January 2018 Expense Report

We got a proper snow!

I’m supposed to be placing a greater emphasis on gratitude in 2018. January’s spending and the events associated therewith put my resolve to be grateful to the test. But as you’ll see, gratitude prevails in the end.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby Doctor

Image result for Let's all go to the lobby

Three out of four household members required medical attention last month, and the fourth – our 12-year-old son – had a regularly scheduled dentist appointment that involved some fancy extras like x-rays and a fluoride treatment.

Maximum went to the vet after tweaking something in his right shoulder. We were playing ball/chase in the backyard and he let out a loud yelp after turning to his right to catch a softball. About a year ago he received a bad bite from the neighbor’s dog in that same shoulder. The vet thinks that the damage from the bite combined with the twisting motion may have resulted in a ruptured a bursa sac. After no ball playing for two weeks and a 14-day course of Etogesic he’s doing better.

In addition to a regular visit to the dentist for me I also got to make two visits to my new doctor’s office. I’m being treated for a gentleman’s ailment, which is all I want to say and probably more than you want to know anyway. I have one more visit to my regular doc and then it’s probably on to a specialist! Hooray! Feeling so young! My body is nothing if not punctual in its decline. . . . .ugh.

And the Winner Is. . .

My wife was the big winner in January’s “Who Wants to Feel Debilitated!” sweepstakes. She has had chronic lower back issues for the better part of 15 years but has managed to keep things mostly in check through regular physical therapy exercises and being mindful about her posture.

We think the problem may have begun shortly after we started dating in the early 90’s. We were attending a rock’n’roll party in a dank, beer-soaked basement when she decided to engage in an ill-advised courtship display. As she was making her way down some rough, beer-soaked stairs she slipped and landed squarely on her tailbone. At that moment I knew she was the one.

Since that fateful night she’s endured lots of painful flare ups, but the one she had last month was at whole new level. After writhing in pain for hours, trying every expired prescription pain killer we had in the house to no effect (I don’t recommend this), and being unable to find any relief she acquiesced to being taken to the ER.

Relief finally came in the form of three injections. She got a valium, a steroid, and an NSAID. Our follow up entailed a visit to an orthopedic surgeon, an MRI, and a follow up with the surgeon to review the MRI.

What we learned is that if we lived in Germany my wife would be getting a disc replacement between her L4 and L5 vertebrae. But as you know, we do not live in Germany, we live in the US, and in the US, insurance companies are fighting against covering this type of procedure. So far they are mostly winning this fight.

I’m feeling a rant coming on so I’m going to wrap up on the medical chatter.

All told we had a little more than $1,400 in unanticipated human and animal health care expenses this month. And we still haven’t paid all the bills. There will be more that show up in February’s expense report.

Why Gratitude Wins Out

Yet despite all of this I am still grateful. Grateful that we have insurance coverage, grateful that we both have flexible spending accounts that enable us to pay for most of this month’s medical bills with pre-tax money, and honestly, grateful that our collective health issues weren’t any worse.

This month’s events also make me grateful that we’ve adopted a fairly frugal lifestyle and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. Being frugal allows us to absorb these micro-economic shocks without much economic pain. As I’ve detailed, there was plenty of physical pain.

Net Worth and Invested Assets

I am also grateful for the stock market’s ridiculous run in January. Are you kidding me? (Editor’s note: yes, the market was kidding you. Punchline delivered late yesterday afternoon.)

Our net worth went up by $32,730. I calculated that and thought, “is this for reals?” It was for real for a little while.

Our net worth ended the month at $775,117.

Invested assets increased by $29,681 to finish the month at $539,718.

I think of invested assets as just that: funds invested in retirement accounts – not cash in the bank. The net worth number includes cash in the bank and home equity in two properties.

At this point all of our invested assets are in retirement accounts (403b, 401k, IRA, employer retirement plan) and invested in low-fee index funds.

Our snowy woods.

What Did We Spend in January?

Primary home mortgage: $1,627.32

Interest only payment on primary home HELOC: $32.75

Cabin mortgage: $2,590.05 ($1,090.05 regular payment and $1,500 in additional principal. At the end of December our balance on the cabin mortgage is $118,297. Paying off the mortgage on our cabin in five years or less is one of our main financial goals. You can follow our cabin-payoff progress here.)

Electricity at cabin: $73.46 (It’s been cold up there. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this bill be over $100 next month.)

Electricity at home: $52.10 (Decent.)

Internet at cabin: $64.03 (I’ve switched to a new plan that should take effect with our March bill. The new plan – called the Weekender Plan – gives us internet access only on weekends from noon on Friday to noon the following Monday. It also includes the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and July 4th. If we want to turn it on any other week it’s a flat $10. New monthly rate for the Weekender Plan should be around $25.)

Internet at home: $64.99 (Damn this is still too high. I’ve been looking for other options besides Spectrum, and while some are available in Raleigh, none are available at our address.)

Cell phone: $73.39 (I use Google Fi and my wife has Republic Wireless. Google Fi is ever so slightly more expensive than Republic but it has better coverage around the cabin when we’re not on the wifi. Google Fi was $25.34 this month and Republic was $23.05. Oh, and there was an additional $25 charge to get my wife’s phone fixed after The Incident in the Powder Room.)

