Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Debts and Expected Payoff Dates

It's a visual incentive to me to have a payoff date set for each individual debt that we have. To have that debt paid off before the expected date means we worked hard on reducing that time. As of right now, these are the expected payoff dates for each of our debts.

   Debt                              Expected Payoff Date
HBC Card                         June 1, 2011
MBNA Card                     July 31, 2012
Personal Loan                    November 30, 2013
Capital One Card              November 30, 2012
Auto Loan                         September 10, 2011
Tax Owing                         July 30, 2011
Biz HST                             July 1, 2011
Dental Bill                          June 30, 2011
Overdraft 2                        April 30, 2011

My expectation is that there will be one new debt added to the list sometime in June. That will be for my tax bill for 2010. I have no money set aside for this, but I presume it will be in the neighborhood of the same amount. Anything less than that I will be most happy with.

Each snowflake that I can add to debt reduction will reduce the number of months we have this debt. If I can throw an extra $200 on my debt, that will bring our Debt Free Day from November 30, 2013 to October 30, 2013.

Keeping in mind that our Long Term Saving and Planned Spending financial goals add up to $27,850, it's going to be a tight year again.  But we will get through it. All of it. We need to stay focused and determined to get out of debt once and for all!

P.S. I added a new page with these dates in the order that they will be paid off so that I can have a visual of how I am doing. If I make an extra payment that will reduce the amount of time until payoff day, I will add the new date in red.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Month End Report

Here's how the numbers sit as of February 28, 2011:
TFSA      $88.96 (up $1.00)
Xmas Fund  $34.70 (same)
RRSP Savings Acct. $10.00 ( up $5.00)
EEE Account $10.03 (down $45.00)

RRSP MF Acct. $1,210.83 (up $3.02)
RESP MF Acct. $0 New Account
Emergency Fund Acct. $91.09 (up $60.00)
House Fund $40.00 (up $15.00)
Biz Savings/5 Categories $225.00 (up $126.02)
Canada Savings Bonds $735.00 (up $140.00)
B's Savings Acct. $85.21 (up $31.05)

HBC Card (28.8%): $406.86, down $34.24
Personal Loan: $6445.00, down $160.00
MBNA Card (27.98%): $2,117.14, down $151.47
Capital One Card (19.8%): $4,119.24, down $72.04
Overdraft 1: $799.39, increased by $299.39
Auto Loan: $1,199.23, down $194.97
Tax Owing: $4,385.82, down $250.00
Biz HST:  $4,839.00
Dental Bill: $1,301.10
Overdraft 2: $380.80, decreased by $88.24

Total Debt owed on January 1, 2011: $23,861.01

Our current total Debt owing: $21,874.34

Difference since January 1, 2011: $1,986.67

Good things this month:
  • I got a bank account and RESP Mutual fund account opened in Cub's name
  • In a month that is historically bad for income, I brought in over $3000
  • I have $1100 of outstanding invoices that should be paid next month
Things that aren't so good:
  • Knowing that I have to pay off $4800 of debt in the next 110 days
  • Still paying off credit card debt that I incurred over 3 years ago
  • Needing work done on my van that is going to cost me in the $3000 range
We could have done a lot better this month. We paid over $950 toward our debt this month. It seems to be moving so slowly. Seeing the numbers gives me incentive to get these debts over with! Hubby's car payments will be finished by September, and then he is planning on saving the equivalent of the amount of those payments in a seperate account toward the purchase of a newer vehicle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Learning from Our Mistakes

What mistake have you made financially that caused you to learn the most, turn around your life/way of thinking? What could you change if you had a financial do-over?

There were a few things that happened in succession that made me realize we were in deep, deep doo-doo. First of all, we were on the brink of becoming homeless. We weren't able to meet all of our financial obligations, and something had to give. I mistakenly thought that not paying the rent would be ok, and that somehow the money would magically appear out of thin air. Ha ha!

Secondly, we were getting repeated phone calls from collection agencies. The phone never rang anymore for a mere conversation. It was depressing.

We had just had a baby, hubby's income had decreased by some 55%, and then he was hospitalised for an injury. Our child was hospitalised shortly after being born. Our life was falling apart in every way possible. I stopped watching the cash flow. I was primarily concerned with making sure my guys lived through their respective medical crises.

Then the electricity got shut off. And the gas. Really cold showers and an inability to cook a meal made life very difficult for us. It was sort of a 'rock-bottom' for us.  I knew things had to change, and quickly. We were headed for financial ruin a.k.a. bankruptcy.

There was no single big financial mistake that we made that I would take back if I could. Most of my financial mistakes were caused by ignorance. I had no idea what I was doing. I had never budgeted, and had never learned how. I had no idea how to run a business from a financial perspective. If I could go back in time, I would definitely have gained more financial knowledge earlier than I did. I think though, that the rough times we had were not only the catalyst for change, but also gave me the drive to learn a better way. If I had learned the lessons earlier, perhaps things would have been better, but having tough times helped me to internalise the lessons that I needed to learn.

