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May 2014 Goals: Recap

Well, I’m under budget this month so that’s the good news. :) The bad news is I had earmarked $350 for a potential flight to Edmonton for next month (which likely isn’t going to happen anymore), so if you take that into consideration, I’d be a little bit over budget.

I was well under my already low projected monthly food budget, but that’s because of a few factors: at the end of April we went on a huge Costco run (where my share was $130!) so we had all the essentials ready to go. All I needed to buy were fresh fruits and veggies for the month, which doesn’t cost a lot at all. We mostly shop at No Frills, where I can get away with spending $25-30 week if I’m cooking simple meals. And the other factor? We ate in restaurants a lot this month. It was fun to see so many people, but after the trip to Victoria, all I wanted to do was detox and get back to a regular routine of eating healthy.

Gas was also really low this month because I commuted to work mostly from BF’s house. Likely that will change throughout the summer as life gets busier with sports, friends, and outdoor activities. Plus, I really do miss staying at my house. I spend a lot each month to have it, so I want to be there a bit more often.

05-May-Recap

Over Budget

  • Entertainment – there were a few meals out with friends that I hadn’t planned for, but I’m actually surprised that this number is so low.
  • Fitness – I didn’t expect to buy a tennis racket and sign up for lessons this month. I’m glad that I did, because it seems like a really fun sport and a good way to stay in shape during the field hockey off-season. But yeah, it was somewhat impulsive.

Net Worth Change: - $2,955 ( – 2.98%)

Okay, wait. This drop isn’t as drastic as it seems. Or maybe it is. :) I updated the value of my car to reflect what Kelley Blue Book says it’s worth based on its current condition, sold privately. It’s not exactly the most accurate way of measuring a depreciating asset, but it’s what I’ve always done, so to be consistent, that’s how I’ll keep doing it.

Without the drop in net worth due to my car value, I would have actually been up + $1,336.

May 2014 Goals:

  • Contribute $800 into my Retirement Portfolio. CHECK! My normal contribution amount is $750. The extra $50 went towards my TFSA.
  • Earn $1,200 in freelance income. FAIL. I only brought in $460, but I have $1,100 worth of invoices that are owed to me. Some of them are severely overdue, so I’ve been following up.
  • Pay attention to my health. CHECK! I cut back on my intake of refined sugars and salty snacks (didn’t eat a single chip this month, which has to be a record for me). I also took a multivitamin most days, drank more water, and have been exercising a lot more. As a result, I dropped 4 pounds this month. :)
  • Walk 100,000 steps per week. CHECK! My original FitBit goal was to walk an average of 10,000 steps per day, but after realizing the goal wasn’t challenging enough, I upped it to 100,000 steps per week. And I’m really happy to say that I surpassed that amount and walked 460,805 steps during May – and that doesn’t even include today or tomorrow’s step totals. :) This is due to being more active at work, walking a lot in the evenings, and starting to get back into running.

may-fitbit-challenge

  • Bring my lunch to work every day. PASS. I did bring my lunch a couple of times this month, but I’m giving myself a pass because the few days I did that, it was because we were coming back from a trip the night before, or something unexpected came up and it couldn’t really be helped.
  • Stay on budget. PASS. Technically, I was $338.81 under budget for the month. But if I had bought that plane ticket to Edmonton, I would have been over budget by $10-15.

There you have it – my budget recap for May. Any comments or questions? :)

Trimming those monthly expenses

krystal2Every few months I like to go over my budget line by line. I take a look to see if there’s anything that needs tweaking, or if I can save money somehow by lowering my expenses. May was one of those months.

Cell Phone: Rogers Wireless

The first up was my cell phone bill. I’m with Rogers and currently pay $60 for the standard unlimited minutes/texts/nationwide long distance, as well as 1GB data. Checking on the website though, it seems that my plan isn’t even offered anymore, and that prices have gone up. There’s a $55 plan that gives you 150 minutes/unlimited evenings at 200MB data. And then there’s a $65 plan with 1000 minutes/unlimited evenings, and 500MB data. Yikes.

