Budgeting/Shopping Smart

Exactly How Much I Spent & Saved Last Year On A $37K Salary

By | Tuesday, January 22, 2019

As per my blog post on 5 Short and Easy Tasks To Prepare For the New Year, I’ve combed through all my expenses throughout 2018. If you don’t know, I’m an avid budget tracker, and I thought it would be fun to do a post on exactly how much I’ve spent this year (and my thoughts on each category).

If you’re not familiar with my category system, I highly recommend you check out my budget template first where I explain my system (it even comes with a free copy of the exact template I use and a video guide to help you get started!).
But before we get all into it, I wanted to put in some disclaimers and clarify some things, because this is the internet.

Firstly, I’m not doing this post to brag or to show off all that I have or to have anyone pity me. I’m writing this in order to be honest. The hardest part of personal finance is talking about personal finance. And I 100% respect any person’s choice to keep their personal finances private because it is a very personal thing. However, the reason I started MLA is because I wanted to create an honest personal space where I could share exactly what I’m doing to get through adulthood instead of just sharing some vague or generic advice.

So, instead of just talking about the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, I thought it would be fun to see how the rule applied to me and my year-end budget.

If you don’t know, the 50/30/20 rule is popular budgeting rule where you spend:

  • 50% of your income on Needs such as groceries, housing, utilities, car payments, etc.
  • 30% of your income on Wants such as shopping, dining out, hobbies, etc. and;
  • 20% of your income on Financial Goals, like paying off debt, savings, or retirement.

Now, I’m not criticizing his rule — I actually think it’s a great structure for people to aim for when they start budgeting. But this is just a small reminder that everyone is at a different place in life, so even if your budget or my budget doesn’t exactly align with this rule, it doesn’t make us personal finance failures. If I’ve learned anything in personal finance, it’s that most people are just trying to do the best they can with what they know.

Lastly, I know there are a lot of bloggers who also do something similar with Income Reports, particularly for their blog (spoiler alert, my blog makes $0, so shortest income report ever), and sometimes they even choose to be anonymous. I totally understand why someone would choose to share finances in that manner because going deep into your finances is a very sensitive thing to share. However, I wanted to put this out there because I want you to know I’m a real person. I’m a real millennial, living a somewhat average life, just trying to figure out how to be an adult.

So as a little disclaimer, I want to remind you that this is not a comparison game; I think people should talk about money. This is what my life looks like at this exact moment in time, but I know what’s it’s like to have a completely work situation (working 2-3 jobs, temping from place to place) and also different priorities like traveling for 4-6 months of the year. My budget and life is very different now that I’m paying down a mortgage and saving for things like retirement. Some of my expenses may seem outrageous to you, and some of them may seem super cheap (bless that free Canadian healthcare system), so remember that these are only the expenses and savings goals that relate directly to me, and I’m certainly not perfect.

Before we get started, I wanted to make some clarifications about me and my situation:

  • I live in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia. Très expensive and yes, Vancouver is très bougie, but I live in a not-as-expensive suburb.
  • I work in Government administration and make about 50K CAD a year (just about $37.5K USD).
  • I live by myself and own my apartment (or more specifically, I own my mortgage).
  • I don’t have any debt other than my mortgage. I lived at home all during school and my degree was 1) cheaper than average and 2) half paid for by scholarships/bursaries and half paid for by part-time jobs/paid co-ops.
  • I have a wonderful boyfriend who covers a lot of our meals out (more on that later) and have a loving family with a mom who always sends me home with leftovers. She also calls me every time there is a big sale at the grocery store. No kidding, I had to drop everything one Saturday morning to go buy steaks on sale.
  • I love cooking. Not just as a way to save money, but truly love the whole experience. I used to binge Food Network, even at 12 years old, and still watch my favorite shows on the FoodNetwork.ca (cable is not a re-occurring charge for me). Cooking is also my self-care time. I usually catch up on YouTube videos, podcasts or watch reruns of Gilmore Girls while cooking. It is convenient that it also saves me money.
  • I don’t buy clothes because my sister is the most fashionable person you will ever meet and 95% of my clothes are hand-me-downs.
  • Finally, I don’t own a car.

