Friday, May 27, 2011

I AM CREDIT CARD DEBT FREE

As of this morning (payday), Friday 27 May, 2011 I am credit card debt free.

30 months, $20 000, Paid. Off.

Thank you to so many bloggers who inspired me back in November 2008 to start on this self-improvement project. In particular I would like to shout out to Fabulously Broke, Jolie, and Grace, who were with me from the beginning. Thanks as well to my ex-sweetheart who covered all my weekend fun expenses so I did not experience too much debt burnout.

You can do this too! Stop Shopping!

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ouchie

Last week was a crazy one. It was a quiet week at work after crazy the week prior, but my home life turned upside down. Literally. We had to be out of the apartment by Saturday, which was the same day of Bean's fifth birthday party, his first big birthday party ever. Up until this year I did not have the nerve or the cash to pay for a party for twelve kids, but this year I took a deep breath and went for it.

The week started at the mechanics, where I forked over yet another $200 to have the alternater replaced. This was necessary, since I had already started loading up the car and taking loads to second-hand stores, the consignment shop, and the free market. I had a car-load of toys packed in, to go to Bean's dad's in the big city, when the car decided to die in an intersection not far from home.

By mid-week the car was repaired, and I was shuttling loads of mostly toys to the house at which we are staying until end of July. By Friday the movers came and took all the big stuff into storage, and Saturday morning, just a few hours before the big birthday party, we took two more loads over to the house.

(We being me, Bean, and his dad, who came out to help and to attend the party. My sweetheart and I broke up about a month ago, I think. Fodder for another post).

I received my monthly pay on Thursday and divvied it up amongst various bill payments, and made the mistake of sending $117 to the wrong credit card account! Luckily it was the account that had the remaining $2000, which is now down to $883 :D

So Bean and I are living rent-free until August, but I paid out about a month's worth of rent on Friday and Saturday, what with the movers and storage, and the party that cost $300!! Next year I hope we will be in a place big enough to have just a few kids at home with games. Yet this year I did have the luxury of not having to clean up after and entertain a dozen five year olds, since we went to an indoor playground that specializes in this kind of thing. And the kids had a blast, and my kid was so pleased, so it was worth every penny, right?

Seriously, Karissa

Friday, April 08, 2011

Health Care Hell(ish)

We Canadians applaud ourselves for our universal health care system, like it is something we came up with and exceled at ourselves. As far as I know, the only thing I do to better our health care system is to remain employed and pay taxes into the greater system, as well as try to stay as healthy as I can so that I can avoid the health care system altogether.

Today I could not avoid it. Thanks to some pesky symptoms of stress, my nurse practitioner wrote me up a requisition for an ECG and told me to go to a clinic in the other part of town where they "should" have the proper lab for the procedure.

Because I did not have all day, and because ALL health care facilities charge for parking, I decided to call ahead to the clinic to see if 1) they could perform an ECG and 2) I could get it done sometime today. However I did not have the name and/or phone number for the place so instead from the comfort of my couch I got on the Google to get the basic information.

I typed in a few possibilities but did not find the clinic to which my nurse referred. I did find something called Tele-Health "Chumpville", which I assumed was separate from Tele-Health Province Name, since it was a local number and not a 1-866. Taking what I thought was a good chance I called Tele-Health Chumpville and asked if they had the name and number of the health clinic in the other part of town to which I was referred.

I was told, no, I would have to call Tele-Health Province Name and here is the 1-866 number. Which I did, and for at least ten minutes explained persistently to the person at the other end that no, I did not need a nurse, I had already seen a nurse, and I just needed the name and number of the clinic on the other side of town to where I could go to have an ECG. I am pretty sure she just got on the same Google I had earlier and seeing the lack of information started listing off all the hospital names within a 400 km radius of Chumpville.

I told the Tele-Health Province Name person that I did not have time to go to a hospital in another town, and I think I asked her if Chumpville was just a black hole without any proper health care services or even information about them! She asked me repeatedly if I wanted to speak with a nurse - probably to assess my mental state at this point - and finally I said, no, thanks for your time, I will just go back to Google it myself.

I went back to the Google, skipped over the number for Tele-Health Chumpville, and found a number for a cardiology clinic. Now I felt like I was getting somewhere! I spoke to a woman at that number, and she directed me to yet another clinic where they definately had the facilities to perform an ECG. So I went there after dropping Bean off at daycare, and with my requisition in hand entered the clinic, went to the wrong waiting room, and was re-directed down the hall to another waiting room, where I swear there were one hundred people sitting, and standing, waiting for their turns.