Cell coverage with the smaller carriers doesn’t work for me, and where I live you can’t get Telus reception, so my options were limited. So thankfully my employer has a corporate rate plan for employees, and I’ve switched onto that plan. :)

I’m still with Rogers, but now I’ll be paying $55 for unlimited minutes/texts/nationwide long distance. That’s already a $5/month savings. But the bonus is now I have 1 GB data that’s available for all of North America. This is huge! I don’t travel a ton to the USA (maybe 4-5x/year), but the times that I do go, I usually wish I had data for looking up directions, restaurants, iMessaging someone, etc. Now I’m covered, and I don’t have to worry about buying data packages or SIM cards.

Internet: Shaw Cable

Next up was my internet package. I’ve moaned about Shaw Cable’s ridiculous prices for years. Right now I’m paying $60, and the cheapest plan is $55. They advertise the $55 plan for browsing the web and sending e-mails. The $60 plan is faster, and they say it’s appropriate for streaming videos, etc. Since I only have Netflix at home, I chose that one.

But then I decided to take a look at the posted download speeds to see if I could get away with the $55 “web browsing” plan instead.

Netflix recommended download speeds:

netflix

Shaw Cable $55 High Speed 10 package:

shaw

Netflix recommends 5 mbps download speed, and Shaw’s package offers up to 10 mbps. So that’s a no-brainer, and I feel a bit dumb having paid $5 per month for the past year for something that I’m not even fully utilizing.

Entertainment: Netflix

Ever since Netflix rolled out the option to have users on every account, I’ve been wondering why everyone in my family has separate accounts. It kind of just makes sense to share one. Especially for me, since I’m not at my house that often to utilize my account. So that’s what we’re doing. I canceled my account, and am now sharing an account with my dad and sister. :)

These three moves save me $18/month ($216/year). It’s not a lot. But it’s something, and it’s certainly better than paying $18 for services I don’t need. :) Next up is examining my car and home insurance packages to make sure I’m fully covered.

How often do you do examine your monthly expenses?

Spending Recap: May 19-25, 2014

Monday 19th – Victoria, BC
$47 brunch
$44.25 ferry
$27.26 groceries

Tuesday 20th
$5.25 Subway

Wednesday 21st
+ $25 Tangerine Bank referral
$55.99 tennis racket

Thursday 22nd
+ $191.03 freelance income
$80.75 tennis lessons
$23.98 movie (for 2)
$20 groceries

Friday 23rd
No Spend Day!

Saturday 24th
$6.39 shoe insoles
$14 pizza

Sunday 25th
No Spend Day!

Freelance Income: + $191.03 (+ $25)
Expenses- $324.87

TOTAL: - $108.84

On Monday BF and I treated my mom, sister, and her boyfriend out for brunch at Cabin 12 before zipping over to the ferry terminal to try and beat the long weekend rush back to Vancouver. What you see above is my portion of the bill. :) Once back in Vancouver, we stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies in an attempt to detox after a long weekend of eating in restaurants.

Thursday evening we went to go see Fed Up – a documentary about sugar and how it affects your body. Most of it we already knew before (we’ve been reading and watching a lot of documentaries on nutrition), but it really drove home how harmful sugar is. I’m going to make a conscious effort to cut out as much sugar from my diet as possible, and that’s surprisingly hard to do since sugar is in so much of what we eat!

Over the weekend, we had brunch with BF’s friend and his wife at the Sylvia Hotel. That evening, I stayed in and had a movie night with a girlfriend. Sunday was spent walking around the city, and hanging out with some of BF’s other friends and their children – which is always a fun time. Those kids are so energetic that I can barely keep up! :)

This week I also took the plunge and decided to try playing tennis. This included buying my first tennis racket, and signing up for lessons (which start next week!). I also started running again this week, and am onboard with getting back into shape and training throughout the summer.

