Monthly Money Check: Penny Got Pinched in January 2017

Dear Rich,

Oh, gosh, what a month in spending for our family!

Here I am, supposedly an example of frugal spending, and we have this HUGE list of expenses this month. We had a couple of unexpected expenses come up (toilet needed to be replaced, something needed to be fixed on our van), along with our bi-annual payment of school tuition for the kids. So, it doesn’t accurately reflect our spending habits. It should be a lot better next month.

If you and I really wanted to compare and contrast our differences in spending, we should have started this blog 10 years ago, back when I only had 2 kids and my husband was making only $18,750 a year as a Catholic school teacher. I was super cheap back then. Or 6 years ago, when we sold almost all of our possessions, moved to Colorado and dug a couch out of the dumpster. Those were the days.

At $43,000 a year (the most we’ve ever made), I actually think we’re doing well.

So, here is what we spent money on this month! Read on for the exciting details!

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Penny Got Pinched in January 2017”

Monthly Money Check: How Rich Spent His Greenbacks in January 2017

Hey Pen! 

After reading my 2016 review, you said you wanted more detail on how a “rich person” spends money (am I really “rich”? — interesting question). Well, I’m going to give you tons of money porn in a minute.

But first, I want to check in on my net worth goal, which has less to do with cash flow (i.e. monthly income minus expenses) and more to do with the big picture of smart money management. Here’s what I mean by that.

To me, the primary goal of money management is to grow net worth. (Note, I did not say this is the primary goal of life!) Net worth is assets minus liabilities, what you own minus what you owe, and a proper measure of wealth. Income and expenses are important, but mostly in the context of net worth.

Net worth is like a garden. Income streams are sun and water, and investments are plants. You need income to energize the plants at first, but as they mature they can keep growing on their own. If they’re very healthy, they’ll multiply and you’ll have fruit for years, maybe even fruit for your grandkids — if you teach them how to tend the garden. 

Spending money is like eating the fruit — it’s not bad, eating good fruit is healthy. Just don’t eat too much. In a big garden overeating can make you fat and sick. In a small garden, eating your only plant means you need to start over every season so you don’t starve. Stressful. Eating should be a pleasure, not a curse. Debt is a weed that can overtake the whole garden if we’re not careful.

My goal is to have a million dollar garden at age 45. Here are my plants and how they grew in January compared to December:

My plants are 401k accounts, IRAs, a business investment (LLC) with various holdings, and an investment in Prosper (P2P lending) that I’m trimming. I have a few debt weeds, but they aren’t growing (0% interest) and they’ll be completely gone by the fall. 

Ok then, on to a detailed look at my monthly income and expenses. What follows is the money porn you’ve been waiting to see!

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: How Rich Spent His Greenbacks in January 2017”

Penny Reviews Her 2016 Spending in Excruciating Detail

Dearest Richard,

Thanks for sharing where your money went in 2016! I love looking at that stuff. I’ll share mine in a minute here.

A couple of things:

1) I didn’t see a category for charity. Please explain.

2) Like you, I don’t budget either. Like I said, I’m trying to teach myself how to spend more money. I’m in no danger of overspending. I always know where my money goes and for what reason it is being spent.

3) You are not materialistic, but (and this is just an observation), it seems that you like to amass experiences (big, expensive experiences) the way other people like to amass material possessions. Still seems like a form of materialism, even though you are not actually collecting material things.

4) I liked your charts, but I was kind of hoping for more. Like, how does your food money breakdown between what you spent at restaurants compared to the grocery store. What exactly does your category of “House” entail (like, toilet paper and contact solution and stuff like that)?

I think you told me once: It would take me 2-3 full days to list out all our expenses and categorize them in detail. Not gonna do it! But I’d love to see these details for a rich person. This is the kind of money porn that people love to look at! Isn’t that what financial voyeurism blogs are all about?!

Anywho, so, without further ado, here is where the Penny family’s money went in 2016, in all of its gloriously excruciating detail…

Continue reading “Penny Reviews Her 2016 Spending in Excruciating Detail”

Rich’s Travel Journal: 3 Key Ingredients For A Great Vacation

Dear Penny,

You might be wondering what a Rich family vacation looks like, especially after I revealed that we spent $36,000 on travel in 2016. Well, thanks for asking! I’ll be posting regularly about my travels, but first I need to describe our recipe for cooking up a great vacation.

