FIRE Progress Report for September 2020 (Garage Door Edition)

Garage Door

This month saw the start of the school year, and another broken garage door. A few months ago our other garage door spring had broke, so it seemed ironic that this month the other one did. We also had a series of expenses related to our dog that we hadn’t anticipated, and of course there were school fees. As for the one larger expense we had partially planned for, that was our daughter’s cell phone bill. While we use Verizon prepaid for our service, financially, it makes more sense for her to use Mint Mobile (use the link and we both get $15 towards in credit at Mint Mobile). We use their cheapest plan and pay it annually to get the best price.

As for our numbers this month. Many of them held steady from the previous month due to market fluctuations. I’ve decided this month to change everything under How Much We Invested because it was all based on my salary and doesn’t take into account money I make through my side business, or money that Julie is making now. That means we could have eventually reported a number over 100%, which wouldn’t have made any sense. I’m now going to report the percent of increase or decrease in the amount we save. There will be two sets of numbers, one for our month to month, and one for the month to month change in our 6 month average. A more detailed explanation is with the numbers.

I’ve also decided to color code the numbers to indicate a positive or negative direction. This should help when scanning to see the overall trend for a month.

How did this affect us?

Below is a breakdown of some of the larger, out of the ordinary expenses this month. Despite these, our spending for this month was almost the same as it was for September 2019.

  • Mint Mobile – $200
  • Garage Spring – $189
  • Dog Expense – $395
  • School Fees – $160

The Money Related Numbers

43.36% to target number (previously 43.75%)

This is our invested assets/target number. Our invested assets span across a variety of investment vehicles such as 401k, HSA, IRA, Roth IRA, ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Program) and standard taxable mutual funds.

94 months (previously 95)

The number of months until my 45th birthday and our finish date.

66.43 months (previously 65.29)

The number of expected months until we reach our target number based on our current expected monthly contributions, assuming a 10% annual return.

The Expense Related Numbers

12.63 times annual spending (previously 12.76)

This is how many multiples of our annual spending we have saved up towards our goal. For example, if this value was 9.1 and we spent $10,000 annually, we would have $91,000 saved up.

50.51% to minimum FIRE (previously 51.06%)

The minimum number to achieve FIRE is 25 times our annual spending. This number shows how close we are to the absolute minimum.

29.13 times annual spending at goal number (previously 29.18)

We have a goal amount that we’d like to reach. Given our current annual spending, this is how many times our annual spending we’ll have saved when we reach our goal number.

How Much We Invested

-16.15% Month to Month Change In How Much Saved (previously -31.73%)

This number shows the change in what we saved this month compared to the prior month in things like 401k, Roth IRA, taxable accounts, and Employee Stock Purchase Program.

-16.15% Month to Month Change in How Much Saved With Employer Contributions (previously -34.27%)

Same as the prior number, but with employer contributions counted.

-2.32% Month to Month Change in 6 Month Savings Average (previously -9.54%)

This number show the change in what we saved this month compared to the prior month, but on a 6 month rolling average. This helps to smooth out months over time and shows a more general trend.

-3.65% of 6 Month Average Net Income Invested With Employer Contributions (previously -10.17%)

Same as the prior number, but with employer contributions counted.

FIRE Progress Report through August 2020

Cell phone on table

FIRE Progress Report through August 2020 (Cell Phone Edition)

What Happened and What Is Happening

This month saw a significant boost to most of the numbers. This was partially related to the huge market run that we saw towards the end of August. In addition, I was awarded more restricted stock units. Technically, they are not mine to spend yet. Every year, I’ll receive a quarter of them until they’re gone. Obviously, that’s a huge benefit that I’m getting at work. It’s kind of like a delayed bonus. If the stock price goes up, the bonus goes up. If it goes down, the bonus goes down. Also, if I leave, I stop receiving them and forfeit what is left.

Since an amount of our portfolio is attached to a single stock, this means we may see our valuation swing more wildly. Every year when I’m awarded a portion of the RSUs, I’m converting it to mutual funds. This lowers my risk and also stabilizes our portfolio. The more that are converted, the more stable the portfolio will become.

One expense we had this month was the purchase of Verizon prepaid cards. I’ve found that I can get them at a discount at Target and sometimes even find them on sale. This decreases our phone bill even more. Plus, when paying by gift card, they don’t charge you all the taxes and fees, saving an an extra $5.82 a month. We’re using Verizon’s prepaid service. I’m not sure if you could do the same on their postpaid service.

How did this affect us?

