Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Laneway living: one year later

IMG_9424I can’t believe its already been a year since we moved into our little laneway house in Vancouver. The appeal of living in a tiny house is still strong, and I feel really fortunate to be in a fantastic neighbourhood for such a reasonable price. Our one year lease is up at the end of the month, and after discussing it with our landlord, we are happy to stay here on a month-to-month basis.

Now that we’ve been living together for a year, we’ve discussed what the future holds for us, and where we think we’ll be in a few years. Unfortunately, the reality is that we’ll probably be in Vancouver for the foreseeable future. RD’s job is very specialized, and there are really only a few places we could move to in Canada where he could find work. We’re happy living where we are for now, but if we plan on being here for the next 10+ years, the idea of buying a home down the road begins to make sense (again).

Related: We will never be homeowners in Vancouver

Because for all the pros that renting and specifically laneway living provide, there are still definite cons to our current situation:

 

  • We are paying a very reasonable price for rent. If we wanted to find a new rental in this neighbourhood for whatever reason, we’d be looking at paying $400-600 more per month for something similar.
  • The people renting next door are sometimes very loud. Because we live in the alley, in the summertime when our windows are open, we’re often subjected to their cigarette smoke, loud talking in the middle of the night, and constantly hanging out just feet from our front door.
  • The layout of our house isn’t the best. Because half of the downstairs is actually a garage, the layout is such that our TV/living room is actually our second bedroom upstairs. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that there is wasted space downstairs that is too big not to use, but too small to be constructive.
  • 685 sq.ft. split on two levels is just a *tiny* bit too small. We stayed in an AirBnB in Dawson City on our vacation, and we both agreed that it was our dream house with the perfect layout. The 2-storey house couldn’t have been more than 850 sq.ft. total but it was absolutely perfect for what we would want.
  • There’s no outdoor space. I miss having a balcony or a porch where I can just sit outside and relax.
  • The inability to customize our space or have pets. Not that we’d want to do any major renovations, but it would be nice to have the option if we wanted to. We’ve also discussed potentially getting a pet in the future, but it is extremely challenging to find rentals that would allow pets in the city.

Related: The crazy Vancouver real estate market

That being said, we wouldn’t even consider buying anything for 8-12 months. Even though we have a nice down payment ready to go, we both want to get a good sense of what the real estate market is doing here in Vancouver (and the suburbs). We are both perfectly happy renting for however long we need to (perhaps even forever), so if we did decide to buy, it would have to be in a neighbourhood with a similar feel to our current one, and the purchase really shouldn’t have any impact to our current lifestyle and budget. Meaning early retirement and lots of traveling will continue to be the priority. And for that reason alone, I think it will be very difficult to take any real estate listing seriously.

November 2016 Goals

November is going to be an expensive month … not because I’m going anywhere (although I am going to Toronto next week for the Canadian Personal Finance Conference), but because I pre-ordered one of the new Apple Macbook Pro computers.

I bought my current MBP six years ago, and it has served me well. In fact, aside from it running hot, it’s still a very good computer … it just doesn’t work for my purposes anymore. I work my computers hard, and the lag in the last 6 months has become so bad that I’ve stopped doing any sort of photo editing or design work. And that needs to change.

So with some of the freelance money I’ve earned this year, I’ll be getting my new computer in just a couple of weeks! I had budgeted $3,500 and with taxes, my purchase came to $3,269.84. I’m really pleased I was able to come in under budget, and I plan on selling my old computer which I think should get me a few hundred dollars.

Anyway, onto this month’s budget!

11-november2016-budget

I’ve included money in my budget this month for clothing – I’d like to get a pair of black boots as I had to throw away my last pair two winters ago. I also need to get two pairs of shoes repaired, and would like to buy a pair of pants for work.

Also I’ve included about half my budget for Christmas gifts. :)

November 2016 Goals:

  • Shop around for tenant insurance – ours expires at the end of the month, so I’ll call around to a few places to see if we can get a lower rate.
  • Create my budgeting spreadsheet for 2017 – I stopped using Quicken a few years ago and track my budget in my own Excel spreadsheet. Except that it has gotten quite robust and complicated over the years with so many linked cells across multiple tabs. I want to set up a clean version for 2017 so that I don’t have to worry about it next month. :)
  • Freelancing – I need to wrap up the last of my freelance contracts for 2016 and start the negotiating for contracts during the first half of 2017. I’ve also been getting inquiries about doing some freelance design work, which I might pick up just for fun … haven’t done any contracted design work in a while!

Exploring Yukon!

Well we’ve been back from our vacation for a week or so, and finally got around to working out our expenses for the trip. I was also waiting for RD to finish editing his photos so I could share some of them with you. He’s such a good photographer and often sees the softer, smaller details that I overlook (meanwhile I’m just looking for something to put onto Instagram, haha).

Day 1-3: Vancouver to Cowley Lake, YT

It took three full days to drive from Vancouver to Cowley Lake (just a bit south of Whitehorse), but it was a pretty amazing drive. We encountered some sketchy road conditions (thick ice covered the road for our entire drive on Day 2), but a visit to Liard River Hot Springs, and getting to see a ton of wildlife along the highway was really cool.

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Day 3-5: Cowley Lake, YT

We spent two nights in a cute little yurt on Cowley Lake, and it was so much fun. After 3 days of somewhat stressful driving, we just relaxed by the wood-burning stove in the yurt, went for a paddle around the lake, and eventually ventured into Whitehorse so we could watch the Blue Jays in the Wild Card game. :)

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Day 5-8: Haines Junction, YT

Haines Junction was probably my favourite stop on this trip. It’s not too far west of Whitehorse, but the mountains in Kluane National Park are absolutely incredible. The downside of Haines Junction was that it was so small – there wasn’t a grocery store so we ate at the pub both evenings after our day hikes.

