Wtf is going on with my savings rate?

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I have been giving the 1% Challenge a go for the last eight months. For those who don’t know, it is a challenge to bump up your savings rate 1% each month – the idea being that if you increase your savings ever so slowly, you won’t miss that extra $20 or $40 or $70 getting funnelled into your savings each month.

Eight months in, and I’ve learned some lessons about trying to bump up your savings rate:

  1. Having side hustle or freelance income makes it pretty difficult to make projections about your savings rate with any kind of accuracy.
  2. My savings rate varies pretty wildly from month to month (see #1) – but I am becoming more okay with that.
  3. Tracking my savings rate – along with all of my spending and my net worth – has been hella helpful for getting my financial life together.

Why is tracking your savings rate so awesome?

It tells you, more or less, in how many years you will be able to retire. It is an easy-to-monitor number that tells you much more about your financial health than your income does.

You might earn 200K a year, but if your savings rate is 5%….YOU GON BE WORKING FOR A LONG TIME.

If you want to learn more about how to actually calculate your savings rate, check out my earlier post that walks you through exactly how to figure out this percentage.

Most run-of-the-mill recommendations advocate for putting somewhere between 10-15% of your income towards retirement. But in the online personal finance community, it is not uncommon to see savings rates well above 50%.

I tend to hover somewhere in between. Over the last eight months, my savings rate has fluctuated anywhere from 16-55% and it tends to land around 25-30% of my income.

I would never argue that this is possible for everybody.  I have a boatload of privilege that allows me to save that proportion of my income. But I do think that it’s possible for many of us – because there is nothing particularly extraordinary about my situation.

I am not a high earner. I still have student loans. I am not excessive in my lifestyle, but there are definitely some areas I could pare down. I love going out for the odd cocktail, buying a latte every Friday, and I recently broke down and bought a car (used, obvi, but still).

You can do some of those things, and still save a good percentage of your income.

So let’s take a look at how I have done with my savings rate over the last eight months.

Here is a recap of how I did during my first four months of the challenge.

  Goal (%) Actual (%)
March 30 29
April 31 33
May 32 31
June 33 41

 

And what happened in the last four months?

  Goal (%) Actual (%)
July 34 21
August 35 55
September 36 16
October 37 25

All I can say is….wtf is going on with my savings rate?

 

I fell short of my goal for three out of the last four months. In July, I took a vacation and absorbed most of the cost from my usual monthly expenses rather than dipping into my vacation savings account –my savings goals took a hit as a result.

August was nuts with a 55% savings rate. I received a windfall, and was able to redirect over half of my income to various savings and debt repayment goals including my emergency fund, my investment account, and my student loans.

September was a 3-paycheque month so I should have done really well here. What happened? Well…I bought a car instead. This was a purchase I had been contemplating for about a year and I wanted to only move forward when I knew that owning a car actually made sense for my budget.

My 16% September savings rate might look pretty abysmal on paper -but I bought a car in cash AND was able to pay down debt and save for my future all in the same month. That is a huge victory when looking back on where I was with my finances this time last year.

October was also hit pretty badly in terms of my savings goal. I was traveling internationally for the first 10 days of the month and like my trip in July, I wanted to absorb most of the travel costs from my regular budget rather than dip into my savings.

So what’s next?

According to the 1% Challenge, my savings rate goal for the month of November would be 38% and December would be 39%.

That is a huge stretch goal for me. I have only been able to achieve savings rates higher than that on months with unusually high income. But I am still going to pursue it and I will keep you posted on how November and December – what can be some pretty spendy months – end up looking.

The 1% challenge has been an excellent way to look for the small wins. To find the little ways of earning an extra $40 or saving an extra $20/month. These are the little things that you can start doing today that can snowball and make a big difference in the months and years to come.

The 1% challenge has also made me think long term, though. I can keep working on upping my savings rate each month, but I am going to keep hitting a wall — unless I make some big changes. 30-35% seems to be the ceiling on my savings rate, assuming that I maintain my current income and fixed expenses. So that’s my next move.

