On the path to financial independence: March 2017

March was an eventful month at the BITA household.

 

My father, who works in Botswana, decided to pay us a surprise visit (my mother had been with us since January). Mr. BITA conspired with him and on the Saturday in question, told me that he was going rock climbing with his friends while Toddler BITA napped. What he actually did was drive to the airport and pick up my father. I was thrilled to see him, and Toddler BITA was over the moon. We spent two happy weeks together before it was time for my parents to return to Botswana.
One of the best parts of the visit was that my father wanted to hear about our financial independence plans in considerable detail. He had many questions and is very excited for us. He then asked me to double check his retirement plans and I was pleased to find that my parents should enjoy a pretty comfortable retirement.

 

I honed my culinary skills while my mother was here. I learned to make rotis from scratch (knead the dough, roll out the rotis and then cook them) and we also started to make yogurt at home. We were buying grass-fed, organic, yogurt at exorbitant prices. Given the amount of yogurt we eat in a week, this was a significant chunk of change. The worst part of this spending is that I wasn’t even that happy with the yogurt – it didn’t quite taste like the homemade stuff I grew up with. I am pleased to report that now not only do I enjoy yogurt that tastes right, but our wallet is also happier. To get our yogurt started I asked an Indian friend for a yogurt sample that we would use to set our first batch. The great-great-great-great grandparents of this yogurt sample were smuggled to this country in a flask many years ago. I like the fact that like me, my yogurt comes from immigrant stock, though my own immigration was a tad more legal.

 

Toddler BITA graduated to pre-school. Her school moved her up to the 3 year olds classroom, even though she isn’t three yet. They claimed it was because she was ready. I (cynically) think that it was because they wanted to make room in the 2s classroom. Thankfully the transition went very smoothly, and resulted in our monthly daycare dues dropping by 22%. Wheeeeee!

 

From a financial perspective March was not a month of rainbows and unicorns. All my medical bills showed up, and we begrudgingly paid them. I did manage to extract some lemonade from those lemons. I met the minimum spend for my new Chase Ink Preferred card much sooner than expected and will soon be rewarded with 80k yummy Ultimate Rewards (UR) points, bringing our UR stash to a little over 220,000 points. It feels good to replenish the stash after having spent a bunch of points recently to book our vacation to Europe in September.

 

We claimed our dependent care FSA for 2016 this month, and having a cheque for $5,000 show up in time to offset the medical bills was pretty sweet.

March was an excellent month for the Bayalis blog. I guest posted up (way up) at the 1500 days site and was inundated by more traffic than ever before.

 

Adding cash to the financial independence stash

 

This month we added $18,202.84 to our stash.

  • Mr. BITA’s 401k was maxed out in January, so that is why you only see contributions to my 401k and my company match.
  • Mr. BITA enjoyed some mega backdoor Roth action.
  • We added a modest amount to our taxable brokerage account.
  • The biggest boost to our savings this month came from having RSUs vest.

 

The markets were less than euphoric this month, and hence the market growth of our stash was a modest $5,002.01.

 

The financial independence plan vs. reality

Our plan for 2017 calls for us to add a total of $160,000 to our stash this year. Remember that only our savings count towards this number; market growth does not. In the first quarter of this year we have saved $85,836.51, putting us a little over the halfway mark. That seems impressive, but January was a bumper month (bonuses were received and banked), and I don’t believe we’ll see another month like that this year. Our target for the rest of the year is now $8,240.38 per month. April is going to be a rough month for savings. We are going to owe somewhere between $15k and $20k in taxes. Ouch!

And now, the moment you have all been waiting for: bullish me climbing the stairway to heaven:

 

Financial independence status: Slightly ahead of the plan.

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20 thoughts on “On the path to financial independence: March 2017”

    1. Whats not to like indeed! Thanks for stopping by Brian, and I’m glad March treated you well.

  1. You’ll reach your goals, I have no doubt. I love the stairway to heaven bit 🙂 I look forward to following your journey to FI. We hope to have our mortgage paid off the same year, but we’ll be several years behind in reaching FI. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who has to pay a decent amount of taxes!

