EOM November 2013

Savings rate: 67%

Trying to finish out the year strong, since next year will be very eventful and transitional.  Saving this much is all about planning for the future.

I had a great potluck Thanksgiving with friends this year.  If you have friends that live nearby (or friendly neighbors), potlucks are a great social alternative to eating out, even if it’s not Thanksgiving.

Most of my Christmas shopping is done at this point.  A little thought goes a long way.  People love homemade gifts, and they tend to cost less as well.

Have a great rest of 2013!

EOM October 2013

My October 2013 personal savings rate was 58%.

This is because of two rather large expenses of mine this month, and there is a lesson to be learned from each of them.

Lesson #1:  Do not speed.

This month I paid off a speeding ticket given to me in NY in February.  I’m not sure if other states are better or worse, but because I was pulled over by a state trooper, NY slapped an additional $125 surcharge on top of what the ticket would have cost otherwise.  In addition, to pay online costs a whopping $29 “convenience fee” that in my opinion is predatory, and penalizes procrastinators that wait until the last week to explore their payment options.  For some reason they only accept money orders (not even personal checks).  Luckily, I was able to get one from my bank for free, and send it off one 46-cent stamp later.  Of course this all could have been avoided if I had been more careful driving on the NYS Thruway earlier this year.

Lesson #2:  Prevention is cheap.

I had my semi-annual dental checkup last month, and was diagnosed with my first-ever tooth cavities.  Six fillings in all.  The patient portion of my dental bill was about $250.  It was certainly a worthy expense, as is anything related to my health (without your health, what good is money?), but presumably could have been avoided if I took better care and flossed my teeth after every meal.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say.

 

So those were the themes of my October.  There were also a few Halloween-related money-saving highlights.  In preparation for the holiday, I walked into one of those warehouse-like costume stores that pop up every year, and NOPEd right out of there after seeing the ridiculous prices for the plastic crap they sell.  Using my own clothes and a few garments from Goodwill costing less than $20 total, I was able to put together two costumes this year with my special lady.

Poison Ivy and the Riddler

Poison Ivy and the Riddler

Velma and Shaggy

Velma and Shaggy

We also found a haunted corn maze that had shut down for the season, which we explored at night for free.  The lurking menace of an angry farmer with a pitchfork chasing us through the towering cornstalks certainly added to the experience.  Never forget: fun is free!

EOM September 2013

Howdy Pilgrims!

My savings rate for September was 59%.  This is a little disappointing to me as my current goal for 2013 is to have a higher savings rate than 2012 (which was 67%) and right now I’m hovering around 65% for YTD.  From another perspective, saving 59% is way above the American average, but if I don’t hold myself to a higher standard than nobody else is going to.

This month I’d like to share some ways that I saved money in September.

  • My fiance’s dentist offers a promotion where if you refer a new patient, you (and the new patient) each get a $50 gift card to be used at local restaurants/spas.  For the month of September they doubled the promotion, and since I had been wanting to switch dentists anyway, we took advantage of it.  Just yesterday we got two gift cards in the mail for $100 each.  That is a total value of $200 that we get to enjoy for free!  Who still believes that you have to live austerely to realize extreme savings?
  • I did not buy GTAV (although I was sorely tempted).  For the uninitiated, this is a popular video game with a gigantic production budget.  Buying this game on its September 17 release date would have set me back $60.  I hope to own and play it eventually, but I can wait for it to go down in price.  Imagine consuming something that cost $266 million dollars to make, for the low price of $15 (the current price of an earlier but not yet obsolete game in the series).  The mind boggles.  In the meantime, I’ve been taking advantage of Microsoft’s “Games with Gold” XBOXLIVE promotion, which makes a game available for free download every 15 days.  Many of them are quite good, and I may not have known about them otherwise.
  • I applied for this Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card a few months ago, knowing that if I cancel it in less than a year I will avoid the annual fee.  One of the benefits of this card are the frequent flier miles they give you.  This month, I used those miles to purchase my plane ticket home for the winter holidays.  Expedia estimates the current price of the round-trip ticket I bought to be $422.  My fiance did the same, for total family savings of $844.  The total cost to us was $0!  Incredible.
  • I saved some money on groceries and other day-to-day living expenses by eating and living at an all-inclusive Jamaican resort for a week.  My special lady and I planned and paid for this trip back in March (my savings rate that month was about 50%).  On the way there and back we avoided hotel costs by staying a total of three nights with different friends of ours in Chicago, and avoided gas and tolls to/from Chicago by buying Megabus tickets way in advance (they were $6 each, round trip).  I get that Caribbean vacations aren’t exactly a great way to save money, but I mainly just wanted to include this picture.

