Posts Tagged ‘budgeting’

What went right this week?

Zoe, Moo and Gus

As I sit and sip my coffee this morning, I feel overwhelmingly good. I don’t think it’s just the freshly brewed coffee!

Despite a significant set back that occupied my head space for most of the week, and more time fixing it than I would have liked, I’m just feeling on top of the world.

The month is almost over, and the grocery envelope has just enough to get us milk and hallowe’en candy to get us through the weekend.

The fridge is stocked with a huge pot of ham and vegetable soup that I made earlier this week. Never in my life have I boiled a ham bone and then attempted to make soup.  Am I ever glad I tried it now!  The soup is yummy, hearty and cheap! Want to come over for lunch?

Last night I started my new role with my part-time gig. I was totally terrified and nervous, but felt like a rock star when it was all over.  I get to do it all over again tomorrow morning. Aren’t I the luckiest?

The full-time gig is ramping way up, and I’m excited for the challenges ahead.

Maybe there’s something in this coffee?

I thought I’d introduce you to my new dependants up there. They’re the cause of my little financial disaster this week, and the cause of endless laughter and smiles too. Zoe, who is two years old, is totally in her happy place with the kittens.  She’s particularly fond ot snuggle time, but seems to totally take to bathing the kittens too. The kittens will be four months old next week. How time flies when you’re scratching the sofa.

Despite more lean months ahead, I’m still confident that I’m doing what needs doing in order to reach my goals of being debt free. The more I listen to advice from folks dispensing it at a basic level, the more I tune out. I’ve got the message and I’m on board. I’m the choir you’re singing to. What took me a long time to drive home is the patience I need in order to keep earning, and paying down debt and boosting various savings. I didn’t rack it up in a year, so I shouldn’t expect that 12 months would be sufficient to get it to zero.

Maybe I’m just content that it’s Friday, and I get to see little kids dressed up in super cute costumes in a couple of days. Perhaps I’m just proud of my eldest who’s working her socks off at her new full-time job. She’s so busy she can barely spend it – which is good.  The youngest has just completed making her own pirate costume (thank you YouTube) with stuff from the thrift store. And she’s back at school and catching up on what she’s missed while she was sick.

Yep, I’m feeling content. Hope you find lots of great things in your week as you reflect.  Have a safe Hallowe’en.


Farewell to a dear, dear friend.


This weekend, we had to say goodbye to my friend of 15 years – Daisy.

Daisy had started to lose quite a bit of weight. She was having difficulty eating. We switched her from kibble to wet food. Eventually we went from wet food to tuna and salmon. Last week, I was trying to feed her a bit of salmon or tuna by hand.

Daisy had a form of oral cancer. She really started to go downhill in the last month or so. Still, when she was happy (which was most of the time), she was really happy.

I loved watching her sun bathe on the back porch, or in the grass. She’d hide under a gigantic hosta when it got to be too hot.

I brought Daisy home when my youngest was just a toddler. A little girl was standing outside the grocery store on a day when it was about -30. “Please lady, take this cat, my sister is allergic and pregnant!”  I told her no, I already had a cat, which was the truth.  After I bought my groceries, the little girl was still there. “Please lady“, she emplored. “I‘m just going to have to leave her outside if nobody takes her, I can’t go home with her!

That did me in, and I wrapped the little gray tabby in my coat and took her home. I knew right away I’d call her Daisy.

Daisy endured being dressed in every bit of doll clothing we had. I also have pictures of her that my eldest photoshopped to make her look like a burlesque dancer. My youngest secretly married her off to  a stuffed monkey once. I only found out when I saw the video in my digital camera. I wept with laughter when I saw Daisy’s veil (a kleenex with holes for her ears), the off-key stylings of Here Comes the Bride, and a tolerant cat with that look in her eyes that just said “okay, have your fun, but once you’re done, I’m outta here!

I told Daisy all sorts of things nobody else got to hear. She never betrayed me, nor judged me.

The vet we deal with was exceptionally good. I’m truly honoured to have had such a good kitty in my life. I miss seeing her little face at the end of my bed. The vet said she never heard a cat purr like Daisy.

On the finance side, Daisy’s failing health will be a solid hit to October’s visa bill. I knew that it would be. This is where  values help guide finances. I could not watch Daisy get sicker. With oral cancer in cats, they eventually starve to death. Not something I want to witness in my own kitchen. She’s given me such great joy and love, I knew it was time to start honouring her dignity. In the last few days, her body was doing things I know she disapproved of.

