Monday, January 31, 2011

Month End Report, January 2011

I want to start out by saying that I finally went and opened a Mutual Fund account for my RRSP savings with CIBC. I was going to do it with PC Financial, but since PC is owned by CIBC, they only hold CIBC's Mutual Fund products. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I started out with a monthly contribution of only $25 per month, until I get a better handle on the budget. I am, however, planning on transferring all the funds held in the PC Financial savings account to the mutual fund. Then the savings account will be used to 'hold' additional monies saved for the RRSP, and transferred over once a certain amount is reached, or at a particular time (like when net asset value per share is down).

Kudos to me for not applying for a Visa while in the bank, although they did ask. I explained that I wanted to have about six more months of 'better credit payments' to my credit report BEFORE I go about applying for any more credit. Although I don't want another credit card at all, I would like to have one that will be used only for business expenses, making tracking easier. If I were to get it, it would only be used if I could pay the balance immediately, so that I am not incurring any interest charges.

Planned spending - renamed and switched account
Xmas Fund - $48.68 (up $30)

Emergency fund - renamed to EEE Account $65.37
RRSP - $1178.41 (up $125)
General Savings - $47.41
Can. Saving Bond - $455.00 (down $1260)

$100 paid to Personal Loan

$180.00 paid to CC with 28% int. rate

$150 paid to CC with 0% int. rate

$204.04 paid to Auto Loan

HBC card - $447.93

We paid a total of $2146.32 toward our debt this month.

Our current total Debt owing: $21,299.23.
Total Debt owed on January 1, 2010: $23,861.01

Obviously I'm not including all of our debts on these recaps, but suffice it to say, we are making some headway! (That's why the numbers don't add up.)

Overall, it was a good month, but I would have liked to manage things without using savings. I guess that's what it's there for, but I still don't have to like it.

How was your first month of the New Year overall?

Weekly Spending Recap, Jan. 22- 28th, 2011

Sat. Jan. 22: $8.20-coffee & breakfast

Sun. Jan. 23: $11.00 - DD2 allowance; $3.63 - coffees

Mon. Jan. 24: $3.99 - margarine

Tues. Jan. 25: $25 - gas; $1.73 - coffee

Wed. Jan. 26:  $26.21 - pizza

Thurs. Jan. 27:  $1.73 - coffee; $35 - gas; $30 - tobacco

Fri. Jan. 28:  $15.69 - snacks; $5.95 - coffees; $200 - savings; $40.26 - groceries; $354.21 - bills


Tracking spending this week was difficult because I've been ill. What started out as some type of tummy virus has become a full on head & chest cold. The medication I've been taking has been making me feel a little scatter-brained, so I didn't write everything down right away. I did keep receipts and used my debit card so I could track when I was feeling better.
Tonight is our Gail meeting (the last one this month was postponed due to scheduling issues) and I am looking forward to sharing and hearing from the rest of the group what they hope to achieve for the year.

On Saturday, I bought Gail Vaz-Oxlade's newest book, "Never Too Late".
I spent a glorious day yesterday staying off the computer, and just spending my time reading, doing housework, and knitting. DH and I watched 2 movies last night as well. Today I'll be working on our month end financial report, so we get a better picture of where we are, and where we're headed. As soon as I can get off this computer, I'm going to go finish Gail's book!

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011


I went to my business post office box yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see not one, not two, but three cheques inside. I smiled and thought, Yay!
Then reality set in. There is so much to do with this money, and I couldn't possibly accomplish it all with only this amount. I grab my pen and paper, and get down to brass tacks with budgeting for this money.

What I'd like to do with this money:
  • buy new tires for the van and get an oil change
  • stock up on some household items that are on sale this week
  • take hubby out for sushi dinner
  • put some into my RRSP and Emergency fund
  • set some aside for an upcoming cc payment
What I have to pay with this money:
  • Rogers all-in-one bill
  • Business Cellphone bill

The amount of the cheques isn't enough to cover everything if I take 20% off the top for savings. The savings is non-negotiable.
Looks like sushi is out, as is putting some aside for the cc payment. The oil change will have to wait as well.
I'll pay Rogers and the Cellphone, buy new tires, divide savings into 4 different categories/accounts, and if there is any left over, I'll stock up on the great deal that No Frills has on t.p. this week.

Looking it over as if it were someone else's decision, here's what I see.
Savings is priority number one.
Keeping current with monthly bills is the next priority.
What about the tires? Is that a need or a want? (The tires have been put off long enough. It's becoming an issue of safety now.)
What categories are the savings going into? ($100 - RRSP, $30 - EEE Account, $40 - RESP, $30 - Xmas fund)

If my calculations are correct on the cost of tires, after I've set aside various savings, and paid the bills I mentioned, I'll have about $23.00 left to buy t.p. and veggies. Ha, ha, ha!
I would like to see a debt payment in there as well, but I would have to get behind in the bills or compromise my savings. Hmm.

What do you think? What does this way of dividing my pay tell you about my priorities?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yesterday, my little boy, who will be 3 in March, came running out of his room announcing, "broken cracks". This means his beloved wooden train track table, which he got for Christmas had pieces that came apart.
He came to me, and grabbed my hand, as he always does, and said, "Fix, Fwease, Mommy".
We walked down the hallway together, with his little hand in mine. It was warm and soft.

I wanted to find a pause button, just so I could stand there and hold his hand for awhile. I wanted to revel in the wonderful little person that he is becoming. I wanted to ruffle his beautiful blond hair, and admire how perfect he is, for just a moment.