They told me to take a number.

Instead I returned to the first waiting room I entered, which had one person waiting, and begged the woman behind the desk to tell me where there was another clinic in Chumpville where I could have my poor stressed heart checked. She made a quick phone call, came out from behind her desk, pointed past the million-person lab and told me to leave the building, walk up the hill - slowly! - and go to the clinic up the hill. In THAT building was another lab that could perform an ECG and might not have as many people waiting.

And she was correct. There were less people waiting. There were even extra seats! I was out of there in less than an hour, and back in the first waiting room, thanking the woman for her extra assistance.

I do not think this all happened because people do not care, but because the system is overwhelmed and people are over-worked. However I do think there could be a better chain of command to communicate what services are available in this small city of seventy to eighty thousand people! I think there are a lot of services for seniors and special needs peoples which is great, but "normal" people like me tend to get lost in the system. I had to cringe when I thought about someone in lesser health than myself trying to get access to the same service without the correct information to get there. If I were elderly or in a wheelchair, I do not know what I would have done today. Hopefully the elderly or the disabled are assisted better than that!

Dear Tele-Health Chumpville: hire a student for the summer to compile all the health care services in this crazy town. You could have saved me two hours of trouble today!

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Suck it up Buttercup

If you are child-free and on the fence about having a kid or two, and are easily upset by wasting food while people around the world are starving, I suggest you get a dog.

I am a cat-person myself, but a dog will eat up all the uneaten food that you so lovingly and carefully prepare for your offspring, who may or may not (but probably will) eat two bites and then want to wander over to the television.

And then complain about a hungry tummy later on.

I do not know if an almost-five year old can comprehend the words, "I cannot afford to buy food only to have to throw it out when you do not eat it!" These words certainly do not encourage a healthy sense of abundance in the boy's psyche.

And I am slowly growing out of all my second-hand clothes eating two dinners each night. It is a good thing I usually skip breakfast (which Bean has already noticed and commented on the other day. Oops).

Take yesterday for example. Bean goes to kindergarten on Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday. He goes to daycare on the alternate days, where he eats a hot lunch and many snacks and I am certain he actually eats there, because the food is not prepared by Mom (*cough* power struggle). I had noticed the past couple of times after kindergarten that his lunch bag was practically untouched, meaning the contents of two sandwiches and containers of several fresh fruits and vegetables were sitting in his bag all day. Yuck. He could give me no reason why he did not eat his lunch so I thought maybe I should change it up a bit.

But I was at a loss, so as I made his lunch yesterday I told him about how MY favourite sandwich as a kid was a butter sandwich, and he thought that was pretty cool. I made him one sandwich loaded with butter, and put the turkey slices in a separate container knowing he likes to eat them on their own.

When we got home after work and school I opened the bag to find the sandwich in it's container, and it looked like he had tried to peel the butter off the top. When I asked him why he did not eat his butter sandwich, he said it was because it was on bread.

How I am supposed to make a sandwich without bread is beyond my motherly capabilities. I give up.

Next Monday I might just send him to kindergarten with a half-brick of butter in his lunch bag. That should solve the problem.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

what is normal?

"A normal life is defined as graduating high school, getting a college degree, buying a car, buying a house, filling it with furniture, clothes, television sets, washing machines, and lawn mowers, and then spending the next forty years working 9-5 to pay it all off. This cycle of earning and spending is usually offered in forty different flavors of vanilla. You can have any flavor you want as long as it’s vanilla. People mistake this for choice, but it is just variations of one single choice; different choices are not considered. Fish don’t see the water in which they swim: it is an invisible part of their experience."


From Early Retirement Extreme


Seriously, Karissa

Monday, April 04, 2011

New budget revisited

Jolie pointed out in my previous post that the income amount I calculated did not deduct taxes. I kind of did that purposefully, thinking that low-income people normally receive most of their taxes in refunds the following year. I also left out GST/HST refunds with the intention of saving or putting towards student loan repayments.

