Author Topic: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?  (Read 8429 times)

Cecil

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I've always thought I was doing pretty well financially, but now I'm not so sure. Reading about 50-60-70% savings rates and the kind of expenses you all have is making me a bit worried (and envious!). I'd love to hear any advice you have on how we can improve our situation.

Wife and I are 28, no kids but planning to have a couple in the next 5 years. I'm an engineer making ~$70k, she's a teacher making $50k. We live in Vancouver, Canada and pay dearly for it. :)

The Stache.
My TFSA (tax-free, after-tax savings) - $33k
Her TFSA - $27k
My RRSP (tax-deferred, like a 401k) - $78k
Her defined benefit pension - currently at $122/month when she retires which I valued at ~$22k
Condo - $240k with a $165k mortgage, for $75k of equity.
Savings - $5k

Total NW - $240k

Our investments are 90% stocks 10% bonds. Mostly in variety of index funds and some in a few stocks I like (GOOG, TSLA, WJA).

Income
I make $4500/month after tax, she makes $2700 for a total of $7k/month.

4% of my paycheque ($200) goes directly into an employer-matched RRSP. It's got an equity fund I'm paying 1% MER on.

Monthly Expenses
I've kept track of everything we spent since we started living together in 2006. Expenses averaged over the last year or so:

$930 Mortgage (@ 2.2%, I'm pretty happy with that. Something like $300 interest every month).
$170 Condo fee. Can't get away from that.
$550 Groceries. This is pretty much all fresh fruit, veggies, dairy, meat on sale, rice, and pasta. Food is expensive here.
$250 Eating out. We usually go out 1-2x/week, almost always with friends. I think we can get this down to $150-200 but it's hard without becoming asocial.
$200 Alcohol. That's on top of groceries and eating out. Booze is really pricey here with all the tax - cheapo beer is $10/6pack and wine is $10/bottle.
$200 Clothing. I didn't actually realize we were spending this much until I looked at the numbers. This needs to come down. My wife likes shoes. A lot.
$350 Household and general purchases. Includes electronics, camera gear, furniture, random household things like cleaning supplies and shelving. She just bought a new $1000 camera lens and I got a tablet. I think this is another candidate for trimming.
$200 Entertainment. Movies, ski trips, netflix, games, adult purchases, club memberships.
$200 Gas. She drives to work. We have a paid-for 2006 Suzuki with 75k km.
$80 Transit. I take the bus.
$150 Insurance - car + condo.
$150 Phones. On contract with Rogers, this is the cheapest data plan we can get.
$90 Home internet. Crazy, I know, but that's what rates are like here.
$100 Gifts + donations. People have birthdays. :)
$50 Electricity. This includes heat because we use all-electric heating.
$500 Travel. We spend about $6k/yr on a few long weekends here or there, skiing, and usually a week in an all-inclusive on the beach somewhere.

Total: $4200/month.

Goal
I want to retire as early as possible. I've always thought 40 would be nice but that's looking less and less likely. I think I'd be ecstatic with 50 at this point. Depressing.

Plan
In the next 6 months we're also planning to move into a bigger place (~1800sqft 4 bedroom townhouse) where we can stay for 10-15 years and have kids. This will add about 800/month between mortgage and strata fees. That'll bring our expenses to $5k/month, leaving only $2k for saving.

I think we can cut about $500 from alcohol, clothing, and general purchases. The rest seems pretty inflexible to me.

Still, that leaves us around $4.5k/month in expenses and only $2.5k into savings, and kids will rapidly consume a lot of that I wager.

What else can we do? Any advice from the more seasoned of you out there?
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 01:17:45 AM by Cecil »

Gerard

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 05:44:21 AM »
You're spending about $1800 a month on fun (eating out, alcohol, travel, gifts, entertainment, clothing, toys/electronics, etc.). If you want ER badly enough that you're depressed about your current state of affairs, you should be able to get that down to, oh, $200 or so. Rather than becoming asocial, you might want to adjust your definition (or practice) of sociability. More eating in, having friends over, doing low-cost fun things together. Maybe some of your friends would enjoy making beer or wine with you? Maybe you'd enjoy a less consumerist vacation?

Also I'm not sure why you're looking at moving into a 4-bedroom place in such an expensive city. One bedroom for the two of you, one each for the kids equals 3 bedrooms.

