How to budget and save more money

You can’t get married without a budget

As I watched the sun set on my twenties, it dawned on me that I did not want to spend another decade teetering on the precipice of debt. In my twenties I tried to “find myself” through labor and discipline: scooping sawdust out of bins at the City College of New York’s woodworking shop, greasing tins during overnight shifts at the Sullivan Street bakery in Hell’s Kitchen, and washing dishes at SPoT coffee in Buffalo. As I approached my thirties, I decided to “make myself” and I began to seek knowledge from all directions related to personal finance. I listened to hundreds of podcast episodes on from ChooseFI, read dozens of books in the vein of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and I asked to hear the stories of friends and acquaintances who had reached the mythical status of millionaire. I was committed to escaping the insecurity of financial instability. 

Learning about your workplace benefits 

On an episode of the ChooseFI podcast, I heard that many people have workplace benefits they do not utilize. I contacted Nancy, the human resources officer at my job, and asked to sit down with her for a chat. “Do you know about your EAP benefits?” she asked. “You have all types of free counseling through it: marriage, financial, and nutritional…it really helped me and Teddy get through some tough times.” 

I signed up for financial counseling and soon after, Cole called me to ask a few questions:

“So Sean, do you want to get married?” he asked. 

“Yes,” I responded. 

“Ok, so you’re gonna want to begin saving up money for that. Typically, I recommend my clients save at least $20,000, and if you want to get married in the next five years, you can divide that $20,000 by 60 months. So, add $350 a month to your budget to be safe.” 

We continued forecasting future expenses and breaking them into manageable monthly chunks, while adding them to a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet summed all these expenses up and gave me a numerical value to represent the monthly income I would need to live my ideal lifestyle. 

Why do I need a budget? 

For the first time I realized success no longer had to be a nebulous ideas like “be wealthy,” “happy,” or “famous”. Rather, if I could find a way with all the cleverness, ingenuity, and privilege that I was blessed with to cover my expenses each month, I could then afford a wedding in Mill Valley, owning a home in Sonoma, and winter breaks in Kauai. As a kid in school, I would sit “front-most, center-most,” turn in projects before the deadline, and attend office to have my work reviewed before being graded. I loved the challenge of meeting the expectations provided by teachers. When I transitioned from school into adulthood, I felt disoriented with the lack of expectations and clarity. Where was the syllabus? I spent thousands of dollars and hours creating a music production company, then a writing company, only to have these projects peeter out because I was unable to generate substantial income to support my lifestyle. Learning to budget with Cole taught me the necessary pre-work of estimating expenses and setting financial goals that would keep me afloat during periods of growth and transition. 

How to budget when you are married 

After getting married and joining our bank accounts, my wife and I began to budget together. We would sit down over coffee and sort our disparate expenses from the previous month into neat categories. Sometimes, this led to the revelation of embarrassing spending habits and uncomfortable dialogues. “Sean, why did you spend $600 at Costco this month?” 

“Well, I am opening this new travel rewards credit card and I needed to meet the spending limit so I purchased a $500 Coscto gift card.” 

“WHAT? Why did you open a new credit card without talking with me?” 

Slowly, by budgeting together, I learned financial accountability to my wife, and our relationship deepened because I would weigh each decision with her money and credit in mind. We did our budget in the context of a family meeting and began to set relationship goals. If nothing else, having a family meeting with a budget discussion embedded into it gave us a reason to sit down and be present together. Through this process, I learned about my expenses and which ones I could control and which ones would be consistent on a month-to-month basis. 

What is the difference between fixed and variable expenses? 

By constantly seeking ways to decrease my expenses in order to save more money, I learned the difference between fixed expenses like utilities, transportation, and rent, and variable expenses like eating out, concerts, and subscription services. After reviewing the previous months expenditures, we set objectives to hold our spending on certain variable expenses to a limit for the new month and highlighted that category in red to keep it in mind. Then, we would forecast a number to spend in that category for the current month and hold each other accountable toward that goal. 

How to calculate your savings rate

Our savings rate, or the percentage you get when you divide the money remaining after all your expenses by your total income, hovered around 8% for the year of 2019, even with monthly student debt payments and a new baby daughter. Our goal now is to continuously be above a 10% savings rate each month, and eventually, closer to 50%. Here is an easy way to calculate your savings rate: 

Calculate your savings rate: 
income minus expenses = surplus 
surplus divided by income = savings rate 
How to calculate your savings rate

How can a budget help you save more? 

