By: Revanche

Money & Life Report: January 2018

February 5, 2018

Money & Life Report: January 2018

On Money

Income: holding steady

Our regular income comes from two full time day jobs.

We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property and investing in dividend stocks.

Our side income comes from Swagbucks, selling clothes on Poshmark which is hit or miss, using cash back sites like Ebates, Mr.Rebates, and tracking activity through Achievement (my introduction to it).

The long term goal is to replace our day job income before my health declines enough to prevent me from working.

All the returns! We’d purchased a lot of Elfa stuff from The Container Store last year because it was hard to tell what sizes we needed for our storage, and finally got around to installing some of the shelves! This means some of the excess stuff can be returned which is a heck of a relief for our credit card.

Side income. An unexpected request for a confidential phone call to give user feedback netted $50 in Amazon money. I’ve been waiting on some Amazon purchases that we need for the house that this can pay for – an oven liner like this but I don’t need three, multi-purpose lighters for our pilot light among other things, teak oil for our teak bench. Just kidding, I used it up on dog food, pill pockets, calendula cream for Seamus’s skin (works great for us too, TBH), and dog treats. I live but to serve my doggy companion.

Spending: way too high

This month’s total cash outflow is actually last month’s too much spending but this month is when we pay the Piper so January gets blamed. We’ll see how we make out in the next few months as we strive to normalize our spending patterns.

Twitter bargains. Twitter can be a cesspool but if you curate, it can be awesome. I do the latter. I share my #1GoodMoneyThing hashtag there and, using that hashtag, share other people’s savings wins. I LOVE when people share theirs. Best of all, occasionally when I’m doing research on things we need to replace, people will chime in to let me know they have a used product I could have or buy. It may not be exactly what I was looking for but the new to us coffeemaker that does the job for $30 was a hell of a lot better for our pocketbook than the “perfect” (maybe) new machine at $200, and we gave it a new home since it wasn’t being used. Win win!

The long-awaited Longchamp. In the grand scheme of things, waiting ten years to buy the lightweight, high quality Longchamp Le Pliage bag that everyone and their mother has may not have made the most sense but I refused to pay full price ($145) for it, and then kept missing the sales for them. For years. This Christmas season alone I missed 3 sales at Nordstrom for 30% off. My policy of not looking at stores for 360 days of the year usually works for me but not for this. These bags sell like hotcakes and sell out within a day, every time there’s a sale, it seems. Finally I caved and broke my own rule about never buying from Poshmark and looked at some listings. Lo! One seller had the size and color that I’ve been wanting listed it for 45% off! I made an offer and she accepted $70 for it. After shipping, it was about 50% of the normal list price. Scary how simple that shift was so I’ve turned off my Shop at Poshmark radar!

Christmas 2018, check! I’m not even a little bit ready to talk about the holiday season again but there was a big clearance sale at Gymboree so I threw together yet another spreadsheet of ages, sizes, favorite colors (if known). I picked out 13 clothing items for 5 niblings – 50% off, with free shipping, the total cost was $55. My budget is $20 per kid so new record! I may add a book for each kid later when there’s a good sale or coupon.

Daily tracker! I’m tracking all money transactions this year to see what our numbers look like, and where our money goes. It’s nothing fancy, just a spreadsheet with columns for the amount spent and one for notes.

Not spending: not bad

We’re making use of a lot of free (new and new to us) things! I’m a little worried about how the really old stuff is holding up, though. The low heat function on the little hairdryer is fiddly now.

Useful things we liberated from former Home: 2 tiny staplers and staple refills – good for little hands when JB gets older and good for my hands now, also, cute! My old memo board. A compact hairdryer bought from a yard sale fifteen (?) years ago – I love this thing, it’s so light it doesn’t hurt my hands to use it. The back end does keep trying to eat my hair but that’s user error.

Little snippets! JB let me trim zir hair this month for the first time since ze was 10 months or so. Back then, ze wasn’t helpful but more importantly PiC was dissatisfied with what I’d done to our child’s head so we started taking zir to the local Supercuts where a very nice lady has been trimming zir hair every few months. I might try doing a full cut soon. Maybe.

Here comes the baby. A friend is expecting sometime this next year so I’m working on a frugal gift box of hand me downs and brand new things: books, clothes in various sizes, towels and blankets.