He pulled me into the bedroom repeating, broken cracks, broken cracks.

It took me all of 2.4 seconds to fix the problem. He turned to me, and gave me one of those beautiful smiles. You know the ones, the kind that melt your heart. "Kankoo Mommy", he said.

No, I thought. Kankoo, Bug-less, for letting me be your Mommy. For giving me a reason to smile each and every day. For being you.

His medical condition is one that is life threatening. But as he gets older, the risks associated with it begin to slowly decline. I couldn't imagine him not in my life. His MCAD could take him away from us, but not without a fight.

Our daily fight to keep him means him never going more than 3 hours without food to sustain him. It means never letting him go more than 10 hours overnight without food. It means watching for the signs of illness and lowered blood sugar constantly. He has an intolerance for the heat and humidity of summer in the region in which we live. We try to limit his exposure to illness and germs, while letting him just be a kid. We give him medication three times a day. We are vigilant when he isn't feeling well. We go to Emerg with him, if he has diarrhea and vomiting. We fight with medical staff to get him what he needs when he needs to be in hospital.

And now we have to fight again. With his specialist.

They say they are still learning about his condition, and all that it entails.

We say we won't let our son be the guinea pig. I don't accept what they are saying. And I will fight it.

I wish that he was never born with this condition. I wish he was just a normal kid. But one found mutated gene tells us differently. But just because they can't find the second one, doesn't mean it isn't there.

Will everything in this child's life be a fight for us?
I hope not, because I only have so much fight in me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Money Hacks

Some people like to use tips or money hacks to trick themselves into 'saving' for their Emergency fund, RRSPs, or planned spending accounts.

Here are some various tips or hacks that could help jump start your savings for 2011:

  1. Empty all your coins from your wallet or purse at the end of a day into a change jar. At the end of the month, sort and roll coins to deposit to your savings account. Those loonies and twoonies can really add up.
  2. When shopping, identify a purchase as a need or want. If you decide to purchase a want item, transfer an identical amount of money into your savings account on the same day. Online and telephone banking make this very easy to do.
  3. If you do not already have an automatic transfer monthly from your chequing to savings account, start one. Even if it only amounts to $1 per day, those savings will really add up.
  4. If your bank has a 'Super Saver' program, like TD Canada Trust, take advantage of it. With this program, every time you use your debit card, the bank will automatically transfer $0.50 - $5.00  to your savings account. You decide when you sign up for the program how much to transfer with each debit.
  5. When you save money on a purchase, actually put that money in savings. Bought a regular $20.00 priced item for $15.00? Transfer the $5.00 savings into your savings account.
  6. On a budget/spending plan, and have some money left over in your jar or envelope for the week? Put it into your savings account.
  7. Sell some stuff on Kijijii or Ebay. Put the proceeds into savings.
  8. Cut back on ONE item in your Spending plan for the month. Challenge yourself to reduce your grocery bill or dining out category by half. Put half the value into your savings BEFORE you start your monthly spending, reducing your risk to go over your allotted amount.
  9. Collect your $5 bills. Keep them somewhere safely in your home. When you have a certain amount, say $100, take them to deposit into the bank.
This is not an exhaustive list, but just some ideas on ways to actually save your money, as opposed to spending less.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekly Spending Recap Jan. 15 - 21, 2011

Here's our spending recap for the week:

Sat. 15th:   $11.48 coffees & breakfast (work); $17.01 tobacco; $14 - phone & clearance priced cookies for DD1; $2 - juice; $51.00 pizza for 5 adults; $30 - gas

Sun. 16th:  $17.01 tobacco; $21.91- small grocery shop

Mon. 17th:  $195.00 - groceries for 2 weeks; $2.15- mitts and notebooks for DS

Tues. 18th: $40 - cost to file defense for small claims court; $41.44 - XL black ink cartridge (business expense); $14.81 - fish& chips dinner for 2

Wed. 19th: $XXX - remainder of rent owing; $34.02 tobacco; $5.25 - hospital parking;

Thurs. 20th:  $30 - gas; $70 - bills; $25- debt; $10- RSP; $3.36 - coffee;

Fri. 21st: $40 - gas; $17.01 - tobacco

Added up, there was $165.76 of costs that didn't need to be there. We are working toward making this number smaller. It's likely that the cost of tobacco will  never completely be out of the budget. I know we shouldn't smoke, but we do. The cost of filing a defense in Small Claims court is something I never could have predicted as it was completely out of my control. I know the outcome will cost me money in the future, sometime in May or June, but it is unknown what that will be. At the most, I figure it will be around $2000. But that's why I filed a defense, because I think that the amount that I am being taken to court for is completely outrageous. I won't say what the circumstances are for this court proceeding, but I will let you know the outcome when it is all over.
This week, I give myself a 'B' for tracking our spending. I didn't write things down right away, but I at least had the presence of mind to get receipts for everything, or use a debit card so I could write it down later.
This is the third week of tracking, and still going strong!

I'm hoping to get 3 No Spend days next week. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend of the Full Moon

Knowing that I was on call this weekend for my business, I cleared as much from my work pile as possible on Friday. Or I should say, I tried to. Shortly after noon, the phone rang. I was needed. Fifteen minutes later, it rang again. I was needed somewhere else. I spent the next half hour getting a sitter, someone to assist me with calls, and driving as fast as possible without getting pulled over. It's our week with DD2, so I had to arrange to have someone pick her up after school and keep her until I could get there. I went to DH's work, to trade off vehicles and off I went to work.

