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Monthly Savings Report: March 2019

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I can’t believe it’s already time for another monthly savings report!

While paying off our mortgage, I posted monthly updates to share how much extra principal my husband and I were able to pay that month. Since paying off our house at the very end of January 2018, I have continued posting updates at the end of each month to share how much we saved (or spent) during that month.

We spent seven months celebrating after we became debt free. Instead of budgeting a certain amount of money to spend on things and experiences that we had held off on while focusing on paying off the house, we budgeted time. Doing home updates, buying new furniture and decor, buying a brand new lawn mower, new kayaks and a new-to-us truck, attending three matches of the FIFA World Cup in Russia – these were some of the ways we celebrated our debt freedom. We originally intended to spend six months celebrating, and we ended up going “over budget” by one month.

But that was okay because instead of starting a new financial goal in August as we originally intended, we started it on September 1, 2018 – exactly two years from the start of our goal to pay off our mortgage. This new goal is even more exciting because we’re finally paying ourselves by saving to purchase our first cash-flowing asset completely free and clear! But we’ll talk about that more in a little bit!

For now, let’s take a look at how we did with our budget, savings, travel hacking cards and net worth in March.

March

Our Budget

We used just about every dollar that we budgeted for this past month, though not in all of the ways we had originally planned. We had budgeted $200 for my husband to get some materials for his trailer, but we ate all of that money instead. This isn’t much of a surprise for me though because we always go over budget on food. We just love to eat!

We also created a new sinking fund this month for quarterly couples massages that we intend to start getting in June. We love getting massages together and have a tradition of getting one each time we go on vacation, but we would like to start doing it more often, especially since we’ve been spending much more time in the gym the last several months.

Speaking of sinking funds, when we put together April’s budget we will have to take a look at the sinking fund we have set up for our yearly purchase of UT football season tickets and increase the amount we put in it each month. We recently booked hotels and flights for the trip to Greece we have planned for September, and while our credit card points covered the bulk of it, we had to cover flights to and from one of the islands we’re visiting. The airline was so small that we couldn’t use our points to book it, so we took the money from our football fund. This was our first time using our credit card points to book flights and hotels, and I’ll share all the details in the next couple of weeks!

Our monthly budget is zero-based, and you can view it at any time here (and if you like the format, you can get a free, customizable copy here!). This is the real, live, actual budget that we put together at the beginning of each month, and I spend a few minutes each weekday morning balancing it against our checking account and four credit card accounts. It has a simple format for three main categories – Monthly Bills, Sinking Funds and Spending.

Our zero-based budget is a little different than most because after paying off our mortgage in January of 2018, we decided to begin living and basing our budget on $2,400 per month, an amount is about $300 less than the lower of our two incomes. There are three reasons that went into our decision to live on less than our lower income:

  1. For the security that comes with knowing we will experience no change in lifestyle and would not even need to touch our emergency fund if one of us lost our jobs.
  2. It forces us to prevent lifestyle inflation as our income slowly continues to increase over the years.
  3. To enable us to work toward achieving our ultimate goal of financial independence.

This $2,400 comes from my husband’s income, and he is paid biweekly. Therefore, we normally leave $1,200 from his paycheck in our checking account and transfer the excess to the Ally savings account we set up for our current $100K savings goal (I’ll give more details about this goal a little further down).

Oh, and as for my paycheck – we have 100% of it set up on direct deposit to the Ally savings account.

Savings

This month was a standard month as far as our paychecks go, meaning that I received my four weekly salary paychecks, and Ron received two biweekly hourly paychecks with no overtime – and no overtime is just the way I like it.

We brought home $6,204.69 in March and saved $3,804.89 of that amount toward our $100,000 savings goal (If you’re new to my blog, I’ll share more details about this goal in just a little bit!). Below is a breakdown of our savings:

  • March 7: $888.79 (my entire paycheck)
  • March 13: $98.35 (Ron’s earnings in excess of $1,200)
  • March 14: $888.79 (my entire paycheck)
  • March 21: $888.79 (my entire paycheck)
  • March 25: $53.03 (interest earned from our Ally savings account)
  • March 27: $98.35 (Ron’s earnings in excess of $1,200)
  • March 28: $888.79 (my entire paycheck)

We saved 61% of our take-home pay in March, and we have saved an average of 62% since beginning our current goal in September.

Credit Card Updates

Last month we met the spending limits for both of the travel hacking credit cards I opened at the end of December, the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business and the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier. I’ve wanted to earn the Southwest Companion Pass ever since I opened my first travel hacking card at the end of 2017, and these two cards will get us there fast!

