Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Raiding my TFSA

A couple of weeks ago I decided to pilfer my TFSA in 2010, and apply the $1130 or so to my $3500 credit card balance. I want this card paid OFF, ASAP. I know I'll be losing out on compound interest but I think I'm making the right decision. I will continue to snowflake back into it with each paycheque, but I probably won't get it back up to $1000 by the end of 2010. That's ok, because I desperately want to have the CC and LOC paid off in 2011.

I have my 2010 budget spreadsheet all ready to go, with all the modifications I could think of based on spending in 2009. Reaching the final column of the 2009 spreadsheet has been a relief, and a real achievement, because I made through the entire year tracking my expenses and debt payments.

Here's a bit of a postmortem:
After-tax income, including pay, child tax credit, child support, GST rebates, and gifts and miscellaneous sales $35 841

Rent and Food $11 496
Debt re-payments, including interest charges $8209
Car, including gas, oil changes, repairs, insurance $4325
Stupid Telus mobile phone $1155
RESP $471
RRSP $955
Life insurance $633
TFSA $1068
Daycare $415
TOTAL $28 727

Miscellaneous Expenses (most interesting to me):
Cash $1960
Lunch/Dinner out $571
Trips to the big city $1042
Gifts $1078
Clothes, music, furniture $1051
Uncategorized expenses $1281

Finally, I made arrangements to deduct $18 from each monthly paycheque for a Canada Savings Bond. I know I can get more interest in a personal savings account, but it is easier for me to save when the balance is "out of sight, out of mind."


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow Tire Steal

I was driving myself and my son to the big city on the 23rd to begin our christmas festivities. It was cold and the roads were ok, but as I was driving on the highway I was thinking about my spectacular snow tires.

When I started this blog I had a "Car Fund" to save money for car repairs, oil changes and hopefully snow tires. Then I had over a thousand dollars worth of car repairs from which the car fund never recovered.

Back in September I was talking to a grad student where I work who is knowledgeable with all things car related. Thinking about my lack of savings and the pending cold season, I asked him if snow tires were really worth it. I had never had them before and was thinking maybe I could get through another winter without them. The grad student was adamant about the necessity of snow tires, and I decided to take his word for it.

A couple months later I get an email from the student, telling me that he found a set of snow tires for me at the wreckers, and would charge me only $100 for all four. I wrote him a cheque from my line of credit and gratefully let him load them into the trunk of my Ford. I got a free storage space for them in my boyfriend's parents' garage and eventually had the tires switched just before the first big snow fall.

At the tire place I asked the guys if it were necessary to buy rims for my snow tires, as my purchase were for only the tires. The guy at the tire place informed me that not only would new rims put me out of pocket at least $240, but by using the rims already on my car meant that they would be checked and rotated for safety. Switching the snow tires onto my existing rims cost about $40 more than having separate rims, but saving $200 sounded good to me.

Check out my sidebars! I paid over 35% of my debt in 2009!!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chinese Astrology - Predictions for Tiger


You deserve a truckload of credit for having done so well this past year. If all went as planned, you ought to have accumulated a hefty stash of cash. The one thing you must not do, is spend it on private extravagances or luxurious Christmas gifts. In the stringent Rat year 2008, you took on some private debt. Of course your friend or family member who loaned it to you, said, ""Oh just pay it back when you can." Tigers however are unwilling debtors. You don't like to be constrained. Debt is a definite hamper and obliges one to guilt. So in December, you Tigers must take advantage of the fact that you have some disposable capital and pay down your debt. This way, you will enter the occidental new year smelling like a rose. The holiday season this year will not be lavish. The world is cutting down on the use of energy. Join the effort by limiting the number of energy-sapping baubles and electric lights you drape on your house. Instead of shopping at malls where you must drive and thus use gasoline, do your Christmas shopping locally. Patronize small merchants, And if you really need to move about the town, take the bus or the subway. The more we use it, the more public transport will improve.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lost confidence

I am at war with Telus. I have been a faithful client for almost four years and have always paid my bill on time. I had one year left of my contract and due to some blundering at three different corporate stores I called customer service to complain and let them know that I WILL NOT be renewing my contract in 2010.

Of course they were willing to bend over backwards to keep me and I let myself be suckered into another three-year contract (oooh, shiny new phone!). Stupid me.

I really liked my old phone, and the kickass data plan we set up in 2007, but it's all gone now. I ended up with a crappy phone that never worked properly and returned it four days after purchase. It's now two and a half weeks later and I still don't have my new phone. Yet the $344 charge for phone and accessories is still sitting on my credit card account, waiting to be paid.

I hate Telus now. I am going to spend the next three years convincing everyone I know to switch to Rogers or Bell. Hopefully by 2012 (when my new contract ends) there will be a more reliable competitor to switch to.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


It's such a graphic term, but lately I feel like I am hemorrhaging money.

The Bean's daycare has a United Way campaign that has nickle and dimed me to the tune of about $60 in the past couple of weeks.

The battery on my cell finally gave up and a replacement was $90.

I bought two pairs of shoes (one was $71 and the other was $389 - orthopedic!!) but returned them both because they just didn't feel right. I'm still wearing the same orthopedic sandals that I overspent $269 on back in August. You know you're a mom when you don't care anymore if you wear socks and sandals.

I bought two pairs of "skinny" jeans because I have gone up a size and am bloating out of my old pants. I paid $26 for the two pairs, but another $22 or so on alterations (I am way short for them).

I've been invited to a wedding for this Saturday, and so far I have spent $8 on a second-hand dress. The alterations will be another $12 or so. Total spent on alterations will be just over $50, since I threw in another pair of pants to be taken in around the cuffs.

I have designed my budget for 2010 to reflect the increased costs of living, particularly rent. An announcement was made yesterday that car insurance will increase by about 10% in this province. I'm still considering ditching the car. I think I can sell it for about $5000 and if I do, will put that directly on to the debt.


Monday, September 28, 2009

In Nine Months

The Bean and I are going into our tenth month of apartment living, after a year and a half renting a house that was way out of our price range. We had to give up a lot of space (and a lot of stuff), including our own bedrooms and a gigantic backyard. We also gave up a second bathroom, laundry facilities, and a basement for storage.

It's been great though. We acquired a bunk bed on Kijiji for $25 right after we moved into the apartment. I no longer have to mow a gigantic lawn, or shovel a long long driveway. I have only one bathroom to clean. Laundry is right down the hall ($1.50 wash and dry, each) and if I stay organized everything gets washed once a week. We have a storage closet that is pretty full and I hope to make the time to clean it out and organize it over the next couple of months.

What I have saved in nine months:
Rent: $2745
Hydro: $2340 (avg)
Cable: $510 (approx)
TOTAL: $5595

I have managed to reduce my debt by almost $6000 in 2009.

I received a notice from the property management company last week that my rent will be increased by the legal 3% in January 2010. My rent will then be around $812 (utilities included). I have been inquiring about two-bedroom apartments but they rent for $950-975 in my building. I am tempted to keep us where we are for a few more months to be able to continue to pay down the debt.

My new goal is to have my line of credit paid off in full by February 2012.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Not gone but maybe forgotten

Hi there, remember me? I have been keeping up with everyone's blogs in Google Reader on my smartphone, but I am unable to comment on them. It's such a weird voyeuristic feeling to keep an eye on everyone else while not being able to offer up anything in return. I learned I am able to post from my phone to livejournal, but I can't figure out how to phone-post to Blogger.

The month of September has so far been spent recovering from another car repair bill, to the tune of $740 or so for new brakes and a mend to part of the exhaust pipe. The car has been running great since but sometimes I wonder why I just don't take the bus. I guess it's just too easy to take my son and myself up to the university in seven minutes or so rather than the twenty minute bus ride and five minute walk to the stop. It's better than taking the bus to and from the grocery store (although I'm ashamed to admit that those trips haven't been as frequent since I raided a huge chunk of my August paycheque to pay the car repair bill). Having the car was also quite handy when my son was in the Infant and Toddler rooms at the daycare, where they seemed to be sending him home at least once a week with the daycare cootie.

Bean moved into the Senior Room at the start of September and is just so pleased with himself. His ability to use the toilet has accelerated astoundingly since the move just two weeks ago. Soon, no more night-diapers and day-pull-ups, an expense I am looking forward to skipping.

My sister just got her first credit card and the bank has already pre-approved her for a hefty mortgage. I think she'd be crazy to use it if she doesn't already have a 20% down payment. When we were discussing this the other day she mentioned that I probably have a good savings account since I paid off my debt. I was like "wha?!" and she said she thought I was working my butt off to pay it off and must have done so by now. Wellllll ... I did get off to a great start but then summer came and the car repairs, and for the past couple of months I have been making only minimum payments, knowing that once winter comes and I am hibernating in my little apartment again I will be able to make those big impressive payments again. My goal to have the $20 000+ paid off in two years has now been stretched to three. I wish I have been putting a little more towards the debt, but I didn't want to spend the summer inside either.

