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.
March 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.
March is an exciting time of year for me. Up here in the Northeast, we finally begin to get a reprieve from the cold harsh winter as hints of spring start to emerge. The days are getting longer, the birds start showing up at our feeders.
And then we get a half foot of snow.
Well I can say pretty confidently that we are now done with winter. Maybe. I hope.
We’ve started our outdoor spring projects, such as cleaning yard debris and putting away the snowblower. We’ve prepped the patio for our summer party scene (more on this below). I’ve tilled the garden and planted all of our cold-resistant varieties.
Oh, and we finished clearing 2 acres of land on the side of our property.
Spring Cleaning, Skid Steer Style
A little background.
When we bought our house 4 years ago, the side of the property was densely covered with trees, bushes and other growth that made it into a veritable jungle.
However, the power company has an easement due to some high voltage lines that run across the edge of the property. This past year, they decided to clear the area due to pressure from federal regulators.
If losing our mini wildlife sanctuary wasn’t bad enough, we are required to keep the land free from regrowth of invasives, since we refused herbicide treatment. Hence the skid steer.
Three days and $1200 later, we’ve got a mostly flat, cleared piece of land. Mrs. BF even dug a fish pond in the back! If there is any silver lining to this situation, it’s this: as recompense for destroying our piece of wilderness, the power company has agreed to do a “one-for-one” replacement of any trees or bushes they removed. We ordered 34 fruit trees, which should be planted in May. In effect, we turned the land into an orchard. Along with our expanded garden, the dream of becoming an urban farmer is well on it’s way!
In last month’s update, I told you that I was planning on posting less frequently on the blog, as I try to gain control of my free time. With only one post in March, I wasn’t kidding!
Actually, I’ve been really busy at work, which is why I’ve gone missing lately. I had a lot of 10+ hour days in the lab in March, which has been exhausting, but also exciting. Much of the work I’ve been doing the past two years has resulted in the opportunity of gaining some large business, so it’s somewhat gratifying.
To be honest, I’ve felt different at work over the past few months. As I’m slowly figuring out when it will be possible to leave the company either part- or full-time, I’ve been reinvigorated in a way. I’ve stopped letting stupid shit bother me, and have focused more on the things that matter. I can’t exactly say that I’m “passionate” about the work, but I’m at least “interested,” and that’s better than nothing.
I will continue to write occasional deep-dive articles on topics of interest, at my own pace. The Food Manual was actually written a couple months ago, it just took me a while to get it polished and published.
Our net worth has reached an all-time high! The increase in our equities balances comes from a bunch of new contributions as well as a modest gain in the markets themselves.
Spending and Not Spending
Here are some things we spent money on this month.
Skid steer rental (plus fuel): $1271
Ouch! That’s a lot of money to spend on cleaning up after the power company wrecked our yard. Of course, we could have done nothing with the land and saved this money. But I hope the work we put in will pay us back with the usage of a nice field to play in and an orchard full of fruit. I’ll revisit this purchase in a decade.
Sony 35mm camera lens: $125 (net)
We like taking fancy pictures of our daughter and our pooch Percy. The 50mm portrait lens I had wasn’t great indoors due to the focal length and cropped sensor, so we upgraded to a 35mm equivalent. I sold the old one on eBay, thus making the net cost $125 instead of the $450 (MSRP).
Here are some things we saved money on this month.
Chimney Liner / Cap: $86
Some hack inspected our chimney in December and told us we needed to replace the liner at a cost of $1500. We got a second opinion from a more reputable source, who told us the liner was fine but we needed a custom chimney cap to prevent further corrosion. He wanted to charge a few hundred bucks to have it manufactured and then install it.
Instead, I ordered a universal fit model online and installed it myself. We spent $86, but we saved $500-1500 in the process.
Shed Roof: $0
A tree came down over the winter and punctured a hole through our shed’s roof, which I just found a couple weeks ago. I was able to repair it myself with some sheet metal, a piece of shingle, and 15 minutes time. DIY FTW!
Patio Lighting Project: $40
The Brewing FIRE household does a fair bit of entertaining during the warmer months. The main reason is that it’s easier to stay home with Baby BF, and it’s cheaper than eating out.
We built our patio ourselves in 2016, just in time to get married on it! We’ve gotten plenty of use from it over the years, but I wanted to upgrade the lighting situation. In true frugal weirdo fashion, we buried a couple cedar tree trunks (from the cleared land) and strung some outdoor LED lights from the posts. I think it looks pretty awesome.
Income and Investing
Besides our normal W-2 paychecks, we collected money from the following sources in March:
Brewpub: I worked a couple days last month and made a few bucks. As I’ve mentioned previously, professional brewing is definitely not going to make me rich, but it is enjoyable at times and could be a good part-time gig after FI.
Tax Refund: I know, this is actually my money, but it was an extra chunk of cash we hadn’t planned on. For the record, our taxes went up as a result of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The wonders of living in a blue state, and losing the SALT deduction!
Employee Stock Purchase Plan Sale: every quarter my ESPP deposits a quantity of company stock purchased at a 15% discount into my brokerage account. I immediately sell the shares, and lock in the gain (plus any additional gain from share price fluctuation). My return from this quarter’s purchases was 22%, earned in all of 3 months. For more information on Employee Stock Purchase Programs, check out my post on the benefits of the plan.
Travel Nurse Rental: the Basement Bungalow continues to generate cash flow, as we have had it rented continuously for 19 of the past 20 months. Still no problems, outside of a couple loud encounters with ‘gentleman callers.’
Tidying Up (eBay and Craigslist): We continued the evacuation of unused crap from our house, racking up another $800 in net sales for March (on top of $400 in February). Amazingly, I repaired most of the original Nintendo consoles (mentioned in this post) and sold them for $250, 11 years after I originally bought them! Feels good to finally rid myself of that mess.
We had a pretty large infusion of cash into our investment accounts in March. This is mostly from the ESPP sale, the tax refund and my bonus. In total, we put $5,500 of after-tax money into the market this month. We should be maxed out on our 2019 Roth IRA contributions by April or May, depending on how we allocate our next funds.
As soon as the IRS gets done screwing around with our amended 2017 return, we should be getting back another $9,000 from the government in the form of a federal tax credit for the solar system we installed that year.
We were planning on reinvesting that, but now there are talks of installing central air conditioning in our house. But first we have to decide if we’re going to stay here!
That’s all for this month. Thanks as always for following our mundane existence, and let me know what you think in the comments. Cheers!