Money well spent November 2020

by Government Worker FI | Last Updated: December 16, 2020

Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for November 2020. I write these posts to reflect on my life right now and give you insights into our lives and our spending. For a larger explanation of why I write these posts, check out March 2019’s post.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking on an affiliate link I get a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. I have a paid relationship with CountAbout, please see my CountAbout disclaimer.

What we did in November

November is when it gets legitimately cold outside. Gone are the days of just casually walking out the door without putting on layers and layers of extra clothes. I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave the house except to walk the dog or go for a run all month.

Sunrise over lake wingra
It’s easy to catch the sunrise when it’s dark all of the time.

If you would have told me in January 2020 that I’d spend November 2020 cooped up in the house with the kids with no outlet I would have invited Dr. Kevorkian over to make a house call. Seriously. But somehow we’re all doing just fine. I’ve changed. The kids changed. I’m curious to see how we’ll react “on the other side”.

Where our money went in November

Money well spent November 2020
Here is our spending report for the month of November.

Yeah- our numbers are kind of weird this past month. On the income side, we got a big chunk of our dependent care savings account money back. As a result, our income was higher than normal. We also spent a lot more than normal. I experienced some weird symptoms and needed an ultrasound. $800 later I found out that I was perfectly healthy. As finance bloggers we can talk all we want about avoiding lattes and wasteful spending, but you’d need to drink a lot of java to have it come close to unavoidable spending like healthcare.

Anyway- we drove our car less than 400 miles in November- which I’m happy about. And our electricity and natural gas use were okay given the fact we never leave the house.

Personal progress

Unfortunately, I was not able to keep up with my daily meditation habit and broke my streak around 120 days. I still managed to floss and exercise every day in November and I’ve continued my habit of intermittent fasting. I even did some longer fasts before and after Thanksgiving.

Man and Dog shadow
Walking Kenny has been a great excuse to go outside.

Honestly, if it weren’t for these streaks, I’m not sure what my health would be like. I often find myself unmotivated to do anything. The pandemic is hard. Not wanting to break my streak is sometimes the only thing keeping me going.

Spending/Saving

This month we spent 37% of our post-tax income. I calculate our savings rate based upon the difference between our income and our spending. Using that method, we saved 63% of our income, of which 8% went towards our mortgage principal. Like I said before, it was a weird month with reimbursements and extra medical expenses.

But you know what?

Every month is a weird month. There’s always some sort of unexpected expense or fluctuation in our income. And we work two normal W2 jobs! that’s why it’s so important to track your expenses over the long term.

As you may know, we track all of our expenses and net worth in CountAbout. It’s a great tool for tracking expenses and developing budgets. One of the best features about CountAbout is that you can attach receipts. It makes organizing paperwork for tax time a breeze. If you’re interested you can sign up through this link for a 15 day free trial.

greyound hiding his face
Kenny thinks we should spend more money on dog toys.

Groceries

We spent a little more than $600 on groceries this past month. This is well below the USDA “thrifty” food budget plan of $882 per month for our family. (The USDA thrifty plan is used to determine the food stamp allowance for our size and age of family). It’s maybe about $100 per month than we were spending before the pandemic hit.

Before the pandemic, we used to treat groceries as game to see how low we could go. Now, we’re happy to pay to have our groceries dropped on our doorstep from Instacart. Also, since Instacart is like a food lottery (oops! We forgot your oil this week!!) we’ve been trying to stock up more so we don’t need to go to the store.

We still cook everything from scratch, but are okay ordering what we need instead of scouting around for the absolute lowest prices on things. It is what it is.

Kids

Are kids expensive? This seems to be a big point of contention in the FIRE community.

9 springs Eway
I took this picture on a hike with the kids. Hiking with kids is a free activity, although you need to bring really good (i.e. expensive) snacks.

My experience is that daycare is extremely expensive, but otherwise, the kids haven’t really added a lot to our expenses. We hardly spend anything on the “kid” line item. Although I guess we probably do spend more on food and gifts than we otherwise would.

This month we spent $50 on “kids”. Remember that used cello we bought in January? Guess what? It needed a new bow. So that’s it. We actually got reimbursed for some kid purchases in October in November. (So even though the bow cost $60, our net spending on kids in November was $50.)