In addition to the phone cards mentioned above, we replaced a ceiling fan this month. It was broken by our youngest during a sleepover.

Finally, we bought Julie a new phone this month after the screen broke on her old one. We’ll be focusing on replenishing the savings account this month. and then on to saving to remodel the kitchen.

  • Phone service – $268.37
  • Ceiling Fan – $100
  • Julie’s New Phone – $455

The Money Related Numbers

43.75% to target number (previously 38.39%)

This is our invested assets/target number. Our invested assets span across a variety of investment vehicles such as 401k, HSA, IRA, Roth IRA, ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Program) and standard taxable mutual funds.

95 months (previously 96)

The number of months until my 45th birthday and our finish date.

65.29 months (previously 71.20)

The number of expected months until we reach our target number based on our current expected monthly contributions, assuming a 10% annual return.

The Expense Related Numbers

12.76 times annual spending (previously 10.84)

This is how many multiples of our annual spending we have saved up towards our goal. For example, if this value was 9.1 and we spent $10,000 annually, we would have $91,000 saved up.

51.06% to minimum FIRE (previously 43.35%)

The minimum number to achieve FIRE is 25 times our annual spending. This number shows how close we are to the absolute minimum.

29.18 times annual spending at goal number (previously 28.23)

We have a goal amount that we’d like to reach. Given our current annual spending, this is how many times our annual spending we’ll have saved when we reach our goal number.

How Much We Invested

38.87% of 6 Month Average Gross Income Invested (previously 42.98%)

The amount we invested in things like 401k, Roth IRA, taxable accounts, and Employee Stock Purchase Program divided by income from our main employment.

48.37% of 6 Month Average Net Income Invested (previously 53.52%)

The amount we invested in things like 401k, Roth IRA, taxable accounts, and Employee Stock Purchase Program divided by income from our main employment, but with taxes subtracted.

41.64% of 6 Month Average Gross Income Invested with Employer Contributions (previously 46.35%)

The amount we invested in things like 401k including employer contributions, Roth IRA, taxable accounts, and Employee Stock Purchase Program divided by income from our main employment.

51.81% of 6 Month Average Net Income Invested With Employer Contributions (previously 57.73%)

The amount we invested in things like 401k including employer contributions, Roth IRA, taxable accounts, and Employee Stock Purchase Program divided by income from our main employment, but with taxes subtracted.

How we got paid $11 for 3 months of cell phone service

cell phone

Let me start by saying this isn’t a scam. We were able to make money on a month’s worth of cell phone service using many of the things I’ve described in this blog.

We’ve used Total Wireless for our cell phone service. There is no reason to go into a lot of detail here because you can read about it in other blog posts (here and here and here). The result is that we pay $62.27 a month for 2 lines and 15GB of shared data.

You’re probably thinking that sounds like I’m paying them, and that’s true. However, I recently determined a way where I could get paid for a month of cell phone service.

The Math

This might get a bit confusing, but essentially I found several deals that when piled up on top of each other, I actually made money for a month worth of cell phone service. To start, Total Wireless was offering 30% off of a phone and month of service bundle. I also was able to use eBates to get a 11% refund through the Total Wireless site. Here is how the math works out.

  • $199 iPhone 6
  • $60 2 line 15GB shared plan
  • $259 subtotal
  • -$77.70 30% off Total Wireless discount (Code found on slickdeals.net)
  • $181.30 discounted total
  • $13.99 taxes
  • $195.29 total paid by us to Total Wireless

At this point, we were out $195.29, but received a month of service and an iPhone 6 in exchange. Now comes the fun part.

  • $219 iPhone 6 sale on eBay
  • -$28.55 eBay and PayPal fees
  • -$6.50 shipping
  • $183.95 total received from the sale of the phone

If you do the math so far, you’ll see I’m out $11.34. Still not a bad amount to pay for a month of cell phone service.

The Missing Pieces

Remember how I said I used eBates to get a refund? That amount came out to be $15!

So when you subtract $15 from $11.34, you’ll see we were actually paid $3.66 for a month of cell phone service!

I didn’t just buy one iPhone 6, but actually purchased 3 of them and did this 3 times to get 3 months of service. The second phone I sold on eBay for a little less and actually spent $0.16 for the month of service. The third phone I sold through a Facebook garage sale site, and made over $8. When you add it all up, I made over $11 and got 3 months of cell phone service in exchange!

