Friday, October 29, 2010

A Kindness to A Stranger

As my son and I were about to get in our car to come home after some shopping in the mall, I spied something out of the corner of my eye. Laying on the ground, between my car and another, was a bank card. I recognised the maroon colour of it, as I have two that look very similar. I know that it wasn't either of mine, as I just saw them safely tucked away in my wallet only moments before.

What would you have done? My little guy had been in a mood all morning, and needed to go home for his nap. But I remembered years ago when my purse had been stolen, some nice lady found it months after the theft, and returned what was left of it to me. Knowing what the right thing to do was for me, I locked my car, picked up the card and headed back into the mall, towing a cranky two year old with me.

I walked into the bank, and talked to the first person who caught my eye. I handed her the card, and told her I found it in the parking lot, and I knew it wasn't mine. She thanked me on behalf of the unknown customer, and the bank. She explained that if the card had not already been reported lost and cancelled, she could find out who it belonged to and return it. Perhaps the cards owner didn't even know yet that it was missing!

I fully believe that in doing this act, I set an example for my son, who doesn't yet know the difference between right and wrong, and that such a kindness will be coming back to me in another way. Believe me, after the day I had yesterday, I certainly feel that I need it!

Have a great Hallo-weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Buying Canadian

We learned through the Vancouver Olympics last winter that we, as Canadians are very patriotic. We bought up hundreds of thousands of dollars of items to help display that pride to visitors from everywhere in the world. But how far does your patriotism go? Would you been keen on buying only Canadian made products? How about the concept of buying Canadian first?

There are some obvious benefits to buying Canadian products. For the most part, the money you spend will stay within the Canadian economy, because the retailer you purchased from and his employees get their salaries from this money. They in turn buy products and services within their communities, boosting their local economy. I see this a win-win type of benefit. One of the not so obvious benefits, though is when you purchase a Canadian product, there is less shipping required to get the product to you, using less fossil fuels for shipment.

I truly believe in buying Canadian made products whenever possible. I feel it is my patriotic duty to ensure through consumerism, the stability that buying Canadian could provide to our economy. Now, that is not to say that I do not support economies outside our own. But I do feel it important to contunue supporting the Canadian economy in any way that I can first. I buy Canadian made products as much as I can, and almost all the service companies that I use, personal and business, are Canadian companies.

I came across a site that speaks to this very idea. Buy Canadian first talks about the important isuues behind this ideal, and provides a listing of companies within Canada that provide various products. I encourage you to pop over to their site and check it out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Relating the Seven Teachings to Personal Finance, Part 2

Yesterday's post was much easier to do, because I could quickly relate the Teachings of Honesty, Humility, Truth and Wisdom to my own personal finance. Today's post however, took a lot of reflection to dig deeper into my mind to see how these things related in a greater way to my world. I could have written something that only scratched the surface of these teachings, but I wanted to go deep and find real meaning for me. So here goes.

Love: unconditional love to know that when people are weak they need your love the most, that your love is given freely and you cannot put conditions on it or your love is not true;Using our money to love another is to give freely. By this I mean, providing the for our families, but also providing for others who are not as blessed as we are in life. There are those who need help, and there are thousands of charities who will help you do so, if that is the way you choose. I prefer something a little more intimate, by giving directly or almost directly to those in need. I have purchased groceries for a struggling family, and placed them outside their door. I have bought clothing and personal items for women & children in a shelter, and taken it to them. There are so many ways that we can show our love, and using our wealth to do so. I reccomend you try it.

Respect: respect others, their beliefs and respect yourself. If you cannot show respect, you cannot expect respect to be given.For me, this means to give respect to all persons, regardless of their socio-economic level. I also respect and truly believe that I have much to learn, from the struggling single parent and those who have already amassed wealth. My way is not the only way, and I respect that. Having respect for myself helps me to not be taken advantage of through my work or my generosity. Having respect for my income teaches me that income and wealth can fluctuate, and not to use dollars I have not made yet.

