This is where we didn’t quite accomplish our goal: we haven’t been too prescriptive about saving more for the kids. We kept the 529s the same at $100 per month and did open separate investment accounts, but only put a little money in there. Once we’re out of consumer debt and the HELOC, this will be a focus.
Wins are fun, so I’ll start there. In 2018, all three of our properties have increased in value! According to both RedFin and Zillow, they’re up. That’s a satisfying – and easy – lift in net worth on Personal Capital. But there are some big variations in values between those two and I’m going to look into why. Expect a post on that.
So, the hole. I feel like it’s been slow progress on debt reduction, but looking at the past 18 months since we’ve started down this path, we’ve reduced our debt by $42,901. That comes to $2,383 per month. That’s a lot of money! This includes our consumer debt, home equity line of credit and mortgages. All of our optimizing has really paid off – it truly is the aggregation of marginal gains.
Keeping up the momentum in 2019:
We’ve just consolidated our final two credit cards into one 0%, $0 transfer fee card – it’s under $15k, so we’ll knock that out quickly.
Then ramp up the HELOC payments and transfer some of the balance to a 0% APR to ease the interest being charged (>$200/month – UGH).
The car payments are 1-2%, so we’ll let those loans run their course. These monthly payments will avalanche to …
Increase payments on the lowest of the three mortgages; I will re-map the payment schedule once we’re at this point.
All too often though, we (probably me) fall off the FI wagon and succumb to big spends. Some we plan on, others are not planned. Planned on:
2018 Income Taxes: With the changes in tax laws, we think we’ll be paying around $3k. This wasn’t planned on, but now we know, so I’m calling it planned. This was due to the new property tax deduction cap of $10k.
Summer Camps: we enrolled before November to take advantage of the early bird discount (saves $30 per week; with 2 kids for 8 weeks, that’s a savings of $480)
Finish exterior painting: about $800 remains
Little League: travel team + regular season = >$1000. The payments are spread out, but still, it’s a lot of money for a kids sport and that doesn’t include equipment!
Monthly expenses for after-school childcare and music lessons will remain the same through June.
I wonder what large unplanned spends we had in the past 18 months? I’m sure there are many – look for that post in the near future!
I thought we were in cruise control, fully optimized with our recurring, monthly bills. Until I got an email from our energy supplier.
We’re in Philly with PECO as our energy utility/distributor. About a year ago, just pre-FI for us, I made the switch to a renewable energy supplier, sourcing all wind-powered energy. I can’t remember the intro rate, but it was a good rate – cheaper than the traditional energy providers, and I strongly believe in supporting renewable energy. Plus, they had an incentive of an annual rebate of 3% of your annual charges back in an account credit. If I did my math right, that’s about a $60 credit we’ll get. This rebate email is what prompted my energy bill digging. The email didn’t state the amount of credit was I getting, just that it was there to claim. There was no amount or timeframe. This lack of info was annoying. So, I dug in:
Our bill has been steadily rising. They don’t provide the KWH rate for each billing period (ugh), but I see we’re paying a bit more and not always when we’re using more energy.
I’m pretty sure that whatever intro rate I had has since gone up; I’m going to take my 3% credit and make a switch to a lower cost supplier that is also renewable. You can do this in PA!
Our energy use is rising.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has a program called PA Power Switch which allows electric utility customers to choose from a wide selection of energy providers. They vary by proximity, variable versus fixed price, term length, contract fees, and percent that’s renewable energy. This sounds confusing, but it’s not. It’s a very user-friendly search tool and even I understand it.
Here’s where I’ve landed:
Our Current with a Renewable Supplier: 0.1429 per kWh
Cheapest Traditional Energy Option: 0.0585 per kWh
Cheapest Renewable Energy Option: 0.0725 per kWh with 24 month term
Because of my love for this planet, I’m going to support the renewable energy option that offers a kWh rate of 50% lower than my current. (I don’t mind the 24-month term.)
And the PECO site also offers great energy usage analysis and some easy energy savings tips. We’re are doing the following immediately:
Cold water laundry – my boys stink, I feel hot water is necessary, but I’ll switch to cold and see
Turn off power strips – why do we leave WiFi and the other office components on all day when we’re not home?!
Adjust TV brightness – apparently the factory default is a “showroom” setting. We have it on 0-2 hours per day, so not sure this will have much of an impact.
Tell everyone to turn off the lights when they leave the room!
So, we’re lowering our usage and lowering our rate. It will be very interesting to see how much we actually save per bill. Full transparency: Our last bill was $175 with an average daily use of 25.8 kWh. I will update in a month!
Blogging in a sweater and slippers … not quite as chilly as Our Next Life’s 55 degrees, so it’s definitely not our “selectively hardcore.”
We keep our house around 62-64, which isn’t warm! We’re in the Philly ‘burbs and it’s been a very cold winter, so our oil bill was a ridiculous $417 this past month. We could add another layer and lower it, but there’s the beer. We had to move the fermentation from the basement to living room because it can’t go below 62. So, there we go. My very good excuse.
I’m not going to entertain an energy assessment … I know this old house is not well insulated. I think we’ll have to chip away at a few cost-saving measure:
Convert to gas? No. That’s a minimum of $8,000 just to bring the line to our house; appliances not included.
Add a zone? No. An HVAC contractor advised against this because it’s cost prohibitive.
Storm windows closed? Yes. And caulked around frames. Although I’m not sure they make much of a difference in this drafty house.
Thermostat programmed? Yes. Steady at 62.
Furnace maintenance and filter change? Yes, annually.
Change providers? Our provider’s rates have increased to$3.09 … I have to shop around!
Replace furnace? Yea, yea. It’s probably 30 years old and really inefficient. That would be about $5,000. Our A/C is also old; I wonder if there would be an efficiencies in having them replaced at the same time.
Improve insulation? Yes, I’m sure this can and should be done. Add it to the list.
Convert fireplace to wood stove? Probably not. I like them, but I can’t see DH making the switch.
So, immediately, I think we should shop around. Long-term, we have to spend a lot to save a lot? There has to be other ways … I would love, love, love to change from oil. Perhaps I’ll run a breakeven for gas conversion.
Either way, the beer stays at 62.