Today, most of the original debt has been paid off. There's only about $6,000 of it left, and is on the chopping block to be paid off this year. Over the last three years, we have incurred more debt, but from completely different sources. Yes, it would have been optimal to not incur any more debt, but it was not realistic for us. At least it's not credit card debt, being spent on stuff that we didn't want or need.

I look back to where we were three years ago, and think of how much has changed over that time, specifically with our mindset. We're both thinking about buying newer vehicles. But this time around, it's with a plan in place to save a majority of the purchase price first. I have money in retirement savings for the first time in my life. We are setting aside money for the kids post-secondary educations. We have a small emergency fund. And we sleep better at night.

And that, my friends, is what makes the whole journey worthwhile.

Have a great Tuesday.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Because it made me feel good

Hubby and I went downtown last week for our Gail meeting, and were about an hour early. We decided to walk a couple of blocks down Dundas Street, from Wellington to Richmond and back to kill some time. Unfotunately, most of the shops that I wanted to browse in were closed already (most of downtown shops close by 6 pm), so we looked in through windows to see their wares.

Headed back toward the coffee shop, there was a man sitting on the sidewalk, holding his ball cap upside down to catch change that passersby may toss to him. He didn't outright ask for money, but we knew what he was asking anyway. As we got closer, I noticed he had a cut on his head that sported about 7 stitches, and the side of his face was bruised. He was of Native Canadian background. his clothes were slightly dirty. He just looked down on his luck.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I don't like to just give money to beggars, panhandlers or whatever they're called these days. I prefer, if I'm going to just give someone my money, to give it to someone who shows a bit of entreprenurial spirit. The squeegee kids who wash my windshield at the red light I'm stopped at for example. At least they're willing to do *something* to try to make some money. But for folks just looking for a handout? Not blinking likely.

Something about this fella just spoke to me inside. Maybe it was because he's of native decent. Maybe it was the cut on his head. I'm not really sure why, but as we were about to pass him, I pulled my arm away from hubby's, stopped and crouched down to actually speak to this man. I wanted him to see me. I wanted to look into his eyes. I wanted him to know that he wasn't invisible to me.

Me: "How's it going buddy?"
Him: "Not bad. Kind of a slow night."
Me: "Are you doing alright?"
Him: "Not too bad."
Me: "Hope your night gets better. Take care of yourself, alright?" (As I press a $10 bill into his hand.)
Him: "Yeah. Ok. Thanks."

I stood up and smiled at hubby. We resumed our walk. Hubby says, "Why'd you do that?"
I just smiled and said, " I dunno. Because I felt like it." I shrug away the question.

Since then I've been thinking and thinking about why I did. Why that man in particular. He may have been looking for enough money for his next fix, or another bottle, or rent money for all I know. I didn't ask why he needed it, I just know that he needed help. And I needed to make a connection with him, if only for a second. I needed him to know that I knew he was there. I needed to touch his hand briefly while I was handing him the money, making human to human contact. Truth is, I think my need to give freely was greater than his need for the money.

The more I think about it, the only real answer I can come up with as to why I did it is simply because it made me feel good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Proud of My Bug

My almost 12 year old daughter came to me this week with something that she needs some help with. Her, and a group of her friends in Grade 6, decided that they would like to hold a fundraiser to help with Relief efforts in Japan. This is the second social activity that my Doodle Bug has been involved in organising this year. She's a little social butterfly, friends with everyone. You'd never know how shy she really is! Anyway, she asked about help with making of a cake, and some items for a basket for raffles they will be holding. All proceeds will be going to a charity that is helping with relief efforts.

She's at her Dad's this week, so I'll be busy preparing a basket for her, without her knowing. She's coming back home a day early, so that Thursday night, we can bake and decorate a cake. She thought it would be a good idea if we frosted the cake to look like a Japanese flag to keep with the theme. She also printed out Japanese symbols earlier this week, snagged from the Internet, like peace, love, courage, faith, pride, strength, hope, serenity, and believe. These printings will be their 'decorations' for the dance area. Now she has volunteered to come up with some appropriate music from Japan.

When she watched the news reports about the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged parts of Japan, she cried. It bothered her greatly to see the devastation and how many people have lost everything due to the disasters. We talked about it, because I know that her dream in life is to go to Japan, and study there. She wants to study anime and use it to develop video games. Although I think her dreams will change in time, her desire to visit Japan will never change. There is something about Japan that is magical to her and means a lot. So the disasters occurring there really hit home with her.

She's already showing such wonderful qualities in a human being and I couldn't be more proud. How'd I get such a great kid?