Before learning to budget, I spent the majority of my twenties with never more than $1,000 in my bank account. Granted, I was lucky not to be in debt, but rarely did I have the extra income to snowboard at Mount Rose, eat out at Central Market, or purchase a Honda that was made in the last ten years. Maintaining a budget became a mirror by which I could reflect on my habits in a small quadrant of time and take immediate action to improve my life. Working with my wife on this process brought us closer together and made us a team that is twice as strong in earning power and accountability than we would be alone. 

Since beginning the budgeting process I’ve met many goals that I set out to do: I purchased a home in Northern California, I married a brilliant and loving woman surrounded by family and friends, and I became a father to a beautiful daughter. Choosing to reflect on my choices through maintaining a budget and collaborating with my wife has given me both the hope and ability to design a life that I want. Where will a budget take you? 

A simple guide to investing for doctors

Imagine that you are making more money than you have ever made in your life? What would you do?

First, identify where you are on this spectrum:

If you can account for what comes and goes out of your accounts, if you have paid off your debts, and saved up an emergency fund, then you are ready to begin investing. 

Where to start in your investing journey

Start with fully-fund your retirement accounts. Depending on your employer you will have access to either a 401(k), for private employers, or for public employers you will have access to a 403(B) and possibly a 457(b). You can google, “401(k) contribution limits” to find out how much you can put into these accounts each year. In 2020, the contribution limits for each of these accounts are the following: 

Pre-Tax Account Contribution Limit 
401(k) $19,500
403(b)$19,500
457(b) $19,500
IRS Contribution Limits for 2020

You fund 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457(b)s, with “pretax” dollars, meaning your contributions are taken from your paycheck before taxes are deducted. You will have to pay taxes eventually of course, but not until you retire (age 59.5 or older). The IRS taxes all withdrawals at your ordinary income tax rate at that point. BUT, when you retire, you will have little, to no income, so you will be taxed at a lower rate. 

By fully funded your retirement accounts, you lower your taxable income, thus paying less in taxes. While I can’t tell you exactly how much you will save, you can learn more here: https://www.millionaireeducator.com/2019/11/tax-planning-2020-free-money.html

You can set this up with your HR person at your job. 

Investing your money within your retirement plans: 

Once you open your 401(k), or 403(b) and 457(b) retirement plans, your work is not done. Now you need to choose your investment vehicle within those plans. I choose to invest in index funds with low costs and low fees. 

Why invest in index funds? 

Warren Buffett, arguably the greatest investing mind known to humans, said this in  a 2014 letter to his shareholders: 

My advice to the trustee could not be more simple: Put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard‘s [time stock-symbol=VFINX].) I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors—whether pension funds, institutions, or individuals—who employ high-fee managers.

Warren Buffet, 2014

Why you should not pick individual stocks

Maybe you are thinking, “I am smart. I can pick winning stocks because I have made many good choices in my life.” History has shown that most people fail at the stock market because they try to pick winning stocks. No one can predict how individual stocks will do. A good example is the Domino’s verse Google story. Imagine that it is 2010. You are ready to start investing and you are presented with a choice between two stocks: Google or Domino’s Pizza. Where do you put your money?

Most people would say Google. 

“However, in reality Domino’s share price growth has outperformed all of the world’s largest tech companies so far this decade. An investment in Domino’s at the start of 2010 has grown by more than 2,000% to date, leaving the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple in the dust.”

This is why index funds are the way to go. 

What is an index fund? 

In case you don’t fully understand what index funds are: a “stock index” is basically a list of big-name stocks for large, established companies (think Exxon-Mobil, Microsoft, Verizon, etc.) You take an average of all the stock prices in this list, and that gives you a number that’s kind of a thermometer for the stock market as a whole. When people say ‘the stock market is up today”, they usually mean that most or all of the popular stock indexes are up such as the S&P 500, the Nasdaq, and the Dow Jones. 

An “index fund” is, in a basic sense, like paying a broker to buy all the stocks on a particular index (the S&P 500 is a popular choice). You send him $1000, and he splits is evenly between all the stocks on that index. This is an easy, low-cost way to follow the ups and downs of the market without having to make any decisions about which stocks to buy yourself. When one company fails in an index, it is replaced by another, better performing, income generating company. 

The stock market has grown an average of 10% a year since its inception in 1926. Just by buying and holding index funds, you get to be part of this story and an average gain of 10% a year (as long as you don’t sell). You need to allow time to work its magic and for your money to compound. 