So, I won’t muse about where the money will come from. I have options, including my line of credit. The debt will be retired, but not at the expense of not doing the right thing when it comes to the people (furry or otherwise) that I love.

August’s Report Card: A

I’m giving myself an A for August! The first one since January.

Why an A for August?

  • I did not overspend in August, in fact, I was still $100ish in the black
  • Caught a huge error mid-month that I actually created for myself in July, and fixed it
  • Put my hand up for a bit more training with my part-time gig which may allow me to earn a few more bucks from the fall, onward.

Simply speaking, I did almost everything right. Feels awesome!

The months ahead have some financial bumps, which seems to be the normal state.  I’ll have some credit card payments for some activities in the summer (Drama day camp for my youngest, for one). My eldest kitty is pretty sick too. I’ve spent a few hundred dollars on veterinary bills already, and I suspect that a decision I’ll have to make on Friday will lead to another big one. (I’m not dwelling on the money on this one, only mercy and love).

On the bright side, we’ve completed our adoption of two new kitties, and they’ll soon be needing some veterinary care too. It’s only been a few days, and what joy they bring to our home!  That’s one of the new fur babies up there. We thought it was a girl and called it Mia.  Now we think it may be a boy, so new name is pending!

The really cool news is that I’m losing my desire for an electric bike or Vespa. This wasn’t on the books for 2010 at all, but lately I’m thinking I’d just like to do other things with that money.

August was awesome! Having control over the money really is empowering. When I had a plan, but failed to follow it, that was my personal recipe for disappointment. I knew I was doing it, but still couldn’t make the shift.  This has been a terrific year of the right amount of planning, discipline and self awareness.

On with September!!

July’s Report Card: B+

To earn an A, I gotta be pretty flawless.

I did balance the budget this month. Frankly, I’m not really sure how. Honestly – no idea. There’s a little nuisance on my shoulder who keeps asking me “aren’t you forgetting something?” It’s possible, but for the life of me, I have no idea what it could be.

There are two reasons I’m not giving myself top marks this month: (a) I let my paperwork slide, and I really put myself out of touch with my budget, which helped contribute to (b) I over spent in my clothing budget. Totally lost track of what I’d spent, so I went out and spent some more.

Like every other month, there were issues that tested my ability to be flexible. I was expecting an interest rate hike, but how much of a hike was still a wild-card when I drafted my budget.

Challenges that kicked the budget in July included:

  • losing my Metropass (the prepaid public transit pass) on July 21, leaving me with a need to supplement our public transit budget for another 10 days
  • Interest rates were hiked again, .25%. Bi-weekly mortgage payments increase by almost $14 per payment, interest paid on line of credit goes up by .25%.
  • Decided to have a few cold beers. Spent $8.40 that wasn’t in the budget. Guess I’ll have to add the line for alcohol back in. I was on the wagon for a while.
  • Went on a semi-conscious shopping spree for clothing.

I got better at shuffling expenses around again this month. In the end, I actually put a few more bucks toward debt reduction than I anticipated.

Here’s the good news:

  • Line of Credit is on track, with 57% paid to date, and July marks 58% of the year gone. Balance remaining is -5,767.72.
  • Saved $739. Specifically, $250 for each daughter for post-secondary, $139 for emergency fund, $100 for retirement savings.
  • Repairs and renovations on the rental are all paid for.
  • I haven’t eroded the minimum balance in my chequing account that I like to start a month with. In other words, I still have last month’s money.

Here’s my view of the future from here:

  • I can’t see any way that I can retire the remaining debt of -5,767.72 by December 31. Unless I can increase my part-time job earnings quite a bit more. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d have the energy to keep up this pace until the end of the year. We’ll see. Worst case scenario will have me debt free by February 2011. I’m hopeful for January, but I’ll take February if I have to.
  • I was hopeful to increase my contributions to my emergency fund and to my retirement savings by at least $50/month each by September, but I don’t think I’ll do that. I’m content to just keep the contributions there at $100 each monthly, then increase them in earnest once the debt is retired.
  • CIBC needs to run another credit check in order to see if they can offer me a reduced interest rate on my line-of-credit. I’ve signed the papers to approve the check. Perhaps that will make a modest difference.
  • I’ve made some decisions in July that will strain the budget over the short and longer term, including driver’s training for daughter number 1, drama day camp for daughter number 2, and a pending adoption of two fur babies.
  • My new tenants failed to deliver the rent cheque for August on time. I expect to see it this week. On the off chance that I don’t, there’s a can of landlord worms that gets opened.

