Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top 10 Moments in 2010

Here are my favourite moments in 2010:

10. Seeing Gail Vaz-Oxlade at the "Picnic in the Park". Talking with her is a sheer pleasure.

9. Having hubby's bank account come out of overdraft, and seeing black instead of red.

8.Paying off the Green Monster, a.k.a. TD Visa.

7. Hubby's Grandmother's 90th birthday party. It's wonderful to know someone who is enjoying their retirement to the max.

6. Driving across Confederation Bridge into Prince Edward Island for the very first time. What a sight!

5. Helping hubby pay off an insane loan that was taken our before we got together. It was a mess, but we paid that sucker off!

4. Watching my RRSP grow to over $1000 that I personally saved.

3. My oldest daughter coming to me with pen and paper in hand and asking, "Mom, can you help me to budget for my new full-time pay?"

2. My youngest Daughter saying, "It's ok, Mom. I can pay for my own video game. I saved up for it."

1. When an unexpected bill came in to the tune of $5500, we took a look at everything financial, and within 5 days, we had the money to pay the bill. Savings took a hit, sure, but we *DID NOT* use credit.


Some things I would like to put more focus on this year:

~ Buying Canadian made products. I believe in supporting the home economy as much as possible, and the positive trickle down effects it could cause for my neighbours.

~ Regular usage of my crockpot, breadmaker, stand mixer and freezer. Banking meals to reduce our dining out expenses would make a positive change for us.

~ Finding more things for us to do as a family that are free or cost little.

~ Saving, as in not spending. Being able to leave the money in the bank and not have to use it for anything.

~ Decluttering, getting rid of stuff we don't need, maybe selling stuff to increase money in savings.

~ Making our home a more comfortable place to be, by decluttering, and keeping it tidier.

~ Keeping up with business and personal paperwork. This will help me to reduce stress when bills are due.

~ Having a spending plan. I found things went much more smoothly when I knew there was $X avaialble for groceries, gas, fun money. I still overspent, but at least I tried. I did manage to stay within my limits for some categories. =)

~ Making time for myself to read and to write. The idea of a novel has been bouncing around in my brain for years. I'll like to get it out and into my computer to make room for some other stuff.

~ Start up a knitting class in my end of the city. This will take a lot of my time to begin with, but once it's up and runnng, I'm sure things will run more smoothly.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

100 Things That Make Me Happy

These are in random order. I wrote them down as I thought of them.

100. A good song on the radio. I spend a lot of time in my vehicle for work purposes, so when a really good song comes on, other drivers see me singing away and bouncing around in my seat.

99. Facebook; for a multitude of reasons, including reconnecting with family and friends I've lost touch with and playing games.

98. Plain, old fashioned doughnuts from Tim Horton's, heated up. Yum!

97. Hearing my son learn a new word. His speech isn't perfected yet, so he often mispronounces words. It's cute.

96. A good cup of coffee.

95. Knitting things for loved ones, friends and strangers.

94. A blank journal, waiting for me to write in it.

93. Getting a hug from a client family after I've helped them after the death of a loved one.

92. Getting an actual letter in the mail. This hardly happens anymore, and I love to read letters from friends and family.

91. Blogging. Being able to sort out my thoughts about my life journey and sharing them here with you really is a wonderful thing.

90. Sushi. A healthy, good tasting foodstuff that I am going to learn to make on my own.

89. Dancing in the kitchen with my little boy.

87. Getting a back massage from my spouse.

86. Giving a back massage to my spouse.

85. Long, hot baths.

84. Hearing my little girl sing a new song she's learning, and knowing the words when she forgets.

83. Taking my daughter and son to the library.

82. Having a warm, clean home.

81. My expensive pillowtop mattress.

80. Being in a profession that makes me feel like I'm making a difference to someone.

79. Yarn shops. All those colourful displays of different types of yarn are beautiful to see, and hold so much potential.

78. Picking up a new book and getting lost in the story.

77. Hearing my little boy ask for oatmeal or any other food. With his medical condition, his diet is very important to his overall health.

76. Getting an unexpected text message from my friend who just wanted to say Good Morning.

75. Learning how to deal with our money so that we no longer worry and stress about financial matters.

74. Remembering good times with my Mom, my Dad, or my Father.

73. Icing fights during a family birthday party.

72. When my eldest daughter has us over to her apartment, and makes us dinner.

71. Hearing my children's friends say, "You've got the coolest Mom ever!".

70. When my little boy sleeps in, giving me some time to myself in the mornings.

69. Having a spouse who understands the nature of my work, and knows that I sometimes have to make it a priority.

68. Making doughnuts from my grandmother's recipe, written in my mother's handwriting.

67. Knowing that my life experiences make me a unique individual. Not many other people my age have firsthand knowledge of what moving an outhouse entails.

66. Medical advancement and research that allowed us to know about our son's medical condition so that it can be managed, instead of losing him.

65. My spouse's grandmother, who will be 91 in January. She still lives in her own home, and has family over every Sunday for a meal.

64. The internet. Being able to 'google' something that I want to learn about or learn how to do.

63. Fellow bloggers. Reading about the lives of others with whom I share interests, and some I don't, make my day.

62. Our best friends, A & P, who are a great couple. It's a rare thing to find two couples who are able to interact with one another in the way that the four of us can.

61. Becoming a grandmother. (Almost.)

60. Air conditioning, when it is unbearably hot in the summer.

59. My neices, nephews, great-neices, and great-nephews. They make my life more interesting.

58. The smell of fresh baked bread coming from the breadmaker.

57. Having my spouse come home early from work and bring me a coffe from Timmie's.

56. Looking through pictures from years past.

55. Knowing that my eldest daughter, although an adult, still needs me in her life, for advice and guidance.

54. Being a business owner, making me my own boss, sort of.

53. Planning a trip to somewhere warm in February.

52. Getting kisses and hugs from my little boy without any prompting.

51. Memories from our trip to Prince Edward Island this past summer.

50. Making homemade tacos with my youngest daughter.

49. After having made a home-cooked meal, hearing someone say,: "That was the best meal ever!"

48. Doing word find puzzles with my daughter.

47. Rereading a favourite book.

46. Finding new ways to spend less on the things we normally buy.

45. Making and meeting goals for myself, my family and my finances.

46. Seeing our debt going down in amount.

45. Reconnecting with family that I haven't talked to in awhile.

44. Watching my two youngest playing around in a bubble bath.

43. Clearing my desk of items that need my attention, giving me room to breathe and just be in my work space.

42. Planning ahead for meals using the oven or crockpot, that are not too labour intensive, making less work for myself on busier days.

41. Staying up late into the night, reading, blogging, and enjoying the quiet.

40. Being available to a certain friend, when that person ahs no one else to talk to about the struggles they are having.

39. Getting impromptu hugs from my kids.

38. Stockpiling (on a very small scale) items on sale to get us through until the next sale cycle.

37. Zombie movies and books.

36. Stephen King novels. I am collecting them all.

35. Scented dishsoap.

34. Feeling confident in myself enough to voice my own opinion.

33. Walking through the parks in nice weather, feeding ducks and geese with my family.

32. Chocolate Orange body wash.

31. Feather down duvet and pillows that make my bed the most comfy spot in my home.

30. Coming home to a tidied house when my MIL watches the little guy when I have to work.

29. Knowing that my arthritis has not advanced enough yet to limit my mobility.

28. Chocolate.

27. Having a college education, which opened many opportunities I might not otherwise have.

26. When electronic devices actually work for me.

25. Writing the occassional fiction story that pops into my head.

24. Finding personal finance books at the thrift store and being able to buy them at a fraction of their original price.

23. Listening to the Oshweken radio station on my tv during the hour that they play traditional Smokedance music.

22. Seeing how my business has evolved over the last five years, and facing the future with new opportunities.

21. Reading Gail Vaz-Oxlade's blog daily helping me to keep focused on what I want to achieve financially.

20. Having conversations that don't revolve around death, with people I just met.

19. Trying a new food or meal that I have never had before.

18. Having a spouse who understands me, and loves me in spite (or maybe because of) my little quirks.

17. The teller at the bank I deal with, who automatically finds the crispest bills, and puts them in order, from largest to smallest, with all the heads facing the same way, for me. And giggles while she does it, knowing that if she doesn't, I'll huff and puff while I do it myself.

16. My doodle-thug. (My nickname for my youngest daughter.)

15. My Clone. (My nickname for my oldest daughter.)

14. My Bug-less. (My nickname for my son.)

13. Knowing that through hard work and diligence, my hubby and I were able to keep us from filing for bankruptcy, from being homeless, and from the unimaginable horrors that would accompany those circumstances.

12. Holding a newborn baby, and inhaling the unique smell that one has.

11. Being part of a knitting class/group. Sharing and learning together with some fantastic women.

10. Volunteering. Giving of myself to others who are in need makes me feel good.

9. Doing a random act of kindness, like paying for the coffee of the person in line behind me at the drive-thru at Tim Horton's.

8. Watching someone's face light up when they open up a gift that I've made for them.

7. Having the ability and means to help others in my family.

6. Knowing every teller by first name at the bank branch that I deal with frequently.

5. Treating myself with a pedicure and waxing.

4. The feeling of accomplishment and pride for a job well done.

3. Worry-free days.

2. My hubby. I love him more than I could ever express in words.

1. Having my family close, and just enjoying their company.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eating Chocolate and Swearing

Today I am trying to get caught up in one of the mundane tasks that I rather strongly dislike as a business owner. I am preparing my receipts to file my HST report. Of course, because I am a chronic procrastinator, I am behind in these reports. But only by one reporting period (July 1, 2010 - September 30, 2010). In my defense, I am preparing the receipts for the fourth quarter reporting period at the same time, so I may be ahead of the game for once.