Bravery: to be brave is to do something right even if you know it is going to hurt you;I liken this also to living below your means. I know in my heart and mind it is the right thing to do, for myself and my family, even if it causes us discomfort. Teaching this to my children is a valuable lesson, so that they might learn the pwer of delayed gratification. Sometimes, it seems that it hurts them not to have the newest gadget or toy that all their peers seem to have. But in the long run, it is the right thing to do, to show them that having everything they want is not what equals happiness in life.

I enjoyed sharing my reflections on the Seven Great Teachings as it relates to personal finnace with you. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Relating the Seven Teachings to Personal Finance, Part 1

In Aboriginal culture, The Seven Teachings are used to help shape the spirit and growth of a person's life, whether they be a child or an adult. The teachings are meant to be used by a person internally, to help them along the 'good path' of life.

The Seven Teachings are: Honesty, Humility, Truth, Wisdom, Love, Respect, and Bravery.

Thinking about personal finance, I decided to reflect on how these teachings could be used to guide me on my 'good path' with money. This is what I came up with.

Honesty: to achieve honesty within yourself; to recognize who and what you are; do this and you can be honest with all others; I think that this would apply to the 'keeping up with the Joneses' syndrome. If you are honest with yourself, you recognize that perhaps your income doesn't allow you to have everything you want or desire. Honesty requires you to think about why you want things that others have. Honesty keeps you from acquiring debt, because an honest life lived means that you don't spend money that you haven't yet earned. You can tell people honestly that you live within your means, or below, and you don't *need* to buy things frivolously.

Humility: humble yourself and recognize that no matter how much you think you know, you know very little of all the universe; Being humble in your life, again allows you to live within or below your means. Recognizing that you know very little of the universe, you can realize that your education is an ongoing acheivement. Of all the things you already know, there may be a new way, or idea, that could be helpful, and you can learn from anyone at any time. Keep yourself from thinking that you already know enough, and keep learning, especially when it comes to your finances.

Truth: to learn truth, to live with truth and to walk with truth, to speak truth; This alludes again to honesty. Learning truth, I feel, means to accept your situation, whatever that may be. If you are in deep debt, accept that as the truth of your situation. Living with truth may mean that you have to stop acquiring debt, or merely accepting the fact that you may never be as wealthy as you had hoped to be. Walking with truth may mean to become content with with what you have, and to not covet the lives or things that others have. Accept who you are, and where you are at would be to walk the truth of your life. To speak truth, you must be able to talk openly and honestly with your spouse, your children and your family about your situation. Talking about your money, your debt, and your goals and dreams with those you love is a lesson in truth for all involved.

I'll post tomorrow on the Teachings of Love, Respect, and Bravery with respect to personal finance. In the meantime, tell me what you think about how these teachings can be related to personal finance in ways that I may not have thought of. I too, am still learning from others. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Money Monday

The next couple of weeks are going to rather busy, but I will do my best to keep posting ever weekday about our journey.

Today I have a date with our money. Prior to month's end, I like to gather all our bank statements, bills, debt statements, etc. and make a one page snapshot of where we are. This pretty much tells me where we stand financially. How many months of expenses we have in the EEE Account, how much debt is yet to be paid off, and how close we are to achieving our goals.

I start with our debts. If we owe any money to anybody, this is where it goes. They are all listed with the interest rate, how much we have paid in the last month and outstanding balance. Then I list our assets/savings accounts. Even though our planned spending accounts will be depleted in the future (like the Xmas Account), I put them here anyway. After this is calculated, I subtract our liabilities from our liquid assets, and get a monthly net worth. This number is still in the negative, much to my displeasure, but we are working on it. This month, due to a large tax bill, our net worth will have gone in the wrong direction. I'm hopeful that proper planning will keep this from happening again in future years.

I head to Toronto on Wednesday to meet with the owners of the business with whom I will be doing some contract work for. I'm very much looking forward to working with them, and bringing in more money to put toward our goals. On the same day, B has to take DS to an appointment at the metabolic clinic.

