Give Me Back My Five Bucks - Page 30 of 2821 - a quest for financial independence

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Spending Recap: September 16-22, 2013

Monday 16th
No Spend Day!

Tuesday 17th
$10 dinner

Wednesday 18th
No Spend Day!

Thursday 19th – Toronto
$3 transit
$6.35 dinner
$25 baseball game
$1 snack

Friday 20th – Toronto
$2 breakfast
$4.10 coffee
$22 lunch
$34 dinner & drinks

Saturday 21st – Toronto
$4.38 Starbucks

Sunday 22nd – Toronto
$5.37 Starbucks
$40 dinner

Freelance Income: $0 
Expenses- $157.20

TOTAL: - $157.20

This was a stressful week. With a conference and event to plan at my day job during the first half of the week, I was in Toronto for the Canadian Personal Finance Conference during the second half of the week. It was a lot of fun. I loved seeing familiar faces, and meeting new people at both conferences, and it’s getting me very excited for my conference in France next month. But right now? All I want to do is sleep. :)

That being said, I think this is the turning point of GMBMFB. It was a quiet summer around here, but I’ve just drafted my editorial calendar for the next few months, and am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. If there’s anything specific you’d like me to write about, please let me know! 

How was your week of spending?

3 questions to ask during your next job interview

Let’s face it, job interviews are stressful. Not only do you have to do a lot of research on the company before hand, but you also have to somehow figure out a way to make yourself stand out from the other candidates. Then once you’ve got all that sorted, you have to remember the little things – like how long it’s going to take to get to the office, what you’re going to wear, what the names are of the people interviewing you, and the questions you plan on asking them.

If I’ve ever met you in person, you might have noticed that I can come across as shy, and maybe even a bit awkward. I’m not great at small talk, and I get nervous easily. This definitely makes things like networking (or even first dates) kind of a problem, and it should also make interviews a nightmare. But for some reason, I’m good at them. Still haven’t figured out why that is!

My boss told me that I won my current job over another candidate with more directly related experience (I don’t know anything about nuclear science!) because I showed that I was confident, passionate, and believed in what I do. When I was less than a year into the workforce, I was offered two different fairly high profile jobs (which both required 5-7 years of experience), and once during the final round of interviewing, a city manager told me that I had a quality about me that he couldn’t pinpoint, but found very appealing.

Related: Truth – if you don’t ask, you won’t get

Now, I’m not saying all of this to boast. It’s to illustrate my point that your resume and experience might get you the interview, but it’s how you come across in person that will win you the job. At least that’s been my experience in my industry. With a 2-year technical diploma, I’m likely never going to be the most qualified person – but I make up for it by showing enthusiasm throughout the entire interview. And I think one of the best ways to do this is near the end, when they ask “do you have any questions about the job?”

I feel like it’s common knowledge to have a few standard questions to ask, but I’ve been surprised over the years when conducting interviews, many people just say no. Then the interview is over, and it’s been completely one-sided – with one person asking, and one person answering. You wouldn’t go on a date and not ask any questions, would you? So it shouldn’t be any different with an interview. Sure, they’re interviewing you for the job, but you’re also interviewing them to see if they’re the right employer for you.

These might be pretty generic, but here are my favourite questions to ask employers:

1. Is this a new position to the company?

This is by far my favourite question to ask, if I haven’t already been able to find the answer online. It can give you a lot of seriously good insight into what the position is all about.

If it’s a new position, the follow-up questions become pretty important: why the position was created in the first place (was it to go in a new corporate direction, take the burden off of another employee, or because they’re expanding so rapidly?), or where they see the position moving to in the future. Is there room for growth?

Sometimes with completely new positions, they don’t really know what they’re looking for – just that they know they want somebody. In my current position, I was hired to write. But in the 9 months I’ve been there, I haven’t done any writing, and I knew that based on the interview. I was the first and only hire in the newly created marketing position, so I knew I would take on everything else that marketing encompasses, like trade shows, graphic design, event coordination, website maintenance, etc.

If the position you’re interviewing for is to take over for somebody else, asking why that person is leaving is also a good question to ask. Usually LinkedIn will provide clues as to whether the company has a high turnover rate, or if their employees stay long-term.

