Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No-Spend 2012 Challenge

Carla over at My 1/2 Dozen Daily has started a No-Spend 2012 Challenge which I excited to join!

After updating our debt balances (and being shocked by the total), I am determined and desperate to get focused on our finances.  And I think that this challenge is the perfect way to start.

The challenge starts on January 1, 2012.  Carla has put together a set of rules that she will be following during the challenge and I've taken a few from her list to add to my rules:

1. Track purchases! Write down every single penny we spend!
2. Menu plan & shop from a list!
3. Find free & cheap activities to have fun!
4. De-clutter my closet by selling items that I am no longer using.
5. Medicines/medical care doesn’t count. If something comes up & we need meds, I’m buying them.
6. No “pre-stocking-up”. I won’t spend $800 on groceries the week before my challenge starts in order to “get by”. It’s business as usual this month.
7. No coffee shop purchases, this means no coffee, muffins or donuts.
8. Limit myself to buying lunch only ONCE a week (this is huge considering I sometimes buy lunch a few times a week)

Check out her post if you want to know more about the challenge and perhaps join as well.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas... the day after

Christmas has come and gone.
We are truly blessed to be have spent the past Christmas weekend with family and to have the kids (and DH and I) showered with so many gifts!

DH's family always spoil the kids at Christmas time.  I feel a little bad that although we purchased gifts for them all, we weren't able to splurge on their gifts.  DH and I have made a plan to set aside money in a gift fund so that for upcoming birthdays, we can spoil his siblings a little more.

The budget?... well it's completely blown, and credit cards were used, but I am hoping to be more focused and have a plan in the new year to tackle this debt.  I can't wait to update the credit card balances and to put together a plan to pay off the debt.  No doubt that this will be an extremely tough challenge for me, and I need to start bringing my lunch to work (and actually eating it) and get better at meal planning and putting money away for unexpected expenses.  Our 2011 budget had no money set aside for car maintenance or birthday gifts.  Our 2012 budget will have a small amount set aside for these items.

Up until a few days before Christmas,  I was very stressed out about staying on budget and trying to not spend as much.  Then on Christmas eve, I decided that the stress wasn't worth it right now and to simply enjoy the holiday.

We're completely broke right now and probably won't recuperate from the extra spending until February at the earliest, but the kids had an amazing Christmas and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

First attempt to focus on Christmas... fail!

So with all the craziness of the Christmas parties I was organizing, I told myself I was finally able to focus on my Christmas planning.  So while at work yesterday morning, I wrote up a short list of gifts I knew had to be purchased and with list in hand, I headed to the mall during my lunch time.  I walked around aimlessly, unsure of what I needed to buy.  I had a couple young women to shop for, so I thought I'd check out the women's clothing department.  Bonus: 50% off regular price signs could be seen on almost every rack.  I started going through the clothes and found a couple tops that I really like, tops that I would most likely purchase for myself.

Then I stopped and paused.  Hmm.. I'm 32 years old, could I really know what type of clothing 18 and 20 year old young women prefer?  Then I thought about how I would've felt if my aunt who was 12 years older than me tried to buy me clothes for Christmas.  So I put the tops down, and it hit me that I was no longer a young woman, I was a real grown up woman.  A part of me was glad that I wasn't familiar with fashions for 18 and 20 year old young women.  I think I would've been a tad embarrassed if I knew young women fashion and even worse if I purchased and wore young women fashion, when in fact, I am no longer a young women,

So after putting the tops down, I lost all motivation and focus to shop.  So I went back to work empty handed, not one name crossed off my Christmas shopping list.

My lack of preparation to go shopping resulted in a complete fail.  So before my next attempt to go Christmas shopping, I'm coming up with solid ideas of what I need to purchase.  I can't spend time roaming around stores, looking for gifts.  I need to know exactly what I'm buying, go into the store, buy it and get out of the Christmas store crowd.

Lesson learned.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Time to focus on Christmas...

The past month, I've been extremely busy with work holiday functions.  On top of my busy workload, I volunteered (yup... volunteered) to be the organizer for my department's (I.S) holiday luncheon, which saw about 300 attendees and although I had a committee to help me out, it was quite stressful ensuring that I was staying on top of the tasks that needed to get done to ensure the event went smoothly.  Then, because I'm just a glutton for punishment (sorta kidding...) I also volunteered to organize my company's Children's Christmas Party, which was held this past weekend.  My company has over 3000 employees, and when I first opened up registration back in October, I got an overwhelming response.  Most likely due to the fact that we had moved the party from on-site to off-site, to the new Children's Museum.  Originally the party was to be held on one Saturday evening but due to the number of expected attendees, the party had to be split into a Saturday and Sunday party.  Which meant I was there the entire weekend.  So what was I dealing with?  Ordering gifts for approx 650 kids, finding the best option for cookies and juice, ensuring we had volunteers to help us the two days... OH.. and staying on budget.  Which I'd like to add, was extremely tough, as the budget they provided me was the same budget they've used for the past few years, regardless of expected attendees counts.  Seriously?  It was tough to work with, and unfortunately I went over budget, but with the party spread over 2 days, there really wasn't much that I could do about that.  So I cut my costs wherever I could. 

Things I've learned from organizing this event:

You can't please everyone.  There will always be a few parents who have negative feedback.  Although it's quite clear that their kids are having a fun time, running around and laughing, they will still find something wrong.

Although you've notified that it's time for Santa to go on a break (poor guy has been sitting in his Santa suit and bear for over an hour now), parents will still try to squeeze into the line, even immediately after being notified that it was time for Santa's break.  It was like I never even said anything!

So once my department's holiday luncheon was over, all my focus switched to the Children's Christmas Party. Now that the party is over, all my focus is on getting ready for Christmas.  There are still gives to be purchased and wrapped.  My hope is that I will have this done by Wednesday, which will leave me with a couple days to relax before Christmas is actually here.

