Give Me Back My Five Bucks

How I’m saving for travel this year

Note: this post is sponsored by EQ Bank, but the views and opinions are my own.

In about 10 weeks, I will be boarding a flight to Portugal for an amazing vacation. I’ve been wanting to go back to Portugal since I was first there back in 2012, but with so many other financial priorities this year (namely aggressively saving for our down payment), we weren’t sure if a 3-week European holiday was something we were going to be able to pull off. Was it the responsible thing to do, and could we even afford it?

We had a fairly big discussion about what our priorities were, and we realized that while buying a home is something we really wanted to do, living a balanced lifestyle was more important. And that meant travel. So I created a few spreadsheets and budgeting scenarios which would get us to our savings goals. Because RD isn’t as involved with his finances as I am, creating these scenarios helped him to better understand what we could (and couldn’t) afford as we started to plan what our trip would look like.

It was around this time that I really wanted to separate my down payment and my travel savings into two separate accounts. Because my travel money is always fluctuating depending on how much I spend and save in a given month, I wanted to be able to visualize exactly how much I had. But I also wanted more than the 0.8% interest that my bank was giving me.

After taking a look at the different banking options I had, I decided to keep my current bank for daily spending (and some of my investments), and move all of my cash savings (except my Emergency Fund) over to the EQ Bank Saving Plus Account, which has the highest interest rate I could find, at 2.30%. And even though it had the highest interest rate, there was no minimum balance requirement, and you didn’t have to lock your money in for any sort of time frame. These were two keys I was looking for, if there’s a good travel deal happening, I didn’t want my money locked away for a specific amount of time!

If you’re unfamiliar with EQ Bank, it’s a digital bank with no minimum balances, no monthly fees, and unlimited day-to-day transactions. So yes, it’s a high interest savings account, but it also comes with a lot of features that you’d find with a chequing account – like the ability to pay bills, transfer money between EQ accounts instantly (and for free), as well as 5 free Interac e-Transfers® per month.

I’ve been a customer for about 18 months now, and have been using it as my primary cash savings accounts for the last 6 months. The transition and implementation has been pretty seamless, and I can’t really see myself deviating from this set-up anytime soon. I really like how it works as a companion product to my current banking system, so I don’t have to decide which bank to use – I can use both. :) I’ve been able to transfer savings to and from my everyday bank and EQ, pay my credit card directly when I’ve spent money on travel, send money to RD with Interac whenever he’s paid for something, and I’ve been using the mobile app to deposit my freelance cheques directly into my savings – eliminating the need to have that money touch my chequing account.

I don’t have that much cash savings at any given time, but the money I do have, I want to be helping me get to my savings goals sooner – so for me, the 2.30% interest rate is a huge bonus. It’s almost 3x what I’m getting right now, and my travel savings combined with my down payment savings means I’ve been earning almost $120/month in interest alone this year. Not too shabby for a savings account!

So as a special treat for my readers to get your own summer savings started, new accounts opened have the chance to win one of 10 $150 deposits into your new savings account! That’s enough for a nice dinner out on your next vacation! :)

May 2017 Goals: Recap

May was a very busy month for me. I thought I’d have a lot of free time since RD has been gone since the end of April, but my evenings have been filled with overtime, freelancing, organizing our move, booking travel plans, and seeing friends more often then normal. But I’m happy, my To Do list is getting smaller, and I feel organized, so that’s always a positive. :)

I will admit that this month I was lazy when it came to cooking at home. I ate very simple dinners (cooking meals for just one person seemed like too much effort), and then didn’t have leftovers for lunch … which is why I went over budget in the Groceries category (bought my lunch too many times). But other than that, it was a pretty normal month of spending for me.

Over Budget:

  • Groceries – Like I said above, it was pure laziness. I bought my lunch more than normal, and also went to Starbucks because the thought of making coffee just for myself in the mornings at home seemed like a lot of effort? I know. And even though Starbucks was just $2.20 each time, it added up!
  • Household – when my friend and I were in Seattle, I impulsively bought two side plates at the market. I couldn’t help myself! They were just too nice. :)
  • Personal Care – I ran out of shampoo and some hair products.
  • Miscellaneous – RD and I bought a Garmin InReach device, which allows us to text message through satellites (instead of cell towers) so that we could communicate while he’s doing his field work. 5-6 weeks is just too long to go without talking

Income and Savings

I only brought in $600 in freelance income this month, but billed out for about $5,000 which should be coming to me for June.

My retirement portfolio got its normal $1,600-ish contribution, and I was able to put about $500 towards my down payment. Now that we’re about to wrap up saving for our down payment, I’m looking forward to funneling that savings into my TFSA. Maybe over time I’ll be able to catch up with my maximum contribution amount. Maybe. :)

May 2017 Goals:

  • Exercise. PASS. I’m giving myself a pass because while I didn’t use my YYoga membership as much as I would have liked, I did go hiking, running, and I walked a lot. Not quite the same, but working overtime almost every day meant that I was canceling my booked classes a lot.
  • Organize our move. CHECK! I booked a mover, organized move-in times with the building caretakers, inquired about doing small renovations to our place, got quotes for painters (decided to DIY this one), bought condo insurance, canceled renter’s insurance, and bought 12 months of mail forwarding for the both of us. Whew!
  • Refresh GMBMFB. FAIL. I’ve started working with the theme on my test site, and it should be ready to launch soon. I wanted to get this done, but working so much at my day job this month meant the last thing I wanted to do was be on my laptop when I got home from work.

June 2017 Goals

June’s budget makes my head hurt because it’s going to be so expensive. SO expensive. Good thing it’s a 3 pay cheque month, right? :)

Even though we close on our condo on June 13th, we are paying rent until the end of the month – giving us about 2 weeks to move – but also 2 weeks of paying rent and a mortgage. Boo. But it’s a lot less stressful this way, and really can’t be avoided because RD wants to spend a couple days painting the place, and then he goes off on a week-long work trip. While he’s gone, I’ll start moving some of the smaller stuff over in my car, and will leave the big stuff for the movers who come on the 28th. :)

Some of the numbers in my budget below are just a shot in the dark. I’m not exactly sure how much the notary will cost, so I just estimated based on the last time I bought my home. And as for the mortgage/strata/property tax, I just estimated based on a partial payment for the month. I’ll write up a post in a few weeks detailing all of the closing costs associated with our purchase, and I will be very curious to see how they compare to my costs back in 2011. Spreadsheets will be made. So much fun will be had!

Related: The real cost of closing on a home

To add to the piles of moving expenses this month, we will also need to book the last week of our Portugal trip (I booked the first week last month because budget-friendly accommodation was getting scarce in the Azores). We are hoping for an average of $100/night in Lisbon and Porto, which should be doable.

AND oh yeah, we’re going to Seattle for with my family for our annual Blue Jays weekend. We’ve already paid for our baseball tickets and train ride, so all we need to pay for is our accommodation for 2 nights and food.

Anyway, here’s my budget:

You can see I’ve updated the way I present my monthly budget. Now, I’m breaking up my spending into Fixed and Variable categories, as well as clearly indicating what is a shared expense. This makes it easier for me (and probably for you) to visualize, as I’m obviously only going to be sharing my half of the expenses.

June Goals:

No goals. Seriously. There’s just too much going on this month, that whatever goals I try to make, will definitely 100% not get accomplished.

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