It’s been quite a while since I’ve written here.
With the pandemic and all the suffering it has caused including the loss of life not seen previously during our generation and the economic turmoil, the stress of the election, and the busyness of day-to-day life with a toddler, I haven’t felt the urge to write — particularly to write about money. In truth, it felt — and still does feel — a bit obscene to write about money while so many people are suffering.
But… Justin’s mom came to visit about a month ago and mentioned how much she and a mutual friend miss my posts. After thinking it over, I’ve decided that it may be okay to continue writing here. However, as I said in the Farm Mode post, I’m done writing specifics about money and will be focusing more on our day-to-day stuff.
Before the pandemic, I already knew that my family was very privileged. The pandemic only reinforced that feeling as we haven’t had the economic worries that others have had. Justin was a remote worker for an insurance company before the pandemic and has continued to do his job throughout. I was a stay-at-home mom before and continue to do so. Other than the social isolation — that we were already under to keep our son safe from flu/RSV season — nothing much changed for us.
Obviously, we eat out at restaurants less than before. But, with a little kid, we were already not going to restaurants much since his moods and nap times have always be unpredictable. We traveled a good deal less (i.e., not at all) due to the pandemic, but also because we have a special needs child who until recently was on oxygen support and used a feeding tube. Essentially, having a child had already caused us to endure a lot of the changes wrought by the pandemic.
The last six months of 2020 were fairly typical for us. Most of our spending went towards our home. This included our mortgage payment, extra monthly payments to principal, our HOA dues, and things related to upkeep like laundry soap. We made two major changes during this time. First, we refinanced the house into a 15 year loan. We were able to reduce our interest rate by more than a point and it’ll save us quite a bit of money in the long-term. We’re still planning on paying the house off in nine years and this change helps us get there. Our mortgage payment stayed the same since we were already paying that amount with our monthly extra payment. The second major change was our decision to splurge on monthly housekeeping. Our housekeepers come once a month and clean our entire house from top to bottom. It’s absolutely amazing what they can get done in three hours. Sumner takes a lot of time and energy — not surprisingly and by the time I reach the end of the day, deep cleaning is the last thing on my mind. It really does help to not have to worry about it.
Since we weren’t traveling due to the pandemic, we decided to use our travel budget for furnishing the house a bit more. We decided that if we were going to be stuck at home that we would work to make it as comfortable as possible. We bought a new couch and rug for the main level living room. We also got a pull-out sofa and chairs for the basement. Someday we’ll be able to have visitors again and we wanted to make the space functional for guests. We use our basement as a post-bed time space. It’s where we hang out after Sumner goes to bed. There are still some things that I want to do to up our overall cosiness factor, like adding more lighting, but those are much less costly and can be done when the mood strikes.
With our family going vegetarian at the beginning of 2020, our food expenses have been much more reasonable. However, the pandemic caused us to embrace grocery delivery which definitely ate into some of our savings. Hopefully with gardening season approaching and infection rates decreasing, we’ll be able to do more of our shopping in person.
I continue to spend WAY to much money on the kiddo and it’s completely worth it. I love being in a position where we can get him the things he needs and the things that we want for him. One of our biggest splurges for him in the second half of 2020 was a play structure with a swing, slide, and rope ladder. Between the virus and his mobility issues, I haven’t felt comfortable taking him to our local parks until recently. His play structure has allowed us to work playing in all sorts of new and fun ways. Plus, he was much more comfortable swinging at the park after having practiced at home quite a bit. This spring and summer, I’m planning on moving the play structure from his room to the back patio where I think he’ll have a lot of fun playing outdoors in a contained space.
My new, kid-related, hobby is reselling the things that Sumner outgrows. I’ve been reselling his stuff since the NICU time, but I’ve started buying his things used instead of new and that has helped quite a bit with keeping costs reasonable. Now that Sumner is consistently eating solids, our baby food budget is quite high but that will transition to the grocery budget as he begins eating more with us. Right now, everything he eats is puréed and it’s easier to use baby food so that we can have a variety of fruits and vegetables for him.
In terms of our journey to FI, the second half of 2020 was good for the Smith. In those six months, we gained $100k in net worth. Some of this came from our typical savings to our 401k, HSA, and brokerage accounts. We also found out, from the appraisal for the refinance, that the house had gained about $30k in value. Since we’re in “farm mode,” I’m no longer tracking our percentages for our progress towards FI. We’ll get there when we get there. At this point, we’re on track to reach our FI goals around the same time as paying off the house.