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May Financial Update: Feeling the Pinch of Home Ownership

Monthly Update Pin May

This past month has been wonderful emotionally and a bit stressful financially.

When I walk out my door in the morning, I am assaulted by a cacophony of birds and the smell of a pine forest. It feels like I am on a camping trip and just got out of my tent in the morning. I think to myself, “time to build a camp fire.” I love our new house. I love our land. I love our community. I am very, very happy.

I have a different feeling when I sit down to puzzle through our family ledger. There have been a few curve balls thrown at us since buying our house, and I have been trying to swat them down as best as I can. But sometimes it can be a nail-biter as to whether a check will clear in time.

Much of this stress boils down to me not withdrawing as much from our IRA’s as we needed to close on the house, but relying instead on our cash flow to bring enough cash to closing. That turned out to be a problem because we spent nearly $5,500 on lead remediation before moving in, and $1,250 just to make the move (most of it was to pay the movers).

With $6,700 in additional expenses added to our ledger without being ballasted by income, we carried a $2,000 balance on our credit card. A balance I had every intention of being able to pay this month. Until I received our bill for our disability premiums — a completely expected bill that I somehow forgot about. UGH.

On top of the two big additional expenses, I have discovered that it is simply more expensive to live in our new town than our old one. I first noticed it as I picked up a green apple at the grocery store and saw that it was priced $0.29 a pound more than the very same grocery store chain in our old town. I didn’t think that was too big of a deal until I noticed price differences throughout the store and my order totaled over $175. I haven’t had a week’s worth of groceries cost that much in a very long time.

The next increased expense is daycare. For Baby Stapler, it’s $400 a month more — no matter where we send him. That’s a lot of dough.

With those increased expenses in mind, I opened an email from GEICO with dread. We use GEICO for our auto insurance, and it asked for our new address and whether our car usage would change. In fact, Mr. Stapler’s commute goes from 2 miles in the car to 24 miles in the car. Womp womp.

Despite the increased driving, GEICO lowered our premium! We are now paying $140 less per year on our auto insurance.

Then we received a refund of our renter’s insurance, since we don’t need it anymore. Every little bit — even $119 here and $140 there — counts!

May Net Worth Update:


Those of you who are new readers may wonder why I post my net worth each month, particularly when it is such a dreary picture. No one wants to have a negative net worth. Why advertise it?

It may be a depressing thought to quantify our financial health in the negative five digits, but when you compare that to our financial health in late 2013 — the first time I posted our net worth — it shows how much progress we have made. At that point, we were clocking in at -$107,000.

May 2015
May 2015

We have more than doubled our net worth in a year and a half. Sure, it’s still negative — but now it’s -$44,000.

Cash: – $1,638.  We are feeling the pinch!

Credit Cards: + $3,305. Again, feeling the squeeze. So much for spending that bonus on something fun 🙁 Instead, we’ve spent it on movers, lead remediation, rugs, and groceries.

Loans: -$3,327. Finally, some good news! 😉 I am used to seeing this amount go down by smaller increments, but now that we have a hefty mortgage, there is unfortunately more to pay off. I have been thinking about the comments I got on that article, and am reconsidering my plan to target the lowest balance loan, but I hope to hash that all out in a separate post. When I thought about it, I realized that the lowest loan is also on a 10-year repayment plan, whereas the federal loans are on 30-year repayment plans. So, even if I stick to paying the minimum payments on the small loans, they will be gone in a few years anyway. Well, I have some time to think about it — we won’t have any disposable income until the fall. 

Investments: + $352. Every little bit counts!  

Net Worth: – $1,265.  

April Goals:

    • Survive: SUCCESS!  
    • April Resolution: Evaluate efficacy of attempts to drum up business: SUCCESS! Although, still a work in progress (see my May goals!)
    • Request Flex and HSA Reimbursements: FAIL! Add it to the list of May goals, because we had even more medical expenses. I did figure out how to use the HSA, but I don’t have the account number and I seem to have lost the debit card during the move. Not my finest moment, clearly.

May Goals:

    • Survive: The ups and downs of having an infant are taking their toll. I have permanent bags under my eyes. I’m looking forward to a full night’s sleep. Hopefully this will be the month. 
    • Draft a Business Plan: I have a good idea of my professional goals and ways to get there, but I should put it on paper because it will force me to answer the tough questions and will point out the areas that I haven’t thought about yet. 
    • Request Flex and HSA Reimbursements: This will eliminate about $500 worth of outstanding medical expenses and give us about $500 back in our pockets. The money is coming out of Mr. Stapler’s paycheck, why not use it? 
    • Personal Finances Hard Look: This is my May goal, listed in my 2015 goals. I did re-do our budget before we moved (when we determined how much house we could buy), and re-evaluated a few expenses related to our home — cable, internet, insurance, and daycare. Because many of these categories have gone up, I need to figure out ways to bring them down. To that end, I scheduled a home energy audit, and they promise to install programmable thermostats in both heating zones, replace all incandescent bulbs with CFLs, and make further energy efficiency recommendations. I also hope to buy shades that will block out solar heat and insulate the windows from heat loss in the winter. I would like to do some comparison shopping at the local grocery stores so I can lower our grocery budget.

What’s on your list for mid-year financial goals? How are you doing on your annual goals? Almost half of the year is gone! 

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  1. Hey there, nice work staying positive and focused on your net worth accountability. You mention at the start of your post, “Why advertise your net worth if its negative?” as you know, and as anyone else that tracks there own net worth, it is one of the most important aspects of personal finance. This isn’t a competition between personal finance bloggers, nor is it a way to brag about how much you have been able to save. It is a great tool for the individual blogger to keep on top of their own personal finances at the same time giving readers some inspiration, motivation and tips on how to change their situation for the better.

    You guys are doing good and are on track, we all have months where net worth goes down, the ones that go up make it so much sweeter. With the forced savings from your mortgage and the desire to get out of the other debts you will be in the black very soon. I wish you the best of luck on your journey, hopefully those unaccounted for expenses stop now that you are settled into the new homestead.

    1. Thanks! You’re absolutely right — tracking our net worth has been so instrumental in keeping us on track when it would be so easy to fall off the wagon, so to speak, and give up!

  2. Ugh. There’s so much about “i bought a home and it changed my financial picture” that doesn’t come clear until the first time you file your tax return, and take that mortgage deduction off, and start itemizing for other things (if you’ve never itemized before). Really, it’s like crossing through a muddy river for a while, and the other bank is JUST over there. It’s muddy now, and your picture will be much clearer in, um about 10 months or so, I’m guessing.

    That said, you’re biggest asset are your EYES! You watch EVERYTHING, and you’re so good at seeing the forest through the trees (no pun intended on your new home) and being able to fully understand your full picture, and how your choices influence progress. You’re really an inspiration for the rest of us!

    You don’t improve your net worth by $67k (an average of almost $2500 each month) through anything short of determination, smart decision making, and honesty.

    Congrats on your continued progress!

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