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Showing posts from December, 2008

Moved in

We are almost completely moved in, and about half unpacked. The new place is more than great and Bean really likes it too. I was afraid he would be slightly traumatized moving from the only house he can remember. but he seemed ok playing with some fridge magnets in an empty house while I packed up the last of the kitchen yesterday. Happy new year from me, the Bean, and our cell phone!


Gratitude List:

1) my friends: oh man, I am still laughing about our visit to karaoke last night. You guys rock, literally!

2) my strength: without it I don't know how I would get through all this packing. Moving day is tomorrow!

3) my spirit: now that I'm looking after it I can see the rewards. Everything is going to be just fine.

The great big house sale

Well, the house is sold, and I'm here for two more days trying to get everything organized for the move on the 29th. These are the REAL boxing days for me. I wanted to get out today to pick up some more empty boxes - the ones from the liquor store are the best - but it's pouring rain and I prefer to putter around the house amongst my clutter. Putter with my clutter, ha. I heard thunder about an hour ago, which is just crazy for this time of year.

I wanted to post the figures that the real estate agent was using to sell the house. This stuff blew my mind really. Her calculations said that a 20% down payment would generate a mortgage payment of $560 a month. How incredibly inexpensive. I was paying $900 a month for rent, but like I mentioned before, I didn't have to pay property taxes or any maintenance costs. However I did have to spend a lot of my time looking after the lot: mowing the 200 foot lawn in the backyard, and shoveling the ice/snow at the end of the driveway. I w…

Fighting temptation

It's Boxing Day today and I'm tempted to get out to a couple of stores to see what's on sale. I have my PC gift card from my Mom, my credit at Canadian Tire, and a fifty dollar bill burning a hole in my wallet. I even have a scratch card that won me $2 that is trying to pull me out of my warm house.

As much as I complain about excess consumerism and the blight of the sweatshops, I do have a small wish-list of my own. In no particular order ...

A stainless steel kettle

because heating plastic scares me

One or two CD/DVD books

to help with my space-crunch in the new apartment

A fire-safe

to store my important documents and ID

A CD alarm clock

because my current alarm clock is terrifying to wake up to

A stock pot

for making my yummy frugal soups

and a pair of skinny black jeans

because my blue ones are looking a little worn

ETA: I just looked out the window to see a whole lotta white stuff, so I guess my shopping list for black-coloured goods will have to wait a while longer.

Vacation message

The Bean and I are heading off today to visit my Dad and his family. In case I'm not back online for a few days, I wanted to wish you all a safe and happy holiday.

Hare Krishna Dollarama

Well it's the day before the day before christmas, which means a lot of us are probably going to make the last-minute mad rush to the dollar store for gift wrap and stocking stuffers. I can only imagine the line up at the stores today.

I used to be a huge fan of the dollar store. I remember being thrilled when they started accepting debit cards. I went beyond buying practical things for my kitchen, such as dish sponges and plastic wrap. I decorated with things from the dollar store. I remember going for a beach theme in one of my apartments, and I put sand, river rocks, and shells in glass containers (all purchased from the dollar store) all around my living room. I didn't have to travel to a sunny place to be at the beach. And how could I afford to? I spent all my money at the dollar store!

I liken my shopping addiction to a spiritual crisis. I was so lost that I had to spend and accumulate. I studied International Development in university, so I had a pretty good understanding…

Gratitude List

It's gratitude day today, and I may seem a little repetitive when I list my son, my Dad and my job, but here we go:

1) My son is just so beautiful and brilliant. I took him to the Winter Solstice celebration with the Universalist-Unitarians (the church I attend) today, and he was such a good boy. He played so calmly and nicely in the nursery while I attended the service in the sanctuary, and he was quite entertaining during coffee afterwards, running across the big stage with the bigger boys and playing the piano gently and nicely. I am so grateful to have such a special little boy.

2) My Dad just called worried because each time he called the past few days, my phone was turned off (not for any particular reason). I am truly grateful that he is always there when I need him, providing me and the Bean some stability from some two and a half hours away, and that he makes the effort to check in with me every few days to make sure everything is going ok.

