Friday, November 30, 2012

November goals update and December goals

I have been so excited for December 1st! I've really been looking forward to putting up the tree, decorating for Christmas and enjoying the holidays, even more so this year than previous ones. And I think we're kicking off the month on a good footing as I did pretty well on my goals this month.

November goals:
  • Put up wedding photos. FAIL! It seems this one is going to take a lot longer to get done! We decided we want to paint the hallway and stairwell (where the photos will go), so no point in putting up pictures beforehand. 
  • Meet with lawyer to figure out the house stuff. FAIL! But not for lack of trying. Our lawyer was on vacation and he just got back. We have an appointment to sit down with him next week.
  • Write our wills. DONE! I am soooo happy we got this done. It took two evenings and some research on what to include, but they're signed and sealed! I feel so adult and responsible! 
  • Increase Husband's RRSP contribution. DONE! Husband has been making more money over the past few months, so I wanted to make sure his contribution was still a good percentage of his income. 
  • Paint the office and/or spare room. FAIL! We still have to go buy the paint, but the store hours are very limited (closed evenings and the one near our house is also closed weekends). The one further away is open on Saturdays though and since our voucher for cheap paint expires in 2 weeks, I've told Husband it's do or die time! No more excuses!
  • Get 75% of Christmas shopping done. DONE! I honestly don't know if I've hit that 75% mark, but I think I've been pretty successful so far so I'm considering this done.
  • Fix Blackberry. DONE! I had to check out some websites, email some people, but I wound up doing a complete restore and it's all fixed now.
  • Set up interviews for 2 of 4 freelance articles. DONE AND DONE! I actually set up and did 2 interviews, wrote one of the articles and am working on the second! After that I'll wait until after the holidays to tackle the other two.
We also got confirmation that Husband's life insurance was increased through my work as we had sent this request in earlier in the year. Now I have to bug him more to get the life/disability insurance set up through his work! The more insurance the better IMO.

December goals:
  • Finish Christmas shopping. 
  • Decorate our house for the holidays.
  • Finish second freelance article.
  • Meet with lawyer to figure out the house stuff. 
  • Buy the paint! I'm not even going to pretend like we'll get the painting done this month, but we have to buy the paint before those vouchers expire on Dec. 15. 
  • Read Gone With the Wind. A friend of mine lent this to me a few months ago, so it's high time I read it!
  • Volunteer for two holiday charities. Husband and I are signed up to volunteer for Operation Red Nose, which helps keep impaired drivers off the roads during the holidays. I'd also like to deliver Christmas hampers again.
  • Enjoy the holidays!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday's This & That

  • Our lawyer will be sending us a cheque for the extra interest paid on our house! When we bought the house, we were told you had to pay interest for the period of time between the transaction and when it closes (or something like that). We were charged a set amount of $1,000 and told that we'd get the extra back when everything was complete. Four months later, we still haven't received it. I finally called and I guess they had been sitting on it for awhile, so the assistant is now going to send it to us. Can we get interest on our interest? :P  I'm not sure yet how much it'll be for yet, but hopefully a few hundred bucks. 
  • We got our first full water bill and it's a low to normal amount, which is good to know. We obviously don't have any leaks anywhere and we're not wasteful.
  • We did up our wills! It took two evenings, but they're all done! 
  • Husband and I saw Argo last weekend and it was really good! I highly recommend it.
  • We splurged and bought some extra Christmas decorations. Now that we have a house, there's more space to decorate, and as we only just bought our first Christmas stuff last year, there was still a lot we didn't have. I'm being forced to wait until Dec. 1 to put up the tree though.
  • The Canadian penny is being laid to rest at the end of this year, so I rolled a jar of pennies I had laying around. I have enough for a (cheap) lunch - $8.53. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

What's better than free?

My mother-in-law donated to a local charity and with her donation, she got a package of various gift cards for local establishments. She has no interest in using them, so she gave me all the gift cards! I get a manicure, microdermabrasion treatment, slimming spa, 2 weeks at Shapes and indoor tanning all for free! Plus, a neighbor/friend of hers also donated and I got her cards as well, so I can take a friend or, if there is more than one location, I can go twice.