I am paying too much for rent right now and I should be able to find something in downtown Ottawa for $100-200/month less than what I am currently spending. I am also exploring some job moves that would come with a pretty significant bump in my annual income. I am beyond excited to see what some of these longer-term goals can do for my monthly savings rate.

How are you doing with your savings goals? Where do you typically land with your monthly savings rate and does it tend to fluctuate wildly each month? Let me know in the comments!

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Family Planning and Frugality, or Why I’m in Love with my Mirena

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One of the best things I have done in recent memory is get an IUD. I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but a pretty significant part of deciding to get the Mirena was because my doctor made a strong case about how much financial sense it makes to get an IUD.

Damn, doc. You’re making a financial argument? He really knew his audience.

I would never advocate that anyone select a family planning method based on frugality. My friends, family members, and I have all gone through countless switches of birth control pill brands, migrated over to the ring or the patch when faced with unholy side effects, and yea some of that shit is expensive. If ever there were a part of life where I think it is okay to splurge, I would argue it is contraception. Like buy the good condoms. Really.tumblr_ntx3u7lhrT1qk7scno1_500.gif

That being said, I was a grad student of limited means when my doctor made this financial argument. I also knew that my health insurance would be lapsing once I defended my thesis and I had no idea when I would have health insurance again. Don’t misunderstand me, there were many other compelling reasons for me to get an IUD. It was a decision that made a lot of sense for me. I won’t delve into those reasons in great detail but if you’re curious, the financial argument went something like this:

The Mirena costs about $410 in Ontario.

My student health insurance paid half. Okay we are down to $205.

All doctors’ appointments including the insertion and the follow-up visit were free of charge. Thank you, Canada.

It should be noted that the Mirena lasts a minimum of five years. Doc pointed out that even with insurance, I was currently spending about $10/month on the most generic garbage birth control pills on the market, accompanied by a host of horrifying side effects.  Being a woman is awesome.

Using that method of contraception, assuming I had insurance coverage the entire time (which I wouldn’t) would bring me to a grand total of $600 over five years. That’s also assuming I didn’t break down along the way and switch to a better (*ahem* more expensive) method along the way, which I absolutely would have.  So $600 is a very conservative estimate of what five years of hormonal contraception actually costs.

Also, periods are expensive. Doc informed me that half of women with Mirena do not get their periods anymore. I know that it is bizarre-o and maybe a little scary for many a woman, but I cannot tell you what a joy it is to live sans period. It has also effectively stalled my need for tampons for five years. I don’t hate that, and money is just one small reason. But since we’re talking numbers, the Huffington Post estimated that Canadian women spend about $65 per year on tampons and pads (also conservative, me thinks). Over five years, this totals $329. So let’s break this down:

Scenario A Scenario B
Method of Contraception Birth control pills Mirena hormonal IUD
5-Year Contraception Expenses $600 $205
5-Year Period Expenses $329 $0
Grand Total $929 $205
Monthly Cost $15.48 $3.50

In Scenario A where I continued to use my same nonsense birth control pills with the added fun of still getting my period, the grand total for five years of maintaining my highly desired childfree status would have cost $929. Never a cost more worth it, in my opinion, but hey, that’s still some cash. It breaks down to a monthly reproductive health cost of $15.48.

In Scenario B, where I got the Mirena, the grand total for five years of sweet childfree living is $205. All of this cost is front-loaded, which can make it a pretty big expense at the time of insertion. Also, the insertion is not exactly a walk in the park. BUT you are then worry-free for five or more years, and the monthly cost of my reproductive health needs is now averaging $3.50 per month.

An added bonus: Doc tells me that the scientific literature is now suggesting Mirena is good for 6 years, which would bring the cost down to a cool $2.84 per month.

Back to the bottom line. We are talking about a difference in roughly $12 per month and I know that. This is not the make or break line in my budget. But as with many other things, the value added shines through in other, more subtle ways.

For instance, the Mirena has reduced my chances of experiencing an unintended pregnancy in the next five years. You cannot put a price tag on peace of mind. The sheer peace the IUD has afforded me by making it less likely that I will have to deal with the emotional, psychological, and physical tolls of becoming pregnant when I don’t want to be is pretty wonderful.  

