Give Me Back My Five Bucks

I live in a Vancouver laneway house

suite1106-img_2824Vancouver laneway houses are becoming more and more popular. Our cute home is one of only a handful of finished and occupied laneways in my East Vancouver neighbourhood, but taking a quick stroll around, and you’ll see many nearly completed or under construction.

When we first started looking for places to rent, my ideal place was a laneway house. These little cottages in the city really appealed to me because 1) I love small spaces, 2) tons of privacy, and 3) you don’t have to worry about noisy neighbours. So when this laneway came up in our ideal neighbourhood, we did everything we could to snag it.

Our laneway is a 685 sq.ft. two-storey, two-bed home. It costs us $1,650/month in rent, and is located in our favourite neighbourhood in Vancouver.

The rent is comparable to any decent apartment in the area (we were looking at a 1-bedroom for $1,700/month before we found this place), so the only thing we are giving up is a little bit of space in exchange for renting an entire structure. And as for the space, it’s about the same size as my townhouse – the only difference is the laneway is two levels.

When you first walk into the house, you are greeted with stairs, as well as the kitchen area, and RD’s computer desk. There is also a small laundry closet off to the right of the computer desk.

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The first floor is where we seem to spend most of our time. I love the kitchen island, and think it was a really smart thing for us to buy. Not only can we take it with us anywhere we go, but I sit there to work on my laptop, it’s the perfect size for two people to prep meals, and it adds much needed seating.

If we were going to entertain (which for us would be rare), we could put away RD’s computer and use the desk as a table. 

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Walking up the stairs, we have a washroom to the left. It’s clean and modern, and has enough space to hold a trunk full of extra towels, etc.

Photo 2015-11-27, 6 01 44 PM Photo 2015-11-27, 6 02 14 PM

Straight ahead off the upstairs landing is our bedroom. It’s the smaller of the two bedrooms by far, but it fits a queen sized storage bed (which fits all of our sports gear, backpacks, bedding, etc.), night table, and has a pretty big double-door closet for RD’s stuff.

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The last room upstairs is the second bedroom, which we have turned into our living room – with our couch and television.

We ended up having to buy a new-to-us couch off Craigslist. It’s not ideal, but it looks nice and fits the space well. 

The only picture of the closet I have is from when we first moved in – but the closet is a semi-walk-in and spans that entire width. It fits a surprising amount of stuff (all of the crap I had in my old walk-in closet fits in the space).

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And that’s our little house! :) It’s small but functional, and the perfect size for us. It took a while to get settled and combine our stuff together, but after about a month of living here full time, it’s starting to feel like home. 

2015 Annual Goals: Recap

What a year! I don’t think I’ve ever gone through more change in such a short period of time. I am in a completely different place than I was at this point last year, and it’s a really good feeling: new job, new home, and a relationship with someone who makes me so happy.

My goal in 2015 was to find balance and live with less. For the last few years I had a hard time finding balance in my life – I never felt settled, and I always felt like something was being neglected – whether it was my relationship, freelance work, or personal health. I rarely spent more than a couple nights each week at my house. My space felt abandoned, and I really disliked that feeling.

During 2015 I wanted to:

  1. Plan out each week as best I can.
  2. Start donating/selling/throwing away things I no longer use.
  3. Re-focus on saving on the little things.

I will admit that for the majority of the year, these things did not happen. I did not plan my weeks out very well, and because I didn’t plan, it was hard to focus on saving on the little things. I could have done a lot better. But I did do two massive purges and got rid of bags and bags of stuff I no longer needed or wanted.

Financial

  • Stay debt-free (aside from my mortgage). CHECK! Not only did I stay debt-free, but I also got rid of my mortgage. :)
  • Increase my income by 15%. CHECK! I increased my income by about 15% in 2015, and am set to increase it by another 15% in 2016, but this is no longer going to be a focus in my life or on this blog.
  • Save at least $800/month into my RRSP/TFSA. CHECK! I am now saving $1,100/month, and in February that will increase to $1,300/month with employer contributions. For those of you curious, I use a modified Global Couch Potato investment plan.
  • Stay on budget every month. FAIL. Not only did I not stay on budget, but I didn’t track my budget on this blog half of the time. I was not as organized as I should have been this year.

Personal

  • Limit Starbucks trips to 2x/month. FAIL. I think I failed within the first month of the year. Not sure why I even bothered.
  • Bring lunch to work most days. FAIL. This did not happen at all. For the majority of the year it was like I was living in two separate places (my home, and my BF’s home), so it was extremely hard to plan. Over the last month I’ve gotten a lot better and have been packing my lunch at least 4x/week.
  • Shop for needs. CHECK! I didn’t buy much throughout the year, but when I started this new job, I refreshed my work wardrobe a little bit.
  • Go on one big trip. CHECK! My sister and I went to Havana, Cuba for a week. I also went to Seattle with my family, and RD and I took a week off and headed down to Portland and the Oregon coast in November.
  • Run in one half marathon. FAIL. I signed up for the Goodlife Half Marathon in October, but ended up not being able to run it. My training during the summer was going well, then my injury flared up again. I’ll have to re-evaluate whether running or field hockey is the priority for me, because it’s clear my body doesn’t want me to do both.
  • Read 20 books. FAIL. No excuses, I just didn’t read as much as I wanted to.

Professional

  • Enroll in Business Management program. PASS. I figured out exactly what program I wanted to take, and had it approved by my boss. The only issue is, I quit that job. And since then, I’ve re-evaluated where my career is going. I have clear direction now, and I don’t believe that further education is required to get me there. So this goal is on hold, at least for the next couple of years.

January 2016 Goals

I’m really excited for 2016. I already feel a lot more organized in terms of my finances as well as my life in general. I’ve been able to go on regular runs, pack my lunch, and track my expenses daily. This is already a major improvement from the last couple of months.

This budget below represents a normal month of spending for me going forward – with the exception of the Fitness category – RD and I are determined to take a belay refresher course as well as buy a punch card to a local climbing gym. We already have climbing shoes, harness, and accessories, so no need to buy anything else. I’m really excited to start climbing again!

In an effort to curb our Food & Entertainment budget, we have decided to only go out to eat together once per week (unless we have social obligations, which are rare). When we first started dating, we were in restaurants at least 2-3 times per week. It was out of control, and not great for our waistlines. Now that we have our own space, it’s a lot easier and more pleasant to plan and cook meals at home.

If I can stick to this budget below, I’ll be able to save about 50% of my net income from my full-time job in January.

01 - January Budget

January 2016 Goals:

  • Run once per week. I know that I can’t fully commit to running during field hockey season, but I’ve been running during the winter break, and have been loving it.
  • Transfer all my banking over to Tangerine. I’ve been using a two-bank system for years and it has worked out well. However, PC Financial recently redesigned their website and I don’t want to sound like a design snob, but I can’t handle the interface. So everything is being moved over, and I need to coordinate my direct deposits, auto debits, and all other accounts that have previously been linked to my PFC accounts.
  • Pack my lunch 4x/week & no take-out coffee (unless social). For a while I got into the habit of grabbing a drip coffee from the cafe across the street from my office. But I can make coffee at home, and my new office provides it for free, so there’s no excuse. All lunch options around here are pretty pricey, so it’s bagged lunches for me most of the time. :)
  • Be a good roommate. It’s been a while since I’ve lived with someone else, so it will take time for me to adjust and compromise. But I’m going to work hard at it this month, since I know RD is a lot tidier than me.
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