Today I went for the slimming spa. I wasn't too sure what to expect, but I figured it's free, so why not! And it actually was kind of fun. You strip down to either a bathing suit or bra and underwear and the technician applies electro pads to your abdomen. The pads send pulses through your stomach, which feels weird, but a good weird. While the pads are doing their thing, you lie in a SOQI bed. The bed has hot houses, which give off infrared rays and warm you up. I didn't get too hot - it was just like laying in the warm sun for 15 minutes.  Then, the pulses are removed and the tech comes back and rubs a cellulite cream on your stomach. She massages it in and you lay in the bed for another 10 minutes. The cream may or may not tingle. I didn't feel any tingles myself, so I think if I had paid for it, I'd feel a big gipped, but it was nice and relaxing.

The free slimming spa that came with the gift card was 30 minutes, but if you were to pay to do it, it would be for an hour and there is more included in the process, including the use of a CHI machine, which is apparently like a whole body massage that oxygenates your system. You can also choose to do another body part, like the thighs or arms. I could have upgraded to the full hour for $30, but since I had no idea what I was getting myself into and upgrading defeats the purposes of being free, I declined and just did the half hour.

I can't say I would do this on a regular basis or pay for it, but it was a fun experience to try. And it was completely free as the woman doing the session owns the shop, so I didn't feel inclined to tip.

And tomorrow, a girlfriend and I are going for free manicures! I <3 free stuff!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gift cards: thoughtful or lazy?

I typically don't like gift cards - giving or receiving. While in some ways it would be nice to take the easy way out and give a gift card for Christmas or birthdays, I prefer to put more thought into giving a gift or having someone put thought into a gift they buy me. However, if someone chooses the right gift card, it can be great. Lululemon anyone?! Or giving a couple a gift card to a nice restaurant they love, but can't afford. Or a massage gift certificate to a new mom. You can put some thought into buying a gift card!

The infographic below has some amazing stats on gift card purchases. The stat that surprised me the most was that 20% of consumers have never given a gift card - I thought this number would be much lower. And really - people buy gift cards for kids?! Kids are so easy to shop for.

Are there any figures that jump out at you?

Holiday Gift Card Survey 2012 - MyPoints
Source: Holiday Gift Card Survey 2012 - MyPoints

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday's This & That

  • I got a raise at work! I work in a unionized environment, so I had my anniversary last month and was automatically bumped up in pay. I'm now on level 5 of 6, so next year I'll get another significant raise. 
  • We found out that title insurance will not pay for the home repairs (it was a long shot, but the easiest avenue to try). So now we have to go after the previous owners. There is very little doubt in my mind that they will have to pay, but it's all just taking so damn long! I'm hoping we can do arbitration, which will be faster and easier than going to court. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • We got winter tires on our car! Total cost was $978. This included the tires, rims, warranty, and having the tires put on the car, plus an oil change while the car was in the shop. We opted for more expensive, but higher quality tires with better ratings, so while we could have saved money on cheaper tires, in the long run we'll be better off. And because we bought the rims, Husband can change the tires from now on.
  • Our property taxes are going up. We haven't gotten the assessment yet, but we should know next month how much. I don't think it'll greatly impact our budget though as right now we're paying more each month for our taxes since we got on the program late in the year. I'm hoping that while the overall taxes may go up, our monthly cost will still be lower than they are now.
  • I've started preparing my income tax information already! Every year in March, I scramble to get all my business and personal stuff together and I find I always forget something, so this year I'm determined to be more organized.
  • I finally got all of the reimbursements for our health spending lately. We had quite a bit, including a flight to Toronto for a test that couldn't be done here, new contacts for Husband and I, a massage and prescriptions. All of that spending was sitting on the credit card, so I'm happy the money has come in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Choosing responsibility

Husband and I have been talking for awhile about taking a winter vacation somewhere warm (see "Can we afford a winter vacation"). In a strange turn of events, Husband has been the one saying we should not go anywhere and instead save our money. Or rather, put the money towards something more responsible, like the credit card, or winter tires, or house stuff. Me, on the other hand... I've been staring at pictures of beaches, researching hotels and trying to find a cheap last minute deal. Every few days I'd mention the winter vacation idea to Husband and we'd debate whether or not we should go.

