Travel Costs

 

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Playa Beisanz

 

Total Cost of the Best Trip Ever: $2400


Total Airfare for Two: $770

This covered two roundtrip tickets with Copa Airlines from November 28 – December 5. We booked through Canadian Fares online. I know that this was likely cheaper because the dates fell before peak season.

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Meal on Copa Airlines

Copa Air was impressive – flying with them took me back to how things were before food and alcohol became additional. We were shocked when they came out with the drinks – including alcohol – near the start and end of the flight. I got so nostalgic that I just went for the guava juice – something I hadn’t had since I was a kid. Then came the meals! I had to pinch myself. I haven’t eaten anything on a flight without whipping out my credit card in years.

Another plus side when booking with Copa: When you leave Costa Rica, you apparently have to pay a departure tax of $29 USD. This fee was included in the airfare. There are a few airlines that will automatically include this fee in the price and Copa is one of them. Otherwise, if you don’t have US cash or the Costa Rican equivalent to pay at the airport, you pay this tax at the booth by a cash advance on your credit card. Oh, and we didn’t have to pay for our checked baggage.

The only downside to this airline was having Barry Manilow’s song, “Copacabana,” earworm its way into my head for the entire flight going there and back.


Park ‘n’ Fly: $185

Our flight was at 8 AM. It made the most sense for us to stay at a hotel where we could park our car for eight days while we were away. With such an early departure and late arrival, I appreciated being shuttled to and from the airport. We usually book our park ‘n’ fly using points, but this was more of a last minute booking and we couldn’t swing it this time around.


Manulife Travel Insurance: $48

This covered the two of us. Neither of us is covered by any insurance plans at work, many of which also includes basic travel insurance.

There were times in the past when I thought travel insurance was a waste of money…until the one time I needed it and it was totally worth it. The insurance covered all the costly medical bills for this one unexpected incident.


Total cost of Airbnb: $327

We went on this trip for three reasons: 1) We always wanted to go to Costa Rica, 2) We wanted to have a warm getaway, and 3) JP and I are considering buying property somewhere nice and warm.

We decided to check out a place that was easy enough to get to near a lot of beaches. That way, if we bought a property that was accessible and attractive to many tourists, it would be easy to rent out on Airbnb. We settled for the town of Herradura, which is near the locals hangout, Herradura Beach, the bachelor party capital, Jaco Beach, and the surfer-covered Hermosa Beach. We booked a house through AirBnB which was a quick drive from all those places.

It was our first time booking anything through Airbnb. What an experience! We made friends with the neighbours and had them over on most nights where we shared food and drinks. They even took us on a hike through a river to these local waterfalls. They showed us around some resorts, beaches, bars, etc. I’m sure that’s not what usually happens with Airbnb and that this was more of a unique opportunity to make new friends.


Car rental: $258

We booked through Dollar in Costa Rica ahead of time, snatching the best online deal we could find. There are a number of car rental desks at the airport where they shuttle you to their actual locations off-site, as there is no spot for them at the San Jose airport.

We got a basic car with basic insurance. They tried to pressure JP into getting the premium insurance plan, but he wouldn’t budge. The guy became a bit of a prick after we said no! Apparently, all the cars in Costa Rica are standard. (Really?) The driving there is more aggressive in that there is no room for hesitation. JP really liked driving there!


Duty-Free Booze: $98

20171209_1330461036299762.jpgOn the way to Costa Rica, our stopover was at the Panama Airport. The next time we head to this area, we are definitely going to Panama! Well, we were drawn to all the duty-free stores glowing with enormous bottles of rum and tequila. We didn’t know how hard/easy it would be to find alcohol in CR when we arrived in the evening. We shopped around and bought a bottle of rum ($17 USD) and one of tequila ($24 USD) equal to $53.76 CAD. On the way back to Canada, we bought two big bottles of rum ($34 USD = $44.35 CAD). We just knew we couldn’t find bottles of this size and price back home. We paid with credit card both times.


Cash for food, gas, etc: $588 = ₡240,000

We read that most places only took cash. Credit cards could be used at more expensive places and you could still be charged extra transaction fees for using it. We figured to bring about $600 worth of CR Colones. We ordered the currency from our bank. The exchange rate with them was much better than at an exchange house. We just had to wait almost a week for the money to arrive (which came the day before we left!).

