Give Me Back My Five Bucks

December 2015 Goals

December is going to be a painful month for spending. Especially because I missed a pay cheque in November due to taking some time off before starting my new job. But my saving grace is that I billed out for $8,500 in freelance income last month. After a slow start, 2015 is going to end up being a pretty good year for freelancing. I’m nowhere near the amount I used to make back in 2011 or 2012, but I’m only putting in 5+ hours per week compared to 25-30 hours I used to work. Now that I’m getting back into the habit of blogging on a regular basis again, I’m excited to look into a potential rebrand for this website.

Usually by now I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, but so far I’ve only bought something for my sister. As for RD and I, we decided to spend money on an experience together instead of stuff. RD came up with the brilliant idea of buying a 10-pack of Vancouver Canadians tickets for the upcoming season ($120 for 10 tickets + 4 bonus tickets = 7 games together). We both like baseball, and the stadium is just a short walk from our house ! :) That leaves my parents to buy for, as well as my sister’s boyfriend. The budget for all of this falls under the Miscellaneous category.

Savings

This month I’ve included something new into the budget – my savings goals. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep this going forward, but it’s here for now. Even though I don’t disclose my exact salary (for privacy reasons), I think it’s useful to show how much I’m saving versus how much I’m spending. Going forward, I’ll make somewhere between $80-90k annually between freelancing and my full-time job. But because freelancing is so sporadic and I cannot predict when I’ll be getting paid for the work that I do, I can’t change my monthly savings amounts to reflect that.

These savings amounts account for everything that is automatically debited from my accounts every pay day. It doesn’t show my actual savings rate (which is usually higher, depending on how much I actually end up spending in the month, as well as how much freelance income I bring in). I think that come January, I’ll be able to save about 60% of my net income on average.

The amounts below also only indicate my personal contributions, and do not account for employer contributions through the company RRSP or SPP. I will be eligible for RRSP matching after 3 months, and employer SPP match contributions only happen once a year.

12 - December 2015 Budget

December 2015 Goals:

  • Stay on budget with household expenses. We have priced out a bed and a kitchen island, and it should come to about $550 each after tax. This is quite reasonable considering both items are practical and can be used for many years. Hopefully we don’t have to buy any other big ticket items, but there’ll be a lot of smaller storage solution items that we’ll need to pick up. We also have access to a truck to move our furniture, but if it’s raining, we’ll likely rent a van instead.
  • Look at gym options. What was nice about my old job is that there was a decent gym in the building that we could all use for free. My new job doesn’t have a gym, but luckily there’s a rec centre just a 10 min. walk from the new place, as well as a couple of places like Steve Nash or Fitness World (anyone have any experience with these companies? I’ve only ever gone to rec centres).
  • Figure out my house sale. Mainly the financial part of it – where is that wad of cash going to sit? Decisions must be made.
  • Look into increasing my RRSP/TFSA contributions. My goal for 2015 was to increase these contributions to at least $800/month. They currently sit at $950, and will increase to $1,200 once my employer contributions kick in. But I know I could be saving more.

Finding a rental apartment in Vancouver

Sunset in Vancouver's west end

Time has been flying by. In late October, RD and I started talking about moving in together. The timing seemed perfect: my home was on the market, and he had been thinking of leaving his house as well. I accepted an offer on my townhouse on November 2nd, and we had a 1-year lease signed on a cute little laneway house by November 10th.

If you live in Vancouver, you’ll probably relate to how nuts the rental market is here. According to CMHC, the rental vacancy rate sits at 0.8%. That is a crazy figure, and while it’s always been like that in Vancouver, I never really understood what it meant to have to deal with it. When I first moved here, the woman whose job I was taking recommended me to her landlord. So not only did I take her job, but I took her apartment too. :) Then I moved into New West (where rentals were quite easy to find), then out to Port Coquitlam, and then I bought my townhouse – where I’ve lived for the last 5 years.

