Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for September 2020. I write these posts to reflect on my life right now and give you insights into our lives and our spending. For a larger explanation of why I write these posts, check out March 2019’s post.
I love September. Mostly because that’s when Cortland Apples start to be in season. But it also marks the start of school and has nearly perfect weather.
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As I’ve said before, my only goal during the pandemic is to “make sure everyone in our family is doing the best they can be doing during this time.” The pandemic isn’t normal times. However, our spending in September was close to our pre-pandemic spending levels.
Money well spent- major expenditures in September 2020
So as you can see we spent 41% of our post-tax income. I calculate our savings rate based upon the difference between our income and our spending. Using that method, we saved 59% of our income, of which 15% went towards our mortgage principal.
As you may know, we track all of our expenses and net worth in CountAbout. It’s a great tool for tracking expenses and developing budgets. One of the best features about CountAbout is that you can attach receipts. It makes organizing paperwork for tax time a breeze. If you’re interested you can sign up through this link for a 15 day free trial.
We spent $800 on groceries this past month. That’s almost double our 1 month low, set in February, when we only spent $430 on food. We still managed to stay below the USDA “thrifty” food budget plan of $882 per month for our family. (The USDA thrifty plan is used to determine the food stamp allowance for our size and age of family).
If the pandemic has changed anything about our family’s finances, it’s changed how we feel about grocery spending. It used to be a game to see how low we could go. Now, we’re happy to pay to have our groceries dropped on our doorstep from Instacart. We still cook everything from scratch, but are okay ordering what we need instead of scouting around for the absolute lowest prices on things.
Are kids expensive? Besides daycare– I think having kids is in many ways, cheaper than advertised (especially when you have more than 1 kid). So I’m sharing our spending in the “kid” category this year.
We spent less than $40 on kids for the second straight month. So far we’ve spent $1,016 on kids (excluding daycare, and I guess food).
There’s no easy answer to “how much do kids cost”. Bloggers that insist kids are cheap don’t mention childcare or healthcare. (An ER visit will set you back about $10k, and we’ve had a couple of those in 12 years of parenting). But when you look at what we actually spend on kids, it’s less than a lot of people spend on their hobbies.
Gas & Auto
We spent $44 & filled up the Mazda5 twice. We drove to visit our parents (outside, socially distanced) a couple of times. Mrs. Gov also drove to visit her grandparents which is where most of our mileage came from. My grandparents died when I was very young, and I was amazed when I met Mrs. Gov (18 years ago, that she still had living grandparents). I’m really happy she was able to visit them during the pandemic.
Visiting relatives is definitely worth every penny of having a car.
If you’ve been a long time reader of the blog, perhaps you noticed a little bit of a change in the past month. I finally decided to take the blog “seriously” and invest some money in it. You’ve probably noticed that the website has been completely redesigned. Hopefully you also noticed how fast the pages load now.
But, beyond investing some money in the website itself, I’ve invested in myself as well. I signed up for Daniella’s Launch Your Side Hustle Course. I first met Daniella through Twitter and have always been in awe of her incredible Canva, Pinterest, and TikTok skills. I read about her side-hustle course and saw that she offered a version of the course that included live-coaching sessions.
Both the course and the coaching session were amazing! Since starting the course, I’ve upped my Pinterest game (although it’s still not driving a lot of traffic to my site) and my keyword research. She also helped me develop a lot more tools to negotiate prices for various freelancing tasks I’ve done.
I still have a lot of work left to do, but the Daniella definitely helped me “level-up” on my side hustles. If this sounds like something you could use, you can learn more about the course here.
I’ve also been working hard on promoting my blog and creating links to my blog from other websites to help my search engine results. This past month:
- I wrote a guest post for Financial Pilgrimage
- Love Rutledge interviewed me for her FedUpward podcast about my post on parental leave for federal employees.
- I participated in an expert roundup on investing in a post-COVID world.
I don’t like to share my blog traffic because I was really discouraged by seeing other people’s large traffic numbers when I started blogging. In fact, I was so discouraged I “quit”. To be honest I can’t keep track of how many times I “quit” blogging.
However, I thought maybe I should talk about traffic in a general way in my roundup post. I really enjoy reading Melanie’s blog growth updates, so thought maybe I’d start a similar section of my own.
- I hit an all time high in terms of page views.
- My post with the most organic traffic remains Darcy’s guest post about private sector and public sector pay. (Yes, I’m embarrassed that none of my writing is good enough to match that.)
- I continue to rank highly for my review of the Aetna Attain app. I’m really proud of that post, even though I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote it.
- Someone shared this post about FERS retirement on Facebook and the traffic went nutso for about a week. Thank you whoever you are. Please send me an email. I’d love to touch base with you and say thanks.
- I’ve started interacting with federal employees on Reddit. I discovered r/govfire and it seems like exactly the people I wanted to reach with this blog.
I thought I’d add a section about what was the thing we bought in the past month that was a “treat” or something that made our life better.
We only spent $301 on non-essentials this month (see my top figure). So I don’t really have anything to put in here.
I did get an Amazon gift card from my parents for my birthday and used it to buy some fiction books. Two of my blogger friends, Financial Mechanic and Jessica from the Fioneers recommended Skyward by Brandon Sanderson.
It was nice to lose myself in a fiction book for a few days. (Honestly, I couldn’t put it down). It was a nice distraction from all of the depressing things going on in 2020.
Long term progress
After months of thinking these graphs weren’t changing, it really looks like we’re past the hump. In 2022 we should have the house paid off and the youngest should be out of daycare. I could easily see us reaching financial independence by that point (at 4% SWR, without our pensions). This is really exciting.
While I don’t think either of us will quit on the day we reach FI, I’m still excited about reaching this milestone. It will mean that we won’t be beholden to our employers anymore. If we get laid off, we can relax, take a breath, and refocus. Similarly, we know we could walk away from a toxic work environment any day.
Two of my blog friends, Educator FI and Katie from Along the Camel Ride both described their shifting feelings about early retirement. While I’m not quite FI yet (like Educator FI), I’m very much in the same boat. When I started pursuing FI, I was upset/jealous that I didn’t learn about it a decade ago (because I’d have retired already). But now that I’m nearly at the end of my journey, I’m not ready to leave yet.
In my job, I get to solve problems that help all US Taxpayers. I’ve always been drawn to the mission of my job. And while I’ve stopped associating my worth with my job title, I still love being an expert. Moreover, I still feel like I can contribute and help people throughout the country. Now that I know I can leave on my own terms, I’m happy to stay (and maybe I can make it to the point when I can keep my health insurance).