Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?  (Read 3524 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario
Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« on: January 08, 2015, 01:39:07 PM »
Family of 5 (twins at about 3 years, 7 month-old) living in Ontario, soon-to-be moving (likely to Halifax, NS).  Wife is stay-at-home mom, we are planning to home-school.  I am set to retire from a public service job in approx 10 years at 43.  Priorities are healthy eating and doing active and educational activities with the kids.  Focus on MMM and ERE is to ensure debt-free before 43 to give flexibility in future plans.  Future goal once retired is to bike across Canada with the kids, living like nomads for a year or two.

Gross approx $93k / year, net is approx $64500.
Small variable amount additional from side gigs like tutoring high school math at $20/hr, depends on time spent towards this - finding clients is typically not a problem.
One deduction is $4/month for a health care plan that covers 80-90% of costs incurred.  We're Canadian, so this typically isn't all that much.

  • Housing: $1537.12
    • Mortgage: $683.28
    • Property Tax: $190 (monthly estimate based on 3% increase from last year, which is automatic for our city)
    • Supplies: $30 (cleaning products, toilet paper, etc)
    • Upkeep: $25 (minor items, e.g. weatherstripping, etc)
    • Renovations: $150 (major items, e.g. replace doors, windows, etc)
    • Utilities: $300 (monthly average, estimate is $160 electricity, $30 water, $45 sewer, $65 natural gas)
    • Internet (house): $28.19
    • Internet (iPad): $16.95 (250 MB download, used while tutoring or general research/comms while out)
    • Netflix: $7.99
    • Skype: $2.95 (our main form of outgoing "phone" communication)
    • Cell phones: $25 (2x pay-as-you-go plans, generally used while travelling or for emergency contact) 
    • Insurance: $77.76
  • Transportation: $696.49 (no depreciation built-in)
    • Fuel: $148.50 (assuming approx 1000 km/month at current rate of gas)
    • Parking: $5 (occasional errands in downtown area, seldom used)
    • Insurance: $101.58 (still have collision/comprehensive due to financed vehicle)
    • Vehicle Payment: $353.93 (more to follow on this later)
    • Licenses: $2.67
    • Registration: $9.23
    • Tires: $25.05 (assuming $0.0253/km)
    • Maintenance: $45.54 (assuming $0.046/km)
    • Bike: $5 (covers general maint items like chain lube, etc)
  • Food: $423.25
    • Groceries: $418.67 (Mostly CSA, staples, and bulk stuff from Costco.  There are some excesses here like buying peanuts to make into PB using our Blendtec.  Generally we make everything at home, almost entirely from scratch.)
    • Costco membership: $4.58
  • Personal Care and Misc: $342.50
    • Personal hygiene: $110 (should drop by about half once older children are potty-trained)
    • Clothing: $102.50 (most of this is for the kids, but we mostly get clothes from thrift stores/sales)
    • Medical: $30 (amount we pay that the health care plan doesn't cover, varies)
    • Spending money: $100 (wife and I)
  • Insurance: $65.77 (Life only.  Depending on who, covers mortgage, consumer debt, retraining or child care expenses.  Will adjust as insurance needs change.)
  • Education: $31.67
    • Memberships: $6.67
    • Educational events: $25 (extra events as museums, etc)
  • Gifts: $136 (Mostly birthdays and some holidays.  Mostly "fixed" at this stage, have made significant reductions from previous years, do not expect to win any more battles on this front.)
  • Debts Payments: $1219.89
    • Line of Credit Interest: $131.30
    • Debt Reduction: $540
    • Student Loan (Federal): $470.27
    • Student Loan (Provincial): $78.32
  • Charity: $56.83 (children's aid thing, will be stopping soon until debt-free)
  • Savings: $700
    • Spousal RRSP: $400
    • Minion RESP: $300 ($100 each, which is where we use the amount given from the gov't for children.)