I have been spending each weekend the past few months with a nice guy my age who has his wallet out for everything we do, but being the independent person I am, I do try to pay my own way as much as I can.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Good Karma?

OK, I don't want to jinx this, but I just received great news on one of my credit card statements. I logged in to check my balance, with the intention of at least paying the interest charge, and what I saw made me blink and blink and "huh?" out loud.

I was expecting a balance of just under $10 500, and what I saw was lower. Much lower. The balance shown was $9798 and change. When I clicked on details I saw that a $628.28 credit had been applied on July 31st. The activity line says "Finance Charge Correction - ion."

I thought of calling them to inquire, but I don't want to jinx this. I think I'm going to leave it just for now, and enjoy the feeling of having a balance of under $10 000 for the first time in years.

That $628 credit just about covers the car repair bill from last month.

Now that's good car-ma *guffaw*

Friday, July 31, 2009

JULY - Expensive month!

July was certainly the most expensive month this year. Thank Murph I'm tracking my expenses, so I know exactly where I went wrong (Miscellaneous spending!).

In addition there were the car repairs (water pump, coolant pipe, and belt tensioner replaced) with more repairs (brakes, exhaust pipe) to come in a few weeks.

ALSO I had orthotics made, and while my insurance company should reimburse me for them, I will likely not be reimbursed for the footwear.

AS WELL I had a massage and Bowen treatment, both for which I will be reimbursed next month.

I went to the bank to make my first student loan payment, and they did not have the loan on record. We called the number on the letter of arrears that I received, to be told that this loan actually DOES qualify for Interest Relief.

I took my $66 payment and bought another $42 bottle of multi-vitamins from my Naturopath. Can't afford to get sick!


Monday, July 27, 2009

OUCH! Broken car hurts my EF!!

First of all, I always express gratitude for my life whenever my car breaks down at the side of the road. This time wasn't as serious as times past, but I still felt lucky to be alive.

Second, now that I'm facing a $600 repair bill, I feel like I should switch to public transit!

Luckily I had already pulled off the highway to grab a bite to eat, when I discovered my power steering was no longer powered. I called my dad and he predicted a broken fan belt ... I wasn't comfortable taking the car back onto the busy busy highway so I had my friend take over the wheel and get the car twenty minutes east to my mom's place. The next day I used my CAA Plus membership to access my free 200 km tow to a mechanic in my own town.

The mechanic is fixing the belt, as well as a leaky water pump and rusty coolant pipe, for just under $600. He said with my CAA membership I will get 3% back to apply towards my next round of annual membership fees, which are actually due next month.

I'm using my Mastercard to pay the mechanics bill and then transferring the funds out of my Emergency Fund to cover the MC bill. I don't know how long it is going to take me to re-pay the $600 to my EF.

EDIT: I'm thinking of tapping out my other savings account instead, which means we will have another frugal xmas this year.

As well I received a letter from the bank that issued two of my student loans back in the 1990s, and was informed that my Interest Relief status does not apply to one of the loans - the smallest one. I re-did the side bars to show this, and will be trying to come up with $100 a month for the next 35 months to pay that loan off.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Snowflaking Savings and Lumping Payments

I think I have come up with a strategy that works for paying off the debt as well as contributing a little to my savings.

The debt payment system seems a tad strange, but will make sense to people with OCD :) As soon as I receive an email statement I check to see how much interest was added for the month. I pay that amount immediately. This keeps the balance at a nice round number, to which I apply $50 or $100 payments throughout the month as I can afford them.

I was concerned that I wasn't padding my TFSA sufficiently, so I came up with a snowflaking plan that does not make me feel as though I am taking priority away from the debt repayments. What I have decided to do is snowflake the odd amounts from my pay, child tax credit, and GST. For instance, my GST rebate is $156.50 every three months, so I put $1.50 into the TFSA. I added up all the snowflake amounts year-to-date and just deposited $35.40 into my TFSA account. It isn't much but if I keep doing this each month it will add up.

I haven't posted a budget update in a while, because I'm ashamed to admit I have been going over in my Miscellaneous category. I even went so far as purchasing a new leather bag in the last couple of weeks and lately I've been looking a lot at shoes. I'm getting orthotics and orthopedic shoes made next week (the orthotics are definately covered by insurance, not sure about the shoes) and I've had strict instructions to no longer wear flats because of what they are doing to my posture and back.

Yesterday I tried on a pair of 3" heels and last night woke up with a major charley-horse in my right calf. Is this normal? I have never worn proper heels before. I always say coming of age in the 1990s spared me, because all I wore were Doc Martens and other types of boots!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Car Fund account/ Increasing income

I have three savings accounts with PCF. I allocated one as "Car Fund," where I would save up funds for gas, maintenance (oil changes) and repairs, and optimistically a six-month chunk for the insurance company, so that I could get out of paying month-to-month - adding another $100 to my monthly income.

I just can't seem to keep more than $400 in that account, so I've deleted the tracking from my sidebar. Ideally I need at least $800 for my goal, more if I want to add snow tires to the roster.

I'm thinking again of getting a part-time job. I'm a Telus customer, and I was thinking of putting my resume in to the store at the big mall. The main setback is that I have only weekends to work, but there are occasional weekends that Bean's dad does not take him.

Also, if I make too much money my daycare subsidy decreases, increasing cost of daycare. This won't be an issue once Bean starts kindergarten in 2010. As well the student loan goons might not be as friendly to me if my income increases. I am currently on interest relief while I pay down my credit card/line of credit.

I have tried to bring in more income but selling my stuff on ebay, and Bean's stuff at the consignment shop, but the little bit it brings in does not justify the time spent getting it out there.

I'm spending more in my "Misc." category because it is summer and I have a lot of opportunities to socialize. I think once summer is over I will be able to go back to spending not much at all. I tend to hibernate when the days get shorter.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Diaper deals at Rexall

This week I will be visiting Rexall (Pharma Plus) drug store for the third time in two weeks to purchase Huggies. We use the diapers for night time and the Pull Ups at daycare. The Huggies Pull Ups are far superior to Pampers or store brands (this is not a sponsored post). Both the diapers and the Pull Ups are in the flyer for $14.99 until this Friday.

Plus, I am armed with $2.00 coupons for the diapers that I found in the blue box in my building, and $2.50 coupons that were on the shelf of Price Choppers - I have been taking one each time I go into the grocery store to buy food. So the diapers are only $12.99 and the Pull Ups are $12.49. Much better than $17 or even $19.99 for a little pack of 40!

So, I may go over-budget by about $100 this month, but we should be stocked up on diapers and Pull Ups for the most of the summer. Hopefully Bean potty-learns by September :)


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Money Ups and Downs - an update

I way way way overspent in May. There were two trips to the big city, the second one involving a trip to the thrift shop where I scored three dresses, a blazer and a pair of leather flats for $40.

I would like to make a picture post with my deals, and some of the frugal meals I have been making, but it's not often I get to an internet connection long enough to do so. I am still reading most of the blogs I am following on my smartphone.

For a few days last week my facebook-addiction was seriously challenged, when I couldn't get it to load on my phone. I tried to convince myself that it was a good thing, that I could now downgrade to a simpler phone and drop the $15 unlimited web access from my phone bill. I even pulled out one of my old phones to make the switch. Then I figured out how to fix the facebook and practically kissed my smartphone in relief.

It's kinda like when I quit coffee when I was sick. I lasted almost three weeks, and slowly the coffee addiction has crept back up on me. I am weak.

But I have continued to eat my protein at almost every meal, and I'm still taking all my supplements. I'm taking a cheaper vitamin now that isn't nearly as good as the one I get from my naturopath.

I was in the graduation ceremony for my Honours degree the other day, and it was really nice. My Mom and Gramma drove up from the big city to see me, and my sister was there too. Gramma gave me a generous bit of cash, which was totally unexpected.

When I went to deposit it into the bank machine, I noticed a discrepancy in my account. I had a suspicion, so I checked my account online, and found a $40 NSF service charge for a bill payment that was supposed to go through. I thought I had it all carefully planned out, but I guess I forgot to make the transfer from savings to cover the bill charge. You think the bank could just pull the funds from my savings account, but no. No fee banking, my butt.

I'm back in the big city this weekend. Right now I'm at my Dad's, using his wireless connection. I have a date planned for this evening. Have fun everyone. I know I will! :)


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My budget spreadsheet is a mess

Back to the drawing board, as they say.

I got it sorted out today, and I already know what the problem is. Luckily, I get paid at the end of the week, so I get a chance to start over again.

What happened was I was paying my basic expenses and putting the rest of my money onto my Line of Credit. My rationalization was that if I ran out of $$ I could tap into the LOC. Then when I ran out of money, I would berate myself for considering using the LOC, and use my credit card instead.

Now I have a $300 credit card bill to pay off, and tracking the expenses has mucked up my pretty spreadsheet.

For June the new goal is to keep at least $300 in my account and shelve the credit card. For good, I hope.