You are doing a pretty good job of saving money for people with a party lifestyle in an expensive city, though.

Matt K

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 06:53:35 AM »
Some ideas:

There are cheaper data plans. Koodo has a BC plan for $60 with 1gb of data (or $45 for 500mb, or $30 for 100mb). I get by just fine with 150mb of data. I do so by only watching videos and the like over wifi (which is pretty much everywhere). I only use my data for checking e-mail, facebook, and tumblr. A normal month for me is 80mb.
Even if you switched to the 1gb plan you'd save $360 a year.

Home internet- what speed are you using? I recently moved down from 18mb/s to 6mb/s. With only two people on the net at the same time, it really didn't change much for us. Downloading steam games takes longer (I usually download a new 10gb game over night). But I can surf or game while my wife watches Netflix (on the top quality setting) with no problems. We are with an independent ISP (TekSavvy in Ontario). I don't know what indie ISPs are out in BC, but it is worth looking into. We pay $30/month for our service.

Booze - the wonderful thing about booze is that it costs exactly how much you consume. If you cut back your consumption to half, you save $100. $200/month is five two-fours of national brand beer (I'm not sure how much awesome bc microbrews cost). 120 beers a month, or 4 beers per day. Stated like that, it sounds like there is a lot of room to save in your booze budget. I'm not implying you're alcoholic (I'm guessing you buy more expensive stuff and share it with friends), but still, if you simply limit booze to 'special occaisions or with friends' you'll save a bundle.

Camera gear - I love my camera gear. I get how you can spend $1000 on a lens. but I can't afford that. So I follow kijiji religiously. I recently picked up a $700 lens for $360. It was BNIB. Stay out of the stores and buy your toys used.

N.

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 07:53:28 AM »
Americans - your cell prices make us weep. Close your eyes for a second. Us Canucks need to talk cell plans and we wouldn't want you falling off your chair.

:p

Your cell plans are high. We're with Telus and pay $60 each. On a family plan, you'll be able to talk to your wife anywhere in Canada any time of the day or night. Local calling is free after 5pm and all weekend long. We're allowed 10 'favourites' which means programming 10 family and friends to speak with anytime of the day or night, Canada-wide. This also gives us unlimited texting, 1000 Canada-wide long distance minutes each month and 5gb (not a typo) of data every month. The teens can watch Netflix on their phone without even coming close to bumping their limit.

The next plan down was $10 less with no favourites, no long distance, and 1gb of data. With teens, family spread far and wide, and tons of North American travel, it was a no brainer to 'bump up' and dump the landline.

/end non-American cell-speak.

Matt is getting a better internet price, but with no television in the house, we "splurge" on an pricey $70 plan giving us 30mb/s and 175gb of data every month. It's pricier because we don't bundle home phone or cable - normally you could get it for $50 a month if you have other services. We could cut here if we had to (and we certainly will once the teens are on their own), but right now it's awesome.

I'm with Gerard on your entertainment and household spending. I suspect much of that will drop once you have kidlets, since you won't have the time or energy to be hitting the town (or the slopes, or the beach) the way you do now. But currently? Wowee.

Although, given I just confessed to $70 of internet costs, I'm just going to go slink back to my corner now.

KMMK

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 07:56:07 AM »
It all depends on how much you want to early retire. I'm in Winnipeg, so some of our basic costs like food, housing, insurance are similar. But your optional stuff is out of control. And compared to what some people on here spend, my husband and I spend a lot. We have a pretty cushy lifestyle. We don't feel denied in any way. I've give you some of our numbers from 2012 for comparison:


$250 Eating out. Ours: $100 - this includes coffees as well, though my husband might spend another $30 cash on coffee I don't know about. We don't socialize though, which helps.

$200 Alcohol. Ours - $60-70

$200 Clothing. Ours - $65/month - averaged over 4 years, as clothes purchases are variable. Helps that we don't like shopping.
$350 Household and general purchases. Ours - $70
$200 Entertainment. Ours - $235 - lots of computer type stuff - we do like technology
$500 Travel. Ours - $70 - we don't go on a big trip every year

Last year we spent a total of $3400/month. Lots of people spend less. It's a comfortable number for us, as our income is similar to yours. You do have a good savings rate and a good networth, especially for your age. You are doing better than us there, as we weren't (me especially) making as much money at that age. So either way, retiring early shouldn't be a big deal. It's all about how early and how much you want to spend along the way.

