Give Me Back My Five Bucks - Page 29 of 2823 - a quest for financial independence

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Being lazy can cost you

One of the reasons I was so bad with my finances in my twenties was because I was lazy. Yep. I lost so much money over the years, and all I needed to do was spend a little time getting myself organized. And even now, I still find myself slacking off sometimes with my finances. Being lazy and not thinking ahead still costs me money.

For example, over the past two weeks, I’ve gone to five Vancouver International Film Festival events. When I saw a movie I thought was interesting, I would buy a ticket at full price – even though I was well aware that if I held off and figured out how many films I actually wanted to see, I could have bought a five-pack of tickets, saving me $5 off the total cost. Sure, it’s just $5… but have you seen the title of my blog? How hard would it have been to get myself a little more organized? I’d be better off by $5, and it probably would have only cost me 2 minutes of my time.

About 8 years ago, I bought my first laptop computer. It came with a $75 mail-in rebate. All I had to do was photocopy my original receipt, and fill in a little information card. I had THREE MONTHS to do it, and I just didn’t. It sat on my desk because I was too lazy to do anything about it. Even though back then, $75 was kind of a big deal for me.

I had a nice conversation with a friend over the weekend about how he thought being passive about his finances has caused money to slip through his fingers. He seems to be doing all the right things – contributing to his company’s retirement plan (which offers a generous match – free money!), owns a rental property, and is frugal on a daily basis… but he hasn’t taken the next step to set up his own retirement accounts outside of his employer’s offering. It’s not because he doesn’t have the money to start, it’s because he has been passive about learning how to do it. Part of it is intimidation for sure… but the information is all available online. It’s just a matter of making it a priority.

Related: How to open up a TD Canada Trust e-series account

Being financially lazy happens all the time to all kinds of different people, and that got me thinking about all of the ways being lazy has cost me in the past. I cringe at the thought of how much money I’ve lost over the years. :|

Not saving for retirement (or monitoring your accounts)

Time is money, and the longer you wait to save for your retirement, the harder it will be to catch up. I once read on CNN that said if you start saving at age 25, and put aside $3,000 a year in a tax-deferred account for 10 years – and then you stop saving completely – by the time you reach 65, your $30,000 investment will have grown to more than $472,000 (assuming an 8% annual rate of return).

Now if you put off saving until you turn 35, and then save $3,000 for 30 years, by the time you reach 65, you will have set aside $90,000 of your own money, but it will have only grown to about $367,000 (assuming the same 8% annual return). That’s a huge difference, and it’s something that most of us know about, but perhaps aren’t making a priority.

I’ve been contributing regularly into my retirement accounts since 25, but have not kept on top of monitoring my accounts. I used to monitor them religiously, tracking and charting my daily progress. It was a little obsessive. Now, I just have my contributions auto-deducted from my account. What I need to be doing is rebalancing my portfolio every year.

Not using rebate sites when shopping online

It surprises me how many people don’t use free sites like Ebates or Great Canadian Rebates before making purchases online. It’s so easy to take that extra step to click through to your favourite online stores by using one of those two websites – and you can save a pretty large amount of money. I saved $35 on my recent Intrepid Travel booking, stores like Sephora often have 8% cash back offers, and during big events like Black Friday, these online rebate stores start offering double cash back with some merchants.

Over the years with Great Canadian Rebates, I’ve earned $1,465, and with Ebates I’ve earned $72. Granted, some of that has been through referrals, but a significant portion has been money saved on purchases.

Forgetting to mail in rebate offers

I’ve done this at least twice in my life. Once was with that $75 mail-in rebate on the laptop that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, and another one was a $50 mail-in rebate for a Palm (remember those?). Filling out those rebate forms takes less than 10 minutes… and if you’re too lazy for something like that, you’re a sucker. Companies love it when people walk away from free money, and it still makes my blood boil that I was one of those people.

Waiting until the last minute to pay bills

This happened to  me a few times last year. I wasn’t on top of my bills while I was away, and ended up paying a little bit of interest due to two late payments on my cell phone. It was only a few dollars, but it was something completely avoidable.

Failing to comparison shop

These days, I probably take comparison shopping to the extreme, but it wasn’t always like that. And not everybody shares my enthusiasm for trying to get the best deal. I remember when Nic rented a Porsche in Germany so we could drive on the autobahn. When I asked him what other companies were charging for a similar rental deal, he got a little sheepish and admitted he didn’t look to see if he had gotten the best price. He just saw it, and booked it.

I hate not knowing I got the best price for something, so I’m a bit relentless when it comes to comparing prices. Once I online stalked a pair of boots for 8 months until I finally found an acceptable price ($100 off).

Passing on price adjustments

A lot of places offer a time frame where you can return an item for a refund or get a price adjustment. Sometimes that price adjustment can be quite significant. A few years ago I remember buying a top from Banana Republic at full price. Two days later, they had a sale for 40% off all regular priced items. I had my receipt in my purse still, so I walked in and got a refund for the difference. Price adjustment time limits can vary, so make sure you read the fine print on your receipt. Some places are generous and offer a 30-day window, but others are shorter (Banana Republic’s was 14 days).

