Friday, November 27, 2015

I was so close to shopping online today ("black friday")

Yep, I almost did it. I almost pulled the trigger on a couple of sites today. I had stuff in the carts, but I closed the tabs before I pulled out the credit card.

The first cart contained a couple of "ugly christmas sweaters" for Bean and I, and they weren't even that ugly. The one for me was pretty cute, and since it was pink and black, I could wear it year round. I knew Bean would get a kick out of the one I picked out for him.

The second cart was for skincare, my most favourite thing to splurge on. I'm almost out of my $55 serum, and I saw an email for some sample primers at a great price. I needed to add only $2 more to get bonus points, so I picked out a new face wash.

I scrutinized my purchases a few times, and read a couple of reviews of the primers. I needed to make sure the cosmetics company was cruelty-free.

And then I clicked "x," twice.

And went to heat up my ramen noodles for lunch.

I also figured out how to file a dispute with amazon, since something Bean asked me to order for him at the beginning of October never showed up. He gave me cash for it and everything, and every day is disappointed that our mailbox is full of junk newspapers every day, but no movie tie-in toys for him.

I chose to get a gift card credit on my account, which means that not only did I not buy anything online on "black friday," I actually made a little bit of money.

But this means that I have to spend it at amazon, whom I have been trying to avoid.

This evening I will go to the grocery store and use up my points to purchase toys and cans for a drive I am attending tomorrow. I am determined to get through today without spending a cent.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Yes, I am a PF Geek

One morning last week, I woke up with a little giddy feeling, sort of like it might be my birthday*, or christmas morning, but it wasn't. It was Friday the 13th I think, but that had nothing to do with the feeling.

I was excited because the night before I received an email from Tangerine** telling me that I'm pre-approved for their new cash-back credit card.

As soon as I saw the email on my phone, I went over to the laptop and logged in to accept my acceptance. I was pre-approved for $14 000 but I was able to change it to $7500. I chose this amount because when the new card arrives I will cancel two other credit cards worth $10 000 combined.

We are sometimes told to keep our oldest credit card opened for good credit history, but now that I have a mortgage and car loan in place, I'm not too worried about what my credit rating looks like. I hopefully will not be opening too many more credit products after this.

I'm excited for this card to show up. Not only will it allow me to close out two other cards taking up space in my wallet and life, but it also gives 2% cash back on three spending categories of my choosing. I chose groceries, fuel, and restaurants.

I calculated that I will earn $8 to $10 a month with this card. Remember the days of earning $8 a month in interest in our savings accounts? Actually I don't, because I never had any savings, beyond my (now spent) RRSP. So this is exciting for me. Yes, I am a PF Geek.

*My birthday was actually the week before. Woot!1!

**As always, this is not a sponsored post. I don't care who you bank with, as long as you are not paying any bank fees. That's just dumb. Send me a message if you want my Orange Key to open your own awesome account with them.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pet costs

Yesterday I posted about my recent experience purchasing - and using - travel insurance. The bank did not give me a policy number at the time of purchase, and the overseeing insurance company did not receive the paperwork in a timely manner because of the holiday on July 1st.

Something that made me smirk during the whole ordeal, was that I did have a policy number for the cat. Yeah. A couple of days before we left, I called the number on his collar tag to make sure his microchip was programmed with our current address. During the call, the nice representative managed to sell me an annual pet insurance policy for $20. I thought it was a good idea, mostly because I had a student staying at our house while we were away, and I wanted to minimize the effects of any emergency our adventure-loving kitten might encounter out in the wild.

So when the NY hospital asked me for the policy number for Bean's "broken" arm, I checked my phone and found the pet insurance policy number, which had been given to me right after I told them my credit card number on the phone. Seriously.

And it's a good thing I bought it too, because when we returned a day early from our trip, the cat was home and he had a big bump on his back. After a few days, it burst and since he had chewed a patch of skin off his back I could see a bloody wound on his skin. Off to the vets for an antibiotic; a $130 visit. The pet insurance has a $50 deductible, but I should be receiving $80 any day now.

Pet insurance For The Win.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Free Health Care

Bean and I drove to New York State at the end of June for what is now our annual retreat. I paid $600 for our spots (meals and accommodation) back in May. I anticipated spending about $200 US at the gift shop, though I'm pretty sure I went over that because I brought a credit card with me. I knew from the year before that filling up the car usually meant pre-paying with cash, so two days before our departure I went to a bank branch to buy $100 US cash.

It was a Saturday and there was a big line but I waited patiently and read all the ads on the screens behind the tellers heads. This bank already holds my mortgage, car loan, and two of four of my student loans, so they didn't advertise anything of interest to me. When I was waiting for the teller to process my request, I noticed a piece of paper taped to the counter that said "travel insurance." I asked the teller if my VISA included travel insurance, and was told no. So, I asked how much insurance would be for Bean and myself to travel for 8 days to the USA, and it was just over $50, so I purchased it.