I made it to pick up DS from the sitter around 6:30 pm. Fortunately, DD2 and DH were with me already. As we got out of the car, DD2 looked up and said something like,"Isn't the full moon beautiful"? I chuckled nervously. "It's not a full moon tonight, but maybe tomorrow."

If you know anyone who works in a hospital, in emergency services of any kind, a mental health facility, or services for the homeless, you may have already hear a story or two about what happens during a full moon. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll try to explain. During the time of a full moon, emergency rooms get busier, there are an increase in calls to emergency services. Mental health facilities see changes in their patients behaviour, and there seems to be an increase in accidents, overdoses, incidents of over drinking, and much more.

Even if you do not believe in the Full Moon Effect, there are thousands who do. The origin of the word 'lunatic' is derived from 'luna', meaning moon. If you search effects of the full moon on the Internet, you will get a lot of pages dedicated to it. Will the studies that have been done be in favour one way or the other? Depends on how many you read, I suppose. Some studies say they can prove the effect, others say their study proves quite the opposite.

In my own personal experience, I have found that my business gets busier during a full moon only about 25% of the time. An increase in business calls has more to do with the weather than it does with moon cycles. However, I do believe that if we work during a 'full moon', we tend to be busier than usual.

This weekend has been one of those weekends. I have been busier than usual with calls. The modes of death I have seen this weekend have been tragic, but truthfully, most death is tragic, either for the deceased or the family.

I did manage to read a book this weekend. "Here's the Deal : Don't Touch Me" by Howie Mandel is a biography of the comedian's life, including his private and personal battles with adult ADHD and OCD, as well as developing some issues with his heart. Parts of the book are quite funny, while others are quite serious. I applaud him for using a public forum to talk about his mental health issues. He is an extraordinary Canadian, comedian, actor, husband and father. I really enjoyed the book.

I did less knitting than I would have liked this weekend, but my hands keep swelling up, making it difficult to do much more than hold a book. Perhaps I will get some time later today, after I've cleared some more work from the pile that is still growing.

I'll be back tomorrow with a review of spending for the past week.

Have a great Sunday!

Friday, January 21, 2011

This week has been a bit crazy. I spent the majority of the day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday working doing some tradework. Yay for bringing in some more money!

Wednesday, we met with our son's metabolic specialist for his MCAD, and it was a meeting where we left not very happy. I don't want to go into details at this time, but let's just say that there is another very long, difficult journey ahead of us.

During this week I had questions from a friend who attended a funeral where things were done a little differently. Apparently, she had been to a combination visitation and service, where the deceased was present, in a casket, yet was not embalmed. She asked me why a funeral home would have an open casket service/visitation with an unembalmed body. I have several answers, mostly to do with what the family requested. If it had to do with the inability to pay, I feel that an alternative arrangement could have been made. But I don't know all the circumstances, so I don't want to judge the funeral establishment without that knowledge. I feel that an unembalmed body should not be present during a visitation unless a family feels very strongly against embalming, and specifically requests this.

We've been fairly good about tracking money this week, with the exception of hubby's allowance. I don't bother to track what he spends it on because it is usually spent on tobacco, coffees at Tim Horton's and gas. If he remembers to get receipts, he just hands me a wad of them to sort out.

I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend at home, doing some reading and knitting. I have about 10 books from the library to work through, and 12 of my own personal finance books to read. I would like to do a book review for each of them, but I'm not really having any success with writing them. Knitting relaxes me, and I love to just sit and knit while the kids are playing or watching t.v.

I keep pouring over our financial goals and budget, trying to formulate a plan for meeting our goals of debt repayment and savings this year. It isn't going to be easy. It will be really tough, but we are up for the challenge. Our budget and income fluctuate wildly due to the self-employment income I bring in which varies form month to month. It also hasn't helped that for about 4 months, I didn't bring in any money. It hit our savings hard. But at least we had some this time. :)

I hope you had a good week. I think I'm going to go read for awhile. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesdays are now designated my workdays. I have some leftover things that need to be accomplished today, and then we have an appointment with my son's Metabolic Specialist today.

I hope to post later today about what's been going on with us.

I wish you all a fantastic day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

RRSP Vs. TFSA, 2011 Edition

Most of you reading this should know the differences between RRSPs and TFSAs. For this post, I'm going to presume you do. I'm taking a hard look at my 2011 Financial Goals, and what would be the best way to achieve them.

Current savings in RRSP: $1052.06
Current savings in TFSA: $ 31.78

2011 RRSP Goal: $3600 deposited
2011 TFSA Goal: $1200 deposited

I hope to increase my RRSP contributions this year, and every year after, seeing as I have no other 'pension' to speak of. I do contribute to CPP, but the amount is so minimal, I don't count whatever amount I may get from that fund at retirement time.

I've switched the TFSA account from being used as our Emergency Essential Expenses Account (and different from our Emergency Fund) to being the holding place for our children's education funds until such time as I manage to open RESPs.

As we work diligently this year to pay down some $25,000 worth of debt, additionally saving $4800 for these two goals alone will take some determination. Between hubby and I, we have approximately  $80,000 worth of unused RRSP contribution room. I am trying to set us up for 2012 as the year we 'catch up' as much as possible in RRSP contributions, without loans.

Other considerations: 2010 income was likely the same, or slightly less than 2009, meaning another tax bill for me in the $5000 range come spring. However, we're expecting 2011 Total income to be much less than previous years, and for it to take a jump again in 2012. I would like to offset Tax obligations as much as possible without borrowing money. We could manage a small RRSP loan of about $5000, but I'm also committed to reducing our total debt load, not adding to it.