Every Rich family vacation has to have 3 key ingredients: Exciting Destination, Comfortable Lodging, and Memorable Activities

1) Exciting Destination: It starts here. Are Mrs. Rich and I genuinely excited about the location? I’m always surprised when people tell me about their planned vacation with precognitive dread. And often, they’ve done the same mediocre trip multiple times. Typical conversation:

Me: “So Jimbo, are you excited to go back to Florida this year?“

Jimbo: “Yeah, well, we have the timeshare. It’s ok. Wouldn’t mind trying something new, but been going there since ‘05. Last year there was a funny raccoon … ”

Me: “Zzzzzzzzzzz.”

Jimbo: “Zzzzzzzzzzz.”

Why do people do this? They already know the trip is boring! And when we’re excited, the kids get excited by osmosis.

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway, Ireland

2) Quality Lodging: Is there a conveniently located hotel that will provide enough space and comfort so that we all don’t drive each other completely bonkers? HINT: THIS MEANS A SEPARATE ROOM FOR THE KIDS. (In case you missed that, I bolded, italicized, and underlined it for emphasis. And made it blue.) What can we do with the kiddos when they wake up at 5am or get bored at 7pm? And how’s the food, and the gym/spa?

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Rich Reviews Where His Money Went in 2016 — His Future Self Will Be Proud

Dear Penny Pincher,

Unlike you, I have no problem spending! Especially when that spending aligns with my philosophy of money and the meaning of life. I set aside savings first, but as long as I’m on track with savings goals, I see little value in hoarding money for my future self.

In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert argues that people are really bad at predicting what their future selves will want. Moreover, studies often show that older people wish they had traveled more when they were younger rather than saving for a hypothetical trip in retirement. Mrs. Rich and I have taken these ideas to heart, especially since we’re not trying to retire super early like Mr. Facial Hair and the FIRE crowd. (Note: I love the FIRE crowd and their blogs, it’s just not my destiny.)

I think the future Mr. and Mrs. Rich will be proud of how we spent money in 2016. Before I reveal the numbers on expenses, let’s talk income. Our gross income was $250,000 (not including illiquid investment earnings). We worked hard and had our best year so far. I’m not sure why, but I think income often gets lost in personal finance articles. It’s hard to manage money if you don’t have any, and education + career choices matter when it comes to income.

Here’s a chart showing our expenses by category, such as Investments, Travel, Food, Taxes, etc. Can you guess what the percentages are referring to?

Rich’s 2016 Expenses By Percentage

Continue reading “Rich Reviews Where His Money Went in 2016 — His Future Self Will Be Proud”

Book Review: The Cozy Life — Penny Is A Hygge Expert

This post has affiliate links to products we endorse. Full disclaimer.

Dear Rich,

I love that The Cozy Life has added a little bit of magic to your life! I have to say, when I was reading it, I was mostly patting myself on the back for already doing the majority of the things mentioned. I think it is a way of life that comes naturally to me. You could say I’m a hygge expert. It did inspire me to add glogg (mulled wine) to our Christmas celebration though. It’s those little comforts and special things in life that can add up to something transforming.

I think that hygge can come at any price point. It sounds like your expensive Greece vacation had a lot of it, but, then again, a less expensive excursion could have done the same thing. Money is not really the point.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Cozy Life — Penny Is A Hygge Expert”

Book Review: The Cozy Life — Why Rich Puts Cinnamon in His Coffee

This post has affiliate links to products we endorse. Full disclaimer.

Dear Penny,

I drink a lot of coffee. When I say a lot, I mean 2.5 cups minimum before 8am. That’s just a warm up for the day. Blame it on kids, work, habit, or addiction. I’m ok with it, because I love every sip. And I love my Le Creuset french press in Marseille blue.

So, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the book The Cozy Life has instantly and dramatically improved my existence. You see, I now add a pinch of cinnamon to my morning cup o’ joe. YES, CINNAMON!