2. What is the corporate/company culture like?

For me, this is an important one because I want to know what it’s going to be like working there on a day-to-day basis. What are my co-workers like? Is everyone social, or do they keep to themselves? It’s also important because it shows the employer that you’re likely interested in staying long-term, and that you’re looking for more than just a pay cheque.

Usually you’ll learn things about the corporate environment (open space vs. offices), and sometimes they might even bring a few employees in to talk about what it’s like there. I really appreciate it when they do that. Getting to talk to potential colleagues makes it real, and you will likely get a much better feel for the company that way. Not that I want to make best friends out of my co-workers, but it’s important that you like the people you work with.

3. What direction do you see the company headed in the next 5 to 10 years?

I like this question because you will be able to see how your position can affect the company’s short-term and long(er)-term goals. If they’re looking to expand, perhaps that means there will be opportunities for advancement or movement/travel to different offices. If they’re looking to chase competition, that might mean exciting opportunities. If they’re looking to go a different direction, you will get a glimpse into whether you want to go that direction as well.

Related: Are you a job hopper?

As a side note, I think there’s a fine line between presenting the best version of yourself that you can be, and being fake. Once, I crossed that line. I got caught up in the personalities of the two people interviewing me, and I started to act and answer questions in a way that I knew they would like, but wasn’t me at all. In the end, I got the job… but once I actually started working, we all quickly realized that my day to day personality was a lot different (and that came across in my writing, which is what I was hired for). I was let go within my probation period. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a good one nonetheless.

What are your favourite questions do you ask during job interviews?

Spending Recap: September 9-15, 2013

Monday 9th
$31.50 Translink Faresaver tickets (x10)

Tuesday 10th
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 11th
$265.63 flight Lyon-Marrakech
$10 movie

Thursday 12th
+ $300 freelance income
$41.07 gas

Friday 13th
$15.06 dinner

Saturday 14th
$9 parking
$41.69 lunch

Sunday 15th
+ $396.89 freelance income
$5.25 lunch

Freelance Income: + $696.89 
Expenses- $419.20

TOTAL: + $277.69

What a great week! I was able to book my outgoing flight from Lyon to Morocco. My original plan was to go Lyon-Fez, but the connections were horrible, so I ended up scrapping the idea and am going to Casablanca as well. Maybe I’ll regret that decision – because I heard Casablanca is pretty boring compared to Fez – but with not much time to squeeze in a vacation, it had to be done. That meant no cheap RyanAir flight. :| Still, I’m happy with the price I got for a roundtrip flight, and will just have to figure out how to save money elsewhere.

I finally started pulling in some freelance income, which I’m pleased about. There should still be about $1,700 coming my way, and I’m hoping it comes around this month.

How was your week of spending?

Spending Recap: September 2-8, 2013

Monday 2nd
$12.02 dinner

Tuesday 3rd
No Spend Day!

Wednesday 4th
$1,205 Intrepid Travel
$2.51 tea

Thursday 5th
No Spend Day!

Friday 6th
$11 lunch
$20.34 dinner
$48.91 gas

Saturday 7th
$8 lunch
$13.56 Value Village
$1.75 drink

Sunday 8th
$44.78 groceries

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses- $1,367.87

TOTAL: - $1,367.87

Well, if you missed it, I’m headed to France and Morocco next month – which made for a pretty pricey week of spending. If you don’t count my huge travel expense, I actually kept expenses relatively low this week at just $162.87. But of course, I did spend $1,200+ extra, and that needs to be taken care of. Not to fear, I’ve invoiced out for about $1,750 in freelance income that I should be getting in the next two weeks. That should hopefully cover all of my pre-trip expenses, so I won’t have to use any of my savings. :)

Other than that, another normal week of spending. I’ve been becoming more active in trying to increase my income over the past month, so hopefully that will pay off soon and I’ll start to bring in some extra money to reach my goals a bit faster. I also increased my contributions to RRSPs, which I’ll detail during my monthly goals recap in a few weeks.

How was your week of spending?

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?