Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hubby has a week of holidays from work this week, and we have been oh so very busy with life. Monday was Family Day here in Ontario, and we spent it staying in, and playing with our kids before Gail Club meeting. It was a very good day.

Tuesday was spent getting some things done prior to us going out of town on Wednesday. I had some business to attend to, and for the most part everything went off without a hitch.

Wednesday we left town. I'll confess that we went to a casino for our 'mini-holiday'. But before you verbally kick my butt, please know that we are far from being addicted gamblers, and after this specific trip, we definitely know how to get our entertainment on a budget. We got a free overnight stay in a room with a king sized bed. We also managed to get to spend only $60 for 3 meals because of comps. Our spending went over our budgeted amount of $250 by about $100, but it was definitely worth it. We spent time together doing things we enjoy doing, and that was what is most important to us.

Thursday, we headed back toward home, and spent very little money that day. Hubby cleaned out the car because there was something very smelly in there. I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with business calls. It was a lovely drive back to our city during which we did a good-ish amount of talking about stuff.

Friday was back to reality. I am looking after a business for a colleague, and was taking care of some tasks for him. It was a busy day with phone calls, meetings, and some driving. The good news is that I will have earned some extra money this week to make up for the overspending on Wednesday.

Hubby's bank completely screwed up with a transfer that was supposed to take money from his TD account and put it into my CIBC account. Instead, they took the said amount out of my account and deposited it into his. Not quite what we asked for. Which doesn't surprise me, as I am really not fond of TD because of their shenanigans.

Tonight Hubby and I are going out to play Bingo, something we both enjoy, but have not yet done in the years we have been together. DD1 is coming over to watch her little brother so we can go. It will cost us some money, but nothing extravagant, and we will have a chance to win some back. I know it isn't likely, but we'll only be spending about what we would spend if we went out for dinner and a movie.

Tomorrow, we are planning on laying low, getting lots of rest and general cleaning up around the house. Why do holiday weeks tend to go faster than regular work weeks?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gail Club Meeting

Last night, our local chapter of Gail Club met again for some support, chat, financial advice, and general catching up. While some of our regular members were unable to join us, a couple new to the club showed, and talked about the situation. I have great admiration for them, as they made some difficult decisions with regard to a worsening situation. I don't feel at liberty to share their story, but suffice it to say, they have gained my respect by doing what's best for them, and not allowing said bad situation to get worse and making them get further into debt by throwing good money after bad.

We had a bit of a mini coupon swap, and shared the best Canadian sites for coupons. No one that was involved would fall into the category of extreme couponer, but there were some good coupons to be had by most. We traded coupons freely, and talked about strategies of using coupons with sales for further reducing costs on items we would already purchase.

The group shared stories of financial 'where we were and where we are now' as well as our hopes, dreams and plans for our respective futures. Some of us are still silently hoping to win a multi-million dollar lottery (but not having bought tickets, lol), while others are thinking more along the lines of turtle vs. hare savings and debt reduction strategies.

Our little group is evolving and growing. It's nice to just chat with others, gain new perspectives, and get a general sense of belonging while learning in the financial sense. Over the last year or so, we have have members come and go, heard from people who want to join but do not. We even went on a road trip to visit another Gail Club in a nearby city, to see how others run their meetings. Ours are very informal, but we like to pick themes for meetings, and explore options and ideas within the theme of the month.

After the meeting, hubby & I went to a restaurant for a sub and a chat. There was a good opportunity for me to bring up an idea that's been bouncing around in my head since forever, of something that I would like to accomplish in the next 5 years or so, but cannot do without his support and encouragement. Best case scenario would be in he joined in on this little venture idea, but he chooses not too, that's OK, as long as I have his blessing. This opened up the conversation to allow him to bring up something that had been bothering him for awhile, a financial decision I had made some time ago that didn't make any sense to him, until last night. I explained my reasoning, and he understood better why I had made that decision.

I love, love, love, that we are able to talk about these things, without the bitter, accusatory overtones that were present in both of our former relationships. We agreed a long time ago that we would be honest with one another, no matter what happened, through good and bad. We both agreed that we would do our best to never argue, yell and scream at one another, least of all about money issues. Now that's not to say that we don't have opposing views from time to time, but we do our best not to let those differences drive a wedge into our relationship. I personally like to think of it as 'me & him vs. the big bad world'.

Have you and your spouse, or significant other really talked lately about what is truly important to each of you, or about things that are bothering you? how do you handle those conversations, or do they turn into arguments?

I'll be away tomorrow and Thursday, having grown-up time with hubby, reconnecting, and bringing back some of the spark. I'll be back on Friday with another post.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Family Day 2011

Here in Ontario, we have a holiday in February called Family Day. It's a relatively new holiday, only a couple of years old. Not everyone has this holiday off as of yet, but since Hubby took the week off for our vacation, we have been spending a lovely day at home with the kids.

