if this does turn into a long term illness. Other than that I would set up an "allowance" for your mother's expenses to the extent that you are comfortable and to the extent you feel you should contribute. It goes without saying that her medical expenses are the biggest variable and I hope she qualifies for and has adequate insurance. Yes, we usually owe our parents a great deal but you will need to set limits on your contribution so you can still provide for your own household.


George the original one
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Post by George the original one » Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:00 am

If there's a history of Alzheimer's in your family, then you, relatives, and mom need to make a plan. Forgetting little items is fairly irrelevant provided she's exhibiting no odd behaviors. Things like inappropriate outbursts or fears or keeping secrets are more indicative of trouble.
Financially, yeah, budget an allowance or trouble fund to be used at your discretion.


m741
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Post by m741 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:49 pm

Thanks, I like that idea. Will be budgeting a 'trouble fund' for the future.


jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny » Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:06 pm

I really like the idea of a trouble fund. That would have been helpful during my last year or so with my mom. And once you deposit money into your "mom" fund, it will feel like it's already spent so it won't hurt so much when you actually spend it.


LiquidSapphire
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Post by LiquidSapphire » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:23 pm

I can completely sympathize with your struggle, especially when you are counting pennies, and it just takes one big expenses of a few hundred dollars to knock all of that out. Frustrating.
I was thinking to myself "Mom fund" before I even read the other responses. Maybe just pick a percentage (1-2%, or more, a number you are comfortable with) and already consider it spent. You could also use it for other family members.
And don't worry about splurging for the holidays. I did the same thing, mainly with going out to eat and groceries. Sounds like you kept it within reason so it doesn't sound like it would derail you. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while! (this applies to a lot of things!) I have come to realize that if I don't splurge on anything ever, I get mentally tired and then I have the possibility of making decisions I would not have made had I been on point. If you decided it's worth the money to splurge then go for it :)


palmera
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Post by palmera » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:19 am

hi m741, so sorry for this curveball thrown your way.
Do you have any siblings, relatives that could help? Now's the time to demand help.
I know at times like this pennypinching seems futile, but it still adds up, don't be discouraged, you're doing great...you now just have to maybe factor in the mom fund.


Catanduva
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Post by Catanduva » Wed Dec 28, 2011 12:09 pm

I try to use vim but i keep getting SPANKED by it. And i use tiling wm (echinus, a dwm fork) and i don't use any software with gtk/qt interface, everything is for cli. But vim is just not for me, maybe i don't miss it because i'm not a programmer, so i just use nano to change config files and write some notes.


tjt
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Post by tjt » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:11 pm

@m741 -
Regarding the psychologically draining situation of pinching pennies but spending fortunes, I have one piece of advice. Don't think about the $1 you save on a meal, think about it as a lifestyle change.
You aren't saving $1, you are saving $1 per meal because you are committed to the lifestyle. That's $3/day and $90/month. Using a safe withdrawal rate of 3%, you can multiple that $90 x 400, which is the equivalent of $36,000. And that's just because you buy your groceries on sale... We haven't even got into the bigger stuff!
Looking at it this way, you've made a small lifestyle change that allows you to help your mom in need anytime she needs it. That makes you a caring and generous person.


m741
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Post by m741 » Thu Dec 29, 2011 2:30 am

So, a brief update - crisis averted. Did not have to pay for new tickets as it's apparently possible to board a plane without any photo id. At least, if you get lucky.
So: total I am out an additional $40 for expedited passport shipping as a backup (in addition to part of the original tickets) and $16 for an unplanned trip to the airport. This I can live with.
@Palmera - I don't have any siblings or relatives who can help.
@tjt - that's a very good point, I usually try to extrapolate from daily savings. That's definitely a good perspective.


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