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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: Nick_Miller on June 14, 2016, 11:44:56 AM

Title: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 14, 2016, 11:44:56 AM
EDITED JUNE 12, 2019: I wanted to provide an update summarizing progress we've made in the almost three years I've been on the forum. The main reasons are:

1) To thank the awesome people on this forum for being such a wonderful support system.
2) To show other folks posting in Case Studies, many of whom might be seeing the light bulb click on for the first time, that progress is absolutely doable!
3) To give myself a boost in comparing the crappy situation we were in three years ago with the not-great-but-not-nearly-as-crappy situation we're in now.


Retirement Savings:
In summer 2016, it was $85K. Now it is $219K. We are both on pace to max out our 401ks this year. We've maxed out IRAs four years in a row.

Debts:
In summer 2016, we owed $70K in student debts. Now it is down to $37K.
In summer 2016, we owed $14K on car. Now it is paid off.

Daycare:
In 2016, we were paying $800 month. We've been at $0 for the past year. (although we will have summer camp costs)

Kids' College
In summer 2016, the kids' college accounts totaled $6K. Now they total $18K and we have monthly contributions on auto pay.

Net Worth
In summer 2016, it was $118K. Now, it is $320k (with a goal of hitting $500k by Dec 2021, but the markets will mostly decide that)

I am NOT the most financially savvy guy in the world, but I feel like I've learned a tremendous amount being on this forum for three years. We've learned how to hack better for vacations. We saved money negotiating with the bank for a lower % when we bought our new-to-us-house two years ago. We've learned to prioritize retirement savings. I will drive my 16-year-old vehicle until it dies (or I pass it down to my daughter). Perhaps most importantly, we have hit our stride in our current jobs, and are enjoying work/life balance that others strive for.

Thanks to all who have helped!









EDITED JULY 17, 2018: I wanted to provide an update showing the progress we've made in the two years I've been on these forums...

Investing
Total investments have grown in two years from $85K to about $168K, so almost doubled, and we're still pouring lots in. Two years ago, my wife was putting 5% into 401k with a 3% match and I had no 401K at all. Now, for the rest of 2018, she is putting 45% into 401k so she will max it out at $18500 at year's end. And I now have a 401K, and I'm putting in 25% each week, or about $380/week. We have maxed out our Roth IRAs for three years in a row (just maxed out this year's Roth IRAs today).

Debts
Two years ago, we had one paid off car, and another with a balance of about $14K. Two years later, we still have the paid off car, and the other car's balance is down to about $4500 and we could pay if off at any time, but because it's at 1.9%, we're choosing to prioritize other things. Student Loans are down from $70K in summer 2016 to $50K in summer 2018, and we're continuing to whack away at pace of $1000/month. Rate is 4.375%, so over $800 per month goes to principle.

Daycare:
Two years ago, we were paying about $800 per month. Starting in August, we will be down to ZERO per month.

Additional Income:
I've earned about $16,000 in book sales since summer 2016. I expect to earn another $8K-$10K for the rest of 2018.

Overall Net Worth
Two years ago, it was $118K. Now it is $231K, so $113K increase in two years, even with flat market the past 6 months. Goal is to hit $250K as soon as possible, and $300K by end of 2019, but I think we can beat that. My wife just earned a $7500 bonus, and our health insurance is actually much cheaper than before due to a HDP (her work tossed in $5K into our HSA). So with no daycare, lower health insurance, two 401ks, maxed out Roth IRAs, a nice newer house with 40% equity, $25K in cash accounts, continuing book income, and the prospect of additional bonuses before year's end, I am VERY optimistic about making a lot of additional progress by next summer, when I'll do another yearly review!

And since these were my goals two years ago...

1) kill the debt (attacking student loans aggressively! they are prepaid for like 2.5 years)
2) up investments big time (almost doubled!)
3) save for kids' college (not much movement, but they will each have $5K in their accounts soon)

I LOVE this site, and I REALLY appreciate everyone who chimed in and helped me turn things around.




(original post)
Yes I'm brand new to this whole MMM thing. Actually, that's just mostly true - I lurked on the boards for about a month before creating my account today.

We are a married couple, 42 (me) and 37 (her), with two elementary school aged kiddos. It just seems like we have SOOOOO many different goals that it's hard to prioritize. We're making some progress but it's slower than I'd like. Here is a rough monthly budget and our balance sheet (est).

Monthly Budget

Take home
$3600 (me) (no benefits - I work for a small office)
$2200 (her) (she puts 5% into 401k with a 3% match)
$700 (me) (from a side job, the amount fluctuates month to month, but usually between $500 to $1000..it is passive income)
$500 (her) (car reimbursement payment from her work)

$7000 most months. I sometimes get a bonus based on the money I bring into the office; the bonus can vary from $500 up to $10,000 per month

Monthly Expenses (these are rounded, usually to the nearest $50, because I don't have all the exact #s with me)

Mortgage $950 (owe about $70K left on a $140K house, we have 11 years left on mortgage)
1 Car $500 (owe about $14K on a $20K car, we're on track to have it paid off in 2.5 years)
Student Loans $800 (owe about $70K, at this rate it will be paid off in 8 years)
Health Insurance $750 (this is for me and the kiddos; my wife is insured through work)
Groceries $1000
Daycare $800 (2 children, part-time, before and after school)
Gas/Oil $150 (tops - our jobs are close and my wife's mileage is paid by work)
Cable $125
Phone $75 (my wife's work pays for her phone)
Utilities (electric/gas/water) $150
Eating out $240
Blow Money $240 (each of us gets $120 per month)
Life Insurance $30
Auto Insurance $100 (2 vehicles, about $600 every six months)
Clothes $100 (mostly for the kids)
Gifts/Charity $100

$6,110

You can see that we have about $900 left most months.

Assets:
House $140K ($70K in equity)
Car 1 $20K
Car 2 $5K
Cash $20K
Investments $85K total in 401k, Roth IRA
Extra in Checking Account $2000

TOTAL ASSETS $272K

Kiddos' college funds have about $3K each (didn't count these as assets)


Liabilities:
Mortgage $70K (paying regular payments on a 15 year mortgage, we have 11 years left)
Student Loans $70K (about 5% rate, paying $800 per month, but we just recently upped it to that amount)
Car Note: $14K left on a $20 car, we're using my wife's $500 per month car allowance entirely on the car, so our payments are a bit higher than required. Will be paid off in 2.5 years at current rate)

TOTAL LIABILITIES: $154K

NET WORTH $118K. This is too low for someone my age!


A word about my bonuses. They vary WILDLY! Some months I get no bonus at all. Most months are between $500 and $1000. But some are big. I have a bonus coming up next month that should be $7000 net. My wife wants to use it to get some work on the house done. The work does need to be done soon, but it's not an emergency. I'd prefer to throw the $7000 on student loans and start punching those in the face. Alternatively, I'd like to go ahead and max out my Roth IRA for the year and start one for my wife. And then we have the kids' pathetic college accounts with hardly anything in them.

How do we prioritize these goals??

1) kill the debt
2) up investments big time
3) save for kids' college (I view this as the lowest on the totem pole as they are both bright and should get scholarships)

Punch away!!















Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: sis on June 14, 2016, 11:58:10 AM
The lowest hanging fruit to cut:

1. Cable -- you really don't need it.  You can always replace it with some combination of netflix/hulu and save at least $50 per month.
2. Cell phone -- switch to a prepaid.  I just cut my cell phone bill from $83 per month to $35 per month by switching from AT&T to cricket.  It uses the same network.  I was actually being really stupid because I was no longer on a contract and I was still paying that rate.  I brought my own phone to the plan.
3. Groceries -- you can cut this by a lot -- stop relying on prepackaged foods.  Buy in bulk for products that make sense.
4. Eating out -- you can also reduce this of course

For student loans -- what interest rate are you paying on them?  The decision to pay down loans vs. invest is partially dependent on interest rate.

You should be funding an IRA.  Look into 529 savings plans if you are planning on putting the kids through college.  It'll reduce your taxable income (depending on the state).  How old are your kids that you say they are bright and you expect them to go to college for free?  Do you have a state program that has certain criteria for free college?
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 14, 2016, 12:17:18 PM
whoa you have 70k in student loan debt and you have 240 bucks in "blow money" per month AND you spend 240 bucks eating out per month  AND you spend 1k on groceries AND you have cable  AND you spend 100 a month on clothes

i'm not sure why you need us to tell you this but

you should have
0 dollars in blow money
0 dollars in eating out
25 bucks for internet
600 in groceries


you annual savings with this would be
3000 on blow money
3000 on eating out
1200 on cable
5000 on grocery

thats 12200 you could be putting towards something better.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 14, 2016, 12:23:13 PM
Cable - I'd be on board doing this. Convincing the wife might be hard. (that's what she said...oops nevermind). We do have Netflix actually, so that's $20 I forgot to put in the budget.

Cell - you have an iphone with that service plan? how much data? I'd be willing to downgrade but I need an iphone with decent data for my passive income business.

Groceries - I agree. We are trying to eat healthier, which is more expensive. We take our lunches to work most every day with leftovers and healthy meals. But still I'm sure we could cut $200 or so if we ate up more of what's in the fridge before going to the grocery again.

Eating out - I'd be okay cutting this in half. Eating out twice per month at $60 per pop would be plenty.

Student Loans - about 5%  My preference is so get them paid down ASAP now. I figure it's a guaranteed return, plus psychologically it weighs heavily on me. We'd have so much more flexibility every month without that big payment.

Our state plan does not have any tax benefits but Money Magazine suggested folks in our state still use it because of very low costs. My oldest daughter is almost 11 and she does very well in school (straight As and will be placed in AP classes for middle school). Plus, we will steer her to a low-cost option for undergraduate studies - a state school most likely. And even if she does have to take out student loans, we will work with her to keep them to an absolute minimum. I'm not aware of any loan program to fund our retirements though!