We stayed up late last night with DD2, talking about our experiences in school that we had at her age. It was a real eye opener for all of us to see where we all were in our own development at the same point in life. We talked about teachers and classes that made impressions on us for good or bad, and what types of classes we were good at or not so good at. This was nice, as she just got her Term 1 Report Card on Friday, so we were able to tie that in with her current studies, her likes and dislikes in class, as well as giving her some much deserved praise on a job well done.

Over the weekend, without prompting (or even asking), Hubby logged into his online banking feature and increased his payment amounts to our debts. The increases may not have been very large, perhaps maybe an extra $10-$20 per week to each debt, but over the length of time we are paying, it should save us hundreds of dollars in interest costs. Even though he doesn't like to look at the numbers all the time (like I do), or seem as focused on paying down the debt as I would like to see, the truth of the matter is he is committed to getting this debt gone. He has put his his money where his mouth is (or his brain or whatever) and shown me through his actions that he too wants to be debt free. Gosh, I love him so!

We are working on trying to potty teach our little guy. It's not going so well. He has no interest in going on the potty. I keep watching for the signs that he is ready, but in truth, I think he's just lazy! He has on occasion, woken from a nap, or overnight sleep with a dry diaper, so he is very close I think. But he just won't do it. I don't stress about it though, because when I look at the big picture, I know he won't still be in diapers by the time he goes to Junior Kindergarten. He will be 3 next month, and I will be picking up the pace of potty teaching after that. The goal is to have him out of diapers by the summer time. Wish us luck!

DD1 and the grand cub are coming over this afternoon for an overnight stay. She will be watching the younger ones for us tonight for our Gail Club meeting, and we'll be watching grand cub tomorrow for her while her and the b/f have a meeting at Ontario Works. It turns out that the day after I posted the second part of my interview with her, the b/f lost his job. As much as it was a disappointment, it most likely will work out in their favour, as it will almost guarantee that they will qualify for assistance, until they can get back on their feet financially. Besides, isn't that what it's there for, to help those who truly need it?

I have a meeting tomorrow with a colleague who has asked me to look after his business while he is away on a week's vacation. I'm hoping that I will be able to have enough to do to earn me a few hundred bucks to make up some of the shortfall I am anticipating in next month's budget. The months of March, April and May tend to get really tight for us, just before the business contract comes in. This will be the first year in a very long time that we won't be facing eviction proceedings prior to contract payment. Yay!

Hope you all have had a happy Family Day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Thoughts

Several months ago, hubby and I planned a week vacation to somewhere warm (read no snow) for the final full week of February. We decided to take advantage of last minute vacation/flight prices. We had saved the money for said vacation. And we knew we'd be needing it by then.

I mentioned it briefly way back in October 2010 in a post I wrote about getting hubby more involved in our finances and budgeting.

One person commented on that post, and ended that comment with this:

"I just don't think vacations are reasonable when someone has debt."

This comment had me thinking. A lot. At first, I was mildly offended that someone who knew almost nothing of our personal circumstances made a judgement like that. I am the type of person who tries very hard not to judge others at all. Then I thought about the amount of work and sacrifice that that person and their family endured so that they could go on a vacation, and return to no consumer debt. Then I thought about all the financial challenges that we have in our lives, some recurring, others being more of a one time thing.

Every time we discussed 'going away' for a much needed vacation to recharge our batteries, that single sentence would pop into my head like a ticker tape announcement on the bottom of a television screen. That's when I realised that after I peeled off the layers of my feelings, underneath the offense and justification and defensiveness, I actually really agreed with the commenter.

I don't think that a $2000-$3000 vacation is reasonable when our family has so much consumer debt. Over the course of the next three months, hubby and I talked a lot about our time away. We agreed that it wasn't right to go to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or wherever when we still have some $21,000 of debt that we had incurred. We had spent our future income on things we wanted, doing things we wanted to do, and the time has come to pay the piper.

We applied the $1200 or so we had saved to pay down some of the debt, and to keep current on our monthly bills. We bought groceries, and restocked what we needed to. We continued to talk about us 'going away', but in much different terms.

We're still going to go away, but only for one night instead of 6. Instead of flying off to a far away place, we'll be driving within 3 hours of our home town. Instead of paying people to look after our kids and our business for 7 days, it's only going to cost us for 2 days. We are looking at getting a free overnight stay, and the free & inexpensive things to do in that area instead of blowing a gob of money. The vacation budget has gone from $2000 to $250 that we both can live with.

This coming Wednesday, hubby and I will be leaving after we drop DD2 off at school to spend about 36 glorious hours together, doing whatever we want to do, sleeping a bed I don't have to make, and eating at least one meal that I don't have to cook, and leaving the work phones with someone else for awhile.

We also decided that we would pare down the summer vacation with the kids from 2 weeks to one. We reduced our outlay for the cottage from $1000 to $400 by getting only one week, and choosing a less expensive cottage. We'll cook our own meals and share the expenses with DD1 and her bf. I will have made a list of 'entertainment' for us all that is free or inexpensive, and work our way down the list when the kids want to do something fun.

