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The real cost of moving in Vancouver

This will be the 12th time I’ve moved in my adult life. Some moves were temporary, and some were longer-term, but they all cost money. It kind of makes me sick knowing that I’ve spent thousands of dollars in my lifetime just on moving, but it’s obviously unavoidable. And in Metro Vancouver, where rent is expensive (and the vacancy rate is less than 1%), the cost of a move could be the reason you don’t move at all.

When we bought our home back in April, we decided to hold back $10,000 of the money we had saved for our down payment so that we could pay for moving expenses, closing costs, a small renovation, and furniture. And with the way the timing worked out with our rental and our condo financing, we don’t actually pay rent or a mortgage payment in July, which gives us a bit more breathing room to pile up some cash in our joint account (our ‘buffer’ money) instead of dipping into our savings.

Now that we are finally nearing the end of paying for all of our moving expenses for what I anticipate is my last move until I retire, so I thought I’d break down everything that we’ve spent so far on our move. I’m going to leave out closing costs, the renovation, and furniture, because they’re not really “moving” costs, and I’ll talk about them in another post anyway. :)

Move-in Fees – $75 + $250 damage deposit

Our condo building requires a $75 payment for a 2-hour window of time to block off one of the elevators for a move. They also need a $250 cash damage deposit (which we will get back at the end of the move, provided we – or the movers – didn’t ding up the common property).

Movers – $450 (estimated)

We decided to hire movers to save us the headache of moving everything out of our tiny two-storey laneway house, and into a high rise condo. Sure, we could have done it ourselves, but it would take us at least twice the amount of time and just so much unnecessary headache. This is the first time either of us has ever hired movers, so I’m kind of excited to have this luxury. Their quote was for $360 (4 hours), plus a $90 one-way travel fee. It could be less if we’re finished within 4 hours – which I think we will be.

Cleaners – $164.64 (includes tip)

When I sold my townhouse in 2015, I paid for professional cleaners to come in before the new owner took possession. So I was pretty choked to see that the person who previously lived in our condo didn’t bother cleaning anything. I mean, they didn’t have anything behind, but the place was just dirty. Like they had never taken a sponge to a single surface of the home, ever. There was a thick layer of dirt over all the windows (and the blinds were filthy), make-up smudges all over the bathroom, cat hair everywhere, and random dried food splashes on the doors and some of the walls. I started to clean the place myself, but it took me 6 hours to clean just the living room windows, and I still had the kitchen and both bedrooms to tackle … we just ran out of time.

Paint & Supplies – $210.71

We wanted to buy a condo that needed no updating except for painting … little did we know that painting was kind of a huge chore to tackle when we’re already tight on time. But it needed to be done, otherwise we’d be living in Taupe City.

After getting quotes from 4 different painters (ranging in price from $800 to $1,800), RD decided that since we were paying for movers and cleaners, he wanted to try to save money and tackle the painting himself since he had 2 days off work. Neither of us had ever painted a home before, but RD is pretty good with a paintbrush, so he was stoked to take on the project. Except that it took us so, so, so much longer than we thought. By the time RD had to leave for another work trip, I still had one bedroom and a cement pillar to paint. And after it was all said and done, it took us about 4o man hours total to paint the entire place. For reference, we have a 2 bed/2 bath condo of about 825 sq.ft.

Household Items – $229.42

There were a bunch of things we needed to get that I just hadn’t thought of. For example, going from one bathroom to now having two, meant I had to buy a bathmat, soap dispenser, shower curtain, toilet scrubber, etc. I also bought cupboard liners, a splash mat for wet/muddy shoes, a step ladder, closet organizer, and a small succulent plant because I couldn’t help myself.

Restaurants – $300 (estimated)

Long days painting and moving meant there hasn’t been any time to cook meals at home. I do not feel healthy eating in restaurants or getting Subway all the time, so I can’t wait until this is all over and we can get back to our normal routine.

Gas – $90 (estimated)

RD is currently on another work trip, so I’ve been shuttling boxes to the new place, as well as whatever I can fit easily into my car. This is in part to make our time with the movers go faster, but also because I want to at least be partially moved in by the time RD gets back. The more I can get done now, means less stress on us the closer we get to our move-in date. I’ve spent $41 on one tank of gas so far, and I’ll have to fill up again before we actually move in.

Condo insurance – $412.08

We’ll be getting back a portion of our renter’s insurance for 2017, but I haven’t included it against our condo insurance because who knows when we’ll actually receive the refund.

TOTAL: $1,931.85

Before we started spending money on the move, I had hoped to keep our moving costs under $1,500 – but the added cost of hiring a professional cleaner, as well as paying for our condo insurance annually (when I had initially thought we’d pay monthly), put us over our budget. That leaves us with just over $8,000 left for closing costs, a small renovation project, and furniture. This should be doable, although I’m a bit concerned about how much the renovation project will cost. I have a few people coming over this week to give us quotes on the job, so fingers crossed!

