Give Me Back My Five Bucks - Page 20 of 2823 - a quest for financial independence

Recent Posts

Vegas and the 4-day long weekend

DSC02925I did something a little bit impulsive last night: I booked a mini holiday with BF. We knew that we wanted to do something over the April long weekend, so after tossing around a few ideas – Portland, Kansas City, Tofino, Kelowna – we came to a pretty easy agreement on Las Vegas.

I know, I know. After last year’s trip, I said I was never going to go to Vegas again. But Allegiant Air makes it so easy. The hotel/trip packages are  affordable, and the flights line up perfectly with our time off. Anywhere else Allegiant flies would require us to take vacation days. And while Portland was my first choice, I think it’s a better idea to go in the summer.

Related: Top 5 not-so-frugal things to do in Las Vegas

But I’m actually really excited for this mini holiday. Even though I’ve been to Vegas more than a few times before, there are still a few things I’ve always wanted to do: go see a Cirque show (everyone tells me that O is the best), do one of those crazy rides on top of the Stratosphere, and explore Red Rock Canyon more. Every time I’ve been to Vegas, it’s been go-go-go – either on a work trip, or it’s been crammed full of things to do. I’ve never had a super relaxing stay there, so I think that’s what this will be like. We’ll lounge by the pool (if it’s warm enough), take it easy, and enjoy the Nevada sunshine. :)

We also did something I’ve never done before on a Vegas trip – splurge on a “fancy” hotel. When I was with work, we stayed off the strip. And during past trips, I’ve gone budget and stayed at Harrah’s or the Flamingo. This time, we went fancy-ish and are staying at the Paris. I couldn’t bring myself to book anything more expensive than that, but it will be a nice change I think.

The cheapest I’ve ever gotten a flight and 3 nights accommodation in Vegas is $330 over a long weekend back in 2008. This time around, it will cost me $591. That’s a difference of $261, which I guess is a pretty fair price considering it’s 5+ years later, and a nicer hotel.

I don’t have a set budget in mind, because it varies on a lot of things: the price of show tickets, whether I actually do the Stratosphere SkyJump, a potential car rental, etc. But I’m hoping to keep the entire trip to $1,100. Under $1,000 preferably. And I definitely think that’s possible. BF and I are on the same page in regard to what we want to spend our money on: we’ll save on food (no buffets – neither of us eat enough to make it worth it), and splurge on experiences and entertainment.

Recommendations on delicious, cheap eats in Vegas?

February 2014 Goals

I’m looking forward to February. There are a lot of things happening – a trip to Victoria (where BF will meet my family for the first time), a ski day at Grouse, a bunch of fun freelance assignments, and a ton of field hockey and running. :)

It was also about this time last year that I decided to try 30 days as a pescetarian. I liked it so much that I decided to keep it as my lifestyle. So for this month, I’m going to try to eat vegetarian (aside for 2 meals while I’m home – we are doing a couple of big family-style meals for Chinese New Year, and I just can’t be “that person” … not just yet). There are many reasons why I think I want to take the next step and become vegetarian (health, sustainability, animal cruelty, etc.), but I know it will be difficult. So, this month-long experiment will be good. :)

In my budget, I also added a new “Fitness” expense line. This will represent all sports fees, classes, equipment, workout clothing, etc. Before, I would have grouped fees/classes into “Miscellaneous” and shoes/workout gear under “clothing.” Because I spend so regularly on fitness-related activities, I thought it deserved its own category.

02 - February Budget

February 2014 Goals:

  • Try two new recipes. Vegetarian, obviously. Any suggestions?
  • Save $800 into my RRSP/TFSA. This will be split at a ratio of $600/$200.
  • Run 100+ km this month. Last month I ran 70km. This month I’m going to take it up a notch.
  • Get my taxes ready. I won’t be able to file until after the March RRSP deadline, but I want to get everything else ready to go. I’ll be filing myself this year, and am pretty excited to get started. :)
  • Connect with at least one old friend. There are people living in Vancouver that I’ve lost touch with over the years. I’d love to grab a coffee with at least one of them and catch up.

January 2014 Goals: Review

Yikes.Not a super good start to the year, eh? I mean, sure I was under budget this month – but only because I decreased my mortgage payments. Otherwise I would have been over by about $22.

I’m going to give myself a pass for this month because a lot of expenses were out of the ordinary: my sister came to town two weekends in a row, I had no idea how much I would be spending for gas/parking, and I spent a lot more time at BF’s house than I anticipated, resulting in buying my lunches more often because I was unprepared. The majority of these issues have been fixed for next month.

Here’s how I did:

01 - January Recap

Over Budget:

  • Internet – I’m still in a complaining mood about my internet service. Every time I get my bill, I’m shocked and think to myself “this is so expensive; there must be a cheaper plan I can move to.” And every month I go onto the Shaw website, and am incredibly disappointed to realize that no, there isn’t a cheaper plan to move to. :| My only consolation is that I can write this off as a business expense.
  • Food – This is me being unprepared for work, and not packing lunches like I had intended.
  • Entertainment – My sister visited the city, and also one of my best friends and her husband have temporarily relocated just blocks away from where BF lives for a few months… so we did go out a lot. I’m thankful that most of the time, we stay in, cook dinner, and watch Netflix.
  • Car & Transportation – Wow. This category took me by surprise. The majority of the overage was for parking, as well as a trip out to the ferries and to Point Roberts. Since parking is kind of a shared expense, BF offered to pay for half of my parking fees going forward. I’ve adjusted this category for February.