3) We just returned from a get tog…

The True Cost of Things - Melody Beattie

From the book More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie:

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
--Henry David Thoreau

Consider the young man who was doing great in his high school studies, then suddenly started to fall behind. One day, a teacher pulled the young man aside and asked him what happened. The student told him that he had asked his father for a car, and the father told him that if he earned the money, he could have one. The student, being industrious and hard working, went out, got a job, saved the money, and bought the car. But then the car needed insurance, gas, and maintenance, so the student kept the job to keep up the car. The job took up more and more of his time, until finally he began to fall behind in his studies.

"Why don't you just get rid of the car?" asked the teacher.

"Get rid of the car?" came the reply. "How would I get to my job?"


Once upon a time I was good with money

There was a time ... no really, I used to be really good with my little bit of money. Sometimes I tell myself that I am still good with money, but that I had a few "bad years" where I just wasn't being myself. But there were "good years" and I will call on them for inspiration as I move us into our new budget lifestyle.

I went out on my own when I was seventeen years old. Back then a monthly social assistance cheque was just under $700 and included medical benefits. I rented a three-room apartment just outside the big city for $435 a month plus about $20 for hydro. My basic phone bill was just under $20. I didn't have cable television, and back then, there was no internet. I found a store in Chinatown that sold cartons of cigarettes for $25, and I bought one a month and rationed. I had a boyfriend who loved to cook and kept me well-fed with big, cheap, vegan meals. This was also the days before debit cards, so when I did spend money, which was a rare occasio…

How cute is this?

It's just like me put in a rant about gift cards, and then find something a little magical to make me eat my words.

It's this:

A sweet little gift box, filled with love, that I received from a lovely friend yesterday. It's made out of an old greeting card, which I think is just fantastic. Especially since I'm one of those people who can't throw out a single card I receive.

I'm actually going to pull this little box apart to see how she made it, and then when I get all my old cards together, I'm going to get to work and make a bunch myself (after I move of course).

Just think how excited I'll be to purchase gift cards now that I'll have a cute little homemade something to put them in. And recycled at that.

The great gift card cop-out

This is not the first year that we are exchanging gift cards as gifts. While I try not to let it bother me too much, I can't help but think of how ridiculous it is.

My Mom wants a gift card for Future Shop.
My sister wants a gift card for La Senza.
My nephew wants a gift card for Stitches.
My Gramma wants a gift card for Chapters.
And myself, begrudgingly after some badgering, agreed to a gift card to any grocery store that sells President's Choice.

Call me Scrooge, but I just don't understand the exchange of gift cards. There is absolutely no thought involved in this purchase. I don't see why we can't save our money and spend it on ourselves. I know what I want and need, so why don't I just get my own stuff? Or better yet, why can't I save my money and put it towards my debt?

The image of it makes me cringe: we all get together, and exchange gift cards. No surprise, because we already know what we're getting.

Maybe it would be better if we all lived in the sa…

Gratitude list

Today is the day I list three more things for which I am grateful:

1) my STUFF, even as it goes out the door to new owners, because of its usefulness and pleasure-giving capacity; and knowing that the accumulation of it does not have to determine my real identity

2) my capacity for love and honesty, and how I am willing to look for it in so many people and places

3) my friends, far and wide, who have brought me pleasure and helped me through pain; I hope to make the opportunity to do a lot of catching up in the coming months

Hope you're having a great day.

A Busy Saturday

I think I got a lot done today but I still have so. much. to. do.

After coffee with a friend I did a little bit of christmas shopping. I noticed as I walked around a clothing store that I just didn't see much that I liked, whereas only a couple of years ago I would have filled a great big bag with clothing for myself. I don't know if my tastes have changed thanks to age, or that fast-fashion is just really ugly not nice these days. However, I did pick up two long-sleeved t-shirts: 2 for $10. I know they will get a lot of wear because I have the same ones in short-sleeved and I reach for them first as soon as they are out of the dryer. I also got a pair of knee socks for $2, and you can't go wrong with that price and with this minus 10 weather I know they'll be well-loved.