Not asking for change back (or tipping too much)

We’ve all done this: you’re in a cab or you’re out for food, and you can’t break a bill or you decide to round up your total to make it an even number – knowing that you’ll be giving a much bigger tip than necessary. I used to do this all the time, and I’m still guilty of it from time to time.

A few weeks ago, I went to a cheaper salon and got my hair done. After tax, my hair cut came to less than $40, so I handed over a $50 bill and left it at that. I would normally tip my hair dresser $8, but she works at a much nicer, fancier salon. The tip I left this hair dresser was more than 25%, and was definitely a bit excessive.

Related: How much do you tip?

Not trying to negotiate a better deal

It never hurts to ask. You’d never buy a home or a car without negotiating the price first, would you? I always make sure to ask for a better price on apartment rentals, hotel rates (especially as a group booking), cell phone plans, car maintenance, and especially with purchases on sites like Craigslist. I expect people to haggle, so I can only assume everyone else expects it as well. Even just $5 or $10 off is better than nothing.

Nervous about it? Try being around an expert haggler to see how they act and what they say when they’re trying to negotiate a deal. My boss is an expert at it. I remember we were negotiating the purchase of a big item for the marketing department. The original quote we got was for $80,000. I managed to get the price down to $73,000 and was certain they wouldn’t go any lower, but once he got on the phone? He was able to wiggle his way down to $65,000.

Related: A beginner’s guide to haggling

Taking taxis instead of transit

On my trip to Toronto last month, I debated whether to take transit or a taxi from the airport into downtown. Most of my trips to Toronto have been business-related, so I’m often able to get full refunds for my taxi rides. This time around, I was tired and didn’t want to deal with the long commute (and walk) to where I was staying. But I did it anyway. For just $3 and an hour of my time, I was able to get downtown. A one-way taxi ride, including tip, would have cost me closer to $70.

In Europe last year, I only recall two times where I took a taxi – once when we were in Geneva late at night and needed to get to the French border where we were staying, but public transit had stopped running. The other time was in Istanbul (again, very late at night) when we severely underestimated the time it would take to walk from the train station to the apartment where we were staying, and the owner was waiting up for us to let us in.

Your Turn: what are some of the ways being lazy has cost you money over the years?

Spending Recap: Sept 30-Oct 6, 2013

Monday 30th
$7.57 lunch

Tuesday 1st
+ $450 freelance income
$66.67 hotel (1 night – Casablanca, Morocco)
$57.01 hotel (1 night – Marrakech, Morocco)
$72 hotel (1 night – Lyon, France)

Wednesday 2nd
+ $50 ING Direct referrals
$6.58 lunch
$40.76 dinner & movie

Thursday 3rd
$22.78 groceries

Friday 4th
+ $1,333.57 freelance income
$7.56 lunch
$41.78 gas

Saturday 5th
$26 VIFF tickets (x2)

Sunday 6th
$7 parking
$4.46 snack
$13 VIFF ticket
$14 dinner

Freelance Income: + $1,833.57
Expenses- $387.17

TOTAL: + $1,446.40

Welp, I think I’ve already blown my Morocco/France budget by booking myself into hotels instead of hostels. Logistically it makes sense, and it makes me feel a bit better since I’ll be traveling solo, but financially it cuts me to the core of my budget traveling heart. :| It’s that darn single supplement when it comes to booking hotels! With these hotel bookings, I’m completely set for my trip. One week until France!

Other than the hotel bookings, this week has been relatively normal in terms of spending. I did attend three VIFF films this past week: Particle Fever, Young & Beautiful, and The Summit. All of them were really interesting, and it makes me wonder why I never bothered with the VIFF before… so many of the movies look fantastic! I’ve got tickets to one more film this week, and then the festival is over until next year. :)

Oh, and I finally got paid out for some big freelancing contracts. And a huge thanks to those who have used my ING Direct referral code posted on my sidebar.

How was your week of spending?

Q3 Review: 2013 Goals

This has been an interesting year so far. I wasn’t sure how I thought I was going to increase my salary, while decreasing my freelance workload… but I thought I could figure it out. Clearly, based on my results so far below, it hasn’t worked out in my favour.

What I have learned is how much I’m enjoying having free time. My schedule is still busy, but not working until 2am every evening has helped me achieve many goals this year, as well as strengthened friendships with people that are really important to me. Field hockey has become a bigger part of my life again (playing 3-4 times/week), and I’m finally starting to run the distances that I’ve always wanted to run. So, I think I’ve hit the right balance in terms of work/play, but I’m missing the income generated from work/work. :)

Anyway, below is my progress so far on my annual goals.