Net Worth Change+ $2,015 (2.16%)

Even though I’m paying less towards my mortgage, I actually feel really good putting more money into my RRSP/TFSA accounts. My RRSPs gained nicely this month, which is why my net worth increased by more than usual.

January 2014 Goals:

  • Read 2 books. FAIL. I only read one book, a reread of Catcher in the Rye. Are we friends yet on Goodreads?
  • Save $750 into my RRSP/TFSA. CHECK! This was split at a ratio of $600/$150.
  • Run the Chilly Chase half marathon in under 1:53:30. FAIL. Fail, fail, fail, a million times fail. You can read my Chilly Chase half marathon recap for more information.
  • Sell 3 items. FAIL. I have two things listed right now on eBay, but didn’t actually sell anything during the month.
  • Go out for lunch only once per week. FAIL. The month started out well, but it got complicated trying to remember to bring so many things with me as I shuttled between work, my house, his house, and the field hockey field.

Wednesday Miscellaneous

I have a lot of lofty goals this year, and I’m already struggling with keeping myself on track. Not because the goals are too far out of reach, but because I’ve been a bit scattered with my thoughts lately (which is also probably why I haven’t been writing as often as usual on this blog).

So far, January has been booked solid with work, social plans, and field hockey/running. I haven’t had a free evening since before Christmas, and from the looks of my Google calendar, I won’t have one for at least another 3 weeks. I need to scale things back. Breathe. Spend time at home. I need balance, and I don’t have that right now.

Here’s been what’s on my mind lately:

  • What I thought would stress me out the most (saving at least $750/month into RRSP/TFSA) seems to be the easiest goal so far. Everything is automated, and I don’t even have to think about it. The same goes for my $50 bi-weekly contribution to a long-term savings account earmarked for travel.
  • Speaking of travel, BF and I have made tentative travel plans this year: a trip over the 4 day Easter long weekend (so far we have discussed Portland or Kansas City), and he’s thinking of joining me for my vacation to Europe in the fall. Since I’ll be in Sweden for work, we would travel to Copenhagen, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Normandy, and potentially end up in Paris. If that trip falls through, I’ll likely do a solo trip to Finland and Russia.
  • I’ve been toying with the idea of becoming vegetarian. I’ve been a pescetarian (no meat or poultry) for almost a full year, and that has actually been really good. But I really feel like going vegetarian will be super restricting in social situations. Especially coming from a meat-eating, seafood-loving family. Of course, there are millions of vegetarians out there, so it’s not like my issues are unique. It’ll just take some time to adjust.
  • There is a ski day planned in a few weeks, and it will be the first time I’ve gone in years. So, that’ll probably be fun, but embarrassing. Mostly embarrassing. :) There has been zero snow that has fallen in the last week, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that conditions on the mountains will improve by the time I go.
  • A few weeks ago, I had a wine and movie night at my house with my oldest friend of 19 years. After a recent falling out with someone I thought was my friend, I was reminded of how important long lasting relationships are, and what true friends mean to each other. :)
  • I’m going to have to buy tires for my car sometime this year. This is a major stress for me, because I know nothing about tires and I’m always afraid of getting ripped off with any car-related things. I know people who have saved a ton of money buying tires in the USA, but with the dollar being the way it is, I wonder if it’s even worth it.
  • After reading and re-reading my Chilly Chase Half Marathon recap, I created a running schedule for the next 3 months. I think it will be hard to simultaneously train for a 10km and a half marathon (the races are just 1 week apart), but once field hockey season ends, I should be okay. And I’ve decided that if I don’t PR in the BMO Half Marathon, I’ll scrap the idea of running a marathon in the fall, and focus on my half marathon time instead.

Anyway, that’s it from me over here. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. :)

Spending Recap: January 20-26, 2014

Monday 20th
$10 dinner

Tuesday 21st
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 22nd
No Spend Day!

Thursday 23rd
$8.67 lunch

Friday 24th
+ $178.54 freelance income
$10.25 lunch
$41.56 gas
$5.30 parking

Saturday 25th
$30 hockey game
$5.30 parking

Sunday 26th
$17.53 brunch

Freelance Income: + $178.54
Expenses- $128.61

TOTAL: + $49.93

This was a fun week. On Monday, BF and I went for ramen at my favourite place downtown, Motomachi. Then over the weekend, I went out for lunch with Nic, and also went to a few open houses in downtown Vancouver just for fun. I’m not planning on selling my place any time soon, but it’s nice to see what my money can buy in the downtown core. I was actually surprised at how affordable some of the condos were. For example, a 675 sq. ft. (1 bed + den) was less than $340k. Sure, it wasn’t the fanciest building around, but the location was perfect, and the unit was bright and relatively spacious.

My sister and her boyfriend were also in town. We went to my first Vancouver Giants (WHL) game with a few friends on Saturday night, and then on Sunday I ran in the Chilly Chase Half Marathon with a friend from work. The rest of Sunday was a bit of a write-off. BF worked a bit, while I curled up on the couch, exhausted after the race. I then helped him proofread a couple of documents that he had created for work, and then he treated me to sushi at my favourite place downtown. :)

I also think I found a way to deal with the parking issue that I’ve been having. I’ve complained a few times before on this blog about how it costs me $5.30 each time I park downtown to visit BF (if I don’t get 1 of the 3 visitor spots in his apartment building). All of the street parking is permit-only, and my only option is a parking lot. Well, I did a bit of reading on the internet and found out that an annual pass for that particular parking lot is only $250/year, which works out to just over $20/month. This is an incredible deal, and definitely worth considering since we definitely pay more than $20/month for my car to be parked there.

How was your week of spending?