In order to get me through it, I have already had two snacks, umpteen cigarettes, a light lunch, and am now into a Godiva chocolate bar that I got for Christmas. I am trying very hard to refrain from swearing and vulgarity, But the words "Go eff a goat" have been muttered under my breath at least once. This is a phrase I picked up from my eldest daughter when she was trying to fill out income tax forms one time. It's sort of a family joke now. (For the record, I actually say "EFF" instead of the f-word. I do have a two year old parrot disguised as a toddler.)

I have spent the better part of two hours sorting through receipts, and am ready to set fire to the whole mess of papers.

At least the apartment might warm up if I did that.

Personal Finance and Friendships

Do you talk openly and honestly with others in your life about your finances? Do you talk to your parents, siblings, friends, or co-workers about it? Sometime ago, hubby and I decided that we would be honest with anyone who seemed interested in our financial well being, and those who we thought could benefit from our experiences.

At our last Gail Club meeting, we touched on this subject a bit. We discussed sharing our personal info with complete strangers (like those at Gail Club meetings) who were likely in the same boat as we were/are. After the meeting, hubby and I talked about this in much further detail.

We keep nothing in the way of our financial situation from his mother. She has helped us in so many ways, and has told us that she remembers what it was like to not have any money. She is one of several people that I can talk to and bounce ideas off when I need a different perspective.

Our best friends, moved to another city a little over a year ago. They are always interested in how we manage our family life, business life, our relationship, as well as our finances. I simply adore these people because no matter where we stand financially in relation to them, it makes absolutely no difference. Granted, they may be better off financially than we are, but they have never acted like any of the more simplified things that we do are beneath them. As a matter of fact, when P got his promotion, and a substantial raise, we were genuinely happy for them, and told them so. Since then, they have told us that we are two of the very few people who have not changed toward them as friends since they moved upward in the income tax bracket.

Our children are given as much honesty about our financial situation as is possible for their respective ages. We use our experiences in the past few years as a learning tool. We try to keep communication open with them about money, so that they might have healthier attitudes about finances in their futures.

B has given sound advice (read advice we've pilfered from Gail Vaz - Oxlade) to co-workers when advice was sought. Some are serious about wanting change, and others are not. Those who have followed his advice, and educated themselves are already in a better situation for it.

I try to be as honest as possible with my extended family about our financial situation when it comes up in conversation. I also try not to flaunt the fact that we are better off than most of my relatives. I don't give out unsolicited financial advice either. But I don't tell them everything. Those relationships are better off without that sort of information.

Looking back, I have many stories to tell about how we came to be where we are now. In our last Gail Club meeting, it was mentioned that B suffered a serious head injury in 2008. The group was shocked. I had apparently failed to mention the accident, and how it affected our finances leading to our current situation.

I'm going to post some of these experiences over the next little while, and tell you what we've learned from them. Then I will leave it to you readers to give me your perspective on each situation. I know how far we've come in the last two years, and maybe it will help you to know that about us as well.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How did I do on my 2010 Year end goals?

There were a lot of goals that I posted way back in August. I didn't even post my Yearly goals in January like most folks do. Let's see how I've measured up.


1. Have $800 in e-fund account. DONE (3 year goal is $12,000).
~ I did, over the course of the year, manage to put over $1000 into this account. But then, in October, I was no longer bringing in an income, and the bills still needed to be paid. Good note: at least there was some there for us to use so we didn't have to turn to credit. Bad note: most of this money is now gone.

2. Have $1800 in RRSP account.
~My RRSP account is sitting at $1050. It's a little over half way to my year end goal. Good note: I finally started to save for my retirement. Bad note: This money is just sitting in a bank account, earning me next to no interest.

3. To have $1000 buffer in personal chequing account.
~ I did actually achieve this goal. But this money is now also gone. We are likely going to have some lean months ahead until the next contract comes in. Must learn how to use the strategy of living off last month's income.

4. Have $2000 saved in vacation account. (DONE)
~ We did save, and spend this money as planned. Our trip to Prince Edward Island was awesome.

5. Have $1100 in Xmas account.(DONE)
~ We saved and spent this money as planned. Definately going to need to increase this amount for next year. Good note: No credit. Bad note: didn't save enough.

6. Have $2000 in auto repair/replacement fund.
~ While not saved ahead of time, we did spend this amount of money on vehicle repairs this year. It came from our regular budget, so again, no credit used. Have to start savings again for this account to be replenished before the next round of major vehicle repairs is needed.

7. Pay off $1000 of $5600 of credit card debt.
~ I am certain we paid off more than $1000 of debt ($934.85 alone was paid on one debt in December). I am also certain we paid off more than $1000 on the outstanding credit card debt. ($3663.89 paid as of our most recent statements.) We are also continuing to make payments on our other debts. Good note: Our overall debt is decreasing. Bad note: One credit card debt has a very high interest rate, so it's taking longer to pay down.

8. Open saving accounts for both children.
~ Epic fail on my part. I have wanted to do this for awhile, and have yet to do it. There are still 4 days left in the year, so I could still meet this goal.

9. Stay current on monthly bills.
~ So far, so good. However lean months are still coming, and we're out of savings. Hopefully earnings will start increasing to make up for it.

10.Pay $3500 to lawyer and obtain divorce from ex-spouse.
~ Epic fail again on my part. I plan to tackle this head on in the new year. It's rising toward the top of the priority list.

Other things I wanted to work on:
~ switching DD's allowance to 40% into long-term savings; She got a Moonjar for Christmas, so we will be reworking her allowance budget this week while we're reworking our 2011 goals.

~ reading 100 books this year; I stopped counting somewhere around the 25 book mark, and I know I have read many, many more since then. It doesn't really matter to me if I read 100 books, only that I made time for myself to read for enjoyment.

~ keeping up with personal spending plan; Using a spending & saving plan has saved me countless headaches over the course of the year. There weren't that many surprises as we had accounted for mostly everything. But there were one or two things that almost threw us off track.

Overall, I think we haved done well in taking control over our finances in a more tangible and concrete way. We have less diifculties with our money, and a lot less sleepless nights. We have a plan, and although its not as strict as it could be, it seems to be working for us. For the next year, I have set our savings and debt repayment goals higher, so that we feel a bit more restricted with our spending. It will spur me on to find less expensive ways to fufill our needs.

This holiday season has been one of joy and indulgence. Now I'm ready to start tackling the New Year with new goals in mind.

Are you ready for the New Year and new goals?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours

Merry Christmas everyone. We are busy playing with our new Imaginarium Train Table, Call of Duty Black Ops, and the new DSiXL. We're having breakfast and dinner with family, and spending time with loved ones as much as possible.

Seeing as tomorrow is hubby's birthday, we'll be home all day making merry, and enjoying all of our newly acquired thing-a-ma-jiggers. I should probably make a birthday cake.

The grandbaby hasn't made his debut yet, so we wait and wait and wait. On a good note, for the first time in my life, I finished knitting the baby blanket *before* the baby is even born! *blush* (My 11 year old still doesn't have her baby blanket yet.)

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and may the holidays be spent with loved ones, in joy, peace and happiness.

I'll be back with regular posts in a few days.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

E-fund Vs. Debt Snowball

Personal finance authors and bloggers have all written their version of E-Fund Vs. Debt Snowball. And each one of them has their own recommendation of which to focus on. Saying you have an unexpected lump sum, or some magic jar money left over, would you be more likely to deposit it in your e-fund or apply it to your debt snowball?

Each of these methods have merit.

Emergency funds are an important part of personal finance. It's your safety net when ka-ka hits the fan, like an unxpected fender bender in the mall parking lot. Your insurance will likely cover the repairs and maybe a rental, but you have to come up with the deductible. You haven't put that in your monthly spending plan. So you turn to your E-fund. Problem solved easily.

You could be getting a layoff notice from your place of employment. It could take months before you are offered another job that is comparable to your last one. But your rent still needs to be paid, as do the utilities, and you still have to put food on the table. Again, you turn to your emergency fund. There should be enough money in there to last you for several months with your regular expenses. If you tighten your belts and cut down to the bare bones budget, perhaps there will be enough to last you for maybe even a year.

Some folks, like Ramsey, endorse having a 'baby' Emergency fund of $1000. Somehow, having only a thousand dollars should cover some, most or all of an emergency that arises. I guess knowing the difference between a real emergency and a spending emeregency helps too.

Snowballing your debt payments is a method largely endorsed by Dave Ramsey. To use this method, one would list their debts by amount, smallest to largest. Making only minimum payments on all other debts, focusing on the smallest debt first. Aggresively pay that one off, and them apply the payments toward debt #2. It works for folks who need to see that their efforts are making a difference.

Another 'snowballing' method that is endorsed by Gail Vaz-Oxlade (and others) is to attack your highest interest-rate debt first. By applying all your 'extra' money to the debt with the highest interest-rate, and maintaining minimum payments on all the rest, you reduce the overall amount you have to pay out. Mathematically, this would be the better choice to use.