I hadn't even thought of travel insurance, and I didn't buy it last year. But it's a good thing I did so this year, because on the Friday of the retreat, our fifth day there, Bean landed the wrong way while jumping off a slide in the playground and went into shock. Next thing I know we're back in the car, headed to the Emergency room at the hospital 20 minutes away.

The hospital wanted to see my insurance policy right away, but there was no policy number written on the booklet the teller gave me. I called the 1-800 number to report the emergency, and asked for the policy number to give to the hospital. They had no record of us in their system.

Bean was treated quickly and put in a splint. I couldn't believe they let us leave without making me pay, but that's what happened. I promised to call them as soon as I had a policy number, and I did, but it took several days.

What happened was the purchase was made on a Saturday, and the bank mailed the paperwork to the insurance company on Monday. Then Canada Day was on the Wednesday. Apparently it takes 3-5 days to generate a policy number, and we got caught in the bank holiday.

Lessons learned:
#1: purchase travel insurance.
#2: purchase it several days or weeks in advance of the trip, so that I have the policy number with me when we leave the country.
#3: buy it direct from the insurance company online, which may generate a policy number immediately. I bought it at my bank branch, who then passed it along to Manulife. When I made several frantic phone calls to the bank to get the policy, they just passed me along each time to Manulife. Might as well cut out the middle man.

Bean is fine. He was in the sling for ten days, the first two of which he was completely miserable (also the last two days of the retreat, which sucked). We got an appointment at our local cast clinic as soon as we could, and the doctor there confirmed that it wasn't a broken arm, just a sprain. I guess the US doctor just wanted to take precaution. To the tune of $969.00 USD.

Friday, May 22, 2015

time or money?

There are a few job postings where I work, and I'm qualified for all of them. They are all full time - 35 hours a week vs the 28 hours I am paid to work.

I know from experience that this would be a net pay increase of around $550 per month, but it might jeopardize my interest relief status with the student loan centre, as well as my child care subsidy. And I will definately need the child card subsidy since I would be in the office for 1.5 more hours per day.

I ultimately make the important decisions at our house, but my kid is smart and I always ask his opinion. He even helped me pick out the house I bought last fall.

Today we talked about what it might be like if I worked longer hours each day. We talked about what would be better for us: more money or more time together? I reminded him that more money meant more sushi dinners (I really need to learn to make futomaki).

Bean decided that more time was more important to him. We have a leisurely morning routine and our afternoons are pretty good too. I pick him up when the bell rings and we hang out together in the evening. One afternoon a week he has piano lessons, and another evening a week he hangs out at my sister's while I go to meditation.

So yeah ... money. More would be nice. But time is more important, especially when the boy is still quite small. By the time I was his age (9) I had a key and I was on my own for hours after school. I don't even think that's legal anymore!

Thursday, May 14, 2015


How did I pay off $20 000 in 2.5 years?
- Started tracking my spending (I use Excel).
- Took advantage of balance transfers to lower-interest cards and line of credit.
- Moved into a small apartment, shared a bedroom with my son (the first year).
- Stopped buying coffee and a muffin each morning, and a cola each afternoon.
- Stopped shopping online and in stores for clothes and other distractions.
- Used a subsidized food box program once a month.
- Kept my appointments with social services for a child care subsidy. Also kept to their guidelines to keep the subsidy.
- Bought used car. Tried to keep up with repairs, but when it became too costly, parked it and took the bus.
- Let my sweetheart at the time pay for my outings (as a feminist, this was really hard for me, but it was the only way I could do anything that cost anything).

Why didn't I start riding a bike to work?
- I don't know how to ride a bike.
- But if I did know how, I would have to put my son in one of those trailer thingies to get him to daycare and school (at that time they alternated days). No.
- Canadian winters.

Why didn't I buy a house closer to work?
- Houses closer to my work are $50 000 to $150 000 more. I qualified for a $225 000 mortgage, which would barely cover a house purchase closer to my work, but the payments would have sunk me. The house I bought was actually further away than from where I was renting, but it cost only $150 000.

Why did I cash out my $8300 RSP account to buy a house?
-  My intention for the RSP all along was a house down payment. It was never meant for my retirement. Knowing it was taxable prevented me from withdrawing it, I knew I could withdraw it tax-free under the Home Buyers Plan. If I had sent savings every month to an accessible account, I would have spent the money.
- I would have liked to have saved more than $8300 (which covered 5% down payment and lawyer's fees) but when Partner (ex) decided to move out, I had to make a tough decision. I could have continued to rent our house - if I could find a suitable roommate - or I could have moved us into yet another crappy rental. I chose instead to withdraw and invest.
- Yes, invest, because my intention is to pay off the house well before retiring so that my pension pay-outs do not have to cover mortgage payments.

