January has come and gone. Some days felt like years yet the month as a whole flew by.
We had a good time in January as some friends from high school spent the month in Austin. We drove into Austin every weekend and relived our college days with too much drinking. Not the healthiest, but it was good for the soul to laugh and be around friends.
I also spent a lot of time this month looking into our home and car insurance premiums and managed to bring them down considerably.
We had a bit of bad luck towards the end of the month as a contractor punctured a pipe while trying to fix an issue with the siding. This flooded our bathroom and we’re now in the process of working with D.R. Horton1 to get things fixed.
The pipe has been patched and fans ran for three days to get everything dry. Now we have to get the floor—and a bit of the closet carpet—replaced.
The other lowlight is the anxiety around layoffs. The tech sector has been hit hard—there’s been hundreds of thousands of layoffs in 2023 alone.
While I’ve been spared, it feels like we—as an industry—have our necks on the guillotine, waiting for the blade to drop. Or like we’re being hounded by the Grim Reaper, hearing his silent steps as he gets closer and closer, too spooked to turn around and confirm his presence.
How valid are these concerns? Are layoffs over or only starting? I don’t know. But the anxiety is real.
Either way, I’ve beefed up our savings to have six months of living expenses on hand in case things go awry. And I’m reminding myself that life is more than a job and that all will be well.
In terms of numbers, our total expenses in January were $5,436.01 and my net worth increased by $82,610 to $721,285, my first time over $700K since December 2021.2
Here’s how the numbers broke down:
Our mortgage payment was $3,459.17. This breaks down into $1,491.92 for principal, $461.10 for interest, and $1,506.15 for escrow.
Our monthly escrow will be higher than usual this year as we had a shortage last year since it was our first year in the house and our escrow was set too low to cover property taxes.
We’re technically getting an interest-free loan from our lender as they paid the property taxes in full at the end of 2022 and we’re paying them back throughout this year. Small win.
We have $231,485.99 to go until we’re mortgage free.
My wife has a side hustle on Etsy that yields a small profit. In January, we spent a total of $919.13 on it.
The large majority of this came from the iPad Air (5th generation) my wife bought at Costco for $541.24. This iPad usually sells for $569.99 but Costco was offering a $70 discount and taxes came out to $41.25.
We also spent $377.89 on other materials she requires.
Since this hustle yields a small profit3, this bucket is not really an expense, but I include it for completeness sake.
We paid $121.87 for insurance for our 2018 Kia Soul. The insurance, through Progressive, covers my wife and myself and is set to the minimum limits allowed by law.
The six-month premium for the policy comes out to $731.22, which is fairly pricey. Especially when considering that during our previous six months we had paid $654.
Thankfully, after much time researching and calling, I managed to greatly lower both our car and home insurance premiums. The savings for the home insurance are already in place and the savings for the car insurance will be effective in February. I’ll be writing a post on this soon.
We also spent $84.33 on gas and $47.20 on an oil change.
The spending on gas was higher than usual as we had to drive home after spending the holidays with my wife’s family in Atlanta. We also drove into Austin every weekend to see friends, which we don’t usually do.
Our utilities include electricity, natural gas, internet, water, sewer, and trash.
Our electricity bill was $13.55 for 90 kWh.4 We’re on a 12-month fixed rate plan that’ll expire in mid-February. From what I’m seeing, rates have gone up by about 12.26% since last year.
Our natural gas bill was $59.64 for 24 CCF.5 Our house uses natural gas for the oven, water heater, and heating. Our usage is double the usual during the winter months due to the increased use of heating.
Our internet bill was $64.99 for the cheapest plan (300 Mbps) offered by Spectrum.
Unfortunately, the only other provider in our area is Verizon Home Internet for $50 per month. I have it on my TODO list to give Verizon a try to see if their service is any good.
Our water/sewer/trash bill from the city was $111.20. This breaks down into $29.03 for water (698 gallons), $60.38 for sewer, and $16.43 for trash, plus taxes.6
Our sewer fee should get cut in half in April when we establish our sewer winter average.
We spent $204 for flights to Florida. We’ll be there for a couple of weeks in February for my mom’s birthday and a friend’s wedding.