Thanks for much for your help. Even saving a bit on the smaller categories will add up.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 14, 2016, 12:32:27 PM
dude IMO you arent taking your situation seriously enough with 70k in student loan debt you should be eating ramen and oats ... maybe not that intense.  but still no eating out.  WTF do you have netflix at 20 dollars for AND cable.  netflix last i checked is 10 bucks .   yep just checked its still 10 bucks. 

my wife and i eat a super healthy semi paleo diet for around 350-400 a month in groceries max.  and we buy a lot of crap we dont need.  if i'm in your situation 70K in NON FORGIVABLE DEBT you have to be trying to actually cut things ... not just kinda doing something.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 14, 2016, 12:32:38 PM
whoa you have 70k in student loan debt and you have 240 bucks in "blow money" per month AND you spend 240 bucks eating out per month  AND you spend 1k on groceries AND you have cable  AND you spend 100 a month on clothes

i'm not sure why you need us to tell you this but

you should have
0 dollars in blow money
0 dollars in eating out
25 bucks for internet
600 in groceries


you annual savings with this would be
3000 on blow money
3000 on eating out
1200 on cable
5000 on grocery

thats 12200 you could be putting towards something better.

I'd personally be on board with most of those cuts - I'd still want $50 of pocket money a month, and $100 or so in eating out, but I'd be okay ditching cable and slashing grocery. Any tips for grocery slashing??

We buy a lot of fresh veggies, whole grains, lean meats, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, nuts, etc. I know we could eat more cheaply but I'm not sure how to eat more cheaply AND also still healthy? We aren't going to eat pasta every night. We use a lean protein, a veggie, and a starch with each meal. We try to hit sales, and we clip coupons, and we cook dinner at least 5 nights a week. Family members do tend to visit us frequently though, usually around dinner time, so many nights there aren't any leftovers or anything.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Allie on June 14, 2016, 12:34:10 PM
If you were to sell the car and get a used car for the difference ($500), cut groceries and eating out by ($500)*, cut cable ($125), cut cell (40), use your extra/month ($900), and pay your regular amount ($800), you would have almost $3,000 to put towards the SL.  Some may argue that you could do better in tax advantages retirement accounts and the market, but 5% on a debt is enough that I would want to dump it ASAP. 

If you did the above and put your bonuses in as well, you could have it paid off, most likely, in less than 2 years.  Then all that money could be rolled into retirement savings and it could just grow and grow until you had a nice nest egg and a paid off house! 

*I am quite sure this could be done.  $760 total for 4 people should be doable unless you are super HCOLA.  Just work through what you eat and see if there are substitutes, homemade, or lower cost versions.  Coupons, circulars, etc.  there are lots of threads dedicated to how forum members cut grocery expenses. 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 14, 2016, 12:38:44 PM
dude IMO you arent taking your situation seriously enough with 70k in student loan debt you should be eating ramen and oats ... maybe not that intense.  but still no eating out.  WTF do you have netflix at 20 dollars for AND cable.  netflix last i checked is 10 bucks .   yep just checked its still 10 bucks. 

my wife and i eat a super healthy semi paleo diet for around 350-400 a month in groceries max.  and we buy a lot of crap we dont need.  if i'm in your situation 70K in NON FORGIVABLE DEBT you have to be trying to actually cut things ... not just kinda doing something.

I want to tighten things up and get the loans paid off in 3 years while still cranking up investments. I figure if I convince my wife to toss 100% of my bonuses towards student loans, that alone could be $15000 per year, (rough estimate) so that could be $45000 of the $70000 paid off. The $800 monthly payments over the course of three years would chop down the remainder to about zero.

I am ready for a change, but I can't just spring the "we have to REAAALLLY tighten things up" on my wife. It will take communication and adjustments. Plus, this new job is a relatively new job (about a year) so I didn't have this type of bonus potential until last year.

You mentioned your grocery budget. Do you have kids? By the time they are 10/11, a kid eats about as much as does an adult.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 14, 2016, 12:39:00 PM
the 5% on debt should NOT be paid down faster until you've maxed all tax advantaged accounts by that i mean 36k to 401k's and 11k to IRAs and possible 6750 to HSA if available.  all of these give instant ROI's much higher than 5% not to mention the ROI on the stock market on top of it destroys it.  once these are maxed you're getting to a borderline level at 5% and i would consider paying down non forgivable debt vs investing in a taxable account.

also dont know where you live but PT daycare at 800 for 2 kids seems high i can get full time for that in my area but its very location dependent.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on June 14, 2016, 12:40:41 PM
If I were somehow teleported into your position these are the numbers I know are possible and I would make myself hit... then I ask myself some questions on some of the other big categories.

Mortgage   950
1 Car   500
Student Loans    800
Health Insurance   750
Groceries   400
Daycare   800
Gas/Oil   150
Cable/Internet   50
Phone   35
Utilities (electric/gas/water)   150
Eating out   0
Blow Money   0
Life Insurance   30
Auto Insurance   100
Clothes   0
Gifts/Charity   0
   
   4715

Some things I would ask myself after first round of cuts:
-Can I sell the expensive car and buy something in cash in the 4-6k range?
-Is there a better health insurance option? can join spouse's work plan?
-are my utilities as low as they could be? can I be more conservative?
-Are there any other after school programs or relatives that could watch kids at least till debt is gone?
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 14, 2016, 12:42:10 PM
i never had SL's but you need to look into maximizing your tax savings if you go the route of paying them down you should only do so to the point that you interest isnt being covered by a tax credit ..

my grocery budget includes piles of booze and expensive snacks b/c i dont have 70k in consumer debt and have chosen to afford some luxuries.  also all of our tax advantaged accounts are maxed and we save more in taxable.  luxuries that you can add back in once you've stabilized.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: sis on June 14, 2016, 12:44:42 PM
Cable - I'd be on board doing this. Convincing the wife might be hard. (that's what she said...oops nevermind). We do have Netflix actually, so that's $20 I forgot to put in the budget.

Cell - you have an iphone with that service plan? how much data? I'd be willing to downgrade but I need an iphone with decent data for my passive income business.

Groceries - I agree. We are trying to eat healthier, which is more expensive. We take our lunches to work most every day with leftovers and healthy meals. But still I'm sure we could cut $200 or so if we ate up more of what's in the fridge before going to the grocery again.

Eating out - I'd be okay cutting this in half. Eating out twice per month at $60 per pop would be plenty.

Student Loans - about 5%  My preference is so get them paid down ASAP now. I figure it's a guaranteed return, plus psychologically it weighs heavily on me. We'd have so much more flexibility every month without that big payment.

Our state plan does not have any tax benefits but Money Magazine suggested folks in our state still use it because of very low costs. My oldest daughter is almost 11 and she does very well in school (straight As and will be placed in AP classes for middle school). Plus, we will steer her to a low-cost option for undergraduate studies - a state school most likely. And even if she does have to take out student loans, we will work with her to keep them to an absolute minimum. I'm not aware of any loan program to fund our retirements though!

Thanks for much for your help. Even saving a bit on the smaller categories will add up.

I have 2.5 gigs per month of LTE data, which is more than enough for me (I stream music while running outdoors, look up emails and various websites probably an hour or so per day, once in awhile I stream netflix).  I use an iPhone on the plan.  They also have unlimited data for $70 per month (get $5 off if you use autopay to bring it to $65).  Just take a look at how much data you are actually using.  I was grandfathered in on unlimited data for the iPhone on AT&T but I realized that I wasn't using it.

Do you use mint or any other apps to actually track your spending?  At 5% on the student loans I'd actively focus on paying them down (you could hedge if you have other ways of reducing your taxable income).  Get rid of your "blow money" (I hope it isn't really for coke ;-)) and be aggressive.  You should be able to pay them down much faster with the savings.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Dmy0013 on June 14, 2016, 12:46:30 PM
Im not as mustachian as I should be either...

Your right your net worth is low for someone your age...

This upcoming bonus of yours what stuff around the house do you need to have done?  You want to remodel or update a bathroom?  or is your roof leaking?  If it needs to be done then it needs to be done...

Student loans, 5% interest Pay that off aggressively IMO

Ask the wife how she feels about retiring someday... that might help her get on board
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 14, 2016, 12:51:22 PM
Have to get back to work but I'll reply to other posts later! I really appreciate the input so far!

I'm already thinking about how to propose some of these changes to my other half. We make all spending decisions jointly, use the same bank accounts, etc.. We both are fully aware of every penny that comes in and goes out, but obviously that also means that we've both been fine with the status quo for years.

The most immediate discussion will be about where to allocate the bonus money.



Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: mozar on June 14, 2016, 01:04:52 PM
Instead of focusing on the bonus right now I think it's time to to talk about your future goals. It sounds like you both want to save money for your kids college. You have to pay off your own debts, max your retirement accounts, figure out when you want to retire, then you can think about funding your kids college. Because you are right, there is no loan for retirement. You also said that you are feeding extended family and friends every night. Can you do a potluck? If after cutting out everything else in your budget you still want to feed your friends family and neighbors, consider cutting down on protein and increasing sides.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bucksandreds on June 14, 2016, 01:16:01 PM
Cut cable and watch Netflix (You'll end up watching better programming (More documentaries), watch less tv total and save a ton of money).  Cable is a joke.  Netflix, Netflix, Netflix


Food

Roast your own whole chickens (spice it up and cook at 250 degrees for 5 hours and you have nutritious delicious chicken)

Stop eating beef except rarely organic ground beef from Costco (cheapest you can get)

For meal plans go to budgetbytes.com 



Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: meandmyfamily on June 14, 2016, 01:20:45 PM
Put ALL the bonus money right on the student loans!!!  Then work on cutting out blow money, eating out, groceries and cable!  We are a family of 6 and don't spend $1000 a month on groceries.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: JoJo on June 14, 2016, 01:49:54 PM
Just to add to the dropping cable - with just putting up go 'ole rabbit ears you may get many over the air TV stations - way more than before the digital days.  In addition to the usual networks there are now channels that play old TV shows & movies all day long.  I get over 20 channels with the rabbit ears.  There are still lots of great kids shows on Saturday mornings and PBS also many have multiple channels in your area (mine has regular, spanish & one channel that plays cooking/home/travel shows all day long).
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bee21 on June 14, 2016, 08:50:22 PM
There so many places in your budget you can cut expenses, but obviously both of you have to be on board. The bottom line is, you can't afford your current level of spending with that level of debt.Will you be able to pay off your own student loans before your kids start college?

Reduce the food budget. This is the easiest. You could easily save 4-500 a month here without living on rice and beans, this will add up quickly. Do it gradually if it is too hard, but with a bit of planning you should be aiming for 7-800 for eating in and No eating out.don't entertain if you can't afford it.

Cut the cable. What are you watching that adds so much value to your life? What else can you do instead?

Don't spend so much on clothes. Kids grow out of them before they fall apart anyway, there is no need to buy the expensive stuff. Have a plan: kid needs x outfits for school, y for home, 2 nice ones to go out, sport stuff, undies etc and buy accordingly.