And suppose I were faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I am proud to say that abortion is a covered procedure in Canada and women do not have to pay out-of-pocket for it, so there would not be direct financial impacts associated with that decision for me. But I am privileged to say that. The average cost of a first-trimester abortion in the US is about 470 USD – and that was back in 2009. It is even more expensive in other parts of the world.

And while about half of all unplanned pregnancies will be terminated, half of all women who encounter an unintended pregnancy will carry the pregnancy to term.  Many of these women will decide to parent.  That comes with massive financial implications. You know, to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars.

So while getting the Mirena was kind of about frugality initially, that has just been a small bonus. It has actually provided so much value to my life in other ways. It is providing great confidence and comfort when it comes to some of the biggest financial decisions I will ever make – if and when to have children.

So, thanks Mirena. I initially got you to help me save a few bucks a month, but you have done a whole lot more for me.

Have any of you made a decision based on frugality, and ended up getting a whole lot more out of that decision than you even hoped? Or have you made a frugal decision and ended up totally regretting it?  Let me know in the comments!

Emergency Fund: Essential or Overrated?

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I have a love-hate relationship with my emergency fund.

Some days, it feels oh so good to have that money stockpiled away, knowing that if something, anything happened, I would be okay. By the next morning, I am so frustrated with the snails-pace progress of my other financial goals that I want to immediately ditch any more contributions to my EF.  I think it might be time to do just that – even though I do not have 3-6 months of living expenses set aside.

Big or small, the personal finance world overwhelmingly advocates the importance of the emergency fund. I totally get that. Life happens. Shit happens. Emergency funds help.

Suze Orman recommends making minimum payments on your debt until you have 8 months of living expenses stashed away (Whaaaa?).  Dave Ramsey, on the other hand, suggests building a baby emergency fund ($1000), tackling your debt, and then building your 3-6 months of expenses emergency fund.  Gotta say, I’m with Dave on this one (although I actually think $1000 could be a little low, depending on your life circumstances).

So this goes back to the question of how essential is an emergency fund and how much do you really need?  Some PF bloggers argue that 3-8 months of living expenses in an emergency fund is not necessary for everyone and may be considered a lost opportunity since you could be investing that money instead of holding cash. I read these posts and they make my heart skip a beat. Like I really love these posts. A personal favourite that rethinks the emergency fund comes from Green Swan in “Rainy Day, Rainy Month or Rainy Year“.

Because 6-8 months of living expenses saved in a chequing account sounds bananas to me.  Some people really thrive on having this safety net. Yet I feel like a small part of me dies when I see important dollars getting funneled into that EF account every month only to sit there (I know, I know, that’s the whole point).  This begs the question:

Do I actually need to keep building my emergency fund right now?  

I think continuing to build my emergency fund right now is totally overrated, and here’s why:

  • I have no children or pets.
  • I have a (relatively) stable job. This, of course, always comes with some degree of uncertainty, but I work for a well-funded non-governmental organization. My chances of getting laid off are virtually nil and chances of getting fired also minimal.
  • I do not own a car.
  • I do not own any property.
  • I live in Canada, where medical emergencies are still a thing but our tax dollars pay for them.

And the current status of my emergency fund? $1770.87.

The money is stashed in a high-interest savings account, earning 1.95% interest. I have been sending about $100/month to this account to slowly build it.

I also have a small chunk of change invested in a tax-free savings account, which can be accessed anytime without penalty, as well as separate savings accounts for big household purchases, etc.

My main rationale for not continuing to build my emergency fund right now is that I am still paying down my student loans. Even with my debt, I was initially jazzed to see my emergency fund accumulating, but it’s hard to feel that joy when I am getting nailed with student loan interest every day. Don’t get me wrong – it is very comforting to know that I do have something set aside for an emergency, and I think everybody should have some kind of emergency fund.

But since potential emergencies in my world don’t include car repairs, pet surgery, or fixing the leaky roof on my non-existent house, my emergency potential simply seems much lower than the average bear.  I would hazard a guess that I am not the only Millenial in a situation like this, either.

What do you think – are big cushy emergency funds always essential or are they sometimes be overrated?  I think I am ready to stop building mine right now – how are you doing with yours?

