Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Combining our finances

I’ve always kept my finances separate from my significant other. This was in part because my past relationships just never got to the point where we needed (or wanted) to combine our money, but it also has to do with the fact that over the last 10 years, I’ve become fiercely independent when it comes to my finances.

Ten years ago, I was in a lot of debt. It was stressful and gave me a feeling of hopelessness – that I’d never be able to fend for myself because I was too much of a disaster – especially when I hit rock bottom and realized that I had to rely on someone else (my boyfriend at the time) to help me with bus fare. BUS FARE. I didn’t have money (in cash or credit) to get to work. I cringe just thinking about how horrible that was.

Related: Would you ever date someone who had debt?

When I eventually started paying attention to my money, I promised myself that I’d never be back in that situation again. I worked hard at my finances, saved up enough money for a down payment on a townhouse, and built up a modest retirement portfolio. I also wanted to be seen as an equal financial contributor in every relationship I’ve been in, so I always insisted on paying for my fair share of everything, even if I made significantly less money than the person I was dating. I didn’t want to be seen as someone that a man has to take care of financially.

This mindset has had both positive and negative consequences, as you can imagine. The pros mostly stemmed from my own personal satisfaction that I’ve gotten to a stable place financially. It made me feel empowered! But some of the cons were that I never really considered someone as a long-term partner unless we were on somewhat similar financial terms, and I still have a hard time letting someone treat me to something as simple as dinner – I always have to make sure that I take care of the bill next time. So that it’s fair.

Related: Splitting expenses with your significant other

Earlier this week, RD and I got pre-approved for a mortgage (!). We aren’t actively looking, but we wanted to be ready just in case something amazing comes up. But one of the items that our mortgage broker wanted was a void cheque from the account we wanted our mortgage payments to come out of. So all of a sudden, this kindafar-into-the-future-conversation of combining at least a portion of our finances was something we had to talk about now.

When we first moved in together, we were keeping track of our shared expenses and totaling them up at the end of the month. Then to make up the difference, an e-transfer would be made to the person who spent the most. It was a bit of a clumsy system because it meant we were each combing through a months’ worth of expenses to try and remember what was shared and what was personal. So for the past 3 or 4 months we’ve been using a joint (travel rewards) credit card. That has really helped because I just total up the expenses at the end of the month, and RD sends over his portion of the rent plus his half of the monthly expenses.

Over the past few months, we’ve gotten good at figuring out what expenses are shared and what are personal, so the next step is opening up a joint chequing account (which we did yesterday through Tangerine!) and linking our existing individual chequing accounts to it. We’ll still keep our own accounts because we both agree that maintaining financial independence is important, and will just transfer in a TBD amount of money into the shared account every time we get paid. :)

Related: Would you use a coupon on the first date?

It’s both scary and exciting to incorporate shared finances into our relationship, and I imagine some tweaking to our system will happen along the way. For readers who also incorporate some sort of shared finances with their significant other, did you have any hiccups and modifications to make when you first started out?

March 2017 Goals

With all this gloomy weather here in Vancouver, I’m so excited for our trip to Powell River and Tofino this month. :) We did this exact trip last March (4 nights in Tofino, 2 nights in Powell River), and the weather was perfect, so keeping my fingers crossed that we luck out again. What I’m most proud of was we were able to reduce our accommodation cost by $210 over last year just by booking a month earlier. Not only that, but we’re in a better location in a stand-alone cottage (instead of in a suite in a rental house).

Field hockey is winding down for the year (we’re in the championship game this weekend!), so I’m going to have to start going to the gym to keep my cardio up. In prior years, this is where I’d start taking up running, but since realizing that distance running aggravates my feet (to the point where I need corrective surgery), that’s not really an option anymore. I get a fairly significant discount through work if I wanted to join a gym (much cheaper than the rec centre I currently go to), but I don’t want to commit to anything yet until we know exactly where we will be living long-term.

I was supposed to be on TV last month to do a personal finance segment, but it was canceled at the last minute because the cameras were malfunctioning. What I realized was that I need to update my more formal work clothes. I’m fine from a day-to-day perspective with enough dresses and shirts. But what I’m lacking is a nice suit (I bought one a few years ago, but it’s too big for me and tailoring it would cost almost as much as the suit itself!) and pencil skirts. I feel like I actually need these items in my wardrobe for industry functions for both my full-time job and my freelancing work. So I added $200 into my budget to buy a blazer I’ve been eyeing (when it’s on sale). This is a start. I’m not willing to commit more for the time being, but having a few more professional pieces in my wardrobe is starting to feel like a goal I want to accomplish this year.

