2016 Hardcore Savings

“Crappy” Jobs II

Pooltime
Cold Water Swimming on December 26th, 2015

Summer greetings to my dozens of loyal readers!  As you know, no one loves a “crappy” job more than this guy.  Unfortunately, over the last two years I’ve been very busy with my latest job, and it severely cut into my blogging.  Well, last week I worked my last day at “crappy job II.”  Now that I no longer have to keep secrets from my students, I can tell you all about it.

In June of 2014 my wife and I took new jobs in Douglas, Georgia.  The marital-lottery-winner took a middle school job and I landed a high school Spanish job.  We took the jobs for a few reasons.  First, after a year of homeschooling, our son expressed an interest in returning to traditional school.  Second, my brother-in-law in Tifton, GA was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so by moving to Douglas we would be only an hour away.  Third, my wife and I agreed that another year or two of hardcore savings would fast forward us to our goal of a $1 million net worth.  For those reasons, we loaded up a moving van with all of our possessions and drove to Douglas.

The Living Arrangement * After poking around a bit, we realized that Douglas did not have many rental options.  Fortunately, a co-worker put us in contact with a friend who had a 3/2 brick ranch for rent.  Seeing that the pickings were slim, we decided to rent the home for $750 a month.  While it was a decent house in a nice neighborhood, the home’s heating and air system was terrible.  The home was never really warm in the winter nor cool in the summer, but the electric bill was ALWAYS at least $225.  The house also required me to cut the grass…ugh!

In March of 2014 our electric bill topped out at $408, and that was our breaking point.  We decided to move to a more economical housing arrangement.  Eventually, a co-worker told us about a vacancy in her apartment complex.  The apartment had two bedroom, one and half bathrooms, a pool, and ZERO lawn responsibilities.  All for the price of $500 a month.  Naturally, we took the apartment, and we still live here today.  Even better, our electric bill is now a little less than $100 a month.

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The Jobs / Schools * Our jobs were a little different from our last “crappy” jobs in Echols County.  First, the school district, the Coffee County School System, was much larger than Echols County Schools.  The middle school had over 1,000 students and my high school had around 1,200 students.  Little ole Echols had less than 800 students in the entire district!  Second, because the size of our schools and the increased number of students, my wife and I both agreed that our jobs were much more stressful than our jobs at Echols County.  Many afternoons the stress of the job followed me home where it occupied my thoughts until I went to bed.  Many times Mr. School Stress would wake me up at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., and I couldn’t go back to bed.  I will not miss that aspect of the job!

On a positive note, our son liked his school and loved his teachers.  This past year he was in a gifted program that really broadened his mind with challenging lessons and a couple of exciting field trips to St. Augustine and Cumberland Island.  However, at the end of this year he was experiencing school fatigue.  His school day began at 7:30, and he often didn’t get back home until 5 p.m.  That’s a long day for a 4th grader, so we understood why he was tiring of school.  All in all, his transition from homeschooling back to traditional schooling went well (or well enough…I smell a future blog post on homeschooling vs. traditional schooling).

Enjoying Our Last Day of School
Celebrating Last Day of School with Shelley, My Department Head

The Town * Douglas, Georgia is a town of about 12,000 residents.  It has a junior college, a Walmart distribution center, lots of shopping, and plenty of restaurants.  Compared to Statenville, Douglas is New York City.  The town is a regional commerce center for the surrounding rural communities.  Consequently, Douglas has a lot of retail stores and restaurants for a town of its size.  Douglas is also only one hour from my wife’s family in Tifton, GA, so family visits have been common over the last two years.  From Douglas we’ve also been able to take a few beach trips to Jekyll Island and Jacksonville since they’re only two hours away.

The Financial Bottom Line * Okay, this is what many of my readers really want to know about.  Before taking our new jobs, we verified that the district offered both 403b and 457 retirement plans.  We also made sure that these plans did not have surrender charges.  We were hoping to get our August paychecks deposited into our 457 plans, but we could not get them established quickly enough.  Instead of freaking out about it, we simply sent our paychecks to our Vanguard IRAs.  Here is what we managed to save from August to December of 2014:

2014
Ed
Edwina
Family
Total
457
$12,890
$12,150
$0
$25,040
403b
$0
$0
$0
$0
IRA
$6,500
$5,500
$0
$12,000
HSA
$0
$0
$6,550
$6,550
UTMA
$0
$0
$185
$185
ESA
$0
$0
$2,000
$2,000
529
$0
$0
$300
$300
Total
$19,390
$17,650
$9,035
$46,075

In January of 2015, we changed our 403b and 457 contribution amounts to be sure to hit our maximum contributions limits.  From January to April, my wife and I both put $4,000 a month into our  457 plans at Aspire Financial Services.  In May I changed my 457 contribution amount to $1,000 a month, and I began contributing $3,000 a month to my 403b account.  In May Edwina changed her 457 contribution amount to $250 a month, and she began contributing $2,250 a month to her 403b account.  As usual, we used extreme front-loading from January to April to cram as much money as possible into our 457 accounts.  Here is what we did in 2015:

2015
Ed
Edwina
Family
Total
457
$24,000
$18,000
$0
$42,000
403b
$24,000
$18,000
$0
$42,000
IRA
$6,500
$5,500
$0
$12,000
HSA
$0
$0
$6,650
$6,650
UTMA
$0
$0
$300
$300
ESA
$0
$0
$2,000
$2,000
529
$0
$0
$300
$300
Mutual Fund
$0
$0
$1,000
$1,000
Total
$54,500
$41,500
$10,250
$106,250

Since we had eight paychecks (January to August) in 2016, we decided to keep funding our various accounts to the max.  In January we set our 457 contributions to $3,000 a month to insure that we both met the annual contribution limit.  (Edwina turns 50 in June, so she now qualifies for the catch-up contribution.)  We then had the remainder of our paycheck sent to our 403b accounts.  This is why our paychecks are a combined 26¢ a month.

