Saturday, January 31, 2009

DailyOM: Goals

A Concrete Dream

Our desires act as fuel, propelling us toward new horizons. Without something to strive for, we stagnate and become stuck in ruts of our own making because we are unsure of what to do next. Goals are the dreams that we are willing to work for. When we set goals, we take responsibility for our lives and choose to wholeheartedly devote ourselves to our aspirations. Even if we only take the smallest steps toward achieving our ambitions, it is vital that we actively pursue our goals rather than just daydreaming about them. Having goals makes us feel good because it adds a sense of purpose and direction to our lives.

When you endeavor to achieve clear and quantifiable goals, your choices and actions take on new significance. Consciously creating your goals can help ensure that the success you seek is attainable and serves you. Your plan must be conceivable, tangible, and measurable. If you cannot visualize your goal in great detail or believe that you can realize them, you may find it difficult to commit to your goals and take the necessary steps to achieve them. Make sure that your goals have the potential to be emotionally satisfying. You may even want to write them down. Putting your goals into words can keep your intention fresh in your mind and remind you of your purpose. As you make progress toward realizing your goals, give yourself a reward each time you take a step forward so that you have the incentive to keep going. If you find yourself stuck in a rut, examine ways in which you can revise your strategy so that your plan can work.

In creating goals, you create your future by outlining your destiny. When you choose your goals using your head and heart, you take the first step in manifesting what you want. You grant your own wishes every time you achieve another goal.

Click here for "Summer's Path", the free book from DailyOM co-founder Scott Blum

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Appeasing my picky eater

This week, after being presented with a pretty good homemade shepherd's pie (if I do say so myself), my son declared that "only snacks are good." He turned his nose up after one bite of the mashed potato, ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, and his favourite frozen veggies concoction and ate only a banana, a handful of cashews, dried pineapple, raisins and a few dried apricots. He asked a couple of times for "eggies" but I didn't have any prepared his favourite way: hard-boiled with the yolks removed.

I'm here to ask all the mamas (and dads, if any are reading) for any and all suggestions for healthy and affordable snacks to appease my son's picky appetite. I'm lucky (so far) that he enjoys raw veggies and fruits, dried fruits and nuts and rice cakes. I'm trying to keep the dairy foods to a minimum, because it creates a surplus of mucous that leads to ear infections.

I get into food ruts, which is why I haven't yet been able to stick to a meal plan. I didn't grow up in a food-friendly environment, and I am loathe to pass my aversions on to my son. I don't know why he won't eat his supper anymore. I think it's a control issue. Nevertheless, your suggestions will be very very much appreciated.

This is a pic of the produce we received from the community food program this week. A whole lotta goodness for a subsidized six dollars! Note that the potatoes are locally grown, and still covered in dirt. I like that! There is also a cartload of beets ... any ideas for beets?

Karissa Dee

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Anyone else excited about tax time?

Each year I find I am impatient for my employer to deliver my T4 slip, so that I can get started on filing my taxes. I always get a pretty good refund because I usually have tuition or student loan write-offs, as well as RRSP contributions to decrease the amount owed. This will be the third year that I will file my son as my dependent, which lowers my tax bracket.

When I filed for 2007 I learned that I was still being taxed as a single person (single as in, without a dependent) and could amend my paperwork with payroll to deduct less tax, which put an extra $200 in my pocket each month. It would have been nice to continue paying the high tax and receiving the substantial refund (last year it was close to $3000 but I had to keep it in the bank to supplement my income, which was difficult), but it's much nicer to have a little more to budget with each month.

For the past few years I have filed online with UFile, and this year they have emailed me a $5 off coupon, bringing the price down to $10. Also, I have looked into QuickTax, which is $15, and has a nifty tool called the RRSP Optimizer, "which analyzes tax situations and identifies money-saving strategies. The built-in slider-bar instantly reveals the effect of different RRSP contributions on net income, average tax rate, taxes owed or refund due."

I still have some time to decide. I think I might make the time to play with all the online options and then choose the one that works best for me. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to enter all the information for free and see how much the refund will be. Most sites won't charge until the thing is actually filed. I'll try a few and let you know how it works out.

My employer is notoriously late with the T4 slips. I'm expecting that when it's all said and done I will have my refund in the bank by March. I'm hoping for about $2000, half of which will go into RRSPs, and the other half onto my line of credit. No fun money for us this year!

Karissa Dee

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Payday and a new goal

One of my goals for 2009 is to save at least $2000 and take 10% of it to make a donation to one or two charities. This is my variation on titheing. I have my mind on Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.

