For the past four years, at the beginning of the year, I have written an annual financial review to analyze the previous year. I have decided to continue that tradition. These annual reviews are useful to us because they help us understand where we are on our financial independence journey. Furthermore, the reviews also help to keep us honest and accountable. I hope these reviews are engaging enough to provide readers with ideas on what it’s like for a family with kids on a single income to live in a city with a high cost of living like Vancouver.
One thing to keep in mind is that we live in one of the suburbs in Vancouver and not Vancouver proper. While things are still expensive in the suburbs, we have tried to minimize our expenses by having only one car, eating home-cooked meals as much as possible, mowing our own lawn, and doing as many DIY projects as possible. Before both kids started going to school, Mrs. T stayed home to look after the kids, which has provided many benefits and saved us a ton of money.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was unlike other years. As a result, our spending habits changed significantly throughout the year.
Table of Contents
Our Budget System
Before going into the details, I will go over the budget system that we use. We have been using our current budget system since mid-2011. 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 much lower than 55%.
By tracking everything with our budget spreadsheet, we are able to easily see our historical spending trends and quickly analyze what we need to improve on. Over the last ten years, we have consistently spent less than we earn and saved a significant amount of our income toward investing. In term, this has allowed our net worth to increase significantly.
2020 Total Spending: $48,908.74 CAD / $38,420.06 USD
In 2020 we spent a total of $48,908.74 CAD or $38,420.06 USD (1 CAD to 0.79 USD exchange rate). This amount is $5,997.28 CAD less than 2019. Since Mrs. T and I have a few side businesses, the total spending does not include any business-related expenses. For example, I use Bigscoots for hosting this blog, and Mrs. T has business expenses for her holistic doula services too.
Here’s the summary of all the numbers since 2012:
|Total Necessities Spending||Necessities Spending per Month||Total Annual Spending||Total Spending per Month|
As a family of four, this means we spent $12,227.19 CAD or $9,605.02 USD per person for 2020. It’s pretty crazy that we managed to spend less than $10,000 USD per person in 2020. But perhaps that’s a little bit of “accounting cheating” since the cost increase of an additional person in each household isn’t 100% linear.
It is amazing to see a total annual spending of less than $50,000, considering we haven’t spent below $50,000 since 2016. Like many Canadians, 2020 was not a regular spending year. Our spending habits changed throughout 2020. Here are a few things we did in 2020 that helped to reduce our annual expenses:
- No daily commute to work for nine months meant savings on gas.
- Changed our car insurance to pleasure use instead of for work. This decreased our car insurance by around $150.
- Dined out less at restaurants.
- Other than our Banff & Jasper trip in the summer, we didn’t spend any money on vacations.
We saw some increases in a few things, however:
- We spent more on groceries compared to previous years. Food prices have gone up because of the pandemic and we also stocked up a bit more to reduce the number of grocery shopping trips each month. This contributed to the overall increase in grocery spending.
- We donated more money to charities. Since we are doing well financially, we wanted to help people in need, especially people that may have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and needed extra help in 2020.
- We spent more money on crafts and arts so we could keep both kids entertained and engaged during the “extended” spring break from mid-March to early September.
Deep Dive into the 2020 Numbers
Let’s take a closer look at the 2020 spending numbers.
- In total, we spent $4,075.73 CAD or $3,201.69 USD per month. That translates to $1,018.93 CAD or $800.42 per person.
- We spent $2,792.63 CAD or $2,193.74 USD per month in necessities.
- We spent $870.17 CAD or $683.56 USD per month on groceries in 2020. This was an increase of about $125 compared to 2019 and the highest amount we spent on groceries since we started tracking our monthly expenses. In other words, our groceries increased by almost $1,500 in 2020 compared to 2019. The increase mostly contributed to that we tried to eat as much organic food as possible and we stocked up on groceries in 2020 due to the pandemic. We also realized that we really enjoy high quality food. So we decided to spend money on food to make us happy and focus on cutting other expenses that we don’t enjoy spending money on.
- We spent $178.88 CAD or $140.52 USD per month on dining out in 2020. This was much lower compared to 2019. Throughout 2020 we didn’t eat out nearly as much as we used to do. We did, however, order take out from our favourite local restaurants here and there.
- On a per meal cost basis (including groceries and dining out), we spent $2.87 CAD or $2.25 USD per person each day. This was $0.43 CAD lower compared to 2019. In other words, at three meals per day, we spent $8.61 CAD a day on food per person or $34.40 CAD for our family of four.
- Due to no commuting to work, we only spent $93.31 CAD or $73.30 USD per month on gas. This was $54.89 per month lower than 2019. We did spend quite a bit of money on gas for our Banff & Jasper road trip in the summer (around $400 extra). If we didn’t take this road trip in the summer, the cost of gas per month would have been a lot lower.
- We spent $139.85 CAD or $109.86 USD per month on natural gas, hydro, and water. This was roughly in line with our 2019 utility spending.
- Education spending was $377.98 CAD per month, an increase of $69.64 compared to 2019. This is because Baby T2.0’s preschool went from two full days to three full days a week in September.
- Our car’s emergency brake broke in the summer. Rather than leaving it unfixed and risking the car rolling back when parked on a hill, we decided to fix the e-brake. This resulted in a $344.57 CAD repair bill to get it replaced. Boo! This was one of the unexpected/unplanned expenses for 2020.
- We spent $62.14 CAD per month on clothing and shoes in 2020. This amount continued to be quite low for us. We have been lucky that we received a lot of pass-down clothes for both kids from friends and neighbours.