Togoshiman

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 08:28:12 AM »
Make your own wine and beer once a year, drink the same amount, spend half or less than you do now.  Even better, drink half as much and spend less than that.  Plus it's nice to always have a bottle for emergency gift giving.  Get some of those friends in the loop and start having a dinner party or pot luck occasionally and that restaurant/bar bill will come down too.

Longer-term, consider some lifestyle changes slowly, even if that impacts certain friendships.  Start biking and hiking and inviting a couple of those same friends along.  Some will, some won't, but you'll all adapt over time.  And a beer afterwards will taste a lot better.

Anyway, just some thoughts, no judgment.

Cecil

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 08:51:18 AM »
Wow, thanks for all the awesome advice everyone, and so quickly too!

I've just gone ahead this morning and reduced our internet plan from 100Mbps to 25, which saves $25/month. We didn't really use all that speed anyway.

I'm embarrassed to admit the $200/month on booze also includes a homemade batch of wine twice a year. We drink a lot, but we also have a lot of half-opened bottles in the liquor cabinet.

My wife's the photog and trying to jumpstart a side business in it, so she needs the gear. Good advice Matt on trying to find BNIB gear used.

We are still under contract with Rogers so we can't break the cell plan for a year and a half. We have the cheapest couples plan. Unlimited talk/text/2GB data for $140 + tax. Nathalie, I'll definitely look into Telus's plans and see if we can break our contract. That's a great plan for $60 each.

Kestra, that you think my optional stuff is out of control is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

I'm going to sit down with my wife this weekend and have a serious chat about reining in the spending. Maybe I can get her on board with a 1-2 month trial period. She considers herself frugal, which isn't untrue, but we've been making our current salaries for a few years and have gotten used to not worrying about money. I think part of the problem is that I handle all the finances and she's completely out of the loop. She doesn't even know where our investments live.

It's funny, I don't *feel* like we spend a lot, and we certainly spend less than many of our friends. I think I just need a readjustment of what's "normal". I think I'll hang out here more. :)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 08:53:54 AM by Cecil »

Matt K

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 09:26:29 AM »
I'm embarrassed to admit the $200/month on booze also includes a homemade batch of wine twice a year. We drink a lot, but we also have a lot of half-opened bottles in the liquor cabinet.

Is it possible to homebrew wine into sealed bag (ala what you get in a boxed wine)? My wife and I mostly drink boxed wine because we can easily have just one glass at a time. Unfortunately our preferred type of wine (pinot-noir) doesn't come in a box, we make do. I'm curious, can you home-brew wine into something even more affordable than bottles?

Spork

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 09:40:32 AM »
I'm embarrassed to admit the $200/month on booze also includes a homemade batch of wine twice a year. We drink a lot, but we also have a lot of half-opened bottles in the liquor cabinet.

Is it possible to homebrew wine into sealed bag (ala what you get in a boxed wine)? My wife and I mostly drink boxed wine because we can easily have just one glass at a time. Unfortunately our preferred type of wine (pinot-noir) doesn't come in a box, we make do. I'm curious, can you home-brew wine into something even more affordable than bottles?

My experience is that if you tell your friends to save their bottles, then bottles are free.  If you really want only one glass at a time and you're going to let it sit a long, long time between pours -- maybe a Vacuvin would be worth buying.

SunshineGirl

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 09:44:27 AM »
A tactic that might help is to have a certain percentage of your income directly and automatically moved to savings, so it's not even there to spend. You just live on what's left, and the saving will build.

icefr

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 11:07:35 AM »
We are still under contract with Rogers so we can't break the cell plan for a year and a half. We have the cheapest couples plan. Unlimited talk/text/2GB data for $140 + tax. Nathalie, I'll definitely look into Telus's plans and see if we can break our contract. That's a great plan for $60 each.

You can always break a contract - it will just cost you money. For example, you could buy two SIM cards from Wind for $25/each [1] and bring your Rogers (also GSM) phones, then sign up for their $30/month plan [2] on each phone, which gives you unlimited province-wide calling, unlimited Wind-to-Wind calling (including each other), unlimited text and data, and caller ID. Having two phones on the same account saves you $5/month, so it would only cost you $55/month versus the $140/month you're paying right now.

