We’re building a routine (third month!) of posting our monthly income and expenses in hope that you, the reader, glean useful information or find a bit of insight. We’ve revealed our net worth and updated our latest income & expenses diagram. The pandemic rages on here in the United States. But, we still managed to shoehorn a type of vacation into our summer.
First, let’s take a look at where income came from and where it went.
We’ll do a quick, high-level analysis of the month and call out any of the more interesting items.
We took about a week off of any sort of work and generally disconnected from the world for a staycation around Virginia, which reduced our general availability to produce income. Still, we made way more money than we need to. I had a couple of odd negotiations with the few clients that remain where rather than negotiating more time or more money on a contract, negotiations went the opposite direction.
The largest portion of our dividends are annual, so we’ll see the biggest amount on December 31. Still, we received nearly $200 in dividends from one of the few individual stocks I still hold from many years ago. That amount was also automatically reinvested (DRIP).
We made a couple of small hobby sales on eBay and other digital marketplaces totaling $49.31. It’s always nice to have self-funding hobbies!
My consulting income is a fixed amount my business pays me as an employee. The business still carries a cash position strong enough to pay me for a year or so without more income. Despite this, overtime, I suspect I’ll drain the company of its cash reserves as the amount of paid work I do continues to dwindle.
But, that’s a problem for future me.
Well, it’s not really a problem. We reached financial independence in 2018 and can continue to live without income nearly indefinitely with our current lifestyle.
Jenni’s employment as a PRN (as-needed) pharmacist at a local pharmacy continues. She’s still paid a great wage but is attempting to focus her work on the projects she most enjoys rather than standard retail pharmacy.
A new item on the Sankey Diagram this month is an income source labeled “Accountable Plan Q2”. Each quarter, my business reimburses me a portion of my personal expenses to provide the business with resources that it uses. This includes things like office space in our home, vehicle use, business travel, etc. The $2,010 reimbursement represents $670 per month over the last quarter.
If you run an LLC that is taxed as an S Corp, I highly recommend looking into an Accountable Plan and talking with your accountant about it.
Expenses & Savings Rate
Last month, we had a couple of big bonuses to our income: a one-time COVID stimulus as well as quarterly dividends. Jenni’s health insurance is now paid out of pocket with COBRA. Lastly, I reimbursed a friend for trip expenses from a few months back. These events cut our savings rate quite a bit from the near 80% of last month.
Our savings rate was 61% ($6,993.40 of $11,423.82). With Jenni’s income going down due to switching to part-time work, she’s adjusted her 401k contribution downward (after it was quite high in recent months). She’ll still max it out for the year, and of course, reach the full company match.
Above-average monthly expenses
Unlike recent months, we spent more money this month than would be our monthly average. This is primarily because of the aforementioned travel reimbursement to a friend and our staycation expenses. Jenni’s health insurance cost, at over $500, will also raise our monthly average moving forward.
Overall, we spent $4,430.32 this month. That’d equate to just over $53K for the year which is above our target range of $40-$45K.
That expense figure doesn’t take into account $719.78 in bank credits that would bring our true monthly spend down to $3,710.64 for July. That’d keep us closer to our target spend with an annualized total of $44,527.68. Those credits come from our credit cards which credit us back for certain expenses like restaurants, groceries, or home improvement. We dig into the details of those credits within each categorized expense section below.
Check out our annual review for a deeper dive into the expense categories.
Food & Dining
Our grocery bill remains a little higher than normal. Normally we’d follow our guide to saving on groceries with every shopping trip. We’ve started at least redeeming some bigger Ibotta and Kroger Cashback promotions. However, for the most part, we aim to just get in and out safely. We live in an urban area so the grocery store is where we’re most susceptible to coronavirus.
Chase UR points redeemed for groceries with 50% bonus!
While $468.39 is reflected as our total grocery expense for the month, $344.76 was credited back (of the $719.78 in total credits for the month). Ultimately, that means our grocery cost for the month was just $123.63. The statement credit came from redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points on Jenni’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card towards grocery expenses. That helps make up for the large annual fee and the fact that we’ll have a little more trouble maxing out the credit with travel expenses this year.
