Author Topic: Can it even be done in New Jersey?  (Read 1741 times)

Illillis

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Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« on: November 02, 2018, 05:11:50 PM »
Ok; I'll get thru the meat and potatoes of this as per the case study vernacular and then to my more personal message.

Life Situation: Married, no kids (yet), Bradley Beach, NJ. 30 y/o

Gross Salary/Wages: 74,596 (full-time physical therapist), 65,000(self employed LCSW therapist)

Individual amounts of each: Pre-tax deductions 401k (6713+ 3% employer match & 0 to date...consulting with accountant on SEP IRA), HSA (6500 & 0), health insurance (high deductible: 149.16 *50 paychecks)

Other Ordinary Income: Cash based side hustle: 2,000-5,000 depending on the year

Qualified Dividends & Long Term Capital Gains: None

Rental Income, Actual Expenses, and Depreciation: None

Adjusted Gross Income: Per month we have deposited $6075 in our account after all pre-tax deductions, and taxes (believe 22%) and such listed above

Current expenses: Provide breakdown and relevant details.  Aim to have “Miscellaneous” somewhere ~2.5%.  Much lower and you may be providing too much detail, much higher and you have an obvious problem of not understanding your spending.

Rent 1250
Personal spending: His 200, Hers 800 (listen...I know...I've tried, )
Student loans IBR (203.22 + 557.33): 760.55
Groceries: 600
Dining out/fun: 400
Auto expenses (tolls, gas, maintenance): 260
Auto Insurance 239.55
Vacation fund 200
Car payment (3 more months!) 148.88 (Manual Jetta, F-leased...then acquiring my wife's old Mazda 3 which is paid off. She is getting a work vehicle)
Dogs (vet, meds): 133
Electric 100 (budgeted, usually 30)
Natural Gas 100 (budgeted, usually 15-50)
Post tax-investing (acorns roundups) 100
2 Cell phones $75
Internet $66
Water bill 50 (budgeted, usually 24-30)
Xmas fund 43.33
Renters insurance 23.18
Amazon 15

Total: 5664.49


Assets: Amount & description - 23K in 401Ks, 10889 in cash as of today

Liabilities: 234,000 (Student loans - currently on income based repayment plans)

Specific Question(s): Hello, Mustachians! Relatively new to the forum. Been a Mr. Money Moustache follower for a few years now and am starting to see that despite relative frugality as compared to my peer group in New Jersey my best bets to pursue FI are in the acquisition of rental properties (in or out of state). I was curious if anyone had thoughts/wanted to take a crack at "what to do" to get ahead in New Jersey.

The question is...we live in NJ (Monmouth County). Avg. house prices and property taxes are $421,000 with property taxes at 2.03%. Currently, we are in a steal of a 1 bdrm cottage, but with dogs and a plan for a baby in the near future, my dear wife would like to acquire another bedroom and a small plot of land. Truly, moving might not be in the cards due to deep seeded family ties for my wife in the area.

So...

How would someone who's en route to FI approach this? Move? House Hack? Throw surplus cash out of state at cheaper real estate markets to try and get some form of passive income?

Open to tweaks, suggestions, reading assignments, overhauled lifestyle changes (if also presented with how to get buy-in from a "maximalist," coming from a "minimalist.").

Hoping to join you guys at the top of this mountain and escape working "because I have to" by 50 (only 20 years to go!).

All the best,

Pete
« Last Edit: November 03, 2018, 06:43:07 AM by Illillis »

diapasoun

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2018, 05:32:09 PM »
Re: spouse, there's an excellent post here on encouraging your spouse to pick up more mustachian ways.

Re: real estate. I'm not a real estate expert by any means; I live in a VHCOLA and don't even think about it, to be frank. However, it's well worth questioning whether the true cost of buying is lower than the true cost of renting, including the opportunity cost of investing the money used for the down payment/the difference in cost between renting and buying. The New York Times has a calculator available here which can provide a good first cut on that decision.

Re: the possibility of FI: FI is possible for most/many Americans, and given your income, it is definitely possible for you. The question is whether you want to do what it takes to get there: Is FI with RE at 50 more important than __insert other things__? That question is up to you.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2018, 05:37:54 AM »
Pennsylvania is relatively close, with similar salaries and lower COL.

What are your $234,000 in liabilities?

