Saturday, April 30, 2011

Month End Report - April

Here's how the numbers sit as of April 30, 2011:

TFSA/ EEE Account $144.19 (up $55.23)
Xmas Fund $104.73 (up $70.03)
RRSP Savings Acct. $27.02 ( up $17.02)
Vacations Account $50.04 (up $40.01)

RRSP MF Acct. $1,255.67 (up $44.84)
RESP MF Acct. $25.00 (up $25)
Emergency Fund Acct. $71.09 (down $20.00)
House Fund $45.00 (up $5.00)
Biz Savings/5 Categories $0 (down $225.00)
Canada Savings Bonds $875.00 (up $140.00)
B's Savings Acct. $12.89 (down $72.32)

HBC Card (28.8%): $262.08, down $144.78
Personal Loan: $6375.50, down $160.00
MBNA Card (27.98%): $1,992.81, down $124.33
Capital One Card (19.8%): $4,096.56, down $22.68
Overdraft 1: $944.19, increased by $145.52
Auto Loan: $1,003.69, down $195.54
Tax Owing: $4,335.82, down $50.00
Biz HST: $4,839.00
Dental Bill: $1,301.10
Overdraft 2: $0, decreased by $380.80

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

Our current total Debt owing: $25,150.75

Difference since January 1, 2011: + $1,986.67

Our debt has gone up since January? We've paid lots and lots of money, and yet we still incur more debt without trying. It feels like this will never end. How discouraging! Either I'm really bad at math, or I wasn't counting something in earlier, or we're just stuck in this hell called debt for all time.
This month end report does not make me feel any better!

Please leave encouraging comments below!

When I disappear

Some times, I disappear from the blog for a few days at a time. Usually it's because life gets busy, and I really don't have a whole lot to say. Other times though, is because I have had to go help someone in need.

The other night, we were heading out the door to have dinner before our monthly Gail Club meeting when my cell phone rang. It was my cousin asking me to come to Sarnia to help. Her husband was in hospital, and the family had made the decision to disconnect life support systems. His death was imminent, and the family wanted me to come and take care of things, in a culturally appropriate manner.

I was honored by their request, and left as soon as I could after taking care of some details here at home. I knew I was going to be gone awhile, and hubby was scheduled to start back to work Friday morning. Sadly, I wasn't able to be there at the hospital for my cousin before her husband passed away, but I was there to do the things that were asked of me.

I spent the better part of Thursday night and most of the day Friday at a funeral home in another town. I stayed with the deceased until his family could come and do a ceremonial bathing and dressing for his funeral. The owner of the funeral home was glad that he was able to honor the family requests, by having me there without compromising on the ethical dilemma of having someone in the funeral home overnight. When the someone is of First Nations heritage, willing to honor the family request AND a licenced funeral director, it works out for everyone, given the situation.

I've suggested to the funeral home, who work with the first Nations community in that area, that I would be willing to do this for other families as well. The preparation work gets done for the funeral home, the family is satisfied that their cultural needs are being met, and I get more paid work. It would be advantageous to the funeral home to market this service in the First Nation communities that they serve. I've also suggested to other members of the family that I would be willing to do this for any who request it, seeing as the funeral home will pay me to do so.

I will likely not be posting on Monday, as the funeral service is that day, and I will again be out of town. I will be attending the service as a member of the family, at the request of the family, and not there to work. I'll be back to posting on Tuesday though.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

GIC Laddering Your Essential Emergency Expenses Account - Part 3

This post is a continuation of a series I've written on using GIC Laddering for your Essential Expenses Emergency Account. You can read the first post here and the second post there.

You've been saving for your Essential Emergency Expenses Account for some time. But you're not to the big goal of $25,200 just yet.
There are may ways to boost this account. Ask for some overtime. Sell some of your stuff that you no longer use. Maybe you've paid off one or two of your debts, and for a short period of time, you use those payment amounts to add value to your EEE Account. You could challenge yourself to only spend half of your variable budget and put the other half toward this account. Pick one thing, any thing, and give it your 'gazelle-like intensity' for one month, and see what you can do!

You can start your ladder in one of two ways.

You could buy one GIC, set it to mature every 90 or 180 days. When it matures, you add more funds to it that you have set aside, then get another 90 or 180 day GIC. When you reach the desired amount, or $2100, start with another GIC.You don't have to wait until you have a full months worth of expenses to start using GICs. You can get a GIC with no minimum deposit. All you really need to do is check around for rates and compare.

Another way to do it would be to divide the amount you already have set aside, and divide it by 12. Each month, you would get a GIC for that amount, plus any additional monies you have set aside in the last month, with a maturity date of 1 year later. In month 13, after the original GIC matures, you add money to it that was set aside the previous month. Following the same routine each month, you are adding to each and every GIC, plus rolling over whatever interest you have earned thus far on that GIC.
Here is where our hypothetical GIC ladder goes into the future.

You've saved diligently and have several (or all) of your monthly expenses set aside.

You would have 12 GIC's, each one for the amount of one months worth of expenses, or $2100. Each one would be set to mature after 12 months, so you would have one months worth maturing on any given month during the year. If you have enough income to last you for the month, reset the GIC to mature in another 12 months. Lather, rinse, repeat!