For most of us, we fall somewhere in the middle. We don't have a fully funded Emergency Fund yet, and we still have debt to pay off. For our household, we find our balance somwhere in the middle. Before we spend any money on anything, we put 'something' into our Emergency Fund, even if it's only $20. Then we pay our living expenses and debt payments. After that, we put money into our various saving pots: RRSP, Vacation, Xmas, E-fund (again), Kids College funds, Automobile savings, etc. Some of the numbers we are dealing with are overwhelming, like amount to save for retirement and E-fund. Others are more specific and manageable, like Xmas account. But we try to put some in each one every month.

In our house, we also follow the advice of paying down the highest interest-rate debt first. This has been our focus. All debt is not created equal, and in some circumstances, it's more important to pay down one debt over another, due to terms and such. Not all of our debt is consumer debt. Some is taxes owing, which is in a whole different realm altogether.

We are seeing the difference our efforts are making. Every month, the balances go down, and occassionaly we get a 'win' by being able to completely focus on one debt to pay it off. This past year, our debt has risen again, due to unforseen bills (completely our fault), and owing income tax (which I should have known about,but didn't). Hopefully, in the coming year, an increase in business income should help us to really make a dent in our debt. Now just to keep it down.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Learning an Old Craft

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to knit. I'm not really good at it either. When I was younger and was learning, I could only make the standard, full of holes scarf, using just one basic stitch back and forth. Over time, I learned another stitch, then another, and made scarves that weren't full of holes (unless I planned them that way), with basic patterns in them.

I was given a knitted dishcloth one year, and loved it. My former m-i-l told me they were really simple to make, but to use cotton yarn. I did buy some, and the right sized needles, and began making my own dishcloths. I usually manage every year to make enough of these things that I can share with friends and family. They are truly easy to make, and I can make one up in the matter of a few hours while watching television.

A few months back, I got involved with a charity that provides knitted items to homeless folks to help them keep warm during our harsh winter. The charity provides free knitting classes, knitting needles, yarn and support to those who wish to learn to knit, or expand their knowledge. In exchange, they ask that you make something for the charity to sell or give away.

I've been to a few classes, and have been learning to read a pattern. I've also learned a few new stitches. But mostly I've learned confidence in myself when it comes to knitting. I'm pretty much self-taught, working my way through mistakes when I've made them. I never tried more difficult patterms before because I lacked the knowledge. The ladies in this group have been more than willing to teach me how to do things I've never tried before with my knitting. I am most grateful to know these extremely wonderful women.

In the next year, I'm hoping to expand our knitting classes into another part of our city, and be the leader of a new class group. In the south end of the city where I live, I see lots of women knitting in public, and have overheard others stating they wish they knew how to knit. In an era where there seems to be a newfound respect for the frugality of quality hand-made items, I think this may be a nice fit. A knitting class could provide some camaraderie for women (and maybe some men too) from all walks of life, all ages, all skill levels.

I like taking a look at the knitting projects that others are working on, and watching a project grow to completion. Seeing the pride of self from someone who has tackled a knitting project, and finished the job is truly an amazing sight.

Do you knit? Crochet? Cross-stitch? Quilt? Are you interested in any sort of the old crafts?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Credit Card Company Should be Ashamed

I have an account with Capital One. There have been times that I've been less than happy with their customer service when talking to them about trying to make payments when I have been behind. I know my credit at the time was less than stellar, and continued its downward spiral. They came to an agreement with me for a 'hardship' program where they reduced the interest rate to 0%, and I continued to make monthly payments in the amount of $140 for five years. Thsi would bring my balance to zero, and afterward, the account would be closed.

Although Capital One was not the worst company I had to deal with while we were struggling by far, they certainly did not make it any easier. I couldn't imagine that they would give credit to someone who certainly did not qualify for it. But it seems that they did. They continued to increase my credit amount, without my consent, and before long, I was in a hole (that I dug myself) that I didn't know how to get out of.

Let me know what you think after you have read the article.

On a side note, things are super busy for me today, and likely will be for the remainder of the week. I'll do my best to keep posting throughout the craziness, but I may end up disappearing for a few days at a time.

Thanks to all of you who posted comments to let me know that you like my blog for what it is, and the encouragement to keep writing. It helps to know that someone actually cares what I write. Thanks, you guys are the best!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Direction of My Blog

I read several blogs daily. I like taking a peek into the lives of others, some of whom I know personally, most of whom I don't. Lately, several boggers have talked about what they think their blog should be about, and if they should change things up a bit.

Since I started writing this blog, I've had a couple of false starts. I'd write a post or two, then not write anything for a long time. Some days I would sit in front of the computer screen, and have no idea what to write.To help combat this, I have a monthly list of possible blog titles that I can wrtie about. I just pick one in the morning, and started banging away on the keyboard.

Lately though, I keep thinking that all 4 of you regular readers are probably getting bored of reading about my boring life. Ok, not boring, but it is non-exciting. I've reached out to other bloggers in an attempt to get some fresh ideas of things I could write about, and for more readers. Not sure that it's working so much, but I am trying.

This blog is part personal finance, part frugal living, part regular day to day life for Auntie Eboo. I can't talk about my work too much, and that's most of what I think is important in my life. I can talk about my kids, but I get creeped out about the idea of some weirdo reading about my lovely children. Am I losing my sense of direction with my blog, or did I even have one in the first place?
Please let me know what you think. I need some help in deciding what to write about. Let me know what you like to read, or don't like.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Write Your Life Story

Back in 2001, when my mom was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, I began thinking about her life. She had at that point, lived to the ripe young age of 61, had given birth to seven children, had adopted one child, and fostered and/or step-parented several others. She had married three times (I think), and had divorced three times also. She finally settled down into a great relationship with her sweetheart from her teenage years. She had worked as native courtworker for many years for N'Amerind, helping folks steer their way through the justice system at a time when there were many language and cultural barriers for the average Aboriginal person.

For Mother's Day, in 2002, as a gift for us both, I had given her a blank journal book, and a beautiful pen, with a handwritten note asking her to tell her grandchildren her life story. I wanted her to tell us things about her life that we otherwise wouldn't have known. Like what her favourite things were when she was growing up, and fond memories she had of her parents and grandparents. She thanked me for the idea of writing to her granchildren, so that they could know about her someday.

Mom died in June of 2002. A mere month after my request.

In the days after her funeral, I was taking charge of the task of going through her belongings, and giving them away, as per our religious custom.

I found the journal in her dresser drawer.

I was excited to find it, full of wonder at what it may contain. Surley there would be happy memories, and perhaps a few not so happy ones. I wondered if she talked about her childhood. Maybe she professed her love to children, something she had trouble doing throughout her life.

I opened the journal.

And found it blank. Just the way I had given it to her.

Several years have past since then, and I wonder what she would have written. What would she have wanted us to know about her past? What would she have wanted us to never know about? All those things went with her the day she died. I will never know if she had a childhood pet, or if it was her mother or grandmother who taught her to knit.

I was fortunate enough to know some things about her childhood, stories that I treasure. Like the story about the time my grandmother and her waited for grandpa and her brothers to return home from hunting. They were very late for supper. The dog came back without the boys. When they finally returned home after dark, my grandmother chased my grandfather around the house with a broom, furious with him for making her worry that something had happened to them. My mother sat in the corner, as a very young girl, giggling to see my grandmother act in such a way.

But there are so many other stories that have been lost with her passing, and with the passing of many of my other relatives. I can never get those stories back. But I wish with all of my heart that I will be able to pass down what I do know to my children and grandchildren, along with some stories of my own. I will write these stories, the old-fashioned way, with ink and paper, for my daughters and son to find some day. So that they will know my life story. So that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren might know me a little.

Friday, December 10, 2010

RRSP & Tax Reduction

It was explained to me a long time ago, that putting funds into a Registered Retirement Savings Plan will reduce your income dollar for dollar, also reducing your tax liability at the same time.

If I make $50,000 in a calendar year, and put $1000 of it into an RRSP, I will only be taxed on $49,000 of income that year. It's like that $1000 doesn't exsist.

The $1000 can grow inside a sheltered account or investment, and I do not have to pay tax on the $1000 of income or the growth until I take it out of the RRSP.

Simple, right?

They why the heck haven't I been doing it? For many, many years, I thought that because I was young, I could always catch up on my contributions in the future. And truthfully, retirement seemed so far off, that I didn't really think about it. It was something I knew about, but didn't really internalize.

Now as I'm edging my way to 40 years old, I know I have to get off my rear and get working on this. Seriously working on this. Being self-employed means no grand company pension when my time for the golden handshake comes. I have a rather large goal to set aside money in my RRSP next year. For me, putting away $3600 for something that isn't a vacation is going to be tough.

I opened my RRSP with PC Financial this year. Over the course of the year, I have managed to deposit a measly $1000. But it's a start. It's more than I have ever had put away for retirement before.

For the year of 2011, I am planning on depositing $3600. That translates into $300 per month. Which wouldn't be too hard on us. Except when we have down months, and I'm taking from the savings coffers to pay the regular bills. The winter months are usually very busy with work, but slow for income. So I have to figure out how to carve something, anything from the budget so that I am making a deposit every month.

