The Frugal Canadian

A frugal spender seeks to find new ways to save money and increase her net worth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Zipcar and AutoSharing

Every where I seem to go in Toronto, I’m seeing signs for Zipcar, an auto-sharing plan. I was curious to see what a casual driver such as myself what pay a year to Zipcar rather than own a car.

For an occasional driver, its $11/hour which includes gas, insurance and 150km/day. There’s a $30 application fee and if you want no minimum driving commitment there’s a $55 annual fee. Additional km are $0.25/km

Based on my driving patterns, I estimated I use my car 4 hours a week. This would let me drive to my weekly Rec sports game, allow for grocery shopping and another errand.

This would mean: $2,288/year plus $30 application fee plus $55 annual fee or $2,373

In addition, I might drive out of town on average one weekend a month, which would mean $70/day(the daily cap) X 2 days = $140 X 12 = $1680, giving me 300km for the weekend.

So on the year, I would spend $4,053 in Zipcar fees. I’d also have the ability to sublet my parking space which is included in my rent, giving me a savings of $80/month or $960 on the year. This leaves a one year net cost of $3,093 to use a Zipcar

Let’s compare that to my current car expenses:

Car Insurance $1200 annually plus car maintenance & gas of $75/month(actual run-rate) gives me a cost of $2,100 per year.

Also, my car cost approximately $25,000 brand new, let’s say it lasts me 10 years= $2,500/year

Actual net car costs on the year are therefore: $4,600

From this it looks like the Zipcar would save me $1500/year. My car is fully paid for and although I could probably sell it for $8,000, I don’t think I’m entirely convinced on switching to Zipcars. I think my car still has 5 years left on its life, so if I were to sell I’d get about $1600/year - the entire savings from using the Zipcar at $1500/year. For now I’ll stick with my existing car, but I think it’s could be a wise choice for those that currently don’t own a car and are casual drivers.

Autoshare is another service provider. The simple plan is $9.50/hour plus a $25 annual fee. But the upfront costs seem a little steep. There's a $25 application fee, a $100 joining fee plus a $250 deposit. Presumably if you really like the service, the $250 is a sunk cost.

Has anyone used either of these services? I'm curious whether users are content with the companies.

Keeping my Grocery Bill Low

So what exactly am I eating? Some of you had made comments about Kraft Dinner and surviving off crackers and water. While I do enjoy the occasional box of Kraft Dinner, I eat at most 2 boxes a month. Also, I eat it because I like it not because it’s cheap. I will fully admit, I definitely don’t eat the most well balanced diet, but I think I do reasonably well.

Some highlights
- Water – I buy 18.9L jugs of water from a local water store at a price of $3.50 per jug. It usually lasts me on average 3 weeks. The same jug at Dominion costs $10 and if you buy individual water bottles the cost is far greater. I was given a water cooler as a gift about 3 years ago and it has really made a difference. I rarely buy bottled water and instead use a Nalgene bottle for travelling/at the gym or other sports activities
- I don't eat meat. While I do eat fish and eggs and other dairy, the price of a block of tofu at $3.29(which generally gives me at least 4 servings) is a lot cheaper than buying chicken, steak or other meat products. Some would argue that produce can be quite expensive but if I stick to in season produce, my costs are generally reasonable.
- I make bulk purchases at Price Choppers and No Frills. I rarely shop at more expensive stores such as Loblaws and due to proximity I often make smaller purchases at Dominion. Unfortunately I do not live close to a Price Choppers or No Frills, otherwise these would be the only stores I were to visit regularly.
- Friday nights I generally eat out with friends. As I’ve disclosed in the past, I consider these costs to be entertainment costs
- Normally one day on the weekend, I’ll visit my family or inlaws for a family meal. I’ve learned not to eat breakfast from past experience since the amount of food that is put on my plate is absolutely insane. I always take home at least one plate of food as leftovers and I generally don’t need another meal for the day. This is a great way to save on some expenses and also win some points with family members.
- This month, I had some friends over for dinner which added to my grocery bill. I served them a spring mix salad, veggie and regular hamburgers and Peach Melba as dessert with a side of ice cream. Liquor costs are not included in groceries but rather included in entertainment costs.
- I generally hit the discounted produce area in the more expensive grocery stores for some items. I started doing this a few months ago when I was shopping for eggplant to make a stirfry. The only eggplant they had was in the clearance section. For non-premium produce, I was able to get 2 eggplants for $1 and 4 small zucchinis for $2! (They were a little seedy). They also have bruised apples/oranges which I steer clear of although they could be great for baking.
- I have a vegetable garden on my balcony which provides me with green beans, snow peas, tomatoes and peppers throughout the summer months. The initial cost of this was probably quite high. I’ve had it for about 4 years and probably spent close to $50 buying soil, pots and seeds. I didn’t have any costs this year associated with the garden since I’ve had leftover seeds from the last year.

