23.7.15

saving ALL THE MONEY - necessities

For my first post on saving ALL THE MONEY (insert money bag emoji here) I want to talk about the things that you can't not spend money on. This will differ slightly from person to person, but in general necessities are true for everyone.

Here are necessities that come to mind:
rent/mortgage
vehicle/car insurance
food
internet
cell phone

When we found our first home - a rental apartment with crazy character and even crazier neighbours - we knew we would be spending around $1,000/month on rent. That's par for the course when you're living in downtown Montreal, in a two bedroom apartment. Because we lived in a more affordable neighbourhood, our $1,000 went pretty far. Our apartment was really cool. Very Montreal. Picture high ceilings, wonky wooden floors that were crooked, crown mouldings, and awkward layouts. But it was a two bedroom, and we were newlyweds.

We didn't really need that second bedroom. Sure it was nice to have a place to put over night guests and offer them some extra privacy, and sure it was nice to have an office/junk room. But those things are luxuries. Luxuries that we believed were essentials, something that is so easy to do! If money is tight for you and you don't have a literal extra person literally sleeping in your home every literal night, then cross extra bedroom off your non-negotiable list when you're apartment/house-hunting. Literally! I'll wait while you draw a thick black line through the previously essential criteria.

A lot of the time we don't want to really do what it takes to save money because it will mean living outside of our comfort zone. An extra bedroom was something I couldn't imagine not having, but if I were willing, we could have saved $200+/month. What about an attached garage for you suburbanites? Or a big back yard? Or two bathrooms? Three bathrooms? These things are nice and most of us probably would deem them non-negotiable criteria when house hunting, BUT THEY ARE LUXURIES. If you have debt, or need to be saving much more than you are currently, they're luxuries. I know, I just blew your mind.

I think especially for Christians it's hard to scale back on home expenses because we have believed the lie that hospitality means having a nice home and a lot of space to welcome people in to. We tell ourselves, Oh I need that extra bedroom so I can practice hospitality, or we need to finish our basement because think of the hospitality possibilities! Even if it's out of our range financially. True hospitality is welcoming the stranger, and it's a heart matter, not a square footage issue. I've said this before (here and here), so I won't go on and on, but this is a big one.

Next up, cars. First tip to saving money: If you live anywhere remotely connected to public transit, CONSIDER GOING CAR-LESS. Crazy, right? We didn't own a car until we were pregnant with our second child. No car means no gas money and no car insurance, no upkeep and no winter tires. We've estimated that going car-less for our first two years of marriage probably saved us around $5,000 or more. Including the times we paid to rent a car and money we spent on public transit. Boom.

Not an option for you? Consider going down to one car. A common misconception is that two drivers must mean two vehicles. Yes it's inconvenient for you to arrange a car schedule, or for you to arrange carpooling with colleagues, or for you to use public transit when your partner is using the car. But how serious are you about saving money? I think for a lot of people going down to one car is possible, but not comfortable. Again, consider that two cars might be a luxury you need to pass up for a season to get serious about paying off debt or saving more.

Also, lets back track for a minute and talk about buying a car. Guys, it does not have to break the bank! Never ever ever buy a car new. It loses almost half it's value when you drive it off the lot. Next, never ever ever buy a car on a payment plan. Even with low interest rates, in the end you're paying much more than the original value of the car. I think in the majority of cases where people buy new cars or buy cars on payment plans it's because our hearts crave the newer and better, even if we can't afford the newer and better. If money is no object, buy whatever car you want, but if you're reading this wanting to know how we've saved so much money over the years, you've got to buy your car used and online.

We have owned three cars as a married couple, and they've all been purchased on kijiji. Don't freak out. Our first car, a Volkswagen Gulf, was $600. Yep, our stroller was more expensive than our first car. And you know what? It was a great car. It was rusty and ugly but the mechanic gave it the go ahead, so we bought it in cash and drove it hard for over a year. We sold it for $200, so in the end it only cost us $400! Our second car, a Hyundai Elantra we bought after Oli was born when we needed a bit more space than a two-door with no trunk was offering. We were tempted to go for an SUV or van, because hey, family of four and all, right? No. A compact car gave us the extra space we needed and was really cheap on gas. It was $1,500 and we sold it for $900 right after Chloe was born. So in the end, it only cost us $600. Our final car, a Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV) was around $3,000 and we really love it. We will probably stick with this car for a long time, as it's perfect for a family of five.

A lot of people are totally creeped out by buying a car online, but there are ways to do it safely. We've bought and sold all of our cars from kijiji and it's been really profitable and easy. There are mobile mechanic services you can use for a small fee and a mechanic will go with you to check out the vehicle before you buy it. We've always used this to guarantee we don't end up with a car that needs a lot of work, or buying from a dishonest seller. Buying online also means you pay in cash and don't pay taxes, plus it forces you to stick to a tight budget since you only spend the money you have available in the bank, not on credit.

Food is another necessity that I'll explain more in a few weeks, so sit tight!

Internet and cell phones are necessities these days, like it or not. We would have so much more money in the pockets of our parachute pants if we just lived in 1981, but alas, it's 2015.

With cell phones our rule of thumb has always been stick with the base model, don't give in to the temptation of having the latest thing, and don't pay for data! Our cell phone bills have always been around $25/month because of this. We use wifi at home and free-wifi any time we're out, so the only time we're disconnected is if we're traveling from one place to another. It would be nice to instagram from the car or use google maps on the fly, but since we have no data we can't. But having a bare-bones cell phone package with no data saves us $25+/month, so I'm good with that! If you shop around to find the best deal for internet (hint: it's rarely cheaper going with the big companies, even with their bundle options), and then have internet at home, there's really no need for data. The majority of public spaces have free-wifi nowadays, and certainly all schools and work places have internet.

I hope this has been helpful so far! Feel free to ask me any questions you have. Next time we'll talk about one of my favourite things: FOOD. xo



4 comments:

  1. I also bought my car online through kijiji; people thought I was crazy, but my mechanic looked at it, gave it the go ahead, and I don't regret it at all!

    I'm enjoying this series and can't wait to read your food post. :)

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  2. i am really enjoying this series, thank you.

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