Give Me Back My Five Bucks

November 2016 Goals: Recap

2016macbookproI’m currently typing this blog post out on my new Macbook Pro. :) After I wrote about my purchase at the beginning of November, my friend Nic convinced me I needed to upgrade the graphics card on the computer since I plan on keeping it just as long as my last one (hopefully longer).

The original budget for my computer was $3,500, and after tax, my computer came to $3,619.84. But I had $300 in Apple gift cards (which I got for my birthday in October), and I managed to sell my old computer for $400 – meaning the grand total of my computer actually came to $2,919.84! :)

Unfortunately I went over on a few other categories in my budget this month, so I wasn’t able to save my savings. But at least I didn’t go over budget, so that’s a small win.

11-november2016-recap

Over Budget:

  • Tenant Insurance – One of my goals this month was to decrease our annual insurance, but we ended up increasing it because I wanted to add earthquake coverage.
  • Household – A few weeks ago we went to the Circle Craft Market downtown to do some Christmas shopping, and we ended up buying a few pieces of art for ourselves. Whoops! :)
  • Entertainment – One extra trip to the pub put me over budget this month.
  • Clothing – I had budgeted $300 for boots and pants, but ended up using the entire amount for a pair of tall Phillip Harness Frye boots I had been lusting over for years. They are $629 on the Frye website, and I saw them locally in Vancouver for $480 after tax. But I was able to get them on a Black Friday sale through Amazon for $296.76 after tax and duties.
  • Fitness – We bought a one-month membership to the climbing gym, and I also lost RD’s water bottle so I had to get another one for him. :)
  • Gifts – I thought I’d just *start* my Christmas shopping for the year, but decided just to finish it off since we’ll be traveling in mid-December to celebrate some birthdays and an early Christmas with RD’s brother. The money I spent was gifts for 11 people (9 Christmas presents, and 2 birthday presents).

Income and Savings:

This month I was only able to save 19.2% of my income, because of the MacBook Pro purchase. But I’m just pleased I was able to save anything at all.

November Goals:

  • Shop around for tenant insurancePASS. I mean, I kind of did this by getting two different quotes. Both were about the same, so I went with the same insurer as last year. But just today I found a policy for about $200/year cheaper … so am going to try to switch. And if I cannot switch, I’ll know better for next year. :|
  • Create my budgeting spreadsheet for 2017CHECK! My spreadsheet is bigger and better than before, and I’m so excited to start using it in January. Yes, I am a nerd.
  • FreelancingCHECK! I have one outstanding invoice for 2016, and have quoted out for 3 projects in 2017.

The best financial advice I’ve ever received

Note: this post was sponsored by Scotiabank for Financial Literacy Month, but the views and opinions are my own.

For Financial Literacy Month, I’ve been asked to share the best financial advice I’ve ever received. Now, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will know that I believe in the importance of having a financial plan, as well as making both long-term and short-term goals. I used to believe that once I had my heart set on a goal, any deviation from that path was considered a failure. But the best advice I’ve ever received was that in order to be successful in life, goals and plans have to be flexible and adaptable to whatever life may throw at you. And believe it or not, I got that advice from a children’s book.

This book was called Monty Goes South, and it was given to me by my field hockey coach when I was 17 just before I was about to “fly south” to play on a Division 1 NCAA team. It’s a story about how Monty the Canada Goose (yes, it’s a Canadian book haha) is watching all of his friends prepare to fly south for the winter. But because of his very real fear of heights, he has not learned how to fly. He considers all the different ways he could get south (like driving, sailing, or riding a skateboard), but eventually realized that he had no choice but to conquer his fear. He ends up flying south on his own terms and in his own way (backwards). :)

My takeaway from the book was that I would eventually achieve everything I wanted in life, I’d just take my own path to get there. That message stayed with me through my field hockey career, and I still think about my coaches and that message of hope today when it comes to my personal life, and my finances. I know there is not just one way, or path, to achieve financial success. It’s about learning the different investment vehicles and creating a financial plan that works for me in order to reach my end goal.

