Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Goals

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Such a cliched statement, but it's very true of me today as the final loan payment comes out and I will have paid off the nasty debt in our life! We still have our car loan that we're working on (just got the car in October), but this other debt was stupid spending from my early/mid-20s. Now, we can have a fresh start - be smarter about our spending, save more money, and set more realistic goals. With that in mind, I wanted to outline my 2012 goals. I did an earlier post on my '12 goals, but this expands on that.

  1. Save $15,000 for a down payment.
  2. Build up emergency fund to $2,500.
  3. Implement the electronic jar system.
  4. Start a baby fund (see #4 in Personal/Health goals).
  1. Work out 3 to 4x a week.
  2. Start doing pilates again.
  3. Stop drinking Diet Pepsi.
  4. Get pregnant. (I know this isn't something I can necessarily control, but hopefully this works out in 2012!)
  1. Finish my certificate in management.
  2. Build up freelance.
  3. Network more.
  4. Gain some management experience.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Electronic jar system

I love credit cards. I know that in the PF blogging world, cash is often king, but I think if used responsibly, credit cards can offer many more advantages. My personal reason for using card versus cash is to get Air Miles. If I can get a free flight because I've used a credit card to buy things I would have purchased anyway, why not! So what that means is I never have/use cash.

But, I also love what Gail Vax-Oxlade advocates - the jar system, which uses cash. For anyone who doesn't know what this is, basically Gail tells you to have jars for each variable budget category - groceries, entertainment, transportation, clothing/gifts and misc. You put your budgeted cash in each jar and then whatever is left over at the end of the week/month, carries over to the next.

So what I think I'm going to do from here on out is to use something like the jar system, but an electronic one. Right now, if we have $250 budgeted for groceries, but only spend $195, that $55 sits in the chequing account and usually gets spent here and here without even realizing it. So then a week later when we want to go stock up on milk, fruit and bread, we are scrambling to find money. So, instead, I'm going to transfer that $55 into a separate account. And that way, in the future, if we run over budget for groceries, we will have that extra money sitting there waiting.

I'm going to do this for groceries, gas, entertainment, clothing/gifts and misc. I'm not sure what we'll do with the money if it hits a certain point. Like if we are under budget on a continual basis, we'll obviously wind up having a nice chunk of money sitting there. When it comes to clothing/gifts, entertainment and misc, I think we will have some money build up and then we spend it when birthdays come up, we want to do a big date night or one of us needs new clothes.

But our groceries and gas will build up over time and never need to be used because we'll never need to stock up on THAT much on food or gas. So I'm not sure what we'll do with it... something to think about. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I did it!

I've been hemming and hawing over what to do with our savings/personal loan. We had the money to pay the loan off in full, but I've been uncertain over what to do. I love seeing that money in the savings account, but I know that whatever little bit of interest I get from it is not enough to make up the interest on the loan (as low as that is).

Well finally today, I gave myself an early Christmas present and I put a big chunk of money on the personal loan! The balance previously was $3100 and I put $2685 on it. That means the next payment, which comes out on December 29th, will be it! Only $415 to go. Now that it's done, I feel sooooo good about it! That frees up $850 a month, so now we can start 2012 debt-free (other than the car loan) and we can begin to put money aside for a down payment. We will put that loan payment towards savings, increase the car loan payment to get it paid down faster, and just relax a bit and enjoy ourselves more. Leading up to the wedding, we weren't spending much on ourselves at all, so this will be a nice change.

I can't believe that in just over a week that loan will be gone! That means no more debt from school and stupid spending!

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Spend Challenge - December 10 - 18

I think we did pretty well with the no spend challenge this past week and a bit. 4 out of 9 days were no spend. Not quite half, but with Christmas right around the corner and my mom's birthday on Saturday, some things were a must. Others (re: muffins) were not. I really have to get a handle on that! No only for the wallet, but it's just not healthy!

I couldn't put the total dollar figures though, as husband put my Christmas present on the Mastercard and the minute I look at the online statement, I'll probably be able to guess what it is. So I promised him I wouldn't log on to it from now until Christmas. It's tough as I always always check the balance at least once a day (okay, sometimes 2 or 3), but there's less than a week to go!

December 10

Christmas shopping

December 11th

No spend!

December 12

Lunch out (I was at a seminar all day)

December 13
$3.05 - muffin (I must must must stop buying muffins for breakfast. Expensive and not healthy!)
$5.22 - Diet Pepsi (we ran out - it's a necessity in our house, so I picked up some from the store in our building)

December 14

$3.05 - muffin (seriously must be stopped... I should stop bringing my debit/credit cards to work)
Dinner at food court with hubby
Christmas shopping

December 15

No spend!

