For the past few years, I’ve been on auto pilot with my finances. My retirement savings are automatically withdrawn every pay day, and at the end of the month whatever is left over, I put into a general savings account. It’s what I’ve always wanted for myself – to be savvy enough to create a budget and (for the most part) stick to it every month, and to have enough income coming in that I could afford to do the things that I want to do, without financial struggle.
Because my finances are automated for the most part (I still manually pay all my bills), I haven’t had to put in effort to save for anything … and this realization actually made me feel pretty bad about myself. That’s in part because, aside from my long-term goal of early retirement or the occasional big trip somewhere, I haven’t had an actual financial goal in years. I’m talking about a big financial goal that would require me to create a plan and actually work hard to achieve it.
Since RD and I have made it our goal to one day buy a home (probably, maybe sometime this year), all of a sudden my new goal is to save for a down payment, because the amount we put down on our future home is riding on how much I personally can save.
Right now I have $53,000 earmarked specifically for a future down payment (this lives outside of my general savings and my emergency fund accounts). RD has much more than that – so much more that it would actually be impossible for me to match his savings even if I tried my hardest this year. And since we are planning to go 50-50 on the down payment, the amount we will have saved really depends on how much more I can squirrel away.
It seems weird to even talk about saving for a down payment, when I was so sure we would be renters for years. But now that we both understand we’ll be here long-term, it actually does make sense to buy if we can find a place that costs about the same to own as to rent. The only problem is, those places are very rare, and we’re willing to wait until we find a home that we can love for 10+ years – and until the Vancouver real estate market settles down … which is why we have no idea when we’ll end up buying.
Related: How I saved for my down payment
My dream is that we’d have $150,000 combined for a down payment and closing costs, which means I’d have to save $22,000 more to come up with my half. Admittedly, this is a somewhat unrealistic goal considering our travel itinerary this year and the fact that I refuse to lower my retirement contributions, but there’s an outside chance I can get there. Of course, it depends on when we actually decide to buy, but I will still try to come up with some sort of plan to get me as close to my goal as possible. Stay tuned!
2017 is going to be a fun year full of travel and adventure. And normally I’d have quite a few goals that I want to achieve, but this year I really want to focus on intentional spending and living a balanced lifestyle.
I learned a lot about myself in 2016, and I feel lucky to be in the financial position that I’m in today. But I felt like I let my habit of intentional spending slide a little bit, and I want to get that back. I want to make sure that as much of my spending as possible is going towards purchases and experiences that will make my life better. And I want to feel that way every time I think about spending money – whether it’s grocery shopping, or at my favourite clothing store, or deciding where to stay and what to do when traveling.
So along with continuing to save for early retirement (my number one financial goal), intentional spending and balanced living are my themes to this year.
- Stay debt-free. This is obviously an important goal. :)
- Save at least $1,650/month into my RRSP/TFSA. For those of you curious, I use the Couch Potato method of investing, modified a little bit to suit my comfort level. But basically, I’ve got Option 2 in my RRSP and TFSA, and also am using Option 3 in my TFSA. Additionally I hold stock through Questrade and my SPP at work is in a TFSA.
- Create realistic monthly budgets. This means planning ahead and checking my progress on a weekly basis.
- Curb buying lunches, snacks, & coffees during work hours. I’ve gotten pretty good at bringing my lunch to work, but sometimes I just get lazy. Or I’ll forget to pack a snack, and end up going to the coffee shop for something sweet and unhealthy. This is going to be difficult now that I work right in downtown Vancouver. The exceptions to this (of course) are planned lunches/coffee dates with friends (very irregular), and on the days that RD works out of the downtown office and we feel like a Tacofino lunch date. :)
- Say yes when traveling. I actually almost always say yes to a trip, but I’m a natural planner, and I usually get a bit out of sorts if travel plans change for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s because I’m worried that my travel partner isn’t having a good time, or because a change in plans might mean more money spent or less time to see things … but sometimes change is good. And travel should have an element of spontaneity. So while I think I’ll be doing quite a bit of travel this year, I want to focus on living in the moment and not necessarily being worried about an itinerary.