After my little shop I came home for lunch but had only a couple of hours to spare before the agent came with a prospective buyer for the house. This is a pain, especially as it's not my house, but …

Dear Santa: Mama wants World Peace and a new pair of boots

Bean and I went up to the mall yesterday to visit Santa. We've been visiting the same little Santa hut since his first christmas in 2006. That year a professional photographer in the mall took the photos - $5 for one or 3 for $10 with all proceeds going towards a charity for animal welfare. Who could resist? The pics turned out really good too. Last year the photographer was a kid with a digital camera from Radio Shack-The Source-Circuit City or whatever that place is called now. The pics weren't as good but the price was still the same, so I didn't complain.

This year it was another kid and he told me to pick up the photos from Staples this time. The price was even better: 3- 4x6 pics for $5 or 2- 5x7 for $10. I only planned on buying one photo, as I did last year, because when I get home with it I scan it, photoshop the year in, and send it to Photolab for wallet-sized pics to go in my christmas cards. Sure beats having to buy one of those ridiculous packages from a studi…

The keep your receipts / de-cluttering dilemma

I used to keep all my receipts for everything, and then went to the other extreme and started recycling them as soon as I took them out of the shopping bag. Lately I only keep the credit card receipts, so that I can match them with my statements, but I so rarely use credit cards now that I'm fanatical about frugality.

Almost a year ago I purchased two high-quality furnace filters and ended up using only one of them. Of course, the receipt is long gone (or buried in a clutter-box in the basement) but since we're moving out of the house at the end of the month I decided to return the one unused filter.

Now I know I paid about $30 for it, but because I didn't have the receipt with me I had to accept the last sale price, and on a credit note at that. So now I have an $18 credit at Canadian Tire. I think I have a couple of months to use it, so when I go through those clutter-boxes this weekend hopefully the original receipt turns up, and I can return to Crappy Tire and get all m…

These boots were made for layaway

I had a few minutes to spare a couple of weeks ago after a coffee date, and wandered into a local shoe store "just to take a look." Immediately I was drawn to these beauties. Black leather, form-fitting, beautifully-detailed, weather-proofed and made in Canada. *Drool*

The price tag was about $350 and I knew if I wanted them it was either save for months and months, or reach for the credit card.

According to several web sources, layaway is making a comeback. I guess I could exercise this option, but with my budget, I don't know if my local shoe store would be willing to hold these boots for, oh about twelve months.

Maybe Santa has a thing for boots too, and will find me on his Good Girl list this year.

If I only had a house

I just got off the phone with the real estate agent. I guess when I gave my sixty days notice on the rental house, my landlords searched their souls and decided they just didn't want to try to find another reliable tenant. Apparently they've had some real characters rent this house before I came along (not that I'm not a character, but I'm a pay-rent-on-time-and-don't-wreck-the-property character).

A very small part of me wishes I could buy this house, as I'm sure it won't be too expensive, but even if I did qualify for a mortgage I don't know if I could keep up with all the payments. Plus I'd be responsible for all sorts of other fees, including property taxes, and if anything went wrong I'd have no one to call on to get it fixed, at their expense. Nope, looks like I'm going to stick with my plan to move into the one-bedroom apartment and get the consumer debt paid off in two years. Then I can begin saving for a house and all the extras that…

What do you think of credit counseling?

A couple of years ago, when I was home on maternity leave, and my credit card debt was somehow about half of what it is now, I called a credit counseling agency to see if they could help me manage my debt.

Despite all my silly mistakes with my overactive spending habits, I always managed to keep my head above water. I always made my payments on time, minimum payments at the very least. I was (and still am) obsessive about checking my balances and watching due dates and paying attention to any promotions that come in the mail for my credit cards. With a lot of love and hard work, my credit score was, and still is, quite good.

The credit counselor told me that I have something called an R1 rating, and the advice he gave me was to stop paying my credit cards for a few months. When the red warning letters started coming in, I was to contact the credit counseling agency again and let them handle it from there. He told me, after much questioning and prodding on my part, that this course of ac…

Sunday gratitude list

It's Sunday, and I'm skipping services to drive about an hour and a half to visit a dear friend and her family. I'm nervous about driving on the highway without snow tires, but the sun is shining and my mp3 player is loaded and ready to play. All I need is a bite to eat and a coffee and I'm good to go!