Freedomin5

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2018, 05:59:10 AM »
I don’t understand why the “best bets to pursue FI” involves the purchase of rental properties? Have you ever had a rental property? They’re a hassle to manage. Investing in index funds will give you a decent return over the long term with a lot less hassle.

Glancing over your case study, your first and foremost best bet for pursuing FI is cutting your expenses. You guys are spending $1000 PER MONTH ON FOOD AND DINING OUT. Cut that down to half. Then cut it in half again. There is a lot of fat to be trimmed from your expenses.

You also have over $200k in liabilities. What are they and what are their interest rates? Knock out anything over 5% interest rate ASAP.

Also, if you’re planning to start a family soon, you need to budget for that. Right now it looks like, between daily living expenses and loan repayments you are almost spending everything you are making.

Illillis

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2018, 06:26:22 AM »
Re: spouse, there's an excellent post here on encouraging your spouse to pick up more mustachian ways.

Re: real estate. I'm not a real estate expert by any means; I live in a VHCOLA and don't even think about it, to be frank. However, it's well worth questioning whether the true cost of buying is lower than the true cost of renting, including the opportunity cost of investing the money used for the down payment/the difference in cost between renting and buying. The New York Times has a calculator available here which can provide a good first cut on that decision.

Re: the possibility of FI: FI is possible for most/many Americans, and given your income, it is definitely possible for you. The question is whether you want to do what it takes to get there: Is FI with RE at 50 more important than __insert other things__? That question is up to you.


Fantastic advice. Yes, there's always the consideration of what the opportunity costs would be by relentless (or in my case mindless) pursuit of FI

Illillis

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2018, 06:29:30 AM »
Pennsylvania is relatively close, with similar salaries and lower COL.

What are your $234,000 in liabilities?

I agree with you. PA would be more opportune. It's a tough sell for my SO.

Villanelle

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2018, 06:39:28 AM »
I'd read the linked thread above about getting a spouse on board.  But my approach would probably be to tell my spouse that she can have a larger house and land in your same area, the ability to actually retire someday, or her continued spendy ways.  She can probably even have two of those, but not three, and which does she want?  Make sure to mention that the "retired" option includes being available to spend time with kids and grandkids, and that the opposite of that option means likely having a baby and going back to work and putting the infant in childcare, because you simply can't afford to live on one income. 

Also (and this is covered in the linked thread I believe), you don't need to get her on board to start saving money.  There's enough fat in the budget that I' quite sure some of it is yours.  Start packing all your lunches (and offering to do hers while you are at it).  Offer to do one large grocery shop every 2-3 weeks, where you can comparison shop and get all the great deals.  Maybe help with meal planning super cheap meals.  Cut where you can cut, even if she doesn't make corresponding cuts.  Hopefully she will eventually follow at least part of your example, but even if she doesn't, you'll still be saving more money.

Also, I didn't seem mention of what kind of car you have.  If its fancy or gets lousy mileage, downgrade it.

Illillis

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2018, 06:43:41 AM »
Glancing over your case study, your first and foremost best bet for pursuing FI is cutting your expenses. You guys are spending $1000 PER MONTH ON FOOD AND DINING OUT. Cut that down to half. Then cut it in half again. There is a lot of fat to be trimmed from your expenses.

So agreed. So agreed. Would you believe it if I told you this was a cutback? I get gray hairs over this. I come from a family made nothing so they spent nothing type fam. Spouse is from a, "made $250,000 spent $150,000-220,000" type family. This is our biggest point of contention and it's getting better. The post on 50 ways to get buy-in on MMM lifestyle is going to be super helpful.

Trying to lead by example. When it comes to "personal spending" half of mine goes into an MM account and the other half...I just don't spend.

Tough to argue with my father in law when he states, "But you have to live too." Well, no. It's not tough to argue against that, but rather, tough to disrupt an entire family's flawed logic by whacking them over the head with a verbal MMM hammer.

I still have not managed to find a way to really crush the grocery spending here in NJ. We've cut out super high-class grocery stores. We don't eat as much meat. We're Costco-ing most items. We bought-in to a CSA. Maybe it's because I don't do the shopping...?

Hm, after a lot of whining on my end...there's some stuff to tighten up, some conversations to be had and come changes need makin'.
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Another Reader

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2018, 06:48:32 AM »
Spouse is behaving like a spoiled brat.  You cannot afford the $1,000 food bill or her $800 personal spending.  You need to get on the same page about money.