Fixed Expenses: $17,791 CAD ($13,336 USD)

Which includes: Strata, Mortgage, Utilities, Cell phone, Internet, Bus Passes, and Re-occurring charges such as Google Drive, Google Business Email, etc.

Okay, so Google Drive hardly counts as a “necessity,” but I lump it in there because all my fixed and re-occurring charges are at the top of my budget so I know what’s automatically coming out that month. For the most part, I can’t really change these payments (other than the like $8 to Google every month). I have thought about trying to find ways to lower my utility bill, but for things like cell phone and internet, I’m already on the lowest plan possible. I know this because I’m always on the lookout for better deals, and I called into my internet provider a few months ago to negotiate a killer 2-year deal. Other than that, my strata, mortgage payments are fixed, so overall, I’m not surprised this is my biggest expense.

On the plus side, I found a way to save on my transit pass, which was previously a re-occurring charge on my budget. Earlier this year, I enrolled back in school and as a part of the tuition, I get free transit! The reason for that is because transit passes (also known as U-Passes in my province) are included in the tuition and since my company is covering my education, it’s almost like I’m getting free bus passes in exchange for going to school. Pretty sweet deal. The only caveat is that this only applies to the months I’m taking classes, which won’t be every month this year. Still, my work ordinarily subsidizes my transit pass, so instead of $95/month, I only pay $75, so it’s not the worst thing in the world.

I think not having a car is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to save more, and I know I’m lucky. My boyfriend has a car so he drives whenever we need to go anywhere, and I borrow my parents’ car whenever I need to as well (we live super close). This system only for works now, but even I had met my boyfriend and when I was living at home, I pretty much transited everywhere. I actually don’t mind transit and because I also live near my office, I can’t justify buying a car because I don’t need it for work. My life may not look like this forever so eventually I may consider getting a car, but for now, it works.

Groceries: $3,164 CAD ($2,371 USD)

My average grocery bill is about $263/month and that works out to roughly $60/week. I know my grocery bill is looking a little high for someone who lives by themselves, but I have a reason for this. And my reason is that I work in the middle of nowhere.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic but the fact that my office is located in the middle of nowhere gives me very limiting options of where I buy lunch. And since there are not many options that aren’t hella greasy (and expensive!), I am forced to make my lunch every single day. So my grocery bill isn’t just for breakfast and dinners, it’s for lunch every day as well.

But, because I love cooking so much, I don’t mind it so much. Not to brag, but I think I make lunches far better than the cafeteria at my office and I also cook for my boyfriend a lot as well. He covers dinners out and I cover our dinners in (to be clear, he does always offer to pay for my groceries too but I won’t let him). A lot of the times I also tend to make breakfast and lunches for both of us. It’s not something I have to do, but as I said before, I actually just like to cook. Which is also probably why I was SO EXCITED to get a hand mixer and immersion blender for Christmas presents this year. #gamechangers

Coffee: $251 CAD ($188 USD)

This is big for me. I usually spend wayyyyy more on coffee on this budget would have probably only lasted me 4 months a few years ago. But I’ve gotten really good at making my own coffee at home (thank you Pinterest copycat recipes) and my brother also started working for a large coffee chain so SCORE.

Lastly, I know this isn’t right, but I’m adding coffee into my Needs budget. You don’t understand, I need coffee.

Snacks/Work Lunches: $161 CAD ($121 USD)

So although I pack my lunch every single day at work, I still, of course, participate in work lunches. So this category is how much I’ve spent on takeout, coffees, and bubble teas with co-workers.

It probably does help that the co-worker I used to get Starbucks and bubble tea with all the time no longer works with me (still miss him) but this is an expense I want to lower even more. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s just excess spending for things I don’t really need.

