Wednesday, February 12, 2014

De-Clutter and Profit!

We finally got around to going through our CDs and DVDs and took them to the pawn shop for fun and profit. Partner made $240 and I made $60. He had a lot more than I did, since I de-cluttered in 2005 before heading to Thailand, in 2008 when my basement was leaking and no good for storage, and again in 2011 when I was readying to house-sit for the summer. As well, as I joked with the store people, most of my CDs were second-hand to begin with, and I was selling them back third-hand. Partner had a few video games and Blu-Rays, things I never bothered to purchase in the first place. Bean and I were still watching hand-me-down videotapes when we met Partner in 2011!

Now we live in a house with a Playstation (which plays Blu-Rays), a new Smart TV, three laptops, several tablets, a DVD player, a VCR, and my old combo DVD/VCR player. Partner insisted on subscribing to a television service, and the compromise was satellite, but after about six months I managed to convince him that we were paying close to $200 to watch mostly the same six channels. We cancelled our home phone and upgraded our mobile plans, and found a small internet company that gives us unlimited streaming for less than $60 a month. We purchased Netflix and Major League Soccer streaming plans.

I had already done this kind of downsizing when I began my debt-free journey in 2008, but this was all new territory for Partner. We both came into the partnership with debt and he is learning now how to pay his down while the interest rates are low. This blog has already told how I paid mine off, racked up (just a bit!) again, and paid it off again. My debt is now "just" student loans, which I somehow compartmentalize into a different kind of debt, compared to credit card and line of credit debt. Partner had been making only minimum payments on his $10 000 line of credit for YEARS and when we decided to move into together he had to promise to make it a priority to pay it off. It has been slow progress though, because he did not know how to budget and his discipline was atrocious.

However, budgeting with a partner is a good topic for next time.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

House Rules

Each year I come up with a personal spending rule for myself, and my partner and I come up with a house rule.

Last year my personal rule was to buy no new clothes. I am permitted new underwear and footwear (hopefully only on a replacement basis: one-in, one-out rule), but shirts, sweaters, skirts, dresses, pants, jeans, coats and jackets, are purchased second-hand only. I can't recall if I followed my personal rule perfectly in 2013, but I might have come very close, especially since a co-worker went on a few closet purges of her own and I became the lucky recipient!

Prior personal rules were to cut out daily take-out coffee and limit take-out lunches. I did succeed with those, and now find the same $20 bill in my wallet for weeks. I now bring snacks and leftovers from home and use the department coffee maker each morning when I get in to the office.

Our house rule for the first year of co-habitation was "no more Wal-mart." This rule became especially important to us as we watched too many local businesses close in our area. We are friendly acquaintances with the owner of the local British-goods shop, and he let his loyal customers know that Wal-mart was selling UK goods at competitive prices. We all knew that if everyone switched to them to save a couple of dollars, that our friend would be out of business, and that was unacceptable to us, so we told each other that we would find other stores for all our household goods. This became more of a challenge when Zellers closed and was replaced with another Wal-mart! But then we looked around our house and realized that we have almost everything we need, so no panic was necessary. We buy most of our foods and drinks from the grocery store, and continue to visit our UK shop for teas and specialty items.

This year's house rule is "no fast food, unless we are on the road." This means that if we want to eat out while in town, that we have to find a restaurant that is locally owned and managed. This excludes big names that might be franchises; it has to be a "mom and pop" place (except Taco Del Mar, because the guys who own it seem so cool, and their food is much fresher than the Taco Bell down the street). We are allowed to eat Tim Horton's or A&W if we are traveling and have not packed a snack. Sometimes we travel over an hour to visit family, and so may work a take-out into the trip.

I have not yet come up with a specific personal rule for myself for 2014, except the acceleration of my savings, and student loan payments. So far, so good.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Saving and Spending

So far in 2014 I have saved $1000. Go me!

I have spent a little bit too:
- a trip to Build-A-Bear with Bean (I gave him $40 in gift cards for xmas, and I had around $40 left over from January budgeting, so I let him pick a few extra things for his cute cute rainbow bear);
- a trip to Sephora for me ($55 on a new foundation, plus another $60 on an exfoliant, from which I will use house-funds, and share the tube with my partner - see what I did there?);
- and a trip to the Shoe Company for a pair of Pods (fake Bogs) which were 30% off and another $10 off when I used up my points with them (total was about $55 - but I used a credit card where the payment will not be due till end of Feb, thus using March funds - see what I did there?).

I'm not paid to endorse any of the above shops.

I have doubled my student loan payments in the hopes of having the bulk of them paid off in five years.

I am still saving for a mortgage down payment, but I am getting discouraged by what is on the market in my city. Houses here cost still a third of what they are in the big city so I guess I shouldn't complain. I would, honestly, rather rent, but I want to retire in 20 years, and do not want to have half of my meagre pension go towards someone else's mortgage. I would rather have my own paid-off house to live in and more money in my pocket to have a little life for myself. I am used to living without, yet still have so much, so I know it is possible.