With the pandemic ongoing, Chase has offered a bit of stimulus for its Reserve card holders: you’re permitted to redeem their rewards points (Ultimate Rewards, UR) with a 50% bonus as a credit on your monthly statement. You can only do this for grocery, restaurant, and home improvement expenses.
In normal times, you could earn this 50% bonus value by redeeming the points towards travel, but of course, not many people are traveling these days! We’ve been happy to take advantage of this new option and use some of our hundreds of thousands of points towards everyday expenses like groceries.
Staycationing with alcoholic beverages
Our alcohol & bars expense ($169.12) came mostly from our meadery, cidery, brewery, and winery visits during our staycation. We broke down the expense details of that trip in the post, so take a look if you’re curious. As a side note, our staycation post’s expenses don’t necessarily match our detailed monthly spending diagram because we didn’t incur every expense ourselves. In some cases, one couple would pay for an entire bill at a restaurant while the other couple might do so for an adventure the next day.
In summary, we had a good time visiting a few open-air or exceptionally protective drinking establishments around Virginia. We figured if we weren’t splurging on foreign travel, we could probably afford a little extra in the “going out” categories like tasty drinks in the hot summer.
While $170 is quite a bit of money, we again had multiple statement credits applied through a combination of bank “stimulus”:
- Marriott’s premium Bonvoy card normally offers an annual credit for use at their hotel properties; they’ve loosed this to include restaurants (and apparently some alcohol serving establishments)
- Chase permits the use of their ultimate rewards points to be redeemed as a statement credit with a 50% at restaurants, again, including some drinking establishments
- American Express repeated their “Shop Small” promotion where you could spend $10+ at some local businesses and earn a $5 credit
All told, we earned $46.62 in credits which brought the net alcohol & bars expense down to $122.50 for the month.
Restaurants and fast food: eating out during COVID
We spent $60.31 between fast food and restaurants through July. Most of this was takeout food from nearby places. GrubHub, Postmates, and DoorDash were running various promos throughout the month like $5 off $10+ that pushed us to take an opportunity for an easy “cooking” night here and there. On top of that, like with the grocery and alcohol credits mentioned, we generally had these expenses returned to us through credit card promotions or point redemptions.
During our staycation, we visited a few places for takeout and even one private room for dinner—but didn’t necessarily incur all those expenses ourselves (we took turns on the bills).
We earned back $147.05 in credits from credit cards for expenses at restaurants and fast food places. That gives us a net ($86.74) expense (so positive!) for eating out.
It’s just the odd effect of all of our July spending being covered by Marriott’s Bonvoy credit for restaurants combined with Jenni redeeming UR points to cover restaurant expenses all the way back to April. Chase offered a 90-day “lookback” period to redeem points towards these restaurant expenses (which often include fast food and drinking establishments), and Jenni took full advantage.
It should be a little cleaner in August, though we’ll keep taking full advantage of the credit card benefits we have access to.
Health & Fitness
My health insurance came in at just $257.40 this month instead of the usual $277.40. The $20 difference was a one-time discount United Healthcare offered as a COVID stimulus. Every little bit helps!
I pay an annual dental insurance fee that is around $300, the bill usually comes in the winter.
July was Jenni’s first month of paying for her health insurance directly, rather than her company as part of her compensation. With her switch to part-time work, she no longer qualifies to receive employer sponsored health insurance.
Through the rest of 2020, she’s elected to stay on the same plan via COBRA benefits offered by her employer. As mentioned last month, she’s also opted to stay with the HRA benefit scheme available and their dental insurance. The total cost for her benefits was $559.19. That should be about the same monthly expense throughout 2020.
It’s steep, but we think she’ll maximize the HRA benefit and she did not want to reset her annual deductible by switching plans.
Our total health insurance cost for the month was $816.59. Incredibly, that’s about $21 short of what we paid in principal and interest on our mortgage for July! Once UHC’s small discount expires, they’ll be neck-and-neck.