The big goal will be to save up for a surprise trip to Disney in Florida once the debt has been done away with. We won't be telling the kids about it until we are leaving to get on the plane to go. That trip will be our reward for becoming debt free.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust!

The overpayment amount owing for CCTB is gone!! Whoo---hooo!!! *insert happy dance here*
The remaining amount was only about $60 or so, and that was deducted from my CCTB with today's payment. This is a debt that has been hanging over my head for awhile, and I am so glad to have it gone.

This whole fiasco started several years ago. In 2006, I was married to a man whom I had been with for several years. Things got bad, and I decided it was best for me to leave the marriage. In 2007, when I filed 2006 taxes, somehow even though I explained I was still living with my husband for over half the year, my taxes got filed as a single person for 2006. That marital difference made a huge change in my income tax that year, as well as my CCTB. In 2008, things started to catch up. My now ex filed his taxes for 2007 earlier than I did, and he tried to claim our daughter as a single full-time parent. When I filed, red flags went up at CCTB. They told me that he had already claimed the Tax credit for her, and as her full-time parent, he was entitled to it. And I owed them money for having lied to them about having my daughter.

Wait a tic. What?!? I explained again that we shared custody of her in equal amounts of time. I was told that I would have to prove with documentation from people who know me, and her, that she did in fact live with me for part of each and every month. In the meantime, they wanted all the money back that had been given to me since I had separated from my ex. To the tune of about $5000. They just took him at his word, and I had to prove what I was saying with documentation. Talk about frustration!

Well, all of this takes time. When it finally got sorted out, the majority of the money owed was due in part to my having filed as a single person in 2006. The amount dropped to $3700 that I owed, but I still owed it.  Since February of 2008, they have been deducting half of monthly benefit amount to recover the overpayment. Finally, two years later, it is done! The last $60 or so was paid today. Thank goodness that is over.

For the past couple of years, CCTB has paid me my portion of her benefit for 6 months of the year (August thru January) and then paid the ex his portion during the other six months (February thru July). I have received notification that as of July 2011, this will change. I will receive one half of the monthly amount each and every month. This way parents will get a dollar amount every month, seeing as we do actually have our children every month of the year. It makes sense, seeing as I still have to feed her and clothe her during the alternate six months.

On a completely different note, I was wondering about something. There is a certain song I hear on the radio from time to time. I have found in my experience, every time I hear that certain song, I end up getting a work call within 12 hours or so of hearing it. Does that sound crazy to you? Am I imagining things? Have you noticed any weird coincidences in your life that are similar?

Between a full moon, a holiday on Monday (for most people), and the weekend millionaire syndrome, I imagine I won't be straying far from my work phone. I'm preparing for a busy one this weekend.

I plan on laying low, and not spending money this weekend other than restocking the fridge and pantry shelves. Grocery shopping, here I come.

Have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Life is About Choices

Everyday we make choices. Some of them are conscious choices. What to wear to work today, how much you spend on that Timmie's run, what t.v. show to watch in the evening. We make lots of choices that are less conscious, like not doing the things we know we should be doing.

I have always stressed to my children that they always have a choice when life happens. You can choose to do something about a bad situation, or you can do nothing and let it happen to you. Doing nothing is also a choice, albeit a bad choice sometimes. When circumstances are beyond your control, you can choose how you will let that situation affect you. You choose to let it get you down, and be in a bad mood for a day or a week, or you can choose to let it strengthen your resolve to fix the problems in your life.

I am always astonished by the amount of people who walk around every day, b*tching and moaning about all the bad stuff that happens to them. They're in debt up to their eyebrows, and complain because they don't have the money to pay off the fun that they had spending money they hadn't yet earned. Or the folks who whine about all the bad stuff that happens to them, and they just can't catch a break in life. You know the ones, the kind that still blame everything on their unfortunate upbringing, or their parents, or the mean principal they had in seventh grade. Guess what?? You choose to continue to let that stuff bother you instead of doing something about it!!

I know a woman who I'll call Margaret. She had a rough life as a youngster. Her mother wasn't very nice to her. She was abused as a child. She carried her anger and hatred into her adult life. She married a man who abused her physically and emotionally. She's had a lot of bad things happen in her life. She's very cynical, and pessimistic. She doesn't trust easily and thinks that entire communities where she has lived in the past are prejudiced against persons of certain ethnic backgrounds like hers. If you talk to her, she truly believes that there is some sort of conspiracy of gigantic proportions that keeps her from being happy and having a good life. And that everyone is in on the conspiracy, from family and acquaintances, to the police and government officials.

Now I'm not one to say that a bad upbringing is to be condoned, but everyone has a story. Everyone has had bad things happen in their lives. It's what you choose to think and feel, and what you do about those bad circumstances that sets you apart from the others. Some of the bad things that happened are a result of choices that she made. She chose to marry a man that she didn't know very well at the time. She chose to stay after he became abusive. She chooses to continue to not trust anyone, and feels vindicated when that person proves themselves untrustworthy.