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: former player on June 15, 2016, 02:14:09 AM
If your eldest child is 11 and your old student loan will take 8 years to pay off, you will still be paying off your student loan when you kid is at college.  I'd say that was an easy point to make to your wife  Plus you will be 50 years old with apparently no pension, a tiny retirement fund, several years of mortgage payments left, ageing cars (unless you have spent even more on replacing them in the meantime) and two kids to put through college.  That is a very uncomfortable place to be.  You should not be trying to sell early retirement to your wife as it is not on the cards in any case with the way things are for you at the moment, you should be trying to sell "I've been looking at our future and where we will be financially when the kids are off to college and we will be thinking about the rest of our lives, and I'm worried that if we don't get out of debt as soon as we can we won't be in a good position."

You should be halving your fun money and eating out, taking at least 25% off the grocery budget, cutting out cable and reducing your phone costs.  Money spent on the house should be limited to keeping it in basic good repair rather than improvements or cosmetics.

The $900 you regularly have left each month plus the money you save from your current budget (should be about $500) should be going into tax-advantaged investments, either retirement funds or other tax-advantaged investments.

All of your bonuses should be going to paying off debt.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bee21 on June 15, 2016, 03:42:16 AM
i think you are in a good position to improve your finances, you just have to make the right decisions. It's great that you have a side business and regular bonuses, that will make a huge difference. .It will be painful to cut expenses at the beginning, but you'll get used to it. You got plenty of good advice here, pick whichever will work for you and your family. Even small changes will make a difference.

For 60$ You can have a very average dinner out or You can have 3-4 excellent steak dinners at home with wine and candlelight. Don't waste your money on eating out. There is plenty of advice around here about cutting food expenses. Try a few tricks, see what makes sense for you.

My husband used to insist on the 125/month cable for years (watching  fishing shows, car shows, adventure shows and other mind numbing shit) and one day after perusing the budget he suddenly downgraded to a basic package (25$) without me nagging. He just realised that those fishing shows were not that good to justify the expense I guess. He misses a couple of his shows, but discovered the joys of YouTube instead.

We held off cosmetic house improvements until we paid off the mortgage. I desperately wanted a new kitchen, but in the end we got so used to finding alternatives that we ended up repainting it.

Keep the blow money, but reduce it drastically. What are you spending it on?

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 15, 2016, 07:39:13 AM
I read all the latest comments! It's impossible to respond to everything individually but I'm trying to pick the most commonly made comments/suggestions to respond too...

I agree we have a ton of fluff in our budget. I guess that's a good thing - certainly better than the alternative.

Yes, it will take time to make the changes. I'm ready to slash and burn, but I've had over a month of reading MMM posts to get to that point. So I'm way ahead of her. I know she'll need time.


I brought up some of these issues while giving her a backrub last night (I pick my moments!). From what she said, I think she harbors resentment about my student loans. I've sorta gotten that impression over the years, but I was able to (gently) solicit a more direct confirmation last night. One of those, "why should we all suffer just because you took out loans?" I realize that's a very poisonous attitude to have in a marriage, where we share everything, and she knew going in that I had large debt (it was over $100K when we married), but it's how she feels. I'll have to work with her and I'll have to take the lead in depriving myself more to set a good example.

I already drive the (much) cheaper vehicle. We spent $2000 this spring on new dining room furniture that she wanted (I couldn't have cared less). We're going to six different concerts this year (all already paid for). I don't feel that she's been deprived at all - neither have I.

I'm going to have to negotiate some things with her...these are some of my thoughts...none of this has been discussed in detail yet, but I think it's a "Baby Steps" approach that might work...

1) I'll go on every grocery trip, even if she goes as well. Hell, the whole family can go. I'll be better able to help with the grocery budget if I'm there. (I currently go about 25% of the time). We meal-plan together, but I've already brought up trying to just make two $300 grocery trips per month and making each stretch for two weeks (with the possible exception of a short intervening trip for milk, eggs, etc.).

2) I'm voluntarily cutting my blow in half. The extra $60 will be added to my student loan payment each month, making it $860 (there's more following).

3) I think she'll agree to cut eating out in half. The extra $120 will be added to my student loan payment each month, making it $980 (still more).

4) The grocery savings above (hopefully $400, but let's just say it's $200 to be conservative) will be added to my student loan payment each month, making it $1180.

5) I have some "man toys" I can sell for maybe $2000 that no one else in the family cares about. I'd want to put that $2K onto student loan debt.

6) Also, my side job income will go directly to maxing out my Roth IRA. (It should be maxed out by October).

7) Then, we'll open a Roth IRA for my wife and start putting my side job income into that. That might put $2000 in her account between Oct-Dec.

8) Then for 2017 we'd divert my side job income 100% to funding/maxing our Roth IRAs.

9) Bonuses to be split between paying down debt/investing and yearly vacation (I'm okay with this).



I think cable will be a tough fight, so that will probably be a loss for me.  And she loves her car, and I'm actually okay with it since it will be paid off in Dec 2018 and will give her a reliable car for another 7-10 years bare minimum (she does have to drive some for her job) with no car payments.  If my car dies in the next few years, I'd be fine with moving $5000 from cash savings and buying a $5K car.

So by Dec 2018...

No car payment

Daycare costs almost eliminated for both kiddos (except for summers)

We will have been maxing our Roth IRAs for 3 years in a row (me) and two years in a row (her)

Mortgage down to about $55K with only about 7 years left.

And..this would be the big one...student loans down to about $25K....I know this is not exact and that interest needs to be factored in, but after chopping it down to $68K now (selling my man toys), and then with monthly payments of about $1200 per month for 30 months ($36,000 in payments), and then even just allocating 25% of my bonuses to it (figure $15K in bonuses per year X 25% = $3750 in additional student loan payments for each of next three years = $11,250 in payments)


And yes this is NOT "bare bones" by ANY means, and it still allows for fun money, for her to keep her nice car, and for a few vacations but it gets us to a MUCH better place in just 2.5 years.

Any thoughts?

Remember I want to win the war, and slowly convince her to come around so we can enjoy our retirement, so I'm willing to lose some battles to get there.


Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Platypuses on June 15, 2016, 08:26:54 AM
Nick,
I think you have a solid plan. It can be tough to get your spouse to jump off into the deep end right away. I like how you are taking the lead and removing things that don't effect her quite as much. One thing you might want to consider is finding subtle ways to remind her how she has a really nice car, are still able to go to several concerts a year and even splurge to have cable TV. Remembering these things can make her realize that these are the items we have decided to splurge on when another luxury temptation comes across like getting new furniture.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 15, 2016, 08:39:17 AM
Nick,
I think you have a solid plan. It can be tough to get your spouse to jump off into the deep end right away. I like how you are taking the lead and removing things that don't effect her quite as much. One thing you might want to consider is finding subtle ways to remind her how she has a really nice car, are still able to go to several concerts a year and even splurge to have cable TV. Remembering these things can make her realize that these are the items we have decided to splurge on when another luxury temptation comes across like getting new furniture.

yeah plus use craigslist to buy crap like that.  we just moved into a new house and more or less furnished it with what we had and procedes from things we sold for profit from our old house and use to buy some new pieces that were basically steals .
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: going2ER on June 15, 2016, 09:04:50 AM
While it is not something I would do, maybe you should look at splitting finances. If you are responsible for 1/2 the agreed upon household costs and the rest is your money to what you like with, such as paying down student loan and she pay the other 1/2 of the household expenses plus her car payment she may realize that you are making contributions to the family regardless of your student loan. As much as your student loan sucks, hindsight is great and without your student loan you likely wouldn't have the job you do.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 15, 2016, 09:36:47 AM
While it is not something I would do, maybe you should look at splitting finances. If you are responsible for 1/2 the agreed upon household costs and the rest is your money to what you like with, such as paying down student loan and she pay the other 1/2 of the household expenses plus her car payment she may realize that you are making contributions to the family regardless of your student loan. As much as your student loan sucks, hindsight is great and without your student loan you likely wouldn't have the job you do.

I appreciate the support, especially the last line, which pretty well summarizes how I feel. I can't change the past, but I'll make close to $100K this year, admittedly without benefits, which sucks, but the firm does pay for my yearly license renewal fee, all my CLEs, my malpractice coverage, and I have near total freedom with my schedule. And I only work about 40-45 hours per week MAX. Everyone is out the door at 5:30 so it's a good work/life balance.  The "near total freedom" thing is VERY important to me.

And no I wouldn't consider splitting fiances. I read about married couples who do that and it just doesn't seem like a wise move to me. It's not a roommate situation, it's a marriage. I do want to break out a budget and do it WITH her this weekend to look for leaks in our spending. Currently we don't really budget at all; its more like monitoring our spending after the fact, which isn't very helpful.

EDITED TO ADD: And I want to be sure I'm not vilifying my wife here. She has a ton of great qualities, and she's very responsible paying the bills every month. We have never been late on a single bill in over 13 years of marriage. She doesn't spend much on clothing or shoes for herself, and we have a modest house in a middle-class neighborhood. We take one nice vacation per year, and maybe a long weekend trip later in the year. And we've already added $20K to our net worth this year so far, and I think we'll add another 20K before year's end.  We're improving almost $3K "to the good" every month between paying $2200 in debt payments (with nothing over a 5% rate, and that's my student loans) and investing about $800 between 401k and my Roth. And I know we can do so much better!



Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: dkaid on June 15, 2016, 10:37:34 AM
I know only too well how hard it is when the other spouse is not on board!  I really don't think mine will ever be even a little frugal.  So I'm trying to control what I can and set an example. 

Re: groceries.  Do you you have an Aldi near you?  That's a quick and easy way to slash at least 25% of your cost.  I buy very little processed food as healthy food is top priority for me and cooking from scratch and Aldi shopping help a lot.  You'll need to reconsider kids "snack" foods I suspect.  And really watch out for waste.  I got some great ideas reading the "eat all the food in your house" threads in the throw down the gauntlet section.  How about if you "offer" to take over the shopping/meal prep responsibilities for a month and see what you can do? 

Also re: daycare.... do you have other families you might be able to swap before and after school daycare with? 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Tyson on June 15, 2016, 10:39:58 AM
It takes time.  I think your approach of bringing it up gently and then focusing the actions more on the areas that affect you is very smart. 