    1. AMT is not fun. I’m glad you like the stairway. That graphic represents the upper limits of my artistic abilities, so I’d be kind of screwed if instead of loving it you asked for improvements and enhancements : ) Having your mortgage paid off by 2021 is going to be pretty fantastic, good job!

  2. Hey, slightly ahead of plan is way better than behind schedule, so it sounds like you’re doing swimmingly. 🙂 4 years will fly by. I think I have another ten years myself: just trying to dig ourselves out of debt first!

    1. _Not_ 4 years. 45 months. : )

      You’re doing really well with your debt; it will be in your rearview mirror before you know it.

  3. Nice pictures – I could get used to those views.

    On the RSUs, do you sell them as soon as they vest or do you hold on to them for a bit hoping for appreciation? I usually sell my as soon as they vest, but I’ve been holding on to a recent batch as we’ve been appreciating some.

    On the tax front, I don’t even look at our returns anymore. Mrs. Need2Save does all the work as I get too upset when I see the taxes owed. Damn AMT

    1. We hold on to Mr. BITA’s RSUs. Mine we get rid of pretty quickly.

      I understand and empathize with your feelings towards taxes in general and the AMT in particular.

  4. Sounds like a great month! Does your mom explore while you’re working and Toddler BITA is at daycare?

    You’ve piqued my curiosity with the homemade yogurt. An Indian friend taught us some basic Indian cooking but we didn’t get a yogurt lesson – is it pretty simple?

    1. She only explores if my Dad is here. She can’t drive and gets nervous about doing something as simple as walking around the block by herself – she worries that she will forget the house key, or lock herself out or something. On the other hand she seems perfectly content to spend the day at home. Also, when she is here we send Toddler BITA in to daycare only 3 days of the week. The other two days she spends at home with her ‘Nani’ and they have a grand old time together.

      About the yogurt – pretty easy I would say.

      1. Acquire a starter sample of yogurt from an Indian friend, or simply use the store bought one you like the most.
      2. Boil the milk. My mother insists that the yogurt tastes better and sets better if the milk has been boiled.
      3. Wait for the milk to cool to 95ish degrees.
      4. Take the bowl in which you are going to set the yogurt and put about a tablespoon of the starter yogurt in it (this is for a bowl 5-6 inches in diameter and about 3 inches high). Smear the starter yogurt on the bottom and on the sides of the bowl.
      5. Pour the milk into the bowl and stir it for a bit.
      6. Put a lid on, wrap the whole thing in a dish towel or hand towel and leave it unmolested (I mean that. Don’t touch it. Don’t peek at it. Don’t move it) for a while. How long really depends on the weather. These days I’ve been doing it at night, leaving it out overnight and putting the yogurt in the fridge in the morning.

      1. Thanks so much for sharing that recipe!

        Do you still have to pay for daycare on those days? When my cousin comes to hang out, we still put JuggerBaby in daycare, just for shorter days, because we’re still having to pull the full price whether ze goes or not.

        1. No, we don’t have to pay for those days because the months when my mum is here we change our ‘plan’ from monthly to ‘daily’, and then pay for specific days. This only works if my mother is here for a long period of time. For shorter periods monthly (even with a few missed days) is way cheaper than the daily plan.

  5. Awesome that your Dad surprised you! That must have taken a ton of restraint on Mr BITA to not spill the beans. 🙂 Oh, and the yogurt? Ive never tried Indian yogurt but it’s so cool that you can now make your own!!

    As for the numbers, doing good!! I keep tracking my months in Brandon’s Lab FI calculator and I’m currently down to Sept 2022. I hope with a bit of hard work I can get that date pushed up to graduate FI class of 2021 with you!! That is based off my 2nd tier FI number (1st tier will get me May 2021) and I am pretty sure I can hit it earlier than expected. Happy to be riding this train together 🙂

    1. I have no idea how he did it. I would not have been able to. I am horrible at keeping that sort of secret.

      The Class of 2021 is clearly the coolest class in the history of FIRE classes : )

    1. Thanks Laurie. About the yogurt – see my response to Revanche. Let me know if you have any questions.

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