LIBRARY BOOKS! We got our brand spanking new library cards near the end of the month and I’ve gone nuts checking out e-books. I sure do wish we had a greater selection, like every single book written by each of my favorite authors, but I’ll figure out how to request those soon enough.

Saving and investing: new routines

PiC’s IRA has now been topped up with our 2018 contributions and after some silly bureaucratic nonsense, I’ve transferred his funds into the Premium Class mutual fund that has a much lower expense ratio. Check!

My IRA is being funded throughout the year in 12 equal monthly deductions from our cash flow. I haven’t decided if I’ll keep doing it this way going forward or if I’ll go back to lump sum deposits for 2019.Β  Error alert! Why was I holding the 500 Index fund + Small Cap fund when VTSAX holds all the stock market? Duh! I have now reduced my holdings in the IRA to two funds!

Naysaying the CD ladder. People had some great suggestions for our emergency fund outside of the boring CD ladder. Some folks wished (elsewhere, not in the comments) they had done a CD ladder but I’m researching the alternatives now in case those will serve us better in the medium term (next five years). You can read along with me here.

Question for next month: What is my best strategy for taxable investing? I own a set of stocks at Ally Invest, do I shift them all to Vanguard and start investing heavily in Vanguard mutual funds? Vanguard ETFs? Leave the stocks at Ally and just open a brokerage at Vanguard for mutual funds or ETFs?Β 

Net worth: up 3%

The increase is just on paper because of …

Property values. I usuallyΒ leave our property value at the purchase price assessment but I’ve decided to try updating it once a year with the tax assessment. I didn’t think too much about this, it just seems right to use the value that the county uses to assess our tax bill.

UPDATE: Investing friend pointed out that Zillow’s estimates are close enough that it’s worth considering their property value assessment alongside the county’s tax assessment. We looked, and Zillow says that the rental’s worth about 25% more than the county does. Yikes, that’s a big leap – should I stick with the county or go with Zillow? Which would you use?

Investments jumped. But only because I dumped cash into PiC’s IRA this month.

CDs are cash. At least in my spreadsheet. I used to ignore the month to month gains because they’re not real until the CDs mature but then I realized that didn’t make sense! That’s true of all our holdings, duh. So the tracking will now include presumed value as it increases.

Miles & points: holding steady

Alaska miles: 204,001
Chase Ultimate rewards: 299,283
Starpoints: 155,265

On Life

Skincare. I looked in the mirror one day and realized that I seem to have developed … eczema? Or something? I’m casual to the point of sloppiness in my wardrobe but my skin has always been fine so it’s been ignored. I’ve been incredibly negligent but no more! I’ve already resolved to wear broad spectrum sunblock (my favorite here) daily, but I’ve also added using this Garnier cleanser to my routine. JB loves helping me swab my face at night, too, though zir coverage is pretty poor.

Look at that SCHNOZ! I am over the moon pleased with Seamus’s nose. Mid November, his nose was weirdly dried out and crusty for some unknown reason. Nothing had changed in his diet or environment recently enough to account for it but since we had to visit the vet anyway, I asked him for advice. We added Vitamin E gelcaps to his food, 400 units twice a day, and watched anxiously for results. Doubt started creeping in when there was absolutely no change for over a month but like a Christmas gift, his nose started showing small signs of healing at the very end of the year and a week into January, it healed a lot!

Cooking, lots of. We had 3 take out meals for special reasons (birthday celebrations) but otherwise, I managed to cook all other meals for the first half of the month. I periodically get cook’s block when I can’t figure out what to feed the family but I’m really happy for that momentum. Nothing fancy: fried rice with low sodium Spam and lots of veggies (corn, edamame, onions, some other things), meatloaf loaded with onions and squash, baked whole fish loaded with dill and onions (which I liked better than lemon slices, not sure why), mac ‘n’ cheese with ground turkey and veggies.

I also managed at least one, sometimes two!, vegetable for almost every meal. (“Almost” because our hodge-podge meals of leftovers didn’t include veggies when we’d run out and I don’t cook for those meals.)

:: Do you prefer dollar cost averaging or lump sum investing? How is your spending and not spending this first month of the year? As always, simple and easy veggie recipes are welcomed.

