Friday, December 30, 2011

Are You Talking To Me?

" You cannot save $10,000 until you have $1,000. You cannot save $1,000 until you save $100. You cannot save $100 until you save $10. Getting from where you are now to where you want to be requires that you do something differently. Do you have the guts to change?" - Gail Vaz - Oxlade

I was flipping through Debt Free Forever to find the answer to a question posed by Sam. In just reading a couple of paragraphs, I was amazed at the amount of inspiration I was getting by reading just a wee little bit. I always hear her voice in my head when I'm reading something she has written, so that part didn't surprise me.

What did surprise me was that it felt like an epiphany. Gail was reaching through the internet, via Sam's question, that made me grab her book so she could speak directly to me.

And I hear you loud and clear, Gail!

In two days time, I will begin a new chapter of my Life Journey, that starts with some of my most ambitious savings and financials goals of my life. (See page entitled 2012 financial Goals.) To truly focus on putting together all the skills I have acquired in the past couple of years, and to focus on attaining my goals. To have some money to retire on one day. To have some money to give my kids when they venture off to college. To find some balance in my life, financial and otherwise.

Here's to the first $1 of the first $10 of the first $100 of the second $1,000 of my first $10,000. Here's to taking control of my money and my life.

My Focus in 2012: Living Within Our Means

Gail posted a great article found here that can help you determine if you are living within your means. Some of her benchmarks are as follows:
  • Are you saving 10% of your net income?
  • Are the balances on your credit cards or lines of credit rising?
  • Are you missing payments on bills?
  • Are you taking cash advances on your credit cards?
I know what my answers are to these questions, and it ain't pretty. We still have two cancelled credit cards with balances that we are paying down. Then there is the enormous tax bill I owe to Revenue Canada. That pesky overdraft has got to stop also.

For the most part, I'd like to think that we live within our means, but when gauged by someone else's measuring stick, maybe not so much. So I think what I need to do is to define 'Living Within Our Means' for our family. You know, the personal in personal finance.

I've set some financial goals for 2012. I would love to be completely out of debt in the next 12 months, but that is highly unlikely. I'd love to have saved up enough to buy a newer used vehicle, and to take my family to Disney World next winter, but I'm pretty sure that's out of reach too. Maybe if I can just make through to next Christmas with having put some money in my RRSP and being able to keep current on our bills, that will have made me feel like I've accomplished something.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Catch Up Time

The last four days have been busy, busy, busy! I've worked (BOO!)  three of the last four days. Hubby gave me a break and worked on Christmas Day so I wouldn't miss out on any family time. Things have been good though. I'm feeling much better than I did last week, when the doctor at the walk-in clinic put me on antibiotics. I swear I have been reading all the blogs that I normally do, just not enough time to comment. I promise I am still around though.

On Christmas Day, we were at Gramma's house, when DD1's bf and my nephew were opening their gifts. Which were 'the' gifts. With the 'giftwrapping from hell' as DD2 likes to call it. The present for "Bad Guy" was wrapped several times, then totally enclosed in packing tape, with no seams exposed. The gift for Nephew was a little less intensely wrapped, but only a little. DD1 timed them to see how long it took them to get to the gift inside. Laughter ensued, and both guys made it happen in under four minutes. A new family record! (Or maybe I'm not trying hard enough!) They both told me after that it's now a tradition that they look forward too, so they can get to their new socks. So I will continue, but get more creative with the wrapping. :)

I'm trying to get some goal setting under way, but I'm not finding the quiet time I need to do so. I know that most of our financial goals for the coming year are going to focus more on security: emergency fund, Essential Expenses and RRSPs. The 'plan' on how this will be done is coming up in a future post, I promise!

Some members of Hubby's family are doing a 'Biggest Loser' type challenge starting January 1st. The winner will be determined by whoever loses the largest percentage of body weight over a given period. I am thinking of joining in. I still want to have lost 40 pounds by my 40th birthday, which may be a real challenge seeing as I still weigh what I did 10 months ago. Maybe this will be an incentive for me, as the competitive side in me will emerge.

I've thought a lot about the "Sealed Pot Challenge" that others are taking part in. I want to do this also, but of course, I'm late to the party, as usual. I have some plastic canvas, so I am going to fashion my own box with a slit in it somewhere so I can put money in. All the sides, top and bottom will be sewn together, so I will have to cut the yarn holding it together in order to get money out of it. I don't know that I can do a whole year of it, but I sure will try. I'd like to use the money next December to purchase meat to fill the freezer. I know the idea is to treat yourself with the money, but that will be a huge treat for me AND my family.

I've spent some time this week getting business files for 2012 set up and ready to go. I'm implementing a new system for myself to use so that I can keep better track of invoicing. It's gotten a bit out of hand, and I need to figure it out somehow. I hoping that my new system will eliminate the problem

Tonight, I'm hoping to head out to sing some karaoke with hubby and some friends. I'm determined to keep my personal spending for tonight under $20. Cross your fingers for me, will you? ;)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Putting it all away

Today will find me trying to find a place for all the new stuff that we've acquired for Christmas.

Yesterday was lovely, with watching the kids open their gifts, and then spending the afternoon with family. I drove a lot yesterday, chauffeuring DD1, bf and Grandcub from place to place. The bf's family has been my second family since I was a teen, so I was welcomed to join in with their celebrations yesterday evening.

I found that of all the gifts we gave to folks, the ones that seemed the most appreciated were the handmade ones (thanks for your help, Carla!) Grandma's hand knitted reusable swiffer cloths for her brand spanking new XL swiffer were a hit. Bf's family loved the scented body sprays, bath salts and soaps. It gave me renewed hope that I will be able to make more and buy less for gifts next year.

Last night, we were utterly exhausted when we went to bed. It was the best night's sleep I've had in years because of the gift from Grandma. She gave us a 3 inch memory gel foam mattress topper. Sleeping on it was like sleeping on a cloud, heavenly!

I also got a new Stephen King book (this is like a tradition for us), socks, chocolates, a huge book about the Holocaust, more books from my girls, jammies, a nice shirt, TNA sweatpants and tights. As a family we got some video games and movies, and DD2 even got all 4 seasons of Big Bang Theory on dvd. Cub received more toys than he will ever know what to do with, and vhs tapes of the older version of Blues Clues, which he loves. Grandcub was just plain spoiled, although he wasn't too interested in opening any more gifts after about the third one.

We had a wonderful day filled with lots of together family time and plenty of good food. I know I am going to enjoy the memories that we made. Now to put all the stuff away.

I hope you all had a fabulous day yesterday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Christmas Plan

Holidays get busier every year so it seems. It's a feat to organise and plan for the happiness and merriment but I guess that's what us Moms do. I have to orchestrate for the 4 of us in our home, plus the other 4 who live in DD1's house.

Christmas Eve: We will spend time in the evening with Hubby's family. DD2 will be going out of town with her Dad. Not sure yet if DD1 will accompany them or not. Arrange to pick or to have DD2 picked up before we go home.Then sometime around 11:00 p.m., we will be frantically trying to get all the gifts under/around the tree area and get the stockings stuffed.

Christmas Day: Wake up. Make coffee. Watch Cub's head spin off when he sees the tree lit up with all the presents under it. Convince DD2 that she can make it to everywhere she needs to be. Call DD1 to let them know we are coming. Get dressed, drive across town, pick up DD1, the bf, Grandcub and nephew and drive all the way back to our place. Open more gifts. Pack all family into two cars and drive 6 blocks to Gramma's house. Open more gifts. Have breakfast. Drive DD2 (and possibly DD1 and grandcub) another 4 blocks to ex's house.Go back to gramma's where dinner will be at some point that day. Also knowing that I am on call the whole holidays adds to my sense of excitement. At some point, drive DD1 and her crew over to the bfs sister's house ( and then possibly to take them home as well). Go home. Sleep like the dead.

