Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm back..

hopefully I can get back into blogging on a regular basis.

The past couple of months have been very frustrating financial wise.  I just feel like I'm making no progress whatsoever.  I keep telling myself that things are going to settle down, the unexpected expenses are going to stop and I'm going to finally be able to more forward and make some progress.  Unfortunately since my last post, things just haven't gotten better.  I'm frustrated but I haven't given up.

My biggest struggle is staying on budget in terms of family/summer fun.  With summer here, it just seems so easy to spend more money due to summer activities.  We're spending more gas driving around, to the parks and beaches.  We're spending a bit more on food when we're packing lunch/snacks for the park/beaches.  And there are weekends when we're out enjoying the weather and even though I'm trying to pack most of the food/snacks, we're still heading out to eat.

Then there's still the endless birthday parties, wedding socials and baby showers that need to be attended and gifts purchased for.  Throw on top of that the landscaping the DH wants to do this summer and the budget is out the window.

The numbers need to be updated, and I need a plan.  Things just can't continue at the same pace, else we'll never get to that end goal of financial freedom.

I'm definitely hoping to get re-focused and come up with some kind of plan.  Looking forward to reading more inspirational posts by my fellow bloggers!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Time to press the reset button...

Okay, life has definitely kept me busy.  And I feel like I'm lost control of my healthy eating and my spending.  Not that I've been spending alot of money lately, but it seems to go hand in hand.  When I don't plan appropriately, and I don't pack a healthy lunch, I end up spending money and buying a not-so-healthy lunch

This past weekend I had my fill of junk food and I reached that point where I had enough.  No more eating out, no more spending money on food that I could have brought from home and could have made healthier.

DH and I received our tax returns and I'm glad to say that I'll be able to put a small portion to the EF.  This month has been a bit more expensive in terms of birthdays and other social events (wedding showers, wedding socials, etc) so I'll have to figure out where the numbers sit and how much is needed vs how much can be put away.  All the bills are up to date, so I'm thankful for that.  The deposit for the destination wedding will be made this month as well.  Then it will be time to focus on saving the remaining amount needed for the wedding.  I believe final payment is due in October, so it's definitely an aggressive savings goal.

We're also planning a small family road trip in June.  I will need to figure out realistically what we can afford.  In the end if we end up having a staycation, I'll be okay with that.  There's really no need for us to drive 8hrs south when there's plenty to do in and around the city.  This week's financial goal is to review the budget and the bank balance and figure out what's going where.

I did get quite a bit of decluttering done this past weekend and it felt good to throw out 3 garbage bags full of old product, old clothes and just things that we've been hoarding.  Does our closet look any more spacious?  Not really but I know that I made a small dent and I'm glad for that.

Now if only I could get back to blogging more often.  Hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Benefits Re-enrolment time...

And this time I'm going to be smart about it.  What does that mean exactly?  Well this time I will actually spend the time to go over the different benefit packages and will coordinate my work benefits plan with DH's.  When I first started working here, I just signed up for the highest level of benefits.  After getting married, I should have looked at what benefits DH had and adjusted mine accordingly, but instead I just kept them at the highest level.  I never looked at the actual numbers to see how much I was actually paying each payday towards my benefits.

I finally looked at the numbers and they don't look good.
A total of $92.91 is deducted is deducted from each payday (semi-monthly), which equals $2229.84 a year!!!  For benefits... that I probably don't even use!  How ridiculous is that!  That number really surprised me.  So this time, I'm going to be smart because really I can't afford to not be smart.  And there's no need for the highest level of benefits.

Tax returns should be mailed out later this week, and a portion of that money will go towards the wedding trip fund for next year, with the remaining balance being put into the emergency fund.  It will be nice to see some increase in the EF.

Last week I had a couple days of weakness regarding healthy eating and money.  I didn't want to eat my packed lunch and so I ended up going out for lunch twice last week, not good for my healthy eating plan or my wallet because the two lunches ended up costing a total of $35!  I realize now the poor choices that I made and am looking forward to bringing and eating a packed lunch.

Spending money this past weekend was out of control.  DH, the kids and I went out to eat a few times and I haven't added up all the numbers but I'm sure we spent over $100 on food.  Worse part?  As we ate at the restaurant and food court mall, I knew that I was more than capable of preparing better meals at home at a fraction of the cost.  This weekend I'm looking forward to making breakfast at home.  It's Mother's day on Sunday but I'm going to insist that we have a nice quiet breakfast at home with a home cooked meal.  I'm actually looking forward to that.

Once I've completed my benefits re-enrolment, I'll let you all know how much I saved.


So I just went through the enrolment and I must admit it was difficult to opt-out of some benefits.  But I think I made some very good choices.  Updated cost?  $1062.18 <-- that's over 50% less that what I was paying.  Payday deductions are now $44.26, instead of $92.91, that's a savings of $48.65!  If I take that $48.65 and put it away in a savings plan at the end of 2012, I would have approx $583!  How exciting!    At first when I saw the savings, I thought "So what's the big deal with saving $48.65 each payday?"  The big deal is $583 saved in 6 months (benefit updates start on July 1).

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Feeling completely lost ...

It's been 2 weeks since I've posted on here and since then and probably still prior to my last post, I've been feeling completely lost financially.  I feel like I've lost track of everything and just haven't had the time to catch my breath, sit down and look at the numbers again.  There were some unexpected expenses the past couple weeks and we did not have any money in our EF so I found myself scrambling to find the money, reorganizing this month's bill payments.  And I feel like I just haven't caught up.

Hoping things will slow down at work and at home.

Good news is that I've been told that management is pushing to get my promotion in for the 2nd quarter, which means that hopefully by the end of June, I'll have the promotion that I've been working hard for the past couple years.  Keeping fingers crossed!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Always read the fine print...

On Saturday night, I had to purchase tickets for an event DH and I were attending in a couple weeks.  I purchased the tickets via the Ticketmaster website.  Once the transaction was completed I checked my email for the email receipt and noticed that there was a second email from "eventticketprotector".  I opened the email and realized that on top of the tickets I purchased, I also purchased Ticket Insurance.  It must have been a check box that I accidentally checked off or as I suspect a check box that I failed to UNCHECK to decline the insurance.  The result?  An additional $8 per ticket, which means the original $20 tickets actually cost me $28 each.  I was not happy.  Luckily I read through the insurance policy fine print and there is an option to cancel insurance within 10 days of the ticket purchase date.  I emailed the company earlier this morning and hope to hear back from them in the next couple days telling me that my policy has been cancelled and the premiums have been refunded. 

Quite the mistake on my part to not read the fine print and to rush through an online transaction like that.  I'm glad that I caught it in time, I would not have been impressed if I saw the transaction on the credit card statement and realizing it was too late to cancel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Last night work = extremely tiring morning. But also means extra $$$

So it's not really that late right now.. it's only 10:30pm, but I haven't started my work yet.  Once I do, I suspect I'll be up for a couple hours.. maybe a few hours.  Last month we lost a couple team members (moving to a different dept and company) and so there are some gaps in our work coverage.  There was an email sent out to the team asking if anyone was interested in working Tuesday night.  Normally I wouldn't volunteer but I knew there would only be one other person who would volunteer and I also knew that they were already working on OT on the weekend.  So I decided I would help the team out and volunteered to work OT tonight.  Because it's been so long since I've worked a late night like this, I'm struggling to stay awake and I know that tomorrow will require at least 2 cups of coffee.  At the same time I know that tonight's work will be at least 4 hours of OT and I've decided that from now on I will start working any offered OT to help pay down some of the credit card debt.  It really isn't hard work and will only be one every week or two.  Even that can add up to a couple hundred extra dollars each month which will make a huge difference in paying down debt.  I'm very excited just thinking of it.  I also know that the next couple weeks at work are going to be very hectic at work so I may even offer to work OT.  It won't be fun to give up time with the kids in the evenings, but the good news is DH is at home in the evenings for the next couple weeks, so this would be the best time to work OT.