1240213_10103486562452815_1259775145_n

My tip for you this month is to take advantage of promotional deals, and try to make the most of your paid vacation (a little planning goes a long way).

Happy Saving!

EOM August 2013

My savings rate for August was 65%.

I spent $58.21 on alcohol, $118.58 on eating out, $65.49 on gasoline and $206.66 on groceries.

I spent $6.24 on gaming and $9.43 on other entertainment.  This last line makes me laugh because I played a whole bunch of video and tabletop games this month, and did a lot of other entertaining things as well.  I guess all of those good times were mostly free!

This alone would not have brought my savings rate down to 65%, but as you know from my previous post I decided to splurge on an artful, personal gift for the love of my life.  I can see it hanging on my wall as I write this post!

I also just got back from my bachelor party, which happened to be on the same long weekend as my birthday.  My closest friends were there, all of whom have known me for years, and most of whom have known me since kindergarten.  They make me feel rich indeed.

This month, after closing out my spreadsheet for August, I decided to run some numbers and came up with the following fun facts:

  • I created my spreadsheet in December 2011 (which was 21 months ago).
  • Since I started to track each individual transaction in my spreadsheet, I’ve entered 1339 lines representing different gains, expenses, and transfers from one account to another.
  • My total net worth has gone from negative (student loan and car loan debt greater than assets) to positive.
  • I created this blog in January 2013 (8 months ago).
  • According to my average monthly spending, my total liquid net worth (not including investment gains) would completely fund my current lifestyle for 13 months.  This is my emergency fund.
  • According to my average monthly spending, my total net worth (including 401ks, IRAs, etc… but not counting on future gains or losses) would completely fund my current lifestyle for 39 months.  This is my retirement fund.

So there you have it.  Another month done and gone.  Each month doesn’t seem like much on its own, but when I use my spreadsheet to examine the big picture I can see the snowball effect beginning.  Onward and upward!  Happy saving!

EOM June 2013

My savings rate for June = 61%.

I spent $0 on gaming this month!

I spent exactly my regular monthly average of $70 on alcohol this month.  Same for my monthly $10 cell phone bill, $35 heat/electric bill, and rent.  No surprises there.

I spent more than usual on gasoline and on groceries (about double) due to a wonderful visit from my parents.  I wanted to keep them well fed and also show them around.  Although this lowered my savings rate a bit this month, it was well worth it!  These are the kinds of things it is important to spend on.  And I can easily afford it because of how good I am at saving up!

In the same vein, I shelled out $100 to rent my apartment complex’s guest apartment for the night that my childhood friends rolled through with their band, Swear & Shake.  They regularly tour the eastern half of the United States and this was their first show in Madison, WI!  So naturally I wanted to see them, make them comfortable, and show them a good time.  Again, well worth it.

Some other reasons my savings rate was lower than usual this month:

  • I made my semiannual auto insurance payment for $400.  I’ve been meaning to shop around for cheaper insurance.  Upcoming post maybe?
  • I spent about $100 on new summer clothes.  Since I’ve been keeping track, I’ve been spending about $165 on new clothes annually.  You can tell I’m not much of a shopper, although I do take advantage of the low prices at Kohls (I shop there almost exclusively).
  • I also made a cash withdrawal of $175 to refill my wallet.  They only take cash at the local farmer’s market I go to, and I also wanted cash on hand for my recent business trip.

It was a fun month, including a visit from my parents, from old friends, and a camping trip.  Even with all of this going on, I still managed to save 61% of my after-tax earnings!  I am still confident that by the end of this year, my overall savings rate for 2013 will be greater than my overall savings rate for 2012 (67%).  Onward and upward!