Friday, May 15, 2009

The Cost of Wellness

So far, my new morning routine consists of:

- two Super Orti-Vite vitamins ($42 a bottle)
- one Omega 3 - 6 ($16 a bottle)
- one Aloe Immune ($41 a bottle)
- 2000 IU liquid Vitamin D (free from naturopath)
- one Macrobid (covered by SunLife)
- two Valacyclovir (covered by SunLife)
- two eggs and toast
- apple or strawberries
- glass of orange juice (canned concentrate, pulp-free)

At lunch I have been eating dinner leftovers, which is usually rice and a meat/veggie concoction that I throw together. Yesterday I remembered to pack some fresh veggies and dip. At some point in the day I eat two more Valacyclovir, and thanks to all this pill-popping, I'm drinking tons of water. All day I sip on a red raspberry leaf tea ... I don't mind it if it's cold.

Dinner is more protein/veggie/grain stuff and another Macrobid. If I remember and think my stomach can handle it I eat an iron pill ($24 a bottle).

Nighttime routine is one more Omega 3 - 6 and another Aloe Immune. My naturopath says that once the bottle of Aloe Immune is finished I won't have to take anymore. She also said that I MUST consume protein three times a day. This week I am eating through 2 lbs of ground beef. So much for going back to vegetarianism.

My naturopath also mentioned that Canadian beef is very high quality and much more trustworthy than chicken. She said the industry has worked long and hard to make sure it's products are really standard, which is reassuring.

Finally, a really great thing has come out of being sick. I realized on Monday that I had not had a coffee since Friday. I guessed that some of my headachy pain over the weekend could have been attributed to withdrawal. I had been planning to take a couple days to myself this summer and put myself through the coffee withdrawal, but it's already done! I miss coffee, but I have been making myself drink herbal tea instead. I went for a coffee with a friend yesterday and had an Earl Grey with milk and sugar instead. It was lovely.

Funny thing is, I didn't touch coffee until I was 26 years old. Then I made up for lost time by becoming a fast addict of it. Hopefully I can chalk up another addiction busted (along with cigarettes - go me!).


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Boy, when I get sick ...

I have known for the past few weeks that I was feeling low. Every time I thought of something to post on this blog I decided it was too negative, or whiny, or not grateful enough. Like, the old me.

I was snapping at my son A LOT. And freaking out on his dad TOO MUCH (well, the doofus did play a mean trick with money in April, but I didn't want to react the way I did). I was spending A LOT of time at work trying to wrap up the semester, and trying to get to my weekly Al-Anon meeting each Tuesday afternoon. I spent a weekend with my mom, which turned out pretty well, for maybe the first time ever. I was stressing a lot about a potential new relationship.

And then I got sick. Disgustingly, embarrassingly sick. I couldn't keep water down and what I thought was a spider bite on my back migrated to my front. I writhed and itched and thought I might be dying. After a whole weekend of suffering, I went to the doctor.

Diagnosis: SHINGLES. Yes, the same shingles that my grandmother gets. My old chicken pox virus gone bad, after thirty years of harbouring in my spinal nerves. My nerves were shot, and they shot out an old pox to remind me of what bad really is.

I'm back to being grateful, because it could have been worse. Shingles is something I can live with. It's a condition that can recur, so it forces me to take care of myself in order to prevent a new outbreak. The pain can be excrutiating at times, but I can live with it. I have an amazing capacity for pain (or so I was told during my 37 hours of labour with Bean in 2006). The treatment is a little expensive, but bound for success.

No more skipping breakfast, or cafeteria pizza for lunch. No more toast for dinner.

I have a feeling I'm going to have to re-visit my budget, and possibly move some debt money into food and wellness money categories.

I don't have the internet at home anymore so I try to post from work (on my lunch break, of course ;)). However I have been mostly keeping up with blog reading on my HTC phone. I managed to get a readable Google Reader on it and I check it a couple times a day. So, I've still been here all along, just not able to say anything. And like I mentioned, I didn't have much to say. I hope this new, renewed wellness project that is ME gives me inspiration to write again.


Monday, May 04, 2009

April spending

I went $67 over-budget in April, but I'm not kicking myself for it, because I earmarked ALL of my income tax refund to RRSP savings and debt repayments. As well it was Bean's third birthday on the 30th, and I forgot to budget for it.

I bought his main birthday gift - a Little Tykes easel - last November and had it stored in my dad's basement until Easter. The party itself cost me a few bucks, for cupcake mix (I made 40 cupcakes, 24 went to his friends at daycare) and muffin tins, loot bags for Bean and his friend Gloria, juice and snacks, and a round of bowling for the main event. We had a lot of fun.

There was also my Overspend Weekend, which could have been worse.

My mom came to visit this past weekend and I spent some unbudgeted funds from my May budget because when we are together we like to shop. I took it easy though, and bought only a few tank tops and a pair of jean shorts at a heavily discounted price, a brand-new wallet at a second-hand shop, and some liquid laundry soap.

I was hoping by now to have tried one of the homemade laundry soap recipes out there but I haven't been able to force myself to sit down and grate the laundry bar.

I decided not to enroll in a summer school course because I am tired most of the time and want to get some energy built up before I take on a new goal.


Monday, April 27, 2009

A Frugal Holiday

Grace mentioned me in her blog last week, while talking about debt burnout and the need to take a holiday from frugal fretting for a day or so.

I had been thinking of taking a day off from laundry and brooding to spend a day in the big city with good friends and nice weather, and Grace's mention gave me the kick in the butt I needed to just go and do it. I spent about $100 in total for my day of silliness in the city. That included 24-hour parking, some drinks, and cab fare. I also got a much-needed haircut and bought a couple of things for my kitchen that I had been eyeing up for awhile. My partner-in-crime for the day covered meals and some drinks, which was a nice treat.

It's a busy week for me, with our final program meeting until September scheduled for tomorrow, a lunch planned for Wednesday for a friend and co-worker who is going on maternity leave in only a few days, and then on Thursday it is Bean's third birthday!

Today I must get to the store to find a cake mix because I want to bake two dozen cupcakes for his daycare friends. I have not baked cupcakes since eighth grade, so I hope they turn out well. Cupcakes can't be that difficult, can they? Any pointers or suggestions to make this project as sweet as can be?


Friday, April 17, 2009

My blog needs a kick in the butt

I no longer have access to someone's wireless connection at home, and I've been WAY too busy at work to blog from there.

And I have lost my focus. I have to remember why I started this blog in the first place.

Before I started here I enjoyed reading three kinds of blogs: self-help, single moms, and personal finance. The plethora of these blogs got me through some seriously dark days and some really lonely weekends.

When I found myself ready and willing to start posting my own, I wanted to come up with a combination of the three. With a fourth element, the Canadian bias.

Mostly, I was tired of trying to find inspiration in PF blogs written by one half of a couple. I don't have a problem with couples, but I can't tell you how many told me in their blogs, "WE paid off a $20 000 debt in just TWO years!"

I'm on my own here, and no one is going to help me pay off my debt. As well I can't work more for extra income because I'm a single mom to a three-year-old. I have enough guilt in me for putting him in daycare at ten months old.

I'm fortunate that I have help in the way of childcare subsidy, child support (not court-mandated) and student loan interest relief. Also I keep our expenses as low as I possibly can with the help of amazing hand-me-down clothes from an aunt of Bean's dad. I don't buy many snacks or take-out foods, and I use the community food box program to supplement the grocery bills.

I feel like I'm losing focus. I'm tired. I'm paying off the $20 000 debt one month at a time and trying my best most of the time. Sometimes I want to say "f&*k it" and run away.

I need to keep my attitude of gratitude in check, because at the end of the day that's what gets me through the night.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fifty bucks

I have checked and double-checked, and I cannot figure out what I did wrong. Or should I say, what I did right? I have an extra fifty dollars in my bank account that will not reconcile with my budgeting spreadsheet, no matter how many times I add up the figures. Of course I would rather be fifty dollars OVER than under, but if this were someone else's books it would still be an error. I'm tempted to go to Winner's and buy myself a fifty dollar bag as a "treat" but I'm sure if I do that the answer will mystically appear and I will suddenly be fifty dollars UNDER.

I'll sit with it for another week or so and make a decision next weekend. I don't have time to shop this weekend anyways because I am on the road visiting family for Easter. This is the first time I've had my laptop out in almost two weeks. Bean is in another room watching Dora so I have a few minutes to read and make a post. We're at my Dad's today which gives me a bit of a break. The one-bedroom apartment was starting to feel quite stifling.

Have a happy Easter, if you celebrate, and if not, have a most excellent weekend! :)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tax returns

So much is going on in my little life, and I have to start somewhere, so here's a list:

- union issues bumped my good friend and co-worker out of our adjoining offices, so I'm dealing with the change of missing what was and getting used to what is

- I'm thinking of taking a summer school course in first-year accounting, which can lead into a degree in Business, if I decide to go that route

- the Bean is beautiful and challenging, just like life should be

March spending was about the same as previous months, with a little overspending in the food/house category, and underspending in car fuel/oil. Debt payments are excitingly moving along (as you can see in the sidebars).

