Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Shopping

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

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

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

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

Something they want: check!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

How Do You See Your Debt?

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

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

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

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

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

How true is that in our lives?

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shopping and Dinner

I went shopping yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

The 100th Follower

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Staying Home Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Challenge Anyone?

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

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

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

Here's my challenge to you.

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

What a Great Weekend!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good weekend overall.

Now back to the grind.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Christmas Plan

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

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


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

Now for the plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yesterday, It Doesn't Seem That Far Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We Saw The Jolly Old Elf

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

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

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

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

Some of the Native dancers.

Lots to do today. Gotta run. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reducing Expenses Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Lot of Driving and Other Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is There A Rise In The Number Of Deaths?

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

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

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

Now why is that? Good question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Big-ish Post / GBU

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

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

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Metropolitan Artisans Market

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rough Day Yesterday

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

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

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

Yeah, well, it broke.

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

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

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