Financial

  • Earn $85,000 to $90,000NEEDS WORK. This goal is fading, and fading fast. Realistically, I don’t think I’m going to make this goal. I scaled back my freelancing and blogging a lot this year. Still. I did pick up a few freelance writing contracts – including a couple of feature pieces for the Toronto Star – so that will help. But I think I’ll end up around $75,000.
  • Put an extra $2,500 onto the mortgageON TRACK. I lost one month of increased payments because the bank took a long time to process my request, and then they couldn’t do it until the billing cycle lined up properly. But I’m back on track and averaging around $220 extra each month.
  • Save $16,000 in my Retirement PortfolioNEEDS WORK. I just increased my auto deductions, and am looking to ramp them up again for next year… but because I was so far off my income target, this was the one category that suffered.
  • Diversify my investments. CHECK! Go, Questrade!
  • Start contributing to charity. CHECK! I’ve decided to contribute monthly to WaterCan.

Personal

  • Go on one big tripCHECK! I’ll be headed to Morocco at the end of October for about 2 weeks, and am really looking forward to it. I’ve budgeted just over $2,000 for the trip (which includes a 10-day group tour with Intrepid Travel), which I think should be more than enough.
  • Run in a half marathon and two 10km racesCHECK! I’ve already run two 10km races (with a PB of 49:59), and have two half marathon races coming up – one this coming long weekend in Victoria, and another one in late November in Stanley Park.
  • Take a French language classFAIL. Since Nic and I broke up, I’m less interested in learning French. But that being said, I do still think it’s a valuable skill to have – especially in the industry that I’m in. There are so many jobs that require a second language… so perhaps I should make this more of a priority next year.

Professional

  • Invest in a grown-up wardrobeCHECK! Since realizing how much I’ve actually spent so far this year on my wardrobe, I’ve drastically reduced my shopping. That being said, I’m still happy with everything I’ve purchased and I think I look a lot more professional.
  • Read 6 marketing books. ON TRACK. Okay, technically I’ve only read one book on social media. But I think that since I’ve been watching a lot of business and marketing-related documentaries, they should count for something. Right? Right.
  • Scale back my freelancingCHECK! Do you love how one of the only goals I’ve actually completely achieved so far this year is my goal of doing less? :P I do think I need to step up my freelancing a little bit (because my lofty financial goals have suffered as a result), and I’ve started bringing my hours back up… but it’s a bit too late for that now. I’m going to have to seriously evaluate what I want for next year.

Spending Recap: September 23-29, 2013

Monday 23rd – Toronto
$26.78 lunch
$3 transit
$8.20 dinner

Tuesday 24th
+ $798.75 freelance income
$45.87 groceries

Wednesday 25th
No Spend Day!

Thursday 26th
$121.53 Origins Skincare

Friday 27th
$49.80 hair cut
$110.74 Lululemon

Saturday 28th
$4.10 coffee

Sunday 29th
$31.83 Home Restaurant

Freelance Income: + $798.75
Expenses- $402.85

TOTAL: + $395.90

I splurged a little bit this week on a hair cut, as well as running tights from Lululemon. I bought the cropped version earlier in the year, and love them. They’re the only company I know of that makes running tights with thigh pockets – and I consider that an essential feature now that I’m so used to having them. Anyway they were a bit pricey, but I’ll be wearing them at least 3x/week during the winter, so I think it’s worth the price tag.

Speaking of running… my first half marathon is in less than two weeks!!! :| I’m confident I’ll be able to run the entire thing, but a bit nervous about how fast I’ll be able to run it. We’ll see… if anything it’ll give me a good idea of how much I’ll need to train for my next half marathon at the end of November.

How was your week of spending?

 

October 2013 Goals

October is my favourite month of the year. The weather has cooled down, field hockey season is in full swing, and I get to celebrate my birthday (or not celebrate, depending on how old I feel, haha). And this month is going to be even more exciting because I’m finally going traveling again – even if it’s only for 3 weeks.

10 - October Budget

October 2013 Goals:

  • Run in my first half marathon. That’s my official goal. My unofficial goal is to run this in under two hours.
  • Stick to my travel budget. I’m really, really hoping I can do this. It’s going to be a different experience though, being on a tour. When I was traveling with Nic, we were both relatively frugal. Now that I’ll be with different people, I might have to choose between being frugal, and being social. Still, I took a look at the itinerary, and I know which activities I’d be willing to pay money for, and which ones I’m not interested in. There’s obviously flexibility around this, but I have no problem exploring on my own either.
  • Post on this blog 3x/week. There are a lot of draft posts I’m working on, so hopefully I can finish them off and have posts scheduled for when I’m traveling. I’m also trying to revive The Frugal Wanderer. I haven’t paid much attention to it this year, but when looking back at the posts, I forgot how fun it was to write there. So we’ll see.
  • Earn $2,000 in freelance income. Not impossible, but I’m really going to have to stay on top of my e-mails.
  • Increase my RRSP contributions. Self-explanatory.