Give Me Back My Five Bucks - Page 29 of 2812 - a quest for financial independence

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How much is your car costing you?

I’ve owned a car for most of the 6 years I’ve lived in the Vancouver area, and it makes up a significant portion of my monthly budget.

Car expenses represent approximately 11% ($275-300) of my monthly spending (or 5% of my approximate gross monthly income) – and that’s just for gas and insurance. These are just my regular monthly expenses, and doesn’t take into consideration oil changes, repairs, wear and tear on my vehicle, or the actual cost of buying my car (obviously). Thankfully, my car is new enough that it hasn’t needed any repairs, but I know it’s only a matter of time until something needs fixing.

So what does that $300 get me each month? Let’s break it down (along with my reasoning):

  1. A shorter commute to work. Taking transit would take anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours roundtrip. My commute by car takes 35-40 minutes each way.
  2. Access to the things that I love doing. Everything that I love to do in my spare time requires a car, and I do these things almost every day of the week – which is why renting a car or belonging to a car co-op isn’t that great of an answer.
  3. Transit is expensive. A full transit pass for Metro Vancouver costs $170. That’s approximately how much I pay for gas each month.

These are all somewhat valid reasons for owning a car. It’s worth it to me right now, because my car hasn’t needed a lot of maintenance. But will it be worth it in the future? I don’t know. I purchased this car new back in 2009, and the only other car I’ve ever owned always had something wrong with it – so it’s hard to say.

Here are my rebuttals to my own above-reasoning:

A shorter commute to work

  • I could move closer to work. This is a pretty extreme option, but there are definite downsides to living in the suburbs. And truthfully, I’ve thought about moving into the city of Vancouver on more than one occasion. It just hasn’t gotten to that point yet. And I really, really love where I’m living right now.
  • I could find a job closer to home. Not surprisingly, there aren’t many marketing jobs in the city that I live in, but it’s always worth investigating.
  • I could bicycle to work. There are no female shower facilities at my office. But, if I pushed hard enough, wouldn’t they have to provide something? That being said, I’m mostly concerned with the 50km roundtrip commute on very busy roads and bridges. Not that I couldn’t do it physically, but it would likely affect my running. Could I (or would I) really bike 25km in the morning, run 1-2 hours after work, and then bike 25km home? And what if I wanted to go out after work? I’d be all sweaty

Access to the things that I love doing

  • I could find alternate ways to have fun. Playing field hockey 3-4x/week is fun, but excessive and kind of expensive. Especially since the practice field isn’t located near transit (and twice a week, I go to practice straight from work – so no car pooling available). Plus games are spread across a very large area. If I wanted to quit the car, I’d likely have to quit field hockey too. But running is free, and there’s a great 20+km running trail just steps from my office that I’ve been using multiple times a week over the past few months.
  • Hiking could be done with a rental car. True. I bought my AWD car so I could have access to the mountains and ski hills. But really, I only do that once a month – maybe twice in the summertime. I think it would be cheaper to rent a car for those specific times.

Transit is expensive

  • I would save on the wear and tear of my vehicle. By taking transit, I will be prolonging the life of my car. This makes me happy, and it’s actually something I’ve really wanted to do. I love this car – it’s perfect for me.
  • Transit is a green solution. It’s obviously better on the environment if I leave my car at home.
  • I could buy a one-zone pass. It doesn’t really make sense to buy a one-zone pass, since I would need access to all three zones. But maybe it would be cheaper to buy a one-zone pass ($91/month), and then just add on additional fare when I need to cross to other zones. Otherwise a full-zone pass costs $170/month. Which is ridiculous.

I guess the point of this post is that I can justify having my car as a “need” all I want, but based on my own arguments, it’s obvious that a car is a “want.” My car definitely fits in nicely with the lifestyle that I want to live right now, but is it absolutely necessary? Of course not. Who knows if my thoughts on owning a car will change in the future, but I’m actually pleased (and a little surprised) with how easy it was for me to come up with solutions to get away from owning a car. Some of them are pretty extreme (like selling my house, quitting field hockey, or finding a new job), but all options have to be considered whenever you’re dealing with money.