What bothers me the most about this person is that she truly believes that everyone is out to get her, and that the good things in life elude her because she has been wronged by society. She feels that life owes her and with every passing day, she still blames others for what's wrong with her life. It's her mother's fault for not being a good parent that has made her into what she is, or so she thinks. Her outlook on life has gone way past the point of normalcy, and has entered into the realm of delusion and mental illness.

With some professional counselling, and a strong resolve, she could make the choices necessary to begin to live a happier life. But it's not likely that will happen any time soon. If she used her determination to be happy instead of being unhappy, she could still turn her life around.

Everyday, I make a conscious choice to be as happy as possible, with my life, my family and my circumstances. Would I like my situation to be better? Absolutely yes! But it is what it is as a result of the choices I have made, good or bad. And everyday it gets a little bit better by paying down our debt, and turning our lives around, aiming for a better financial future. It gets better when we live within our means, and set aside a little something for later. It gets better by making the choices to teach our children about right and wrong.

We makes choices to do something or do nothing. We make choices about how we will react to situations and circumstances. I for one, choose to have a positive outlook on life, and better my life one choice (and one dollar) at a time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Starting RRSPs in Your 40s

I'm not quite 40 yet, but it's so close, I can see the glow from the candles on my 40th birthday cupcake! For all sorts of reasons I have never, until recently, contributed to my RRSP.
Why, you may ask?
Well, when I was younger, the thought of retiring someday never crossed my mind.
In my 20s, I hardly worked some years, and was trying to hard to make ends meet with my pitiful income. Back then I thought I had lots of time to save for my retirement.
In my early 30s, same thing. I thought I had lots and lots of time. I was upgrading my schooling, and then embarking on a new career. I was married at the time to a man who had a fantastic pension, and I believed he would look after me in my golden years. Exciting stuff! Retirement was far from exciting, it was for old people.
To tell the truth, for the last 5 years or so, I have been deluding myself by saying that I will likely work well into my 70s. No early retirement for this girl! And although that may actually have to happen, I don't really want it to.
Now, a couple months shy of 39, I'm looking at things in a whole new light.

Several months ago, I realized how old I was getting. Not that almost 39 is old, but the length of time I have left to save and invest for my retirement is getting shorter and shorter. I'm a grandmother now, and I don't think that I want to be working into my 70s. I may want to spend some of that time with my grandchildren, the one that's already here and the ones that will come in the future.

It got me thinking about how I planned to pay bills if I was no longer working.

My CPP contributions are an absolute pittance. If I were to compare them to someone of comparable age who works as an employee full-time, the differences are amazing. The number of years I've been contributing to CPP is also laughable.  I don't remember ever getting a statement from CPP, but I'm sure if I looked at it, it would look like the statement of a person in their early twenties, who has just started their career. You can view and print a copy of your Canada Pension Plan Statement of contributions here .

Likely Old Age Security would also be available to me, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, if my CPP was my only source of income during retirement. That means I would be dependant on the Government of Canada and my current husband, to provide me with any income during my retirement years.

I don't like that idea so much. Hubby is more than willing to provide for me with what he has available to work with. But if my only contribution to our retirement income is CPP and OAS benefits, we're screwed. I don't want to be eating Spam and never doing anything, or going anywhere because we can't afford it.

The single most important thing that I took from Gail Vaz-Oxlade's book, Never Too Late, is that you MUST SAVE! Saving is a habit that must be formed, no matter how little money you begin with. "If you've never set a penny aside, making just a small commitment today can make a huge difference to your financial future". The important thing is to Start.

My financial goal for my RRSP this year is to have set aside $3600. I decided not to go the route of trying to decide how much money I will need in my retirement years, and guessing as to how long I will live, guessing at the rate of inflation over the next decade or two, and multiplying it by some crazy formula that requires a Master's Degree in order to come up with some insane amount of money that I will need to have accumulated by age 65. I don't want to set myself up for failure or scare myself into doing nothing. I want to be able to see what I can do with what I have.

My largest asset to my retirement is my ability to earn an income, now, in the next 26 years, and maybe even for awhile after that. This is what I need to utilise to my full advantage in order for a decent retirement. The money I will have amassed at that point may have to last a long, long time, as I plan on living forever. Just kidding! Every year between now and then, if I can focus more on saving and less on spending, I should be able to come up with something fairly decent, even if it isn't The Magic Million or three.

To get my $3600 this year, I will have to make 144 deposits of $25. I have already made 5, so I have 139 left to go. I have a direct deposit set up to deduct $25 per month from my account automatically, which brings it down to 129 deposits. In late Spring and early summer, I will likely be able to contribute the bulk of these deposits over a couple of months, and then just keep the automatic deduction do the rest. It's not the best game plan, but it's what I have right now. I'm trying to build the HABIT of saving while pushing the edges of my comfort zone a little farther, setting the stage for more dramatic deposits over the next few years.

