You are saving almost $1000 a month right now, which is awesome! I commend you on your discipline. I know it may seem to you that saving for a wedding and a home is more important than saving for retirement, but every dollar you save right now will work SO MUCH HARDER for you than money you save in your 30s-50s. Just to get a start on retirement planning, especially if your to-be-wife does not ever plan to work, why not take $100-200 a month and funnel that into an IRA or a Roth for retirement. It may delay the time until you have your down payment, but thatís not the end of the world.
-Food- I spend about $60/week on food, give or take. I have a nasty habit of buying energy drinks because I routinely find myself nodding off on the long-traffic filled commute home in the afternoons. I do this off and on, usually when I'm working OT. It's a "hair-on-fire" issue I need to address. My fiance and I sometimes find ourselves getting fast food, but not often, but it's still something to correct.
I donít think this sounds extravagant. The underlying problem is that if you are nodding off in the car you are obviously tired. Itís really not normal to be that tired every day (Tired, yes. Nodding off in traffic, no.) Are you getting enough sleep? Do you snore a lot (could be sleep apnea)? Do you drink enough water? If you are dehydrated even a little bit, you can feel fatigued.
If you need a boost, at least get one of those five hour energy drinks that are small, and not one of the HUGE cans of Monster. That stuff is not good for you. But really, make sure that you get enough sleep by going to bed at a reasonable hour. Drink a lot of water, less soda, and make sure you have protein with every meal, rather than a bunch of carbs.
-Gas- About $60/week as well. I commute to Atlanta for work, 36 miles one-way to the job site I'm currently working on.
It is what it is for now, but when you look for a home and a job, do what you can to minimize your commute. Every time I have ever had to drive through Atlanta to get to the airport, the traffic makes me nuts. I lived there one summer when I was a bit younger than you are now, and my roommate and I searched until we found an apartment less than 10 minutes from our job. Driving there at rush hour is a nightmare.
Assets: 2004 Ford F-150, current KBB value: $2400, 2006 Jeep Liberty, KBB value: $5300. Both are paid for. Both were bought years ago, before I saw the fallacy of such a purchase.
Why do you need both? Which one do you use most often? Is one more comfortable/reliable than the other? If you sold one, you could take half the money you get and put it towards your retirement and half towards the wedding. In fact, either one would almost pay for the wedding you mentioned.
Specific Question(s): So, generally, what do y'all (I'm from Georgia, give me a break) think of the case study, but specifically, what should my plan be after I purchase the home and get married? Our plan is to either put all the extra money into paying the mortgage off early or into index funds (whichever makes more sense depending on our mortgage rate).
You need to put some money in the market if you ever hope to retire, early or not. Having a paid off house is the bomb (our must-have expenses are less than $1000 per month now that we no longer have a mortgage) but having investments is the way to grow your stash. Like I said above, start small, with $100 or $200 per month, deposited every month, and just keep going. My husband and I set up automatic deposits when we got married, and every month for the last 20 years, money has gone into our index funds. Bad month, good month, no matter what the market was doing or how our finances looked, that money automatically transferred over. We donít have to think about it or decide to do it. As we made more money, the amounts got bigger, but the point is that we have saved every month for retirement. The best time to start saving for retirement was yesterday, but the second best time is today!
Another question I have is whether or not I would file taxes with 1 dependent (fiance's son) once we are married. Currently, my fiance's father has the little one as a dependent since my fiance has primary custody but lives in her father's home.
When you are married, and you and your wife are married-filing-jointly, either you or the childís father could claim him as a dependent. If she has custody, it probably makes sense for you to claim him as a dependent, but thatís something youíll have to work out with the kidís father.