In January we found ourselves with a large cash position for two reasons:  1.) we received our 72t IRA distributions of $18,375, and 2.) we sold our home in LaGrange, GA in November of 2015.  We decided to make contributions of $5,062 to our HSA account and $2,000 to our Coverdell ESA.  We also invested $3,000 into the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index fund (VTSMX).  Hey, you gotta fund the accounts while you’re flush with cash, right?  Here is what our savings for 2016 will be:

2016
Ed
Edwina
Family
Total
457
$24,000
$24,000
$0
$48,000
403b
$16,352
$11,344
$0
$27,696
IRA
$3,586
$3,136
$0
$6,722
HSA
$0
$0
$5,062
$5,062
UTMA
$0
$0
$300
$300
ESA
$0
$0
$2,000
$2,000
529
$0
$0
$300
$300
Mutual Fund
$0
$0
$3,000
$3,000
Total
$43,938
$38,480
$10,622
$93,080

Okay, get ready for the big finish.  Here is our hardcore savings total for our two academic years in Douglas:

"Crappy" Jobs II by Year
Year
Total
2014
$46,075
2015
$106,250
2016
$93,080
Total Hardcore Savings
$245,405

I won’t lie and say that our jobs in Douglas were easy, but at least we had a plan.  From the beginning we estimated that we would save at least $10,000 a month.  Here is a more detailed look at our savings over various time periods:

What We Saved Every...
Per Fiscal Year (3)
$81,802
Per Academic Year (2)
$122,703
Per Month (20)
$12,270
Per Month (18)
$13,634
Per Day (380)
$646
These Numbers Kept Us Motivated!

While the academic year occupies ten months (August to May), you could argue that it only consists of nine months.  Why?  We have plenty of time off:  2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week at Thanksgiving, 1 week for Spring Break, and other short breaks.  Knowing that we were saving the majority of our salaries served as a constant motivator over the last two years.

Final Thoughts

Overall, our time in Douglas, GA worked in our favor.  Our son had two good years at his elementary school.  We were able to be with family as my brother-in-law’s illness worsened.  (He finally passed away on March 5th of 2016 after a three-year battle with cancer.) Last, we were able to save a considerable amount of money and grow our net worth.  While the last two years haven’t been easy with difficult jobs and an imminent death in the family, we feel like we made the most of our time here.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Those are fantastic numbers! It’s great you made the best out of a non ideal situation

    Also wow, the idea of a $400+ electric bill makes me cringe.

    1. Those electric bills were money right out the window. We never thought we’d want to live in an apartment again, but this has been a good change for us. As for the numbers, we believe what we do could be repeated in most Georgia school districts (probably most districts in the U.S. too). You have to take advantage of a good financial situation when you have it, but first you have to recognize the situation. These days if I have a teaching job, I see unbelievable possibilities! Thanks for reading, commenting, and correcting my math! Ed

  2. Crazy how much faster you can get ahead with a decent salary in a low COL area compared to a decent salary in a high COL area. It’s crazy how more people don’t see this and take advantage of it. Part of the bonus of coming to the Midwest to be with my SO is that my COL has dramatically decreased 😉

    1. Ferv, so true. When I see a home hunter’s show out West or the NE, I am shocked by the prices that are normal there. When I first got here, there were a few livable homes in the $45-$60K range. We didn’t want to buy here because we knew we had a short time horizon, but at those prices it was tempting. As for my apartment, it’s really nice…it’s certainly the best $500 rental we’ve ever had! When my Dad heard what we were paying, he asked me if we were living in a really bad neighborhood.

      I guess the point is that you don’t have to leave the country to benefit from geo-arbitrage. There are many sweet spots right here in the U.S. Glad to hear that you found one! Ed

  3. Sorry for your family loss.

    The accumulation phase and things that life throws at us is also a reminder that life is short, sweet and at times very bitter. Living for the moments today is as important as the plans ahead. And your family seems to have that down to a T.

    An inspiring savings rate and lifestyle that provides motivation for us as we head towards our FIRE in just over two years.

    1. Mr. Pie, life is for living, right? We’re all good at enjoying ourselves, but we hit a doldrums period last year. The monotony of the schedule was starting to grind us down a little. Knowing why we came here and that it was only temporary helped us suck it up until the end of school.

      Keep doing what you’re doing because the freedom of choice is certainly worth it. Also, keep spreading the FIRE message because people need to see that there are alternatives to the current debt-slave-deferred-life status quo. Thanks for the kind words and frugal on. Ed

  4. Thanks for the post. I’m glad to hear you were able to be nearer to your family during your brother-in-law’s illness.

    Thanks for the teaser about a possible future homeschooling vs. traditional schooling post. I’d definitely be interested in reading your thoughts.

  5. Good post Ed! If you make it back to the coast, send me an email and we can meet up for a bit. We are in Brunswick.

  6. Hi Ed,

    Since you mentioned I will ask. We too are looking at a sabbatical next year with a combination of travel and time in our very own Columbia River Gorge. Being a teacher myself I have never considered home schooling up until recently. We have a fourth grader who is willing to give it a try. Can you discuss your experiences with this? Is it hard to keep your child motivated? What about social? Curriculum? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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