I may never hit the crazy insane number that a retirement calculator will tell me that I have to amass by retirement time. I may never even use up all my unused RRSP contribution room. What I do know is that every dollar I set aside now is one less that I will have to cut out of my post-retirement budget. I know that having a comfortable retirement will be the result of choices we make today and tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on February 14th

On the weekend, we went out with our best friends from out of town. Dinner at Shoeless Joe's was tasty, and we went to see the movie 'The Mechanic'. Then we went to visit other folks as a group, and played cards and drank wine for the rest of the night. It wasn't the cheapest way to have some fun, but it was less expensive than it could have been.

We don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Yep, we one of 'those' couples. I totally dislike the thought of spending money on something just because the stores are full of red and pink, and because the calendar says it's a certain day. Big deal! We decided when we got together that it wasn't to be celebrated between us. Personally, I choose to do things throughout the year which show my man how much I love him. Every year, he is relieved that it's an expectation of others that he doesn't have to try to live up to. Hubby's co-workers think that it's like sacrilege that he doesn't 'buy' me something on V-day. But we do what's best for us, no matter what others may think.

We watched a very interesting documentary on The Passionate Eye last night. They were uncovering the truth about chocolate, and how it comes from the fields and ends up in our homes. The majority of the cocoa used to make chocolate comes from farms that use child labour to harvest the cocoa beans.
Go here to read a bit about it. After watching this documentary, it has certainly changed the way I think about chocolate. I know I for one will not be eating anything other than Cadbury products that have the fair trade logo. I cannot knowingly indulge in a treat that I know has been involved in the trafficking of children for the purposes of harvesting cocoa, without pay or even having their basic human needs met.

Likely, my waistline will thank me for it as well.

To all you romantics out there, have a great Valentine's Day. To all you nay-sayers (like us), Happy Monday!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Parents and Money - Part Two

This is the second half of an interview with my daughter who became a new Mother on January 4, 2011.

Q. 7. What resources do you have to help you deal with the shortfalls in your budget?

A. With every available dollar going to pay rent owing or to transportation costs for Daddy right now, we have had to utilise the food bank in our area to supplement our groceries. My very helpful parents have helped by lending us money and with transportation. It's been so cold out, Daddy walking home from work at 4 a.m. is really not an option at this time. We've contacted The Rent Bank, a service provided by the Salvation Army, and Ontario Works to see if they can help us in any way, even if it is only to provide Daddy with a bus pass. Daddy's Mom has helped us with gifts of money when she's able, and I have a lot of friends who have been very generously helping us out with things we need here and there. We know of more resources available, but have yet to approach them for assistance. It's difficult to fill out the required forms and go to see people with a newborn in this cold weather.

Q. 8. When thinking about your financial situation, what is the most important to you?

A. Being able to pay rent and get groceries. My main focus is this because we're so far behind and I worry that we're going to become homeless with a young baby. We need help because we both have such low incomes and we can't make ends meet. It also bothers me a lot that I can't get things for my son that I want to buy for him. He doesn't need them, but I want him to have them. I have truly learned the differences between needs and wants!

Q.9. Are you doing anything in particular to advance your financial knowledge? If not, why?

A. I'm reading Easy Money by Gail Vaz-Oxlade right now that was loaned to me by my Mom. I readily accept advice from my parents as they sometimes see a better/different way of doing things. Other than that, I am not actively seeking out things to learn on my own right now, I'm just too busy. It doesn't really cross my mind to learn more about it.

Q. 10. What advice would you give to young couples considering parenthood?

A.  Figure out a plan of how you're going to deal with the finances ahead of time, as best as you can.
Save money. Having money set aside for the unexpected things that will come up. I opened a savings account but never actually saved any amount of money in it that would do us any good. My Mom told me to do this. I should have listened to her.


That concludes the interview. It was good to sit and talk honestly with my daughter about her entire situation. The Mom in me wants to rush in and save them from their own mistakes, but I also know it's part of the learning process that they must go through. In summary, I can surely say that my daughter has a tendency to learn from her mistakes, and this situation will have a long-lasting effect on her. It will be a tough road for her though, because I see that New Daddy has conflicting thoughts and actions. He says the right things, but his actions are entirely different, making her question his true priorities. I hope that their situation is as bad as it will get right now, and will only get better from here. However, I feel that this is not rock-bottom for them yet. My heart goes out to them both as they are trying so very hard to do the right things. I wish them luck, and I pray they know I will always be there for them to help pick up the pieces.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Parents and Money

Makky's Mom gave me some great ideas for some new posts until I can get my creative flow going again. Thanks pal!

I gave an interview to my daughter about her experiences since becoming a new parent and how it relates to money.

As new parents you've undoubtedly had many changes in your financial situation.
Q. 1. : What changes were you expecting?