- We spent $58.11 CAD per month on coffee. In comparison, we didn’t spend any money on coffee in 2019. Although I gave up coffee and any caffeinated drinks for one and half years, I started drinking coffee again in June, 2020. The daily coffee drinking with Mrs. T had become a daily hygge ritual of ours. We really enjoyed taking 10 to 20 minutes to sit down together, drink coffee, and talk. For most of 2020, we were using Nespresso capsules to make our daily coffee. The capsules cost between $0.78 to $1.00, depending on the flavour. We’ve since switched to ground coffee which costs significantly less. Hopefully the cost of coffee for 2021 will decrease.
- After reviewing Mrs. T’s phone usage history, we decided to switch Mrs. T’s phone from Rogers to Public Mobile in late December to save some money. She was on Rogers’ $29 per month talk & text plan but didn’t need the extra talk minutes. The Public Mobile’s $15 plan is 50% cheaper than Rogers’ plan ($13 since we signed up for auto payment to save $2 per month). Since Public Mobile is on Telus’ network, the cell coverage is quite good. For people that just need talk & text and limited data, I think Public Mobile is a great choice. If you’re interested signing up, please use our referral link here.
- Mrs. T spent around $650 on chocolate making supplies such as different types of chocolate and chocolate molds. The last time she purchased different types of chocolate was a couple of years ago. Mrs. T then put the chocolates to use and made some artisan chocolates for Christmas. We are well stocked in terms of chocolate supplies for a little while I think.
Overall, I think we did pretty well in 2020 in terms of spending. One area we may try to improve is the cost of groceries. Perhaps we could consider not eating cheese to cut down the groceries bill? Since we all really enjoy eating cheese, this might be a challenge though…
Random 2020 Numbers
Ok, enough with the serious (aka spending) numbers. Here are some random and possibly fun numbers for 2020.
- Number of flights taken: 4
- Number of business trips: 2
- Number of countries visited: 2 (Denmark & USA)
After a year where I spent over 6 days in the air, it was nice that I didn’t travel as much in 2020. I suppose that was one of the positives of the global pandemic…
- The number of times I worked out: 163 (so I worked out every 2.25 days throughout the year).
- Total distance swam: 33.6 km in 11 weeks or roughly 3.05 km per week.
- The number of 10,000 kettlebell challenges completed: 2. The challenge was a lot harder than I expected and I certainly learned a few things about FIRE through the challenge.
- Experience earned: 25,467 or around 70 xp per day
- Streak: 298 days
- Total number of crowns received: 204 (out of 350 total)
- The number of blog posts published: 79 (some of them were updated old posts)
- Top visiting country: Canada, eh (62.88%)
- Top three visiting provinces: Ontario (44.7%), BC (23.4%), Alberta (13.4%)
- YoY pageview growth: 28%
- YoY session growth: 33%
Thank you to all the readers for coming to this site, reading articles that I wrote, and leaving comments. I really appreciate all your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t say that enough.
2020 Net Worth: +5.28%
Since I no longer blog anonymously and my name is plastered all over the internet, I won’t publish our actual net worth number for privacy reasons. Instead, I will share our net worth increase in percentages instead.
Considering that our investment portfolio was down by almost $250,000 in late March when the market was down significantly, I was very surprised how well all of our investments did since late March.
Overall, our net worth increased by 5.28%. Our net worth consists of our cash in our chequing and savings accounts, investments in taxable accounts, RRSPs, TFSAs, and RESPs, and our house. For simplicity sake, we do not include depreciation assets like our family car, photography gear, etc.
I have been using Wealthica to periodically monitor our liquid portfolio value. I think Welathica is a great tool to track investment breakdowns and performance. Wealthica is also great if you don’t want to bother with a big Excel spreadsheet. For tracking our net worth, we are sticking with good old Excel.
Growing Our Net Worth
We have grown our net worth consistently since we started our financial independence journey. What’s our secret?
Well, there’s really no secret on how we grow our net worth. We have been growing our net worth by keeping things simple and straightforward:
- 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.
- 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 travel.
- We invest for the long term by ignoring the short-term noises. We tend to hold onto our investments unless the fundamentals of the company have changed.
The financial independence journey can be very straightforward if you follow these simple steps.
Financial Independence Progress
In 2020, our dividend portfolio generated passive income each month. Although we didn’t hit the $30,000 in dividend income goal, we did receive $26,975.01 in dividend income at the end of 2020. This translates to roughly $3.07 per hour for the entire year. Meaning after an eight-hour sleep, we’d have $24.56 in our pockets, enough for a decent breakfast for two at Tim Hortons.
At $48,908.74 annual spending, it meant our dividend income covered 55.15% of our annual spending. If we look at our necessities only, our 2020 dividend income covered 80.49% of the necessities. It is definitely possible to live off dividends in the near future!
Our goal was to hit a 55% dividend income to annual spending ratio for 2020. When I set out this goal, I thought we’d be able to receive $30,000 in dividend income. So a 55% ratio would mean an annual spending of around $54,500, which would roughly align with numbers from previous years. Because of several dividend suspensions and cuts, we didn’t hit the $30,000 goal. On the other hand, our spending was a lot lower than anticipated, because of the reasons already mentioned above. All in all, I was really pleased that we were able to hit this key financial independence milestone!
2020 has been a year like no other – it was full of surprises. We were fortunate to be financially stable and to stay healthy throughout the year despite the global pandemic.
What will 2021 bring? I have no idea, but it is my plan to continue to stay healthy, help out those in need, and grow both our passive income and net worth.
Dear readers, how was your 2020? Did your net worth increase like ours?