Friday, March 25, 2011

This Week in Review

Good Stuff:
  • Gramma getting kids pictures at Mal-Mart yesterday and taking us out for dinner
  • Sending direct deposit info for government payments to biz
  • Making it to playgroup 4/5 days
  • seeing my niece and great-nephew at playgroup
  • Finishing another book

Not-So-Good Stuff:
  • having sneaky little increases in debt total
  • Cub's meltdown at playgroup today
  • not paying down more debt than we have
  • not sending out business invoices faster
  • actually worrying about bills this month

All in all, it's been a good week. I've managed to get a handle on some of the stuff I've been needing to do. I'm slowly working my way through the knitted items needed for the "Made With Love Swap". I'm going to venture into the kitchen today with my daughter to make a recipe I've never tried before.
Hopefully, it'll be a nicer weekend weather wise, and I can make it out for a couple of walks.
Happy Weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Future Value of $1

I wrote a post a little while ago about saving as much as you spend. At the end of the post, I said that there might be a challenge coming up. I'm thinking May would be a good month for that. In the mean time, I'm working up some rules for myself and my family for this challenge. I think this would be a wonderful way to boost our savings for our Emergency Fund and/or retirement savings.

On strategy that I will be using is the coupon. Say I have a coupon for 50 cents off an item that I would typically buy in the grocery store. When I use this coupon, I save 50 cents off the price of the item, but it is not really 'saved' (yet). I will then log onto my online banking system and transfer that 50 cents (it would have been spent anyway) to either the E-Fund or RRSP account.

This is going to take practice for me. The months of March and April will be practice months for some of the strategies that I want to use for the challenge. I must practice them first, to see if they are actually viable strategies, and to reduce my forgetfulness factor, kwim? :)

Two fifty cents' off coupons equals one dollar for our future.

One dollar may not seem like a lot. Or does it?

I have about 26 years until retirement. $1.00 invested at 8% for 26 years will be worth $7.00.
So for the use of two fifty cent coupons, and a little discipline to transfer the money (and a little luck on getting the 8% interest rate), my dollar will become seven.

I cannot speculate on what my average interest rate will be over 26 years until retirement, but even if it's only 3%, my dollar will be doubled. Imagine if it averages 15%? My dollar will then be worth $37!!

What if I could manage to save (actually put money into savings) $10 per week?
$10 X 52 weeks = $520.00
$520 @ 8% X 25 years = $3,561 ( I put 25 years cuz it'll take me one year to come up with the $520 )

D'you see how a little sacrifice on my part could benefit future me?
Here's to a couple of months practice for our upcoming challenge. Please let me know what you think!
Comments are always appreciated!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What I would like in our Future Home

 These are my expectations of what I would like to have in our future home. I know that is likely going to be several years before we are ready to purchase (if at all), so this is a dreaming type of list. Perhaps in a year or so, I could go over the list again to see if anythings changed at all.

  1. Three bedrooms. With an eleven year old, and a three year old, it is imperative that they both have their own bedrooms, as well as one for Hubby and I.
  2. Garden space. I cannot imagine living in a home without growing some of my own vegetables at the very least.
  3. A two car garage. Not having to brush snow and scrape ice from my vehicle when I need it for work in the winter will be much appreciated. I can live with room for only one vehicle inside, as long the driveway is wide enough for two vehicles to be side by side.
  4. A finished basement for a kids playroom and an office area. I hate having the computer in my living room.
  5. Storage area in basement, garage or attic. I don't care where, as long as our boxes of seasonal things aren't taking up closet space anymore.
  6. An area in the backyard for the barbecue and table and chairs. I like to cook outside and have a place to sit outdoors with my morning coffee.
  7. A big bathtub.
  8. Not too many stairs. I have trouble with them some days due to my arthritis, which will only worsen as I age.
  9. To stay there forever. I never want to have to move again after we purchase our home. so once we decide, that will be where we will live forever.
What do you think? Am I asking for too much?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Thoughts

In keeping with my idea of writing everyday, I created an account with . The idea is to get my brain functioning in the morning, and helping me to get my creative juices flowing. I don't have to worry about what I type in for my words, as no one can see it. Whatever enters my sleep clouded, not yet caffienated brain gets typed out through my keyboard. I've done this only for a couple of days now, but it's all a part of my grandiose plans to make writing every single day a habit. Otherwise, how in the world would I ever find the time to write my stories?

My wee little cherry tomato seedlings have sprouted, and are growing right along well. They haven't yet sprouted their first set of true leaves, but I'm hoping that it will happen this week. I can't wait to plant them in the hanging bag and pot I have waiting for them. Cub will love picking the baby tomatoes from the plant just for something to munch on.

We're heading over to Great-Grandma's house today to celebrate Cub's birthday with B's extended family. Gramma is making pork roast and we will be having a cake as well. I love getting together with his family. Not all of his extended family meet there every week, but at least one part of the family always shows up. I love that everybody in the family pitches in somewhat to assist great-grandma to continue living in her own home at the tender age of 91. They have a rotating list of B's aunts and uncles who provide a supper meal for g.g. at least every other day. It's their own version of Meals On Wheels. Someone from the family comes once a week to clean the house for her, and help with laundry, grocery shopping, and whatever other errands that g.g. has. We should all be so lucky in our golden years.

I had the opportunity to sit and do some knitting and reading yesterday. I started and finished a short book called "Blockade Billy" written by Stephen King. There were actually two short stories in the thin volume, but I'm only going to count it as one book, seeing as it was small. We found this book at a bookstore in Toronto several months ago when we took a evening trip there. It wasn't one that I had in my collection yet, and hadn't even heard of it. It's been difficult keeping up with the books he writes, and harder still to find older books that were published decades ago.

