This past weekend, I went home for the first time since February. It was really nice to catch up with friends and spend time with family. On the Saturday night a group of us went out for dinner and drinks. We’ve been friends for about 12 years, and were reminiscing about how different our lives are now. It was so interesting to hear my friends openly talk about personal finance – mortgages, savings accounts, and credit card rewards. These were things we would have never talked about even just a few years ago. And when we were in school? Even though they were my closest friends, I remember trying very hard to cover up my debt and what a financial disaster I was.
I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since we graduated from college – that means it’s been 10 years since I actively started taking care of my finances, and 9 years since I got myself out of debt. Looking back at who I was 10 years ago, I can barely recognize myself. I was a self-serving, arrogant, entitled brat who spent her way into $20k worth of debt. I’m proud of who I’ve become and how much I’ve matured, but I know there’s a lot more growing and learning to do on my part.
A couple weeks ago I went hiking with my blogger friend Cait. We were talking about (of course) blogging, and I mentioned that I don’t write on this blog as often as I used to. It’s not from lack of things to write about (my content calendar is full of blog ideas) – it’s the decision to prioritize my time doing other things instead. I’m also not as engaged on social media, but I try to be present and post things at least once every couple days. I’ve also been struggling with how much information to share on this blog. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, but it recently came to my attention that a lot of my friends and family in real life do actually read this blog. I even know of vague acquaintances reading here, and while that’s amazing and I appreciate their support, I’m also very aware that my partner has no social media or blogging presence (and values his privacy). So I guess you could say I’m struggling with how much to share while I respect him and his desire for privacy.
Anyway, those are a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately. As for my finances? Things are running smoothly for the most part. Here are a few notables that have happened in the past month or so:
- Thanks to an increase in my RRSP contributions last year (and a decrease in my freelance income), my tax refund for 2015 comes out to around $520. I’m going to have to do some calculations for this year, but since I’ve already more than doubled my freelance income from last year, I’ll likely have to pay taxes when it comes to filing for 2016.
- We’ve been living together for over 6 months now, and things are going really well. We have really made this little place into a cozy little home, and I don’t think either of us want to leave once our 1-year lease is up. That being said, I am keeping a very close eye on the rental market in the neighbourhood. I’d love to live in a laneway with a balcony or some sort of private outdoor space, but for the price we’re paying compared to how much those cost, I think we’re okay for now (a 2-bedroom laneway with a balcony a few streets over is renting for $2,600 – that’s $950 more than our place!).
- Speaking of living together, we’ve come up with an okay system for splitting shared expenses. We take turns paying for groceries, and reconcile at the end of each month right before one person sends an Interac money transfer to the other person when rent is due. It works for now, but I’m slowly moving towards the idea of having a joined chequing account to streamline this process a bit more. Neither of us has had a joint account with a partner before, so it will take some talking to figure out if it’s the right move for us.
- My goal of only spending $500 on clothing/shoes for the year is dead. :( I had already bought new rock climbing shoes this year, so I ended up going over my $500 budget on the weekend when I bought a hoodie to replace one I bought 5 years ago (the cuffs were all frayed), as well as new workout tights (because I split the inner thigh seam on the ones I currently own – don’t ask). I’m actually okay spending the money because these are items I wear multiple times each week, so I wanted to make sure I was buying good quality items that were going to last me years to come.
- I’ve mentioned before, but freelancing has been going quite well this year. I’ve made over $20,000 in freelance income so far this year, and have saved most of what I’ve actually received in payments. This means my savings rate has gone through the roof, and I think I’m hovering at about a 65% net income savings rate. I’m extremely happy with this, but I’m going to have to take a really hard look at my short term vs. long term goals. Right now I don’t think I’m saving enough outside of my Retirement Portfolio. RD has a much larger down payment at his disposal, and if I toned down my retirement savings, I could save at a faster rate to try and match that (for when we do eventually buy – likely years from now). But since early retirement is my number one financial goal, I’m not sure I want to do that. Some thinking has to be done.
Anyway, that’s it from me over the past couple weeks. :) I’m making it my goal for this week to wrap up a few unfinished blog posts that I’ve been working on over the last month, so be sure to look for those. In the meantime, it’s a short 3-day work week for me, as I’ll be headed to the Sunshine Coast on Friday morning for a camping adventure with Cait. :)
The last two weekends have been relatively quiet. After our trip to Squamish, we’ve basically been hermits. I really appreciate that RD has about the same capacity for socializing as me, so we’ve been spending a lot of time relaxing, going for walks, climbing, and we even went out for a 3 hour bike ride over the weekend. It’s been nice, and the gorgeous weather here in Vancouver has gotten me really excited for a fun summer.
Yesterday we took the SkyTrain downtown and watched the finish of the BMO Marathon. It was so inspiring to see so many people achieving their goals – from the elite athletes to the recreational runners. I loved it, and it’s really making me reconsider foot surgery so that I can go back to running again. There’s no good time to have the surgery, so it’s something I’m going to have to seriously.
I was over budget this month, which is pretty good considering we bought a brand new backpacking tent. I had been eyeing it for months, and we definitely paid a premium to get one of the lightest tents possible. Thankfully it was a shared expense, but my half of the purchase still put me over budget by almost $100 in the Travel category. :)
One area that I’m impressed with was the drop in our hydro bill. We’ve only had two bills since moving into our house (BC Hydro bills every 2 months). Our first bill back in February was $197.98. This bill was nearly 50% less, coming in at almost exactly $100. We even had a visit from the contractor who built this little laneway, and when he asked what our hydro bills were, he was impressed. It’s not exactly the $15/month I was paying at my old place, but I can definitely get on board with paying $100 ($25 each per month).