December 16

No spend!

December 17

$75 - dinner for my mom's birthday (husband and I paid for ourselves and we split my mom's meal with my sister)

December 18

No spend!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas goals

I thought with all the Christmas hoopla, it would be nice to set up some goals and see how I do after the holidays!

1. No eating out!
2. Wrap all gifts.
3. Clean out kitchen drawers.
4. Get Christmas baking done.
5. Enjoy the holidays!

I may add to these next week!


Friday, December 9, 2011

No spending challenge a no-go

So a few weeks ago I issued myself a no spending challenge. And.... well, it didn't go so well. So badly in fact that it's not even worth reporting the results. It seemed like every day we had to buy one thing or another. Well, not "had" to, but rather we just did. Most of it was on eating out, treats (there's a restaurant downstairs from my office that sells cupcakes - 'nuff said), and Christmas gifts.

But, I'm re-issuing the challenge. The only problem will be that I still have some Christmas shopping to do. We'll see how things go. Even if we don't do a stellar job at it, I'll feel better for keeping track. So here's how this past week panned out:

$1.85 - treat on coffee break during my evening class

$3.05 - muffin and milk for breakfast
$2.44 - bread

No spend

No spend

$1.95 - we got a Groupon deal for couch/chair cleaning that was purchased last week and today they came to do it. This is just the taxes that wasn't included with the deal.

TOTAL: $9.29

So 2 out of 5 days and under $10. Definitely not a great track record, but it could be worse. And this week is the starting point, so I'm just getting into this whole thing and can improve from here.

I'll start doing the tracking for weekends and Monday to Friday and post the results every Friday. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pantry Challenge

Since husband and I returned home from our honeymoon, we have been doing a pantry challenge. For those who don't know what that is, it's essentially a challenge to use up items in your pantry. Our movitations were to:
  1. clean out the pantry
  2. save money on groceries
  3. create some new meals
  4. eat less packaged foods and more fresh food 
Everyone can tweak the challenge to their own parameters, so when we began, we said we could:

- buy any amount of fresh food (most people do this with the pantry challenge, as otherwise your diet is not going to be healthy!). We included: fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt and milk.
- buy cereal (we both love cereal, so this was a must)
- if we finish something, we can replenish it (i.e. I ate all the canned tuna, so we bought more).

I wish I had taken pictures of our pantry before, but we've seen an incredibly difference. Before the challenge, we probably had more than half a dozen boxes of pasta. Now we're down to three. We had so many cans it was hard to find what we needed. Now we're working away at using those up and it's down to a reasonable amount. Our freezer was packed full of frozen dinners and meat and fruit (for baking). Now we have almost nothing in there! Only one frozen dinner, some fruit and a few meat items. It's so easy to find things. We still have lots to use up though.

The one issue I've found during this time has been that our eating out went up for a bit. I don't cook. Never have and probably never will. I can do the basics, but I hate it and it's not natural for me to think of that. I use the microwave and that's about it. So what typically happened was I would get home and there was nothing available for me to eat (if we were out of leftovers or if husband didn't make something). My go to has always been frozen food, so without those available, I would buy dinner out. After a few too many runs to Subway for dinner, we decided I could have a couple "emergency" frozen meals for those times when husband wasn't around to cook. I've been good though and I've only use one since we decided that about a month ago.

Most importantly, we have significantly lowered our grocery bills. We went from doing a major shop that cost us $250-$300 bi-weekly to now spending about $100 or so bi-weekly. Just today, husband went to the store and he spent $193, which was the biggest shop we have made since before the wedding. While I was shocked to see the receipt for this trip, I quickly reminded myself that it is dramatically lower than we used to spend. The reason it was so high is because we were completely out of cheese (he bought three kinds - mozza, cheddar and parm - almost $30), almost out of meat (he bought ground beef and chicken - about $25), and needed to replenish everything else (fruit, veggies, milk, bread, etc.). One of the big costs to the bill was also the cat food and litter (about $40).

I think I'm going to sit down and total our grocery bills for pre-challenge and during the challenge and see how we did. I'm pretty sure we do more frequent, but smaller runs now versus fewer, but bigger shops pre-challenge. It'll be interesting to see how much we have actually saved. I'll update as we go along and try to get some photos too!

Monday, November 21, 2011

To Do list accomplishments

- Read Chapter 8 of textbook

- Questions #2, 7 & 8 of final assignment

- Journal Chapter 8
FAIL! Husband wanted to go to the in-laws to watch football earlier than I expected, so I didn't have time to do this. BUT, I did take my textbook over there with me and I got through 3/4 of Chapter 9, putting me ahead for next weekend.