As a side note, if there's resentment around the loans, is there resentment (maybe hidden) around other things?  Maybe that's a good lead in for a broader conversation that might not be finances specific....
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on June 15, 2016, 10:59:50 AM
Plan seems good Nick... You'll find a that some people here are very not normal and live very bare-bones by normal standards. When I look at things like cable TV or this bill or that luxury I think to myself "How long will that prevent me from reaching my goals if I do that the rest of my life"

Usually I realize something like:
"Holy Shit I have to work 3 more months before I can be financially independent just to have the luxury of watching a little bit of TV which is actually mostly commercials nowadays... well fuck that" and cut the cord

Heck your doing better than many people just by having a positive net worth... Your baby steps will bring you leagues ahead of the norm and hopefully you can slowly take more steps to streamline your budgets and expenses while still maintaining happiness in your life and marriage.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Allie on June 15, 2016, 11:36:08 AM
Sounds like a decent plan for now!  If your wife is like my husband, or a number of the other spouses on here, after a few months or years of effort, she will be impressed by what she sees in terms of savings and debt pay down and start taking sips of the Koolaid too.

Honestly, cable isn't worth it.  We have a Roku and get rabbit ear channels, movies/shows on DVD from the library (you will be amazed by what you can get from the library), Netflix for streaming, and Amazon prime (mostly for the free shipping to our northern corner of the country).  Once a year, we add a dvd package to Netflix for the hbo and showtime shows and binge watch for a month (game of thrones comes out every april, so it's usually an April to May event).  During NBA finals, we get sling TV (which has espn, hgtv, disney, etc.) for a couple months.  My husband used to get the NBA streaming package too.  Even with all of that, we are still saving a bit of money over cable and we have an excess of programming. 

Hulu has bravo and most of the shows from major networks. 

If you get into travel hacking and cc churning, you can probably cut your vacation expenses by quite a bit. 

There are lots of ways to decrease your expenses and make life awesome.  Good luck!

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 15, 2016, 11:57:59 AM


If you get into travel hacking and cc churning, you can probably cut your vacation expenses by quite a bit. 

There are lots of ways to decrease your expenses and make life awesome.  Good luck!



credit card hacking is awesome.

2 - 10+ day trips for us this year
1. hawaii
    5 star resorts see (http://www.grandwailea.com/)
    1st class flights
    Jeep Rental Car
   
Cost - 0 dollars

2. Europe Cruise
    Balcony cabin
    Coach Flights
    Booze included
   
Cost - currently around 1k - working on making this 0 - should be able to.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: notactiveanymore on June 15, 2016, 02:55:19 PM
Responding to the grocery budget questions:

I think you could easily be around 600-700 even with eating healthy. Here are some things that might help:


Hope that helps!
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bee21 on June 15, 2016, 05:51:42 PM
You have a good plan. It is also good that your wife's resentment re your student loans is out in the open, at least it is not festering in the background.

To make your grocery shopping less painful, here are my tips.
Write a list of the meals you regularly eat and cost them. When planning, alternate low cost meals with the expensive stuff.
Buy the ingredients for the meals not 'groceries'.
Write a shopping list (see ingredients above) and cost the items before you go to the shop. This will give you a general idea of how much you will spend.
Monitor what you are regularly throwing away and buy less of those next time.

This will easily cut the costs without changing what you buy or what you eat.

Extra tips

Buy the non perishables in bulk when they are on sale (spaghetti, rice, peanut butter, jam, TP, paper towels, washing liquid). These regularly go down 50% around here. Figure out the sales cycles and buy enough to last till the next sale.
Try store brands. Not everything is great, but you'll find out what you like.
Cook a few things in bulk and freeze them in individual serves. This will save money and time (spaghetti sauce, stews, curries, casseroles)
Plan your leftovers. We had a butterflied leg of lamb on the grill on Sunday( 16$+ 2$ veggies ), cut off a chunk and sliced it up on Monday with peppers, mushrooms and onions (4$ for the extra veg). For 22$ we had 2 really good dinners for the 4 of us. No rice and beans. :)

Black belted tips ( extra effort required)
Find cheaper shops ( I personally hate Aldi, but I found an Indian fruit and veg shop where great quality stuff is 40% cheaper than in the big shop next door)
Find out when they discount the meat and stock up the yellow sticker items. Plan the menus around them. We recently feasted on fillet Mignon stuffed with truffle butter, reduced at 6$.
Have 1-2 vegetarian meals (my husband refuses to do this, we have these when he is away)

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Choices on June 16, 2016, 08:24:13 AM
How to get your wife on board? Talk about what's in it for her.

Talk about your long-term goals. What would you guys do if you had no debt and a lower cost of living? Could she be home with the kids? Could she/you/both work part time? Could you take the trip that she's always wanted? Could you visit her family more? Could she add an annual trip with her girlfriends?

There's tons of good advice in other comments, but I'll summarize.

1. Pay off debt first with every extra cent, then save and invest after the debt is gone.
2. Cut costs where you can. Cancel cable. Switch to a cheaper cell phone plan.
3. Buy used where you can (clothing, etc.)
4. Cut down on restaurants.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 16, 2016, 10:35:24 AM
To the last few folks, yes we definitely need to price meals and trim fat by using less beef and maybe a few more canned veggies (to avoid spoilage and waste).

My wife and I had a VERY productive talk yesterday sans kids. We're slashing the newspaper ($15), her satelitte radio (not sure the amount offhand), I'll shop for a better phone plan when I hit my 2 years on contract this fall. I'm cutting back on protein shakes and supplements. We'll limit groceries to two trips (max $300 each) to make sure we use up food before buying more. She agreed to direct all leftover money at the end of each month to "increase our net worth" so either student loan payments or investments.

The "increasing our net worth" really spoke to her. We're aiming to bump it up another $30k over the course of the rest of the year. I pointed out that if we increase our net worth by $60k per year for ten years, we'd be in awesome shape (would be worth over $700k) and could consider part-time work when she's 47 and I'm 52.

And it should get easier after the next few years. Decreasing daycare, increasing investment returns, and paid off cars and mortgage.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 16, 2016, 05:10:10 PM
You still got a newspaper. I didn't even know those still existed. Have you looked into cutting your ice delivery service for the ice box as well?
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on June 17, 2016, 10:25:07 AM
You still got a newspaper. I didn't even know those still existed. Have you looked into cutting your ice delivery service for the ice box as well?

This is one thing that gets a lot of people... They don't actually know where all their money is going. In your spending you didn't mention anything about a newspaper and that fit in none of your categories. Take some time and set up systems to track your money and watch every dollar and what it is spent on even the little stuff... The random small subscriptions are a huge drain that people don't realize.

Once you realize where all the money is going then you can analyze everything and ask yourself for each item/service/thing do I need this?... if the answer is yes then ask yourself again... come on man don't lie to yourself do I REALLY need this? Does having this improve my life or make me truly happier? If yes then keep it otherwise cut it out and soon the cash flow will start pouring in.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Tyson on June 17, 2016, 10:43:20 AM
What I did was sign up for Mint (at first) then Personal Capital (later).  Once I had all my accounts tied in there, I could ruthlessly go through EVERYTHING that showed up and get rid of things that I just didn't need any more.  I liked doing it this way because suddenly I got a very clear idea of where all that "other" and "miscellaneous" money was going that wasn't showing up in my regular budget.  Shit, I couldn't believe some of the crap that I had signed up for, forgotten about, and was showing up as a quarterly or yearly recurring charge.  Every time something like that showed up I'd cancel the service and demand my money back.  Easy, easy money. 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on June 17, 2016, 11:18:13 AM
Shit, I couldn't believe some of the crap that I had signed up for, forgotten about, and was showing up as a quarterly or yearly recurring charge.

Just for my own entertainment I would love to hear some examples of things... I got started before I had a chance to rack up random services/subscriptions so I didn't get enjoyment of canceling very much stuff.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 22, 2016, 10:29:31 PM
Just a quick update and thank you to everyone.

We are going to make a "game" out of trying to get our net worth up to $150k by year's end. She's doubling her monthly 401k contribution, we're really focusing on keeping grocery costs down, and all we're making at least $1200 monthly student loan payments. We earned $300 at our yard sale and every penny went into my Roth IRA.

If we hit $150k net worth by December, and then reach $200k net worth by end of 2017, I'd feel like we are on our way.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: usoverseas on June 24, 2016, 04:08:15 AM
A few other people mentioned the travel hacking.  It would be a very easy way to have your annual vacation be much less of a drain on your financial goals.  I'm not sure what type of vacation you enjoy, but most of the major hotel chains have credit cards that you can accrue points on and typically bonuses as well.  Look into Hilton or Marriott credit cards if that is your vacation style and you may be able to get several free nights out of it just through using the card for all of your regular spending (obviously paying it off each month.)
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 19, 2016, 12:52:10 PM
I REALLY appreciate all the kind words (and face punches...is there such a thing as a "kind face punch?") from everyone, and we have sat down and made some changes, especially on increasing investments.

We doubled my wife's 401K contributions, and today I maxed out my Roth IRA for the year. Woo Hoo!

My office does not offer a 401k. We have three main options for increasing our net worth for the rest of the year now...

1) increase her 401k contributions (again) 
2) open a Roth IRA for her
3) increase my student loan payments

Student loan balance is now $69,000. We're making $1,000 monthly payments. Interest rate is under 3% but the amount of the loans weighs on me a lot considering my age. Would anyone face punch me for wanting to focus on paying down my student loans for the rest of this year? Or should we open up (and possibly max out) a Roth IRA for her first?


Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on July 19, 2016, 01:05:59 PM
Have you looked into using a Traditional IRA(pre-tax) instead of a Roth IRA(after-tax)?
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 19, 2016, 01:24:18 PM
Have you looked into using a Traditional IRA(pre-tax) instead of a Roth IRA(after-tax)?

Yes. I have a small ($18K) traditional IRA. After I max my Roth IRA again in 2017, the balances will be about equal, and then I might alternate maxing out each from year to year, because I'm not sure how anyone (accurately) forecasts future tax rates. She only has a 401k (about $75k)
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on July 19, 2016, 01:33:52 PM
I REALLY appreciate all the kind words (and face punches...is there such a thing as a "kind face punch?") from everyone, and we have sat down and made some changes, especially on increasing investments.

We doubled my wife's 401K contributions, and today I maxed out my Roth IRA for the year. Woo Hoo!

My office does not offer a 401k. We have three main options for increasing our net worth for the rest of the year now...