Experimenting

Before putting down this much money, I did a small experiment a few weeks earlier by buying a refurbished phone for $9.99 and using the same discount code along with eBates. I was able to prove that even if I didn’t sell the phone, I would still save $8.88 on a month of service. I did end up selling the phone for twice what I paid for it. After fees and everything, we saved $20.14 on a month of service. That’s when I decided to research doing larger deals to see if it would work.

Pretty crazy, right?!?! What do you think? Would you try something like this? Let me know in the comments below.

Total Wireless Improves Again!

Total Wireless Logo

In the short time we’ve been on Total Wireless they’ve almost doubled the data amount we receive each month (from 8 GB to 15 GB). Originally when I had talked about our switch to Total, we knew that our data speeds were capped at 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. That has since changed!

I run speed tests occasionally to see how well my phone is connecting. When the speeds were capped, it was reflected when doing the speed test. I’ve since been able to get speeds well over 5/1 Mbps depending on where I was at.

My fastest download speed clocked so far was 73.15 Mbps. The fastest upload speed was 28.72 Mbps. Those are well above even my home internet speed. Of course that’s not always what I get, but I tend to believe that when it’s slower it’s due to my signal and not because it’s being capped.

This is just one more reason to give Total Wireless a try. It’s coverage is almost as good as Verizon (since it uses Verizon’s network), but at a considerably lower price.

Wireless Plans from Total Wireless Improved!

Total Wireless Logo

I originally reviewed Total Wireless a few months ago and we have been pretty happy with it overall. The service is good (it uses Verizon’s network) and the price is right ($57 for 2 phones). So I was surprised when I recently went out to see if any competitors had anything better to offer. To my surprise, Total Wireless got even better!

Original Plans

The single line plans haven’t changed, only the shared or family plans.
  • 2 phones – $60/month 8GB shared data
  • 3 phones – $85/month 12GB shared data
  • 4 phones – $100/month 15GB shared data

The 5% auto-pay discount applies to these plans as well. Finally, if these data amounts weren’t enough for you, you could get an extra 3GB of data for an extra $10/month. The plus side is that the extra data you buy would roll over every month so you keep using it until it’s all gone!

New and Improved Plans

The prices stay the same, but the data gets SO MUCH BETTER! Below is a summary, but you can view the details here.

  • 2 phones – $60/month 15GB shared data
  • 3 phones – $85/month 20GB shared data
  • 4 phones – $100/month 25GB shared data

You can still get the auto-pay discount and if you need the extra data, it’s now 5GB for $10/month instead of 3GB.

One of the things I hear the most when I talk to someone about changing their cell phone provider is that they don’t want to have less coverage. You can’t get better than Verizon’s coverage nationwide. If you haven’t checked out Total Wireless yet, what are you waiting for? (Tell me in the comments below.)

May 2017 – Republic Wireless Bill

Republic Wireless Logo

The May payment to Republic Wireless was $-1.48. This is our last month using Republic Wireless for our primary phones. We’ll be keeping one line for home phone use.

Wireless Breakdown

  • WiFi Only Phone – $5
  • Taxes – $1.01
  • Refund for unused service – ($7.49)
  • Total – ($1.48)

My wife and I have transitioned from Republic Wireless to Total Wireless and are on a shared 8GB plan for $57/month. I really liked RW and their customer service. I noticed recently that they now offer chat support, which is a nice improvement. However, when we did the calculations, it works out better for us to get the extra data at a fixed price each month.

We changed our WiFi only phone to my wife’s old Moto X and sell the Moto G3 through Swappa. I’m continuing to use my Nexus 5X and my wife is using the Moto G5 Plus (which is really a nice phone for the price).

This will be the last month that I post a Republic bill. All of the future bills should be $6.01. Republic definitely ranks up toward the top of my list of inexpensive phone services. Others that rank up there include Project Fi, Ting, Cricket, and Total. Each one works well for a different type of user.

If you’ve used Republic or have any questions, let me know in the comments.

April 2017 – Republic Wireless Bill

Republic Wireless Logo

The April payment to Republic Wireless was $25.79. The next month’s Republic Wireless bill will be a bit more due to some phone swaps we had to do this month.

Breakdown

  • WiFi Only Phone – $5
  • Wife’s phone using Sprint’s network on the Refund Plan (512 MB Plan) – $17.50
  • Taxes – $3.31
  • Refund for unused data – ($.02)
  • Total – $25.79

This month my Nexus 5X that I’ve had for about 18 months decided to die. I contacted Google Nexus support about it and surprisingly they decided to honor the warranty and send me a replacement at no cost. It took longer than usual to arrive, so we ended up buying a Motorola G5 Plus. That way I could get access to my messages and phone calls. I used the WiFi Only Phone for a couple of days and enabled data and cellular on it. They charged me right away for this, but it will likely be reflected in next month’s bill.

