Each month, I share a net worth update for the Brewing FIRE household. This brief summary of our financial standing serves as a progress report on our journey to financial independence.
In addition to giving a snapshot of our net worth, I will take a brief look at our spending, saving, and investing activity for the month.
April 2019 Net Worth
We use Personal Capital to track our net worth. Personal Capital makes it easy to track all of our banking accounts, investing accounts, credit cards and loans all in one place. Personal Capital also has numerous other functions for analyzing your investment holdings, asset allocation and performance, as well as some great retirement planning tools.
Spring might be the best time of year. Nothing rivals the feeling of optimism and (literal) sunny days ahead that you feel as the weather warms and the season turns.
Much of our April was spent outside, working on various projects at the homestead. It also provided a great source of entertainment for Baby BF, who loves to run around and explore.
This month I also had the opportunity to go back to my high school and talk about careers in the STEM field. I really enjoyed meeting with some aspiring scientists and talking about my experiences. Public speaking is not one of my favorite things, but I forced myself to do something that would make me uncomfortable (one of my 2019 goals) and it was really rewarding. I made sure to impart some tips from the FIRE community, such as “align your goals with your values” and “plant the seeds today for the future you want to live.”
In my March net worth update, I talked about all of the time, effort (and money) spent clearing the side yard and prepping it for our orchard. This month, we were able to borrow an ATV with a rake attachment to finish clearing, leveling and tilling the property. We’re now ready for planting, which should hopefully happen sometime in May.
We also finished planting our seeds in the garden which we formerly referred to as The Secret Garden. It used to be completely buried in a densely wooded area, but now is quite naked and exposed.
The plants should benefit from more sunlight without the surrounding foliage, so our 2019 bounty will probably eclipse last year’s. Also, we were able to till and prep more area outside the garden for tomatoes, cardoon, squash and some other random crops.
Scouting Geoarbitrage Sites, Part 1: RVA
A couple months back I posted that we were considering relocating from Connecticut. The primary drivers are the high cost of living we currently endure and my preference for slightly shorter winters. Mrs. BF contends that she wants to leave CT because people here are too tense and not friendly.
She made the following observation last week:
“When (Baby BF) says hi to people here they don’t say hi back more than half the time. So rude to not say hi to a baby.”
I completely agree, and that’s a good way to summarize the stoic attitude of New Englanders.
Anyway, Richmond, Virginia was the first on our list of potential geoarbitrage landing spots. Richmond checks the boxes of being a medium sized city with a warmer climate, good public education options, history/culture and an airport.
We spent a long weekend in RVA, and really enjoyed our time there. We made sure to visit as many parks and outdoor attractions as we could, and were fortunate to encounter perfect weather.
Richmond is loaded with museums, historical sites and cultural attractions. There’s a certain charm to the city and it’s heritage that reminded me of Connecticut. The city was also very walkable and seemed safe. And the people were friendlier. It’s amazing how many people said hi to us for no apparent reason!
One minor disappointment was the food. I had read in various places that RVA is an up-and-coming foodie town. However, we had a few less than stellar meals from places considered to be top notch. I think this might say more about how good the food is in the NY/CT area than it does about Richmond. We are spoiled by our diversity and quality of restaurants in the Northeast.
All in all, it was a nice trip. RVA remains on the list of potential relocation destinations, as I could definitely see myself living there.
Once again, we’ve hit a new high in net worth. This was driven mostly by market gains, as our investment accounts have appreciated nicely in April.
Spending and Not Spending
Here are some things we spent money on this month.
Central Air Conditioning: $17,000 (!!!)
I can hear the sirens of the Frugality Police off in the distance. Mr. Money Mustache is punching his calculator as we speak so that he can tell me this money would have been worth $37,000 in 10 years, had it been invested. I used up 3.9 years of a “$12/day budget” in one fell swoop!
Okay, that’s enough self-flagellation. The point I’m trying to make is that we didn’t take this expense lightly. I’ve actually debated whether to do this home upgrade for a couple years.
Ultimately, it came down to the fact that I am pretty miserable every summer from July to September, and that’s not worth it. We also couldn’t have friends and family over as often as we’d like because of how humid and nasty our house becomes.
Finally, this upgrade should boost the resale value moderately. Nobody wants to consider home renovations on a primary residence in terms of ‘an investment’, but can’t hurt the value either. I mean, it’s not like I’m blowing the money on a depreciating asset like a convertible, right? Right?
Richmond Mini-Vacation: $359 (net)
Mrs. BF gets $1,500 per year from her employer for ‘Continuing Medical Education,’ so we typically use this money to fund a mini-vacation. She attended a half-day medical conference while we were in Richmond, and so we were able to expense part of the travel and lodging. We could have expensed the whole trip, but we’re going to use the remaining money for another small trip later in the year.
One thing I did notice- it’s expensive to eat out every day! I don’t know how people do it and still have money left over at the end of the month.
Empty Septic Tank: $285
When I tell you, “we took care of shit!” this month, I’m not kidding.
For those of you that are urbanites, here’s a quick lesson on living outside city limits.
We’re not connected to city water or sewer, which means we have “well and septic.” We draw our own water out of the ground via a 150 ft well pump, and our waste goes out to an old concrete tank buried in the backyard that eventually drains to a leaching field. This is an archaic system that was conceived many hundreds of years ago, but it still works.
One advantage of having your own well and septic is that there are no municipal water or sewage costs. This can easily total $50-100 per month, depending on your municipality. The downside, however, is that the maintenance is our responsibility.
Our well pump died last September after 20 years of loyal service, and that set us back $3,000. If it hadn’t been an emergency service call, we probably could have saved $500-1000, but these calls probably tend to always be emergencies.
We also need to have the septic inspected and pumped out periodically. If our tenants are not constantly flushing non-degradable products down the toilet, then we’d be good for many years. We can reasonably expect to wait 4 years between clean-outs, based on the size of the tank and number of inhabitants, but we’ll probably do it every 2-3 years to be safe. I would always to prefer to avoid the proverbial shit-storm!
Income and Investing
I’m sad to report that we had no extra income in April, outside of our W-2 jobs and our house hack basement rental unit.
We have (almost) run out of things to sell as part of our Q1 purge. Maybe after a month or two we can go through our household inventory once again and see what else isn’t sparking joy. Overall, though, I’m pretty happy with our state of unclutteredness.
I did not spend any time at the Brewpub this month, due to some busy weekends and the RVA trip. But I’ll be down there again in May.
On the investment front, we made small contributions to our Roth and brokerage accounts this month, due to the anticipated central air bill. I have an automatic sweep set up to deposit $250 per month into each of our brokerage accounts, but that was the full extent of our after-tax contributions this month.
Next month I’ll talk a little bit about some new directions we might be heading in regarding our investments. Stay tuned.
That’s all for this month. Hope you enjoyed reading about our budget-busting purchases and human excrement. Have you blown huge wads of money on something you deemed valuable? Feel free to add your two cents in the comments. Cheers!