1) increase her 401k contributions (again) 
2) open a Roth IRA for her
3) increase my student loan payments

Student loan balance is now $69,000. We're making $1,000 monthly payments. Interest rate is under 3% but the amount of the loans weighs on me a lot considering my age. Would anyone face punch me for wanting to focus on paying down my student loans for the rest of this year? Or should we open up (and possibly max out) a Roth IRA for her first?

paying down the balance is a personal decision its not mathematically sound ... but some people like feelings.  i've been told i'm a robot. sheldonesque if you will. 

What makes it even worse is if your tax advantaged accounts arent maxed.  if you're in the 25% bracket even if you just withdraw with penalties and dont use SEP or Roth ladder you're ROI is likely instantly 10% from the taxes saved. 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: little_brown_dog on July 19, 2016, 01:40:27 PM
whoa you have 70k in student loan debt and you have 240 bucks in "blow money" per month AND you spend 240 bucks eating out per month  AND you spend 1k on groceries AND you have cable  AND you spend 100 a month on clothes

i'm not sure why you need us to tell you this but

you should have
0 dollars in blow money
0 dollars in eating out
25 bucks for internet
600 in groceries


you annual savings with this would be
3000 on blow money
3000 on eating out
1200 on cable
5000 on grocery

thats 12200 you could be putting towards something better.

I'd personally be on board with most of those cuts - I'd still want $50 of pocket money a month, and $100 or so in eating out, but I'd be okay ditching cable and slashing grocery. Any tips for grocery slashing??

We buy a lot of fresh veggies, whole grains, lean meats, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, nuts, etc. I know we could eat more cheaply but I'm not sure how to eat more cheaply AND also still healthy? We aren't going to eat pasta every night. We use a lean protein, a veggie, and a starch with each meal. We try to hit sales, and we clip coupons, and we cook dinner at least 5 nights a week. Family members do tend to visit us frequently though, usually around dinner time, so many nights there aren't any leftovers or anything.

Limit your snacks and plan your meals. Snacking, especially healthy snacking, costs big bucks at the checkout. For a very very long time, it was 3 meals a day, no snacks for both adults and kids and everyone survived and thrived. In fact, after years of convincing people to snack, some public health people are now saying that frequent snacking is BAD for adults because even healthy snacks raise insulin levels and keep you in an insulin dominant state. You want to get hungry in between meals, you want your insulin to fluctuate so you don't develop serious resistance over time. Basically, you are supposed to only eat when hungry and for most people, that means 3 meals a day should be sufficient. In fact, I'd say 3 very healthy meals (ex: full fat yogurt with berries, a salad with protein, steak/chicken/fish with sweet potato and grilled veggies) is more than enough nutrition for the vast majority of people. Kids, pregnant women, athletes etc may need to snack ontop of this type of diet, but almost everyone else probably not.

Your cart should be filled with mostly ingredients for meals/lunches, and a couple breakfast staples (ex: yogurt, eggs, etc). If you have a lot of healthy crackers, string cheese, yogurt cups, 5 types of fruit, nuts, etc then you might have an unnecessary snack habit going on.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 19, 2016, 01:44:24 PM
I REALLY appreciate all the kind words (and face punches...is there such a thing as a "kind face punch?") from everyone, and we have sat down and made some changes, especially on increasing investments.

We doubled my wife's 401K contributions, and today I maxed out my Roth IRA for the year. Woo Hoo!

My office does not offer a 401k. We have three main options for increasing our net worth for the rest of the year now...

1) increase her 401k contributions (again) 
2) open a Roth IRA for her
3) increase my student loan payments

Student loan balance is now $69,000. We're making $1,000 monthly payments. Interest rate is under 3% but the amount of the loans weighs on me a lot considering my age. Would anyone face punch me for wanting to focus on paying down my student loans for the rest of this year? Or should we open up (and possibly max out) a Roth IRA for her first?

paying down the balance is a personal decision its not mathematically sound ... but some people like feelings.  i've been told i'm a robot. sheldonesque if you will. 

What makes it even worse is if your tax advantaged accounts arent maxed.  if you're in the 25% bracket even if you just withdraw with penalties and dont use SEP or Roth ladder you're ROI is likely instantly 10% from the taxes saved.

I get it, I do. I really want to pump up those retirement accounts, but I'm torn because paying down debt is guaranteed to increase my net worth. Plus, you appear to be a lot younger than I am, but when you're in your early 40s and you still have (a lot) of school debt, it weighs on you as a reminder of the crappy decisions you have made.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on July 19, 2016, 01:49:36 PM
I REALLY appreciate all the kind words (and face punches...is there such a thing as a "kind face punch?") from everyone, and we have sat down and made some changes, especially on increasing investments.

We doubled my wife's 401K contributions, and today I maxed out my Roth IRA for the year. Woo Hoo!

My office does not offer a 401k. We have three main options for increasing our net worth for the rest of the year now...

1) increase her 401k contributions (again) 
2) open a Roth IRA for her
3) increase my student loan payments

Student loan balance is now $69,000. We're making $1,000 monthly payments. Interest rate is under 3% but the amount of the loans weighs on me a lot considering my age. Would anyone face punch me for wanting to focus on paying down my student loans for the rest of this year? Or should we open up (and possibly max out) a Roth IRA for her first?

paying down the balance is a personal decision its not mathematically sound ... but some people like feelings.  i've been told i'm a robot. sheldonesque if you will. 

What makes it even worse is if your tax advantaged accounts arent maxed.  if you're in the 25% bracket even if you just withdraw with penalties and dont use SEP or Roth ladder you're ROI is likely instantly 10% from the taxes saved.

I get it, I do. I really want to pump up those retirement accounts, but I'm torn because paying down debt is guaranteed to increase my net worth. Plus, you appear to be a lot younger than I am, but when you're in your early 40s and you still have (a lot) of school debt, it weighs on you as a reminder of the crappy decisions you have made.

dont compound that by making a crappier decision its really simple

ROI on student loan less than 3%

ROI on putting it into 401k at least 10% likely 15% and since you likely avoid 25% plus state taxes now you can funnel that money other places once it is maxed.  18k max costs around 12-13k out of pocket.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: onlykelsey on July 19, 2016, 01:54:10 PM
I REALLY appreciate all the kind words (and face punches...is there such a thing as a "kind face punch?") from everyone, and we have sat down and made some changes, especially on increasing investments.

We doubled my wife's 401K contributions, and today I maxed out my Roth IRA for the year. Woo Hoo!

My office does not offer a 401k. We have three main options for increasing our net worth for the rest of the year now...

1) increase her 401k contributions (again) 
2) open a Roth IRA for her
3) increase my student loan payments

Student loan balance is now $69,000. We're making $1,000 monthly payments. Interest rate is under 3% but the amount of the loans weighs on me a lot considering my age. Would anyone face punch me for wanting to focus on paying down my student loans for the rest of this year? Or should we open up (and possibly max out) a Roth IRA for her first?

paying down the balance is a personal decision its not mathematically sound ... but some people like feelings.  i've been told i'm a robot. sheldonesque if you will. 

What makes it even worse is if your tax advantaged accounts arent maxed.  if you're in the 25% bracket even if you just withdraw with penalties and dont use SEP or Roth ladder you're ROI is likely instantly 10% from the taxes saved.

I get it, I do. I really want to pump up those retirement accounts, but I'm torn because paying down debt is guaranteed to increase my net worth. Plus, you appear to be a lot younger than I am, but when you're in your early 40s and you still have (a lot) of school debt, it weighs on you as a reminder of the crappy decisions you have made.

dont compound that by making a crappier decision its really simple

ROI on student loan less than 3%

ROI on putting it into 401k at least 10% likely 15% and since you likely avoid 25% plus state taxes now you can funnel that money other places once it is maxed.  18k max costs around 12-13k out of pocket.

boarder42 doesn't always handle things with... finesse, but he's right.  I would definitely max out the 401K and then throw extra at loans.

Welcome!  It sounds like you and your wife have a very sound relationship.  I think a lot of us struggle in the beginning when we devour MMM and are gungho about retiring in 7 years, which is news to our spouse/partner/etc.  It needs to be, at least mostly, a shared decision. 

I've learned that if I'm doing "extra" outside of our shared finances to shorten the timeline to FIRE, I need to get comfortable with the fact that I don't get to begrudge him my additional sacrifices.  Make sure you've come around to that before you sell your fun toys and start grumbling about it to her.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 19, 2016, 01:54:39 PM
So you'd both suggest that we max out the 401k even before considering opening a Roth or traditional IRA for my wife?

I thought the general order was: 1) 401K up to the match, 2) moves to Roth/traditional IRA, 3) maybe go back to 401K depending on how much you need to invest. Plus, I like the idea of having access to Roth contributions penalty and tax free.

And I guess the real answer here is: I need to make enough money to bank away $29,500 each year in 401k and two IRAs AND chop my loans down to size (to make me happy)? :)

And I don't mind a poster being direct or even blunt as long as it doesn't cross over into rude territory. There's no room for that, as I think we'd all agree.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: onlykelsey on July 19, 2016, 02:02:20 PM
https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Prioritizing_investments

Sorry, I wouldn't necessarily max the 401K over the IRA. I am arguing for both of the above before throwing money at cheap student loan debt. 

I'd also take a look at the quality of her 401K offerings.  If they're great (i.e. she gets vanguard admiral shares even if she's not investing 10K through her administrator), I might put more there before the IRAs.  If they're not (many aren't), I might jump to an IRA (with schwab or vanguard or whatever other low-cost good provider) earlier before filling up the 401K.

Honestly, though, at your income, this should not be an either or.  You have all sorts of expenses to cut, you should be able to do both this year and have it be a non-issue.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on July 20, 2016, 11:09:08 AM
It all depends on what tax bracket you will be in when you no longer work.

You will find that most people here plan to be in the 0-10% brackets when retired and on average are in 25% bracket when working and that is what advice is usually given for. By contributing pre-tax most people are literally pulling 15-25% more money out of thin air which is much more effective than after-tax investing or paying doing low-medium interest debt. Also, another benefit of putting away pre-tax money vs after tax is that there is more money to compound with has a serious effect on long term growth.

A married couple right now without children could withdraw almost $40,000 in retirement out of pre-tax accounts before the income breaks them into the 15% bracket and in my opinion is a very generous retirement budget for almost anyone.

My money goes in this order (high 25% bracket single filing)

1) 401k to match
2) Very high interest debt if I had any... (like > 10%)
3) 401k to federal limit & traditional IRA to federal limit
4) Medium interest debt if I had any... (4.5% to 10%)
5) After tax brokerage investments (all the rest of my money)

6) minimum payment on any low interest debt such as my mortgage



Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 20, 2016, 01:20:37 PM
It all depends on what tax bracket you will be in when you no longer work.