Boxing Day: It's Hubby's birthday. The plan for this day is to sit around all day playing video games, napping, reading or whatever strikes our fancy. I think there may be some drinking involved for hubby. We will munch on whatever is in the house, with no real meals planned.

Following those days I will still have to plan some things for New Year's Day. As is tradition in my family, I will be making doughnuts and cookies, maybe some banana bread too, for guests to eat when they come to visit. This year I will be teaching a 3rd cousin of mine how to make her great-grandmother's recipe. My mother passed this recipe down, and apparently I am the only one who managed to keep it. So, I'm sharing it with any family member who wants it. :)

Grandcub's first birthday and big-gramma's 92nd birthday are the same day, which is also coming up on the 4th of January. By the time that is over, I figure I will be all celebrated out.

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May your hearts and homes be filled with happiness and peace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

5 more sleeps!

Well, this wee little blog has amassed 30 followers. AND, it's made $20 so far from you kind folks reading it (and the occasional click on an advertisement). I'm getting closer to that $100 payment threshold everyday, lol!

This morning I am assisting a family with transportation to the Western Fair District so that they can get their Christmas Hamper from Salvation Army. The first day of the program, the news report said that some folks were in line up to 4 hours before they received their hamper. I hope the wait is not as long today.

This afternoon, I will be driving to Windsor and back for work. I always feel sad for families who lose someone this time of year. I know how difficult it is to be missing a loved one during the holidays, and to lose one during the holidays must be especially difficult. If you are missing someone this year, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. May you find peace.

I spent most of Sunday night and Monday morning baking cookies. That's one more thing off my to-do list! I still have to make a batch of homemade Irish Cream, but that won't take too long. I have the ingredients already and as long as I don't taste test it too much, all should be good. I still have a batch of PB cookies to make as well.

Well, I'm off and running.
Have a great day!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Night Chit-Chat

We finally put up our Christmas Tree today.
No, this is not it.
This tree is from the home of Greg Horn, a Marvel comics artist.
But if Hubby would let me, this is pretty much what our tree would look like.
To see how it looks when it isn't lit up, pop over to Bleeding Cool and look at all the pics.

Tonight I'm making baked chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies for dinner. After dinner I plan on tackling a shortbread cookie recipe and peanut butter cookies.

I just finished "Knit, Purl, Die" by Anne Canadeo. It's part of a series of mysteries. I wasn't all that excited about it, but there were some shared recipes and knitting patterns at the end.

Listening to...
Hubby and DD2 playing Bioshock. Hopefully I can get the t.v. from them later so I can play a video game.

Looking forward to this week...
Christmas Eve with family. This week should turn out to be full of visiting with family and friends.

Happy you accomplished this weekend...
Getting our tree up. This year Cub is starting to 'get' the Christmas idea, along with Santa. I can't wait to see his face Christmas morning!

How was your weekend? Link up with Carla and myself so I can read your chit-chat! :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Stuff

I got my Bloggy Secret Santa gift in the mail last week, and didn't have a chance to blog about it.
My gift box came from Kitchener, so I suspect I know who sent.  ;)  However, they didn't sign their name, just signed it from Bloggy Secret Santa.

I wasn't home when Canada Post tried to deliver it, so it went to the nearest postal outlet, which is only a block away. I picked it up on Sunday, eager to see what was inside. There was a card, one beautiful hand knitted dishcloth, a pair of fuzzy socks, a paperback novel, and some Lindt chocolates. I'm waiting until I have some downtime around here to dive into the novel (I'll likely read it all in one sitting anyway). Thank you Secret Santa for the wonderful gifts. It was a lot of fun to get something just for me in the mail that wasn't another bill. :)

The Bloggy Secret Santa gift I was sending out is going to another province, so I had to make sure it was out on the 12th to ensure delivery before Christmas. I reused a Christmas box and filled it with a number of things that the recipient would like, most of them being handmade, but not all by me. I do hope my recipient posts when she gets her stuff. :)

Last night, we had dinner out with Gramma, and then headed back to her place for a visit. She's working lots lately, so we haven't been able to spend too much time with her. While there, I discovered that one of the things that's been bothering my tummy lately is eggnog. I'd been trying to figure out why I've been having so many tummy troubles and have been taking note of the things I'm eating and drinking. Eggnog is one of the culprits I think. Which is too bad, cuz I do like to have a rum & eggnog during the season. I think I'll have to switch to something a little more tummy friendly for me.

As soon as we walked into Gramma's last night, I noticed something different about her Christmas tree and the decorations. I said something about it looking like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Then she told me what happened. She had spent the better part of a half a day setting up her tree and decorating it like usual. While putting away the boxes when she was done, she heard a crash from the other room. One of the legs on her tree stand had broken (it was quite old) and the whole tree came crashing down. There was a huge mess. Most of the ornaments had broken. I mention this because her ornaments had been given to her from her grandmother and mother-in-law. Hand painted, impression glass ornaments, some of which had come from Holland two generations ago. Very old ornaments. Some survived the tree incident, but not many. She was so sad about this. These are things she can never replace.

She did show me a handmade ornament that survives, partially because of it's materials, that was given to her that once belonged to her mother's grandmother. Two pipe cleaner Santas with wooden bead heads and beards. They came to Canada with her mother in the 1950s I think. It was interesting to hear her talk about the ornaments and how old they all were while she pointed out her favourites.

I gotta run. Work calls. :(

Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My RRSP Strategy for 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was looking at the idea of a RRSP Catch up Loan to assist me with some tax benefits. I received a comment that they were a very, very bad idea. I'm not one to jump to conclusions, so I took this under advisement and did some research. Of course, I turned to Gail's blog.

Borrowing more money while you still have debt is never a good idea. Borrowing money to invest for the long term has some benefits, but not enough for me to consider it at this point.

Borrowing to contribute to an RRSP only makes sense if you’re in the highest tax bracket AND you can pay off the loan within one year WHILE making monthly contributions to your current year’s RRSP. ~ Gail
So what's a gal to do? I get that borrowing the twenty something thousand dollars in contribution room I have available is not really an option for. Sure, I could borrow it and pay it back within a year, but my cash flow will take a huge hit, and I just can't live like that, nor can I expect my family to.

Taking on too much debt for the sake of some other objective is a sure way to mess up your cash flow and rob you of sleep. ~ Gail
I value my sleep too much. I don't do enough of it as it is. The sense of peace I have knowing that I am doing the best I can financially is not something I'm willing to give up either.
The most important part of my financial well being is to find balance. Saving for the long term takes time and discipline. Time I have. Discipline, not so much. But I'm getting better.
If you want to catch up your RRSP unused contribution room, trim back on your expenses or make enough extra money to sock away what you want. Don’t borrow it. ~ Gail
Oddly enough, I can hear her voice saying this directly to me. It's like she's right here in the room with me, telling me not to be a dummy, and that there is a better way to do this.
On Gail's advice, I will not be taking out an RRSP loan, catch-up or otherwise. My goal for 2012 will be to put $2500 into my RRSP, or $208 per month. That's the maximum amount of loan repayment monthly that I would be comfortable making. OK, maybe a little outside my comfort zone, but whatever. If for some crazy reason I am unable to make that 'loan' payment in a given month, my credit history won't go to hell in a hand basket and I won't be getting any nasty phone calls from the bank. It would mean that I would just have to deposit that much more the following month. I'll have no interest costs with this method, and all my money will be working for me right from the get go.
I feel like I'm behind the eight ball with my retirement contributions. I may very well be. But if I don't start somewhere, I will never be able to retire, and that is just not an option. With how much I've contributed to CPP as a self-employed person, and no pension to speak of, when I'm 65, I'll be eligible for about $32 per month. Lol!

