Positive Net Worth! {2016 First Quarter Update}

A lot has happened since my last net worth check-in.

Un-Anticipated Expenses:

  • A $1,300 snowblower that costs more than one of our cars.
  • $70 of food spoiled after losing power for 36 hours.
  • $700 generator to prevent pipes from freezing, but was returned when the power came on 10 minutes after we got it home.
  • $625 for six months of pre-paid piano lessons for Little Stapler.
  • $135 keyboard for Little Stapler to practice piano. (We will buy a piano if he sticks with his lessons and practicing)

That’s $2,130 in extra-ordinary expenses. Although somewhat unanticipated, we absorbed it into our monthly budget pretty smoothly.

Now for the good [financial] news …

Added to the balance sheet:

  • I rolled Mr. Stapler’s old 403(b) into his Vanguard Rollover IRA. Although the IRA funds were already invested in the highly-rated Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, they were “Investor Shares” (VTSMX), with a rock bottom 0.16% expense ratio. The “Admiral Shares” (VTSAX) of this fund have even lower expenses — a 0.05% expense ratio — but require a $1,000 minimum investment before you can buy Admiral Shares. Don’t get me wrong: Both funds are 4-star Morningstar(R) funds. But if I can shave even 0.11% of expenses off of our investments, I’m going to do it! And I did.
  • I found and fixed a $500 investment error. It was user error, but it’s fixed now. Onward and upward! And downward. Then upward. Then downward. You get the idea.
  • $16,782 in Mr. Stapler’s current 401(k) was added to the tally in Mint.com.*
  • $60 by selling baby gear on my local Facebook yard sale page.
  • $60 by selling maternity clothes on ebay.
  • $3,500 energy rebate from replacing our boiler.
  • $9,000 in tax refunds. The mortgage interest deduction is no fucking joke. (pardon my shock).
  • A 5-figure bonus from Mr. Stapler’s job. That bonus is no fucking joke!*

That’s A LOTTA cash. Available now. Just sitting in our accounts, waiting …

Waiting for us to put our Bonus Plan into action. We may have already been furniture shopping a few times before The Bonus hit our checking account, but we didn’t spend a dime until it was sitting comfortably in our bank account. Few things suck more than using your hard-earned money to pay off a credit card debt that bought stuff you can’t even remember buying.

Look at this beautiful snapshot:We have overcome the burden of $200,000 in student loans to finally reach a positive net worth! And we didn't do it by eating ramen every night ...
That’s right … you’re looking at a positive number! We are at positive net worth!


Whew! That feels good.

Mr. Stapler and I decided that, whatever we spent from our well-timed windfalls (or hard-earned money — however you want to look at it), we absolutely had to retain our positive net worth. Meaning, we either keep a certain amount in cash or retirement, buy something that adds to our net worth (beanie babies don’t count), or we use it to pay down debt.

First Quarter Net Worth Update:

Cash: +$30,200.  Ye-Haw! 

Credit Cards: -$2626.  Waiting for The Bonus to roll in had a nice effect on our spending. I didn’t buy any random household goods; instead, I put it on a list. After The Bonus rolled in, Mr. Stapler and I prioritized the items on the list and it was only then that I started buying: Starting with the highest priority first. So far, I bought a $45 lamp for Little Stapler’s room and a (gulp!) $1,144 rug for our living room.  

Loans: -$4,203.  Just from making regular payments.

Investments: +$19,829.  This number jumped up for three reasons: I added Mr. Stapler’s current 401(k) to the Mint.com tally, his automatic payroll deduction for the 401(k) took 3% out of The Bonus, and his employer matched that retirement contribution. Boo-yah!  

Net Worth: + $51,606.03. 


Q1 Goals:

      • Meet the Minimum Spend on the New Credit Card: SUCCESS! It was really nice to be restricted to just one card and pay $27 and $130 to the cards we typically use. Now we just need to plan our next trip, and how to spend the points!
      • Keep a Frugal Lifestyle: SUCCESS! I had a great time shopping for items for our home but not making any purchases. I composed a spreadsheet of the things we need / want for the house, complete with the items or at least the price range of each item. 
      • Establish a Plan for The Bonus: SUCCESS! We know what we’re doing, and it’s suuuuper boring. womp womp. Should I spill the beans here or keep you guessing? I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath. I also feel a need to explain ourselves. What’s up with that? Well, I guess a post will be forthcoming, as I do feel like an explanation might be necessary. 

Q2 Goals:

      • Buy a Minivan: Oops! I just spilled the beans. Well, there you go. The Bonus won’t pay off a student loan. It won’t get rid of our PMI. It’s going to allow us to pay cash for a new-to-us minivan. Or a Prius station wagon. (we’re still deciding) It’s time for our ’99 Corolla to go to a home that doesn’t require 150 miles of driving one day each week, doesn’t have two carseats to keep tightly installed by lap belts, and that still uses cassette tapes. We have student loans that charge less interest than the current interest rates for used cars, so this is somewhat of a no-brainer.  
      • Maintain a positive net worth: Buying a new-to-us car will add a depreciating asset to our net worth, so we will have to be sure to add to our net worth as that asset’s value goes down. We are also spending some of The Bonus on home improvements and practical home decor, but not so much as to put us back in the red. (at least, that’s the plan)
      • Change our Tax Withholding: No more $9,000 refunds! It’s awesome, but it’s silly to have $700 a month tied up, interest-free, until next year.
      • Close a random bank account: In keeping with our goal of decluttering our finances, I’ll close one of those random bank accounts that are still open under our names but have no money in them.

2016 is off to a great start so far!

* I just want to drop a quick note about The Bonus and Mr. Stapler’s retirement funds. A percentage of his earnings are automatically deposited into his retirement account. That didn’t change with The Bonus. The same percentage was deposited into his 401(k). The downside is that we have less control over that money (it has to stay invested for decades), but the major upside is that his employer matched that amount!

6 thoughts on “Positive Net Worth! {2016 First Quarter Update}

  1. You’re making strong progress on your big goals, with short-term decisions (like whether or not to buy a generator) mid-term decisions (like where are we spending our auto dollars, and are we doing that in a smart way) and long-term (letting go of cash in pocket in order to leverage free-money-from-employer-in-retirement-account).

    They’re not all going to be banner decisions, but you’re treading well and heading forward! Congrats and thank you for continuing to share your story with your readers! We all learn something that helps us look at our own lives when you do.

    • Thank you! That’s a good perspective to keep in mind — it’s not just the big decisions, or just the little decisions, that make a difference. Although the big decisions have a big impact, making good decisions along the way — big or small — have a net positive impact.

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