On a completely different topic, I learned 2 things today:
- for a female my size, it will take approx 1 month to gain 1lb of muscle
- humans are tallest first thing in the morning, we shrink by a couple centimeters throughout the day (gravity, pressure on the spine)

Oh, and I received my book order today!  Can't wait to start reading the book, and what's even better was that I used my Swagbucks to redeem gift certificates, so the book was FREE!  I have to admit, reading this book series (Black Dagger Brotherhood) is my guilty pleasure.  Even thinking about the storylines makes me blush.  I can't believe I'm even admitting that I read the books.  But once I get started it always a struggle to put the book down.  I've read all 9 books and am on the 10th book.  Once I'm done this book and now that I've finished the Hunger Game trilogy, I'm definitely going to need to find another book series to read.

I'm still feeling very lost with our budget right now but it's getting a little easier and I do see a light at the end of the tunnel.  By the end of the month I am 100% committed to getting the numbers and budget figured out.  Luckily DH is receiving a signing bonus at work so that will give us some extra wiggle room in the budget and May is a 3-payday month, so that will definitely help as well.

We got our taxes done last week, and although I'm not 100% confident that the lady did the taxes correct I know that DH and I are both getting money back.  Good news is that I will be able to set money aside for the destination wedding I am part of in January 2013.  And I will be able to put money into our EF.  I have a tendency to spend extra money very quickly so I need to ensure the money is set aside and untouchable.

Ok, I think it's time for me to start my work.  Hoping for a good day tomorrow and that I make it through the work day.  With the extra hours worked tonight I could easily go home early tomorrow but then I'd lose the OT hours and that wouldn't help the debt situation.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Unbelievable house prices...

Earlier this week our neighbor put his house on sale.  Our houses are similar in size, but I know that they spent much more on their basement renovations.  So being curious, I checked online for the listing and saw that the house was priced at $349,000!!  Then I checked another house in the neighborhood that also recently went on the market, and that house was priced at $379,000!!  Totally caught me off guard, I knew that housing costs have been on the rise, but it just seems ridiculous to me.  How are people able to afford the mortgages on houses that cost that much?  One positive note is that the value of my house is also increasing, although we don't plan on moving any time soon.

ooh.. on another positive note, DH got paid today and now that the bills have been paid and I see that the budget is going to work this week, I feel much more relieved.  I really need to take this opportunity to stay on top of the expenses and to plan our budget out better.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Struggling to catch up and a very odd dream...

I'm not sure when I lost my footing on our expenses and the past couple months have been the toughest budgets that we've had to work with.  In the past couple months, we really are living paycheque to paycheque and I'm feeling confused and overwhelmed at the fact that the budget spreadsheet shows all the numbers lining up and working out and yet in real life we're struggling.  I know there's the odd birthday party gift that I failed to include in the budget, but after all the expenses have been covered, there's a comfortable amount left in the account, at least that's what I see.  It is time again to re-visit the budget spreadsheet and figure out if there's a better way to track our expenses. 

I do hope that by Friday, all bill payments will be caught up and I can start fresh again.  I'll have updated numbers to post.  I don't think they'll look very pretty but I need to try again, I need to try harder.

The other night I had a very odd dream.  The ex-bf has reappeared in my life and was trying to get back together.  I was very angry in my dream towards him.  I questioned how he was able to take advantage of my generosity and then just walk away from the relationship without taking care of his financial obligations to me (money borrowed).

I think I'm still very bothered at how financially irresponsible I was in that relationship.  And how I allowed myself to be taken advantage of, all because I thought I was in love.  I sometimes wonder if he'll ever step up and pay off what he owes me.  Highly doubtful, but I still saw him as a good guy and someone who would want to pay off his financial obligations.

Oh well.. definitely a lesson learned the hard way.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday morning Chit-Chat - April 2nd

Didn't a chance to participate in Carla's Sunday Night Chit Chat yesterday, so I'm doing a Monday morning chit chat.

Last Monday I finished reading The Hunger Games.  It took me until Wednesday night to finish the 2nd and 3rd books (Catching Fire and Mockingjay).  When I get hooked on books, I tend to get extremely focused with reading the entire book as fast as I can.  My poor kiddies got less attention from me early last week.  This week, I still have the China Study to finish or at least make progress on.

Last night, I actually found myself watching Celebrity Apprentice.  First time ever!  It was actually quite addicting and I had to find out who was going to get fired in the boardroom.  Will I watch the show again?  Truthfully, most likely.. hehe

Listening to?
Nothing at the moment, but in about 20 minutes I will be joining a Delegate Deliberately web training session.  It goes til 12pm, so I will be listening to the instructor all morning.

Yesterday was a lazy day for me, didn't cook a single thing.  Lunch today is a sandwich and DH will have to cook lunch for himself today.

Happy you accomplished this week?
DH's care package for his parents has been sealed and delivered.

Looking forward to next week?
DH's payday on Friday.  He's getting a small signing bonus at work so we'll have a little extra money to work with this week.

Thankful for today?
I'm feeling energetic in regards to work and fitness.  This will be a good week to really push forward with my training and getting through work assignments.

I have more to blog about, specifically my dream last night and some exciting work news.  I'll write a separate post for that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday morning Chit-Chat

Didn't a chance to participate in Carla's Sunday Night Chit Chat yesterday, so I'm doing a Monday morning chit chat.

<< Trying to upload a picture... having issues though... if it worked, you'd see a amazing delicious looking slice of red velvet cake, with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting >>

Just finished reading The Hunger Games.  It took me approx a day to read the entire book, easy read and a very good story.  Can't wait to watch the movie!  Now I'm back to reading The China Study, unless I get started on Catching Fire, the second book in the series.  I suspect I'll be finishing up the trilogy before the end of the week.

I'm at work right now so watching the letters as I type them out on the screen.  Last night, there wasn't much tv watching either.

Listening to?
I'm dialed into a conference call right now, so I'm listening to project updates.

Yesterday I made a delicious pot of Italian Wedding soup.  First time ever and I must say it turned out pretty good!  Also picked up Red Velvet cake mix, so I'm thinking I'll try to make that this week.

Happy you accomplished this week?
Not sure.. hehe.. trying to think back to what went on during the week, and nothing's really coming to me. 

Looking forward to next week?
Looking forward to getting back on my daily cardio routine.  I can't lose any momentum/motivation so I really need to keep going.

Thankful for today?
Thankful that there's money in the account and I can figure out what I need to pay off before Friday's pay day.

Went grocery shopping yesterday and I'm quite proud that I can now go through the entire grocery shopping trip without picking up unnecessary snacks/food.  I'm writing down my list prior to leaving the house and I rarely pick anything up that's not on the list.  Of course DH and the kiddies weren't with me either, and usually helps.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Family vacation?

First I gotta say that I am absolutely hooked on the song "We Are Young" by Fun.  I remember hearing this song performed on Glee, LOVED it!  Now I'm listening to it over and over again.. hehe..

Anyway, I received the details for my BFFs destination wedding.  Total cost:  approx $1500

Here are my options:
  1. Go without DH and the kids.  This is the financially responsibility option.  Although I don't know if I could go an entire week without my family.  And it doesn't feel right to be relaxing in the sun while DH and kids are at home.
  2. Go with DH and without the kids.  This would make a very nice honeymoon (we didn't really go on one after we got married)  It would still be very difficult to leave the kids for 1 week.
  3. Go with DH and the kids.  This would be our family vacation and would obviously cost us quite a bit of money, I suspect close to $5000.  This would be my choice, but it's really difficult to think of spending that money.  