Last night I decided that I needed something to be excited about sooner, so today I am going to take $25* from my paycheque and donate it to It's not really a donation, it's actually a loan negotiated through a microfinance NGO in a developing country to an individual who will invest it in a self-employment venture. Examples are a woman who will buy produce for resale in a village market, a man who will open a small mechanical shop, or a woman who will put it towards her textile business.

Kiva - loans that change lives

I feel so fortunate to have been born in a developed country, to have my education and my union job at the university. Some of the big financial advisors may tell me that I should put my $25 towards debt reduction, but some of them also say that we need small rewards for incentive. My contribution to the improvement of another's livelihood is a great reward, and greatly motivating.

*actually the amount came to $31.36 CDN with the exchange rate

Karissa Dee

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Raiding my coin jar

There is exactly $1.50 in my coin jar right now. One loonie and two quarters. It's not what you think, I haven't been looting it for coffee money. Well, not quite.

See, I despise pennies, and try to spend them right away, so they never make it into the coin jar. I have collected them in the past, but it takes so long to accumulate enough to put into a roll and then you have, what? Fifty cents. Wow. Not to mention that they are almost always grimy feeling and leave a bad smell on my fingers. Blech.

So I don't save pennies. Sometimes I save nickels and dimes but again it seems to take a long long time to accumulate enough to roll. The result is a little more satisfactory, $2 and $5, but it takes a while.

I do save quarters, loonies and toonies. These really add up, and I mentioned before how I managed to save up enough to buy a bass amp with just loonies (rolled up and cashed into bills, of course).

However just as I moved into the apartment I realized that I was going to have to have change for the laundry machines. I forgot to include this extra expense in my new spending plan, and decided I was going to try to take it out of the food/house allowance of $200 per month, if possible. In the house we had a washer and dryer in the basement and I paid for it through my hydro bill. Now I have to fork out a loonie and two quarters for each wash and the same for the dryer. I often skip the dryer and hang a load on my drying rack, but if the load is sheets and towels then I pay to put them in the dryer.

I rarely have cash on hand, since I decided to (carefully) keep using my debit card, but I manage to save a few dollars in loonies, toonies and quarters after a couple of weeks. I raid the jar for $4 almost every week to give to the church and my self-help group, and use about $6 each week for laundry.

So, no trips to Disneyland for us as a result of careful coin saving. Not yet, anyways. For now laundry is more important, and until I work that into the budget (more tweaking!) raiding the coin jar will have to do.

Karissa Dee

Monday, January 26, 2009

A single mama's mechanical best friend

I am so pleased with my cordless power screwdriver. Without it, putting together our new bookshelf would have taken hours and generated sweat, blisters, and probably some cursing. Because of it I wouldn't have to wait for one of my man-friends to come over and put the six-foot shelf together for me. I had it in one piece within an hour. When I discovered that I had screwed in two of the shelves upside down, I merely chuckled and picked up my new best friend and reversed-screwed them out again. Easy peasy.

Frugal tip: if you are planning to buy any kind of tool-anything from the hardware store, especially one of the big ones (I go to Canadian Tire), try to plan to go after father's day. I got my mechanical buddy there for about sixty percent off just a couple days after father's day. I guess they overstock this stuff for gifts and when it doesn't sell, it gets drastically reduced to make space for junk for Canada Day.

Karissa Dee

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I think I picked a good year for debt reduction

From Spring's Greeting

THE YEAR OF THE OX 1/26/2009 - 2/13/2010 (Earth)

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2009 is the Year of the Ox. The Ox, or the Buffalo sign symbolizes prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Those born under the influence of the Ox or Buffalo are fortunate to be stable and persevering. The typical Ox is a tolerant person with strong character. Not many people could equal the resolution and fearlessness that the Ox exhibits when deciding to accomplish a task. Ox people work hard without complaints at work or at home. They know that they will succeed through hard work and sustained efforts, and do not believe in get-rich-quick schemes.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Countdown till payday

Only four days till payday. This month I'm excited for a new reason: more money towards my debt and savings accounts!

Going to the movies today and using a gift card that my previous landlord left in the mailbox for me on christmas eve. He and his wife were the best landlords I ever had, as cliched as it sounds. A rare find.

Then in the evening, Chinese New Year celebrations with more friends. Happy Chinese New Year!

Karissa Dee

Friday, January 23, 2009

Community Food Boxes

We got our subsidized food box from the YWCA this week. We had a choice of large or small, and I always sign up for the small box. The boxes are packed and ready to go twice a month: the staples box can be picked up during the third week and the produce box is ready the fourth week of the month.

Because I receive the subsidy, I get the boxes for $5 and $6 each. They come at a great time for me, because my monthly paycheque is usually pretty well spent by this time. Have I mentioned already that I only get paid once a month? :)

Non-subsidized boxes are $11 (staples) and $12 (produce) for the small sizes.