Upfront cost: $50 + Rogers ETF fees
Monthly savings: $85

Let's say it will cost you $200 to get out of Rogers. We now need to solve $140x >= $250 + $55x for x. That gives us x >= 3, which means that in only THREE MONTHS, you would be saving money from switching away from your contract. That requires no new phones and no changing of behaviour.

[1] http://shop.windmobile.ca/ProductCatalog/Handsets/HandsetDetails.aspx?id=RegularSIM(WINDCA)&color=green
[2] http://www2.windmobile.ca/en/Pages/voice-plans.aspx

On buying a new house - have you considered staying put until you have your first kid? Tiny babies don't require a lot of room and a two bedroom condo is probably more than sufficient for a couple plus a small baby.

icefr

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 11:12:14 AM »
I've just gone ahead this morning and reduced our internet plan from 100Mbps to 25, which saves $25/month. We didn't really use all that speed anyway.

Looking at the Shaw website, you can get 10 Mbps for $50/month. I just lowered my speed (I live in the States) from 6 Mbps to 3 Mbps and haven't really noticed the difference. It bumped my cost from $50/month to $30/month. Totally worth it to me.

momo

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2013, 11:18:30 AM »
I hear what your saying Cecil. It's great you feel there is room for improvement and I hope we can all share some useful ideas. Here are a few in no particular order:

1) Consider making modifications to how you DEFINE fun (entertainment, alcohol, travel sections are $900) those are very high expenses a large chunk of income. It is not easy to make LIFESTYLE changes and in my own experience one area that is challenging because it requires considerable self-awareness and introspection on personal values, priorities and goals.

Have you two spoken about what are your big goals and what you are willing to sacrifice to make them come true sooner than later? Also, are you two physically active? What type of shared healthy activities do you enjoy in daytime and at night? What are some of your hobbies? Do you like to cook together for fun? Do you entertain at home with loved ones by cooking together, movies, poker, board games, Wii, cooking deserts, bringing cheese, and wines to share? These are just a few alternative fun activities that are affordable ways of entertaining.

2) Gifts. Can you reduce the types (no toys) and who receives them (only children, no adults) and frequency (birthday but not Christmas)?

3) Technology. Are these expensive items essential for work? Eg camera lens, tablet, etc? If not can any of these be returned for a full refund? If so, perhaps it might be something worth looking into. My gf bought a Samsung tablet during the holidays and she really liked it. But after 20+ days she admitted it just was not worth the expense and returned it. If you cannot return for a full refund, perhaps, going forward both of you can plan and work towards greater spending balance on non-essentials. And for the camera expenses, does she sell any of her work? No harm in trying.

4) Internet. What type of phones do you both have? Have you tried using google voice? http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html Worth looking into and if available to you might help reduce your phone bill.

What types of phone data plans do you have? Does it allow tethering and setting up your smartphone(s) as a hotspot? If so, that might be more affordable than having a separate internet bill for home AND having a separate data bill for your two phones. This is something definitely worth looking into if you can reduce your overall internet use and doing so can save your more time and money too.

5) Household/general purchases. Do you plan ahead (no random shopping just to get milk or eggs) and shop at a discount bulk store? Walmart, Sams, Costco, or other big box type store? If so, many of the staple household items (toilet paper, cleaners, light bulbs, batteries, pasta, sauces, meats, eggs, fruits, veggies, dried goods, processed food, etc) can be purchased in bulk and/or frozen for future use.

6) Do you have unused stuff, tech, clothing, just things? Items you just do not need after say a full year? If not perhaps it is worth pulling out and selling those items and that will help add a boost to your savings fund?

I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes and good luck! Cheers!
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 11:23:08 AM by Stashtastic Momo »

Dee18

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2013, 11:34:02 AM »
Maximize your savings now, before you have children.  Then you will either have childcare costs or loss of income for a parent to stay home.  Of course, you probably won't eat out much then.

Cecil

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2013, 11:53:57 AM »
I hear what your saying Cecil. It's great you feel there is room for improvement and I hope we can all share some useful ideas. Here are a few in no particular order:

1) Consider making modifications to how you DEFINE fun (entertainment, alcohol, travel sections are $900) those are very high expenses a large chunk of income. It is not easy to make LIFESTYLE changes and in my own experience one area that is challenging because it requires considerable self-awareness and introspection on personal values, priorities and goals.

