Give Me Back My Five Bucks

A week on the Oregon coast

The last few months have been stressful – demanding deadlines at the full-time job, trying to sell my house, trying to find an apartment to rent (that is going to be a whole blog post – the rental market in Vancouver is crazy!), travel for freelance work, and the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. So before I started my new job, I just wanted to get out of the city for a week and recharge.

We ended up settling on a road trip to Oregon because even with the exchange rate, it was a relatively inexpensive trip, and, well, Oregon is awesome.

The first two nights were spent in Portland. Hotels in downtown Portland are always ridiculously expensive, so we used VRBO to rent a little microloft in the Pearl District. The space was the perfect size, and although the location was a bit noisy at night, it was a great location for daytime exploring. My boyfriend (who will now be known as RD on this blog) had never really spent much time in Portland, so we did the Saturday Market, Powell’s Books, VooDoo donuts, and hit up a couple great restaurants and breweries. It was way too rainy to do much else – we didn’t even get up to Nob Hill – so that’ll be saved for next time.

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After Portland, we headed to the coast where we spent two nights at Heceta Beach, just a few minutes north of Florence. This ended up being our favourite stop of the trip because the beaches are way less crowded than further up the coast. The cottage was perfect – super cozy and just a 5 minute walk through the sand dunes to the beach.

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We then headed up the coast and spent 3 nights in Cannon Beach. We stayed in a tiny cottage that I can see being perfect for the summer months. The beach was beautiful – great for running! The only downside was that because of the weather, RD wasn’t able to get any surfing done. But there were so many hikes and walks in the surrounding state parks that we had more than enough outdoor activities to occupy our time.

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We both had a fantastic time, and got really lucky with the weather. When I was monitoring the forecast in the week leading up to the trip, I kind of expected rain the entire time. But it was sunny for 5 days, rainy for 1 day, and didn’t start to get crazy rainy until our drive back to Vancouver.

I also did very minimal cross border shopping while we were there – all I came back with was 5 bottles of Trader Joe’s sriracha, 4 jars of cookie butter, and 2 bottles of Charles Shaw wine. The essentials. :)

As for the financials, we didn’t spend much to be honest. My share of accommodation for 7 nights was about $525 after the exchange rate. We limited going out to restaurants, and made most of our meals in the cottages. I would estimate that including gas and groceries, I probably spent less than $850 in total for the week.

This was my first time doing a trip to Oregon during the winter. Every other time I’ve gone down has been in the summertime, and now that I’ve seen empty beaches and cheap rental cottages, I’m not sure I could bring myself to go during the summer again. :)

From home ownership to renting

I mentioned in a previous post that my housing situation has changed dramatically. In the summer I hinted at the idea of selling my house and moving into Vancouver to be closer to work, my friends, and where I spend most of my life. So back in August, I put my townhouse on the market just to see what would happen. There was a lot of interest, and finally I accepted an offer earlier this month. :)

That means I’m moving! But I’m not just moving into an apartment… I’m going to live out my small space living fantasy by renting out a laneway house in Vancouver. For those that are not from the Vancouver area and might be unfamiliar with laneway houses, these homes are typically built on a pre-existing lot (usually someone’s backyard). They are usually detached from the main house and open onto the back lane. My laneway house is a two-storey, two-bedroom house that measures about 685 sq.ft. It’s extremely cute, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to live just a 10 min. drive to work, and within a few blocks of my favourite neighbourhood in Vancouver.

I had a short introduction into small space living in 2012, when I lived in a 215 sq.ft. apartment with a boyfriend for a year in Germany I don’t think I would want to live in a space that small long-term with another person (at least not that specific space – it did not function very well and there was no storage), but it definitely showed me that I can do with a lot less than what I have and still be completely happy. So now that there’s 685 sq.ft. for two people, it seems really doable.

With my new job, I will also be getting a modest bump in salary, which will increase my monthly saving amount. But I want to get right to the fun stuff – and that’s creating a new budget for a new living situation. :)

This is what my initial thoughts are for my new budget:

January 2016 Proposed Budget

A few things to note:

  • This is not a fair representation of home ownership vs. renting as I’m also going from living alone to living with somebody else. Creating this mock budget for the first time really made me realize how much more I was spending over the last 5 years living solo. Back in the summer, I did create another mock budget to see how much I’d save if I went from owning to renting as a single person ($400/month). So while this isn’t a truly fair representation, it doesn’t result in a *massive* difference in my budget living with someone vs. living solo.
  • My townhouse had rental restrictions. A lot of people suggested that I rent out my townhouse and move into the city. However, my building did not allow for rentals, so this just wasn’t an option for me.
  • Monthly rent on this house is $1,650. For a two bedroom in an extremely desirable area in Vancouver, this is quite reasonable, but definitely not the cheapest option out there.
  • We will be splitting the cost of utilities and internet. Electricity will go up a bit as we are heating a whole house, but that increase is offset by the fact that it’s now a shared expense. Renter’s insurance has been quoted at $30 per month.
  • I anticipate my monthly grocery budget will go down a little bit as I’ll have more time to prepare more meals from scratch.
  • Car insurance is not accurate – it will likely cost a bit more now that I live in Vancouver.
  • The cost of gas is cut in half now that my daily commute to work is 10 minutes instead of 45-60 minutes. :)

Related: Single? It’s costing you more than you think.)

As you can see, I *think* I’ll be able to slash over $700 from my budget each month without changing my lifestyle through variable expenses. Unless I’ve made some glaring error. This is a significant amount, and I am really excited about it. If you add to that my modest pay raise, and if I am vigilant in saving my savings, I could potentially put away an additional $1,000+ each month.

Kicking off Financial Literacy Month with Tangerine Bank

Last week I was invited to Toronto to speak on a panel at the Tangerine Bank “Bubbles and Budgets” event to kick off Financial Literacy Month.

This was one of my favourite personal finance events of the year because it was so engaging and interesting. The event started out with a panel discussion (hosted by Winston Sih of Breakfast Television), with Preet Banerjee, Cait Flanders, Silvio Stroescu, Joe Snyder, and me. We were able to open up and discuss personal finance topics ranging from getting out of debt, to Cait’s shopping ban, to saving money and where to invest.

The Tangerine Café was packed for the event, and that was really thrilling to see because it wasn’t just media and bloggers attending. There were so many people from ACCES Employment, a United Way agency that Tangerine works with as part of their Bright Way Forward program, and when we were talking I was able to look out into the crowd and see people really into what we were talking about. Or maybe they were just staring at Preet’s awesome pocket square.

(side note: I think in the above photo I was distracted by the doughnut wall.)

After the panel, we were able to sit down and have one-on-one discussions with people in the crowd who had additional questions. This was set up “speed dating” style, where you only had 4-5 minutes to talk with someone. It was incredibly inspiring to hear stories from people who had fought their way out of debt, come to Canada to start a new life, or saved enough working multiple jobs to create Emergency Funds.

The next day Tangerine hosted a Twitter party. Me, Cait, and Preet headed over to the Café so that we could have ourselves a mini real life Twitter party. J The hour flew by so fast, and everyone was into the chat that we were a little disappointed when it ended. I love Twitter events like this because the engagement level is through the roof. Check out the hashtag #ForwardBanking if you want to check out some of the topics that were discussed!

Anyway I really wanted to share this event with you guys because it was a good reminder for me about how important money is. Our relationship with money is so important, and it will last a lifetime. Often times I can get so wrapped up in my own little personal finance world – where I feel like everyone I know is so into their finances that I start to think everyone is like that. But that’s just not true – and it’s why I started this blog in the first place.

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