I received my income tax refund today of $1687.49.
I put $860 into an RRSP account, bringing it up to $2500 or so.
I put $300 on my line of credit and $500 on my credit card.

Financially I'm feeling good. As for the rest of it, I'm feeling a little low lately, which is why I'm having a hard time posting to my blogger. As well, Bean hasn't been away from me in almost two weeks, so I haven't made time to just sit and write. Hopefully more to come this weekend!


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hump Day already

How did it get to be Wednesday already?

I do most of my posting in the middle of the night, and I've been sleeping all night lately (which is good).

I also do a lot of posting on the weekend, and this weekend it is my turn with the Bean ... so I don't expect to be online much, if at all. I can't bring out my laptop without him freaking out about watching "little movies" (youtube) and I'm doing all I can to avoid fighting these days. I just don't have the energy.

I hope to post about March spending tomorrow, or if I can get to it, later today.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

DailyOM: The Power Behind Us


Behind each of us stands at least one supporter. This was once thought to be the spouse who ran the home while leaving the other spouse free to work. While this is still one valid scenario, most of us will find that we have other kinds of supporters in our lives. In some cases, our supporters are the people whose help allows us to do the things we’re best at, see to our obligations, or pursue or dreams. In other cases, our support may come from the people who are there to help us through life’s challenges by offering us their strength and bolstering our spirit.

Our support may come from our families and friends or from the people we hire—nannies, assistants, gardeners, healers, therapists, and advisors. Our supporters may be the mentors who help us express ourselves by listening to us as we share our thoughts and feelings. Our supporter can be the person sitting next to us at a networking meeting or the teacher from our childhood whose words still resonate in our minds. We have always had supporters around us whether we noticed them or not. No matter where the support comes from, few of us can make it through life without assistance.

As we take the time to acknowledge everyone that has every supported us, we can’t help but feel grateful. Understanding our place in our human support system helps us see that just as there are people that support us, we are a supporter to many people. By gratefully accepting the expertise and assistance of our supporters, we can consciously and more easily build a life that we love. Thanks to our staff, groups, friends, and loved ones for all their support. We all need each other’s support to thrive this world.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

I did it my way

Reading this post by Frugal Dad today reminded me of how grateful I am to have done it my way, against all odds, despite all criticism.

I was thirty years old when I found myself pregnant by my ex. We had reconciled briefly, but I was in the process of getting rid of all my stuff and moving to Thailand for eight months or longer. I had already arranged a leave of absence from a position I despised at the university, and was looking for a geographical cure for my misery. I was already thirty, with a B.A. in International Development and no overseas experience under my belt. It was time to go.

But there were other plans in store for me. Under my belt was a little sprawn, who would inspire me to stop smoking, stop living by my four credit cards, and get real about life. I mean, GET REAL.

I found out I was pregnant a week before I left for Thailand. I felt it was too late to change my plans, my job was given out on contract and my apartment was already rented to new tenants. Trying to arrange a quickie abortion - something I didn't even consider - would delay my trip by a couple of weeks, at least.

I did what I do with everything, I dove right in head first and dealt with it all as it came.

Sure, my situation wasn't ideal. I was single, temporarily unemployed, and up to my seventh chakra in debt. I had years of counseling ahead of me, if I were ever to feel comfortable in my own skin. I had issues and scars. I had little support from my family.

But I was thirty, not a kid in high school, with a B.A. and a lot of love to give. Having my son forced me to take a real look at the mess I called my life and quickened me to straighten it out. It took time, it's taking time, but it's happening. I can feel it. I'm smoke-free over three years now, getting myself out of debt, added the Honours to my degree, and I'm a lot more self aware, as well as a lot less self-conscious. Becoming a mom did wonders for my self-esteem. I'm learning patience ... stability ... integrity.

I guess my point is that there is no ideal time to have kids. Sure, plans are great, but life is what it is. It's only life.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The mortgage angel

The idea of home ownership is never far from my mind, especially because being a reader of finance material exposes me to all the benefits and pitfalls of having a mortgage. And of course there's all the news about the bursting of the housing bubble in the U.S. and all. We didn't have the same crisis in Canada but I hear that prices are falling and this makes me a little antsy to get out of debt and into the property market.

This feeling of antsy hit me a couple of years ago, before I rented my house. I have near-perfect credit and always pay my rent on time, which is always around $900. I was starting to fall for the idea that I could roll that kind of money into a mortgage payment. I actually became obsessed with the idea of owning my own home (which helps me dramatically now, because I never let a payment slip on my debts) and I would drive around different neighbourhoods every weekend picking out houses I thought I could afford.

One weekend I found a house in my neighbourhood that was for sale, and absolutely adorable. I took a chance and called the agent listed on the sign. He referred me to a colleague in the mortgage business, who was a manager at TD-Canada Trust (this financial institution keeps showing up in my life, and I don't even have an account there anymore). The mortgage broker, whom I'll call Lisa, graciously met with me at her office and looked over all the bits of paper I brought with me, which showed that yes, I do have only a single, small income (between $20 to 25 000), and a huge amount of debt (close to what it is now).

She did the necessary credit check which proved that I have excellent credit and make all my payments on time. I tried to convince her why I would be a good risk for mortgage approval. She was polite and not too condescending when she explained why, from her perspective, I was actually a bad risk. This was the first time I had heard the term "debt-to-credit ratio."

I was angry and embarrassed when I left her office but after a while, and after renting a whole house, I realized she was right. Lisa did me a favour. If she had approved me a mortgage I would be stuck with it now, and I would be losing my mind trying to keep up with the payments. Not to mention the utilities and maintenance costs, insurance and property taxes. And the decreasing value of my property.

About a year after my appointment with Lisa it became apparent that there was this mortgage problem in the US. So many people just like me didn't have a Lisa to stop them from making a huge mistake.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend spending

On Saturday morning I woke up child-free and took advantage of that by laying in my bed dozing and daydreaming for a couple hours. When I finally got up I had a serious case of the "buys" and I thought about heading out immediately to some stores to see if anything struck my fancy.

I managed to wait it out a bit by making myself a home-coffee and settling onto the couch to catch up on my blog reader. The urge to shop was still there but I had loads and loads of laundry to do and the laundry facilities were all clear. I did three loads and washed up most of the dishes and by then it was late-lunchtime and nap time. Then my mom called and we talked for over an hour and by then it was time to jump in the shower and get ready for a late dinner date with an old friend.

Shopping urge averted for another day.

On Sunday I had the urge to make banana bread with all the bananas living in the freezer but I discovered that I didn't have enough sugar. So off the the bulk barn where I spent just under $40 on all kinds of ingredients and snacks, including $9.48 on salted and mixed nuts. Whoops!

Bean loves the snacks though and it's a bit better than cookies or candy so I'm trying not to beat myself up for it. At least I didn't buy another bag or pair of shoes.

I'm looking forward to adding up all my categories in the next week or so to see if I spent too much over the budget. I have a feeling I did pretty well this month. The debt total has gone down a bit anyways, and that's what really counts.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

DailyOM: Brave Spirits

Remembering Who We Are

Most of us are familiar with the idea that we are not human beings having spiritual experiences; instead, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. We hear this and even though we may experience a resounding yes in our bodies, we may not take the time to really acknowledge the truth of these statements. Integrating this idea into how we view ourselves can broaden our sense of who we are and help us appreciate ourselves as brave spirits on an important mission to learn and grow here on earth.

As spiritual beings, we are visitors in this physical realm. The fact that we came here and lost all memory of what happened to us before we were born is one of the many reasons that it takes so much courage for a soul to incarnate on earth. This is why spiritual inquiry so often feels like a remembering—because it is. Remembering that we are spiritual beings is part of the work that we are here on earth to do. When we operate from a place of remembering, we tap into the wisdom that our spirit accumulated even before we stepped into this lifetime. Remembering who we are can give us the patience to persevere when we become overwhelmed or frustrated. It can give us the courage to work through the most daunting challenges and help us trust the ancient wisdom we carry that is offered to us by our intuition.

We have chosen to be on earth because there is something we want to learn that can only happen by inhabiting a body. Some of us are here to repay a debt, learn about love, or teach forgiveness. Most of us are here for a combination of reasons, we carry this information in our souls, all we have to do is remember. As you go through your journey, try not to forget how brave you are, being here now. Honor yourself.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Since I can swear in my own blog ...

The first commenter at this post at singleparents.about.com is a stupid, ignorant piece of sh*t. He (she? must be a he) advocates a site called childrenneedbothparents.net, which I only had time to skim through, but this post in particular caught my eye and pissed me off even more.

I hate the way the information is presented to accuse a mother of denying her children a father in their lives. I can't think of too many women who would disallow visitation, unless the father was seriously abusive and jeopardizing his children's lives. If we want to go by half-truths, stereotypes, and out-of-context "facts," then I propose that if children are fatherless, it is because the father couldn't handle the responsibility and left. Or was forced to leave because of abuse.

