Personal Finance?

I want to write about personal finance, but I don’t know how. I don’t know what to say or how to make it interesting. When I had debt it was easier. I had a goal, I could update my progress, I would fail or I would succeed and I would talk about why. Things are less interesting now. I mean, I’m in a way better place financially, but it’s less interesting to write about. I’ve reduced my necessary spending to about 35% of my take home. I have 10% go into long term savings automatically. The remaining 55% goes into living my life. Sometimes I have a bit left over and when I do I split it 4 ways for 4 different goals (travel, clothes, long term, and general). Since getting out of debt 11 months ago, I’ve managed to save 19% of my take home salary. Things are good. I could have been more frugal, but I would have had less fun, so there’s that.

But, now what?

I love my life how it is. I’m not willing to make drastic changes, to stop going for drinks with friends or going to concerts or travelling. But there are definitely some subtle things I could be doing to cut back on my spending and save more at the end of each month. I don’t have a number goal in mind at this time, but I do have a plan. As a card-carrying member of Generation Y, I respond well to public bragging and public shame. So I will do that here. I will share my wins so you can all applaud me. And I will share the losses, in the hope that doing so will decrease the number of losses I make.

Examples?

Win: Booking my Christmas day flight to Vernon, BC with my Amex Gold card. This card allows you to cash points in for any travel. ANY. So I did that here. Savings: $176

Loss: On Wednesday I was grumpy. Work was intense, I had a hard time leaving it at the door. Maybe my hormones were acting up too. So instead of meditating, going for a run or generally getting a grip, I went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Malbec. Loss: $13

So that’s that. Starting today this blog is going to hold me accountable (again). Ok. Go.

August Money

I, personally, find it super interesting to see how others spend/save/indulge. You might too. Here’s what went down with my cash in August. 

I spent a lot last month. As if I’m the only one. August, you aren’t cheap.

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Fixed 35%
The usual mortgage, insurance, utilities, etc.

Travel 24%
Where did I go? Not Europe or Hawaii or Japan, as this number would indicate. Nope. In fact I didn’t even leave British Columbia. I welcomed August in the Okanagan where I splurged on wine and bubbly whenever I had the opportunity to. I had a very splurge-y 24 hours in Vancouver visiting some old friends from high school. And I wrapped up the month with another night in the city seeing Jack White and a couple days on Salt Spring Island. I also totally emptied my travel savings account.

Eating 11%
Groceries. Mostly for me. A little bit for Kurt.

Good Times 11%
Both my restaurant and my drinks budgets were the highest they’ve been all year. Like significantly higher than any other month. It was fun though. With summer coming to an end I expect this spending will drop back down again…until December.

Looking and Feeling A+ 9%
There were some crazy good sales at Shoppers Drug Mart in August. The spend X amount and receive a gift card for X amount kind. So I stocked up on all the vitamins, sun screen, moisturisers and make up that I needed. I spent a lot, but I also saved $50 thanks to the gift cards so I’m going to call it a win.

Saving 8%
Thanks to automation I put 9% of my monthly income into savings each month and I always intend to put aside a little more. That didn’t happen this month because I was too busy taking trips and eating in restaurants. Next month. (The 8% instead of 9% is because I spent more than I earned in August).

Other 2%
Charity, parking, household.

July Money; Yup Summer

Oh July. So fun. So full. So expensive. Summer is totally here.

Here’s my breakdown:

julymoney

Fixed Expenses 11%
My “fixed expenses” (rent, insurance, utilities, etc) that were extra high in June (I paid rent twice) were extra low in July (I didn’t pay rent at all). These should probably be back to being legitimately fixed in August.

Savings 24%
Due to my extra low fixed expenses I was able to kick butt at saving in July. I paid myself back after all the “borrowing” I did from my savings in June. I put my usual 9% towards long term savings and then managed a little extra in my short term savings accounts to boot.

Eating 15%
How did this even happen? I’m bad at groceries apparently. Maybe the cost went up? That’s probably it.

Morely 14%
Morely is my beloved 1996 Subaru wagon who usually causes me almost no financial pain, except this past month. The worst part is, the problem isn’t even fixed, so it looks like she’s going to be eating up some of my August budget as well. Ugh. C’mon Morely, get it together.

Travel 11%
I explored BC this month with three weekends away throughout the province. Beautiful place I live in.

Health & Fitness 10%
Because I’m honest, I’ll share that “fitness” makes up nearly none of this pie slice. All health in July: I bought contact lenses and so many vitamins.

Good Times 8%
How is my entertainment budget this low? I don’t understand. But the data doesn’t lie. I must have spent all month curled up at home eating groceries.

Other 6%
Charity, gifts, dry cleaning, household and that is all.

 

Good luck in August!