How was your week of spending?

Prioritizing travel plans

barcelona06For the past three months I’ve been quietly saving money for a potential trip in the fall. Thanks to a bit of freelance income, automatic bi-weekly deductions, and Tangerine Bank referral bonuses, I’ve managed to save just over $2,300 – with a goal to end up with about $3,500 by mid-September.

With my freelancing this year, whenever I receive a cheque in the mail, I’ve been using the Tangerine Bank app to deposit the money via Cheque-In. I’ll put away at least 25% of every cheque towards my Travel Fund, and the rest gets transferred over to my PC Financial account to spend/save like I normally would. It has worked out so well that I think I’ll keep doing this going forward, and that will ensure that I always have a bit of money in my account specifically earmarked for travel.

I’ve also got about $700 in Capital One Travel World Aspire Mastercard points, so I’ll have a total of about $4,200 to play with for this Europe trip. I don’t think I’m going to need that much, but I’d rather plan for it than end up without enough cash to do all of the things I’d like to do.

A flight will be about $1,200. Accommodation for 14-15 nights might come out to around $1,200 as well (estimating $80 per person/night using hotel/b&b/AirBnB). Then there’s food, entertainment, travel, etc. which I don’t think will come out to more than $1,800.

It’s a bit tricky to estimate how much everything besides the flight will cost. All we know is that we’re going to Europe, and we’ll either start or end our journey in Paris. We’ve been talking about heading south and going to Spain, because in the end of September the weather will be nicer there instead of going north to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, which was the original plan.

This trip means that I won’t be able to do a few other things that I had wanted to do this year. A tentative trip to Edmonton next month is likely going to fall through. As is our Canada Day long weekend idea of going to the Okanagan. We had also talked about potentially going to Las Vegas with another couple in August, but doubt that will happen either. These axed vacation plans will likely get replaced with more local trips – camping, fishing, hiking, and going back to the island. :)

Do you have summer travel plans that you’re currently saving up for?

Learning a new sport

62737se101080-zmYesterday I spent $50 on a tennis racquet and headed to the courts in Stanley Park. I’ve never played tennis before, although I’ve always wanted to learn. But with so many other competing priorities, and no friends in town that play the sport, I’ve just never gotten around to it. Until now. BF loves playing tennis, and he was willing to teach me some of the basics – so I jumped at the chance. It also helps that the courts are free to play on (when you can actually get space), and are just a short walk from his house.

After spending about 90 minutes learning how to hold a racquet properly and hitting balls against a cement practice wall (which also meant hitting the ball into the other practice court about two dozen times), I decided I liked the sport enough to take the plunge and invest in tennis lessons.

After asking Twitter about recommendations for lessons in Vancouver, I decided to stick with Stanley Park for the convenience factor and the good reviews it got. I paid $80.75 for 4 lessons of 60 min. each (approx. $20.19 per hour). Class sizes are no more than 12 people, and there are 2 instructors that teach the course. This seemed a bit expensive to me, but after talking with a few of my out-of-town tennis friends, they confirmed that this was pretty normal.

I’ve stuck with “comfort” sports like field hockey and running my whole life, and have stayed away from sports I’ve never played before, or that I’m not good at. As someone whose played competitive sports for many years, I don’t like the idea of not being good at something. Or having to start with basics and work my way up to being competent. But I know that being uncomfortable with something means that I should do it, and that it will help me to overcome those feelings. Plus, learning a new skill is never a bad thing! Tennis seems like it would be a great summer sport to play, and good cross training for field hockey and running.

Another worry I have is that I won’t be able to find anyone to play with. BF is a lot better than me, and so are his friends. I’m sure he’ll play with me, but it’s not going to be as fun for him until I can reach a semi-adequate playing level. So until then, I’m going to have to find other newbies to play games and learn with as well. Since this whole tennis thing is a bit of a departure for me, and I’m really excited to try something new!

Does anyone have any advice for a newbie tennis player? :)