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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 March
- What we spent in March
- What I read in March
- Blog Highlights- March 2022
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What we did in March
March is a weird weather month. It snowed at the beginning and end of the month and it was so hot in between that I had to get my shorts out of storage.
The big highlight of the month was that the kids had Spring Break. Mrs. Gov and the kids visited St. Louis for several days and had fun exploring museums and other landmarks. (Like that giant arch…)
I was left behind to take care of the pets and experienced my longest stretch of alone time since the pandemic started. It was glorious. I had a lot of fun doing nothing.
Prior to the pandemic, I had a stretch where I was traveling 1-2 times a month for work and I was actually pretty burned out on travel. But after not traveling for several years, a small part of me misses the part of traveling where I wasn’t responsible for anyone besides myself.
I tried to make the most of it by not doing anything remotely productive. I channeled my undergraduate by wearing my PJs for an entire day and watching Jackass Forever. It was fun to switch it up for a couple of days.
What I knitted in March
After February’s major accomplishment of knitting my first hat, March was kind of a letdown. I started knitting some cabled mittens. But then I stopped and decided to knit a hat for a friend instead. So all I accomplished was 2 half-finished projects.
What we spent in March
March was a weird month as far as spending went. We put some deposits down/pre-paid for some summer care for the younger kids. We bought a new stove. Mrs. Gov + the kids went on a small vacation (but some of the bills posted in April).
The more months we have tracked expenses, the more I’m convinced that there is no normal spending month.
And although I wrote a post several months ago saying that we hadn’t noticed inflation yet in our overall monthly spending, inflation is definitely affecting our decisions now.
When we bought the new stove, I thought “screw this, let’s buy a new dishwasher too… nothing is getting any cheaper.” After I had that thought, I immediately flashed back to college econ classes where we’d talk about how inflation is a self-fulfilling prophecy because
- People buy stuff now because they think it will be more expensive soon
- People buying more stuff increase demand
- When demand rises faster than supply can prices go up… which causes
- People to buy stuff now before the prices go up again
If I’m a smart person who religiously tracks our finances and I got sucked into the inflation “buy-it-now” trap, it seems like inflation is pretty entrenched in the American economy now and that it’s not going anywhere soon.*
*Unless we have a giant recession… because that’s the only cure for inflation. Just ask Paul Volcker.
Top 10 expenses
Obviously, the numbers this month were thrown off by
- buying a new stove (dishwasher was on back-order)
- prepaying for summer piano lessons for the oldest kid
- putting deposits/prepayments down on summer camps for the younger two kids
- paying our CPA to help us with our taxes (household)
It’s nice to be in a financial situation where we are still able to save money even in months were we have big expenses. We are truly lucky.
Inflation may be everywhere, but it seems to hit the hardest, psychologically, at the grocery store. And while we are very frugal grocery consumers, (this works out to $1.30 per person per meal) I think that perhaps our months of going sub-$500 on groceries are in the past.
Also, if inflation weren’t bad enough, our kids are growing. Not only does the teenager have a 4th meal every night but her younger sister has started needing a banana before bed every night.
For references, the USDA Thrifty Food Plan for a family of our size using the most recent (February 2022) data is $1,112.20.
So we’re still kicking butt in the grocery category, even if the number in dollars is low.
I started doing this “kids vs pets” comparison on my blog a while ago to see whether we spent more on our kids or our pets, but it’s kind of bogus. My wife and I like to categorize piano lessons separately (they’re optional if we had a crisis) and daycare is also a completely different line item.
If we added all those expenses together we spent more like ~$1,200 on our kids this past month…
Which after adding those numbers together gave me a little sticker shock.
Curious about what actually got characterized as “kids”?
- New shoelaces for the youngest kid
- Soccer registration for the youngest
- Spring Ultimate Frisbee league registration for the oldest
(So far, Ultimate has been cancelled every week because the fields are still in poor condition because it’s still snowing in April…)
No pet food this month, but I needed to take Kenny in to get a heartworm check so that they’d renew his heartworm medicine.
I’m not a vet, but isn’t the point of taking prophylactic medicine preventing the parasite to enter your body in the first place?
Gas & Auto $139.62
We spent a lot more than usual on gas this past month (Spring Break road trip). Here’s another area where things are tricky– we could have characterized this spending as “vacation” but I think it’s okay to put it in the gas category.
Progress towards financial independence
It’s been a few months since I plugged our numbers into cFIREsim so I thought I’d see how we were doing.
If my wife and I stopped working and never earned another penny there’s an 80-85% chance that our portfolio would not reach zero. I included my FERS deferred pension in the calculation (Lauren who created cFIREsim made changes to the program especially for Feds with a deferred pension!!). I left out social security in this simulation.
Here are my thoughts:
- We’ve been stuck at ~85% success rate for a while. That’s frustrating.
- In so many of these cases, we die with more money than we have now, even without working another day, even without social security.
- My FERS pension never “saves” us from destitution. The simulations where it fails, it fails decisively and when it passes, we end up with a ton more money.
- Retirement has a lot of asymmetric risk. In ~70% of cases, we die with millions in the bank. But the 15% of cases where we go broke are not great.
- The stagflation of the 70’s are one of the toughest periods on the portfolio (close to being as bad as the Great Depression)
Given that we are currently in a high inflation environment, and could potentially see stagflation in the near future, it seems like an especially bad time to retire.
At any rate, we are continuing to save diligently. But perhaps we’re reaching a point where we should switch up strategies. (I’m currently reading Die with Zero and it’s causing me to rethink some of our FIRE plans)
What I read in March
I read 4 books in March:
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
- The Midnight Library
- Kissing Lessons
- How not to Fall in Love
I’m still working through my Young Adult romance novel phase. But I also read two books I really enjoyed.
Four Thousand Weeks was especially life changing. The title comes from an estimate of a human life span. Given that we only have 4,000 weeks on this planet, how do we really want to spend them?
The book was amazing at putting things in context. The unique thing about being human is that we are aware that we will die. Knowing that we will die shapes a lot of our behaviors (healthy and unhealthy), but we often don’t consciously acknowledge this.
I will definitely be re-reading this book soon since there were so many gems and I feel like I’ve already forgotten so many messages of the book. (Except the fact that I have precious few weeks left with my parents so I’m trying to spend as much time with them as possible while we’re all healthy.)
The Midnight Library was also a lovely read. I know I’m a little bit late to the party in reading this book (I wanted the audiobook and it took a year for the hold to come in from my library). In the book the main character gets to sample other lives she might have lived if she made a different decision.
While my understanding was that the book was more about regrets you made in life, it was actually quite technical in terms of parallel universes and quantum mechanics. (Although I have to say I’m disappointed that the words ergodic hypothesis did not end up in the book.)
At one point in the book, the main character gets to sample her “perfect life”. She’s in a loving relationship, has a wonderful child, a compassionate dog, and has an amazing job as a lecturer on her favorite philosopher. (Although longtime readers know how much I hate Thoreau)
When I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but thinking that in all of the parallel universes happening right now, I must be in the universe where I’m living my perfect life. I’m so thankful for all of the wonderful people in my life.Get Gov Worker’s top 4 tips for federal employees!
Blog Highlights- March 2022
Not a lot of huge highlights. But I was on an episode of the Work Hard Retire Early podcast, where we talked about my favorite TV show Severance.