How to crush your financial goals on a not-for-profit salary

notforprofit

So I have this weird thing where I seem to not pick very lucrative career paths. I am a former teacher. I currently work in the not-for-profit sector. Both of these fields can be enormously rewarding and interesting, and I have loved both of these career trajectories for so many reasons:

  • They are different every day (this is really important for my restless brain syndrome).
  • They are creative.
  • You work with other people, and you sometimes even get to help them (to this day, teaching kids and teenagers is one of the things that has made me feel most accomplished).
  • There is always room for growth and professional development.

Not-for-profit work can be many things. As the name suggests, however, it is not known for being super profitable.

And I am totally okay with that. I have come to realize that money is not a huge motivator for me. I need some of it, I want a little more of it…but then I’m pretty much good. Rolling into six-figure territory was never a huge priority for me when I was building my life and making career decisions. Although that mindset is slowly shifting (cause let’s be honest, I would not complain about making more money), I am very happy working in the non-profit world.

Since entering the personal finance realm, however, I have been faced with a lot of stark realizations about my finances. Many of these revolve around my income bracket.

And I have been faced with the inevitable question:

Can I make my financial goals happen on my modest income?

Answer: duh, obviously.

Having a not-for-profit salary is no excuse for not killing it in your financial life. But there are a few things that may help you along the way to manage both your expectations and your more limited means:

Reap the rewards of those sweet, sweet benefits.

Salary may be a limiting factor for a lot of not-for-profits, but you know what often isn’t? The benefits package.

One of my employers more than doubled my pension contributions. Amazing.

I have also negotiated for my benefits to start right away, and not after the typical three-month probation period. This added thousands of additional dollars to my pension, and provided me with much-needed health insurance during those three months.

Added bonus: NGOs seem to rock vacation time, flexible work arrangements, and a host of other things that will make your work life way more awesome.

Be realistic about potential for salary growth and plan accordingly

You can make a good living in the not-for-profit sector. Many NGOs do offer salaries that are competitive – they just may not be able to scale in the way that you see in other (read: corporate) industries. Can you eventually earn a six-figure salary working at an NGO? For sure. But the not-for-profit world is generally going to compensate a similar skill set at a much lower rate than the corporate world. Check out this tidbit from Canadian Charity Law when it comes to paying CEOs:

“Even so, charities tend to pay less than private sector firms for similar competencies. For example, the charities in our study pay a median total compensation of roughly $150,000, compared to median salaries at S&P 500 companies of $1 million, excluding bonus packages and stock options that drive the median compensation up to $6.6 million.”

Overall, my advice is to be realistic about salary potential. Think carefully about your current role and your future career trajectory in the not-for-profit arena. Can you move up, and when and how would you be able to do that? Where will your salary max out? Some jobs are just never going to pay more than 50K a year. Are you okay with that? If you are, awesome! But if you’re not, you need to map your career accordingly.

Build the appropriate skill sets that make you competitive for moving up and working as a senior program officer or in an upper-management position at a larger NGO. Consider what areas of the non-profit world (e.g. fundraising) may be more profitable if this is something that is important to you.

You should still negotiate your salary.

It is already difficult to ask for more money when negotiating in a corporate environment. But I felt superrrr awkward asking for more money from an NGO. At the end of the day, though, you are providing a valuable skill set that deserves to be compensated fairly. I had to remind myself this about forty thousand times when I made a counter offer.

But it worked for me, and it can work for you too.

salary_negotiation_infographic_1450px_042915Be ready to side hustle.

But you already knew this was coming! Yes, yes you did. But the thing is, I didn’t. Until pretty recently, I really thought my 9-to-5 was the end of the road. I was too exhausted at the end of a workday, and I “deserved” to be able to relax (i.e. lounge around watching Netflix) every night.

In fact, working outside of work could be the very thing that separates me from just getting by every month and actually achieving financial wellness.  

I do make a good living at my current job. But supplementing it with an extra $5-10,000 a year?

That bump is what I need to make my financial goals happen, unless I want to be ridiculously frugal (which, I just can’t).