Aim to set aside 10% of your net income every year until you retire. ~ Gail
The thing with RRSPs is that they market them to make you feel like you aren't contributing enough, and that without the help of financial institutions, you have no hope in hell of ever accumulating the astronomical cash projections that they say you need to have. This puts people in one of two mindsets. They either fall for the hype and take out 20 year RRSP loans without ever really getting ahead, or they give up hope of ever retiring comfortably, and choose to ignore the situation.
I'm choosing neither. I will forge my own path, by making contributions on my own schedule that will take into account that my income fluctuates greatly. I have goal number in mind for 2012, and I will make sure I hit that goal at all costs. I'm working on all our financial goals for 2012, so adding this in will be another part of the budgeting process for us.
What's your retirement savings strategy? Do you have RRSPs or have you ever used a RRSP catch up loan? I'd love to hear about your experiences with this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm Done!

Well, the shopping portion of it anyway. I got the last of the stocking stuffers and a couple of things for hubby's birthday. I even got the birthday cards for both hubby and grandcub. It's finished!

Yesterday I sent out the Bloggy Secret Santa gift. I'm sorry you had to wait, but there was something specific I was waiting to find, and I finally did.

Tonight, Cub & I will be painting his gifts for gramma, big sis, daycare provider, little sis, and Bad Guy (that's what he calls Big Sis' bf).

Also, I will be making the gifties to give out to the charity board members. I just need to put them together and wrap them.

I gotta dig through my yarn stash because I finally figured out what to give Cub. If I have a big enough skein of blue or red yarn, I'm going to knit him a superhero cape! I figured out how I could do it without have to tie it and he could pull on and off by himself. He is constantly asking someone to tuck a t-shirt into the neckband of whatever shirt he is wearing to make a cape. Sometimes it's a dishtowel he uses. I figure, heck, he should have his very own superhero cape. Hopefully, I can get it done in the limited number of days I have left to knit!

I did take a special trip last night to hear Taylor and her Corps play in white Oaks Malls. They were very good, and I got a chance to meet Taylor. :)

I won't be going back to the mall anytime soon. I'm just thankful I got it all finished.
Now where did I put the tape I bought ??

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm Grateful for My Friends

The Liebster Award is a way to give some love to bloggers who have less than 200 followers.
I am fortunate enough to have been given this honour twice now. Thanks to fellow bloggers at The Quest to be Financially Abundant and It's Me, Sam for giving me this award.

There are rules to receiving and accepting this award.

The Rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and Paste the Award to your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the word and love to other bloggers.
5. Have Fun!!

With that said, here are my top five picks:

1. We May Be Poor, But We Are Happy : Judy blogs about her money and her sometimes hectic life. A sandwich generation gal who has a lot going on. I love checking in with her daily to see what shenanigans she's up to.

2. Digging Out and Up : Cassie blogs about her budget challenges and life in general. I love the tone of her posts, and I'm sure you'll enjoy them too.

3. Slay The Monster : B-Kat is slaying her mortgage and showing her progress to the world! It's been great to watch her progress. I'm so looking forward to reading this one through to the end.

4. A True Undertaking : My friend writes this blog anonymously, but I do know her in real life. She's a jack of all trades kind of gal, with big ambitions and a new baby daughter. She honest and caring, and I love all that she writes about.

5. Debt can kiss off! : Taylor is a new-ish blogger (7 months and counting) and blogs about beating down her debt and her and the hubby live their dreams.

I realised while making this blog that some of my favourites have already gotten the Liebster award from another blogger, so I made sure to include some blogs that I love that haven't already gotten one.  I also realised that most of my favourite bloggers are women. I look forward to reading these (and many other) blogs every single day. Even if the posts aren't that frequent. :)

Over the last year, I've come to feel friendship from the blogging community. I've been involved in a couple of swaps, and have had personal emails from a few bloggers as well. I know there are folks in the world who would say that online friendships aren't true friendships, but I would disagree. Some of you reading this blog know more about me as a person than some of my own family. I value the friendships I have made this past couple of years, and I want you all to know I'm glad to have met you all.

Do me a favour, and check out the blogs I have nominated for this award, and spread the love.

Thanks again to It's Me, Sam and Finding My Way for your nominations. I'm grateful for your friendships.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Night Chit Chat

Linking up with Carla over at My Half Dozen Daily for some Sunday Night Chit Chat. This is my first time, so I hope I do it ok.

Mittens. Something that is prominent on my mind today. Knitting them, getting them, donating them to those in need. Keeping Kids Warm was contacted by a First Nation up north who are looking for hats, mitts and scarves for the children of their community. I am one of several people who are trying to gather as many items as possible to give to these folks.

Cooking/Baking…I spent the day working at The Met so I popped a store bought pizza in the oven for dinner. However, I did make Creamy Potato Soup in the crock pot this week.

Watching/Reading… I'm hoping to catch Stephen King's Bag of Bones on t.v tonight. Hopefully, I can do some knitting while it's on.

Listening To… The Big Bang Theory is on the t.v. while I'm writing this post.

Looking Forward to this week… Getting the stoopid  artificial Christmas tree up. A girl can hope, right?

Happy You Accomplished this Weekend… I got some nicey nice things for my Bloggy Secret Santa recipient. I hope she likes them, cuz I know I love what I got from my Secret Santa! Also glad that we held my Uncle's 75th Birthday party yesterday. He is the last of his sibling group, and we wanted as many family to show up as possible. Here's to another 20 years of a great life lived Uncle!

How has your weekend been?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Are some of the old things coming back?

Last week, while I was at knitting class, two young ladies joined who were just learning to knit. I was trying to teach one of them how to cast stitches on by herself, and the other gal was practicing knit stitches. It was nice to see some younger ladies taking an interest in the craft.

During the evening, the group was talking about skills they have learned: knitting, crocheting, sewing, baking, canning, etc. One of the group remarked that the 'old' ways are coming back into fashion. That got me to thinking.

Since the recession of 2008, the world has changed. My world definitely has. I will never be the person that I once was, who spent money on a 'thing' without thinking of how it fit into the bigger picture for us, aka our budget. I will never again go grocery shopping without a list and using sales to stockpile certain items. I know that I must put away money for my future, should I ever want to retire. I am no longer afraid to try new recipes in the kitchen, because I have learned that any homemade meal is less expensive than eating at a restaurant, even if it is steak and lobster. I make and can jam and apple butter, I can make bread, and I will always have the ability to make do with what I have in nearly any situation.

People in large numbers, are showing an interest in learning skills that were the norm for our grandparents. Have you been learning some 'old' ways to keep your family going, or have you been doing those things all along?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And it begins

The industry I work in has seasonal fluctuations. During the winter months, we tend to be more busy for various reasons. I find I'm doing a lot of travelling around SW Ontario, and that suits me just fine.

I love to drive and just listen to whatever radio station I can get from whatever area I am in. Today I will be heading to Exeter, ON and this afternoon I will be driving to and from Windsor.