What happens if you lose your main source of income? You know you have a months worth of expenses in a GIC set to mature within 30 days or so. You take the money out and live on your reduced budget while you are job searching to replace your former income.

This method of setting aside funds becomes a sort of self insurance. Your worries of a devastating financial loss are lessened because you know you will be ok. You will make it through. Having this money set aside buys you the time you need to find another source of income. You may have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle in order to live on these funds, but you will sleep easier at night. That my friends, is what makes it all worth it!

Side note: If you never have an income loss that requires you to dip into this savings, you will have a large chunk of money that can be incorporated into your retirement expenses when you move on to the next phase of life.

This is of course an illustration of how one could have their Essential Emergency Expenses Account in a GIC Ladder. It is an idea that I would like to achieve personally for my own family. I'm saving small amounts to add to our EEE Account in our ultimate goal to have $26,400 for 12 months worth of expenses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

GIC Ladder Your Essential Expenses Emergency Account - Part Two

This post is a continuation of a series I've written on using GIC Laddering for your Essential Expenses Emergency Account. You can read the first post here.

You've figured out that your family would need $2100 per month to live on if you were faced with a financial catastrophe like a long-term income loss.

Your big goal would be to set aside $25, 200 to see you through a year of income loss.

Now to break it down into something more manageable. Ideally, you would want to set aside one months worth of each expense and do that 12 times. Make a chart with 12 boxes for each expense amount, and as you save each one check off the box. Start out by setting a goal of just one months worth of expenses, or $2100.

Use whatever methods are best for you to set aside money for this goal. Save up coins and roll them for deposit into a savings account. Set aside 10% of your income as soon as your paycheque comes in, or use your snowflakes to add to this fund. It doesn't really matter what method you use, only that you start somewhere. If all you can afford is $50 a month, then so be it. Your resolve to get to your goal with this fund will come later, maybe using a payment for a debt that has been eliminated, or something else. Right now, focus only on starting, not the end results.

When you have attained one months worth of expenses, you can leave them in a savings account. Or you can begin your GIC ladder right away. If you want to put the money in a GIC right away, do your research first. Compare interest rates from different banks to get the best rate. Look particularly at minimum amounts required for deposit to earn those rates. Some online banks have $1 minimums for deposit, and still give decent rates.

You can choose to put the total $2100 in a GIC for anywhere from 3 months to 5 years. Until you have the total amount saved, it may be prudent to use small maturity spans. Let's say you use 3 months for your GIC. Elect to have the principle and interest re-invested for another 3 months when it matures. Your money is still safe, you've earned a little interest, and maybe in those 3 months, you've built up a third of another months worth of expenses.
Remember that it will take time and diligence on your part to build up to having another months worth of expenses to purchase another GIC. Continually adding to it will get you to your goal. One months worth of expenses at a time.

Right now, you're likely focusing on getting that debt paid off. Which is a good thing. But you should have some money in reserve. Imagine if you were paying down the debt, and then got laid off. Or the primary income earner in your household got injured or severely ill.

The third and last part of this series will be posted tomorrow. As always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

GIC Ladder Your Essential Emergency Expenses Account - Part One

This is the first post of three on using a GIC Ladder for your Essential Emergency Expenses. 

You've saved $1000 in your Emergency Fund and you keep it liquid to deal with life's unexpected events. You're snowflaking your way to debt free. You're on track.

Next on the agenda, an Essential Expenses Emergency Account.
Some experts recommend 6-12 months worth of bare-bones expenses. This would cover items like your rent or mortgage payment, insurance payments, gas for your vehicle, groceries, utility payments and other things that you just cannot get rid of, in the event of a life-changing financial disruption.

The Essential Expenses Emergency Account is especially useful for folks who are self-employed (like me) to keep them afloat if their income streams should suddenly dry up.

First thing to do would be to take your existing budget, and decide what would be kept, and what would be cut out. Rent, include. Toddlers swimming lessons, don't include. Phone bill, include, but maybe it can be reduced if you're faced with a huge income loss. Remember to include your debt payments, because whoever you owe money to will still want their payments regardless of your income situation.

Add up what you'd need to live on for one month with this now bare bones budget. The following numbers are for illustration purposes only.

Rent = $1000
Utility payments = $400
Phone = $50
Debt repayment minimums = $250
Insurance payments = $150
Groceries = $250
Total = $ 2100

 Let's say you wanted to save up 12 months worth of expenses to see you through future hard times. Your goal would then be to have $25,200 in savings. Where to put it? How to achieve it? That seems like such a huge amount of money to just have sitting around! How are you ever going to come up with that kind of money.

You save for it like you would save for any other goal. One dollar at a time.

This is not the type of savings goal that you would reach in six months or even in a year. It's a long process to have this kind of money saved. But if the economy takes another downturn in 10 - 12 years from now, you'll be glad you did it. And if you never need this money, you will have increased your net worth just by having it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Blahs

It's a new week. We have a ton of stuff coming up over the next few weeks, and I feel a bit like I'm just waiting for all the fun to begin. We have been invited to a family BBQ, my great-niece is coming to spend the weekend, celebrating birthdays with members of my family, a yard sale, end of contract year paperwork, compiling info to file business income tax, board meeting for the charity, Gail Club meeting, all of that on top of all the normal stuff we do on a day-to-day basis.

I of course, am procrastinating on everything!