The purpose of an index fund is to allow an investor a simple way to own some segment of the market in a predictable way that doesn’t require the investor to constantly adjust their positions. The index does that work for the investor, buying and selling whatever is in the basket according to the “rules” the index established when it was formed. Because the index is “rules based” and doesn’t have a human being in the loop making decisions, and thus doesn’t have to pay a manager an exorbitant fee to manage the index, the overhead costs of index funds are quite low compared to other kinds of investments.

How do I invest in an index fund? 

First, you must open an account with a brokerage. I use Schwab, many people love Vanguard, and I have heard good things about Fidelity and T.Rowe Price. When choosing an index fund, you main concerns are consisent and steady growth over time and low fees. 

PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE EXPENSE RATIO. To understand what a massive effect these will have on your money, use this calculator to compare expense ratios: https://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/mutual-funds-fees-calculator.aspx

A fund like VTSAX, through Vanguard, has an expense ratio of .04%. If you are paying more than this, it could cost you a half-million dollars (or more) in lifetime earnings. 

If you want to learn more, send me an email at: seanemccormick@gmail.com or browse through more resources below: 

Further resources: 

Personal finance websites geared to doctors: 

How to make a New Year’s resolution that you keep

How would you feel if you actually wrote the book you’ve been formulating in your mind for years? Or went out and performed a song you wrote at an open mic? What is stopping you? I’ll tell you…a precise goal and a process for completing that goal. Starting in March 2019, I began to develop a process to set goals, track my progress toward them, and celebrate when I had met those goals. In doing so, I earned tenure (and earn a promotion) as a teacher, read 12 books in less than 9 months, and published my writing online (eight years after earning an English degree and thinking about it everyday).

I spent my twenties trying many things: I worked as a baker (of bread, then cookies before being fired), a musician (that never sold more than a handful of mixtapes), the creator of online business (that never gained a client), and at a coffee shop (where I was never promoted to barista), until I finally found a vocation in education. In education where experimentation is paramount, my failures were celebrated as experiments, and I was able to support students in attempting to create their own process for learning. I now understand that one of the reasons the school environment has always been enjoyable to me is that there are clearly articulated goals and deadlines in school. What I lacked in my small business attempts was an ability to formulate my own goals and deadlines to measure success. 

One day, I received an article from my mentor which contained an idea Warren Buffet had shared. To paraphrase, he said, think of twenty-five things you want out of life. Write them down. Then, choose five of them. With all you energy and might, focus on completing those five, and actively avoiding working on the other twenty which will sap your energy. 

I followed this advice and wrote down 25 things I wanted to accomplish. My initial list was characterized by polar extremes like, “be president” and “keep my car running smoothly,” but in writing those things down and choosing five of them to work on, I was quickly able to identify which goals were actionable and which goals were out of my locus of control. 

Here is how I laid out my five “priority” goals to track my progress toward achieving them: 

My next focus was writing street level actions or “baby steps” I could take to work on my first goal (the left-most goal). By identifying one small thing I could do to move in the direction of accomplishing what I had set out to do, I was able to quickly identify what was in the realm of possibility. For example, one of my first goals was to “publish a story,” but no matter how many editors I googled and sent story ideas to, I was not able to gain traction. Because this goal was feeling unachievable, I decided to move it to my back-up list for the time being, and focus on some smaller goals that would feel great to accomplish like, “Read 12 books in 2019,” which I was able to do with sustained effort.  

By reading my five priority goals after waking up and before going to bed, I always have something to look forward to doing that day and something to wake up for in the morning. With each goal I accomplish, I add it to my “completed goals” list, which is now 23 accomplishments strong. And by sharing this with my friends, they were inspired to set their own goals and we formed a mastermind group to hold each other accountable. The pairing of accomplishments and community feeds my spirit and increases my motivation.  

In just 9 months of using this process, I set and reached goals to get tenured in my current job, to start a blog and share my ideas that were crammed into the attics of my mind, and to read twelve books in 2019. If I can do it after a decade of running around in circles, you can to. 

If you would like to try this process, you can follow the steps below or watch this video

  1. Go to https://sonomasavers.com/resources/ and open the link titled, “Goal Setting Template”. 
  2. At the bottom of the document, click on the sheet titled, “Backup Goal List” write down 25 things you want to accomplish. Don’t agonize over making them perfect — just get ‘em out. 
  3. Choose 5 of those goals and move them to the priority goal list. Reword them so that they are specific. Instead of, “Improve my relationship,” write something like, “I will take my wife on 3 dates in January 2020.” 
  4. Choose a date by which you will accomplish each goal. 
  5. Identify one step you can complete 30 minutes or less and write it below your goal.  
  6. Once you have taken the step toward your goal, focus on completing a step toward your next goal, and repeat this step until you come back to your first goal. 
  7. Re-read your goals each morning and evening, making sure to spend at least 30 minutes each day to take a step toward one of your goals.