- Address envelopes or confirm if mother-in-law will address them (for our wedding thank you cards)FAIL! We saw her on Saturday and forgot to ask. Husband called today but didn't reach her.

- Harass husband to fill out his thank you cards (I did my friends and family, he's doing his)My part is done! Husband promises me they will be done for tomorrow morning. Hopefully we can figure out the answer to the above point by then too.

- Update budgetFAIL! Complete fail - no excuse on this one.

- Find hotel for post-cruise in HawaiiHALF DONE! We found one we like. I have to sit down and crunch some numbers and make sure the cost is do-able though. A hotel in Hawaii is going to be fairly expensive no matter what, but seeing as how we're going to be spending 98% of the time sleeping in the hotel room and then out on the beach, we don't really care about views or such. It's more about a prime location.

- Get rid of misc. wedding stuff once and for allOne more thing left to get rid of. A friend of mine is coming over this week and she may like this item - it was a wedding gift that we didn't register for and it's not our cup of tea (literally - they're Japanese tea cups).
 - Review wedding photos and select those for framing (the photo album is going to be my big project after my course is done)
HALF DONE! I've narrowed them down to maybe 20 or so that are my top picks! Husband and I have to sit down together and select the few that we're putting into the various frames and get correct sizing. He was working all weekend though, so this will have to wait until we both have a free evening this week to review them together.

I think I had a fairly productive weekend. I may not have accomplished everything on my list, but I got out and had some fun. We saw J. Edgar with Leonardo DiCaprio, which was pretty good. Definitely a bio-pic, so not a ton of drama or such, but the acting was stellar. We went out for dinner on Saturday and over to the in-laws on Sunday. I did a lot of cleaning around the house and got some Christmas shopping done too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekend To Do

These to do list posts may not be terribly exciting, but it helps keep me in check and accountable to anyone who actually reads this!

- Read Chapter 8 of textbook
- Questions #2, 7 & 8 of final assignment
- Journal Chapter 8
- Address envelopes or confirm if mother-in-law will address them (for our wedding thank you cards)
- Harass husband to fill out his thank you cards (I did my friends and family, he's doing his)
- Update budget
- Find hotel for post-cruise in Hawaii
- Get rid of misc. wedding stuff once and for all
- Review wedding photos and select those for framing (the photo album is going to be my big project after my course is done)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2012 Goals

As we are getting closer to the end of 2011, I want to outline our financial goals for next year.

1) Get out of debt. By the end of 2011, we'll have about $3,000 to pay.
2) Save $2,500 in an emergency fund. This is aggressive, as it's about $1,000 more than what we'd have if we kept up with our current plan of $50 a month.
3) Have $15,000 in a savings account for a down payment on a house. We're currently at $5,000, so we have $10,000 to save next year.
4) Pay for Hawaiian vacation.
5) Go on another trip (location TBD)
6) Increase Husband's RRSP contribution. My job offers an excellent pension, so my small RRSP contribution is enough.

Balance transfer

I got Visa cheques in the mail with a low-interest rate of 1.99% until the end of May. Right now the interest rate on my personal loan is 7.24%. Obviously saving 5.25% in interest each month is appealing, but the credit limit on my Visa is only $2,000 and the loan is just under $4,000.

So our options are: use $2,000 in savings to pay down the loan and then transfer OR keep paying the loan as we have been, and then transfer when it is down to $2,000.

The difference in interest is going to save us more than any money we'd make by keeping that $2,000 in savings. BUT, there's the always important emotional side of things. Husband and I both like having a nice cushion in the bank. What if one of us lost our job tomorrow? Or what if I got pregnant? Or if an emergency happened? Sure we have the beginnings of an emergency fund, but it's not that much right now, so that general savings account is our cushion. This is money that we'll be putting towards a house one day. Not anytime in the near future, mind you, but it's there and right now, it's our piece of mind.

So, do we keep our piece of mind and keep chipping away at the loan until it's down to $2,000 (which will be in February) or do we pay that $2,000 now and transfer immediately? We're definitely both sitting in the camp of the former. I like logging on to the bank balance and seeing that we have money. Maybe because it's still a novelty after being in debt for so long, but whatever the reason, I like the feeling and plan to keep that for as long as possible.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Working Overtime

This weekend is a long weekend in Canada, as Friday, November 11th is Remembrance Day. But, unfortunately/fortunately I have to work tomorrow. Not for the whole day, but for a few hours in the afternoon. This may sound like a bad thing, but it's actually really great!