You will find that most people here plan to be in the 0-10% brackets when retired and on average are in 25% bracket when working and that is what advice is usually given for. By contributing pre-tax most people are literally pulling 15-25% more money out of thin air which is much more effective than after-tax investing or paying doing low-medium interest debt. Also, another benefit of putting away pre-tax money vs after tax is that there is more money to compound with has a serious effect on long term growth.

A married couple right now without children could withdraw almost $40,000 in retirement out of pre-tax accounts before the income breaks them into the 15% bracket and in my opinion is a very generous retirement budget for almost anyone.

My money goes in this order (high 25% bracket single filing)

1) 401k to match
2) Very high interest debt if I had any... (like > 10%)
3) 401k to federal limit & traditional IRA to federal limit
4) Medium interest debt if I had any... (4.5% to 10%)
5) After tax brokerage investments (all the rest of my money)

6) minimum payment on any low interest debt such as my mortgage

That breakdown was very helpful. Thank you. #1 is done. #2 doesn't apply. $3 - my IRA is maxed out for the year, but her 401k won't be maxed out at this rate. #4 doesn't apply either. #5 we don't have any. #6 is ALL of our debt - over $160K including mortgage, student loans and car.

We don't have any high, or even moderately high, interest debt. Everything, from the student loans to the mortgage to the car, is under 4%. However, I'm just not comfortable limping through making minimum payments on the student loans and keeping them around until I'm 60.  I'll likely pay off debt more aggressively than others here would, but I am taking it to heart to really pump up savings. I've read blog posts by MMM himself that said paying off debt versus investment was a somewhat personal decision and that either is much better than wasting the money on consumer products or entertainment.

I'll be honest and say that we've been very loose with spending over the years, so part of me fears that we'll fall back into that rut and perhaps "waste" money that I could otherwise toss right at debt.

 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: onlykelsey on July 20, 2016, 01:24:04 PM
Set up direct deposit for your paychecks to an investment account.  Either for a chunk of it, or for all (and make yourself manually transfer what you need monthly to actually spend).
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on July 20, 2016, 01:39:52 PM
It all depends on what tax bracket you will be in when you no longer work.

You will find that most people here plan to be in the 0-10% brackets when retired and on average are in 25% bracket when working and that is what advice is usually given for. By contributing pre-tax most people are literally pulling 15-25% more money out of thin air which is much more effective than after-tax investing or paying doing low-medium interest debt. Also, another benefit of putting away pre-tax money vs after tax is that there is more money to compound with has a serious effect on long term growth.

A married couple right now without children could withdraw almost $40,000 in retirement out of pre-tax accounts before the income breaks them into the 15% bracket and in my opinion is a very generous retirement budget for almost anyone.

My money goes in this order (high 25% bracket single filing)

1) 401k to match
2) Very high interest debt if I had any... (like > 10%)
3) 401k to federal limit & traditional IRA to federal limit
4) Medium interest debt if I had any... (4.5% to 10%)
5) After tax brokerage investments (all the rest of my money)

6) minimum payment on any low interest debt such as my mortgage

That breakdown was very helpful. Thank you. #1 is done. #2 doesn't apply. $3 - my IRA is maxed out for the year, but her 401k won't be maxed out at this rate. #4 doesn't apply either. #5 we don't have any. #6 is ALL of our debt - over $160K including mortgage, student loans and car.

We don't have any high, or even moderately high, interest debt. Everything, from the student loans to the mortgage to the car, is under 4%. However, I'm just not comfortable limping through making minimum payments on the student loans and keeping them around until I'm 60.  I'll likely pay off debt more aggressively than others here would, but I am taking it to heart to really pump up savings. I've read blog posts by MMM himself that said paying off debt versus investment was a somewhat personal decision and that either is much better than wasting the money on consumer products or entertainment.

I'll be honest and say that we've been very loose with spending over the years, so part of me fears that we'll fall back into that rut and perhaps "waste" money that I could otherwise toss right at debt.

Another interesting way that I like to think about low interest debt is that average inflation is around 3% so on average any loan under 3% actually gets cheaper payments as time goes on.

For example Let's say someone started a mortgage 30 years ago. According to SSA.gov the Consumer Price Index was 108.400 in June 1986 and 235.308 in June 2016. That means that their payment became more than twice as affordable over those 30 years. If your debt is at or below the inflation rate it essentially gets cheaper as time goes on in inflation adjusted dollars.

You just have to be disciplined with the goals you are trying to achieve. For some people paying down debt is an emotional victory that helps them reach their goals and gives peace of mind and there's nothing wrong with that approach either... It just might not be the absolute fastest way.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: kitkat on July 20, 2016, 03:39:57 PM
It all depends on what tax bracket you will be in when you no longer work.

You will find that most people here plan to be in the 0-10% brackets when retired and on average are in 25% bracket when working and that is what advice is usually given for. By contributing pre-tax most people are literally pulling 15-25% more money out of thin air which is much more effective than after-tax investing or paying doing low-medium interest debt. Also, another benefit of putting away pre-tax money vs after tax is that there is more money to compound with has a serious effect on long term growth.

A married couple right now without children could withdraw almost $40,000 in retirement out of pre-tax accounts before the income breaks them into the 15% bracket and in my opinion is a very generous retirement budget for almost anyone.

My money goes in this order (high 25% bracket single filing)

1) 401k to match
2) Very high interest debt if I had any... (like > 10%)
3) 401k to federal limit & traditional IRA to federal limit
4) Medium interest debt if I had any... (4.5% to 10%)
5) After tax brokerage investments (all the rest of my money)

6) minimum payment on any low interest debt such as my mortgage

Apologies to the OP on jumping in here with my own question..

For someone who can only save up to the limits on their 401k+IRA, what are we supposed to live off of between early retirement and age 59.5? I understand the appeal of a Trad IRA when considering tax brackets, but I have been using Roth so that I can have access to my contributions at any time penalty-free.

I also recently discovered that I have the option to use 403b or 457 plans in addition to my pension, and am not sure which to choose. 457 lets me withdraw anytime after I leave my current company (but if you are still working you have to wait until age 70), whereas 403b has more similar withdrawal rules to a 401k (age 59.5) and allows a rollover to an IRA if you leave the company (which can then be slowly rolled over into a Roth depending on how you game the system). I plan to retire (or at least work part time) starting around age 35 (I'm 25 now), so I would have a significant amount of time to cover between retirement and gaining access to 403b or traditional IRA funds.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on July 20, 2016, 03:46:20 PM
many many ways to access your funds

1. pay the penalty which actually isnt as bad as everyone thinks

2. SEP 72t

3. roth IRA conversion ladder.

http://www.madfientist.com/how-to-access-retirement-funds-early/

madfientists latest post on the topic.   all are much better than using taxable.

you would likely use the ladder since you are planning to still work.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on July 20, 2016, 03:59:13 PM
It all depends on what tax bracket you will be in when you no longer work.

You will find that most people here plan to be in the 0-10% brackets when retired and on average are in 25% bracket when working and that is what advice is usually given for. By contributing pre-tax most people are literally pulling 15-25% more money out of thin air which is much more effective than after-tax investing or paying doing low-medium interest debt. Also, another benefit of putting away pre-tax money vs after tax is that there is more money to compound with has a serious effect on long term growth.

A married couple right now without children could withdraw almost $40,000 in retirement out of pre-tax accounts before the income breaks them into the 15% bracket and in my opinion is a very generous retirement budget for almost anyone.

My money goes in this order (high 25% bracket single filing)

1) 401k to match
2) Very high interest debt if I had any... (like > 10%)
3) 401k to federal limit & traditional IRA to federal limit
4) Medium interest debt if I had any... (4.5% to 10%)
5) After tax brokerage investments (all the rest of my money)

6) minimum payment on any low interest debt such as my mortgage

Apologies to the OP on jumping in here with my own question..

For someone who can only save up to the limits on their 401k+IRA, what are we supposed to live off of between early retirement and age 59.5? I understand the appeal of a Trad IRA when considering tax brackets, but I have been using Roth so that I can have access to my contributions at any time penalty-free.

I also recently discovered that I have the option to use 403b or 457 plans in addition to my pension, and am not sure which to choose. 457 lets me withdraw anytime after I leave my current company (but if you are still working you have to wait until age 70), whereas 403b has more similar withdrawal rules to a 401k (age 59.5) and allows a rollover to an IRA if you leave the company (which can then be slowly rolled over into a Roth depending on how you game the system). I plan to retire (or at least work part time) starting around age 35 (I'm 25 now), so I would have a significant amount of time to cover between retirement and gaining access to 403b or traditional IRA funds.

This is the idea:
-Convert 401k to a Traditional IRA when you leave work
-Slowly convert Traditional IRA to Roth IRA year by year so you can withdraw contributions
(referred to as Roth Conversion Pipeline)

The only caveat is that there is a 5 year waiting period between the time you place money into an IRA and the time when you can withdraw those contributions. You must save enough money to span that 5 year gap before you can start using roth contributions and plan how much money you will want to spend 5 years from the time you make roth conversion.

Relevant Post/Guide:
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/how-to-withdraw-funds-from-your-ira-and-401k-without-penalty-before-age-59-5/

edit* that mad fientist post boarder42 linked is fantastic... I had not read that yet but makes it very clear different options and pros and cons
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Rewdoalb on July 20, 2016, 09:45:31 PM
The last 2 posts were good advice, but they still missed the goldmine, which you alluded to. The 457, something many people don't have access to, which is why it isn't discussed as much. It's discussed a lot in the comments section of the linked mad fientist post, so yeah, still read that.

To the OP - it was awesome to see how you and your wife became unified in this pursuit. If she gets more excited than you...all I can say is, run for cover and you started it.  Use your restaurant budget to "treat yo self" over net worth related victories.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 21, 2016, 07:09:00 AM
The last 2 posts were good advice, but they still missed the goldmine, which you alluded to. The 457, something many people don't have access to, which is why it isn't discussed as much. It's discussed a lot in the comments section of the linked mad fientist post, so yeah, still read that.

To the OP - it was awesome to see how you and your wife became unified in this pursuit. If she gets more excited than you...all I can say is, run for cover and you started it.  Use your restaurant budget to "treat yo self" over net worth related victories.

