Friday, December 31, 2010

xmas 2010 post-mortem

Happy New Year everyone.

I have been working on my budget for 2011 and I am confident that I will have the last of the credit card debt gone by the end of the coming year. I can't say I will be debt-free because I will then have the $30 000+ student loan debt to tackle, however I am feeling pretty ecstatic to see the end of the credit card era of my life.

It was nice to receive my paycheque on the 28th of December and be able to allocate it entirely into my new budget. I didn't have any credit card bills to pay since I managed to use some savings for all my xmas gift purchases. I also bought way less this year than in previous years. My sister and I agreed to buy nothing for each other and instead got together on xmas eve for a nice visit. I also didn't buy for any of my step-siblings' kids (of which there are now 6) because they keep multiplying while I responsibly keep my number of offspring to just one :)

I kept my traveling to a minimum this xmas and when I did have to drive a distance to visit family I was lucky to have my sweetheart step in to take the wheel so I could leave my car at home, saving me quite a bit of gas money. Next year I hope to travel even less.

I didn't succumb to the temptation of the boxing day sales, even though I found myself in a fancy shopping mall on the 26th because I had received a hoodie that was a bit too tight and I wanted to size it up. I couldn't return it until the 28th so I found myself in the mall a second time. The hoodie had gone on sale since its original purchase so I was able to get the size I wanted plus a gift card for $25 that I'll use later on when I can brave the mall again. I like that I'm able to walk through and just look, and am now able to easily talk myself out of spending money on things I "need." My money does not burn a hole in my pocket anymore.

For 2011 I would like to read more, meditate more, and get to the gym more. More more more. I want to register my son in karate and soccer. I want to find a new place to live, something cheaper, cleaner and quieter.

I hope you find and get what you want this year too.


Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

confession time

I have been trying to wean myself off the internet, and it's not quite working. I took a two-week vacation from my Google Reader and it helped a bit but I WAS still checking facebook several times a day. I try to filter as much as I can by refusing to click on external links and this helps a bit.

However I realized that I feel like an ostrich with my head stuck in the internet, and I am avoiding everyday, real-time life by spending more than five minutes on the internet each night. This is especially not fair to my beautiful four-year-old boy who is growing up so quickly.

I thought, how ironic that I read all these sites about minimalism and quality of life, but I don't put them into practice. An hour online goes by, and my dishes are still piled up on the counter. I am overwhelmed by all the "stuff" I have to do but I avoid it by checking what someone from my life ten years ago is doing.

It reminded me of how I first got into meditation, and I would read and read and read about it, but rarely sat down and DID it. Same for yoga. I would buy a DVD and WATCH it, but not actually practice! Silly me!

One good thing I have done in the past few weeks is refuse to use the internet on my phone. Now when I am standing in line at the coffee shop I use the time to look around me and check out what's going on. I am going to cancel the data service on my phone now that I don't "need" it anymore.

I have been thinking about how necessary this blog is to me since I have such a hard time updating it (same goes for my livejournal and my tumblr). I realized a while ago that I keep a Blogger for me, not for an audience. I find the sidebars to be so useful for tracking my debts and savings. I was thinking of making the blog private but I couldn't figure out how to :)

Seriously, Karissa

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I guess I should title this (meme)

Snagged from Butterfly Collector

Part One - Describe:

Your hair? shoulder-length, natural light-brown. I haven't coloured it in over five years, since I became pregnant. I actually like my natural hair colour, after years of abuse :)

Your favorite food? veggie curry

Your dream last night? I can't remember

Your favorite drink? Coca Cola (in a can)

Your dream/goal? to be debt free

The room are you in? living room

Your hobby? playing on the internet

Your fear? that something terrible will happen to my son

Your TV? is turned on when my son is home

Your Pets? none, but I'm thinking of getting Bean a dwarf bunny for his fifth birthday in April

Friends? I don't make them easily, but I keep the few I have close

Your life? waiting

Your mood? at this moment I am ok

If you're missing someone? I miss my Nan, who passed away five years ago this month

Your best friend? I have more than one

Part Two - The Wheres:

Where do you want to be in 6 years? in a happy place

Where were you last night? out for sushi and then a drink

Where did you grow up? West Toronto

One place that I go to over and over? work

Your favorite place to eat out? all you can eat sushi

Wish list items? a new (used) black hoodie

Last time you laughed? today

Last time you cried? a few weeks ago

Part Three - The Whats:

Something that you aren't? tall

Last thing you did? burned my tongue on my tea

What are you wearing? my bathrobe

Something you're not wearing? underwear

Your favorite store? thrift stores - I love other people's junk


Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

my own blog rules

I've been maintaining this blog for (close to? more than?) two years. I'm obviously not keeping track of time. The blog is not exactly what I thought it would be, but it's been an amazing tool for tracking my progress and that's the most important thing. It keeps me honest and accountable. It probably keeps you asleep - if you even read it anymore. I don't care really, I stopped watching the stats almost immediately.

And I've come up with a few rules and here's three:

1. Stop clicking on free stuff. Maybe even stop following blogs that offer free stuff. Thanks to a couple of thoughtless keystrokes I now get a spam phone call each night, and at least a couple of spam snail-mails each week. Good thing I'll be moving and leaving my landline in the spring but in the meantime ...

2. I've stopped following almost all blogs that don't offer a full blog post in their feed. I follow way too many blogs now and rarely click on them individually unless I know them personally or I'm compelled to comment, which isn't often (sorry). I just don't have that much time, and I'm not a pro-blogger. If you didn't know, there's an option somewhere around here which allows you to post your entire blog post into the feed, so I can enjoy it in my reader without having to individually click each blog. If you haven't set this up because you're intentionally trying to get me to click on you, sorry. Goodbye.

3. I added something to my sidebar that (I thought) explicitly stated that I'm not accepting links, swaps, guest posts, etc. yet I'm still getting emails a few times a week. Now I'm being a hypocrite because I'm assuming these vultures folks have actually looked at my blog before contacting me, and if they did, and could read, would see that I don't want to be contacted for sales at this time. This isn't written in stone, and there might be a time in the future when I will take the message down and accept the attention, but right now with my kid and my job and my sweetheart I just don't have time to do more than I do with the blog. Or I don't make the time. Whatever. I also have a facebook and a twitter and a livejournal and a tumblr to maintain so I just don't do as much around here as I could. Which reminds me, I was going to start using my flickr again ...

Thanks for reading.

Seriously, Karissa ;)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cool contest - tons of prizes

Squirrelers is hosting a Thanksgiving giveaway contest until Nov. 25. There are tons of prizes:

Grand Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card, from Squirrelers
Your Money: The Missing Manual, by JD Roth (Sponsored by Budgeting In The Fun Stuff)
$10 Amazon Gift Card (Sponsored by Young and Thrifty)
$10 Amazon Gift Card (Sponsored by Wealth Informatics)
I Will Teach You to Be Rich, by Ramit Sethi (Sponsored by PF Firewall)
$25 Amazon Gift Card (Sponsored by Invest It Wisely)
$25 Gift Card to a major retailer (Sponsored by (Barbara Friedberg)
$15 Amazon Gift Card (Sponsored by KNS Financial)
$20 Amazon Gift Card (Sponsored by Money Crashers)
Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense (Sponsored by Control Your Cash)
$20 Amazon Gift Certificate (Sponsored by Out of Debt Again)
2 separate prizes of If I’m So Smart…Where did All My Money Go (Sponsored by Doug Warshauer)
$20 Amazon Gift Card (Sponsored by Everyday Tips and Thoughts)
$25 Starbucks Gift Card (Sponsored by Couple Money)
$50 Wal-Mart Gift Card (Sponsored by Mr. Rebates)
$25 Cash via Paypal (Sponsored by Maximizing Money)

I'm off Amazon since they refused to pay me my associates fees, so I'd like to win the $25 Paypal.
(however if I did win an Amazon card I'd be happy to re-gift it) :)



Seriously, Karissa

Monday, November 01, 2010

this is why I can't carry a credit card with me

The health food store near our apartment has a customer appreciation day on the last Tuesday of the month: 10% off all purchases. I try to get a list going and when I direly need something I'll try to time it to make it over on this special day.

