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From home ownership to renting

I mentioned in a previous post that my housing situation has changed dramatically. In the summer I hinted at the idea of selling my house and moving into Vancouver to be closer to work, my friends, and where I spend most of my life. So back in August, I put my townhouse on the market just to see what would happen. There was a lot of interest, and finally I accepted an offer earlier this month. :)

That means I’m moving! But I’m not just moving into an apartment… I’m going to live out my small space living fantasy by renting out a laneway house in Vancouver. For those that are not from the Vancouver area and might be unfamiliar with laneway houses, these homes are typically built on a pre-existing lot (usually someone’s backyard). They are usually detached from the main house and open onto the back lane. My laneway house is a two-storey, two-bedroom house that measures about 685 sq.ft. It’s extremely cute, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to live just a 10 min. drive to work, and within a few blocks of my favourite neighbourhood in Vancouver.

I had a short introduction into small space living in 2012, when I lived in a 215 sq.ft. apartment with a boyfriend for a year in Germany I don’t think I would want to live in a space that small long-term with another person (at least not that specific space – it did not function very well and there was no storage), but it definitely showed me that I can do with a lot less than what I have and still be completely happy. So now that there’s 685 sq.ft. for two people, it seems really doable.

With my new job, I will also be getting a modest bump in salary, which will increase my monthly saving amount. But I want to get right to the fun stuff – and that’s creating a new budget for a new living situation. :)

This is what my initial thoughts are for my new budget:

January 2016 Proposed Budget

A few things to note:

  • This is not a fair representation of home ownership vs. renting as I’m also going from living alone to living with somebody else. Creating this mock budget for the first time really made me realize how much more I was spending over the last 5 years living solo. Back in the summer, I did create another mock budget to see how much I’d save if I went from owning to renting as a single person ($400/month). So while this isn’t a truly fair representation, it doesn’t result in a *massive* difference in my budget living with someone vs. living solo.
  • My townhouse had rental restrictions. A lot of people suggested that I rent out my townhouse and move into the city. However, my building did not allow for rentals, so this just wasn’t an option for me.
  • Monthly rent on this house is $1,650. For a two bedroom in an extremely desirable area in Vancouver, this is quite reasonable, but definitely not the cheapest option out there.
  • We will be splitting the cost of utilities and internet. Electricity will go up a bit as we are heating a whole house, but that increase is offset by the fact that it’s now a shared expense. Renter’s insurance has been quoted at $30 per month.
  • I anticipate my monthly grocery budget will go down a little bit as I’ll have more time to prepare more meals from scratch.
  • Car insurance is not accurate – it will likely cost a bit more now that I live in Vancouver.
  • The cost of gas is cut in half now that my daily commute to work is 10 minutes instead of 45-60 minutes. :)

Related: Single? It’s costing you more than you think.)

As you can see, I *think* I’ll be able to slash over $700 from my budget each month without changing my lifestyle through variable expenses. Unless I’ve made some glaring error. This is a significant amount, and I am really excited about it. If you add to that my modest pay raise, and if I am vigilant in saving my savings, I could potentially put away an additional $1,000+ each month.

A fun evening making French macarons

I’ve been obsessed with macarons for a couple of years now, but have never attempted to make them. Everyone always told me how hard and finnicky they were to create, so I just left it at that and continued to buy them regularly. But when I saw a TeamBuy coupon for a 2-hour macaron making class for $45, I jumped on it.

We booked a few weeks ahead of time, and ended up going to a class last night at Professor and the Pigeon – a cute little bakery and coffee shop located in Kitsilano. The class started at 6:30, and we had about 15 or 16 people in the class. BF was the only guy there, which wasn’t surprising.

There was a wide range of skill level in attendance. One woman said she’s tried to make macaron at least a dozen times before, and there were people like us who have never attempted it at all. I bake a few times a year – banana breads, pies, cookies, etc. But am by no means an expert.

The first thing we did was watch a demonstration on how to make the macaron shells. Then, she divided us into 3 teams, and we started making our own shells. The group I was in was making Earl Grey macarons. Yum!

We started out by measuring the ingredients, and we were both pretty surprised at how simple the recipe is: just egg whites, white sugar, icing sugar, and almond flour. :) We blended the egg whites and white sugar together until the batter formed stiff peaks, and then we were ready for the next step.

We then poured the icing sugar and almond flour on top of the egg white mixture, and started mixing together. It was really important not to overmix, but I was surprised at how runny the batter was (similar to the consinstency of melted chocolate). After we got it just right, we filled a piping bag and went to town. Ours came out a little bit uneven, but pretty good for a first try. :) Then you let them sit on the tray for at least 30 minutes, until they dry out a little so that you can touch them (kind of like a blister).