My prized possession in the Stephen King collection is a pop-up book version of "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon". I don't know how many collectors have this version of the story in their collections, but I do know that it is much more rare than I could imagine. Most have never heard the name of the story or have a copy, let alone the pop-up one. Now if I could keep Cub's hands off it, it may be worth something in a hundred years. Lol!

Well, I'm off to get some more knitting done. I'm aiming to have 4 dishcloths done for the Made With Love Swap. Have a happy Sunday!

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Cub is now 3!

Three years ago, I was hugely pregnant, patiently awaiting my due date. I remember this day, mostly before the birth because it was busy. I still had to work, and got started early in the day. Hubby and I were at another hospital doing some paperwork, checking and re-checking documents, and signing everything. It was getting on around 10:30 a.m., and I had an 11:00 appointment with my OB. It was only a 5 minute drive away, but we knew it would take us longer to find parking than it would be to get there.

We made it to the appointment area, with several other women who were in all stages of pregnancy. I had my blood pressure checked, and my weight recorded. I had lost a fair amount of weight in the beginning, so I was regaining lost ground, lol. We were taken to a room where I would be checked by the doc. We waited, and talked about whether we should go for lunch before we finished going back to the other hospital to finish signing off on the documents.

Doc came in and chatted with us. I was still only 3 cm dilated, as I had been for two weeks. Doc was asking again when I was due. March 22 was the official date. I was 39 weeks + 2 days gestation.(Good enough for me, let's get this show on the road!) While doing his examination, I had a contraction. On his hand. (I'll let you figure that one out for yourselves.) He looks at me and says, "How do you feel about having a baby today?" I was elated! I thought he was going to make me wait either until my due date was past, or my water broke, whichever came first.

We were allowed to leave for a short time while we got some things taken care of (not the paperwork) and came back a short time later to be given medication to help my labour along. I knew I had been in labour for a few days already, but no one else really believed me. The contractions were too weak to show up on the monitors, and I wasn't dilated enough. An hour or so with pitocin, and labour was gearing up full force.
I had an epidural, and a short time later, I became a mom to a beautiful son, and hubby became a dad for the first time. (BTW, the epidural worked enough that my feet were fully frozen when he was born. I felt everything else! An hour after he was born, I felt frozen from the neck down, lol!)

That was 3 years ago already. How time flies! We have had some great moments with him. We have had some terrible days with him, thinking we were going to lose him. But he has survived and thrived through it all, and is a joy to behold everyday.

I opened his RESP yesterday, and got him his first bank account. I figured it was time I started working on his future as well as his present.

Happy Birthday Cub! Mom-mom and Dadda love you!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I really enjoy writing, and have thought about writing a book for some time now. I have a specific book in my head that I'm slowly working on putting to paper, or to be precise, putting into our computer.

I know that in order to ever finish this book, or to ever write any others, one must take the time to actually sit down and write. Which is how the My Life Journey blog came to be. Blogging daily encourages me to develop the habit of writing daily. The other benefits I've gained from blogging are all unexpected bonuses as far as I'm concerned.

I know that they 'bestseller' book in my head likely will never become a bestseller on the market. It may never even become published. Honestly, I could care less. I just love to write. However, years ago, I had dreamed that I would become a famous author, with fans clamoring to get my autograph on their copy of my latest tome. I've matured, and so have my ideals since that 14 year old girl daydreamed of such a thing. I know I will very likely not get rich and famous from my written stories.

But I am hoping that somehow, I might get one of my little blurbs published. Maybe an E-book. Who knows? I'm open to the possibilities, but am well grounded by the realities. I'm no Stephen King.

I'm trying to get in about 30 minutes of writing each day, between blog and book, just to keep my mind active and to exercise my fingers. My keyboard hates me most of the time though, and I have to edit half of what I've typed mere seconds after I've typed it. I detest obvious spelling errors, and feel the need to fix them immediately.

Thanks to you folks who stop by here to read my ramblings. It's good to know that there are people out there in this great big world who actually like reading my stuff. I may someday throw a chapter of my book on here to get some feedback from you nice people.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Save As Much As You Spend

A few years back, we were in terrible financial straits. I didn't know how we were going to pay the bills in a given month, and we were behind in payments on everything! A fair sized chunk of our debt was on amounts owing for missed payments on rent, utilities, car payments, and insurances.

I did what I thought was best at the time, and went to the bank. Surely they would be able to help me. They deal with money and debt every day, right? Short of a loan (which I wasn't asking for), they should be able to provide me with some advice or tips or whatever to help me get out of the predicament that I was in. Naive, huh?

Although the money management specialist I talked with was unable to help me at that time, she did mention something that I totally blew off the second it came out of her mouth. "Whenever you have a car payment to make, put an equivalent amount in your savings account for those months when you are in the low end of your income."

What the heck good was that going to do for me? I needed to figure out how to make up what I was already behind in, and I needed to do something fast!

Eventually, I did what was necessary, took a few hits on my credit report I'm sure, and started clawing my way out of the hole we were in. Bu that absurd piece of advice never left me. It's been lingering in the back of my mind for a couple of years now.