A. I knew I was going to have to reduce spending on myself and there would be increased costs associated to the baby's needs. I also knew there was going to be a decrease in my income and that it was going to be difficult to budget. I knew expenses overall were going to go up, but not by how much.

Q. 2.: What change(s) caught you by surprise?

A. The cost of formula for supplement feeding. I had planned to breastfeed exclusively, but I have had to use formula as well. The actual amount of maternity/parental benefits from EI was also a surprise. It was a lot less than what I hoped for, due to reduced hours in my last month of work. Daddy's income isn't enough to meet our obligations, which was also a surprise. the waiting time between finishing work and getting benefits from EI was a huge surprise because I went over a month without any income. As soon as my son was born, I signed up for CCTB. I was surprised by how long I have to wait to get the benefit and in not knowing how much we will get. All this waiting caused us to fall behind in our bills.

Q. 3. : What has been your biggest financial challenge since your child's birth?

A. Rent!  We're still trying to catch up with rent payments. Going so long without money made us fall behind. We've had issues with food and groceries but we found ways to deal with that.

Q. 4. : Do you worry or stress out about money?

A. yes, because we don't make enough money right now to have the necessities like food and rent. It's more stressful than it was when I was caring only for myself. Now that I have my son depending on me/us to provide for him. We both stress about money, which leads to arguments, about where the money we do get should go. It seems that our priorities are different.

Q.5. Do you budget or have a spending plan?

A. I do budget for my income only. I don't always do it, or stick to the budget, but I'm getting better with it. Daddy doesn't budget at all.

Q. 6. Does it bother you that you budget and he doesn't?

A. Yes. I'd like for us to do the budgeting together, instead of the way it is now. his priorities are more immediate - "I need this and this and this in order to get back and forth to work". It makes me feel like all the important stuff falls on my shoulders for my income, mostly because he makes so little money, and it gets eaten up by transportation costs. He's an impulse spender and has trouble seeing the big picture.


Part two of the interview tomorrow!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Retirement Contributions and the Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, you must still contribute to the Canada Pension Plan.  It is based on your net business income (after expenses). The contribution rate is roughly 9.9% of your pensionable earnings. Since a self-employed person is considered both the employer and the employee, he or she is responsible for making both portions of the contributions. The CPP retirement pension is a monthly benefit paid to people who have contributed to the CPP. The pension is designed to pay approximately 25 percent of the earnings on which a person's contributions were based.

For now,CPP is the only pension plan available to self-employed persons. There is some talk in the news about providing more pension options for the self-employed and business owners, but it likely won't be in the works for several years yet.

What other choices does that give a person who falls into one of those two categories?

RRSPs, TFSAs and myriad unregistered investments.

Basically, if you are self-employed or own a small business (like myself), the only person you can rely on for your retirement income is you. Or perhaps you have a spouse who has a wonderful pension plan through their employer. Otherwise, you're on your own.

Having your money in an RRSP makes sense if you will be in a lower income tax bracket after you retire, which is very likely for my situation.
Having your retirement money in a TFSA makes sense if you want to have an income without having to pay any taxes on it, but of course their is a contribution cap of $5000 per year. Seeing as I am no where near the cap, this could be good place for me to start.

I sure get why most folks get overwhelmed and scared into inaction. There is so much to consider, and if a person listens to the Spurts (as Gail loves to call them), the total amount of money you need to have amassed by your 65th birthday is inconceivable! So if you have no hope in hell of ever having the required 16 trillion dollars you need to provide you with the amount of retirement income that you would like to have, why bother trying??

Well, I think that my retirement is going to look something like this. I will not retire at 65. I will likely still work, but only reduce my hours and allot myself ample vacation time. ( In the industry where I work, older persons seems to build a better rapport with clients.) My hubby will have a pension income that will likely take care of most, if not all of our typical living expenses. We will both partake of mutual hobbies that we enjoy, and perhaps have a few new ones.  My semi-retirement income will likely cover the extras, like travelling and dining out frequently. We will have no consumer debt and will likely have bought and paid for a condo that will see us through our golden years. I'm hoping our children will still like us enough to help out when I'm having trouble walking in my old age. :)

So with my monthly $25 contributions this year, added to the $1000 I had saved up last year, perhaps these little bits will be starting me out down the right road.

As a wise woman once said, " When you fall down on your face, at least you know you were headed in the right direction. Falling on your bum means you were going the wrong way."

I know I'm going forward with my contributions. I may even make some mistakes along the way and fall on my face. But I know that I am in motion which is much better than being scared into doing nothing for my future.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recognising My Triggers

I've been very quiet with writing for a few days. It's because I'm having some things that I need to process in my brain, work out in my head, then move on with the business of living life to the fullest.

One of my issues is that I typically hit a 'depression' period in winter that can last for months! Thinking about this now, I don't think that the 'funks' I get in are typical of a 'clinical depression' that may require medical intervention or treatment. I just don't feel as well as normal, and things bother me a great deal more than they should. I think the majority of this stems from seasonal temperatures and lack of sunlight. What I'm impressed with this year is the fact that it's February before I started feeling this way. In the past, I've started having issues in December and it lasted all winter long. I also think that stressors like money issues, which are typical for us in winter, add to my un-willingness to do my work, both inside and outside of the home. Again, usually starts in December, has started this year until this week.