Gas & Auto

Hell yeah! One tank of gas again this month. Of course we spent a lot on the car this month because it was time for our annual oil change. Normally I change the oil in the car myself on Columbus Day. But our alley was under construction and I wasn’t able to put the car in the garage. Oil changes are really expensive for 30 minutes of work. On the other hand, I don’t need to drive the oil out to the oil recycling center, so that was a nice change.

Henry Vilas zoo beyond the lagoon of Lake Wingra
I don’t even need to drive to go for walks in this beautiful landscape!

Blog Highlights

Recently, I’ve decided to “go pro” blogging. I’m not talking about money. I’ve been reading The War of Art and it talks about the difference between how a professional and an amateur deal with their craft. When I started blogging, I was making excuses for not being successful. I had an amateur’s mindset. I’m playing for keeps now.

Features

I didn’t publish any guest posts or appear on any podcasts this past month. However, I did get mentioned on the “I read” list on Indeedably. I really love their website design which looks straight out of a dystopian future. I really wish I had the creativity and technical ability to design something like that.

Traffic

My traffic wasn’t quite as big as it was in October. However, October was kind of a fluke in that I had 3 posts get shared on the ChooseFI Federal Employee Facebook group. Those social shares added about 1,000 sessions to my blog traffic. (Thanks for sharing!)

In November I had only 200 less sessions than October, but only 57 of my sessions came from Facebook. I made up the rest of the growth through organic traffic (i.e. Google searches) and direct traffic (email subscribers)!

New posts

In November I only wrote one post targeted at federal employees- a post where I provided a federal employee leave calendar. I also wrote a sponsored post for CountAbout and two posts about family and finances. I also updated my post comparing Traditional and Roth TSPs and this post has now moved to the first page of Google!

Investments

I joined Online Impact this past month. “OI” is Pete McPherson’s blogging group. You get access to all of Pete’s courses as well as access to a private Slack channel with other bloggers (and Pete of course). I launched this blog following Pete’s “How to start a blog” article on DYEB. His courses are fun, and I really am getting a lot of the community. It’s been a good investment.

Between OI and Daniella’s Launch Your Side Hustle Course I have learned a ton this year, and my blog has improved a lot.

In addition to these courses, I am a regular user of Keysearch. Keysearch is how I do all of my keyword research to find ideas for blog posts that I can actually rank for in Google. It works very similarly to the popular Ahrefs SEO tool. But unlike Ahrefs which costs hundreds of dollars a month, Keysearch is less than $20. I couldn’t imagine not having this tool now.

Favorite Purchases

I bought a new hooded sweatshirt off of amazon. And I have lived in it ever since. I love hoodies. And I love the color orange. Amazon must know this because it kept suggesting this hoodie in my favorite shade of orange on all of my social channels.

The hoodie is super comfortable and looks great on me. And it even has thumb loops so I can pull it over my hands. I have hinted strongly that I’d really like a second one of these sweatshirts for Christmas. Here is hoping that Santa delivers one (in baby blue… in case he reads my blog).

Long term progress

Normally I include some dial gauges on my post at this point showing how close we are to financial independence. But I got bored of making those every month.

This month, I ran a simulation in cFIREsim with my current net worth, debt, and annual spending numbers. For those of you unaware, cFIREsim is an excellent cloud based software that runs withdrawal calculations from historical data.

If my wife and I both quit our jobs tomorrow and lived off of our assets, there’s a 50% chance our money would outlast our lifespans. (Assuming that we increased our spending each year to match inflation).

cFIREsim results for November 2020
cFIREsim results based off of my November 2020 numbers.

cFIREsim is pretty amazing– and so is Lauren, the magician behind the software. I contacted her about how cFIREsim treated deferred pensions and we had a lovely discussion about it. She now has added a feature to cFIREsim so it treats FERS deferred pensions properly.

Here are my thoughts from the simulation:

  1. Wow- we are in pretty good financial shape. In some simulations we’d end up with a portfolio several times bigger than our current portfolio (in present dollars… not just because of inflation) even while not adding anything and instead pulling money out.
  2. My 50% success rate doesn’t account for an increase in healthcare costs. We need to figure this out.
  3. I’m a big math nerd and love to pour over data like this.

What were your financial wins from the past month? Leave a comment!