I work in a union job, so I get paid for the day anyway, plus I get paid double time for any hours I work. So if I work 3 hours, I get paid for 6, on top of being paid for the day to begin with! And that's not all... I also get another day off in lieu of having to work on the national holiday. It's a very nice situation! I get paid more, get a day off anyway and I still get to sleep in!

It's also a great project that I'm working on, so it'll be semi-fun. Still work and stressful, because it's an important project, but fun.

I figure I'll make an extra $125-$150 for those few hours after taxes. This extra money is going to go towards Christmas shopping, so it's perfect timing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Spend Challenge

I love eating out. I love not having to figure out what to have for dinner that will please both husband and I. I love not having a mess in the kitchen and not having to clean it up. I love perusing a menu and deciding what to get.

But I hate paying the bill.

We are generally pretty good about not eating out, but when the food in the house starts to dwindle, out goes our motivation. We have been really bad lately too. I think part of it was being so used to eating out when we were on the honeymoon. But I'm going to issue a 'no spend' challenge for ourselves, particularly when it comes to food. I was going to say this would start after the weekend, as its a long weekend coming up, but I realized that I'll always have some excuse or another to put it off, so it's starting now!

I guess I better clue in husband... ;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Weekly Money Check-Up

From My Pretty Pennies

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on... our Hawaiian cruise payment! It hurt, but it was budgeted for.
2. Today I am thankful... for a workplace that pays for my schooling.
3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was... playing board games with husband, my sister and her wife. We had a lot of fun just staying at home.
4. I will consider this week a success if I... finish one of my freelance articles.
5. I don't care about Daylight Savings. I'll change the clocks, but otherwise I don't even notice it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Car loan

We bought our car very recently (October 2011) and I finally bit the bullet and called the bank to find out exactly what our balance is. We're at $16,381.92. That's after a couple of payments since we purchased it. The car loan is amortized over 48 months, but I'd like to pay it off within 36 months (3 years). Our payment was $172.96, so when I called for the balance, I increased our payment to $175. Not a big difference, but it a) makes it easier to keep track of a nice round number, and b) gets us that little bit closer.

Once our other loan is paid early next year, I will do the math and figure out exactly how much we need to pay bi-weekly to get that paid off faster. I'd be a very happy girl if that loan is paid off before we buy a house.

Weekend accomplishments (and fails)

I hope everyone (whoever is actually reading this, if anyone) had a great weekend! Mine was spent working on freelance and school work, but I got a lot of sleep and was able to get my PVR down to a manageable amount, so that made up for it!

Here's where I stand with my to do list. Not everything to done, but relaxing was worth it!

- Write and practice my presentation for class - DONE! I have to give the presentation today and I'm feeling pretty good. I may practice one or two more times for safety. - Get approval on one freelance article - DONE! Approved and sent to editor.
- Finish writing another article - DONE! Sent off for approvals (hopefully will get that this week).
- Interview expert and write a 3rd article - FAIL! Interview is done, but I haven't started the article yet.
- Read Chapter 7 of textbook - DONE!
- Do Chapter 7 journal - FAIL! Not done, but this was working ahead anyway, so I don't feel too bad.
- Do 2-4 final assignment questions - DONE! I did 4 questions in total, so I did really well on this one.
- Pick up wedding thank you cards from Costco - DONE! - Write half of the TY cards (25 of 50 - I'm hoping husband will do his friends/family, so that will be an easy check!) - FAIL! We didn't pick up the cards until Sunday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weekly Money Check-Up

(from My Pretty Pennies)

I should have done this on Monday, but I'm still new to this blogging thing!

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on a final payment to our wedding photographer.
2. Today I am thankful for a husband who picks up the slack at home while I am working tons.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy get new carpet. It involved a lot of work on our part, but the apartment management company paid for it and it was well worth it! It really makes the apartment feel fresh and new!

4. I will consider this week a success if I get 3 of my 5 freelance articles written.
5. This year for Halloween, I dressed up like an 80s chick. We had a 'dress for the decades' theme at work.

Married life is busy!

Whoever said life after wedding would be quiet was crazy! Since we got married 3.5 weeks ago, we have been on the go non-stop and we haven't had much time to just sit and relax. Granted, last week we also had our carpets changed, which was a lot of work and not typical of our normal lives (or anyone's really).

But from the looks of it, things won't be settling down anytime soon. Right now for freelance, I have five magazine articles to write and one brochure to update. I'm also taking an evening class, so for homework, I have my weekly reading and journal to do, plus a presentation to give next Monday and a final assignment to get working on as it's due in early December. Plus husband and I need to pick-up, write and mail our thank you cards for the wedding.