Have you two spoken about what are your big goals and what you are willing to sacrifice to make them come true sooner than later? Also, are you two physically active? What type of shared healthy activities do you enjoy in daytime and at night? What are some of your hobbies? Do you like to cook together for fun? Do you entertain at home with loved ones by cooking together, movies, poker, board games, Wii, cooking deserts, bringing cheese, and wines to share? These are just a few alternative fun activities that are affordable ways of entertaining.


I think this is a conversation we need to have this weekend.

We're quite physically active. She has a gym membership at $18/month, and I swim regularly. My pool fees are generally covered by Christmas gifts from family. :) We like to hike in the summer and ski in the winter.

Other hobbies are board games (trying to avoid buying any more @ $60 each), watching a few TV shows together (netflix is cheap), photography, video games, movies, hanging out with friends. We generally cook all our meals at home and take leftovers for lunch the next day or two.

Quote
2) Gifts. Can you reduce the types (no toys) and who receives them (only children, no adults) and frequency (birthday but not Christmas)?

We've already gone down from about $200 to $100 over the last year. There aren't any children in our lives so gifts are generally just birthdays and Christmas. I'm not super concerned about this because giving to friends is important to us and they reciprocate for us.


Quote
3) Technology. Are these expensive items essential for work? Eg camera lens, tablet, etc? If not can any of these be returned for a full refund? If so, perhaps it might be something worth looking into. My gf bought a Samsung tablet during the holidays and she really liked it. But after 20+ days she admitted it just was not worth the expense and returned it. If you cannot return for a full refund, perhaps, going forward both of you can plan and work towards greater spending balance on non-essentials. And for the camera expenses, does she sell any of her work? No harm in trying.

Hmm... Her camera gear is definitely essential, she's trying to get into professional photography. My tablet is more of a toy, but gets used extensively.

Quote
4) Internet. What type of phones do you both have? Have you tried using google voice? http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html Worth looking into and if available to you might help reduce your phone bill.

Looking into this now. The last time I checked Google Voice wasn't available in Canada. Seems like that may have changed recently.

Quote
What types of phone data plans do you have? Does it allow tethering and setting up your smartphone(s) as a hotspot? If so, that might be more affordable than having a separate internet bill for home AND having a separate data bill for your two phones. This is something definitely worth looking into if you can reduce your overall internet use and doing so can save your more time and money too.

Yes, I can tether my tablet/desktop to my smartphone, but we only have 2GB of data. I regularly burn through 100-200GB/month at home.

Quote
5) Household/general purchases. Do you plan ahead (no random shopping just to get milk or eggs) and shop at a discount bulk store? Walmart, Sams, Costco, or other big box type store? If so, many of the staple household items (toilet paper, cleaners, light bulbs, batteries, pasta, sauces, meats, eggs, fruits, veggies, dried goods, processed food, etc) can be purchased in bulk and/or frozen for future use.

We don't have a Costco membership anymore because we worked out that it wasn't saving us any money. We generally buy once a week and are pretty good at price comparing groceries. We like to eat really healthy though - no frozen dinners or chips/cookies/pop/etc. Beef and chicken at $3/lb is the cheapest you can get here.

Quote
6) Do you have unused stuff, tech, clothing, just things? Items you just do not need after say a full year? If not perhaps it is worth pulling out and selling those items and that will help add a boost to your savings fund?

I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes and good luck! Cheers!

Tech, no. I just sold my old netbook for $150 on craigslist after realizing I've pretty much replaced it with my tablet. Clothing, maybe. Is there much of a market for used clothes?

Thanks for all the advice! :)

Cecil

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2013, 11:54:52 AM »
I'm embarrassed to admit the $200/month on booze also includes a homemade batch of wine twice a year. We drink a lot, but we also have a lot of half-opened bottles in the liquor cabinet.

Is it possible to homebrew wine into sealed bag (ala what you get in a boxed wine)? My wife and I mostly drink boxed wine because we can easily have just one glass at a time. Unfortunately our preferred type of wine (pinot-noir) doesn't come in a box, we make do. I'm curious, can you home-brew wine into something even more affordable than bottles?

We reuse all our bottles, so the only expense is the wine itself + corks/cap/labels. Comes out to about $2.50/bottle total.

Matt K

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2013, 12:53:09 PM »
We reuse all our bottles, so the only expense is the wine itself + corks/cap/labels. Comes out to about $2.50/bottle total.