Having an extra $300/month would be nice. But considering a bus pass would eat up half of that savings, I’d be losing many hours commuting by transit, and I’d be forced to quit a lot of the fun things in my life, I’m okay with the cost for now. But just barely.

How much is your car costing you – and could you live car-free if you had to?

France and Morocco: Booked!

Well, in 6 weeks I’ll be headed back to Europe – Lyon, France to be exact – for a week-long trade show with the company I work for. I’m excited to be traveling again, and am also looking forward to the vacation I tacked onto the end of the trip.

This fulfills one of my 2013 goals, which was to do one big trip this year. Originally I thought I’d be going to China, or Peru, or Nepal, or even Thailand… but it makes sense to take advantage of the company-paid flight to Europe and do something more local.

Which means, I’m going to Morocco!

I almost went to Morocco twice while living in Germany last year (once while visiting Malaga, Spain, and another was a tentatively planned trip), but in the end couldn’t justify going for such a short amount of time.

This trip will see me spend a total of 12 days in Morocco – 2 days by myself exploring Fez, and 10 days on a 12-person group tour with Intrepid Travel. I’m not really the tour group kind of person (I did it a few times in Mexico with my family, and wish I had planned it out myself instead), but Morocco is a bit intimidating for three reasons:

  1. I’m a single female traveling solo – it would be nice to travel with others and make some friends;
  2. I don’t feel like I have enough time to plan an amazing itinerary out myself;
  3. After doing some initial research, I don’t think the total cost of planning the trip myself will cost much less than if I just did a packaged tour.

To add on to #1, I’ve had a few female travelers tell me that while it’s safe to travel to Morocco by myself, I’ll likely get harassed a fair amount – even if I don’t stand out, and wear very conservative clothing. I’m okay with this, but it was a big reason why I decided to go with a tour group instead of opting for a solo trip. :)

xmsf_2013_0This trip will start and end in Marrakech. We’ll be exploring the High Atlas Mountains, checking out the Ait Benhaddou kasbah, journeying towards the Sahara Desert (including a camel expedition and camping under the stars – yes, please!), a trip out to the sand dunes, and finally traveling to a seaside town to hang out.

I think it’s the perfect mixture of adventure and relaxation – which will be ideal after a few months of stress at work. :) To start, I’ll head to Fez for 2 days by myself, then go to Marrakech and meet up with my tour group. Depending on flights, I could just end up skipping Fez altogether. But, that’s the plan right now.

All of my accommodation will be paid for with the tour, and some of my meals.

Here’s the estimated cost break-down for the 12-day trip:


$0 – Vancouver-Lyon flight
$0 – 7 nights accommodation in Lyon (# of days will fluctuate)
$60 – Lyon-Fez flight
$60 – 2 nights accommodation in Fez
$25 – Fez to Marrakech train
$1,205 – 10 day Intrepid Tour
$130 – Marrakech-Marseille flight
$0 – Marseille-Vancouver flight


$350 – 3 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 10 dinners (approx $14.50/meal)


$20 – souvenirs
$200 – excursions & extras
$100 – (general) miscellaneous & tips

TOTAL COST = $2,150

Expensive trip for sure. But I think it’s worth it. I’m not exactly sure how long I’ll be gone for in total, but I think it’ll be around 3 weeks. As for the cost, I anticipated whatever “big trip” I took this year to cost about $2500, so I’m coming in slightly under budget.

My hope is to keep this trip under $2,000 once I finalize and pay for everything. So far, all that I’ve booked is the Intrepid Tour, which will be fully paid for by a freelance cheque that I will receive this week. :) And as for the rest of the expenses? I’ll be looking to book them in the next week or so, and maybe (just maybe) I’ll be able to get away with using only freelance income to pay for the entire trip. That’s the goal, at least.

Has anyone been to Lyon, or any of the places I’ll be visiting in Morocco? Any must-sees, or travel tips?