We have no money set aside for the kids post-secondary educations. It is presumed that both of our younger kids will go to college or university. DD2 will be ready for this in about 5 years, and DS will be ready in about 15 years. If our children do not attend post-secondary school, they will not be getting this money. We will keep it for ourselves and contribute it to our RRSPs.

So the question is this: Do I contribute more than $3600 to my RRSP this year, to try to offset some of the tax burden that I am expecting? Do I consider a small RRSP loan that would be repaid within 12 months? Should I keep the RESP money in the TFSA, or just open up an RESP Account at the bank, so I can get the Canada Learning Bond? I don't think we can manage all 3 this year, even though ideally there should be 3 separate accounts.

Please give me your thoughts. I need some guidance on this issue. Comments graciously accepted today.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekly Spending Recap

Here's how we did since the last recap:

Sat. Jan 8th: Dinner out with friends from out of town $80.00 w/tip; movie at the theatre w/popcorn and drinks $39.00; drinks at bar after movies $18.00

Sun. Jan. 9th:  No Spend Day!

Mon. Jan. 10th: $40 gas

Tues. Jan. 11th: $20 gas

Wed. Jan. 12th: $4.09 milk

Thurs. Jan. 13th: $46.24 take out sushi dinner for date night-in

Fri. Jan. 14th: $3.05 coffee; $30.25 work night fast food dinner; $25.00 gas (paid with gift card)

As I look over the amounts we've spent, I cringe when I add the amounts together. If had not spent any of the money on going out with friends, or so much on take out, we could have put another $213.49 toward our debt (not counting the gas, milk, and coffee amounts). I'm not going to justify all of our spending, however I do know how much we have already cut back on our spending.
When we have work for my business, sometimes there are no real frugal alternatives for meals, so I'm not really going to beat myself up over that one.
The take out sushi for date night in was good, but not really worth $46 if you ask me. We enjoy sushi and are learning to make it at home as our frugal alternative. We just  need to find out where to buy the small cuts of sushi-grade fish that hubby likes. I prefer the shrimp and vegetarian ones.
We haven't seen our best friends since November, so having a night out with them was good for our sanity (and theirs).  I feel no guilt on spending the money to go out with them, having a good time all around, except that the movie was kind of lame.
Gas spent for the week was $5.00 over our allotted amount, but with the nature of my work, it's not an expense that I can control that much. I try to balance it out by driving less when I'm not working.

So that was the week. I don't even know how to grade ourselves on it, except to say I give myself an 'A' for actually tracking nearly every dollar spent for the week. I haven't tracked our spending daily before without giving up mid-week. It's been two weeks, and I'm still tracking!

My hope is to try to get in at least 1 or 2 No Spend Days per week.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The little guy and I are off to playgroup this morning. I know there's a Timmie's in my very near future. I worked late last night and didn't get home until after 3 am. For that, I am treating myself to a coffee today from a gift card received at Christmas so I still won't be spending money.

Our daughter and grandson came and spent a night with us this week. I'm definitely not used to being woken up a few times in the night anymore. His little mewling cries are still adorable though. It's great being a grandma.

I haven't spent enough time reading this week, or knitting, so I'm hoping for a quiet weekend doing some of both. DD1 lent us a movie to watch, which both hubby and I would like to see.

On a really good note, we've managed to get one of the items on our Financial Goals Page accomplished. At the time I added the page, I wasn't sure how much money was left owing on this account. It was a long time paying it off, at 20% of DH's weekly paycheque. In approximately 14 months, we paid off over $8000 of debt in this manner. That's one more debt completely wiped out!

*happy dances around livingroom*

Hope you all have a great and spend-free weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Avoid Holiday Debt

Why would any blogger post an article about holiday debt and spending in January instead of just before the holidays? I happen to think that January is the right time to start thinking about it. Make a game plan, and implement it throughout the year. That's what we did last year, and it helped us immensely.

  1. Know what you're willing to spend overall. Having a budget will help fight the temptation to overspend. Write down a dollar amount that you are willing to spend at most for each person.
  2. Save for your holiday spending throughout the year, starting in January. You already have a rough idea of how much the holidays cost you (it was only last month). If you plan on spending a total amount of $1200 including gifts, cards, wrapping, holidays meals, alcohol and the like, divide that number by 12 to give you a monthly amount that you have to set aside. Making it an auto-deduction from your chequing to a specified savings account is a super easy way to save.
  3.  Make a list of who you must buy for. Have another list of who you may need to buy for. If you have an idea of a possible gift. write the item down beside that person's name, along with the approximate dollar amount for that gift. Make sure that it is within the dollar limit you have set in #1.
  4. Don't go shopping without a plan. Know what stores you'll be going to, and for what items. Have a list of alternative gift ideas should the item you would like to purchase is unavailable.
  5. Set specific dollar amount limits for each area of holiday spending: gifts, meals, baking supplies, alcohol, gift wrapping & cards, travel, etc. Then make sure you stick to those budget amounts!
  6. Use cash only! If you have saved up loyalty reward points toward free groceries, at the drugstore, or other programs, now is a good time to use them. Do NOT put anything on credit if you cannot pay the balance in full right away.
  7. Think frugal. Can you make something that the recipient would like? Maybe you could make cards, recycle last year's cards into gift tags for this years. Maybe you could give a gift certificate for child-minding, or something else you could do for them. Gifts in a jar, handmade soaps and other consumable items are immensely popular.
  8. Pick up things throughout the year when attending yard sales, or if you find something unusual at the dollar store, or a retail store sale. Put them in a specified bin or on a closet shelf. You'll be ahead of the game, and maybe finish your holiday shopping early.