I found a link to another blog post in which the author talks about putting an equivalent amount into savings that she spends on luxury/treat items. What a fabulous idea! For each of us, we would have to define what a treat item or luxury item is. The benefit would be two-fold, as one would have to both cut down on spending AND increase savings!

Kinda of like the absurd idea my crazy banker lady told me so long ago.

I'm hankering with this idea, and how it would work for us in our house. We must, must, must increase savings, but I'm terrible at not touching those accounts. If I were to put those amounts into a locked-in account, like my RRSP, then I wouldn't touch them. The benefit would definitely be that I would be putting away for my future and working on my Yearly Financial Goals at the same time.Win-win.

Keep an eye out sometime later in the month for another post about this. I feel a personal challenge coming on!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Join the "Made With Love Swap"

This wonderful blogger over at My 1/2 Dozen Daily is hosting a "Made With Love Swap". Something beautifully handmade, that you made with your own 2 hands. It can be anything whatsoever, as long as you make it! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a pro,she'd love to have you join in!


1.Must be hand-made!

2.Must be sent out by April.15th. *This gives everyone a week to join, then a week to fill out and get in the questionnaire, and 2 weeks to make & send out the item(s).

She has a list of ideas on her blog this morning. If you're the crafty, creative type, you may want to join in! It sounds like a ton of fun, and I am definitely going to join in.

Please pop on over to this page and leave a comment there if you'd like to participate. I'm excited to see what type of crafty thing I might get! I love handmade things that are useful, so I'm going to knit some dishcloths for someone.

Have a Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Parents Learn Need for an Emergency Fund

My oldest daughter and her BF have been struggling for a few months. She's had to take mat leave from work, their baby was born, he was injured at work, and then lost said job shortly after. They have had to apply for assistance from agencies, and are now getting help from Ontario Works. Every dime they get, they put toward rent and the repayment of the loan. They struggle, but are learning during the process.

Daughter filed her income tax on Saturday, and opted for the Cashback thing that all tax places do. Within the hour, she had a cheque in her hand for almost $800, and because of something from previous years taxes, she will also be getting a cheque from Revenue Canada for another $250. She had dreams of setting aside money for next month's rent. BF asked her about getting the XBOX back from us. Fate had other plans.

While walking to the bank Sunday (Really? TD opens on Sundays now??), they were talking about how to allocate this money and where when the wheel on the stroller broke off. Some unrepeatable words were said, and the wheel put back on temporarily, they knew that very suddenly they needed a new infant stroller. Banking done, they headed to Zellers, with the stroller wheel falling off repeatedly. Thank goodness, the Zellers was only across the street. New 2011 model stroller, with infant carseat, all up to standard = $300 and change.

She calls me to tell me about their day and how coincidental it was that they just happened to have the funds available to buy said new stroller. I reply, "And it's things like that happening that show you WHY you need to have an Emergency Fund. I think having your stroller fall apart in the middle of the street qualifies as an Emergency."

I tell her to imagine if they didn't have a tax refund cheque that they were depositing in the bank that day. What would they have done then? I reminded her about putting away 10% of all the money they have coming in. Sure, it makes their already impossibly tight budget even tighter, but then when things happen that they haven't even imagined, they will have some money set aside to help relieve the stress of the situation.

I say to her that the powers that be are showing her again that BF's priorities must change. With the money she had wanted to put toward rent, he wanted to get the XBOX. I asked her to imagine that they used the money to get the XBOX back from us, then the stroller breaks down. What would have happened then? Would either of them  have called us and asked to return the XBOX (again) so they could have the money back for the stroller? Yes, they would have. And we would have said no.

I asked her, how in the world are you going to push your kid around town in an XBOX?  She laughed, but it brought home the point.

I reminded her that the mentality of "We have money, let's spend it!" is part of how they got into this situation in the first place. They need to stick with paying the bills, putting some money away for things that could happen, and treating themselves is way, way down on the list of priorities. A $10 treat is acceptable. A $400 treat is not.

On a good note, all this strife is pushing them to get their educations. BF will be returning to school for his OSSD very shortly, and DD1 will be doing correspondence for her OSSD. I'm proud of them for taking those necessary steps now to improve life for themselves and their son.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Choices We Made

I was reading another blog, and the author asked his readers what they sacrificed in order to get out of debt. He explained the sacrifices he and his wife made, and how it enabled them to become debt-free.

I started thinking about the things we've given up as a family, as a couple, and as individuals.

But I don't think of them as sacrifices. I think of them as conscious choices.

Instead of buying a Timmie's every single day, I choose to only buy on days I work, and keeping that money in our cash flow for bills and debt repayment.

Instead of going on a lavish, all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, we chose to use our vacation savings to pay down debt, and spend only a smaller amount on a couple days away from home.

We chose to move from a three bedroom townhouse to a three bedroom apartment, to reduce our housing costs while we focused on our debt.

We chose not to continue in recreational activities that we enjoy, so that we could get back on track financially.