Today will be a tough day for me at work.  If not for the meetings to attend and work to get done, I would've taken a day off.  I definitely didn't sleep well the past couple nights.  The odd thing is, even after the party was done yesterday and everything turned out great, I was still having nightmares about not having enough gifts for the kids.  It kept me tossing and turning all night.

Ok, time for my morning coffee and muffin and to get this day started!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last week and next week...

Work is kicking my butt.  So much that I haven't had the time to sit down and write a new post.  It's Sunday night and I finally finished my work to-do list and now have the time before bed to update my blog readers on what's going on, and what's coming up.

Budgeting the first of the month paycheques is always tough.  A majority of our big monthly expenses come out during the first week of each month:  mortgage, property tax, house insurance, house alarm, and car insurance.  DH got a small bonus on his last paycheque, but that was all spent on gifts.  I wasn't very responsible with our budget and realized yesterday that we only had $70 left in the bank account and that had to last til our next paydays (this upcoming Thursday).  We still had to put gas in the car and buy groceries for the week.  Not a good feeling.  I also had to pick up a couple gifts this past weekend and buy groceries, so $270 went onto a credit card :(

I'm not feeling good about using the credit card at all.  I think we should be okay to make it to Thursday.  Thursday's paycheque should include the small bonus I received at work a couple days ago.  So with that extra money, I will need to pay back the $270 onto the credit card.  After making the credit card payment, it is extremely important that I take the left over bonus money and set it aside.  I can see myself easily spending that money on little things and not putting any money towards savings or outstanding debt.  Once the money is set aside, next month I can figure out what I need to do with it.

I need to survive Christmas.  It's stressful just thinking about the gifts that still need to be purchased and the parties that are still coming up and all the added expenses of the holiday season. 

I will need to be more financially responsible in 2012.  We have no emergency fund, no available credit.  There is money invested in shares and savings bonds that could be cashed if there was an emergency, but aside from that, there's nothing for us to fall back on.  It's a scary feeling.  Almost feels like I'm having a second wake up call to our financial situation and how important it is for me to stay on top of things and to pay off our debt.

I need to be writing more updates and goals that are related to our finances.  I need to focus.
But first.. I need to survive Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas gift update...

Just a quick update...

Good news is that DH hasn't received any layoff papers (yet.. keeping my fingers crossed)  And I'm determined to not let this affect my Christmas spirit.  There's enough stress trying to stay on top of Christmas gift shopping and all the events, additional stress due a possible layoff really isn't needed.

More good news is that we got 60% of our Christmas shopping list crossed off today.  It was a complete zoo at Toys R Us, not to mention we had T and J with us too, but we have our list in hand and I knew what we were looking for.  Total time spent in the store 30 minutes, total cost $197.  I was quite shocked at the total but I knew that we had gotten a good amount of gifts purchased.

Next task on my to do list is to start wrapping all these gifts.  Hopefully we're able to put the Christmas tree up today and it will really start to feel a lot like Christmas.  I hope to get some pictures up later.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Worse Christmas Gift Ever! 2nd year in a row...

DH shared the news on the car ride home yesterday.  His company is doing a round of layoffs.  Just before Christmas.  Just like they had done last year.

Seriously?!  It boggles my mind that the company would do layoffs just before Christmas.  In my eyes, that's just mean.  But DH explained that things have just really slowed down.  This will be the 2nd year that the company has done layoffs just before Christmas.  And just like last year, I am now worried that DH will be one that is let go.  Last year he was let go, but was able to "bump" a less senior employee in a different position, so that was a huge sigh of relief.  He's hoping that should he be let go this year, he will have another opportunity to "bump".

DH is so relaxed, so unworried about the possibly layoff.  In his mind, worrying will not fix/resolve the situation, and I do understand that  For me, being the keeper of our finances, I start to worry immediately about things such as bill payments and expenses.  I start to think of our backup resource for income.  I start to think about what I will need to cut out immediately.  DH will receive employment insurance so there will be some form of income, but it will definitely make things very difficult financially for us.

I don't want to think too much about this possible layoff.  It may not happen.  But it's a clear reminder that I need to focus on getting us out of consumer debt and to build an emergency fund.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In my current job...

Before I start off my post, I just wanted to tell you all about a great giveaway ($50 Amazon or Pay Pal Gift Card) over at ThirtySixMonths (  Don't forget to enter!  $50 could definitely help with any Christmas-related expenses or to splurge a little on yourself.

So following my last post about not getting the job, I was feeling a little down but I knew it just meant I needed to focus on my current position and moving up and becoming a leader on the team I'm currently working on.  Yesterday, about 30 minutes before the work day was over, my career leader called me down to her office.

I was caught off guard when she informed me that through a recommendation, I was awarded a bonus!  She spoke briefly of the work I had done that was included in the recommendation.  She also mentioned how my team lead/manager and herself as well as others really appreciated the work that I do and the contribution that I make to the team. 

Hearing about the appreciation, reminded me how blessed I am to be in the current job position I am in and that I am doing a good job.  Also, staying in this job position means possibilities of greatness and reaching my career goals. 

So it was a great way to end the day and to follow up with Friday's not-so-great news.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh well.. at least I tried

I took last Friday off so I came into work today with my phone light blinking, indicating that I had voice messages to listen to.  The first message wasn't very important.  The second however, was Angela from HR, she was calling me to inform me that the position of Assistant Manager that I had applied for had already been filled (not by me).

When I first saw the job posting and read through the qualifications, I wasn't sure if I met the requirements for the position, so I didn't even think about applying.  A couple weeks later, the job posting was republished, so I thought maybe I should give it a try.  Even though I didn't meet all the requirements, maybe I'd still be a good candidate.  And I knew that if I didn't apply I'd wonder "what if" afterwards.  So I went ahead and applied for the position.

Earlier in October, I was invited to an interview and I think it went quite well.  I was informed that they were hoping to make a decision by October 31st.  When October 31st came and I didn't hear any news about the position, I emailed the lady who had interviewed me and she informed me that they had not yet made a decision.  I took this as good news, it meant that I was still in the running.