On our way to our accommodation, we stopped over at some food stands and stores to load up with enough chow to tide us over the next few days. We bought tropical fruits, tomatoes, beans, nuts, and rice. We nearly fell over after we figured that the few bags we purchased amounted to $80. The food prices in Costa Rica rival Japan’s. I mean, I have never tasted more exquisite avocados and pineapples, but come on! However, alcohol is much less expensive there. On most days we ate a lot of fruit and made our own meals. The place we stayed at had a great kitchen where JP whipped up the best dishes.

We allowed ourselves a couple of extravagant days when we bought day passes to hang out at a nearby resort which gave us access to the poolside bar/restaurant and beach. A pass cost us $30 USD each.

After a week in Costa Rica, we blew through most of our cash. We had enough to refill the gas tank before returning the car to the rental agency. With all the driving we did, including a day trip to Manuel Antonio in the south, we used only one tank of gas. Filling it up cost around $45 CAD. We gave the remainder of our colones to the shuttle driver who took us to the airport.


Roaming: $96

We paid $10 a day for data. We needed to navigate a lot on Google maps. Fun fact: They don’t use addresses in Costa Rica! Everyone uses landmarks. There were a couple of days when we didn’t need data, but I forgot to put my phone on airplane mode before midnight.  Before leaving, I also had to make a phone call from Canada to the caretaker of the house to arrange for the key exchange.


If you added the food we bought at the airport while waiting to depart in Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica, it comes to another $25 CAD. All told that is about $2400 or $1200 per person. Not bad for one of the most incredible trips I have ever taken. We went to four different beaches, witnessed the most stunning sunsets, saw so much wildlife, made new friends, and learned so much about that amazing country. Would we consider buying property there? Claro que si!

 

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Playa Herradura

 

‘Tis the Season to Spend Wisely

Holiday Shopping 2

Make a shopping list and start early

This is the time of year when the shopping frenzy begins; what follows is the eating and drinking. It’s all a big winter feast, after all! The easiest thing to do is close your eyes and just run with it knowing that in the new year, you can promise to make amends to your suffering bank account and bulging waistline. This frustrating cycle happens each year for so many of us.

I started doing my Christmas shopping about two months ago. Beforehand, I created a rough shopping list. I was able to keep an eye out for when these items went on sale. Seasonal items, like fudge, are typically more abundant and therefore cheaper closer to Christmas. I’m okay with getting these in December. This is a saner and more budget-friendly way to shop. It’s an easier way to monitor spending and not lose sight of financial goals. 

I’m not always this ready and organized. Last year was unusually busy for me. I only managed to do a quarter of my shopping online ahead of the holidays. The rest I bought at Metrotown and Downtown Vancouver the few days leading up to Christmas. For anyone who lives in Greater Vancouver, you know that these shopping areas are already super busy on a slow day. Big crowds mean it takes forever to get anywhere. Buying presents at the last minute left me feeling stressed out and under pressure. I was exhausted and frazzled by the end of it. The part I dreaded most was returning home and having to add up all my receipts. The final total caused me enough grief and gave me the motivation to plan ahead this year.

I know that a lot of people are drawn to the bustle of holiday shopping. The inviting Christmas displays that retailers put up invoke warm fuzzy feelings of generosity and make you want to give to others as well as yourself. A lot of awesome things go on sale at this time. We just have to remember that sales happen all year round. It’s not the only time that we can do our Christmas shopping. Although I handled last year’s Christmas differently than other years, I am aware that I’m prone to making bad, desperate choices if I don’t plan ahead. 

I’ve got some big financial goals that I want to follow through with over the next year. I can’t let overspending in one season delay my long-term goals. I recognize that I typically spend more this time of year, but the important part is that I budgeted for it.


