This is my fourth year of writing an annual financial review. In 2016 we spent $47,566.96 CAD and our net worth grew by +34.4%; in 2017 we spent $51,144.77 CAD and our net worth grew by + 8.65%; in 2018 we went over the top and spent $57,231.99 CAD and our net worth grew by +2.83%. Oddly enough, I was really looking forward to writing the 2019 financial review. Not because I’m a nut-head but because this kind of reviews help us understand where we are on our financial independence journey. The annual financial reviews also keep us honest and accountable. I also happen to believe this kind of post helps to provide readers with some ideas of what it’s like to live in a high cost of living city like Vancouver.

Please keep in mind, while we live in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in the world, we only own one car, and we are a single income family. At 6 years old and 3 years old, our kids are still relatively young and younger kids probably don’t cost as much teenagers (i.e. they eat less and only have fewer extracurricular activities). Our grocery cost may be higher than some since we try to purchase organic food as much as we can.

Our Budget System

Before going into the details, I just want to go over the budget system that we use. We started using our current budget system in mid-2011. Thanks to the budget system, our net worth has increased quite significantly. Each month we break down our after-tax income into 6 different accounts and allocate a certain percentage for each account.

  • Necessities/Core Expenses (55%)
  • Education (10%)
  • Play (10%)
  • Financial Freedom Account (10%)
  • Long Term Savings for Spending (10%)
  • Give (5%)

The percentages listed above are the default suggested values. Over the years we have adjusted all of these numbers to suit our needs. Our necessities percentage is now significantly lower than 55%.

2019 Total Spending: $54,906.02 CAD

In 2019 we spent a total of $54,906.02 CAD or $42,128.29 USD (at 1 CAD: 0.77 USD exchange rate). This number excludes any business-related expenses. As you may recall, Mrs. T and I have a few side businesses; I have a photography business, this blog costs some money to operate, Mrs. T and I have our cookbook business, and Mrs. T has a few other business projects like her holistic healing practice and her self-help book.

At over $50k annual spending for a family of four, I will be the first one to admit this is extremely frugal. Although we’ve found our balance between saving for the future and spending to enjoy the present moment, I believe some further optimization can be done. Mrs. T and I will go through our 2019 annual spending and see what we can do to improve for 2020.

Here’s a summary of all the numbers since 2012

 Total Necessities SpendingNecessities Spending per MonthTotal Annual SpendingTotal Spending per Month
2012$26,210.52$2,184.21$44,603.76$3,716.98
2013$26,343.00$2,195.25$45,260.88$3,771.74
2014$29,058.96$2,421.58$47,391.96$3,949.33
2015$31,256.88$2,604.74$47,270.16$3,939.18
2016$29,831.40$2,485.95$4,7566.96$3,963.91
2017$33,887.68$2,823.97$51,144.77$4,262.06
2018$31,840.75$2,653.40$57,231.99$4,769.33
2019$33,199.98$2,766.66$54,906.02$4,575.50

Note: These numbers do not include money that went into our FFA and LTSS accounts. These numbers also do not include money that we added toward our investment portfolio. The numbers only represent money that we actually spent.

At one point I thought we could end up around $50,000 CAD or $38,500 USD in annual spending, but we ended up being almost $5,000 over that target. Oh well, hopefully we can do better in 2020.

Having said that, it was nice to see that our overall spending decreased by ~$2,300 compared to 2018. 2018 was definitely a high spending year, so I was pleased to see a decrease in our 2019 spending.

If we could stay below $30,000 CAD in necessities a year that would be totally awesome (we’re off by ~$3,200). It is definitely a challenge to do so with a family of four though.

A few ideas we can try in 2020 to reduce our necessities spending:

  • Continue to reduce our meat consumption.
  • Try to price match when we shop for groceries.
  • Be more efficient when it comes to hydro, heating, and water.
  • Walk more rather than driving.

Deep Dive into the 2019 Numbers

Taking a closer look at the 2019 spending numbers. Here are what I found:

  • We spent $2,766.66 CAD or $2,122.80 USD in necessities per month. We managed to spend $1,359.23 more in necessities in 2019 compared to 2018. This corresponds to $113.27 per month.
  • We spent $747.94 per month on groceries in 2019 compared to $714.98 per month in 2018. That’s about $30 more per month or $360 for the year. Mrs. T spent about eight months having fresh organic celery juice in the morning which increased our grocery bills. But this was somewhat offset by the self-grown produce during the summer. We also ate less meat throughout 2019 which helped to reduce our grocery spending. For 2020, we will continue to find ways to reduce our grocery bills while still eating healthy & nutritious foods.
  • Utility expenses like natural gas and hydro were more or less the same compared to 2018. Water spending went up by ~$9 per month at $34.40 per month, probably because we watered the veggie garden more during the summer in 2019.
  • We spent $96.32 on internet and phone. My work paid for my cellphone plan. We are on a two year contract with Shaw for our internet. I will have to phone Shaw in late 2020 to negotiate for a new internet package.
  • Education spending went up slightly in 2019 compared to 2018. This was mostly caused by Baby T2.0 starting preschool two days a week. We also signed both kids up for classes and camps throughout the year. Since next year Baby T2.0 will be going to preschool three days a week, we expect the education spending in 2020 to be higher than 2019.
  • We spent about the same amount in Give account as 2018. Although we are working toward financial independence, we are donating money to charities each month to help people in need.
  • Given that we travelled to Japan, Taiwan, New York, and Denmark, and had a few staycations in 2018, we spent quite a bit of money on travelling (LTSS) and eating out (Play). The travelling experiences we had were memorable and I wouldn’t trade them away. Therefore, they were money well spent. However, we may examine our Play expenses and see if we could cut back eating out a bit in 2020.