IF this turned out to be a family vacation, I can at least say that no debt will be incurred by this trip.  Next year I am eligible to withdraw up to 75% of my company shares.  I would use that money to fund this trip.  Of course, that's still $5000 that could have been kept in the bank or used towards debt repayment.

And then again, there's the option of getting creative and really focusing on making some extra money this year.  I suppose the decision doesn't have to be made right away, so I'll put my thinking cap on and try to figure out how I can make this trip more affordable.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Night Chit Chat - March 18, 2012

A bit late getting online today and I probably won't have a full update until tomorrow, but I thought I'd join Carla's Sunday Night Chit Chat.

What are you…

Still reading "The China Study", recommended by a coworker.  Also trying to catch up on my blog reading, feels like I have so much catching up to do.

TV is currently off, but I just finished watching the Amazing Race.

Listening to?
The kids playing on the Nintendo DS'.  T is playing a Dora game and J is playing The Legend of Zelda.

Made beef n broccoli earlier today and bbq'd some chicken/turkey sausages.

Happy you accomplished this week?
Managed to do a bit of decluttering in the bedroom today.  We've been using the kids old change table as a place to throw things on, magazines, toys, anything and everything.  Most of the things have been put away, so I'm very close to finally selling the change table.  Can't wait!  Also had a huge report that needed to be sent out for approval on Friday, and I managed to send it out at 3pm!  Hopefully I get the approval and no updates are needed.

Looking forward to next week?
Having a less busy work week as well as increasing the intensity of my cardio workouts.  The past couple of weeks I've been taking it easy, as my knees have been bothering me but I have to keep going strong.  Also need to re-focus on eating clean, the last couple weeks I've allowed myself a few more cheats than I allowed myself the first couple months. 

Thankful for today?
It's mid-March and the weather is beautiful (+20).  There is no more snow on the ground and we were able to take the kids to the playground.  Oh, I also put away all the snow boots and gloves/scarves and winter jackets!

Tomorrow I should have a full update on our finances.  I don't get paid til Thursday but there is money left in the account.  Need to figure out if I missed any payments but looking forward to paying down some debt on Thursday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fitness Friday - March 16th edition

How are things going fitness-wise?

These are the goals I set back in January:
  1. No more hashbrowns for breakfast  I no longer consider this a goal, as hashbrowns are no longer part of my diet, no more cravings either!
  2. No more snacking on muffins and/or donuts I no longer consider this a goal, as muffins/donuts are no longer part of my diet, no more cravings either!
  3. Complete 3 1-hr cardio sessions a week On track, there was a week where I had to rest, due to knee pains but I've altered my cardio sessions to be less intense so I'm back on track.
  4. Complete 4 weight training sessions a week On track.
  5. Drink 3 glasses of water a day (usually after my morning cup of coffee, I have nothing else to drink all day, so this is a big goal for me.  Eventually I'll work up to 8 glasses a day) Still working up to 8 glasses a day, I'm still finding that I'm not drinking much water once I leave the office for the day.
  6. Substitute the not-so-healthy meal options for healthier meal options - white rice -> brown rice, fried -> baked/grilled I no longer consider this a goal, it's now an every day thing.
  7. Ultimately I want to have a defined waist (possibly some ab definition)  It's quite the stretch goal and it's a very aggressive time line.  Still working on this one.
Overall things are going very well.  I'm in my 3rd month and have loosened up the diet a little bit, but still focusing on the goals.

In the upcoming weeks, I'm hoping to take measurements (inches, body fat %) so that I can be more specific in my fitness goals. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Didn't mean to scare her...

BF and I got together today and she had exciting news.  Her fiance and her have been house hunting for the past year and they found one that they have fallen in love with.  She wasn't really sure what to expect in terms of housing expenses, so I started to list off my current housing expenses:

  • mortgage - approx $1600
  • property tax - approx $300
I had just informed her of the 2 monthly expenses above and that was enough to question her financial readiness to be a homeowner.  Then I added in the monthly utility bills and the costs to furnish a brand new house.  She was a little freaked out.  I ensured her that things would be okay and that they would just have to figure out their budget.  During the car ride home she still seemed very disturbed by some of the monthly housing expenses but I think once the initial shock is over she'll be okay.

I have to admit, adjusting to a budget with high housing expenses takes some adjusting to.  And it's only now that we're finally making the budget work.  Also it wasn't any fun to scare her with the expenses, I think it's good that she has a better idea of what to expect.

It's pay day tomorrow! yay!  First thing tomorrow morning the mortgage and utility bills will get paid and money will be set aside for gas and groceries.  Anything remaining will go towards credit card payments.  I can't wait to see those balances go down.

Monday, March 12, 2012

List of Women Money Bloggers...

OOh.. so excited!! Women's Money Week posted a list of women money bloggers. So many blogs to read and get motivated and inspired by. Can't wait to start reading!

The Ultimate List of Women Money Bloggers

Friday, March 9, 2012

Money in my 20s

In honor of Women's Money Week...

I finished college just before I turned 19 and got hired even prior to graduation so when I turned 20 years old, I thought I was living the perfect life.  Good job, living with my parents so no housing costs, a hand me down car from my older sister so no car loan to pay for.  Looking back to my 20s, I did everything wrong.  And although I'd like to say I'd do things differently if I had a second chance, truth is, I wouldn't because although I made mistakes I definitely learned from those mistakes.

  • impulse shopping and shopping sprees - I can't recall a time in my 20s when I wanted to buy something and first thought "hmm.. do I really need this?" or "Can I afford this?"
  • gambling - In my 20s, I dated a guy who enjoyed gambling and I often found us at the VLT lounge and casino.  I couldn't even try to guess the amount of money I threw away on gambling
  • eating out - Same guy (looking back, it wasn't the healthiest relationship... that's another post), we ate out a lot, possibly 5 times a week.  
  • travelling - In my 20s, I also travelled alot and never actually saved any money first before travelling.  Travelling also came with a "Go big or go home" attitude
  • non-existent savings - One thing I did right was starting my RRSP contributions as soon as I started working.  I thought that RRSPs were enough in terms of savings.  I never thought about any other investments or even having a emergency fund
I was very financially irresponsible in my early 20s.  In my mid-20s the relationship that seemed to personify my frivolous spending ended.  Although I must admit that even when I met DH, we still weren't very financially responsible.  We enjoyed some travelling and shopping and eating out.  Then things got real busy.. baby, marriage, house.  Out of my 20s and into my 30s, it was a game of catching up, and now finally trying to be more financially responsible.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Car maintenance... appointments I never look forward to

A couple weeks ago we took our vehicle in for an oil change.  When we went to pick up the vehicle, we were told that there was a transmission leak via the cooler line and that this would need to be looked at and repaired.  Ugh!  Just what I needed, a vehicle repair.  Our budget just included a car repair fund, which I failed to transfer any money into, so any expenses for this upcoming cost would have to come out of the other budget line items.  I dreaded making the follow up appointment, hoping to delay the repair until I could save some money for the cost of the repair.  DH insisted we get this looked at as soon as possible, so I called to make an appointment which is now set for this Saturday.

I wasn't 100% sure if the appointment was to investigate the issue further or if they were going to go ahead and do the repair.  I was expecting they would investigate further and provided us with a quote and ask whether we'd like to proceed with the repair.  So I decided to call the Service dept this morning.

"Your vehicle is still under the service contract, so there are no costs on your end for this work"

Music to my ears.  It was a great way to start the day.

I also worked on our weekly budget and it looks like we'll have $97 left over once all bills are paid, the vehicle is fully fueled and groceries are purchased.  I'm also going out for lunch today for a co-workers farewell lunch.  Can't wait!  It's a good day!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Time for weekly budgets

At first, I tried to work with a monthly budget, then a semi-monthly budget.  But it seems that with the larger periods of time, I lose track of what's coming in and what's going out.  So I've decided to start working with a weekly budget.  I will have to create a spreadsheet that will work for me, but once I've got it figured out I'm sure it will be smooth sailing after that.

