Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Eight Year Review

Near the end of 2008 I finally figured out that my spending was out of control. I was 34 years old and I was going to end up bankrupt. My lifestyle was inflated compared to my earnings, and all I wanted was what everyone else wants: a home, a car, some stuff. My car at the time was an old beater on its last wheels, but my home was a rental house that I couldn't afford. I had a huge student debt at the time which began in 1996 and looked like it was going nowhere. My credit card debt was almost as huge, and I still couldn't stop shopping.

I gave notice on the house and moved myself and then 2.5 year old son into a one-bedroom apartment. I went car-free periodically whenever the beaters left us stranded. I stopped buying daily coffee and meals out. I stopped pick-me-up treatments for my hair and toenails. I still made stupid spending mistakes, but I managed to pay off the credit card debt in 2.5 years in 2011.

At the end of 2014 I cashed in my small retirement savings account to buy a house. The bank approved me for $250 000 but my calculations showed that I could only afford to pay off $150 000 over 25 years so I had to choose in a different neighbourhood. It was not my dream house but it didn't need any immediate renovations so it was better than good enough.

In 2016 I had a small panic attack about my budget, when I realized I still wasn't going to be debt free and ready to retire before the age of 60 (which will be in 2034). I finally got laser-focused on my numbers, and was ready to get rid of the student loans, the seven-year car loan, and at the same time increase my savings accounts.

Instead of boxing day shopping, I spent the second half of my xmas holidays going over and over the numbers for 2018 and 2019. By 2020, I will have only mortgage debt to pay. Any debt I accrue for house renovations will be paid off by the end of each year. I will have enough saved to cover my two "gap years" when I retire early with a reduced pension in 2032, at the age of 58.

There will always be "what-ifs" that may hinder my progress, and that is life. But these are my goals and what I am sticking to. I now have eight years of practice to realize my goals.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dig a little hole

Hello! Happy New Year! Happy Easter!

Like usual, I've been updating my sidebars but not any actual content with this blog. Everything is still going swimmingly, as we just keep swimming, just keep swimming, further into middle age (me), adolescence (Bean) and adult kittyhood (Baxter and Link).

Bean is turning eleven at the end of this month! I know! I started this blog when he was three - although you wouldn't know I've been at it for eight years judging by the sound of crickets around here. He is very much a "tween" with his headphones on and his jeans showing his ankles since his legs are growing out of them.

I was very fortunate when he was little, since his great-aunt handed down all the clothes her grandson - two years older - outgrew. But for the past couple of years this source dried up, and luckily I now make a little bit more money than I did when we were younger. We found a pair of jeans that he loved at The Children's Place and would buy three or four pairs new each September. He wears them until Spring (luckily he is only getting longer and seemingly leaner) and then they are cut into shorts for the summer. Usually by then the jeans are missing their knees so shorts are the next best step. Then, when he can no longer button them up, they go into the donation bag.

This summer we have a big plan to take an overseas holiday!! I have been saving for years for Bean's braces, but his mouth is still full of baby teeth so I took the plunge and booked a two week trip to France for the two of us! I will be back in debt for a couple of months, but should be able to pay it back by the end of the year if we can commit to a frugal christmas. Bean is ok with me not throwing a birthday party for him this year, and his birthday gift is a ticket to Lollapalooza in Paris!!

It sounds so indulgent for a single mom to take her tween to Europe, especially since the house we bought needs so much work, but I just had to do it. I've been thinking about it for two years. By next year, Bean will be even lankier and stinkier and I won't want to share a hotel bed or a tent with him (we will be camping in Bordeaux for seven days). He might not even be speaking to me by then! (Not likely, I stopped speaking to my mother when I was fourteen, so I might have a couple more years.) 😊

I will have to add a sidebar with the small amount of debt I'm taking on to pay for the trip. On the other hand, the sidebars for the car and student loans payments have been decreasing nicely, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016


I just updated the side bars and I noticed - unless I made an error previously - that my student loan balance is going UP instead of DOWN. I have read about this happening to other people, but because I have diligently applied and been accepted for the Repayment Assistance program every six months, I thought my balance was actually going down.

