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Frugality House Hacking Retirement

Life in the Times of COVID-19

To summarize, we’re a little over 5 weeks into self-isolation. The first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was identified on February 28th.

By the week of March 9, my boyfriend was starting to feel ill-at-ease about the situation unfolding; he was persistent in asking me to start working from home, but I still felt uncomfortable making that request. By mid-week, two of my coworkers informed me that they’d made the decision to work remote.

It was a Thursday when I decided I wasn’t going to return the next day. I didn’t speak to my boss about it outright — just grabbed all my food from the work fridge into my backpack, put what I couldn’t carry into the freezer, and left with the expectation that it would be a while before I’d be back.

That weekend, I privately messaged our office manager to ask if we were going to join other tech companies in closing our office; the response wasn’t definitive. But on Sunday night I got the email announcing mandatory work from home.

Except for a couple of errands in which we practiced extreme social distancing and precautionary measures, we’ve both been fully at home since March 13th.

Work

My boyfriend got laid off when the retail store he works at was closed on the 17th or 18th. Rather than it being a blow, we were ridiculously grateful that he could stay safe and away from the general public.

Side note: a pandemic is not a time to be buying ukeleles, people.

His unemployment application has been filled out, but we’re still waiting for a status on the funds.

We’re highly fortunate that my job can be done remotely and that we can afford our necessary expenses on my income alone.

I was surprised to receive a raise during my performance review last week. Because I’ll now be salaried and the income will be less subject to my own personal whims, I’ll end up pulling in an extra ~12-15k per year. Despite my deep hesitation about being a salaried employee, I’m taking the offer to ensure our stability.

The gratitude I feel to have this job is accompanied by a deep survivor’s guilt. Why am I still employed, and safely able to work in my home, when so many people don’t have that luxury?

I need funnel some extra money to helping others; I’ll be trying to figure out where I can donate that will have the greatest impact on helping others.

Pausing the House Hunt

This doesn’t feel like the right time to continue with our house hunt, so we’re putting this goal on pause. We’re just keeping everything extra in the bank right now. If we need to use the house fund for an emergency, so be it.

We’ll resume the hunt next year (I’m assuming) if and when things return to a less-nightmarish state.

Food

Groceries, where do I begin with you?

Groceries have been a huge inner battle for me. We started using Instacart when we began self-isolating because of their no-contact delivery.

However, I feel extremely guilty about passing off my chores to other people because of my fear of going to the grocery store. I’m making sure to tip well, and placing larger orders infrequently.

We also found a local restaurant food supplier that extended their services to supplying residential customers. Beans and rice are the base of many of our meals, so the fact that all of our bins were running low made me jump on the opportunity to get in a large order with this company. (I wasn’t able to find beans or rice on any other grocery website.)

Our order looked something like this:

  • 50 lb lentils
  • 50 lb white rice
  • 50 lb black beans
  • 25 lb rolled oats
  • 25 lb garbanzo beans
  • 50 lb flour
  • 2 gallons vinegar
  • 2 gallons bleach
  • A box of food prep gloves
  • 2 16 oz. tubs of our favorite local salsa
  • 5 lb each of macaroni and spaghetti
  • A variety of produce: frozen okra, frozen spinach, pink lady apples, bell peppers, avocados, and zucchini

The order was over $300, but having the food handy has brought us so much peace of mind.

Now we just need to worry about keeping it safe and well-preserved.

Retirement Investing

I’ve just stopped looking at my Fidelity dashboard for the most part. Every now and then I’ll log in, but I don’t have much anxiety on this front. I know the market falls and rises, and this too shall pass.

After a precipitous drop from its high of nearly $15,000, the value of my Roth IRA has been trying to make a comeback. As of today, it’s at a little over $12,000.

My balance history over the last two years, showing a steady rise from around $2,000 to nearly $15,000, with a steep drop to around $10,000 just before April 2020.

I do find it highly amusing that the developers at Fidelity moved the ‘Your Balance History’ section to the bottom of the dashboard multiple times over the last month — I’m assuming to keep people from panicking.

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