Financial Wins and Spending | Week 4

August 24, 2014 Permalink

financial winsI’m posting this a bit late because over the past weekend, we spend some time at my mom and stepdad’s house in our hometown. As summer is winding down and we are away on our honeymoon in just a couple of weeks for the better part of a month, we wanted to take the opportunity to spend some time with them.

It was a nice, short trip and I’m just now settling down and getting some work done. The (small) cost of this trip will show up on next week’s spending report.

Last week, we broke the seal on our spending and enjoyed ourselves a little more.

We have been very fortunate in that we haven’t had any unexpected or emergent expenses come up, so we’ve been able to save a significant amount of our take home pay over the past month or so. We feel a bit more freedom as a result, so we have loosened up the purse strings and enjoyed a date night out and some ice cream.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 5.28.50 PM

Eating Out

This included a fun date night with J, an awesome dinner with Cait, and a couple of other smaller food purchases.We don’t have much of an entertainment budget besides eating out, so I’m fine with this number.

Gas & Groceries

These are both fairly standard; we’ve been trying to eat what is in our cupboards recently, so our grocery bill has been a bit lower than we might expect it to be. This isn’t reflective of what J spent on groceries; we ended up going at different times throughout the week.

On Friday, I bought some munchies for the road at the dollar store so they are included in the figure.

Financial Wins

The financial fortune continues!

Blackberries

We live in this amazing corner of the world that has so much to offer, including: blackberries!

This time of year is a forager’s dream. The blackberry bushes were all bearing fruit, and on Sunday, J and I took our bikes over to a local park which has a walkway lined with blackberry bushes and scored five pounds of sweet goodness.

This is a financial win because every morning, I have a smoothie with a fruit in it. Usually, we buy fruit from farmers markets and freeze it, or just buy frozen fruit if whatever I want isn’t in season. These bags of fruit usually cost upward of $6, and over the past week I have been able to use the blackberries in my smoothies. Score!

More Price Adjustments

I incurred another business expense and while this doesn’t have an effect on our personal finances, I still scored by getting three more price adjustments due to the store’s price match policy.

The adjustments were to the tune of $78.

Vouchers and Freebies

As part of the orientation at my new job, which didn’t happen until this week, I got a voucher for a free lunch at a local cafe and a free workout at a local facility. I love freebies so I will definitely take advantage.

I’ve also been scoring Swagbucks like crazy lately, thanks to a few people I’ve referred. Referrals are the best way to earn Swagbucks, so if you are wondering how to ramp it up and earn a lot more, get some of your friends, family members, or followers to sign up. You get more Swagbucks, they earn Swagbucks, everybody gets free stuff. Referral link here if you haven’t already signed up.

 

Let the wins continue!

How We Handle Conflicting Financial Goals

August 22, 2014 Permalink

J and I got married last month, and just before the wedding we started to take measures toward combining our finances. Despite having lived together for the past six years, it wasn’t until recently that we decided to start pooling our money. One of the biggest reasons I didn’t want to combine finances prior to marriage, was that we had and still have some differing financial goals.

Not all of our goals differ; in the long-term, we are generally on the same page. We both want to sell or rent out our home to move to a smaller community locally, where we plan to buy a chunk of land so we can enter the vacation rental business. We both have a goal to retire early, to have children, and to be able to go on at least one trip per year together. These are common goals which will guide the paths of our life together.

money goals marriage

However, we are different people. We have different brains, personalities, and dreams. I’ve never believed that once you are married, you have to give up your individual dreams if your spouse is not on the same page, and we refuse to live like that.

J’s priority is to be able to buy a decent truck when his is no longer functional, and I am working hard toward saving $12,000 for travel within the next 7 months. J is not interested in travelling extensively, but I still plan to see as much of the world as possible.

Differing dreams and goals which have a huge impact on finances may seem like a big deal in a marriage, but for us it has been completely manageable. In fact, even though we’ve only been married for a month, we’ve been together for seven years, and we have learned to make it work. Both of us are happier for it.

We Designate Certain Amounts to Each Goal

We have one advantage over many recently married couples, and that’s that we are what many would consider “high earners” for our ages. I just transferred to a role that gave me a $20,000 raise, and J chose a trade as a career path. He has 10 years of experience on his shoulders and works for a commercial construction company, which pays quite well.