This weekend, DD1 and her boyfriend move into their new apartment. Actually, they get the keys on Monday, but have to be out of the current apartment on Sunday. I'll likely have to help them with renting a truck to put their things in overnight, as neither of them drive. With Sunday night being Halloween, I still have to take DD2 and DS out trick-or-treating.

It's election day, so I have to head out at some point and do my civic duty. I'm not as apathetic to politics as I once used to be, but I still feel sometimes like my vote hardly matters in the bigger scheme of things. DD1 has two doctors appointments this week that I promised to go to with her, and DD2 wants me to take her out shopping for some materials she needs for a class project. It looks like it will be a busy week for us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Be Happy with what you have

I used to be truly unhappy with parts of my life. I always wanted more. But the more always brought me more unhappiness. I didn't want more stuff, so that strangers and casual acquaintances could admire the life I had. The more I wanted was to be more. More important in the lives of my family and friends, and doing more for others. My heart was always in the right place, now I just need my body to follow.

In my life journey, I struggle with learning to be happy with what I have. I am certainly happy with my immediate family. I have a loving, caring spouse, who shows me his love for me in all the things that he does. I have three beautiful, healthy, smart children who make me laugh and smile and happy to be in the world. I have a roof over my head, healthy food to eat, as well as clean water to drink. I have my health, and the ability to work to earn my income.

The things that make me unhappy are stress. Worrying about our income, and how to accomplish our goals with an income that is often sporadic. I worry, that our son, who has a rare metabolic condition, may not outlive me. I worry that my middle child, a wonderful daughter, doesn't develop good relationships with her peers, and that she will feel like an outcast during her teenage years, which could lead to so many problems. I worry about my firstborn, who is struggling emotionally and financially to have a good life. I worry for my unborn grandson, who will soon be born into a world that is mostly good, but has parents who will struggle to provide a good life for him.

I try not to think about the material things in my life anymore. They are not the tools that will provide me with happiness. Some do make my life somewhat easier. My happiness can only be gained through providing for my family, and doing good deeds. This has now become my focus. After all, isn't it all about the journey, and not the destination?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ideas to Earn Some Extra Money, Part 1

I've been doing alot of reading of personal finance blogs, and one recurring item that I've found is that to really attack your debt (or boost your savings), is to make extra income. Theoretically, this is a great idea. But how does one go about doing that? After some brainstorming and 'borrowing' some tips from various sources, I developed a list of things a person could do to earn some extra cash.

Ideas to Earn More Money

1. Have a garage sale. The benefits can be two-fold. You declutter your home and earn some money.

2. Sell jewellery you no longer wear or want. Visit a few shops that will buy your things to get the best price.

3. Save your pop cans and sell to a recycler. Make sure they are clean and crushed, then box or bag them to sell. Why let your city have the cash available from your recyclables when you can have it? Inquire while at the recyclers what other items they may buy from you.

4. Make stuff to sell. If you have any sort of creativity, you could make something that other people will buy. Knitted items, quilts, handmade jewellery are good examples. But also think out of the norm. On a recent vacation, local gift shops sold small glass bottles of sand, with the name of the province painted on the outside.

5. Babysit/Housesit/Petsit. Folks pay for these types of services all the time. Why not try to cash in on some of the action?

6. Mow lawns, rake leaves or shovel snow in your neighborhood. Plenty of people cannot do this for themselves due to health or time restrictions. Get some exercise and make money at the same time.

7. Run errands for other people. Offer to drive neighbors to the grocery store, or pick up their dry cleaning for a small fee. Put up a flyer in your neighborhood letting people know you are willing to help them.

8. Seasonal fruit or veggie picking. There are apple orchards strawberry farms and the like who need extra hands to pick the produce when it is ready. I've never done this, But I remember my stay at home Dad who did this yearly for additional income.

9. Tutor students. Many students need extra help with math, english or whatever. A few hours per week could earn you some extra bucks.

10. Walk dogs for neighbors or acquaintances.

These are just a few ideas that can help you bring in some extra income. If you sit and jot down a few ideas that you could tailor to your own situation and interests, I'm sure there are more great ideas that you could come up with.