I really like the produce box because it usually comes with one or two things that I wouldn't normally buy, like fresh herbs or beets. This week's staples box came with bagels and cream cheese, which I rarely purchase, so this was a treat, a bunch of carrots and a few potatoes, four apples and two tangerines, a can of beans, a can of tuna, a can of tomatoes, a package of spagetti and a huge bag of spinach. Sometimes there is cereal, apple sauce, canned soup ... you have to like surprises to appreciate these boxes.

The food boxes are available to everyone, not just single moms like me. In fact, the Y encourages everyone to purchase them at the non-subsidized price if they can, because that will bring more money to the program, which means more money to buy food, and more food available to everyone, subsidized or not. I'm thinking of promoting the boxes around my department, because I'm sure there are faculty here who can afford the non-subsidized boxes, and students who might not know about the subsidized ones. The same food items are in each box regardless of how much one has paid for it.

Also, I told them that I am willing to become a contact for my building. If I get two more people to sign up, the Y will deliver the boxes to us, and if I get five or more people, I will receive yet another dollar off my own boxes. I have also offered to pick up and deliver to anyone in my building who might be using the program but not have a car.

It's worth the effort to find out if your community has a program like this. If you can afford $20-30 a month to contribute to a food program, everyone involved wins.

Karissa Dee

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Free e-book - Scott Blum

One of my goals for this year is to read two books a month, one fiction and one self-help (including PF). I have already fallen short of this goal, but I hope to fix that this weekend by reading Summer's Path by Scott Blum. Here's a description:

Summer's Path is the remarkable story of Don Newport, an engineer that comes face to face with his personal destiny under extraordinary circumstances. After losing his job and his health insurance, Don learns he has a terminal disease with only a few months left to live. On his death bed, he meets Robert, a brazen angel of death that promises to help Don with a graceful exit. As Don prepares to say his last goodbyes to his loving wife, Robert attempts to change Don's perspective about his mortality and proposes an exceptionally unique option.

Robert leads Don through an astounding meditation of life and death and reveals various healing and spiritual concepts including walk-ins, embodiment and soul destiny. On this magical journey of self realization, Don discovers that it's never too late to learn profound life lessons about ourselves and our loved ones.

After you download the free E-Book for Summer's Path, you can enter to win a free Amazon Kindle Reader plus a gift certificate for 65 books!

Karissa Dee

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chore Charts for Kids

It's time to get serious around our house. Bean is at that age where too many things are becoming a struggle, and I have to get a handle on it. I have been trying to bribe him with a cookie to use the potty and it's worked only twice this week. Never mind brushing his teeth. When he refused to eat his supper last night, I realized I would have to change my efforts.

I googled 'childrens charts' and came up with this link and this one. I wanted to share.

I'm going to take a better look at them tomorrow, and hopefully find the one that works for us. Maybe stickers will work better than cookies.

Karissa Dee

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pi$$*d off and ranty

I have been waiting what seems like weeks and weeks for my expense claim reimbursement to come in from the health insurance company my employer chose to do business with. I checked my account online yesterday and found out that I am being reimbursed for less than half of what I claimed.

Two reasons:
1) Rather than having a $50 family deductible (which is what I was told would happen) they have decided to have a $25 per person deductible. Since Bean's prescriptions for 2008 just went over the $25 mark, we are not getting the full refund for his most recent prescription.

2) They have been reimbursing my chiropractic appointments as naturopathic appointments, because my chiropractor is also my naturopath, however she has two separate files for my appointments and has clearly been issuing receipts for my chiropractic file. The insurance people neglected to notice/did not care and put it all towards naturopathy, which has a way lower allotment than chiropractic. They told me that I went over the $300 that I am allowed to claim for naturopathy, but most of the charges were supposed to go against the $500 I am allowed to claim for chiropractic. Extremely frustrating (sorry to the dude on the phone who had to put up with me - I'm sure he had a nice name for me when I hung up on him).

It's apparent that I am going to have to watch my claims much more closely!

Similarly, I use the same insurance company for our life insurance, although I set the policies up on my own and separate from my employer's policies. I emailed the agent I had dealt with to give her my new mailing address, and have not heard back. I tried to change my info online but the site wouldn't let me. Grrr ...

Karissa Dee

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday musings

I earned a little bit of money selling some cloth diapers on Friday and decided to drive to the big city on Saturday morning to visit some friends I haven't seen for a long long while. I had eighty dollars in cash burning a hole in my wallet and I managed to come home with twenty-five remaining.

The first thing I did after dropping off my son at his dad's was head to an ATM that accepts my card without a fee. I had over two hundred dollars in my chequing account and I didn't want to have ANY temptations so I put one hundred of it onto my line of credit. I had to leave the rest in there because my car insurance ($96) is due and electronic banking is so sneaky about when they are going to actually remove it from my account.