You are in no position to afford rental properties nor do you have any idea what they would entail.  In your situation, you would be much better off fully funding retirement accounts, especially because of the tax deduction, and dumping the excess you would have if you cut the spending into taxable accounts invested to minimize taxes.  You can't afford a bigger house as you don't have a down payment saved.

Under no circumstances would I consider having children in your shoes until I determined if I could solve the spending problem and get the spouse on board.  You are better off finding out if you are compatible for the long term now.

Illillis

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2018, 06:50:05 AM »
Also (and this is covered in the linked thread I believe), you don't need to get her on board to start saving money.  There's enough fat in the budget that I' quite sure some of it is yours.  Start packing all your lunches (and offering to do hers while you are at it).  Offer to do one large grocery shop every 2-3 weeks, where you can comparison shop and get all the great deals.  Maybe help with meal planning super cheap meals.  Cut where you can cut, even if she doesn't make corresponding cuts.  Hopefully, she will eventually follow at least part of your example, but even if she doesn't, you'll still be saving more money.


That's my philosophy now. Lead by example. Shop cheaper. If it's in the house and it's expensive don't eatit and when it gets thrown out or dusty make a point of highlighting this fact. Continue to pack leftovers (fast 2-3x/month).

I've always liked this story:

There is a story of a woman in India who was upset that her son was eating too much sugar. No matter how much she chided him, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his great hero Mahatma Gandhi.

She approached the great leader respectfully and said,

    "Sir, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, turned and spoke to her son,

    "Go home and come back in two weeks.”

The woman looked perplexed and wondered why he had not asked the boy to stop eating sugar. She took the boy by the hand and went home.

Two weeks later she returned, boy in hand. Gandhi motioned for them to come forward. He looked directly at the boy and said,

    "Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”

The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer.

The boy’s mother turned to Gandhi and asked,

    "Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

Gandhi smiled,

    "Mother, two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”

foobaz

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2018, 04:25:51 PM »
I put your numbers into a worksheet (https://www.lifetimepotential.com/worksheet/5j7vutczwomz3sqdp0g0ly7ah) and it looks like if you keep your quality of life as it is now, you would fall slightly short if you retire at 65. You can make it work if you cut your expenses in half after retirement, although with not much margin for something to go wrong.

Your spending is a bit too high. I think the main thing is to cut spending and put a little bit more into your 401k, which should get you into a more comfortable position at retirement. It seems like the main issue here is spending habits. I think your food should be one of the first things to tackle.

marty998

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2018, 04:52:30 PM »
Are you paying extra on the loans? You are never going to pay them off based on the IBR schedule.

Knuckle down and knock them out. Your spouse needs to understand that her $800 a month blow money is actually $800 + interest on her student loans.

WheresMyMule

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2018, 08:24:15 PM »
Move to Middlesex County. I'm in South Plainfield, houses are around $375k and taxes are low because we have a section of town with lots of industrial properties.

Your food costs are ridiculous. We're a family of four and spend what I consider to be a lot at $650 for groceries and $150 for eating out. Shop at Aldi. Only buy fruits and veggies that are in season and meats that are on special.

I'm on another finance board where we like to say "you can have anything you want, but not everything you want." Take some time to talk to your partner about what their priorities are, what they see as financial goals, and how they view your future in 5, 10, 20 years.

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JGS1980

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2018, 08:32:38 AM »
No home down payment, barely with a monthly cash surplus with rent of only $1200 and TWO FAR-ABOVE-AVERAGE INCOMES, and the wife wants a 3 Bedroom Home, a new baby, and some Land too?

You just can't have it all. Magical thinking will not help this.

Her expectations are unfair to you both. This is regardless of her current spending patterns, which are over the top for your current state of affairs.

Even if you cut out the fat, paid off that last car, got to a $1000 monthly surplus, and decided to buy a 250 K fixer upper in a below average neighborhood, it would STILL take you over 3 years just for a home down payment, which would not include cash needed for the remodel (say, add another 2 years of savings there).

What I'm saying is what others here are saying. You can't have it all.  Normal retirement may be out of reach with current habits, much less FIRE

JGS

Tuskalusa

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2018, 12:50:39 PM »
I think there’s probably more at play here than just converting a spouse. I find it hard to believe that all the issues/expenses below are only wife’s poor spending habit. At any rate, having that mindset is not likely to create positive change.  Start with yourself and your own habits and see what happens. Drop the resentment and just do your thing. See what happens.

