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.