Last Tuesday I noticed I was running low on Vitamin D. I take Vit. D, a multi-vitamin, and fish oils every morning. I was also feeling a little under the weather, so I thought I'd pick up a natural cold remedy while I was in there picking up the Vitamin D.

When I got to the store I noticed the "Customer Appreciation" sign wasn't up on the door but I decided to go in anyways. You know where this is going. I walked out with Vit. D, echinacea, (EDIT: AND more fish oils), a bottle of Floradix (liquid iron supplement), two bags of organic cereal, a bottle of shampoo, a box of rice milk, and a bottle of China Cola. I spent almost $80.00.

When I got out to my car with my bag of stuff, I remembered that customer appreciation day is the fourth Tuesday of the month, which was the week prior. If I had gone the week before I would have saved $8.00.

Which is exactly how much I spent on the Vitamin D, the whole reason for going there: $8.00.

(And when I got home I found an almost-new bottle of iron pills in the cupboard, which could have saved me over $20 for the Floradix. I guess I could return it).

EDIT: PAID OFF :)


Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confession (Debt Rut part two)

I did it. I said I wouldn't, but I pulled the trigger.

I bought a netbook. Actually, more than a netbook. About $300 more.

I put in some overtime hours and instead of putting the extra money onto my debt I used it to buy myself an early birthday present. A $600 early birthday present. A little laptop, that had all the specs I had been researching for the past six months. I tried to wait another month to see if the price would drop for xmas, but I gave in.

It's an Acer Aspire Timeline 1810T. I'm going to write a proper review for the Future Shop site and I'll copy it here too.

So far, a fun little toy.

Please don't judge me :)

Seriously, Karissa

PS: I also bought a new winter coat for $89. It's goose-down. Hopefully it lasts the season. It has been years since I bought a proper winter coat. PAID OFF.

PPS: I also bought a gym membership for $40 a month. So far I've been going to yoga twice a week and it's totally worth the money spent. Deducted from payroll each month.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'd be rich

Recently my sweetheart and I had a conversation about lotteries. I told him that all I wanted was one million dollars. It's a ton of money for my purposes but really on the grand scheme of things it's not much. Think about it, all you have to spend is one cent and you're no longer a millionaire.

Anyways, if I won a million dollars - which I wouldn't, because I don't buy tickets - I would spend it like this:

$400 000 - one good piece of property to live and retire in. It doesn't even have to cost that much, but I would like to put aside a cushion for utilities and maintenance.
$40 000 - pay off every last cent of my credit card debt and student loans
$60 000 - take a trip around the world with my son and my sweetheart

That's only half. The other half I would put into trust funds for charitable donations, maybe a bursary at my university, and of course savings for my future and Bean's too. It's really not that much but it's a fortune to me, and hopefully I'd find a trustworthy financial advisor to help me out.

I would keep working at my current job or find another suitable part-time position that I enjoy, in order to keep cash flow in for everyday expenses - not rent of course, because I would have a house!! paid off!! My current position also pays into a pension and comes with medical benefits so it's worth sticking around. Like I said, a million dollars isn't really much in the grand scheme of things, but it sure would make a comfortable life for me!

Seriously, Karissa

Monday, October 18, 2010

Debt Rut

The dreaded debt rut. I think I'm in one.

I recently posted that I switched my focus from paying the credit card debt as quickly as possible to building a proper emergency fund, which I expected to deplete either if I went on strike or if I got the car repaired.

I didn't go on strike, but I did get the car repaired. Yet my EF still sits at just over $1000. The thing is, where recently I thought having savings would be detrimental to my aggressive debt repayment schedule, instead I decided I liked the look of a nice four-figure number in my bank account. I changed my mind, and that's ok. The debt gurus would be proud, because I now have a minimum EF.

So not only had my debt sat at $6500 for over a month, it's now actually increased to $8000, because I decided to use my line of credit to pay for the car repair, so that I could keep my little EF intact in my savings account.

The other thing I have decided is to re-visit the "Debt Diet," which I think Oprah was endorsing a few years ago. I watched her show a few times when I was home on mat leave in 2006, and I recently came across some notes I took during the show.

The Debt Diet tells us to create a spending plan as follows:
Housing 35%
Other living expenses 25%
Transportation 15%
Debt 15%
Savings 10%
http://static.oprah.com/download/pdfs/money/money_pie_chart.pdf 

Modifying my budget to follow this chart means I will pay only $400 toward my debt each month, clearing it off by July 2012 (given I don't accrue more debt in the meantime). Meanwhile I should be able to save around $300 a month, which makes me feel pretty good about the future.

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This smile cost me $1500

Bean and I returned the borrowed Honda and got back on the public bus for the month of September. We made the most of it, but twice a day I dreaded bumping into the smiling driver who made me pay for the boy's fare as well as mine. Each day I carried $7 to $9 in change with me so I could pay for us both. I was getting tired, and equally tired of relying on my sweetheart to drive me around for errands each weekend.

So I got the Ford fixed, and it cost me $1500. In the three days since I got the car back, I've had a serious smile on my face :) Does it ever feel good to be able to do things again.

For example, Bean was up half the night with an earache. I got through to a doctor's office that is part of our Family Health Team, and they said they had an appointment available in forty-five minutes. There was no way we could get to the south end of town on the bus, but since we have the car back I was able to accept the appointment and get there just in time. If we didn't have the car, getting to an appointment would have been a whole-day affair.

Last night I was able to drive myself to a union meeting, where 54% voted to ratify the agreement on the table. So the smile stays because now I won't have to go on strike. Aside from Bean getting sick, this has been a pretty good week.

Seriously, Karissa

Friday, September 24, 2010

Swearing at Strangers

Twice, in the past three days, I have wanted to swear at strangers.

The first time was at the folks who run the swimming lessons registration at the school gym. I was told that registration would start on Wednesday, and when I hurried over there at lunch time I was told that I would have to come back between 5 and 7 pm. When I told them I wouldn't be able to because I planned to pick up my son from kindergarten at five and we would have to take the bus back UP to campus, the woman just shrugged and said they "had to keep it fair for everyone." FAIR!! How is that fair for us single, car-less moms?! Or are we just nobodies?!