Did you make a change to your life after reading this article? Are you willing to share? Send me an email at: seanemccormick@gmail.com and let me know your story.

What is the most powerful force in the universe?

One day a mentor of mine posed the following riddle: “Sean, what did Einstein say was the most powerful force in the universe?”

“Gravity,” my ignorant, younger self responded.

“No…Einstein said, ‘compound interest; for he who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.’”

Since you are reading this, you probably have at least a nebulous understanding of interest. Perhaps, you’ve seen the word in credit card offers or mentioned in the sped up voices at the end of commercials: “0% APR and only 17.99% each year after that! Cash back, some restrictions apply; see offer for details.”

But what is it, really? And why would Einstein claim it to be the most powerful force in the universe when his ideas led to the creation of the atomic bomb?

Lets examine interest carefully and understand it together…

Imagine that you have $100 and you are ready to invest it. We will call this your principal amount. Then, you take that principal amount to the bank and put it in a special account that has a 10% interest rate (a highly unlikely scenario but please follow along).

Interest is the amount of money that is added to your principal amount ($100) that you invested. Since you invested a principal amount of $100 dollars in the bank with an interest rate of 10%, you would have that $100 dollars, plus 10% of that $100, or $110 at the end of one year. And at the end of the next year, you would have $110 plus 10% of that $110, or $121.

Without doing a thing except for letting time work its magic, in 15 years that $100 would transform into $417.72. That may not seem like a lot, but if we had used $100,000 as our principal amount in the above example, without adding a single penny, that $100,000 would become $417,724.82 after 15 years.

In reality, the rich continue to get richer using the magic of compound interest, while everyone else’s money continues to devalue due to inflation. Which side of compound interest do you want to be on?

For those of you who have debt and do not understand how compound interest works, you are being gradually robbed in ever-increasing amounts, each year (unless you have an active plan to pay off your debt).

If you owed $100 dollars at a 10% interest rate, you would owe the $100, plus 10% of $100, or $110 at the end of one year. After 15 years, you would owe $417.72. And worse, most credit card companies charge an interest rate of between 14% and 19% on any unpaid balance, so if you are not paying off your balance in full for each billing cycle, you are building up an ever increasing snowball of debt. Like Einstein said, “he who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”

Before I had my rudimentary understanding of interest rates, I kept my money at Bank of America because they had ATMs everywhere. Little did I know, my money was consistently decreasing in value due to Bank of America’s subpar interest rates combined with the eroding nature of inflation on my money’s value.

Inflation describes the “general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money.” Remember when movie tickets were $7 at Northgate? Or when a Coke costs 10¢ at the soda shop? With inflation, prices keep rising, but your dollar buys you less and less, every year. Indubitably, the cost of things will continue to rise and your purchasing power will continue to decrease, unless you grow your money.

And how do you grow your money…with interest!

Here are Bank of America’s interest rates on their saving accounts (at the time of this writing in Fall 2019:

Bank of America Savings Account

Amount in account Annual percentage yield or interest rate
Up to $10k0.04%
$10k – $50k0.05%
$50k – $100k0.06%

Yes, those annual percentage rates are all less than 1%. As a consumer, you have the power to choose where you keep your money. You can use the website, bankrate.com to compare the different interest rates for savings accounts. Make sure to check what the minimum deposit is, whether or not the bank is FDIC insured, what the number of withdrawals permitted each month is, and what minimum balance you need to maintain to not incur any fines.

To show why this matters, let’s compare how much interest you would gain on $1000, $50,000, and $100,000, at Bank of America versus a bank with a 2.1% interest rate which is fairly common:

Amount Interest accrued after 1 year at a .06% annual percentage yield (APR) or interest rate Interest you will accrue 1 year at a 2.1% annual percentage yield (APR) or interest rate
$1000$0.60$21.22
$50,000$30.01$1,061.07
$100,000$60.02$2,122.14

And for good measure, here is the same chart but after 10 years of growth with the same interests rates:

Amount Interest you will accrue after 10 years at a .06% annual percentage yield (APR)Interest you will accrue 10 year at a 2.1% annual percentage yield (APR)
$1000$6.02$233.45
$50,000$300.89$11,672.58
$100,000$601.79$23,345.17

But what if I told you that you don’t need to settle for a 2%, 3%, or even 5% interest rate or annual percentage yield on your hard earned money? What if there was a consistent, predictable way to earn an 8% interest rate or annual percentage yield on your money?

