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.