The second time, yesterday morning, was at the city bus driver. Now, I have been threatened numerous times over the past few months that ALL passengers pay $2.25 for their ride, unless they are under two or over sixty-five. Each time I get on the bus with my son, he goes running to the back seat while I pay. Some drivers threaten to make me pay for him, others do not. None have actually made me pay. Until yesterday. The worst part was that this particular driver did it with a smile. She was just so darned pleasant about it, while I told her, in disbelief, "thanks for nothing." I know she was just doing her job, but still. Why doesn't she charge an extra fare to the many many students who take up two seats with their backpacks? I wanted to tell her that just because she has a ____ doesn't mean she has to be one.

The third time I almost swore at someone was this morning. I went back to the gym to see if there was a spot left for Bean's swimming lessons and of course there was not. There wasn't an aquatics supervisor around, but I was told that one would call me later. Shortly after I got into my office I got the call. I explained to her my frustration about the discriminatory 5 to 7 pm window for registration and she said I would have to try again after xmas. I asked her if they would again only offer registration during that stupid little time-frame (I didn't actually use the word "stupid") and she said probably, yes. I was so frustrated that I told her I had to get off the phone. I was afraid I was going to yell "bullshit!" at her. I'm glad I didn't but it would have felt good at the time.

Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So far, kindergarten sucks

For me anyways. Bean seems to really enjoy it so I guess they're doing something right.

We had a communication breakdown on the second day that wronged me and alienated me from both the JK teacher and the principal. I thought about boycotting the Welcome Back BBQ scheduled for this evening, but decided to go anyways, have a hot dog, and see if the teacher or principal would approach me.

The invitation to the BBQ didn't mention anything about paying for the hot dog. I knew there were raffle tickets, since I was asked to donate candy for a prize basket (which I did, so much for my boycott), so I knew I would have to spend some money there. In the end I bought only one ticket, because a hot dog for me and Bean each, plus a drink cost me $4.50. If the food had been free, like I thought it was supposed to be, I would have spent $6 on raffle tickets instead of only $1.

Then I had the pleasure of dragging Bean out of there, who insisted on staying until they drew his name for the toy basket. At least three times I had to explain to him the concept of the raffle. Well, he's only four.

But seriously, don't you think the school should have advertised the food prices in the BBQ invite? That would have given me a chance to scrounge up some additional change for the endeavor, or go ahead and boycott the event due to poverty and disinterest.

I seriously dislike Bean's new school. I think their communications suck. They had a cop there running police checks for $6 + change but I decided not to bother because I want as little to do as possible with the dump until I can get him into a different school. Maybe after Xmas, but definately by next September.

Oh yes, and neither the teacher nor the principal talked to me. They still suck.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More savings

Well I finally opened an ING savings account, and it took me a few months, but I finally remembered to send a cheque in to get things rolling. The good part is that I got a $25 referral bonus (and I can't remember whose Orange Key I used to get it) and the bad part is that the account is still not linked to my other online bank account. I guess I have to send them another cheque, marked VOID. What a pain. I'll get around to it eventually.

So now I have two Savings progress bars, one for my old account, and one for my new.

ING just started offering a chequing account so I opened one today. I am going have my government incentive cheques (GST, HST, PST) deposited there so that I won't be tempted to spend them. I am also going to send VOID cheques to the companies I use for RESP savings and life insurance to have both withdrawn from the ING account.

The focus of this shift to ING is Bean, and keeping "his" finances separate from the others (rent, food, household, etc.).

If you were thinking of opening an ING account for yourself and would like to take advantage of the $25 bonus incentive, feel free to grab my Orange Key code on the right. We'll both get the $25 bonus, and we'll have the warm fuzzies together :)

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A new expense

Bean starts Junior Kindergarten tomorrow, bringing a new responsibility for me that will also require a change in the budget: the school lunch. For the past three+ years we have been fortunate to have the daycare provide a hot lunch every day, and I knew it was a matter of time before this luxury came to an end.

Not a complete end, as for the next two years Bean will attend JK every other day, alternating with daycare days. So I will have to be hyper-vigilant about remembering what day it is. If it's a "school day" we will have to pack a lunch and take a walk up the hill to the public school. If it's daycare day then we can leave empty-handed for the bus - or the car if it gets fixed next week like it's supposed to.

Now to go make some jam&banana sandwiches, peel some carrots, and pack some crackers.

Seriously, Karissa

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Progress bars update

Anyone following my progress bars might notice that for this month so far my debt has stayed at $6700 while my savings has increased to $500. Normally I would put most of the savings towards the debt but for the next few weeks I just can't.

Now I know I'm supposed to have at least $1000 saved for emergencies but for a while I was doing it my way and throwing almost every cent on the debt. I'm just that desperate to get it paid off. However this month I'm halfway to a proper EF because the threat of a strike is looming at work and I don't want to rely entirely on my Line of Credit.

If the strike is averted I will probably use the money saved to fix up my Ford, which is still sitting at the shop waiting for a quote. I've asked the mechanic to keep it under $1000 but he thinks it might be more like $1200 - $1500. Hope to find out within a couple of days since I have to return the Honda to its owners tomorrow (with thanks, and hope that they don't mind I didn't tell them about the repairs I had to put on it this summer - I just didn't think it was worth it to bother them while they were overseas).

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

me and my wise ideas

My passport expired in May, and I've been slowly working on the "simplified" application for renewal. I finally had some time to get the photos taken, and for some stupid reason I chose to go to Walmart. They weren't very friendly, but they took the pics and when I asked the price I was told there was a "special": two pics and a passport wallet for $19.99. In disbelief I asked what the regular price was and was told $23.99. I told the lady I was sure I had never spent more than $10 on passport photos and she acted like she didn't believe me. I handed over my card and she handed me a plain black passport wallet that smelled slightly of gasoline.

I then went across the street to Shopper's Drug Mart to mail the small package to the passport office. Next to the postal outlet was a photo area, with a sign that said, "Passport Photos $9.99" which made me feel slightly sick to my stomach.

I hardly ever go to Walmart any more and now I remember why. Hate is such a strong word but ...

ETA: Not only does the passport wallet smell like inedible oil products but I just noticed that it closes with a hidden strip of magnet. Um, hello de-magnetization of all my cards?!

Seriously, Karissa

Friday, August 20, 2010

Managing

I just got off the phone with VISA. I have a card with a $30 000 credit limit and a "low-interest" rate of 12%, with an annual fee of $29. I had them switch it to a no-fee, 1% cash-back card with warranty extension and a $5000 credit limit.

I am just not comfortable with so much open credit now that my balance is on its way to $5000, but at the same time I was not yet ready to close out the account entirely, which was my intention. I realize that it's useful to have a VISA card for the locations that do not accept MC - like the eye doctor I visited last summer.

Eventually I will be credit card free, but not yet.

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Moment of Joy

A bright, beautiful, windy day. Coffee in hand, I'm heading toward my office. I hear them before I see them: a huge gaggle of noisy Canada geese in circle formation passes by overhead. They are honking like their lives depend on it and the silliness of the sound makes me smile. I notice that, even though it is mid-to-late August and mornings are getting chilly, they are heading north . This makes me feel joyous. Summer is not yet over.

I look out over the river and see the gaggle settling onto the water, still in a circle. I wonder what the noisy urgency was, and why they settle there. From how far did they fly? Maybe just down river. No answers, but it doesn't matter, because their very existence made me happy.

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What brings me Joy?

This post is part of SOYJOY‘s What brings you joy contest. Learn more here.