This is the beginning of the busy season for me. Hopefully, I can make the time to do everything I need to do over the next few weeks.

If posts get sparse around here, you will know why. ;)

I'll be reading all your blogs when I get the chance.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The $100 Challenge, The Second Year

Last year, Hubby & I participated in the $100 Challenge. Don't know what that is? Read the Story that started it all here.  Basically, Andrew, a Londoner, gave a man in need $100. And felt good about it. It got him thinking about how such an amount could do some good for another human being.

I wrote about the $100 Challenge last year, found here. What I didn't tell anyone really was some of the follow-up to what happened that day.

Last year, Keeping Kids Warm collected gently used coats and clothing for those in need. After our giveaway of well over $100 worth of coffee and cookies, the clothing items were gathered and dropped off at various agencies so that folks who needed them could get access to them. At one of the places, a man asked one of the volunteers if we had any dress shirts as he had a job interview the following Monday.

With donated money, and some of her own, that volunteer drove the man to a thrift store, and let him pick out a dress shirt, pants and shoes so that he would look presentable for his interview. He was truly grateful, and it made the volunteer feel wonderful to help someone who truly needed a hand up.

Well, the man in this tale got the job he interviewed for. The agency has since told us that he is now doing well, has an apartment of his own, and has become a volunteer to help others who were once where he was. When he speaks of the events that helped him turn his life around, he always starts the story with a lady who was dropping off coats and how kind she was to him.

It doesn't take $100 to help another fellow Londoner, but imagine what we all could accomplish if we just try to make a little corner of the world a better place?

I urge you to join dozens of other Londoners and give a little something to someone else. You don't even have to be in London! The $100 Challenge has people registered as far away as Australia who will be taking part on Saturday, December 3, 2011.

If you have $100 to give, or only $10, use it to make soneone's day. Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you at Timmie's. Offer to pay for someone's groceries. Approach a stranger, and give them $20. It doesn't matter how you do something, just do it on that day. Please. It can make a world of difference.

Thanks for the Laugh

A couple of weeks ago, Cub went to DD1's place to spend time with her and the Grandcub while DH & I did some stuff. The three of them went to visit Grandcub's Ya-ya (that's what they call a gramma in their family) who is Grandcub's other gramma.

After the visit, they took a taxi back to DD1's place. My daughter got both the boys in their respective seats and strapped in. As they drove across town, Cub was getting more and more excited. When they neared the halfway point, Cub finally started babbling about something his sister couldn't understand. She asked him to repeat himself louder because she couldn't hear him. He happily shouted, "Are we in the Cash Cab?" Peals of laughter could probably be heard from the street.

When they arrived at their destination, the driver was nice enough to help them unload and thanked Cub for the laugh. He told him it was the Cash Cab and gave Cub a Loonie.

I just had to share this story with you all.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Month End Report

I didn't do this last month because I was in such a depression over our finances. It hasn't been, nor still is pretty, but we are slowly figuring it out. Here are the numbers.

TFSA/ EEE Account $41.71 (down $418.83)
Xmas Fund/Car Fund $50.02 (down $1553.70)
RRSP Savings Acct. $160.07 ( up $52.88)
Vacations Account $4.01 (down $44.64)
RRSP MF Acct. $1,757.93 (up $70.18)
RESP MF Acct. $1,529.47 (up $157.72)
Emergency Fund Account $24.51 (up $15.57)
House Fund $10.04 (up $5.01)
Biz Savings/5 Categories $50.90 (down $78.17)
Canada Savings Bonds $1,745.00 (up $140.00)
B's Savings Acct. $19.69 (down $39.41)
$5 Bill Laptop Fund $0 postponing this for now

Personal Loan: $6,120.50, up $465.00
MBNA Card (27.98%): $1,063.16, down $150.57
Capital One Card (19.8%): $2,809.19, down $138.96
CIBC Visa (19.99%): $346.70, new account
Overdraft 1: $621.32,down $27.26
Overdraft 2: $396.99, up $396.99
Tax Owing: $9,692.82, up $6,501.56 (correct as of Nov.21st)

Our current total Debt owing: $21,050.68

Total Debt owed January 1, 2011: $23,861.01
Difference since January 1, 2011: $ 2,810.33
Difference since last report: + $ 7,393.46


That is a huge difference in only 60 days, but we knew it was coming. The reality is, in the past I have not been setting money aside for tax obligations, and now it is catching up with me. I have incurred more debt by means of a new credit card (to start rebuilding my credit), using my overdraft again (I know, not good at all), and reborrowing from the 'personal loan'. All the work we have done to pay down and off our debt has come to a screaching halt. It looks as though all we have paid off in 11 months is a mere $2,800. But we are determined now more than ever, to see this thing through.

In the last 60 days, I have cut back on the household spending, cancelled services, stopped pre-authorised withdrawals for RRSP & RESP (until our cashflow can handle it again), and reduced the daycare expense. In the coming week, I will try to reduce our cellphone bill (again) and pledge to put something into each of the savings pots.

Our expenses for December far outweigh our income, so we will absolutely do our best to pay what we can and make a gameplan for 2012. We are considering RRSP catch up loans. I will talk more about that in an upcoming post.

So that's it in a nutshell. It isn't pretty, but it's all ours. ;)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Shopping

I am determined to finish my shopping by this Friday. If I can't get it finished by then, I have set myself the ultimate goal of being finished shopping by the 10th of December. I can't go into stores or the mall after that (unless it's the grocery store) because the temptation will be just too much for me. I know myself. If I see more *things* in the store, my mind will start telling me how *that thing* will be the perfect gift for kid/hubby/friend, etc. It will blow my budget all to high heaven, and I just cannot do that.

Yesterday, I went to Talize and picked up a couple of clothing items for Cub and 3 Dr. Suess books in fantastic condition. I also found a book on "How to Draw Manga" for DD2 that I think she will like.

Something to read: check! Except for hubby....must find him a book he will like.

I typically buy each of the family members a DVD of a favourite movie or television show. For DD2, I got the first season of The Big Bang Theory (she asked for it). For Cub, I got Ice Age, the Mammoth Christmas Special. I'm still looking for a decent movie for hubby, but if I can't find one, I won't worry about it.

Something they want: check!

I was in the bank yesterday chatting with the teller who I almost always deal with. She was asking about my shopping, and if I had finished yet. I explained that DD2 has some strange eclectic tastes, and so I would be buying her a prepaid credit card so she can order exactly what she wants online. The teller asked for her bankcard (technically it's mine) and processed a request for a new bankcard with a Visa logo on it. She will be able to use it, but it acts like a credit card for online purchases from a security standpoint. When she uses it, the money will come directly from her bank account. No credit for a 12 year old!

Something to wear: check! (She will buy the specific clothing items she wants this way)

Now, for the something they need...hmmm....I still have no idea what to 'buy' for this category, but I suspect it isn't something I can buy anyway.

I still have to get hubby something for his birthday, which is December 26th. But I have an idea.

That's it for now. How is your holiday shopping going?

Monday, November 28, 2011

How Do You See Your Debt?

Debt. We all have it (ok, most of us have it). We all loathe it. That's why we read one another's PF blogs. To keep one another motivated to get rid of it once and for all. To learn to live within our means. To appreciate what we do have and keep one another accountable for our actions. It's what we do.

A debt is an obligation owed by one party to a second party but the term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations. (from Wikipedia)

Debt is a means of using anticipated future purchasing power in the present before it has actually been earned. It is spending of funds we have not yet worked for.

