Where the Money Goes


I’ve analyzed my expenses for the whole year of 2013 and I’m ready to admit where my money goes! But first, a preamble:

Payroll Deductions

My employer gives me a non-taxed benefit of 3% of my salary for our “Flex Benefits” program which can only be used for health, disability and life insurance. I pay 4.9% of my total salary package for all of these benefits, so I pick up the additional 1.9% myself. Of course, the health insurance is really just supplementary health insurance because public health pays for most costs.

As a public sector worker, I pay 10.36% of my salary into the mandatory pension plan. I pay the required fixed amounts into the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance programs.

I have been guilty of saying I pay 39% of my income in taxes, but that’s not true – those are my total payroll deductions, but only 22% goes to taxes.

The Money Pool

I report on all the money I control, which is all of my salary and the money that Rom gives me for shared household expenses. I set the “Housekeeping Budget” by taking the previous year’s expenses for the running of the household and dividing it by 2. Rom pays me that amount in monthly installments, and I pay all the bills. Yes, it is my choice and he hasn’t asked for a turn! He keeps the rest of his money. We each decide on our own savings rates. Whenever we have unexpected shared expenses or want to save for a shared goal, we work it out between us. We both have high savings rates so we don’t worry that one of us won’t cough up their share of an emergency bill! Rom has a discretionary spending amount which I don’t track, and he doesn’t pay any attention to mine. We are both frugal and have no debts. You can read more about our financial decision-making here.


My personal savings rate this year was 18%.


I will follow the pattern set by A Boomer Girl’s Guide and report percentages by category. All the percentages are based on my take-home pay, minus my savings,  plus Rom’s share of the housekeeping budget.

Housing 21.9%

I am in the fortunate position of owning a house with no mortgage, but housing costs still made up almost 22% of our budget. Only 1% of that was on discretionary spending like new cookware or furniture. The rest was for heat, electricity and water, property taxes, home insurance, repairs and maintenance. Our house is 17 years old and has not required any major repairs or system replacements yet. The only unusual expense is that I prepaid the insurance up to Nov 2014 to save service charges. Without the insurance pre-payment, housing expenses would have been 20.1%.

Leisure 17.4%

I bet you’re surprised this category ranks as #2! This is the first year we decided that entertainment was a shared expense, and budgeted accordingly.  Previously we each paid some, and I only tracked my own. This category includes Internet and cable TV, our cell phones (non-essential), dining out and visits to cafes, concerts and movies, and buying books, music and DVDs. The amount includes 3 “one-time” costs for me: a new DSLR camera, a new elliptical exercise machine, and a pair of inline skates.

Food and Consumables 12.1%

I was pleased that our grocery bill hit a new low of 10.7%, including any snacks and junk food that we buy on grocery days! The rest was for paper goods like tissues and toilet paper, cleaning supplies (or ingredients to make them) and toiletries for both of us.

Car and Child – tied at 10.9% each

I had saved to pay for Link’s university expenses, but since they’ve left school, they’ve been transitioned off parent support! This was the change-over year, gradually reducing pay-outs and encouraging self-sufficiency. Our income level allows us to pay for Link’s trips home, and to be generous with gifts. We also helped out with Link’s cross-town move this Fall.

Car expenses are a little higher this year because, as with home insurance, I pre-paid car insurance up to November 2014 to eliminate service charges. My Nissan Versa is just a year old so I had no repair bills. I look forward to low gas costs this year since I’ll be walking to work – I used to commute 45 minutes each way at my old location.

Please be kind and don’t assume I value my child and my car equally, LOL!

Vacations 7.1%

Rom and I spent a week in the UK (London and Sussex) and a week in Toronto this year. This amount includes our airfares and other transport costs, lodgings, meals and vacation entertainment (Musicals! Museums!) But any vacation shopping I did was shuffled to the appropriate categories, such as clothes or leisure.

