November 2017 Expense Report

November was a beautiful month in North Carolina, both in the piedmont and in the mountains. Fall is my favorite season and one of the luxuries of owning the cabin is being able to extend the season. Fall comes to the high country early and peaks about the 2nd week of October.  It takes another four weeks for the leaves to reach full color in the Piedmont.

My son snapped this picture trying to capture the depth of the blue sky at the cabin. I think he nailed it. 

November spending was nothing if not surprising. We ended up spending on some things that were completely unplanned and did not spend on some things I thought we would.

Prior to actually tabulating our final expenditures I had that sneaking suspicion that we were going to end up way over budget, but alas, when everything was added up we were still below our monthly target of $3,333.33 in non-mortgage spending. I explain how we came to that target figure in this post.

Welcoming The Nelly Gray

The big unexpected expenditure in November was our new-to-us canoe and associated accessories.  I have christened the new red canoe The Nelly Gray. You can just see The Nelly Gray poking out from the barn in the featured image of this post.  It’s next to our green canoe – The Draggin’ Bottom.

Maximum enjoying a ride in The Draggin’ Bottom.

We received The Draggin’ Bottom as a wedding present some 20 years ago and it served us mighty well in that time but it was recently blown off its perch by a violent gust up at the cabin and it landed squarely on the end of an Adirondack chair arm. The result was an 8″ crack all the way through the hull on the bottom of the canoe.  Bummer.

I hope to be able to repair the old green boatbut it’s made out of a material called Crosslink, which, based on my research, is notoriously difficult to repair.  Nonetheless, I shall give it a shot. If you have experience with this type of repair please let me know!

The Nelly Gray takes her name from the 19th century tune of the same name. The lyrics of the song feature a man lamenting the days gone by when he would float down the river in his little red canoe with his darling Nelly Gray.

With The Draggin’ Bottom sort of out of commission we were sort of in the market for a new canoe. Fortunately a colleague of my wife’s happened to be selling one along with four PFDs, 5 paddles, and a new set of yakima tie-down straps. The canoe itself is a Mad River Explorer 16. Ours is made out of Royalex, which, like Crosslink doesn’t appear to be used anymore in canoe manufacturing.

When this boat was new it sold for over $1,000. We were able to snag it and all the accessories above for an even $500.  Given the excellent condition of the boat and all the stuff that came with it I consider that to be a steal.

What We Didn’t Spend On

In last month’s expense report I mentioned that a tree had fallen on the cabinette and I anticipated needing to buy some materials to make repairs. As it turned out I had all the items I needed to make the structural repairs to the cabinette porch framing.

The one thing left to do is address the damaged piece of 5V roofing tin. I plan to tackle this when we’re up over Christmas. I was thinking I would need to completely replace the piece, but my wife looked at it and said, “why don’t you just bend it back in to shape and screw it back down to the porch rafters?”

Once more her genius shone through as she landed on the frugal solution without batting an eye.  And once more I congratulated myself on having been so wise in my selection of a mate.

We also did not buy a Christmas tree over Thanksgiving, which we typically do. The Subaru and trailer were pretty loaded down, so no room for a tree this trip.

Packed up for the ride home.

And if you read this post on not buying a trailer (it’s better than the title sounds) and are wondering about the trailer in the picture, no I did not buy it, I borrowed it from very generous friends.

Will we still buy a real Christmas tree? Yes, of course. I’m planning to head back to the cabin in a couple weeks and will get a tree while I’m up.

Here’s why we get a real tree every year:

  • North Carolina Christmas tree farms produce the majority of Fraser Fir trees in the country.
  • The county where our cabin is located produces more Christmas trees than any other county in the country.
  • There are currently about 12,000 acres of Christmas trees in production amounting to roughly 20 million trees.

With that many trees around there are bargains to be had. We routinely get an 8 to 9 foot Christmas tree for $20.

Picking out a tree at the “bargain” lot a couple years ago.

Ok, enough preamble, let’s see how the finances shook out in November.

Net Worth and Invested Assets

What can I say other than wow, just, wow. This bull market continues on as if this is the way it always works. I know that’s not true and that we’re bound to see a dip/market correction/crash at some point, but that certainly didn’t happen in November.

Our net worth went up by $19,684 to bring our total to $731,291. Crazy.

Last month I wondered if our invested assets would reach $500k by the end of the year. Well, I got my answer at the end of November, YES.  Invested assets grew by $16,715 to bring our total to $501,933.

My goal for next month is to still be over $500k by year’s end.

I think of invested assets as just that: funds invested in retirement accounts – not cash in the bank. The net worth numbers above do include cash in the bank so there’s not a direct mapping between home equity + invested asset gains and the net worth increase.

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.

What Did We Spend in November?

Primary home mortgage: $1,627.32

Interest only payment on primary home HELOC: $31.70

Cabin mortgage: $4,040.05 ($1,090.05 regular mortgage and $2,950.00 in additional principal. At times our progress towards paying off the cabin mortgage feels slow, but I know we’re getting there. In the first 10 months of our 5-year plan to pay it off we’ve brought the balance down by more than $34,000. We currently owe $122,895.)