- Entertainment – we went out to eat one too many times this month. :) But since we won’t be going out to any restaurants next month, I’m okay with that.
- Travel – we bought a tent! It was a planned purchase, we just didn’t think we’d be buying it so soon. But RD thought it’d be a good idea for me to test it out on my camping trip next month with Cait, so we bought it earlier than expected. After tax, the tent came to $532.
- Miscellaneous – I started brewing kombucha! I would have been under budget had I not needed to buy a heating belt. But more to come on my kombucha home brewing adventures. :)
Income & Savings:
This month I saved 52% of my income, but didn’t bring in any freelance income this month. I invoiced out for $2,750, have $5,000 pending, and signed contracts for about $3,000 in new work for May. So the money is coming, just not this month. :)
April 2016 Goals:
- Practice yoga – CHECK! I didn’t go to the yoga studio like I had intended, but I consistently stretched and did light yoga throughout the month at home. I still have that gift certificate to YYoga and saw that they have a promotion going on (unlimited yoga for a month for $40) – so I’m going to start going in May.
- Run twice – FAIL. I did not run because my foot started acting up.
- Do my taxes and get organized for next year – PASS. I did my taxes, but did not get myself as organized as I would have liked for next year.
- Read more often – CHECK! I’ve been turning off Netflix and reading every few days.
Over the past couple months, I’ve become quite passionate about rock climbing again. What was once my favourite sport is quickly rising up the ranks again, and I find myself getting excited for the next scheduled climbing day.
Okay leave it to a personal finance nerd to find similarities in money and sport. :) But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the lessons I’ve learned through climbing and personal finance are pretty interchangeable.
Here are just a few examples:
Learn from other people
I love watching other climbers because you can learn so much from them. We have been obsessed with watching climbing competitions on YouTube lately. And even watching RD try to climb a route completely different than I what I had previously tried is both interesting and humbling. Much like personal finance, there isn’t one right way to do anything. All of our decisions are based on our previous experience, the tools that we have on hand, and how we hope to achieve the next problem. Learning from others gives a different perspective – and maybe their way of working through a difficult move is just what you’ve been looking for – or maybe the other person is a foot taller than you and holds that they can reach easily are the ones that you’ll have to jump for. :)
Don’t compare yourself to others
This is something I struggle with both in personal finance and in climbing. It can be easy to be jealous of other people’s accomplishments. Maybe they earn more money than you, or maybe they can easily run up a route you’ve been working for weeks on. But there will always be someone richer/smarter/faster/stronger than you, and it makes no sense to compete against anyone else but yourself.
It’s important to focus on the process and the improvement you make every time you try – instead of always looking for the end result, or the failures you’ve had along the way. I’ve been working on one route for ages … I’ve climbed harder routes, but for some reason, I couldn’t get past the first sequence of moves. It seemed impossible, and it was demoralizing when I saw RD easily reach for a hold that I struggled for a week to even touch. But each time I tried, I got a little bit closer … until one day I jumped, grabbed the hold, and continued on with the climb. But instead of focusing on the accomplishment of completing the first sequence, I was bummed that I had to bow out half way up the route because of another problem.
It wasn’t until later on that day when I was home, that I realized what I had accomplished. I didn’t finish the route, but I got a heck of a lot closer than I ever had before. And the process of trying (and not giving up) is something that I needed to see and value and be proud of.
Push yourself to achieve more
When I was getting out of debt, I pushed myself to pay off my debt as fast as I could. And when I didn’t think I could squeeze an extra dollar out of my budget, I found a way. There’s always more we can do to achieve our goals – whether it’s working a bit of overtime, finding a part-time job, saying no to a second beer (and actually saving that cash), or gathering all the energy you can muster to get yourself to the next hold on the wall. Which leads me to my next point…
Sometimes it’s really uncomfortable
You know the morning after you’ve worked out hard? All your muscles are sore and you can barely roll out of bed… it’s a hurt-so-good type of feeling, because your body aches, but it only serves as a reminder of how hard you worked the day before. I love that feeling! And it’s the same as with personal finance. When I can close my browser tab with items in my shopping cart – even though I really wanted those sweaters – is a pretty amazing and empowering feeling for me. I was really horrible with my money for a long time, so being able to say no because it doesn’t align with my current short-term financial goals is an accomplishment to be proud of every single time.
It’s okay to fail
A few weeks ago I had a horrible session at the gym. I couldn’t finish a single climb. Routes I’ve done multiple times before all of a sudden became too challenging. And each failed climb made me grumpier and more miserable. I felt bad for RD, because as much as I wanted to be cheerful, I was just wallowing. But he reminded me that it’s okay to have a crappy session – or even a crappy week. And the same goes with personal finance. It’s okay to slip up every once in a while, as long as you acknowledge your mistakes and keep trying to improve.
There’s just something about climbing that draws me in. I love that even though it’s an individual pursuit, it requires good communication, problem solving, and teamwork – much like personal finance. :) And when I do top a problem that I’ve been working on for weeks? Sure, it’s satisfying. But months later, what I’ll remember and learn from is an interesting footwork sequence, or a couple quick power moves that felt really good, or the endurance that it took to get me to the end. So even though the goal was accomplished, it was the work that got me there that I’ll benefit from the most.