Gifts 6.1%

I’ve mentioned in other posts that in my family (of origin), everyone still buys for everyone, rather than just kids, or drawing names. This goes for birthdays and Christmas. No one seems to be stressing about it, and we all enjoy it, so I don’t expect any change in 2014.

Charity 3.7%

Hmm, now that I see 3.7% in print, I am inspired to inch it up to 5%!

Miscellaneous 3.7%

Now this is a real catch-all. It includes cat food, litter and kennelling at 1.3%, and all incidentals such as bank charges, blog fees, minor work expenses, and hair cuts. At year end I had $56 that I was completely unable to account for! But since that’s less than $5 a month I will let it go 🙂

Health 3.2%

I had some uninsured dental and prescription costs.

Clothing 2.8%

Although I budget for clothes and try to contain costs, I do buy all year long and try to look somewhat professional for work, and somewhat sparkly for holidays.

Looking at the year, I am reminded of how much my life changes are reflected in my budget: no daycare costs, no mortgage or car payments, lots of leisure and vacationing. I feel very privileged to live where I live and have the things I have. I know we trade our “life energy” for money, as they say in Your Money or Your Life, and I am liking the balance right now.

How do you feel about yours? Any big changes in the works?

Gratuitous photo after yesterday`s blizzard - only about 20 cm but it drifted up high!

Gratuitous photo after yesterday’s blizzard – only about 20 cm but it drifted up high!


  1. Juhli

    As always, interesting to compare. Thanks for sharing and for the shout out for my blog.

  2. EcoCatLady

    Wow… I’m trying to fathom living in a world where health care expenses are only 3.2% of your take home pay. For me it was more like 15%. With all it’s many problems, at least Obamacare is a small step in the right direction on that one!

  3. I actually don’t know how much we spend on things because I have never budgeted. We just pay bills as they come. Quite stupid, I know, but Mr Sans and I just curtail our discretionary spending when we know big bills are coming. One day I will budget properly.

    I am paying extra on our mortgage because I want it gone before we retire. Currently around 76% of my after tax income is going on the mortgage. Mr Sans pays most of the regular bills.

    In Australia, the mandatory superannuation is 9% of your pre-tax income, but as that is not deducted, it seems more like an extra. Of course, when it comes to campaigning for pay increases employers (including the govt) take super into account, but most people think of their salary as X plus super. I am not putting any extra in but Mr Sans is in an old govt scheme that pays more, and he is putting extra in. Of course, the govt closed that scheme – it would send them broke to have everyone on it, so I missed out on that scheme.

    As for health, we have a public health system here but if you earn over a certain amount, you either have to pay an extra Medicare levy or have private health insurance. As the waiting lists are very long in the public system, like most people over the amount, we have private insurance. The govt actually subsidises the private insurance but it is being cut back. Until last year the govt paid 30% of the private insurance, now it is scaled. For us that means we get 10% paid. Strange system, I know. Having private insurance helps and hinders the public system. Helps in that when you have surgery in the private system, it cuts waiting lists and if you have surgery as a private patient in a public hospital, the hospital gets to claim more funds than the amount given by the public Medicare payment. If you go public, as an individual you pay nothing. If you go private, you are always slugged with extra costs from the surgeons, anaesthetists etc that both Medicare and your private insurance don’t pay. So you end up doubly out of pocket. But at least you don’t have to wait and you get the doctor of your choice.

    There’ll be very little change in what we spend this year. Mortgage, mortgage, mortgage will be our focus. With supporting kids at uni and technical school coming in second, and utilities and food about the same, and holidays our other big expense.

    Gee, the sky is very blue in the photo. Is it often that bright in winter?

    • I’ve read about the Australian superannuation scheme, but I didn’t know about the “two tier” health system. Canada has been trying to avoid that – the waiting lists are long for surgery, treatment, etc but no one has quite concluded that it’s fair to be able to jump the queue. So far private procedures are not available or legal but every so often, a doctor or clinic will test the waters. For example, you can get private ultrasounds and MRIs.

      It’s most impressive that you can sock away that much on the mortgage. Do you plan to stay in the same home when you retire?