As a result, we have a chunk of change to put aside each month (especially now that we aren’t paying for the wedding!) and we don’t take saving money lightly.

After the bills are paid, we have a large disposable income, so we’re able to designate a large portion of income to our savings for each goal. When we earned less, we still made goals and saved for them, but we made smaller, more realistic goals that matched our situation at the time.

In the interest of privacy, I won’t disclose exact numbers, but let’s just say our monthly savings is broken down like this:

  • 20% RRSP
  • 20% TFSA
  • 20% investments
  • 20% J’s goal
  • 20% my goal

(This isn’t the actual breakdown, but for illustration purposes, it will work).

We do put money away each month to go toward savings for common financial goals, such as future children.

Any Money Earned On Top Of Regular Income Is Fair Game

I earn a lot of side income from my various businesses and “hustles”. I’m easily bored and have narrowed my side work down to only that which I love to do, so I thoroughly enjoy all of my money-making endeavours enough to continue with them consistently.

On the other hand, J has a physically demanding day job and not as much passion for entrepreneurship, so he doesn’t make any extra money on the side. Because I work 30-40 hours more than he does every week to make the extra money, most of the extra money that I make goes toward my goals.

To be clear, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but rather something that has been established over the course of our relationship and J’s general distaste for working more than he has to.

It works out great for us as a couple, because often the savings left over from my designated portion of the disposable income gets contributed to his goal, or a joint goal.

If J decided that he really, really wanted heated seats in his future new truck, and decided to pick up a weekend job to pay for it, then he’d be able to use his earnings for the luxurious goodness of heated seats.

We Both Do Our Best to Get What We Can For Cheaper/Free

Instead of just paying cash for whatever it is that we want, we both do our best to keep our goal savings in the bank and get whatever it is that we wanted for less, or even free.

For instance, I have two credit cards that give me travel rewards points to put toward free flights and accommodation on my trips. As it stands right now, I have the equivalent of a free flight on my American Express Gold Rewards Card, enough Airmiles for another free international flight (or 3-4 domestic/US trips) and yet another free domestic/US flight with a companion fare from my Westjet RBC World Elite Mastercard.

Instead of being foolish and going to a dealership to buy a brand new truck, J will try to find a truck that has been used but is in good condition, either through an owner sale or a dealership (alternatively, at an auction, but that’s a whole other post).

Sometimes, there are things that one of us wants to buy that we can’t swing a bargain for, but it’s an effort that we both have made for our smaller purchases and that I will be making for my travel expenses.

 We Are Supportive and Understanding

I’ve touched on this before, but we are different people, and understand that we therefore have different ideas of what we consider “fun”. J would rather carve his eyes out with a spoon than spend any time in a city like Hong Kong, whereas I would jump at the opportunity (and try to make my own opportunities) to visit that city.

Just because he doesn’t want to travel as much as I do, doesn’t mean I would be willing to give up that dream, nor would he expect that of me (and if he did, I wouldn’t have married him).

I expect my car to last for years to come, and it’s already paid for; I will get little benefit of J having a truck, but I understand that it’s important to him to have a truck, and he values toys more than he does travel, so I am supportive of his future purchase of one.

It helps that we are both financially stable and responsible, and neither of us is looking to go out and buy something unreasonable. Having differing financial goals can be difficult on a couple but I think we balance it well.

The Cost & Logistics of a (Almost) Month Long Honeymoon in Nepal & Bali

August 19, 2014 Permalink

I think I’ve briefly touched upon our honeymoon, but I haven’t gone into detail about where we are going, and how much it costs.

I get a lot of weird looks when I tell people that J and I are going to Nepal for our honeymoon.

cost of honeymoon nepal bali

I’ll admit that it’s an unusual choice for a honeymoon, especially being that neither of us has ever left the continent, but the tickets are booked and we’ll be on our way in less than a month.

We struggled, at first, with deciding where to honeymoon. We both knew we wanted to go on a trip after the wedding to celebrate our successful wedding and the green beginnings of our marriage. Even so, we had differing opinions on where to go.

The discussion and decision were made on the same night: the night we tasked ourselves with booking something – anything – to guarantee our departure. We feared that if we didn’t make a decision, we’d put it off until we were married and ticketless, acting as if nothing significant had just happened back there.