When we use debt (a credit card for example) most folks think of it as a source of income. "I have $500 on this credit card that I can use to buy that thing-a-ma-jigger that I have been dying to get." But the truth is that the $500 credit limit is actually a loan, or a debt. It is a company saying that they will let you spend their money, at a cost.

I was reading another blog the other day and something struck a chord with me. $12 a day AND a baby on the way had posted about one of the many things she is eliminating from her life in order to achieve debt freedom and financial independence. In a bold blue, she wrote " If I owe someone anything at all, then until it's been paid back, my money isn't really my money ."

How true is that in our lives?

The level of my debt means that all the money I earn in the next two years effectively does not belong to me. It belongs to others who have extended credit or to whom I owe a moral obligation to repay. Two years. That stinks!

We have been downsizing our lifestyle and pinching pennies for so long, that I feel we have actually amended some of our bad habits of the past. We no longer frequent Tim Horton's, but with Candy Cane hot chocolate coming soon, that may change for a brief time. We no longer spend gobs of money on clothing, shoes, toys and other non-essentials. I, in particular, have learned new cooking and baking skills, learned to stockpile items on sale from the grocery store, taken on extra work whenever possible, and tried to be content with what we already have.

I hope that this is now the new 'normal' for us.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shopping and Dinner

I went shopping yesterday.

I had read all the flyers and made a careful list. I need to stretch every dollar I possibly can right now. I wish the budget wasn't so darn tight but it is what it is.

I got Palmolive Dish soap, 1.1L for $1.73 at Canadian Tire yesterday. I bought 4 of them. I love stocking up on things when I find a great deal. I also picked up some Christmas wrap that was on sale, and a few stocking stuffers there. Who would have thought that CT would have good prices on seasonal candy?

Next stop, No Frills. They are having another one of their $1, $2, $3 sales and some of the deals were hard to pass up. While there, I realized that lean ground beef was on sale as well, so I bought two of the family sized packs. I used one for dinner, and split the other one up for the freezer.

When I got home after picking up the kidlets, I put stuff away, and packed up two reusable grocery bags of foodstuffs for DD1's house. She has recently gone back to work full-time after mat leave, and they are struggling once again. Her BF is having trouble finding and staying employed, so they have opted for him to stay home and look after grandcub while DD1 works to provide for their little family. They have exhausted all of their resources, and are grateful for any help in the next month while they are adjusting to the new schedule.

I wish I could have run to the bank, and taken out money for them to survive, but I can't. I want to fix the problem for them, but I can't do that either. But I realized that having stocked up on all the sales I can, I am able to help them with pantry items that I have. Baby wipes, t.p., soups, jam and bread from the freezer, peanut butter, sugar, cereal, rice mixes, all gleaned from our cupboards. It made me feel better and they were very grateful for the help.

Anyway, for dinner I made homemade burgers, with all the fixings. Mine ended up being a mushroom bacon cheeseburger. With fries, pickles and olives on the side. :) For dinner we had 3 adults, 2 tweenagers (DD2's fave girl cousin of the same age is here for the weekend), 1 toddler, and a 10 month old. All fed and happy on under  $20 worth of groceries bought on sale over time.
I. Love. That.

I am still making (knitting) gifts for my family to reduce costs. This is likely going to be our most frugal holidays ever. But it will be ok. Everyone knows that we are struggling financially, and are not so worried about stuff. We watched "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" after dinner, and it led to a discussion about 'Christmas not coming from a store'. That it was about being together with the ones you love, and who love you. The tweens seemed to 'get' it, and that's all I can hope for.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The 100th Follower

I got to be someone's 100th blog follower!

Rachel over at Living Better One Day At A Time now has 100 followers and is doing a give away to celebrate!

Why don't you pop over and say hi to her and enter her give away?

This giveaway ends on Wednesday November 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Staying Home Today

Cub woke up in the middle of the night, telling me there was 'food' on his bed. In my sleepy haze, I felt around the bed, and told him he was dreaming. I put him back to bed and told him to go back to sleep.

When my alarm went off this morning, I went in to wake him up (he's usually up before I am). He was laying in a pile of his own vomit. Then I remembered what he had said to me in the middle of the night. Then I remembered that Gramma had said that he had fallen backward off his chair last night and hit his head pretty hard. I have to admit, I'm a bit worried about possible concussion. But yet, he seems fine, no other issues. He had breakfast and kept it down.

I think we'll just stay home today and I'll keep an eye on him.

In the meantime, I can get some stuff done around home.

There's laundry to do (there is always laundry to do), and housework to be worked; gifts to be knitted or sewn; other bought gifts to be wrapped; letters to be mailed; the list goes on and on. Hubby said he would like to put up the tree this weekend when DD2 is home. I sincerely hope he was joking, but somehow I know he wasn't. *sigh*

We went to a "Gold Party" last night. You know the home party up, spend money on stuff that you will get in a couple of weeks. Well this one was different. You go to location, bring any unwanted gold jewellery that you want to part with. The rep weighs it, and offers you cash on the spot for it. We walked out last night with some money that can be put toward Christmas or bills, not sure which just yet.

I also got my very first Christmas card of the season yesterday. Thanks Judy! Your card arrived safe and sound. I'm not really feeling the 'spirit of the season' yet, but hopefully it will come soon!

Well, I'm off to make a dent in my to-do list!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Challenge Anyone?

Monday, I stepped out of my comfort zone a little bit and did something I have never done before. I volunteered at The Soup Kitchen. Together with customer service associates and other residents of Boardwalk Properties, we served breakfast and lunch to over 300 people.  I spent over four hours making and serving trays of hot food and beverages for people.

There are many programs that are in need of volunteers to help out. I'd like you all to consider giving some of your time and of yourself to those less fortunate. Call your local Soup Kitchen or Food Bank. They always need volunteers. The Salvation Army also needs volunteers to assist with their Christmas Hamper program, sorting and packing donated items and foodstuffs (although their volunteer program is a little tougher to get into).

How about spending some time with an elder person to assist with household tasks or running errands for them? With winter coming shortly, there will be lots of older folks who will need someone to shovel and salt their sidewalks for them.

Here's my challenge to you.

Give some of your time to give a hand up to someone else. Even for a couple of hours. It will help you keep your life in perspective, I promise.

What other great ideas can you all come up with to give of yourself to those who are in need?

Monday, November 21, 2011

What a Great Weekend!

Friday, I did lots of running around, and spent most of the evening camped out on the couch doing absolutely nothing, letting the television 'zombie-fy' my mind.

Saturday, I was up and at it early though. I worked very early, and tried to get some brochures printed off for the charity Keeping Kids Warm. I had a problem though. The brochures didn't survive through switching the file type for saving purposes. So when I tried to print them off, I was losing about a third of the page of information.

DD1 graciously offered to take Cub overnight so that hubby and I could spend some time with one another and with one of our friends whose birthday it was on Saturday. We spent several hours at DTKB (Down Town Kathy Brown's) dancing up a storm. I offered to stay sober so that I could drive us home, and also because what we had planned for Sunday. It was important to me that I wasn't hung over for our road trip.

By the way, being sober in a bar packed full of middle-aged people who aren't sober was an experience in itself. I fully enjoy people watching as a hobby of mine, and this was no exception. I may have stumbled on to a good idea for the future. Stay sober while everyone else is acting crazy.

I woke up Sunday somewhat tired and sore from the dancing, but in otherwise a good mood.

