What I Spend

Where are you and where are you going?
bostonimproper
Posts: 306
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:45 am

Re: What I Spend

Post by bostonimproper »

My corporate brain has been thinking how easy money is as a north-star metric for goal-oriented brains. It’s simple, everything is denominated in it (so figuring out ROI is relatively straightforward), nobody questions it as a reasonable metric to have. It’s pure measurability makes it so enticing to fall back to. Whereas other things that you might want to optimize life for— meaning, purpose, impact on others— are so much harder to quantify, which makes it harder to fill in a replacement when money is no longer the goal.

Which is to say: I wish you the best of luck in decompressing and hope you find something that ends up exciting your imagination more than coming up with side hustles.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

Thanks. Decompression is slowly happening. It'd be so easy to get sucked back into corporate min/maxing.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

February 2021 Total (Couple) - $2450
Groceries - $588.71
Utilities - $294.20
Pets/Pet Care - $291.70
Phone/Email - $286.73
Home Maintenance - $264.79
Insurance - $244.93
Entertainment - $209.35
Healthcare/Medical - $159.75
Taxes - $110.00

February spending was about 25% higher than estimate. Many of our standard expenses hit in the same month. Pet stuff, high winter utilities, doctor bills, tax prep, etc.

Food costs were an improvement - our lowest month since last February. I've had more time to cook. Some of that $588 even includes plant supplies from the grocery store.

We have new recurring expenses - insurance, internet ($40). Insurance will be around $750/month by May.

I'd estimate $300-400 in transition costs from stopping work. Everything from a new speakerphone to a radon test. This spending will remain elevated until our home life re-stabilizes.

We are consuming more entertainment (Audible got me again...), although this bucket is also a catch all.


March costs will baseline near $1800. I'd guess after discretionary spending, we land around $2300. Two large unknowns:

1. Outstanding medical bills. They might be $80. They might be $750. The answer could arrive in March, it could arrive in May.
2. We are waiting to file taxes, due to the current round of stimulus checks. We owe around $12k.


Rolling 12 Month Spend (Couple) - $38,289
The unusual 2020 income taxes mean this will get substantially worse before it gets better. Better to acknowledge it and accept the motivation to improve. Tax management is an important part of what I spend, after all.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

I recently read Goodbye, Things.

My post-work decompression must be progressing, because I spent the better part of today sorting the basement. There was a surprising amount of easy stuff - empty boxes, old papers, etc. The bigger challenge is items I still like, but stopped using. Cool stuff like:

Playstation 3
Original Das Keyboard
Fitbit Charge 2
All my DVDs
120 GB External Hard Drive

I am also breaking down my basement office setup. I spent 10 years working in an unfinished basement. That part of my life is done.


This is not easy. I have to remind myself:

1. The cumulative value is less than $2k, probably $1k
2. I can always afford to replace something I miss later
3. Hoarded treasures, unused, add no value to my life
4. Passing an item along adds value to someone else's life
5. Some unused objects represent idealized versions of myself, that I never achieved. Saving them doesn't change that.
6. Freeing mental and physical space will feel better

I have not decided how to dispose of the items. While working, I'd put a half-hearted effort into giving things away, then drop it all at goodwill. But, these are treasures and I have time. The pandemic complicates things.

ertyu
Posts: 1742
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: What I Spend

Post by ertyu »

Thank you for this reminder. I, too, read goodbye things and found it resonated. I have been hitting a snag in my apartment emptying - an example, for instance, is this pile of old silverware which is perfectly good but which I simply do not need - I have enough silverware. But I found myself reluctant to throw out the pile because "I'm gonna go through it." Your points 1. 2. and 3. are very much in place here. Hopefully, someone would find the silverware and benefit (4.). Wishing you lightness of spirit as you advance on your decluttering.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

ertyu wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:38 am
But I found myself reluctant to throw out the pile because "I'm gonna go through it."
This is a big part of our (my) current mess. With 1600 sq. ft. and an unfinished basement, it's been incredibly easy to save decisions for later. Work provided the perfect excuse. My wife enjoys Kondo (even has the graphic novel) and has been much better about paring down her belongs.

