Give Me Back My Five Bucks

GMBMFB monthly budgets moving forward

I’ve been experimenting with different ways of blogging about my monthly budgets. I’ve been showing you my Excel spreadsheet for so long that I wanted to change it up. I even thought about not posting my budgets anymore, but I think I still need them for me. :)

So here’s what I’m experimenting with this month – my budget based on percentages:

March2015-Budget

The above chart just shows averages. When I recap my budget at the end of every month, it’ll show the percentage of what I actually spent that month.

I also considering cutting back on the number of categories, and it would look like this:

March2015-simple

Overall, I like showing percentages better because:

  1. It eliminates the dollar value so that we are really only focusing on what percentage of my income is going to each category.
  2. I based my previous budgets on my full-time income, and did not include what I did with my freelance income.
  3. You can see my savings rate in comparison to the rest of my monthly spending.

Switching to percentages means you can now see where all of my money is going, and even though I’d no longer be sharing dollar figures, I think this is a more transparant way to show my spending and savings.

What do you think?

Why I file my own taxes

It’s tax season – my favourite time of the year. :)

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve come to really like doing my own taxes. Seven years ago, I used one of those pop-up tax shops to do my paperwork, and it cost me almost $300 for what I deemed to be a pretty simple task. So from that point on, I decided to take my tax return into my own hands. Even when my freelance income rose, and I bought my home, I found that doing my own taxes was pretty straightforward.

Here are 4 reasons why I like doing my own taxes:

  • It costs you time, but you save your money. I’ve paid anywhere from $30 to $300 for someone else to do my tax return. Now, I pay between $30-50 to use online tax software.
  • It forces you to be organized. Knowing you’re going to be doing your own taxes means that you have to keep track of business receipts, charitable donations, medical expenses, and any other write-offs you might have. A tax preparer will only work off the paperwork you give them – they won’t know if you’re missing that receipt for a $100 donation – but you will.
  • It gives you an in depth look at your finances. When you do your own taxes, youbecome more knowledgable about your financial situation. You get to understand how much tax you’ve paid versus your annual income, how much you’ve saved towrads retirement, and where you stand going forward. You can also play around with the numbers to see how things ilke charitable donations or a bigger contribution to your RRSP can change your refund amount. Even though I make budgets and track my net worth on a monthly basis, I still like getting a closer look at my finances once a year, and doing my taxes is the perfect excuse. :)
  • You can do it whenever you want. Maybe I’m a bit lazy, but I like having the freedom to do my taxes whenever I want to do them. I can organize my receipts on my own time, enter in my information and stop half way through if I get caught up in something else, and do my taxes at 2am if I feel like it.

I did use an accountant a few years ago to help me file my taxes for the year I lived in Germany. I did my own calculations using TurboTax, and wanted to see how far off I was from her calculations. In the end, the accountant found a few more deductions that I hadn’t realized I was able to claim, so I’m glad I went to a professional for that kind of situation.

Do you do file your own taxes, or do you take it to an accountant?

Note: this post is sponsored by TurboTax Canada, but was written and edited by me.

The countdown to Cuba

Havana-street

About this time last year, my sister and I were discussing where we could go on our next “sisters adventure” trip. Previous trips included a cruise to Alaska, New Orleans, northern Italy, and countless day trips up island. This time we wanted something a bit different, and my sister was really into the idea of going to Cuba for her birthday. We weren’t able to get our acts together to go last year, but with my sister’s birthday coming up, we went ahead and booked a one-week trip to Cuba! :)

The trip isn’t until mid-May, but I’m already excited. We both agreed on having a city vacation instead of staying in a resort, so we booked a hotel right in the middle of Old Havana. From there, we will be able to walk to many of the main attractions in the city, and if we want to hit the beach we can just take a taxi or bus.

As for the financials, I am covering half of my sister’s airfare/hotel as part of her birthday present. So the total cost to me will be around $2,050 – which does not include meals.

Our hotel stay covers breakfast, but we are on our own for lunch, dinner, and any drinks or snacks. Which is fine, because I’m interested in trying out new restaurants and local food. Although I did a bit of Googling and am a bit concerned about finding healthy vegetarian options, but am sure I can make it work. :)

So if you’ve been to Cuba before, I’d love to hear about your favourite restaurants, attractions, and beaches! Is it worth renting a car? Anything to avoid? Is there anywhere outside of Havana we should definitely see?

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