Seriously, I'm a person of a pretty morose character. Years of wrong choices, bad luck, untrained coping skills and general pessimism have flavoured me in such a way that contentment has been an elusive second cousin, thrice removed.

About six years ago I found myself alone, lonely, and unhealthy and medicated. I had hit my bottom and luckily for me I was desperate to climb back up. I explored meditation and cognitive therapy. I went to twelve-step meetings and listened to the stories of those who had suffered much more than me, always wondering if I deserved to be so unhappy. I couldn't pinpoint the start of my decline, but I guessed it was sometime during my fourth year of university. I knew, though, that I had lived with unhappiness and depression off and on for years.

So you can imagine my hesitation and skepticism when my dear friend Kate Baggott posted about Joy the other day. I thought about it, Joy, and couldn't wrap my head around it. I had decided long ago that Contentment was my goal, and sometimes even Happiness. Happiness could last a day or even a week, but Joy? Joy is fleeting, a burst of energy that invigorates and then gets replaced by every day life.

I thought about Joy. What, to me, is Joy? I thought of my four-year-old son, who is a Joy, but he is also a lot of work and sometimes a pain in the bum. I thought of coffee, and ice cream, and a good submarine sandwich, all of which have brought me Joy, but on such superficial levels. I thought of the Joy at the click of the Paypal button, and the arrival of packages in the mail, and remembered hauling van-loads of junk from my moldy basement, stuff I bought, some of which were still in the packages. I thought of every $100 I put towards my debt, watching the number decrease steadily, and thought that might be Joy. I thought of the Joy of paying off my student loan (someday) and then acquiring a mortgage. Will that be Joy? But what if the roof falls in?

The day after Kate's post I noticed the word Joy on a couple of status updates in my Facebook. One was describing a man (whom I didn't know) standing in front of his muddy mini-van - off-roading perhaps? The second update was describing tears of Joy at this video and I thought, "that must be it, Joy is the feeling of being really alive." You see I spent so many years feeling dead inside, feeling bogged down by all the negativity in the world, forgetting that people survive. And that is a reason to feel Joy. Gratitude for living is a reason for Joy.

I still think Joy is fleeting but that's ok. In my case it will have to be quantity over quality, because if Joy is not continually sustainable then I will just have to find more of it.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

For me, time is money

My time is valuable. Isn't yours?

I switched to a more part-time work position so that I would have time for my son. My job is great, my work hours are somewhat flexible. Not as flexible as work-at-home or freelance, but I don't have the skills for that.

By working part-time I am able to spend more time with Bean in the morning - let's face it, we are dawdlers. Once I drop him off at daycare I meander to my office, unless I have a meeting scheduled which makes our morning hectic, but thankfully that is only once every month during the school year.

Some days I leave work early so that I can go to the grocery store alone, or attend a self-help meeting (my version of "me time").  I know I can't handle the stress of "I want this! I want that!" so I rarely take Bean to the store with me.

A couple of weeks ago though I was feeling rushed. It felt like a thousand degrees outside and I was hurrying through Price Chopper, getting the things we needed to get through the next couple of weeks. I don't overstock because we have a small kitchen, and I haven't yet overhauled our storage closet. I went to grab a loaf of brown bread, of which I always stick half in the freezer. This time I didn't grab my usual brand and took the cheaper loaf instead. I'm sure the sign said $1.57, but when I got to the parking lot and checked the receipt I saw I was charged $1.99.

I hesitated and was going to return inside to check the price and the heat got to me and I said "forget it, it's 42 cents, I'll survive" and I left. I know I could have received the item for free if there indeed was an error thanks to a Scanning Code of Practice but at that time, in that heat, I decided it wasn't worth the two bucks.

Same goes for coupons. I just can't seem to make the time to care about coupons. They usually sit in my wallet well past their expiry date. The things I tend to buy - usually just staples - are cheap at the Chopper and there are rarely coupons for the things I buy.

Nina Yau from Castles in the Air lists some of the reasons why she chooses not to clip coupons:
  • I don’t find it a particularly productive use of my time.
  • I don’t carry coupons with me since I hardly ever use them.
  • I don’t subscribe to the Sunday newspaper coupon section.
  • I find myself spending more because of a coupon (e.g., buy 1 get one 1/2 off “deals”) and prefer to spend less altogether by buying only what I need and not just because it was on sale and I have a coupon for it.
Same goes for rewards cards. I was asked by a gas station cashier if I had one of their points cards. I admitted that I had two, neither of which were with me. I used to collect their points because I could transfer them into CAA dollars, but the last few times I tried to make the transfer online it didn't work, so I quit their program. I just don't have the time to sit and figure out why it didn't work.

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Car repair or purchase - what would you do?

So my Ford is still sitting in my parking lot, and I'm still driving the borrowed Honda. I can't say I've saved much money, since I have paid $130 for a new (used) tire and a replacement brake line. Both situations leading up to these repairs were costly in terms of stress and slight trauma as well. I have a feeling I should bring the Honda back to it's owners' house and say "thanks!"

If I do that I have three choices:
1) Get back on the bus
2) Buy a new(er) car
3) Repair the Ford

The mechanic who installed the Honda's new brake line said more lines are rusty and are going to break, and will need replacing. He's willing to take look at the Ford for free. He thinks $3000 was a high quote for the repair, but admitted that it will still be expensive.

I hope to have the credit card balance down to $7000 and in a couple of months I will transfer it back to the LOC (5.5%), before the interest rate on the card goes back up to it's normal 19%. That leaves me with $3000, just about the cost of the car repair.

Next option is to buy something in the 2004 - 2008 range, and apply for financing. I have excellent credit so this may work in my favour, but if the car is $8000, that and my credit card debt will put me back up to $15 000! I might feel like I'll never get ahead. A newer car may mean less car troubles, but not necessarily.

What do you think I should do? What would you do? Would you repair the Ford or buy something newer?

Re: the bus - Bean starts JK this September and we don't have after-school care so I will have to leave work by 2:30 to pick him up 2 or 3 times a week. Taking the bus means I will have to leave that much earlier. I am on a waiting list for after-care so if we get a spot I can consider the bus.

Seriously, Karissa

Monday, July 19, 2010

La la la laptops*

Because I may be buying another car soon, I put off the new laptop purchase for a while. While Dell has deals for back-to-school and Mac is "giving away" Ipod Touch, it seems like the computer I want is only going up in price while the weeks of summer dwindle away. A month ago it was in stock and $599, now it's back-ordered and $692. Grrr.

So I'm looking at Dells again but the reviews aren't great, and I even contemplated a Macbook because there's one with an 11" screen, and Bean would LOVE an Ipod because his cousin has one.

Any feedback on netbooks or small-screen notebooks (I'd like Duo Core rather than Atom) is much appreciated.

CAR UPDATE: just got off the phone with a mechanic (who fixed a rusty brake line on the Honda I've borrowed, which is a scary story in itself) who said that my Ford may have been misdiagnosed and he might be able to replace the timing belt and get it running again. He's going to research a bit more and get back to me.


Seriously, Karissa

*BTW this is not a sponsored post.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nothing is Free ...

... but some days things are cheap.

I approached first Canadian Tire, and then the used tire shop with dread, expecting to pay out at least a couple hundred bucks for a front tire, maybe both front tires. The one on the right blew while we were on the highway on Sunday. It was scary for me, but my son slept through it and when he woke up and found out a tow truck was on its way was incredibly excited.

