Annual Cost of Living Report 2013

Photo Credit: expats.cz

Photo Credit: expats.cz

This will be the third time I’ve looked at my annual cost of living for day-to-day essentials. I try to do a little better every year for the environment and for my wallet!

Heating Costs (Heating Oil)

We used 2197 litres of oil this year, a whopping 29% more than in 2012. However, last year was uncommonly warm, and this year was back to normal. The amount was more in line with 2011 and the years before that. The oil bill was only 23% more than 2012, so prices have actually stabilized. We program the thermostat for all the working hours we’re out of the house, but insist on being moderately warm when we’re home. I am willing to wear two layers: a long-sleeved T-shirt and a heavy pullover sweater, and I’ll even wrap a TV blanket around me when I’m reading. If I’m still cold, the heat goes up. The furnace has to work really hard to keep the house warm when it’s minus 10, and I refuse to be miserable.

In dollars:  $2363

Electricity

We paid for 4272 kilowatt hours of electricity, 5% less than last year. The cost was just 1% less, so the rest was rate hikes. No surprise there!

In dollars:  $779

Water

We used 153 cubic metres of water (153,000 litres!), about 4% less than the year before. The bill for the year was 5% higher, again due to rate increases.

In dollars:  $587

Groceries

We continued with meal planning and were extra frugal with groceries this year, resulting in a savings of 11%. I’m happy about that! The total included food for meals, food for snacks, and paper goods (TP and tissues).

In dollars:  $5158

Property Tax

Until 2009, property values in my city were assessed very low and they rarely changed much. There’s a new system that better reflects market value. However, to protect us taxpayers from the shock, they have capped the assessments for a while. Someday I’m sure they’ll be more in line with reality. Meanwhile, my bill went up less than 1% this year. I’d rather pay more to get better snow plowing services, though!

In dollars:  $2233

Home Insurance

We have our home and car insurance with the only company that gives Rom credit for his UK driving experience. The rates are terrible, but we are stuck with them for 3 more years, until Rom meets the CDN driving experience requirement. The house insurance went up another 9% this year and we’ve never had a claim.

In dollars:  $1036 (!!)

Car Insurance

The same company “only” hiked my rate 1.5% this year despite my car being one year older. Rom pays less because his car is now 3 years old. Rom’s rate with other companies would be $4500 (!!) because he would still be classed as a new driver. That is what all new drivers pay now if they have their own car with collision coverage.

In dollars: $974 (mine), $829 (Rom’s)

Gas for Car

I bought 1299 litres of gas this year, which is 9% less than last year. I look forward to calculating the 2014 total since I am no longer commuting to work!

In dollars:  $1690

Photo Credit: financesonline.com

Photo Credit: financesonline.com

I suppose all of these figures look outrageous to some people; well, c’est la vie for where I live. We are a two-person, two-income household. We compare prices, look for economies, and try not to be wasteful. I know we could save money by having one or no cars, or by shivering all winter, but that’s not in my comfort zone. Everyone makes choices about which areas to scrimp on and which to splurge on. I’ve written about that here and here.

Interestingly, as a civil servant, I received a 1% wage increase this year, but netted less money because of more pension deductions.

If you add all of the above categories and compare the 2012 and 2013 totals, my costs were down 1.5% this year. I didn’t expect a decrease!

I spent a lot more money on discretionary stuff this year: vacations, concerts, a new elliptical exercise machine and a new camera. I maintained the same savings rate, though. This came about because my kid decided not to continue with university 😦

I consider digital TV, Internet and cell phone bills to be entertainment costs, as essential as they may feel!

Do you think your costs went up or down this year? Did your lifestyle change?

I didn’t have to do any calculations for this post (except the percentages) because I could plug in the numbers from my budget software 🙂

37 comments

  1. I should look back at last year’s costs but I can’t say with confidence that 2012 are accurate. This is definitely something I will be doing at the end of 2014.

  2. I didn’t keep accurate records this year, but I know that my costs decreased because I now walk to work, so am spending almost nothing on diesel for the car. I’m planning on keeping records of expenditure next year, though.

  3. Fiona

    Generally I think Australian and Canadian costs are fairly similar. However, the annual electricity, water and fuel for car look drastically lower than what we pay. I’m interested now to work out our annual electricity and water consumption in kWh and litres to see where we stand!