The great news is that education and not-for-profit work already set you up for some potentially lucrative (and enjoyable!) side hustles. You already have valuable and in-demand skills – if you decide you want to make extra money with it, there is no reason you can’t.

Here are some awesome things in both fields you can do to add some extra to your bottom line every month:

  • Coaching.
  • Tutoring.
  • Facilitating PD workshops/online courses for other educators.
  • Proctoring/invigilating exams.
  • Grading exams/assessments.
  • Passage/item writing.
  • Consulting.
  • Researching.
  • Freelance writing.

And finally, the single best thing you can do if you want to make it on a not-for-profit salary:

Track your spending and live within your means.

Most people are terrible at doing this, regardless of their income bracket.

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So beat out the rest by making an annual budget, using Mint, having a spending journal, ditching your credit cards (or all of the above!) – whatever it is you need to spend less than you earn.

Not-for-profit work can be beyond amazing, and there is no reason that you cannot destroy all your financial goals on a not-for-profit salary.

Is anyone else working in the non-profit sector (or another “traditionally underpaid” career)? What have you done to chart a successful career path?

Why is personal finance so scary?

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I feel like many conversations about money I have had with friends, colleagues, and family members get stonewalled pretty quickly.

It’s just too much for people to handle.

There are too many things to figure out, to learn. For the love of God, why are there so many acronyms?

More importantly, there are too many things to decide.

I owe a big part of my financial awakening to Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.” I read it in the summer of 2015 (on a trip to Italy that I really couldn’t afford LOL). It took me another year and a half and a re-read in the fall of 2016 for some of the big takeaways from the book to really sink in.

In it, Ramit breaks down why most people are bad with money and it really comes down to our inability to make decisions. Decision fatigue is real. It’s why some pretty awesome people wear the same thing every day.

We don’t even want to pick our outfits in the morning. So learning about stock portfolios, GICs, dividends, tax-free accounts? It’s a lot.

Here’s a for instance for you.  I used to be totally crippled by this big, scary word: investment. I didn’t know how to get started; I didn’t know where to put my money, or much money I needed to begin investing. Do I have to pick stocks? Do I have to pay fees for this? Can I do this through my regular bank? What is a mutual fund?

So what do most people do when faced with an absurd number of questions?

Nothing. They do nothing at all.

That’s exactly what I did.  I never bothered trying to navigate the world of investing – I just got overwhelmed and gave up before I even began.

But doing nothing is one of your worst moves. Inaction is still a choice. In IWTYTBR, Ramit argues: “It’s more important to get started than to spend an exhaustive amount of time researching.”

If you do something, if you act, if you decide to be proactive with your finances, even if you don’t know everything about finance  (and you won’t) – you are still two steps ahead of 90% of people around you.

I am the furthest thing from an investment expert. But I am now an investor. Do I pick individual stocks? God no. But you don’t have to! (and many would argue that you really shouldn’t).

I think the biggest reason Ramit’s IWTYTBR made such an impact on me was because someone was finally speaking my language.

Somebody was finally articulating in a real way this challenge that we all face: deciding what to do with your money each and every day. And it can be overwhelming.

So start small. There is definitely something you could be doing differently with your finances.

Maybe you know that you should be saving for retirement, but have just been too freaked out to figure out how to do it. Maybe you tried investing, but you had a bad run-in with a broker or local bank associate, and then you just never revisited it. Maybe you have no idea what you’re spending your money on (hands up if you’re guilty…I am so so guilty).

It all gets very scary if you have to do everything all at once…but you don’t.  You just have to get started. Could you:

  • Spend 15 minutes reading about what an RRSP/401K is to help you figure out if you need one?
  • Take 10 minutes to set up an automated monthly transfer into a savings account, even if it’s only $20 or $50 a month?
  • Google an online budget or spending tracker (or steal one from the many amazing PF bloggers who graciously share theirs), and commit to tracking your spending for a week or a month?

Baby steps are okay.

But not making any decisions at all?  I did that for my entire twenties, and it didn’t turn out awesome.

So pick your thing. Work at that one thing. Learn about it. Get started. Make a decision, even if it’s not the perfect decision. You got this. Just remember:

“The single most important factor to getting rich is getting started, not being the smartest person in the room.” – Ramit Sethi, IWTYTBR

A Year of Financial Firsts: Those 2017 Goals

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2017 has already been a financially noteworthy year for me.