Today, I could honestly care less about any of it.

Last night while sleeping, I dreamt that I was working through numbers on debt and savings goals, trying to figure out how I would fit in something else. Is that bad to dream about your finances? Lol! In my dream, I was saying, "If I set aside X amount of dollars every month, we could reach our goal in 2 years." The silliest part is, I have no idea what goal my brain was trying to accomplish in my dream state.

Instead of working on one of a thousand things I could be working on, I'm going to park my tushy at the computer desk, and browse the interweb. When I tire of that, my tushy's getting moved to park on the couch and play video games with hubby.

It's like my inner child is whining, "AW! Do I hafta do stuff?"

The only thing I'm doing with my finances today is to decide if I should bother checking my accounts online.

Happy Monday everyone. I'm off to play Borderlands.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Quiet Saturday Morning

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for the birthday wishes! I had a wonderful day. My daughter made cupcakes in lieu of a cake, and I got awesome prezzies from the kids. (Note: Hubby & I DO NOT exchange birthday gifts. This is our agreement until we are out of debt. Dinners out do not count as gifts.)
We went out to dinner last night with our best friends who were in town to open up their trailer at Fanshawe.

Dinner was at Mykono's. You may have read something about this restaurant over at Life DOESN'T Begin at Retirement, Jane's blog. My friend who I'll call Passionfruit, ordered the platter, as did hubby. Passionfruit's hubby, who I'll call Lemon, ordered the lamb. On Lemon's suggestion, I ordered the quail. OMG! We all had a fantastic dinner, complete with excellent dessert.

As a couple, Hubby & I usually have to send something back, or our dinner is not how we asked for it. This happens to us in almost every restaurant we go to. We almost always end up with a discounted dinner bill because of this. Last night, I am happy to say we paid full price for our meal. Well, because it was my birthday, the restaurant gave me my dessert on the house. Nice restaurant, great food, good atmosphere...we will definitely go back again.

We went to see the movie INSIDIOUS. I can honestly say that this movie creeped me out! I have a love of horror movies, scary movies and the like but this one actually scared me while watching. And that, my friends, is no small feat.

We will be going to hubby's Grandmother's house for Easter Sunday. Lots of his family will be there, with a tone of food to eat. I'm so looking forward to it.

Hope you all have a great long weekend!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Answering some Questions and Comments

There have been a couple of comments left after posts that I want to address in this post.

First up, a question/comment on the Dollar-A-Week savings plan.

So wouldn't you get concerned that as you approach the later weeks that it will start to reach a critical mass of money that suddenly is very hard to save?

The way I have structured my schedule for this takes that into consideration. Over the course of the year my income fluctuates wildy, and in the months that I would have to deposit more money, coincide with weeks that I have more income. Also, instead of depositing actual weekly amounts, I'm lumping them together to monthly amounts. Perhaps I should be concerned that it will become difficult for me to achieve, but if I never try, how will I know if I can do it or not?

Hello :) Just wanted to comment on your priority list - nice idea btw - one thing that I noticed was you have not spread out your major expenses over the year. Most insurance companies will charge you monthly, and although the government suggests certain tax payments to be made for businesses, simply making a monthly deposit into the CRA account for the year based on your actual monthly income (e.g.30% of gross) spreads out everything. HST should be submitted monthly as well - simply calculate it each month and submit it. If you never had it in the first place, then you won't spend it. Build your budget on what you actually have, not on your cash flow which will be inflated because of tax money not submitted. Hope this helps ...

We choose not to spread out insurance premiums over the course of the year for a couple of reasons: 1 - their is a monthly charge for paying that way (yearly amounts reduce the costs), and 2 - I have a tendency to 'forget' and spend or transfer money that should stay to pay automatic deductions, resulting in NSF fees. I'm not yet at the point where I can leave monies in the account for monthly withdrawals, so to insure myself from making these mistakes, I prefer to do it yearly.

Making a monthly deposit to CRA based on actual monthly income is a fantastic idea! I never thought of it before. That should certainly help to keep the amount owing down when I do my income tax. Most of what I owe is for Self-Employed Canada Pension contributions. Do you think that would make a difference in how much to contribute monthly?

HST monthly contributions are more difficult to do, I've found. I'm required to submit quarterly HST reports, and for 3 of the 4 quarters, I owe very little, or am entitled to a refund. It's the third quarter every year that gets me in trouble. One large payment with a large HST amount attached. My financial institution doesn't have an agreement with CRA for HST/GST Electronic transfers, so I actually have to write a cheque and mail it to the government. I plan to deal with it differently this year to save the trouble, but I still have to pay off what I owe from last year.

Went for ultrasound today for my hernia. I'm guessing I'll here from my doctor sometime late next week, so that we can begin the follow up process.
I'm feeling a bit like Murphy is having an extended visit at our place this week. Who wants him for Easter? He's more than welcome to leave at any time, lol!
Tomorrow's my birthday, and with it being Good Friday and all, I'm planning a very relaxing day at home, and some time with our bestest friends at their trailer during the evening. It's opening weekend at their trailer park, and I feel like getting my 'trash' on.
I'm running out of ideas for the blog again, so if you have anything you want to ask, mention, query, or otherwise inspire a future post, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.
Happy Bunny Weekend folks!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some Stuff I Found

No, I'm not talking about accumulating more things to continue to fill an already overstuffed apartment. I'm talking about articles from the Inter-Web. Every day I sit and hunt, and look around for newer ideas, strategies and things that are generally interesting. I'd like to share some of those with you.