We drove to Toronto for a 2 o'clock performance of The Addams Family, The Musical. I loved it. Hubby won tickets to this performance from BobFM so it only cost us gas to get there and back. Knowing my love of all things death and weird, Hubby thought this would be perfect for us. and it was! After the performance, I got my picture taken with the actor who played Lurch. :)

We stopped for dinner on the way back to London, and were home in time to watch this week's episode of The Walking Dead.

It was a good weekend overall.

Now back to the grind.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Christmas Plan

Hubby and I had a chat yesterday about Christmas and our wee little budget.

I know, I know. I had gobs of money set aside for presents, and then we bought the mixer (which we love btw). After that, our budget got extremely tight, and in order to pay rent and other bills, both the Emergency fund and the Christmas Fund got depleted.


I know that one day we will get better at this. At least we had those funds in the bank to meet our financial obligations thus far.I've spent a lot of time beating myself up over it, even though I know I shouldn't.

Now for the plan.

The little guy doesn't know the difference if we going into thousands of dollars of debt on crap, or if we just buy a few simple things. Our budgeted amount for him is about $100 total for 2 books, socks & undies, a few toys and 1 big thing from Santa.

The girl...well...she's got some weird eclectic tastes at 12, so she'll be getting a couple of things that we know she will love. I can't really say what, because she reads my blog from time to time. XD

We have $50 in gift cards to buy the grandcub something or 3. I'd like to get him a truck. Big plastic yellow dump truck or something similar.

We're getting one gift for the older daughter, and then a combo gift for her and the baby daddy (I feel weird calling him her boyfriend). Total budget: $75

As for me and hubby, we are forgoing our gifts to one another in exchange for assisting the kidlets with buying gifts. I will help them buy his gift/s ($150 total) and he will help them buy my gift/s ($150 total).

We are only doing stockings for the kids and not for each other. Must keep costs down somehow.

However, I have extra shopping to do because the day after Christmas is my darling hubby's birthday. Yep, he's a Boxing Day Birthday Boy. LOL!

I still have no idea what to buy him for his birthday either. :(
I'm sure I'll figure something out.

This Christmas will not be as big or as bountiful as Christmases past, but we will live through it. I worry that our kids will be disappointed in what they do get, but I know I shouldn't. They usually love whatever we pick out for them. And besides, spending time with family and friends is most important, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yesterday, It Doesn't Seem That Far Away

Yesterday was brutal on me, and am I ever feeling it today.

The day started out great. I got the kids out the door on time and dropped them off at school and daycare respectively.

A lady I was supposed to meet up with called to say that she wouldn't be needing my assistance, so I actually had some 'free' time to get something done. I then spent several hours with some nice folks at FedEx Kinko's redoing a flyer for the charity.

The afternoon seemed all fine, spent some time with DH and picked the kids up. As soon as dinner plans were under way, everything went to hell in a hand basket.

The first call came as I was about to start shovelling food into my mouth, shortly before 6:00 p.m. I opted not to eat dinner, and instead got dressed and headed out the door.

Shortly before 11:00 p.m., I finally made it home. Dinner was reheated for me, and I was in bed and asleep before 11:45.

There are many things that I should have gotten done last night that didn't, so they will be first up on my to-do list today.

I ache all over (from work, not impending illness) and would rather just go back to bed. Not going to happen though.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We Saw The Jolly Old Elf

Saturday was the Santa Claus Parade here in London. People starting staking out their spots along the parade route near where we were, around 5:00 in the evening. it started at six, and it was estimated to take 90 minutes for the full parade to pass any one given point. Something happened along the route though, so after 8 p.m., kids were still waiting for it to pass the point in the route where we were. But it did come eventually.

This was the starting. It was a perfectly clear evening, although it was starting to get a little cold.

Good thing we had baked goods and hot chocolate for sale at the Met.

The folks carrying the flags in front of the Native Float that won best theme float. The one with the grey pants and dark green jacket? That's my sister. Native veteran and still works with Cadets Canada.

Some of the Native dancers.

Lots to do today. Gotta run. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reducing Expenses Again

I called Rogers and had them cut off the second phone line along with the Business Internet Fax. Of course they wanted to know why I was removing the services. Considering that I never was able to use it, and didn't really need it anymore, there is no way I was going to keep it, even at the low monthly rate they offered to me.

This will help to reduce our monthly expenses by almost $50 per month. I'd love to say that the money will go directly to savings, but most likely it will get eaten up by the insurances that we have opted to now pay monthly.

I had a nice chat with our daycare provider and starting December, Cub will be going only three days per week. That will be a $60 expense reduction per week there. I'm so glad that this lady is so understanding. I only have to worry about childcare expenses for another nine months. Then in September, Cub will be starting Kindergarten, which is all day, everyday in my neck of the woods.

Worked the booth at the Met on Saturday afternoon and evening for the charity. There were extended hours due to the arrival of the jolly old elf. Having the parade pass by out front brought in a fair amount of newer folks who had no idea that anything was even in the building anymore (even though its been open since April).

I'm thinking about opening an Etsy shop with my candles and things. Do any of you have any experience with selling handmade goods on the internet or with Etsy? I'd like to hear some opinions before I take the plunge.

I've a lot on my plate again this week. Hopefully, nothing falls off.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Lot of Driving and Other Thoughts

Work has me doing a lot of driving this week. I've driven to Sarnia already, and on Friday I'll be driving to Goderich. Driving is actually one part of my job(s) that I really enjoy. I use the time to relax my ever-thinking brain, and just listen to whatever music is playing on whatever radio station that I'm listening to. I get to take in some beautiful scenery as well. While I'm busy not thinking about things, that's usually when some of my best ideas rise to the surface and I can receive them better. I usually have a notebook and a pen on the seat beside me to write those sort of things down. Don't worry, I always pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot before I start writing.

With the deaths in my family, I've spent some time paying my respects and having visits with family who have gathered to do the same. My mother used to joke that funerals were our family's way of having a reunion, but truthfully, she wasn't far wrong. As a family, we just don't get together as often as anyone would like. We use the opportunity of a funeral to exchange information and phone numbers with one another, with promises of getting together soon. This go around, I'm doing my best to spread the word about a surprise birthday party we are having for the eldest member of our family, uncle Erick. He'll be 75 this year, and my sister has booked a hall for a get together. A much happier occasion to have our family gather.

On a side note, I had to giggle at how woefully unprepared that funeral home was on Tuesday evening. I don't think they had any idea how many people would be gathering for the Legion service and visitation. A typical visitation period would have any number of guests coming and going throughout a two hour period, and I suppose that is what that funeral home is used to. But on Tuesday, about 150 (or more) people descended on the place, promptly sat down and stayed put for the next 2 and a half hours. There wasn't a chair left in the place, so people just stood in the hallways wherever they could find a bare wall to lean against. There wasn't near enough refreshments set out. And the sheer number of children in attendance must have been a shock to them. Our family has never sheltered our children from the realities of death, and they are included in all the proceedings.

I must be off. Today we bury my cousin whom I've always called Auntie. I will miss her.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is There A Rise In The Number Of Deaths?

My blogger friend Sam over at It's Me, Sam posed a question to me the other day on her blog. She'd been to a couple of funerals and wanted to know :

" Are there particular times of the year where there are more deaths than others? "

The short answer is yes. But maybe not the way you think. There are cyclical predictions that can be made for certain types of deaths, ie. suicide, seasonal illnesses, cancer, motor vehicle accidents, etc.
(See this article for some good reading and nifty charts, and this paper published by Stats-Can for more Canadian charts.)