DH's birthday is coming up closer to the end of the month.  I haven't figured out what I will be surprising him with.  We received gift certificates for Christmas for a movie date and a restaurant called "Unburger", so perhaps we'll do that.  It's not a true gift that I bought for him and I will most likely buy him something small, but I just can't justify a more expensive gift.  I am limiting the gift to $50.

My sister and parents are headed to Vegas at the end of April.  My sister is trying to convince me to join them, but again, it's an expense I just can't justify right now.  I've always been one to travel and not travel on a strict budget.  I feel that if I can't experience the vacation to the fullest, I'd rather not go.  Sounds a little silly, but if I were to go to Vegas, I'd want to see a show and go shopping and try my luck at the slot machines.  I couldn't go to Vegas and behave financially.  I feel a bit bummed that I'm not going, but I'm okay with that too.

Time to work on the weekly budget.  Hoping the numbers work out!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fitness Friday

I thought I'd dedicated Friday posts to Fitness, to help document my journey to get into better shape.  Preparing my own meals has definitely cut back on my spending when it comes to cafeteria breakfasts and mall food court lunches.  I'm bringing my own coffee to work and am no longer spending money on donuts or muffins or bags of chips.  I have to admit I still have some cravings but so far I've done ok with not giving in.

So here's what my daily meal plan looks like:

2 slices whole grain toast w/ natural peanut butter

sometimes have a yogurt

a.m. snack
egg white omlette w/spinach

protein with veggies

p.m snack
fruit w/ cottage cheese

afterwork snack/pre-workout
1 slice whole grain toast w/ natural peanut butter
pita chips w/ hummus

protein shake

I have alot of dark chocolate too, it's not the healthiest, but in terms of satisfying my sweet tooth, that is what I allow myself to have.

For exercise I'm lifting weights and also doing Insanity (Beach Body workout dvds).  It's been about 2 months since I started and at first I have to admit that I felt like I was making no progress and I was feeling very impatient because I felt that I was not making any progress.

Now I feel that I'm on the right track and for 2 months, I really started to change the shape of my body.  I'm very excited to continue on this journey and to see more changes.

Here's a pic that I took this morning, it's not full body but shows my mid-section, where I'm seeing the most improvement.

And for reference, here's where I started 2 months ago and my 1 month progress:

Overall, I've lost approx 4 lbs, not much in terms of weight loss but I think I'm gaining muscle.

My current goal is to have more defined abs in time for summer, which is May for us here.  2 more full months to stay motivated and focused.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Recap and March Goals

At the beginning of February I set two specific goals for the month:

- Increase EF fund by $200 - FAIL
- Increase savings by $100 - FAIL

Any extra money that we had was spent so most likely unnecessary spending.  Lesson learned, pay ourselves first.  I have to make it a habit to move the money into our EF fund and savings accounts as soon as the money comes in.  Because truth is, if the money isn't there, we don't spend it.  There are times when we have $20 to last us 4 days til the next pay day and we can do it.

So moving onto March...

Here's what the month looks like so far:

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage & Property Tax - $1844
Automobile (Payment, insurance and gas) - $876
House Alarm & Insurance - $81
Life Insurance - $300
Bank fees - $14

Variable Expenses:
Utilities (Cable, phone, internet) - $200
Cell phones - $100
Food - $500
Debt repayment - $1100
Other (Nursery school, gifts, entertainment) - $300

TOTAL:  $5215

Monthly Income:

This would leave us with $335 to put away into our EF and savings accounts.  It seems so simple and straightforward when I have it typed out, but for some reason I still struggle to stay on top of things.

Financial goals for March are (same as February):

- Increase EF fund by $200
- Increase savings by $100

Non-financial goals for March are:
- finish reading The China Study book
- pick up craft supplies to make myself a bracelet (idea I got from Pinterest!)
- finish filling up care package for DH's parents and have the package picked up by the delivery service

We will be filing our taxes in March and I really don't know what to expect.  I'm hoping we get a small refund, and if not, I hope we're not paying back a huge amount of money either.  March and April will be expensive months for us as there are a few big birthdays coming up.

Good news is that in terms of my cafeteria and mall food court purchases, these are pretty much non-existent.  I've stuck to my plan to have breakfast at home each morning and to pack a lunch and snacks every day.  Every now and then I'm very tempted to pick up something extra for lunch or as a snack but then I just dig into my lunch bag and eat something that I brought with me. 

Exercising is still going very well, the last week wasn't the greatest, but I'm still motivated to keep going.  Month 2 progress pictures should be posted in the next week or so.  So on the exercise and healthy eating side of things, I would say I'm doing very well and will keep going.

 Work is kicking my butt, but I don't mind the OT.  Just need to be very careful and ensure that the OT paycheque goes towards debt.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How much for a 3rd birthday?!!

I hate to admit it, but we went overboard with J's 3rd birthday celebration this past Sunday.  We had 2 separate parties, one for friends and kids and one for family.  The first one cost me a bit more than I had expected, due to additional guests that I did not anticipate.  The second party didn't cost much but because we were doing a party earlier in the day, I had no time to cook so all the food was ordered.

I went over the birthday budget by double the set amount.  Also, this past Saturday we were invited to a birthday dinner at Red Lobster, which set us back $65.  I would consider this our family meal out for the week, but it's still much more than we normally spent.

This week work has been kicking my butt.  I've been putting in a couple hours of OT each night and J decided he wants to give me a very hard time when it comes to finishing his dinner.  On top of catching up from the extremely busy weekend, the busy work days I feel low on energy and today I missed my work out which really sucks.

I could have done a work out and put in maybe 50% effort but I decided to perhaps try to get to bed early and catch up on reading some blog posts and to even update my own blog.

I'm definitely looking forward to March and trying to get back on track.  I don't feel like I've made much progress financially, but I just need to look at the numbers again and figure out what my plan of attack is.

Can't wait for March!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Was Your Money Situation Like Growing Up?

The inspiration of this post came from Hanging By A Thread

I am the younger of 2 kids.  It was just my older sister and I.  We lived in a small 1 1/2 storey house, total sq footage?  Around 600 sq ft.  Both of my parents made very small salaries, but they were very good with managing their money.  I would have considered us "mid-class".  I never felt that I was behind in terms of school supplies or clothing, when compared to my classmates and friends.  They always made sure we put money in our piggy banks and always gave us a little extra to spend.  My parents took us on what I would consider a big family vacation every 4 years.  And in between those vacations, there were trips to Chicago every couple of years to visit family.  I remember when I was in college and had to quit my part time job due to my school work load, my mom insisted on giving me an allowance of $50/week.  I was very lucky.  Every time my sister and I think back to how well the household finances were managed, we are amazed.  And a part of me is confused as to how I didn't pick up a single budgeting practice or behavior.

It's very important for me to teach my kids the value of money and the importance of saving.  It's often difficult because at the same time I want them to have everything that they want and everything I didn't have when I was growing up.  And there's always the thought that they're only kids for so long and that they grow up so fast.

This weekend will be a busy one with J's birthday, so I hope by Monday things have settled and I can start focusing on our finances.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tea and cottage cheese..

That is on the breakfast menu today.

Still seem to have issues uploading pictures, but I did have a nice picture of my David's tea travel mug and my bowl of cottage cheese with strawberries.

Yesterday on the drive to work, there was alot of discussion around Lent and what individuals were giving up for 40 days and 40 nights.  I wouldn't consider myself a religious person, but I thought that it would be a good personal challenge to give up one of my daily treats as part of Lent.  And so, I decided to give up coffee.  This morning on the drive into work, I already missed my coffee, bold coffee with a splash of french vanilla creamer.  So delicious, so warming, so comforting.  The tea is doing a good job keeping me warm but I still miss my coffee.