We started using these cards on January 1 and have used them for every single purchase we’ve made since then. The spending has been very intentional, and each transaction amount was logged on a spreadsheet until we hit the spending limits – $3,000 for the business card and $1,000 for the personal card.

We received the sign-up bonuses for both cards this month, which is 60,000 points from the business card and 40,000 points from the personal card. This brings us to a total of 106,232 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, less than 4K shy of the 110,000 points necessary for the Companion Pass! I think we’ll earn it in the next couple of months, and I’m looking forward to BOGO flights for hubby and me!

To learn more about the four credit cards I currently have, click here.

Net Worth

I have been tracking our net worth since July 2017 and update it once per month using Personal Capital – and, by the way, this free service is offering an awesome referral program right now. If you use this link and connect a qualifying investment account (taxable brokerage, 401k, IRA, 529, etc.) with a balance of over $1000 within 30 days of signing up, you and I both will receive a $20 Amazon gift card!

We experienced a net worth increase of $5,315 in the last month, and our net worth is now $281,788. I’ve really enjoyed watching it increase almost $90K while paying off our mortgage, celebrating for seven months and now saving over 60% of our income. Check out March’s full net worth report here.

Overall, March was a great month! Alright, let’s talk about the goal we’re currently working on.

Our Current Savings Goal

The Goal

What: Save $100,000 in two years to purchase our first rental property in cash.

When: We started at $0.00 on September 1, 2018.

Where: East Tennessee.

Why: After becoming completely debt free, this is our next step toward our ultimate goal of being financially independent. And why cash? Because this is new for us and we want to be as safe as possible. Plus, neither of us have any desire at this time to owe anyone anything ever again.

How: We decided after paying off our house to live on less than the lower of our two incomes, and the amount we chose is $2,400 per month. Since Ron is paid biweekly, we transfer every penny he earns above $1,200 to the Ally savings account we set up for this goal. In addition, we save 100% of my pay by having my weekly paychecks direct deposited into this account.

For more details about this goal, read my announcement post here!

Wrapping Things Up

My last paycheck of the month closed out our seventh month of working toward this goal, and we have now saved $29,426.85. We hit the milestone of being a quarter way through last month, and we’ll hit the milestone of being a third of the way through by the end of April! As of next week we’ll have over $30,000 saved. It still doesn’t feel like we have that much money in the bank!

We’ve saved an average of $980.90 per week over the last 30 weeks and an average of $4,203.84 per month over the last seven months. Our average savings rate of our take-home pay over these past six months has been 62%.

Since we started our previous major financial goal of paying off our house on the exact same day back in 2016, I like to compare our progress along the way. The image below is a comparison of how much principal we paid each month versus how much cash we have saved for our new goal.

While paying off our house, we lived on the higher of our two incomes while using every cent of the lower income as extra mortgage principal payments, and we immediately switched to living on less than the lower of the two incomes as soon as we made our first debt-free budget on February 1, 2018.

My husband was working a ton of overtime while we were paying off our mortgage, which is the reason our mortgage principal payments back then were higher than the amount of cash we’re saving now. But that’s one of my favorite things about no longer owing anything to anyone – hubby spends more time at home with me now instead of at work.

I’m so happy with our progress so far. Automating our savings by having 100% of my paycheck direct-deposited to our Ally savings accounts has made it so easy, while saving my husband’s earnings in excess of $2400 has kept us just a little uncomfortable enough to push us. And it’s been worth it, because those small contributions from his paychecks have accounted for over $2,000 of our savings so far!

Have you discovered a system that works best for you to be able to save money? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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1 Comment

  1. Devony Jackson says:

    Hi Ellie! I read about you on a Student Loan Hero Blog! We started our debt free journey at the same time! My husband and I paid off our house for our 2nd Wedding anniversary March 2018 it was the gift we gave ourselves. He had owned the house for 11 years and had paid extra most of the time so then I said I think we can pay off the $64K balance in two years and we did. We also put a small tiny house in the back 484K SF and we paid that off in Nov of 2018. So we are debt free and have our taxes and most of utilities covered now — so I am like what next! —

    I am working on a project right now for Navient the largest student loan servicer in the country. The project is to do a sample video of content they can produce to encourage people to learn more about debt and personal finance.

    Is there anyway you would be willing to allow me to do a short 15 minute zoom with you abuot your journey to debt free and beyond?

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