November 2018: no-spend month and giving my retirement funds all my money

Apparently it’s December already; is anyone else feeling like fall didn’t actually happen and it’s nowhere near time for winter yet? No, just me? Okay, then. At least the end of November comes with everyone putting up their Christmas lights!

Local adventures

Believe it or not, I only went hiking one weekend in November (this is actually not a surprise because cold weather is the worst). Due to the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had this year, the trail I’d chosen for hiking was flooded out, so we had to improvise. No big deal, at least it was a sunny day, if a bit chilly!

And I got to see the last little bit of fall since I missed most of it by being out of town

I did take advantage of a lovely warm weekend day to walk around DC. Sometimes I forget that I live here and see things every day that lots of people come here to see.

A tale of two pets

What I lacked in hiking in November, I made up for with pet hair. Lots of pet hair, all over my clothes.

Specifically, I went home for Thanksgiving so I saw my parents’ dog, but I also got to meet my kitty niece for the first time since my younger sibling got her. This has nothing to do with personal finance or my spending or lack thereof. I just wanted an excuse to post a bunch of photos.

Kitty niece loves fuzzy blankets. Me too, cat, me too


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“What if you just dropped that whole turkey for me?” #thoughtsofdog Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

A post shared by Erin | Reaching for FI (@reachingforfi) on

He did not get the whole turkey. But he did get some turkey skin and obsessively licked up a few drops of grease that spilled on the driveway. At least that was a welcome departure from the same-old, same-old of his regular toys.

He’s deeply unenthused about this option when compared to turkey, I tell you

Okay, moving on from cute animal pics.

I upped my retirement contributions. Again

Last month I started doing some math with my income and tax brackets. It’s still a bit unclear how much I’ll take home the rest of this year from my part-time job, but I decided since I was on the line between brackets that I wanted to play a game to keep myself in the lower bracket.

I know, it’s only the next dollar that gets taxed at the higher rate so I’d owe approximately $2 extra in taxes if I do end up having some fantastic shifts at work and bringing in enough extra money to bump me over the line. But still.

So I decided at the end of October to up my retirement contribution from 25% to 30%. I’m adding an additional $44-ish to my retirement per paycheck, but I’m only down about $36 per paycheck (yes, I get paid weekly, which is why my paychecks are so relatively small). Hooray for tax-advantaged savings!

However, it’s been…a struggle. I’m finding myself feeling broke after sending payments over to one or another credit card every week after I get paid. I could pause my aggressive savings app withdrawals to keep some more cash in my checking account, but don’t see the point in that.

This for sure isn’t going to continue after the end of this year since my cash flow already was a bit lower than I’d like, and now I’m bringing in even less. But it’s an experiment I felt was worth doing for the last two months of this year. When I lower my contributions back down to a more comfortable level, I’ll make sure to stop them somewhere in between 25% and 30%;  I’m now used to slightly less money than I was bringing home with my 25% contribution so it’s a perfect time to raise that a percentage or two.

Feast your eyes

I unofficially decided to do a no-spend month in November after the previous few spendy months. How’d that go?

Rent $1050.00 My half of rent
Internet and utilities $43.62 Again, we’re not paying our gas bill for a few more months, so this is only my half of internet and electricity
Groceries $171.87 Back to normal without gift cards
Gas $22.23 I didn’t drive home for Thanksgiving (I got a ride both ways) which saved me a bunch in gas!
Car $142.00 Time for my annual registration/parking permit renewal and an inspection
Transportation $30.00 Due to paperwork lags, I’ve already upped my metro contribution but it’s not hitting my card until January. Here’s to making it through December without having to give too much more of my post-tax income to my metro card!
Barre membership $104.69
Restaurants/bars $33.07
Misc household goods $69.13
Charitable giving $75.00 My usual donation to Planned Parenthood, but this month also included a donation to Revanche as she’s pooling together funds to help multiple Lakota families for gifts/winter clothing
Misc dues/subscriptions $23.00 Patreon dues
Cents Positive $59.93 Food and transportation. This number was included in my calculations for how much I spent on FI events this year
Blog hosting $59.88
Phone $30.74 Got my battery replaced
Misc. Thanksgiving spending
Total spending: $1953.22
Paychecks and other income $2747.44 Another extra paycheck month for the win! I also redeemed some cashback from one of my credit cards
Side hustle income $181.25
Retirement contributions $1693.10 This is what upping my contribution 5% looks like, combined with an extra paycheck month
Total income: $4621.79
Total: $2668.57
Savings rate: 58%