Now why is that? Good question.

I'm not sure that I have an answer to that, but it has been my experience that the funeral industry as a whole tends to get busier from mid-November until sometime in April. Then it slows down for a period of time. Of course, we can only note trends from the far to recent past, and cannot in any way predict the future. Except maybe to say that overall, the number of deaths will increase over a period of time. Like maybe the next 10 to 20 years.

Some time ago, there was a phenomenon known as the post World War II Baby Boom, 1947 - 1966 in Canada. The Boomers effected everything in their path, from schooling, infrastructure, pension plans and retirement homes to name a few. It is my opinion that they will also affect the funeral industry as a whole as well. I believe that we are in the very beginning of end of life issues for the Boomers, and it will only continue for the next 20 or so years with the increased number of deaths overall, regardless of mode of death.

From The Canadian Encyclopedia: " In 2009, there were approximately 1.3 million people aged 80 or over and by 2036 this could increase to 3.3 million. The aging of the population is projected to accelerate rapidly as more of the baby-boom generation turns 65 and as that happens, the number of senior citizens could exceed the number of children for the first time in Canada's history. "

And this: "  Even if there are no further declines in the fertility rate per woman, there will be declines in the total number of births to well below the annual 400 000 and increases above the annual 200 000 deaths until there are more deaths than births. "

The Berlin Institute for Population and Development states in the Demographic Developments in Canada, " What does increase is the number of deaths: the rapid aging of the baby boom generation results in twice as many deaths in 2051 as in 2011, even though the population grows by only one-quarter and mortality rates continue to fall."

There is a growing trend in the funeral industry for families to have less traditional services, and cremation without any sort of service or memorializing is on the rise. Folks want things done as simply and inexpensive as possible, so that they may leave whatever finances are available to their families, and not being "wasted on a box and an elaborate showing off" as one client put it.

Although I truly understand the want for less expense, I don't totally agree on going without any type of service or ceremony. But that's another post for another day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Big-ish Post / GBU

I haven't been feeling up to snuff lately (emotionally) and blogging took a back seat while I was not just pulling, but yanking myself up by the bootstraps. I have managed to get myself out of this funk that I've been in (for the most part at least) but am worried that some small snag will send me right back to the same place I was before. However...

The Good:
  • My Shopper's trip went well. I took DD2 with me so she could see how paying attention to things can make a difference. I got $113.64 worth of merchandise for only $13.64. Go me!
  • Hubby won a prize pack from BobFM again. This time he got $50 in gift certificates to a baby/toddler store (can you say Christmas gifts for the grandcub?) and 2 tickets to see The Addams Family Musical in Toronto. Right. Up. Our. Alley.
  • Hubby went to Shopper's the other day, and stuck the receipt in his pocket. When I asked why, he said he's going to start tracking his personal expenses on his own. He did ask for a notebook so he could write down what he spends and where. (Did you guys hear the Hallelujah chorus, or was that just me?)
  • Some money owed to the business came in, so I was able to pay the rent and something toward the bills without dipping into the Christmas money too much. Can't say that won't happen on later in the month though.
The Bad:
  • I have no idea how we are going to pay for daycare for the rest of this month. I've talked to our childcare provider to let her know that if things aren't getting better, I may have to pull the little guy in December. The income I was counting on to pay for childcare hasn't come through just yet, so things are getting tighter and tighter.
The Ugly:
  • There have been two deaths in my extended family this weekend, so there will be a bit of travelling around the city (funeral homes on either end of the city) and expenses that weren't in our already tight budget. I'm not a very good funeral attendee (I'm used to working instead of attending) and it makes me very uncomfortable when I'm in a funeral home that I don't do work for. It makes me feel awkward.
So there you have it.

I'm clutching the Christmas money with a death grip, hoping to still have some when it comes time to actually buy gifts.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Metropolitan Artisans Market

Keeping Kids Warm, the charity that I volunteer with, has a table at The Metropolitan Market every weekend from now until December 18th.

The Met is unique to London. It showcases local artisans, giving them a venue to sell their handmade, handcrafted or vintage wares to folks who are looking for something unique and different than the typical retail goods.

If you are in London, please stop by and visit our booth and support a local charity in a local setting.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rough Day Yesterday

I'm going to forgo the monthly report, well, because it ain't pretty. We've depleted almost every bit of savings we have, including our Christmas Fund in order to pay bills. The money coming in isn't coming fast enough, and to be honest, I'm not sure how we will get through the winter.

We had a rough one yesterday. DD2 lost the skin on one knee at school yesterday, and Cub has not been feeling well for several days in a row. DH has been having issues with his back for over a week, and me...well....

Remember that tooth that I just had a root canal done on?

Yeah, well, it broke.

While I was eating a soft bun. Pillsbury crescent roll, to be more precise.

I swear, I did not even see Murphy when he snuck into our lives this time. I think he may have gotten in when Cub was playing with the door one day.

P.S. The London Gail Club is meeting on Wednesday evening. I haven't had any response from anyone as to where it is being held. If you are reading this, and planning on attending, please let me know via email. Thanks!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Some Autumn Cemetery Pics

I didn't have a lot of time yesterday to take pictures, but I did manage to take a few while walking through the cemetery.

I'm not sure what type of plant this is, but there are several planted along a hedge. The sharp leaves were a bit wilty yesterday from the frosty night we had.

I chose this image because of where it lays. In this area of the cemetery, there are many old upright monuments, and this gem was laying in/on the ground among them.

Many of the monuments in the older section have this fungus/moss growing on them. After some time, it starts to crumble the stone beneath. All I could think was, "Out of death comes new life."

A couple of full sized cover slab monuments placed directly over the entire grave/lot.
The huge uprights in the background are wonderful pieces of work, with beautifully carved urn shaped tops. Both of these types of monuments are rarely made anymore because they would be cost prohibitive.

Here is a close look at the larger slab monument, placed in 1901.

Another old beauty.

This beauty is slowly sinking into the earth. I wanted desperately to peel away the grass and earth that will eventually cover it, and bring it back up to a level where it can be seen by all. Truthfully though, trying to level this with the ground again would probably break it.

They just don't make behemoths like these anymore. Way too expensive.

This monument was one of three hiding behind some bushes that were likely lovingly planted eons ago. The bushes are now bigger than the monuments, perhaps shielding them from some of the weather.

Just look at the intricate work on this piece. How beautiful!

Same with this one. Such craftsmanship.

This is a style that isn't seen much anymore. A whole piece of stone carved to look like it was formed from several field stones put together.

See what I mean?

A larger example of this style.

From the front. You can just make out the delicate carving of the information.

That's it folks. Just a teeny, tiny glimpse of the beauty I saw in the cemetery.

Go for a walk, while the weather is still reasonably nice. There is so much beauty to behold.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Friday

" Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

There has been lots going on in my head, and with me in general.

I cleaned out the freezers and took some time to do some stocking up on items that we will use for the next few months. Here are my purchases over the last couple of days:

1x Sirloin Tip Roast, $ 11.66
1x Package Ground Beef, $11.06
8x 1 lb Unsalted Butter, $23.04
2x McCain Frozen Cream Pies, $2.58
1x 10 lb bag potatoes, $1.88
3x 1L Oasis 100% juice, $2.97
3x Pillsbury Apple Turnovers, $6.00
8x Dr. Oetker Frozen Pizzas, $24.00
4x Knorr Rice/Pasta Mixes, 4.00
1 each chicken & beef bullion cubes, $3.00
3x Glad Cling Wrap, $3.00
3x Oatmeal Crisp Triple Berry Cereal, $9.00
2x Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, $3.74
2 lb bag Macintosh Apples, $2.00
3x 90-100 count bagged frozen cooked shrimp, $9.00

There was a lot more, but I don't want to bore you with the details. However, I'm not done with the shopping just yet.