A few weeks flew by, and only last Friday did I finally hear about the position already being filled.  Although I didn't really have my heart set on getting the job, I was starting to get excited about the possibility of moving into a manager role.  There were a few moments where I knew that I wouldn't be ready to leave my current role and team.  And a part of me was secretly hoping that I wouldn't be offered the position so that I wouldn't need to make the decision to leave where I currently am.

It still hurts a little that I didn't get the job.  But I'm glad that I applied for it and went through the interview process, it was definitely good practice.

I am looking forward to moving into a leadership/manager-type role in my current department and hope that I can see some upward movement in the next year.

I sent a text message to DH as soon as I heard the voice message.  He called me right away, I guess he was a little worried that I'd be really sad about it.  I told him I was ok and that there will always be a next time.

Weekly Spending Recap - Nov 21 to Nov 27

The numbers are higher than I would've like and actually caught me by surprise.  I definitely need to be more aware of what we're spending our money on.

Monday, Nov 21
Gas - $47.75
Food - $14.71

Tuesday, Nov 22
Lunch - $7.83
Household supplies - $45.43

Wednesday, Nov 23
RESPs - $200.00

Thursday, Nov 24
Snacks - $6.76
Christmas Gifts - $22.38
Sushi Dinner - $48.00

Friday, Nov 25
Groceries - $51.34
Craft supplies - $19.57
Snacks - $9.25

Saturday, Nov26
Wedding social - $20

Christmas Gifts - $56.00

Sunday, Nov27
Gas - $48.02
Groceries - $55

We also spent alot of cash, I don't know the exact number, maybe $150-$200?  I didn't even keep track of our cash spending this week.  Huge fail on my part :(
I find that having and using cash makes it harder for me to track where the money's going, but I know that it's just a matter of writing the purchases down.  I need to put more effort into tracking expenses.

One success on my part this weekend is I have a meal plan for the week.  I made a turkey sausage and cheese quiche last night and that will be today's lunch.  So I need to ensure that I am not spending any more money on lunch today, or this week even.
I'm glad that I got a few more Christmas presents out of the way, but the list is still long.  I need to get more organized.  I feel like I tell myself that each and every week.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A little green...

with envy.

It's true, I'm a little green with envy.  A little jealous of family and friends who are leaving today to head south to do some U.S Black Friday shopping.  I have to admit, I'm very tempted to go Black Friday shopping.  I even took tomorrow off from work, just in case I decided to go.  But I know that shopping tomorrow will end up with purchases I didn't really need to make.  If I were more prepared with my Christmas shopping list, I'd consider going but as of today, I have a list of people to shop for, but absolutely no idea what to buy as gifts.  So if I were shopping, I'm sure I'd end up wandering around aimlessly.  Not to mention that it will be incredibly busy with huge crowds and long lineups.

DH is working the day shift for the next couple weeks, so he's home in the evenings.  And usually we end up going out in the evenings with the kids, but so far this week we've managed to stay in.  There was one quick trip to Walmart to pick up diapers/pull-ups for J, but that's the only time I went out.  So I'm glad that we haven't gone out to the mall.

DH's company is hosting their Children's Christmas party on Saturday and I'm very excited to take the kids.  They always have a great time and love to ride the amusement park rides and see Santa.  I believe each weekend from now until the new year will be busy with parties and family/friend gatherings.  I need to stay on top of things and be organized so that I'm not spending money recklessly.  Hopefully I can do some Christmas shopping online tonight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekly Spending Recap - Nov 14 to Nov 20

The numbers are higher than I would've like and actually caught me by surprise.  I definitely need to be more aware of what we're spending our money on.

Monday, Nov 14
Gas - $49.00
Headphones (for iPod) - $11.19
Groceries - $11.58

Tuesday, Nov 15
bills/mortgage - $1151.82

Wednesday, Nov 16
Life ins - $300.00

Thursday, Nov 17
Cell phone/Car loan - $550.82

Friday, Nov 18

Saturday, Nov 19
Family allowance - $152.52
Eating out w/ kids - $12.62
Christmas gifts - $69.09
Birthday gift and dinner - $78.12

Sunday, Nov20
Groceries - $55.54
Cash - $60.00

We went out on Saturday for a friend's birthday dinner.  The restaurant she had chosen unfortunately did not take reservations but she assured me on Friday that she would be at the restaurant early so that she could get her name on the wait list.  Turns out she was running late and we showed up at the restaurant at the same time and the wait was 1.5 hrs!  It wasn't fun waiting but we were at least able to sit in the lounge and enjoy a drink and snacks.  Luckily by the time we were seated and ready to order, I wasn't very hungry so I ordered a soup and salad.  DH ordered chicken and ribs and I had his baked potato.  So our bill came to approx $48 (including tip).  Unfortunately this birthday dinner and gift wasn't in the budget, so I didn't have any money set aside.

We also started our Christmas shopping this past weekend and actually wrote down our Christmas shopping list.  I have to admit, the list is much longer than I thought it would've been.  So that has me a little worried in terms of the amount of money we will need to purchase all these gifts.  I may need to use our credit card to pay for some gifts.  Possibly.. I will try to avoid it as much as I can.

This week I need to stay on top of making dinner and lunches.  No eating out for the family this week or next week.  Pay day is still 9 days away!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Going back to the beginning...

Every now and then, I look at our financial numbers and ask myself "How did I get here?"  These are the answers I come up with:

I was just coming out of a relationship of 6 years.  During that relationship, I was too trusting and generous and allowed my BF to have supplementary credit cards under my name.  The last few years were long distance and although I tried to control the BFs spending, he managed to rack up his credit cards over $5000.  Unfortunately he had no honor and wasn't a real man, so he didn't feel the need to pay me back after we had broken up.  Coming out of the relationship I had close to $20,000 in consumer debt.  No mortgage or car payments.  

I worked on paying off the debt but I wasn't making much progress.  Met DH and we had a great first year together.  We were always out and about, always watching movies, going out to eat and just being slightly irresponsible with our money.  We traveled to Minneapolis and Las Vegas this year.  Later in 2006 we found out that we were pregnant.  At the request of my parents, we decided to get married before the baby arrived.

