Dipping my Toes into Personal Finance

I recently took on my first full-time temporary contract. For the first time in my life, I will be working full-time! No more studying. No more part-time shift work. Just regular hours, a routine, and a predictable pay cheque for the next few months. Since I just graduated with my M.A. a year and a half ago, it feels like about freaking time! I’m blessed that I could take my time and move at my own pace, but I am so ready for this next step. Not to say that it’s all going to be rainbows and flowers, but I am up for a change.

That said – this week has been an epic week of shopping. Since I spent the last two years going to work in a black t-shirt with anything from leggings to jeans to sweatpants on my legs, I’ve found myself in desperate need of a work wardrobe refresh. My parents and my boyfriends parents have been extremely generous and helpful with this, and I am extremely grateful for their help. This task would be a lot more stressful without them. However, I can definitely see this shopping thing becoming a habit, and I do not want that to happen! Why, you ask?

I’ve just started listening to a personal finance podcast called Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses by Jessica Moorhouse. She’s a B.C. transplant to Toronto who talks about all things personal finance. In the few episodes I have listened to, I’ve become acutely aware of how absolutely lucky I am to have no debt. I was extremely fortunate that my family funded my undergraduate degree, and I received funding and a bursary to complete my Masters. And in a subject that I absolutely loved, no less! However, I acknowledge that many people my age did not have that privilege and now find themselves in a very scary job market with a ton of debt and a lot of confusion. So, I am determined to keep myself debt free, and that means living within my means.

(Please don’t let anyone think this post is about how awesome and adulty I am. I’m really not. I constantly feel like I child playing at being grown-up, and I have a feeling I will feel like that my whole life. Anyone else? Hope I’m not alone in that.)

I grew up in a pretty frugal environment – my family enjoyed luxuries but there were limits that we knew to respect. For example, we went out for supper often, but we seldom ordered appetizers, drinks, or dessert. It was our Friday night tradition to enjoy a meal out, but we never went wild. Appart from the occasional peek at a totally decadent-looking brownie sundae, I was okay with that! That’s the best example I can think of. I want to take a cue from that, and prioritize living within my means – or maybe below! I’ve been doing well so far on my inconsistent (but always modest) income. I see no real reason to start spending more now.

I think the first place for me to start is to actually create a budget. I tried doing that when I first moved out and it wasn’t great. I just set arbitrary limits for my spending that didn’t really guide me very much. I never observed my spending and adjusted accordingly, so it wasn’t very effective. I want to track my spending for the next couple of months to see where my money primarily goes. I have a feeling most of my disposable income goes toward food, but who knows what else I’ll discover! Maybe I’m spending in ways I’m not yet aware of – but gosh do I hope not. In a couple of months I will have a better idea of where my money goes, and where I want to and need to cut back.

I also want to create more savings goals. Has anyone seen that ridiculous thing about “millienials could afford property if they gave up avocado toast?” The reason I cannot buy a house right now is not that I indulge in brunch a few times a month, it’s that the average price for property in my city is over $1.5 million, according to a March 2017 CBC article. That’s a downpayment of over $100,000. It would take years and years of Kraft Dinner and no fun to save that much, and that’s really hard for me to wrap my head around. In an ideal world, I would like to own a home for the security that it offers in terms of eventually starting a family and having somewhere to live in my very distant retirement…but frankly, it seems unattainable now.

Ideally, I want to be saving for a hypothetical home, for my retirement, and for emergencies. Am I missing anything? I need to figure out what the best way to do that is. One of the interviewees on the podcast I’m listening to recommended the Couch Potato method of investing, and I’m going to look into that; I also have a bunch of financial planning books on hold at the library.

I have a couple of really good examples to look at in my parents (unless I’m missing something – we can talk later, mom and dad.) I hope that I can be as smart as they’ve been with my savings and spending.

Do you have any tips about saving and personal finance? Point me to good books, blogs, podcasts – anything! There’s no better time to start learning than now, so I’m eager to get some resources. Also, if you’ve listened to the Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses podcast or read the blog – let me know what you think of it!

Toodles!

-S

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