There is.

Google: what is the average return of the stock market since it opened?

Do you see what I am talking about?

But before you get ahead of yourself and go buy a bunch of random stocks, you need to learn about your investing options and how to move forward in a thoughtful manner, which will be my next article.

Did you make a change to your financial life after reading this article? Are you willing to share? Send me an email at: seanemccormick@gmail.com and let me know your story.

A letter to my 18 year old self

Listen to this post using this link: https://anchor.fm/sean-guerrero-mccormick/episodes/Season-1–Episode-1-A-letter-to-my-18-year-old-self-e4opnh

Sean,

Young Sean gazing into his future.

Greetings from the dawn of your thirties. You’ve got 10 East Coast winters, 8 years of college, and 1 wedding to plan before we meet, but I’d like to share some suggestions that will deepen your pockets and expand your perspective before that day arrives. These next twelve years will be the best of times and the worst of times: you will have a beautiful daughter and lose your godfather; you will marry the woman of your dreams and watch your parents slowly separate; through all of it, you will transform from boy to man, and it is my hope that I can make this journey a little easier and more rewarding.

And hey, you’ve got a lot to look forward to. You own a 3 bedroom home in Sonoma County; you were just invited to play in an adult basketball league in San Quentin with Matt; you make a fresh Americano every morning using your Breville machine that Mom gave you…life is good.

For reasons beyond me, you are going to work very hard for your money for the next 9 years. From spending the summer in Alaska power washing a 200 foot deck and running errands for wealthy guests, to working overnights at Sullivan Street Bakery in Hell’s Kitchen, you will be like the Saints of old lashing their backs to find meaning and purpose. I’m here to let you know, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let your money work hard while you take it easy and not the opposite. I’m not saying be lazy; rather, take that management position at Sullivan Street Bakery when George offers it to you. And before that, take a teaching methods class at City College and become a teacher right out the graduation gate.

Nine years into your journey to meet me, the light bulb really goes off when Mom sends you that article from Money Magazine about Vicki Robinson. Vicki’s story, about buying a duplex and paying off her mortgage with her rental income, while conveniently living rent-free, comes at the zenith of your frustration. You’ve just been evicted from your apartment in Buffalo and are seeking a new place to live, without a vehicle to facilitate the search. You’ve become tired of the nobility of poverty narrative that somehow infiltrated your mind, and you are ripe for change.

Now, I’m really hoping this letter does not have some unforeseen consequences like in the Butterfly Effect, but nevertheless here are my recommendations:

First, you need to use your creative genius to save at least 10% of your income, every single month. By the time you finish college in 2012, you will have $42,410.00 of taxed social security earnings on record, yet less than $1000 to your name. With the same industry of spirit that led you to scan the walls of your college’s halls for scholarship offers and apply for every one that you were eligible for, figure out a way to save as much of that $42,410.00 as you can. This starts with learning how to track your income and expenses.

To do this, identify exactly how much income you bring to the table each month, and how much you are spending. Anything that is left over, ask Mom to show you how to invest in an index fund. She’ll want you to buy Apple, so do a little bit of that, but with the rest, go for a boring index fund like the Schwab 1000. If you really want to play your cards right, save up all your left over income, then wait until the stock market drops to its nadir on March 6, 2009 and invest everything in that index fund. Like Andrew told you, “When there is blood in the streets, that is when you buy.”

Next, focus on increasing your income. Learning how to leverage your unique talents for profit is one of the most intelligent, creative and fun things you can do. It doesn’t mean your a sell-out; it means you understand how to see things from the perspective of others and provide a meaningful service or product. You could start a tutoring business by posting on Craigslist; do informational interviews with authors, speech writers, and screen writers to learn about how they arrived at where they are at. Find stories of people who inspire you and figure out what steps you can take to move the ball forward in your own life.

And just for fun, don’t quit the City College basketball team. I know it sucks to get made fun of by your teammates, but you are a freshman in college and that is what happens. They aren’t hazing you and you do not need to take it personally. In this case, take it as a sign that they like you and you need to earn your spot in the lineup. And I acknowledge, it is a new feeling to be the only white kid on the team, however it is a vital opportunity for you to experience a minuscule fraction of what people of color feel like everyday. Learning how to move beyond your feelings and look at outcomes is going to be a big challenge for you.