Part 2 coming next week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Journey into Investing in Mutual Funds-The Beginning

I've had money in mutual funds before. I only had invested a small amount of money, and withdrew it, closing the account, as soon as I "needed" money for something. Not a very good way to do things.

Now that I'm older, and hopefully a bit wiser, I'm looking into putting money in mutual funds again. Having my retirement funds in a bank account that is only earning 0.5% interest makes my tummy queasy. It's secure, but with a retirement timeline of only 25 or so years away, and next to nothing saved, I have got to start getting the magic of compound interest working in my favour, or risk being destitute in my old age.

I've used some calculators online, and decided that I would put my retirement monies in mutual funds with CIBC Mutual Funds, using their Index Portfolio Rebalancing Service, offered through PC Financial. I'm not suggesting anyone else should put their money there, I'm only talking about what I'm willing to do with my money.

I had the send me the appropriate paperwork required, along with a prospectus. I read through the materials, decided which fund I'm comfortable with putting my money into, and then pulled out the application. Goodness me. Why do these things have to be so darn complicated? It's going to take me the better part of a week to get it all filled it. Maybe I should take it to one of the PC Financial kiosks and have them go through it with me, just so I don't mess it up too badly.

I'm hoping the outcome of this venture is that one day I can live comfortably off the money I've saved for my retirement. I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And this too shall pass

I've admitted before that I am a procrastinator. For the most part, I know what I should be doing to get ahead in life. Sometimes, though, I am just too weary to buckle down and do what needs to be done. Yet other times, I am like the rabbit instead of the tortoise, racing through my to do list, trying to reach the goal line so I can just sit and be me. Trying to even out my differences has been challenging, and in part I have you to thank.

Whoever the folks are who read this blog, are part of what keeps me going on a day to day basis. I don't ever want you to come here and see my blog without a new post for seven days or more. I know that I feel somehow cheated when the people whose blogs I read daily haven't posted in a couple of weeks. I've made a personal comittment to share my life journey with you all, one day at a time. Even when it seems mundane and pointless.

I know I'll have days that I don't feel like blogging because I'm too drained from whatever emotional toll that life has thrown at me. It usually never lasts to long though. I keep reminding myself that "This too shall pass". Whatever it is that puts me in a funk cannot last forever, at least not if I don't let it. The debt fatigue may set in, the feeling of being overwhelmed when things get tough, the continuous negativity I get from my ex, the feelings that I'm not really accomplishing anything all tend to give me stbacks in my life, and therefore in my writing.

I don't want those situations to have the power to rend me incapable of activity anymore. I want to be able to write truthfully and faithfully on a daily basis. Most days, I feel like no one cares what I write, and then a comment shows up from a reader and it gives me the encouragement I need to keep writing. Even when I have a crummy day or two. Your encouragement through comments are very valuable to me, and I just wanted to say thanks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Emergency Essential Expenses Account vs. Emergency Fund

I have always thought of our Emergency fund as just that. Money in the bank to handle emergencies. As we have been working on digging ourselves out of the financial abyss of debt that we created, I happened upon the blog of Gail Vaz-Oxlade. She suggests that one should have an Emergency Essential Expenses account, similar to the good ol' Emergency Fund. What the heck is the difference?

Well, in our home, the difference is for things expected and unexpected. Our Emergency fund is available for when something arises that we couldn't have forseen happening, like needing to fly to another province for the funeral of a family member. It's for having to pay costs up front for cleaning when the water heater blows up, and soaks everything in the basement. (Not that we have a basement. I'm just trying to make a point here.) These types of things constitute a true emergency.

So what is an EEE Account for? For someone, like me, who is self-employed, having money set aside to pay our essential expenses, like rent and groceries, if or when the time comes that my income isn't suffcient to do so for a length of time. For someone employed by a company, it could be a life saver if they unexpectedly got laid off due to a company closure.

One thing that has become apparent in the last few years, is that no job is totally secure, and we all have felt the crunch during an unstable economy. Yes, people still need the services of others in many industries in down times. But companies cut costs wherever they can in order to keep said company alive and viable.