Electricity at cabin: $39.34 (We spent Thanksgiving at the cabin and it was 22 degrees Thanksgiving morning, so the heat was running. I suspect December’s electricity bill will be substantially higher since we have an electric heat pump. Between October and April we keep the thermostat set at 55 when we’re not there in order to prevent the possibility of frozen pipes.)

Electricity at home: $47.39 (Even with using the electric dryer for weekly laundry we still manage to keep our electric bill pretty low. Maybe the rates are just lower in Raleigh? We got another notice from our electric company telling us we’re the envy of our neighbors due to how low our electricity usage is compared to comparably built homes.)

Internet at cabin: $43.98 (Wish we could get a rate like this for home internet.)

Internet at home: $79.83 (Based on a recommendation from Nick Loper at Side Hustle Nation I started using a service called Trim that, among other things, will negotiate on your behalf to reduce your internet bill. There’s no cost to sign up with Trim. The way they make money is by negotiating a lower price and then keeping 25% of the price reduction. Our previous monthly cost for internet was $70.72, or $848.64/year. The new monthly bill is $62.70, or $752.40/year. Trim made $17.13 off the deal.)

Cell phone: $51.11 (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 $28.11 this month and Republic was $23.00.)

Natural gas: $16.46 (We use this for heat, cooking, and hot water at home.)

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

Groceries: $863.00 (I suspected groceries would be a little higher this month due to purchasing some ingredients for our Thanksgiving feast, but we weren’t expecting this much of a departure from our usual average of around $650.

We did have a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed leftovers for many days afterwards. However, we’re going to go back to tracking grocery spending as we go through the month and see if that helps us stay closer to our goal.

But let’s be honest, December is another one of those months in which we typically splurge a bit on food and beverages as part of celebrating the season.)

Gasoline: $173.00 (Gasoline was up again this month due to two trips to the cabin.  Towing the trailer over Thanksgiving brought our mileage way down to 16.5 mpg, but it enabled us to bring up our lawn tractor and leaf blowers so we could work on our road.

One of the joys of owning a cabin that is off the beaten path is having to clear fallen leaves out of the roadside ditches and off the gravel roads. We have to do this in order to keep the road culverts clear so they can do their job of catching and diverting rain water off the road surface.

If the culverts get blocked then water runs into the road and can wash away hundreds of dollars of gravel in minutes. The gravel road up to our cabin is a little under a half mile. We’ve paid others to do the leaf clearing for us in the past, but the cost is usually around $350-$400, so we’ve decided to do it ourselves.

We finished the job in about 3 hours this year. Using the lawn tractor to blow leaves off the road surface cuts the time in half. Just one of the minor details of cabin ownership that isn’t in the “brochure”.)

Cars: $242.00 (Had a new front wheel hub assembly installed on the Subaru. I considered doing this myself and watched a couple Youtube videos on it. I would’ve paid about $75 for the part alone had I decided to do it myself. If I had more time than money I would’ve done it myself, but that’s not presently the case.)

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

Health and medical: $40 ($40 copay for my son’s annual physical. He’s doing great.)

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: $19.80 (Chicken feed and bedding. Egg sales usually cover this but I didn’t have the egg money envelope with me when I went to the farm supply store, so this shows up in our expenses.  Just means we’ll have a surplus of egg money for future feed and bedding purchases.)

Restaurants: $38.59 (We took our son and a friend out for Ben & Jerry’s to celebrate the friend’s birthday, I paid for a pitcher of beer for my fly tying group, and my son and I did another Subway run before a scout camping trip that started on a Friday.)

Entertainment: $19.95 (I got hit with another $19.95 from an apparently recurring 1-month subscription to an online music lesson site called Sonic Junction. I’ve since cancelled this subscription.)

Shopping: $23.04 (I bought a USB-C cable so I can charge my phone in the car and my wife bought some homebrewing supplies.)

Gifts: $84.13 (We have a long-standing tradition of making photo calendars for family as Christmas gifts. We’ve been using Shutterfly, but $53.60 seems high to me for the 4 to 6 calendars we order.  Anyone have any better ideas? Also spent some on clothes for our son that will be part of his Christmas.)

Kids/School: $30.00 (Cost of a scout camping trip.)

Clothing: $31.32 (Over Thanksgiving we went to see the Alpacas at Landmark Farm Alpacas. They were doing a “Shop Small” event so I bought a pair of Alpaca socks as our price of admission. We really just wanted to see the Alpacas and the working livestock guardian dog. Also spent about $9 on a couple thrift store items.

Alpacas!!

Fishing: $48.38 (leaders, hooks, other fly tying supplies.)

Miscellaneous: $541.00 ($40 in ATM withdrawals. $1.00 service to our credit union.  $500 for canoe and accessories.)

Beavertail paddle that was part of the canoe deal and is now part of the cabin decor.

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: $8,491.27 (I know this seems like a crazy high number but it is primarily due to shoveling money at the cabin mortgage.)

Total Monthly Non-Mortgage Expenses: $2,791.15 (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 four months of our current fiscal year our non-mortgage expenses were $11,361.65, which is decently below our four-month target of $13,333.32.

What Do You Think?

Thoughts on our November 2017 expense report? We’re definitely not living a life of extreme frugality, but still making steady progress towards our goals.

December will be an interesting month. Last December we tried to spend a lot less on Christmas gifts than we had in the past but still managed to shell out over $700. We’re going to try and cut that way down this year.

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