The elephant in the room is those student loans. Tackling those is your first step to financial freedom. It’s also an opportunity for you and your wife to create a joint plan to achieve a common goal. What can you both do to accelerate payment so that you can move to bigger things like putting down roots in your desired location?

smoghat

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2018, 04:32:33 PM »
I have no idea what NJ has to do with this. NJ is one of the great states for saving money. Heresy but true. You can earn a NYC salary and live 15 minutes away in Rutherford and save huge amounts of money on rent or house costs. Or, if you aren’t a professional pulling in the big bucks, work in a tony suburb and live in a pretty farmhouse in the northwest. Commuting is your friend and ally, people don’t get that here. Yes, my house cost me $900000 (paid off mind you and, after my renovations, worth upwards of $1.3 million), but I’ve got a lot more in the bank and you know what that $900,000 buys you in the city? A laugh and the time of day. Oh and for diners, this place is king. Most restaurants are BYOBs so you immediately save on the most expensive part of the meal.

What does this have to do with the thread, nothing, but neither does the title.

Viking Thor

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2018, 09:03:04 PM »
You have a negative net worth of $200k, low savings rate, and potentially kids and house on the horizon both of which would significantly increase costs.

Without drastic changes in income and / or expenses side you will be lucky to retire at 70 with same standard of spending as now.

You sound like a really nice person, I'm saying this just to try to help clarify the reality of your current financial trajectory.

You need to cut some spending just to be on track for regular retirement in 60s. To be on track for 50 you need either massive, enormous reduction in spending or combine some spending reduction with increased income.

blingwrx

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2018, 10:53:40 PM »
As others have mentioned a big concern is getting the wife on board. She needs to realize any future plans you guys have for kids and getting a bigger place would not be possible if your budget isn't cut down or you guys aren't making more money, let alone FIRE or retiring at 65. Priorities my friend. Maybe you can use that as an argument If she wants a baby then she needs to cut her personal spend and other budget items and you'll need to do the same, otherwise the numbers don't work.

It could also be worth a look to shop around the job market, it's the easiest way to get an instance raise. Otherwise if you're happy where you are you can see if you can work your way up to a promotion or find more work for the self employed job.

I also don't think NJ is really that HCOL unless you're bordering NYC which you're not. I live in NYC and the house prices here are 2-3x as much, so I think you're more like in a MCOL area. I also agree with others that rental properties aren't the way to go if you don't know what you're doing it's hard to make a profit and a lot of head aches as its hard to find good tenants and things always need repairs, a few vacancies, deadbeats or major repairs can wreak havoc on any profits. It's a lot easier to dump your money into an index fund and set it and forget it and you'll still come out ahead. Also in my opinion its better to get a house for yourself to live in first before deciding to do investment properties. Buying a home might not be for everyone and might not always get you ahead as others have mentioned try out a rent vs buy calculator and see if it makes sense for the house prices vs rents in the area, but seeing how sky high the property taxes are in NJ i'd say you might come out ahead with renting.

Groceries are a bit steep not insane but can certainly cut back on this. We're a family of 3 on around $400 a month, we buy most our stuff from Costco, I know some stuff is big portion's, but you just have to learn to use the freezer and refrigerator on some things to extend the expiration dates on stuff and stretch it out.

The dining out you can certainly cut down on that or eat at cheaper places. Definitely nothing high end, we rather eat out more often so we only dine at cheap places  during lunch when they have specials. An expensive night out for dinner could easily blow our budget in one night.

Almost 3k for auto insurance? is that for 2 cars? seems quite high, though this probably will drop lower once you get rid of the lease. If your wife's old car is older then maybe you can drop full coverage and just get liability. Regardless its worth it to shop around for quotes, you can also take a defensive driving course online for around $30 and save 10% off your premium so plenty of ways to cut down insurance costs.

Otherwise the other items expenditures are pretty good. cheap cell phone plan and not paying for cable tv is always good to see.

By cutting your budget and making more income you'll be able to knock out the debt in no time. There's definitely some urgency needed on those if the interest on that is higher than 5%.