I took a hard look at our budget several months ago, and devised a gameplan of what to do if either B or I were suddenly without work. It scared the bejeepers out of me to see the income side of the budget take a nosedive. We would have to cut out many of the comforts that we enjoy now. But it also taught me that saving for something that is a very real possibility is something that everyone should do, and not wait for something bad to happen first.

Our Emergency fund is there to take care of expenses that we can't imagine yet. But knowing there is something there helps me to sleep at night. Our EEE account however, is an entirely different creature, growing slowly and steadily toward the goal of providing us with six months of expenditures on only our essentials, just in case the ka-ka hits the fan. Included in that is rent, telephone, cellphone & internet service (needed for my business), groceries, insurance, and a lowered transportation amount. That's it. I'd likely cancel our cable, and cut many other things from our budget like entertainment, dining out, childcare and spending money.

If our situation were to change suddenly and drastically, I wouldn't want to have to worry about where the money is coming from to pay the bills. I definately wouldn't choose to put our life expenses on credit, to be paying them off with interest over the next 10 years.

How about you? Do you have an Emergency fund or an EEE account, or both? Is there a difference for you?

Friday, October 15, 2010

70 Days left until Christmas

This is the first year that we have fully gotten behind the idea of having a debt-free Christmas. We really tried last year, but with some unexpected and costly vehicle repairs that were needed, we had to borrow money from family to make it through the holidays. We didn't go overboard or anything, but without the financial help, we wouldn't have been able to have a special meal or gifts to open for the kids.

Seeing that Christmas is on December 25th every year, I knew that we needed to have a gameplan for 2010. It gave me a full 47 weeks or so to meet my savings goal of $1100 before December 1st. That translates into a measly $23.41 per week to save, or $100 per month (for only 11 months). That shouldn't be too hard, should it? Even for someone with a highly variable income like myself, it seems more than reasonable.

Fast forward to May 2010. We'll feeling the pinch of my business not yet having secured our largest yearly contract. In years past, it would have not only been secured at this point in the year, but it would have already been paid. June goes by. July shows up. The contract has been secured for another two years, but payment has yet to arrive. Serious worry starts to set in, as we are having trouble paying bills. We are behind in everything. Christmas savings? How can we save for Christmas when we don't even know if we can continue to live in our apartment. We are very, very close to the edge. AGAIN.

Second week of July, the contract is finally paid. After getting caught up with bills, and making sure we have rent money for a year and tax liabilities set aside, we started working on our goals. From July to present, we have put aside $685.59, including the meagre interest that was paid into the account.

Over the next 8 weeks (although I'm really aiming for 3), I need to put another $414.51 into the account to meet this goal. I already aim to put 10% of earned income into planned spending categories, so this certainly helps. I must keep my focus!

My post it note on the computer desk reminds me daily that I have tasks to complete by month's end. This helps me keep focus. What methods do you use to stay focused on monthly goals?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Gift of Financial Literacy

My oldest daughter, who just turned 21, is expecting sometime over the Xmas holidays. I'm going to become a gramma! While the news of this wonderful event thrills me to no end, it also worries me to pieces. I have no worries that DD1 will be a good Mom, or that the baby's Dad will do anything less than his best for the both of them. What worries me is that the soon-to-be parents are struggling financially, and have next to no education, financial or otherwise.

Now I'm not saying that someone who hasn't graduated highschool can't succeed in life. I know that isn't true. I didn't graduate highschool, and decided to go back to obtain my GED in my early thirties. Shortly after that, I went to college and obtained a diploma there also. I know from experience that going back to school when you're older has a whole different set of complications of its own.

I didn't teach my daughter about finances and planning simply because I didn't have those skills yet myself. By no means am I a financial planner, nor am I in any sort of postition to be giving anyone investing advice, but I am learning more and more about money. I've definately learned what NOT to do with it. Hahaha!