And the cottage cheese?  For the longest time, I've wanted to eat cottage cheese, because I knew that it was a healthy food item to add to your diet, low in fat and high in protein.  In the past when I've tried eating cottage cheese, I just couldn't do it due to the texture.  I'm huge on texture when it comes to food.  If it tastes good, but has a very odd texture, I won't eat it.  So I failed in the past each and every time I tried to add cottage cheese to my diet.  And today, is day 2 of eating cottage cheese with strawberries.  Big win for me!  The texture still bothers me, but I'm trying hard to not let it bother me.

Battling a cold right now too.  I suspect I may leave work early.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Weekend splurges

In my last post, I mentioned that I received a $180 gas coop rebate cheque which I was going to put towards our savings.  Instead, this past weekend the money was spent on other thing, other non-necessities.  A part of me feels bad that the money didn't go into savings, but another part of me is thinking that on the positive side of things, we didn't take money out of our savings or using any credit cards for money that was spent this past weekend.

In terms of what we spent most of our money on this past weekend?
Here's the breakdown:

$59.27 - oil change.  Bad news is that we need to take the jeep in to have the transmission line checked, they said that it was leaking.

$78.08 - eating out.  We went for All-you-can-eat-Sushi.  It was really good.  That meal itself cost just over $50, but it was well worth it.  I can say with confidence that I've had my fill of sushi for the next month or so.

$23.10 - Ruckers.  J is turning 3 this Sunday and so we were thinking of possibly inviting some friends and their kids to Ruckers (an arcade type of place with games that spit out tickets that you later redeemed for treats).  We went to check out the place and in doing so, spent $23.10 on game tokens.  The kids had lots of fun, heck I had alot of fun playing some of the games but for a 3 year old's birthday party, it didn't make sense, as alot of the games were for older kids.

$71.50 - new dress pants and shoes, for me.  I really wasn't looking for new pants or shoes, but there caught my eye.  And then I did the worse thing possible, I tried them on, and fell in love. hehe..  The heel height of the platform heels are higher than I've worn before, so it'll be interesting to see how I do when I wear them at work for the first time. (tried uploading a picture of them, but I keep getting an error)

$47.02 - DH also found a pair of shoes that he wanted to buy.  Couldn't say no since I had just purchased a pair.

$31.75 - candy and dark chocolate (oh and lotion too) - we let the kids pick up some candy while we were out on Saturday, and then I stopped by Shopper's Drug Mart and picked up 3 tubs of Vaseline Creamy Lotion and 5 (yup... 5!) dark chocolate bars.  I had a craving, bad idea to go to the store with a craving.

$58.02 - groceries and pizza.  My cousins cooked up some spaghetti and steak on Sunday night and invited us over, so we decided to bring a pizza.

So in total, this past weekend we spent:  $355.31!
OUCH! that's a huge number, but again, no savings was touched and no credit was used.

The oil change and groceries were part of our budget and a portion of eating out was also in our budget (since we go out to eat once on the weekends)

Late last week I was feeling very lost with our budget and with the recent overspending this past weekend, I know that I need to get focused or else things can go downhill from here very fast.  I need to set aside 30 minutes each morning to go through our expenses and to update my blog so that I can stay on top of things.

With J's 3rd birthday coming up, this will be a bit of an expensive weekend, but I am determined to not go completely overboard.  Simple decorations and simple cake and alot of good food.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Losing track of things..

I'm not sure what it is, but I feel like I've lost complete track of the household finances.
I open up our budget spreadsheet every day, and the spreadsheet is broken down by the month, income coming in, expenses going out.  But somehow, whenever I check our bank balance I'm surprised by the amount of money we have, or to be more precise don't have.  I feel very lost and quite incapable of keeping on track financially.  Maybe it's just this month for whatever reason.

Good news is that our yearly gas co-op cheques were mailed out this week and we received a cheque for $184!  This will go into our savings/emergency fund, so I'm very excited about that. 

Hoping for a quick work day and hoping to get focused on our finances.  Good news is that although I'm feeling a little lost financially, the debt isn't growing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two leather jackets to add to my wardrobe...

and it didn't cost me a dime!!  Let me explain.  Years and years ago (maybe 5 years), when I was spending money like it grew on trees, I purchased a couple leather jackets.  And I wore these jackets quite a bit during the time.  But after kids and the weight gain, they became too snug, to the point where I looked like a sausage ready to burst when I tried putting the jackets on.  So the jackets went to the back of the closet.

Last night, I thought I would take them out and try them on.  I knew that my body was changing with the exercising and cardio I was doing, and I knew that some of my other clothes were fitting better, so I thought I'd give it a try.  It was such a nice surprise to find that both jackets fit better and I could start wearing them again.  Still a little snug but the jackets are now back in my wardrobe!  Yay!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cancelled dinner date

Every year in February, a number of restaurants around the city participate in a "Dine About..." event, where they offer set menus which are put together to showcase the chefs' talents.  Over a week ago, my best friend suggested we go on a double date and try one of the restaurants.  I thought it was a great idea and was very excited when we decided on a restaurant that specialized in seafood.  I love seafood!  We made reservations for this past Saturday and I thought the dinner could also be an early Valentine's dinner.

Then on Friday night I started thinking about the cost of dinner.  I'm thankful that my parents agreed to babysit the kids, so there are no babysitting costs.  But the dinner itself?  The set menu was $36 a person.  Which did not include beverages, tax and tips.  Between DH and I, I'm sure we would have spent $100.  And so, on Friday night I was thinking about that $100 and how it was difficult to justify going out for dinner for that amount of money.  I thought about the amount of groceries I could purchase with $100 and how the entire family could go out for a nice lunch or dinner with $100.

And so I called up my best friend and explained that I couldn't justify the $100 cost for dinner.  She understood and I'm glad that she didn't try to convince me that the dinner would be worth it.  I'm sure that the dinner was great (she and her fiance went ahead with the reservations), but I would have felt guilty afterwards for spending that much money on a dinner for DH and I.  I'm very glad that we didn't go.

DH was very surprised that I canceled our dinner date.  He was even more surprised that I told my best friend that the reason we didn't go was due to the fact that we didn't have $100 to spend on dinner.  I guess DH thought I'd be a little embarrassed to tell someone that we couldn't afford a $100 dinner date.  I actually felt proud that I made a wise decision to cancel and felt very financially responsible.

Last week, work was kicking my butt and I just couldn't find time to update my blog more often.  The next couple weeks are better and I hope to be writing more.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February Goals

It's been awhile since I've reviewed our budget to see where things stand and see if there are any possible increases in debt repayment or savings.

Here's what the month looks like so far:

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage & Property Tax - $1844
Automobile (Payment, insurance and gas) - $876
House Alarm & Insurance - $81
Life Insurance - $300
Bank fees - $14

Variable Expenses:
Utilities (Cable, phone, internet) - $200
Cell phones - $100
Food - $500
Debt repayment - $1100
Other (Nursery school, gifts, entertainment) - $300

TOTAL:  $5215

Monthly Income:

This would leave us with $335 to put away into our EF and savings accounts.  It seems so simple and straightforward when I have it typed out, but for some reason I still struggle to stay on top of things.

So goals for February are:

- Increase EF fund by $200
- Increase savings by $100

I really need to revisit our budget .. again... and figure out a better way to track our expenses and spending.
Feeling quite overwhelmed right now.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Can't believe I'm posting this...

but I really wanted to show you all the progress I've made with my healthy eating and exercise.
(Please ignore the partial shot of the toilet)
When DH first suggested taking progress pictures I was very hesitant and really didn't want to take the first set of pictures.  I knew I wouldn't like what I saw.  But now that I can do a side-by-side comparison of where I was a month ago and where I am today, I'm glad that DH  insisted that I take pictures.