Tomorrow and Sunday, Shopper's Drug Mart is having a 'Spend Your Points Event' , where you get additional dollar amounts in free purchase if you redeem your points over 50,000.
I've combined their sales items from the flyer, along with redeeming 50,000 of my accumulated points. If I've done my math correctly, I will get $100.99 (before taxes) of products for $14.12.
I like to think of it as my version of Extreme Couponing, without the actual coupons, lol!

Products purchased will be:
4 x 2kg bags of sugar @ $1.99 each
4 x Life Brand 2-roll paper towels @ $0.49 each
4 x 24 roll Royale Toilet Tissue @ $5.99 each
2 x Oral B Children's Toothpaste @ $1.88 each
2 x Herbal Essences hair care @ 2/$5.00 each
4 x Vim Cream Cleanser @ $0.99 each
1 x Aleve Tablets @ 9.99
1 x 4 pk Tic Tacs @ $3.49
1 x 320 count Pampers Baby Wipes @ $9.99
2 x Sunsilk shampoo (with free 355 ml conditioner) @ 3.99 each
2 x Balea 2-in-1 Kids Shampoo/Bodywash @ 3.99 each
1 x Trident gum, 4 pack $2.99
2 x Pringles Chips @ 1.99 each

This will give me a head start on some of the stocking stuffers that I typically buy for Christmas, along with a few things to stock up on.

I'm hoping that this weeks shopping excursions will help to lower our costs overall for grocery spending and planned holiday spending.

Have you been shopping this week?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bloggy Secret Santa Project Hosted by Serendipity

Today I was going to post more about RRSPs, but something got in the way.

A Secret Santa project.

Serendipity is hosting a Bloggy Secret Santa Swap, and I've got to tell you, I'm uber-excited about it!

As part of the participation in the project, I have to write about me a bit, and what I like and dislike.

Here goes:

1. I love reading, especially chick-lit. I am not a girly-girl type (never wear skirts or dresses) so this gives me a bit of an outlet where I can at least imagine that I'm more girly than I actually am.

2. I have allergies to coconut and pineapple (no fruity tropical drinks for me when I might ever be in the Caribbean again), but definitely not to chocolate! I would try almost anything treat-wise, even if I do have particular tastes.

3. I have a 'thing' for all things death-related (go figure, seeing as I am a funeral director); I would some day love to have a collection of Mourning Photography. I collect figures of Egyptian Anubis, and Anput, the god and godess associated with mummification/embalming in ancient Egypt.

Do not click this link if you are squeamish, or cannot handle photos of a sensitive nature! You have been warned.

4. I'm a knitter. I love yarns, especially ones made of cotton or bamboo. I'm still learning, and would like to stretch my abilities and try something new in the coming year.

5. Journals and diaries are another favourite of mine. Clean, fresh unwritten pages that beg to have stories written upon them are like an addiction. I can't get enough of them.

Ok, I guess that's enough about me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are You Saving for Retirement?

Here in Canada, we are fortunate to have a fantastic registration program known as the RRSP, or Registered Retirement Savings Plan.

Unfortunately, lots and losta people have almost no idea what they are talking about when it comes to their retirement savings.

"Hey Eboo! I just invested in an RRSP!"

Me: "Um. No you didn't. You invested in a savings account, GIC, mutual fund, etc. and registered it."

I have understood the basics of RRSPs since I first heard about them, thanks to a swell guy named Dave F. who took the time to explain it properly to me.

When we head into that time of year when the financial institutions start flogging their RRSP products (read loans), you should have a basic understanding of how it works before you even give them the opportunity to confuse you. Because they will.

Here is a great article that my hero and financial Sham-Wow, Gail Vaz - Oxlade wrote on her blog to help explain it in the simplest of terms. Please take a minute to go read it, and tomorrow, I will post more on the RRSP and how to use it to your advantage.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We Talked Last Night

Hubby & I had a very impromptu budget meeting last night.

He brought me his Holiday booking sheet from work. If he wanted to book time off in the first three months of the year, he would have to book it now. He thought it would be a good idea to book a week off for a tropical vacation we should be taking. I reminded him that there is no way that a vacation like that is in the budget.

He's very disappointed about that. Now he knows how serious our financial situation is, once again.

The good news is we have an income still coming in, both his and mine. The bad news is that all savings we did have to keep us afloat is now gone. Again, we will be spending the winter struggling to keep up with the bills, and paying whatever we can toward the debts.

We agree that we hate feeling this way, like we're always seconds away from financial disaster. I think he's now aware that he must be much more involved in the day-to-day workings of our money. The way it is now isn't working. I always have to be the bad guy, and say no to things that I want as much as he does. (And Lord knows I have trouble saying no to spending money!)

We are still very much a work in progress. We have paid off huge amounts of debt in the last three years, and there is more waiting to get paid off. It's just different kinds of debt now. We're still living above our means, and that is something we need to work hard at changing. Together, we can do this.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Owing the Taxman

In the end of May monthly report, the amount of tax owing was $4432.11.

When I filed my taxes, I had that balance down to $2,829.52. 
I had paid down $1602.59 of it. I also finally filed my 2010 taxes the same month.
I knew there was more to pay the tax man when I filed, but now I have my Notice of Assesment in my hot little hands.

It ain't pretty.

For the record, I am paying on taxes owing for 2009, to which they've added taxes owing for 2010, and a notice that I may have to start making installer payments for the tax year of 2011. This budget monster just keeps getting bigger and bigger. :(

I remember watching Gail on an episode of Til Debt do Us Part, where someone who hadn't filed their taxes on time (or at all) and owed Revenue Canada a considerable amount of money. She explained that not only does RC charge interest on balances owing, but they will also charge late filing fees and interest will be charged on that as well. Adding that every year you are behind in filing, the interest rate and fees on balances owing will climb, from something reasonable like 2% to extrodinary like 10% or even 50%. I remember thinking, "What a dumbass!"

Now who's the dumb bunny?

$2829.52  amount left owing from 2009 Tax year
$6250.29  amount owing for 2010 Tax year
$ 500.02  late filing penalties
$ 150.15  arrears interest
$9729.98  Total Amount now owing to Revenue Canada

Now to figure out how to pay this monster off.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Dreamt

This morning, for the first time in what seems like forever, I dreamt, and somewhat remembered what I dreamed.

Mostly it was having this intense hunger, and having food in front of me, and the something happened which made me not be able to eat. I dreamed of turkey dinner, with all the fixings. More specifically of dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Then it was chili dogs. I wanted cheerios when I woke up. :)

The dreams were also violent, and seemingly very real. Car accidents, fistfights, and stabbings.

But I'm glad they are over.

I wanted to go to Timmie's this morning for a coffee and muffin, but decided instead to come home and just make my own. Less spending equals happier budget. And we are on a tight one this month. Bills are piling up, and nothing coming in as of yet. Stress be my name.

Worry over tomorrow's dental appointment has me jumpy. I do not deal well with pain of any sort. I feel like a little kid, frightened of the dentist, even though he's a really nice man who has promised me lots of freezing for the procedure. I'm still scared though.

I keep reminding myself to breathe deep, and remember that this too shall pass.