I can’t wait to meet you! You have so many good things going. You’re curious, you’re in love, and you do so many things right. Stick with the Bronx Budgeteer, invest in your education and index funds, and don’t take anything personally. You are your own man.

With love,

Sean.

The unassuming power of the carpool: part 1

Featured

20190204_073926Its 2019 in the Bay Area. Everyday, two southbound lanes of highway from Sonoma County hemorrhage out hundreds of thousands of commuters into the expansive Golden Gate. Like the opening scene in Office Space, thousands of commuters inch forward toward their destination, occupying themselves with podcasts, cigarettes, road rage, or whatever else fills that tiny space between bumpers. 

Amidst this Sisyphean slog, my co-worker and I maintain a travelling speed between 50 and 60 miles per hour, discussing what choice cuts of beef we will purchase from Coscto following the work day and how to approach different issues that naturally arise in the work place. 

But how did you gain the privilege of bypassing our fellow commuters? Were you born of noble blood? Or did you gain this power through surreptitious means? My answer to your inquisition is “neither”. 

To gain this unique privilege, all we had to do was the absolute unthinkable — commit to sharing our private resources for the mutual benefit of each other’s pocket book (and the larger environment). 

Here is how I did it.

When I caught wind that my colleague, Ben, also lived in Petaluma, I approached him and proposed the idea. We agreed to switch driving each day and what benefits we have enjoyed. Let me share them with you: 

Primarily, the carpool lane shaves off a minimum of fifteen minutes from my journey to work, but more closer to 25 to 35 minutes on most days. Because Google Maps has yet to find a way to account for the carpool lane, when says it takes 50 minutes to get to work, my co-worker and I usually arrive in 35 minutes. At minimum, let’s say that I am saving 20 minutes a day by carpooling (15 minutes southbound, 5 minutes northbound). 20 minutes multiplied by 20 work days equals 400 minutes per month. 

400 minutes divided by 60 minutes = 6.67 hours. 

That’s 6.67 hours of my life I just clawed back from the system to move me closer to my goal of financial freed. Time is money and I aim to take full control of my time in the coming years. 

Second, my gas bill has literally been sawed in half. I’m talking a rusty, back and forth, obliteration of my gas bill, turning that thing into straight confetti. Let’s break this savings down into the numbers: 

  1. To determine how much gas I used for work:
    I used Google Maps to calculate the number of miles it is from my house to work (25 miles) and multiplied this times two for my commute home from work. 
  2. Next, I Googled, “2007 Toyota corolla fuel efficiency for highway traffic” and found out it is 37 mpg. 
  3. I then Googled, “What is the average price of gasoline in California?” and found out it is $3.16. 
  4. I punched all that information into this fuel cost calculator 

And from this process I learned that “This trip will require 1.47 gallons of gas, which amounts to a fuel cost of $4.65.”

My daily fuel cost of driving to and from work is $4.65 and I drive to work on average 20 days each month.

20 days x $4.65 = $93 dollars a month in fuel 

And since Ben drives every other day, I am now only spending half that $93, which is about $46.50 a month on gas. 

But wait, what about the cost of wear and tear to your vehicle? Driving everyday, working that engine, starting and stopping for 100 minutes, and going over potholes here and there has to cost something. Luckily there is a website dedicated to evaluating those costs.

I punched in all my data again and came up with a monthly cost of $241.08 for the wear and tear on my vehicle. Once again, I grab that monthly cost, set it on the chopping block in my back yard, and BAM! 

Now my wear and tear expense when carpooling are $120.54

So as you can see, I just reduced my commuting expenses from $334.08 a month for 10 months a year (teachers have a 2 month convalescent period to regain their grip on life), to $167.04 a month. 

For the ten-month school year it went from $3,340.08 to $1670.40 per year. 

And for the big picture planning, I will invest that $1670.40 I am no longer spending (but had account for in my budget) into my SWTSX fund. SWTSX has a historical 15 year average rate of return of 8.4%. I’ll continue to dump a monthly contribution of that $1670.40 into SWTSX each month for the next 15 years (when $1670.40 is divided by 12 months, it comes out to $139.20 per month). 

Using a simple compound interest calculator to see what I have after 15 years of my initial $1670.40 contribution with $139.20 a month after that, and I will have $52,392.88 in 2034. 

chart

Action step: Ask a trusted co-worker if they know anyone who commutes from where you live to the same working location.