Home: $2,360 CAD (1,769 USD)

Which includes: Home Insurance, home maintenance, home décor

To be honest most of this is my home insurance so it automatically makes it a need. This budget also includes the time when my washer flooded (super fun btw), some home improvement projects, and lots of things from IKEA.  I’m hoping this will cut down a bit over the next year because hopefully, my washer will not flood anymore. But also, because I moved in at the beginning of the year, I had to spend a lot of money on items up-front. While I do hope these expenses will die down this year, there are still a lot of upgrades I’m hoping to do to my home.

Entertainment: $1,811 CAD ($1,357 USD)

I qualify entertainment as basically anything that’s going out. This includes dinners out, movies, and for me, weddings. I went to 3 weddings this year (all for people I super love) and in Asian culture, it’s common practice to give money instead of gifts.

Also, as I mentioned before, this budget isn’t as high because this is the first year I’ve had a boyfriend (in like 10 years) so he covered a lot of our dinners out. Usually, it’s takeout when I’m too tired or don’t have time to cook because we are the  “let’s not go outside and be around other people” type of people.

Shopping: $2,108 CAD ($1,580 USD)

As I mentioned before, I rarely buy clothes because I mostly wear my sister’s handy me downs and ask for clothes for my birthday or Christmas gifts if my wardrobe needs a bit of an update. But I do spend on other things. Okay so while reviewing my spreadsheet, I realized that I kind of confused my definitions of what expense belonged in what category so there are expenses in here that don’t really belong to my “shopping” category. For example, I realized that I added a couple of gifts in this category and some healthcare items when I had an eczema flare up and my insurance didn’t cover all of it. I guess now that my parents don’t automatically buy the medicine I need, healthcare should probably be its own category.

A large chunk of the expenses in this category was also for my blog. Earlier this year I actually started a specific account for creative projects (including blogging expenses) but before that, it was just coming out of my usual budget. Some of these expenses include the Perfect Blogger course I took with Sam Laura Brown and hosting charges, domain names, etc.

Overall I think I did pretty well for this category all things considering. But oh yes, Amazon. I spent a lot on Amazon (probably for things that I didn’t really “need”).

Misc: $5,053 CAD ($3,787 USD)

Lastly is my miscellaneous category that includes most travel expenses and presents. This is probably my most wasteful category because it’s the things I couldn’t categorize. I don’t regret the presents or trips but there are definitely expenses in this category that I don’t want to have to repeat – especially relating to being a bridesmaid. I love my friends, but oh my gosh is it so expensive.

Also because of my lack of healthcare category, I included my $300 dental bill in this category. I think that my breakthrough moment of “omgosh being an adult is so hella expensive” was learning that a 45 minute cleaning at my dentist’s office costs THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS. The only reason I went was because my dental benefits finally kicked in at work. My work covers 80%-90% of each service so I ended up getting reimbursed most of it and ended up paying around $15. But still, I know understand why people don’t go to the dentist. And they want me to go twice a year? Who has $600 to spend on teeth cleanings each year?

Creative Spending Fund: $70 USD ($95 CAD)

Earlier this year, I started a Creative Spending Fund. I realized that while I had a budget for almost everything else in my life, I wasn’t tracking how much I was spending on this blog or on my creative

projects.  More importantly, I wasn’t putting a budget on them. And while I love being able to write and create, it comes at a cost. Without a budget, I would make outrageous costs like the time I spent over $500 on an Adobe subscription that I never really used.

Before creating this account, these charges would just come off of my credit card and I would add it into my budget in the Misc. or shopping category, but I never truly tracked how much I was putting in.

So I created a Creative Spending Fund. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just an account in my PayPal where my side hustle money goes in and any money that I am spending towards creative projects comes out of . Essentially, it’s to keep myself accountable; I can only spend my side hustle money to fund my creative projects. If I don’t add money in, and I continue to spend, I simply run out of money and have to start working extra hard to put money into the account again.