Why did I buy a brand-new car?
- I had a list of what I wanted, and in the six or so weeks that I took to look for a car, I didn't find a car that fit into my list.
- I was so, so, so, so, so sick of car repairs.
- The interest was low (1.9%) for new, compared to used (4.9%) which made the monthly payments the same. Mind you, I had to add two extra years of payments to cover the whole cost of the new car, and trust me, I'm wasn't happy about it.
- Had I known I would be buying a house later in the same year, I would not have bought a new car. My partner (ex) did not discourage me, and he moved out six months after buying my used car from me.

Why aren't I power-paying off my debts?
- I'm a single mom, making just under $40 000 a year. It doesn't go as far as it could, if I were extremely frugal. But I'm not extremely frugal, just moderately frugal.
- Student loans are on Interest Relief (meaning the program/ government pays the interest); car loan is at 1.9% which works about to be less than a cup of coffee per day; mortgage is around 3% which is ok.
- If my interest rates were higher I'd be more anxious to pay off the debts. As it is, the budget is pretty tight.

Why do I work?
- I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like the workload.
- I work 9 - 3 (28-30 hours a week) Monday to Friday.
- I'm pretty much unsupervised, which means I can take time off when I need to and I rarely have anyone breathing down my back about anything.
- It's low-maintenance, meaning I don't have to dress up or look corporate. I could probably go without showering and still keep my job, but I wouldn't do that.
- I have two offices, one for each of my part-time positions. No cubicles here.
- Medical and dental 100% reimbursed, plus pension contribution from the employer. Makes it hard to want to leave!
- I didn't train for anything specific; my degree was in Liberal Arts. The positions I hold I think are perfect for me.

Why don't I have a side gig?
- Laziness
- Fear
- I made baby steps to start my own business in 2013; at exactly the same time a part-time job was posted at my place of work; I was encouraged to apply and interview for it, which I did, and I accepted the job offer, thinking that steady income would be better than the precarious income of a new small business.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spendy April

I had to re-do my budget after my relationship ended and I bought a house last October. Since then I was trying to live on just my employment income and child support. I had the child tax credit and other government incentives deposited into a separate account that I haven't used in years, one that charges me $1.25 per transaction, which for me is a good spending deterrent.

My intention is to save the money until November 2015 and then decide whether to put it towards a student loan, the car loan, or spend a bit on the house. I would really like to buy a dishwasher, paint the bedrooms, and start renovating the bathroom. I have to be careful with house spending though, because in five to seven years I will have to replace the roof and maybe one or more of the appliances.

Our collective agreement expires June 30, and hopefully by this November we will have a new contract negotiated. If we decide to strike, then the savings account will be my personal strike fund, as the union's pays out something like $25 per day, each day I am out on the strike line.

This savings account was growing nicely, until we hit April, which was a way spendier month than I would have liked. It was my son's birthday, and my mom's 60th birthday, and credit card bills came in from March, which was also a bit spendy after declaring February a no-spend month. I used the separate savings account two or three times to pay a credit card bill that was more than I could manage with my regular chequing account.

This will occur again in May or June, as I have booked a week's holiday for Bean and I for the first week of July. I could use part of my emergency fund, but a road trip for fun is clearly not an emergency. I also have to pay for accommodations for a meditation retreat I attended last weekend.

A goal I have been formulating and slowly working toward is to have exactly three months' pay in three separate accounts, and any funds saved on top of that will go towards one of the student loans or the car loan. However this might not work because I need to start saving for the roof replacement, which is difficult when the spendy months come up again and again.

I haven't been in a rush to pay off loans because I am still on Interest Relief with student loans, and my car loan is at 1.9%, which works out to about $1 a day in interest, which to me is an acceptable expense for the convenience the car provides for Bean and I.

So ... credit card debt is still under control. Other debts are being paid off slowly. Savings are accumulating slowly. The budget is constantly under scrutiny.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Under $150

I've only partially completed updating my progress bars on the left, but I'm ecstatic to point out that my mortgage is already under $150 000!!! Woooooot!!!11!!

And my car loan is under $17 000!!!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Thank Goddess for Savings

I might have mentioned 100 or so times on here that I get paid only once a month. I've been working at the same institution since 2002, so I'm over it. We get paid on the 28th, but if the 28th falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then we get paid on the Friday before.