For Xmas this year, I plan on making DD1 a handmade book, full of tidbits of advice that she (and her b/f) could read like an instruction manual. I've been reading lots and lotsa financial books lately and have been gleaning little gems from each one of them. Whole pages will be dedicated on how to balance a chequebook, how to save for her future (at 21 who thinks about reitrement?), how to open an RESP for BNT (we refer to the coming grandson as Baby Ninja Turtle), and a plethora of other things that I wish someone had taught me.

Of major importance I think would be to start her Emergency Essential Expenses Account. Having a financial safety net when things go awry is the best thing anyone could ever do for themselves.

Planning major expenses and saving for them instead of using credit is also a major issue. This skill is very valuable, in my humble opinion, and will help her and her family learn not to rely on credit, thus never having more debt than one can handle.

Being content with what you have is also something of major importance. If she can learn now how to be happy with less stuff, it could save a ton of heartache and sleepless nights down the road.

As I start working on her book, what tips would you put in that would be easy to understand? Pictures perhaps? Any advice to give to a young family starting out?
Please comment below.

And have a happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Planning ahead for income

As I mentioned earlier this month, I will be doing work for a new-to-me company who requires some help here in my hometown. I won't have to travel much, except within my own city to help families that they serve. I will be paid a certain amount of money for every singular contract that I fulfill. Now how to make the most out of everything I make.

I've taken the idea from Gail of 4 Piles of Money, and stretched it a bit to fit my own needs. Instead I have 5 Piles of Money.

25% will go to Business Operating Account and some of that will go to Business Savings
40% will go to our monthly household cashflow
15% will go to our Essential Emergency Expenses Account
10% will go to Planned Spending
10% will go to Retirement Accounts

In this fashion, if I were to earn $500 in a week for contracts, it would be divided like this:

$125 will go to the Business Accounts
$200 will go to household cashflow
$75 will go to EEE Account
$50 will go to Planned Spending Accounts
$50 will to to Retirement Accounts

I have a game plan for the new income, and hopefully I can keep our financial lives on track following this plan.

In other news, our Gail Club Group met again last night. We chatted about where we all are, and what we hope to accomplish over the last remaining months of the year. WE talked about our road trip next month to visit a nearby city's Gail Club, to visit, make new friends, and gain a new perspective on finances. We decided that we were going to look at new ways of inviting others from within our fair city to join us, and hopefully to help others who may be in dire straits with their financial situations. We have learned so much, and it would be good to offer some support and advice to others who may be feeling helpless, they way we once were.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


During the last couple of weeks, I managed to bake 4 pumpkin pies and 1 apple pie. I had the DDs help with them, except for the apple pie. I found that I love to bake things, and remember helping my mother in the kitchen eons ago, making doughnuts from my grandmother's recipe. I need more of this in my life.

I've decided that I am going to try to incorporate more baking in my time at home. I enjoy making muffins, cookies, cakes and pies. Bread is easy to do with my bread maker, so it is now enjoyable too.

It's during the fall and winter months that I take more of an interest in the kitchen and cooking duties. I like making something new for my family, especially when they like what I've prepared.

Making these things at home from scratch likely save us money, as the ingredients cost a fraction of what buying a premade/already cooked pie or cake would. Not to mention that the homemade versions of cookies, pies, muffins, etc. have more nutritional value as they are made with real ingredients, and nothing added that I can't pronounce. It feel that if you can't say it, you shouldn't be eating it.

Perhaps this year, I will make some goodies for the holidays. I'd like to try my hand at fudge, a strudel, and a few other things. If I can make some ahead of time, and freeze them for the holidays (or the upcoming baby shower), it would be very beneficial.

Got any great baking recipes to share? What would you like to cook/bake that you haven't already tried?

Friday, October 8, 2010


There is much in life to be thankful for. This holiday weekend is reserved for time with family and friends, giving thanks for the bounties we have been given, and of those yet to come. We spend time with family, having traditional thanksgiving meals, and spending time with loved ones.
I have never been one to give much thought to the meaning behind the holiday, or to spend much time reflecting on what I have to be grateful for. So I thought that I would list some of the things for which I am most thankful.