We are huge fans of Gail Vaz-Oxlade around here. We've even met her. *howls to Gail* She's got some great articles on her blog, like "Serious About Becoming Debt Free?" and "Four Piles of Money".  If you want to read all of her favourite blog posts that she's written, click here then click on the titles to read the entire article.

For ages, I have followed a certain blog. Here's a link to Everything you really needed to know about personal finance, all on one page. It's a free download, and I think it gives a great perspective on all things financial.

For personal journeys with finance, I highly recommend The Quest to be Financially Abundant. This gal is on a steamroller to get her debt paid off by the end of the year. I'm one of the folks cheering her on from the sidelines!

Over at My Half Dozen Daily, this Mom talks about frugality, family and includes pictures of her sewing creations. She was the incredible lady who coordinated the Made With Love Swap. I read this daily too.

Kristen blogs at The Frugal Girl about homeschooling, giving recipes about her wonderful baked goods, and all manner of frugal ways of living.

Sisters Jenny & Sarah are just new to blogging and starting out on the Debt Freedom journey which can be found at Digging out of Debt, One Spoonful at a Time. I already look forward to each new post!

Also new to blogging about their debt at Two Year Debt Challenge, this 20-something couple are facing a huge obstacle with their $83,000 worth of debt. I'll be following them as well.

Post some of your favourites.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Putting Theory Into Practice

I have a lot of knowledge. I'm also wonderful at giving advice. My own personal issue is putting my 'theory' into practice. I have been working on this, and am slowly making progress. My finances show that I am. We are no where near the hell-hole of debt we were in during the early months of 2009.

But I've swapped some bad practices for others. Bad me. Recognising that I have done so is good. Now about fixing those mistakes as well.

"I can't spend what I don't have." - My take on pay yourself first. The RRSP and RESP accounts are untouchable in my view, so therefore, the more money I put in them, the less I have to spend on stuff. I must put away money for retirement or I will be working until I die. I don't want to have to do that. The kids will have to have a post-secondary education, and I want to offset their costs as much as I can.

" I will spend less today to finish paying off the past." - The debt from years ago still lingers, and it is really starting to tick me off! I cannot spend or save what I want with today's income because I am still paying for the mistakes of my past. I want this debt gone, pronto!

"Budgeting is merely a spending plan that allows me to decide where my money goes." - Budgets aren't bad. I control the budget, and use it to prioritise what I need and want to have in our lives. I cannot get better with the budget if I don't follow it.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good." I always have trouble with this, in everything thing that I do. I strive for perfection, and if I cannot attain perfection, I lose focus. Especially with my savings/planned spending goals. I am trying to give myself some slack on this. I have to remind myself daily that we are not perfect, therefore I do not need to expect perfection from myself.

"Doing something is better than nothing."  I also remind myself that while I am not perfect with our finances, I cannot allow myself to become stagnant either. In the past, I have been so paralysed with fear, that I did nothing, making the situation worse. Anything I do to make our situation better, is still better than nothing.

"Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without." I'm learning that I don't need as much as I once thought I did. I'm also learning to use up things before I buy more or new, and how to make do with things I already have. My urges to spend frivolously are decreasing in frequency, which is a very good thing.

In summary, I've learned a lot over the past two years about personal finance, mostly about how to personalize the tools out there to fit our unique situation and circumstances. I haven't reached all my goals yet, because I'm still learning while I'm putting all the theory into practice.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Panicking through Budgeting

Every year, I realise I have no where near enough money to accomplish all the things that I want to do. I budget a year's worth of income from my business at once, and try to fit in all the 'big things' that need to be done, like making my RRSP contribution, or setting aside my 'pay' for the entire year. This gives me anxiety to no end.

I usually pull Hubby into the process when I cannot stand the anxiety anymore. I need his input on how to prioritise all the things we want to accomplish. Our priorities are usually in some kind of order like this:
RRSP first, then rent for the year. After that comes debts owed and priority expenses like insurances. When I have put off something for a fair amount of time, like paying the lawyer's retainer fee, it gets bumped upward on the list. If it's a 'nice to have', but not dire, it gets put way low on the list.

So to try to maintain some level of priority on my financial goals, I have redone my 2011 Financial Goals Page. Color coded to remind me of what's most important, and in order. As we knock off one of the goals in red, we can bump something from green to the red area, and something from the blue area to the green. I can 'work' on all of these things at any time, but I must prioritise the RED GOALS first!!

All of this to relieve my anxiety. While working on the beginnings of a yearly budget the other morning, I actually started to feel physically panicked. I know me. I know that the only way to relieve that panic is to share it with hubby, and to get a plan put in place, however imperfect it may be. I know our budgeting will never be 'perfect'. My income fluctuates way too much for it to ever be perfect.

I must not panic. I must remember to breathe deeply. I must remember that all will come with time, diligence and hard work. I must remember I am not alone in my struggle, and to ask B for his help when I cannot see clearly. This too shall pass.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Murphy included in Swap?