In total I've lost a few pounds but the big difference is in the shape of my body.  Overall I feel great and I actually don't miss the foods I often had almost every day prior to eating healthier.  While watching Superbowl last night I did munch on some potato chips and I found that I just felt sluggish and sleepy afterwards.

It's been a great journey so far and I can't wait to start the 2nd month of the Insanity workouts (by Beach Body)

And I'm truly lucky because regardless of where I was in my journey to get into shape, DH always made me feel beautiful and sexy to him.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Night Chit Chat - February 5th

A bit late getting online today and I probably won't have a full update until tomorrow, but I thought I'd join Carla's Sunday Night Chit Chat.

What are you…

Still reading "The China Study", recommended by a coworker.  Also trying to catch up on my blog reading, feels like I have so much catching up to do.

Just finished watching the Superbowl (Go GIANTS!!)  Now watching Oceans 11.  It's one of my favorite movies.

Listening to?
Oceans 11 on the bedroom television and the kids watching Handy Manny in the living room television.

Before sitting down in front of my laptop, I just finished making a spinach and egg white omlette to bring as part of my lunch tomorrow.

Happy you accomplished this week?
A solid week of exercise, lifting weights and cardio.  Cardio-wise, this week is a "recovery" week, in preparation for Month 2 of Insanity.  I have to admit, I'm nervous but very excited.

Looking forward to next week?
Getting back to a normal work week.  Being on a 3 day training session last week really threw me off and left me with a ton of work to catch up on.  Work that I actually should be doing, hehe...

Thankful for today?
The weather is nice out and definitely not the -25 that we normally get in February.

Tomorrow I should have a full update on our finances.  I miscalculated a fundraising cheque that I wrote last week and forgot about T's nursery school fees (again!) so I need to move some money out of our savings until Thursday when DH gets paid.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finally a chance to catch up and update!

It has been an extremely busy past 3 days.
At work I was participating in a 3-day training session on how to write executive level reports and presentations.  I found the training session to be very informative and valuable.  Most important, the skills that we were taught, are skills that I can apply immediately to my current job.  Composing emails, reports and presentations will now benefit from my newly learned knowledge.  Of course as I type this post, I am fully aware that I am not using proper sentence structure and I suspect that if I were to think about the grammer and style of my writing, it would take me much longer to write a post.

Financially, we're still on track.  I got paid yesterday and now have an idea of my semi-monthly income.  So I do need to tweak our budget to reflect our new income.  I'm glad that our income has increased slightly, not a huge amount, I would say approx $200 a month, but it's $200 a month more than we made last year.  This will definitely help with putting money aside for our emergency fund and savings accounts.

Health-wise, I'm still on track.  Today I'm struggling to get out of bed and to do my cardio session.  Today I should be lifting weights as well as doing cardio, but I'm not feeling very energetic.  At a minimum, I would love to do my cardio session but at this very moment, I don't see that happening.  I may wait another 30 minutes and will see how I feel.  Should I do my cardio session with 50% effort or not do it at all since I can't give 100%?

I took my one-month progress pictures yesterday.  I have to admit, although there is some improvement, I had hoped for more.  I am now reminding myself that it's only been a month and that I need to be more patient.  Regardless I told myself that I would keep working at it until the end of February.  Hoping that I see more progress, I really don't like this feeling of disappointment.
I am going to continue with the Low/No Spend Challenge and will start setting mini-goals.
Hopefully when I update next time, I'll be able to report that I got out of bed and had an awesome work out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Holes in my clothes?!

It's Saturday night and I'm sitting on the sofa watching The Lake House (Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock).
So here I am sitting down and I go to adjust my t shirt only to find a hole in the front of the shirt.  What's even odder, is that the other day, I found a hole in the sleeve of the sweater I was wearing that day.  Is it possible that there's something in my washer or dryer that's causing the holes?  I'm not happy, I really liked this shirt.  Oh well.

So yesterday I posted about how The Bay was having a clearance sale with an additional 40% off.  I walked over at 10am and in the first 15 minutes I had about 6-7 items of clothing in my hand.  Then I thought about checking out the deals on their bedding.

On Thursday J got his hands on markers and had left them uncapped on my bed.  When I got home from work that day, I found him asleep in my bed and the markers sitting there, with big splotches of green and brown ink on our comforter.  So I thought that maybe I could find a good deal on a new comforter.  I had no luck finding a comforter on clearance but I did find a duvet cover (set came with 2 pillow shams as well).  So I thought I'd compromise.  I bought 3 pieces of clothing and and the duvet cover set.  Total cost: $58.  As I took the escalator from the 4th floor to the 2nd floor, I realized that I really didn't need the duvet cover, and so I walked to the nearest customer service desk and returned the duvet cover set.  I got back $42.  Phew!  I'm glad I got some common sense knocked into me.  I realized that although my comforter is now covered in ink splotches, no one outside of our family even sees the comforter.

And one other win?  I went grocery shopping with a list today, and I stuck to that list!

Friday, January 27, 2012

TGIF! Must stay on track!

I’m so glad that it’s Friday.  Even happier that I opened up my Outlook calendar at work and saw that I only have one meeting to attend today.  The past couple of days, I’ve struggled to get motivated at work.  I’m hoping for a more productive day today.  It would be a great way to end the work week.

I have a couple challenges today.

The office building I work in is connected to our downtown mall and The Bay.  Whenever the guys and I head out for lunch to the mall food court we walk through the Bay, specifically through the Children’s Clothing department.  Since the New Year, the Bay has been marking down merchandise and every now and then I stop to check what the current sale prices are but not making any purchases.  Today, I received an email stating that the Bay has further reductions on their clearance items.  An extra 40% off the lowest-ticketed price!!  Thinking about the current prices I had seen, an additional 40% off would make some items definitely worth purchasing.  When I saw the email I immediately thought of purchasing Christmas gifts for 2012.  Is it too early?  Since I haven’t set aside any money for Christmas shopping should I not even consider making the purchases?  But they’re such great deals!  I’m not sure what to do.  I’m very tempted to still walk over when the store opens to check things out.

I forgot my snacks at home this morning.  I usually bring almonds and some fruit to munch on throughout the work day.  I’ve got a bit of fruit for breakfast, but nothing else for the rest of the day.  Not sure if I can make it through the day without my usual snacks or if I need to head to the market to pick up some almonds and fruit?  Although at the present moment, I feel that the lack of snacks will be a challenge for me today, perhaps I just need to drink more water to make me feel full. hehe

OH and one other thing, a new item to add to my list of things to save for.  I spoke to my friend about her upcoming social and wedding plans and she mentioned that another group of friends have already started thinking about her bachelorette party in Las Vegas!!  The upside?  Since these girls seem so gung-ho about planning the party, there’s nothing for me to do!  The downside?  I need to make sure I have money set aside for this party.  I suspect this party will require at a minimum $500 (for airfare and hotel).  Food, shopping and gambling will require more (of course the latter 2 items aren’t really needed at all, but I threw them in there just in case). 

OH still one more thing to mention.  On the drive into work today, DH mentions that some of his coworkers are thinking of placing a sports bet on next week’s Superbowl game.  He casually adds “Yeah, I’m thinking of joining in on the bet.  It’s only $100”.  Seriously?! A $100 on a football game?  Ha!  I don’t think so.  DH is responsible and he knows that we don’t have $100 to throw away on a sports bet.  Just thinking about it is ridiculous.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Updated "All About Debt"

I went ahead and updated my "All About Debt" page.
It shows the debt repayment plan that I'm trying to stick to this year.
At a minimum I need to put $1000 towards debt repayment and I'm hoping that I can increase this amount.  But there are things that I need to save for, specifically:

  • Emergency fund.  I'd love to see more progress on this and reach $1000 this year.
  • Blinds fund.  Our 5-year home ownership anniversary is on May 1st.  I'd like to have all paper blinds replaced before this date.  Even if they're not the dream vision I have for window treatments, I'd like to get real window treatments up.
  • Best Friends Wedding fund:  My best friend of 21 years just recently got engaged and currently their wedding plans include a destination wedding early next year (Feb 2013).  At a minimum I must be at the wedding (since I'm in the wedding party).  Ideally I would love for our entire family to go, but this will be extremely difficult to save up for.
At this point I am hoping for good tax returns this year and will try my best to tweak the budget so that more money can be put aside.  I still need to do the calculations to determine how much I should be putting away each month to meet these financial goals.  Now that DH has gotten his first paycheque of the year, I can update our budget with his new paycheque amount and it will help me move the numbers around.

