Give Me Back My Five Bucks

A new bare-bones budget

I like to create a bare-bones budget whenever I get a new job or my living situation changes. It helps me understand how much I’ll need to live off of should I ever lose my job (which happened in 2014 when the company I worked for laid off almost half its staff). Since I’ve had my job (and my new home) for almost two months now, I figured it was the perfect time to re-evaluate my financial situation – especially since the last time I created a bare-bones budget was back in February 2014.

So over the weekend, I took a look at my current financial situation. And after calculating how much it would cost me per month, I’m extremely happy to see that Employment Insurance (about $524/week) would be enough to cover all of my bare-bones budget expenses – without having to touch my Emergency Fund.

Related: Can you feed yourself for $100/month?

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You can see I was able to eliminate over $500 from my monthly budget without much effort, and I know that if needed, I could cut that number down even further. Plus, if for some unfortunate circumstance, I had tapped out my EI resources and Emergency Fund, I could rely on RD to help out if absolutely necessary.

Anyway, at some point in 2016, I’ll be testing out this new bare-bones budget for a month – just to make sure I can still do it. I’m confident that I can, but the food budget will be a tough one. It’s been about 4 years since I last tried (and succeeded) at a $100/month grocery budget, but it’s a really good exercise to do every couple of years. :)

Related: 2016 is the year of the Emergency Fund

Is your bare-bones budget up-to-date?

2016 Annual Goals

I’m really excited for 2016. Life changes so quickly, and I never thought I would be where I am right now. I finally feel a little settled. I have a great job with a company I can see myself with long-term, I’ve found what seems like a little niche with my freelance career, and I’m also really looking forward to creating a home with RD. These things really give me the focus and direction I’ve been craving since I got back from Germany a few years ago.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past trying to find a place where I felt like I belonged. I feel like I belong when I play field hockey, and I can create my own sense of belonging when I’m outside running or climbing or hiking. I want to feel strong both physically and mentally, and that’s going to be a big focus of mine for 2016.

As for travel, I anticipate local trips this year which will centre around outdoorsy activities. The only thing that is for sure is my annual family trip to Seattle. Other than that, I’m sure I’ll be in Toronto at least 2-3 times next year at some point. :)

My main financial goal remains early retirement. This is what the majority of my savings will go towards. I also want to create realistic budgets and challenge myself to do more with the money that I make.

Financial

  • Stay debt-free. This is obviously an important goal. :)
  • Save at least $1,300/month into my RRSP/TFSA. For those of you curious, I am invested in TD e-series funds for my RRSP and TFSA, using a modified Global Couch Potato investment plan. I also hold stocks through Questrade and my SPP at work is in a TFSA.
  • Create realistic monthly budgets. This means planning ahead and checking my progress on a weekly basis.
  • Live one month with a bare-bones budget. I’ve done this experiment in the past, and it was really helpful to see how little I can live off of.
  • Spend less than $500 on clothing and shoes this year. I actually don’t need anything that I can think of, but I know things will pop up – especially fitness-related. The $500 indicated does not include repairing or altering items I already own.