It takes a lot more than two parents to make a family. And a family arrangement does not have to be of a two-gendered nuclear type in order to lead healthy children into adulthood.

Do you know how many straight single moms regret choosing the wrong man to father her children? So many of us stuck it out and tried to make it work, and decided it was in fact healthier to not expose her children to the abuses in the parental relationship.

In my own situation I had to make the difficult decision to separate from my son's father. My son was not learning how to relate to others in a healthy way because of our fighting. And get this: my son is not fatherless. He has both parents, even though we live in different cities. He spends almost every weekend with his dad and dad's family. I wouldn't let him go if I thought it was unhealthy for him. They have a close and loving relationship, and I do everything I can to encourage it. My son is well-adjusted and one of the nicest and most outgoing kids in his daycare.

To all the single parents out there, Happy Single Parents' Day.

To our critics, go to hell. Your generalizations are not helpful or useful.


And then there were three

I have four credit cards. Two have zero balances, one usually does but I used it to pay for an event last night for which I will be reimbursed next week, and the fourth card has the accumulated balance from all the other cards, to the tune of $11 000 CDN.

One out of the four cards charges an annual fee of $29 because it is a "low-interest" card. However, the card that now has the $11 000+ balance is a good two percent lower than my "low-interest" VISA.

I can access probably about $45 000* (EDIT: I checked my records and it is actually closer to $60 000) in credit between the four cards. The "low-interest" card has a limit of about $30 000 of that 60 000. I was going to cancel the card this summer in order to avoid paying the annual fee, but that would drastically alter my debt-to-credit ratio. I will probably cancel it anyways and try not to worry about the hit to my credit rating.

Yesterday I received a letter from VISA telling me that they are soon going to be switching to chip-technology. My new card and PIN should arrive in the mail within a month. I am wary of this new technology, because of the things I have been reading about store scanners that can read the information about a card when its owner walks through it. As well, this change in technology makes me think the VISA will be too much like a debit card, which is also dangerous in the temptation kind of way.

I'm thinking of calling VISA and canceling the account within a few days, before they send me the new card. I want to be debt-free and card-free within a couple of years, so I don't need any fancy new technology. I want out of this game.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spiritual handbags

It is 6:30 am, still dark out. Not a sound except a few brave morning birds singing in anticipation of spring. Stealthily I make my way into the living room to my laptop computer, eager to have a half hour or so to myself to check my email and blog, and to play with my budget spreadsheet.

I find myself on a site called ebag.com, looking at my favourite line of purses. I click through the site's recommendations, just for me, and tempted by the one-day only sale, feel my brain click into purchasing mode. They take the paypal, so I don't have to move to find my wallet and credit card.

I have a moment where I think, "I could be using this quiet time to stretch and meditate and contemplate on being human ..." as I click back and forth between the red bag, the olive bag, and the standard black.

I'm about to make a decision when I hear the stomping of little feet, and my son comes running in, upset that I am not in bed with him. I tell him to go back to bed, looking longingly at my online selection, but he won't go without me.

So I force myself to get off the couch and follow him into the bedroom. I was saved by the Bean.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Still grateful

I have my bad days, we all do. I had a few this past week that made me want to run away. Seriously. But I chugged ahead and by week's end - today - I was having a great time with my little guy.

I have been following single mom blogs closely for the past few weeks, and I am grateful that I have found this online community of women with whom I can share my similar problems and concerns. I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone better in the months and years to come.

I have a community of moms on livejournal, most of whom have been with me since my pregnancy. I love them and wouldn't trade them for the world, but only a few are single moms. So I'm always looking for more moms to relate to. This parenting thing can be really difficult, and I need all the help I can get.

However the way it is now, I really wouldn't have it any other way. My son is bright, healthy and happy. We have people around who love us. He goes to an excellent and trustworthy daycare. He sees his daddy and paternal grandparents almost every weekend. We have a more than adequate roof over our heads, a car that runs, and enough cash to get us through. The support cheque comes almost regularly.

The only thing I truly wish for is that my parents would get to know him before he grows up, but we'll see. My dad makes a bit of an effort but I have to drive the three hours out to his place so he can see my little guy.

Some single moms have been concerned about the stigma surrounding their unmarried status. I don't feel it. If I get looks or attitude about the lack of a ring on my finger, I am oblivious to it. If anyone is condescending to me or my son because his dad lives in another city, I don't hear it. I don't even think it happens.

I'm not ashamed of our little family. I was ashamed of the way his dad and I used to fight, but after a year and a half of being apart that has reached a minimum.

Life is hard a lot of days, but it's good. We're happy and healthy and we have each other. Bean has his daddy and his family too. We're in a good spot. I sincerely hope and wish that every single mom I meet joins us in this spot.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday and spending

I somehow got Bean out to the store with me this morning, and out of the store without convincing me to buy him trucks and cars (darn toy section in the grocery store). We had to stock up on rice milk, coffee, macaroni, etc. and buy diapers and ending up dropping an easy $75. Yikes. Gas was nice and cheap at the pumps next door and I filled up my tank for $27.50.

We picked up Uncle T from the bus station and he wanted Pizza Hut buffet (about $10 per person) but Bean convinced us he wanted cheeseburgers instead, so we ended up at McYucks. Meals for the three of us came to less than $20 but T paid for it. Later on we ended up at the Pizza Hut near my house (takeout only) and dropped another $20, even though I had lots of leftover spagetti from dinner at home last night with Uncle S. T paid again, he wanted to and implied he enjoys having someone to spend money on, so we went with it.

I planned a lecture event for this Thursday and I wanted to wear something nice. I was tempted to go to the second-hand stores and look for a skirt, but decided to re-hem an old pair of dress pants instead. Several reasons: 1) if I buy something new I have to get rid of something old, and there's nothing in my closet right now that I want to let go of; 2) I don't want to spend a cent on something I can live without (except for coffee, c'mon, it's COFFEE!); 3) I have lots of nice things that need more love or a simple stitch-up job; 4) I hate wearing tights or anything constricting around the crotch area so buying a skirt isn't a great idea for me.

Tomorrow is church and then a playdate with J and G. Bean hasn't been back to the old house since we moved out / J & G moved in so it should be an interesting visit. All his outdoor toys are still in the shed, so if it's a nice day we'll probably drag some out and have them ride cars up and down the driveway. As though the last few months here never even happened.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Student loan forgiveness

Today, Serena from Queercents asked, "could student loan forgiveness stimulate the economy?"

One of the reasons I am in such a hurry to pay off my credit card/LOC debt is because, after more than two years on Interest Relief, I could be called on to start paying back my loans as early as this May. I plan to keep applying for Interest Relief for as long as I can, and hopefully make it through to the Debt Reduction in Repayment program, but there is no guarantee that I will continue with my special status past this spring (fingers crossed).

My loan payments will be in between $350 and $400 a month, for 14 years. During this time I would only be able to make the minimums on the other debts, if that. This means that I will be debt-free by the time I am fifty. FIFTY!! Forget ever buying a house then. Forget having any disposable income either, and that's not good for the economy.

Why should my loans be forgiven? I borrowed the money, I should pay it back right? Yes, but in the context of billions of dollars of bailout payments, what is my $32 000? Mind you, I'm in Canada and as far as I know we haven't had to bail anyone out yet, but our economies are globally linked and we are being affected here as well. If the Canadian government wants us to spend to save the economy, then some of us are going to need a little help freeing up some disposable income. For me, forgiving my student loan will help dramatically. I'll pay off the consumer loan ... I just need a little help with the other one.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Maybe I'll just stay where I am for now

Yesterday I listed off a bunch of things I am interested in that, with some more education, could turn into career goals. Fabulously Broke asked me how would I decide between them, maybe a pros/cons list?

Research and a pros/cons list are definately a good idea. I used to be fanatical about making lists: my portable notebook (the old school lined paper kind) used to have pages of Plan A to G, until I realized I was just procrastinating and living in a dreamworld of the future rather than enjoying (or not) the present moment.

I checked my student record online the other day, and saw that back in 2001 I had requested transcripts be sent to a community college in the city where I grew up. I forgot that at that time I was struggling with life decisions, and was thinking of returning "home" to earn a post-grad certificate in either radio broadcasting or international project management (yes FB, I was thinking that maybe someday I could combine the two :)).

I worked at the university radio station for over three years and found it so rewarding. I don't know when or why I abandoned the idea of a career in broadcasting, but I'm sure it had a lot to do with self-esteem issues.

So, I'll add radio broadcasting to yesterday's list of things I want to do with my life. I also have to add teacher's college, because we have one now at the university and it is definately an option. The only problem is that part-time teacher's studies takes place during the evening and on weekends, and I have my son each evening and some weekends. He is in daycare every day so I don't feel comfortable leaving him with yet another non-mommy at night.

However, I would love to take courses in the primary stream, so that I can help Bean with school when he gets there. I could also put myself on the supply teacher roster if I get to feeling particularly masochistic.

