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Fiscal year-end!

September 6th, 2009 at 05:19 pm

Since I'm a teacher, "year-end" around this house is the end of August. Any increase in pay I get starts in September, so it's just easier to consider my year to begin then.

That means it's time to fire up Quicken and ask it to give me all the numbers for the previous year. I want to compare our biggest seven expenses year-to-year.

For the 2008/2009 year:
1. Mortgage, $26 600.
2. Auto, $17 564.59.
3. Household, $8 000.
4. Cash, $6 357.59.
5. Utilities, $3 586.25.
6. Groceries, $3 514.52.
7. Property taxes, $3 000.

I'll be interested to see if, and how, this past year's expenses are different.

Seventh biggest expense - Property Taxes

October 3rd, 2008 at 08:06 pm

I'm still analyzing last year's expenses, and already at number seven I'm feeling like it's one I can't do anything about - property taxes.

Our taxes are actually reasonable by some standards, since there aren't a ton of infrastructure projects going on in the neighbourhood. We pay just over $3000 a year, or $260/month, which we can usually spread out over 8 payments.

We're not interested in moving out of our home when we're retired, although I guess our opinions could change. I like the idea of hosting foreign students for some part of the year, enough to pay for the property taxes. I'm a teacher with ESL qualifications, so I think we'd be a desirable host family.

Sixth biggest expense - "Groceries"

September 30th, 2008 at 07:12 pm

There are two adults in our house, one child age ten (who is actually only here half-time), and two cats whose food and litter get added to the grocery bill. Surprisingly, we only spent $3514.52 in the past year on groceries, which works out to $68/week. It's even more surprising when I look and realize that LCBO (liquor store) purchases are in there too.

We have a lot of routines we're happy with, when it comes to cooking and eating food. For much of the year we got the Good Food Box, a big box (about three grocery bags full) of fruit and veggies for $17. We've used the local farmer's market that opened in our neighbourhood this summer. We tend to shop "around the edges" of the grocery store, buying almost no pre-prepared or packaged foods. (My husband's boxed cereal is the biggest exception). We only buy meat when it's close enough to its best-before date that the grocery store has slapped a 30% off sticker on it. I'm kicking it up a notch by starting to clip coupons seriously, joining a coupon train to trade the ones I don't need for the ones I do, and tracking the best possible price using the website grocerysavings.ca.

In general, though, we keep agreeing that we want to spend *more* on groceries; I'm a good cook (if I do say so myself), and we'd both like to get away from the number of times a week we have sandwiches for supper because we're too tired to fix something more complicated. We don't order in, but neither do we enjoy all that life has to offer in the eating category. When we're retired, eating quality food we made ourselves is one of the things we expect to bring us considerable joy.

Fifth biggest expense - "Utilities"

September 29th, 2008 at 10:24 am

Our fifth biggest expense in the 2007/2008 year was Utilities, with total spending of $3 586.25. That breaks down to almost exactly $300/month.

"Utilities" include phone, natural gas (our furnace is natural gas, and so is the stove and dryer), electricity, city water & sewage, and cable TV.

We've cancelled the cable TV, saving over $30/month. We've switched to Bullfrog Power, which increases our bill, but we're trying to use less electricity to offset that. And we've got plans to put up a clothesline to dry our clothes, although I'm not sure how much that will save us in terms of natural gas usage.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we're looking at putting in solar electricity and hot water, which would affect our utility bills (hopefully in a good way!).

I'm sure there's more we could do to reduce our utility bills, and perhaps we'll take a month this year to focus on that.

Fourth Biggest Expense - "Cash"

September 28th, 2008 at 06:18 am

I'm mortified to find that the fourth-biggest expense we had in the 2007/2008 year was the category called "Cash". This is the category I use when I'm categorizing any withdrawal from either my husband's savings account, or my chequing account.

The total for the year: $6357.59! When I break it down, it's "only" $66/week for each of us, which on the face of it is reasonable. When I think that every year, each of us could buy a $10000 strip bond with that money instead, it sure starts to seem like a lot.

