A Year in Money

Photo Credit: thestaffingstream.com

Photo Credit: thestaffingstream.com

I looked back over my budget and spending in 2014. I switched “systems” this year. For the first time, I put aside monthly amounts toward all of my upcoming irregular bills, so my spending was spread out equally over 12 months. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling to pay bills in full when they were due, from savings, instead of having lean months and abundant months – they were all the same. So none of that “it’s a 3 paycheque month” or “tax refund month” as a reason to spend more: they were all accounted for in advance. I know some people wouldn’t prefer that, but it suited me.

The other budget change I made was to never have any money left over. Everything was either planned spending or planned saving. I allowed $60/month for miscellaneous stuff, but it was mostly spent on un-fun things like printer ink, postage and a new passport. All the other fun things had a budget: clothes, entertainment, vacations. So the only time I could do unplanned spending is if I underspent a budget line. I figured my savings were high enough that I could spend the excess.

One thing that made me happy was the budget impact of walking to work. It saved me $1100 in one year, versus the commute to my old job. The other areas of underspending were smaller: $160 in groceries, $430 in household minor expenses, and $290 on vacations (!) I had also budgeted a good amount for dining out which I didn’t spend. Where did I reallocate the money? Last winter’s heat, a furnace repair, gifts, charity, helping Link move, and most of all – more clothes!

I am going to use some Year in Review categories from The Asian Pear’s blog, with permission.

Net Worth

I don’t track my net worth. I own a house but its value is subject to market fluctuations. When I am old I will sell it and use the money to pay rent. Of course, it is better to have that asset than not have it. But it will be depleted eventually.

What I do track is savings and investment performance. I invested a big chunk of money this year, maxing out my RRSP and TFSAs. I earned $11,731 in investment income, only $49 of which is taxable. Returns ranged from 1.5% on GICs to 11.7% on mutual funds.

Savings Rate

I saved 20% of my take-home pay for RRSPs, TFSAs and emergency funds. I also have a generous work pension plan but it costs me 11% off the top of my salary.

Budget Variance

I spent $447 more than my income for the year. That sounds bad – but I put almost $5000 toward new heat pumps for the house without dipping into long-term savings – so that’s good! I am looking forward to comparing my heating costs before and after the heat pumps. It’s too soon yet.

Lowest Spending Areas

I let my hair grow out from its close crop which required monthly trims, so I only paid for 6 hair cuts instead of 12! That has now been remedied 🙂

I only bought 4 bottles of wine, for entertaining. Maybe that needs fixing, too!

And I had planned to spend about $25 a month on fitness activities like skating and swimming, but only spent half that, which is not good!

Biggest Splurge

Expensive tickets to see the musical Cabaret while we were in New York. Zero regrets on that!

Worst Purchases

A parking ticket. And several items of clothing, to be detailed in another post.

Best Purchases

Two jackets: a rain jacket and a parka, both completely waterproof. Two pairs of earrings shaped like cubes. A few cute printed tea towels from London and New York. And you may remember I had great fun using the new power washer!

Most Expensive Meals (for Two)

Vanilla Black in London (£68) and Candle 79 in New York ($85). Two vegetarian fine dining spots. Both absolutely lovely.

Least Expensive Meals (for Two)

Meal-sized take-out samosas from the local market for $2 each. Delicious!

Tracking Failure

I was unable to account for $92.81 over the course of the year. My exacting reputation is at stake here!

It strikes me that my year wasn’t “about” money. I’ll post again about the year of 2014, because it’s the living that counts, not just the funding of it!

I hope you are on track to have a good year of saving and spending.

31 comments

  1. I had a parking ticket this year too, in a spot where the sign had gotten turned a bit and I didn’t see it. My daughter suggested that if I just lost the ticket I wouldn’t have to pay it. Sounds like a storyline from “Leave it to Beaver”, right? I showed her what happens after a week or so goes by if its unpaid, and we paid it promptly at the police station and saved our postage 😃

    • I got mine when I was running late for a short work meeting and parked at a meter. The meeting ran way overtime and I couldn’t leave! I paid the ticket online – and didn’t bill it to work 🙂

  2. jamielredmond

    Do we get to see a photo of your new hair? Or maybe I’ve missed one, reading your blog on my phone.

  3. I’m impressed! I also have a list of things I subtract out at the beginning of the month that are fixed expenses, but food and entertainment get away from me.
    One of the things I want to do this year is to try to recycle more and throw out (waste) less – I’m not sure it will have a big impact on my spending, but I will feel better about it.