I headed downtown to meet one of my friends, who is a student and is also trying to live frugally. We went to a couple of art galleries for free and after meeting up with another friend, went up to the grocery store to buy dinner supplies. Admittedly, we cheated by going to a fast food restaurant first, because we knew that we aren't supposed to food-shop while hungry. My student friend loaded up on her groceries because she doesn't have a car and I told her to take advantage of mine while it's there.

We spent a chilly, snowy evening at her place, drinking lightly and eating our grocery store snacks. Great conversations and lotsa love. We decided not to brave the elements and go out, which saved us a bunch of money.

On Sunday I met up with another dear friend and instead of meeting in a coffee shop we went up to her place and made coffee she had recently brought back from Cuba. More love and conversation.

I didn't make it to church but I certainly felt high spirits from being able to catch up with my best girl friends.

After I picked up my son and drove back to our town (his dad coming with us for company) I insisted we stop for more fast food because I was feeling faint with hunger, and stressed from the horrible driving conditions. I picked up the twenty dollar tab because it was my idea, and also because I had spent only thirty five during my excursion to the big city - I think I broke a record for that. Also Bean's dad had to buy a bus ticket to get back home so I thought it would be nice to treat him to something to eat to say thanks for accompanying us on such a treacherous drive home.

So I returned too late to post my Sunday gratitude list but I will say that I am extremely grateful for my friends, and for getting home safely during a quite snowy and windy drive out of the big city and into the little one in which we live. Next winter I will be grateful for snow tires, after I save up to buy them.

Karissa Dee

Saturday, January 17, 2009

DailyOM: The Weight of Objects

Clearing a Space for Change
The Weight of Objects

In life, we tend to have an easier time acquiring possessions than we do getting rid of them. Just as we harbor emotional baggage that is difficult to let go of, our lives can tend to be filled with material objects that we may feel compelled to hold on to. Most people are not conscious of how much they own and how many of their possessions are no longer adding value to their life. They fiercely hold on to material objects because this makes them feel secure or comfortable. While it’s true that the ownership of “stuff” can make you feel good for awhile, it seldom satisfies the deep inner longings that nearly everyone has for fulfillment and satisfaction. It is only when we are ready to let go of our baggage and be vulnerable that it becomes possible to recognize the emotional hold that our possessions can have on us.

It’s not uncommon to hold on to material objects because we are attached to them or fear the empty spaces that will remain if we get rid of them. Giving away the souvenirs from a beloved voyage may feel like we are erasing the memory of that time in our life. We may also worry that our loved ones will feel hurt if we don’t keep the gifts they’ve given us. It’s easy to convince ourselves that unused possessions might come in handy someday or that parting with them will cause you emotional pain. However, when your personal space is filled with objects, there is no room for anything new to enter and stay in your life. Your collection of belongings may “protect” you from the uncertainties of an unknown future while keeping you stuck in the past. Holding on to unnecessary possessions often goes hand in hand with holding on to pain, anger, and resentment, and letting go of your material possessions may help you release emotional baggage.

When you make a conscious decision to fill your personal space with only the objects that you need or bring you joy, your energy level will soar. Clearing your personal space can lead to mental clarity and an improved memory. As you learn to have a more practical and temporary relationship to objects, positive changes will happen, and you’ll have space to create the life that you desire.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

A resilient five-dollar bill

I hear a lot about everyone's No Spend Days (NSDs), and it isn't something that I planned in my 2009 goals, but ideally it is something I aspire to achieve.

I incidentally experienced a non-planned NSD on Monday, when I drove PAST the Tim Horton's and went home for a cup of coffee. Completely unplanned and on a whim. I had only a five-dollar bill in my pocket and wanted to make it last as long as possible (all week, ideally) so I was impulsively inspired to go home and make a pot of vanilla-flavoured coffee. I was going home anyways, so why not?

I was well on my way to another NSD on Tuesday, until my gas gauge announced the lack of fuel in my Ford, so I made a pit stop at the gas station down the street from the uni. Gas was at 75 cents, which seems high after a couple of weeks of 68 cents, so I didn't want to fill up just in case the price went down again. I used my debit card to purchase ten dollars worth.

On a side note: there used to be three gas stations on the way in to school and I preferred stopping at the full-serve because my son is usually with me and it's most convenient. Recently, two of the stations closed, including the full-serve one. Boo-urns. The only station left does not even have pay at the pump, so I have to time my pit stops for when my son is not in the car, because it is so much effort to have to unstrap him, bring him in, fight with him to not touch anything, pay, and leave without leaving my wallet - or my son - behind. I asked the proprietor if he ever planned on installing pay-at-the-pump pumps and he told me it was just too expensive.