Yep, lots of options. Too many choices can be as overwhelming as none, so I'm fortunate that for now I can just stay put and continue working in an office and not have to make any other decisions.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Honourable Ms Karissa

More good news this week: a letter arrived from the university Registrar's office, confirming that with my half-credit earned last semester, I officially hold an Honours Bachelor of Arts.

What this means in terms of employment is not much. The General B.A. I received in 2002 certainly helped me obtain a position at the university, but none of the three jobs I have held required a degree. There is currently a hiring freeze, and when it lifts most of the jobs posted will be either more like mine, or more specialized jobs that will require additional certification or management skills. If I wanted to be promoted I would have to have even more schooling, probably college courses that lead to a certificate in, say, accounting or purchasing or IT. A General or Honours B.A. in Anthropology and International Development Studies is not going to do a lot for me unless I am looking at changing my career path altogether. And even then, I'm just another person with a B.A.

What this extra billing on my B.A. means for me is not only closure on a personal project I began over ten years ago, but it also gives me a future in the pursuit of higher education. With an Honours degree I can now apply for a Masters degree. Now, my grade average is a little low for competition, but I may be able to take another course or two on my employee tuition waiver to try to bring my average up. I'm not concerned about it now because I'm not currently looking at a Master's program, but it's nice to know that the option is opening up to me.

In terms of future education goals I probably will head back to college for career upgrading. I'm interested in financial planning, naturopathy and natural health, midwifery, refugee and immigration issues, community development and sustainability, and yoga teacher training. Obviously I'm going to have to pick something and stick to it, but for now I'm happy to accept my Honours degree and take a break from school for a little while.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Victory day in a money kind of way

I finally heard back from my health insurance people and tomorrow there will be a little cash injection of $53.25 in my bank account, after a couple of months, a couple of phone calls, a letter that apparently never got there, a fax sent (luckily I kept scanned copies before I mailed the letter), another phone call, and today's message with an apology. I felt important. Of course the money will go straight to my LOC.

As well I stopped by my old place where my friend who bought the house was holding some mail for me. It turned out to be a support cheque that I thought had gone missing/ was never sent a few weeks back. It was a good feeling tucking that cheque into my bag, and I'll deposit it later in the week so that I can buy a box of diapers for Bean's bedtime.

He wears pull-ups during the day and I think we have enough to get through at least another week. Some evenings after daycare I try "big boy" underwear and plastic pants (Bummi super whispers - they're amazing) but he always always pees or poos in them. He's not ready yet, but we keep trying.

Normally this is the week where nothing goes on financially for me: nothing comes in or goes out by way of bill payments. From a PF POV, it's a boring week, enough to almost make me want to shop. Having these two payments coming in invigorates me and makes me want to get back to my spreadsheet and sidebars.

Oh the excitement. Can you feel it? :D


Monday, March 09, 2009

Dating is expensive

I don't have dating worked into my budget. After a failed attempt at a relationship a few months ago I decided it would be more cost-efficient to stay totally single until my debt is paid off.

I guess the dating gods have other plans for me because I have been receiving (and accepting) invitations for casual coffees, lunches and dinners. Oh yes, and beer-events too but they aren't as frequent (although sometimes twice as expensive).

So I have been dipping into my Miscellaneous category to pay for all the extra coffees and meals that go hand-in-hand with getting to know someone new. A friend recently asked me why I am paying at all? My response is that I am a modern woman who has always looked after myself (and others too, but those days are over) and I have my money out and spent before my dinner companion can say anything.

I've also noticed that most men my age are not used to paying for a woman, because they have heard - and probably seen - their whole lives that women support themselves. It's a catch-22, because we want to be able to look after ourselves, but we also want others to pay for us. Where is that line that gets blurred or crossed, that enables an independent woman to accept someone else paying her bill?

I also insist on paying my way because that is what I do with friends, or we take turns covering the bill. Why would I do anything differently because there might be some kissing later on?


Saturday, March 07, 2009

The little chick pea that could

MindyMom asked me to post the recipe for the chick pea stew I came up with earlier in the week. Since I don't follow recipes well, and tend to just wing it, I'll do my best.

The dish started with a pot of potatoes: 2 white, 2 yukon gold and 2 sweet. I peeled and boiled them for mash. I also added at least six chopped cloves of garlic. When I went to drain it all, I thought the water looked healthy so I drained it into another pot for stock.

Then I put a cup of dried chick peas in another pot with a bunch of water to soak overnight.

The next evening I rinsed the chick peas, put them back in the pot with the potato/garlic water, and set it to boil. I added in about a half cup of dried red lentils. After it started to boil I set it to simmer and added carrots already steamed, about half a bag of spinach, some of the mashed potatoes, a half-teaspoon of cumin and a whole teaspoon of garam masala. I'm pretty sure I also added fried onion and garlic because that's a staple in almost all my cooking.

I also added a bunch of sprinkled salt while I was stirring. When the water looked like it was boiling off too quickly I added two more cups of warm water mixed with a tablespoon of vegetable stock powder.

I let it all cook for awhile until it turned into mush. It tasted better than it looked:



Friday, March 06, 2009

My old friend, TD Bank

One of my goals for 2009-10 is to save up a couple thousand dollars and muster up the courage to start making investments. Alternate plans are to risk a little bit of my RRSP savings (to take advantage of the tax shelter), or to invest in a self-directed RESP (to take advantage of government incentives, such as the CESG). I currently deposit about $40 a month into a group plan.

Canadian Capitalist has blogged several times about investing with TD-Canada Trust, which has turned my attention back to old TD bank.

If the Toronto-Dominion Bank had a facebook profile, I would Friend them in the spirit of nostalgia. We were friendly back in the nineties, but broke up when I moved onto bigger and better things near the turn of the century.

Half a lifetime ago, when I was sixteen, my roommate Dee (who was a couple of years younger than I am now), told me to get my butt over to the bank and tell them I wanted to invest in mutual funds. I had learned a little bit about compound interest in my grade eleven business math class, and I had a little bit of money from my earnings working as a cashier at the drug store. Dee told me that if I started investing immediately that I would be a millionaire at her age.

Having spent my entire life watching both parents struggle for lack of funds, I decided to listen to an adult (for once) and paid a visit to the TD bank at the mall (this was way before they merged with Canada Trust. I had a CT account once too but closed it due to extraordinarily high service charges). I walked up to the teller at the TD branch at the mall and told her that I wanted to start investing in mutual funds. She appeared to take me seriously and sent me over to a manager. The manager was friendly enough and after hearing my plea took me back to the teller to open two new accounts: a chequing and a savings.

I put my money into the savings account for a few months until I had close to $500 saved. I didn't have a plan. I just deposited what I liked and spent the rest. I didn't get any other guidance from the bankers. Soon enough I had cleared out the account to buy some new clothes, and it was several years before I had that much money in the bank again.

I kept both accounts open until PC financial came along, and then I made the switch. TD wasn't good or bad, but they didn't help me at all with an investment strategy, that's for sure. I'm definately not a millionaire right now.

Now that I am older and wiser I think I'm ready to come up with a plan for investing. I'm not rushing into anything, which will give me the time to do my research and increase my confidence. I would like to get into the market while prices are low, but like every other investor I don't want to lose my savings. As well, investing is a goal, but my financial priority is debt elimination.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Money talks with the Ex

I'm so used to discussing money now that I have this blog. All my debts and savings are out there for the world to see - and to judge. Not many people who know me personally know about this blog. Some know that it exists, but I haven't widely passed along the link.

I'm afraid of being judged.

The issue came up the other night when I was on the phone with my son's father (SF). We can talk openly and honestly about a lot of things, but we have a really unhealthy aspect to our relationship where if something goes wrong and we start fighting (which happens every other month or so, for various reasons), everything we have confided in each other comes out as ammunition in an argument. More so for him, because I am more open and have very few secrets. And I talk a lot.

And I usually say too much. We were having an unusually civil conversation on the phone the other night, where I let down my guard and told him about the big chunk I have paid off the LOC. After all, I'm proud of my achievement. Of course he asked the question I had been dreading: does any of the money his employer sends each week end up in savings?

I tried to explain to him that my priority for the next couple of years is debt reduction. I have some savings (A LOT more than he does), but most of the money goes towards debt payments. I told him that if I didn't pay down the debt, then more of "his" money would be going towards interest payments, and lowering the interest takes priority over accumulating a smaller amount of interest in a savings account.

I think he got it, but I almost forgot I was speaking to someone whose debt reduction strategy is to let things go until his wages are garnished ...

And now that I've put my achievement out there it can be used for ammunition the next time we argue. I know him well, and he might try to argue that "his" money is being used to pay off "my" debts, even though a good chunk of it is compounded interest from cash advances that I had to take when I was living with him!

They say all is fair in love and war. I say some of us have to work our butts off to get stuff done, and we still get in trouble for it!