So, with taxes deducted the new spending total would be:
$1435.00 - 215.25 (15% Federal tax) - 72.47 (5.05% Provincial tax)
= 1147.28
+  355.96 (Child Tax Credit)
+  300.00 (Child Support)
= 1803.24

Guessing that rent + utilities will be around $1000, I can see how this adjustment will be problematic. The student loan folks will probably want $400, so this will leave me with just over $400 for food, household, and car expenses. As long as I do not plan to spend ANY money on fun for the next little while this can be managed. In the background I will have my extra income (about $400), plus other government deposits to put towards emergency funds and extra loan repayments.

Lucky for me that I have the extra income, knowing so many others do not.

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Minimum Wage Budget

Now that I have only $2000 left to pay off my credit card, I have been looking at all the things on which I would like to spend my freed-up money. The reality is that I will have to begin paying student loans soon so my dreams of a more extravagant lifestyle will have to wait a while longer :)

So I have come up with a plan - which I am still tweaking - called the minimum wage budget, to help me stay organized and stay on track with my financial goals. It looks something like this:

Minimum wage = $10.25 x 35 hours x 4 weeks = $1435.00
Child tax credit                                                     355.96
Child support                                                        300.00

(I am purposely leaving out the Universal Child Tax Credit in the hopes it gets scrapped for a real child care plan, when "the Harper Government" is defeated next month)

That leaves me with $2090.96, which is actually not much less than what I bring home, but the intention is to ignore that extra amount and hand it over to student loans.

Is it just me, or does this seem like quite a bit of money to work with? I guess I have been in the lower income bracket for so long that this seems like it will work. But next I have to figure out the spending plan.

Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It is all about Choices (200th Post)

When I was much younger I tried to educate myself about global issues. The more negative the better. This was not always easy to do because the internet did not yet exist. I got most of my information from obscure zines, and my favourite issues were the ones about animal rights. Later on I got into food security and environmental destruction, and when I chose my majors for my Bachelor of Arts one of them was International Development, which focused on these issues.

Somewhere along the way I crashed. I knew that the Western way of living was destroying the planet for everyone else, even though the media told us it was third world population that was responsible. At one time I wanted to work in the media but I quickly learned to distrust it, particularly the mainstream news. I also decided for my own sanity to ignore the booming "independent" film documentary industry that was seeking to expose the truths. I can handle only so much negative information before I start to become bedridden and despondent.

Since having my son I have been especially ignorant, and even started eating meat again, because I do not want to crush his spirit with negativity. After living an alternative lifestyle for so long I decided to raise him to be "mainstream," knowing that when he is older he can choose his own ideals and values, just like I did.

What does this have to do with my debt-free ambition? I think that I have really come a long way to curb my consumerism, which I believe is a huge contributor to the negativity of which I just wrote. Our demands for stuff: clothing, electronics, housing, food, coffee, etc etc etc has made the world more and more unbalanced in the past several decades. Now I am not perfect at all, and I do not strive to be (progress not perfection correct?) but I am pleased that some of my financial decisions might be contributing to a better life for all.

For example, I rent a small apartment, which means I do not have to spend a lot on utilities, and I do not have to worry about renovations, the materials of which can put pressure on the planet. I drive my cars until they are undrivable. Eventually I would like to go car-free but I am not ready yet. I drive only 10 kms a day to work and back. My son has sat in the same car seat since his birth, and rather than purchasing a new booster seat I borrowed one. I rarely shop for clothes and when I do 98% of the time I use thrift stores. I shop for food only once a week and buy the same basic stuff each time. I try to choose products with minimal packaging and when I do end up with plastic, I do what I can to reuse it a few times before recycling it.

I am not trying to brag or be better than you, I am just trying to remind myself of the good things I try to do. I do not live unconsciously, even if I do like to stop at Tim Hortons for coffee once a week with friends. I have to pick and choose what causes I get involved in, if any, and to me watching every documentary to inform myself of the (crappy) reality of the world does not help me. I know there are awful things going on out there. I am not in denial, but I can only handle so much information. I am trying really really hard to focus on the good things. Lately it has been difficult but I am still trying. If I do not click on the links to inform myself it does not mean I am sticking my head in the sand.

It means I am making choices. I choose not to keep myself awake at night worrying about what we humans have done to our beautiful planet. I choose to live simply, to focus on my breathing, and to try to use my time to find positivity. It is not an easy choice, but it is necessary for my sanity and my good parenting.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

the home stretch

The light at the end of the debt tunnel is beautiful and warm. Just in time for a well-deserved thaw, I will be credit-card debt-free.