      Yes, we do have loads of bright, sunny days in the winter. When that photo was taken this afternoon, it was -10C. But pretty!

      • There’s plenty to love about this house and that would keep us here after retirement (close to public transport, leafy area, nice house, great neighbours, restaurants, supermarkets and library less than 10 min walk) but there’s things that might make us leave (medium and high density developments as we are close to public transport, a wooden house needs lots of maintenance). So I don’t know how long we will stay post retirement.

      • We have a small house and I imagine we’ll stay here as long as we can do the housework and outdoor tasks ourselves. It is 2-3 km each way to a grocery store, pharmacy, etc so maybe not walkable if our health were to decline.

  4. Money is v stressful right now – our stray kitten has just decided that she is also in kittens, so we will have to vaccinate and spay/neuter all of those v shortly. I need to pay for my new visa and to get my teaching qualifications transferred so that I can use them in a different country, this is my other half’s 30th bday year and so I wanted to take him to BC and all in all I can’t afford any of it!!!

    • It has been a while since I was stressed over bills but I have certainly been through those times. You’ll have to do the right thing for the kitties! And of course the immigration and certification. How far are you from BC – have you been there before?

  5. We have a Nissan Versa too! Birds of a feather…. Like cars with no loan!

  6. I’m very impressed that you only have $56 unaccounted for! I think I need to take more care with incidental spending….

  7. I love all of the math you do on your site! When I calculated our housing without utilities was 21%…and that’s out of my husband’s income before taxes, retirement, + health insurance are taken out. I think it would be closer to 40% after all of those things are taken out. Our health insurance alone was 6.7%, again before all of the deductions were taken out…and that’s only going up this year since my hubby’s income went iup, so our boys will no longer qualify for state coverage. I’m definitely jealous of Canada’s universal healthcare!

    • Thanks, Megyn. I just did a new calculation. I took my gross salary and added the “flex credit” I get for health spending. Then I looked at my supplementary health insurance premiums and the amount I spent on uninsured health and dental costs. The total amount I spent on health insurance + health costs was 5.5% of my gross salary + flex credit. More than I would have thought for Canada! But then, I did have expensive dental work in 2013.

  8. I love all this Dar! You have your ‘balances’ in the right place! YMOYL is a great book, even today when some of it is outdated. It’s message of trading life energy for money really opened my eyes to how I lived my life!

    You’re my inspiration to track every single penny (and percentage) this year. I always start off well and then it all goes wrong!

    That’s a lot of snow, but my eyes are drawn to the beautiful blue sky.

    • Thanks, Laura. Rom was surprised when he moved here from the UK that our winters have so much sunny weather. I thought YMOYL gave a good framework for those hoping to transition away from employment; but it didn’t take into account that some readers might actually like working for an employer for 25 or 40 years (as I do). If everyone followed the advice in the book, we’d have no teachers, doctors, police officers, etc who find value in “serving.” That being said, I still think about some principles in the book, such as “Do I really want to trade the wages I earned for a whole day, for this pair of boots?” LOL!

  9. I think we are going to try to do better with our hydro usage this year – especially since I hear it is supposed to go up by 60% here in Ontario. How’s that for nuts? Our hydro is quite high because the barns, etc run off of it too. And I think its time to review all of our insurance policies again – I did that a couple of years ago and reduced many of our premiums for car, home, business, etc.

    Other than that, we are still budgeting and adjusting as we go along. Like you, we have no debt, but our child expenses keep going up. Hopefully the small kid wont need braces like the tall kid did this year – that took a chunk out of our savings account this year. That, and hockey.

    • 60%! That’s unfathomable. My uncle had a greenhouse he ran off a wood furnace, and he cut the wood from his own land. Not an option for most people 🙂 I would say that your childcare costs will decrease over time but that’s not in the foreseeable future! Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

  10. Fiona

    It blows me away seeing such sunny skies but with SO much snow! I would really be terrified to get into my car and drive over that.

