• Discounts and special offers
  • Subscriber-only articles and interviews
  • Breaking news and trending topics

Already a subscriber?

By signing up, you accept Moneywise's Terms of Use, Subscription Agreement, and Privacy Policy.

Not interested ?

The first step: Tracking my spending

On a whim last year (and ok, in an attempt to come up with things to write about on the blog) I started tracking my spending as part of a monthly challenge. I kicked things off in September 2015 with a really simple spreadsheet to track my spending, my income, and my savings. It also served as a really great way to see how far I was from hitting my 50% savings goal in real life.

As of this September 1st, 2016, I’ve officially got spreadsheets detailing my spending on everything for an entire year, since I kept the challenge going well past that first month. So I did what any personal finance nerd would do, and tallied up my spending on different things to share with you.

Hopefully, this series will give you useful information about how much it really costs to do things like own a used car or have a dog for an entire year – instead of just best-guesses and feelings.

  • "If I’ve learned anything, it’s that what I feel like I spent and what I actually spent are two very different numbers"*

Discover the power of FreeCash – your ticket to easy money

Dive into a world of rewards at FreeCash where earning cash is as simple as a click. No gimmicks, just real cash for your time. Join the community of earners today and watch your wallet grow effortlessly.

Make Money Now

Quick overview of my minimum viable car

I’ve written about my car, affectionately dubbed Little Car, before, but here’s the basics you need to know to put my car expenses in context.

  • Little Car is a 2010 Toyota Yaris that’s closing in on 100,000KM.
  • I bought Little Car in 2014, and paid in cash.
  • My only requirements of a car were that it gets me from point A to point B, and has air conditioning.

On a month to month basis, I feel like my car expenses are fairly low, thanks in large part to the fact that I don’t have a car payment every month. True story, that decision was less a savvy financial move and more based on the fact that I literally could not have afforded to pay for insurance AND a car payment every month. Wasn’t going to happen, so a cash purchase it was.

But the key point in all of that? My view of my car expenses was, until now, entirely based on feelings.

What did I actually spend?

That’s the thing when you track your spending. You might feel like you don’t spend $200 a month on coffee, but surprise! You do. Or you might feel like you spend $100 a month on your dog, but a more accurate number is around $400, all things considered.

So sure, in the past few months I’ve looked at my car spending and patted myself on the back about how entirely reasonable it is. But that’s not the whole picture.

Over the past year, it has cost me no less than $3067.37 to own, maintain and drive my used car.

Oh Little Car, I had no idea how luxurious you really were.

Stop overpaying for home insurance

Home insurance is an essential expense – one that can often be pricey. You can lower your monthly recurring expenses by finding a more economical alternative for home insurance.

Officialhomeinsurance can help you do just that. Their online marketplace of vetted home insurance providers allows you to quickly shop around for rates from the country’s top insurance companies, and ensure you’re paying the lowest price possible for your home insurance.

Explore better rates

How did I spend that much?!

There are a few big chunks of money that can be easily accounted for – and a few big sources of savings that I need to mention that skew the number as well.

Costs

Insurance

As I’ve written about a few times, my car insurance used to be stupidly high, because I had no idea how to actually buy car insurance. How high is stupidly high? Let’s put it this way: I was paying the same amount as the single, 20-year old male co-op student in my department.

Since I’m not actually a single male in his early 20s, that seemed high to me. However, I didn’t do anything until more than halfway through the year, so my precious, precious lower rates only kicked in a few months ago.

Adulting fails

This one time, I got a $458.00 ticket for not renewing my license plate sticker, which – I kid you not – was not a thing I knew I had to do. Where do they teach you these things?! I clearly missed the Adulting 101 class about car ownership.

Anyways, that accounted for a big, massive, disproportionate part of my car expenses this year. An expensive lesson, but trust me: it’s one I will only learn once.

License plate renewal(s)

After my horrifyingly large ticket, I promptly paid $108 to renew my license plate, but that fee, which usually covers a year, only took me from November to January, at which point I was back on track to renew my plates again.

Since I never want to drop another $400 on a useless expense, I paid the (second) $108 fee gladly. This year, I’m looking forward to getting a two-year renewal and giving myself two years of not-worrying-about-this-at-all bliss as a birthday present.

Rustproofing

I plan to drive Little Car for as long as I feasibly can, and part of that is making sure parts don’t start falling off the car as I drive to Costco. Rustproofing is part of that own-the-car-long-term strategy, so I gladly invest in it every year.

Savings

Gas

My annual gas bill, ringing in at just under $700, is cheap af. I know, because I often fill up my tank right behind one of the suburban-standard-issue SUVs in my neighbourhood, and the grand total they pay for a tank of gas makes me want to literally weep.

I’m incredibly lucky that right now, my family consists of The Boyfriend and The Dog, both of whom fit quite comfortably into Little Car, so I don’t need anything bigger. I also have a dreamy commute, so one tank of gas usually lasts me a few weeks. Both of those things add up to a happy, happy gas budget full of savings.

Maintenance

I can take literally zero credit for savings in this area, but I do need to acknowledge that I am the unbelievably lucky recipient of free routine maintenance and tire changes from The Boyfriend and his dad. His dad, no joke, builds cars for fun, so I couldn’t even pay for that level of experience if I wanted to. (Confidential to The Boyfriend’s dad: you are the best ever, and thank you again.)

So there you have it: even with the savings on gas, and maintenance, and the incredible luxury of not having a car payment, it cost me $3,067.37 over the past year to own my used car.

Honestly, given the amount of convenience my car provides, and how much time it saves me every day on my commute, I think that’s a reasonable amount to have spent on it, even if I’m not a “car person.” It’s probably also slightly more than I’ll end up spending this year, barring any other fun adulting surprises or major maintenance expenses.

Which, I mean, now I’ve entirely jinxed it.

So stay tuned.

Do you know how much you spent on your car last year? Or how much you spend on gas? Let me know in the comments – my example is just one data point, and hearing from other people in different situations would be so helpful!

Sponsored

This 2 Minute Move Could Knock $500/Year off Your Car Insurance in 2024

Saving money on car insurance with BestMoney is a simple way to reduce your expenses. You’ll often get the same, or even better, insurance for less than what you’re paying right now.

There’s no reason not to at least try this free service. Check out BestMoney today, and take a turn in the right direction.

Desirae Odjick Freelance Contributor

Desirae Odjick was formerly a freelance contributor with Moneywise. Desirae realized years ago that in order to afford the life she wanted, she'd have to get serious about money—but she wanted to get serious about it in a fun way. Since then, she's been writing about her personal finance journey in an approachable way, helping others demystify dense financial topics.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.