This was a huge year for us.  We got married, bought a brand new house, furnished the entire house, bought a brand new vehicle and had a baby.  And just before baby arrived, we traveled to Toronto.

I was sent to London, England for work and DH and T came out to stay with me for 10 days.  Although my accommodations were paid for and I had a food allowance, we still had to pay for their flight and some extra food.  And of course there was money spent when we would go sight-seeing and shopping.  We also found out we were pregnant with our second child.  We also went to Las Vegas when we came across an incredible flight and hotel package deal.  

We had baby #2 and I traveled to Vancouver twice (once with the family and the second time with friends).

There were some family-related emergencies that required us to use our line of credit.  Then there was the trip to Saskatoon.  We also traveled overseas for a 1 month vacation.

Not much travel this year, just one trip to Minneapolis.  This was the year that I really wanted to start paying off our debt.  The past 4 years have been incredibly busy and the kids, the wedding, the house, the vehicle, none of that was planned for.  So there were no savings funds for any of it.  

So I know why we're in the financial situation that we're currently in.  And I should be fortunate to say that we're in this financial situation because we chose to splurge.  We spent money like it was going out of style.  I'm lucky to say that there weren't a number of unfortunate events that put us in debt.  It was our reckless spending.

It has been without a doubt, an amazing 4 years.  And because we were able to do so much, I know that I can re-think our spending now and be more responsible. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

He finally won..

DH finally got his new jacket and new t-shirt.  Total cost $117.  I was against both purchases and voiced my objections each time he brought up the topic of making the purchases.  Last month both DH and I started decluttering our closet and selling on eBay.  For me, the extra cash was meant to go into savings and towards debt.  For DH, it was about selling enough so that he could purchase new clothing.  I guess if that is what he decides to do with his earnings, then I can't argue with that can I?  It's tough because DH isn't very involved with our household finances, he not even aware of the amount of debt we currently have.  And it's partially my fault for not getting him more involved.  He trusts that I'm taking care of our household finances and the bills are getting paid.  And to some extent, I am taking care of things.  But it's hard to get him to understand why his purchases are so unnecessary when he's not aware of our current financial situation.

Because DH is not very involved in our finances, I feel that it's completely my fault that we're in the situation that we're in.  I made the mistakes and didn't manage our money very well and when DH asks for new things, a part of me feels that he should get to buy things because it wasn't his fault we're in as much debt as we are in.  And although I was able to convince him the past few weeks to not make the purchases, this past weekend he finally got to me.  I couldn't listen to him talk about the new clothes anymore.  So I sent him into the stores and told him to just buy it.

Good news is that we paid cash for the clothing.  Bad news, the money I transferred from Pay Pal into our chequing account is pretty much all spent.  No money into savings and no extra debt payments.  We went out to eat a few times this weekend, bought lotto tickets and just spent money we really didn't need to.

I'm a little frustrated because I haven't been focused on not spending money.  I can't go on like this.  Christmas is just around the corner and I need to make sure we're not overspending on gifts and I'm determined to not use any credit cards for Christmas gift purchases.

I think I need to get better at posting more often, I find that when I'm blogging I'm more aware of our financial situation and the importance of keeping on track with this journey to becoming debt free.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Deadlines. Is the concept hard to understand?

why do some individuals try to squeak past the deadline?

I work for a fairly big organization and employees are treated to a yearly Children’s Christmas Party.  Having fairly young children, I’ve attended this party for the past two years.  And although I understand that the event is free for my family and I, and the kids do receive a gift, I always leave the party thinking it could’ve been better.

This year rather than cross my fingers and hope that the party has gotten better, I decided to volunteer to convene this party.  That way if I left the party thinking it could’ve been better, I’d only have myself to blame.

One of the first items I had to cross off my to-do list was to get the event announcement and registration form published in our bi-weekly company newsletter.  The announcement was published on September 9th and I indicated a registration deadline for October 21st.  I also noted that REGISTRATIONS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED PAST THE OCTOBER 21ST DEADLINE.

I truly felt that a 6 week registration period provided ample time for parents to register themselves and their kids.  On top of the published announcement, department reps also sent out email announcements reminding employees of the party and registration deadline.  During the 6 week registration period, a total of 3 email announcements were sent out.

By the end of the 6 week registration period I had a total of 400 submitted registration forms.  The Monday following October 21st, the emails started to arrive:


“I've been really busy here at work & my kids have been sick with ear infections so I missed a few days last week and missed the deadline. Is there anything I can do to still be able to make it?”


“Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was away from work from Sep 28 to today Nov 1.  This was due to illness.

I am hoping that I might still be able to register my two sons for the Children’s Christmas party this year.”


“Can you tell me when we were told of the event and how to register?  I don’t recall seeing anything and am surprised to see it is already full.  Any chance of more spaces being available?”


I understand that life can get busy and unforeseen circumstances can happen, but you can’t use that as an excuse for not meeting the registration deadline.  What I find amusing about the three excuses above is that although they were busy or away from work, there was still time during the 6 week registration period to submit the registration form.

What I’ve also noticed is that all the individuals emailing me regarding registrations past the deadline were women.  And they all tried to pull the heart strings and were hoping that I’d feel empathy towards their situation.  If this situation were to have happened 2 years ago, I could definitely see myself accepting the late registrations.  What happened between then and now?  I can’t really pinpoint the moment, but somehow I’ve now got the “You snooze, you lose” mentality.

And perhaps 2 years ago, I may have tried to squeak in past a deadline.  Today if I’ve missed a deadline, I quickly realize that I only have myself to blame and I move on.  I don’t think of ways to get around the deadline.
Have you tried to squeak by a deadline?  How did it turn out?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Feeling a little defeated...

It's Sunday night and I'm feeling quite defeated.  I'm feeling defeated with my healthy eating, our financial spending this weekend and work documents that I'm struggling to complete.