We eat at home more, I'm learning how to cook, and we look for ways to keep as many of our costs down as humanly possibly. We budget, plan, save, and spend consciously now. We don't stick our heads in the sand anymore, and wish for the Financial Fix-It Fairy to come and save us. We took action when we realised the damage we were doing.

Our goals are the results of choices we've made as well. We could spend every single fricken penny that we earn this year, but I know that there are places that I would like to visit someday, kids to send to university, and things that I would like to do, when finances permit. We'd like to own a home of our own some time in the future, with a veggie patch in the back yard, and a fire pit to sit around in the evenings. These are the things we chose to have in our future, instead of choosing to live that way now. I'm sure with the improvements we've made to our financial well-being over the last couple of years, some crazy bank would give us a mortgage. But we aren't ready for that just yet.

To me, a sacrifice is something that you give up regrettably. Of course, I would love to spend all willy nilly on anything and everything that I wanted to. But that isn't realistic. The only regret I have about the changes we've made in our lives is that we didn't do it sooner.

Yes, I suppose the choices we made could be considered sacrifices.  I think they were more like adult decisions made to ensure a better future.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I long to play in the dirt

Some years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to help my sister with her gardens. She had three different plots, with many different vegetables and berries, as well as her flower beds which surrounded her house. I loved digging and hoeing, pulling weeds, planting the spindly little tomatoes seedlings, adding manure, compost and mulch.

She lives in the east end of the city (which actually used to be outside the city limits), where the soil is of much better quality than any other area of the city. The land in the surrounding area boasts of fertile farmland and sod farms that grow some fantastic quality goods. There is a creek that runs along the back of her property, where some edible things grow wild. There are wildflowers all over the place. It is a beauty to behold.

I remember staining my fingertips with the black earth from hours of digging up potatoes. The garlic left a fragrance in the air before we ever cut the shoots, or pulled the clusters. Lemon balm grew in amongst the grass, so I could just reach down anywhere and pick some leaves to roll around in my hands to make them smell pretty. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and  corn grew in one huge plot. Peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, raspberries and rhubarb were in another. Potatoes and garlic dominated the third. Over the years, she tried different varieties of veggies. Some of my favourite memories are in that garden.

But her gardens fostered a growth of a different kind as well. While we worked, we often talked about our troubled past, working through difficulties we had with our mother while we worked the soil. Many a frustration was taken out on hardened chunks of dirt. It was some of the best 'therapy sessions' I ever attended. We talked a lot about what our hopes and dreams were. We cried over losses, adding our tears to the soil, giving them back to Mother Earth. Some days it was almost like a religious experience, giving up our troubles to a being greater than ourselves, yet sharing them with someone who had similar experiences.

I treasure those days, sweating in the heat, working alongside my sister (who is almost old enough to be my mother), laughing, crying, and basking in the beauty of a warm summer day. We held children's birthday parties between those garden plots. Our kids took baths there too, with water in an aluminum tub, or played in a plastic pool nearby. Her dogs were always running around in the yard with us, keeping the children from wandering out to the road. We mourned the death of her beloved Chihuahua, Punky, who was older than her own daughter in those gardens.

The other day, I started some cherry tomato seeds to be planted in a pot on my balcony. I also added some new soil to my houseplants. While I was scooping handfuls of dirt into the pots, the memories of the many days spent in my sister's garden came flooding back to me. I miss that time so much! I know she still gardens, but on a much smaller scale now. The health problems that she and her husband have limit what they can do now. I'm hoping that this year I can allocate some time weekly to help her in the gardens again. I'd love to get my hands dirty, and work through some issues I'm having.

Of course, the vegetables I could grow would certainly help with our grocery budget as well.
Frugal food, frugal therapy, frugal exercise, frugal tanning...what more could a gal ask for?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dealing with Life and Death


This week, I've had a little girl at home with a fever for each of the last 3 days. Earlier on this morning (around 3 a.m.), she actually begged me to take her to a doctor because, as she put it, "I feel like I'm dying". I checked her temp in the dark, and thought something was wrong with the thermometer because it read 39.7 Celsius. I turned on the hall light, and took her temp again. This time it read 40.0 Celsius. Good lord I stripped her down, applied cold cloths, and fed her more children's Advil. I stayed awake for another hour or so, waiting for her temp to drop to something a bit more tolerable before I went back to bed. I worry because there is no other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, just a little cough and a bit of a runny nose.

I worked a bit on Monday from one of my side gigs, and hopefully I should make a wee bit from that hour long meeting. I've been thinking a lot about multiple streams of income, and have come to the conclusion that my side gigs, although in the same type of industry that my business is in, qualifies as a separate stream of income (albeit a small one). Technically, we have 4 streams of income, with a couple of others that are more like a drip here and a drip there.