And while I didn’t itemize any other category in this budget re-cap, this money was only spent on 3 things:

  1. The Get Out of Your Own Way Course by Sam Laura Brown (currently closed on waitlist but I paid $29 USD)
  2. A 1 week trial of the Instagram Lab by Jenna Kutcher. I later realized that it’s not for me. ($1 USD)
  3. A credit towards my new blog theme by the Creative Market ($40 USD)

This system has really made me critical think before I make any purchase related to Millennial Life Admin or any of my other projects because now, I have a clearly defined budget. To be honest at times it can feel kind of limiting.  For example, there are things I would love to invest in right now, but my side hustle work has dried up so I’m not really adding to the fund. It’s one of the reasons I’m considering monetizing my blog but that’s a whole other conversation.

Retirement: $7,277 CAD ($5,455 USD) (Not including Employer Match)

To be honest, the only reason I’ve put so much into my retirement fund this year is because I was essentially forced into it. Okay so maybe “forced” isn’t the right word, but I’m currently maxing out my employer match program so a significant amount of my paycheque goes automatically into my retirement accounts every month. The money never even touches my bank account. Truthfully, until a few months ago, I didn’t even know how much I was putting in, but I found out it was a lot. And while I’m begrudgingly pouting at this amount that’s being transferred beyond my control, I know I’ll be grateful for it later.

I’m not counting my employer match in this roundup because I don’t 100% know the vesting policy. I’m not sure what the time frame is for me to leave, and still keep my employer match, but I’ll cross that bridge when I’m closer to the ledge. Right now, I’m only counting the contributions which I’ve made and which I will 100% be able to keep no matter what the vesting policy is and when/if I choose to leave the company.

Approx. Savings Contribution: $5,460 CAD ($4,093 USD)

I think it’s a decent amount I’ve added towards various spending activities this year. Although I’ve spent some of it as this also includes my travel savings which I dip into every time I take a trip. This year it included a 1 night cruise with my family to Seattle, a trip back to Toronto/Ottawa to see my family and friends, and a couple of weekend getaways.

It also includes the progress I’ve made on saving back up for my emergency fund when I was hit by some unexpected expenses earlier this year. If you read that post – update: I’ve re-stocked my emergency fund! And currently, I’m saving up for a trip to Peru in April to do the Inca trail!

Well, that’s the last of my expenses/savings round up. So how did I do in the 50/30/20 rule?

  • Needs – $25,674 CAD ($19,245 USD) – 56%
  • Wants- $7,119 CAD ($5,336 USD) – 15%
  • Retirement and Savings Goals – $12,737 CAD ($9,548 USD) – 27%
  • Total Spent: $45,531 CAD ($34,130 USD)

Let the record show though that this is not a perfect system as I’ve lumped a lot of categories together and jumble parts of each category, but this end of the year budget has taught me a lot. Mostly that I depend on coffee way to much if I put it in my “Needs” category, but also that although it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, I’m doing well. Sometimes I too get caught up in the comparison game too and feel “less than” but these kinds of exercises can be humbling and a bit of a relief as well. Seriously, I didn’t know how much I was putting into retirement and now I worry less about it.

It’s definitely not an exact science and if you go through all my numbers more finely, it’ll probably be closer to the 50/30/20 rule, so I’m doing pretty average when it comes to expenses. Maybe that’s a sign that I should revamp my budget template of 6 years to better track this (gasp! But oh, loving that idea).

And if you’re wondering where things like my taxes are, they are automatically deducted from my paycheque. Usually I get back money, but I’m kind of new to my role so we’ll see in April what happens.

Nonetheless, I hope this was helpful and if not, at least interesting. Remember, my circumstances and priorities are probably totally different from yours and this is not a comparison game. But I think the more open we are about our spending and saving habits the more we can learn and grow and help each other out.

Thanks as always for reading and please comment below or email me at kimberly@millenniallifeadmin.com to let me know your thoughts on this type of post – good and bad, because really, should I not be exposing myself on the internet like this? Let me know! Is this boring or overshare? You can say that too! Either way I would love to know how your end of the year budget went.

Kimberly is the writer behind www.millenniallifeadmin.com. MLA is a blog that helps break down the everyday adulthood tasks of growing up; one unavoidable responsibility at a time. You can also find her scrolling through memes and sassy posts on Instagram @millenniallifeadmin.

Image via Unsplash

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