A week in the life of…

by Mr. Cheap

I got into real-estate (as a first time buyer and invester) last year, and had intended to blog my way through the process. I’ve now reached the point where I’ve competed the process (I own a condo with a tenant in place), so its probably time to start the blog .

Since the first real estate adventure is complete, I think I’m going to try and take a wider perspective and actually blog about all my money adventures (not just landlording).

Money is interesting in that it means such different things to different people. I hate being forced to do boring tasks and having to grin and take it when idiot bosses throw their weight around. For me, money is freedom and security, being able to do what you want, without having to worry about ending up eating dog food on the street.

This this end, like many other, my ulimate goal would be to have passive income that equals my living expenses and then have complete control over how I spend whatever time I have remaining on this planet however I want (probably reading and drinking coffee would take up a large part of it).

I consider passive income as money that comes in that doesn’t require very much ongoing effort. I like to think of my condo as a passive investment, even though I had to replace the dryer duct recently, simply because once I’ve done maintenance work on the condo, I hope that there will be a long period of time where I just cash rent checks and pay the bills (every property owner’s dream).

To give some numbers, I do computer contract work and charge $40 / hour for full-time, longer-term (3+ months) work. This works out to about $80K / year income before taxes (and being self-employed I can deduct a few work related things).

For the last week, I’ve been carrying a notebook with me everywhere I go and jotting down what I spend. This morning I plugged the numbers into a spreadsheet and have hopefully determined a rough cost-of-living estimate for myself.

For my fixed monthy costs:
Rent – $440 (1/2 of $880 rent paid by gf on 1 bedroom apt)
Cable – $40
VOIP – $22.45
locker – $12.50
phone+internet – $40.25
transit pass – $99.25
Cleaning – $45
Total: $699.45

Over a week, my variable spending was $396.26, which works out to a total monthly “cost of living” of about $2,348.26. I think this was actually a fairly representative week as I sent my mother some flowers for mother’s day, ate out at a pricier restaurant and had a night on the town, bought a book, etc. Hopefully if anything most weeks should be cheaper (which I’m hoping to keep tracking and determine).

The thing that blew my mind was that I’m spending $195.21 weekly on food (groceries, lunches at subway, dinner out once in the week). That seemed reasonable to me, until I did some hunting and apparently the average Canadian HOUSEHOLD spends $150 / week on food! I found some US numbers, and apparently single men spend the most on food weekly, and they spend on average $60 / week.

I was always convinced that it would be tough to eat much cheaper than I do, but apparently some people are doing it in a major way. I’ve always felt $7 is a reasonable value for a Sub (try buying deli meats, bread and veggies at the grocery store and your total will hit $7 in a hurry!) and friends always tell me you can eat way cheaper than that at home – I guess they’re right.

I lost a ton of weight (about 70 pounds), so I’m not too eager to start eating cheap and badly, but I definitely want to figure out a healthy way to spend around $60 / week on food (ideally if it was easy too that would be even better :-).

Any ideas?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kevin@InvestItWisely

That’s pretty cheap cost of living. The numbers aren’t so far off from my student days, but I was surviving on about 12,000 a year or something like that. 80k isn’t bad at all for contracting work; are you booked for pretty much the whole year around?

2 Kevin@InvestItWisely

Oh, I ignored your food bill until I saw that it was WEEKLY. Yeah, that is nuts. I spend from $4o to $75 a week on food for myself; with the girlfriend I think it comes out to about $60 – $90 a week. I eat more expensive food than she does (more meat, more nuts, etc…) so it comes out to a bit more.

3 Mr. Cheap

Kevin: I’m in a totally different situation now (PhD student), but back in the day I WASN’T booked solid (I could have hustled more and been booked solid, but I enjoyed the downtime “holidays” in between gigs).

My spending on food was nuts. Unfortunately I’ve let it get out of control and am probably back in a similar place now :-(.

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