Programming, Investing and FI

Taking Expenses Down for Fueling FI

The easiest way to become financial independent is to cut down expenses. So to prove that I’m not just saying this without standing by my words, I will give a peek into my own financial situation, more precisely my expenses and try to show how I cut them down.

A Quick Look at my Expenses

Here is a quick look at how my expenses are layed out. With that graph you can see roughly where my biggest expenses are for 2017. I’ve already entered the whole year as most of my expenses are constant.

Expenses Alexandre

1. Transportation

BRZ

Total Cost per year: 11000$

Transportation accounts for my highest expense yearly. Ouch, that new car (Subaru BRZ) really costs a lot! But I am still stuck with monthly payments of 574$ for 4 more years. A great way to reduce that is to focus on the only two things my control : how much I use the car and how I maintain it. Also, the 11000$ includes everything related to the car i.e. gas, insurance, driver’s license, car payments and so on, without the money I might save below.

Car Maintenance

A car needs basic maintenance, no doubt. I sold my old Honda Accord 2000 last year for about 3000$ because it was well maintained. It never failed me as I would always do my oil changes and repairs on time. Just basic maintenance seems to cost more on the short term, but if you need a car, it’s going to save you money in the long run. If you can’t maintain your car to keep it safe, I am sorry but you cannot afford it.

I make sure not to change the oil at too small intervals. If it says 12000 km in the owner’s manual, I’ll do just that. Two oil changes for the BRZ per year is enough.

Some maintenance components are easy to do on a car. For example, changing tires, checking tire pressure, changing oil, brake maintenance, checking engine and cabin air filters as well as replacing them. Fluid verification is also easy. Most of the time, it’s written on the container what is the maximum and minimum, you can check in the owner’s manual for more instructions. I like to have control over how my car is running and I think it’s a good consideration for every owner. Finally, and I think this is the most underrated maintenance you can do and it’s: washing your car! Washing your car helps keeping the body in good shape for a long time (paint, clear coat and everything).

Wash your car!

My old Honda Accord was 16 years old on that picture, that’s the power of washing and maintaining your car, seriously.

Public Transportation

I highly recommend using public transportation to save money as it will almost always be less expensive than owning a car.

Biking

Bike - Vélo

I’ve decided to invest a bit of money in my old bike and use it instead of driving to work for the whole Spring – Summer – Autumn seasons. Using my car only for necessities like groceries and that kind of stuff will reduce not only pollution but also my gas budget which is currently set to 150$ a month. I think it should go down to around 40$ a month, 110$ saved per month plus getting in shape. Worth it! I also save on the usage of the car!

Around 110$ saved per month for 6 months = 660$ saved!

2. Electronics

Cell Phone

Probably the most common electronic is the cell phone. Almost everyone has one in the pocket. Still, a lot of people here in Canada pay as much as 70 to 100$ a month! This is ridiculous!

What I suggest is to keep the phone for as long as possible and buy the damn thing to gain leverage over the cell phone companies. That way they won’t have much more than their deals and service to keep you as a client. This will open up better packages. That’s what I did for my phone and now have a plan at 35$ taxes in with good features.

Blackberry Priv

Something else would be to try to limit your network usage and connect to Wi-Fi as soon as you want to watch videos. You will be able to cut down the bill by a large amount by going to that 500MB/1GB plan.

Saved 7.5$ per month after accounting for the price of the phone.

Tablets

In my opinion, a tablet is useless for most of us. Why would we want something that’s about the size of a laptop but can do less. Also, you don’t have a physical keyboard (with most tablets) and for the price of an IPad, you can get a laptop which will give you a lot more bang for your buck!

Game Consoles

Game consoles might be good for people who don’t want to care about upgrading their PC. The downside will be more expensive games as console players don’t have Steam sales. Personally, I don’t buy my games when they come out, they are too expensive. It’s worth waiting to get them cheaper (especially on PC). In the end, just make sure that whatever you buy, you’re going to play enough to make for the money you spent.

The TV

TV is so filled with commercials that it should be free, I don’t pay for TV, sorry. I will pay only for Internet connection and for Netflix. Both of them will be around 30$ because they are divided by two. The perks of having a girlfriend who can pay half (or almost) of this stuff! Where I live, TV can easily go up to 130$ a month, unplug that cable to save a bunch of money!

3. Internet Service Provider and Insurance

I’ve decided to put them in the same category because they are the same in how you shop for them. I don’t just take the retail price, I shop around and find the best price I can get. Two hours of comparing prices and some phone PR is not that much for the amount I might save at the end of the year! Defining my needs and doing to research prior to calling is the best strategy in my opinion.

4. Activities

It’s easy to find cheap activities, forget going out and spending 300$ alcohol in a bar or at that super expensive restaurant which charges you about 100$ per hour. I’m also talking about going to movies, ok maybe once in a while, but 15-20$ per hour is still very expensive if you take into account the travel, popcorn and soft drink as well as your ticket. Shopping Sunday is a big no no, shopping is not an activity. For the times we really need to go to an actual shop, a good trick I found is to always have a clear idea (or a list) of what you want before going to the store. If you don’t really need it you won’t think about buying it, right?!

