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

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It’s time to go back to school

It was my birthday earlier this week, and have spent a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve done so far in life. When I was younger, I always thought I’d be married with kids, and have a beautiful house as well as a flourishing career by the time I was 30. Well, I don’t have any of these things, but life isn’t so bad. :)

I don’t have a house, but I do have a townhouse. Buying my own home was a goal I’ve had for many years, and paying for it myself makes it extra special. It took me 6 years to save for that down payment, but when I finally had those house keys in my hand… it was definitely worth it. As for owning a house? That’s a dream I’m going to have to let go for a long time if I want to stay in the Vancouver area. I’m not willing to live any further out in the suburbs than I already am, and in fact my next move (whenever that is) will likely be closer into the heart of Vancouver.

I’m thankful that I still look young enough to get ID’d buying lottery tickets and alcohol. And while my field hockey skills are definitely fading, every year (when I’m not injured), I’m able to run faster and longer distances. I’m also healthier than I’ve been in years, and have successfully transitioned to a vegetarian diet, which I’m happy about.

I’ve had some pretty great relationships even though I’m not married. Some ended poorly, yes, that’s true. But some ended well, and I got to explore the world, learn about myself, and figure out exactly what I want. Which leads me to today, where I’ve been dating a great guy and we just celebrated one year together. :)

As for my career, that’s a funny one. I used to think I was doing really well for myself. I was confident in my full-time job, and I was working hard at my side projects. But then, life happened. I started focusing on buildng stronger relationships with my friends and loved ones. And then all of a sudden, I didn’t have time to work 80 hours a week anymore. Or rather, I didn’t want to.

And now, I feel like my career has stalled a bit. Sure, I still believe I’m employable. I have well-rounded skills, and even in a tough job market, I’m always able to find work with good companies. But I’m not growing, and I’m beginning to realize that in order to be happy in my career, I need to continue to learn and develop my skills. I’m not satisfied where I am, and education will help me take the next step in my career.

One of my goals for 2014 was to start looking into management programs, and I think I’ve narrowed my choices down to two programs at two different universities. Both are part-time (one is completely online, and one is evenings and weekends), and both will give me a business management certificate.

To be honest, the major reason why I haven’t aggressively pursued further education until now is the cost. I’m not willing to take out student loans, and I’ve had so many other life goals I wanted to achieve before I put my money into myself. But now’s the time, and thankfully it looks like my employer is willing to entertain the idea of helping me with some of the cost.

I’ve signed up to attend information sessions for both of these programs, and have emailed briefly with the coordinators. There are significant differences to these programs – the major one being the length of time required. One is 6 courses, and the other is 14. I’m leaning towards the longer one, but can’t say for sure until I learn more about them at the info sessions.
My goal is to be taking classes as early as January (more realistically, the spring/summer), and by this time next year, I’ll be well on my way to bettering myself and my future.31 was a fun year, but I think 32 is going to be pretty great as well. :)

Building up my savings

Now that summer is over, I really want to focus on building up my non-retirement savings. Next year will likely be an expensive year for me, because I’d like to travel (already have a few places in mind), and I’d also like to put some money into my townhouse.

I haven’t created a budget yet because I don’t know where I want to go, and I don’t know exactly what I want to buy, but I do know I’ll need money for it. And since I’ve gotten into the habit of freely spending my money lately, I want to reign it in for the rest of the year.

The truth is, I don’t really need anything anyway. Whenever my family asks me what I want for my birthday or for Christmas this year, I can never come up with anything. Well, I want an iPhone 6, so I guess what I mean is I can never come up with anything realistic. :)

So here are my goals for the rest of the year:

  • No new clothes. I have enough to get me by. In fact, I should probably get rid of some of the stuff I don’t wear anymore!
  • No Starbucks. I’ve already been doing this one, and it will continue to the end of the year.
  • Pack my lunches more often. It’s about time management. I spend half my time at BF’s, and he’s not much of a lunch packer. So I need to figure this out for myself. Maybe it’s making an extra trip to the grocery store, or batch cooking and leaving a big tupperware of food in the fridge at work. Whatever it is, I need to figure it out.
  • No buying Kindle books. This is hard because I’m a fast reader, and I’m too impatient to wait for books to become available at the library. But I have a bunch of ebooks I haven’t read yet, and a few on my bookshelf as well. They should last me a few months at least.
  • Cook food at home. BF and I got into a habit during the summer of going to restaurants or grabbing take-out just so we could spend less time at home, and more time outside enjoying the summer. Now that the weather is coolling, I’m excited to roast vegetables, use my slow-cooker, and eat healthy meals at home.
  • Say no to things. If a friend suggests a restaurant that’s too expensive for me, or if there’s an activity I’m on the fence about, I’m going to say no and suggest something different.