Why? Because this is the first year of my life that I have set financial goals. I mean, who has time for financial goals when you’re busy throwing your next paycheck at a week-long trip to the south of Thailand?

When I was 25, I would have awkwardly shrugged if anybody had asked me how much money I planned on saving that year (which nobody did, ever). RRSP? The acronym alone was enough to make me shudder.   And if my conversations with my co-Millenials tell me anything, I know I’m not alone here.

As I started digging a little more into the PF community, I realized that money is like everything else in life. You don’t need to have everything figured out right off the bat. You just need some basics and more importantly, if you want to make things happen, you actually have to set some goals. Crazy that.

So I did. In early January, I thought really long and hard, not just about what I wanted to see in my accounts at the year end, but what the journey would look like. What would make this time different? It’s not like I had never tried to get my financial act together before. I had, and failed many times. What would suddenly making saving and budgeting compelling to me – compelling enough to actually do it for the whole year (and beyond)?

I thought about other areas of my life where I have been successful. I lost 30 lbs. about seven years ago and have since kept it off. In fact, I never worried too much about gaining it back. Sure, I continue to count calories here and there and go to the gym on a semi-regular basis. But I realized why I was successful in getting – and keeping – that weight off. I never wanted to give up chocolate or wine when I was losing weight (uh, obviously). So I didn’t.

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For real.

I set reasonable, attainable goals. Things I was actually willing to make myself do for more than a couple weeks. Goals can be ambitious, sure – and if you look around the personal finance community, you will find people who are making absolutely magical things happen – but you have to make sure you are actually going to swallow the pill you prescribe yourself for more than a week.

With that in mind, I developed my three financial goals for 2017:

 

Goal #1: Track every dollar I spend – for the entire year.

To PF vets, this might seem like no biggy. But this is HUGE for me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to “make a budget.” This is seriously deserving of air quotes because they were such half-hearted attempts. I would always hang in there for a couple weeks, and then one of three things would happen:

  • Life.  Life would happen. Stress, fatigue, or unexpected commitments would inevitably arise. Suddenly, jotting down my expenses for the day seemed not so important.
  • Boredom. Tracking can just be sooo boring. I was usually attempting it pen-and-paper style and wow, there were few things I hated more than that little notebook.  I just didn’t wannnnaaa.
  • Fear.  So much this. One or two weeks into my spending diet, I would make a purchase that would knock my monthly budget out of whack. I would freak out, go into complete denial, not write it down in my little tracker – and then never track anything ever again.

So how was a former binge-money tracker going to actually pull off this goal for the year? Answer: I developed an amazing, colour-coded, totally inspired Excel spreadsheet. I know, inspired and spreadsheet do not belong in the same sentence but bear with me for a second.

It’s colourful. And it has all the automatically summing cells.

It just so happens I have to Excel my way through work every day so I’ve actually picked up a few handy tricks. I finally devised a spreadsheet that I knew I could fill out in less than 30 seconds every day, and that would automatically tally all my spending – not only for the month, but the year. I told you – amazing, right?

Not only that, but being able to see how my daily expenses would look in the big picture of months and years – and affect my larger financial goals – now that is something that is actually interesting to me! I am definitely a big-picture person so this was a huge win. January got me off to a great start – I have tracked every penny in 2017 so far and I am now mildly obsessed with my beautiful, colourful spreadsheet.

 

Goal #2: Outdo the “average” Millenial

Okay okay, I know comparison is the thief of joy, but a little competition never hurt. The average Millenial has a net worth of $10,400. Plain and simple, I want to exceed this before the end of 2017. Given that I have a small mountain of debt from my graduate degree, this will take some work, but it is definitely within reach.

If I achieve this, it would also represent the first time in my adult life that my net worth is in the black.

 

Goal #3: Add an additional source of income

Although this may be a mistake, I haven’t quantified this particular goal. I have no set amount that I want to earn in addition to my regular income. My regular income is sufficient to meet my monthly budget needs, pay down debt, and save. But I am so over being in debt and would love to pay it down more aggressively while throwing some extra dollars at my investment account.

