Monthly Financial Snapshot: January 2018

January was a really strange month. I deliberately overpaid over $6k in federal income taxes on a credit card in order to trigger a 25k mile spending bonus and set myself up for another 25k mile bonus in another month or two. Since it's just about tax season, I'll be getting almost all of that back as a refund in a month or two, minus the 1.87% credit card fee. Totally worth it for the extra travel I'll get from it.

Speaking of travel, I booked my annual trip to Japan this month using miles, hotel free night certificates, and my massive gift card balance that I bought at discount. Booked a round trip to Japan on JAL for 60k BA miles + $178.86 in taxes. In addition, I got a domestic round trip ticket to Kyushu from Tokyo for 9k BA miles + $5.14 in taxes. My Hyatt and IHG cards each got me a "free" night (quotations because the cost is really the annual fee) at hotels worth $530 (total for both nights) at the time of booking, but the annual fees only cost $124 in total so that's a savings of $406 over the cash price! Finally, the remaining hotel nights cost about $1078, but because I paid with discounted gift cards and taking into account the 10 night discount, it only cost me about $781 out of pocket ($297 savings). So in total, I got flights and lodging for the entire 13 night trip worth about $3,331 if paid at full cash price for about $1089 + 69k BA miles. Ignoring the value of the miles, that's a savings of over $2,000 cash that I didn't have to pay out! Just goes to show how being clever with miles and discounts can supercharge one's travel abilities.

I'll close with an observation on the incredible stock market returns to start off the year. I'm under no illusions that the market will continue to perform this well going forward, but I also don't believe that anyone can predict how the market will behave in the short term with anything approaching precision, so it's best to stay the course. And try not to look at your balances.

Category Jan-18 Comments
Rent $768.75 $750 for rent + $18.75 Plastiq fees
Internet $55.92 Internet is kind of expensive.
Cell Phone $0.00 Already paid for 1 year of service through MintSIM. = $15.51 / month!
Natural Gas $24.18 Slightly above average. We had a cold snap this month where I live, so heating might have gone up a bit.
Electricity $0.00 No bill paid this month due to billing calendar quirk.
Water $32.96 Below average. I'm guessing in part due to my traveling in late December.
Groceries $249.31 Above average. Bought a lot more meat last month than I usually do, and the bill reflects that.
Car Insurance $0.00 I pay every 6 months in April and October. Payment went up slightly compared to last time.
Gasoline $69.92 Above average. Did some extra driving for social events, plus gas prices went up a bit over the course of the month.
Car Expenses $0.00 Nothing this month.
Health $48.44 Heavily subsidized, high-deductible health plans through my work. Includes health and dental. Also monthly gym membership.
Other $0.00 Nothing this month.
Necessary $1,249.48 About average for the month.
Restaurants $10.00 Loaded my Starbucks account once.
Entertainment $0.00 Nothing this month.
Shopping $63.28
Got a new backpack because the current one that I've used almost daily for 9 years is on its last threads. New one is slightly larger,
so hopefully will prove useful when travelling.
Travel/Parking $797.41
Flight taxes for my annual Japan trip, paid for a hotel night, service fee on paying tax with credit card, and my
 ticket to CampFI Midwest this summer.
Gifts/Donations $20.00 Donation to my favorite Youtube channel and food drive expenses.
Software/Games $10.00 Awardwallet annual fee. Great bargain for the service it provides.
Business $10.08 Inventory and expenses.
Other $9.32 Another small expese for my personal project.
Discretionary $920.09 Above average for the month, mostly due to travel.
Total Expenses $2,169.57 Above average for the month, but not too terrible.
Gross Income $7,732.70 2 paychecks + business income + ESPP returns
401(k) Match $203.08 My company matches 3% of gross salary
Taxes $6,655.93 Deliberately overpaid by a large amount in order to trigger credit card bonus. Will get almost all of this back in a few weeks.
Net Income $1,279.85 Way below average, due to the giant tax payment.
Savings -$889.72 My first ever negative savings month! But it's really just a short-term loan to the government, so expect a massive increase coming soon.
Savings Rate -69.5%% Again, massive tax payment creating wonky results.
Net Worth $203,071.10
The absolutely insane January market pushed my NW up by nearly $10k, despite the fact that I had negative cashflow this month.
If only every month were like this one.
Projected time to FI (assuming 6% growth and 4% withdrawal rate): 4 years, 11 months.

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