All in all, a pretty stable month. The trick for August will be to keep the entertainment/dining out budget in check as summer holidays wind down, and we get bombarded with messages to get out before it’s all over and done with.

Thanks again for being here. Onward and upward with savings, downward with debt.

Feeling the love!

The two kitties, still with their Momma

Wow, you are all so amazing. Thank you for your positive remarks on a post that I was sure would draw some criticism yesterday.

I did toil over the decisions I made about driving lessons, drama camp and kitties. It may appear as if I made a snap decisions, but all three have been on my mind for a while. Regarding the kitties, Jolie commented that “pets can really add a lot of joy to life.” This is true. We get so much enjoyment and pleasure from Daisy and Zoe now, we’re just overjoyed with the prospect of adding to that when Moo and Nameless come home next month some time. Despite the enormity of what seems to be our regular monthly expenses, we don’t spend a lot of money on adding to the richness of our lives. Our entertainment budget has been $40/month since January. Pretty slim pickings. I’ve noticed that even Gail Vaz-Oxlade puts couples/families who are in worse fiscal shape than I am on a minimum of $100/month. I could learn a few more lessons from Gail, I think.

No, I don’t think two kittens are entertainment. I take being a pet owner very seriously. I know the responsibility.

Makky’s Mom remarked “life is meant to be lived”. We’ve led a pretty dull life this year so far. Not deprived in any way, but it’s been lean.

As I review the extra expenses to come, I’m happy that none of it is on stuff. The expenses are around being richer in our lives, about adding love (even if it’s furry love), adding to the girls education or experiences to help position them for a better future. Sure, I’ve struggled with wanting stuff over these past months, and I expect I still will in the future. The difference is I don’t give in to the wants like I used to. The girls are getting quite disciplined too.

On the weekend the youngest and I had to go to the local mall to pick up a mattress pad at Zellers. This was a need, not a want.  Lucky for us, they were 50% off. At any rate, while in the mall we stopped into Winners. Perhaps not the brightest move, but there we were. Both of us tried on clothing. Two dresses I tried were magnificent. Even felt like a brunette Marilyn Monroe in one. I had no internal argument with myself to bring either dress home. Recalling the turmoil I had over a much costlier dress at Banana Republic earlier in the summer, I’d call this progress. The youngest also found a top she was mad about. Without me mentioning anything she said “I love this top, it looks awesome on, but I really want two kitties more.” She gets that we can’t have it all. We can have what we want, as long as we plan for it and make the right choices. We left Winners empty handed, and had fun trying stuff on.

My struggle is the line between being responsible/accountable for racking up consumer debt that showed a balance of -$13,579.29 on January 1 of this year, and understanding how precious life is, having lived through about six years of significant stresses and family illnesses. This past year the girls have been healthy, I’ve felt almost stress free, except for a bit of worry over money. The balance is to find the sweet spot where we live a little and have some fun, but continue to be responsible for our financial affairs.

I’m rock solid sure I won’t have any consumer debt at some point in the near future. I see that happening because I have a plan and I’m working that plan. Once that’s gone, I’ll still have a big, fat mortgage debt. I’ve accepted that reality.

You’ve reminded me the importance of the balance. That’s what I’m thankful for. It’s okay to live a little, as long as it’s responsibly. Wish I could send you out a big hug. I really mean that. It’s generous of you to listen to the thoughts in my head and weigh in.  Still, I hope you’ll bring the heat when you think it’s necessary. That’s feeling the love too.

Connecting to my community

It’s been three years since I’ve been a tax paying Torontonian. In that time, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit. We have a family doctor and the girls have specialists. That alone is a victory, but wait, there’s more! We have a great first-name relationship at our local bank. We know most of our immediate neighbours and do nice thing for each other like dog/cat sit, water plants, wheel the garbage down the lane. We’ve mastered public transportation and can go just about anywhere in the city. We’ve learned how to take advantage of some cheap/free entertainment.

Still, there’s a huge gap for me. The gap is feeling connected to other people, and my community. Simply put, I don’t have any friends in Toronto that are my own. Sure, I have former colleagues and current colleagues. I have neighbours, and a few of them I could socialize with a bit more. There are some friends that are really friends of my ex-boyfriend. Very nice people, but they’re not my friends.

