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Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.
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What we did in March
Honestly, March was kind of a blur. However, my wife and I did pass a major milestone.
We paid off our mortgage! I honestly never thought we’d be able to pay it off as fast as we did. Paying off our mortgage was one of our major savings goals, and we worked and saved hard. Every little bit of extra money we received over the past few years was funneled directly into the mortgage. What finally pushed us over the edge was a large economic stimulus payment from the government. (And the realization that our emergency fund was enormous compared to our spending).
At the same time, I don’t want to chalk up our mortgage payoff entirely to our hard work and saving mindset. (I don’t believe in the myth of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps). My wife and I have enjoyed many “lucky breaks” and have tried to make the most of them in our life.
What we spent in March
After talking about our giant mortgage-payoff win, everything else seems like a let-down. However, it’s pretty easy to pull together our spending report because we use CountAbout to track all of our expenses and receipts.
We spent less than $700 on groceries for the first time this year. We consistently spend less than the USDA Thrifty Food Plan budget of $814.20 for a family of our size. (The Thrifty Food Plan is the basis for “food stamps” or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
March marks 1 year since we’ve set foot in a grocery store. The pandemic changed our grocery shopping overnight. It is really hard to remember how we used to grocery shop before the pandemic. Stopping by the store just to pick up 1-2 ingredients seems so foreign. Mrs. Gov has been doing a great job of ordering food online from several different grocery stores and planning ahead for several weeks since each store has 1-2 items that are cheaper than other stores.
I think it just goes to show how much you can save by planning ahead and cooking from scratch.
For the first time this year we have expenses in the “kid” category. This past month we spent some money on new shoes for our oldest and some supplies for 4H. (Of course we’re not including daycare in this category which is our largest expense now that the mortgage is paid off).
Despite spending over $100 on kids this month, we still managed to spend more money on pets. Mostly Kenny, the dog. My wife asked me why I never blog about our cat. That is because Cheeto the cat never costs us any money.
This month we spent about $80 having this sweater knit for Kenny.
We also bought a 6-month supply of the “Simparica Trio” that helps keep him free of worms, flees, and ticks which was over $100.
Kenny’s definitely still worth it though. Walking him is one of my favorite activities.
Gas & Auto- $40.76
We put gas in the car for the first time in 2021. In fact, we put gas in the car twice because I wasn’t able to put a full tank of gas in at the first gas station I went to. (Long story).
At any rate, compared to our income and spending, transportation represents a *very small* portion of our budget. (Transportation is the typically the 2nd biggest expense for American families according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
I have wanted to buy a Sense Energy Monitor for a long time. Now that I’m finally making some money blogging, I figured it was okay to treat myself to one. Especially since I am planning on using it to produce a lot of content on home energy savings.
I’ve currently installed Sense on my electric panel and it has already started to recognize and track a lot of the devices in my house. I’m super excited about it!
Blog highlights (26 months)
March was another busy month on the blog!
I appeared on the Lacy Langford podcast to talk about FERS retirement. It was so much fun to talk with someone about federal retirement.
Being on a podcast is actually a lot of fun. In this world where we are incredibly isolated from the world, it’s nice to have a real conversation with someone. And then it gets packaged and sent out into the world and people listen to it.
I also produced a mega-post about FERS deferred retirement which is now on the top page of Google! (Bottom of the top page, but still there!) I’m really proud of that post. I also combined a bunch of my old post into a mega post about our family of 5 budget and updated my post about OCONUS jobs. While these posts weren’t new content, I did work hard on making sure they were well-written and search engine optimized. It’s part of my months long content audit strategy. (Hopefully I’ll finish by this summer).
My first month with Ezoic
As I mentioned last month, I have switched ad networks to Ezoic.
I made more money from display advertising in my first week with Ezoic than I made in my most profitable month with Adsense. It has been pretty magical.
Switching over to Ezoic has had a few hiccups and I’m still trying to get my site to load as quickly as it did before I switched. I think I will be able to get it to where I want to be after they roll out their new “LEAP” program to help their publishers improve their web speed.
Getting to the “Ezoic level” has been a blogging goal of mine for a long time. Hopefully I can continue to grow my traffic by writing great content for federal employees. And now that the website makes consistent revenue from ads, I will be able to invest more into the website to keep it running smoothly and providing a good user interface.