  9. Talk to people ahead of time about the holiday. Let them know you are wanting to do something different this year. Try to agree on a secret Santa exchange, or to just not buying gifts for adults. Opening the lines of communication early will be beneficial to giving all involved enough time to find an alternative solution to over-consumerism of the holidays.

Cut back. Pare down. Try something new, instead of just buying stuff. Make this the year you only buy Canadian made products, or the year you vow to only give handcrafted items that are useful. Make memories instead of just giving stuff. Open your mind to the possibilities. Search the Internet.There are literally thousands of great ideas on the web about reducing consumerism over the holidays.

Leave me your thoughts on how to make the holidays in 2011 different than you've ever had before.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Avoid the Time Suck

By nature, I am a procrastinator. I will leave things undone until the last possible minute. It's just the way I am. I accept that. I still need to get things done.

A time suck is phrase often used in the blogosphere which refers to activities that take a lot of your time, producing very little or no results. They don't help you get your chores done, or reach your goals. they just suck your time away.

I often spend entire days at my computer. I have three or four windows open at the same time. But most of it is non-productive in my life or my work. I may answer the occasional email that is work related, but it's usually just junk. I play a free online game that I have played for the past eight years. I log in to my Facebook account, just to read funny statuses, play more free games, and see what's going on in the lives of people I know. I read multiple blogs daily, most of which are personal finance. That is probably the most productive activity I do daily, as they help to keep me focused financially.

On my computer desk, I keep a paper and pen list of activities that I need/want to accomplish during the week. Some weeks, the list is very long. Sometimes, it is short. Usually there are a few items on the list that are quite time intensive activities. It's those items on the list that cause me to procrastinate. I despise doing anything that causes me to devote large blocks of time to complete. I spent some time thinking about why that bothers me so. I think it may be because I don't like getting interrupted before I finish one of the bigger tasks. Once I start, I want to be able to get it done, and not have to set it aside to complete at a later time. With how my life is, for a multitude of reasons, it is very likely I will have to stop somewhere in the process, only to restart later.

I know that time suck is a problem in my life. But the question is, what am I going to do about it?

Here's how I am trying to deal with time suck and my procrastination:

  • Keeping a running list of things I need to do; chores, phone calls, letters, emails, etc. When I cross one item off the list, I allow myself a small amount of time on one of my other activities once I've accomplished something.
  • I 'trick' myself by saying that I'll only spend 5 minutes doing a chore, or some other task. I know it will often take more than 5 minutes, but just by telling myself that, I can stop the time suck activity, and do something more productive.
  • Getting ahead of the game: If I can have files and various paperwork for an activity ready before I start it, it cuts down the overall block of time. Also, I will try to have my reports filed ahead of their deadline.
  • Move the computer chair: I'm less likely to stay at the computer for very long if I can't sit. If I move the chair to another area of the house just for one day, I hope to get more done.
Anyone who has spent any time on Facebook, online games, video games and other distractions know what Time Suck can do. How do you deal with it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top Tips for Spending Less

When you have a budget or spending plan that doesn't balance, there are only two things you can do about it. You can earn more money, or you can spend less. Ok, there are three things you can do. The third being make more money AND spend less. Today I'm going to give you some ideas on spending less that have worked for our family. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some ideas to get your creative juices flowing to help you come up with things more specific to you and your family.

  •  Plan your meals ahead for the week. This will reduce the amount of money you spend on convenience foods, take out and dining out.
  • Prepare a shopping list and stick to it! Doing so will help you to resist the temptation of buying impulsively.
  • Brew your own coffee at home instead of going to the coffee shop several times per day.
  • Pack a lunch. Even better, take leftovers for your lunch instead of buying over-packaged lunch meat.
  • When dining out, forgo the alcohol. A glass of wine or two will add $10 or more to your bill. Drink water instead. It's free, and something your body needs anyway.
  • Have one meatless supper per week. Substitute with another high protein food like beans or legumes.
  • At the grocery store, check the reduced produce cart. There may be some fruits or vegetables that you can use that day for your meal. Some reduced items are excellent for adding to your freezer stockpile, to be added to recipes at a future date.
  • Stock up on non-perishable items when they are on sale. I typically have a 3 month stock of toilet paper, sugar, coffee, laundry soap, toothpaste, etc. It is usually enough to last us until the next great sale on a particular item.
  • Buy used whenever possible. We can get clothes at the thrift store, often with the original tags still on them, for a greatly reduced cost. This is also a frugal way to stock your kitchen cupboards, or purchase craft items that you want to try before you sink too much money into it.
  • Leave the car at home, and walk or take public transit. If you are not going very far, you will reduce your transportation budget, and perhaps get some needed exercise.
  • Use a clothesline. In nicer weather, we hang our towels, comforters, and jeans to dry outside, instead of spending money on loads that usually gobble up twice the amount in the dryer.
  • Keep a notebook in your purse or pocket, and write down every penny you spend, and what you bought. You'll be amazed at what you actually buy, and how much you are spending needlessly.
  • Take advantage of free entertainment in your community. Libraries are fantastic resources of information of free or inexpensive things to do with your family.
January is the time for adopting new habits that will better your life. Try one thing you haven't done before to reduce spending. Take some time to think about all the things you could be doing. Make a list of spending reduction strategies you'd like to implement. Pick one that seems relatively easy, and do it for a week or two. Your budget will thank you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm excited to get together tonight with our London Gail Club. We are doing a bit of a Christmas/Holiday recap, talking about what went well with our budgets, er, spending plans, and what needs improvement. We'll also be discussing our 2011 Goals. See ours here: .

