Give Me Back My Five Bucks - a quest for financial independence

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Making the most of summer weekends

photoDespite the up-and-down weather, this past weekend was a lot of fun.

Friday evening was pretty quiet. BF and I went for a walk along the seawall in Stanley Park, and then went back to his place to try out some new beers that were recommended to us. We’ve been on a bit of a fruit beer kick, so we shared a peach cream ale, as well as a blood orange. (On a side note, if anyone has any fruit beer suggestions, I’d love to hear them! Am currently loving Pyramid Apricot Ale.) We also watched Enough Said on Netflix, which I was skeptical about, but actually turned out to be an ok movie.

Saturday we waited out the rain, and then spent the afternoon at the tennis club that BF joined recently. My tennis skills aren’t good enough to play in a match yet, but it was really nice just to watch others play, read my book, and just relax outside.

photo 1After tennis was over, we took the SkyTrain out to the Richmond Night Market. It was a lot of fun people watching, looking at the fun things that were on sale, sampling the different food, and spending an evening out of the city. It was really hard not to get tempted by all of the delicious meats and seafoods around. Even though I’m happy being a vegetarian, I still definitely find myself craving certain things that I no longer eat – like takoyaki, ramen, or shrimp dumplings. :) But we were able to satisfy our cravings with a tofu noodle dish ($6), a couple of taiyaki ($3.50), and an ice cane ($3.50) – which tasted exactly like a Dairy Queen soft serve ice cream cone.

Once we were done with the Night Market, we naturally headed over to the River Rock Casino. Ever since I played roulette for the first time in Vegas, I’ve been a bit obsessed with playing the game again. But the $10 minimum was too rich for our blood, so we stuck with the penny slots. I ended up with $10 extra in my pocket once the evening was over, so can’t complain about that. :)

photo 3On Sunday, my friend Nic and I attempted to go hiking. Our objective was St. Mark’s Summit, but once we got to the top of Cypress, we realized it was too foggy to even attempt it. So, a bit defeated, we headed back down the mountain and decided to head over to Squamish and do The Chief instead.

The view from the top was… foggy. And even though we were both craving a hard hike, it was the best we could have done with the weather the way it was. It was also kinda nice to do The Chief without the trail as crowded as it usually is. We then went to the pub for a post-hike burger and beer to celebrate Nic’s 30th birthday.

The next two weekends will be great because of the Celebration of Lights fireworks and the Pride Parade! Fingers crossed the weather gets nice enough for a couple more beach days before the summer is over.

How was your weekend?

Spending Recap: July 7-13, 2014

Monday 7th
$6.97 Booster Juice

Tuesday 8th
$41 dinner (for 2)

Wednesday 9th
$1.45 sparking water

Thursday 10th
$5.25 Subway
$0.75 postage

Friday 11th – Victoria, BC
$16.75 ferry
$9.80 dinner
$5.24 bubble tea

Saturday 12th – Victoria, BC
$6.25 gym
$16.21 brunch
$29 Victoria HarbourCats tickets (2)
$5.80 beer

Sunday 13th – Victoria, BC
$6.25 gym
$21.56 brunch
$16.75 ferry
$22 parking
$11.29 Thierry Cafe

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses- $212.52

TOTAL: - $222.32

The summer months come with a price tag, don’t they? I’ve been enjoying the outdoors so much that we haven’t been cooking our own food as often. This week we went out for dinner a lot: Tuesday we spent the evening at the beach and then went for Chinese. Thursday we again spent the evening at the beach and then picked up pizza for dinner. The weekend was spent back in Victoria where all my social activities involved food, and when I came home Sunday, I had dinner with BF and his family at Milestones – he paid, and I bought the dessert later on in the evening.