Sorry, my questions was of the selfish/curious variety; I'm curious about homebrewed boxed wine as an option for us.

My issue isn't the cost of the bottle, but the fact you need to drink an entire bottle in a short period of time.

Once every week or two my wife or I will want to drink a single glass of wine, and then the wine box doesn't get touched for another week or two. We don't want to open a bottle for a single glass and then have the rest sit and go bad before it can be drunk (even with a vacum sealer, two weeks seems to be too long). So even if we homebrewed our own wine, bottles would be wasteful for us (okay, maybe we could bottle dozens of half sized bottles, but then we are wasting space if not money). So, thinking purely of my own situation, I'm curious if there is a way to enjoy the cost benefits (and hopefully the ability to select a non-mainstream vareity) of homebrewing while still enjoying the low-waste and ease of having the odd glass every now and then from a box.

Spork

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2013, 01:50:37 PM »
We reuse all our bottles, so the only expense is the wine itself + corks/cap/labels. Comes out to about $2.50/bottle total.

Sorry, my questions was of the selfish/curious variety; I'm curious about homebrewed boxed wine as an option for us.

My issue isn't the cost of the bottle, but the fact you need to drink an entire bottle in a short period of time.

Once every week or two my wife or I will want to drink a single glass of wine, and then the wine box doesn't get touched for another week or two. We don't want to open a bottle for a single glass and then have the rest sit and go bad before it can be drunk (even with a vacum sealer, two weeks seems to be too long). So even if we homebrewed our own wine, bottles would be wasteful for us (okay, maybe we could bottle dozens of half sized bottles, but then we are wasting space if not money). So, thinking purely of my own situation, I'm curious if there is a way to enjoy the cost benefits (and hopefully the ability to select a non-mainstream vareity) of homebrewing while still enjoying the low-waste and ease of having the odd glass every now and then from a box.

LOL.  I've never had a bottle of wine open for more than 2 weeks.

But... if that's a problem and you're bottling your own... could you just use a smaller bottle?  My neighbor bottles hers in a bottle that probably holds 2 glasses.

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2013, 02:08:44 PM »
I live in Vancouver. In your message you call things out as being expensive because itís Vancouver, but to me it seems that what you are choosing to spend most of your money on isnít really related to living here.  My annual salary is 5k more than yours and I save 65-70% of my net income. Youíve kept your housing costs low and you both make good salaries for this area so together youíre in an excellent position to get ahead quickly if itís something you really want.

For comparison, my rent is $900, I spend $120 per month on groceries (and eat well), my internet is $45 (through Telus), and I have a pay-as-you-go cell through 711 that I top up once a year for $100 (no data obviously, but I donít need it). Insurance (car + tenant) and transit are the same; my gas is less because I take transit almost everywhere (I fill up every two months or so). In my mind at least, these are location-dependent itemsóthings you can fairly point at Vancouver foróand there is some room for improvement such as food, internet, and phone.
 
But...the other things that you are choosing to spend your money on like clothing, entertainment, household, travel, and eating out arenít location-specific. Iím guessing you might spend the same amount on these no matter where you lived. Like others have stated, I think these are the areas where you can make the biggest changes and improvements if you desire. These are certainly the areas where your budget and my budget start to deviate significantly though we live in the same city.

JFC

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2013, 02:15:19 PM »
I forgot to mention that for groceries I recommend you try Famous Foods on Kingsway. You can buy staples such as rice, legumes, grains, etc. at very reasonable prices.

Cecil

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2013, 02:16:37 PM »
I live in Vancouver. In your message you call things out as being expensive because itís Vancouver, but to me it seems that what you are choosing to spend most of your money on isnít really related to living here.  My annual salary is 5k more than yours and I save 65-70% of my net income. Youíve kept your housing costs low and you both make good salaries for this area so together youíre in an excellent position to get ahead quickly if itís something you really want.

For comparison, my rent is $900, I spend $120 per month on groceries (and eat well), my internet is $45 (through Telus), and I have a pay-as-you-go cell through 711 that I top up once a year for $100 (no data obviously, but I donít need it). Insurance (car + tenant) and transit are the same; my gas is less because I take transit almost everywhere (I fill up every two months or so). In my mind at least, these are location-dependent itemsóthings you can fairly point at Vancouver foróand there is some room for improvement such as food, internet, and phone.
 