Today I am grateful for:
1) my beautiful son, who picked me to be his Mama and came into my life at the perfect time
2) my family: Dad who tries so hard to help me out, my sister cheers me on, Mom who makes me think, and Gramma who supports me no matter what, my brother who always lends an ear and my nephew for being awesome.
3) down time! Now that my course (and degree) is complete, I have my weekends to myself again. There are so many things on my list to finish, and start. I'm grateful that my life is one that affords me quite a bit of leisure. I will do my best to use this time wisely.

Happy Sunday!

Will someone please bail ME out?!

Twenty thousand dollars. No matter how I spell it, I owe $20 000 in consumer debt. Sometimes it's all on my one "low-interest" credit card, sometimes it's spread out amongst three to capture low-low interest offers. I don't know the exact figure but I think my combined credit limit is about $50 000, and that includes the line of credit my bank offered me last month. So, I'm using less than half of my available credit. That's good, right?

Like most people with credit card debt, I can't even tell you how it got this high. I'm pretty sure that when I began working full-time after getting my B.A. in 2002 I owed only about $1000 on my credit card. Then the cheques started coming and I started to really live beyond my means. I was getting my hair done once a month. I smoked a pack a day. I frequented a couple of bars and clubs two or three nights a week. I bought a used car, and the Wal-Mart was suddenly that much closer to my house.

I struggled to quit s…

My Student Loan

Yesterday I wrote my last test for my last course for my Honours Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Cultural Anthropology.

I started this degree in 1998. I studied for two years full-time, and then two years part-time and graduated with a General B.A. in 2002. I was hired at the university six days after my graduation and have been completing the course requirements for an Honours with a tuition waiver that is available to members of the union to which I belong.

So you can imagine how relieved I am to have this degree finished, and I look forward to receiving the parchment so that I can frame it and put it up in my office next to the one I received in 2002.

I borrowed a lot of money to start and continue this degree. My first student loan was a shared-risk loan through a Big Bank, prior to the creation of the National Student Loan Centre, for a year of college in 1996 that qualified my entrance to university. The Big Bank gave me two more years of loans for full-time unive…

Suggested Strategy #1: Increasing Income

A couple of days ago I mentioned two strategies that are commonly suggested in order to tackle a debt burden. Strategy #1 is to increase income, and strategy #2 is to reduce expenses. As I've already dedicated a couple of posts to reducing expenses, today I am going to muse about increasing my income.

See, my hands are a little bit tied here.

I went back to full-time work when my son was ten months old. As a single mom (with very good timing) I was eligible for a city daycare subsidy, and I managed to find a space in a daycare centre at the other end of town. Leaving my son there each day was torment for both of us, and I could hear his sad wail as I left the building, and it would haunt me all the way to work.

A job posting came up for a position that offered a higher hourly wage, and reduced hours. I submitted a resume first, and then spent days making lists and agonizing over whether I could afford to take a decrease in pay of about $350 a month.

As I was contemplating making the c…

Reducing Expenses, Part Two - the Forbidden

I mentioned in a previous post that I am on a mission to reduce expenses. Besides the obvious, such as turning out the lights and turning down the furnace during the day, I have made some big changes that affect how much money I put out to expenses.

The first thing I did was tackle the urge to shop. I cancelled all of my email subscriptions that screamed LAST TWO DAYS TO SAVE! HURRY! While de-cluttering my inbox it also reduced the heartstopping insane chatter of "OMG I have to order this RIGHT NOW OR ELSE!"

I also made a habit of throwing out the shop flyers as soon as they reach the mailbox (poor trees, I did put a sign on the mailbox, but the carriers do not read it). I put a blue box directly under my mailbox, and when the flyers arrive they are immediately pulled and tossed into the box. Once in a while I might pull out the grocery store flyers to look for reduced prices on chicken, but I do this seldomly.

The biggest step I took to reduce my expenses was to put a ban on o…