I’ve achieved a lot by turning my finances around in the last 10 years, but it hasn’t been easy and it certainly hasn’t been the life I thought I’d be living by age 34. :) But whenever I felt down about being in debt, not saving enough, or even not achieving any of the life goals that my friends were all experiencing (like marriage, owning a home, or traveling), I thought back to that book … and I reminded myself that I’ll get all of the things that I want, I’m just on my own path and need to follow my own plan. Okay yes, maybe that’s cheesy, but it has totally helped me conquer any “keeping up with the Jones” thoughts that have ever creeped into my head. When all my friends were traveling in their 20’s while I was paying down my student loans, sure I definitely had a case of FOMO, but I knew I’d get to travel in the future. And when I felt like my friends were all achieving amazing things with their careers (while mine was going nowhere)? I kept trying to learn new things, and eventually found my niche.

Maybe you’re like me and aggressively paid down your debt. Or maybe you’ve got kids, so you’re tackling your debt at a slower pace … or maybe you’re 40 and haven’t started saving for retirement yet. Wherever you are in your financial journey, just know that if you create your own UNIQUE financial plan, you’ll achieve your goals eventually – you’re just on your own journey there.

So, who gave you your best financial advice? Head over to Scotiabank’s Facebook page and tell them about the best advice you’ve received for a chance to win $1,000.

The case for un-automating your finances

So many personal finance bloggers and professionals will tell you that automating your finances is one of the best ways to manage your money. Nowadays, everything can be automated if you want it to be – your pay cheques, savings, RRSP, investment contributions, as well as all of your monthly recurring bills.

But even though you may think you’re making your life easier by automating everything, you might be doing more harm than good. Automating all of your finances can lead to bad spending habits, because you aren’t conscious of where your money is going. And, when all of the work is being done for you, you might not check up on your accounts as often as you should be.

I personally only automate my retirement savings. Everything else – such as utilities, cell phone, internet credit card bills, and short-term savings – I make manually every two weeks when I get paid. Here’s why:

My income fluctuates

Even though I have a full-time job, my income can fluctuate wildly from week to week depending on how much money I bring in from my freelancing jobs. While it’s possible to budget and automate when your income varies, I find it a lot easier (and a lot less stressful) to manually pay my bills. Especially when not every company offers monthly billing cycles that end at the end of each month. I keep track of when my payments are due in Google calendar – that way I always know that I have money in my account to pay each invoice.

I like moving my money around

This might be the personal finance nerd in me, but is extremely satisfying to click a few buttons and see bills getting paid, or my savings account growing. It’s proof that my hard work is worth something, and it reminds me that my goals are real and attainable. It’s a feeling you can’t get when the bank does all of the work for you.

Don’t forget to read the terms and conditions

Sometimes life can get busy, and by the time you get around to looking through your cell phone bill, you might have already had the payment automatically deducted from your account. I used to work in a call centre for a company whose terms and conditions stated that receiving payment is your acknowledgment and agreement to all of the charges on the invoice. So it’s important to look through your invoices in a timely manner, as well as carefully read through your terms and conditions of service with each company.

It forces me to pay attention

Since I started taking control of my finances, I’ve made it a habit to log into my online bank accounts at least three times each week. Over the years, I’ve caught three different fraudulent charges on my credit card – one was for a larger sum so it was more noticeable, but the other two were for recurring charges of under $10/month. If my credit card bills were on automation, I would be much less inclined to check my accounts as often, or as closely, so I might have missed catching and disputing those charges.

Also, companies make it so easy to automate payments. From your Netflix account to your gym membership to those domain names you’ve never used that keep auto-renewing every year – sitting down to pay your bills might take an extra hour each month, but it really forces you to see where your money is going and what expenses you can cut. It helps you have a better relationship with your finances, and you might realize that you’re paying for a lot of things that you just don’t use.

What bills do you have on automation?

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