Perhaps it is seasonal affective disorder, perhaps not, but when I start to feel this way, I try to take care of myself as best as I can. I also talk to hubby about this, because my moods can leave him feeling a bit confused and startled. I let him know how I'm feeling, and why, if I know. If I don't know why, I tell him that too. A hot bath, some scented candles, and a good book, followed up with a quiet hour or two of knitting go a long way in helping me regain some of my self confidence.

In nine days, hubby has a whole week off from work. We had originally planned to go somewhere tropical, but with our finances the way they are right now, we decided that it was more important to put the money we had saved for the vacation toward other things. It just doesn't feel right going on vacation in the tropics when we still have consumer debt. We are instead opting for a mini-vacation where I will take the week off from work also, and we will spend some much need time together reconnecting. We may go to a bed and breakfast somewhere for a couple of nights, or we may travel a short distance out of town to a casino that has offered us a couple of free nights in their hotel. We may just stay at home, unplug the phone and hide  away from the world. Not sure yet, but I know that doing next to nothing is on the list.

I'm looking forward to my holiday, so that I can recharge my batteries. Perhaps some time off will get my creative juices flowing again so that I can starting posting regularly.

Help a gal out, fellow bloggers. Give me something to talk about. Tell me what you would like to hear about.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Slow Down

As I sit at my computer, reading blogs I love, and waiting for the blueberry muffins to finish baking, I thought I should write a post about my week. It's been eventful some days, and others have been pure bliss in not having to do anything other than regular daily chores and meals.

This week, I worked some. I even got an unexpected call for work, so that's extra moolah for the savings (when it comes in). We had a snow day (again), even though it didn't snow near as much as the weather forecasters were predicting. I'm keeping up with work paperwork that needs to be done. Not doing as well this week with keeping up with my spending journal. :(

I have baked, and cooked, and planned some meals for the coming week. Planning certainly helps take some stress out of my busy life, but with the urgency of my work calls, sometimes even the most well-thought out plans don't materialize. Such is life for me.

I managed to get some knitting in, and plan on doing a lot more of it today. I'm also preparing a meal for tonight and parts of another for Tuesday.

Yesterday, we tidied up before Gramma came to watch the kids. We worked briefly, then went to see the concert/production. I have to say that the music was amazing. I heard lots of my favourite songs from led Zeppelin, and at one point cried during a song. Sounds kinds hokey writing that, but it was so beautiful, it brought me to tears. Ok, ok. I know. I'm lame. Whatevs.

I finally got the back tires on the van replaced, and at a much lower price than I had anticipated.

As for the money situation, I'd have to say we're good right now. I would like to talk to hubby about retirement savings and such, so that we can start formulating a game plan for 2012 Budget. I refer to it already as the year of Retirement Savings, as that will be my focus. Of course, that's presuming we meet all of our debt and savings goals for this year.

Well, the muffins are ready. Still warm from the oven, with melty butter. Yum!
Hope you have a great Slowdown Sunday!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gold Ribbon Stamp Campaign

There is a young lady named Stephanie who has launched a campaign to get Canada Post to launch a commemorative stamp to honor those who have faced childhood cancer. The Gold Ribbon is a symbol used to promote awareness of childhood cancer. Take a minute and see what it's all about.

Please watch this video:

There is a letter that you can download and email back to be included with others. You can sign the guestbook, and take part in an extrordinary campaign.

Please visit:

Take a minute and help out this wonderful cause. Like it on Facebook, or do whatever you can to help spread the word about this cause.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Classic Albums Live

Last week, Hubby played Bobbin for answers with 102.3 Bob FM, and won a Tough Duck prize pack and two tickets for Classic Albums Live- Led Zeppelin.

I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin since I was about 16 years old. Their music sparked something in me that is indescribable. Even though this band broke up permanently after the death of their drummer, John Bonham, their music is still intensely popular with a lot of folks in my age group.

Classic Albums Live,  is a production of live music, playing a certain album or two, from a particular well known band. The music is played note for note, cut for cut. It is the closest thing to actually hearing Led Zeppelin play live that I will ever get.

In the 80's, I was fortunate enough to attend a Robert Plant concert, during his Tall Cool One tour. We were in the nosebleed section, but that didn't matter. I actually got to see him perform live. At that time, he did sing some Led Zeppelin, but it was very short, and his style of singing had evolved, so the rendition was different than when he sang for Led Zeppelin.

I am looking forward to this production. Maybe with some wine, my imagination, and closing my eyes, I can transport myself to another time, and pretend that it is Led Zeppelin themselves that I'm actually hearing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Conversation Always Ends in Death

I'd like you all to imagine yourself in a scenario for me. Please.