Ben Kurtz

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2018, 07:14:23 AM »
I'll emphasize a few points already raised by others:

The monthly grocery and dining out budgets have several hundred in fat to trim.

The automotive budget is the same. Looks like some positive changes are about to happen, but re-read the blog posts about minimizing commutes and pointless driving. What is your current commute pattern? You haven't been facepunched enough on this point yet, I think.

The $1,000 in undifferentiated monthly waste is a bigger deal than you make it out to be. It's a huge part of the difference between meeting your goals and working until you are nearly 70. You need to read the links people have provided to winning your spouse over to sensible spending habits.

Another elephant in the room is the $200,000 in student loan debt. That's like having to pay a mortgage, but without the benefit of a house to go with it. You can't turn back the clock, but the key thing now is to recognize the significance of that and act accordingly. You are broker than broke, but your tone and lifestyle don't reflect that. Broke people don't drive shiny, late-model leased Volkswagens to $400 per month in fancy restaurant meals while blowing $1,000 per month on unspecified frivolous waste. They drive beat up ten year old Chevys to Costco to load up on rice and beans until they are no longer broke. Do that.

Don't even begin to think about buying your own house, let alone rental properties, until you have reorganized your budget to allow both spouses to max-out their tax-advantaged retirement accounts and saved up a 20% down payment, while keeping up student loan payments. Given your current trajectory, that could be years away. Tax-advantaged retirement accounts with balanced portfolios beat rental houses in my book, every day of the week. Once you build additional wealth outside that space you can then take a view on real estate investing.

I will break with the pack in the question of children: they are the meaning of life, for most people, and once you and your wife hit your 30s you don't have a lot of time to spare before biological fertility declines. Don't sentence yourself to expensive and emotionally taxing IVF by waiting too long. Get rid of the dogs if you have to, but if you want kids, start soon.

I'll end on an optimistic note: your family be has well above average income and education, and given the default messages spread by our wider culture you have landed on a more prudent financial course than most: money in your 401k, a good emergency fund, and a solidly positive savings rate.  The thing is, what this blog and forum advocate is so off the mainstream that you'll need a further significant attitude adjustment if you are to reach the sort of lifestyle goals described here. You are already pointed in the right direction, you just need a good push to bring it to the next level.


Laura33

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2018, 08:22:41 AM »
First, you guys are doing fine by normal standards.  But if you want to do better than that, you guys are putting the consumption cart before the savings horse.

Can you do it in NJ?  Dude.  You're spending 1/3 of your take-home on fluff -- uncategorized miscellaneous, fancy groceries, eating out, vacations, car leases, you name it.  If you saved $2K of that alone, you'd be on track to retire in @25-ish years, even ignoring everything you've already saved and the money you are putting away in your 401(k); take all that into account, and you're probably done in less than 20.  If you want to make a change, you every possible opportunity to do so.

What you can't do is FIRE AND buy a house AND have a kid AND owe $200K plus in student loans.  This is where the consumption cart comes into play:  when you took on those student loans, past you bought an education and committed current-and-future you to pay for it.  Even if you and your DW put every penny toward those loans and had zero living expenses, you guys would need to work for two years just to get back to even.  Think about that:  you guys have indentured yourselves for two solid years, after all living expenses, for the privileges of holding the jobs you have now.  And you have barely even begun to tackle those past obligations -- really, unless you are on track for PSLF, IBR is just kicking the can further down the road -- instead preferring to blow that couple of grand extra a month on fun stuff.  So after working for however long, you STILL owe two years of your working life to pay off those loans.  And now you want to know how you can FIRE by adding on even more debt for even more consumption?  Make no mistake about it:  a house is a consumption item. 

Now, as I said, if you want to retire at 65-70 like most people, you are probably fine.  But if you even want FIRE to be a possibility, you can't afford fancier living arrangements until current you (i) has paid past off past you's consumption, and (ii) is socking away sufficient cash for future you's needs. 

So how do you do that?  First, you figure out how to max out your 401(k).  You are in a high-tax state, so every dollar you put aside pre-tax saves you a bunch in taxes.  Second, you look at a real payoff schedule on those loans.  IBR is just treading water at best; you need to face that reality and start digging your way out.  Third, you work on increasing your income.  $100K+ for jobs that pay $60-70K/yr is not an awesome return on your investment.  Do you have a path up to more promotions/raises?  If your DW throws herself into her business, does she have a possible serious upwards trajectory, and can you make more money by supporting her in doing so?  What about that side hustle -- can you monetize that more effectively?  Every single extra dollar you can bring in will fill in your current hole just a little more, and build up your future 'stache.