House: $170k (Estimate from 1 year ago.  Currently approx $124k remaining on mortgage on 4-year term at 2.6%)
2011 Toyota Sienna LE: $19k (Value based on Canadian black book.  Approx 117k km)
RRSPs: $35k (roughly allocated across 3x index funds: CAN, US, International)
RESPs: $9.3k (for all children)

Line of Credit: $25k at 3.0%
Mortgage: $124k at 2.6%
Vehicle loan: $12.7k at 4.99%
Student loan (Federal): $28.8k at 5.50%
Student loan (Provincial): $4.2k at 0% (yay PEI)

General Question
Open to any advice for further optimization.  Current plan leads to debt-free (less mortgage) by May-2019.

Specific Question
I am considering selling the Toyota and replacing with a low-cost older model (using a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan for comparison).  This would happen in Jul 2015, after we move.  The estimate km/month would drop from about 1000 km to 400-700 km, as both the wife and I would normally ride bikes with the kids, and we would no longer have semi-annual trips of 1400+ km to visit family in this region of the country.  We plan to get a cargo bike with e-assist such as once we move, which will add $4-5k to debt load.

Assuming that I snowball payments as other debts are paid off, move the debt payment amount to RRSP once they are all gone, and factor in residual vehicle value at May-2019, it appears that this plan would save about $20k.  (Debt-free 16-19 months earlier with the older van plan, and a debt/savings payment amount of approx $1500.  Varies with details of used vehicle obtained.)

Does anyone have good suggestions how to probabilistically estimate the amount to set aside for repairs on an older vehicle?  I've been assuming $0.10/km vice $0.046/km in my analysis so far.

If not a 2006 +/- 1 era-Dodge, what other options do you suggest for transportation?  Please note that there is no public transportation available to reach one set of grand-parents, so we are assuming a vehicle (mostly likely van) as a requirement at this point.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario
Re: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2015, 04:38:45 PM »
Some initial discussion at:

Summed up, warnings to research further into the Dodge Caravan, and to consider less extreme options (e.g. more recent model Dodge, or older Toyota/Honda).
« Last Edit: January 08, 2015, 06:19:58 PM by Learner »


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario
Re: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2015, 06:31:12 AM »
I should note that water use is a bit high because we are doing cloth diapers for our youngest (the twins were cloth too until they started peeing more volume than the cloth could handle).  I need to look into cutting the ~950 KWh electricity too.  We normally keep the house at about 68 during the day.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario
Re: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2015, 09:22:40 PM »
I haven't run numbers yet, but I was thinking tonight that I should extend my numbers past the 4-year mark.  I think if I ran it out to more like 10-15 years, keeping the Sienna may be a better idea.  Curious if anyone has thoughts on this before I run numbers?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario
Re: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2015, 12:49:07 PM »
Just re-ran numbers, and noticed a glitch in my spreadsheet.  Turned out the car payment was being accounted for twice, because I was a tad lazy how I set up the scenario adjustments.

Further update is that I am moving my current line of credit to a secured line of credit (moves that liability from 5.79% to 3-3.5%), which minimizes the cost of carrying 35+k of the debt until it's paid off.

End result (for 10-year estimate, which assumes 2x older Caravans):
Immediate transfer scenario: Approx $2800 better if moving to the Dodge. 
Add cargo bike scenario: Approx $10k better if moving to the Dodge.

Given the time scales and desire to avoid the risk with the Dodge I plan to keep the Sienna.  It would have been worth it at a $20k delta.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario
Re: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2015, 08:02:35 PM »
Update: we ordered our Bakfiets, should arrive for end-March.  Our longer term vehicle plan is to see how we handle winter biking in eastern Canada and maybe get rid of the van or downgrade.  Car-sharing (there is a Halifax option) might be doable pending Bakfiets buy-in.  One of the biggest benefits is the continuous shift in perspective that makes these choices more and more possible.

Also, sorry for polluting this thread with my comments, I guess my comments/questions aren't engaging enough.


  • Senior Mustachian
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Re: Reader Case Study - Optimization Tips (Specifically vehicle)?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2015, 01:30:24 AM »
No, you are engaging, it's just that I (for one) have nothing I can say that will be of any value to you. Some threads are like that! Good luck with your choices!


Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!