The bad news is, all of this has hurt my wallet. But the good news is that we have been fully enjoying the summer so far, and that we realize what we’re doing and are looking at ways of correcting it. I am going to make a conscious effort to cook more meals in, and have social activities revolve around free/frugal activities. It also helps that next week’s weather isn’t going to be as nice as it has been the past two weeks. :)

 

2014 Annual Goals: Q2 Review

We’re already half way through 2014, and I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but what a crazy year it’s been so far. Lots of ups and downs in both my personal and professional life, but I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m looking forward to a calmer, more stable second half to the year with a focus on health and relationships/friendships. But more on that later. :)

Anyway, onto my Q2 goals review:

Financial

  • Stay debt-free (aside from my mortgage). ON TRACK! This is pretty obvious, but my number one financial goal is to always stay debt-free. I’m on track to achieve this goal, with no major expenses on the horizon.
  • Increase my income by 10%. NEEDS WORK. Losing 6 work weeks in Q1 has definitely hurt this goal. But I technically have more earning potential at this new job, so I’ll have to keep plugging away at this and not let that setback bring me down.
  • Increase my net worth to $115,000. NEEDS WORK. This is an increase of approximately $22,000 from 2013. So far, I’m off pace (and I adjusted the worth of my car, putting me even farther behind) but I’m going to try to increase all of my automated savings to try and do as well as I can anyway.
  • Buy stocks. ON TRACK! I’ve been contributing $150-200/month into my Questrade TFSA account. I’m never going to be big into stocks, but it’s fun to learn and play around with it. So far, I’ve purchased two stocks and one ETF.
  • Save at least $750/month into my RRSP/TFSA. ON TRACK! I’m giving myself a pass here because I have been doing this, except for the 6 weeks in which I didn’t have a job – saving $600 into my RRSP, and $150 into TFSA.
  • Save at least $50 bi-weekly into a long-term travel fund. ON TRACK! Surprisingly, I’ve saved over $1,100 already this year. It’s all thanks to banking a whole freelance cheque, and any ING Direct referral bonuses I’ve been getting. Although this travel fund account will be constantly fluctuating, I do hope to create a $1,000 buffer so that I’m prepared for any last-minute trips. I can do this if I can stop going on trips and actually save that money instead. :)
  • Stay on budget every month. FAIL. I’ve already failed at this goal because of my job loss, but I’m still going to work hard at making achievable targets each month and being super conscious with my spending habits.
  • Sell at least one item every month. ON TRACK! Well, I’ve technically only sold one thing. But I’ve put items up on eBay every month, and I have given away a ton of stuff to goodwill, so that counts for something. At least for me, anyway. :)

Personal

  • Go on one big trip. ON TRACK! Well, originally I was going to Sweden this year for a work trip, and that was going to be where I based my vacation from. But since clearly that job didn’t work out, I’ve been focusing on smaller trips this year, with the goal to go somewhere in the fall – just not likely overseas. :) We’ve already been to Portland, Las Vegas, Oregon Coast, and are planning for Seattle next month. Ideas for the fall have included anything from New Orleans to New York to the Caribbean somewhere.
  • Run in four half marathons and set a PR. NEEDS WORK. Well, I’ve run in one half marathon already this year, but it was rough, and I’ve only been running consistently for the last month due to a foot injury that kept me out most of the year. But my training has been going really well, and I still have aspirations of running in at least two more half marathons this fall. My stretch goal is still to run one in 1:48, but realistically I just want to stay healthy for the rest of the year.
  • Read 20 books. NEEDS WORK. I’ve read 7 books so far this year, which means I’m 3 books behind schedule. I’m still hopeful I can reach this goal, because I have so many great books I want to read this year. This goal got derailed because I got a little obsessed with Netflix documentaries. :)
  • Spend less than $1,000 on clothing/shoes. ON TRACK! Well, surprisingly I’ve only spent about $250 this year on clothes, so I’m definitely under budget.
  • Make one new recipe every monthON TRACK! I’m still vegetarian, and it’s been fun to experiment with new recipes and ideas in the kitchen. Over the past few months, BF has slowly been reducing his meat intake to the point where he doesn’t really even eat red meat anymore. That has definitely helped us better meals together.
  • Tackle three household projects. NEEDS WORK. Well, I’ve still done none of these things. And while I was taking a million years to decide what to do, a new problem arose in my house – one side of the kitchen sink is leaking. So that’s my top priority at the moment, and then I’ll start looking into the bigger projects I wanted to get done this year.

Professional

  • Research project management programs. ON TRACK! I keep flip flopping between taking a project management program, and getting my Masters degree. I know where I want to get to professionally, but am unsure about which one will get me there with the best results. I think it’s the project management program, but I need to be 100% sure before I commit to anything because $$$.
  • Take a French language class. NEEDS WORK. If I do end up taking a management program, I might drop French language lessons. It was a good goal to have in the last industry I was in, but I’m not sure it’s needed in the direction that I’m headed. It’s still worth taking a look though, because a second language is always beneficial.
  • Get published 4 times. NEEDS WORK. I was published once this year, and am currently in negotiations to write for a few other companies.