Now that I’ve got a working Nexus 5X phone again, and a Motorola G5 Plus, we’re going to switch my wife over to Total Wireless and take advantage of their 8GB shared plan for $60/month. We’ll then use my wife’s Moto X for the WiFi only home phone, and sell the Moto G3 that was the WiFi only phone. If you or someone you know is interested in trying Republic Wireless, I’ve got a great condition phone for sale.

If you’ve used Republic or have any questions, let me know in the comments.

Total Wireless Review

Total Wireless Logo

I’ve officially been using Total Wireless for 30 days now and I must say that the results have been very positive. My end of month bill ended up being $36.35 for unlimited calls, texts, and 5GB of data. I didn’t use anywhere close to that amount, but I also didn’t feel restricted or that I should conserve data the entire month. I also don’t feel like I’m paying extra for something I wouldn’t end up using.

Plans

The real cost of the plan is $35/month plus taxes and fees, but you get 5% off for doing auto-pay. For family or shared plans, the prices get even better.
  • 2 phones – $60/month 8GB shared data
  • 3 phones – $85/month 12GB shared data
  • 4 phones – $100/month 15GB shared data
The 5% auto-pay discount applies to these plans as well. If you don’t want any data, you could do the $25/month unlimited talk and text. Finally, if these data amounts aren’t enough for you, you can get an extra 3GB of data for an extra $10/month. The plus side is that the extra data you buy rolls over every month so you can keep using it until it’s all gone!

Network

Total Wireless uses the Verizon network, so you get a signal pretty much anywhere. It may not always be as strong as it’s competitors (especially where we live), but I have yet to go someplace that I can’t get a signal of some sort. I couldn’t always say that for Sprint or T-Mobile’s networks. After popping the SIM card into my phone, it even showed up as being Verizon Wireless.
I’ve only noticed a few drawbacks so far. First, my download speeds are limited to 5Mbps and uploads are capped at 2Mbps. I haven’t found this to be an issue for anything that I normally do, but others might. Second, they don’t offer a mobile hotspot options. I don’t use this often, but when I need it it’s helpful. From what I can tell, they don’t necessarily prevent you from using it, but could take action if they wanted to. Finally, and most important to me, there is no visual voicemail option. I liked being on other services where my voicemail would download to my phone and I could listen to it at my leisure. Now I have to dial in and enter my pin code in each time to listen to my messages. I know, first world problems, right?
If you’re using Verizon, or any other carrier and want to use the Verizon network, this may be an affordable alternative for you.
Have you used Total Wireless or have questions about switching? Let me know in the comments below.

March 2017 – Republic Wireless Bill

Republic Wireless Logo

The February payment to Republic Wireless was $24.81. We’re back to just 2 phones on the plan, so our bill is now back around its previous levels.

Breakdown

  • WiFi Only Phone – $5
  • Wife’s phone using Sprint’s network on the Refund Plan (512 MB Plan) – $17.50
  • Taxes – $3.26
  • Refund for unused data – ($.95)
  • Total – $24.81

I’ve changed my phone to use Total Wireless this month, which uses the Verizon Network. In fact, it even says “Verizon Wireless” when connected to the network. I’ll expand on it in another post, but for now, I haven’t went without a signal at all, but have found that sometimes I don’t have as strong a signal in certain places as I did when I was using Republic (T-Mobile).

If you’ve used Republic or have any questions, let me know in the comments.

February 2017 – Republic Wireless Bill

Republic Wireless Logo

The February payment to Republic Wireless was $48.57. This month I reduced my data level to 1GB, which reduces our bill by about $10.

Breakdown

  • WiFi Only Phone – $5
  • Wife’s phone using Sprint’s network on the Refund Plan (512 MB Plan) – $17.50
  • My phone on T-Mobile’s network using the Clear Choice Plan (1GB) – $20
  • Taxes – $6.10
  • Refund for unused data – ($2.73)
  • Total – $48.57

I’ve decided that I’m going to give Total Wireless a try. Overall, when I’ve got a connection on Republic using T-Mobile’s network, it’s usually very good and fast. However, when I don’t have a connection, I go for a while without anything. Total Wireless uses the Verizon network at an affordable rate. I’ll write a review after I’ve used it for a while.

If you’ve used Republic or have any questions, let me know in the comments.