- Curb impulse spending. Sometimes I just get it in my head that I need to have something immediately – a dress that I think will make me feel and seem a certain way, or a gadget that will make some obscure kitchen task a bit easier, or some sort of outdoor gear I’ve somehow decided is necessary (even though I’ve gone without it for years). Even if it wouldn’t really affect my budget, I need to just pause for a day (or two) and figure out if it’s something I actually need.
- Continue to be active. Last year I ended up losing the 10 pounds I gained from when RD and I first started dating and we didn’t want to do anything except hang out with each other. :) Losing weight wasn’t an intentional goal, it just happened naturally from changing my diet a little bit and increasing my exercising back to what it was before. I want to continue this trend by getting stronger this year, and being smart with injuries. I have a bad habit of just pushing through because that’s what I used to do when I was playing competitive sports, but now that I’m getting older, it’s not smart to play through pain anymore.
- Keep in better touch with friends. Most of my friends don’t live in Vancouver – they either live in my hometown or in some far away suburb. So even though I don’t get to see them that often, I could do a better job at keeping in touch with them – whether it’s a text, social media, email, or a phone call. They’re important to me, and I want to keep our relationships strong.
- Rebrand GMBMFB. I’m finally going to get off my butt and do this – and it’s my goal to get this done before I do a talk at a conference in April.
- Go to three marketing conferences/seminars this year. There are some really great opportunities to learn within my industry, and I want to take advantage of that.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always used a credit card to pay for all my purchases. When I was younger, I didn’t always pay off the balance every month (which is part of how I got into over $20,000 in debt!), but nowadays I pay off the balance every week.
Of course the #1 reason why I use credit cards all the time is for their rewards programs, but I also love quick tap & go payments, how easy it is to have a summary of all my purchases online (makes entering in numbers on my spreadsheet a breeze!), and I absolutely hate carrying cash on me.
Even though I love credit cards, I’m not one to chase bonus sign-ups (only to cancel the cards later), nor do I hold a fist full of cards in my name. To be honest, that’s just way too much effort and managing my expenses is already a lot of work! Anyway, I like to think that I’m super strategic, and currently only hold two cards. Actually, I only had one credit card up until this past fall, when I added another card to my roster. :)
Here are the two cards that I currently hold:
Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard (grandfathered)
This card has a $120 annual fee, but I receive 10,000 bonus reward miles every year ($100 value) that helps to offset the cost, plus 2 reward miles for every $1 spent – with no annual limit!
What’s great about this card is the flexibility on how I can redeem my reward miles. There used to be an annoying tiered system where you weren’t really getting to redeem the full value of your reward miles. But back in October 2015, they switched it over so that you can just redeeming on any travel purchase with no tiered threshold.
This card was discontinued a while ago, but luckily I got grandfathered in with the old plan (so grateful for that). And I was able to add RD on as a user to my account so that we can start earning more rewards to put towards our travel expenses.
Related: Do you have a store credit card?
In 2016 with just my spending alone, I earned a total of $629.89 on this rewards card ($749.89 – $120 fee) which definitely took a huge chunk out of our travel budget. :)
The only down side to this card is that it is extremely difficult to get a credit limit increase. I’ve asked a few times for them to raise my limit, but it hasn’t budged from the $5,000 that I initially qualified for. It has been fine up until this past year, where there were a few instances I needed to charge more than $5,000 at a time and had to ask RD if I could use his card. So I decided I finally needed to get a second card…
Tangerine Money Back Credit Card
It was a pretty easy decision when it came to figuring out what my secondary card was going to be. I’m already a Tangerine customer, and the rewards program was the best I’ve seen for a no-fee credit card. I was offered a $15,000 credit limit and took $10,000.
Basically you get to choose two categories to earn 2% cash back (and 1% cash back on everything else). If you get your rewards deposited into a Tangerine savings account, you get to choose a third category.