On Wednesday I finally broke my five dollar bill because I didn't make coffee before I left for work. I didn't even bring my travel mug with me. This happens sometimes. It's a lot of work to get out of the house each morning with an almost-three-year-old (but I'm not blaming him).

Thursday I remembered my travel mug and remembered to fill it with coffee, but I forgot to bring my lunch, so I went home early to eat my homemade turkey and lentil alphabet soup. Still had $2.55 burning a hole in my change purse!

Karissa Dee

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Win a Club Med Family Vacation

Fabulously Broke in the City posted yesterday about this chance to win a Club Med Family Vacation.

Additional contest info is here. Contest open to Canadians aged 18 or older. Deadline to enter is today!!

Karissa Dee

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dear Vista Print

I came across your products while searching online for return address labels. Your website was pretty easy to navigate, your selection was immense, and your prices were fine. Another google search for "Vista Print coupons" led me to your U.S. site, where I could order my labels for free and pay only the shipping.

I was a little disappointed when my first order could not be corrected after I submitted the wrong postal address, and had to place a second order, but they too were free, and the shipping costs were inexpensive (around $6.00 for each order - so I paid twelve dollars for 280 return address labels, of which I can really use only 140, but I realize it was my mistake).

I received the labels almost immediately, and they seem to be of good quality. I was a little confused when you emailed me two invoices as I had used my credit card to make an immediate payment. I ignored the invoices and I have been ignoring your emails since.

I have been ignoring your emails, the ones you send to me at least once a day, sometimes twice, sometimes three times! I don't know if you knew this, but this is how you push a customer like me away. You have bombarded me with promotions, I practically feel spammed! It's too bad, because everything else about our consumer relationship was pretty good. Now that I feel forced to unsubscribe from your email mailing list, I will definately think twice about ordering from your site again. I will probably not recommend you to my friends, even though your labels were nice, and free. And your shipping was not a total rip-off.

Sorry to break up with you this way. I hope someday you realize what you did to our relationship.

Karissa Dee

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clutter Demon

Bag Lady

I came up with a new way (for me) to de-clutter and get rid of my plastic bag collection at the same time. I can't believe I brought so many bags with me from the house!

I usually donate the regular shopping bags to my son's daycare for re-use. I have another bag of bags that are large and extra-large and they never seem to go away.

My new plan is to take a bag each week and fill it up - even halfway - with clothes and other things I no longer need.

Last weekend I managed to toss two pairs of jeans from my too-skinny days, as well as some of Bean's things that I already suspect the consignment store will refuse.

Letting Go

I have such a hard time letting go of my stuff. Purge # 1 in 2005 was the easiest because I was moving overseas and didn't plan on coming back. I miss a few things but on the whole I was happy to let go. Purge # 2 was this summer, and it was more difficult. I missed stuff immediately. A couple of times I thought of going to the donation place where some of it ended up and seeing if I could bring some of it home. I didn't though.

Yesterday I drove past a girl on her way to school, and I'm sure she was wearing one of the bags I brought back from Thailand. I wanted to pull over and ask her where she got it and if the inside pocket zipper was broken. It was weird. I kept driving and consoled myself by recognizing that she was probably no more than twelve years old, and why would a thirtysomething mom like me want a bag that is worn by a pre-teen? I have to grow up sometime, why not now?

Karissa Dee

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tweaking the budget

Not even two weeks in and I'm already making tweaks to make it work. To be fair, I've been practicing my budget for several months now, but my commitment will be made all the more apparent as I have less bills to pay, which equals more towards debt repayment.

I've had a few expenses come up that weren't already budgeted: $25 for a used bunk bed, $20 for coffee cards to thank my friends for helping me move, $50 for an oil change and fluid check (I wasn't going to to do this until the spring, but I couldn't get my hood to pop open and I was out of windshield juice so I went to Jiffy Lube). Plus I paid my utilities bills for the house after I already moved in here because by the time they arrived here I had put all my extra money into my emergency fund.

I increased my car gas/oil allotment to budget for the spring fluid change, which is going to be a big one because I will need to replace the transmission fluid and have a couple of filters replaced. My car is about eleven years old and still runs great and I want to keep it that way.

I decided to keep it real by adding an extra $20 for my personal spending so that I can enjoy a sushi all-you-can-eat-lunch at the end of the month. A girl's gotta live! Also, my phone bill arrived and I learned that I went WAY over budget over the holidays - like $30 over budget! I called and had them add a text package to the plan which should alleviate some of the burden in the future, but for now, I gotta pay that bill!

I have also decided against keeping the $300 or so I need for food and gas in cash in my apartment and put it back into my chequing account. I am going to return to my original plan to keep it in a separate savings account and transfer a weekly amount into chequing.