But...the other things that you are choosing to spend your money on like clothing, entertainment, household, travel, and eating out arenít location-specific. Iím guessing you might spend the same amount on these no matter where you lived. Like others have stated, I think these are the areas where you can make the biggest changes and improvements if you desire. These are certainly the areas where your budget and my budget start to deviate significantly though we live in the same city.

How do you eat well on $30/week?! Even as a single guy scrounging in university 10 years ago, I was still spending $50-60/week on food.

I agree that clothing/entertainment/travel/eating out are definitely areas we can cut back on, and not really related to living in Van.

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I forgot to mention that for groceries I recommend you try Famous Foods on Kingsway. You can buy staples such as rice, legumes, grains, etc. at very reasonable prices.

Ah thanks, I'll check them out.

momo

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2013, 03:16:11 PM »
I hear what your saying Cecil. It's great you feel there is room for improvement and I hope we can all share some useful ideas. Here are a few in no particular order:

1) Consider making modifications to how you DEFINE fun (entertainment, alcohol, travel sections are $900) those are very high expenses a large chunk of income. It is not easy to make LIFESTYLE changes and in my own experience one area that is challenging because it requires considerable self-awareness and introspection on personal values, priorities and goals.

Have you two spoken about what are your big goals and what you are willing to sacrifice to make them come true sooner than later? Also, are you two physically active? What type of shared healthy activities do you enjoy in daytime and at night? What are some of your hobbies? Do you like to cook together for fun? Do you entertain at home with loved ones by cooking together, movies, poker, board games, Wii, cooking deserts, bringing cheese, and wines to share? These are just a few alternative fun activities that are affordable ways of entertaining.


I think this is a conversation we need to have this weekend.

We're quite physically active. She has a gym membership at $18/month, and I swim regularly. My pool fees are generally covered by Christmas gifts from family. :) We like to hike in the summer and ski in the winter.

Other hobbies are board games (trying to avoid buying any more @ $60 each), watching a few TV shows together (netflix is cheap), photography, video games, movies, hanging out with friends. We generally cook all our meals at home and take leftovers for lunch the next day or two.

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2) Gifts. Can you reduce the types (no toys) and who receives them (only children, no adults) and frequency (birthday but not Christmas)?

We've already gone down from about $200 to $100 over the last year. There aren't any children in our lives so gifts are generally just birthdays and Christmas. I'm not super concerned about this because giving to friends is important to us and they reciprocate for us.


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3) Technology. Are these expensive items essential for work? Eg camera lens, tablet, etc? If not can any of these be returned for a full refund? If so, perhaps it might be something worth looking into. My gf bought a Samsung tablet during the holidays and she really liked it. But after 20+ days she admitted it just was not worth the expense and returned it. If you cannot return for a full refund, perhaps, going forward both of you can plan and work towards greater spending balance on non-essentials. And for the camera expenses, does she sell any of her work? No harm in trying.

Hmm... Her camera gear is definitely essential, she's trying to get into professional photography. My tablet is more of a toy, but gets used extensively.

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4) Internet. What type of phones do you both have? Have you tried using google voice? http://www.google.com/googlevoice/about.html Worth looking into and if available to you might help reduce your phone bill.

Looking into this now. The last time I checked Google Voice wasn't available in Canada. Seems like that may have changed recently.

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What types of phone data plans do you have? Does it allow tethering and setting up your smartphone(s) as a hotspot? If so, that might be more affordable than having a separate internet bill for home AND having a separate data bill for your two phones. This is something definitely worth looking into if you can reduce your overall internet use and doing so can save your more time and money too.

Yes, I can tether my tablet/desktop to my smartphone, but we only have 2GB of data. I regularly burn through 100-200GB/month at home.

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5) Household/general purchases. Do you plan ahead (no random shopping just to get milk or eggs) and shop at a discount bulk store? Walmart, Sams, Costco, or other big box type store? If so, many of the staple household items (toilet paper, cleaners, light bulbs, batteries, pasta, sauces, meats, eggs, fruits, veggies, dried goods, processed food, etc) can be purchased in bulk and/or frozen for future use.

We don't have a Costco membership anymore because we worked out that it wasn't saving us any money. We generally buy once a week and are pretty good at price comparing groceries. We like to eat really healthy though - no frozen dinners or chips/cookies/pop/etc. Beef and chicken at $3/lb is the cheapest you can get here.