12 Responses to “Money & Life Report: January 2018”

  1. SP says:

    I use the county tax assessed property tax prices too, and that is probably still conservative compared to market value (unless the market drops, in which case I’d reconsider).

    I’m definitely interested to see what you do instead of a CD ladder, because I’m not doing anything super intelligent with my cash stockpile right now.

    Glad to hear Seamus’s nose has healed!
    SP recently posted…January Wrap-upMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      See my update – apparently the county’s VERY conservative in my case and I’m not sure what to do there!

      I hate that I spoke too soon about his nose, it’s starting up again. With luck it’s just because he’s been shoving his nose in the space heater for days on end.

      • SP says:

        Hmm, I still go with the county. Zillow estimates >30% higher of us. We watch neighborhood sales and I’m not quite sure if I believe Zillow, but the county is clearly quite low.

        But – I’m thinking about my primary residence. I don’t care to take credit for the real estate growth that I don’t plan to access. I can see using a more realistic number for an investment property in particular. If I were to use market value, I’d probably take off some discount for transaction costs of selling.
        SP recently posted…January Wrap-upMy Profile

        • Revanche says:

          Right I should have clarified that for our residence, I’m not looking at anything but the tax assessment because I don’t intend to sell.

          For the rental, I’d consider tracking it closer to the market for the sake of considering when to sell it since it IS an investment that will be sold at some point. But it’s not strictly necessary, either unless the value skyrockets.

  2. Joe says:

    Twitter is pretty useful for you. I should do the same when we need to buy something. Our coffee makes is a french press. It’s cheap and going strong after 10 years. Love it.
    I cooked a lot in January too. I’m uninspired this week, though.
    Joe recently posted…January 2018 Goals and Financial UpdateMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      May both our coffeemakers and various other appliances carry on for several more years πŸ™‚

      Maybe you need a short break this week to refresh your cooking brain? I need one every so often.

  3. After a very expensive December I was committed to cutting spending way back for January and that went really well. I’m constantly tempted by sales I see online so to help with that I unsubscribed to almost all retail email lists I was on. Getting notified of sales is great when you need something, but not so much when you don’t.

    One of our dogs struggles with dry skin and itchiness in the winter. I use coconut oil on him but have never tried adding Vitamin E to his food, I’ll have to give it a go.

    • Revanche says:

      YES to unsubscribing. Or in my case, sending them to a tertiary email address πŸ™‚

      We’ve added canned sardines and Vit E to his diet over the last year and it’s made an enormous difference for him. I hope it works for you!

  4. Linda says:

    Hannah dog’s nose got dry around the same time. I smeared some Vitamin E oil directly on her nose a few times and that helped with the problem. She already takes one 400 mg Vitamin E capsule every day for her liver and heart.
    Linda recently posted…Money talk: how owning a house can bring in passive incomeMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Our vet commented that you really can’t overdose them and recommended it be taken orally but I wonder if that’s partly because he knows Seamus doesn’t want us putting it on his nose πŸ™‚

      Hannah dog is so good.

  5. With regards to property values, I use Zillow as a ballpark estimate in my NW calculation. However, I keep an eye on comps (i.e. specific sales on like property in close proximity) to justify those numbers, or not.

    I used to be terrified of lump sum investing and get cold feet because I didn’t want to purchase “too high”. The truth though I’ve found out is statistically it’s better to invest in a lump sum rather than trying to time a market… especially if you’re in it for the long haul (This is the latest book I read explaining this – The 5 Mistakes Every Investor Makes and How to Avoid Them: Getting Investing Right).

    Our January was nice with a small positive in both NW and cash flow. We’ll see how February pans out, but it’s been a wild ride thus far. πŸ™‚

    • Revanche says:

      Ah that’s very true! With comps to balance out the Zestimate, I would feel much more confident in edging the value up closer to those higher numbers than keeping it depressed at the county assessment level. Plus this makes a difference in how to keep a balanced ratio, if there is such a thing as an ideal ratio between cash / investments / real estate.

      I always get that cold feet feeling about lump sum investing even though I know better πŸ˜€ Now I just plan ahead for when the lump is dumped into the market and do so regardless of what’s happening. Takes the nervousness out of the equation.

      Here’s a great February!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | Β© A Gai Shan Life 2018. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red