I read Suze Orman's book last night and thought it will be great for her American audience. I got a little lost with all the 401, 403 and 526 terminology and skimmed a lot of that. I didn't have the heart to try to translate it into Canadian. What I got out of it is pay off credit card debt, stop using credit cards, pay into retirement savings, don't cash out retirement savings for any reason, if possible, and save up an emergency fund of eight months worth of expenses (this will take me about eight years but I'm going to try).

She seems to downplay investing in children's education with the argument that they will be non-dependent adults by their post-secondary years and will be able to support themselves. I agree with this but I plan to at least partially pay for my son's education because I do not want him to have the student loan debt burden that I have, and he is going to college or university NO MATTER WHAT! :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I got caught up in organizing my kitchen while listening to a panel discussing Gaza/Israel on CBC-Radio this morning and didn't make it to church.

Which makes it especially more important to, but especially more difficult to, dig deep into my spirit and find things for which to be grateful. Especially after a quite difficult and emotionally-charged week.

Here goes:

1) To the person in the 'hood with the wireless modem who enables my online addiction, and for losing the connection last night and this morning so I could get other things done :) If you can see this, thank you.

2) To honesty and integrity, may you always be a big part of my life.

3) To my Higher Power, whom I sometimes call God: thanks for showing me the right path in the most opportune and creative ways. Even though I can't hold you at night I am looking for you always.

Karissa Dee

Saturday, January 10, 2009

DailyOM: Finding Joy in Meaningless Tasks

What's Fun Got To Do With It
Finding Joy in Meaningless Tasks

Spending an afternoon working on the car, gardening, or even cleaning the house can be fun when we have an interest in the project. Yet, we can also find joy in the chores and tasks we don't especially like. All we need is a change of attitude, a different approach, a little music, or some help from friends, and the tasks or responsibilities that we perceive as tedious can become a source of pleasure.

Most of us tend to put off what it is that we don’t want to do. Yet, one of the best approaches to an unpleasant task or dull chore is to dive right in and be fully mindful of what it is that you are doing. You may not perceive washing the kitchen floor as enjoyable, but it can be if you view it as a loving act for both yourself and your family. Lose yourself in paying your bills, and thank the universe that you are able to receive the service you are writing that check for. Mending can become a treasure hunt to find the right button and matching thread. And, each morning, see how neatly you can make your bed and take pride in your results.

Playing your favorite music, dancing while you work, or creating a mental list of everything you are grateful for are just a few ways to turn an unexciting activity into a fun event. Ask a friend to help you clean out the basement or paint a room; provide some yummy snacks as an incentive. Look for joy in doing your mundane activities, and they’ll become a source of enjoyment rather than a tolerable duty.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Suze Orman e-book

Blue Eyed Mom posted a link to a free e-book, Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan. Offer expires January 15, 2009. I just downloaded my copy with the intention of having a look at it sometime this weekend. I haven't read anything by Suze yet so I hope it will be a good introduction.

Karissa Dee

Debt Free Kid

Some things take me a long time to accomplish, and some things just seem to happen. Like this blog, for example. It was less than two months ago during another sleepness night that I remembered registering a Blogger back in 2005. Because I had been reading PF blogs for almost a year, working on my budget, and planning to move to save money, I suddenly felt inspired to write about it myself. Before that night I had moments of inspiration but couldn't find a space to put them.

And here we are. I knew that in order to fully commit myself to this personal project I would have to invest some of myself into it. I'm new, and I need practice, and a lot of motivation. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I would find a domain name of my own to help me develop and inspire me to keep going.

The name came to me today: Debt Free Kid. I wanted to keep my username in there somewhere, and thought about re-naming my blog KDdebtfree or DebtfreeKD. I slipped the 'i' in there to make it more palatable, and also to keep me reminded of my primary motivation in my real life: my almost-three-year-old son.

We are all born debt free. We don't owe anybody anything. As we grow up we are allowed to make mistakes, and that's ok as long as we learn from them. My son Bean doesn't owe anyone anything, and it is my duty to make sure that if anything happens to me that he does not end up having to pay for my mistakes. I have been getting my finances and personal life in order for his sake, and mine.

I'm still a kid at this. Maybe I always will be. That's ok with me. I love to learn and I love to grow. If you've been following my journey thus far I thank you for your time and interest, and if you've decided to stick around and see what happens, I am deeply grateful.

Happy Friday!

