You wish you could be like me.

At the end of each calendar year I review our financials, update my Excel spreadsheet, and calculate just how much Girl Ninja and I were able to increase our net worth (NW) by.

We started 2014 with a NW of $234,000, and ended with a NW of $288,000.

In other words, we improved our financial position by $54,000 last year, an average of $4,500 per month.

You wish you could be like me.

DON’T YOU!!! 

I mean, we managed to increase our NW by more than the 2014 national median household income ($53,000). That means half of the households in the United States couldn’t save as much as we did, even if they paid no taxes and saved 100% of their GROSS income.

Like the title of this post says; You Wish You Could Be Like Me

…or do you? 

I hope for your sake, you were nothing like me in 2014.

While increasing our net worth by $50,000 in a single year might be impressive, it becomes significantly less so when you consider we made about $110,000 in 2014.

Girl Ninja and I were fortunate to have a healthy income, so it only makes sense that were are able to save and invest more than many other American families could.

An increasing net worth on a $110,000 per year household income shouldn’t be something to brag about.

It should be expected. 

You see, our big financial gains in 2014 are only really half of the story.

…The better half.

…The prettier half.

…The half that I like blogging about.

But there is another side to this personal finance tale and it is ugly.

How ugly you ask?

Try $45,000 ugly. 

That amount represents exactly how much money Girl Ninja and I spent on our credit card last year.

We use our credit card for virtually everything we can and pay the balance in full at the end of each month.

I’m used to seeing a couple thousand dollar balance each month, but I had never taken the time to figure out just how much we were charging over the course of a full calendar year.

$45,000 makes me sick to my stomach. Especially when you consider that doesn’t count any of the money that came out of our checking account, which would be another $30,000 or so for mortgage payments, utilities, and the occasional check or ATM withdrawal.

Sure, Girl Ninja and I improved our financial situation by $50,000 last year, but we spent nearly $75,000 along the way.

I’m disgusted. 

I write about the “Joneses” as though they are some family that Girl Ninja and I are nothing like, but numbers don’t lie.

When you spend $75,000 per year, you are a Jones.

At the time I was justifying purchases with thoughts like…

…”We’ve worked hard, it’s time to upgrade to a more sophisticated couch” ($1,700 in July)

…”Our kitchen isn’t how we want it, we have the money, let’s improve it” ($4,000 in August)

…”Baby Ninja’s upstairs is the worst part of our house, let’s demo it” ($5,000 March)

…”We deserve a vacation. Let’s go somewhere.” ($4,500 in April)

While I believe an occasional splurge is appropriate every now and again, Girl Ninja and I could hardly argue that our splurges were limited or appropriate.

To put it bluntly I’m embarrassed by my failed leadership. 

I have a responsibility to ensure Girl Ninja and I are being good stewards of the finances we have been granted. Somehow, I lost sight of that.

And that really makes me sad. 

14 thoughts on “You wish you could be like me.

  1. The way I see it, the $9k spent on home improvement was an investment in your home. The way you talk about the housing market in your area, you should be able to get that back, plus more, if you ever sell. I would increase your home value line on your net worth statement by at least that amount.

  2. NICE!!! Good to know I’m not the only one that can charge $5,000 a month on a credit card 🙂 little less, little more each month and we end up with a number like yours, around $45,000 a year on the card. No wonder I get so many gift cards lol

    HS

  3. Didn’t you need to improve baby ninja’s room to being it to code? That was needed for his safety. Plus you are new parents so the occasional splurge happens with children. I am all for going on vacations with your family, these experiences have tremendous benefits. I work a lot of hours and this is the only time I can completely unplug and focus on my family. If I were just taking a staycation then I would still be expected to answer my phone, check emails, etc. I’m all about vacations if you can pay for it with cash.

  4. Thank you for your honesty here. Your willingness to reflect on your own choices fully, with an eye toward serving your values (even if that reflection brings some hard truths to light), reflects a maturity that often gets lost in the shuffle of financial discussions. There is so much said about managing money but often not much said about spending it, and I think you bring a great truth up here – that without care our spending can become “jones-y” (shallow, vapid, and a reflection of our insecurities and need to “buy” to prove our worth to ourselves or others).

    Even though my own income and spending are, by many measures, modest, it is important to remember that the vast majority of the world gets by on much less and truly recognize my own GREAT wealth (even during those months that paying the bills can be a stretch)

  5. It seems you are kind of moving the goalposts on yourself, so to speak. In the past the stated goals of your frugal lifestyle were to ensure financial freedom and stability for you and your family. Thanks to years of living well below your means, you have, in large part, accomplished that goal.

    However, you (as well as me) seem to get some intrinsic satisfaction from frugality, and seem a little bit rudderless now that your initial goals are now in hand. Enjoy the fruits of your labor while you decide what your next set of goals will be.