Joining the "Made With Love" swap was something I enjoyed doing. I chatted with the lady at the post office who helped me to mail my gifts, and told her how it came about. She thought it was a great idea. She told me about a number of exchanges she was involved in over the years, sending out weird socks, or cute dish towels and the like, and never receiving anything in return. How disappointing! I hope my exchange buddy likes her things. I'll tell you more about them once I know she's gotten them, which should be Wednesday.

Friday, I started having some pain in my abdomen. I had a number of things to do that day, and dealing with pain wasn't on my list. More of the same yesterday, so I went to an Urgent Care Clinic. They told me that they couldn't really do anything for me that day, but they would start me down the road to figuring out what it was that was causing the pain. I have to call for an appointment on Monday for an ultrasound, but the doc at the clinic was fairly certain that I have a hernia behind my umbilicus.

This really isn't surprising considering what my job entails. It's not extremely physical, but I do a fair amount of pulling and pushing of a fair amount of weight for small periods of time. Just enough to irritate said hernia. Just enough to cause me more pain. *sigh* I'm probably going to have to hire someone part-time to assist me with the physical part of the job temporarily.

Another side effect of the hernia is having painful and urgent trips to the bathroom after eating a meal. Last night, MIL took us out to a restaurant for a nice family dinner. I couldn't eat as much as I normally can. By the time we drove into our parking lot, the pain was quite incredible. I'd rather give birth again that have to deal with that.

With this most recent problem, at least I'll be eating meals at home now until this is under control. It'll force me to cook meals instead of going out to eat, which will help the finances.

Hubby and I make a great pair! His back hurts, and my front hurts.

Who included Murphy in their swap package? You can have him back anytime.

P.S. Thanks to all of you, I hit my goal of followers in the double digits. You guys rock!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh Happy Friday!

Good Lord, the sun is shining, and I'm feeling absolutely great today. Over the past 2 days, the biz had some money come in, so I got to put a wee bit into savings, pay a little bit o' debt, and have a tiny bit for spending on fun stuff like food. I set some aside for my license and sticker, which will have to be paid next Thursday. I have the kids allowance money set aside for tomorrow. All seems to be well with the world.

Except it isn't.

Hubby hurt himself at work yesterday. He strained a muscle in his back, and has to be off work for at least until Wednesday. Not so good for the finances. Due to the injury, he cannot help me with the biz, so I'll have to hire some help when I need it. *sigh*

As for business itself, I'm having a week that brings a particular challenge. I can't say a lot about it, except that it has to do with the big contract, and licensing issues. I know I'll get through it, but dang, it's a pain in the rear end. It weighs heavily on my mind, so I have to put it out into the universe, so that I don't feel like I'm dealing with it alone.

I finally, finally, have all the things ready to mail away for the "Made With Love" swap. Typically me, I wait until the very last day to send out my goodies. Can you say procrastination?

Hopefully, we can make it through the weekend without breaking the bank. I've been worrying about money way more than is healthy for me. The possibility of my business losing the big contract puts me on high alert mode. I think about our backup plans, and how quickly I can put them into place. It's my equivalent of knowing that I could get 'laid off' from work. If we lose the contract, I am seriously considering shutting down the biz, and looking for a j-o-b. I could work, pay bills, save for awhile, and start another business that I have always wanted...a store.

How weird that I go from all doom and gloom to my dream work in a matter of minutes. God help me. I'm losing it.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Dollar A Week Savings Plan

Sounds simple right? In theory, yes. But there is a little more to it than that. How the dollar a Week Savings Plan works is this. Note: It should be called Planned Spending, but a "Planned Spending Plan" sounds kinda weird.

Week One: Deposit $1 in savings account. Total saved = $1
Week Two: Deposit $2.00. Total saved = $3
Week Three: Deposit $3. Total saved = $6

Ok, get the idea? Where it gets interesting is in weeks 30 and up.

Week 30: Deposit $30. Total saved = $465
Week 31: Deposit $31. Total saved = $496

Let's skip forward a few more weeks.

Week 50: Deposit $50. Total saved = $1275
Week 51: Deposit $51. Total saved = $1326
Week 52: Deposit $52. Total saved = $1378

Now if you add in the measly interest that whatever bank you deal with gives you on your deposits, it's easy to imagine that this plan could give you a healthy amount for your Christmas spending (or goal of your choosing).

I think I'm going to adopt this plan for my Christmas Account. My goal is to have $1500 saved by December 2, 2011. If I use the Friday in any given week as my deposit day, and use Friday December 2nd as my goal date of week # 52, I should have $1378 in the account, ready for spending! I used a really scientific formula ( I used a calendar and counted backwards), I figure that this Friday, April 15th, I should be on week # 19.

Week 19: Deposit $19. Total Saved = $190

Obviously, I'm not there yet. But I will deposit at least $19 into the Christmas account by Friday. I'm aiming to be caught up with this account/deposit schedule by May 27th, Week # 25.

Week 25: Deposit $25. Total Saved = $325

When I get caught up and maintain this deposit schedule, I will be on track to have $1500 by December 2nd. The difference of  $122 (between my goal amount and how much will have been saved using this method) should be relatively easy to come up with by that time.

