Our Financial Path.

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Open Book – How Much Are You Spending?

This is part of our Open Book series, you can start here if you did not read our first post.

 

With today’s online tools like Mint or Personal Capital, it is super simple to track a budget and hopefully, to follow it. We have been tracking our finances for a few years now and our most recent focus is our savings rate. By cutting out and not spending on stuff that does not bring us happiness, we are able to live off half our salaries while living a lavish life (to our standards). We aim to retire very early and we gear our lifestyle towards this goal to be able to save enough to sustain our us in the future.

So many people are simply living their life according to marketing or are influenced by peers but you need to think about the core reasoning behind a purchase; Will this make you happy. 🙂

The principal wealth killers in America are houses and cars. Most people over-spend on their home, buying too much house, thinking it is an investment. With a clear budget, you can see if you can actually afford your home. Preferably, you should not spend more than 25% of your salary on your housing costs.

Buying a brand new car every few years will also greatly limit your savings abilities. With the average new car price at a whopping $33,560 (according to data from auto researcher Kelley Blue Book), no wonder it can put a strain on your budget! Putting this is perspective, a $33,560 car could be resold after 5 years for an estimated $12,488 (according to Edmonds) giving you an actual cost of ownership of $21,072 every 5 years or $4,214 per year to get a brand new car every half a decade. If you were to buy a 5-year-old instead and sell it in its 10th year for half the price you would effectively only spend $1,248 per year (assuming a $12,488 purchase and $6,244 resell). By driving a 5-years-old car, you are effectively losing 4 times less to depreciation!

Most people fall for the brand-new car trap, even money bloggers,  but if you restrict yourself to a cash diet it suddenly becomes much harder to fall for. Try to pay for cars out-of-pocket and skip the financing. You should also skip the first few years and buy used cars unless cars are your true passion and a new car will truly make you happier.

This is roughly what we did to both for our housing and transportation needs to minimize our expenses and increase our savings. We spent a total of $23,411 on our house in the past 12 months (including mortgage, renovations, and maintenance) and still own two cars from 2007. If you are not already tracking your income and expenses, you can start for free with Personal Capital or Mint and really know where it is all going. Since we have been tracking our spending for a while now, we are openly sharing it with you today 🙂

 

What our spending looks like this past 12 months (in Canadian $)

How to build and follow a great budget

Home $23,411
Travel $9,582
Food & Dining $8,681
Auto & Transport $6,167
Shopping $3,313
Bills & Utilities $3,269
Health & Fitness $3,217
Taxes $2,595
Uncategorized $1,096
Fees & Charges $611
Education $669
Entertainment $649
Personal Care $641
Pets $463
Gifts & Donations $374
Business Services $237
Misc Expenses $174
Total $65,157

 

Going over these one-by-one will give you a great idea of how we plan our spending and live our life. To begin with, our total house spending should include the $23,411 (mortgage, renovations, and maintenance) and the taxes of $2,595 since those are our annual property taxes. This brings our total housing costs to $26,006 and we started renting out our spare bedrooms on Airbnb last month so we are now generating a slight income from our property.

Our second largest expense, and the one we enjoy the most, is travel. We do spend a considerable portion of our income on travelling the world but it is our passion and obsession. There is no reason to save every single penny you earn to retire early if it makes the journey miserable. Becoming financially independent takes time and you need to enjoy the journey as much as you will enjoy your final destination. Money is just like a river, it flows and you cannot keep it stalls, otherwise, it stinks! Out of this $9,582, we got refunded roughly four thousand dollars for business travels. Whenever we need to assist a conference, we stay a week or two extra at our own cost, but the flights are still covered. We are also drastically cutting down on flight expenses for our next trips with the help of generous credit card rewards. The next 12-months should be much better on that front.

In our Food and Dining category, we roughly spent seven thousand dollars on groceries and the rest on restaurants. We home-cook most of our meals and recently starting cutting down on meats to lower our total grocery bill around the $400/month. If these numbers seem high to you, note that we live in Canada and food costs are considerably higher than in the United States. Using a grocery list sample, food is roughly 29% more expensive in Canada so our current spending is comparable to a $425/month American grocery.

