We spent $4,755 in February. Travel resumed its rightful place atop our expenses as we enjoyed a weekend getaway with friends and threw money at some future trips. The market went on something of a wild ride and we had our first monthly decline in net worth since starting the site.
Travel – $2,497: our lone trip in February was the kind of stuff-our-faces soiree we’ve come to know and love. We used points & miles for our flights and rental car which really helped defray the costs. We spent almost $1,000 on future 2018 trips, which was mostly for entertainment items. I started off 2018 thinking our travel spending would be lower than last year, but reality is starting to set in…
Home – $858: we paid our annual homeowner’s insurance in February. It’s actually about 20% lower than 2017 because we reduced some of our coverages. It might just be me, but I think insurance is interesting enough to warrant it’s own future post. Our electric bill got doubled up in January, which is why our utilities are so low in February.
Food – $520: we kind of crushed it this month. I can’t remember the last time we kept the grocery bill under 5 bills. Our dining out is a little misleading because all of our restaurant spending while on vacation gets categorized to Travel.
Entertainment – $444: we had a couple friends and family major life events to attend to in February which really dominated our entertainment spending.
Vehicle – $179: well we didn’t buy a new (to us) car this month, so our vehicle spending fell off a cliff compared to January. The $562 insurance charge is our semi-annual premium payment. A downside of the new(er) car is that we’re carrying comprehensive insurance on it, causing our premium to jump a little. But again, it’s such fascinating stuff I’ll save it for a special insurance-only post. The negative $500 for “New Car” is actually the sales proceeds from the old jalopy. For tracking purposes I decided to net this against the new car purchase.
Merchandise – $130: this has to be a record low for us. Merchandise spend seems to constantly creep up on us, but somehow we kept it at bay in February. Too busy to go shopping I guess. Thank goodness.
Other Services – $107: now this is definitely a record! We’re finally rid of cable television! We made the switch to Direct TV Now, which should save us about $1,000 in 2018 compared to our cable-laden 2017. We prepaid 4 months of Direct TV Now in January to take advantage of the “free” Apple TV promotion, which left only the stock $100 cell phone bill to pay in February. The deal is still available, and if you sign up through this link I’ll make hella commissions.
Waiting To Be Zapped – $20: I dropped a little bit of money on Twitter advertising in February. It was a complete failure, which I’ll chat about in the W2BZ monthly update.
I try to get an idea of our spending patterns by updating an estimate of our annual spending at the end of every month. This allows for a better comparison of our spend by levelling out irregular expense items like home and car insurance.
Our projected total 2018 spend jumped quite a bit compared to January as I got a little more realistic about where our Travel spending is headed this year (not down). This probably looks like a de facto budget, but I’ll never call it that. I’m very anti-budgeting; I think spending should be value based instead of driven by artificial constraints.
Our savings rate powered back to normal after a dismal January. Hurrah for us! Our unofficial goal has always been a 50% savings rate, but I think it’s time to unofficially up it. In the past year we’ve received some nice raises and are taking home more money. On the expense side, we paid off our mortgage last year, which reduces automated costs.
As long as we are able to avoid lifestyle inflation our savings rate should be going up. I think a more appropriate, but equally not thought out, target savings rate is 60%. Let us go!
Our net worth got crushed in February. It’s the first month since starting W2BZ that our number has gone down.
Eee gad Batman, our investments got rocked. Our portfolio balance fell $17,060 in February!
We contributed $5,118 to our investment accounts in February. Additionally, our employers pitched in $1,128 in matching contributions.
We withhold enough from each paycheck to put the max $18,500 into our 401ks, but not so much that we miss out on match dollars later in the year. Our employers’ matching policy applies to each paycheck, so if we were to front-load our retirement contributions we would leave money on the table.
To illustrate, my wife’s match is 5%, and for rounding purposes, let’s say she makes $96k a year ($8k/month). The 5% match applies to her semi-monthly paycheck ($4k). As long as she contributes at least $200 to her 401k every check, the company will also pitch in $200. For the year that’s $4,800 in free money!
A concern when maxing your annual contribution when you have employer match is to make sure you don’t do it too fast. If she were to put all of her first 5 paychecks in her 401k she would only receive $1,000 (5 x $200) in matching funds. The rest of the year she wouldn’t get any match.
It’s not a challenging problem, but it’s important we keep an eye on it to make sure we both max our 401ks for the year, while never dropping below 5% on any paycheck.
Of our $1,128 in matching contributions, $743 is from 401ks and the remaining $385 is from my employee stock purchase plan.
Our overall decline in portfolio balance is $17,060. Since we contributed $6,246 in to our accounts, it means we had $23,306 in market losses. Ouch! That represents a 4.8% decline for February. (That isn’t really the return for the month because it doesn’t factor in contributions – maybe I’ll do an XIRR post in the future.) The overall markets fell about 4% for the month which means we fared slightly worse.
I’m a big believer in passive ETFs, which means our returns should more closely mirror the overall market. There are a few outliers that drove our performance lower, but a one-month snapshot isn’t concerning enough to make changes.
Mostly the market drop is a great thing for us. We are buyers in the stock market, and everything just went on 4% off sale. The perfect situation for us would be a market that stays perfectly flat while we’re working, then explodes up the day we retire. The booming markets now serve to make us wealthier in Personal Capital, but have really hampered our stock buying power. So I guess, yay! the market is down!
Plug time. I track all of our investment balances in Personal Capital. It’s the best. It takes about 15 minutes to set up and from then-on everything updates auto-magically. They recently enhanced their retirement planning tools and they’re so bomb I’m going to do a separate post showing how I use them. You can also use Personal Capital to track all of your spending automatically and set up budgets. I don’t personally use it to track spending though, I use Excel for that (see this post on why).
Personal Capital is completely free. If you signup through this link I may receive a small commission, but it remains free to you.
Our first ever Net Worth decline feels a little bitter sweet. Obviously the market wasn’t going to continue it’s relentless march north, but it’s still a little disheartening to see the numbers drop. Fortunately we’re picking up some stocks on sale, and hopefully we see a bigger market correction in the near future and stocks can go on clearance.
It’s kind of crazy to think that our portfolio is big enough now that it can out-impact our jobs. We “lost” $23k to market fluctuations this month, far more than we earn from working.
I’d like to see us tone down our spending, I think we’ve gotten a little lazy in January and February. It’s easy to fall into auto-spending mode and lose sight of marrying expenses with values. We’ll try to be a little more thoughtful in March and hopefully we can have a strong saving month.
As always, thanks for reading. And drive small used cars and live in a small house.