He even asked me to take pictures of the truck, which I did.

The CAA guy installed the spare tire and advised me to go no more than 80 km the rest of the way home. Without any air conditioning the ride seemed to take. Forever.

Canadian Tire was too busy so on a friend's recommendation I went to a used place and was told it was my lucky day (finally!) because they were going to sell me the last tire in stock in the size that I needed. For less than forty bucks.

Happy day!

For several days I have been looking online at 2004 to 2007 hatchbacks. I'm checking out mostly Honda and Toyota. I may take a look at Kia and Hyundai. If I decide to buy a new(er) car I will either have to finance or use my line of credit. I'm not happy about increasing my debt when I've come so far, but I'm also not happy about taking the bus or borrowing (and repairing) a car. Or paying $2000 for something old like my most recent car, and paying another $2000 in repairs over a year and a half, only to have the engine die on me.

Maybe I should just get back on the bus and grow a thicker skin.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is Free?

There's a lot of talk about freedom in my neck of the woods these past few days, but I'm going to try to keep it simple and mention a couple of cool free things that have come my way the past couple of weeks.

There is of course the car, a great little Honda Civic that is serving us nicely around town. I say a prayer of thanks every time I get into it.

I've been offered another car for no charge: my sweetheart has a Saturn that is not highway-friendly and he has been meaning to take care of it for over a year now. He said I can take it whenever I want to. The caveat is that it is manual so I will have to learn to drive standard. My "bucket list" (I really dislike that term) includes this skill so I think it is time to cross something else from the "list of things to do before I die" (my preferred title).

Finally, I was pleased to receive an email from Ms Single Mama requesting my snail-mail address, as I had commented on her offer to give away a free copy of Lori Gottlieb's Marry Him, which arrived at my door early last week. I have had only a few minutes to browse the introduction and I was especially pleased to see that the copy was signed by the author! I think this would be a good book to take with me to the beach this weekend but I don't want my sweetheart to think I'm dropping hints.

The mere thought of having a wedding sends me into fits and rants but I'll save that for another post.

Seriously, Karissa

Friday, June 18, 2010

Here's a thought

If the city wants commuters to switch to public transit, how about giving the drivers a little training in customer service?

I have to say I will be skipping to my friends' house to pick up their car, because I can't stand the public abuse the bus drivers dish out. Not just to me, but to other parents as well. For some reason they really like to pick on the parents of small children.

In this city, anyone over the age of two is expected to pay $2.25 for bus fare, but nobody bothers to pay if their kid is four or five, and the bus drivers don't enforce it. Some of them, however will grumble every time we get on and don't pay, but if we offer money, they won't take it. They just like to grumble. There's one driver who asks the father of one of Bean's classmates every single time they get on the bus, "how old is he?" And every single time he replies, "he's four" and she starts grumbling. This same driver passed one of the mothers and her son while they were waiting at the stop, refusing to pick her up because the bus was almost full. She called to complain. That driver never causes me grief, but yesterday she sped past our stop and then hit the brakes violently when she realized her error. After we picked ourselves up we managed to jump off the bus before she sped off again.

The driver who gave me grief this morning has previously closed the back doors on me while I tried to jump off. Bean had already jumped out and had me by the hand, and he was screaming "Mommy!" while the door closed on my back pack, trapping me on the bus. The driver would have continued if the students on the bus hadn't started yelling at him. Bean was slightly traumatized by this.

This morning the same driver gave me hell because my bus pass wouldn't swipe, and he accused me of trying to use a 30-day pass for "the past six months." I told him a month ago I had a car, and offered to pay with my coffee money. When he refused it I had to wonder why he gave me any trouble at all. Why grumble about it? If it's bothersome, enforce the rules, or else shut the hell up!

Anyways now I am especially grateful for the use of a car for the next two and a half months. I have to think up something extra special for this family to show my gratitude.

Seriously, Karissa

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three goods and a bad

More like one fantastic, two greats and an ugh.

The Greats:

- The university has an agreement with Dell for computer purchases. I got the brainy idea to contact our sales rep and get quote on a Mini. He quoted me $297 taxes, etc in, and that includes a six-cell battery. I am going to wait until July to order it because when the HST comes into effect the university will apply an institutional rebate of 78% (meaning I will save another $15 on the price).

- HST rebate cheque direct deposited yesterday. $200 immediately goes on the debt, bringing it down to $8000 even, and the other bit I am saving for another pair of orthopedic shoes (bringing me up to three pairs: sandals, clogs, and then shoes!)

The Ugh:

- I signed up for this challenge and on the first day wrote a few hundred words, which I promptly lost when my Word decided to go bunk on me. I started again yesterday but it's just not flowing like it was the day before. Haven't lost all hope yet, but I'm clearly missing the goal here.

The Fantastic:

- A dear person has offered me the use of his car for the summer while he is away. "Gratitude" can not express the relief I feel at this kind offer.

Seriously, Karissa

Monday, June 07, 2010

Car-Free

A couple of observations on living car-free:

- Our day is extended by at least an hour because of waiting waiting waiting for the bus
- If we miss the "fast bus" (the express) we will almost certainly be late, because the "slow bus" comes by every forty minutes
- Unfortunately the "fast bus" runs only six times a day during the summer term
- Wearing a back pack is turning into a serious habit
- I'm convinced I have less cellulite on my hips and upper thighs, from walking across campus at least twice a day
- I have already put $200 towards the credit card debt only one week into the month
- It's not so bad, really (I tell myself this several times a day and almost believe it)

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bye bye for now

To do tomorrow: have the Ford towed back to the parking lot of my building. The mechanic of the lot where it sits now quoted me a $3000 repair bill, and then offered to sell me a 96 Corolla for $1500. He said the timing belt went, exposing valves, bending them, and frying the engine. As it stands now I owe them $120 for the diagnosis, and tomorrow I'll pay them and have CAA tow my baby the hell out of there. My sweetheart stopped there last night to remove the boy's car seat and found both doors unlocked and the key in the ignition (not that the car would start to go anywhere, but still).

What a mickey-mouse operation. If I decide to get the car fixed, I won't do it there.

In their defence, I did say I'd be by to settle up by Wednesday or Thursday so maybe they just forgot to lock up after I didn't show up on Wed. But still.

So for now I have a 30-day bus pass and a plan to use next month's gas money to buy a toy shelf for Bean's bedroom. He is just recently (after almost three months) beginning to enjoy playing in his room, and the past two nights slept almost the whole night in there! I think if I can grab the cube shelf I have coveted forever it will make the room even more enjoyable for him.

Seriously, Karissa

Monday, May 24, 2010

Update

Jolie wanted to know how the cash jars are going so here's an update.

We're going into week four with the cash jars. So far I think I'm getting used to it. One problem I can see so far is with gas money. For the past three months I have spent around $80 on gas for the car, so for this month I budgeted $100. The whole amount was spent a week ago. I suspect it's because I am using a full-serve station now and maybe they aren't very honest at the pump. I can't think of another option because my son is usually in the car when we fill up and I used to rely on pay-at-the-pump with my credit card. I'm thinking of going back to that.

For groceries the cash only seems to be working though, and we still have $60 out of $200 remaining with just over a week to go. I don't have any of my $100 personal spending money left but that's to be expected. I sold my sister my crappy cell phone and all its accessories for $50 and I still have $40 left from that.