With my income tax refund I paid off the line of credit. With the child tax credit I will put $200 on the credit card, bringing it down to $3000.

The good news is that I was asked to house-sit for three months!! Without having to pay rent (or bills) this spring and summer I will be able to pay the debt off in full, several months before my self-imposed deadline.

Then in the fall I can begin to pay my student loans. I am trying to come up with a strategy to get around the consolidation agreement that stretches out the payments over 14 years, doubling the amount borrowed.

So, that is my good news.

In other news I am grateful to have a little bit of savings into which I can tap to make a donation to MSF.

Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Global Go Go

I have mentioned here before that in 2005 I spent two months in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I don't have any more big trips on my radar for a while. I might have to wait until my son is an adult, or maybe we will go somewhere together.

In the meantime, I will have to satisfy myself with the adventures of others. Are you planning a big trip in the near future? If so, you might want to check out Tyler Tervooren's (Advanced Riskology) free e-book Instant Adventure.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I Love This

"In November 2008, Pluto moved out of Sagittarius into Capricorn, where it will stay through January 2024. That gives us 16 years to revamp our political, economic and social institutions. This deep cleansing, exposure of corruption and falling apart of structures that do not serve the collective good is obviously in process. Do you witness becoming less reckless and getting more serious about your financial affairs?
Fiscal and public responsibility are aspects of the Pluto in Capricorn purge."

~ Guru Rattana, NMBeing #179 - REALITY SHIFT 2011



Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, February 24, 2011

go-to girl

My blogger friend Grace struck a chord with me today when she posted about being the "go-to" person in the family, especially when it comes to money.

Currently I am financially responsible for only myself and my son. However if something bad happens and I can no longer work and earn, it will force his dad to become more responsible with his own time and money, if possible. So in an indirect way I am the go-to parent, even though at this point in time no one is actually asking me for money.

I get bills that the dad doesn't:
Daycare - which is subsidized but there is a monthly bill to pay plus I have to meet with the social worker twice a year to insure continuation in the program
Dental and prescriptions - which I have benefits to cover but I have to pay the bill before I can get reimbursed.
School - always seems to be nickle and diming me for fundraisers, PLUS I have to come up with a lunch the kid will actually eat, which I try to keep cheap and healthy
Car (gas, maintenance, insurance) - which I might not have if I did not have a kid, plus it sure is handy to have me pick Bean up and drop him off at the bus station since his dad does not have a car
Apartment - I definately would not be living here if I did not have Bean, since it is expensive with two bedrooms

I am not trying to complain, because my life is far richer with my son a part of it. I complain about the reality sometimes but I am still grateful for what I have.

What I try to focus on sometimes is my idea of our future. At this point I contribute to a life insurance plan that Bean can cash in when he gets to his twenties. I also put aside a small amount for his education. I think the biggest most important thing I am currently doing is paying off my debt so that I will have cash in hand for the times that he needs it. Once I have my debts paid off I can aggressively save, and the savings will be for Bean as well as for myself.

Most importantly, I want to teach him to be responsible with money, and to not fill his life with "needs" that are costly and wasteful. One of my strategies is to do almost all the shopping while he is in school or at his dad's, so that he doesn't get "the buys" or learn how to indulge in retail therapy.

I know there's a possibility that everything I teach him can be undone by his dad, but I am doing the best I can here.

Seriously, Karissa

Monday, February 07, 2011

to do this week:

Make banana bread in my crock pot.

Seriously, Karissa

Thursday, February 03, 2011

over-toyed

My kid is one of the ones that holds on. I mean, he likes to keep everything: tiny scraps of paper, sticks and rocks from outside, and toys that he hasn't looked at or thought about for over a year. Currently I have two or three boxes on the go with toys that he has outgrown, but I have not made the time nor had the inclination to decide what to do with them. Options are donation to his daycare, to a friend's daycare, to a friend's baby, or to the Salvation Army. The best toys I can bring down to the consignment shop at the other end of town, along with his size two PJs and last year's winter clothes. I consider them all, and do nothing.

Since xmas we have been tripping over toys, old and new. Bean discovered one of the "hidden" boxes in the hall closet and was upset to learn that I was planning to give them away. He whined and said, "but I'll miss them ... I love them all" to which I frustratingly responded that he hadn't even thought of any of those toys in  months and months. I told him about my friends' new babies, and how much they would love his barely-touched baby toys, and he became really sad and told me he didn't want to part with them.