Some typical meals that I’ve eaten this month with the estimated cost

- No name Cheerios with milk or Bagel with Butter; Estimated Value = $0.50
- Tetley Tea – $0.034 a cup (I buy when on sale)

- Pita Pizza(pita, cheese, mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, pineapple) - $3
- Soup and Salad - $3
- Kraft Dinner - $0.50
- Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Veggies - $1.50
- Tofu Nuggets with Salad - $2
- Eggs/Omelettes with Hashbrowns - $2
- Family Leftovers – free :)
- Veggie Burger - $3
- Yogurt – generally every day - $0.40
- Fruit – one piece generally every day - $0.50


- Probably my worst meal on the day. Friday night I eat out, one weekend night I’m at a family members. 2 nights a week I play rec sports and usually don’t have time to eat before the game. After the game, I generally resort to a snack such as toast with peanut butter, frozen pizzas or a piece of fruit or some cheese and crackers.
- Meals I’ve had this past month are:

Tuna Casserole(can of tuna, 2 cups pasta, mushroom soup mix, frozen peas, 1 cup shredded cheese) - $5 for 4 servings
Falafel with couscous and side of veggies - $5 for 4 servings
Veggie Chili(ground tofu, kidney beans, chili mix and can of tomatoes) - $8 for 6 servings
Veggie Stirfry with block tofu, green beans, , mushrooms served with potatoes and yams - $6 for 4 servings
Frozen Pizza – Equality brand - $1.27
Cheese and Crackers - $4 (an expensive item contrary to most people’s belief)


I buy milk in bags and generally buy Skim Fine Filtered milk at a cost of $4.49. It’s a bit more expensive than regular bagged milk but it has a much longer expiration date and 3 bags lasts me 3 weeks. I should drink a lot more milk than I do but mostly I put milk on my cereal for breakfast.

Juices or Punch– I always buy frozen juice/drinks from concentrate no name for about 0.60 a can unless a really good sale is on. While I’d love to buy Tropicana orange juice, the cost is outrageous compared to a can of concentrate orange juice which can range from $0.99 to $1.39. If for some reason, I can’t find juice on sale, I don’t buy it that week. The exception is V8 which I buy on occasion. I generally can’t stand the taste but it’s a good source of veggies/fruit.

Sodas – I used to buy a case of month but I stopped. It’s now too pricey for me to justify buying on a regular basis, not to mention unhealthy.

Below is a summary of my last 2 grocery bills which I started tracking early in the month when readers expressed an interest. It doesn’t reconcile in total my September grocery bill because I didn’t save all my receipts. I think it is a good representation of my eating habits.

Grocery Item Cost Servings Venue
Frozen Drinks 0.57 8 Price Choppers
No Name Cheerios - double bag 5.29 4 weeks Price Choppers
Primo Pasta 0.97 8 Price Choppers
Kraft Dinner 0.97 2 Price Choppers
Hashbrowns 1.17 8 Price Choppers
Orange Juice - Frozen 1.37 8 Price Choppers
Hamburger Buns 1.89 8 Price Choppers
Crackers 3.94 12 Price Choppers
Pancake Mix 2.17 10 Price Choppers
Tuna 2.47 2 Price Choppers
Mushroom Soup 1.23 2 Price Choppers
Bagels 2.69 6 Price Choppers
Butter 2.77 4 weeks Price Choppers
V8 Juice 3.27 6 Price Choppers
Cheese - 560 grams 5.99 10 Price Choppers
Yoplait Yogurt 6.47 16 Price Choppers
Frozen Pizza 6.97 2 Price Choppers
Mushrooms 0.88 6 Price Choppers
Fresh Cranberries 1.47 4 Price Choppers
Potatoes 1.28 4 Price Choppers
Yams 0.97 4 Price Choppers
Onions 0.45 3 Price Choppers
Oranges 1.5 3 Price Choppers
Apples 1.75 5 Price Choppers
Trail Mix 2.99 6 Price Choppers
Tomato Soup 0.57 2 Price Choppers
Kidney Beans 0.99 3 Dominion
Kidney Beans 0.99 3 Dominion
1 lb Ground Tofu 3.99 6 Dominion
Chili Mix 1.49 6 Dominion
1 lb Ground Tofu 3.99 6 Dominion
Baby Carrots 1.69 8 Dominion
Can of Tomatoes 1.29 6 Dominion
Mushrooms 2.49 6 Dominion
Bagels 1.99 5 Dominion
Frozen Veggie Pizza $1.27 1 Dominion
Omega 3 Eggs 3.29 6 Dominion
Skim Milk Natrel Fine Filtered $4.49 3 weeks Dominion
Multi Grain Bread 2.49 6 Dominion

September Net Worth & Savings Update

First off - Sorry I've so late with my posting and responding to comments. For the next 6 weeks, things aren't going to get much better but I'll do my best to get back up to date.

September was not a good month for me as I acheived a savings rate of only 36% on the month. High entertainment costs mainly due to upfront sports registration fees and a lot of going out with friends led to entertainment expenses of $750!

Luckily I had a good month with investment returns adding $1100 to my net worth. These are all paper profits.

My income includes $500 of poker profits which I cashed out of my online sites. These are all realized profits which will not be put into back into the poker sites. I have an additional $700 on poker sites which is excluded from my net worth.

I opted to invest 7K into a TD money market fund for the short term fund which is yielding 3.6% . I was sitting on this cash in my self-directed RRSP and therefore couldn't use my PC financial account for these funds(since withdrawing them would trigger an income inclusion). Also, I wanted to steer away from any other external mutual funds that have redemption fees attached to them. While the rate is pretty poor it's better than the low interest that I was earning in my discount brokerage account.

Over the next month or so, I'll be changing this monthly post to more of an expanded Net Worth report. I will still disclose my savings rate, but as my expenses are pretty constant from month to month
, I feel that there will be more relevant and interesting information disclosed from a Net Worth perspective. I'll also at some point be consolidating results with my very soon husband to be. This will probably take me a few months to get our financial positions fully integrated.