Finally, the kid:  despite your financial situation, at 30, you really do need to be thinking sooner rather than later.  So take @2 years to really whale on the debt and savings -- and use that same time to focus on the realities of your budget and loan payoffs, to talk with your wife about the lifestyle choices that you'll have to make to add a kid or two (daycare/part time/SAHP) and what that does to your budget and FIRE timeline, etc.  Figure out how to stay in your current rental with the kid until you have a significantly positive net worth.  The idea is to fit your kid into your plan, instead of having a kid and then be in the same spot 10 years later wondering what the hell happened.

I get the sense that you guys are thinking along the standard American track:  ok, we're married, we have jobs, now it's time to have a kid; ok, but if we're going to have a kid, we need to own a house -- and it needs to be a bigger one, because of course once we have a kid we'll need more space; etc.  But that's not the way life works.  You don't get to have a new house just because you're having a kid; you get a new house when you can afford it, and when spending more on cushy digs doesn't get in the way of higher financial priorities. 

So, yes, you absolutely can do it.  You just need to figure out for yourselves how much you actually want to, and what you're willing to give up to get there. 


Unique User

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2018, 08:47:03 AM »
It's not NJ, it's what you spend your money on.  DH and I bought a fixer upper for $200k in a Colorado ski area at 30 and then proceeded to dump around $150k in cash into over a four year period to make it liveable on half of what you earn.  As previous posters have written, you can have some things, but not everything.  You guys are 30 with great incomes and are paycheck to paycheck and your SO probably needs to understand that.  I'd read the section on converting your SO, mine was never spendy, but I had to baby step the idea of retiring early and now he is totally on board. 

I'd also work first on the food budget, $1k a month is ridiculous for two.
 APPowers has a great thread on a $200 a month grocery budget - we spend a total of $400 a month on groceries, restaurants and sundries/toiletries, it was even less in years past.  Good luck, it can be done. 

Edited to add some reading on the grocery bill, these are old, just google MMM forum and grocery spending for more:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-do-you-guys-get-such-a-low-food-budget/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/how-do-you-keep-your-grocery-budget-low/

APowers thread on a $200 a month grocery budget
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/have-a-sub-$200month-grocery-budget/

And if you want to join a challenge to reduce your grocery bill
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/reduce-your-grocery-spend-2018/150/
« Last Edit: November 05, 2018, 09:20:25 AM by Unique User »

catccc

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Re: Can it even be done in New Jersey?
« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2018, 09:41:50 AM »
NJ is not the problem, your spending is.  There are people in waaaay higher COL areas making progress towards FIRE.

Btw, our rent is 112% of yours, and yet our total spending last year was $56,071 for our family of 4, and that includes a whopping $7,306 on travel, our big luxury.  We are 39 & 40, and our two kids are 7 & 10, and the 10 year old eats more than I do.  And our monthly grocery bill is over 30% less than yours.  And we eat good whole foods and pay a premium for local and/or organic food much of the time.

Also, buying a home is not mandatory.  I estimate my family has saved about $25-$35K renting over the last 10 years v. buying.  I frequently run the numbers to see if we should buy, and the answer is almost always no, not from a financial standpoint, at least.  That is what happens in areas where the cost of real estate is high, you are often better off renting and investing the difference.  For us, it isn't a matter of whether we can afford a home, we easily could, after saving so much for so many years, our NW crossed 1 million in August.  But honestly, it is waaay easier to rent, and kind of posh when you think about the fact that our exterior maintenance is outsourced, and new appliances don't cost us anything extra, we just make a call and our landlord takes care of it.  We got a new fridge last year, and got upgraded to a natural gas line with an on demand water heater a few years before, all at no additional cost to us, it was all part of our rent.  We also didn't buy a home and lock ourselves into needing both of our salaries to pay the mortgage, enabling us to have a SAHP until both kids were in school.  That was a huge luxury and of great importance to our family.

I know, this might not be fun for you to read, I'm just piling on with the facepunches.  But I think you need them.  NJ?!  Come on, it is not the SF Bay Area.  Your location is a stupid excuse for your poor money management.