My RRSP payment schedule will look something like this:

January: $100 (still owing $200)
February: $100 (still owing $400)
March: $200 (still owing $500)
April: $150 (still owing $650)
May: $300 (still owing $650)
June: $500 (still owing $450)
July: $500 (still owing $ 250)
August: $1000 (paid ahead $450)
September: $300 (paid ahead $450)
October: $200 (paid ahead $350)
November: $100 (paid ahead $150)
December: $150 (balance to zero)

I know some months I will be able to put in more than what I have set out for, and other months, finding the money to deposit will be next to impossible. But this is about as close to reality as I can make it. Unless I scheduled no payments at all, and then just dropped in the whole $3600 in June or July.

I have got to get working on opening a mutual fund account so that I can get the dollar-cost averaging thing working for me too. Because having my retirement nest egg (ok, it's just a couple twigs right now) just sitting in a savings account isn't really what I need. I need my little stash of money working hard, like I do.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Looking Toward 2011

I've crunched some numbers and came up with a game plan for 2011. I want to share part of it here with you. these will likely be our financial goals for the upcoming year. Things I have left out are our regular monthly expenses that include rent, groceries, cable, phone, internet, auto fuel & oil.

This is a wroking list, so if you think I've left something out other than what I've already mentioned above, please leave a comment for me. thanks.

2011 Financial Gameplan:

1. Put $6600 into EEE account. This would be about 3 months worth of expenses.
2. Deposit $3600 in my RRSP.
3. Have $1000 in chequing account as a buffer. This should eliminate bank fees.
4. Deposit $1200 into RESP.
5. Summer and winter vacation; $4000 total needed.
6. Christmas Account, $1500 to be saved.
7. Debt 1: $6900 to be paid off in full.
8. Debt 2: $5330 to be paid in full.
9. Debt 3: $4700 to be paid in full.
10. Debt 4: $3500 to be paid in full.
11. Auto repair account: $1200 to be saved.
12. Auto insurances: $4100 to be saved (2 vehicles).
13. Business Insurance: $900 to be saved.
14. Charitable giving: $250 given for the year.
15. 2010 Income Tax owing: $4500 (approximate)

There are other debts that we will still be dealing with but will not be able to pay off during 2011, so I've not included them. We will however, continue to make payments on them throughout the year.

What have I learned this year?

That with careful planning, we can have the life that we want, as long as we are prepared to give up other things for it. I've learned that having money set aside for lean months is crucial to our financial situation. It's similar to using credit, without the interest rates, and it's our own money!

I've learned that teaching our kids the basics of sound financial planning is important. They won't get that kind of an education from anyone else at this point in their lives. I want them to know this BEFORE they ever get into credit card debt.

I've learned that we could be doing more to beat down our debt monster.

I've learned that when stuff happens, we can go with the flow, as our savings keep me from worrying too much. I know we can weather the storm.

I've learned the importance of having illness & disability insurance on myself. Being self-employed, having this insurance gives me peace of mind that things will be okay if I ever got injured or sick.

Ok readers, give me your thoughts. Am I missing anything crucial in our gameplan? I know planning to payoff $20,430 of debt may seem like a lofty goal, but I know we can (and will) do it. Even with putting aside $12,400 into various savings pots and $11,700 into planned spending, and giving away $250 to charity. Add those numbers together, and we have a working total of $44,780. With a combined gross income of approximately $70,000, this should all be doable. I think.

I hope.
I hope, therefore, I plan.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making a Money Guide

Sometime ago, I mentioned that one of the gifts I was making for my older daughter was a money book. I had the idea that maybe I could help her to find her way through her financial life with some advice, quips and money rules. What better way than to put them into a book? Considering she's actually mature enough to take advice from her 'rents, I want to give her some good ones.

I've been reading personal financial blogs for some time now, following Gail Vaz-Oxlade faithfully on the internet and watching her shows, and reading any and all personal finance books I can get my hands on. If I hear, or read a bit of advice that really strikes me as funny, or otherwise noteworthy, I make sure I write it down. This is the stuff that will go into her book.

My daughter is 21. She's been working since she was 18. She is employed full-time at a job she loves but has just left on maternity leave. She has just learned the basics of budgeting a.k.a. how I prepare a Spending Plan. (She groaned when I said budget, so I used a different name for it. She didn't know any different. Tee hee!)
I hoping to help her learn some good basics before the world decides to take a dump on her.

Most of today will be spent typing up the 'rules' in different colors and fonts to print out. Then I will be cutting them, and gluing them into the pages of a recycled paper notebook that I bought. There will be lots of room to add hand-written explanations or notes for each 'rule'. I'm going to try to add some pictures to it as well, if my printer ink lasts.

On a side note, it's the second snow day in a row that we've had here. We have gotten an incredible amount of snowfall in the last 48 hours or so. More is expected. Schools are closed, community centres are closed, and almost everything else has done the same. Last night, buses were pulled from their routes, and motorists were asked to stay off the roads. The mayor is considering calling a state of emergency. This is by far the largest accumulation of snowfall in a short period of time that the City of London has seen in a very long time. And there is no end in sight.

I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to hibernate, but this wasn't quite what I had in mind. :(

Monday, December 6, 2010

I am Tired

It was a long weekend. It was a tiring weekend. But it was a good weekend. :)

Friday evening, we dropped the little guy off at his big sister's apartment. She had made dinner for us to have there. Biggest sister and her bf take the little guy for the weekend for us every once in awhile so that Daddy & I can have some alone time, to get things done.She's such a good sister!

After we left there, we decided to go do some shopping. Wal-mart is already into their staying open 24 hours stint, so that's where we headed. A very full cart, and a couple hundred bucks later, we are done Christmas shopping. Okay, well the majority of it is done. We only have to get a couple of gift cards, and ingredients to make some gift jar mixes still. But all the gifts are bought.

Knowing that we could be busy with the business over the holidays (we usually are), and expecting the grandbaby during the same time, I wanted to be very prepared this year.

Friday night we stayed up late, and we each did our own thing.
Saturday morning we got up, had some coffee, dressed warmly, and headed out to volunteer some time for the Keeping Kids Warm charity. The $100 challenge went great, and I heard about some great acts of kindness for others. But it was a long, long day. We came home after, watched the news, and just hung out. In the same room, yet both of us doing our own thing. With a glass of rum & coke. :)

Sunday it had started to snow. A lot. We stayed in for most of the day, and got some things done around the house. Almost all the gifts are wrapped. We went through the little guys toys, and cleaned and purged there. I sorted out all of my knitting supplies and various projects I'm working on. We vaccuummed most of the apartment. We were planning on going to get little guy, and going to visit with hubby's family at his Grandmother's house. That's when we got the call.

It was just a hospital transfer, but my goodness, it took a long time. Just clearing the snow off the van took a good 15-20 minutes. In snow up to my knees. Road travel was slow. Reports on the radio mentioned car accidents all over the city. The weather forecast called for another 15-30 cm of snow in each of the next 3 days. We could suddenly get very busy. It's our busiest time of year, so I have to be prepared. Darn, I suddenly remember I haven't put snow tires on the van yet. Crum!

We did the transfer, came home, switched vehicles, drove to the other end of city to get little guy, came home and vegged out. It was late before we got home. The snow about to fall on our city worries me. I want to just stay indoors and hibernate, like a bear. Think anyone would notice if I went to sleep for a few months?

Sleep sounds really good to me right now. Maybe I'll get a nap in today.

How was your weekend?

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Horrors of Debt Collection Agencies

In 2006, I left a bad marriage. For a short while, I camped out on my sister's couch, until I could find an apartment for me and my two girls. I found a place within a month, and moved. I am grateful to my sister.

My sister is in the military. She used to run a Cadet Corps, and there is a lot of military in her career. Back sometime in 2007 or 2008, she got Bell services in her apartment. I'm not even sure what all she had, but I know she had a satellite dish at one point.

Fast forward to 2009. I get a phone call on my business cell from an agent who works for NCO Financial. They are looking for my sister. Apparently, she owes Bell Canada some money. I tell them she doesn't work for my company any longer. They ask me my name. I tell them. Oh, you're a co-user on the account?? A what?!? A co-user. At some point, my sister had added me to the account as a co-user, so that I could take care of her account while she was away, possibly deployed in Afghanistan.

I tell them I didn't agree nor consented to having my name added to this account. No matter, says NCO. You're still on the hook for the bill if your sister doesn't pay. I call my sister. I give her the lowdown, and the toll free number to call them back. She says she'll take care of it. I hang up, not thinking about it anymore.

October of 2010. My home phone rings. It's NCO Financial calling. They are looking for my sister. Good luck, I tell them, I have no idea where she is. I know she moved, and that she lives in London, Ontario, but I don't have an address for them, or a current phone number. They tell me they *NEED* me to find her and have this matter dealt with. I tell them they *NEED* to do their own job and find her.

My phone at home starts ringing at odd hours of the day. Automaticalled generated calls from a collection agency. Seeing as I have taken care of all of my own past due accounts, I doubt the calls are for me.

Automatic message left:
"This is NCO Financial calling for (sound of click where a name should be). This is a very important business matter. Please call us back at xxx-xxx-xxxx."

I call back. I've done this several times. I've been told that I have to talk to Bell Canada to have my name removed from the account. I've done that too. They will add your name to an account without your knowledge or consent, but will not remove your name from an account at your request. Hmm.

I've talked with more agents from NCO Financial than I care to count. I've talked with supervisors. They say they can't take my name off the account, nor can they stop calling me about the account. Even though it's not mine. Because my name is on it as a co-user, they have to do their job.

