Time for some financial voyeurism! I’ve enjoyed reading financial expenditures and net worth updates the past few weeks. I don’t feel we’re at a point in our journey where it’s super interesting for others to hear about it every month as I don’t share detailed monthly spend and we’re not close to FIRE. Having said that, it’s been a few months and so feel an update is warranted. There are a few great reasons I like doing this:
- If our focus has strayed, it’s a great way to ensure our gaze doesn’t stray for too long.
- It helps us get back on track sooner, if that’s needed
- Celebrating milestones and online community support is great to keep momentum going
- And certainly not least, accountability. Sharing creates a public commitment and thus more likely to keep things honest and provide motivation to accomplish it.
Unlike others, I don’t share detailed expense reports or savings percentages. I also only update our net worth once a year. I find January 1st a perfect day to kick that off. Why only once a year? Increasing net worth is a result of many many small daily decisions, and some big ones along the way. It’s a marathon, not a race. Slow n’ steady. All this to say that tracking monthly net worth updates is like watching a snail move across a room. It’s tiny increments. It’s best to automate everything you can, keep your attention on the daily actions and decisions that drive that change and take a look at progress every so often.
I’m also not a big believer in sharing cold hard numbers. So if you’re curious about why I don’t share hard numbers and how I calculate it, check out the last net worth update.
So how do I know we’re on track?
Yearly Savings Goal Update
Instead of tracking gross net worth updates on a monthly basis, I like to focus on yearly savings goals. This helps us focus on what we can control: how much money we set aside throughout the year. It’s a shorter term goal that isn’t affected by forces outside our control (stock market) and helps keep emotional reactions out of it. And it’s a reasonable length where we can feel progress relatively quickly.
So how are we doing?
Typically we’d start our savings goal within a traditional year. However, 2016/2017 was an unusual time as we were saving for our wedding and were hit with an expensive special assessment from our condo. September 2017 culminated in both special assessment monthly payments and wedding expenses being over. It didn’t make much sense tracking 4 months of savings so we’re having a 16 month year.
We’re over 60% of our way there, with 8 months left and each month we’ve steadily been inching our way there! So naturally I’m wondering, can we beat it? Time will tell.
How Contracting Impacts Our Savings Goal
There are two months where our savings were slower: December and March. You may be thinking it was the holidays in December, but that hardly affected it. As a contractor, any vacation I take is unpaid and it’s common for employers to have mandatory days where you can’t work. Work days between christmas and new years is once such time, and I took a week off for a much needed break in Barbados. So not only was I losing pay, we also had extra expenses for vacation.
I’ve considered making it more efficient with going away on vacation only on mandatory days off, at least for the majority, but it also generally coincides with the most expensive time to travel. Seeing the hefty flight and accommodation price tags stings too much. Maybe I’ll sit down and work out the math. See if it really is more expensive with all things considered.
It’s often touted that you get more satisfaction and happiness spending money on experience rather than material things. We definitely believe this philosophy and reflect that in how we choose to spend out money. We like to take it a little further and consider vacations and unique experiences investments. Growing your money is an investment in your future, but we also believe spending money on special experiences and traveling is an important investment in who we are today, and that it helps us grow into who we are becoming.
So while there is some money we spend every year that isn’t for quotidian entertainment, basic needs or stock market, we like to track it as a different type of investment. What do these numbers tell us?
In comparison, very little was spent in 2015. That was the year I got laid off and used that to have an 8 month sabbatical. Less money was spend on ‘experience investment’ but I got so much more out of it.
This year, with Barbados behind, we managed to be conservative enough we still have some room left for other experiences and still be in line with the past few years.
Overall, our goal with tracking investment experience is to keep a balance between investing in long term future and having some more immediate term investment in experiences. Outside of extraordinary circumstances, we generally want to keep this at the same level from year to year.
Reducing Road Trip Spending
We absolutely love road trips! And partially due to this, we’ve sometimes spent a decent chunk of funds on it. As we enjoy road trips, we believe in spending some money here. The caveat is that we haven’t felt the amount we spent the past few years was commensurate to the experience growth or happiness we got back. In other words, it’s an easy target to cut back and create more savings. You can read this article if you’re curious on why the spending is so high or want to know more about the goal.
So how are we doing? Short version, so far so good.
In April, we were so focused on the trip to Barbados, we forgot to reserve a car ahead for Easter weekend. The lack of planning cost us extra money. We didn’t skip and wait because we hadn’t seen some family since christmas (some are in their 90’s) and there’s a long standing tradition of Good Friday BBQ where tons of friends gather and catch up. Living five hours away, we’d rather not miss that. So at least it was still a mindful decision.
In the first 4 months of the year, we only rented a car once instead of every month. We’re successfully choosing when our spending gives us equal or greater experience/happiness.
To date, we’ve spent roughly half the amount in previous years. So I’ll call that a win for now!
Part of meeting financial goals isn’t simply daily decisions and measuring your progress along the way. It’s planning ahead. Planning saves you money and helps you weigh your options between different plans when spending larger amounts of money.
We did travel to Barbados for a week, but we know we’re not done traveling yet. We used to take vacations in autumn when it was cheaper. However Mr Whymances took on a new job last fall at a school. With that came extra time off, which is in line with our values but eliminates fall travel as an option.
So given that, we’ve been weighing our options of spending time in Europe or a bigger road trip in Western Canada. I feel we’re a little late in the game given summertime is expensive travel time, but we’ll price out some options and see what works best. Travel is a big ticket item so looking ahead will help us avoid blowing out our savings goals and overshooting our experience spending.
It’s great that we’ve made some progress in reducing our road trip spending but weather wise we’re just entering into the travel season; for us it typically goes until November before it can get dicey. So we could still get off track if we don’t continue to actively choose when the money is worth that road trip, and not simply for the fun of a road trip.
So there you have it! Have you had any financial wins this year so far? How are your financial goals going? Or perhaps you have some tips on high season travel?