1. My hubby, soul-mate and love of my life is the best thing that ever happened to me. He allows me to be who I am, without regret or guilt, and loves me despite my faults. He encourages me to grow as a person, and loves me unconditionally.

2. My children are the greatest gifts I have ever been given. They make me laugh and they make me cry. They are my greastest assets and my best works of art. They help me to see joy in everything, and give me hope that the best is yet to come.

3. My health is something to be very thankful for, as I am able to work and earn a living to provide for the wonderful people mentioned above.

4. I am also thankful for my work. It enables me to help people at a vunerable point in their lives. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction that I am doing my life's work. I truly believe it is what I was meant to do with my life. Most people never know that type of satisfaction in their working world.

5. My support system contains some of the nicest people on earth. The larger family of ours and the friends we have have provided strength and inspiration when I have been in my darkest moments, and are invaluable to us. We are blessed to have them all.

6. To live in a country that provides so much for so many, is truly a great gift. We have so many great opportunities in our daily lives that others do not have.

7. I am thankful also for the gift of sight, the ability to read and the means to do so, just for the pleasure of it. I read so many books and magazines. They help me to expand my mind and my thoughts, and provide me with a sense of contentment that is beyond imagination.

I will spend time this weekend reflecting on the things I am most grateful for, and thinking of how to give back to greater the community in which I live and work.

I hope you all feel as blessed by the good things in life as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Allowance and my Daughter's Budget

DD2 is almost 12, and has gotten an allowance for a few months. I give her $1 for every year of her age as a weekly allowance, so $11 per week. She only lives with us every other week, so it's only $22 monthly. This is not tied to doing any chores, or to her behaviour, so that she can learn to manage her money and possibly avoid mistakes later on in life.

Of this $11, she puts $3 into her Mad Money Jar, that she can spend freely, although purchases must be okayed with me first, for safety reasons. Then she puts $3 into planned spending, which is for birthday gifts and Xmas. She puts $1 into a giving jar, for whenever she wants to give to a charity of her choice. The last $4 goes to her long-term savings, and into the bank for when she is older.

I still provide her with the necessities like food, clothing and shelter, so she has no need yet to worry about those things. But if there is some video game or something that she wants, she knows she must save for it. She has done this before, saving her own spending money for our holidays and once saved up for a $50 video game that she wanted to have.

Right now, I am only trying to get her into the habit of saving for future purchases and for her future in general. We've had a few blips along the way, but she likes the idea of having her own money and making choices of how to spend it.

How do you decide how much allowance, if any to give your children? Are there any rules on how they muct divvy it up, or can they spend it freely? I'd love to hear from others on how an allowance is dealt with in your homes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Whammy to the Budget!

Taking care of a few things that needed doing this week. Things took a quick downturn. I managed to not include our annual auto insurance expenses in our budget. How did I do that you ask? I don't really have an answer, except it somehow slipped my mind. B's auto insurance premium coupled with our renters insurance costs about $2000 per year. The specialty commercial auto insurance that I require for my business runs about $3500 per year. Looks like we're going to be spending some time juggling figures until we can come up with this money from the budget. Not the end of the world.

Then the Whammy comes. I got behind in filing my income taxes. Yes, bad, bad, I know. But it is only last years return. So I finally buckled down, crunched the numbers, and got it done. I took it to the tax preparer. Too late in the year for e-file, so a paper copy was sent to Revenue Canada. Being self-employed, I expect every year to owe approximately $1000 for the employer contribution to CPP. I was expecting only to owe about this much. Was I wrong! My tax owing for the year of 2009 is just over $4500! Now where in the heck am I going to find that kind of money?

The good news is, Revenue Canada isn't that difficult to deal with if you approach them. They will allow you to build your own payment schedule to pay off monies owed over time. It will take a bit to pay off, but it will get done. I'm through with debt. I don't like it, and I don't want it anymore!