The days leading up to payday are full of anticipation for me, because I look forward to seeing the amount go into my chequing account, and I love removing bits and bobs of it into my various savings accounts. Then I calculate what bills are going to be removed electronically and leave that amount in chequing, while the amount of bills that I pay manually later in the month goes into a savings account. I usually have less than $200 on the credit card that I pay before the due date.

This past weekend I knew I would leave extra in the chequing, because the kid would be home and we had lots of plans. Friday morning, I didn't receive an email about the deposit, and I logged into my account about a half dozen times, to find the amount to be only $40, $30 of which was alotted for a cheque I wrote to the childcare services last week.

Finally at about 1 pm, I mentioned it to a co-worker friend, and she said there had been an e-memo on the portal about a mix-up in the payroll office. I logged in to check it, but it had been updated to say the issue was resolved. I checked my bank account again and again, but the issue hadn't been resolved for me.

I felt badly about the event, and how it might negatively affect all our big plans for the weekend. I worried about the payments that were scheduled to be withdrawn on the 1st of the month. I raged against the machine for a little bit, but when I logged into my chequing account again, I took a look at my savings accounts. And I told myself everything would be ok.

I have a whole month's pay saved up in one account that is earmarked for Bean's orthodontics later on. I have another whole month's pay in a mutual funds account that would take a few days to cash out. I have another two weeks or so saved up in a TFSA. I also have an emergency fund of almost a whole month's pay at a brick and mortar bank, where I also owe my student loans, car loans, and mortgage (they own me, I might as well sign Bean over to them!).

I am 40 years old, and this is the first time in my life that I am ahead of the pay game. I could go almost three months without a monthly paycheque - not that I would want to! However, this is a potential strike year (again! where does time go) and if we actually walk the line this time I will have about six months pay saved up by then.

And if we don't walk the line, some of that savings is going towards a trip to Disney World in 2016. I'm just saying.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

February - no spend month

I get paid on the 28th of each month, and sometimes, like this past January, it feels like weeks between payday and the beginning of the next month. I have about three months worth of pay saved up so I'm never quite short on funds, but I do try to make each current pay last till the end of the month (the 30th or 31st, rather than the 28th),

Since February has only 28 days (normally) it is a nice feeling to head right into March with a full paycheque. This month, to make it even sweeter, I have declared it "no spend month." This means that all non-essential spending (groceries and gas excluded of course) is to be delayed for four short weeks. And I am not allowing myself to cheat by using a credit card and paying it off next month. Half of my January pay went towards a hefty credit card bill from December spending, even though I had a christmas savings account set up. Still, it is nice to check my credit card statements and see that zero balance.

Since I am single again, I will have a nice chunk of change in my accounts, since I won't have to buy anyone anything for valentine's day, or a birthday that would have come up this month. I have my eye on a new piece of electronics for myself (my weakness!) but so far I have been putting that off for months already. I'm looking at a Pandora bracelet for my mom's birthday in April, and I also have Bean's birthday party in the spring for which to save up.

I also need to buy a push-mower in the spring, and I would like to put in a dishwasher. I should get a plumber in to check the overflow drain that is leaking from the bathroom tub into the basement. It looks like an easy DIY fix but I wouldn't want to do it wrong. Finally, the cat is scratching up all my hardwood trim, so I'm thinking of taking him in to be de-clawed. I think it is cruel but if he stays indoors it might be ok. Still thinking about it ...

And I should really do something about the car-port, which looks like a meteor hit it.

I started on my taxes, and it looks like I might get a nice refund this year. Should I save it all, or buy myself a little treat? I do love shiny new electronics!

Friday, January 16, 2015

What would I do if I didn't have to work?

What would I do if I didn't have to work?

Near the end of my previous relationship, I was trying to make a case for early retirement (aka "financial independence.") Partner (ex) couldn't imagine not working his 45-hour-a-week job for the next 35 years and also could not imagine what he would do with all that time off.

The only thing I could think of at the time was "travel!" but we knew if that were to become a reality we would have to have much much better finances.

So, now I'm on my own, and I'm still planning my early retirement. Even though my collective agreement tells me that I can't access my pension until the first day of the first month following my 60th birthday, I hope to be finished working by 55, which is now 15 years from now. Ten years more of work would be even better.

What would I do if I didn't have to work?
- set my alarm for 7:30 am and get up around 8:00
- see my son off to school
- practice yoga for two hours
- meditate for one hour
- lunch (alone or with a friend)
- work on volunteer activities (I currently do not volunteer, but I would like to for OPIRG, or a local world issues centre, New Canadian Centre, Habitat for Humanity, sexual assault centre, or even spend an hour or two at my son's school). Or take a nap.
- plan a nice meal for dinner and cook it

That looks like such a nice day that I think I am going to start practicing it on Saturdays.