Well she won't give up her car any time soon, but she gets a vehicle allowance from her work that will have it paid off in 2.5 years, so I won't begrudge her that. Other than that, I think she will get on board slowly over the coming months. And is the "treat yo self" a reference to Tom and Donna from Parks & Rec?? I loved that show.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Rewdoalb on July 21, 2016, 07:38:47 AM
You called it! Yep, it's easier to get on board and get excited when it's clear you are doing something worthy of celebration.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bee21 on July 22, 2016, 04:26:46 PM
I think you are doing well. Mathematically speaking, some decisions are better than the other, but I'm personally very debt averse and I vote for paying off those student loans aggressively. It is as big as your mortgage, so that is enough reason to attack it. If everything goes well on the long term you will probably be better off making the investments the others mentioned, but if there is something wrong (illness, job loss) you are better off having as little debt as possible. It is your choice, whatever you are comfortable with. Plus don't forget the freedom factor. It is a wonderful feeling not to have debts because you are not chained to crappy jobs. You will have the freedom of choice and that is priceless ( for me at least).



Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on July 22, 2016, 04:55:24 PM
I think you are doing well. Mathematically speaking, some decisions are better than the other, but I'm personally very debt averse and I vote for paying off those student loans aggressively. It is as big as your mortgage, so that is enough reason to attack it. If everything goes well on the long term you will probably be better off making the investments the others mentioned, but if there is something wrong (illness, job loss) you are better off having as little debt as possible. It is your choice, whatever you are comfortable with. Plus don't forget the freedom factor. It is a wonderful feeling not to have debts because you are not chained to crappy jobs. You will have the freedom of choice and that is priceless ( for me at least).

You get unchained from crappy jobs faster by keeping low interest debt and investing. If you are paying down your loans like a mortgage. And you only owe 3k dollars and you can't come up with it the bank doesn't care you lose your house. Better to invest and still be able to pay your mortgage or loans in a catastrophic event.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bee21 on July 22, 2016, 08:09:48 PM
But are these guys investing? If so, are they investing successfully?

I see this argument over and over again, and I totally agree that well managed investments do better than a low interest debt. You are right about this. If they know what they are doing, have the knowledge and the discipline for investing. If not, they are better off paying off their debt and learn about investing in the meanwhile, so that when they finally have the surplus, they can make good decisions. I's easy to say to a novice to invest because you'll be better off. But how? Into what? Making bad investment decisions would be catastrophic in their financial situation. I have seen that happen and it wasn't pretty.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on July 22, 2016, 08:16:18 PM
That's what this forum is about. Investing money to not work. It's that simple cut your cost of living put your dollars to work. If they don't know what to invest in ask it's called vtsax and then take a nap and wake up a millionaire. Read jlcollins stock series if you want to know why. 

This isn't a Dave Ramsey forum. We're not trying to help the avg American. We're trying to retire by 40 or 30 or 50 or whatever your year is.  If we were just trying to be better than avg it's great but we're not just better than average were borderline the BEST so when we dont pay down debt we instead invest that money not use it to pay for a 40k truck.

Point is don't give someone avg advice give them the best advice if they choose to make the avg decision that's their personal choice for whatever emotional reason.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Bee21 on July 22, 2016, 08:25:24 PM
That Simple, huh?
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Tuskalusa on July 22, 2016, 09:01:03 PM
Here's a simple one. Switch you iPhone to Ting wireless.  Then get good at using wifi wherever it it available. I bet you can cut that $70 to $40. I recently did this. Such a no brainer, I was annoyed with myself that I didn't do it sooner.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 24, 2016, 09:54:52 AM
That's what this forum is about. Investing money to not work. It's that simple cut your cost of living put your dollars to work. If they don't know what to invest in ask it's called vtsax and then take a nap and wake up a millionaire. Read jlcollins stock series if you want to know why.

I just moved my traditional IRA into VTSAX last week actually. My Roth is not over $10k yet but will be next year, although I'll keep that in a fund with more bonds like the target date fund.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 24, 2016, 09:58:31 AM
I think you are doing well. Mathematically speaking, some decisions are better than the other, but I'm personally very debt averse and I vote for paying off those student loans aggressively. It is as big as your mortgage, so that is enough reason to attack it. If everything goes well on the long term you will probably be better off making the investments the others mentioned, but if there is something wrong (illness, job loss) you are better off having as little debt as possible. It is your choice, whatever you are comfortable with. Plus don't forget the freedom factor. It is a wonderful feeling not to have debts because you are not chained to crappy jobs. You will have the freedom of choice and that is priceless ( for me at least).

Don't worry - I am! Nothing gives me more pleasure than making fat debt payments. It gives me a boost and keeps me focused on cutting expenses, which helps us across the board because the cuts are all going to debt repayment and/or investment,  not other things.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Suit on July 24, 2016, 11:03:31 AM
I'm not sure anyone has suggested this (if anyone has, sorry to repeat): why not try to refinance your student loans to a lower interest rate? Then the choice to max out retirement accounts before paying off the debt will be an easy one and your payments will go farther to reducing them. I recently refinanced with Earnest and got a 3.5% rate. If you want a referral code that will also get you $200 (and me $200) just let me know.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on August 22, 2016, 09:49:34 AM
Quick update. Here are some changes/developments since I started the thread...

1) We're pumping money into retirement and should have $100K in retirement accounts by Dec. I maxed my Roth, we started a Roth for my wife and should have that maxed soon, and we doubled her 401k contributions (with the intention of revisiting that in January 2017 and perhaps adding another $200/month if cash flow is going well).

2) Daycare is reduced now that the kids are back in school. It's down to $520/month until June 2017. And then my oldest daughter (will be 11.5 then) will probably only do summer camp every other week, so our summer 2017 daycare expenses should be 25% cheaper than this year's.

3) Cranked student loan payments up from $800 to $1000 per month, and will revisit with an eye towards upping that in January 2017 if cash flow is going well.

4) I realized that mortgage will be paid off in 9 years, not 11 as I originally said.

5) The kids' school gets free breakfast and lunch (even though it's a good school, it's a state program thing) so our grocery bill for August is already looking better. For September, I think $600 to $700 is possible.

Things we're keeping: My wife's car, cable (although that might be chucked at some point), blow money (I'm saving some of mine to put back into student loan payments)

I'm tracking our net worth every month and updating in the $100K-$250K Net Worth Gauntlet group and I think it's possible to hit $150K this December, $200K December 2017 and $250K 2018. At that point, the car would be paid off, and hopefully the student loans should be at a <$20 balance (because we will also allocate some bonuses toward them). At that point, I'd feel like we turned a corner.

I'm very grateful to all of you for your help. I hope to stay an active member for a long time here. I tell my friends about MMM but I'm pretty selective about it.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on August 22, 2016, 10:20:58 AM
good work.

general question. 

why do you need daycare for a 10 year old. i was staying at home by then.  and now a days you could buy a wifi camera and put it in your house if you were concerned.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on August 23, 2016, 06:57:14 AM
Eh, mostly because it's her last year of elementary school and her younger sister would still go to the on-site facility in the mornings and afternoons anyway. Adding a bus stop to the mix, waiting for that, still driving the younger one to the same school, etc., isn't worth it and screws up the routine. We're loosening the daycare cord for her come summer, and then when she starts middle school in Aug 2017, the daycare cord will be entirely cut for her.

Trust me, I'm tired of paying daycare. We've probably paid $100K in daycare over the last 10 years. Anyone who says kids aren't expensive is totally nuts.




Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: sis on August 23, 2016, 07:11:33 AM
Quick update. Here are some changes/developments since I started the thread...

1) We're pumping money into retirement and should have $100K in retirement accounts by Dec. I maxed my Roth, we started a Roth for my wife and should have that maxed soon, and we doubled her 401k contributions (with the intention of revisiting that in January 2017 and perhaps adding another $200/month if cash flow is going well).

2) Daycare is reduced now that the kids are back in school. It's down to $520/month until June 2017. And then my oldest daughter (will be 11.5 then) will probably only do summer camp every other week, so our summer 2017 daycare expenses should be 25% cheaper than this year's.

3) Cranked student loan payments up from $800 to $1000 per month, and will revisit with an eye towards upping that in January 2017 if cash flow is going well.

4) I realized that mortgage will be paid off in 9 years, not 11 as I originally said.

5) The kids' school gets free breakfast and lunch (even though it's a good school, it's a state program thing) so our grocery bill for August is already looking better. For September, I think $600 to $700 is possible.

Things we're keeping: My wife's car, cable (although that might be chucked at some point), blow money (I'm saving some of mine to put back into student loan payments)

I'm tracking our net worth every month and updating in the $100K-$250K Net Worth Gauntlet group and I think it's possible to hit $150K this December, $200K December 2017 and $250K 2018. At that point, the car would be paid off, and hopefully the student loans should be at a <$20 balance (because we will also allocate some bonuses toward them). At that point, I'd feel like we turned a corner.

I'm very grateful to all of you for your help. I hope to stay an active member for a long time here. I tell my friends about MMM but I'm pretty selective about it.

Keep up the good work!  Cut the cable if you can... it'll be good for your family.  It'll encourage your kids to read more and your family will become more active in general.  You can always get an antenna so that you can still get broadcast channels for free. 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 01, 2017, 07:26:50 AM
Since it's been a year, I provided an update in the original post.

You folks are awesome.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 01, 2017, 07:33:21 AM
Nick are you correctly prioritizing your debt pay down strategies here.

i see 3 things 1 which likely cant be corrected but 2 which could

1. you put a bunch of money in your house - more than you needed to to get 20% down. i would be willing to bet this rate is lower than the rate on your Student loans and the money would have been better served there.

but you have 2 other debts here which you claim to be "accelerating" pay down on
1. a car - i assume this loan is lower interest than your SL's
2. your SL's i assume this is higher interest than you car.

paying down you car to get it done in 2.5 years isnt a good plan if this money could be used to pay down higher interest debt.

or  vice versa. if the SLs are higher. 

i'd still wager none are high enough that faster pay down makes any sense and currenly you're leaving tax deferred/advantaged monies on the table. 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 01, 2017, 07:52:14 AM
Hey @boarder42,

We did roll over most of our equity from our old home into our new one. My wife was more comfortable that way. It was important to her that we not "go backwards" too much on the house. I went along with it, because she has really gotten on board a lot in the last year. The concession to me was the 30-year mortgage, to allow us more room to invest in coming years. So yeah it was a trade off.