Natural gas: $73.46 (We use this for heat, cooking, and hot water at home. January was cold. We went through a lot of gas even with the wood stove going most of the month.)

Water/sewer: $77.35 (Water comes in, water goes out. We pay for it coming and going.)

Groceries: $670 (I’m not sure how to make this lower other than to stop drinking beer and stop eating meat. We’ve cut back on both but have no plans to completely eliminate them from our diet or expenses.)

Gasoline: $99.16 (We didn’t go to the cabin in January so spent a little less on gas.)

Cars: $0 (phew.)

House: $0 (also phew.)

Childcare: $199.98 (My son goes to the Y for after school care.)

Health and medical: $1,313.55 (Ouch. Literally and figuratively.)

Life insurance: $22.75 (My wife has a policy outside of the policies offered through her employer. I have enough coverage through my employer to pay off both houses and put my son through college.)

Animals: $163.55 (Chicken feed, dog food, and a trip to the Vet for Maximum.)

I hurt myself. But I’m better now.

Restaurants: $18.25 (Took me mum out for a drink and a little chit chat.)

Gifts: $49.78 (We donated some girl scout cookies, bought some New Year’s Cards through Vista Print and used the Frugalwoods affiliate link. My wife also made some pillowcases for her aunt and we paid to ship them out to AZ.)

Awesome pillowcases my wife made.

Kids/School: $222.21 (Most of this is the first installment payment for Boy Scout summer camp. We also bought some perlite to finish a rocket stove project.)

Clothing: $3.73 (Thrift store run.)

Travel: $562.00 (I’m going to Idaho!!! A good friend recently landed a job with Rio Products as a product development engineer. Rio is based in Idaho Falls, ID and they are known for designing and producing the best fly lines in the industry. I’ll be going out to visit and fish – mostly fish – for a week in July. The $562 covers my part of an Airbnb.)

Miscellaneous: $1.00 (Our credit union charges us a monthly $1 fee. Lame.)

Y Membership/gym: $58.75 (My wife has a Y gym membership which also gets us a discount on after school care at the Y.)

Total Monthly Expenses: $8,138.

Total Monthly Non-Mortgage Expenses: $3,888.43 (Our goal for annual non-mortgage spending is $40,000 or less as explained in this post. I started tracking our expenses in August of 2016, so our “fiscal year” is August 1 to July 31. Over the first six months of our current fiscal year our non-mortgage expenses are $17,728.43, which is $2,271.55 below our six-month target of $19,999.98. So despite a month in which we had unanticipated medical expenses and unusual travel expenses we are still well below our annual non-mortgage spending target.

How was your January? Hopefully you didn’t get sick, didn’t have to go to the ER, and didn’t suffer through any gentleman’s ailments.


  1. How about if you split your mortgage payments into principal and interest portions from now on? Principal payments are a form of savings — drives up your net worth. But the interest is pure expense.


  2. Principal payments are certainly part of my net worth calculation, and I also factor them in whenever I want to do a savings rate calculation. But our eventual goal is to be able to live on roughly $40k annual income without a mortgage, so I find it more useful to separate total spending and non-mortgage spending.

    Principal payments and the resulting equity increases are also a very illiquid form of savings. Yes, they drive up net worth, but that equity can’t really buy groceries.

    Good question and thanks for the comment.


  3. I like your idea of a household fiscal year. I just started tracking our expenses last June, so I’m going to borrow that idea from you!

    Also, I’m incredibly envious of your wood stove. We just have a fireplace, which doesn’t do much other than make a nice atmosphere.


  4. Hi Mrs. LSF,

    How’s it going with tracking expenses? That was a huge eye-opener for us. I’ve been using Mint to capture all our spending data but then I transfer that data to the Mad Fientist’s FI Spreadsheet available here:


    I then use the FI Spreadsheet to print out our monthly charts.

    We don’t get a lot of snow and ice in Raleigh, but when we do we often lose power. No power means no heat. So when we built our current house we knew we wanted a backup heat source. It has come in very handy.


  5. Ouch! about the pain and related medical expenses, but kudos for putting it into perspective. There are a lot of folks who would be severely financially stressed by that type of outlay.


  6. Thanks Wendy. We increased our FSA contributions this year thinking that our son will probably start orthodontia sometime in 2018. Little did we know we’d blow through so much of our FSAs in January. But we’re fortunate to have access to FSAs. Without them it would’ve been very tough to absorb unexpected expenses last month and still make progress towards paying off our cabin.


  7. You’ve got a great blog going here. I enjoyed your guest blog on 1500days (huge fan of his site) and can relate to you, as we are both at the same stage of our lives (no second house, but I do have two kids in college). I have read all of your posts and just wanted to give you some positive feedback. Keep up the good work!


  8. Awwww shucks, thanks Shobi. Tomorrow is my birthday and I’m taking your kind words as an early birthday present.

    Wow, two kids in college. Yikes. We were just talking tonight about how many years before our son starts college. My hope is that I’ll be retiring just after he finishes his first semester, but hoping and doing are two different things. We shall see.

    Thanks again.


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