    Also, try to remember that FRUGALITY, is not meant to be AUSTERITY. There is no shame in spending, only in squandering. For example, many of the big ticket items you have listed above (as others have commented on) are justified for a variety of reasons. Putting a good deal of thought into what you really want and then spending what it costs to get those things is no crime.

    It is the opposite kind of spending that upsets me about my finances. Things that I can look back on and say that I only bought out of laziness (for example delivery pizza that isn’t really that good, rather than getting something cheaper or something that is actually good for the same price) or bought without adequate scrutiny and reflection (the couch I am sitting on now).

  6. I know you’re disappointed by your spending, but the fact of the matter is you aren’t living outside of your means. You didn’t go into debt to fund any of those big expenses and, as others have pointed out, some of those added future resale value to your home and give you peace of mind for Baby Ninja.

    On top of that I know that you always donate to charity, not only your money, but also your time. There’s more to life than money!!!

  7. Good for you for listening to your gut. If you feel like your spending is out of line with your intentions, you can make some changes this year. People will always tell you it’s okay to spend, but clearly you’re uncomfortable with your behavior. Maybe in 2016 you can update this post!

  8. Funny thing is that we are quite similar. Similar location, similar incomes, etc. And I am sure a lot of the other readers can say they are similar in some aspect as well, as we usually hangout (or follow) people who are similar to ourselves.
    Did you fail in leadership? I don’t think so, you did what you wanted with reasonable justifications (except maybe the couch as I hate the “we deserve it” justification). The main take away I get is that if you want something, save for it and then enjoy it.

  9. Come on! It’s ridiculous for you to have to feel that you’re somehow disgusted, embarrassed, and have failed at leadership.

    Your spending was indeed VERY appropriate – you spent your money on things you wanted and needed. Without these things, you would live a very poor-quality, penny-pinching life, and I don’t think that’s what you intend.

    To say you’ve ONLY saved $54,000 is a statement that needs to be re-evaluated with perspective. You are doing amazingly well financially and are providing everything for your family whether it’s a want, need, etc. I can’t think of a better definition of success – not sure where you’re coming up with ‘failed’. Regardless of what someone is bringing in, putting away 54k is a damn good turnout.

    I used to get angry as a young adult spending money on car payments, rent, utilities, etc. I’d think to myself – “What the hell is this?! I spend everything I make!” because I was spending a good half of what I made on living expenses etc. I had to drill into my head this simple fact: life is expensive. Rent, utilities, cars, insurance, etc…and then you can’t forget actually LIVING and dining out, getting things for yourself as a functioning human being. Then comes getting your new couch, making a new area for your newborn CHILD, fixing a kitchen you spend tons of time in, etc. None of those expenses are remotely unnecessary or irresponsible.

  10. As has been said, your spending is my income and my spending is your income. I see a reasonable balance here between saving and spending. Move on.

  11. I appreciate all the encouragement, but our spending really was out of control. $75,000 is no where close to sustainable. Our gross income might be $110,000, but our take home is right around $80,000.

    Basically in 2014 we spent just about every dollar we made. Yuck.

  12. How much did YOU put into the 54k, since I am sure that includes increases in retirement and investments accounts?

    We spent just about every penny we made too, but no home improvements, or vacations. It is called debt, and high cost of living in our area, and life.

    Your life took a big change in the past year….and at least you are realizing that and looking at the bigger picture.

  13. This is one of the reasons that I choose not to use credit cards. When you swipe that card, it’s relatively thoughtless and painless. If you have to use cash, you usually think a lot harder about whether to spend the money.

    Also…any time you think, “I deserve this because I work hard,” punch yourself in the face. It is the excuse of losers and consumerist suckas. The marketers WANT you to think like that so you will send them all your dollars.

    We just set up a lot of automated savings, both pre and post-tax, and then consider what is left to be our spending money. I also find that as I get older, there are fewer things I need to have. I am 49.

  14. … and I thought I was hard on myself.

    Just so I’m clear: you contributed to the TSP, yes? So you didn’t spend everything you made. You did save some.

    I share your aspirations to not spend every dime of take home pay.

    In fact, I automatically transfer funds after each pay check deposit to make certain I pay myself in after tax dollars before I pay utilities, insurance premiums etc.

    It also helps that I retired my mortgage years ago and that my biggest annual expense is my home’s property tax.

    I’m the same age as Amanda (49) and agree that I’ve collected durable, long lasting necessities and luxury items. Buying quality products while young is a good strategy to avoid paying more for lower quality when your peak earning years are winding down.

    You can’t fix last year, but this year’s still young.

    What’s the plan?

    -Jon

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