Save It, Don’t Step On It

driving

I’ve always been a guy who drove a certain speed. Of course, that speed was above the limit.

Heck, I remember my first year as a full-time driver. I was 16 and was full of piss & vinegar. I was ready to take on the world in my used Honda Civic.

However, three speeding tickets in six months sent me straight to the bicycle lane. From that moment, I’ve always had cruise control on my cars because I’ve got a lead foot.

Have you ever heard that you can save gas mileage by driving a bit slower on the highway? I never really believed it was that big of a difference until I started tracking my own mileage.

As I’ve mentioned before, I drive a 682km round-trip every two weeks so I can spend the weekend with my son. That, my friends, is a lot of fuel being consumed by my vehicle. I drive a 2014 Kia Forte, which isn’t the most efficient car on the market but is still pretty darn good.

The speed limit on the majority of the trip is 110km/hr (or 68mph). I always used to go around 124km/hr (or 77mph) because the police still didn’t pull people over for going that fast. Usually (and I’m only speaking from experience), police pulled people over if they were going 15 kilometres over the speed limit. I figured if I stayed between 120km/hr and 125km/hr, then I was fine.

What I didn’t realize was the money I was blowing and the fuel I was wasting.

I would fill up my car before I left on my trip. The car would take up about a half tank for the one-way trip (or more…never less).

These days I still drive above the speed limit (I know, I know…) but it’s normally 114km/hr (71mph). That reduction in speed has allowed me to go one way for less than a half tank. I have gone from being able to drive 550kms (342 miles) on a full tank to driving 600kms (373 miles) on a full tank.

That kind of fuel consumption, especially over the course of a year, really adds up. So the next time you’re on the highway and you’re wanting to get there a little faster, trust me when I say that going the speed limit (or even a little bit above it) will not only get you there safer, but it will save you a few extra bucks in fuel, as well.

  • Todd
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It’s All About The Benjamins

$100 Canadian Bill - BordenIt’s actually about the Bordens if you’re living in Canada, but I digress…

There are a ton of people out there who will tell you how to save money. That’s not what this blog is intended to do. Don’t get me wrong, if you get some inspiration and some ideas from us, that’s great! But we’re really here to document our financial journey and keep ourselves accountable by sharing our stories.

One of the things that we’re doing is paying for things with cash. We’re using the “jar system” to keep ourselves in check. Why? Because it forces us to see what we’ve spent and increases our likelihood to show more restraint when it comes to spending.

Plastic might be sexier, but cash is more of a practical throwback. Cards encourage you to spend more than you intend to by giving you easy access to more capital (i.e. your bank account). Generally speaking, only carrying the cash you are prepared to pay for a given product will prevent you from buying more than you wanted to. If you don’t have the money on you, you won’t spend it.

We’re doing that with items like groceries and personal spending money. So far, it’s been working out great. We rarely use our cards but when we do, we make sure we immediately do a “swap” and put some cash back into the account we used.

I’m using the debit card for gas in the car, primarily because with the weekly changing price of fuel you never know how much it will take to fill up your car. We have a certain amount allocated in our budget, so if we see ourselves spending more then we’ll have to increase the budget. Something like gas in the car isn’t a frivolous expense…it’s a necessity. Sure, we could take the bus around the city but that’s not where we spend the most money on fuel. I travel over six hours every two weeks to see my son and come back home, so we’re looking at just over a full tank of gas required for that one weekend trip alone. It just doesn’t make sense to use cash for that.

But with most everything else, we’re using only cash. It’s been doing wonders for me. I’m a guy who would spend money here and there for things like coffee or pop or a chocolate bar or lottery tickets whenever I felt like it. No individual expense seemed like much at the time, but you add them up on a weekly basis and they take a chunk out of your savings. Lately, I’ve been leaving my money home. If I don’t have it, I can’t spend it. If I can’t waste it on these little expenditures, then I’m saving money and probably losing a pound or two over the long haul.

So what about you? Do you use your debit or credit cards too much? Do you still pay for items in cash? Sound off and let us know!

  • Todd

It’s Sneaky, But It Works

popcornKelly and I wanted to catch a movie over the weekend, but were trying to choose the right time to see it. We had a late breakfast and wanted to catch the movie as a Saturday matinee…maybe around lunchtime.

The problem is that we would want to snack on something during the movie. And let’s face it, any money you save by going to a matinee (it’s about $1.50 per person around here) is long gone by the time you get to the concession stand.