The flights, through Spirit, were $76 ($38 each) as we had some rewards cash in Hopper but we paid an additional $128 for a carry-on ($64 each way).
We spent $190.65 on groceries—$40.07 at Aldi, $14.16 at Walmart, $126.99 at Costco, and $9.43 at Sam’s Club.
We only have the Sam’s Club membership because we got paid $80 to get it through Rakuten. We won’t be renewing it once it expires. We did, however, renew our Costco membership for $60 in December of last year.
We get all our produce and frozen veggies at Aldi. We get the items that Aldi doesn’t sell, like dry beans, as well as specialty items, like coconut milk, at Walmart. And at Costco we get nuts, oil, tofu, and spices, which are the few items where Costco beats Aldi and Walmart on price.
Our spending at Costco was higher than usual this month as we loaded up on olive and avocado oil, cinnamon, almonds, and walnuts.
We spent $95.39 on having a good time.
Most of this was spent on food and alcohol at Walmart to enjoy with friends on the weekends.
The remainder of our fun bucks ($12) were spent on day passes to McKinney Falls State Park, which was absolutely worth it. We walked over 12 miles and had an awesome day in nature.
I bought a new pair of sneakers on Amazon for $29.86. My previous pair was over two years old and my wife was threatening to throw them out.
My wife bought a hair dryer for $14.04 at Walmart as her old one broke and we got enough toilet paper at Costco to last us another year ($20.99).
Our home insurance is covered through our escrow with our mortgage lender, and both my wife and I get health insurance through our employers.
As the health insurance premium is deducted from our paychecks, it’s not included in the table at the start of the post.
I started tracking my net worth in December of 2017. This first entry clocked in at $19,054.64.
My net worth peaked at $761,867 in November of 2021 when the stock market hit its all time high.
And it dropped as low as $592,616 in June of 2022 when the stock market took a fall and I used my savings to pay for the down payment on our house.
As of January 2023, my net worth is at $721,285, an increase of $82,610 from last month as the stock market rebounded. The stock market’s been so volatile, however, that a drop of $50,000 or more next month wouldn’t surprise me.
My net worth is spread across my savings account, HSA, 401k, Roth IRA, I Bonds, and brokerage account. I don’t include our home equity in my net worth.
All in all, January was a good month.
We’re alive and employed. We get weekends off and have friends to spend them with. My wife is a godsend and we’re healthy.
I know this sounds a bit silly, but it’s good to remember how fortunate we are and to be thankful for this, especially during these anxiety-ridden times.
As far as expenses go, given the high amount spent on the side hustle category, this will hopefully be our most expensive month of the year.
As a thought experiment, if we were mortgage-free, our expenses would have been $2,563.867 or $30,766.32 for the year.
This number includes a housing budget of $1,506.15 a month, which we could certainly reduce by moving from the Austin metro area to an area with a lower cost of living. Root of Good, for example, spends around $6,000 a year in North Carolina.
A couple of kids—if we end up having them—and some extra traveling could kick this budget up to $50,000. This would put our “financial independence number” at $1,750,000.8
Anyway, I’m daydreaming and getting ahead of myself. I hope January was good to you and that February is even better.
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Luckily, the contractor was sent out by D.R. Horton—our home’s builder—so the repairs will be covered by them. ↩
My wife and I track expenses together but our net worth separately. Our finances are combined for the most part, but we’ve always tracked our net worth separately and never bothered to combine our tracking. ↩
And we deduct these expenses from our taxes. ↩
The cost is $0.106 per kWH plus a fixed fee of $3.42 and taxes. ↩
The cost is $1.41 per CCF plus a fixed fee of $21.60 and taxes. ↩
The cost of water is $0.005 per gallon plus a fixed fee of $25.48. Sewer is $0.006 plus a fixed fee of $25.31 or a flat rate $60.38 if you haven’t established a sewer winter average. ↩
$5,436.01 (total) - $1,491.92 (mortgage principal) - $461.10 (mortgage interest) - $919.13 (side hustle expenses) = $2,563.86 ↩
This is $50,000 x 35 = $1,750,000. See How will I know when I’ve saved enough to retire? for why 35. ↩