    • I do scrimp and save a bit on regular expenses so I have some money to spend freely. You probably know, Rom and I set a budget for entertainment and meals out, so that is well-funded all year! I like your goal. It takes consistent effort, but you will feel good about it!

  4. I feel a bit like a voyeur reading about your finances. 🙂 It’s strange to me how easily people open up about their spending and saving habits having grown up in a home where money was a tightly kept secret. I’m sure you will be very happy with the new heat pump, I wish they were more common here in the US.

    • I can picture you raising your eyebrows over an $85 meal, LOL! I think I will be laughed at about the heat pump this year because the price of fuel oil has fallen so low. But I will stand my ground because the heat pump is more eco-friendly.

  5. This was a really entrancing read for me. I just love budgeting, and it is nice to hear someone else talk about how they do it. 🙂
    We have now been on one income for over a year. It is scary, but I can’t imagine having done it without budgeting. At first, it felt as if we were doing fine … but, my budget told me otherwise. So we took a series of remedial actions, before we got into any actual financial trouble, and now we are pretty sure that we can make it through the next year until there is hope of crawling out of the other side of the swamp!
    By the way, I really like the “no spend” days that you talked about in another post.

    • Entrancing? That is the best compliment ever 🙂 It sounds like you are very mindful about making money work for you, and that is what counts. Giving ourselves pats on the back for not spending is very motivating! And, I’m glad you are back!!

      • I thought twice about “entrancing”, and just decided to go with it. I see how people’s eyes glaze over when I bring up such a topic, so I know that is important to know that there are other people out there with similar passions (whoops, another exorbitant word!).
        I think that we should be careful about freely discussing not spending money. The NSA, and whatever the UK equivalent is, will be monitoring our subversive thinking!

      • Yes, we would be disobeying the 11 th Commandment, Go Forth and Shop!

  6. Great summary. I love you saving rate. I know some is required, but you did more. Well done.

  7. I need to take some tips from you!! I absolutely need to be a little more exacting. Starting from today.

  8. Fiona

    Love the categories for a Year in Review. That’s a great way to track Net Worth. I’m always confused about that one. It seems silly for us to count our house as ‘Net Worth’ as we have to have somewhere to live and the equity in the house won’t earn us anything while we live here. Equally, our investment income is not accessible here legally until age 67 which seems a loong way off.

    I like how you mentioned the 81 cents in the untracked amount! Very exacting indeed 😀

    I had never before heard of a heat pump; I’ve just been googling them. Do you use yours for hot water?

    • Hi Fiona, the heat pumps provide heating and air conditioning, but we had to add an electric hot water heater. Previously the heat and hot water were both run on oil. We don’t get a bill until the end of Feb covering the previous two months, so I am eager to see the usage rates.

      • Fiona

        Thanks, Dar. I’m intrigued by this because it’s not a technology I’ve ever heard of in Australia. We have a ducted system that does our heating via natural gas in winter (very cheap) and electricity in summer (not so cheap, but possible to convert to solar power, which many of our friends have done, one of whom has not had an electricity bill in 4 years.) I’d love to hear more when you get the Feb bill.

  9. I’m very behind this year do to lots of upheaval so haven’t had a chance to wrap up our 2014 figures. I know it will not be nearly so methodical as yours – there have been years we couldn’t account for thousands of dollars! I like your categories and am thinking about best/worse/splurge, but haven’t come up with anything so far.

  10. I lost track of our spending last year, what with moving and then Dad, everything was a roller coaster there for a while. This year I’m hoping to report very ‘exacting’ figures……and despite the $92.81, you’re still my tracking hero 🙂

  11. Sometimes I think I’d like to grow my hair out . . til I actually try to do so and have to live with that messy in between stage when the hair is growing down my neck! Fewer haircuts per year is a nice benefit of going back to longer hair though 🙂

  12. Wow! $92 AND 81 cents unaccountable! The one cent gets me! Too funny. Could the money be lost in rounding up. You know, when something costs $1.54 but you have to pay $1.55?

    I have about $10,000 that is unaccountable. Just joking. It’s gone on stuff and things and this and that.

  13. Wow you track so well… I just can’t believe it. I couldn’t get that good at it, but then people have thought it’s weird I keep my clothing purchase receipts, and inventory my closet, so it’s really just a spectrum right?

    I’m so pleased to see you’ve adopted, what I egotistically see as ‘my’ way with expenses and big bills, and planning for them. It makes things so much more relaxing, don’t you think?

  14. Loved this post. And I thought I was exact in detailing my money & purchases!

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