The fragrance of cinnamon, especially in winter, epitomizes this Danish idea of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) for me, evoking comfort, warmth, and and a touch of nostalgia. Think Christmas morning in comfy pajamas and pancakes on the stove. Think cookies and wine in front of the fireplace. Am I exaggerating? No. Cinnamon in my coffee does all this.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Cozy Life — Why Rich Puts Cinnamon in His Coffee”

How Penny Spends So Little: She Doesn’t Value Much of Anything (Much Less Cheese)

Dear Rich,


Well, what can I say about your Philosophy of Money and the Meaning of Life? You’ve made some great points that I can’t really argue with. I admire what you want to do with your money. It is aligned with values I hold dear as well.

It seems that when many people earn money, they acquire a lot more material things to go with it. Rich people tend to move into big houses, even though they have a very small number of people in their family. Or they’ll have more than one house. I’ve never understood that. Seems like such a waste to me. I’m glad that’s not the case with you.

I still don’t fully understand how one goes about spending millions of dollars (I’ve seen Brewster’s Millions, it doesn’t seem like an easy task) when the MOST valuable things in life can be acquired for a lot less. But, I digress. You’ve made some good points.

I’ve been actually working, in my own personal life, on learning how to spend MORE money. I’m no good at spending money. I am naturally inclined to not spend, to make due, and I get a tremendous high out of getting things for free. For example, here’s a ridiculous story about wanting something just because it was free.

Continue reading “How Penny Spends So Little: She Doesn’t Value Much of Anything (Much Less Cheese)”

Rich’s Philosophy of Money and the Meaning of Life (and the Value of Cheese)

Dear PenPen,

You wrote: As for you, congrats on your plan to amass your Scrooge McDuck-like fortune. A couple of questions: What do you plan to DO with all that money anyway? 

Actually, I never expected to amass anything, much less a pool of gold coins to swim in with ducks. I’m from a small farming town (you know, you were there), and I have a BA in Theology and an MA in Religion. Not exactly a fast track to investment banking. After grad school, I moved to Paris for 6 months (rather aimlessly) to learn French, and I lived on baguettes and peanuts. Literally.

Earn your way to happiness … by spending those earnings wisely …

That’s when opportunity knocked. I landed my first “career” job because of the French skill and I’ve hustled to move up in my company ever since. And, like a lot of people who have advanced degrees and decent careers, my wife also has an advanced degree and a decent career. Double high income.

So, whether I expected it or not, here I am with plenty of money. Is it important to me? Yes, but mostly in terms of what I can do with it. Which leads to your other questions: What will I do with all this, and what’s the point? For the answer, I need to get a bit philosophical. As any good Theology major would.

The Meaning of Life and Death … and Happiness

Whoa, this is getting heavy! Bear with me. Everyone faces these questions: “What should I do with my life? What is the meaning of life, or how can we find meaning in life?”  Continue reading “Rich’s Philosophy of Money and the Meaning of Life (and the Value of Cheese)”

Penny Tells Rich What She Thinks of His 3 Year Plan to Pay Off $173,000 in Student Loans

Dear Rich,

Okay, here’s what I think of your 3 Year Plan for us to pay back our student loans:

Let’s start with your first scenario…

Slow and Steady + Increase Your Income. Well, duh. If we wanted to do this, we would be doing it already. Ultimately, we value me staying at home with the kids more than we value having money and paying down student loans. But, as my husband’s chiropractic business continues to grow every year, we will hopefully be able to put more money toward the student loans every year. So, yes, this plan makes sense, and we will implement it when we can.

Here’s a graph on how the net income of my husband’s chiropractic practice has grown since it opened:

​So, ideally (and presumably), it will continue to grow and we will be able to throw money at that great wall of student loans that much more.

Now, onto your second scenario…

Go For Broke! Literally. You’ve already acknowledge that this is a risky and bad idea, so let’s just move on.

Your third, and favorite, scenario…

Continue reading “Penny Tells Rich What She Thinks of His 3 Year Plan to Pay Off $173,000 in Student Loans”