They have to do their job, I get that. But in dealing with this matter, I've had agents tell me that they think I'm lying to them about not knowing the whereabouts of my sister, and have implied that I may be lying to them about not being her. I've had agents tell me that my credit will be negatively impacted by this matter. I've had them tell me they will continue to escalate the frequency of the calls until the matter is resolved.

What have I done about all this?

When I was still in contact with my sister, I called her and texted her to talk to them. I don't know if she ever did, but the calls did stop for awhile.
I've called Bell Canada. They said my name would be taken off the account, but it never was. I called them again. Was told that time that they would not take my name off the account.
I've emailed a supervisor with NCO Financial, with a statement as to why I think my name was added to the account, along with my request to have my name removed from the account and a request that all further communication from them be in writing only. I've requested in a phone call with another supervisor, that I be sent statements of the account, showing how much was owed, and for what, along with documentation showing that my name is on the account as co-user. I've told an agent on the phone that I'm so sick of them calling me when I owe them no money, as that I was prepared to take this matter to court.

What has been the outcome so far?

Well, I haven't had a phone call in a number of days. However, I expect that the calls will continue at some point. I doubt they will respect my request for further communication to be in writing only. I have yet to receive any documentation from them at all. I'm not holding my breath. I'm keeping a log of the dates and times that I get phone calls, and if I speak to someone, I get their name and employee number for my records.

I've dealt with collection agencies in the past for debts that were mine. I eventually paid when I was able. That part of being in debt is something I can do without, thank you very much. But getting daily phone calls about a debt that I did not incur really bugs me. I'm keeping tabs on my credit report should this monster rear its ugly head there. So far, so good.

I know that the collection agency has rules that they must follow. They can't call before 7 am. NCO has an auto dialer that calls here at precisely 7:10 am. And when I press a button to speak to a live person, I get a machine telling me that their office is not yet open for the day. Hmm. They call to speak to someone about an account, but don't actually have someone available to speak to.

I am at my wit's end with this matter. I'm prepared to contact Ontario Consumer Services Bureau with a formal complaint if things continue this way. Other than paying someone's else's debt, I don't know what else to do to get these people off my back. I've stopped being nice when talking to them. I don't even feel the need to be polite anymore.

By the way, I know someone who is an employee of Bell Canada. I ran the situation by them, and was told that I can't be held liable for the debt, regardless of whatever anyone says.

So readers, what's your take on this? Is there anything else I could be doing that I'm not doing now? I won't hunt down my sister to get contact information for them. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

$100 Challenge on Saturday

A London Free Press article I read got me thinking about ways to help others in the coming months. Winter can be harsh here in London, especially if you're homeless. (read the article here: )
At one point in my youth, I spent some time living in a shelter, because I had no where else to go (or, at least, I thought I didn't). At another point in my life, I was in a shelter with an infant. It wasn't a great experience, but the folks there sure helped me get my life on track. The kindness and generosity of strangers is what helped me to get back on my feet, find some direction in life, and allowed me to keep some of my dignity.

On Saturday, I will be joining several other Londoners at Jim Bob Ray's on Richmond Street, at noon, to help out with the $100 Challenge. If you have Facebook (and who doesn't anymore?), hop on over to their page (found here: or the world wide page ( found here: ) to see what folks are doing.

This is a grassroots movement started right here in London, Ontario! Let's get behind something that promises to be a big event, that can impact literally thousands of people right here in our own hometown. I haven't felt so passionate about a single charity event in a very long time. As it is the season of giving, what can you give to help others? How creative can you become?

I understand that $100 would be a lot for some folks to just give away. But if you can help in any way, maybe with $20, coupled with someone else's $20, that's $40 of good that can find its way into our beloved Forest City

What can you do? Take the challenge. This is starting to spread to other cities, and other countries. Even if you're not in London, you can still take part. Sign up on the Facebook page, and then go back after to tell of your experiences after the challenge.

The charity I work with, Keeping Kids Warm, will be meeting at the Western Fair Farmer's Market, 500 King Street, at 11 am - 3 pm, on Saturday December 4, 2010.
We will be accepting donations of gently used or new coats and sweaters to distribute to persons in need.
We will also be distributing FREE coffee to everyone, coutesy of Fire Roasted Coffee Co.
If you are in need, or know someone who is, please join us that day. You can take what you need, no charge.
Help us to make this day a great event!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Goals

Every month I like to set some goals that push me toward fufilling year-end goals, or to help with other aspects of life that I need to focus on.

December 2010 Goals:

1. Get RRSP to next level of $1500. (Unlikely to happen, but I'll never know if I don't try.)

2. Prepare all financial goals in writing for the year of 2011. I don't like waiting until the week between Christmas and New Year's to do this. Makes me feel rushed.

3. Get back on track with monthly spending plans, and tracking. (I need to keep a notebook of where all the money is going.)

4. Break down written goals into quarterly and monthly goals, so I have a plan for the entire year.

5. Prepare Debt Free Plan. Write out what we need to do to get rid of our debt in 18 months. (This is a lofty goal, but I know it can be done, if we tighten the belts a little more.)

6. Get passports for February vacation. Don't know where we're going, but as long as it's somewhere warm, I'm happy. We already have the money saved for this, so now we can focus on the vacation itself.

7. Have business stuff caught up to year end. There's lots to accomplish still, and I want to be as prepared as possible.

8. Go back to November goals and deal with whatever hasn't been dealt with yet. I had some things on my to do list that I never got around to. Time to stop procrastinating!

9. Enjoy the holidays with friends and family. December gets busy, and this one will be no exception. I plan on renewing some familial relationships, and I hope to be able to stay in contact throughout the year.

10. Get the baby blanket finished before the baby comes! It's a race now, which will come first? The baby or the blanket? Ha ha ha! I can't wait to meet my grandson.

Only 24 sleeps until the big holiday. Are you ready?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

End of November Report

Here are our November numbers:

Planned spending - down $219.04
Xmas Fund - down $811.51
Emergency fund - down $290.00
RRSP - added $71.74
General Savings - down $94.46
Can. Saving Bond - added unknown amount

$100 paid to Personal Loan
$142.42 paid to CC with 28% int. rate
$150 paid to CC with 0% int. rate
$215.95 paid to Auto Loan
used and paid off immediately, HBC card with 28.8% int. rate

We put a total of $71.74 into our various saving pots this month.
We paid a total of $608.37 toward our debt this month.

The accounting for our bills and such got a little wonky, due to B's workplace being switched from weekly to bi-weekly pay periods. In anticipation of an adjustment period, B switched all his weekly payments and reduced the overall amount being paid, except for his Auto Loan, which cannot be changed to bi-weekly.

We depleted the Xmas Account to purchase gifts for the holidays. We are almost completely done shopping, save a few small stocking stuffers left to go. We also depleted the planned spending as we needed some extra monies to help out with the groceries and stuff for the house.

Overall, we had a good month. Our debt didn't increase, but our assets did decrease some. I'm working at bringing more money into the house, and keeping down our expenses. I expect that the month of December will be all about writing down our goals for 2011 and doing a recap of what we have accomplished in 2010.

How did you do this month?

Finally, some work!

After a mere 49 days without a source of income other than our Emergency Essential Expenses fund, I finally got a call for work.

Please understand, I am not unemployed. I am self-employed. I have done lots of work in the last 49 days. I just wasn't receiving any income for it. To get a call call for a contract, however small, is good. It seems to me, that in this business, when you are busy, you tend to get more and more work handed to you. I have been doing some ground work for the two new contracts that have come my way in the last 49 days. These contracts are long-term, and will enable me to bring in an undefined amount of income. I'm guessing that the value of these two contracts alone will bring in $40,000- $50,000 per year gross. When added to the existing long-term contract I already hold, I may be looking at anywhere from $50,000 - $95,000 in business income for 2011.

I'll have a story for you tomorrow about the horrors of dealing with Bell Canada and their Credit Collection Agency of choice, NCO Financial. For now, I'll just say, that they will try to hold someone else liable for an account not in their name.

Taking DS to playgroup today, then home for time with DD1, and a lovely evening planned for time with all 3 of my kids.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Upcoming Shopping Season - Almost Done

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American neighbours!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the holiday shopping rush, at least in the U.S. All through the year we have been saving our money for this specific event. Christmas shopping. Oh, how I dread the thought. I want nothing to do with all the craziness that goes on in the malls at this time. In years past, I was always happy to have my shopping finished early, so that when I *had* to go to the mall, I could go about my business as quickly as possible.

We met our goal of having $1100 set aside for Christmas. This is/was our budget for all gifts for the family, not including myself. If I gotta buy my own gift, and then wrap it, it just doesn't feel the same to me. We have purchased some major gifts, including a 32" LCD HDTV flatscreen for the family, a large train table playset for our son, a Super Mario 25th Anniversary Edition DSiXL and Bowser's Inside Story game for DS2.

I also purchased a few things for hubby, some as Christmas gifts, and some as birthday gifts seeing as his birthday is December 26th. We have likely gone over our alloted Christmas budget, but only by a few dollars. We still have 3 gifts left to buy, and one $10.00 giftcard left to purchase. I'm looking at spending another $175 for these items, tax included. As soon as that's done, we will be officially finished Christmas shopping!

We made an arrangement with BIL that we would not exchange gifts this year. Instead he will get a card made by one of the kids, with our family photo included. My one neice,her husband and children are coming in from out of province for the holidays. While they are here, we are springing for the cost of childcare, so the four of us can go out for sushi dinner, and then to bingo afterward. Seeing as he just got back from overseas with the military, the very fact that he is able to be with us for a night of fun is more than enough of a gift for me.