We'll have to redo the budget one more time, and do what we can to get these items paid off as soon as possible. I just wasn't expecting an additional $10,000 in bills this week. I definately won't be caught unaware again!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Method do you use?

While working on getting out of debt, I feel it is imperative that one should work on building your EEE fund. Especially if your income can be as volatile as mine. I never put much thought before into how monies are divided, but it seems that this has been foremost on my mind lately.

As I mentioned before, I use a 50/50 split from short-term contract job payments. I put 50% of that income into various savings/planned spending pots. The other 50% is used to supplement this month's spending plan or set aside for next month.

The breakdown would be something like this:

A current contract job earned me $350.00. I split the money 50/50 into 2 sides, savings & spending.
Saving: $175.00
EEE - $77.50 (50%)
RRSP - $35.00 (20%)
XMAS - $35.00 (20%)
FVAC - $ 8.75 ( 5%)
HOME - $ 8.75 ( 5%)

Spending: $175.00
RENT - $61.25 (35%)
TRANS - $26.25 (15%)
FOOD - $43.75 (25%)
DEBT - $26.25 (15%)
ENT - $ 8.75 ( 5%)
MISC - $ 8.75 ( 5%)

This is the method I use to keep things balanced for me. If I had an additional unexpected winfall, then I could use another method for that. It could be a 75/25 split; 75% going to debt repayment and 25% going to fund the EEE fund. It sounds like a great method, but it isn't likely one I am ever going to use. The reason being that I like some amount, however small, going into each of our savings goals. If we save a downpayment for a house by depositing only $8.75 at a time, then so be it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do you stop to pick up Pennies?

I was reading an article over at the other day, in which Money Man writes about a story of a friend who found a $5.00 bill. It was a cute story, which I won't tell the ending, because I'd like for you to head over to his site and read it for yourself. It was posted on September 21, 2010.

It got me to thinking about pennies. How many of them are out there, just sitting on the ground, waiting to be discovered?

Do you stop to pick up a penny? Or would you bother only if the coin was silver?

I personally almost always stop to pick up a penny I see laying on the ground. I will wipe it off if it's dirty, and put it in my pocket. It gets taken home, and dropped into the change jar along with all the other change that has accumulated over the month. At months end, I roll all the change and deposit into our EEE fund.

I can't say that the found pennies have amounted to very much. I probably only find about five cents worth in a given month. But that's five cents that I didn't have to work for, other than bending down to pick it up. Would that fall under putting other people's money to work for you to the extreme? Most likely! Ha ha ha!

Friday, October 1, 2010

October monthly challenge

B and I went out for some fun last night. We met a friend, had a couple of drinks, and they sang some karaoke. We haven't had a regular entertainment portion of our budget in ages, so I thought we should include it so we can have some fun.

After we got home, we did some conversing about our priorities and what we hope to accomplish by the end of the year. We talked about taking that 'grown-up' vacation in about a years' time, after we have saved the money for it. I can't put all our priorities in a numbered list, as we will have to work on all of them at the same time, but there are some that will be given more focus every month.

For October, my monthly challenge will be to fully fund our XMAS fund. The goal for this one is to have $1100 in that account by months end. The amount needed to achieve this goal is $414.68. We have 30 full days to focus on this, so we *should* be able to reach this goal.

My second challenge this month is to prepare as much as I can for a baby shower I am co-hosting for my daughter, which is scheduled for November 21st. I'd like to have $500 set aside for this, to pay for food, favours, etc. Five hundred dollars may sound like alot, but the guest list is about 50 or so people. Is this too much? I doubt it, but I would rather have money left over than to not have saved enough.

Other things to work on this month:
- make 12 xmas gifts for friends and family
- open savings accounts for both the kids
- explore RESP options
- work on a payment plan for the retainer fee for lawyer

Last month, I challenged myself to find an additional $400 to reach a goal, and I did it. This month I am challenging myself to put away $914.68 for two goals. This may be stretching my limits, but I'm game to try.

I am totally stoked about October, as it is my favourite time of year. Halloween decorations for a month, and trick-or-treating top my list of things I'm most excited about this month.