Related: How I saved for my down payment

I’ll admit that even though the rental process was stressful, we have had an easier time than most people finding a place to live. Here’s how we did it:

Knowing what you want

We knew exactly what we wanted: a clean one-bedroom apartment with lots of light (no basement suites) in pretty specific areas of East Vancouver. That’s it. We had no sq.ft. requirements, gave up dedicated parking, and weren’t even picky about in-suite laundry (although secretly I was only showing him listings that had dedicated laundry).

There were also secondary things that would be “nice to have.” Like hardwood floors, a quiet tree-lined street, lots of storage, free parking, and I didn’t want to live in a boring, cookie-cutter apartment if we could help it.

Set your budget

Our original budget was $1,400, but we realized after a day of searching that it wasn’t going to give us what we wanted (see point above). Our main must-have was to find a place in one of our desired neighbourhoods. So our budget slowly began to rise. This increased the inventory available to us, and the places got nicer. Not even close to luxury nice, but definitely better. We weren’t sure where to draw the line as we crept closer to $1,700, but I remember RD showed me a listing his friend sent him that was $1,850. We both cringed at the rent and decided $1,700 was the maximum we would pay. I mean, if we’re going to rent, we’d better both be saving money as well, right?

Be quick (really quick)

Since I’m glued to my computer most of the day, I made sure to check Craigslist every couple of hours. This may seem a bit obsessive, but we learned quickly that apartments go FAST. It’s pretty much a given that if an apartment listing has been up on Craigslist for more than 24 hours, it’s already gone. So to get ahead of the competition, I checked online all the time and RD and I were in constant communication.

Get organized

I’ve never had to deal with renting in Vancouver before, but RD knew what was up. So he had printed up all of our information to take to open houses, so that we apply immediately. We lost one apartment because we decided to fill out an application later that evening, so when the laneway house came up and I was out of town, RD went to see the open house and filled out an application on the spot.

Look good on paper

RD pointed out that we are desirable tenants because we look good on paper. We are in our 30’s with stable jobs and comfortable incomes. We have good references, don’t smoke, and don’t have pets. And when you show up to open houses with your act together (see above point) you end up looking pretty good.

Have your finances in order

We had all our finances worked out so that when the house was offered to us, we could sign the lease and put down a damage deposit immediately without having to wait and shift around money. PC Financial, for example, makes you wait until the next business day to access any money from your savings accounts.

What was your experience renting your last apartment?
Was the process difficult, or fairly easy?

 

 

My 30 day vegan challenge

IMG_8184Back in September I embarked on a 30-day vegan challenge. I’ve been vegetarian since 2013, and always knew going vegan was something I wanted to attempt. It was an interesting month for sure, and I learned a lot about vegan alternatives for cooking at home, as well as which restaurants in the city were vegan-friendly. Oh, and the Oh She Glows cookbook became my best friend.

I made a few mistakes in the beginning because I’m so used to just making sure dishes didn’t have meat in it, and when traveling I just reverted back to being vegetarian. It was easier than trying to find vegan-friendly restaurants (although I did find a couple excellent ones in Toronto!), or packing food when traveling on business.

On the other hand, I was surprised at how many restaurants accommodated vegans, and got to try a few really great restaurants I had wanted to try for a long time. And I found it quite easy (after a few up-front expenses) to adapt to cooking vegan when at home. I thought it would be hardest to cut out eggs since I used to eat them a lot, but surprisingly it hasn’t been something I’ve craved.

Becoming vegan long-term is something I know I could do. But I’m not quite comfortable with being the person that everyone has to accommodate during social events. It’s especially hard at work events or lunch meetings that are held in restaurants that are not vegan-friendly. So my decision for right now is to stay vegetarian but really lower my dairy intake. I’ll be cooking vegan at home, and will just be vegetarian when going out and traveling. I think this is a good compromise because I don’t go to restaurants much anyway, and when I’m at home I can regulate my food a lot better. :)

Have you ever tried going vegan or vegetarian before?

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