I am still dilligently working away on homemade gifts of knitted dishcloths, a hat for DS2, a blanket for the grandson that will be born soon, as well as some heating pads, and mitt/glove warmers. I also have plans to make some Irish Cream for our adult friends (they loved this last year), some instant flavoured coffee mixes, and some seasoning mixes to gift.

During the month of December, while everyone else is in a rush to get things done, I will be able to slow down and enjoy some activities with friends and family. The year long planning will be well worth it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Having a Child with MCAD (Medium Chain Acyl Co-A Dehydrogenase Deficiency)

As you may or may not know, we have a beautiful little boy named Douglas. He was born on March 17, 2008. He is my third child, and my hubby's first and only. All the familiar things happened during his birth. Nothing remarkable happened. He was given eye drops, had his Apgar score given, and was deemed healthy and beautiful. The following evening, the nurse took him for a little while, to prick his heel to take blood for the testing that needed to be done. I wasn't unfamiliar with Newborn Screening, so I wasn't worried in the least.

We brought our little bundle of joy home, and began to learn to live with a wee baby in our household. He was born on a Monday. St. Patrick's Day. The joke is: " We had a part Dutch, part Native child born on an Irish holiday. We're pretty sure he already has a drinking problem!" (Sorry if this offends anyone.) We planned to leave our little man with our then 17 year old daughter on the following Thursday night so we could have a date night.

On Thursday, we started getting phone calls. The first one was from hubby's family doctor. We had intended for him to provide follow-up care for Douglas, and to be his doctor. The call was brief, but urgent. The hospital was trying to get ahold of us with regard to Douglas' blood testing. Something had come up. Try not to worry.

Yeah right. Then my doctor's office called. Linda put me on hold while she got the doctor to the phone. I have never had the doctor speak directly to me before. It seems that there was a 'screen positive' for something on the Newborn screening tests. They actually test for somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 different genetic conditions. Confirmatory testing needed to be done. Call this other doctor at the hospital and they will give you further insructions. In the meantime, do NOT let the little guy go without eating for more than 2 hours. Wake him up to do it if you have to!

WHAT?!?! I *thought* they said he was fine, healthy, ok to come home? What in Earth is going on? Having just given birth a few days prior, my hormones and emotions are already all over the place. What the **** is going on? I cried. Hubby cried. They kept saying MCAD. I hit the internet hard. We had to pull it together as it was Easter weekend. Our other kids were still expecting the bunny to bring gifts and chocolate.

Tuesday (8 days after birth) we take our precious baby for special testing. We meet with a medical geneticist, who explains that the Newborn Screening is a way to help determine if any child *could* have any of the medical conditions that they screen for. They *think* that Douglas could have one of two conditions, MCAD or GA-1. Until we know for sure, baby must be treated as though he has MCAD. If he becomes ill at all, bring him into Emerg. Feed every 2 hours, no exceptions. If you have trouble waking him, call an ambulance. Now go home, and try not to worry. HA HA HA!!

We cry more. Could we lose our baby to this condition? Yes. More crying. They talked about caloric intake, how illness can lead to a metabolic crisis, and cause some terrible things. Lethargy, seizures, coma, even death. Scary for any parent. Especially for hubby, being a first time parent. We felt like we were in a whirlwind of emotions. It's hard to enjoy your new baby thinking that any day could be the last already. With me being a funeral director, I already have more than enough of death in my life. I couldn't handle death coming into my home, my family.

Thursday, 10 days after giving birth, we go out for our date night. I am half way into a cold glass of beer, and hubby is up singing some karaoke. Some of our outer family are there, celebrating our sons birth with us. My cell phone rings. It's my daughter. Mommy, something is wrong with the baby. He's shaking, like a seizure. I can't get him to stop. I'm scared. What do I do? I signalled to hubby we had to go NOW!! I stayed on the phone with her while hubby broke the speed of sound driving home. The seizures had stopped, and his little eyes were open, but he was drained physically. He was limp, but breathing. He was grey in colour. We put him in his carseat and drove to the hospital.

I could write a whole separate post on just our Emergency room experience, but let me just say, they thought we were nuts. Probably thought we were overconcerned new parents. It was a fight to get them to call the medical geneticist. Then he had another seizure, while I was trying to feed him some sugar water. There was a flurry of activity, as they worked on him. I couldn't stop crying. I was thinking that my precious boy that I had waited 17 years for was going to die. Then he was stable again. That 10 second seizure seemed like hours. It was the longest 10 seconds of my life.

He was admitted to hospital. It turns out he had a urinary tract infection. The geneticist came, and talked with the chief paediatrician. They learned very quickly that our boy had a rare condition, and not to take our concerns lightly. This is how we found out that it was confirmed that our son had Medium Chain Acy Co-A Dehydrogenase Deficiency. His little body doesn't break down fats properly, nor does his body store fats. When he becomes ill, he has no fat stores to draw caloric energy from for his body to continue normal function. It takes the energy from his organs if he doesn't eat regularly. If this happens, there can be serious consequences.

Living with a child with MCAD has been a learning experience, for us and for the medical community in which we live. We have become parent teachers, speaking to groups of medical students of our experiences with Douglas. We stress the importance of listening to parents about their concerns. His condition is easily treatable, but sadly, not curable. Scientists have yet to figure out how to change the mutated gene in his DNA.

For children with MCAD, the first year is the hardest. After that, it gets easier to deal with. Many children have died from this condition. Many more live with treatment. We are thankful to still have our son with us. He will be celebrating his third birthday in March. We celebrate him everyday.

For more information on MCAD, try this link:

For more info on Newborn Screening, try this link:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Baby Shower

On Sunday, we held a baby shower for my 21 year old daughter and her boyfriend. They are expecting their first child in December. It was a group effort. I'd like to thank Jocelyn and Brodie for sharing their home with us, Linda for helping with the invitations and the cake, Laurie for assistance with the games, and to all of those who were there or sent gifts to make the day a special one for the happy couple.

I managed to stay way under budget for this event, spending only $150 in total, not including the gift. I have about $200 left that I had budgeted, so I will be spending the remaining funds on the purchase of a new crib mattress, diapers and the remaining on a gift card so that they can buy whatever they may still need.

The Mommy and Daddy to be spent an hour and a half opening gifts. They got diapers and wipes, clothes, and a wide variety of baby related items that they might need, and even a few that they only wanted. It's amazing the array of really cute baby items that are out there!

I'm still slowly working on the hand knitted blanket that I hope that they will use to cover the baby in for his first pictures (yes, it's a boy). Maybe I should hold onto some of the money for the waiting game at the hospital when she goes into labour. I'm guessing Tim Horton's will be loving us that day! Knowing that it's very possible that they will be having the baby during the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day stretch, I'm trying to get all of our gift wrapping and buying done ahead of time. I don't want to be worrying about gift wrapping while I'm watching my grandson being born!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Have Enough Insurance?

I have to admit, I loathe paying for insurance. I don't like that I am paying for something that I may or may not get something out of. The very idea of it is odd to me, but the reality is that bad things can happen. To anyone. And the easiest way to mitigate your risk is to have insurance. Another thing that really bugs me about the insurance industry is that certain products are given fancy names. I'm not alking about the 'Maulife One Account' or even 'Freedom 55 Account'. I mean life insurance. They are not replacing life. They are replacing income earning ability. It should really be called Income Replacement Insurance.

You need to have auto insurance on your vehicle if you want to drive in Ontario. I get that. You should have some sort of insurance on your home, or if you're renting, at least on the contents, should something happen like being a victim of a break-in, or a water pipe breakage. If you're self-employed, you should have some sort of illness and disability insurance so that you can keep some income coming in, and keep your business afloat if you cannot work for those reasons. All these insurances make good sense from a financial standpoint.

I truly believe the best option is to self insure wherever possible. People should have enough cash reserves at their call to make payments on time if they are unable to work, for whatever reason. I call this my Emergency Essential Expenses account. I am striving to have 10 months worth of expenses in this account, so that all our financial obligations will be met, regardless of my ability to bring in an income.

I can't really self insure with my vehicle, as law requires that I have insurance if I want to continue to drive.

Income replacement insurance, or life insurance if you will, is something that I only have a minimal amount of through B's work. Life insurance is sold as a product that will help you to pay the final expenses and replace the income after the death of a loved one.

My final expenses would be better taken care of in another way, I feel. A pre-paid funeral contract with a funeral service provider is the best way to make sure that my funeral is paid for. There are many benefits to these contracts. I get to choose the products and services I would like for myself, reducing the amazing amount of decisions that need to be made by my family. There are tax advantages as well. Much like a TFSA, you can deposit up to $35,000 in your lifetime into an eligible funeral arrangement, and have the growth accumulate tax-free.

To summarize, I have some life insurance, auto insurance, business insurance, renters insurance, critical illness and disability insurance. Is that enough? I don't know, but it's better than most people I know.

Do you have enough insurance? What types of insurance do you have in place?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Unique Christmas Gifts Ideas

Here are some ideas that a general internet search has brought to me. Some of these ideas I can use right away this year. Others will be archived for future years' use.

1. Write a Christmas letter. You can make it look like a newsletter, or a vintage letter. However you you decide, you can update your extended family on the big news of the year in your family. There is even somewhere to send your addressed letters, that will ensure that the postmark will be from the North Pole! How cool is that?