Personal

  • Make my body strong. I’ve noticed my body changing a lot in the last couple of years. I’ve lost a bit of speed, it takes longer to recover between activities, I can’t eat like I used to without consequences, and I seem to be going down with a lot of injuries. This year I want to really focus on making my body stronger. There’s no shortage of physical activities I’m interested in. But I’m thinking a combination of rock climbing, yoga, field hockey, and hiking will be good for me. And perhaps it’s time I just give long distance running a rest for a while (as it seems like my body hates me when I run anything over 10-12 km).
  • Go on a multi-day hiking trip. RD and I both want to do a lot of hiking this year, but I specifically want to do a multi-day hike/camp somewhere. I’m thinking of Cape Scott because I haven’t been there yet, but also really want to explore other areas besides southwest BC.
  • Bring lunch to work most days. Now that I’m feeling more settled, I want to stop wasting money on going out for lunch. It’s cheaper and healthier to pack lunches every day, so I’m aiming to do this 4x/week.
  • Stop going to coffee shops. I can make all the coffee I want to make at home, and we have free (really good) coffee at work, so there’s no reason to go to coffee shops anymore unless it’s for socializing. I’m not saying no to coffee dates – just to unnecessary trips to the coffee shop because I’m too lazy to make my own.
  • Eat less dairy. I tried a 30-day vegan challenge last fall which really helped me see how much dairy I was consuming on a regular basis. I’m not going to go full vegan (yet), but I want to consume less dairy at home on a regular basis (which means saying no to cheese sometimes), and switching over to vegan butter, ice cream, and other household staples.
  • Read 12 books. I have so many great books piling up, and want to get into a habit of reading a few pages a day if I can. This might mean less Netflix. :)
  • Bring more creativity to my life. I love creating things, but most of the time I’m creating pixelated art on my computer. I’d like to explore more ways of being hands-on with my creativity – whether it’s a relaxing evening of colouring, cross stitching, knitting, pottery class, or taking up sketching again … I want a different creative outlet other than Photoshop and my blog.

Professional

  • Rebrand GMBMFB. I want to somehow incorporate my blog with my professional website, and haven’t quite figured it out yet.
  • Go to three marketing conferences/seminars this year. There are some really great opportunities to learn within my industry, and I want to take advantage of that.

I live in a Vancouver laneway house

suite1106-img_2824Vancouver laneway houses are becoming more and more popular. Our cute home is one of only a handful of finished and occupied laneways in my Vancouver neighbourhood, but taking a quick stroll around, and you’ll see many nearly completed or under construction.

When we first started looking for places to rent, my ideal place was a laneway house. These little cottages in the city really appealed to me because 1) I love small spaces, 2) tons of privacy, and 3) you don’t have to worry about noisy neighbours. So when this laneway came up in our ideal neighbourhood, we did everything we could to snag it.

Our laneway is a 685 sq.ft. two-storey, two-bed home. It costs us $1,650/month in rent, and is located in our favourite neighbourhood in Vancouver.

The rent is comparable to any decent apartment in the area (we were looking at a 1-bedroom for $1,700/month before we found this place), so the only thing we are giving up is a little bit of space in exchange for renting an entire structure. And as for the space, it’s about the same size as my townhouse – the only difference is the laneway is two levels.

When you first walk into the house, you are greeted with stairs, as well as the kitchen area, and RD’s computer desk. There is also a small laundry closet off to the right of the computer desk.

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The first floor is where we seem to spend most of our time. I love the kitchen island, and think it was a really smart thing for us to buy. Not only can we take it with us anywhere we go, but I sit there to work on my laptop, it’s the perfect size for two people to prep meals, and it adds much needed seating.

If we were going to entertain (which for us would be rare), we could put away RD’s computer and use the desk as a table.

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Walking up the stairs, we have a washroom to the left. It’s clean and modern, and has enough space to hold a trunk full of extra towels, etc.

Photo 2015-11-27, 6 01 44 PM Photo 2015-11-27, 6 02 14 PM

Straight ahead off the upstairs landing is our bedroom. It’s the smaller of the two bedrooms by far, but it fits a queen sized storage bed (which fits all of our sports gear, backpacks, bedding, etc.), night table, and has a pretty big double-door closet for RD’s stuff.

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The last room upstairs is the second bedroom, which we have turned into our living room – with our couch and television.

We ended up having to buy a new-to-us couch off Craigslist. It’s not ideal, but it looks nice and fits the space well.

The only picture of the closet I have is from when we first moved in – but the closet is a semi-walk-in and spans that entire width. It fits a surprising amount of stuff (all of the crap I had in my old walk-in closet fits in the space).

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And that’s our little house! :) It’s small but functional, and the perfect size for us. It took a while to get settled and combine our stuff together, but after about a month of living here full time, it’s starting to feel like home.

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