We’re considering refinancing our mortgage, so our insurance could easily outstrip our mortgage before the end of the year.
I’ve mentioned our staycation-related expenses which have supplanted what would normally be a summer trip somewhere foreign. With the pandemic still going strong in the US, we’ve been keeping to our home state. Still, we had plenty of fun visiting Virginia with tourist’s eyes.
However, we did have a $273.80 hotel expense and $95.00 air travel expense. Neither had anything to do with the staycation or even an event in July.
The hotel expense is a reimbursement I made to a friend. We had an adventure on the west coast early in 2020, and among other things, hiked national parks in Utah. He sprung for the hotel cost and finally got back to me with the bill. $273.80 is the half I owed him.
We are anticipating a family beach trip on a quieter area of the coast in August. Assuming COVID case counts stay within reason in the area, we’ll chip into a family beach house next month.
The $325 amusement expense is for lift tickets at Mammoth ski resort in California. This was another part of the trip I took with a buddy in early 2020. He picked up a multi-day pass from REI for $650 and we split the cost.
Larger, popular ski resorts like Mammoth are incredibly expensive. Though the pass represented multiple days of lift fees, skiing, in general, is an expensive hobby to keep up with. It’s definitely been a splurge for me as I’ve skied around the US at different resorts for several years. We usually do one large trip each year.
Our utilities are pretty stable, but our electric bill has really spiked up. At $116.02, it’s more than double the $40-50 it is in the winter. With both of us being home, we use more electricity consuming devices, heat the place up a little more, and demand a little lower temperature.
As this bill is really for June’s usage, I think July’s will be quite a bit higher. We saw several days breaking 100 degrees. The A/C hasn’t really kept up when it’s that warm, I anticipate needing to do an air conditioner service in the fall. Our Nest thermostat is not happy with our usage levels.
Jenni’s membership to the rock climbing gym and Zoom trainer continues to represent the $74.57 gym expense. Happily, the rock climbing gym reopened this month with myriad COVID protection policies in place.
We were able to take advantage and do a little climbing this month, though I must admit, it’s tough with a mask and glasses on!
Like last month, we had two fun tricks in our “eBay, PayPal, USPS” and “mobile phone” subcategories.
AMEX’s Business Platinum card also offered a COVID-related credit for shipping expenses up to $20. I purchased a mix of stamps and postage for something we sold on eBay to max out the $20 credit.
AMEX also offered a wireless phone bill credit up to $20. I reached out to a friend last month that could use the help and paid their wireless bill. They’ll reimburse me for the difference between the $42.62 bill and $20 credit by the end of the year.
I anticipate repeating both of these steps over the next months while AMEX is running these promos.
Within our gifts & donations category is a $105 charitable expense. We renewed our membership at a fine arts museum. We really enjoy this place and have been happy to support it for years. They reopened in July with a special exhibit. We were very happy to be able to visit during a members-only period which meant the galleries were quite empty.
How Much Did We Work?
We like to keep track of how much time we spend doing work that is paid. For Jenni, this is pretty easy as it’s just her paycheck time.
Our aim is to gradually reduce these hours.
I’ve said before that it’s unlikely I’ll work much less than I already am. I’m pretty happy at this level. Still, I’ve been negotiating smaller contracts during renewals as some clients have brought on internal resources that can handle some of the tasks I was performing.
However, I’m also in the middle of negotiating a new project with a close friend (as an assistant to him), that I’d really like to see succeed. That could mean a short term bump to my time if it goes through. We’ll see.
As Jenni predicted last month, her total working hours were up despite our staycation week. She completed training over a two-week period. She quickly took advantage of that education and filled in for a few employees on vacation over nearly a week of additional work.
Jenni expects to gradually decrease her hours through the remainder of the year to around 60 per month. Last month, we expected Jenni’s two weeks of training would raise her total hours and they certainly did. August should be lighter, returning to a June level. We think September will be the lowest yet.