The car payments aren't really being "accelerated." That was probably a poor choice of words on my part. We signed a 3-year-note when we bought it fall 2015. That's why it will be paid off in late summer/fall of next year. Student loans are 4.5% and are our highest interest rate debt. It's high enough (interest rate wise and balance wise) for me that I want to pay that down aggressively.

And I really do think we'll at least get close to $18K this year on my wife's 401K. We've been putting up to $2K some months into Roths, so that's a lot of money we can reroute to her 401k in just a month or two. It worked out better this way this year because it took her a while to get accustomed to bumping her 401k up so much. We took babysteps from 5% to 10% to 15%. With each step, it's important for her to see that we're fine each month cash-flow wise.

Hopefully we can start 2018 with her allocating 36% of her pay to 401K and then that will be on auto-pilot for that year. I just think she sees that as a huge chunk of her salary, and it "feels" like she's not bringing home very much money each month considering she works really hard. I keep telling her that's she's really contributing to our family's net worth each time her 401k surges upward.

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 01, 2017, 07:57:22 AM
Hey @boarder42,

We did roll over most of our equity from our old home into our new one. My wife was more comfortable that way. It was important to her that we not "go backwards" too much on the house. I went along with it, because she has really gotten on board a lot in the last year. The concession to me was the 30-year mortgage, to allow us more room to invest in coming years. So yeah it was a trade off.

The car payments aren't really being "accelerated." That was probably a poor choice of words on my part. We signed a 3-year-note when we bought it fall 2015. That's why it will be paid off in late summer/fall of next year. Student loans are 4.5% and are our highest interest rate debt. It's high enough (interest rate wise and balance wise) for me that I want to pay that down aggressively.

And I really do think we'll at least get close to $18K this year on my wife's 401K. We've been putting up to $2K some months into Roths, so that's a lot of money we can reroute to her 401k in just a month or two. It worked out better this way this year because it took her a while to get accustomed to bumping her 401k up so much. We took babysteps from 5% to 10% to 15%. With each step, it's important for her to see that we're fine each month cash-flow wise.

Hopefully we can start 2018 with her allocating 36% of her pay to 401K and then that will be on auto-pilot for that year. I just think she sees that as a huge chunk of her salary, and it "feels" like she's not bringing home very much money each month considering she works really hard. I keep telling her that's she's really contributing to our family's net worth each time her 401k surges upward.

i had a similar struggle with my wife on 401k contributions. but we keep separate but joint finances in many ways and on the spread sheet where it all gets split up we just showed the increased 401k contribution as a deduction to what she owed to the pot each month and that helped it be viewed in a different way. 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 01, 2017, 08:23:59 AM
Hey @boarder42,

We did roll over most of our equity from our old home into our new one. My wife was more comfortable that way. It was important to her that we not "go backwards" too much on the house. I went along with it, because she has really gotten on board a lot in the last year. The concession to me was the 30-year mortgage, to allow us more room to invest in coming years. So yeah it was a trade off.

The car payments aren't really being "accelerated." That was probably a poor choice of words on my part. We signed a 3-year-note when we bought it fall 2015. That's why it will be paid off in late summer/fall of next year. Student loans are 4.5% and are our highest interest rate debt. It's high enough (interest rate wise and balance wise) for me that I want to pay that down aggressively.

And I really do think we'll at least get close to $18K this year on my wife's 401K. We've been putting up to $2K some months into Roths, so that's a lot of money we can reroute to her 401k in just a month or two. It worked out better this way this year because it took her a while to get accustomed to bumping her 401k up so much. We took babysteps from 5% to 10% to 15%. With each step, it's important for her to see that we're fine each month cash-flow wise.

Hopefully we can start 2018 with her allocating 36% of her pay to 401K and then that will be on auto-pilot for that year. I just think she sees that as a huge chunk of her salary, and it "feels" like she's not bringing home very much money each month considering she works really hard. I keep telling her that's she's really contributing to our family's net worth each time her 401k surges upward.

i had a similar struggle with my wife on 401k contributions. but we keep separate but joint finances in many ways and on the spread sheet where it all gets split up we just showed the increased 401k contribution as a deduction to what she owed to the pot each month and that helped it be viewed in a different way.

Hey, whatever works! People view things in different ways and I've learned it's important to accept the differences (especially with our spouses!) and try to find a joint path to our destination, even if it's not quite as "optimal" as I'd like it to be. It sounds like you're doing great though - I'm jealous that you figured this out so young.

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: boarder42 on June 01, 2017, 08:31:21 AM
there was no MMM when you were my age.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: LifeHappens on June 01, 2017, 09:12:07 AM
To quote your namesake, "I'd give you a hug, but my shirt smells pretty weird today."

Great progress, Nick. It's nice to see your update.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: CmFtns on June 01, 2017, 05:10:49 PM
it's awesome to see a thread I totally forgot about pop back up to top and then look at long term progress like this.

Nice job, keep following the good path!
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: wanderin1 on June 02, 2017, 09:52:46 AM
Monthly Budget
Take home
$3600 (me) (no benefits - I work for a small office)
. . . .
A word about my bonuses. They vary WILDLY! Some months I get no bonus at all. Most months are between $500 and $1000. But some are big. I have a bonus coming up next month that should be $7000 net. .

Now that you’ve got your expenses, debt reduction and savings under better control, maybe it’s time to look at reliably increasing income via your bonuses. Your current attitude almost seems to be that they're out of your control. How about taking some time to create a plan for reliably boosting to bonuses to “level X”?  For example, if you’re a small business attorney and the bonuses come from work you bring into the firm, develop a strategy for reliably bringing in clients. (Depending on your skills and personal preferences, that could range from giving talks for small business groups, to networking with small business CPA’s, to writing articles that get you local recognition, etc.)

If you could get your bonuses up to $4,000 a month, that would more than double your base salary. Think how fast you could pay down that student loan! And boost your savings rate! And the beauty of this idea is that 1)you can design it so that it has minimum impact on your family time, and 2) it supports your efforts to be the leader in securing your family’s financial future. 

If you are comfortable providing added info about what exactly the bonuses are for, I’ll bet you can lots of good ideas here on how to improve the numbers.

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on June 03, 2017, 10:53:05 AM
@LifeHappens, thanks for your kind words. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go work out and listen to Huey Lewis.

@CmTns, thanks! I had looked at my profile recently and I couldn't believe it had been a year. I'd like to see more updates from posters because sometimes I wonder how folks are doing after explaining their situation/goals/etc. I guess that's what the Journals are for, but I just don't have time to poke around there.

@Wanderin1, No they're not out of my control. Basically I need to bring in a certain $ in fees (let's call that C) each month (we do all contingency work). I get 20% of every dollar over C that I bring in each month. Now honestly if I come up short a little on a given month, my boss doesn't hold it against me or dock me or whatever. So basically it's better for me to have a slowish month and then a stronger month, and then repeat, but you know the nature of the business is that sometimes cases settle quickly and others drag out. A lot of that is outside my control.

To hit earn a $4K raise, I'd have to bring in $20K extra in fees that month, and frankly that would be a hell of a month. I only have 2 support staff that work for me (pretty low ratio in PI work) and they can only crank out so much work without giving OT. But yes, I think you're right that I need to prioritize bonuses. AND for May I did get a $2000 bonus, payable next Friday, that will pay for our June vacation.

But there is also the matter of my 'side job," which is my growing writing career. I am working on a sequel for my book and trying DESPERATELY to get it done in the next 4-6 months. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but I strongly anticipate that it will earn me at least as much as part 1 did (over $15,000 now to date, and still bringing in $400-$500 per month, and it's passive revenue forever with royalties) so I am pulling myself in two different directions. Bonus are great. Royalties are great. I have so much opportunity to make money in the next 12 months, more than I've ever made before. It's just that I only have so much time, and I refuse to ignore my wife and kids for the rest of the year.

It's still a nice problem to have; I realize that.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 17, 2018, 08:43:39 AM
I just posted my yearly update in the OP! Lots of progress since I've been on this site!
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: mudstache on July 17, 2018, 10:48:02 AM
I wasn't around when this got started, but looks like you're making tons of progress!  Congratulations!

What's your reasoning on maxing out your Roth before maxing out your 401k?  Sorry if you answered that somewhere in all the replies...I just jumped to the end. :)  It seems like maxing your tax-advantaged space would be more advantageous, but I admit that I don't know all the tricks yet.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Tyson on July 17, 2018, 11:36:12 AM
Nice work!  Now the fun really starts - watching the net worth grow at an accelerated rate! 
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 17, 2018, 11:55:25 AM
I wasn't around when this got started, but looks like you're making tons of progress!  Congratulations!

What's your reasoning on maxing out your Roth before maxing out your 401k?  Sorry if you answered that somewhere in all the replies...I just jumped to the end. :)  It seems like maxing your tax-advantaged space would be more advantageous, but I admit that I don't know all the tricks yet.

Next year, we'll likely focus on the 401ks first, especially so we can get our AGI down and under the Roth IRA income cap to make sure we're eligible for our Roth IRAs in the first place!

But until like 3 weeks ago, I had no 401k, and so my IRA was all I had, and so I made sure to max it out. My wife did have a 401k, but she had a psychological thing about having too much stuff taken out of her paycheck, being too cash poor, etc., and so it was baby steps. I understand it; you work hard 40+ hours per week and you want to see some monetary reward on payday.

But she has come a long way, and she realizes that the 401k money is helping to build our future. (It also helps that we have plenty of cash on hand with bonuses and extra income streams)

Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Nick_Miller on July 17, 2018, 11:58:11 AM
Nice work!  Now the fun really starts - watching the net worth grow at an accelerated rate!

I hope you're right!! Right now, it's all us pouring money into investments. I had read a Money magazine article recently that discussed the point when your investments earn more than you contribute to them. I'd love to get to that point, but I don't think the market is going to cooperate for a good while.
Title: Re: Case Study - help me work towards a more MMM budget (brand new user! :) )
Post by: Tyson on July 17, 2018, 12:48:49 PM
Nice work!  Now the fun really starts - watching the net worth grow at an accelerated rate!

I hope you're right!! Right now, it's all us pouring money into investments. I had read a Money magazine article recently that discussed the point when your investments earn more than you contribute to them. I'd love to get to that point, but I don't think the market is going to cooperate for a good while.

That's a cool point, but an even cooler point (for me) was when my net worth became higher than my mortgage.  Then I realized I could pay of the mortgage IN CASH TODAY if I wanted to.  I mean there's obviously constraints re: taxes and penalties, but you get my drift.