Do you use any schedules or plans to save for things, other than just depositing a percentage of your pay into your savings accounts?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I am going to lose 2 pounds

Yep, that's all I'm aiming for this month. A measly 2 pounds.
I weighed myself for the first time in ages, and I am proud to say that I weigh a mere 181 pounds right now. I cannot think of the last time that I weighed under 180, except for when I was pregnant, and my weight was sure to climb back up.
My weight may have been in the 170 range when I was in my early 20's. That's over a decade ago.

Ideally, I would like to be in the 150 - 160 pound range, but I'm starting small. With just 2 pounds to get me under the 180 mark.

Why, you might ask? Why would you want to lose that weight?

~ My clothing will fit better, and I will not have to purchase more clothing that I do not like
~ Me weighing less will reduce the pressure on my joints which already have arthritis
~ I will feel better about myself
~ I may stop struggling to breathe when taking the stairs
~ I may reduce the strain on my already overworked heart and lungs
~ It could potentially increase the circulation to all areas of my body
~ I dislike being overweight

I do not want to set myself up for failure by saying "I will lose 30 pounds by December 31, 2011."

Instead, I will aim for moving by body enough that I will actually start to sweat. I will make myself dance, stretch, jiggle, boogie, whatever, for 15 minutes today.

I've done that for 2 days in a row now. Just move my body for 15 minutes.

No rigorous exercise routines that I will detest. Just put on some music and dance.
I only want to lose two pounds.

When I attain that goal, then I will think about another 2 pounds.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday: Home and Business

Ok, I got nothing. Well, that's not exactly true. I got little blurbs to chat about, but nothing that would make a whole post in it's entirety. Instead, I'm just gonna blurb about whatever is floating around in my brain on this fine sunshine-y morning.

Sunshine is here! Thank god for that! Who isn't tired of the cold, drab days? Hearing birds chirping outside my window every morning is a wonderful way to wake up, except when they start at 5 a.m.

Operation clean up: I started yesterday in the bathroom. I managed to clean out the medicine cabinet and the cabinet under the sink, the counter top, and empty the garbage. I took a break when hubby got home from work, and told him of my plan to get rid of as much stuff as possible. We chatted about selling and getting rid of stuff, and of course he's on board for that. Again we discussed and agreed that whatever leaves the house is NOT coming back in. He also set some 'rules' for the yard sale day, like not buying more crap to replace crap we're getting rid of.  Then he proceeded to start in the living room with cleaning out the area of the second, older computer that is going to DD1's house.

(Note: I think I'm actually going to accept help from my buddy. There is so much to do, to get rid of and go through, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. If I don't nip this in the bud, in 10 years I could be on Hoarders.)

Money is on my mind a lot these days. There are bills to be paid, income tax to file, expenses to be taken care of, and of this very moment, I have no money to do any of it. Every year, the early months of the year can be difficult for my business, which means I have no income (again). But the yearly contract should be coming in within the next 7 weeks or so, and then all will be fine. I just gotta hang in until then. this downtime is when I typically work on my Income tax stuff, compiling all the expenses over the last year, and plugging those numbers into next years budget. I tweak and tweak until I get it nearly perfect. I'm sure there will be so many things that I can do this year, but of course I cannot do them all.

Made with Love Swap: I finally finished the last of four dishcloths that I had been knitting for my 'partner'. The last one I made, which happened to take the longest amount of time, is the best pattern, in my humble opinion. The 'seed stitch' pattern gives the dishcloth a bubbly texture to it, which is perfect for washing dishes with stubborn, stuck-on foodstuffs. I'll have to get to a postal outlet very soon to send out these items, along with a couple of other goodies that I'm including, specific to her. :)

My to do list is about a thousand miles long, and so I must get to doing it. Hopefully, I'll get some stuff accomplished before I get any work calls. *crosses fingers*

Have a good day everyone!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Garage Sale Prep

We have the opportunity to 'rent' a table (with a $15.00 donation to a charity) in order to have a garage sale. When you live in an apartment building, setting up a table and selling your crap ain't as easy as it would be if we lived in our own home. When this opportunity came along, I saw dollar signs. We could get rid of our junk, and get a receipt for the donation. Win-win!

Hubby and I have agreed that whatever leaves our home for the sale does not come back in, no matter what. So whatever stuff doesn't get sold or given away for pennies on the dollar, will get donated to a thrift store.

The sale day will be May 7th, so I have got to get my behind in gear! I have to go through each room in our apartment, and assess what can be kept, donated, sold or given away. I'm not looking forward to the 'deep cleaning' that I'll have to do, but it must be done. We have far too much stuff in our little apartment. I need a plan.

The Plan:

Step 1: Get some big-ish boxes from the grocery store.
Step 2/Week 1: Clean & sort Bathroom, Linen closet, and Cub's Room
Step 3/Week 2: Clean & sort Kitchen and Dining Room
Step 4/Week 3: Clean & sort Large Hallway closets and Bug's Room
Step 5/Week 4: Clean & sort Living room/Computer Area and Master bedroom

I already know some of the things that we will be selling. The folding poker table and chip set is going. We have one glass end table and one wooden-ish television table going. There will be an assortment of books leaving. Untold amounts of toys and clothing will be going too. I will be ruthless about getting rid of crap that is just taking up space! If I don't love it, use it or if it's not useful right away, it's gone!