I can already tell I am working through the sediment in layers. I don't think we'll ever approach the pictured minimalism, but I do expect 1-2 more passes over the next 6 months to a year.

I think there's a good chance that will be followed by replacing items that don't spark joy. I am typing at a $100 desk, we picked out of the garbage in 2004. It is the entertainment center of our living room.

For now, I clear something out, then shout at my wife "Goodbye, Things!" I am amused.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

In attempting to dispose of my treasures, I learn they are worthless. It seems during the tail end of my career, this retirement fear already happened:
Scott 2 wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 10:08 pm
Keeping up with inflation only lets me buy today's basket of goods tomorrow. If the standard basket expands (real per capita gdp growth) I am left behind. This is how you get old retirees living 30 years in the past. They couldn't afford to adopt modern life. An argument against maxing SWR early.
All of my prices, including the value of a dollar, are anchored in 2010. The market disagrees.

I dropped just about everything at goodwill, except one item that might be worth $100. So far, all the craigslist posting has returned is a phishing attempt. I don't want to contend with offer up or facebook, so another goodwill visit might be in my future.

I garbage picked an exercise bike last fall. I used it a few times, but it's been sitting in the garage since. My wife convinced me to put it back on the curb. We saw both a door dash driver and my neighbor reject it. I guess I save garbage.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

Due to rolling over my 401k, more than half of my portfolio is out of the market. I am having a really hard time pulling the trigger, to put it back in. The treasury yields jump and subsequent equities dip has me nervous. I know bonds have nowhere to go but down, US valuations are sky high, etc.

I also know the whole irrational / solvent line. Ugh. I'd be a terrible trader. I can't wait to stop thinking about this.

mooretrees
Posts: 463
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by mooretrees »

I'm really enjoying your journal lately. It's interesting to read about your diving into money matters, insurance, etc, but also I find your dry humor so fun.

I have mostly realized that whenever we want to sell something, I've usually overestimated what something is worth, get discouraged and just want it out of my home. Also, mostly what I have is sorta junk to begin with. We've not really 'invested' too money in nice, quality goods. I'm not good with being gentle with stuff or maintaining. So, it's usually Goodwill for us, or a giant blanket with a free sign when the weathers nice.

Are you done, like, done done with work? At least for the near future? It reads like that. That's a lot of changes in a few months. Pretty cool.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

It's very possible I over-estimated the value of the item. I've cross-posted on Offer Up, to try it as much as anything. I've already spent too much time on it, but I'm annoyed to have no response. If I find someone in my personal network who wants the item, I'll just give it to them.

I am a long way from full retirement age, so I hesitate to claim done done. We are managing finances as though that's the case.

I've kept a handful of career books, haven't deleted my linked in, etc. An interesting opportunity, especially short term or part time, could suck me in.

ThriftyRob
Posts: 133
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:20 am

Re: What I Spend

Post by ThriftyRob »

I have written about how much easier it is to accumulate possessions than to dispose of them.

Looking at your list and the 6 things you have to remind yourself,
5. Some unused objects represent idealized versions of myself, that I never achieved. Saving them doesn't change that.
strikes a chord for me. Absolutely true in my case.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

Yep. My sole treasure I posted for sale is already down to $100 with no buyers.


I put through the transactions to allocate our retirement portfolio, unwinding the target retirement funds and heavy cash position.

Starting allocations, market weighted:

Cash - 7.55%
Int. Bonds - 11.47%
US Bonds - 26.75%
Int. Stocks - 19.85%
US Stocks - 34.39%

I broke out into a cold sweat while executing the trades. I wanted to throw up. The fixed income to equities allocation is almost unchanged from January, but that slight blip out of the market (from my 401k rollover) really messed with my head. I'd rather work than carry this stress day in and day out.

The experience has made it resoundingly clear - I am not cut out for active investing. As it stands, I scrapped my original plan to buy ETF versions of all the funds. I was fixating on getting the best price, recovering my time out of the market, timing valuations, etc. It was all I could think about, and I could see myself heading towards dangerous behavior.