Healthy Eating
Earlier this year, I purchased a pair of denim jeans that I absolutely love.  They were the most expensive pair of jeans I've ever purchased but were totally worth it.  They look great worn casually and can be dressed up with a sexy pair of heels.  I tried on the jeans yesterday and I couldn't get the zipper up :(

I stepped on the scale and noticed a weight gain of 3 pounds.  Not a huge amount, but enough to make the jeans too tight for me to wear.  It wasn't a good feeling.  And so I asked DH to help me get back into shape (and into my jeans) before J turned 3 years old.  I've always had a goal to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight and for the past couple years, I've simple told myself that I'm still working on it.  J is turning 3 years old at the end of February and I refuse to continue to tell myself that I'm still working on getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  It shouldn't take 3 years.

We were at a birthday party yesterday, and I think I did okay in terms of not eating everything I wanted to eat.  I chose a few dishes and enjoyed my meal.  Today, we had family over and we ended up ordering in pizza and szechuan pork.  So good, but it really hurt the healthy eating for today.  It started out well, I had a light breakfast - coffee and 2 slices of toast, but then for lunch I had a cheeseburger and then followed up with a slice of pizza, a bowl of potato chips and some szechuan pork.

Not feeling too great about all the food I ate today.  But I'm focused on trying to stick to my healthy eating tomorrow.

So I did my weekly check to get an idea of where the money went this week.  And for the first time, I noticed a maintenance service charge of $20 coming out of our savings account.  I did a quick history search, and the $20 fee wasn't a consistent monthly fee.  Some months it was $2 or $3, another month it was $16.  This had caught me completely off guard and I feel absolutely ridiculous for not paying closer attention to the fees that were coming out of the account.  It truly sucks to know that I pretty much threw that money away.  Tomorrow I will be going to the bank to close the savings account because I simply cannot justify having to pay the maintenance service fees.  We still have our ING direct savings account, so that will become our primary savings account.

I have been struggling with completing one specific work document.  This document has been on my to-do list for the past week, and I cannot get focused on it.  As soon as I open up the document, I'm tempted to do something else, anything else.  The original due date for the document was the end of October.  Then I pushed it out to November 3rd, and now it's November 6th and I'm still not done.  What's even worse, is it's Sunday night and I should be relaxing and getting ready for the work week, but instead I'm trying to get some work done on this document.  Of course, I'm not trying as this very moment, seeing that I'm currently typing out this post.  I'm telling myself that once I've published this post, I will try working on the document once more.  I'm not looking forward to work this week, just don't have the motivation in me.  Luckily it's a 4-day work week, Remembrance day is on Friday which means an upcoming 3-day weekend.  I just hope to survive the next 4 days and to get this document done.

Overall, our spending this week was pretty good.  We spent a little extra on a gift for the birthday party we went to on Saturday.  We actually just got the invitation late on Friday, so this was an unexpected expense for us this week.  We also had to get an oil change on Friday.  It turns out one of the tires is leaking and could not be repaired, so the spare tire was put on (for a $10 charge) and we are now needing a new spare tire.  Good news is that all bills have been paid, groceries have been bought and the vehicle gas tank is full.  Bad news is that last week we had to dip into our savings account to make it to our next paydays, so the balance isn't much at all.  That's okay though, I'll transfer the remaining amount from the savings account into the chequing account and close the savings account.  Ideally I'd like to switch completely to a no-fee account but I'm dreading the transferring of automatic payments (mortgage, car payment, house insurance, etc...)

Okay, time to focus on my work document.  If I can make some good progress on the document, I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Well HELLO! “Insufficient funds” nice to finally meet you

Up until last night, I’ve not had the pleasure (throw in sarcasm) of meeting “Insufficient funds”. 

It was pay day for me on Tuesday and as I’ve always done in the past, I logged into our online bank account and started paying bills that were due.  My flaw in budgeting is not knowing the details of when automatic payments come out of the account.  Maybe I think that the house insurance comes out on the 5th of each month, but it’s actually being withdrawn on the 2nd of each month.  I never really paid attention to the actual dates, I just know that it’s withdrawn the first week of each month.

I knew that DH got paid on Thursday, so I believed that there’s be enough money in the account to pay for the groceries we picked up last night.  Luckily I had gone through the Self-Checkout line at the supermarket, it would have been quite embarrassing to have my debit payment declined and have the cashier tell me that the reason was insufficient funds.  Although DH was with me at the supermarket, he didn’t notice that I had to retry the payment, this time using money from our savings account.

I was very surprised with the insufficient funds message.  It caught me completely off guard.  Immediately my thoughts went to what other payments I may have forgotten and whether or not I caused any automatic withdrawals/payments to be returned, resulting in a $35 NSF fee.  As soon as we got home, I logged into our online bank account and saw that there was still $20 sitting in our chequing account.  The grocery total was $24 which obviously is more than what we had.  I looked at the detailed transactions and saw that there were no returned automatic withdrawals/payments.  PHEW!  That was a huge sigh of relief.  I would not have been very happy if I logged in to see a $35 NSF fee.

This is an eye-opener for me and has validated my feelings that more attention is needed on our budget.  Although our credit card use is very rare, I’m not proactively tracking our cash spending.  it would be very beneficial to be able to post a weekly spending recap.

“insufficient funds”, it was nice meeting you and there are lessons for me to take away from our encounter, and I hope I don’t hurt your feelings too much, but I am determined to never cross paths again.  It will be the best thing for everyone.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lunch time pledge

I am lucky to have been selected to participate in the Leadership Development Program offered by my employer.  Interested applicants were required to write a letter indicating their interest in the program, and then selected applicants were interview by a panel.  I hadn’t attend the information session on the program, but heard about it through co-workers and thought I’d go ahead and give it a try.

As a participant of the program, we have been provided six coaching calls to help us reach our goals, whether they are career goals or personal goals.  The coaching calls are limited to 30 minutes but have gone through 3 calls already; it’s amazing how much discussion can take place in a 30 minute coaching call.