Hubby and I attended the memorial service of a friend yesterday. There were a lot of people there, some of which we haven't seen in years. A sad way to make a reconnection, doncha think? There were folks of all age groups, and all walks of life in attendance. It was a fitting tribute to a young woman who made such an impression on us all.
I've been thinking about cremation as opposed to a more traditional visitation with an embalmed body present, and it has created opportunities to talk to my loved ones about what type of services they would like when their time comes. Mostly, I've talked to people about the benefits of having a 'viewing' as part of the services, and how it helps those who are left behind. I actually told hubby some of the things I want for my own service, should the unmentionable happen. I know the services are to celebrate the deceased, but in my humble opinion, they are for the living, to help them move through their grief.

Sorry, I'm such a bummer sometimes folks, but with the nature of my work, I can't help it. Death is always around me, and I wouldn't be being true to myself if I didn't talk about it from time to time. I often think of myself as standing with one foot in the world of the living, and one in the world of the dead. Some days, those worlds merge for me, but most days, they are distinct and separate. It isn't easy on those whom I love, to have to deal with the weird hours I have to keep. It isn't easy on those who are in my life, knowing that I'm always on call, and may have to leave suddenly. It makes conversations difficult for me, with death almost always on my mind, and the conversation always ends up in some aspect of it around me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Thoughts

"Don't beat yourself up over a so-so month of finances. Overall, you've paid down your debt by nearly $2000 in 9 weeks, that's awesome!" - Makky's Mom

On starting my RRSPs: "I was one year older when I started. It's very overwhelming to start with but the key start. You have a well thought out plan. Congrats on taking the steps!" - Jolie

It's the comments from you all that keep me coming back every day, to write, read, and re-read everything. You keep me focused on my goals, help me to stay accountable for what I spend, give me different perspectives, and provide encouragement to help me through the rough spots. For that, I say Thank You a million times over. I feel like I have so many 'new' friends who can understand what we are going through, and can be there for us, if only just to listen to my ramblings.

On a different note, DD2 is super excited today. She has been saving diligently, even forgoing her mad money every week, so that she would have enough money when the newest version of her beloved Pokemon game is finally released. Today is that day. Let me tell you what happened last night.

She was on the computer, Googling all things Pokemon, which she does quite often. She realises that March 6th is the release date of the Pokemon Black & White. Not quite running, she grabs her Moonjar that she's been  using since Christmas, and asks if all the money in the saving category is for her college fund.

I think, what we have here is a teachable moment.

We find out the price of the game, and figure out how much will be added for taxes. I'm trying to teach her how to figure out percentages on a calculator, but she's too excited to really listen. That's OK though. We count out the money from her savings portion of her jar, and divide in half. I mention that from now on, what is in the savings portion is sacred, not to be touched, and monies saved for future purchases will go in the spending portion of the bank. Then we count out money from the spending part. Add the two together, and we have a grand total of $41.25.

The cost of the game with tax is $40.25. She will have a whole dollar left over after her purchase.

Knowing how excited she is that she has saved enough to get the game on the first day of release, Hubby heads out last night to get her a Pre-purchase Card, which essentially guarantees her a copy of the game. It costs $10.00 for the card, to be used toward the purchase price. He comes home, explains what he's done, and asks her to pay him the $10 he's shelled out. Then we take all the coins and bills she has (minus the $1 left over), explaining that we will allow the use of our debit card so she won't have to stand there feeling weird while the cashier counts her change. (The bank was closed by this time, otherwise we would have taken her to the bank to exchange her nickles for paper money.) We also explained that doing it this way will reduce the risk of her losing her money, or having it stolen while she waits with all the other excited Pokemon fans who are there to get a copy.

This morning, the child who always sleeps until noon on weekends, wakes up before 9 a.m., and is patiently waiting for our trip to Wal-Mart. In the past 12 hours or so, she has exhibited some of the traits of financial health that we hoped she is learning. She is learning how to save for what she wants, and not expect us to just buy her things when she wants them. She checked several places online last night, to try to get the best price for the game. She is being patient, which is usually difficult for a girl of almost 12.

I'm a very proud Mommy right now.

She doesn't know she only has to wait another hour before we leave.

Have a happy Sunday everyone.

Friday, March 4, 2011

February 2011 Monthly Report

Here's how the numbers sit as of February 28, 2011:

TFSA/RESP Acct. $87.96 (up $16.18)
Xmas Fund - $34.70 (down $13.98)
RRSP  Savings Acct. $5.00 ( up $5.00)
EEE Account $55.03 (down $10.34)

RRSP MF Acct. $1,213.85 (up $35.44)
Emergency Fund Acct. $31.09 (up $31.09)
House Fund $25.00 (up $25.00)
Biz Savings/5 Categories $98.98 (up $98.98)
Canada Savings Bonds $595.00 (up $140.00)
B's Savings Acct. $54.16 (up $6.75)

HBC Card (28.8%):  $441.10, down $6.83
Personal Loan: $6605.00, down $22.00
MBNA Card (27.98%): $2,268.64, down $127.34
Capital One Card (19.8%): $4,191.28, up $38.41
Overdraft 1: $500
Auto Loan: $1,394.20, down $193.63
Tax Owing: $4,635.82
Biz HST: unknown, approx. $4,700.00
Dental Bill: $1,301.10
Overdraft 2: $469.04, up $69.04

Total Debt owed on January 1, 2011: $23,861.01

Our current total Debt owing: $21,909.32
Difference since January 1, 2011: $1,951.69

We had a total, utter and complete budgeting fail in February.