    • I think our electric and water rates are cheap. It will be unpopular for me to say so, but I think they’re so cheap, they encourage waste. Our heating system burns oil, but it does require electricity to operate (a certain amount to start it and a miniscule amount while it runs). Gas for the car ranged from about $1.25-$1.35 a litre over the year. I’d be interested to know what your rates are!

      • Your electricity is way lower than ours. OK, don’t pay for heating oil – we use gas (as in natural gas, not petrol) and electricity. But we spend more than your year’s worth in a quarter. While we have a pool which is expensive to run, we don’t have air con which many in Sydney do.

        Petrol for our car varies from about $1.30 to $1.60 a litre.

        Our last govt put in a carbon tax, the sim being to increase cost and thus reduce usage. New govt came in and has cancelled it. I agree with you, cheap power encourages usage and wastage.

        I am impressed you’ve tracked usage and cost. So, while my electricity expense is higher, I don’t know if I am paying more per kilowatt. Maybe if Fiona works it out, we’ll all know.

      • You’ve raised some interesting points about what infrastructure is available and what policy decisions affect us. Some areas of our city have access to natural gas lines but I’m not in one of them. The power company is promoting (electric) air exchangers as an alternative to oil heat. Our boiler is 17 years old and might have 5 years of life in it. After that we will be evaluating the options. Our electricity and water usage are marked on the bills so I only had to manually track the gas for the car. When I visit the UK I usually find that the gas (petrol) prices are about the same in pounds as we pay in dollars (for example, $1.30 here and 1 pound 30 there!)

  4. EcoCatLady

    It’s been an expensive year here… I’m not sure if I even want to add it all up. Most of it was related to sick cats though, so it’s not an expense I’m gonna quibble about. Your grocery bill is admirable… especially for 2 people!

  5. Juhli

    Interesting analysis. I’m in the midst of doing ours as well as projecting the budget changes for 2014. Our costs were high this year in medical (cataract surgery, etc.), travel to a wedding and family reunion, and gifts primarily to help fund the wedding. I like seeing your numbers – thanks.

  6. Lisa

    I really need to look into the budgeting software (I think you wrote about what you use and I will have to search for that post). I love your analysis!

    I am still envious of your insurance and grocery costs! I will need another year in our current circumstances to accurately compare our personal rate of inflation. I am also in the same boat as Eco Cat Lady – expensive vet bills for both the cat and the dog in 2013.

    Cheers and Happy New Year to you also!

    • I still use Money 2006 because I haven’t been able to import all my old data into a new program. If I were to start over, I’d probably use budgettracker.com because you can enter everything manually and you don’t have to let it access your bank accounts. We were extra-cheap on groceries this year – we’ll see if that changes!

  7. Tina Lemna

    We are a family of two but I can’t seem to get the food budget under $150 per week and we don’t even eat meat! I would love to know more about how you grocery shop. Thank you for sharing and Happy New Year!

    • Thanks, Tina – that would be a good post, so look for it in January! We don’t eat meat either and we choose a lot of inexpensive meals. We meal plan and try to stick to our grocery lists. I hope I made it clear that the grocery bill doesn’t include meals out, coffee shop trips, cleaning supplies and toiletries? Happy New Year to you!

  8. Our living expenses definitely went up… we added a home security system and our hydro rates are soo expensive. I don’t think they’re cheap at all. I think it all depends on your lifestyle, etc.. i’m *very* careful with our hydro and don’t waste, but we’re a large family of 6 home ALL the time as I homeschool… so it adds up far too quickly. I don’t keep tabs from month to month, but I can say without a doubt our expenses have went up.

  9. You did so well to decrease your costs – it’s not easy to do these days!

  10. How interesting! It’s great that you’ve been able to reduce your usage. 🙂 Do you have any suggestions for us? I keep a spreadsheet to compare our utility usage from year to year and while our numbers went down in 2013, it’s a bit misleading since I was a household of 1 for several months at the beginning of the year.
    Our property taxes are figured on a percentage of our home’s value, so they’re pretty affordable compared to surrounding areas where it’s calculated on the home’s actual value. I’m glad they’re changing yours gradually – we’d be stuck if we were suddenly responsible for a bill based on the true value!

    • To be honest, Amanda, my usage tips are pretty basic! For heat, we have programmable thermostats that are turned down when we’re out of the house. For electricity, all of our appliances are recent vintage so no old pre-Energy Star models; and all our devices are on power bars which we switch off when not in use. I’m sure that someday, a big jump in property taxes will come!

