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