Hmm, I’d say that was a success, even with the unavoidable costs of blog hosting renewal and car registration!

Oh yeah, and I got to see Hamilton again while I was home for Thanksgiving. Which was an early Christmas present from my parents, and the price of $free.fifty-free made the show even better!

18 Replies to “November 2018: no-spend month and giving my retirement funds all my money”

  1. Your savings rate is so impressive! I haven’t calculated mine in ages because I know I will be so disappointed in the number lol (sidenote: I also don’t know how it’s December. Where does time keep going?!)

    1. Thanks, Britt! It can be really motivating when it’s good, but I totally feel you on the months where it’s not so great. At least with my retirement contribution I’m guaranteed a savings rate floor somewhere around 25%, even if I don’t save anything else haha.

  2. Oh my gosh, your saving’s rate is insane! I’m scared to calculate mine… But for reals, props to you for being in a position to save that much, and for also challenging yourself to save more these last two months!

    1. One day when I’m actually making a ton of money, I’ll be very happy I now have the habit of saving a lot (and then a lot will actually be a lot haha).

      About damn time. You almost had me convinced it was decent up there in the winter!

    1. …my kinda sorta thinks-she’s-my-friend-so-I-hang-out-with-her “bestest friend ever” you mean?

      Just kidding, I’m so happy you’re here!

    1. Okay that’s an excellent point on the lack of humidity and oppressive sweating but I find it really hard to get outside and moving if my extremities are cold and my joints are complaining. I do plan to keep going hiking on not-terribly-freezing weekends though!

  3. I love the idea of saving until it hurts (credit to Financial Samurai for that), because when I really start to feel the pinch, I find other ways to earn/find more cash. A little hustle or selling something on eBay can make some of those cash woes disappear. Or I might stick around at work a little longer for that sweet sweet OT because I work in the building department and we’re in another building boom right now.
    Happy Holidays, Erin! May you enjoy alllllll the lights ?

    1. My problem is it sometimes hurts even with a part-time job on the weekends ? And hmmmm, sounds like I might need to get into the building industry haha.

      Happy holidays and same to you too!

  4. daaaaaaaamn girl, you rock! That’s a dreamy savings rate, and in DC nonetheless. I’m sad I missed you over Thanksgiving, and will over Christmas too (if you’re even returning) but perhaps next year we will insist on hosting and stay in-state. CUTE KITTTEH!

    1. Thank you! I’ll only be home for less than 24 hours over Christmas this year because it’s a rare year we’re traveling so at least I won’t miss you then. I’ll be back again in February so let’s hang out!

  5. Okay, that archive-binge was oddly satisfying. A fun (ab?)use of several hours.

    Here’s a hare-brained idea for monthly-spend report: Append “total without retirement contributions” to show how much wiggle-room you have each month. So this month it would be $2668.57 – $1693.10 = $975.47

    Aim to put some fraction of it into the emergency fund, or travel savings, or (gasp!) after-tax investing for-reals towards FI.

    1. Wow, I was honestly completely unaware that a) income – spending = savings and b) money saved each month for retirement isn’t savings OR “investing for-reals towards FI”!!! Thank you so much for being such a nice person and deigning to mansplain explain to me that I saved $975.47. If only I’d put just some fraction of that savings into savings (in addition to my retirement savings)!!! Oh, wait.

      Next time go (ab)use your time elsewhere so you can condescend to someone else.

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