 

A No Spend Work Week

My life of late has gotten a little bit fancy. It’s not out of control, but it’s not sustainable either. I recently heard the quote You can do/have anything you want. Just not everything you want. Recently I’ve really been going for everything. So in an effort to curb the spending and cut back on the everything so I can do anything, I tried one of those no spend work weeks that “everyone” keeps talking about. Here’s how it went:

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Monday. Easy, for the mostpart. In the afternoon I needed a 10 minute break from my computer, so I left my office for a walk. Any other day I would have wandered to Tim Horton’s for a small coffee ($1.50), but not this day. I just walked around the block instead. Once I got back to my desk I realised I didn’t buy kale on my Sunday grocery shop. Considering I was planning a kale and brussel sprout salad for dinner, I kinda needed kale ($3). I texted Kurt and asked him to pick it up on way home. Problem solved.

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Money saved: $4.50
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Tuesday. I drive past a mall on my way to work, normally it’s fine. Today the sight of it reminded me of the sale on Birkenstocks ($49.95) I had seen last week, and the fact that I had a $10 mall gift card burning a hole in my wallet, for an even larger discount. But no. It’s a no spend week. And more importantly, do I even need another pair of sandals? When I got to work, my cowoker/friend Jojo hands be a beautiful pink blazer that she no longer wore and knew I liked. Yes! I noticed a small stain on the arm and thought about the 3 other items I need to take to the drycleaners ($40). But no. Drycleaning will have to wait. After work I met up with Katie for a walk. Let’s get frozen yogurt ($7) she said. No, I’m on a no spend work week I said. Ok, can I buy you frozen yogurt then? she said. Yup I said.
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Money saved: $47
Spending postponed: $40
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Wednesday. I really wish I had checked out my deodorant ($5) situation more thoroughly before starting this challenge.
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Spending postponed: $5
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Thursday. I stayed home from work with a cold, I didn’t want to leave my house. Not spending money was a piece of cake.
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Friday. I still felt sick and tired and really didn’t want to go to my office, but I really had to. So I did. And on my way home I really wanted take-out ($8). So much so that I considered forgoing this whole challenge. I didn’t though. Then I got dressed and headed to a wedding that I had not yet purchased a gift for ($50).  But wait. My awesome friend Elexa and I had been asked to do a bit of helping out at the reception, so obviously we did. We also spent a lot of time sipping cider in the sun, were fed a a delicious meal, and had unfettered access to the desert platter and drinks. When I heard what the bride wanted to pay us for our maybe 2 hours of help I had to laugh. I would be the jerk friend of the universe if I even considered accepting. Take my service as a gift. Happy wedding Trish and John. 🙂
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Money saved: $58
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Total Spending postponed: $45
Total money saved: $109.50
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How great is this? I saved $109 in 5 days just by being mindful of my spending, not purchasing things I didn’t need, not trying to have everything. 
I’ll definitely be doing this again.

 

Three things to remember about this no tip thing

A restaurateur on Vancouver Island recently announced that he would be opening the first no tip restaurant in British Columbia, and it seems as though everyone and their mother has an opinion about this no tip concept. Including me. And guess what? This is my blog, so here’s my two cents on what you should know.

1. The food and drink prices at a no tip restaurant will be higher than at a restaurant where a tip is expected. Why don’t people understand this? Unfortunately, the people that seem the most excited about not having to tip the waitress are the same people who lambaste her when pints of beer go up $.35 at their local. I’m sure they’ll totally be willing to pay and extra 15-20% for their burger and fries so they can avoid that generous 8% tip. Just kidding. They totally won’t be.

2. The service won’t be as good. Have you ever wondered why the service at Zambri’s (or a fine-dining restaurant in your area) is generally better than the service at the Old Spaghetti Factory? It’s because the servers at the fancier restaurant make more money. They’re more invested. They know their guests will treat them right if they treat them right first. In a no tip restaurant this isn’t an option. The servers at the new restaurant in Parksville will make $11/hour or (hopefully) $15/hour after profit sharing. Do you know what other servers make $11-$15 an hour? Servers in family chain restaurants and divey pubs. Servers that are used to and capable of giving quality service are used to making $20-$30 an hour, and I’ll wager a bet that they won’t be willing to take the pay cut.

3. There is a hike likelihood that the next restaurant you go to will not be a no tip restaurant. So don’t be a jerk and complain to the server that you have to tip her. It’s awkward and you look like a fool. Just because you don’t like the dominant tip-expected system doesn’t mean you exist outside of it. Your server will still have to tip out 5% of your bill to the kitchen and support staff, even if you leave her nothing. Don’t be that guy that makes her pay to serve you. That guy is the worst.

 

June Money; Hey Summer

Want to hear something not cool? In June I spent about $1100 more than I earned. For someone who only so recently crawled her way out of debt, this is terrifying. I’m thankful for the financial padding I’ve been able to line my bank account with over the last few months (for the first time in years) and for my tendency to over-plan and over-prepare for everything, including future purchases. Without these two factors I’d have been back in the red. And probably totally panicking because we all know that the summer months aren’t cheap.