Aside from these everyday ways to save money, I’m also thinking bigger. I’m going to try really hard to save 75% of my freelance income from now on, as well as all bonuses or raises I receive through work. Even though it’s going to be really tempting to upgrade my iPhone or get a new laptop, I know the money is better spent elsewhere. :)

Spending Recap: Sept. 29-Oct 5, 2014

Monday 29th
No Spend Day!

Tuesday 30th
+ $600 freelance income
$13.67 groceries

Wednesday 1st
$5.25 lunch

Thursday 2nd
$10.35 groceries

Friday 3rd
$12.50 lunch
$21.85 drinks

Saturday 4th
No Spend Day!

Sunday 5th
$20.53 Longtail Kitchen
$6 parking

Freelance Income: + $600
Expenses: - $90.15

TOTAL: + $509.85

After such a spendy holiday away, I was able to keep expenses relatively low this week. I filled up my tank with a gas card left over from September’s Hyundai loaner card, and ate low key meals at home during the work week. Although I did indulge in two lunches out – including Le Tigre Food Truck on Friday. :)

Friday night, BF and I went for a date night on Granville Island to watch an improv comedy show starring Colin Mochrie. It was awesome! We both loved it, although I couldn’t help but wish Ryan Stiles had also been there.

Both Saturday and Sunday I had field hockey games, which was nice to get back into after having missed the last two weekends. BF’s parents treated us to dinner on Saturday evening, and then I met up with my pal Cait on Sunday evening for a stroll around New Westminster and dinner at Longtail Kitchen. So yum.

How was your week of spending?

October 2014 Goals

It’s October already, and it’s my favourite month of the year. :) Usually I would go home for the Thanksgiving long weekend, but this time I’m staying in Vancouver. It’ll be nice to actually spend a long weekend in the city, and because the weekend after that, we are headed to Whistler!

October is going to be a month of regrouping after a spendy summer, and a trip to Hawaii. There are a lot of things I want to do next year, so I’m going to have to start saving diligently. :)

10-October-Budget

October 2014 Goals:

  • Sign up for education info sessions. I’m interested in learning more about some diploma/certificate programs through BCIT, SFU, and UBC. So I want to see if they have any info sessions coming up.
  • Rebalance my Retirement Portfolio. It’s that time of year!
  • Pull my credit report. Every year around my birthday, I pull my credit report. Since you’re allowed to do it once each year for free, I make sure to do it around my birthday so I never forget. :)
  • Declutter my house. I’ve been neglecting a thorough cleaning of my place, because I’m home so sporadically! But I’d like to have some of my friends over soon, so this is going to have to get done.

Spending Recap: September 22-28, 2014

Monday 22nd – Kauai, Hawaii
$119.90 luau
$14.18 groceries
$13.54 alcohol

Tuesday 23rd – Kauai, Hawaii
$5.23 coffee
$21.78 lunch
$11 dinner

Wednesday 24th – Kauai, Hawaii
$19.08 groceries
$5.79 snacks

Thursday 25th – Kauai, Hawaii
$18.42 lunch
$13.12 dinner

Friday 26th – Kauai, Hawaii
$186 snorkel sailing cruise (6 hours)
$9 dinner
$5 snacks

Saturday 27th – Kauai, Hawaii
$6.35 breakfast
$24.78 lunch
$11 dinner
$30 gas

Sunday 28th
$840.12 Grand Hyatt Kauai (7 nights)
$15 taxi ride

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses: - $1,369.29

TOTAL: - $1,369.29

I won’t say too much about this week’s spending, since I’ll be doing a Hawaii trip recap post this week sometime. :) But what I’m really proud of is that we came in under budget (sort of). Hawaii was definitely expensive, but we were able to do everything we wanted to do. I’m definitely happy, and we had such a great time. But more on that later!