In other news my car stalled out on the street yesterday and I had to have it towed to a mechanic. I'm going to try a different mechanic this time. Since today was a holiday I will call them tomorrow morning to find out what went wrong. If the repairs are over $500 I am going to have the car towed back home and if they are around $1000 (like last summer) I'm going to sell it. I can save $300 to $400 a month if I don't have a car. It will be quite an adjustment though.

Seriously, Karissa

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Save Your Bucks

Save Your Bucks
By Robert Loney

Ever wonder who is offering the best price on that fridge? Or whether you could get a less expensive long  distance calling rate? Here I am to your rescue! Paying for a home internet connection? Make it work for you!  Various organizations and people have posted aids to help consumers get a better deal, and in doing so have probably made retailers and service providers drop their prices a bit as competition heats up! Here I'll provide some useful web sites that can help you save money by becoming a smarter consumer!

First, let's tackle the purchase of goods. There are several sites that compare how much a particular item costs at different retailers. Most allow you to search for a product by specific features (e.g., freezers that are energy star), and some also provide full descriptions and user ratings on items.
http://www.pricecanada.com
Computers, electronics, DVDs, Canadian oriented.
http://www.shopbot.ca/
A wide range of products, Canadian oriented.
http://www.shopzilla.com/
A wide range of products, covering North America.
http://shopper.cnet.com/
Electronics, mainly US-based.
http://www.bizrate.com/
A wide range of products, mainly US-based.

Often good deals on articles and services appear out of nowhere. A good place to track these is http://www.redflagdeals.com/. The searchable site provides information on deals & coupons, and is Canadian-based. You can subscribe to their email-based newsletter.

Next, let's explore some services, starting with long distance call rates and cellphone contract rates. There is a lot of competition in these areas, but many of the plans for both services are quite complicated and hard to compare. Long distance plans can be compared on the web site http://www.telecomparisons.com/. This
web site asks you about your long distance calling patterns, and produces a table comparing prices of various long distance calling plans. You can save a lot of money. As an example, a person making ten 30-minute long distance calls weekly can pay up to $65 (Bell's normal rates) or as little as $9 for the same service!
Cell phone plans can be compared using the web site http://www.cellphones.ca/, which lists no less than 189 plans available in the Peterborough area! No wonder it is so complicated! Again, the range of costs is considerable.

You can also comparison shop electricity and natural gas contracts. Most people buy these energy products as they use them, paying the rate set by their utility at the time. But you can purchase these products on contract at a fixed price for a fixed duration. A warning here... this involves some speculation about what will
happen to energy prices in the future (which no one really knows). If you are interested, visit http://www.energyshop.com/, where you can compare energy contracts offered by different suppliers of both natural gas and electricity. The site also provides historical price patterns, and price forecasts (which you should take with a grain of salt!).

If you are in the market to renew or set up a new mortgage, you might find the web site http://www.canadamortgage.com/ of use. It lists current posted rates from over 30 financial institutions across Canada for various mortgage types and terms. It also provides tools such as a calculator to help you calculate payments.

Most of us have a credit card that charges way too much interest. The web site http://www.themoneybelt.gc.ca/ offers an interactive tool to help you choose a credit card that suits your needs. Speaking of overcharging, banks charge way too much for their services. Most banks offer some
sort of guide to compare their rates for their various levels of bank accounts. There are also a couple of web-based tools to help you compare different banks' account charges: http://www.themoneybelt.gc.ca/
offers an interactive tool to compare different bank's accounts.
http://www.fiscalagents.com/rates/servicepack.shtml offers a monthly service package comparison between banks.


Seriously, Karissa

Friday, May 21, 2010

It seriously didn't matter

I opened my first savings account when I was six years old. My mom was a bank teller and she set my sister and I both up with Calculator accounts at the Royal Bank. I loved playing with my passbook, pretending to push the little buttons on the cover. I loved rolling up pennies and giving them to my mom to deposit, watching the typed numbers increase in the passbook.

I always had a little bit of cash, even as a little girl. I got an allowance of $2 a week and I liked to spend it on books (usually Judy Blume). I remember coming up with extra chores lists, and would charge my parents 25 cents for anything above and beyond my usual chores. My sister always spent her money right away and would come to me to "borrow" my money because she knew I always had some.

I had an ATM card when I was twelve, and used it wisely. I knew how to write a cheque. I took a business class in high school, with a component in personal finance and did very well. I took business math and marketing and excelled in those classes too. I had my own apartment at eighteen and always paid my rent on time. I didn't have a lot of savings but without a credit card I never lived above my means. I lived with cash only.

Even when I was 20-21-22 I worked for minimum wage and still managed to share an apartment in downtown Toronto. If I wanted to buy something new to wear, I would save my lunch money for a week or two. I saved coins and rolled them up to buy myself a bass amp to play in a band.

With this kind of a background, how did I wind up at thirty years old with a $20 000 credit card debt? I think it started with the first student loan when I was 22, and the credit card with the $500 limit I got when I started college. I spent several years in university, each year borrowing just under $10 000 to get through. When I finally got a full-time job, I lived in overdraft and always had my hair professionally done.

I've hinted at it enough here that I have suffered most of my life with severe emotional problems. I won't go into detail because this is not that kind of blog. I seemed prepared for a life of good finances, but was always completely oblivious to the things under the surface that would come up in my twenties and put me in heavy debt: student loans, compulsive spending, online shopping addiction ...

Today I am thirty-five years old. I have just over $40 000 combined debt and almost no savings. It will be a long time before I am approved for a mortgage, even though my credit is still somehow stellar. I work part-time so that I can be more available for my four-year old son. Money is tight, but we rent a nice apartment and we have a nice little life. We have everything we need, especially love. I put away $40 a month into an RESP so I can at least pay for Bean's first year of university.

I don't know how his personal life, emotional or financial, will turn out. I can't control everything. I can only control my compulsive spending and the amount of affection I dish out. And that's enough for me.

Seriously, Karissa

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cash Only

April was a little too spendy for my liking (two impulse shops + one trip to the Capital + one trip to have my snow tires removed + Bean's fourth birthday = $500) so for May I have switched to cash only. I withdrew $400 cash ($200 for food & household, $100 for car-gas, $100 spending money) and divided it into a couple of old spagetti sauce jars.

So far, I hate this system. I am just not used to cash. I like cards.

I don't know if I'll get used to it. I'm going to try my hardest, because I can't rely on the security of my line of credit anymore, since I transferred the balance of my debt onto a low-interest master card (0.99% for ten months). Previously I was depositing my monthly paycheque into the LOC account and removing a weekly amount for expenses (usually $100 a week or $200 when car insurance was due). This system seemed to work really well for me: I was paying the balance down and feeling secure about access to my funds.

Now that my debt is sitting in a credit card account again, I have to be more careful. If I pay too much into it, I won't have enough to get through the month. If I don't pay enough, the balance will not get paid down. My goal is to have the balance of the credit card down to $5000 in November, when the interest rate goes up to 1000% and I'll transfer it all back to my LOC (currently the rate is 5.25%).

Which means I have to come up with $500 a month .... oh dear.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wants/Needs; Pros/Cons

Canadian Saver asked me why I want a Dell mini and it made me think. Besides the fact that it's cute, why do I need this new toy?