My financial goal for the yard sale to to make $ 600. That amount of money would pay off both the overdraft on my bank account and pay off the store card that is already slated to be paid off in June. The quicker these amounts are paid off, we can divert some cash flow over into savings for things that are coming up during the year, like insurance premiums and Xmas.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Yippee for Readership Increase

I started this blog in June of 2009, but didn't start blogging more frequently until August of 2010. It's been slowly working toward something that I want to write daily, but more importantly, something that you actually want to read.

Now I know there are more people reading my wee little blog than have actually clicked the 'follow' button, because I apparently only have 8 followers. And it may be not be much for other folks, but to actually have more than 15 readers on any given day ( like April 2nd and 5th) is amazing to me. Yay for new folks reading my dribble!

Other blogs I read have had the owners put disclaimers or some such thing because their readership actually provides them with a monthly income from their blog! I don't expect to ever being able to quit my job to blog full-time, but the fact that I have actually 'earned' almost $4.00 because you kind folks stop by is something that also amazes me to no end.

I'm hoping to hit double digits in followers by year's end, but if it never happens, that's ok too. I have found so many friendly blogger-friends, I'm about as happy as a pig in you-know-what!

So, Thanks to each and every one of you who stop by, and to those who have linked to my blog to share with their readers and friends. I lurve you all!

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Post About Couponing with Links

I watched the show "Extreme Couponing" again. Oh how I wish we Canucks were able to do something like that. however, I feel that the majority of things that the Extreme Couponers purchase would not be used in our home, things we would never buy anyway.

Here's some more sites to check out for Canadians to assist with the grocery bills. If you are actually able to use the coupons for a great deal, please tell us about it in the comments section.

While doing some research on the Web, I found this article on Extreme Couponing in Canada.

Want a Free Tub of Yogurt? Click this link to get a coupon for a free tub of yogurt.

Places on the Web to get coupons mailed to you or printable coupons, and links for freebies:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How I Keep Our Grocery Costs in Check

Ok, so it's definitely not scientific by any means, but it works for us. Which means it's likely to work for others as well. Or some variation of it anyway.

The first thing I needed to do was develop a price book.  Click here to learn more about the hows and whys of price books. I used a spiral bound notebook and wrote down the sale items each week from fliers of each of the major stores. I also tracked the prices of items that we purchase on a weekly basis. Each product was labelled by name, size, price, and unit price.

Unit price is a way of determining cost per unit of product ie. per toilet paper sheet, or per diaper. Example: a box of 80 diapers is $29.99. Divide total cost by number of units = unit price.
$29.99 / 80 = app. 37 cents per diaper.

Using the calculator on my cell phone, I can calculate the unit price on a product right in the store. After several months of watching prices, you will see some recurring sale items, and some patterns in the pricing of those items. You may notice that typical baking items (sugar, flour, etc.) will go on sale every 6-8 weeks or so. Or that a certain brand of coffee will only go on sale every 6 months. Having a price book will help you to anticipate when products are more likely to go on sale so that you can purchase enough of a particular item just until it goes on sale again.

Knowing what things your family typically eats and how to reduce costs on those items is important. For example, we eat kidney beans in several of our favourite dishes. Reducing the cost for that item proved to easier for us by switching from cans of beans in liquid to buying dried kidney beans at the bulk store. When I need them for a recipe, I soak a cup of beans in water overnight, and gently boil them until tender before including them in my recipe. I purchase bulk spices and mix them together at home for chili seasoning, seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, and taco mix.

I keep a running list on the door of the fridge of items that are almost gone, like body wash, or dish soap. When a sale comes along that I can get a great price on those items, I buy 6 of that particular item. I consult my price book to see what the item sold for the cheapest in the past 6 months. If it is the same, or less than that price, then I buy. You may find that 6 of a given item is too much or not enough for your household, but as you work through it, you will figure out how much of anything you really need to have on hand.

Another tactic we use to keep our items from running out is to simply use less. Every time I'm in the shower, I reduce the amount of shampoo that I squeeze from the bottle into my hand. I note mentally the size of the dollop in my hand, so that I know how much to use (the size of a dime instead of the size of a quarter). Too often, most people use way more of a product than is actually needed to produce the required results.

Menu plans have their place in achieving your financial goals as do making things from scratch. If bread or rolls are something that your family eats frequently, learn to make them yourself. The cost of the ingredients and your time are typically less than of commercial bread products. Make your own stock from chicken carcasses, meat bones, or from vegetable scraps.  

I don't have the privilege of having a backyard, so I am unable to grow our own produce. If I did, I'm sure I would be growing our own tomatoes and peppers at the very least. If you've never had a vegetable garden before, try growing one thing that your family will eat, like potatoes or onions. These are virtually goof-proof to grow.

These are most of the things I do to keep our home well stocked with the things we eat, and the things we use regularly. Feel free to add comments with your own methods. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My New Look

Well, whaddya think? I needed a bit of the change to the blog look. What I had before was alright, but I needed to girlie it up a bit, for now anyway.
I'm still playing around with fonts and sizes until I find something that suits me better.
Maybe some day I'll figure this whole weblog thing out, lol!

How to Build Your Emergency Fund

If you are a fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade or a follower of Dave Ramsey, you are no doubt aware that the first important step toward having a balanced, healthy financial situation is to have an Emergency Fund.