I picked up a number of books from the library that I want to read this month, as well as a few of my own. some of them are more inspirational, and others are personal finance books, to get me in the groove again with our money.

Today feels like its the first day after the 'holidays' for me as we have DD2 here this week and last week went crazy with my grandson being born and all that.

I was hoping for a no spend day today, but that's likely not going to happen. The car needs to be filled with gas, so that Hubby can drive to Niagara Falls to pick up our grandson's other grandmother and bring her to London so she can meet the little guy.

I'm hoping that some of our outstanding invoices from the business will be paid sooner rather than later, so I can actually put some money in some of our savings accounts this month, instead of just paying off bills. I know there will be no way I can put $300 into the RRSP account this month, but I'd like to make a deposit of $100 at the very least.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Leaving the hospital yesterday, the craziest thing happened.

There is an area near the main doors where you can park for a maximum of 10 minutes during patient pick-up or drop-off. Parked in this area, I had DS strapped into his car seat, and was assisting DD1 with buckling the baby into the back seat when the car unexpectedly lurched backward.

DD1 says, "Oh my God Mom, that lady just hit our car."

I finish strapping the baby car seat in, and think that the lady will approach me in a second or two.

She never did.

After a minute or so of checking out the front bumper, I approach the lady's window. She rolls it down.

Me: Do you realize you just hit my car?
Her: Well, I just bumped it, so I figure there's no damage. It's no big deal.

I walk back to the back of her vehicle & front of my vehicle. I look again. She finally gets out of her car.

Me: Even if there is no damage, don't you think it would be appropriate to offer an apology?
Her: (very sarcastic) Well, I apologise, but I barely touched your car.

Several minutes go by. I'm getting angrier by the second.

Me: How would you know from your rear-view mirror that there's no damage? I have a 2 year old and a newborn in this car, and you don't even have the decency to ask if everyone is OK? You just presume there's no damage to the car, and that's it? No concern at all? As a driver, don't you have a personal responsibility to check and make sure that every one's OK, and to look for damage?

Her: Well, if I had actually done anything to cause damage I would. I said I was sorry.

I think, no, you didn't. You said I apologise. Not the same thing in my book. And she still hasn't asked if the kids are OK.

She decides to try talking to me while I am taking a picture of her license plate with my phone. I tell her not to bother. I'm so angry I'm starting to shut down.

After a few more seconds:

Me: Where is your personal responsibility as a driver? You can't just go around playing 'bumper-cars' and as long as you *think* no damage has been done. But I'll tell you what I am going to do. I have your license plate number, and I will be going to the Police Reporting Centre. If I have anything to do with it, I will make sure that you get charged with careless driving, and I am going to make it my mission to make sure your insurance rates go up.
Her: (as she's walking back to her car) Well, I did say I was sorry.
Me: I can't believe you weren't even going to get out of your car. You weren't even going to acknowledge that you hit my car. You stupid ******. ( I won't repeat what else I said. It was rude, vulgar, and inappropriate for this blog.)

Then she gets in her car and drives away! No offer of any personal information, or insurance company information. Still hasn't asked if the kids are OK. I'm fricking furious!

I'm pretty sure I made her feel really bad. I'm pretty sure I made her cry. But her unwillingness to even acknowledge she had done anything really ticked me off.

Later, relating the story to hubby, he says, "Well honey we have to report it. Even if there is no damage to the car, both car seats need to be replaced. They have now technically been in a collision, which voids the warranty on them. She needs to pay for them both to be replaced. She may be charged with careless driving, but because she left without offering to share any information, she likely will be charged with leaving the scene of an accident as well. That ought to put her insurance rates through the roof."

So after he gets home from work, we're off to the reporting centre. Maybe nothing will come of it, but I'm surely ticked off enough to try to recoup at least the money for new car seats.

My daughter has something really interesting to put in my grandson's baby book. How many kids can say they were in an automobile collision before they were 48 hours old?

My Spending this week

I totally failed at tracking my spending this week. I can think of a few things that I spent money on (and likely shouldn't have).

Parking ~ over $27.00; unavoidable, must pay for parking at the hospital
Gifts ~ about $50; bought little things for the new baby and a new pair of slippers for the new mommy
Takeout ~ $100.00; buying coffee and sandwiches at hospital, and one expensive meal for 4 adults at Wendy's
Cellphone ~ $90; made an extra payment because apparently I'm somehow behind

That's all I can think of for now, but I'll likely revise it as I think of more things.

Went to hospital yesterday (for the last time, thankfully) and found free parking! Well, almost free. The metered parking on the side street had a few open spots, and the one I picked happened to still have time on the meter. I plopped in an additional 50 cents to bump the time up to 2 hours.

I spent about $9.00 on a sandwich and a half litre of strawberry milk for my son & I to share at lunchtime while we waited for DD1 and GS to be ready to leave.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What you Need to Know About...My Work

Ok, if you have a weak stomach, or are the type that talking about unpleasant things really bothers you, you may not want to read today's post. If you are emtionally sensitive, and are prone to let having unpleasant things upset you or generally make you sad, then don't bother reading today's post. Seriously.

Perhaps I've never mentioned it before, but I am a Funeral Director by profession. That fact may make you want to turn away, possibly never reading my blog again. That's ok, if that is how you feel. I understand.
But I am not only a Funeral Director.