So, how did July look compared to June?
|Month||Chris (Hours Worked)||Jenni (Hours Worked)|
An average full-time job for two people would be about 347 hours!
We’re still well below half of that at just 156 hours for July.
This month upsets the trend, but we think things will resume their downward trajectory in August.
Blogger Net Worth Revealed!
In general, we don’t like to focus on the net worth of writers in the personal finance community. However, we do understand it offers a little context to the writing for the reader.
For example, as a reader, you might relate better to two doctors making $500K and saving up to retire on $5M. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a leaner FIRE experience and want to retire with $625K to your name. Either way, it does make sense to want some additional context.
We wrote up an extensive post on our earnings and net worth history that ranged from 2006 to 2018 this past month. If you’re interested in how we went from negative $107K to $1.2M over a nine-year period, give it a read.
Since we reached FI, I’ve been ramping down my business efforts. You’ve probably noticed that I have reported just 40 hours of work per month in our monthly updates. Still, even with COVID, the market has been kind to us and Jenni’s income has remained quite high the past few years.
From a high level, our assets and liabilities are shown in the data table below as of July 31, 2020.
|Description||Value (USD, $)|
|Checking & Savings||30,424|
We may dig into the details of the categories in the future. As a general matter, miscellaneous assets include specific investments we’ve made in physical assets (think collectibles). These numbers do not reflect the value of the businesses I own or their assets, though I will continue to wind them down. Their assets should appear as income to us over future years. The market value of those assets, if liquidated today, would not dramatically affect our total net worth.
By the way, TicTocLife is not a money-making venture. The cost of running the website and blog does not appear in our expense diagram because it is absorbed by one of my businesses.
In future monthly updates, we’ll continue to keep track of our net worth. As a reminder, we calculated our FI number as $1.25M to support $50K of spending back in 2013. We’ve consistently spent between $40-45K since.
It’s likely we will have more money than we need to maintain our lifestyle given our net worth and spending habits. We plan to give back in a variety of ways where we can, including through charitable giving.
What Does August Hold?
We’re thinking about a family beach trip so we’re expecting higher travel expenses next month. That’ll largely depend on COVID and our state’s response.
We’re still in the transition to a form of early retirement, having reached semi-retirement these past three months since launching TicTocLife. We’re hoping to continue to ramp down our paid working hours throughout the rest of 2020.
Speaking of three months… it’s nearly been a quarter year since we launched this blog! We’ll write up a blog-focused update with plenty of stats and some thoughts early in August. Keep an eye out for that post if you want a look behind the blog curtain.
In fact, why not consider subscribing to our new little newsletter in the box below? Every week or two we’ll send out a simple update about us and what we’ve written along with some FIRE-related content we recommend!
Thanks for being a part of a very fun three months we’ve had so far on TicTocLife. All the comments, tweets, and general engagement from the community have been truly heartening. Thank you, dear reader!
What about you? Are your expenses rising a bit as some businesses reopen?
Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!
In order to be good web stewards, we try to provide accessible data to support any of our charts, diagrams, or graphs. This is especially true in the case of the Sankey diagram in this post.
The table below is intended to be an accessible replacement for any of our readers who may find the image difficult to interpret. Please let us know if we can improve this feature.
