It was high cotton in 2014 (very positive year for our cash flow). Net surplus over $165,000! With a savings rate of almost 70% of take home pay, things looked best they’ve ever looked for us. Crazy thing is we still have a long way to go on minimizing wasteful expenses. But we’ve hit a good stride on the income side – me with commercial real estate development and my wife with part time financial work for a public company.
Take home income (incl 401k) for me almost hit $200k after taxes (taxes deferred this year a bunch by real estate activities). Mrs. SFF is still earning, but at one-third speed of full work time. Since 2013, she’s been very happy (most days) at home, and manages to get in a couple of hours of spreadsheeting & conference calls during school/nap times. It added up to over $30k this year. Amazing.
We’ve cut our expenses by tens of thousands of dollars from the high water mark of 2012-2013. At our most spendy, were hitting about $100k+ per year plus charity. Excluding charitable giving, we spent $65k last year. No blue ribbons; in fact probably boos and hisses from other frugality bloggers. We still have plenty to go, but lots of progress over the last 2-3 years. And hopefully we can serve as a real live example for others to read about pulling yourself back from the consumption brink. I’ll write a future article on previous spending. I don’t think we’ll ever get to the $20k’s or $30k’s with our family of 4, but hitting the $40k’s for 2015 would be a great goal….even if just $49,999.
We hope to grow income from investments over the next couple of years before I dip from my full time job. In this chart, the only investment income shown is from two single family rentals because it’s co-mingled with our other income. Vanguard investments have a small cash flow also, but it all stays in that account I ignore it for this analysis. Maybe need to add those in some day? And no commercial real estate holdings produced distributions for me in 2014. Not ideal, but it’s simple for accounting.
For the year, our savings from cash flow:
|Southern Fried Income & Expenses|
|Bubba Jr Take Home Salary||$180,377|
|Wife Take Home Salary||$24,524||Flexible job...10-15 hrs/wk from home|
|Bubba Jr 401k||$17,000|
|Rental House 1||$6,513||Cash Flow only; no principal or value changes|
|Rental House 2||$6,990||Cash Flow only; no principal or value changes|
|Auto||($3,695)||Gas, Insurance, Service|
|Bills & Utilities||($4,546)||Phone, Electric, Gas, Water|
|Student Loan||($472)||Paid off in September 2014!|
|Entertainment||($2,024)||Pool, movies, music, newspaper, blog|
|Credit Cards||$651||Cash Back Baby|
|Financial||($3,261)||Taxes, Life Ins, Fin Advisor, Bank Fees|
|Food/Dining||($13,020)||33% restaurants, 67% Groceries|
|Gifts||($1,276)||Really added up this year|
|Health/Fitness||($3,032)||Mainly Doctor, some golf & gym (10%)|
|Home - Taxes/Ins||($5,028)|
|Home - Interest||($4,875)||Paid off in Feb 2015!|
|Home Other||($2,658)||Housekeeper, furnishings, fix-its|
|Kids||($3,301)||Half childcare, half furnishings for new baby|
|Personal Care||($3,017)||Hair, Makeup, massages, dry cleaners|
|Shopping||($7,956)||Shopping, clothes, Amazon, Target|
|Travel||($5,074)||Skiing, Weekend away, beach week|
|Total Cash Flow Surplus||$165,693||68% of Income|
Forward to 2015!
(Cheating since we are a quarter in already) For 2015, we see the following changes:
- Mortgage Interest eradicated. We have actually already paid the rest of our mortgage off in February. So a bit of cost in Q1, coming to an immediate stop. Hurray! Ultimately $4400 in savings here…about 4000 likely to show up in 2015.
- Financial Fees to reduce by almost $2,400. We broke up with our advisor in favor of the DIY vanguard method. Really liking that decision so far. We are also preparing our taxes on turbo tax this year vs $700 for our work CPA firm. I have learned that K1s aren’t so scary, and input into tax software the same as other tax forms.
- Shopping/Kids should lower this year….call it $2,500 less. We were buying clothes, gear, and furnishings last year to prepare for the arrival of baby #2. This should reduce as it’s more clothes only that are needed. Lots of hand me downs in clothes and toys, and there are plenty of consignment/thrift shops to fill in the gaps. Partially offset by more preschool for our 2 yr old. But that is to keep my wife sane no working, so almost an investment.
- Bills/Utilities should be lower by about $600 due to a better phone deal for my wife.
- Vacations should lower this year because we have a hard time traveling with a newborn and 2 yr old. We also went relatively heavy in 2014. Not much use of miles and took several medium sized family vacations. So maybe $2,000 savings here.
- Housekeeper costs us $85 * 26 weeks = 2,110 annually. We know its lazy, but neither of us like to clean since we’re worn down with how busy life is currently. We would change if skimming by, but with 60-70% savings rate it doesn’t seem worth it. Probably will change once I retire.
- Food/Dining is driven up by both restaurants and organic food (sometimes prepared for us…gasp!). Restaurants cost us about $3,000-$4,000 annually over the cost of groceries. And groceries could be cut easily by $1,500-$3,000 if needed. With restaurants, we both love the activity and atmosphere of eating out. And we typically eat at lower to mid priced restaurants. We have cut our grocery bill since 2012, but there is certainly more room. We will try to maintain costs and maybe cut in the 5-10% range…with an extra mouth this year that seems like enough.
- Personal Care is not getting touched until I learn better negotiation skills. Female haircuts and coloring are still sacred around our household. My haircuts have gotten about as cheap as they’ll get until I shave my head. I did used to get massages regularly – but now just using up accrued ones.
- Entertainment might come down some, but probably not. We changed pools this year to follow our friends, which is a bit ridiculous. It’s a community pool, so the initiation is only several hundred dollars. Then several hundred throughout the year. Plenty less than the high end pool/golf/tennis clubs. But wasteful to pay another initiation fee nonetheless.
- Gifts are a little high but likely to stay there with weddings and babies all around us.
These cuts round to $12,000 in lowered expenses. So with a little diligence in other areas, we can hopefully get under $50,000 in 2015. Nothing amazing, but moving in the right direction. Here’s to $49,999.99.
We’ll track our expenses monthly and monitor progress throughout the year. Any thoughts on other areas we should focus?