You're at a house party. You're having a drink of something or other, and standing with your mate.
Your host or hostess approaches with a smile, and says hello. Small talk ensues and people you do not know approach. Your host introduces everyone by name. Everyone shakes hands.
Then the inevitable happens.
Someone says,"So, what do you do for a living?"
Thanks for playing along. I bet you have never even thought about how you answer this question!

For most folks, this is probably not a big deal to answer.
"I'm a lawyer."
"I'm a mechanic."
"I'm an accountant."

I spend countless hours trying to think of a less shocking way to reveal who I am, and what I do.
"I help people in their time of need."
"Oh, you're a nurse!"
Nope, not quite. Not what I was aiming for.

"I'm in the transportation business."
"Oh, you're a trucker."
Not even close.

How I usually answer the question, and the conversation after my revelation usually goes something like this:

"I'm a full-time Mom, Wife, and Business owner."
"Oh, yeah. What kind of business are you in?"
"I provide transportation for funeral homes, cremation services, and the Coroner's Office."
"You touch dead people? Doesn't it creep you out?"
"I am a licenced funeral director by trade, so touching a body is the least of my concerns. And I don't get creeped out very easily."
"So you do the make up and stuff?"
"Among other things, yes."

I get asked if I ever get scared being by myself with a dead body. I've been asked if I've ever seen a dead body move. I get asked what the worst death call I've ever been on was.

I try to take the feelings of others into account in the above scenario. I always think, what if the lady in the cluster of people next to us has an aging parent who is at home dying this very minute, and this gathering is her only escape from her reality. What if the man who just walked up to our conversation has had the death of a partner or child in the last year? How would this conversation make those people feel?

The rest of questions that typically get asked to me, I do my best to answer them with one word answers, in a vain attempt to keep the 'death' conversation as short as possible. If the question requires a lengthy answer, I suggest to them that the situation may not be appropriate for that type of conversation, but I would be willing to answer whatever questions they may have at another time.

Around me, the conversation always gets redirected to death.

So pretend we're in a coffee shop. Just you and me.
You have a question to ask (or two or three), send me a message and ask away.
I'll answer them as honestly as I can, maybe even post one or two of the questions and responses.
Send your questions to antieeboo@hotmail(dot)com

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Aim for a Quick Win February

When you're paying down your debt, and trying to save toward your long and short term goals, sometimes you just get bored. Fatigue sets in, and you feel like everything you're doing is for nothing. You may feel like you're not getting anywhere, or actually accomplishing anything. You may have even looked back at the grandiose goals you made in December for the year of 2011, and thought, I'm never going to accomplish this. Your motivation may have fallen by the wayside. You need help.

To help me reduce my spending, I have decided that I will work on some projects that need to be finished. Not because I'm on a deadline, (like finishing the baby blanket before the baby was born), but because they are unfinished. On my list of things to finish:
  • DD2's blanket; started 12 years ago, never was a bit overzealous for my skill set at the time, now I think I can manage it
  • DS's blanket add-on: I knit a baby blanket for him when he was an infant; I'd like to add to it as he gets bigger, so the blankie grows with him
  • MIL's hat: she only asked me to make her one last week, and I definitely want to give it to her before winter is over

Other knitting and craft projects in my mind that need starting:
  • dishcloths: I make dozens of these per year as gifts for Xmas
  • Mittens I started for the Keeping Kids Warm charity
  • Plastic Canvas crafts: I was given loads of plastic canvas and wool from the charity to make them things that they could sell at their bazaar dates
  • Hugs from Doug: microwavable heating/cooling pads made from recycling my son's receiving
  • Cloth reusable bags for Xmas gifts....I would like to make several for this year's holidays
  • Baby blanket: a friend at playgroup asked if I would knit up a blanket for a gift for her. When she brings me the yarn, I will make it for her.
I think I could certainly keep my hands busy for the month with just crafting/yarn projects that are in my mind's list. If you add the growing pile of books to be read, the mountain of laundry that needs to be done, household chores, a month's worth of meals to be made, along with my work duties, I should never be bored this month. I am going to *try* to stay off the bits of the Internet that cause time suck for me, specifically Faceb-ook, Neo and trying to read 26 blogs everyday while trying to come up with five weekly posts of my own.

Financial quick wins to aim for:
  • Knowing that one debt will be paid off this month (yay) because of automatic deductions.
  • Focusing all of my efforts toward one debt or savings payment at a time, working my way down the list I have.
  • Convincing Hubby to divert monies (that were previously used for a debt that was paid off last month) to increasing payments on other debts or into savings not to be touched.
  • Pay off one more debt in full (the lowest being $400 right now).
In the grand scheme of things, these may seem like minor adjustments. But if our Journey to Debt Free Forever has taught us anything over the last two years, it is that sometimes the small changes are as beneficial (if not more so) than the big changes are. Accomplishing some of these tasks will give me the 'Quick Win' feeling, and help me to stay motivated along the path we've set for the year.