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6) Do you have unused stuff, tech, clothing, just things? Items you just do not need after say a full year? If not perhaps it is worth pulling out and selling those items and that will help add a boost to your savings fund?

I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes and good luck! Cheers!

Tech, no. I just sold my old netbook for $150 on craigslist after realizing I've pretty much replaced it with my tablet. Clothing, maybe. Is there much of a market for used clothes?

Thanks for all the advice! :)

@ Cecil: In California there is a market for practically everything used! Craigslist, local clothes second-hand stores, Goodwill, and other businesses are worth your time. Last month I packed up 14 garbage bags of usable old clothing, beddings, home items, suitcases and donated them for a sizable charitable donation. Don't know how it is up North but it is worth researching. I find major cities tend to have more second-hand stores and businesses willing to serve that need; your mileage may vary. For other items particularly books, dvds, sporting equipment, home tools, car parts there is amazon if you are patient or you can also try Craiglist too. In general, I sell everything especially furniture that I do not use for one year. This is a very personal lifestyle decision you may need to make and not everyone enjoys minimalism.

Have you read this site: http://www.streetsmartfinance.org/2012/12/26/say-enough-to-save-enough/ it might interest you.

Cheers!

JFC

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2013, 08:08:48 AM »
How do you eat well on $30/week?! Even as a single guy scrounging in university 10 years ago, I was still spending $50-60/week on food.

About 9 years ago I switched from animal-based meals to plant-based meals. For me, that made a world of difference in cost without sacrificing taste. I mainly eat fruits and vegetables in season (not a hard and fast rule but I try to plan meals for the week around what produce is on sale at the grocery store that I walk to and that usually ends up being what is in season--somewhere in the world at least. Staples, like I mentioned, I buy in bulk from Famous Foods (although it's considered "bulk" it's already packed in plain bags of various sizes so you know no one has been digging around in it which eliminates the icky factor for me). I like to cook and bake so I make almost everything from scratch (shopping from the outside of the grocery store and ignoring the middle aisles as some people put it) and don't drink things like soda or fruit juices. That's about it for me!

grantmeaname

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2013, 01:17:33 PM »
Once every week or two my wife or I will want to drink a single glass of wine, and then the wine box doesn't get touched for another week or two. We don't want to open a bottle for a single glass and then have the rest sit and go bad before it can be drunk (even with a vacum sealer, two weeks seems to be too long). So even if we homebrewed our own wine, bottles would be wasteful for us (okay, maybe we could bottle dozens of half sized bottles, but then we are wasting space if not money). So, thinking purely of my own situation, I'm curious if there is a way to enjoy the cost benefits (and hopefully the ability to select a non-mainstream vareity) of homebrewing while still enjoying the low-waste and ease of having the odd glass every now and then from a box.
What about bottling into 12oz beer bottles? That's two standard glasses or one real-life glass, and you'd get 60 of them out of a wine kit that's $60-75 here in the US. It'd be a little weird, but it's not like the cork matters when you're in the low-mid price range.

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2013, 12:33:24 PM »
Once every week or two my wife or I will want to drink a single glass of wine, and then the wine box doesn't get touched for another week or two. We don't want to open a bottle for a single glass and then have the rest sit and go bad before it can be drunk (even with a vacum sealer, two weeks seems to be too long). So even if we homebrewed our own wine, bottles would be wasteful for us (okay, maybe we could bottle dozens of half sized bottles, but then we are wasting space if not money). So, thinking purely of my own situation, I'm curious if there is a way to enjoy the cost benefits (and hopefully the ability to select a non-mainstream vareity) of homebrewing while still enjoying the low-waste and ease of having the odd glass every now and then from a box.
What about bottling into 12oz beer bottles? That's two standard glasses or one real-life glass, and you'd get 60 of them out of a wine kit that's $60-75 here in the US. It'd be a little weird, but it's not like the cork matters when you're in the low-mid price range.

I'll be damned.  I accidentally stumbled on this.  You can make your own box wine.

http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?products_id=13428

Matt K

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Re: Doing well, but I feel like lots of room for improvement. Advice?
« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2013, 05:04:40 PM »
I'll be damned.  I accidentally stumbled on this.  You can make your own box wine.

http://www.austinhomebrew.com/product_info.php?products_id=13428

Cool! Thanks.