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.
What credit cards are you using?
I hate having to start a new year with an expensive monthly budget, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Luckily I have over $4,000 in freelance work invoiced out for January payment, so that will help. :)
The biggest expense by far is investing in a waterproof winter coat. Yes you can certainly buy coats for much less than $500, but I am a firm believer in buying quality items that are going to last me for a long time. The last time I bought a winter jacket was 9 years ago for skiing. I still wear it all the time in the city and in the mountains. But I wanted something more versatile. I wanted it to be wearable for both the wet Pacific Northwest client of Vancouver, as well as for the chilly Northern BC winters (mine currently does not) – plus it had to look nice enough to wear to work. After tons of research I narrowed it down to a Patagonia 3-in-1 parka (pictured). Waterproof outer for rain, puffy removable liner for winter, and looks gorgeous. Perfect! Expensive for sure, but I’m hoping it’ll last me 8-10 years. :)
I also wanted to get ahead of the rush by booking RD’s birthday present. Last year, we went to Squamish for 2 nights, and this year I booked us 3-nights over the Easter long weekend in April. I’d tell you where we’re going, but RD wants it to be a surprise. :) His birthday is very close to when he leaves for his annual 4-6 weeks of field work, so this might become an annual weekend getaway, as it’s nice to get a mini vacation together in before he goes.
We will also be traveling back to the island for Chinese New Year (likely just two nights, and might not bring a car over). We also needed to replace my car windshield since it got damaged on our Yukon trip – we’ll split the cost on that. I’ll also have to renew my membership to the climbing gym.
January 2017 Goals:
- Look into making my budgeting spreadsheet available to blog readers. I’ve never offered my spreadsheet before, but a few people have been requesting it. Is this something you’d be interested in?
- Try 3 new recipes. We got two new cookbooks for Christmas (Oh She Glows Every Day and Plenty More), and I’m dying to try out some of the recipes. The Plenty More book is a lot more complicated than the recipes I’m used to, but I’m up for the challenge. I love spending a bit more time on the weekends preparing meals. :)
- Bring my lunch to work every day. If I’m going to be spending all this time cooking, I’d better be making enough food to take for leftovers the next day!
- Try to lower my internet bill. We currently pay about $75 for internet, and I’m constantly complaining about it. I don’t think it should cost this much, especially since the plan is so bare-bones we really both can’t be using the internet at the same time. :|
- Get into the mountains. Time to break out those snowshoes and get into the mountains!
In my last post, I explained how I spent $34,700 in 2016 – which seems like a lot! But I also managed to save 50% of my income and increased my net worth by over $40,000.
Here’s how I did it:
A new job with a new salary
In the fall of 2015, I started looking for a new job. I was thankful to the organization for giving me the opportunity to get my foot in the door of an industry I knew nothing about, but I felt like 1) I was underpaid, and 2) in a position too junior for my skillset with no room for growth. I wanted more of a challenge, and yeah, I wanted to make more money. :)
After interviewing with a few organizations, I finally accepted a challenging role with my current company – at a compensation level that I felt was more appropriate for my experience. It’s a nice feeling to finally feel like your pay grade and your responsibilities are in line with your skills.
Related: When it’s worth it to take a pay cut
Within 3 or 4 months of being with the company, I received a small raise (yay!), and a bit of shuffling in my organization gave me the ability to start banking a lot of overtime hours for use or for payout (which is one of the biggest perks of the job for sure).
I took advantage of my work benefits
My company offers a small RRSP match as well as the ability to take part in the corporate share purchase plan. Both these benefits force me to save more through automatic payroll deductions, and with employer contributions included, I ended up with $7,000 in the bank that I hadn’t been saving the year before.
I increased my retirement contributions three times
I started 2016 off by saving $950/month towards retirement. Then I increased it to $1,200. Then $1,350. Then $1,685 – which is where it sits right now. I basically ended up almost doubling my retirement contributions, and found that it really had no impact to my lifestyle at all.
This was possible because…
I sold my house and went back to renting
Selling my townhouse and moving in with RD freed up a significant amount of money every month. My mortgage, strata fees, and property tax was costing me $1,380. Add in $250 for gas and parking at work, and that’s $1,630/month I was spending to own my home in the suburbs. Now that I live right in Vancouver? I pay $825 for rent, don’t pay for parking, and only need to fill up my gas tank once a month.
Some of that extra money went towards lifestyle inflation (like traveling and entertainment), but most of it went towards increasing my retirement contributions. :)
I am actively engaged in my finances
Okay well this is obvious! But I truly believe that keeping track of my finances in my Excel spreadsheet helps me save more. I always know how much I’ve spent in any given month, and the process of inputting purchases into my spreadsheet is a bit of a shame mechanism when you have to see it there for an entire year. :) And getting to input my savings transactions just gives me such a thrill. Yes I’m a nerd, and yes I know that most people won’t be as active with the finances as me. But as long as you are being truthful with yourself and you know where your money is going each month, that’s all that matters. I just probably take it to a whole new level that may not be totally necessary.
But being active with my money constantly shows me new and different ways I can save more money. For example, I was pretty pleased when I saw that I spent an average of $251.31 per month on groceries, knowing that I could definitely trim that down even further since we ate out at restaurants way more than necessary for about half of last year.
Mutual financial goals
RD and I have talked a lot about the future in terms of where we’ll be and what we want to do in the next 10 year, as well as how we see retirement. We have lofty goals, and those goals require money. Knowing we are on the same page gives me so much motivation to save money and make good financial decisions so that our future together can be healthy and happy. It also helps that we have very similar spending habits (although, RD is
probably definitely more frugal than me).
2016 was a good year for me financially, and it will be hard to top. 2017 will be interesting as I have a lot of travel plans, and we are both saving diligently for a down payment for something, somewhere. :)