  11. Very interesting to see your water and electricity usage!! I really should do this. I’m just not so exacting. 🙂 But I agree with you on a cold house. No fun at all and I turn up the heat as well.

  12. I wish I had the discipline to track my gas use. I can track the others easily enough by looking back through the bills for the year – we keep them in a binder to make tax time easier, since we have a home based business that we can use to write off some expenses.

    Im always curious about the thermostat temps that other people use. What do you set yours to? Like you, I don’t like to be cold, but we do wear sweaters and slippers in the house and I usually have a quilt on my lap at night while reading or watching tv. Our main sitting room has a gas stove, which we can turn up if we get cool, but the rest of the house we keep at 18 or 19C while we are at home and turn it down to 16C while we are asleep or away from home. Our sitting room, with the extra heat from the stove (only turned on when we are in the room) is usually around 20C.

    • Heidi, you will be appalled but we keep the whole upper level of the house at 20 and the lower level at 17. We program it down when we’re out of the house (working hours). It would be great to have the warmth of a wood or pellet stove!

      • Ours is at 14C first thing in the morning and in the evening, and at about 8C the rest of the time (I do switch it to 14C occasionally at other times when I get chilly). It’s been ridiculously warm here, though- we’ve barely had a frost!

      • If it was 8C in my house I’d be wearing a snowsuit 🙂

  13. Definitely a heated house lady here – do not like being cold. I know cold is relative, like most other mindful people we do the extra clothing and slippers as well as blankets early in the season but after a while your bones feel the chill and thats not nice.
    Reconcilliation (comparison) Day along with Budget Day is marked on the calendar but could happen any time – I allocate funds monthly taking last years total costs for each item into consideration plus a little extra. Like you I often find its not the usage that is costing more but raised costs of the supply fees.
    It will be an eye opener as usual but theres not a lot you can do about it:(
    Happy New Year to you and the family
    Cathy

    • Hi Cathy, I’m glad I’m not alone in liking a warm house! It sounds like you have your budgeting system down pat.I do what I can about the bills and have learned acceptance about the rest. Happy New Year!

  14. Wow great record keeping as usual. When I get a minute I am going to add up all of our expenses for the year and see how they look (hubby keeps expense records of everything). Heating oil seems really high but we havent used an oil furnace is some years (back then we dreaded the bi-monthly fill up cost) plus Im sure the price of oil has risen dramatically since then plus plus we have never lived in a climate where 10 below was even a possibility! Yikes!

    • The temperature is back up to +2 and rain today. Always nice to give the heating bill a break! I remember you saying that you kept records at your house, so I’ll be interested to know if your costs or rates have gone up.

  15. Here’s my figures (2012 is in brackets, though are slightly out due to me settling on the property part way through bill cycles, and those figures not being in my spreadsheet):

    Water: $684.45 (vs $489.80 though that’s only 3 qtrs) – this is set arbitrarily for the unit I own
    Gas & Electricity: $845.15 with one bill still to come, which will put me over last year’s (vs $982.33)
    Insurance: $316.57 ($326 – I blogged about that one!)
    Strata: $5,042.81 (vs $5004.55) – by far my biggest expense for my high rise unit
    Health insurance: $890.68 (vs $836.32)
    Scooter insurance and rego: $240 ($261.41)

    I no longer have the shared car with my brother, so the rego and insurance costs for that are gone. My BF and I cover costs on his car from the shared account – currently it’s only fuel, but I’m happy to half all costs in the longer term.

    Hmmm, not too bad. I hoped the electricity would be less in a non air conditioned place, but then it’s bigger, with more wasteful light globes. There’s no point with reducing the water usage :s Two of three insurances are a win in both examples, so that’s nice. The weather is so different here, I have no idea about these oil bills!

    I didn’t include annualised grocery costs, though I probably have the figures. And we don’t have cable TV (as today’s post shows what trash I would watch if I had it! Thankfully it was only a holiday treat!).

    Very interesting indeed. As discussed, I should review the kWH usage, so we can all compare.

    • I didn’t include my health insurance – I am on an employer plan and it’s a direct deduction from my pay cheque, like employment insurance and pension. How do your gas & electricity bills differ from summer to winter?

  16. I still have to make a new financial spreadsheet for 2014 (planning on it today). Usually I would do it way in advance but being underemployed doesn’t motivate to think about future bills.

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