Stock Talk

I keep saying this like a broken record: I find this toppy market quite dodgy to trade in. I usually can tell when my best trading ideas are higher risk, lower odds. I did, however, still look through the market. Here’s a list of stocks with decent charts:

  • UR.TO
  • POT.TO
  • BB.TO (Aggressive entry for a possible swing trade.)
  • CIX.TO
  • G.TO
  • WPM.TO

It looks like the precious metal charts are starting to shape up, although I’m just not interested trading the metals right now. Weed stocks have been getting a lot of recent action. As tempting as it is to jump into these, I would wait until they settle down and consolidate before buying. I’m watching and waiting for these to take shape again, so I’ll keep you all posted on new trade ideas for weed stocks. I might still trade some of the stocks listed above, but I’d take fewer shares and keep my outlook shorter term.

 

 

 

 

Couples and Money Management

In the last month or so, JP and I have been revisiting our life goals. Since relocating and finding work, we now have a better grip on our financial situation and therefore can make better projections on our finances.

We basically wrote down our goals in order of importance and plotted them along a timeline. Our plans are quite ambitious but within the realm of possibility. We figured how much money and time we’d need to achieve each goal. It’s not that we haven’t done this before, but after going through a big transition like moving, it was good for us to check in to see whether we’re still on track. When life gets busy, it’s easy to forget your ‘why.’ If you wander too far off from your plans, your spending gets sloppy and problems arise from there. It was a good exercise in getting refocussed on what we want.

We also made adjustments to how we monitor our spending. We created a shared spreadsheet on Google that we can each access on our phones and computers. Whenever we buy something or pay a bill, we enter it on the spreadsheet. We considered using mint.com to track our spending and savings, but it can’t properly factor in all of our investment accounts where we put all of our savings. I don’t really mind having to do things more manually as it’s more interactive. Doing things this way encourages us to talk more about our expenses, which ultimately has led us to make huge improvements in our strategies.

Couples have their own ways of managing money. Some couples split every shared expense down the middle to the cent, and save and spend the rest how they see fit. Some couples rely on one spouse to do most or all of the money managing. We try to do everything together. There isn’t one right way to do this, as long as it works well.

JP and I try to account for everything. When we want to buy something extra, we pitch to the other one like it’s Dragon’s Den. This, I recognize, is not how most people want to operate! Keep in mind that we normally use up all of our savings to invest. Anything frivolous takes away from each other’s ability to buy stocks, so it better be good. We still treat ourselves, as long as we budget for it. As much as we like talking about stocks and the markets, talking about our financial logistics is just as important.

Within days of determining that one of our goals is to invest in a snowbird property within the next year, we booked ourselves to go to Costa Rica to start looking around. I love goals!

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Having said all that, we both just transferred money to each of our TFSAs. We spent this morning looking for some decent picks, but we can’t find anything worth investing in this week. The only good ones were in the gold sector, but right now neither of us is interested in the goldies. The market has gone straight up for almost two months and needs to take a breather. If the market resets on the monthly or weekly charts, we might find better picks — at least we’ll be funded and ready for when the opportunity is there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Finance


How Much We Spend on Groceries

Our total grocery costs over the last three months amounted to:

  • September: $246.68
  • October: $206.35
  • November: $196.90

This doesn’t count eating out. We eat out once a month and we’ll spend anywhere from $60 to $90. We also work part-time in a fancy seniors home where we get to eat supper on the days we’re working, which is about three to five days a week. Before working there, our monthly grocery bill averaged out to be $360 to $420 a month and we went out for dinner twice a month. 

It took us a few years before we were able to get our average monthly grocery bill down to what it is. JP and I have been living in Southern Ontario for five years now; it was a matter of trial and error, buying from the different grocery stores before we found where we can generally get the best prices for what we eat on a regular basis.

Our food costs are low for the following reasons:

  • We shop at two to four different places for the cheapest prices;
  • We’re vegetarians (don’t be hatin’!);
  • We make most of our meals at home, quick ‘n’ easy style;
  • We hardly eat packaged food;
  • We always look at the cost per unit;
  • JP is uncannily a savant with prices. He’s like a human app. I don’t know if this talent stemmed from watching stock prices so much, but he just knows when something – in or out of season – costs more than it should;
  • We add up our costs each month and compare our monthly spending.

Where We Shop
No Frills

This is generally the best place for most of our produce (bananas, oranges, onions, broccoli, kale, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, avocados, tomatoes, cauliflower, squashes, carrots, etc). Here, we also get our spices, rice, pasta, beans, legumes, tofu, and canned tuna for our cats. JP eats salmon once in a while, so he’ll get the frozen packaged salmon when it goes on special. Every week, I bake our bread, so we get our baking needs here too.