Last week during my coaching call, I decided to discuss my financial goals.  Being limited to 30 minutes I wanted to focus on how I often found myself spending unnecessarily, especially when it came to workday lunches and coffee runs.  There are days when I don’t bring a lunch and I need to purchase a lunch and then there are days when I bring a lunch and choose to purchase a lunch instead.  I find that I am easily swayed when it comes to eating out for lunch with my coworkers.  I know that my decision to go out for lunch is due to wanting to socialize with coworkers.  It’s a daily ritual almost.  A group of 4 guys and me, we are all on the same work team and so during lunch time we’re often talking about work-related issues or stories.  Of course there are also discussions on movies, TV shows and comic books which I rarely participate in, but still find entertaining. 

There are also the coffee runs that I enjoy participating in, and which usually result in me purchasing a beverage that I don’t really need or want.  It’s just an excuse to step away from my computer and socialize with coworkers.

I feel that socializing in the workplace is necessary and contributes to a good working team, but for me, it’s resulting in unnecessary spending.  During my coaching Heather asked me to roughly estimate the money I was spending during lunches and coffee breaks.  Lunch = $8 x 5 days = $40 a week.  Coffee = $2 x 5 days = $10 a week.  Total:  $50 a week, which is completely unnecessary and an expense I have full control over. 
I made a pledge to bring a lunch (one that did not require heating and would allow me to still join my team if they decided to have lunch at the nearby mall food court) and to stick to the 1 coffee a day (which I brew at home) If I do go out for lunch, it must be limited to once a week.

I like the pledge of having only 1 coffee a day, because it will encourage me to drink more water while at work.  I often struggle to drink more than 1 cup of water a day, which is way below the recommended 8 cups of water a day.

The thought of saving approx $200 a month simply by bringing and eating a lunch and not going for a 2nd coffee is extremely exciting!  As I type out this post, DH has finished making me a ham & cheese sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Universal Life Insurance ... do I REALLY need it?

I feel that I'm faced with a bit of a predicament.  And I'm not sure what to do.  Last year, DH and I along with our youngest son J, signed up for Universal Life Insurance Plans.  Based on my knowledge of Universal Life Insurance, one benefit is that after a number of years (depending on your monthly contributions), you no longer have to contribute because there is an investment component with UL (Universal Life) Insurance.  For example:  Life Insurance premium costs $50/month.  If you contribute $100/month (which is actually what we're doing right now), $50 goes towards the life insurance and the remaining $50 goes towards your investments.

The plan is that the investments grow to the point where you no longer have to pay your premiums and the interest from the investments covers your life insurance premiums.  I'm definitely not an expert at this, but I think that's the overall picture.

So going back to the situation, currently DH, J and myself each contribute $100 to our life insurance plans, for a total of $300.  I'm now wondering if this money could be better used elsewhere.  I have life insurance through my work and so does Arman.  We could probably get another life insurance plan that's much cheaper.  And J, well I don't know if it's necessary for him to have a life insurance plan (he's 2 years old).  We decided to get him the plan based on the investment component of it.

Even as I type this out, a part of me is thinking that I should just keep the plans and I feel that I may regret canceling the plans.  If I do cancel, I will not get any of the invested money back.  That would mean a couple thousand dollars gone.  At the same time, if I keep the plan, I'm just losing more money the more I delay the cancellation.

I need help.  Maybe I'll see if there's a way to cut back the investment portion of our contributions and just pay the premiums.  Not sure what to do.  These are the moments where I wish DH was more involved with our finances so that we could discuss thoroughly.  He'll go along with whatever decision I come to.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All day meetings = work overload!!

First off, I feel awful that it's been a full week since my last post.  So many times I sat down in front of my laptop, determined to write a post, and each time there was something to distract me.  A hungry kid, a phone call and sometimes a television show.  Today I thought I'd write my post before I started my day at work.  I checked my calendar and it looks like I'm in meetings from 9-3:30pm.  Straight, without any breaks.  My hope is that each meeting will end early and I'll have time to check emails and voice messages, and go for bio breaks.

It's been a fairly good week financially.  No extra spending on my end and eBay sales last week were very good.  We sold a total of 11 items (all clothing) for approx $430.  Of course I need to deduct the eBay fee as well as the PayPal fee.  It's still money in our savings account.  DH wants to purchase a new sweater with the money made from his clothing sales.  He told me last night, his intentions of selling on eBay were so that he could buy himself a new sweater, whereas my intentions are to put money into our savings account and be more prepared for Christmas shopping this year.  I'm a little frustrated that he wants to spend rather than save, but we never agreed that we would both put our money made into savings.  And that's ok.  I have no energy to try and convince him to see things my way.  I just need to continue down my journey to save money and pay down our debt.

This post is a bit on the short side, but I do hope to update again.  I need to update some numbers.  I'm just happy that I'm on top of things financially (for the most part).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gail.. you make it look so easy!

I'm a huge fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade.  As I sit here typing out this post, I'm watching her on Princess.  And 30 minutes prior, I was watching her on Til Debt Do Us Part.  Gail makes finances so easy.  Live on cash, track your spending.  If you need or want something, you can have it.. but pay with cash.

I have to admit, watching other individuals in similar financial situations as myself is a little comforting.  To know that I'm not alone in the financial mess that I've but myself and my family in.  And to know that if they can get out of their financial messes, then there's a chance that I can too.

I can see small improvements in my financial spending habits.  But I do have a long way to go.  I've been bringing a lunch with me to work, but like today, I joined the guys for lunch and we went to the nearby mall food court.  I didn't buy much, but I still spent $4 on veggie tempura that I really didn't need.  Coffee is still made every day at home.  I sometimes pick up a 2nd cup from the work cafeteria.  Lately there haven't been any desserts, donuts or potato chip purchases. 

I love watching Gail's shows.  I enjoy reading her blog.  I have yet to try and live on cash and track my expenses though.  Possibly a mini-goal for November.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Consistency needed and the Paper Blinds Goal

Reading back on older posts, I can see that my thoughts are all over the place and there's not much flow when reading my posts.  I should try to keep my posts focused on one or two topics to make it for an easier read.

