Early Retirement Journey Fall 2018 Updates and Reports

Single Girl Money | Dec 2018 Income and Expenses Update

I sort of cheated and provided a thorough eleven-month update of income and expenses earlier this month. That one did not have charts! Thus I present to you my fourth quarter or end of year update on my income and expenses for 2018.


My income is primarily from my day job except for this spring when I dabbled in a side hustle. I did not love it.

2018 Total Take Home Pay: $56,960 (rounded)

Monthly Average: $4,750/mon

2018 Total Take Home Pay + 401k deductions: $75,460 (rounded)


I used Google sheets to track my expenses all year for the first time. I included Savings and Investments as a line item just to account for where all the money was going. There’s a bit of a dip in Savings and Investments in December because I had maxed out my 401k in November. I don’t recommend that because I didn’t get my company match for the month I didn’t contribute anything.

October had a bit of a credit from Aunty MERJ because I was paid back for some of her expenses I covered. Total automated Savings and Investments for 2018 was $41,154.

Above are my monthly expenses without including Savings and Investments as a line item. Home is noticeably higher in December because I prepaid January 2019 due to some administrative issues with the leasing office. Any other questions, ask in the comments below.

2018 Totals

Aunty MERJ$5,251 $438/mon
Debt$6,265 $522
Entertainment$369 $31
Everyday$2,959 $247
Gifts/Tithe$406 $34
Health/medical$2,087 $174
Home$13,097 $1,091
Technology$280 $23
Transportation$1,558 $130
Travel$520 $43
Utilities$458 $38
Other$148 $12

Total 2018 Expenses: $32,917

Projected 2018 Expenses: $30,000

Difference: -$2,917

Projected 2018 Monthly Expenses: $2,500/mon

Actual 2018 Monthly Expenses (avg): $2743/mon

Difference: -$243/mon


Even with the addition of Aunty MERJ’s expense and more than a few health appointments, I think I did pretty good this year. My projected annual expense was $30,000. I spent $32,917. My three largest expense categories were: Home ($13,097), Student Loans ($6,265), and Aunty MERJ ($5,251). So 2018 Expenses – Home – Student Loans – Aunty MERJ is $32,917 – 13,097 – 6,265 – 5,251 = $8,304. In early retirement, I would not live in such an expensive apartment; I would not have such a high student loan payment; and Aunty MERJ’s expenses would be minimal. Thus, with basic annual expenses coming in just around $8,000/yr, I think it just might be possible to live off $18-20k/yr in early retirement.

Savings Rate

A firm tenet in FIRE is recognizing and increasing your savings rate.  Tracking income minus expenses, here is what the data reveals.

For the third quarter, I was fortunate enough to maintain a savings rate greater than 50% across all three months. My average savings rate for 2018 was 57%.

I don’t do a zero dollar budget, so how much did I really save? Depends on how you calculate it. If I do Savings = Income – Expenses, I get about $42,500 in savings or a 56% savings rate. If I do Savings = Automatic deposits to 401k, regular savings, and brokerage account, I get about $41,100 in savings or a 54% savings rate. And if I do the average of monthly savings rate, I get a 57% savings rate. So, I’ll just pick an unscientific estimated savings rate of 55%. It matters not in the end.

I did some quick scratch calculations of my savings rate through the years, just using old W-2s and Jan and Dec bank statements to get a basic idea of how I did when I was less intentional about my finances. Here’s what I found. Again, these are rough estimates.

2016: $34,350 (savings)/ $65,770 (rounded net pay) = 52%

2017: $17,000 (savings)/ $70, 420 (rounded net pay) = 24%

2018: Estimated savings rate = 55%

I think that’s it. Questions or comments? How did your 2018 go?

In case you missed it...


  1. I am very impressed at your high savings rate and how little you spend on food and eating out. This is a big problem area for lots of people, me included:-(. But I wonder if you are a little optimistic about how much you will need to live on in early retirement. I get that you could pay less rent by moving to a lower COL area. But won’t your student loan payment be the same? And your aunt could still need your help. Or am I missing something?

    1. Thanks, SMS. I was actually pretty impressed about my food bill too for the year. I thought that would be a significant area for improvement, but I spent way less than I thought. I used to really enjoy eating out but there’s not too many tempting places where I live. So you can attribute that to laziness. 🙂 Laziness has helped me save quite a few pennies over the years.

      As for early retirement, I actually became more confident after reading A Purple Life; she has a similar FIRE number and to see her claim it so boldly was really inspiring! You bring up some good questions, so thank you for that. As for rent, prior to this I was in a few different roommate scenarios where my rent was around $500/mon. So that will be my budget in ER. Student loan payment is income based so for the years I have no earned income, that will drop closer to 0. There may be a few Roth conversions in there, and my understanding is that that is considered taxable income. Either way, the amount will be $30k or less, so my student loan payments will reflect that. As for Aunty MERJ, there are few different ways to think about that. Technically, she has exactly the amount she needs for her expenses. She just likes to overspend. Also, with her serious co-morbid conditions, based on published data there is a fair chance she will not outlive my time in the workforce.

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