We accumulate PC Points whenever we shop which gets us $20 off every three to four months or so. On your membership account, you can designate your preferred food choices. When you do this, they’ll notify you when your faves go on special each week and if you buy them, you get extra points. When we started doing this weekly points special thing, we started accumulating enough points to get money off on a regular basis. What’s also nice is that in case you miss the points specials one week, you can save them for the following week if you need to.

Although No Frills is connected to Independent and Superstore, the prices aren’t always the same from store to store, so we try to be mindful of that. We get our garlic, sauces, and vinegars from Superstore. I also like the prices and selection of personal care products at Superstore. Sometimes the food prices are cheaper at these places than they are at No Frills. 

Comparable places for the cheapest produce are Walmart and FreshCo too. We’ll go there if it’s more convenient for us. 

Costco

They tend to have the best prices for apples, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce, cheese, and eggs. We get most of our other staples here. We calculated that the amount we save on tea and coffee alone pays for the annual membership! Here, we get our oatmeal, coffee, tea, olive oil, canola oil, sriracha, mustard, hot chocolate, soy milk, milk, maple syrup, veggie burgers, edamame, tissue, detergent, toothpaste, and vitamins. I’m now off the local ice cream, but we were getting it here at such a good price. 

This summer, I bought from here an inexpensive set of little tomato plants which I planted and grew in my backyard. From late-August to now (late November) we’ve enjoyed the reddest and tastiest tomatoes. 

At Costco, we bought a 5L tub of Pink Solution, this extremely effective, non-toxic natural cleaner. About twice a year, they’ll have a vendor selling it. We’re going onto year 3 of using it and we still have 2/3rds of a container remaining. We use it to clean everything in our house. It cost us about $50 and it also came with this incredible grease remover and awesome stain-removing laundry bar. We just LOVE this stuff!

Bulk Barn

We get peanuts and xylitol sweetener here. Sometimes we’ll splurge and get raw pumpkin seeds, which aren’t cheap at all. But when you heat those seeds for 4-5 minutes over a frying pan on medium heat and add a bit of soy sauce at the end, BOOM! You now have the tastiest food to go with drinks!

Other Places

We live among farmers. So in the spring and summer, we’ll sometimes get our eggs, syrup, and veggies from the family-run farmer stand down the road. We also buy a massive bucket of honey one to two times a year from a guy down the road who sells honey for a local beekeeper.


How We Eat

We’re healthy eaters, however, we also can be pretty lazy when it comes to cooking. We’re huge fans of low-fuss cooking. We found that the only way to enjoy healthy eating is to make really tasty food using good seasoning and sauces. 

I usually just stir-fry onions and veggies to eat with rice, pasta, legumes, tofu, and even oatmeal. JP likes to bake everything: veggies, squash, and even his salmon. It is our habit to press garlic and marinate it in olive oil and vinegar (apple cider and balsamic) with some seasoning. We always have a bottle of this garlic concoction to pour on top of whatever we’re eating. It’s a great way to keep your weight down and stay healthy when it gets cold. Once in a while, I’ll make a killer onion potato omelette to manage my carb cravings and to nurse hangovers. To manage chip cravings (at heart, I’m a chip addict), I make kale chips.

For meals that take longer to prepare, I’ll just throw on some Netflix and watch while I cook or bake. When we have people over, I’ll just use recipes from my Women’s Health magazines to change things up and try new food and ingredients.

We cook in larger amounts to last us two to three days. When we’re not at our part-time jobs, we’re working from home, writing, or doing stock stuff. Having delicious, nourishing food at the ready kills the need to nosh on junk food. Additionally, when you’re well-nourished, you don’t need to eat as much. I used to be a junk food junkie, but I know that proactively eating healthy will lead to a longer, healthier life. I still eat sweets and junk food once in a while, but it’s no longer a staple in my shopping bags.

If the life-extending, artery de-clogging way I eat grosses you out, I apologize! As much as I want to pursue wealth, I want to be healthy and youthful enough to enjoy my money for years to come. Many people find that the healthier the food choices they make, the more of their money they end up saving. How great is that?

Health IS wealth!