For real activities, why not try biking, walking in the park (catching Pokemons!), there are actually a lot of free or really cheap activities you can do that are organized by volunteers or by your city. For example, here in Ottawa/Gatineau, we have the tulip festival each year. That’s great way to spend some time outside! Also, writing, playing video games/board games or painting are all fun activities that can be done at low cost. Traveling is a great activity as well, there are plenty of interesting things to see not so far from where we live!

5. Meals

You don’t know how much bringing a lunch to work can save per year? I’ve seen people buying 10$ lunch every work day of the year. Let’s run the numbers!

48 weeks working (accounting 3 weeks of vacation plus 1 week for holidays) X 5 days a week X 10$ a lunch = 2,400$

Holy cow! That’s a lot of money for eating junk food! I admit that some places offer quality food but you don’t have total control over what you eat and might be tempted by the evil fat, sugary, not so good food. Invest that money instead and/or buy some quality food with it!

Going for a coffee every morning goes in the same category, it’s wasted money when you can make it at home or not drink coffee at all. If you really have to drink coffee and like Tim’s coffee, make it a Friday only special occasion! It costs about 500$ per year to buy a coffee cup every day.

For these reasons, buying lunch is not part of my expenses!

Saving about 2400$ per year! Yeah!

6. Non-discretionary Products

I am not a big fan of “all-natural” shampoos or the like, I prefer going straight to the pharmacy and buying what I need when on sale. I think it’s a better idea than buying that 30$ (at least) product from the hair salon.

Non-discretionary products sometimes have sales on them but seem less likely to. I think it might be because companies know that you don’t have much choice. I’m talking about soap, shampoo, shavers, toothbrush, toothpaste and so on. Buying these in bulk can be a good idea to save money because you know you will always need them. That means as long as they don’t have expiry date, it’s good to stack up a bit. I will gladly buy the two pack deodorant instead of just one at the time for example.

7. Gifts

I try to limit them, a better idea is to spend actual time with the person instead which is way more valuable than an actual piece of junk that might end up in the garbage. It’s as if people now buy gifts in a robotic fashion, just because they don’t want to look cheap or whatever. Time won’t make you look cheap, that’s a sure thing and it’s better to spend it on the person rather than in the store trying to find something for that same person.

Something else I really like to do is to buy time for others, for example a gift certificate in a restaurant for my parents is something good because I know they won’t be eating out otherwise. I try to choose a new restaurant where they never went!

8. Rent and Home

Appartment - Appartement

It’s possible to limit home expenses by considering renting instead of buying. Renting has less responsibilities and is my personal preference over buying. It depends on your situation and your location but after a lot of thinking and calculations, I figured out that it was almost impossible to come out on top while buying especially on the short term, strictly money and responsibility wise. Plus an house will keep me in a specific location which I don’t want either. You really have to consider your needs before buying.

Where I live, I can save about 800$ per month by renting plus all the responsibilities of owning an house.

9. Grocery

Grocery is part of the Everyday category. I think it’s a tricky thing to save money on because prices vary greatly and I don’t want to cut on the right food for myself. My idea is that buying more fruits and vegetables while reducing meat and dairy products will be cheaper and more health oriented. Many products like soft drinks are a complete waste of money and not good for health. Even if they’re cheap, they’re not worth my money! Coupons and buying what is on sale can help you save as well.

10. Important stuff and Useless Crap

The way I see it is that anything that will bring substantial improvement in my lifestyle and happiness in general is a worth buy. What I mean is that if I don’t have a fridge, a fridge is a great improvement because it will keep food cool and save a bunch of money (and family from dying as well!). On the other hand, buying the most expensive fridge won’t bring much more in my life than the least expensive one that just does the same job. If I really want that stainless steel one and it’s not that much more expensive, I might go for it if I know a white fridge is going to bother me every morning when I wake up. That’s the happiness improvement part!

Same thing for every other object. Buying quality things that are a bit more expensive can pay in the long run as well.

Anything else is useless crap, I like to ask myself if I really really need that product before buying. Maybe the dollar is better invested towards FI. For example a coffee at Tim Hortons is not money well spent especially because you could make one at home instead and save a few dollars. It’s still going to be coffee. Bad habits are money pits.

Also, I try to limit my exposure to commercials to make sure they don’t create fake needs in my mind. That helps keeping the focus on the actual goal!

Finding the Perfect Balance

To summarize, here is what I do to keep my expenses as low as possible. You can follow my strategy or create yours! I :

  1. limit the usage of my car and complete basic maintenance on time;
  2. use my bike as much as possible;
  3. bring my lunch to work;
  4. cut down restaurants and keep them only for special occasions;
  5. keep shopping for best prices for Internet;
  6. shop for the least expensive phone plan and insurance plan;
  7. cut the cable TV
  8. buy only what’s necessary, that by limiting my exposure to publicity and by rarely going to shopping malls;
  9. find activities that are fun but not too heavy on the budget;
  10. manage my money like a business would;
  11. appreciate that time is much more valuable than money.

I am sure you can do all this as well to become FI! Good luck!

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