Money Well Spent- August 2021

by Government Worker FI | Last Updated: September 8, 2021

Hey Loyal Blog Friends!

Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.

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Please do not confuse my personal blog for financial advice, tax advice or an official position of the U.S. Government. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

What we did in August

I don’t know about you, but August just flew by for me.

The biggest events this past month involved my in-laws. Unfortunately, Mrs. Gov’s grandfather passed away. As someone who lost all of his grandparents before I was in high school, I was always amazed that my wife was able to share so much of her life with both parents and grandparents that loved her.

There were lots of trips around the state to attend the funeral and visit relatives that had come into town for the event. (This shows up in our Gas & Auto spending later on).

Lake Wingra August 2021
The clouds were really pretty over the lake this month.

Beyond the family events, I had a birthday! We have a tradition where Mrs. Gov makes me a tomato pie (from an awesome recipe by Dig This Chick) on my birthday. If you’ve never had a tomato pie, you’re not really living.

And we squeezed in a few last days of “family time” before kids went back to school. The 9 year old was able to verbalize that she was bored and tired of being at home all time and was excited for school because it was a change. I felt that was very self-actualized at her. Because most of the time these feelings have been manifesting themselves by one or more of us picking fights with someone else in the house.

I love living “downtown” but I’ve never fantasized more about having a giant McMansion in the middle of nowhere than I have this past month.

Community Garden Update

Holy crap. We are drowning in produce. Even though we weren’t able to spend much time in the garden this past month, it has been producing so many beautiful vegetables.

Produce from the garden

On top of that, we got a trunkful of produce from my in-laws and a lot of tomatoes dropped off on a porch by a friend. We’ve already filled so many mason jars for this winter and there is still plenty left to harvest.

What we spent in August

August was a big spending month.

In 2020, the city paved our alley. Against our protests. And our neighbor’s protests.

We live in a state with one of the highest property taxes in the United States. And our city has some of the highest property taxes in the state. Normally, I don’t care that much. We have excellent schools. And someone needs to plow the roads in winter. In other words, we receive a lot of services in our city and I’m happy to pay for them.

But this special assessment made me pretty angry. They wanted us to essentially pay for them to make a new road. I wrote numerous letters to the Alderperson telling them that this was a bad idea. And my neighbors went to protest the project as well. Yet the city decided to cut into my lawn and lay down some asphalt anyway. And then they had the gall to charge us for this.

The only saving grace is that the city’s initial estimate they sent me was about 3x larger than the special assessment I received this past month. (When my wife asked at a public forum how they could possibly dream of charging $10,000 per house to do this when we had retirees on our block, the city staff found an error in the assessment formula).

So here’s my spending report that I pulled from CountAbout for this month.

August 2021 money well spent spending numbers.
That special assessment really hurt.

The property tax amount includes 1/12th of our annual bill plus the entire special assessment.

One EXCITING thing about this month’s expenses is that it was our last month of paying for daycare! Our youngest is starting school. While we’ll still have summer-care costs, this will free up a lot of money every month.

For many years our biggest expenses were daycare and our mortgage. 2021 was the year we eliminated both of them!! Super exciting.

Groceries- $601.67

This was a great month for grocery spending! I think that’s what happens when you get a lot of produce for free from friends and relatives. (That’s why it is so important to eat seasonally).

The USDA changed how they calculate the Thrifty Food Plan and greatly increased their estimates for the minimum amount it costs to sustain a balanced diet. Our grocery spending for our family of five is still under their old, lower number of $833.60.

Kids- $355.20

August is always our biggest month in the “kid” category. While everyone thinks of back-to-school shopping, back-to-school expenses are more than just pencils. Our school district charges a myriad of fees every August.

Honestly, $115 per kid seems pretty reasonable for all of their fees and school supplies.

Pets- $124.95

For the first several months of the year, our pet spending dwarfed our spending on our kids. This month, we bought about $100 worth of dog food, some cat food and cat litter.