And remember, the best things in life are free… like this view!

IMG_20130627_120855

EOM April 2013

The weather is finally turning, there isn’t even the tiniest patch of snow on the ground, and flowers are beginning to bloom!  It even reached 70 degrees F this week!  The Green Pilgrim took advantage of this wonderful weather to bike to work for the first time all year.  It is only a 5 mile ride, and with the right gear I could really do the bike commute year-round, rain or shine.  Fie my laziness!  I hope to bicycle to work more regularly this year than ever before, and to show off how much I save on gas and other auto-related expenses in future posts.

But now to look back on the past.  My all-important Savings Rate for April was 75%!  Please excuse me while I pat myself on the back.  With my after-tax earnings this month, I could fully fund 3 months of retirement.  My yearly Savings Rate so far for 2013 is 65%, slightly below my 2012 rate of 67%.  We’re still seeing the effects of my significant but worthy purchases of a vacation and an engagement ring, both of which I consider investments that will return priceless experiences and memories.  Next month I hope to bring my running savings rate for 2013 back above my rate for 2012.  I think my goal for 2013 of 85% was a bit lofty, and 75% is looking like a more reasonable goal now.  I will continue to benchmark my progress against my original goal though, to keep the fire lit beneath me.

Savings Rate April 2013

Areas where I saved this month include:

  • Gaming!  Spent only $10 on a 40-day MMORPG subscription.  I plan on renting the new Tomb Raider game instead of buying it sometime this month and saving that way while continuing to enjoy my favorite hobby.  I’ve also been enjoying many free board games with good company recently.
  • Cell Phone!  Spent $10 for a month of service.  I love this new prepaid plan.
  • Entertainment!  Spent only $22 on my Netflix subscription and 2 games of bowling.

Areas to watch:

  • Alcohol, $53.  Less than my monthly average across 2012, but still can do better.
  • Groceries, $140.  My average monthly expenditure on groceries is $126.
  • Gasoline, $80.  My average monthly gas expense is $62.  I can lower this (and be healthier!) by biking more.

One last thing I want to share this month is my favorite graph.  I stripped the $$ y-axis labels, but you’ll still understand why this graph is so cool to me.

FavGraph May2013

You can see where I paid off all of my student loans and car loan in September 2012, because my savings have really ramped up since then.  I’ve also explored using tax leveraged accounts like my Roth IRA and Roth 401k to invest my savings.  What a ride it has been!

Anyway, thanks for following along with me on my path to early retirement.  Here’s to saving 75% or more of my after-tax earnings next month also!  Cheers

EOM March 2013

I don’t have any fancy graphs and data for March because I want to keep certain things to myself, namely the exact prices of certain significant expenses.  This past month my lady friend and I got engaged, and we booked a one-week trip to Jamaica later this year for when we will surely require a break from wedding planning.  These were easily my biggest expenses for the month, but by following my own advice from a previous post I was still able to keep my March savings rate closer to my 2013 goal than it is to the national average.  Not too shabby!  We are continuing to use these rather obvious methods to save money as we plan our wedding.

After spending more than I should have on alcoholic beverages in February, my interesting experiment for March was to not spend a cent on these.  I still drank, but only when it was given freely.  This led to an extreme decline in the number of weekday beers I consumed.  Coincidentally, I seem to have lost five pounds without changing my diet or exercise habits.  How about that.

I hope to do something similar this month: no spending money on eating out!  I promised the lady friend I’d treat her to frozen yogurt when her March Madness team lost, and she didn’t seem to mind that I bought a tub instead of taking her out.  So I’m already saving money from this initiative!  What’s funny is that I will still probably eat out at restaurants about five times this month.  Once as a treat from my lady friend, once using a gift card I was given, and thrice on a business trip.  None of these will cost me a cent.

People really do spend a lot of money on these things.  By cutting back on enjoying them just a little, I was able to cut my spending on them entirely.  Considering I still get to enjoy these things, it doesn’t feel at all like I’m sacrificing anything.  And my wallet is certainly happy about it.