Spending Recap: Aug 26-Sept 1, 2013

Monday 26th
$40.70 gas
$36.78 groceries
$9 dinner

Tuesday 27th
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 28th
+$25 ING Direct referral
$5.65 dinner

Thursday 29th
$8.34 lunch

Friday 30th
$161.98 running shoes

Saturday 31st
$39.45 groceries
$17.67 groceries

Sunday 1st
$44.53 gas
$7 dinner

Freelance Income: $0 ( + $25)
Expenses- $371.10

TOTAL: - $346.10

A typical summer week of spending for me. Super busy during the work week, and as a result, ended up buying meals out three times. :| I tried to correct that by stocking up on groceries for next week. I also ended up getting new running shoes – an unplanned (but necessary) purchase. Running distances over 15+ have really put stress on my feet and legs, and that’s something my current running shoes can’t handle. It makes me really consider going back to barefoot runners, but in the meantime, I can’t really switch while in “race season.”

How was your week of spending?


September 2013 Goals

I’ve been looking forward to the end of summer for a few weeks now. This budget is still padded, but stripped down of a lot of things. I’ve decreased my Food budget, as well as Entertainment. My Travel line is also a lot slimmer than it has been, but I’ve also added in Personal Care, since I need to replace some skincare items.

My plan is to strip this budget down even further for October … but October has a lot up in the air right now. Chances are, I’ll be headed to France for work, but I’m still unsure as to whether I’ll take holidays while I’m there. And if I do take holidays, where should I go, and how much should I spend? I haven’t really even thought about it.


September 2013 Goals:

  • Run 120 km. Last month I ran 114 km, and I feel like I will be able improve a little bit this month, considering I took about a week off last month from running because of travel and a wedding I was attending. 
  • Earn $2,000 in extra income. Time to refocus on making side income, and save, save, save.
  • Bring my lunch to work Monday-Thursday. We generally go out for lunch as a team on Fridays, and I don’t want to miss out on that. But for the rest of the week? I need to plan better and make sure to bring my lunch.
  • Stay on budget while in Toronto. I’ll be headed to Toronto for the 3rd Annual Canadian Personal Finance Conference, and have given myself a pretty generous amount of money to spend while there. That being said, I’m going to be seeing a lot of friends, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to stay on budget.
  • Get my business cards printed in time for CPFC13. I have brand new business cards that I have been meaning to get printed. Having them for the conference will obviously be ideal!

August 2013 Goals: Review

Even though I went over a little on my budget, it was still a decent month. During the summer, it’s hard to say no to social events, and with the weather being so gorgeous for much of the month, I tried to make the most of it by hiking as much as possible… and doing social things, which included driving into Vancouver most of the time. That being said, for the sake of my savings rate, I’m glad that August (and the summer?) is over, and am looking forward to tackling my September budget! :)


Over Budget:

Cell Phone – Usage while in Seattle

Household – Miscellaneous stuff from Target

Entertainment – One too many meals out. :P

Clothing – bought new running shoes to correct my overpronation. The shoes that I currently wear are fine for runs under 15km… but anything more than that, and they’re horrible. My feet are completely torn up, and I’m really just hoping to solve this issue. Part of me thinks I should just go back to running in VFFs, since I never experienced any problems when I wore them for running.

Travel – Well, I budgeted for the wedding I was in, but completely forgot to take into account the cost of hair/make-up ($126.79). Which is almost exactly how much I went over in this category.

Car & Transportation – I drove a lot this month – two hikes up in the Whistler area, two trips south into Washington, and one trip home to Victoria. :|

Personal Care – unplanned dentist appointment to get a cavity filled.

Net Worth Change+ $1,420 (+ 1.67%)

August 2013 Goals:

  • Run 100 km. CHECK! I ran 114km this month – something I’m actually really proud of because I was able to increase my distances without going overboard. I had two 20km runs, and a few 15+km runs… this makes me feel good for the two half marathons I have scheduled for this fall. I’m also really happy to have people to run with! It’s really helping me pace properly during my long runs, since I always tend to go fast if I’m by myself.
  • Earn $1,500 in freelance income. FAIL. I only earned $933.92, but am waiting on about $1,800 worth of invoices to be paid out from July.
  • Utilize my Questrade account. FAIL. The simulator (WeSeed) I was using, well it closed. So I got all paranoid about actually buying something if I couldn’t see my (simulated) trade history over the last year. :| I’m going to add a bit more money into this account, and then regroup next month.
  • Buy a bed frame. FAIL. Why do I even bother trying to set goals like this? We all know I’m never going to buy a bed frame, and will sleep on a mattress on the floor for the rest of my life.