But finally, we decided last week... no winter holiday this year. I withdrew the vacation savings and instead we bought winter tires. Not nearly as sexy or fun, but very much needed where we live.

And then a couple days later, I was looking at last minute vacation deals again. Ugh! But last night I finally admitted to myself that we just couldn't travel any more this year. Not only is the vacation money now gone, but we have way more important things to do with our money. Namely:

  • Pay off the credit card (there's not much on here and the interest is almost nothing, but having any bit of debt drives me insane)
  • Christmas shopping
  • Home repairs (we're still waiting to hear if the previous owner's are going to pay for the big stuff, but in the meantime we should save our money as we may have to pay up front for now)
Not to mention the fact that in the past year we've been to Hawaii, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Ottawa.

So the new plan is to start saving again and go on nice trip next year. I would love to do a road trip to Chicago and Pittsburgh (I have a crazy obsession with Pittsburgh, although I've never been). Or a trip to the Maritimes so we can continue seeing more of Canada.

Being responsible sucks sometimes, but in a few months when winter is over, I know we'll be happy with our decision.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shopping Fast

I have read about shopping fasts on numerous blogs, as well as outfit challenges (you know the ones where you only wear 10 outfits for a year), and I'm always impressed that people can do these types of challenges. I often ponder whether or not I can do one, but then I quickly forget about it and go on with my clothes-lovin' life.

Not anymore!

I've decided to do a shopping fast for 6 months.

And let me tell you, I love shopping. I love clothes. So this will be a challenge!

I got into major debt in my 20s because I spent way too much money on clothes. When I was in my early 20s, I once counted and had over 200 tops. Yes, two hundred. That included tank tops, t-shirts, sweaters, etc. but really, 200 is a bit obscene. And I probably only wore half of them, if that!

So obviously I have tons of clothes and there's no need for me to go shopping. Any clothes shopping I do is purely a want nowadays.

Starting today

Although I haven't bought new clothes in a couple weeks, I'm setting my official start date as today - November 5th. I am vowing not to spend money on clothes until after May 5th. While I think the month of November and December will be fine, I anticipate the new year will be tough as by January I'm generally sick of my winter gear and wanting to get a few new sweaters to tide me over until spring. We'll see how this goes!

Anticipated benefits:

  • Save time by not shopping
  • Get out and do more productive things with my time (i.e. go for a walk with a friend or pick up a new hobby)
  • Save money
  • Discover a new love for old items in my closet

I'll check in once a month and let you know how this fast is going.

Note: This does not include clothes for Husband. I generally do his clothes shopping for many reasons and I will continue this if/when he asks for something new. He's generally very happy to wear the same old clothes for a long time and only asks for something new when he really does need it, so I imagine I won't have to get much for him over the next 6 months.

Has anyone done a shopping fast successfully? Any tips?

November Goals

It's been over 6 weeks since I last posted. Life has been nuts and not really in a good way. We had some stuff happen that I won't get into at this time (maybe once some more time has passed and more healing has been done). But it has kept me away from blogging as I couldn't really focus on anything else. But I'm hoping now I can use the blog as a bit of therapy to get life back to normal.

And what's more normal than a to do list? At least for me it's completely normal! So here are my November goals:

- Put up wedding photos. This has been on the list for awhile, but I really want to get it done now to remind me about what's important in my life - Husband, friends and family.
- Meet with lawyer to figure out the house stuff. This battle is still ongoing. Will post an update after our meeting.
- Write our wills.
- Increase Husband's RRSP contribution.
- Paint the office and/or spare room. We have a Groupon deal for paint and painting supplies that expires in mid-December, so I want to be sure we use that in time.
- Get 75% of Christmas shopping done. I have 10 people to buy for, so I'm hoping to get shopping for 7 to 8 people done this month so as not to overwhelm the budget and me!
- Fix Blackberry. My phone stopped receiving emails for some reason (I can send emails and send/receive texts with no trouble). I've tried a few different fixes to no avail, so now I need to do a backup and restore.
- Set up interviews for 2 of 4 freelance articles. The articles aren't due until April, but since I have so much time, I want to divide and conquer one each month.

Hopefully I can get these things accomplished this month and go into holiday mode feeling feeling prepared and relaxed.