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Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.
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Table of Contents
- What we did in February
- What we spent in February
- Progress towards financial independence
- What I read in February
- February blog highlights (37 months)
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 February
For many years, I hated February.
It is miserably cold and by the time February is over, we’ve suffered through 4 months of winter. However, this year, I was able to see it in a little bit more positive light.
Yes, it is sill cold, but warmer than January.
Yes it is still dark, but we gain an hour of daylight between February 1st and the 28th.
Instead of complaining about things that I cannot change (winter), I’ve tried to find little things to celebrate. And even if there was nothing to get celebrate, getting upset about the weather can’t change the fact that it is winter and winter is cold.
I’m not sure why it took me nearly 40 years to have an attitude adjustment about winter. But I’m glad I still have (hopefully) another 40 years to approach winter with a slightly better attitude.
A big sporting event!
My biggest February news was that I attended a US Men’s National Team World Cup Qualifier. In St. Paul. In the middle of winter. In an outdoor stadium.
When my friend asked if I wanted to enter the ticket lottery, I assumed the game was at U.S. Bank Stadium where the Vikings play (a dome). I thought this was an odd choice since the USMNT had never played on artificial turf and part of the USWNT’s gender equity lawsuit involved the fact that they were required to play on artificial surfaces.
It was only after we had tickets to the game that I realized that the game was at Allianz field- home of the MLS team Minnesota United and we’d be sitting out in the cold for several hours on what is typically one of the coldest weeks of the year.
The weather (and the game) did not disappoint. The USMNT dominated Honduras 3-0 with Weston McKennie looking like a force of nature and completely controlling the midfield.
This was my 3rd USMNT competitive game and they’ve all been such awesome experiences. They’re definitely worth all of the money I paid for travel and the tickets. There’s something special about spending time with a crowd of other people united in a single focus. Live sports are amazing.
The sad reality
While I am super happy that US Soccer scheduled a game within driving distance of my house, they never should have scheduled a game outside in dangerously cold conditions.
Several Honduras players had to get subbed off because they were suffering from hypothermia and needed immediate medical treatment.
US Soccer always talks about having a “pro US crowd” at their home games. Which is coded language for a white crowd. If you look at their club careers, the USMNT has the most talented club in CONCACAF. We don’t need to hold games on the North Pole to get a slight competitive advantage over a much lesser team.
While I agree that certain cities may not be the best choice of venues (i.e. playing El Salvador in Washington DC) I’d like to think that we shouldn’t need to pick our venues out of fear.
What I knitted in February
As I mentioned last month, I started around the first of January. In February, I learned how to knit on the round and knit myself a hat. Well, actually, two hats. The first one I knitted was too big, so I knitted a second one.
I’m now working on a 3rd hat with a completely different pattern. I’m thinking of unraveling my first two hats and using the yarn to knit mittens instead.
And now that I’ve learned how to knit on a magic loop, I don’t think I’m ever going to knit using straight needled again. It’s so much more fun to knit round objects.
What we spent in February
It felt like our spending finally got back to “normal” in February. Of course “normal” is dangerous language when you’re talking about spending. If you’ve tracked your spending for any length of time, you’ll find that nearly every month with have some sort of out-of-the-ordinary expense.
(And if you’re not tracking your spending, what are you waiting for? You can get a 45 day free trial of CountAbout and start tracking your expenses today!)
Top 10 expenses
Here’s what our top 10 expenses look like given as a percentage of our total spending.
It’s now been roughly a year since we paid off our house. And it went from being magical to “blah”. Our biggest expense is still housing. If I hadn’t seen people talk about property taxes on Twitter, I would have never understood just how high our property taxes are compared to the rest of the country.
We live in a great city. My wife and I can both walk or bike to work— something that I’m willing to pay a lot of money for because it brings us joy.
However, once the kids have graduated and we’ve retired early, do I really want to pay some of the highest property taxes in the United States when I could move to a neighboring county and get a much bigger house for much less money and pay a lot less in taxes?