“Italy?” I suggested, picturing myself knee deep in pasta. J declined. “Jamaica?” He asked, but was quickly shot down. “I actually want to travel. See some of the world, not just a resort.”

We let it settle between us, as I picked up my laptop. “Let’s see if there are any deals”.

After a few Google searches, I looked up at J over the top of my MacBook Air with a proposal:

“Let’s hike for 10 days in a third world country.”

Maybe it was the wine, but it was settled.

We would start in Kathmandu, spend two days exploring the city, then head off to Pohkara to begin a 10 day trek through part of the Annapurna circuit. After a short stay at Chitwan National Park at the tail end of the trek, we’ll circle back to Kathmandu where we’ll stay for an additional two glorious days before hopping on a flight to the next leg of our trip: Bali.

Choosing Bali was easy. After two weeks at the tail end of monsoon season in the Himalayas, J and I knew we’d need an actual honeymoon. One where we can shed the altitude sickness, water purification tablets and hiking boots for sun, beaches, and culture.

Don’t get me wrong, we are both ecstatic to be going on such an epic adventure during our first time out of the country as a married couple. I suspect that hiking for two weeks with few creature comforts will be a great relationship builder. Even so, rest and relaxation is just what the doctor ordered after the intense strain of a DIY out of town wedding and the stress of starting a new job.

Being that we will be in Asia, a heavy emphasis on the culture was important to me. I’m not somebody who can lie on the beach for more than a day of my travels, as I tend to get bored. While we wanted something close to a beach so that we could soak in that beach culture and of course relax, we also sought entertainment. Bali fit the bill.

Luckily, Bali is also dirt cheap to visit, if you play your cards right.

10 Nights, $214 and No Hostels

I’ve never stayed in a hostel, so I don’t have much to say about them except for that they probably aren’t honeymoon appropriate.

Or maybe they are, but we didn’t consider staying in hostels on ours. Turns out that our budget is none the wiser, because we managed to score 10 nights of great, comfortable accommodation for $21.40 per night, all fees and taxes included. Plus airport pickup.

When I say comfortable accommodation, I mean a queen or king sized bed, large, clean bathroom, near or at the beach or other attractions, including a pool and hot tub. I would say we did pretty well for ourselves.

How did we manage to snag a deal like that?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll have heard of AirBNB. I’ve used AirBNB extensively before, with stays around North America but never have I snapped up such an amazing deal.

I suspect we are going at the right time, AirBNB hasn’t caught on over there as much, and Bali is just cheap in general. I’d never stay in a hotel again, unless I managed to get the room for free. AirBNB offers great deals that you just can’t get through a hotel.

AirAsia for $250 flights

Where Europe has amazing country hopper flight deals with small, inexpensive airlines like Ryan Air, Asia isn’t so lucky. At least, I didn’t find any of those incredibly cheap flight deals.

I did, however, find out about AirAsia by asking around, and found two flights from Kathmandu to Bali (THV to DPS) for $250 apiece. We booked fairly early (almost a year early, actually) so we got a great deal.

We opened an American Express Gold Rewards card so we could get this flight for free, but since we got such a good deal on the flight and we plan on doing  a substantial amount of travel in the near future, we left our points to accumulate for the next flight.

The Cost of the Trek

Being that neither of us have ever been to Nepal, let alone off of the continent, we hired a guide and porter for the trek. At $899 each, it includes our accommodations at tea houses during the trek, and our stay in Chitwan National Park, including food and transportation to and from Pohkara. We probably could have just hired a porter for far cheaper, but it will be nice to have a guide. Plus, as an inexperienced international traveller, hopefully it will better equip me for the next time I’m travelling.

Flights to Nepal, From Bali

We lucked out and got really affordable flights; instead of using our rewards points we saved those for another time and instead booked really early and took advantage of the lower prices.

All together, it cost just under $1,600 for the both of us to fly out of YVR, into KTM, and them from DPS to YVR.

 

We’ll be gone for a half of September and almost half of October, and we could have certainly gone on a cheaper vacation instead of a month long adventure to different corners of Asia, but I think it will be the perfect trip to kick off our marriage.