Let’s face it…movie theatres may complain about crumbling profit margins due to illegal online downloading, but jacking up the food prices to compensate does not make me a loyal customer. If you’re going to try to tell me that your bag of popcorn and soda from a fountain are worth $10, then you’re nuts.

I don’t mind paying a bit of a premium for a premium product, but the popcorn costs the theatre about $0.50 and they pop about the same. Sorry, but I don’t like dishing out $15 for a combo pack that includes a chocolate bar or bag of M&M’s.

And I realize that places like sport venues do that all the time. I mean, do I really want to spend $13.50 for a hot dog and a beer at a baseball game? No, but a sporting venue is an entirely different experience than a movie theatre. To me, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

So when Kelly and I went out to our movie last weekend, we stopped off at the local Dollarama first. I picked up a bag of Kit Kat bites for $2 and a Dr. Pepper for $1. With taxes it came to $3.55. Kelly got a bag of chips, some Junior Mints, and a bottle of water for the same price. We put the items in her purse and walked straight into the theatre.

Now when you compare spending close to $40 in concessions for two people (after taxes) versus less than $10 from the local discount store, it’s really a no-brainer. Do we get hot, buttered popcorn? No, but I think we can survive two hours without it. What we DO get is some snacks for a major discounted price.

We’re not stealing from anybody (the Dollarama appreciates our business) and we’re going out on a date together. It’s sneaky, but it’s a money saver.

~Todd

Date Night: Wendy’s

The wife and I don’t normally eat out. She’s an incredible cook and loves to prepare food, so it’s really a win-win situation: making dinner yourself is a lot cheaper than buying it at a restaurant. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be able to get out of the house and treat yourself to a meal prepared by somebody else.

With our new budget in place, one would think that eating out at restaurants would be completely off the table. However, as a married couple we also know the importance of going out on a date. Thus, we have a small amount inserted into the budget to allow for a monthly “date night”. It could be a movie, a concert, or a dinner out. It’s not much and, if we want, we can let it carry-over from one month to the next. But it’s there and it’s important.

So having said all that, we’re still working within a budget. That means we’re not going out to 5-star restaurants. Instead, we plan on simply making the most of whatever we decide to do regardless of where we do it.

We’ve never been much for couponing. We get them in the mail and go through them, but up until recently we never really looked at them very closely. Now? Well now we’re analyzing them to ensure we’re buying what we want at the best possible price. And yes, that includes “date night”.

Recently we got a coupon flyer for Wendy’s. Kelly is not a fast-food fan by any stretch, but she doesn’t mind the occasional meal at Wendy’s. This flyer had a free chili or baked potato with the purchase of a regularly priced meal. She enjoys both chili and baked potatoes, so I jokingly suggested that I take her out to Wendy’s for a dinner date. Without missing a beat, she said “yes”.

Dinner For Two

Dinner for two!

Again, it doesn’t really matter where we go for our dinner date. It’s all about us and just getting out of the house. So we went to Wendy’s and used the coupon. The meal itself was under $10 and “filled the hole”. Was it a romantic dinner? No, but it served the purpose and we enjoyed having some time together out of the house, eating a meal that we didn’t have to prepare.

One of the things that people always say but usually forget is that money does not buy happiness. Financial issues make up one of the biggest reasons for divorce. If you can ensure the relationship is strong when money is tight, then you’ll be able to grow the relationship along with your savings account.

Date night at Wendy’s may not sound ideal to some, but when you’re on a budget it’s all about making the most of your time together, regardless of where you are. We only spent $10 and enjoyed a meal out together, recognizing that it was more about the “who” than the “what” and the “where”. There’s nothing wrong with that.

~Todd

It’s “later”, NOW!

Procrastination.

Some people use that term as a way to explain away their laziness. For others, it’s a legitimate reason for things not getting done. Is it a GOOD reason? No, but it’s legitimate because people do it. It’s not tangible, but it’s not an imaginary thing.

Why didn’t we get our finances in order sooner? We procrastinated.

I have said for years that I would get my finances under control. Yet, for some strange reason I couldn’t seem to create a budget and stick to it. I kept saying to myself that I would do it later, while in the meantime I’d watch my overdraft fees hit my bank account every month and I’d ignore phone calls that I knew were from bill collectors.