/rant :)


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Post-sick blues

It's been over a week since the cold symptoms first appeared. The illness peaked over the weekend, and I'm now starting to feel a little bit like myself again.

It was just a bad cold. But what it has left behind is a general feeling of apathy and lethargy and I don't like that at all.

I'm so busy at work but I'm not complaining because I love my job and the people I work with. It's just a matter of staying organized and keeping all the plates balanced in the air for the next couple of months. It's hard, because we know that there will be news this summer about what the administration is going to do about a several million dollar budget shortfall. I feel secure that my seniority in the union will keep me safe, but I would not want to have to move to another department, or to see any changes made to the one I'm in now if I get to stay.

It all makes me feel so helpless.

I'm still motivated to eradicate my debt by the end of 2010. In fact, I'm even more inspired because if there is a change to my income it will be even more important to be debt-free.

However I am also feeling uninspired, because it's still at least a couple of weeks before I can change any of the totals in my accounts. What do I do in the meantime? I certainly can't shop ...

In the spirit of keeping my grocery bills low, I made an amazing vegetable and bean stew, using only ingredients from my cupboard and fridge. I had a lot of produce to use up from the community food box. The stew turned out quite good: chick peas, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, onion, garlic, carrots ... I seasoned it with vegetable stock powder, cumin and garam masala. It wasn't as spicy as I would have liked but I wanted Bean to like it too. He wouldn't eat it at first, but when I fed him a spoonful he said "yum!" and then had two or three more bites. Success!


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What is up, PC Financial?

Dear PC Financial,

For several years now, at your recommendation, I have been depositing $50 a month into an Interest Plus RRSP account. I have not moved the funds into investments, because I was not aware of this option, and you have never promoted it to me. Fine.

At the end of 2008 I decided to change my strategy and deposit schedule for this account. I cancelled my automatic payments, with the intention of depositing weekly. I did not make a deposit in September and made only one $10 deposit in October. In November I make three weekly deposits of $10, $10, and $12. In December I made two deposits of $15 and $48. This brings my 2008 deposit total to

January to August (@$50/month) $400
October $10
November $32
December $63
With a combined total of $505.

This past weekend I was going to file my taxes. I pulled out all my little slips of paper, and noticed for the first time that my 2008 RSP statement has a total of $453.02. What is up with the .02?

I have been on hold for about fifteen minutes now, and I would like to have new paperwork issued before I file my taxes.

As well, last year I received a T5 for Investment Income in the amount of $119.65. I assumed this was for interest earned in my RRSP account. However this year I did not receive one of these forms. Should I? Or should I not have last year?

I hope we can clear this up today, so that I can go ahead and file my taxes. I do not want to be held up by your errors and inconsistencies.

I have been flirting with another online bank. It would be a shame to have to make the switch after nine years of banking with you, but it is definately a consideration.


Monday, March 02, 2009

A Precious Human Life

"Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it, I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can."

H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama

Sunday, March 01, 2009

February spending

My "projected budget" gives me $1503.00 for daily and monthly expenses, not including any debt payments or savings. Those categories require an additional $784, ideally.

In February I spent $1516.61 on rent, food, car (gas and insurance), phone, RESP and life insurance. Oh yes, and my "miscellaneous" category, in which I grossly overspent by $170.23. However I underspent on food by a scary $113.32.

I decided about two weeks in to not food shop until I absolutely had to, forcing myself to get creative with what I did have in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. I had a lot more food than I realized. Plus there were a couple of nights where I was feeling not so well and Bean was happy to eat cereal and boiled eggs for supper.

We start March with quite a bit of food still in the kitchen, which is a good feeling. In fact, I picked up a produce box last week from the community food program and have yet to do anything with it. Better get on that before it all wilts.

Goal for March: stop waffling and start meal planning. I wish I weren't such a dunce in the kitchen.

End of Feb budget: $97.16 remaining
LOC down $1042.50
CC down $53
Slush Fund down $200
EF remains the same


Saturday, February 28, 2009

La la la line of credit

The $125 registration fee for the meditation workshop I mentioned previously is still resting in my slush savings account. Each comment that came in suggesting I save my money further convinced me to hold on and wait for something better. Thanks to all who helped me make my decision.

As it turns out, I am home with the nasty cold/cough that is whipping its way around these parts so I would have had to cancel anyways.

My monthly paycheque was deposited into my chequing account on Friday, and since I am home ill (Bean is at his dad's till tomorrow) I have been working away at my spreadsheets so that I can report my spending and saving for the month of February. This month will look similar to January's report, which is good news.

Each month I try something different to excelerate my debt reduction, and with this cheque I decided to keep only the most basic of expenses handy and plug the rest into my line of credit. Last month I pulled expense money out and put it in my slush account, but this month I put it all in the line of credit, with the intention of living as cheaply as possible for the next couple of weeks. If it gets too difficult I can pull a little bit back out to get me through the month. The benefit of this is that it will marginally reduce the daily interest rate in my line of credit, which is about 4% higher than the interest rate of my slush account, and worth tackling ASAP.

So instead of making the minimum payment of $250 on the line of credit (with the intention of topping up later on in the month), I dumped $700 into it. When I updated my sidebar I was pleased to see that I have paid 20% of that debt already this year. Go me! Now, if I have to pull $100 back out later on I will without shame, but I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can go on the little bit I left out of the line of credit.

I may also go back to cash only for the month of March, but I'm still undecided on that. Getting to the bank machine to withdraw is such a pain, what with meter parking and all. This town needs more drive-through bank machines - NOT! (Actually I think there are only two, but not my banks).


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Asking for your help again

This time without a poll.

I have an opportunity to attend a meditation retreat this weekend. I will have to use $125 from my savings to cover the registration fee.

At first I was excited because it is in my town so I will not have to spend any money to cover travel costs. And then I started thinking that $125 is a lot of money for anything at this time.

Then I started analyzing the program. It is not residential, which means that I will return home on Friday and Saturday nights, and it doesn't begin until Sunday afternoon (which will give me a chance to get to church). I will have to bring my lunch on Saturday or the organizers have suggested "lunch at local restaurants." The teachings will be led by a minister, based on the work of Pema Chodron (of whom I am a fan).

In the past I attended three meditation retreats. They were residential, meaning I stayed immersed in the environment for the entire program. They were mostly silent, even throughout the meals (which were all provided, and amazingly vegetarian). Each retreat was led by Buddhist practitioners.

I was going to register, but hesitated when I started thinking I should save my money for a more expensive, all-inclusive residential retreat. I got a lot of satisfaction out of them before. I'm also hesitant about having the retreat broken up across three days the way it is currently organized, because I am accustomed to total immersion in a retreat. And there's something about travelling to another city to immerse myself in the experience (I love road-tripping). I convinced myself that I could learn more about Pema by re-visiting her website, or reading the books I already have.

But then I'm afraid I might be passing up an opportunity to learn, and to engage in a community of like-minded people. We may not share the residential experience, but I may make meaningful connections regardless. But do I want to spend $125 to do so?

I can't decide, and they're waiting for an answer. Help.


Karissa it is

Thanks to all voted :)

Karissa won, with ten votes
DFK came in second, with four votes
KISS had one vote

To maintain my individuality I dropped the Dee, for now.

And to celebrate, I share a short film that I enjoyed as a kid.

OK, watching that again just made me realize what a strange little eleven year old I was :)


Monday, February 23, 2009

Eight hours to go

Eight hours before my poll closes. Feel free to vote if you haven't already. The pressing issue at hand is dare I change my (*cough*pornstar) name or do I keep?

On another note, I've deleted my feed and followers stats. I'm too self-conscious to keep stuff like that around. I watched my feed go down two readers and then up one in the past two days, and today I lost two followers. Stuff like this can make me a little crazy :(


How's the apartment?

It's been almost two months since our move from the two-bedroom house to the one-bedroom apartment. Now that we're here, I can't believe I stuck it out for so long - eighteen months! - in that money-pit. To be nice, it was a lovely house, and I really liked it, but I can't say it was the most enjoyable experience living there.

It was 100 times better than the apartment we rented previously. I can't even go into how horrible that was. The house was clean, self-contained, and the rent was quite cheap ($900 a month). We moved in there in September 2007 and the landlord installed a brand-new high-efficiency furnace in October. Still, the heating costs were high, and I can't even imagine how much previous tenants were paying with the old heating system. As well, there was a monthly hydro bill, which was never under $100, even in the summer. I think it was high because I was using the dryer all year round, having never bothered to install a clothing line across the backyard.

As I was on my own with Bean, I really needed a lot of help keeping the place livable. The clothing line is just one example. The neighbours on either side of us seemed to enjoy watching me mow the 200 foot back yard, even though I was in obvious agony because my arms were too short to pull the engine cord, and the grass was so thick that the mower would conk out every five minutes. I was rarely offered any assistance, and ended up visiting the chiropractor weekly with a back injury.