To continue, our Auto and Transport category includes the maintenance, gas, and repairs of our two cars and the subway tickets we sometimes purchase to skip traffic. We roughly spend two thousand dollars per car and we do not have any payments or interest on them since we paid for them in cash. We also minimize depreciation by keeping our old cars. Both models are 2007 and still run perfectly so we really do not feel the need to change them.

Our shopping spending is pretty high, however, this includes all store purchases we did as gifts. We also get some work clothes purchases reimbursed so we got back about half of this amount.

On the bill side, we include our two cell phones, home internet, and electricity. Our heating is all electric and we do not pay for water or cable TV.

In the Health and Fitness category, we have spent about two thousand dollars on ski lift tickets since we both really enjoy the outdoors and the rest was spent by Mrs. at yoga studios.

 

Meditate, relax, and pay your taxes.

 

Furthermore, the Uncategorized and Misc spending are mostly ATM withdrawals for small purchases like coffee and the few shops that do not accept credit cards. Our Fees and Charges are mostly credit card annual fees that get charged but returned the next month since we take advantages of promotions to get free premium cards. We also used our line of credits (we each have separate ones) for short-term cash-flow management but we mostly stay debt-free (other than the mortgage).

The spending on Education is more of an investment than anything else and our Entertainment expenses are mostly Netflix and video games.

In the Personal Care and Pets categories, we cannot really cut anything. We do not go to $100+ hairdressers or visit the nail salon every week, these expenses are for our basic personal care and pet food.

For the Gifts and Donations category only includes the cash or transfers directly sent, not the items we purchased (these would be under shopping). Finally, the Business Services section includes all the expenses for this blog and my other projects.

 

After all of this, our biggest category is still Savings! It is not included in our spending but we do save the majority of our income and invest mostly in index funds for our future selves. 🙂

The government is smart, they deduct our income taxes right out of every paycheck instead of waiting until the end of the year. That way, they benefit from having our money now, rather than later. You should do the exact same with your savings! We deduct a set amount, every paycheck, and automatically invest it to maximize our returns over the long-run.

We hope you enjoyed and please comment away.

 

Mrs. and Mr. Xyz.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Optimizing our spending has been an ongoing process. Cars really are a big one, I was surprised recently to see that average new cars are now 30K. We got ours for 5k each and haven’t had to do much any maintenance to speak of.

    We also love the travel, and it has been one of our highest expenses as well. But we have been bringing down that cost with travel hacking. Our next vacation will be booked using only rewards. When I was working, we also piggy backed a few vacations onto my business travel. It was a great way to leverage free flights if you’re going somewhere cool 🙂

  2. I love to see all the breakdowns! That food budget looks nice and plump…most are so small I wonder how they can survive – mine included… But its good to see you’re enjoying yourselves while aiming in the right direction. Great job, guys!! 🙂

    • Xyz

      December 6, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      I keep seeing those 30$/week grocery list but I simply cannot see myself eat rice and beans all year long! The key to stay on the long-long-journey towards financial independence is definitely enjoying your time while you get there!

  3. I think the best decision we made was to sell our brand new truck and buy a vehicle that was a lot less money and 4 years older. That choice alone has saved me over $12000 over the last three years , so happy I clued in. Our house we will downsize in three years as our kids will be out of high school and our mortgage comes up for renewal. Constant optimization is the name of the game

    • Xyz

      December 6, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Totally, we constently tweak and cut things out of our budget. The key is to be flexible and discovering a lifestyle that optimizes cost vs. happiness.

  4. ‘The principal wealth killers in America are houses and cars’.

    Agreed. Once I figured out how much having 2 cars was costing us, we got rid of the second one. We haven’t really missed it, because the second one just sat gathering dust for most of the week anyway.

    It has meant a few early morning dropoffs and late night pickups from my partner because we’re sharing a single car now, but the amount of time spent doing this each week is nothing compared to how much time we were spending at work to pay for the second car.

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