Karissa Dee

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Personal Goals for 2009


Your Quit Date is: Wednesday, September 07, 2005 at 8:00:00 AM
Test Time Smoke-Free: 1217 days, 21 hours, 56 minutes and 54 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 8525
Lifetime Saved: 2 months, 5 days, 2 hours
Money Saved: $3,197.25


I smoked for fifteen years and tried to quit so many times. I used the patch, the pills, and the gum. I tried rewards incentives which only racked up the credit card bill. I was finally able to quit due to two life-altering circumstances: 1) pregnancy and 2) moving to Thailand and away from the people, places and things that triggered my addiction.

After slaying the smoking demon, I should be able to accomplish anything.

Here's my contribution to the personal goals lists for 2009:

1) Eat breakfast. Anything. Just force something down.
2) Take vitamins: multi, fish oils, and iron pills.
3) Drink water!
4) Meal planning. So far I have a calendar of meal ideas that work around proteins. For example, Sunday is beef, Monday is beans, Tuesday is chicken, Wednesday is tofu, Thursday is fish, Friday and Saturday are leftovers. Now to implement idea into actuality.
5) Deepen yoga and meditation practices.
6) Visit the gym on all or one of Monday, Wednesday and Friday (I have a free membership at the school gym until April).
7) Read two books a month: one easy book and one self-help (incl. PF) book.
8) Knit one item a month. Ask at the hospital if they need preemie hats and booties.
9) Buy or make one item a month to avoid the big rush in December.
10) Research further education: doula training, broadcasting certificate, financial planning/tax adjusting certificate, immigration policy M.A. (to be explored further in an upcoming post).

Karissa Dee

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Financial goals for 2009 bandwagon

My budget is in place (in Excel anyways) and so far it looks pretty good. I'm saving an average of $350 in rent and bills thanks to the smart decision to move to the apartment. I have also canceled my internet cable (hello to the kind person who is currently supplying the wireless network, when I find out who you are I will make you some banana bread), which saves me another $35 a month.

My Emergency Fund is almost complete and I have made arrangements to "pay myself first" by deducting 10% of my gross pay each month and transferring it to an ING-type account. The transfer is made only once a month because, well, have I ever mentioned that I get paid only once a month? Yeah.

I have my $20 a week set aside for personal spending, and 20% of that goes to my version of titheing: $2 to my self-help group and another $2 to the offering plate at the UU church. I aim to be able to offer more to each once my savings account is established and I can skim a percentage from that account to give to each group, plus a third cause that is to be determined.

My employer deducts 6.5% of my gross pay and invests it in a pension fund, and I am going to do my part by putting another 3.5% into my RRSP. This year I hope to learn how to invest RRSP money instead of just letting it sit in the account, as it has been doing the past five years. I recently bought a 5-year RRSP GIC before I knew what to do with it. This year rather than putting a set amount aside each month I am going to take the 3.5% annual amount from my income tax return and deposit it immediately.

I am going to continue with my $40 group-RESP payment, but have decided to forgo increasing the shares, and am going to try to self-direct a new RESP account with funds from the Slush Fund. This way we will have the best of both worlds when it is time for Bean to attend post-secondary. As well, I hope to encourage him to take a year off in between high school and uni to earn his first year tuition, or two or three years off if he wants to save up and travel. I'll do my best to help him out but realistically at this rate I won't be able to fully bankroll his endeavors and besides, I think he might appreciate the value of his education and travel if he learns to pay for some or most of it himself. I'll probably be blogging about this a lot in the future.

I'll continue to pay out $50 a month for life insurance: $25 is my 5-year Term policy and $25 is for Bean's Universal policy (which might be worth something like $400 000 by the time he is forty, or is it $800 000?).

This is a stretch, but I have found a yoga teacher training course in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I hope to attend the six weeks of classes in 2010. I spent two months in Chiang Mai in 2005 and would love to return. I also have had yoga teacher training on my to-do list for years, not so much to teach but to deepen my practice. I'll discuss this more in my "Personal Goals for 2009 bandwagon" post later.

Last and certainly not least, I will reduce my consumer debts by between $500 and $700 a month this year, and plan to continue to do so until the debts are fully paid. I have started a semi-'snowflaking' schedule to reach this goal and reduce the burden of trying to make the full payment when I get paid each month on the 28th. Have I mentioned already that I get paid only once a month? :)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My d'oh

Yeah, um. I called the bank about the $1.47 interest charge and was reminded that line of credits work differently than credit cards as they do not offer a grace period. Ah well, this is how we learn. I have never had a line of credit before so I had to figure it out the hard way.

This gives me more incentive to cut out the daily coffee purchase at the cafeteria, which actually costs me $1.52 a day if I bring my own mug.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Interest burns

Last week I transferred the balance of my 11.5% VISA to my 7% Line of Credit. I checked the statement of the LOC from the month before to double-check that the period ended on the 28th before I went ahead and arranged it through telephone banking.