    The most amazing part of the figures (apart from having just $56 unaccounted for!) was that housing has come in at 21.9%, even without a mortgage. DH and I have been discussing how costly houses are recently, just with general maintenance and all the connections, utilities etc. Our house is very similar in age to yours. We’ve had minimal maintenance costs so far, but I know there’s some big ones ahead (replacing carpet for the first time, new painting etc.)

    Link’s still quite young to be transitioning to economic self-sufficiency. I’m interested to think ahead to things like that and how we will prepare our one for that change.

    I’d be interested in that book about life energy and money…sadly, this year I know full well much of my life energy will be sapped by a stressful and demanding job. Like Lucinda, it’s all mortgage, mortgage, mortage here! We’ll continue to live on one household income and paying the other income off the house. But at least it is a temporary choice that will hopefully save years of less-favourable circumstances in the future!

    • Exactly – it is a choice, and a good one to have available. I have a new budget this year that will have me paying into savings and retirement savings aggressively. I have replaced the flooring in the house, but I need to start saving for re-roofing and a new heating system when the current ones start to fail. I suppose we can expect both of those things at the 20-25 year mark which is not that far away. I think it’s good for Link to be in a larger city centre – moving back home would be a last resort. We are happy to help but try not to be “enabling.”

  11. Katie P

    I am beyond impressed by your savings %! This is an exercise I need to undertake as well. Hats off to your goals and willingness to self-reflect!

    • Thanks, Katie! I am nowhere near many of the personal finance blogger couples who often live on one salary and save the other. I am not sure I aspire to that – I mostly splurge in some areas like entertainment, and scrimp on others like groceries, where there’s a lot of flexibility.

  12. I love this breakdown. Mr. G and I have our paychecks deposited into separate bank accounts (that we can both access), mostly because it required less work after we got married. Then after Mr. G’s checking account was drained when his debit card number was stolen, we were so happy to have separate accounts because I could still pay the bills that month! Your and Rom’s savings rates are great! I’m glad you save so much but still have fun 🙂
    Your pension contribution percentage is much higher than mine – do the percentages change depending on how much you make? Or does that mean you’ll earn a full salary when you collect a pension? I contribute 3% of my salary to the pension fund, but will only collect a portion of my salary when I retire.

    • As a municipal worker, I have the old-fashioned pension scheme whereby you must be at least 50 to retire, and your age plus years of service must add up to 80 or more. Typically a person might retire at age 65 with 30 years of service (way over the 80 rule) and they would get a pension of 60% of their then-salary (2% for each year of service). Everyone pays the same percentage of their salary into the plan. Rom has a defined contribution pension plan like yours.

  13. Oh to be mortgage free. Dare to dream!! All your math inspires me to look closer at my own budget. Not sure yet if I should thank or curse you! lol

  14. You always make me wish I tracked more! And over a longer time. Interesting to hear about the housing costs, I have a unit, so my costs are less (ie I don’t have a roof to worry about) but I contribute to the levies for the building, and they are relative to other buildings, very high (but we just got a new roof top and pool, and two new lifts, and it was exterior painted a few years ago, and next is interior painting!) but fair I think.

    I can’t believe it’s only $56 untracked too, that’s incredible. I always get a little tripped up when I switch currencies, or when there are fees (like currency conversions, but other things too), how to correctly account for them.

    Of course we don’t think you value your (much loved) car the same as your child!!

    • Everyone always says that if you leave your job to work at home, or retire, that your cost of living will be much less, but that doesn’t seem to be true for us. I think our costs will probably stay the same other than work wardrobes. Sometimes I would love to live in a managed building and have everything done for me. I have a little budget line for “misc costs” like bank fees, blog fees, currency conversion, etc! It is strange that the way we spend our money doesn’t necessarily show our values.

  15. Your savings rate is great! I cant imagine how much housing expenses would be with a house payment added in–yikes! I think this year I am going to strive to keep better records like you do so we will have hard numbers to compare at the end of the year.

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