At some point a week or so ago, it became apparent that I would not be doing myself any favours by going into another winter in this situation. I’m already a homebody. Hey, I even work from home. My part-time gig does get me out of the house, but I’m not socializing – I’m working.

My personal mission right now is to connect to my community, get out, meet new people and hope that some new friendships will build.

Since I’m not interested in dating or finding a relationship, it’s challenging to find opportunities to meet folks, and not get into a meat market. With some guidance from someone who really gets me, I’ve done three things toward this goal, and I’m totally pumped about it.

1. I’ll be joining a life-drawing class at my local college in September, for 8 weeks. Cost $40. (However, I will also lose 8 weeks of revenue from my part-time gig). This is really exciting for me. I studied fine art in University and did quite a bit of drawing and painting and photography. I’ve totally let this creative expression slide from my life, and I’m missing it lately. I’m convinced I’ll have to work hard for those 8 weeks to even see the beginnings of getting my artistic mojo back, but I’m thrilled all the same.

2. Sent in my membership for the Toronto Naturalists Society, annual fee $40. This group organizes walks around different parts of Toronto, and experts will chat with you about the plants, or animals, or architecture in the area. Many of the trips are for photography or for drawing, and folks are expected to linger and capture the beauty in any media they choose. When winter arrives, they schedule events indoors, with slide shows and more speakers. This appeals to my need to know my community a little more deeply, and of course appeals to my creativity too.

3. Finally, I’ve also given $20 to the local Garden Club for an annual membership. I’ve already heard from them with invitations to a pot-luck dinner in a member’s back yard, to garden tours around the city where plant cuttings are shared. I am so excited to hang out with these folks. I expect their median age to be at least a decade ahead of me, but that doesn’t deter me. These are gardeners. I’m a gardener. Can’t wait!

In total, that’s a $100 investment toward my mental health, for a year. Pretty awesome rates if you ask me. No, it wasn’t in the budget, but it should have been. This $100 I could have easily blown in a night accepting an offer from somebody else to go to the pub. I wouldn’t have felt good about that $100.  This $100 does feel like an investment. I’m giving something to myself, and to a couple of community groups who are good deed doers.

The value of going through a debt reduction exercise like the one I’m on, cannot be understated. The outcome isn’t just reduced/eliminated debt, it’s really far greater. IF you stay the course, you learn all sorts of things that are difficult to learn just by having somebody tell you. My top three challenges this year have been in keeping a balanced perspective (you gotta do stuff that’s fun, it’s okay if you miss a few days entering your paperwork into your spreadsheet); not allowing other necessary commitments to lag just because you’re focused on paying off debt (savings aren’t optional); the budget must be realistic (don’t think you can do away with buying clothes just because you think you don’t need any).

I’ll let you know how my adventures in the community go. All I know for sure is that I’m going to be getting out more, and I can’t wait!

Does hazy bring lazy?

We’re sizzling here in a bit of a heat wave.

Over the last week or so I’ve noticed I’m getting lazy about recording my expenditures. Is it the heat? Or am I just getting lazy because I’m six months in to this process?

On my kitchen counter is a small pile of papers. They’re receipts, notices to file, bills to pay. I just don’t pile paper. I deal with paper.

I hate little piles of paper! When I see a little pile of paper, I think I’m not in control. What’s in the pile that I’m not paying attention to or haven’t acknowledged?

It’s also been a particularly busy work week, with lots of different things going on with my full-time gig that has changed my routine. Add to that a number of days at the rental at the end of June, and papers associated with that. Finally, add on paperwork from the bank finalizing the mortgage switcheroo. Over the next day or so, I have to get these little pieces of paper in their place and my spreadsheet updated. Otherwise, I know what happens next…

…It’ll be December and I won’t be in the financial position I’ve envisioned for myself, and I’m going to be really ticked off. If I don’t get on top of it now, the little pile of paper will turn into something bigger. Something much bigger than just a taller pile.

I will not allow heat, change of routine or random life events to sabotage my efforts. Not only can I get out of debt, but I deserve to be out of debt. Since I’m convinced that I deserve it, and so do my children, that helps me to elevate my conviction about the whole process.

Next time I tell you about little piles of receipts and paper, it’ll be to let you know they’re filed and recorded.

Stay cool!