My upcoming paycheque will reflect my new salary and the effects of not purchasing any food from the work cafeteria.  I'm so excited to see the increase.  When I think about it, last year I spent $1200 on cafeteria food, this is more than enough to get me to my best friends destination wedding.  So I should really take that extra amount and put that away into the wedding fund, but of course some of that extra money should go towards the grocery budget, since we are buying more groceries now as well.  And of course, I still need to get better at meal planning and putting our weekly grocery list together.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Equifax and Groupon

I finally checked my credit score (via Equifax) after a couple years of completely avoiding Equifax.
A couple years ago, when the debt continued to grow I was very afraid of what my credit score was.  Although it recommended to check your credit report annually, I just didn't want to know.

Well this morning I finally checked my credit score.  Being the impatient person that I am, I purchased my Equifax credit report online for $24.95.  This does go against my No/Low spending challenge, but if I didn't do it, I most likely would have continued to avoid it.

It wasn't the best feeling to spend $25 on my credit report but it was a good feeling to finally know what my credit score is.  And I'm happy (and relieved) to say that my credit is in good standing.  There's definitely room for improvement, so this has given me some motivation to stay focused and a boost of confidence that our finances/debt are moving in the right direction.  I'm not sure how I would have felt if the credit report returned a less than good credit score.  If that had happened I suspect I would have been very tempted to spend money, with the thought that my credit score wasn't good anyway.

On a completely different topic, last night I logged into my Groupon account and realized that I had a Groupon for to purchase a photobook.  The Groupon is expiring next month so I decided to go ahead and start putting the photo book together.  I went through the process of uploading photos and placing them on the 35 photo book pages.  When I went through the Checkout process and applied the Groupon number I had, I realized that there was still an amount of $19.98.  I took a look at the transaction details and saw that the $19.98 was the charge for Shipping & Handling.  I immediately double-checked the actual Groupon, and there it was... in the fine print "Shipping & Handling not included"  DOH!

The original Groupon was $19 for $50 worth of product at Mixbook, and with the photo books I ordered I was able to use up the entire $50 amount, so my total cost would be $19 (Groupon) + $20 shipping & handling.  One thought that came to mind was that I would just let the Groupon expired and not use it which would mean wasting $19.  Then a part of me knew that in the near future, I would need to order photo books anyway (I order T and J photo books each year), so this was a good opportunity to save some $$$.

So after debating the situation, I placed the order this morning.  So this morning I have now spent $45 on the Equifax credit report and the shipping costs for the photo books.  Not the greatest start but the credit card charges will be paid tomorrow in addition to our regular monthly payment so the good news is that there's $$ in the budget for these expenses, and the balance will not sit on a credit card accumulating interest.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Low/No-Spend 2012 Challenge - Week 3 Recap

It's hard to believe that I just completed the 3rd week of the Low/No-Spend challenge.  How did things go?

Food: $60
Used so far:  $180 = FAIL
It seems that our weekly grocery bill has been consistently higher than what I budget for.  It could be due to the fact that I'm now bringing my breakfast and lunch to work, so I do need to buy more groceries.  I will adjust my budget for the next 2-week period.  Of course this past weekend I had to restock on diapers and baby wipes, which I didn't calculate into the budget.

Transportation: $120
Used so far: $60 = PASS
This is good news as it will help with the grocery overage.

Coffee Shop: $0
Used so far: $1.60 = tiny FAIL
I picked up a tea from the cafeteria last week.  Need to make sure I bring in some tea bags to work to store at my desk.

Lunch:  $0
Used so far: $7
Went out with the boys for lunch last week and gave into my craving for sushi.

Other:  $30
Used so far: $70 = FAIL
This money was spent on Saturday when we took the kids to the mall and afterwards went out for dim sum.  DH and I also went to my best friends engagement party at a lounge, so we spent $40 on Saturday night.  I consider my spending to be a fail, simply because I didn't need to splurge on a $7 cocktail at the lounge.

Health/Fitness wise:
Still consistent with the working out and cardio.  Still no hashbrowns, donuts or muffins.  I still can't believe that there was a time when I was having this junk food on a daily basis.

The number on the scale hasn't gotten smaller, but I do feel slimmer and some clothes that fit snug in the past are fitting more comfortably now.  I suspect that I won't lose any weight but will just see changes in my body shape.

Overall, the first 3 weeks of January have been great.  I've allowed myself a "cheat" meal once a week and even with those meals, I have been quite controlled in what I'm eating.

Oh.. and last week I thought I would take a peek at my last paystub of 2011 to see the total amount I spent at the cafeteria.  You ready for this?! .... $1200!!!  Last year I spent $1200 at my work cafeteria.  This doesn't even include the times I went to Starbucks or Tim Horton's, or the money spent on eating lunch at the mall or at nearby restaurants. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Night Chit-Chat | January 22, 2012

A bit late getting online today and I probably won't have a full update until tomorrow, but I thought I'd join Carla's Sunday Night Chit Chat.

What are you…

I just started reading "The China Study", recommended by a coworker.  After she read the book she decided to be a vegetarian.  I'm far from being a vegetarian, so it will be interesting to see what kind of effect the book has on my diet/nutrition.

Football.  Watching the NFC Championship game, New York Giants vs San Francisco 49ers.  DH is cheering for San Fran and I'm cheering for New York.  I've been watching football since 2pm.

Listening to?
Currently listening T singing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" hehe.

Cooked a beef and broccoli stir fry today.  It's for tomorrow's lunch.

Happy you accomplished this week?
Put away all my unused bags that were hanging behind my bedroom door.

Looking forward to next week?
I hate to admit it, but it seems each week I look forward to my "cheat" meal.  I've been staying on track with my healthy eating and once each week, I splurge a little on a meal.

Thankful for today?
The house is in good order, laundry is done and there's lots of food in the fridge.

Tomorrow I should have a full update on our finances.  I know that we went over budget with our groceries (Again!  Which probably means I need to increase the amount set aside in our budget) but in regards to extra spending (eating out, mall purchases), those were kept to a minimum this weekend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moment of weakness

Up until last night, I was doing really well healthy eating and really not having any cravings.  Until last night.  Maybe I had one too many salads, or one too many hard-boiled eggs.  I found myself thinking about what I've been eating the past couple weeks and all of a sudden felt that I deserved a treat.  A treat in the form of BBQ pork ribs.  DH was in the kitchen when I pulled the ribs out of the freezer and he immediately questioned what I was doing.  I nonchalantly replied that I was making pork ribs - healthy of course.  He immediately replied that I couldn't have pork ribs and that there was no way that I could make them healthy.  I threw the ribs back into the freezer and went to our bedroom to watch some television.  He came into the room shortly after and asked if I really wanted to have pork ribs and that if I really wanted to, I could have them.  I think he was just using reverse psychology on me.  I hate to admit it, but it sort of worked.  DH left to play basketball and I headed back to the kitchen determined to make a healthy version of BBQ pork ribs.  I boiled the ribs to help reduce the fat content.  Then when it came time to put them in the oven, I took a peek at the nutritional contents of the BBQ sauce I was going to use and realized that the sugar content was just too high.  I continued to baked the ribs in the BBQ sauce anyway, but when they were done I didn't touch a single one.  I didn't feel so bad afterwards and was even glad that DH and the kids were able to enjoy them.