Today when I got into work I checked the LOC balance online and found that the period ended on the 31st after all, and because I made the transfer on the 30th, I was charged $1.47 interest! It makes me burn a little, because that's one whole coffee I might not purchase this week.

I'm tempted to call the bank to find out what happened, but I don't think I want to make a big deal about less than $1.50.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Sunday Gratitude List

1) For every morning that I wake up, but especially the ones where my little one sits up with a smile and says, "good morning Mama"

2) For the fellowship of the UU church that I have been attending regularly since September; how welcoming everyone is, how inspiring it is, how it gets me out of the house on a Sunday morning (which keeps me in on a Saturday night), and how much my son loves the train set in the nursery!

3) For how easy the move was and how nice the apartment is, and that we didn't have to move due to hardship, but just to prevent it. We are lucky kids.

Karissa Dee

Friday, January 02, 2009

So far, so excellent!

Today I was definately on the right track from a financial point of view.

I went to the truck rental place to settle up, and found that I had been charged for only one rental period, instead of the two that I booked, resulting in a cash refund of $55.

After changing my address at the bank that holds my first student loan and at the Service Kiosk for my driver's licence and health cards I went up to Wal-Mart to use a gift card my sister gave me for christmas. Our little DVD player is choosy about which movies it likes to play, so I decided to purchase a new one. The only player they had left in stock was about $100, way more than I wanted to pay, so I left with only an 82 cent purchase of a couple of christmas decorations. I think it was the first time I walked out of Wal-Mart without spending at least fifty bucks!

I decided to head next door to Canadian Tire to see what they had in stock in DVD players. The selection almost as bad as Wal-Mart, but at least the store wasn't as crazy-busy so I spent my $18 store credit on a few more christmas decorations and a stainless steel kettle, the kind that boils on the stove with a whistle! The whole lot cost me $8.81 (after cashing in the credit) and I didn't feel too bad about that.

When I got home I found I had an email from someone nearby who saw my ad on Kijiji requesting a bunk bed, and we are now making arrangements to have it dropped off here soon. Sweet! I also received an email from someone who is interested in purchasing a huge lot of cloth diapers, hopefully about $200 worth! I'll put that money in my food/house envelope, and the money set aside in my chequing can go back to the savings account.

One of the christmas decorations I purchased was a small mirror to put on my apartment door. As I was hanging it on the hook that was already there, it broke loose from the string and crashed to the floor. This is not the first time I have broken a mirror just after moving into a new place. I was superstitious enough the last time to think that I would have fourteen years of bad luck, which would just be wrapping up in 2010. I'm trying to talk myself out of extending it to 2016, which is actually the year I figured I would have the down payment saved for a house.

OK, who here is superstitious? Do you think I have anything to worry about? It was such a tiny mirror ...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009!!

We made it, we are in the new place, and we love it! It is bright and cheery and so far very quiet.

Bean and I had his daddy and uncle over last night for new year's eve. We made a spaghetti dinner with salad and garlic bread. I bought ginger ale for the big countdown, and missed it! I put Bean to bed late - around 10 pm - and fell asleep with him, as I always do, and when I woke up it was just past midnight. The big boys didn't even notice because they were watching a DVD.

I have been very conscious of compound spending ever since Money Minder posted on the subject last month. My main motivation for moving from the two-bedroom house to the one-bedroom apartment is to be able to afford to make large payments on my credit card and line of credit, with the goal of reducing it by half this year (ambitious, I know, but still worth a try). However, moving can be expensive and not only that, but it is easy to have some 'needs' associated with the new place.

For example, I am sleeping on a futon in the living room, and I would really like to replace the mattress. That could cost two to three hundred dollars if I am not careful. Another example is shelving: I had two bathrooms in the last place with plenty of shelving, as well as a few more cupboards in the kitchen. After unpacking a few boxes I began to think that I 'needed' to get out to the store to buy some shelving to put up in the new kitchen and bathroom. I had to laugh to myself as I realized that I now have four closets, where I previously had NONE, and with some organization could use the shelving in the closets to store my stuff, particularly the huge linen closet, which now holds all my bathroom goodies (and towels, and boxes of personal items that always move with me).

Now, I am wishing for a unit for the living room that will replace my current arrangement, but I am willing to save up for it month by month, and during that time investigate the shops around the city in which I live, rather than drive to the big city to buy this (or, gasp, PAY to have it delivered):

The move went really well thanks to my great friends who came out to help, and the whole thing cost me about $100. I have already paid the final gas bill and will pay the final hydro bill tomorrow. I am so relieved that I now have only rent to pay, and not any utilities bills to fear throughout the month as the new place is all-inclusive. My budget is set for the next few months, and I am in the midst of organizing my goals. I will post about them in the next few days.