The worst part is that with one exception, we don't really know what we spent that money on. We use it for lunches out, haircuts, library fines for overdue books, my son's allowance, the occasional take-out coffee for me, and I'm not sure what else.

The exception is my husband's monthly transit passes, which in Toronto cost $109. Those should absolutely be tracked separately, especially since we can get an income tax rebate on them now. We can also order a year's worth ahead of time, which has three benefits - it saves $9/month, we get them in the mail ahead of time, and the expenditure will be clearly marked in our chequing account when they withdraw the money.

It's clear what we really need to do - start writing down what we spend! In a way, it's our third-biggest expense, since the "Auto" category was only so high because of the camper-van purchase. We've made half-hearted attempts to do this in the past, but never really managed to keep it up. It's time now.

"Household" Expenses

September 27th, 2008 at 10:33 am

Our third-biggest expense in the 2007/2008 school year was the category we call "Household". We spent just under $8000.

Over $6000 of that was for a new roof - we knew the house needed a roof in 2005 when we bought it, but we managed to stretch it out and replace it after I was done my re-training and had a full-time one-year contract.

The remaining expenditures in that category are not really very well itemized. Anything we buy at Rona (the Canadian version of Home Depot), Canadian Tire (hardware store), Zellers (Canadian department store), or the pharmacy tends to end up categorized here. It includes supplies bought for wiring and plumbing fixes (our house was built in 1914), but also the occasional purchase for the kitchen (like canning jars).

Without the roof, it works out to average $135/month. There are other bigger expenses to worry about...

Auto Expenses

September 26th, 2008 at 07:21 pm

We live downtown in the biggest city in Canada, and use public transit (the subway, in our case) to get to work every day. I was therefore surprised to see that our second-biggest expense in the past year was... "Auto"!

From last September 1 to the end of August, we spent $17 564.59 in that category. Wow.

Fortunately that's not typical for us. The biggest hit was because we bought the dream car that I'd wanted for a couple of years - a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia campervan. We spent five weeks in July and August driving from Toronto to the Yukon Territory and back, and it was an amazing adventure.

It cost $8 800 to buy the camper and get it on the road (taxes, registration, plates, and all that). We also spent about $2 000 for a very good mechanic (one who specializes in air-cooled VWs) to get it ready for the trip.

We do have another car that we use occasionally, and if you thought a 30-year-old camper was old... well, my "regular" car is a 1971 Volkswagen Superbeetle. I had been putting off various maintenance issues for it until last September, so it had a considerable amount of work in the past year - about $3 800.

Insurance for both vehicles is a fairly reasonable $135/month. Since we don't drive every day, even being Canadians we spend less than $100/month on gas (today's local gas price is $1.15/litre, which works out to $4.35/gallon.) The other recurring cost is parking, which we have to pay for, and works out to about $25/month.

Even with some maintenance costs built in, I'd expect to see next year's auto costs running between $3500 and $5000. If we decide to sell the campervan, we'll actually get ahead for the year in that category!

Edit: added picture of the campervan. Isn't he the cutest thing ever?!

Mortgage Musing

September 25th, 2008 at 08:16 pm

I've been looking at our household expenses for the last year... since I'm a teacher, I tend to view the end of August as the end of the year. I plan to look at each expense category in turn, from the biggest to the smallest.

Our single biggest expense, as expected, is our mortgage. We paid $26,600 (Cdn) on it over the past 12 months. We pay weekly, and doubled up 24 of those weekly payments.

It's a variable-rate mortgage, and right now the rate is sitting at 4.75%. At that rate, we'd have it paid off in less than five years. Of course the rate won't stay that same, though. If it starts going up to the point where the mortgage won't be paid off before our planned retirement date, then we'll have to start doubling up payments again to keep the amortization acceptable.

I expect for the current year, we'll pay only $18,200 in mortgage costs, since we're investing money rather than aggressively paying off the mortgage right now. Since it's an expense that will eventually go away, I don't think it's worth scrutinizing any further!