How much did you spend on your last move?

Here’s how I spent $34,700 in 2016

2016 was the first full year in a long time where I’ve shared expenses with someone and it has been split evenly. I’ve never done a recap like this before on GMBMFB, but since it was so easy to separate out my numbers, I thought I’d show you exactly how much I spent this past year, as well as what the monthly average was of how much I spent – down to the penny.

I actually did struggle with sharing this much information on my blog, but I want to be open and honest with my spending – to you, but mostly to myself. Plus, anyone could have come up with the numbers below, based on my monthly recaps. It was an eye-opening exercise though, to add up my monthly numbers … it’s also a bit embarrassing to see that I spent over $1,200 on non-athletic clothing and shoes when my budget for the year started out at being $500. :)

Related: 2016 Annual Goals Recap

Note that the lines in orange are expenses that we share 50/50 – and the numbers you see below are my portion of the expenses.


Fixed Expenses

(Rent, Utilities, MSP, Insurance, Cell Phone, Internet)

Our hydro bill will fluctuate but I don’t see much of a drastic change, and we are frugal with the amount of heat we use (which is why I put this bill in with the fixed expenses). I’ll be looking at getting a cheaper internet rate in the next couple of months, but other than that, I don’t see my fixed expenses changing much for 2017.

Variable Expenses

(Food, Household, Entertainment, Clothing, Travel, Car/Transportation, Personal Care, Fitness, Gifts)

The numbers are a bit skewed for 2016 because I bought a Macbook Pro, which set me back about $3,000, and we did a crazy amount of overnight travel this year (about the equivalent of 2.5 months when you include weekends). Although, I anticipate my travel to cost more in 2017… which is why I want to save in other categories. Ideally I’d like to see my expenses under $30,000 for 2017.

I made my budgets quite generous in 2016, and I didn’t hold back on my spending that much. You can see that for yourself in the Entertainment and Clothing categories. :) I’m hoping to get these back down to a more reasonable monthly average for 2017, especially now that I have almost every piece of cold weather athletic gear I can think of (except a winter coat – waiting on sales!).

It surprised me to see how much I spent on Gifts, as I thought I was fairly frugal in the giving department (plus for the most part, my friends and I don’t really exchange gifts for birthdays or Christmas). But I booked a long weekend getaway for RD’s birthday last year (I plan on doing the same for 2017), and I bought a spa day for my sister and I which was about $500, so it makes sense – I’ll just have to increase my Gift budget for 2017 because I don’t see that changing much.

I’m fairly certain our Groceries and Entertainment budgets will drop considerably. The first 6 months of the year we often went out to restaurants (Entertainment) instead of cooking, or went to the pricey grocery store since it was closer to our house, because we weren’t as organized as we could have been – and that definitely changed during the last half of 2016 when I took over all grocery shopping and cooking duties. :) I’m also going to work harder at buying what’s on sale (and not necessarily just what we like to eat).

My Car/Transportation budget will also decrease for 2017 once I stop driving to work. I’m being transferred to another office location, and will have to start taking the SkyTrain to work. My company will be reimbursing me for the monthly transit pass, so that will cut down on the cost of random transit trips, gas, car insurance, and wear and tear on my vehicle.

2016 Conclusion

I’m fairly pleased with my spending for 2016. Take away the price of my laptop, and I’m at $31,700/year. Trim a few of my other expenses, and I should be in good shape to hit my $30,000/year goal for 2017. Hopefully.

2016 also saw a nice increase to my salary, which in turn saw an increase to my savings rate – which now sits at about 50%. But I’ll talk more about that later this week! :)

Adding up my monthly numbers and looking at my spending on an annual basis really made me more aware of where I can trim my budget and where I should be more generous. I’ll definitely be doing it again at the end of 2017, and I’m excited to see how the numbers compare!

Do you know how much you spent in 2016?

4 lies we tell ourselves to continue spending

The last handbag I bought was in 2009, and it cost me $275. It was an expensive purchase for sure, but 7 years later, it continues to be my everyday purse. It still looks great, and I will keep using it as long as I can. However, a few days ago I decided that I wanted a new purse. The one I have is pretty big and not super practical anymore now that I don’t carry as much stuff around with me like I used to. Plus it’s pretty casual and not very professional to carry into meetings.

So I went online and started looking at purses. There were a couple that I liked, and after about an hour of reading reviews and looking at pictures, I finally decided on one that was $268. But if I was going to spend that much on a purse, I would qualify for free shipping. So obviously I should look at the sale items, right? Twenty minutes later, I had a cart full of stuff and my credit card in my hand. I could afford this purchase – and I deserved it! Plus, it’s not often this store has a sale, I should buy while I can. Wait. What? I snapped out of it right then, put my card away, and very quickly closed my laptop.