I am also a wife, mother, sister, aunt, best friend, cousin and generally an all around nice person. At least I hope that's what people think of me. And I deal with death. Almost daily. I like to think of it as a calling. It is definately an important part of my journey through this life.

Death is something that everyone must deal with in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way for a person to commemorate the life of a deceased loved one. The elements of a funeral service should be a harmony of the wishes of the deceased and some sort of ceremonial-type closure for the bereaved.

I have helped many families through a difficult time after a loss of a loved one. I have attended or directed many types of funerals. What I do know with any amount of certainty is that each one is, and should be, unique, much like the individual who is being honored.

As a funeral director, there aren't many requests from families that I wouldn't honor. I have dressed a person in their pajamas before putting them in their casket. I have put trinkets, letters, bottles of beer, money and innumerous other objects in a casket to accompany a decedent. I have allowed a grieving grandparent the opportunity to hold an infant that they otherwise never would have cradled. I have taken clipping of hair from a child for their parents to include in a baby book that will ultimately be unfinished. I have taken pictures of people in their caskets, so that family members in other countries can see, via the internet, how peaceful their loved one looks. All of these things may be sad to you. They are sad to me too.

I am not devoid of emotion. As a matter of fact, I have cried for the loved ones I have seen who are in an emotional turmoil. I have cared for people who have died alone and may have not had a caring hand touch them in years. I have been touched by the sincerity of a long awaited reunion between family members during a funeral service. I have laughed at anectodes told during a eulogy. I have felt anger toward people who have caused further hurt toward others in their own family, or caused arguments over money issues. I feel very strongly for the families I serve. But I usually keep it to myself.

Part of my business is to transport people from their place of death to hospital facilities for post-mortem examination. I have seen people die in many different places. Some die at home, in bed. Some die in the bathroom. Some deaths are accidental, others intentional-either by their own hand, or someone else's. There are terrible tragedies like automobile collisions, farming accidents, drownings, shootings, overdoses, and fatal illnesses. Seeing the reality of death for someone, in it's stark ugliness, is something that I have to deal with all the time. I try never to think of that deceased as 'the body' as others in my profession might do, but to remember that this is a person, who loved and was loved by others. A person who no longer has the ability to speak for themselves, or to maintain any measure of dignity. That responsibility now lies with me.

The line between my work life and the rest of my life sometimes blurs where emotions are concerned. I sometimes have trouble expressing my emotions to those around me. When I'm at home, sometimes the sadness, anger, and pain I feel for client families overwhelms me, and I have to cry to release it. Of course, this always happens at the most inopportune moments, leaving my family bewildered as to why I am acting the way I am. I am getting better at explaining to them how I am feeling, and letting them know it is just some built up work stress, without revealing any of the secrets or private information that I am privy to.

Please do not misunderstand me. I truly enjoy my work. Most women have a 'nurturer' trait in them, which steers them in the direction of wanting to do work that allows them to help others. It's just that in my work, I can help in a totally different way. I have tried to console people when they are not as strong as they would like to  be with a hug, a smile, a comforting word, or just by being there. I have listened to the bereaved talk about their loss. Not only the loss of the loved one from their life, but the loss that is associated with a death. The loss of potential. The loss of things that could be. The loss of their presence.  I have encouraged  loved ones to remember the special memories that they alone hold. (You may share an experience with someome else, but no one experiences anything in exactly the same way as you do.)

I have worked with some wonderful people both within the funeral industry, and with the families we serve.
I feel that it is my life's work, and hope to continue for a long time.

I know you likely have questions. You can leave them in the comments section, or e-mail me if you prefer. I will try to answer them the best that I can.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Absolutely nothing that I have planned to do in the past couple of days has happened, at least not the way I planned it.

Yesterday, I woke up to my daughter texting me saying that she was having contractions since 4 am. After a brief conversation, I decided I needed to see her so I could get a better gauge of her labour. I went to her apartment, and waited awhile with her. The contractions never stopped. We decided to go to the hospital.

11:30 check ~ 1cm dilated, she was told to wait (trouble with the monitor that measures contractions)
12:30 check ~ 2 cm dilated, she was told to walk
2:30 check ~ 3-4 cm dilated, was finally told she wouldn't be sent home
5:30 check ~ 5-6 cm dilated, taken to labour & delivery room; anesthesia called for epidural
7:00 check ~ 8 cm dilated, epidural is in, and she finally gets a small bit of rest
8:00 check ~ 10 cm dilated, time to start 'practice' pushing (told about 3 more hours of pushing before baby comes)
8:30 ~ only 3 'practice' pushes and baby is crowning; the delivery team is called in
9:02 pm ~ a healthy, beautiful baby boy is delivered

As far as labour goes for a first time mom, she went incredibly quick. Mom and baby are both doing fine. Dad went home for some much needed sleep. It was a long day for all of us.

Atreyu Cole Gray White was born at 9:02 pm, 6 pounds 9 ounces, 19 inches long.

The first child of Kashmere and Daniel. The first grandchild for April and Brian, John W., Brian S., and Keith M. Another grandchild for Linda. The first great-grandchild for Rickey. Another great-grandchild for Neil & Gloria. The first Great-great grandchild for Mary V. (also born on Mary's birthday).

I sang "Happy Birthday" to him, and held him close.
I love being a grandma already.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 3, 2011

We took our daughter to the hospital last night after she had been having semi-regular contractions for over 3 hours. The contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I dedcided it was best to take her in and get her assesed. Of course, as soon as we got there, she stopped having them. 25 minutes later, they sent her home. She's now 2 days overdue, and just wants to 'get it over with'. She has another appointment with the OB tomorrow, and then he will schedule her for induction. Sometime in the next few days, I'm going to be a Gramma!