Whew! I'm hoping to get a lot done the rest of this week and over the weekend. Here's my to do list:

- Write and practice my presentation for class
- Get approval on one freelance article
- Finish writing another article
- Interview expert and write a 3rd article
- Read Chapter 7 of textbook
- Do Chapter 7 journal
- Do 2-4 final assignment questions
- Pick up wedding thank you cards from Costco
- Write half of the TY cards (25 of 50 - I'm hoping husband will do his friends/family, so that will be an easy check!)

That doesn't even include normal cleaning items or social activities. Hopefully I have some time for fun!

Friday, October 28, 2011


TGIF! This has been a crazy week! We had our carpets replaced on Tuesday and Wednesday, so husband and I and our two fur babies moved in with my in-laws temporarily from Monday to Wednesday. I'm so grateful that they allowed us to stay there with the cats. Otherwise, we were looking at having to board the cats and sleep in the commotion or find a hotel room that will accept pets. Either way, it would have cost us some money, and the in-laws let us stay for free. Plus they fed us and stepmom-in-law even offered to do laundry for us! (I politely declined, but what a sweet offer).

It was a lot of work though. We had to move everything from the bedrooms into the living/dining room before Tuesday morning when the carpet guys came in to replace the carpets in both bedrooms. Then Tuesday evening after work, we had to move everything from the LR/DR into the two bedrooms. And once the carpets were replaced, everything had to go back into its rightful place! Whew! Thank goodness that husband has two brothers!

And now, we have plush new carpets. Our old carpets were stained when we moved in and after a couple more years of use, they had definitely seen better days. The new stuff is great. And best of all, it was all free! (Other than a couple lunches out, as I normally go home to eat lunch, but couldn't when the guys were working in there). Thank goodness for apartment living. For now, I love not having to worry about home maintenance costs.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Money

Personal finance is a huge part of my life. I'm the bill payer in the family and I love it! I know many others who can't stand when bills come in or hate having to transfer money, but I get a kick out of it. And no, it's not because we're millionaires. We make a normal amount and our finances are anything but perfect, but for some reason, I just love playing around with dollar figures. Even though I generally suck at math!

Right now our finances are a bit chaotic because of the wedding, going on our honeymoon and buying a car, but for honesty sake, I'm going to lay it all out there.

We have just over $4,000 in debt right now. This is the end of a personal loan from way back when I was in school/just graduated and a young 20-something who spent money foolishly.

We also have a new car loan. I honestly don't know what the balance is on that as we literally just bought the car right before the wedding, so I haven't had time yet to get the full loan amount after our down payment and the first payments. Once I do though, I'll put that out there.

We also have money in savings - about $7,500. I'm not sure how much it will be after we pay for the rest of the wedding and honeymoon though (some of that money was earmarked for these things, so this is not unplanned). This savings account is primarily for a down payment for a house.

Our upcoming costs are:

- pay for the rest of the wedding and honeymoon. I'm waiting for our wedding photos from our photographer and when we receive those our third payment to him is due ($653). We also have to pay for the rest of the honeymoon, but I'm awaiting the credit card update. This money will come from our chequing/wedding savings accounts.

- pay for Hawaiian cruise. Our first honeymoon, which we took right after the wedding, was a smaller trip within Canada. This trip to Hawaii is our full on honeymoon (we wanted a warm destination honeymoon, but we wanted to wait until it was actually cold enough here to enjoy it). We owe $3,566 (after the $700 deposit was made). This is due next month. We currently have $1,600 in our vacation TFSA account and we'll pay for the rest with a freelance writing cheque that should be coming in very soon. We still have to book a hotel for the last couple days that we're in Hawaii post-cruise, but we can do that once the dust settles from all the other money flying out!

I think that's about it! My to do this week is to find out our car loan balance!

19 Days after the wedding

Husband and I got married 19 days ago! Our life leading up to the wedding and immediately afterwards has been crazy! But post-wedding, I'm not too sure what to do with all my free time that was once spent perusing bridal magazines and emailing vendors, so I thought I'd start a blog. It will be about us, our lives, our personal finances, our fur babies, and anything and everything that comes up.

To give you a bit of a background... I work in advertising, husband works for a local transportation company, but is hoping to get a job in the food industry (his passion). We have two young cats (Milo and Molly). We were dating for just over 3 years when we got married (living together for about 2 of those years). We live in a fairly big city in Canada, right in the heart of downtown. The rest you'll pick up as we go along!