Better to accept the risk I know I can afford and miss out on potential upside. Chasing outperformance would ruin my days and could potentially cost far more. Passive investing with mutual funds is MUCH better suited to my temperament. I am prepared to wait out a 30-40% drop, or a market that goes sideways for the next 10 years.

Learning to run a 4 fund portfolio, in a tax efficient fashion, highlighted a lot of practical gaps in my knowledge. Maybe if I'd done that a decade ago, I'd feel comfortable with a more complex strategy. But, as it stands, this is the limit of my tolerance. I seriously reconsidered going 100% VSMGX.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

Selling my used treasure was a bust. I got a single legitimate response, between both craigslist and offer up. I practically had to pay the guy to take it off my hands. I originally paid $170. After slashing my initial asking by 50%, I got $60. Maybe I would have done better on Facebook, but I don't want to engage in their ecosystem.

It's just not worth my energy. While he was was out here, I threw in another item that might sell for $100. At least that won't end up in the garbage.


Reading Goodbye, Things has definitely made an impact. The importance of eliminating storage (rather than organizing it better) was a key takeaway.

We spent last week purging ten years of detritus from the house. Roughly 3 car loads of donations/sales and another of garbage. My barometer of "it's still good" is clearly broken. There's a good chance half of what went into donate, belonged in the garbage pile. I begrudgingly trashed at least 20 pairs of 25 year old underwear, that hasn't fit in over 10 years. Come on bro.


Another a good example - I spent several hours on Saturday fighting with an amplifier for my home gym stereo. It's an early 80's brick - 15lbs, roughly 17"x16"x5". I got it used off Craigslist in 2012, for $90, with speakers and a CD player. It was my office stereo, but largely unused for several years. We're talking oxidized connectors, rusty screws, etc.

For speaker wire, I had to swap out with other stereos in the house, until I had enough of the right length. This is low quality, thin wire that came free with cheap speakers. My fine motor skills are terrible, and I have no tools. So of course, I strip the wire with swiss army knife scissors - snipping it repeatedly.

I finally found a combination of inputs and outputs still worked, sort of. The left/right balance is little off - fixed by staggering the speakers. Turning the volume up past about 5% makes it overly loud. At around 4%, the highs and lows drop out. But, in that sweet spot, the music sounds decent.


After all this, I did break down and drop the $100 for a new mini amp (with bluetooth!), 100' of speaker wire (practically a lifetime supply), banana plugs and wire strippers. The 1984 receiver is going in the garbage. I need to get better at making this call early.

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Interesting to hear about your efforts to get rid of excess stuff. I've avoided trying to sell things while working full time because it doesn't seem worth the effort. I'm starting to reconsider trying to sell some stuff online.

In regards to the amp, you could probably donate it instead of tossing it. There is a market for retro amps and some folks specialize in cleaning them up and reselling them. My dad is a collector of retro sound systems and probably has about 8-10 amps. One of the benefits is that I end up with his some of his excess. Most of the demand is for stuff from the 70s or earlier, but I'm sure someone could make use of it or some of the components.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

Western Red Cedar wrote:
Mon Mar 15, 2021 11:07 pm
In regards to the amp, you could probably donate it instead of tossing it.
It's a denon dra-350 receiver. From what I can tell, there is minor demand. They go for $50-$100 online. Goodwill is the plan. They will accept electronics, attempt to repair them or deal with the recycling for you. Much easier than driving to our local electronics recycling center.

I do think repairing it would be interesting and offer a steep learning curve. But, for someone who has no job, I am surprisingly busy. Not the time to take on a new hobby.

I previously had a good amount of success buying / selling Craigslist. I'm not sure if my issue is Covid related, or if the entire classified's marketplace is now on Facebook. I suspect the latter, and I really don't want to deal with them.