Outside of property taxes, some big changes from last month include:
- Paying *much much less* for health insurance after transitioning to Mrs. Gov’s healthcare plan and ditching FEHB.
- Putting some money down on a vacation house rental for a family reunion with Mrs. Gov’s family this summer.
- Paying our annual vehicle registration.
We had a stellar month on groceries this past month.
This works out to ~$1.15 per person per meal. Much less than our average of $1.50/person/meal that we target. It’s also much less than the USDA Thrifty Food Plan recommendation of $1,096.20 for a family of our size.
Seeing prices on certain items rise at the grocery store does seem to cause a visceral reaction in people (including my wife and I). But tracking our expenses helps put things in perspective.
Ever since we got a dog, I have been amazed at how many months we spend less money on kids than we do on the pets.
This month’s spending on kids included:
- New gym shoes for Kid #2
- Race entry fee for Kid #1
- 4H dues for all three kids
(Good thing Kid #3 isn’t old enough to read yet or she would think she was shorted this past month)
Pet spending this past month was limited to dog and cat food. While we somehow managed to substitute what we eat enough to dodge inflation’s sting in our grocery budget, dog food has gotten more expensive and I’m not sure there’s a good way around that.
Gas and Auto $198.28
Most of our spending in this category was to renew our car’s registration for another year. Luckily most months we just fill up the car once and have minimal expenses in this category.
Progress towards financial independence
At a safe withdrawal rate of 4%, our portfolio could have paid for 89% of February’s expenses. Looking at a running average of our past 12 months of expenses, we’re more at 80-85% of our first financial independence milestone.
It feels like we’ve been stuck here for a long time. I was actually a little discouraged about our progress towards our goals so I zoomed out.
Over just the past 3 years, we’ve gone from less than 50% to almost 90% of our first financial independence milestone. Which is awesome.
To be fair, the market was on fire these past 3 years. But if we wouldn’t have been saving and investing as much as we have been, we wouldn’t have benefited from it as much.
While we don’t know what the market will bring this year, I feel like we’re in a good position to do well the next time it goes crazy.
What I read in February
I only read one book this month and I didn’t really enjoy it.
I saw a lot of people on Twitter saying they enjoyed Laziness Does Not Exist.
I did not enjoy the book. Not because I disagreed with the title. But because I couldn’t find any actionable takeaways in the whole book.
I felt the author kept losing the thread. The book was filled with case studies of people the author interviewed. And while I think the author was trying to use examples to prove their arguments, I think the examples actually just obfuscated everything.
Nearly every person they interviewed in the book came from a community that experienced a lot of trauma. And the people they interviewed had especially traumatic lives (i.e. a homeless transsexual person). A subset of people (and everyone they interviewed) deal with trauma by making their lives extremely busy to protect themselves from the trauma.
While the book was titled “Laziness Does Not Exist”, the real title of the book should have been “Busyness does not solve trauma.”
February blog highlights (37 months)
I participated in a blogger roundup on real estate investing.
I published or updated 5 posts this past month. Not quite as insane as the 10 I did in January, but still making good progress.
Traffic was down a little bit compared to January but this was not unexpected. December and January are the biggest months on the blog as people try to tidy financial things up around the New Year. (Although it is always a little sad to see the numbers go down).
I also rewrote my entire welcome sequence for my email list. Not on my list? Smash that button and see what I have to say…Get Gov Worker’s top 4 tips for federal employees!
Maybe the blog highlight I’m happiest about is that I completely re-coded the footer of my blog. It now has category and subcategory links to make navigation much easier. Check it out!
On the YouTube front I only managed to publish 1 video on the F Fund. I’m hoping to finish videos on all 5 TSP Funds in the month of March.
This month I was lucky enough to appear on the Average Joe Finances podcast. Mike and I discuss how FERS employees can set themselves up for early retirement and financial success.