Here is a breakdown of what I spent. 

june

“Fixed Expenses” 46%
This is too much. However it is (hopefully) a one time thing. To save you the boring details, there was a miscommunication with the bank and I ended up paying my portion of the mortgage twice this month. Like I mentioned above, thank goodness for financial cushion. If it wasn’t there all of my cheques and automatic payments for the first of the month would have bounced.

Travel 22% 
Hey summer, nice to see you again. Most of this is accounted for in the 5 day trip I took to Seattle and Portland at the end of June (it was awesome). But I also spent a weekend in Vancouver for a family reunion and bought a hotel Groupon for trip I’m taking in July. Here is where the advantages to being a planner come in, I could not have afforded these two trips and the hotel booking on my monthly salary alone. But I know summer costs more. And I know I don’t want to miss out on summer activities or stress about going into debt. So for the last few months I’ve been putting some money aside each month in preparation for these expensive fun times. It’s these savings that funded all of the above and kept me in the black.
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Entertainment 7%
Once again, hey summer. So many friends in town on vacation. And I don’t blame them, Victoria is a magical place, if I didn’t live here I’d want to come and visit too. But what that means for me is dinners and drinks out, larger grocery bills and other costs associated with entertaining. It’s awesome to see my friends and worth every penny, but it is a lot. June was a big month for this and I’m expecting July to be more of the same.
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Other 7%
Parking, charity, gifts, health and fitness, etc.
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Looking Good 6%
I bought the usual odds and ends. And then I bought a flawlessly beautiful pair of nude Swedish Hasbeen sandals that I’ve had my eye on for awhile now. I could afford them, but only because I had money set aside. The only downside to my beautiful new shoes is that my “shopping fund” now sits at $0. Sigh.
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Food and Drink 6%
I actually did really well here this month.
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Savings 6%
This percentage looks better when I don’t spend way more than I bring in. Oh well. It was still a dollar amount that I’m happy with.
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And now it’s July. The month of 2 weddings, 2 birthdays, 6 out of town guests, and 2 trips away. Wish me luck guys.

 

May Budget Breakdown

Let me just take a moment to brag about how great I was at tracking my spending January through to mid-March. I was thorough, I was honest, I left out no detail. And then I went on my 3-week, 3-continent whirl wind tour. And then I moved only 6 days after returning home. And with that all my money tracking went out the window.

I am happy to share that I’ve been back on track since May 1st. Now, who wants to see a cool pie chart that I made myself?

maymoney

Fixed Expenses 31%
You know what fixed expenses are: mortgage, internet, phone, insurance, gas, etc. These will pretty much stay the same dollar amount month to month, however the % may change. I had more cash flowing in May than I normally do, so they took up a smaller piece of the pie. Typically my fixed expenses will account for about 42% of my monthly spending.

Health and Fitness 8%
My online yoga membership, new trail runners, all the vitamins, appointments and prescriptions (that my benefits don’t cover) that keep me functioning on a monthly basis. Plus any other items that make a home in my bathroom.

Nesting 6%
Kurt and I moved in together in late April. We’ve needed to buy some new (to us) furniture and furnishings. This is something I’ve been saving for since we started talking about moving in together last fall, so none of it came to a surprise. I’m just  proud of how frugal we were able to be with all of our purchases, though I have to give Kurt 95% of the credit.

Looking Good 17%
How vain am I? Look, I have a bank account exclusively for shopping. I top it up ever so slightly when I can and a couple times a year I go on a shopping spree. It’s a system that works for me. This month I needed some new clothes for work. My office is quite casual and I’ve definitely taken advantage of that, but I’m meeting with people in the community more often these days. Some professional attire was needed so I took action. Plus I bought expensive face cream. That’s just me being a vain 32-year-old nostalgic over my 27-year-old skin.

Charity and Gifts 5%
I don’t think I need to elaborate here.

Eating and Drinking 10%
In the past I’ve shared on this blog that I’ve spent upwards of 25% of my budget on food and drink, it’s pretty amazing that I’ve gotten it down to 10% right? Well, it’s because I’m creative. Since so much of my social life revolves around food and drink, I’ve separated that spending out a little bit. This 10% includes groceries, take out when I’m too lazy to cook, and drinks consumed at home.

Having Fun and Keeping Busy 8%
This includes the money I spent on food and drinks for dinner parties, BBQ’s, game nights and gossip sessions over a beer or coffee. It also includes concert and movie tickets and other cool, fun things that make me smile and also cost money.

Savings 15%
This is the important number. 15% of what I spent in May went into my RRSP, TFSA, and my emergency fund. I guess it could have been higher but it also could have been lower, so I’m pretty happy with this number this month.