Spending Recap: June 30-July 6, 2014

Monday 30th – Seaside, OR
$3.21 breakfast
$8.97 lunch
$3.30 salt watter taffy (gift)
$5 arcade
$19 dinner

Tuesday 1st
$3.21 breakfast
$16.05 Chipotle
$27.08 groceries

Wednesday 2nd
+ $500 freelance income
$5.25 Subway

Thursday 3rd
$10 lottery tickets
$22 dinner & drinks

Friday 4th
$15.87 Granville Island Tap Room

Saturday 5th
$51.32 gas
$20 field hockey tournament fee
$7.19 gelato

Sunday 6th
$4 breakfast sandwich
$2.19 Tim Hortons
$20.92 groceries

Freelance Income: + $500
Expenses- $244.56

TOTAL: + $255.44

This was a bit of a spendy week for me. Monday was spent in Seaside, Oregon with a couple of my friends. Tuesday was a travel day as we were on the road back to Vancouver. Friday evening BF and I went on a fun date night – a few beer samplers at the Granville Island Tap Room, followed by an evening at TheatreSports! :) This was my second time going to TheatreSports, and I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to go. Such a fun way to spend an evening.

Over the weekend, I played in a field hockey tournament out in Surrey. Saturday I had 2 games, and Sunday there were 4 scheduled. It was fun, but I need to work a bit on my fitness! :) Also, I haven’t played with men in a really long time, and I enjoyed it a lot. Their game is a lot quicker, which forced me to elevate my play as well. I spent Saturday afternoon with BF and his friends in Stanley Park. That was followed by dinner at Cactus Club right on the beach, and gelato for dessert. Overall, a really great weekend.

How much do you spend on groceries?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m fairly frugal when it comes to groceries. Since moving to Vancouver in 2008 my monthly grocery budget has ranged from $100 to $200 each month (maybe even upwards of $250 if I go to Costco). For me, this is a normal amount. I don’t eat a lot, and while I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to food, I don’t mind eating simple meals when at home.

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

But that being said, I received this comment on my June 2014 Goals Recap a couple of days ago on the blog:

groceriesNow, I do know that I likely spend less than most people on groceries each month. However, when it comes to people who are already frugal, as well as personal finance bloggers, I think I’m about average. I don’t know anybody that spends $500-700 as a single person on groceries each month, unless you are counting restaurants as well. But even then, that’s probably pretty high. Groceries and dining out combined, I probably spend around $225-250/month.

SoI went to Twitter and asked people what their average grocery budgets were each month:

groceries-twitter

Here are just a couple of small ways I save money on food:

  • Eat vegetarian. Even when I was eating meat, I ate vegetarian for most meals. By not centering my meal around meat, I significantly cut down my grocery expenses. Instead, I supplement with chickpeas (and hummus), tofu, lentils, quinoa, etc.
  • Shop at farm markets. I’m always shocked at how cheap it is to buy produce at farm markets and small Asian grocery stores. I buy a huge bag full of veggies and fruit for about $15 a couple times a week, and buy staple items like quinoa in bulk at Costco.
  • Eat simple meals. Not every meal needs to be Pinterest-worthy. :) I splurge on ingredients when I’m cooking a nice meal for BF or for friends, but everyday eating is pretty simple in my house. A typical meal for me would be some roasted (or steamed) veggies, Wasa bread (or Lavish crackers) with hummus, and grilled mushrooms on the BBQ.
  • Rarely buy junk food. If you come over, I won’t have ice cream, chips, cookies, or chocolate at my house. :) I do enjoy them, but can’t justify spending money on unhealthy foods on a regular basis. BF doesn’t have them at his house either, so the only time we might indulge is if we go out with friends or if we make a point to walk somewhere to pick up ice cream or macarons.

Related: Inside my grocery bag

It should be noted that I do spend time each week at BF’s house. Sometimes he buys groceries, and I buy dinner. Or vice versa. We loosely split costs 50/50, and I think my expenses all even out over the course of a month.

How much do you spend on groceries each week?
What’s your best tip for saving money on food?