Meanwhile he has a box FULL of trucks and Transformers (and Transformers that turn into trucks) from xmas that he has barely touched. His favourite toys lately are his large-sized Legos and his Mega Blocks, with which he makes his own Transformers and his real favourites, Bakugans* (this was a whole lot of product endorsement for which I am not compensated). He also has a really cool V-Tech kids camera, and is enjoying running around taking pictures of life as he knows it.

Little kids need a lot of hype in order to convince them that something is worthwhile. Bean hates his swimming lessons but when he is in the pool I keep a huge grin on my face and whenever he looks over at me I clap my hands in applause and he perks up a bit. When I took him ice skating over the xmas break he cried in fear and I had to take him off the ice but as I was undoing his skates I told him that he did an amazing job out there, and now he doesn't mind the idea of trying to skate again. Maybe. When he came home from his dad's with his new camera I got a true brain spark and said excitedly, "I KNOW! Why don't you take pictures of all your baby toys, and that way you can remember them forever and ever!"

All of a sudden I was Mom of the Year (it's going to be a long year). So yesterday while we were snowed in we first picked up all the Legos and other toys that made their way into the living room, vacuumed the carpet, and set out the contents of one box of baby toys. We took pics of them all together and individually. As I packed them back up he got sad again and said he would miss them, so I let him pick out one toy to keep. He picked the stacking animal rings and I gave it some new batteries and he took it to his room and then ignored it for the rest of the day.

I still haven't moved the box of toys out, because now I am afraid that if he looks at his pics he will become sad and make me feel guilty for giving away a (very very) small part of his babyhood.

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

excited

I mentioned  in my previous post that I won a gift certificate from Squirrelers' Thanksgiving contest. It was for $20 at Amazon.com. I normally order from Amazon.ca but xmas was arriving quickly and I thought I'd redeem it for something for someone I love.

I had a harder time than I thought I would. Shipping from the U.S. is expensive and since I had left it so late, nothing I chose would be here in time for xmas. A couple of toys I had picked out for my son would not ship to Canada at all. I finally chose a backpack for my bro-friend but before I hit the switch I decided to check locally. I found the same pack for the same price at a shop in town and avoided shipping altogether.

Last week I decided to buy a book with it. The book cost $10 and the shipping was $11! I couldn't bear to spend more on postage than on the book itself, so I went with my original plan and offered the gift certificate to a friend in the U.S. Since I had carelessly applied it to my own account I offered to purchase what she wanted, saying she should order up to $25 so she could get free shipping.

My friend came back with a better idea: email books of my own selection to her for her Kindle. This suggestion opened up a whole new world to me. I had no idea I could download Kindle to my computer for free. I know, where have I been, right? So I sent off a couple of books to her and opened up a whole new can of worms for myself: more free books!

As well, I have enough swagbucks for at least a couple of $5 gift certificates for myself but the new problem is, what to buy? I read maybe two books a year and have a lot of catching up to do!

Seriously, Karissa

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

this must be what they call passive income

For the first time ever, and without requesting it, I received a refund cheque for interest paid on my rent deposit. I almost fell over when I opened the envelope and realized what it was. With that I am $18.16 more wealthy.

On a similar note, I checked my ING account today and found a $25 referral deposit, another first. Many thanks to the person who took my orange key from the sidebar and used it to open their own account. I hope your $25 serves you well.

Since I gave up monetizing this blog I haven't looked at all at my account settings. Last week I chose to renew my domain name and clicking around in google took me to my adsense account. I saw that I had almost $10 in my account so I decided to update my information with them. I'm waiting on a password to arrive in the mail to finish the process.

On a whim I also decided to re-visit my abandoned Swagbucks account. In the past few days I have earned over 40 Bucks just playing around on the 'net. I think I might try to save up enough to cash in for an amazon.com credit, to supplement the $20 gift certificate I received from Everyday Tips and Thoughts and the Squirrelers giveaway. Thanks to both of the blogs for a rewarding contest!


Seriously, Karissa

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Debt Free for Life - David Bach

Simply Frugal informed us today, and for today only (January 5), David Bach's Debt Free for Life is available as a free pdf download.

Seriously, Karissa