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.