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Scott 2 wrote:
Mon Mar 15, 2021 11:45 pm
I do think repairing it would be interesting and offer a steep learning curve. But, for someone who has no job, I am surprisingly busy. Not the time to take on a new hobby.
My dad doesn't do any personal repairs. There is a local guy who has a loose partnership with an indie record store who picks up old stereo equipment (turntables, amps, speakers, etc.), repairs it, and sells some of it through the record store. He fixed my Sony amp (early to mid 70's) for $40 a few years ago after I did something stupid and shorted it out.

My dad will occasionally see a new set of speakers or an interesting tube amplifier and trade in some older equipment along with cash to upgrade.

The guy is really interesting, has a philosophy degree, but just continued working on stereo equipment and vintage resales (clothes, furniture, records, etc.) after he graduated. His business model (along with picking up vinyl at estate sales) has peaked my interest as an ERE side gig, but it sounds like a pretty tight market. Probably good if you don't need to make a full wage though - just a little pocket money for an audiophile in retirement.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

We've slowed way down on finding un-needed items to remove from the house. There's maybe a single SUV load worth sitting in the garage now.

Net worth is at 99.7% of when I re-invested on 3/11. I am gradually relaxing about that major investment event, as time passes and things remain stable. I'm getting used to seeing the bonds go down when the stocks go up, and vice versa. The target retirement funds really insulated me from most market volatility. I think this is an adjustment I'll get to keep, a long term change in perspective.

My wife and I got our first vaccinations early this week. She got on the computer at 6am Saturday morning and kept refreshing until we had slots. The appointment was uneventful, but it was stressful being back in a brick and mortar store. I was double masked, opposed to the random dude wandering aisles clutching his crumpled mask. We got Moderna, so shot 2 will be in 4 weeks. We both had sore arms for a couple days and expect to be out of commission for 2-3 days after shot 2.

Along those lines, we started talking about the return to a post-vaccination life in 6 weeks. Our mutual interest in eating out is relatively low. We are both excited for food shopping in person, especially selecting our own produce. There is a backlog of items we want to buy in person as well - slippers, shoes, a ladder, bedding, oil change, etc.

My motivation to clean has almost completely disappeared. During the return to life discussion, I mentioned how well keeping the house clean on our own is going, how we never need to pay a housekeeper again. It turns out this is not true. I only clean the things that annoy me, and my wife (having limited energy due to her medical conditions), has been tolerating the growing mess. I never noticed it, was blind to it bothering her. Yet, I still hated every second of the cleaning I managed. So, we will be budgeting for a housekeeper.

I'd hoped removing items from the home would help solve this problem, but it only reduced the most disgusting parts of my own personal filth.

Similarly, my motivation to exercise has completely disappeared. There's a couple factors. I think I am fatigued from social isolation. Related, I no longer spend my time unhappy and feeling inadequate due to work. Lifting hard was how I coped with those feelings. That drive to change is gone. Also, something died in the insulation or a duct or some other random basement spot. The whole room stinks of death, and I cannot figure out where it is coming from. This happened a few years ago, and it took 3-6 months to dissipate.

Our ladder is a rickety wood catastrophe my parents picked from the garbage 10 years ago. I'm hesitant to go up and down in the unfinished basement, poking around in insulation, especially given my current lack of health insurance. It'd sure feel dumb to retroactively buy COBRA, because I got hurt chasing a bad smell. The ACA plan starts 5/1. I should have a ladder shortly there after, so I may revisit this if the stench remains. Maybe get some gloves and an N95 mask for the work, too.

At my wife's suggestion, I got back in touch with a long distance friend, after about a year of no contact. 6 weeks removed from constant Zoom calls, video chat feels far more palatable. We had a good time and will do it again.

The other big change we are anticipating, is a return to outdoor swimming. When pools open this Summer, we are going to pay for the premium gym. They have raised prices 25% - for a couple, it will be $160 to $200 a month, depending on access. Inflation for sure, but we are eager and more than willing to pay. Depending how things are, it's possible I'll exercise inside during off-peak hours. The expensive gym is taking cleaning seriously, as well as enforcing mask and distancing rules.

