Thursday, March 31, 2011

How I Spent my Tax Refund

This year's tax refund came in at just over $2,000.  I pooled that money along with my last rental cheque ($870) and money in my travel fund and booked one of my trips-of-a-lifetime.

Christmas will be spent this year on a safari in Kenya!  I have always dreamed of going on a safari.  Last year I debated between 1 week on a safari and 5 weeks in Asia and I chose Asia.

I booked the safari through Flight Centre. Walking past one of their storefront windows while couch shopping for the new place a poster caught my eye - 20% off adventure travel plus $100 off when booking a flight.  I promptly went home to check what the trip I'd had my eye on was going for.

Original Price

Sale Price




Airport transfer

Airport transfer
Extra night hotel

Extra night hotel


When I backpacked in Europe and Asia I was quite happy to travel on my own, but on a safari I was definitely looking for a tour.  I chose Gap Adventure's Kenya Wildlife Adventure.  In a safari I was looking for more game driving days than 'cultural' days.  What makes safaris so expensive are the park entrance fees while doing game drives. In this safari 3 different parks/sanctuaries are included with 6 game drive days. What makes this safari affordable is the 'roughing it' factor - i.e. camping!

I will need to save an additional $400 for souvenirs, a sleeping bag, tips, an emergency fund, and entry visa before leaving for Africa.  I am also looking to buying a used DSLR camera - I like the Canon Rebels, so I've started contributing into my camera fund.

Is it December yet?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Condo Renos

I fell in love with my condo the minute I saw the photos on  Despite the floors that I hated, paint colour I hated and overall blandness of the condo I knew that it was exactly what I was looking for in my first place.  Considering the fact that I wasn't actually looking for a condo to buy, this place had me good.

Here are a couple of before shots:

And now for the after shots:

Here's what everything cost:
Paint: $105.25
Ladder: $48.36
Flooring: $477.05 (paid for by Mom)
Trim/spackle Supplies: $37.05

As for furnishings, that's a whole other story!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Monthly Budget

With the purchase of the condo my budget I've had to re-jig my budget.  Since I am paid twice monthly and my mortgage is taken out bi-weekly I've created a plan to save for those two withdrawals that are outside of the norm for me. I also take care of paying property taxes instead of having my mortgage company do it, so that's something I have to budget for.

I do a lot of money shuffling each month, which essentially requires me to write out a list of what to move where on the 14th and second last day of the month.  It takes a bit of work and time, but I've gotten into a groove lately, and have actually enjoyed budgeting.

INCOME Budget ActualDifference
Full Time Job3,080.54   (3,080.54)
Extra Income               -  
Gifts Received               -  
Transfer from Savings               -  
Total INCOME      3,080.54                   -     (3,080.54)
EXPENSES Budget ActualDifference
Mortgage703.76       703.76
Hydro40.00         40.00
Condo Fees165.32       165.32
Home Insurance24.75         24.75
"Extra Mortgage" Payments58.65         58.65
TTC Metropass111.00       111.00
Gym65.00         65.00
Rogers (Phone, Cable, Int)125.00       125.00
Property Taxes87.58         87.58
Total EXPENSES      1,381.06                   -      1,381.06
LIFE Budget ActualDifference
Groceries275.00       275.00
Personal Supplies25.00         25.00
Entertainment100.00       100.00
WW23.00         23.00
Misc. (Haircuts, Zipcar, etc)40.00         40.00
Total LIFE         463.00                   -         463.00

SAVINGS Budget ActualDifference
Emergency Fund400.00      400.00
Camera/iPad Fund100.00      100.00
RRSP350.00      350.00
Clothing Fund70.00       70.00
Gift Fund75.00       75.00
Travel Fund200.00      200.00
Car Fund40.00       40.00
Total SAVINGS  1,235.00           -     1,235.00

Total Income3,080.540.00-3,080.54
Total Expenses3,079.060.003,079.06

According to the Gail pie chart here's how I'm doing:
Home: $1,080 = 35.1%
Life: $653 = 21.2%
Transportation: $111.00 = 3.6%
Debt: $0 = 0%
Long Term Savings: $750.00 = 24.4%
Planned Spending (I just don't feel right calling this savings!): $485 = 15.7%

Any feedback you have is welcomed!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back after a long break!

After a whirlwind condo purchase -- likely just a regular run-of-the-mill transaction, but to a first timer it seemed intense -- I'm back to blogging.

Here are the highlights of my purchase:
- $175,000
- Downpayment of $17,500
- Mortgage of $160,650 (Principle + Mortgage Insurance + PST)
- Bi-weekly mortgage payments of $351.88

So, did I get a good deal?
According to The Red Pin the average price per square foot for a condo in the GTA is $530.  Toronto Real Estate Journal reports the average price in the GTA to be $547/sq ft.

What I paid: $469.17/square foot.

The verdict: Since my building is a "no frills" type of condo (i.e. no fitness centre, pool, tennis, doorman), and I'm located in an up-and-coming neighbourhood I believe that I purchased for a good price.  It is very rare to find a loft for under $200,000 -- believe me, I've scoured and loft websites!  For me, the loft is perfect; it's easy to manage financially, it's 2 blocks from a subway station, a 10-min walk to a large grocery store (a No Frills to boot), and it has all the character that I was looking for in a condo.