The North Pole, Alaska post office will stamp all of your envelopes with their special holiday cancellation for no additional charge (you still need to put regular postage on your envelopes). All you have to do is adress and stamp your envelopes as you normally would. Then stick them all in a larger envelope and send them to:

North Pole Christmas Cancellation
c/o Postmaster
5400 Mail Trail
Fairbanks, AK 99709-9999

The North Pole elves (ok, postal employees) will then make sure your letters get sent to the appropriate addresses, just as if you'd dropped them at your local post office. To ensure delivery in time for Christmas, be sure to get your letters to the North Pole by December 15 at the very latest.

2. Make a wreath out of construction paper cut outs of your childrens hands. Let them pick colours, or have younger ones colour the hands. Cut a piece of cardboard into a ring the size you think you may use. Glue the paper hands to the ring, and attach a bow.

3. Refrigerator magnet that grows! Use a clean, transparent old prescription bottle. Attach a piece of magnetic to the back with glue. Add a small amount of soil, and a fast sprouting seed (think bean).

4. Write a children's story with your family members names as the characters. You can make up a fictional story or retell a favourite family event. You could hand print the story in a plain journal book. You could add photos, draw pictures or even use images cut from magazines to add the pictures to your story.

5. Make a button wreath ornament, or use buttons to make christmas themed ornaments.

6. Cookies in the shape of your childrens hands. Use some sturdy paper to trace your kids hands, cut out and use as a template for your cookies. use a sugar cookie recipe for the cookies.

7. Create a secret hollow book for someone. Find an old thick hardcover volume with an attractive title from the thrift shop. Glue the pages together and to the back cover but not to the front cover. Use an exacto knife to hollow out the pages, leaving at least half an inch of paper on all four sides. Put a handwritten message inside for the recipient.

8. Buy a photo frame from a thrift store and decorate it. Put a pic inside of your family, or your kids. Wrap and give.

9. Get small glass jars from the thrift store. Be sure to clean them completely. Fill with homemade spice mixes like taco seasonings or seasoning salt. Tie an attractive bow to the jar, or decorate another way. Be sure to label the jar with its contents.

10. Give a family tree photo album to a child. Find and reprint pictures of all the people in your family. Go as far as you can (or want to) in the family. Print the name of each person and their relationship to your child, (ie. aunt, cousin, great-grandfather) to put in the sleeve with each photo. You can get good used and sometimes new photo albums from a thrift store.

These are just a few of the great ideas I have found, or have come up with on my own. Frugal and unique, just like the gift giver. Please comment with some of your ideas below.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November Mid-Month Update

My goals for November are:

-fully fund Xmas Fund-$269.85 ($204.85 left)
-baby shower money-$500.00 I've reduced this goal to $200
-make 12 xmas gifts 6 gifts made
-open savings accounts for kids
-payment plan for lawyer
-Wardrobe month; go through clothing for each person in house and determine what stays, what goes & what's needed still have done this for the kids so far
-Xmas gifts in a jar - these were quite popular last year with our crowd, so I will make more this year, including some new recipes. Looked through recipes available and decided which ones to make

It's been a quiet month so far. I've been knitting, and working on some Christmas projects that I'd like to give as gifts. We started our Christmas shopping and got two of the major purchases done already, and are still deciding on the third one.

We went to a nearby city for their Gail Club meeting, and met some really great people. I would like to thank our hostess for allowing us all to meet in her home. I want to thank all the members of the Kitchener-Waterloo Gail Club for giving us some insight as to how they run their meetings. I hope that in the new year, our London club can be a bit more structured.

Here at home, Hubby got a lay off notice. It gave us a few days to come up with a of a contingency plan, should the warehouse where he works actually close. He was given the option however to take a different job in the warehouse with a $0.66 per hour paycut cut. That translates into an income loss of $1372.80 per year. Not a huge cut, but that's more than our annual christmas budget alone. I guess I'll find a way to carve that money out of our budget.

I'd like to be doing work for the new company by January and bringing in an income. It's been 49 days with no money coming in for me, and that is not something that I can say that I like very much. We have money to cover our major expenses, but I would like to have an income coming in again before our emergency essential expenses are completed depleted.

I have got to redo our debt repayment plan, as the huge Income Tax bill needs to be added, as well as a payment plan for the lawyer. I'm hoping to spend some time on this over the weekend, which will give us some new focus and perspective.

How is your month shaping up?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Financial Freedom Means

Financial experts and personal finance gurus talk about financial freedom. But what is that exactly? I think that maybe it's different for everybody. For some, it would be to have a net worth of $1 million dollars. For others, it would be to have enough money to travel the world. But for me, financial freedom is about having enough money accumulated so that I can stop worrying.

Having grown up in poverty, I like having a place to call home and not having to move every year or so. I would love to own a house of my own, and live there for the rest of my life. I enjoy having food readily accessible in my cupboards and freezer, so that I can make whatever meal strikes my fancy. Being able to pay the bills without worrying where the money is going to come from is something that also helps keep me centered. But there's more to it than that.

I already have the ability to work part-time hours for full-time pay, giving me the option of staying home with my son while he is still young. As he gets older, I plan to work more, and save more, so that we can meet some long-term goals we have of traveling the world, and owning a home. I'm grateful that I got a post-secondary education that allows me to work in a field that gives meaning to my work from helping others.

Financial freedom for me would be to have enough assets that we could live off the proceeds, enjoying family time and travel, without the necessity of continuing to work, (even though I'm a lifer). We're a couple of million short of that goal, but still aiming for it. I don't know if we'll ever get there, but in the meantime, I try to keep my life as balanced as I can. I won't trade off spending the first years of my sons life for a low paying job so that our debt will get paid off faster. We will continue to travel as our savings permit, because some day we may not have the good health we enjoy now. We give back to our community with our money, time and effort already. I don't anticipate this ever changing.

Having hoardes of money in savings and investments may equate to financial freedom for most folks. But for the most part, I think we have already achieved it, simply because we make our money work for us, instead of just working for our money. I worry less about how we are going to make it through rough times, and think more about all that I can do with what we already have.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Batch Freezer Cooking - Ground Beef

As part of my frugal lifestyle-in-training, I find the idea of batch freezer cooking to be one of the best tips that I've come across. The idea itself is not unique, but it certainly is a timesaver.

What does batch freezer cooking entail? Well, for me, it may be a bit different than for others. Some people will spend an entire day preparing everything for 4 or more different casserole dishes, cooking them, letting them cool, wrapping them in aluminum foil, and putting them in the freezer. For me though, I try to do things a bit simpler.

Many of the dishes that I prepare for my family and that they like start with some of the same main meat ingredient. Ground beef. Plain old hamburger. I take a lot of ground beef, say 5 to 10 pounds of the stuff, and brown it. I make sure its very crumbly by breaking it up oftern while browning it over a medium-low heat on the stovetop. I'll add diced onion and garlic, and some of our favourite spices, particularly chili powder. Not enough to make your eyes water, but just enough so that you can smell it cooking in the beef juices.

When it's finished browning, I drain the fat away using a large collander. If your family is on a fat-reduced meal plan like mine is, then you could pat the ground beef with paper towels to extract more of the remaining fat. I will take out a portion of the cooked ground beef for whatever dish I am making that night, then let the collander of ground beef sit for awhile, until it has cooled enough to handle. After cooling, the ground beef gets spread on a clean cookie sheet in a reasonably thin layer. The cookie sheet goes directly into the freezer above our fridge for half an hour or so. This rapid cooling/partial freezing helps the ground beef retain its crumbly texture.

Using a measuring cup, I measure out portions into reusable plastic containers. Some get 1 cup, some get 2, depending on how many containers I have available to me at the time. The sealed containers then get stacked and put into the apartment sized deep freezer that we have. They are ready for use at any time. You should probably not let them stay in the freezer for more than 12 months, but my ground beef containers never stay in the freezer for more than a month. Did I mention we eat alot of ground beef?

When I'm days that I'm feeling too lazy to do any real cooking, or if I know I'm going to be compressed for time, I can pull out a container from the freezer. Our standby meals using this mixture are: tacos, chili, spaghetti, shepard's pie, and another dish I make that has no name, but is comprised of the ground beef mix, a can of diced tomatoes, mixed with cooked elbow macaroni and topped with shredded cheese. Yum!

I haven't yet ventured into other batch freezer cooking ideas, but if they all suit us as well as this one does, I'm sure going to like pre-planning our meals a whole lot more. The benefits of doing this one thing save us money by not having to order out, or eat out as much, saving money by purchasing larger quantities of ground beef when it is on sale, as well as being able to provide a home cooked for my family when time is limited.

Do you use any batch freezer methods that are simple, yet extremely helpful? Please share your ideas.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Have a Will?

There have been times in my life that have caused me to think about how my family would survive if something were to happen to me. I don't mean ending up in a hospital kind of something, I mean dying suddenly and unexpectedly kind of something.

Where would my family live? Who would they live with? Would my hubby be able to stay home to provide for their emotional and physical needs or would he have to continue working? What would happen to all of my worldly possesions ?

