That Time I Saved Half My Income (March Spending Recap)

So last month, I got back into the habit of doing monthly spending recaps – or more accurately, I said I was going to get back into the habit, and did it once.

As of today, let’s consider it a habit, because this is my official March spending recap.

It’s a really good thing it’s here, too, because I have been wanting to tweet about this basically since last Thursday night.

I saved half of my income this month!

That’s right, after 244 days of blogging (I calculated it, I’m not actually that meticulous about record-keeping) and trying to save half my income, it finally happened. And in the month I joined the fancy gym, even!

Here’s a breakdown of the big spending (and saving) events that happened this month – and yes, an update on the gym membership is one of them.

Overall Savings Rate

Officially, as per my tracking spreadsheet, I saved 62.42% of my income last month.

WHAT.

First and foremost, that’s including my pretty generous tax return, almost all of which went directly to savings, which is why I went from “omg saving 40% is pretty tough guys” to “Yeah no sweat, saved 60%” in the span of a month.

Here’s the fun part.

When I take the tax return out of the equation on the “income” side of things, and remove the saving (and spending) associated with my tax return, I still saved over 50% of my income! 50.13%, to be exact.

So with or without the massive bump that was my tax return, I managed to make it through March on half of my take-home income, and save the rest towards things like my house downpayment goal and my emergency fund.

Handling the Tax Return

But speaking of tax returns, let’s talk about what I did with mine, because it was a little bit off of the “typical personal finance advice.”

The bulk of my return this year came from my RRSP contributions, with a little top-up from charitable donations. If I was being A+ textbook-perfect with money, I’d have taken that return and sent it right back into my RRSP, as per the advice about how to maximize the RRSP for retirement savings.

I totally didn’t do that.

Right now, I’m using my RRSP because a) I will be in a lower tax bracket when I’m retired, and b) I want the tax returns to serve as a boost for my house downpayment fund.

I figure it’s a better balance than raiding my retirement savings for a house, but maybe that’s just me.

Anyways, that’s where the bulk of my return went – directly into my house downpayment fund, which jumped from $4500 to almost $7000 this month thanks to my return and my additional contributions (it turns out, a high savings rate gives you a lot more money to throw into your savings accounts. Who knew?)

But I’d be lying if I said that the entire return went into savings.

I saw a post on Facebook that one of my favourite local dog rescues is in pretty dire need of funds to cover some recent vet bills, so I sent $100 from my return their way.

I did it for the puppies, you guys.

Joining the Gym

With all this talk of saving, I feel like I should note that the gym was one of my biggest expenses this month – and not just because of the membership fees.

In Classic Des fashion, within the first two weeks of gym membership, I had lost

  • A brand new lock that I’m pretty sure I left there, locking an empty locker, because I forgot to take it home with me
  • My favourite hairbrush that, I’ll be honest, was so full of hair that it was barely recognizable and too embarrassing to claim at the lost and found. (This is a nice place and I am not kidding that the brush was Cousin It incarnate.)

So I replaced both of those items, and if we include the cost of the original brand new lock plus the replacement brand new lock, I’ve spent $38.94 just on items to help me go to the gym and keep brushing my hair.

Some people buy fancy workout clothes, I buy locks and lose hair brushes. To each their own, I guess.

That said, I have hit my goal of going at least twice a week every week, and last week I even hit the fabled four-times-a-week goal! I’ve been using the women’s weight room a ton, which makes me really glad I ponied up for a membership. It turns out everyone who said “weights are a really effective workout” was right.

And thanks to a guest pass used with The Boyfriend over Easter, I now know enough about how to use the machines not to get stuck in one. No #gymfails here.

Probably.

Cross your fingers for me.

Things I Didn’t (Or Don’t) Spend Money On

The other category I paid a lot of attention to this month was “things I didn’t spend money on.”

One of them was fancy lattes, as per my February recap and my goal to only drink plain coffee or tea if I was buying something at a coffee shop. I used the Small Change app from the United Way to track my goal, and I actually only ended up avoiding three fancy-latte purchases. That said, the app brought my attention to it, and every time I tracked my goal progress, TD Bank and the United Way donated $1 to help deliver financial literacy programs to people in need.

That’s so much better than the sugary amazingness that Starbucks is trying to sell me on right now. (I wants it though.)

The other one was drinking water.

I’m not one to buy bottled water to drink, but this month I became a lot more aware that “not buying drinking water” isn’t something that’s a choice for a lot of people in Canada. At some point in the past ten years, two-thirds of the First Nations reserves in Canada – in Canada – have had unsafe drinking water.

Some communities have been under do-not-consume water advisories for over 15 years.

In that context, me “not buying bottled water to drink” seems a lot less “virtuous personal finance behaviour” and a lot more “wow, I’m really lucky to have access to clean drinking water everywhere I go.”

That’s not how people should ever have to think about water.

I bought a Her Braids necklace this month, and a portion of the proceeds goes to the David Suzuki Blue Dot Foundation, which is working towards ensuring clean water for everyone. It turns out, even in Canada, that’s not something a lot of people can count on, which is kind of the worst.

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(But having conversations about it when people notice my sweet necklace is kind of the best.)

So those are the big highlights from my month – saved half my income, got a tax return, joined the gym and didn’t really pay to drink things.

I’d love to hear how March was for you – including your monthly recaps if you want to link to them! (I’ve read some great ones from The Yachtless, My Alternate Life and Northern Expenditure so far this week!)