Last night I set myself a new goal.  It was warmer than usual in my bedroom, so I went to open the window.  Before I continue I should probably rewind 4 years ago to when DH and I first moved into our house.

When we purchased our house in 2007, the house was brand new there were no window coverings.  It was a priority in the first week to order and install blinds for all the windows in our living room, dining room and kitchen.  These were identified as high priority as the windows were quite large and I really didn't want people to see right into the house when walking or driving by.  For the remaining windows in the 3 bedrooms, we decided to put up temporary paper blinds.

Fast-forward 4 years and 5 months later and those paper blinds are still up in the bedrooms.  So last night, when I went to open the window, the paper blinds, being so light were making quite a bit of noise.  The noise bothered me to the point that I had to shut the window and just accept the warmer temperature in the bedroom.

As I lay there, trying to fall asleep, I decided that my new goal would be to finally replace the temporary paper blinds.  Our five year anniversary for home ownership and moving in, is on May 1, 2012.  Before May 1, 2012 I will no longer have temporary paper blinds up in the bedrooms.

I'm not sure why I've had difficulty spending money on replacing these paper blinds.  In the past few years, we've come across extra money (income tax refunds, work bonus) that could have been used towards new blinds/curtains.  In the end, the money is spent elsewhere and the paper blinds remain.  I suppose I feel that the blinds are doing a good job, so why replace them?

A coworker of mine suggested I rip down the paper blinds and leave the windows bare, which will then make purchasing new blinds/curtain a priority.  Sounds like a good idea, but until I have enough money in the new blinds fund, I don't think I'd enjoy sleeping in a bedroom without window coverings.

Time to add a new progress bar.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mission: Thanksgiving Turkey

Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving, which meant no work on Monday.  It was a great long weekend and I successfully made my first Thanksgiving Turkey.  On Friday when I first learned that I had been volunteered to make the turkey, I surveyed my coworkers asking for their turkey tips and tricks.  I was definitely nervous about how the turkey would turn out, but in the end the turkey looked great and people seemed to enjoy eating it.

We were over this week's grocery budget by $40.  I spent a little extra picking up extra veggies to cook with the turkey.  We spent about $35 eating out as well, which is better than prior weeks but still more than we should really spend.

Shopping-wise, it was a very good weekend.  We didn't make it out to the mall so there were no temptations to buy any clothing or accessories.  The kids are set with their fall/winter wardrobes, so I really can't justify purchasing anymore clothes for the kids.  T's picture day was last week and we found something for her to wear and so far, we haven't received any invitations for any birthday parties or social events.  This is good news, it means that no new party clothes are needed and no birthday gifts need to be purchased.

DH and I are continuing with selling old clothing in our closet.  Actually I should be more specific, I am selling clothing that I am no longer wearing.  DH is selling clothes he wears "too much" (in his words) and feels that it's time to sell old and buy new.  DH doesn't understand that this doesn't help us get ahead in our finances, selling an old sweater (which is in excellent condition) for $50 and then purchasing a new sweater for $100.
I guess in the end, DH can sell 2 items of clothing to purchase 1 new item.

I had a pretty good day money-wise.  I spent under $5 (hashbrowns for breakfast and an afternoon coffee).  I ate lunch at my desk and rather than spend $5 going out for lunch, I put that $5 towards my Amex card.

I think that was my very first snowflake!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Moving to the back of the bus...

As part of my attempt to save money where I can, I decided to give up my parking spot at work.  I'm very lucky as regular parking downtown is approx $140/month.  My company subsidizes the employees parking so I pay $75+tax/month.  Lucky indeed.  Of course I did wait for 10 years before I could get a parking spot.

So I rented out my parking spot to a co-worker and now carpool with DH.  The small issue I have is that I can only can only carpool with him the two weeks that he's working the day shift.  The other two weeks, he's working the afternoon shift, so although he can drive me to work in the mornings I will still need to figure out how I will get home.  I'm sure I'll figure things out.  If I end up carpooling with a coworker, I may pay $30/month, but that means I'm still saving a bit.

I've been riding the bus this week and I must admit it's quite entertaining.  The bus driver and the riders, you just never know what you're going to find when you take your seat on the bus.  Yesterday, the bus driver totally ignored a man standing at a bus stop.  I also sat by a lovely lady who spoke to me about her last trip to Toronto to visit her daughter and how mild the weather was.

It's hard to believe that October is here and Christmas is less than 3 months away.  I am hoping that I can get better and watching our finances this week.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Numbers are finally up!

I finally did it... I put up my debt numbers.  It's a scary number and I don't even think the DH knows that the debt is as much as it is.  He knows that there is some debt but would probably be very surprised at the total amount.  Although I manage the finances in the house and am well aware of the debt situation, I was surprised when I finally saw the total.  Approx: $39,000!  Oh my gosh.. I feel like crying :(

I tend to freak out about our debt but I won't freak out this morning.  I will stay focused and try to chip away at this debt one dollar at a time.

This morning I feel like I need to write down the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  • DH is worked the day shift this week and was home in the evenings which was really nice.  We managed to not go out to eat or pick up fast food for supper
  • I participated in a focus group last night.  We talked about local fruit.  It was fun.  And for the 2hr discussion, I made $65.  This will go towards debt.
  • I am still selling T and J's outgrown clothes, and have also started selling clothes that I no longer wear.  A little more extra income.
  • Twice this week, I brought lunch to work but ended up buying lunch still, leaving my packed lunch in my lunch bag
  • I spent $40 on raffle tickets.  The draw is for a pair of NHL hockey tickets.  I'm not even a huge hockey fan, neither is DH.  But the entire city is excited about the return of the NHL after 15 years without a team.  I got caught up in all the NHL craziness.
  • I looked through T and J's closets and realized I really didn't need to place a $150 order with Old Navy for new clothes for them.  They have plenty of new clothes, clothes that still have tags on them.
  • I sold T's old high chair and some clothing and made a total of $70.  None of that money went to debt repayment.  I can't even remember where the money went.
Okay, I feel slightly better now.