The first hike we did was recommended by our hotel owner (he’s also a guide) – King’s Throne. It was a pretty amazing hike, although we ended up getting just shy of the summit (turned around due to the wind, and also it was freezing!).

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The second hike we did in Kluane was Sheep Mountain. This was our favourite hike of the trip. The trail was completely south-facing up a ridge and we were treated to a beautiful, sunny day. The dall sheep were incredibly cute, and the hike was much harder than King’s Throne (which we were happy about).

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Day 8-11: Dawson City, YT

After playing in the mountains for three days, we headed 9 hours north to Dawson City, which was a massive gold rush town back in the day. Now it’s a bit of tourist town in the summer, and a nice spot to stay if you’re exploring Tombstone Territorial Park. We took it pretty easy while in Dawson – exploring the town, hiking Midnight Dome, and driving on the Dempster Highway into Tombstone Park. We were all set to go hiking, but forgot the bear spray back in Dawson … and we weren’t about to do a hike called ‘Grizzly Lake‘ without it. So we drove the 100km back to Dawson, and vowed to get back up there … some day.

But best of all? I finally got to see the Northern Lights. After a failed trip to Iceland in 2012 to try and see them, I got a nice view of them from our rented house for 3 nights in a row. It was so cold out tho that we enjoyed them from the comfort of the living room, instead of venturing outdoors to try and take photos. Yes, I’m a bit of a cold weather wimp. :)

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Day 11-13: Whitehorse, YT

After Dawson City, we drove south and stayed in the downtown area of Whitehorse. We didn’t spend much time in the city (besides going out to a pub), but we did get to hike Mount Lorne, which you can’t miss as you’re driving south out of Whitehorse. It was an extremely cold hike (-13-15C), but the views were incredible. I can only imagine what it would be like to do that hike in the summer!

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Being in Whitehorse after about 2 weeks into the trip really showed us how much of the stuff we love is available to us up north in Yukon. We both are obsessed with hiking and being outdoors (and away from crowds of people), and I like the feeling I got from being in Yukon. We even started perusing real estate listings and job boards to see what was out there. :) It’s something to think about for the future (and it’s exciting to know that it would be possible), but for now our lives are in Vancouver.

Day 13-15: Dease Lake, Stewart, and Hyder Alaska

After Whitehorse we began our slow journey back to Vancouver. Our first stop was Dease Lake, which was just an overnighter on our way to Stewart. A note if you’re looking to stay in Dease Lake – there are no restaurants. We bought our dinner from the gas station. :)

Stewart was very charming, and I can see why it’s a popular place to go in the summer. The small town and the gorgeous mountains made it pretty special. We took a quick side trip over to Hyder, Alaska which is basically a ghost town. I wanted to drive further up to the glacier, but the gravel road was quite active with trucks and neither of us felt like spending the time being stressed.

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Day 15-20: Smithers!

The last 5 days of our trip was spent exploring RD’s hometown of Smithers. The weather was not cooperating for us while we were there, but it was my first trip to Smithers, so we made the best of it by going on short hikes every day, and we even met up with friends (a high school friend of mine ended up marrying one of RD’s oldest friends – which is very random).

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We saw a ton of wildlife on this trip – cariboo (!), elk, bison, deer, sheep, fox, and tons of birds for my bird nerd boyfriend, but I really, really wanted to see grizzly and moose – and we didn’t get to see either! We were positive we’d see at least one grizzly on the trip, given the areas we were in and the timing, but we didn’t see a single trace of them. :| I was surprised about not seeing any moose either, but we’ll be headed back up to Smithers for Christmas, so I’ll get a second chance. :)

So… how much did this entire trip cost? Glad you asked!

Trip Budget
Yukon Trip Budgeted Actual Difference
Accommodation $1,350 $1,537 ($187)
Car Maintenance $400 $387 $13
Gas $900 $801 $99
Food $700 $522 $178
Entertainment $300 $0 $300
Supplies $200 $98 $102
Miscellaneous $150 $95 $55
 TOTAL $4,000 $3,440 $560

We ended up $560 under budget, which I’m pretty impressed with. Our accommodation ended up being more than expected because we were going to camp at Liard Hot Springs, but that day was so stressful driving in snowy and very icy conditions (and we didn’t know how long it would take to get to our destination) so instead of setting up camp in the snow and cold, we stayed in a very fancy lodge (the only place available for hundreds of kilometers) for $190/night. :|

My gas budget was exactly as predicted, and I’m very happy we came in under budget for good. We did a pretty good job making our own breakfasts and lunches (and I was very happy that groceries were so reasonably priced), and that made up for the fact that restaurants in Yukon were expensive! A normal dinner out at a pub was $60-70, whereas in Vancouver we’d have paid $50. But we made it work by not going out often. I was even able to pick up some special ingredients (as well as a Tofurkey!) so we could make a nice Thanksgiving dinner while in Dawson.

I loved this trip to Yukon. It was different than what most would consider an autumn getaway, and because we were in the shoulder/off-season, we had most places all to ourselves. It also opened our eyes up to how beautiful this country really is, how much hiking and exploring we still have to do up there, and I cannot wait to go back.

As for what 2017 has in store for us for travel? Right now we’ve decided on a trip to Haida Gwaii, as well 2 weeks in Portugal. :)

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