We have a two year old son with a medical condition and an eleven year old who lives with us part-time. Making sure that they are taken care of is my greatest concern. Obviously, my ex would get full custody of my daughter, but I want to make sure that she would still be able to spend time with my hubby and her little brother. Hubby would have sole custody of the little guy. But arranging to keep close contact between the two kids would be a little sticky. How could that be arranged in a will? What happens if both hubby and I were to die at the same time, like in an auto accident or something? What then?

I would want all of my assets to go to my hubby, with some being set aside for all three of my children. I'd want certain items that mean a great deal to me for sentimental reasons to go to certain people. The only way I know that this will be done is to have a very specifically worded will.

In my line of work, I have on occasion encountered families who have had a loved one die without a will. Trying to determine who has the 'right' to make the funeral arrangements can be difficult in these situations. Determining who is responsible to sign the funeral contract and for paying it can be difficult as well. Who do you return personal items to? Having named an executor in a will would have avoided all these problem questions.

Writing a will takes thought, time and money. But that doesn't mean it has to be difficult. To start, sit down with a pen and paper, and write out a holograph will until you can make final decisions about who would look after your children if you and your spouse both died. A holograph will is a completely handwritten document, outlining your wishes for dependants and property. It cannot be typed. It must be signed and dated, but not witnessed by anyone else. In Ontario, they are completely legal, and can be used if a formal will written by a lawyer cannot be found.

Talk to your spouse about what you both would want. Remember to talk to the people you would choose to be responsible for your children. Ask their permission to name them as guardians, to see if this a responsibilty that they would be willing to undertake. Talk to your family about your wishes so that there are no surprises. Leaving your entire estate to a charity may seem like a good thing to do, but your adult children may be able to contest the will, tying up the process for a long time.

If you own anything (house, car), have children, have any assets (including that $600 in your bank account), you should have a will if you want anyone to have it. Without one, you are giving the government permission to divide your assets for you, after they take their share, of course. I personally feel the government has had its hands in my pocket enough while I'm alive. I don't want them getting any more than is neccessary when I'm gone.

Have a will? Is it updated and reflective of your current situation?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Frugal Gifts - Who?

As time inches closer to the upcoming holidays, I started thinking about frugal gifts. Why do we want to give them? To whom do we give them? Where and when should we give them? How do we approach giving them? Over the month of November, I plan to write a series of posts giving my thoughts and ideas on the subject, as well as ideas for frugal gifts to give.

When thinking about frugal gifts, who is it appropriate to give them to?
Think of all the people in your life that you give gifts to. Make a list. Children, parents, siblings, neices, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, newspaper delivery boy, are all people who you could give a frugal gift to. I don't think there is anyone on my list that wouldn't qualify for a frugal gift, to be honest. Folks who know me also know that we live and gift on a budget.

Reflect on the why of your gift giving gesture. Are you giving because you care for that person, and would like to give a gift as a gesture of your caring, or are you giving because you are trying to make an impression? For me, anyone who would think a frugal gift is inappropriate really isn't someone who I would want to give to anyway. I have no boss who I am trying to get a promotion from. I have no clientele who I want to get special treatment from. In fact, my gift giving impresses the people in my life because the gifts are frugal.

I hand make useful household items for relatives and friends. I make gifts-in-a-jar for people that reflect their individual tastes, like cookie and hot beverage mixes. I knit dishcloths and scarves for people in colours that they love. I know these things will be used too, unlike some dollar store trinket that I could have bought that will only take up space and require dusting (Did I mention I hate dusting?). I make gift tags from last years Christmas cards. I sew gift bags out of themed fabric to give gifts in, reducing waste, that can be reused for years to come.

I urge you to put some thought into frugal gift giving this year. Search the internet for ideas. There are literally thousands of items and how-to guides out there. If you have a particular frugal gift that you give, please share your idea with us in the comments below.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11, 2010

I'm sorry that I disappeared for a couple of days everyone. My schedule got very busy on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I had no time or energy to write.

B and I started our Christmas shopping yesterday. I'm happy to say we talked about what we're doing for the holiday, and what we're wanting to buy for each of the people on our gift list. With some negotiation and a last minute upgrade to a gift, we got the major purchases out of the way, and know what we're going to buy for the last 'big gift'. After some discussion with others, we agreed that B's brother would not buy anything for us, and we would buy nothing for him. B's mom said that there's nothing that she wants or needs, so not to worry about it. But how do you NOT buy/get something for you child's grandmother??

It feels good knowing that our Christmas shopping will be done by the end of this month. No trying to elbow our way through crowds of people at the mall. It also feels good to know that we have set this money aside in advance for these purchases. We don't have to use credit, borrow money, take a payday loan, or not make bill payments in order to buy gifts for Christmas. We may not be perfect, but I think we're on the right track now.

On this Remembrance Day here in Canada, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the service men and women of our military for their sacrifices to God and Country. Today, at 11:00 a.m., I will stand still and silent, wherever I am, for one minute, as an act of honour for those who have died in service for the freedom of all Canadians and other citizens of the world. If you encounter a person in service uniform of any kind today, please shake their hand and thank them for your freedom.

To my neice's husband, Kevin, who is deployed in Afghanistan this very moment, I want to say thank you for what you and everyone else there is doing, and to please stay safe. I look forward to seeing you at Christmas.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Elm Creek Quilt Book Series

One of my personal goals for 2010 was to read 100 books during the year. I love to read, so I thought I would track how many books I actually read. Sometime in the spring, I actually stopped keeping a list of what I had read, not really sure why. But the library keeps a listing of books I've checked out, which I have access to online. I can delete the ones I didn't actually read. I can go back at year's end and count how many free books I've actually read. I'm going to keep it a surprise, even from myself.

Anyhow, during a conversation with one of the world's friendliest librarians, I asked about similar type books as The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. I truly enjoyed those, so she suggested The Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini. I knew absolutely nothing about quilting, but have a faint interest, as my grandmother was a quilter, so I decided to give them a try.

I love these books! I can't say enough about them. There are several characters, and each story follows the life of one of the quilters. There is also alot of knowledge to be gleaned from the stories about quilting itself, and I am always willing to learn something new, even if I never try my hand at it.

Some of the books are written like historical fiction, dating back to the 1800's, when the family members emigrate to the US, and build a home and a new life full of promise. Other stories in the books descibe modern day life stories, full of modern day issues, like marriage & divorce and family issues.

Having read almost all of the books in the series, I eagerly await new ones in the future, and similar stories from other authors.

Read any good books lately? Do you have a book or author suggestion for me?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frugal Gifts - Why?

As time inches closer to the upcoming holidays, I started thinking about frugal gifts. Why do we want to give them? To whom do we give them? Where and when should we give them? How do we approach giving them? Over the month of November, I plan to write a series of posts giving my thoughts and ideas on the subject, as wells as ideas for frugal gifts to give.

Something about the crowds in stores over the holidays gives me the creeps. I hate trying to go out to buy milk, bread and toilet paper in those crowds, let alone trying to hunt down a reasonably priced gift for my kid. Wal-mart becomes a nightmare, with no cart to be had at the storefront, and about 7000 people all shopping at once. I've gotten hit with a cart, pushed out of the way of a display, had my foot stepped on, and been on the business end of someone's elbow far too may times. It is definately not a nice experience. This alone would be a good enough reason to make homemade gifts for Christmas, I think.

But there are some many other good reasons to make gifts yourself.
You can choose reusable containers for packaging.
You can use alternative or recycled papers for wrapping gifts.
You will feel a sense of pride at having made something with your own two hands.
You can spend less money, if you're diligent.
You can make one of a kind items for that hard to buy for person.
You can be almost certain that the recipient didn't get the same thing from another family member.
Items can be reused and repurposed, therefore giving our earth a bit of a break.
Food type gifts are often of better quality, because they have real ingredients that you can pronounce.
You can reduce your overall holiday budget!

Start now with thinking about the benefits of frugal gift giving. Consider what you may be able to make. If you have no idea where to start, try googling 'easy homemade christmas gifts' and start cruising the enormous amount of information on the web.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting tired of paying down your debt?

When you start out on your journey to become debt-free, you have alot of enthusiasm and focus. You're determined. You know you have what it takes to succeed. But after awhile, it seems like you're depriving yourself. You're not having fun anymore. You may have even gone out and spent again on your credit card. Here are a few ideas that may help you.

The Paper chain: Make a paper chain of your debt, eack link representing $100 of your debt. As you pay it off, cut off a link for every $100 paid off. This provides you with a visual aid to help you see your debt getting smaller.

A Bar Graph: Make a graph that represents your debt. As you pay it off, colour in the areas so that you can see you are making progress.

Calculate how much your debt costs you each month: Sit down and figure out what your debt is really costing you in interest for 12 months. If that number doesn't spur you into action, figure it out in terms of a daily amount or over the length of time it will take you to pay off the debt. This should light a fire under you to get that sucker paid down faster.

Give yourself a monthly challenge to speed up the repayments: Challenge yourself and your family, to do something different for one month and apply the money to debt instead. You could save all your loose change in a jar, roll it, and apply it directly toward debt. You could try not eating out for a month, sell some stuff, or keeping all your $5 bills.

Some people get the wonter blues. I tend to get the budget blues. I make sure to include some fun stuff in my budget, so that there is some balance. We like to see different things, do different things. This month, we're going to see the Titanic Artifacts Exhibit at a museum in Kitchner. I'm excited to see the things that were underwater for so many years after the Titanic sank.

Try to remember that there needs to be balance in your budget. Have a little fun while you're paying down your debts, or you will risk running up more.

Happy thursday!