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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Budget

Ah, yes. The dreaded monthly budget. One of the great advantages vandwellers keep talking about is the lowered cost of living. But, you still want to be able to control your expenses and monitor them. For this, I utilize a basic monthly expense system, with an emergency fund created by leftover monies from the basic budget. I also have other savings, but that's not really discussed here.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION!!!! This budget is based on my lifestyle, and my jurisdiction. I may allocate funds not as you would spend them, so your budgets' expenses will definitely vary. Also, depending on where you live in, the basic costs for food, fuel and health insurance have huge variance!! For example, if I lived in Southern Ontario, Canada, I could reduce this budget by $200/month, quite easily. If I lived in the States, I could probably reduce the budget again by another $200/month!

In my budget, I allocate funds for specific expenses, fuel and food, higher than would you would normally expect on purpose. That way, for the average month of the year, some of the money rolls over into an emergency savings fund. This fund is for extraordinary expenses, ie. expensive auto repairs and occasional expensive purchases.

My Basic Monthly Budget (based on monthly costs in British Columbia (BC), Canada)

Food: $300
Fuel: $250
Cellphone: $50
Auto insurance: $90
Medical insurance: $55
Health Club: $65
Auto repair, Tags: $60
Clothing: $50
Haircut: $20
General Misc.: $60
Entertainment: $200

Monthly Total: $1,200

Major Expense Considerations:

1/ Food - Hey, I like to eat well, and food has become very expensive here in BC. Even the provincial government claims it costs $250/month, for an average healthy male adult to have a good diet. I usually save some money on this expense because quite often I get a free meal from friends and family. Sometimes, people I know will give me free produce from their garden or farm. Hunters and fishermen I know give me free salmon or venison. These folks are all part of my network, and I reciprocate by helping them as well. So, on the average month, I roll over around $100 into my emergency fund (important). It also varies greatly depending on region, what costs me $4 for food items here in BC, only costs $3 in Ontario.

2/ Fuel - We get taxed heavily in Canada on motor fuel, and the oil industry creates huge price variances by jurisdiction. As of today and where I live, the gasoline price right now is hovering around $1.20/litre, which translates to $5.45/Can. gallon or $4.54/US gallon. Our monies, Canada vs. USA, are approximately par lately. So, that's right US folks, $4.50 +++ a gallon; it's been over $4/gallon for years. In Toronto, Ontario, the same fuel costs around $1.03/litre, a 15.5% decrease comparitively. In the States, fuel costs vary but the average seems to presently $3.13/US gallon, which breaks down to $0.83/litre (45% less than I pay!!!). So, you can see why I start with such a high figure!

Your gas usage will also vary with the mileage you drive and many other factors. The money that I allocate to fuel covers my average weekly driving, around town and short trips on the weekend. Sometimes, I save a little money here, maybe up to $50/month, which gets rolled over into the emergency fund. Depends.

Cellphone - Cellular plans in Canada are more costly than in the States, and I talk a fair bit. It just what it costs.

Insurances - Basic Auto insurance, with some extra coverage, costs this much here in BC. You have to use the provincial-run monopoly for basic coverage, and this is what they charge.

But, medical insurance has great variance, depending on where you live. Basic coverage in my province is $55/month; in other provinces, such as Ontario, it is free. In the States, medical insurance seems to be very expensive, and many vandwellers do without.

Auto repair, Tags: In BC, our annual license plates costs around $65. Also, there is always some small expenditure for maintenance needed on your vehicle; light repairs, oil changes, coolant, windshield wiper juice, light bulbs, assorted little relays and fuses, whatever. So, I allocate funds on a monthly basis towards this.

Entertainment: I like to go out a little and do things. I like to see the occasional movie. I like to go to the pub once in a while, and enjoy a couple of pints. I like to have a frugal meal out at the local diner with a friend or date. Quite often, I can blow this expense easily, but that money comes from other savings. On a regular basis, this is the sum I usually spend.

My Emergency Fund - From my budget design, I usually roll over $150 per average month into this fund. It is placed into a specific savings account, which is not accessible by debit card (important). I try to use this money only for important purchases; major auto repair or costly clothing (good footwear or pricey coats, etc). In two years of full time vandwelling, I have accumulated just over $3,000. So, if I have to rebuild an engine or transmission, or have an expensive repair bill (brake work, front end, new tires, etc.), I can cover all or most of it from this fund. Right now, since these types of repairs are not necessary, I'm going to dip into it for other purchases. But, I will leave $2000 there as a minimum on which to build up again.

To sum up, your particular monthly budget will vary greatly by lifestyle and where you live. I have always joked that BC doesn't stand for British Columbia, but for Bring Cash (lots of it!). It is very expensive to live here. But, luckily for me, I have the ability to make decent money, so this monthly budget is relatively easy to afford, and I usually have extra savings above what I have discussed here. I feel it is good to know where you spend your money, budget to live within your means, and feel comfortable with your lifestyle. Good fortune to you and yours.

1 comment:

SuperDuper said...

This is all such good stuff! Thanks! Appreciate all the break-down of money by location.