It's Monday, and back to the normal routine for most people. I'd like to change my routine a bit this year, and include more for regular things that I normally put off doing until the last minute. Like doing business paperwork, and doing regular chores around the house. Seeing as I will be on call every Tuesday, this would be an ideal 'business day' for me. Starting tomorrow, I'll wake up a wee bit earlier, so I can post on my blog, read other blogs and be generally prepared for the day by 9 am. Getting into a routine is difficult for me, but I like having one. The difficulty lies in the fact that I usually have my routine interrupted with work, and things get left unfinished. And if I don't go back to the routine immediately, it may take days for me to get back on track. I'll have to see what I can do about this.

It seems that traffic to my little blog are on the increase, and I have you wonderful readers to thank for that. Most of you come regularly, daily even, and read my random ramblings about my life. I have some post ideas set out for the month (thanks to ) on a Blog Post Calendar. I'm hoping to have a new post every weekday of the month. some things I will likely post about in the future are some book reviews, some helpful tips, some tricks and/or money hacks, and of course our journey to Debt-Free Forever.

I'm wanting to go out today and try to find myself a copy of Gail Vaz-Oxlade's newest book, Never Too Late. The closer we get to Debt-Free, the more I will be focusing on my RRSP contributions. I plan on making next year the year of using up all of my available contribution room, without loans. How nice would that be?

Have a great Monday folks!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Potential Value of Coupons

I enjoy using a coupon on items that I typically buy in order to reduce my overall spending. That said, I rarely get coupons for things I typically buy in any given week, or month. Except maybe for diapers.

Hubby and I were watching television the other night and happened across a show call "Extreme Couponing" shown on TLC. Because we don't live in the United States of America, I'm prone to point out differences in what is possible with couponing there and here in Ontario, Canada where I live.

We watched as a couple organized a list, got multiple coupons, planned the route in store, gathered there purchases, and headed to the checkout. Before coupons, the total was over $1000. After coupons, in-store deals, double coupon usage and in-store points or something, the balance owing was something in the neighborhood of $60. I tell myself that it's not possible to do something like that here in Canada. I have never heard of a grocery store doubling a coupon. Most stores I know of don't allow using more than one coupon on any given product. But I like the theory behind the idea.

What else struck me as funny, is the stockpiles of goods that these folks have amassed. One fellow had enough deodorant in his garage to last him and his family for about 50 years. We watched him purchase 1000 boxes of cereal at 99 cents each, with $1.00 off coupon for each box.  He called the store and pre-ordered the boxes of cereal so they would have enough for his purchase and every one else who also wanted the deal on that brand of cereal that week.

Then I heard the most glorious thing. He said that they 1000 boxes of cereal he purchased (technically the store paid him 1 cent per box to take them) were being donated to his local food bank through his church group. What a fantastic moment. Out of all the folks featured on that show, that was the only time that I heard that any of the really inexpensive or free products were going to be given to others. All the other shoppers just had huge stockpiles of free or almost free stuff.

I know extreme couponing is somewhat of a fad for some folks in the U.S.A. If the folks who have the skills, abilities and time to get those kinds of deals, why wouldn't food banks and food sharing organizations ask for their assistance? It seems to me there is a lot of need in both of our countries to help others with food and basic necessities. The very products that these extreme couponers buy multitudes of. For pennies.

I'm going to challenge anyone who reads this. If you, or anyone you know can purchase with coupons or in-store deals, hundreds of a non-perishable food items, personal care items, or anything typically needed by your local food bank, please contact me. I would love to try to work out some sort of arrangement to supply a food bank with such things. On my dime.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

End of December Report

Here are our December numbers:

Planned spending - $35.36 (same)
Xmas Fund - $18.68 (same?)
Emergency fund - down $349.05
RRSP - added $1.34 (Interest only)
General Savings - up $14.47
Can. Saving Bond - up $210.00

$150 paid to Personal Loan
$118.97 paid to CC with 28% int. rate
$150 paid to CC with 0% int. rate
$238.55 paid to Auto Loan
Used $425.00 of credit from HBC card with 28.8% int. rate

We put a total of $226.01 into our various saving pots this month.
We paid a total of $2233.92 toward our debt this month.
Total Debt Difference from Last Month: $ 2204.94

Our current total Debt owing: $22,121.52
Total Debt owed on January 1, 2010: $23,861.01
Total Debt payments made in 2010: $15,767.79

In hindsight, it seems like we're just spinning our wheels, not really paying down the debt, since the difference in total amount from start to finish of the year is only $1739.49. But we have paid off almost $16,000 of debt that accumulated over the year. I don't know where these numbers really come from, but somehow we got more debt. I know some of it was from increased Income Tax owing, money loaned to us through a personal loan early on in the year, usage of one store card (boo!) and increased interest costs. But the number went down! It wasn't as big of a decrease as I would have liked to see, but at least it didn't increase. =)

I would have to say that overall, I'm pleased with what we've accomplished over the last year. As I look forward to 2011, I plan to accomplish so much more. I'm eager to start my journey for the year and hope that you all will follow along reading about my adventures.

P.S. Today is the day that my family has for generations spent the day making doughnuts and cookies for when friends and family drop by to visit. Although I should have been baking since early this morning, I've decided to wait until my girls are home to help. This is one tradition they love, as they get to eat not so nutritional food all day long, with no nagging from Mom. and I'd like to think they enjoy spending time in the kitchen with me too.

Have a great New Years Day.