Well…it’s “later” NOW, people.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t get their finances in order is because they simply don’t take the time to break down their finances and work out a plan. It takes a lot of work to really go through your weekly/monthly financial details with a fine tooth comb.

People are afraid of the truth, as was the case with me. I didn’t want to see a negative number staring at me in the face on an Excel spreadsheet, yet I was somehow okay with seeing that negative balance whenever I signed into my online banking. Even though I was in overdraft, I still saw that there were funds available for me to use. It just didn’t compute.

“I’ll get back to a zero balance later.”

And when it comes to budgeting, it’s not simply a matter of saying, “I’ll spend this much on these things because I get paid this much”. If this is to really work, you need to take into account every little detail. Keep receipts of everything you spend money on so you can find out where your money is actually going.

“I’ll keep my receipts later.”

And creating a budget itself takes time. You think you’re done, but then you remember three or four other things that need to be added. Toiletries, oil changes, clothes, pet food…little things that don’t seem like they’d add up to much on the surface, but until you know exactly how much you’re spending on everything they’re more added expenses that you didn’t budget for.

“I’ll add them to my budget later.”

No…now is the time. You’re reading this because (a) you’re in a similar situation and you want to see if this new way of fiscal planning can work for you, (b) you’re interested in finding new ways to save money, or (c) you want to be inspired.

Stop procrastinating. Have that conversation with your significant other. Use the extra hour or two it might take to really build a budget that’s realistic and obtainable. Stop being content with simply getting by when you know you can do better.

It’s “later”, NOW…and I, for one, am glad that I’ve stopped the procrastination cycle. Financial freedom, here we come!

~Todd

The Current Financial Situation

As part of our process of coming up with a financial plan, our first step was all about assessing our current financial situation.

Some people have asked where we are starting with this entire blog. Without getting too specific, just what is our financial situation? I mean, it’s all fine to sit back and say “we’re doing this to save money”, but what we suggest and what we actually do may not work for every family.

Without going into too many personal financial details, this is our starting point:

  1. Three credit cards between us and one outstanding loan. The total balance is under $10,000 with the smallest amount owing being $300.
  2. Monthly rent. We currently do not own a home and were not working towards buying one at this stage in our lives together. We decided that the possibility of affording travel with ourselves and our children would take priority over the need for owning our own house at this time. It’s a long-term goal, but not essential right now.
  3. A 2014 owned vehicle under warranty with monthly payment costs of under $375. There are added expenses with the car (fuel for the bi-weekly travels to visit my son, car insurance, oil changes, tire rotation, etc), but having a vehicle under warranty certainly helps should something go wrong.
  4. My wife’s oldest daughter is expecting to get braces at some point in early 2015.
  5. Child support for two children.
  6. I don’t have the best credit score in the world. I’ve got a 20-year history of the occasional bounced check, late payment, and a few collection call situations. I haven’t dug the biggest hole in the world, but I’m certainly not going to be approved for a loan any time soon.
  7. We both make decent money. While we’re not raking in the cash, we’re not starving, either.
  8. Weekly grocery expenses average around $200 due to having anywhere between 2 and 5 extra mouths to feed.

So this is where we currently stand. We’re not owing on a house, we don’t have thousands of dollars tied-up in student loans, and what we do owe is under $10K. When we finally had “the talk” with each other, we couldn’t understand how we were going paycheck to paycheck and barely scraping by. With the impending expense of braces on the horizon right after the holidays (which not only include presents for the family, but also a plane ticket for my 15-year old daughter from Ontario to Nova Scotia), we were both really concerned with our ability to stay afloat.

Yet after three weeks of planning and a couple of initial changes made, we’re already feeling better about our financial situation. We have a budget in place that we’re tackling in November. Already, one credit card has been paid off completely and a bank over-draft has been eliminated. We’re off to a good start.

I’m excited to see where our continued diligence takes us and, hopefully, share our impending success story with you. The ultimate goal for us is taking our family of six on a Florida vacation. The ultimate goal for our readers is to inspire and educate so that others can (a) learn from our mistakes and (b) also make positive financial changes in their own lives.

We’re not making a ton of money and we’re not spending a ton of money. We’re not cutting out all expenses and we’re not going to starve ourselves. We are going to make changes that we believe are smart and easily managed. We’ve set short-term goals that we believe are realistically attainable.

At the end of the day, we’re hoping you find this blog as useful as we do writing it.

–Todd