November Wrap-up

November Wrap-Up

November is in the books and we are halfway through December, here is The Smart Fi November Wrap-up.

If you missed my October Wrap-up you can read it here.

The Smart Fi monthly wrap-up is my chance, to share with you, the progress of a humble personal finance blog and our family’s journey, as we attempt to save half of our income and march towards financial independence.

November is one of my favorite months of the year. Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the official kick-off to the holiday season make it the start to the most wonderful time of the year. By the way, also the most expensive time of year.

I have been put on notice that my wife intends to buy a new television for our home. Btw, a 50-inch flat screen. Eeek! We also bought a couple of the most expensive smartphones on the planet in November.

Read about our family’s iPhone saga by reading I Happily Wasted $1200 On Myself.

Despite our increased holiday spending, we still saved greater than 40% of our gross pay. Although this is below our 50% savings goal, it is still something I’m proud of.  We have failed to hit a 50% savings rate in any month of 2018. This will be a point of focus for 2019. With continued raises and expense cutting, we should get to 50% in the next year.

November Wrap-up

The Smart FI Motivation

5 million step challenge

After 3 months of exceeding my step goal (June, July, and August) of 500,000 plus steps per month, I have continued my 3-month slide.  My suboptimal monthly steps for November appear to have been parlayed into another poor month for December. I walked and ran my way to 379,560 steps in November. 

Cumulatively for 2018, I have 4,803,250 steps through November 30. At this point, I have a high level of confidence in reaching my 2018 goal, 5 million steps.

Most of my steps are attained through running on days where I am not working as a nurse. Incidentally, I walk about 6 miles a day at work, in a busy emergency department.

I usually run 3-5 miles per day, 4 days per week. My affinity for running came about as a consequence of canceling my gym membership.

For years I had driven to the local gym, 1.5 miles from my house. In an attempt to become more environmentally friendly. I started running to the gym. Since I was running to the gym, I ditched the elliptical trainer and began using the gym for a 30-minute weight lifting routine.

One day a light bulb went off in my head when I realized I could run a little further every day and buy a couple free weights for home. I would no longer need the gym and I could cancel my membership altogether. In the first year, this saved me over $400.

I am not encouraging you to cancel your gym membership in any way. I strongly believe in fitness and health. This is just a long-winded story of why I canceled my gym membership. If you get value from your gym membership, it is worth every penny. In my case, it had become superfluous.

My wife is an avid runner with 29 marathons under her belt. On days where we both have the day off, we run together. It has become a common passion and, more importantly, a great way to nourish our relationship.

Financial Goals Review

Three 2018 financial milestones completed. 

January first, I laid out my lofty financial goals for  2018. Here they are:

  1. Max out two 401 k’s = $37,000* Goal Completed
  2. Max out both Mrs. Smartfi’s and my Roth IRA = $11,000
  3. Max out family HSA = $6900**
  4. Contribute $10,000 to taxable brokerage account at Vanguard. Goal Completed
  5. Add $300 dollars per month to the mortgage payment. This gets me to $20,000 of mortgage principle pay down per year. Goal Completed

You can read about my Hybrid Mortgage Payoff Plan by clicking here.

I recently published a post with a deep dive into my 2018 Financial Goals. To read all the fine details read, Savaging My 2018 Financial Goals.

* 401k and 403b contribution limit increased $500 for 2018 to $18,500 in 2018.

** HSA limit increased $150 for 2018 to $6900 for a family for 2018.

Let’s add this up

37,000 (401k) + 11,000(IRA) + $6,900(HSA) + 10,000(taxable savings) + 3,600(mortgage principal payments) = $68,500 savings/investments in 2018

In November this is where I allocated our family’s capital:

  • Wife’s 403(b) = MAXED OUT
  • My 403(b) = MAXED OUT*
  • $846.12 to Roth IRA’s
  • $440 to HSA
  • $4,860 to taxable brokerage accounts
  • $1,694.95 paid towards mortgage principal

*My personal 403(b) is maxed out for 2018. You can read How I maxed Out My 403(b) In 6 Months to see the details.

 November ContributionRunning 2018 Total Contribution2018 Goal
Roth IRA's
Vanguard Taxable account
Mortgage principal$1,694.95$21,573.20$20,000
monthly savings rate (%)41.1%

Monthly taxable savings

As you can see from the chart below, November was a great month for savings. I saved probably more than I should have. Keep reading, I’ll explain.

3 reasons for high November savings:


In the world of nursing, bonuses are almost nonexistent. But in November, a bonus is what I received. Yay! My employer offers a program where I can earn points towards an annual bonus.  If I accumulate enough points through volunteering and sitting on hospital committees I earn a $2000 bonus.


November was a 3 paycheck month, the second of the year. Back in June I wrote this post, Build Wealth With The 3 Payday MonthFor the 3 payday month in June, I took my entire 3rd paycheck and paid down mortgage principal.

For November, with the stock market down nearly 10%, I sent my 3rd paycheck to a taxable Vanguard brokerage account.

The key takeaway here is,  being mindful of financial windfalls, (3 payday month) builds huge wealth. By not segregating the 3rd paycheck, they wiggle there way into everyday spending and are lost for good.


Our travel hacking game needs some work. My wife opened up a Chase Saphire Preferred Credit Card to earn a free flight to her next marathon. To meet the minimum spend ($4,000), we pushed all expenses onto the new credit card in November.

This gave the appearance of extra money in our checking account. I should have set some of that “extra money” aside to help pay for the credit card spend in when the bill arrives in December, but I didn’t. Oops!. What can I say, I get excited to save.

In December we have not been able to save much because we are covering the credit card bill. All income in December will be needed to pay for November purchases.

I appreciate the credit card hacking game but I really don’t like separating the pleasure of buying things from the pain of paying for it.

October Investment Purchase

In October I purchased:

  • 2 Shares of Vanguard Total Stock Market Index ETF (VTI)
  • 6 Shares of Apple Stock
  • Dividends $83

I love dividends. They are my best source of passive income. Most of the individual stocks I own pay a dividend. All dividends are reinvested into more shares to keep my compounding money machine growing.

Early in 2019, during tax season, I plan to put together a post detailing my current dividend income. I enjoy reading posts from other bloggers who share their dividend portfolios. One blog that has been killing the dividend game is Reverse The Crush. Check it out.

Wrapping up

Thank you for reading my November Wrap-up. Be sure come back next month when we will a lot to discuss. Did I reach my 5 million step goal? Did I finally finish my 2018 financial goals? Taxes and 2019 financial goals will be top of mind.

Be sure to subscribe to my email list so you won’t miss my 2018 Year In Rewind.



One thought on “November Wrap-up

  1. Hey Smart FI,

    Awesome job with your financial goals and thanks for the shout out! I’m looking forward to publishing my financial goals for 2019 in early January. Looking forward to the rewind and your progress in 2019!

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