Friday, September 23, 2011

ANOTHER Moment of Weakness ... this time I lost

"Last Chance for an ADDITIONAL 10% off Sale Items!"

I'm such a sucker for those headlines.  It's such a great marketing tactic.
And I fell for it.

I went onto the Old Navy website and started adding items to my Shopping Cart.  Both T and J (DD and DS) will need new clothes for this fall/winter so I thought this would be a good opportunity.  After about 15 minutes navigating through the sale items, I had a total of 33 items in my shopping cart which totaled $353!!  I knew immediately that there was no way I could spend that much money.  So I started removing items from the shopping cart, and tried to only stick with items that I knew the kids would get most value/use of.

20 minutes later and 21 items less in my shopping cart, I went ahead and placed the order.  Total: $150.  I'm still selling T and J's outgrown clothes, so I will make sure I pay this total off this weekend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Moment of weakness

I had a moment of weakness.  I checked my email account and found 2 emails from Gymboree.  For those not familiar with Gymboree, it is a clothing store that specializes in children's clothing.  I have never been a huge fan of Gymboree but I have purchased from them in the past.  Anyway, 2 emails sat in my Inbox.  First email was an invitation for 20% off my total order (online or in-store), second email was a Gymboree reward for $5 off my next purchase.  I thought that perhaps this would be a good time to shop for DDs next years summer clothes and to pick up some new clothes for DS.  I spent about 20 minutes clicking through pages and pages of clothing on their website.  In the end, I had 11 items in my shopping bag, with a total of $99 (including discount and rewards)  I thought to myself.. Not bad.. 11 items for under $99 which included $11.95 shipping costs.  I whipped out my MasterCard and proceeded to input the information.  I clicked Submit.  "Thank you for placing an order"

Then I realized that on top of the shipping costs, I'd probably have to pay for custom and duties as well since I ordered from a US based company.  That pretty much threw out any savings/deals I thought I was getting out of this order.

Luckily there was an option to cancel an order if it was submitted within the hour.  So I logged back into my Gymboree online account and cancelled the order.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Long day at work..

I didn't get into work as early as I had hoped.  Got to my desk, powered on my laptop and was ready to work by 7:45am.  First thing I do each day it open up Outlook and take a look at my calendar.  Today, as soon as I opened up my calendar I let out a huge sigh.  12:30 - 4:30pm - Training:  Giving and Receiving Feedback.  Oh boy, an all afternoon training session.  Oh boy, out at 4:30pm means that I will have to drive home in rush hour traffic.  Oh boy, an entire afternoon away from my desk means that I will have 1/2 day work to catch up on.  Oh.. boy...

It was a rough day, and a tough afternoon to get through.  Although I did learn a thing or two regarding giving and receiving feedback.  The most important tip?  Feedback should be giving with some relevance.  Why are you providing this feedback to a specific individual?  So it wasn't a complete waste of time, just resulted in a long day and now I am resting in bed while the kids are watching TV before bed time.

Good news.. I made a sandwich for lunch and I ATE IT!  Doesn't seem like a big deal, but for me this is a huge accomplishment as I tend to pack a lunch and will leave it in the office refrigerator.  It will sit there for a few days and will end up getting tossed in the garbage.  Now this doesn't mean that I didn't spend money at lunch time.  We went to the nearby mall food court and I picked up a small order of veggie tempura for $3.90.  I also picked up some chocolate covered jujubes.  That cost me another $4.99.  And while at the training session I picked up a bag of chips and a coffee for $3.25.    Tomorrow I will make another sandwich for lunch and I will try to bring extra fruit or a granola bar in case I am still hungry after the sandwich.  Goal this week is to pack a lunch and eat it at least 4 days.

The budget it a bit wonky this week.  I didn't plan accordingly and money is being transferred back and forth between our chequing and savings account.  DH gets paid this week and I'm really hoping I can transfer money where it belongs and stay on top of the expenses.

Hoping for an early bedtime to help  clear up my headache.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tracking income vs expenses

I'd like to think that I'm getting better at tracking our monthly income and expenses.  I've created a spreadsheet for each month and have listed all income and expenses expected for that month.  It's definitely helpful to see a visual calendar view of what's coming in and what's going out.

Yesterday was pay day and I'm not sure why, but I made too many payments.  DH gets paid next week and I should have schedule some of the payments for next week.  Instead I find our chequing account with insufficient funds to cover our vehicle/grocery expenses this weekend.  Luckily I was able to transfer funds out of our savings account to cover these expenses.  Next week when DH gets paid, I will transfer the money back into our savings account.

I need to be more careful when making payments so that I don't get caught in a similar situation again.  I'm lucky that there was funds in savings to transfer, else I'd be looking at using credit cards the entire weekend.

Work has been kicking my butt all week.  Luckily it's Friday and I have 1 hr of work left.  I will most likely need to bring my laptop home and work a couple hours overtime this weekend.  Just so that when I come in on Monday, I'm not overwhelmed with my workload.  Doesn't sound like much fun, but it will keep me sane on Monday.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sell sell sell...

The past month or so, I've been trying to focus on selling clothing/toys that my kids have outgrown.  I've admitted in past posts that although I was selling items, I wasn't taking that income and applying to towards debt and/or savings.  I also made a commitment to start applying extra income from selling towards debt and/or savings.  I now have $25 in my wallet remaining from the community garage sale I participated in last weekend and I will make a payment towards my debt.  I'm very excited because I posted more clothes and just calculated  another $61 in sales!!  Plus $30 for my kids high chair.  So next week, I should be able to put another extra $100 towards debt.  It's very exciting!  And this weekend I will work on getting up-to-date credit card balances and will have them posted here so that I can track my progress.

Now it's time to post more items for sale.  Although I'm slowing selling things, it still feels like I've got "stuff" all over the house! hehe..