So I thought I'd make a pros/cons list:

Pros:
- small size will make it nice for my weekend jaunts
- 160 or 250 gbs for storage - I can keep more pics, music and maybe a movie or two for travel
- I can get one with a purple top!

Cons:
- my son will think it's his, because it's small and purple (his fave colour)
- I want the OS to be WinXP, and this is available only with a 3-cell battery (a 6-cell battery on its own is $170 extra)
- adding purple adds $30 to the cost, plus I'll probably buy a sleeve (compound spending)
- I read somewhere that the sound and video don't actually work well on the Mini
- I'm supposed to be paying off my entire credit card debt this year, so I must stop spending money I don't have!

Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mini-obsession

I certainly don't need one, but I want a netbook. Badly. Lately I have been comparing the Dell Mini to the MSI Wind. Doing so I'm getting pretty good at navigating through geek-tech sites.


Telus update: I finally called Loyalty & Retention yesterday and explained the whole sordid tale, beginning with the dead battery from last October. The result is a new HTC Snap on the truck and into my hands today. I hope that receiving this FREE toy will placate the desire for a new laptop.


Not that it was free, with the bill I paid back in November plus all the time and aggravation on the phone and in person since then. But I'll take what I can get.


Seriously,
Karissa

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Well no wonder

Just returned from  weekend jaunt to Capital City. I was going to drive but my little car (paid off) starting making a squeaky noise that I think might be the fan belt - it detaching itself was just one of the many car problems I suffered last summer, resulting in $1400+ in repairs. I really don't want a repeat of THAT this summer. As well it was reported to rain on Friday and one of wiper blades has come apart, resulting in a beautiful arc of a scratch on the windshield. I wish I had that checked as soon as I noticed something wrong, but I left it and now I will deal with it this week. In just a few days I will be taking the car to the Big City to have my snow tires removed so I will have to get it looked at very very soon.

So I bought a return Greyhound ticket, which set me back $118!! Taking my car would have cost less in gas but I just couldn't take the risk. I guess Greyhound has increased ticket prices to cover increased costs (fuel, salaries, benefits, etc) and decreased ridership. Well they say ridership is decreasing, but that bus I took was almost full each way. If ridership is decreasing, it's because of the cost of the ticket. That trip should not have cost me more than $100!!


My sweetheart covered all my expenses once I got there but still. I don't think I'll be able to afford to take that trip very often.

Seriously,
Karissa

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How cool is this?

I love gadgets and toys. I have a serious pen collection that I've culled by bringing them into work so that people can grab them from a mug on my desk. I'm not as attached to them anymore: they can go. What stays with me is a little 2GB data key that holds copies of my most important documents, some pics, and a most-up-to-date copy of my budget spreadsheet.

So you can imagine how impressed I was to find this cool pen + usb traveller from Memory Suppliers.com (I have a link to the site over there in the right-hand column).

Too bad I don't have a reason to order any of these nifty gadgets. If I were one of them pro-mommy-blogger types I could have a debtfreekid logo designed and hand them out at conventions.

Maybe next year :)

Seriously,
Karissa

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Still obsessed

... with spending money I don't have.

This past week I have created wishlists all over the Net. I customized a Dell Mini and looked at yoga toys. I have at least twenty listings in MyEbay.

The BBC Canada Store contacted me to add a link - which I have, below - and now I have all nine or so seasons of Red Dwarf in a wishlist on their site.

I went to Winners last week, looking for panda bear slippers for my son. I walked out with two dresses and a jumper, a pair of (non-orthotic) wedge sandals and a toy purple dragon. Over $130 spent that I managed to work into my budget spreadsheet without catastrophe, but those funds SHOULD be going toward the $9000 on the MC.

A visit to the dollar store yesterday had me spending just over $30 and this didn't cover all the items on my shopping list.

Something is up in my psyche and I'm not sure what or why. Is it just spring fever? Or have my spending issues returned to cause problems?

Seriously,
Karissa



BBC Canada Shop - $10 OFF

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Problem with Parity

The Canadian dollar is almost at par with the U.S. bill, and because of this I have found myself browsing both ebay and ebags. I have a serious addiction to leSportsac - especially the leopard print styles - and I usually buy a new item each year. I skipped last year because I was so serious about debt reduction.

I am trying not to let myself believe that I "deserve" a new bag. I am grappling with the issue of entitlement in all kinds of areas. I used to justify the expensive leSportsac purchase by acknowledging that the bags were Made in USA, but I know that they haven't been for a few years now. The quality of the Made in Asia bags appear to be the same, but the guilt of potentially buying from a sweatshop does not make me feel good. Maybe I want a reward for being so good at debt repayment, but I don't want to compromise my values.

But oh, there are some cute bags out there.

Seriously,
Karissa

Friday, April 02, 2010

0.99%

I called Master Card to check the status of my application for the new card. It was still pending, but the rep informed me that I had a deal on my current card for 0.99% for the next nine months. I decided on the spot to go for it, and now my diminishing debt is back on the MC for a little while. It changes my strategy of pooling all my resources into my easily-accessible LOC, and means I will have to be more diligent to put a large chunk onto the card rather than hoarding it in a savings account with fear.

However it will be nice to use my neglected savings account again. Hopefully I can keep some funds in there for once!

Seriously,
Karissa

Friday, March 19, 2010

A New Master?

Well, my debt is under $10 000 and settled nicely into my Line of Credit at 5.25%. The only strategy I had planned for the next year-and-a-bit is to plug as much money possible into that account to pay it down to $0. I was looking forward to starting with my next paycheque on the 28th (I get paid once a month, right?).

I figured at least one of my credit card companies would come sniffing around since they all have zero balances. So I don't know why was I surprised today to receive an invitation from MBNA to switch to their PremierRewards card. Normally I shred these invites but today I sat down and looked it over.

If they approve me for $10 000 I can move my LOC balance over and pay 1.99% for ten months. The "small" print at the back of the page tells me that there is a balance transfer fee of 1% of amount transferred with a minimum fee of $7.50. So right off I will pay $100 to transfer over. Interest on $10 000 is $16.58 per month, which would go down if I continue to be aggressive with the repayments.

Currently I pay between $30 and $40 a month in interest, and my minimum payments are about $250. I always pay much more than that but spread out throughout the month.

The "Rewards" the card refers to are 1% cash back for purchases. I wouldn't be using the card for purchases until after the ten month introductory period, when the interest rates shoot to 19.99% and I have transferred the balance back to my LOC. I currently use a MasterCard that offers points towards goods and groceries, and I was considering looking around for a card that offers cash instead. Any cash earned on the new card will be applied to the account once a year. I would prefer it applied to my chequing account ...

There is also no annual fee, unlike my VISA card, which I planned to cancel last summer prior to the fee being applied, but hesitated and decided to keep for another year. I was afraid closing the account would affect my debt-to-credit ratio (25% of my credit used vs 50%). Opening another card will increase my open credit, so I may feel more comfortable closing the VISA after all.

I'm not going to decide today. The letter says I have until April 30 to decide.

Seriously,
Karissa

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Axing the Amazon Associates Store

I was excited to learn that Amazon.ca was going to send $15.61 to my chequing account for being a part of their Associates program. All I had to do to earn this was post a link on my sites and encourage people to click through my link to purchase their books and music. I have had the links up for over a year but it wasn't until this past xmas, when I started to harass my facebook friends, that I made the $15 and change.