Cheeto the cat

Kenny is going to need another 6-month supply of his anti-worm/anti-flea/anti-tick medicine so I’m sure we’ll drop a lot of money on Pets in September.

Gas & Auto- $120.02

As I stated earlier, we drove around a lot this past month for family obligations. Luckily, we’ve designed our life so we never need to drive to school or work and bike anywhere within a 3 mile radius of our house.

Our transportation numbers seem like round-off error in our spending reports even on months where we drive a ton.

Progress towards financial independence

The past couple of months I’ve shared numbers from The Fioneers calculator and cFIREsim.

These numbers don’t really change a lot month-to-month. Our net worth increased by 1%. We are 80%-85% of the way to basic financial independence at a 4% withdrawal rate and no safety margin. I estimate we’ll reach this milestone around October 2022 and my true early retirement number a couple of years later.

My friend Darcy wrote a post about how exciting net-worth updates could be. It was in response to the FIRE-trope that the beginning of the FIRE journey was exciting, and then you hit a long slog where you were just grinding until you finished.

I like Darcy a lot. But…

I definitely feel like it is a slog now. Especially since we’re so close to FI. I keep thinking about how I want to double-down on some of the online-business/freelance work I’m doing. I love everything I’m doing in this space. And I love the flexibility that these businesses provide.

I can’t tell you how many times I calculate the gap between my wife’s salary and our living expenses and estimate how much I’d need to bring in freelancing to quit and live comfortably right now (i.e. Coast-FI + Wife FI).

But that’s silly. I know that the safest, most responsible plan is to keep working until we at least hit basic FI and have 20 years in FERS.

On the other hand, all of these thoughts about doing something different mean that maybe I’m ready for change. I’m not sure what that looks like. But as much as I like Darcy, this part of the FI journey is definitely not exciting me.

Wingra creek August 2021

What I read

I thought I’d start adding in what I’ve been reading to the post. I’ve read a lot of books this past summer but occasionally I’ll have lots of thoughts on certain books.

This past month, I read Nomadland. I put it on hold at the library a billion years ago and it finally came in.

No I haven’t seen the movie. I have no idea if the book is anything like the movie. But..

I found the book extremely interesting. Maybe it’s my own perspective but there were so many similarities between these old people living on the fringes of society and the FIRE movement.

Both the nomads of the book and FIRE people believe the economy isn’t working and want to opt out. The nomads in the book fell on extremely hard times. But most of them had normal, respectable jobs before hitting hard times. FIRE-bros might also hate the economy but are millions of dollars away from crapping in a 5-gallon bucket.

One of the most interesting parts to me of the book was the development of the online community of nomads and the nomad bloggers.

Like Tioga George, Sue shared financial reports that, starting in 2013, included income from ads on her site. By the end of that first year, it wasn’t unusual for her to earn more than $1,000 a month. Sometimes this agitated less popular bloggers who’d tried to monetize their own posts with little success.

Nomadland, Jessica Bruder

This passage (and others like it) really hit home since it mirrored so many discussions and hand-wringing I’ve seen about monetization of FIRE websites.

In fact this whole chapter about nomads sharing tips on the internet was like a fun-house mirror for the FIRE movement. They have the “Rubber-Tramp-Rendezvous” and we have FinCon.

The book made me incredibly thankful to have FIRE within grasp but also made me realize that I’m just a few bad shakes away from needing to live in a van because I couldn’t afford my rent.

Blog highlights (31 months)

It was another month of growth on the blog. My viral tomato post continued to get shared all over the internet and bring in traffic.

Also- I was mentioned in Parents magazine! (or at least their online mag)

I hit a new new all-time-high in monthly revenue thanks to Ezoic. I have been so happy since working with them. Not only do they have a very high payout rate but they’ve done wonders for speeding up my site and improving my core web vitals as well.

So that was my month! If you enjoyed the article, please leave a review