After 6 years draping a flat sheet over our too tall king sized mattress, I finally found a fitted sheet that covers the whole bed. I took a gamble off of Amazon and it fit. I couldn't be bothered while working, but no longer sleeping on a partially bare mattress - that feels like an upgrade.

The new stereo amplifier arrived. Setup highlighted how important the right tools are for DIY. With decent speaker wire and a $10 pair of wire strippers/cutters, the cabling was a breeze. Everything is the right length and standardized. I cheaped out on banana plugs, and I suffered for it. I think this is a key takeaway, as I work towards solving other physical problems. An extra $20-50 in tools could make the difference between developing a skill and giving up. Much better to build those assets than to pay someone else and foster my continued dependency.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Selling my used treasure was a bust. I got a single legitimate response, between both craigslist and offer up. I practically had to pay the guy to take it off my hands. I originally paid $170. After slashing my initial asking by 50%, I got $60. Maybe I would have done better on Facebook, but I don't want to engage in their ecosystem.
Nice! We’ve had the same experience at our garage sales, Craigslist, etc...always makes me think of watching all those episodes of “Antiques Road Show”, except the expert surprises the person whose treasure is being appraised by saying, “Do you have any idea how little this crap is worth?!” :)

My wife found a good method for sentimental stuff from our family: find one thing from (a given) family member that means a lot and either display it or use it, and part with the rest. That way, you enjoy it daily.

Interested to track your journey and spending, as our household spending is similar. Trying get under $2000 / month is a challenge. If we could just get there consistently, I could pull the plug tomorrow!

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

That's a good approach for the sentimental stuff. When it comes time to revisit, I'll consider it.

Scott 2
Posts: 1830
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:34 pm

Re: What I Spend

Post by Scott 2 »

March 2021 Total (Couple) - $1887
Groceries - $712.16
Home Maintenance - $350.94
Utilities - $201.02
Streaming - $129.49
Entertainment - $128.64
Healthcare/Medical - $115.41
Clothing/Shoes - $91.00
Video Games - $81.00
Pets/Pet Care - $77.16

On the low end of target, but it's a bit artificial. No insurance billing posted this month and medical billing remains unresolved. The risk of messing up insurance billing is a little scary. I found myself proactively checking with each carrier, confirming automated payments are scheduled and pending. Counting on someone else to get insurance right (and pay for it!) is a big perk of employment, one I undervalued.

Quite a few luxuries this month - annual audible subscription, fixing the basement stereo, a singing video game and mic, grocery delivery from the fancy store - including a $60 bottle of whisky.

We'll probably defer income taxes until May, but April will show a marked uptick in spending. Food inventory is low. Health and dental insurance should be around $750. Home owner's insurance hits for another $750. The medical bills from January are still outstanding. Maybe we'll finally know what to pay? $750???

I'll estimate $3200 for April. I do think discretionary spending will slow down. The next month (May) will be expensive - income taxes, property taxes and we'll be fully vaccinated. There's been a lot of conversation looking forward to in person shopping. May could hit $20k.

Net worth is about 1.5% below mid-February's high water mark. My 401k rollover required time out of market. We were 50% cash from 3/1 to 3/11. That hurt - around 0.5% of assets. I got scared buying back in, missed the window before the stimulus was approved, and I paid for it. Lesson learned. Given the disarray our investment accounts was in, I can accept this as the price of setting up the retirement portfolio. It's hard not to have a little regret, though.


Rolling 12 Month Spend (Couple) - $35,378
Last year's income taxes aged off, making this number especially low. It might drop another $1k in April. Once May taxes are paid, I expect a number closer to $47k. It should then gradually trend upwards, around $500 per month, as paying for insurance raises our monthly spend. We're ultimately targeting a ceiling around $53k/yr for the year - inclusive of taxes, healthcare, insurance and any other unexpected expenses.

I don't think most people are accounting for taxes in annual spend, but it makes the tracking easier. Very important to ensure any comparisons are apples to apples. Still, not particularly ERE. We're not prepared to sacrifice on home, insurance, healthcare or food. Those big rocks add up fast.

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