Anyway, here is my budget for the month! :)

March 2017 Goals:

  • Rebrand GMBMFB. I should have found the time to make this a priority last month, but I didn’t. It’s going to have to get done in March.
  • Cash out a portion of my corporate stock program. I figured out how to cash out my stock, but the $25 fee is really bugging me. But I just have to get it done.
  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage. We’ve decided to take the step to get pre-approved for a mortgage now, because we realize that there are very few places we really, really like. We started to monitor the listings in the neighbourhood we want to live in back in November, and only 2 places really had us interested – and 1 of those was ruled out due to high strata fees. So if another one comes up, we should at least be prepared if we want to make an offer.
  • Figure out a good system to combining some of our finances. We’ve discussed this off-and-on for a few months now – what would it look like when we eventually combine our day-to-day spending accounts? We both want to maintain financial freedom with our own accounts (we’ll never fully combine our money), but we do have to figure out the best system for our joint expenses going forward. Especially if we’re looking to buy a home.

February 2017 Goals: Recap

Well I did better this month than last month, but still went over budget. :)

I ended up buying a new purse/laptop bag for my commute because I don’t have any way to carry my work laptop home, and it was interesting how quickly I switched to wanting to buy stuff. I decided I wanted to buy new black flats for work, which then made me realize I’d like to buy cute summer work shoes … which made me think about our Portugal vacation and how I’ll probably want to buy some light weight casual dresses that wouldn’t wrinkle in my backpack … which made me wonder if I needed new shoes for the trip go to with these new dresses? It was incredible to see where my mind went and what I thought I absolutely needed to get. Of course I didn’t buy any of it, but it didn’t stop me from going into Banana Republic and J.Crew on my lunch break one day. I was only able to stop this thought cycle of “SPEND!” by reminding myself about how important it is for me to focus on saving for a home and for my future. And as soon as I left those stores on my lunch break, I transferred an extra $100 into my down payment account as a further act of commitment to save.

Switching gears to talk about travel for a second, has anyone been to the Azores before? We’re seriously considering spending 7-10 days there during our Portugal trip. Seems pretty ideal to do some snorkeling, surfing, and relaxing – oh and Portugal’s tallest mountain is there, which I definitely want to summit. :)

Anyway, onto how I did in February…

Over Budget:

  • Utilities – this is billed every 2 months, and December was so cold, so it’s no wonder we went over budget a little bit in this category.
  • Food – we went a tiny bit over budget this month for groceries. This is due in part to my laziness – instead of walking a little further to the cheaper grocery store, I’ve been shopping at a more expensive one. That will change for March.
  • Entertainment – I was doing so well until two concerts came up that we both really, really wanted to see: Ryan Adams and Jurassic 5, both in June. So we splurged and bought tickets. Worth it.
  • Clothing – I ended up buying a laptop bag because my work lap top is too big to fit in my purse. I was able to get away with it when I was driving to work, but now that I’m commuting, I wanted something that would act as a laptop bag, purse, and lunch bag combined.
  • Fitness – I bought some energy bars, Nuun, and a pair of much needed athletic sunglasses.

Income and Savings:

This month I saved 63.7% of my net income. I still have about $5,000 in freelance income that should be coming to me for March.

My down payment account is growing slowly, and it’s been interesting to really start paying attention to the new property listings that have been coming out. There has only been one listing that has really wowed me (and that was 3 months ago), so I think it’s going to take a while to actually find exactly what we’re looking for.

  • Current Down Payment Fund: $129,750 / $150,000 (+ $1,150)

February 2017 Goals:

  • Rebrand GMBMFB. FAIL. I should have found the time to make this a priority, but I didn’t. It’s going to have to get done in March.
  • Cash out a portion of my corporate share program. PASS. I did look into this, but it’s not done yet. I’m not able to transfer it myself through the online options, so I’m going to have to call in, and I just haven’t found time to do that yet.
  • Go to the optometrist. CHECK! I swear my eyesight has gotten worse over the past few years, but apparently I still have 20/20 vision.
  • Take breaks at work. CHECK! Instead of doing my errands after work or on the weekends, they’re all getting done on my lunch break. I’ve been able to get out for a walk at least 2 or 3 times each week.
  • Unsubscribe to all triggering e-mails. CHECK! I’ve been unsubscribing like mad to any emails I got during the month. It was hardest to say goodbye to Anthropologie, but it’s best that I just don’t know about all the amazing sales I’m missing out on.
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