They don’t spend long in the oven, and it makes a big difference temperature-wise whether you are using a convection oven or a regular oven. Once removed from the oven, they have to cool completely before you can move onto filling them with deliciousness.

While they cooled, we started to make our Earl Grey buttercream filling. It’s a little disgusting knowing how much butter and sugar actually goes into the filling, so I’ll just skip over that part. :) We used ground up tea, mixed it with hot cream, and then added it to butter, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Now the fun part – assembling the macarons! :) I was a little bit stingy in the amount of buttercream I put into my macarons. Thought I could somehow make them healthier… but, don’t skimp out. They were much better when you put more buttercream than what you think is a healthy amount, haha!

Making macarons was a really fun experience, and made an awesome date night. We were concerned before going to the class that we wouldn’t be able to make them at home. But it turns out, they’re quite simple to make. You just need to know how to get the right consistency with the batter, and get the timing perfectly. I’m glad we took the class because it gave us hands-on experience before we attempt to make them ourselves. :)

Here is the finished product. So pretty!

photo 1

NOTE: This wasn’t a paid review or anything (although I did use a referral link to the coupon site), I just love macarons and was really excited to share this experience. The price for the class is normally $99, but you can buy it through TeamBuy (referral) for $45.

Have you ever tried to make macarons before?

When do you have the “money talk” in a relationship?

As some of you know, I’ve been dating someone new for the past few months. I haven’t had to deal with having a “money talk” since my ex-BF (Nic) and I started dating in 2011. Nic and I were pretty open with our finances from the start. He knew I was a personal finance blogger, and always read my blog, so it was never an awkward topic.

But with my new boyfriend, I wasn’t sure when to bring up the topic of money. I’m 31 now, and after a few relationships with financially incompatible men in the past, I knew I had to find out if we were a good fit. But as you know, it can be tricky talking about money. In fact, a 2013 survey for Match.com revealed that even though 94% of Canadians believe that it’s an important quality to be able to manage finances in a relationship, only about half those people had the financial talk with their partners within 6 to 12 months of dating.

So when is the right time to start talking about money? I guess it’s different with every couple, and it’s not like I’d bring up money on the first date (although I have done that before, whoops), but there’s no way I’m waiting 6-12 months to figure out whether I’m financial compatible with someone or not. Once you’re months into a relationship, you’ve likely already gotten emotionally attached. How are you going to walk away from someone if you find out they carry a huge balance on their credit card, or that they’re horrible at budgeting? It’s so much easier just to say that you’ll work on things, or that you’ll try to figure it out together, than leave an established relationship. :|

Related: Would you ever date someone who had debt?

But I learned a long time ago that it’s incredibly hard to be with someone who doesn’t have the same financial goals as you do, or the desire to lead a financial responsible and independent lifestyle. No matter how much you love them, it just doesn’t work long-term, and can lead to some serious frustration. :| Because honestly, money influences most of what we do in life. It affects where we work, where we live, what we eat, and how we spend our free time. The relationship we have with our money is for life, and if you want your partner to be for life too, well you’d better be on the same page. :)

According to a Forbes article, there are 6 types of financial conversations to have with a significant other:

  1. Earning. This means discussing whether or not you both plan to have a job, length of employment, and what you want out of a career (if anything). If kids are in your future, who will take care of them?
  2. Spending. What are your priorities in life? Is it traveling, buying a home, taking care of aging parents, or going back to school? Is there a dollar amount you would be comfortable spending before checking in with each other before making a purchase?
  3. Accounting. How will you keep track of your money and net worth? Will you keep a budget? Who will pay the bills?
  4. Saving. You will need to figure out if each of you is a saver or a spender. Figure out your goals, and how much you need to be saving to get yourself there.
  5. Investing. Knowing each other’s risk tolerance level is important, as well as the investing vehicles you want to utilize.
  6. Building wealth. How will you make your money grow, will you put your kids through university, and what kind of lifestyle do you want to have when you retire?

Related: Guest Post – What I’ve learned from combining finances with my husband

There’s a lot you can learn about someone’s spending habits without asking any questions, but eventually the money talk will have to happen. And for me, financial incompatibility is a deal breaker. BF and I have spoken about most of these topics already. I’m confident that we are financially compatible, and that is a really good feeling to have.

As Gail Vaz-Oxlade says, “don’t hitch your cart to a horse headed into a ditch.”

In your last (or current) relationship, when did you talk to your partner about money? Do you wish you had the discussion sooner?

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