I have some good prospects and a handful of leads for extra income that I’ll get into in another post. 2017 is really about developing them and making additional income streams part of my mindset for attaining financial well-being. There are limits to my frugality so a big part of making it rain to me is figuring out how to channel my skills to make additional income outside my day-to-day.

 

I am pumped about these three goals and I am so excited about how my January has gone. What goals have you set for 2017 and how has the first month of the year treated you?

How much it cost to go March on Washington last weekend

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Yep – I am one of those Canucks who traveled south of the border last weekend to go March on Washington.  Visiting DC for the Women’s March weekend paired two of my favourite things in the world – protests and good friends.

Despite the nagging frugal half of my brain telling me how expensive the trip would be, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity – you know, cause my favourite things.

Also, what an important weekend.  It was important to be one of many speaking out against atrocious policies and blatant hate speech.  It will continue to be important to be one of those people moving forward – this weekend was just the beginning.

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Marchers crowding the National Mall in Washington D.C. January 21, 2017.

When an American friend messaged to say she would be taking a long layover in DC for the inauguration weekend to visit our mutual friend, I was on FlightHub a split second later. I had a number in my head – what I knew I could swing without wrecking my budget – and promised myself if I could stay inside that number, I would book on the spot. If it was over, I’d try again later or ultimately just have to take a pass on the weekend. My magic number was 300 CAD – and my flight came in at 297. Yes!

One of the potentially more expensive parts of the trip, accommodation, was not an issue thanks to the kind hospitality of my friend housing three of us in her one-bedroom in DC. Seriously, she’s the best.

For someone who was traveled extensively, I have to make a somewhat embarrassing confession: this is the first time ever tracking all of my expenses on a holiday. So I really have no frame of reference to know how bad the damage was, but here goes. The grand total for all expenses to March on Washington was 575 USD.

 

Here’s more of a breakdown

Flight: 226 USD

I think I snagged an inauguration discount on this one! The lovely American guy I sat next to on the plane said he flew that route every week for work and it was often priced above 400-500 USD.

Ground Transportation: 90 USD

Traffic. And road closures. And more traffic. Enough said.

Restaurants and Drinks: 209 USD

More than half of this was treating my friends to dinner one night. Annnddd we might have had a lot of cocktails. Totally worth it.

Thank-You Gift & Groceries: 50 USD

Grand Total: 575 USD

Ouch – I was definitely wearing my pussy hat, not my frugal hat, this weekend. On a more uplifting note, I ballparked some of the money I managed to save on the trip and it came to 441.50 USD!

 

Estimated savings on my trip to Washington DC

Accommodation: 238.50 USD

I assumed a 3-night stay at the median priced AirBnB over inauguration weekend and splitting the cost with a friend (https://www.cnet.com/news/airbnb-packs-in-washington-dc-guests-for-trump-inauguration-weekend/)

Meals at home: 30 USD

Flight: 173 USD

Google tells me American seatmate was totally correct and the average flight from Ottawa to DC is 524 CAD. Seriously, some kind of inauguration discount?!  I’ll take it!

Total Estimated Savings: 441.50 USD

This number gives me all the warm and fuzzies – as in I might only ever travel based on protests of interest where I have a free place to crash from now on.

Although I could have been super frugal on this trip, it wasn’t the most important thing to me. Over one third of my income already went to debt repayment and savings this month. The March was positive and inspiring. I felt so proud to stand there alongside half a million people, and for a brief moment, it made me really hopeful.  That feeling has faded a lot over the last week, but it has not been erased.  If anything, it has only become more clear with each passing day how much work we all have to do in the weeks, months, and years to come.

All in all, this weekend could not have been more worth it.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-8-14-47-am

Women’s March in front of the United States Capitol on January 21, 2017.

And while I did track every penny of the trip and put it into my regular monthly budget, most of the spending money for the trip came from a stash of US dollars I had left over from some freelance work last year. So it’s almost like it doesn’t count, right? Yusss exactly.

Did anyone else partake in the Marches around the world last weekend?  What have you been doing in the days since the inauguration to make your voices heard?