Similarly, last winter was the worst for snow, and I was out there almost every day shovelling The Longest Driveway Ever. One day I thought I was going to pass out from exertion, but I had to keep going and get Bean into the car and up to daycare, and myself up to work. The neighbours came to help shovel a couple of times, but for the most part were content to sit on the porch, smoking and chuckling at my pain and bad temper.

So far, the apartment is great. It really is. It's quiet and very warm and very bright. Bean is happy to share a bed with Mama again, and enjoys having the living room as his toy domain. Every thing is in working order, and if anything breaks, I just have to put in a notice with the property management and it is supposed to get fixed right away. No more lawn care or snow shoveling for me.

The best part is how much money I have saved in the past couple of months. I have a savings account AND I am chipping away at the debt. Payday is like christmas morning every single month, because I have so much more leftover without having to give it all to utilities companies each month. At this rate, my consumer debt will be paid off in less than two years, and then I can begin tackling my student loan. If I qualify for DRR, I can instead start aggressively saving up for a property of my own.

Not looking forward to snow and lawn care though. I'll have to have someone come around to help out, or maybe a I'll have a tenant!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Solidifying our Divine Connection

From Gururattan K. Khalsa, Ph.D

"As we cultivate our Divine Connection, we must grab on to every hint from the Universe that we are being supported. Acknowledgement is how we build trust and faith. Gratitude is how we solidify our connection. Our ability to allow establishes our willingness to receive divine assistance.

The universe works through us in our acts of service and attitude of kindness. We witness our alignment through synchronicity. Devotion and gratitude evoke the Divine embrace."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

QuickTax vs. UFile

*This is not a sponsored post*

At this time next week I will be happily entering the information from my T4 into one of the online tax preparation programs, which I have narrowed down to Ufile or Quicktax. In anticipation of this event I have already played with both programs, using the Year-to-Date column on my December pay stub.

I have filed with UFile for the past three or four years, without a hitch. Setting up my online form was simple, because they already had all my information on file from before. I had to update my address and add a couple of pages but because I am already familiar with the set-up - which hasn't changed in years - it was ok.

Setting up Quicktax is very similar to setting up UFile. The layout is quite different, which took some getting used to, but the information requested is exactly the same. In the top-left corner is a little screen that showed an ongoing balance, which was quite cool. As I entered my information throughout the form the little screen would update itself and show me what my refund was going to be. At one point it was about $200 more than what UFile had quoted, so I was almost sold on switching over. After making some adjustments the refund quoted turned out to be exactly what UFile quoted, so I knew I was on the right track.

Here's some PROS:
- After logging in, UFile opens the tax return form in a different screen, which feels more secure
- UFile has a very comprehensive left-hand sidebar that is very easy to navigate through: clicking to different points in the return is extremely simple
- UFile is WAY faster than Quicktax, speed wise. With Quicktax I felt like I was waiting too long after every entry into the form
- Quicktax has that handy little screen that shows the running balance of the refund
- Quicktax has a couple of extra features such as the RRSP Optimizer slider, which was fun to play with, as well as helpful tips for maximizing your refund (did you know that you can get a tax credit for your almost three-year-old by depositing the Child Tax Credit in a bank account in his name? Something to look into)
- UFile informed me when, playing around with RRSP contribution amounts, I had actually over-contributed (removing my urge to transfer my EF into my RRSP - it would have been too much!). Quicktax would have let me over-contribute to my heart's desire
- UFile has a handy search bar (ironically in exactly the same spot that Quicktax has the snazzy balance screen) that is actually very helpful, opening new screens of comprehensive tips (I searched for 'rrsps' and got a whole screen of helpful advice). Quicktax, as far as I could see, has only a Live Community, where much like Yahoo questions, is a Q & A amongst people using the program. I did not find this helpful at all because it was full of one-word, misspelled answers provided by other users rather than real tax advice from "experts"

The price is about the same for both programs: UFile's $15.95 vs Quicktax's $14.99. As a PC Financial customer I could have purchased Quicktax for $11.99, but I wasn't aware of the promotion until after I had already set up my registration.

Conclusion: I'm going to stick with UFile. I like the continuity of carrying my information over from year to year and not having to start all over again. Plus, it's a much much quicker program and way more detailed. Quicktax had that cool little balance update screen, and a couple of helpful suggestions at the end, but it took way too long to get through the program and every time I had to make a change to something it would make me go through the entire process over again. There might be a way to get around this but I couldn't figure it out.

Quicktax is a good program if you haven't tried an online tax preparation system in the past. Since I have already established myself with UFile without any problems, I am going to stay loyal for this year.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Self-esteem spending and debt

The other day I was chatting with a woman at work. We always talk about her daughters, whom I have never met. The elder daughter is a year younger than I, and had a great job working for the government. But it was the younger daughter that my work-friend used to talk about the most, and I noticed long ago that this particular mom had a favourite, and maybe wasn't aware of it.

She mentioned that the younger daughter, only two years out of school, had already paid off her student loan, and was currently help her older sister pay off hers. The elder daughter, after ten years in the workforce, still owed over $30 000 in student loans. My friend said that younger daughter would "work ten jobs pumping gas if she had to" in order to get out of debt, while her older sister made over $60 000 a year and had hardly paid a cent towards her own debt.

What struck me the most is a comment she made about two girls, coming from the same family, raised the same way, and turning out so differently.

As I walked away to my car I thought about this comment. I noticed years ago that the way my friend talked about her younger daughter, you would think the sun rose and set on her. She never had much to say about the older daughter, who in my opinion had done well for herself by finishing her degree and getting a job with the government.

It made me think again about the psychological aspects of debt. Maybe the elder daughter is really lost, because she grew up watching her mother favouring her younger sister. Maybe she has accumulated other debts with shopping, vacationing and partying, in order to ease the pain of the lack of support from her mother.

I don't know any of this for sure, I'm only guessing. It's always been apparent to me that my friend talks highly of her younger daughter. I don't think it's fair to say that the two girls were raised the same way. My friend practically sneered when she told me her elder daughter owes as much now as she did ten years ago.

I'm not trying to blame the girl's mom for her high debt. I think it's important for both parents and children to understand the real reasons for self-esteem spending. Once we have this self-awareness, it becomes a little easier to deal with the problem.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tapping into the Rhythm of Winter

Winter focused foods and other tips for staying upbeat and healthy throughout the winter months

By YogaSpace Clinic Naturopathic Doctor, Meghan Bauer

There is no changing the natural rhythm of winter (for now at least). It is long, dark and cold, and it is not surprising that year after year our health reflects this. Increased anxiety, depression, unhealthy weight gain, continuous, long lasting colds and numerous other stress and cold related concerns are common place for many Canadians.

Aside from activities involving ice, could there be something advantageous to the cycle of winter that we could tap into; and are there ways to support this natural cycle?

Here are a few tips for re-framing the winter deep freeze and keeping you healthy and upbeat throughout it.

Consider a purpose to the winter months; could there be a reason/challenge to why you have chosen to live in such a chilly place?

Winter is the end of all seasons. Take the winter months as your inward and reflective months of the year. Try a new activity or hobby to support this phase; (knitting, building a family tree, exploring a new musical genre).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM), to unify with winter, one must emphasize the yin principle to become more receptive, introspective, and storage oriented; "one cools the surface of the body and warms the body's core. Cold and darkness drive one to seek inner warmth."

Winter is supported by the water element and thus the kidneys are the organs most affected by wintertime. "The forces of winter create cold in Heaven and water on Earth. They create the kidney organ and the bones within the body…the emotion fear, and the ability to make a groaning sound."

Warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts support the water element. Dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds, and steamed winter greens fortify the kidneys in the winter. Cook foods longer, at lower temperatures and with less water.

Bitter and salty foods are appropriate for winter since they promote a sinking, centering quality which heightens the capacity for storage. It is said in TCM that the bitter flavour has the capacity to 'enter the heart'. Small regular amounts of bitter foods in winter nurture deep inner experiences and preserve joy in the heart. Bitter foods include; lettuce, watercress, endive, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, rye, oats, quinoa, and amaranth. Salty foods include; miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, salt, millet, barley. However, use salt with care as an excess will weaken the water element.

Focus on rest and nurturing your inner warmth; baths, essential oils, warming foods, and yes, slower more inward focused exercise like yoga.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Strategizing my taxes

Inspired by recent posts by Saver Queen and Fabulously Broke in the City, I spent a few hours the other day contemplating moving some or all of my Emergency Fund (EF) into my RRSP account. Canadians have until March 2nd to contribute to an RRSP and use it towards our 2008 tax return.

I logged into Ufile.ca and played around with some of the numbers. I found that I can add only $500 more to my RRSP without making an over-contribution. That $500 will also give me an extra $40 in my refund.

It hardly seems worth it for the $40, but it might be worth it for my future. $500 compounded with the almost $5000 I currently have invested might make a difference to my retirement (FB - I need one of your fancy equations to figure it out :)). Transferring $500 from my EF still leaves me with $500 for emergencies, and I will be able to bring it back up to $1000 when I get my refund in April.

Any thoughts on this? Comments and suggestions are always very much appreciated :)