This puts the pressure on me to shift my fast-track payment from the car loan to the student loans. This is starting to feel right, because the student loans are old, so old, from 1996 - 2005 and I don't want to deal with them anymore.

I am making an extra $20 a month car payment and now I am going to increase the student loan payments. I haven't increased the mortgage payment yet.

The big news is that I started a full-time job in August, and I saw my first, full, real paycheque on Oct. 28. I saw an increase of $588 in my take-home pay, which is nothing to sneeze at, but our expenses for before and after-school care will increase dramatically, as will the student loans payments. This is mostly because my gross pay increased by $1600, but of course taxes, etc. took most of it back.

So, once again, I'm finding that it is almost not worth increasing my hours at work, since I see only a small increase to help my budget along. Increasing my work week hours by 14 over the last 3 years brought me only an extra $1000 a month, and I don't actually see much of it due to increased payment obligations.

The benefit to increasing my gross income when I first did so back in 2013, was that I was finally able to qualify for a mortgage.

The good thing about the new job is that it is only a 12-month contract. After 12 months I might return to my previous two part-time positions, and my budget spreadsheet accounts for this.

I am still on-track for the following:

Aug 2019 - car loan paid off
Dec 2021 - student loans paid off
July 2022 - quit secondary part-time job (less seven hours worked per week)
Dec 2024 - RRSP paid back
Dec 2031 - retirement from uni after 30.5 years (aged 57)

Go me!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mid-year review

It took me half a year to figure out that I might run out of money before year-end.

According to my spreadsheet, overspending and indulging has left me with only $1300 to cover groceries, gas, and spending money for the next five months (Aug - Dec).

It shocked me to see this, since I don't feel like I live an extravagant lifestyle at all. I haven't bought any new clothes or shoes for myself in 2016, and I last had a cheap haircut in August 2015.

I still haven't called the plumber in to fix the leak in the bathtub / kitchen sink either.

I did move $1000 from a savings account onto the car loan back in April. And I plan to do so again in August. I really want to get rid of the car loan.

Some expenses have gone up, such as house and car insurance, property taxes, and hydro but heating gas has gone down by half to make up for it.

I have my 2017 spreadsheet all set up and if I stick with it properly, everything will be covered, including savings goals AND I will still have $100 left over each month. In addition, I will begin making regular over-payments on my car and mortgage.

About a month ago, I had a little panic when I realized that in less than eight years, I will no longer receive child support payments or child tax benefits when Bean turns eighteen. That is 25% of my net income disappearing like magic.

So, I sat down with the spreadsheet again and made separate sheets for 2018 - 2024, and figured out that if I am really careful, I will have my car paid off early in 2019, and the student loans paid off in early 2021. Then I can make even larger mortgage payments in order to build up some equity to protect me from financial hardship.

If I'm really good, I can quit one of my part-time jobs around mid-2024, which would be really nice.

We shall see! I'm glad I had these mid-year awakenings to get myself back on track for my future.

Friday, May 13, 2016

In three years

In three years I will be 44. Bean will be 13.

In three years our car will be paid off. As soon as Bean's legs are long enough, I will teach him to drive it, and we will share it until it no longer runs. I don't plan to buy another car.

In three years I will owe less than $10 000 on my student loans.

In three years I will owe just over $110 000 on the mortgage.

In three years I will either be working full-time, or I will take the leap and reduce my work hours and practice living minimally and mindfully.

In three years we will be thinking about which high school Bean will attend. Will he go into the international baccalaureate program at our local school, or will he commute to the other end of town to continue French Immersion? We will have another year to decide.

In three years I will have hopefully reached my savings goal.

In three years I will have struck another couple of items off my bucket list in the sidebar.