I'm not really sure where we went wrong, but I know a lot of it had to do with bank teller doing the opposite of what was requested, resulting in an amount of $75 being taken from my account and deposited into B's account. It set off a string of events that ended up costing me over $80 in fees already in March.

In other news, Capital One has decided to start charging interest on my credit card account again. No letter or anything, just magically it was there. Good thing I saw it on the statement! Now I can plan through it as well.

March is already looking to be a spectacular month, as I have already earned additional income this month, and it's only the 4th! I'm hoping to pick up more work this month, and hopefully be able to really feel like I've finally got the financial ball rolling on our goals. It feels like things have been stagnant (due to the way I get paid for my major contract), and I'd like it to feel like I'm going forward.

Have a great day folks!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Working Toward a Healthier Weight

I don't have any hangups about my weight. In fact, I'm not even sure how much I weigh. But if I had to guess, I'd probably say I'm in the 190 pound range, give or take 5 pounds. It's somewhat of a stable weight for me, and I typically stay around this weight.

The problem is, I'm not comfortable with it anymore.

I have a hubby who loves me dearly, and could care less how 'big' I am. Truthfully, I come from a bigger family, so being somewhat overweight is not viewed as a problem, per se. My problem is that my clothes don't feel great on me anymore. Trying to find 'new' ones is such a chore (I detest clothes shopping for myself). Finding pants that are a size 14-16 petite is nigh on impossible in a thrift store, and I loathe to pay retail prices.What's a girl to do?

I have a big, soft belly. With some of us, having children expands us in places that never quite go back to the way they were. I'm ok with that, except that my middle area seems to still be expanding, and I'm not pregnant. From a profile view, one might guess that I was about 6 months pregnant, and I'm not. *sigh*

I eat relatively healthy. I enjoy fruits and vegetables, particularly raw ones. I don't want to alter what I eat too much (I'm not an extreme kind of person for anything), but I am willing to cut back, cut down, and eliminate *some* of the unhealthier items that I consume. I try to cook at home more, so that the foods we eat are healthier, if even slightly.

During the winter months, I am very inactive. I work, I sit around at home on my computer, or on the couch. I do things that most folks so like vacuuming and laundry, but I don't exercise. I could join a gym (there are 2 very good ones within 1 km of our apartment), but I cannot justify the expense for something I likely wouldn't use. When the weather is nicer out, we have our 'walking evenings' with the family. We will drive to an area where there are lots of walking trails, and walk for about an hour or so in one direction, laughing talking and enjoying the scenery along the way. Then we'll turn around and walk back to the car. My version of strength training is carrying a screaming 2 year old through the library when he doesn't want to leave. Sometimes my work requires me to lift, pull and push heavy things (over 100 pounds) which I can still manage, but it's getting increasingly difficult to do.

After dinner a few nights ago, I talked to hubby about it. I told him I couldn't wait for the nicer weather so we could start walking again. I miss it, health benefits aside. He's going to help me by making me aware when I'm putting salt on my food (I LOVE me lots of salt), so that I can cut way back on my sodium intake. He offered to help in any way her could to help me get motivated to do more moving around and get more active. Of course he offered to increase our sex life, you know, because it is a physical activity that gets your heart rate up. Lord love him. Lol!!

Our apartment complex has an outdoor pool, which I use around 4 times during the time it is open from July 1-ish to End of August-ish. I do enjoy swimming, as it makes me use more muscles than I typically would in a day. There is a pool at one gym nearby, and there is a community pool within 5 km of the apartment.

I would like to start scheduling in some more 'exercise' into my daily routine, whatever activity that I can do. I don't own a bicycle (maybe I should check Kijiji for one) so I would not be able to include that activity at this time. I'm not fond of exercise videos/DVDs so those likely wouldn't help.

What type of home exercises would you recommend for a beginner?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's been a super busy few days for me, and I just can't find the time to sit and write a reasonable post. I guess I'm hitting a dry spell. Financially, we are doing OK, give or take a few little glitches as we adjust to putting some of the freed up money back into our budget. Obviously we increased our debt repayment schedule and our savings. It'll take a month or two to adjust to the new payment routine, and then we'll do it all over again come May when the contract comes in. We'll readjust and tweak, getting to a comfortable spot to get the debt paid off.

I got a bit of a surprise in the mail the other day with my credit card account. They have started charging me interest on the balance again. To the tune of 19.8%. It's certainly not the worst rate I've seen, but it's not the best either. Now I'm wondering, do I just bite the bullet, and pay down the debt at this interest rate, or so I try to switch to another card with a reduced rate introductory offer? Hubby and I will have a chat about it some time this month and we'll see what is out there.

It's our little guy's birthday this month, so plans are under way for the St. Paddy's Day birthday for a 3 year old. Nothing spectacular, but a cake, and some gifts, with some family around. Good times.

I'll be posting our monthly number later today, if I can get around to it. I have a full day ahead of me, and I must go.

Have a great day, readers.