The first step in getting that E-Fund is to define what they Emergency Fund will cover, what a 'true' emergency is to you. For our family, a job loss would qualify. A large insurance deductible for a collision is another for us. A $200 pair of pumps is not. Get the idea?

Due to the unique nature of our own personal and business finances in our household, we also had to separate and define between an Emergency Fund and an Essential Emergency Expense Account. No difference to you? No worries then. But for our family  the E-Fund is for things that cannot be planned for, and completely unexpected. Our EEE Account is for the specific case of loss of income, due to job loss or a period of continual low income. It's our own built in safety net.

If you are striving to save a DR $1000 Baby Emergency Fund, or several months worth of household expenses, you have to set aside money out of your budget, from one area or another.

How do you build an E-Fund?
One bit at a time.

In order to get $1000, you must first have $500. In order to get $500, you must first have $100. To get to $100, you must first have $20. And in order to do that, you must not spend and save the first dollar. That first dollar requires a change in your thinking. You have to acknowledge that you are not in the best place you could be financially, and that to get where you want to be, you must do things differently.

Ideas to build your E-Fund:

  • cut back a little from each of your variable expense categories; even a $5 reduction in groceries per week could mean $20 to start out
  • save your pocket change: a few coins could add up to a sum of $10-$20 over one month
  • call your cable and/or telephone provider and see if you can temporarily reduce your monthly bill
  • OR cancel your cable altogether for 3-6 months; you'll save on the expense and it will encourage you to find alternatively inexpensive forms of entertainment
  • have a yard/garage sale: selling unneeded stuff from your home can bring in hundreds of dollars
  • have one week where you replace all purchased beverages with tap water for your family, the 'savings' being put toward your fund
  • ask for some extra hours at work, or find a temporary part-time job; all earnings go to fund
  • make do with things you already have or do without (this one is very hard for most folks)
  • challenge your family to have a 'no eating out' month; cook together at home and bank the difference
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but for those who are striving to get their finances to a better place, this is a good start on the Emergency Fund. The more you put in, more opportunities to 'save' will become apparent to you as time goes on. But it won't be without sacrifice. You have to do things differently in order to get a different result, kwim?

What say you, readers? What are your suggestions on building an Emergency Fund?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Stockpile Story

One of the things that I like to do when I go grocery shopping, is to buy items that will be stockpiled. For example, if sugar is on sale for $1.88 for a 2 kg bag (like it is this week at Food Basics), I will buy enough bags to replenish my stash until the next sale cycle comes along.

When I first tried the stockpiling method, this type of sale would have caused me to head back to the same store daily, purchasing the 'family limit' of four 2 kg bags until I had 20 or 30 of them. Which probably would have been OK, if I lived in a three floor house. But we live in a 3 bedroom apartment, so space is at a premium around here. I have to balance the stockpiling savings with the limited amount of space I have available to store the stuff till we use it up.

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a stockpile list, and tried my darnedest to purchase a year's worth of non-perishable goods. There were plastic wrapped monstrosities of toilet paper and paper towels everywhere (like under my daughter's bed). We made a pyramid in the linen closet with the small hoard of toothpaste that I purchased on sale. One shelf held approximately 25 containers each of body, shampoo, and conditioner. There were about 40 bottles of dish soap under the kitchen sink.  There were stockpiles of deodorant, toothbrushes, cotton swabs, bags of sugar, bags of rice, bags of flour, canisters of coffee and more cans of foodstuffs than my kitchen cupboards could hold. It looked like I had everything.

The first problem was I had so much stuff, I had trouble finding things that weren't on the stockpile list. If I knew I needed a can of sliced mushrooms for a recipe (not one of the stockpile items because we eat them so rarely), I had to take down 32 cans of kidney beans and 45 cans of diced tomatoes to find what I was looking for.

The second problem I had was that I was running out of room to store all this crap. Shortly after I bought 30 tubes of toothpaste at regular retail price, one local store had a sale on Colgate for 59 cents per tube. What a deal! I ran to the store to buy 20 more. But there was no where left to put them.

Which led to my third problem. I hadn't kept a running list of what we had, and where it was, so I never knew if I had already bought the tea bags that were on the stockpile list or not. I'd end up buying the same things over and over again, and again have no where to put them. I had to stop the madness.

I purged a lot of the things that we had too much of, and gave away most of it to family who could use it, and a large portion going to the local food bank. I organised the cupboards so I knew how much I had of any given item, and where it was exactly. I left just enough in our home stockpile to last us until the next sale cycle. I also had to learn that buying too much of a thing was not really saving me any money. Before I went 'stockpile insane' I used to buy about $3 per week on diced tomatoes. Buying $25 worth of diced tomatoes didn't  'save' me any money. In all likelihood, I ended up spending more during that time than I had saved.

Considering my bank account balances never changed, I truly never 'saved' anything. I have just changed my spending patterns.

Stay tuned tomorrow for 'my' method for keeping my home well stocked with our essentials.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spreading Some Link Love

Thanks to Jolie over at Shaking The Money Tree for the link love to my wee blog. I very rarely link to other people's blogs (seeing as I recently learned how to include a link) but I think it's way past time.

The following links are some of the blogs I read daily, and who regularly pop over here to read my ramblings. Enjoy.

If you haven't read any of these blogs, head on over and say hello. :)