Some Random 2019 Numbers

Now I have gone through some serious numbers, here are some random (and possibly fun) numbers in 2019.

Fitness

  • Number of steps taken: 4,182,423 (~11,458 per day, ignoring days I didn’t wear my Fitbit).
  • Distance walked: 3,181.64 km
  • Highest number of steps in a day: 40,600.
  • Total distance swam: 106.6 km or 66.24 miles.

I also had my 2 minutes of fame in 2019 as I appeared on CBC for a story on angry Fitbit customers.

Travels

  • Countries visited: USA, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Spain, France, Finland.
  • Number of flights taken: 46.
  • Number of hours in the air: 147.03 hours (that’s over 6 days… OH MY GOD!!!)
  • New Countries visited: Finland.
View this post on Instagram

Hello Vancouver! πŸ‘‹

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

Taipei night market.

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

Hello Shanghai you are beautiful. πŸ‘‹

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

The little tour guide showing us around. πŸ‘

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

When in Osaka…

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

One of my favourite areas in Shanghai.

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

Another week another country visited.

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

Danish brunch. Yum yum yum. 🀀

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

Sunrise. πŸŒ…

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

View this post on Instagram

Look daddy a transformer dinosaur!!!

A post shared by Bob Lai (@tawcan) on

Blog

  • Number of blog posts published: 72
  • Top visiting country: Canada eh (60.65%)
  • New vs. Return: 53.7% vs. 46.3%.

Net Worth: + 6.94% in 2019

When I started blogging, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t publish our actual net worth number for privacy reasons. Since I no longer blog anonymously anymore, not publishing our actual net worth becomes even more important. Therefore, I will share our net worth increase in percentages instead.

In 2019 our net worth increased by 6.94%. We saw a nice increase in our investment portfolio, but we saw a decrease in our house assessment value. Thanks to regulations and rules that BC government put forth in the last couple of years, the BC housing market has cooled somewhat and this was reflected in the property assessment values. The BC Assessment showed that Metro Vancouver property values tumbled by up to 15%. Our house assessment value dropped by ~4%. Although it’s not nice to see a drop as it reflects in our net worth calculation, a drop in assessment value is actually welcomed as this should decrease our property tax for 2020.

Besides, housing assessment and market performance are not something we can control. We can, however, take simple steps to make sure a continued growth of our net worth.

Growing Our Net Worth

There’s really no secret when it comes to ways for growing our net worth. We keep it pretty simple and easy for the most part by following these steps:

  • We maximize our RRSPs every year.
  • We maximize our TFSAs every year.
  • We maximize kids’ RESPs every year.
  • We try to invest as much money as possible in taxable accounts once we maximize tax-advantaged accounts.
  • We DRIP our dividend income whenever we can.
  • We re-invest 100% of our dividend income.
  • Income from side hustles goes straight to FFA for investing in stocks and other appreciating assets.
  • We try to ruthlessly cut expenses on things that we don’t enjoy spending money on.
  • We spend money on things that we enjoy. Like food and travels.

Since started our FI journey, we’ve continued to follow these simple steps every single year. Now 10 years into our FI journey, the numbers show that we are doing quite well financially. Therefore, we will continue to do these simple steps in 2020 – earn money, budget, save, and invest. There’s no need to make things more complicated than necessary when these simple steps are already working extremely well for us.

Financial Independence Progress

In 2019, our dividend portfolio continued to generate passive income for us. As a result, we received $23,049.16 in dividend income at the end of 2019. This accounts for 69.4% of our necessities and 41.98% of our annual spending.

Our goal was to hit a 50% dividend income to annual spending ratio for 2019. We didn’t manage to hit this ratio, but we came close. For 2020, it is my hope that we can end up with a dividend income to an annual spending ratio greater than 50%. We will continue to focus on growing our net worth and get one step closer to becoming financially independent.

2019 has been a great year for us. Here’s to an excellent, exciting, joyful, and healthy 2020!

Dear readers, how was your 2019? What was your annual spending? Did your net worth increase like ours?

Written by Tawcan
Hi I’m Bob from Vancouver Canada, I am working toward joyful life and financial independence through frugal living, dividend investing, passive income generation, life balance, and self-improvement. This blog is my way to chronicle my journey and share my stories and thoughts along the way. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter. Or sign up via Newsletter