|Home||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 1,253.15|
|Home||HOA Fees||Chris||$ 350.00|
|Home||Home Insurance||Chris||$ 65.83|
|Home||Home Improvement||Chris||$ –|
|Taxes||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 309.13|
|Taxes||Property Taxes||Chris||$ 309.13|
|Food & Dining||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 128.83|
|Food & Dining||Groceries||Chris||$ –|
|Food & Dining||Alcohol & Bars||Chris||$ 115.65|
|Food & Dining||Restaurants||Chris||$ 8.79|
|Food & Dining||Fast Food||Chris||$ 4.39|
|Health & Fitness||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 257.40|
|Health & Fitness||Health Insurance||Chris||$ 257.40|
|Bills & Utilities||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 219.29|
|Bills & Utilities||Internet||Chris||$ 39.99|
|Bills & Utilities||Electric||Chris||$ 116.02|
|Bills & Utilities||City Gas||Chris||$ 20.66|
|Bills & Utilities||Mobile Phone||Chris||$ 42.62|
|Business Services||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 28.43|
|Business Services||eBay, PayPal, USPS||Chris||$ 28.43|
|Auto & Transport||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 60.00|
|Auto & Transport||Gas & Fuel||Chris||$ 60.00|
|Gifts & Donations||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 105.00|
|Gifts & Donations||Gift||Chris||$ –|
|Gifts & Donations||Charity||Chris||$ 105.00|
|Shopping||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ –|
|Shopping||Electronics & Software||Chris||$ –|
|Travel||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 368.80|
|Travel||Air Travel||Chris||$ 95.00|
|Entertainment||Monthly Budget||Chris||$ 325.00|
|Monthly Budget||Dividends||Chris||$ 198.47|
|Monthly Budget||Credits||Chris||$ 154.00|
|Monthly Budget||Gift||Gifts Received||Chris||$ –|
|Monthly Budget||Interest Income||Chris||$ 8.43|
|Monthly Budget||eBay||Chris||$ 49.31|
|Monthly Budget||Consulting||Chris||$ 1,923.85|
|Monthly Budget||Accountable Plan Q2||Chris||$ 2,010.00|
|Monthly Budget||Local Sales||Chris||$ –|
|Monthly Budget||Cashback||Chris||$ –|
|Savings & Investment||Chris||$ 1,823.47|
|Monthly Budget||Savings & Investment||DRIP||Chris||$ 198.47|
|Monthly Budget||Savings & Investment||401k Contrib||Chris||$ 1,625.00|
|Food & Dining||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 568.99|
|Food & Dining||Groceries||Jenni||$ 468.39|
|Food & Dining||Fast Food||Jenni||$ 13.00|
|Food & Dining||Restaurants||Jenni||$ 34.13|
|Food & Dining||Alcohol & Bars||Jenni||$ 53.47|
|Health & Fitness||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 559.19|
|Health & Fitness||Health Insurance||Jenni||$ 559.19|
|Fees & Charges||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ –|
|Fees & Charges||Credit Card Annual||Jenni|
|Taxes||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ –|
|Health & Fitness||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 74.57|
|Health & Fitness||Gym||Jenni||$ 74.57|
|Shopping||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 30.00|
|Gifts & Donations||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 76.15|
|Gifts & Donations||Donations||Jenni||$ 5.00|
|Gifts & Donations||Gifts||Jenni||$ 71.15|
|Personal Care||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 31.32|
|Personal Care||Makeup||Jenni||$ 31.32|
|Entertainment||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ –|
|Auto & Transport||Monthly Budget||Jenni||$ 35.17|
|Auto & Transport||Gas & Fuel||Jenni||$ 34.00|
|Auto & Transport||Tolls||Jenni||$ –|
|Auto & Transport||Service & Parts||Jenni||$ 1.17|
|Monthly Budget||Groceries||Credits||Jenni||$ 344.76|
|Monthly Budget||Alcohol & Bars||Credits||Jenni||$ 31.62|
|Monthly Budget||Restaurants||Credits||Jenni||$ 47.19|
|Monthly Budget||Fast Food||Credits||Jenni||$ 99.86|
|Monthly Budget||Pharmacy||Credits||Jenni||$ 20.00|
|Monthly Budget||Gift||Credits||Jenni||$ 22.35|
|Monthly Budget||Interest Income||Jenni||$ 7.84|
|Monthly Budget||Paycheck||Jenni||$ 6,506.14|
|Savings & Investment||Jenni||$ 5,169.93|
|Monthly Budget||Savings & Investment||401k Match||Jenni||$ 284.55|
|Monthly Budget||Savings & Investment||401k Contrib||Jenni||$ 1,626.00|
|Monthly Budget||Savings & Investment||Checking||Jenni||$ 3,259.38|