I waited for the payment to arrive to my account, and in anticipation, sent $15 to a friend getting married who was selling stuff online to raise funds for her wedding. I sent it as a gift, not wanting anything in return. Meanwhile the $15.61 never arrived.

I began investigating over the past few days, using their online forms. I have to admit the responses were fast! First I was told that the payment had been returned by my bank, and to verify my bank information on my account page. I did this and let them know, and received a second response telling me that I had been given the wrong information, the payment had NOT been returned, and it had been processed by my bank on February 24. I was to contact my bank for more information. I did, of course, and of course the bank knew nothing of a payment from Amazon!

I let Amazon know, and the next thing they wanted me to do was fax them a VOID cheque so that they could investigate themselves. I didn't, because:
1) the bank is going to tell them what they told me;
2) I don't want my cheque going to an unfamiliar fax number;
3) this is turning into work, and it's not worth the time (since I would be faxing during work hours, I consider my time to be $20-25 an hour).

I informed Amazon that I am considering closing my Associates account. What's the point of promoting them if they are not going to send me the money they promised? It's more work for me to harass, I mean, remind my friends and family to use the link ... and I really have so many other things to do.

What would you do? Would you go through the hoops to get the $15 into your account? Or would you walk away, like I'm thinking of doing?

Seriously,
Karissa

Saturday, March 06, 2010

I MASTERED MY CARD

Received my T4 at the end of February and immediately filed online. Received my income tax refund by direct deposit today and PAID OFF MY MASTERCARD. Looky at the pretty sidebars. I moved up the debt bar because I'm so proud.

People have been asking me how I cleared $11 000 worth of debt in 15 months and to be honest, I'm not quite sure how I did it. I'm making a mental list and hope to type it out and post it soon.

Hope you're having a great weekend. Mine just got that much better :)

Seriously,
Karissa


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Get Smarter About Money

Apologies if this has already been spammed about the web, but a random click on an ad banner (yes, sometimes I click!) brought me to this site.

I haven't have a chance to go through all of it yet, but at first glance I do like the look of it.

**This is not a sponsored post**

Seriously,
Karissa


Thursday, February 25, 2010

For fun - Pay the Bills Spell

A random click brought me to this - Llewellyn's Pay the Bills Spell.

When I was much younger I was a big fan of Llewellyn products, but now I just browse the titles for fun. I consider these things distractions, and it's easy to get carried away with them and use them for procrastination and avoidance of real life issues.

I might just do this spell, so that I stay on track. Anyone know where I can find a cauldron?

Seriously?,
Karissa


Friday, February 19, 2010

Fifteen months

I'm proud. Hell, I'm bragging. In fifteen months I have paid off 50% of my credit card debt. Over ten thousand dollars. I don't know how I did it. I didn't take a second job and I didn't sell anything online. I still have a social life and a car. I even paid off a huge car repair bill ($1400+) and bought two pairs of orthopedic shoes ($500). I bought a crappy new cell phone ($300 with all the bells and whistles). And still, I managed to pay HALF my debt in just over a year.

I'm psyched I tell ya. If I can keep this up, I'll be paying off my student loans in no time, and then I can start saving up for a bigger and better life for my son and I.

Seriously,
Karissa


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who says nothing is free?

You have to imagine my surprise when I received a voice mail from the cable company offering me free digital TV, high-speed internet, and telephone with the purchase of my new home. I returned the call to confirm and as it turns out, with my new lease I will be receiving all three services FOR FREE for twelve months. I was told that I would receive cable with the new apartment, but I assumed I would have to pick one service. I had decided on telephone because I still hate Telus so much.

Nope. All three. It has been years since I watched cable TV, and over a year since I canceled my cable internet. I feel like I'm back in the 2000s. I just might gain twenty pounds being a couch potato in the next twelve months.

Seriously,
Karissa


Friday, January 29, 2010

Well I did it

I cleaned out my TFSA and put it on my MasterCard. I am so close to paying it off I can taste it. I will probably move another $400 from my LOC to bring the MC balance down to $1500. Then it's the waiting game for my tax return which will go right on there as well, hopefully paying it off. I'm not putting anything into my RRSP this year. I want this debt gone.

After fifteen months sharing a one-bedroom, Bean and I are moving into a two-bedroom on March 1st. We're staying in the same building, just moving down to the ground floor. I'll be paying about $150 a month for the extra bedroom plus a small backyard behind our apartment. Plus the super said they would give us a basic cable account for free for one year. I will have to sign another one year lease, which I think is BS considering I just finished one with them.

Seriously,
Karissa

Friday, January 08, 2010

Today's horoscope

"You might be anxious about your finances, and if you have debts, especially on plastic, there might be good reason for concern. It could motivate you to do something about it, and that's a good thing. Start planning for a "zero-debt day" and you'll feel a lot better. "

Seriously,
Karissa

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Way of the Happy Woman

*This is not a sponsored post*

Back in 2005 I spent two months in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it is one of my long-term goals to return.

For a few months now I have been receiving email from Sara Avant Stover and I thought I'd share the most recent one here.

Dear K,

I don't know about you, but for me, one of the hardest things to do is LET GO.

Another way to put that is "Surrender."

When I'm faced with a bad day, a challenging situation, or a super-human to-do list, sometimes
I can get wrapped up in the drama. I can take on a defeatist attitude and say to myself,

"Oh, I can never do that."

"I'll never have enough time."

"This is overwhelming."

And, when I say these things to myself I actually start to BELIEVE them. This is when I get into trouble. I get tired, even sick. I lose focus on the big picture. And, worst of all, I lose touch with my soft core as a woman.

I KNOW I'm not alone in this. I hear it from many of you, from my clients, students, friends...it's so common in the world today where we face 100X more stimulation in 1 DAY than our ancestors did in a whole LIFETIME. Wow.

So here's what I do when I start to feel this way, and I hope that you will try it, too:

1. Take a step back. Look at the big picture. See the moment, day, or situation, in the larger perspective of your whole life. Take on a bird's-eye view, in other words.

2. Feel your feet. Really. Feel your feet. Take a breath all the way down through your belly and legs and into your feet. Do that for a few or several breaths, as much as you need
to really get into your body again. (When you get overwhelmed like this, you're in your head. So get back into your own skin!)

3. Ask yourself, "What do I need to know right now?" When you ask this you tune into your intuition, into the guidance from your highest self. You tune into your heart. Wait and listen
to the answer.

4. Make a date with yourself to do something pleasurable. It could be a bubble bath, a walk in the woods, sitting down and savoring an apple with almond butter. Whatever, it doesn't need to be fancy. When you have too much going on, most likely you've disconnected from what makes you happy. It's time to reconnect with that.

I hope this helps! If you have any other tips that work for you to surrender and let go, let me know, I'd love to hear them!

With love and happiness,

Sara


Seriously,
Karissa

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Goals for 2010

Happy New Year!

Here are some of my goals for 2010:
- go to the gym three times a week (yoga, weights, cardio)
- eat three proper meals a day - with protein - and keep them as healthy as possible
- start knitting again (xmas presents)
- pay another $7000+ off the debts
- practice gratitude every day

Seriously,
Karissa