Related: Consider the cost-per-use of each purchase

Not only was this purse going to be an impulse purchase, but I also found myself justifying a bigger spend just because there was a sale on. Even though I knew that a sale was not reason to buy things that I didn’t actually need.

No matter how good you think you are at managing your finances, we are all guilty of lying to ourselves from time to time in order to justify indulgent spending. Luckily I caught myself before I spent nearly $500 on stuff I didn’t need! Because while splurging on occasion is healthy, one of the keys to financial independence is to stop making poor spending decisions and unnecessary purchases. I didn’t need a new handbag, and I certainly didn’t need the sale items I had gleefully added to my shopping cart.

Here are four common lies we often tell ourselves in order to justify unnecessary spending:

I work hard, so I deserve it

When I lived in Europe, I traveled a lot. And when traveling, I was often times surrounded by tourists. I’ve overheard countless conversations about money, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, traveling to escape obligations, and travel debt.

There’s one conversation that has always stuck with me: Nic and I were in Prague waiting in line to take a tram ride up to a viewpoint. We were standing behind two 20-something women who were discussing how they couldn’t really afford the six-week European vacation they were on, but they were happy they did it because they “deserved it after a hard semester.” They each financed their trip with a credit card, and fretted for a few moments about how they planned on paying it back. “We’re young, we need to enjoy ourselves,” one of the women exclaimed. “We only live once!” the other woman agreed.

Luxuries like vacations are definitely something we should indulge in from time to time – but only if we can afford them. If you can’t pay for your trip in cash, you cannot afford to go. I can’t stress that enough. It is so much better to wait and save up for a big trip, or scale back and take a less expensive vacation. The last thing you want to do is stress about your money when you’re supposed to be having fun, coming back home to a huge credit card bill, or having to work hard into your retirement years in order to pay off all of the things you thought you “deserved” along the way.

The savings isn’t worth it

Most of my friends don’t do much comparison shopping. They don’t clip coupons, they don’t ask for better rates, and they don’t bring back receipts for price adjustments because “the savings isn’t worth the hassle.”

I don’t know if I should be repeating this story on my blog, but I remember when RD and I were first dating, he confessed that he sometimes didn’t submit his receipts for contact lenses to his health care provider. It wasn’t very much money, and he just felt like it wasn’t worth his time. So he kept putting it off until he eventually forgot about it. I was shocked. Not just because he wasn’t using his extended health care benefits, but because I claim every little expense I can. My blog is called Give Me Back My Five Bucks, after all. :)

A few years ago, I was chatting with a friend who had about $4,000 in a “savings” account with a big bank that offered 0.05% interest. That’s right. 0.05% interest. On top of the low interest rate (if you can even call it an interest rate!), she was also paying a monthly fee for her chequing account. I asked why she didn’t move her money to a bank with free chequing accounts and a higher interest rate (at that time, PC Financial was offering 4%). She replied by saying, “its not worth the hassle, and I don’t need the extra money.” Even though she was in debt and paying her bank to keep her money for her, she wasn’t willing to trade a few hours of her time in exchange for saving $12/month in account fees, and a higher interest rate on her savings.

Maybe $12/month didn’t seem like a lot to my friend, but it’s a lot to me. Especially when you consider evaluating all of your expenses to make sure you’re getting the best prices on the items and services you pay for. It all adds up, and you could potentially save hundreds of dollars each year.

It’s an investment

Sure, you might need new clothing and shoes when you land your first job out of school; looking professional truly is an investment in your career. However, buying a $500 pair of shoes is not an investment. If you want to buy a pair of $500 shoes, and can afford to do so, then go ahead. But buying them with the idea that you are somehow going to financially benefit from them is a lie. A true investment is something that will make you money over time, not plummet in value the moment you leave the store.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

If I indulged in every “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity that has come my way, I would be in some serious, serious debt. :) I get it – when something fun and unique comes along, it’s hard to say no – but very few things are truly only once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

In my early twenties, a friend asked me to go backpacking in Asia for the summer. “We’ll never get to do something like this again,” she had said. I remember thinking to myself, why can’t we do this trip later when we are both out of debt? Asia will still be there, and we’d be able to enjoy ourselves more if we didn’t have to put our trip on credit. So even though I wanted to go, I knew I couldn’t. Plus, if I could have somehow come up with the money to fund a trip to Asia, that cash would have been better off put towards my debt. Spending money to increase my debt load (while decreasing my net worth) didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

It can be so easy to fool ourselves into thinking it’s okay to spend on things that we can’t afford. That’s what got me into debt in the first place, and I count myself lucky that I figured that out before I spent myself deeper into the red.

What other lies do we tell ourselves in order to justify spending?

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