I will need to spend more time finding delicious and creative healthy meal options.  I also need to make a healthy dessert to help satisfy that sweet craving.  After yesterday's moment of weakness (almost) I'm focused once again with my healthy eating.

Budget wise, we're doing okay.  Aside from groceries and gas, no other purchases have been made this week.  Granted, it's only Wednesday, but I think we'll be okay for the rest of the week.  Grocery shopping for the upcoming week will be a little difficult as I already used up our two week food budget last weekend.  I will have to figure out what I currently have in the fridge, freezer and pantry that I can use up.  And then come up with some cheap but healthy meal options for next week.

Still haven't made any breakfast or lunch purchases in the cafeteria.  And I still can't believe that last year, I was there almost every single day.  Most likely spending an average of $10 on breakfast, snacks and lunch.  Ridiculous!  Can't wait for the next payday to see the difference in my take-home pay now that there are no cafeteria purchases being taken out.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ok... Friday didn't turn out exactly the way I had hoped

In last Thursday's post, I mentioned that I had my Friday lunch all ready to go and that I may join the guys for lunch.  Well I joined the guys for lunch but they had decided on going to a sit-down restaurant, rather that the food court, so I couldn't bring my lunch and I didn't have time to eat lunch at my desk before we left for lunch.  I ended up spending $12.  What's worse?  The lunch wasn't even that good.  A side salad and a chicken club sandwich.  Because I'm focused on eating healthier, I ate the salad and just the chicken breast on 1/4 of the bun.  As I sat there eating my lunch, I kept thinking how much better my packed lunch would've been.  I had my moment of weakness :(

Yesterday the family and I decided to redeem a gift certificate we had at a chinese-inspired restaurant.  Even with the $25 gift cert, we ended up spending $32!!  Crazy!  I can't imagine paying the full bill for what we had.  This meal out was also my "cheat" meal for the week.  Although it was better than last week's chinese food cheat meal, it still wasn't very good.  Second cheat meal = fail!  Even worse it cost us $32!  That was the allowance this week for eating out with the kids.

I went grocery shopping today at Costco and Walmart.  I actually spend our entire 2-week $180 food budget today.  I suspect we'll have an extra $60 from our gas budget, so we'll have to make sure we use that for grocery shopping next week.  The reason for the high grocery bill?  Every year, DH send a huge care package to his parents.  We're talking about over 100lbs in food/clothing/personal hygiene items.  Our plan this year is to have the care package (box) filled and shipped by March.  This means we're buying a lot of extra canned goods as well as things like multivitamins, toothpaste, you name it, we're buying it.  Truth is, the cost of filling the care package shouldn't come out of our regular grocery budget, so next payday, I'll have to tweak the budget to ensure we have a separate line item for the care package.

Although reason the budget is tight?  DH's two week shut down at work without pay, resulted in a smaller paycheque for him.  He did use up some of his vacation days to make up for the days off, but he wasn't able to cover all the days.  So the next two weeks are going to be tough.

Good news?  I'm loving the new Tassimo pods that I purchased - Gevalia Dark House Blend, so delicious!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No/Low Spend Challenge - Day 12

So I haven't been providing consistent updates on my no/low spend challenge, so I thought today would be the perfect time since our expense buckets have been replenished (every payday which is bi-weekly).  Here's how the last pay period went:

Budget: $180, Actual: $280
A bit of a fail.  With my healthier eating goals, I found myself running to the grocery store a couple times as I did not prepare my meal plan appropriately.  Although I had a list of groceries to purchase, I simply missed things.

Budget: $120, Actual: $50
Pass!  I think this worked out so well as DH was off work last week.  It was their yearly company shutdown and without pay, so that actually hurt our income this pay period.

Coffee Shop:
Budget: $0, Actual: $1.50
Fail.  I purchased an afternoon coffee the other day, I was heading into an all afternoon work meeting and a couple other coworkers were heading down to pick up a coffee, so I thought why not.  Looking back now, I know I could have done without the coffee.  But I'd like to add that I have not made any other food purchases from my work cafeteria. 

Budget: 1 lunch per week, Actual: None
It's only Thursday but I have already prepared my lunch for tomorrow! So I definitely know that I won't be buying lunch, although I may just head out with the guys.  I'm also very excited because Boston Pizza sent me an email coupon for a free individual sized two-topping pizza!  So I will save that for a future lunch.

All in all, I think it's been a very successful 12 days.
I've been working out consistently and watching what I eat.

Great start to the year!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nice surprise in the mail today

I went to check the mail today and was very happy to see a piece of mail from Angus Reid.  I joined the Angus Reid Forum in January 2011 and completed a total of 28 surveys where I earned "Survey Dollars".  Back in December, I finally accumulated $50 Survey Dollars and was able to redeem them.  So today in the mail, I received my $50 cheque!  I know it sounds like a lot of surveys for $50, but the way I see it, the surveys are fairly simple and quick and it's $50 more dollars than I had yesterday.

Also, I am close to redeeming $10 in gift cards from Swagbucks.  That will bring my total Swagbuck redemptions to $90 in gift cards.  Again, it takes awhile to earn the Swagbucks and I think it takes me approx 3 weeks to accumulate enough Swagbucks to redeem a $5 gift card.  The Swagbucks I earn are usually through web searches, so it's something that I have to do anyway.  Then I answer the Daily Poll and occasionally complete a survey.  My goal this year is to save all gift cards that I redeem and use that towards Christmas gifts.

Love finding other ways, and to me simple ways to earn a little extra $$.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Health & Fitness goals - first weigh-in

It’s been a week since I started eating healthier and exercising.

Here’s a summary of how the week went:

- no hashbrowns, muffins or donuts
- no coffee shop purchases
- worked out 5 times
- 2 insanity workouts completed
- increased daily water intake (up to 3 glasses a day)

So I stepped on the scale this morning and NOTHING!  It looked to me that I didn’t lose any weight.  I don’t have a digital scale though, so I can’t tell if I lost 0.4lbs or 0.6lbs.  I must admit, I’m a little frustrated as I was really hoping for some type of progress.  At first a part of me was thinking I could have eaten hashbrowns for breakfast every single morning and I’d see the same results.  But then I realized that was completely untrue.  And even though the scale didn’t show a change, DH reminded me that the change may not be in the numbers but in my body shape overall.

I’m a little bummed about the results, but still pushing forward.  Still focused on my goals and hoping that with the increased exercise/cardio, next week’s weigh in will show some progress or clothes start fitting better.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No-Spend 2012 Challenge - Week 1 Recap

I must say that this week went very well.  Not only for financial goals but for health/fitness goals as well.
Here's the recap:

Current 2-week budget (til January 15th):

Food: $180.00
Used so far:  $129.49 (I do feel bad as I tried making baked spring rolls - spent $10 on ingredients and it didn't turn out very well)

Transportation: $120.00
Used so far: $0

Coffee Shop: $0
Used so far: $0 (although I've only been back to work for 2 days, but so far so good)

Lunch: I didn't put a $$ budget on this but allowed myself lunch out per week.
Used so far:  $25 (this was for a coworkers birthday)

Other:  Again I didn't put a $$ budget on this, but I'll most likely try to put a number for next week.
Used so far:  $50 (this was for eating at the mall with DH and kids last night, as well as purchasing screen protectors and cases for the kids Nintendo DS')

Health/Fitness wise:

Huge accomplishment for me, I had no hashbrowns, muffins, donuts or anything deep fried!  I used to have hashbrowns almost every morning for breakfast from the cafeteria.  Then I'd sometimes follow up with a muffin or a donut.  This entire week (with the exception of the birthday lunch) I've packed food to bring with me to work and have managed to eat what I've brought.  No running to the coffee shop!

I also worked out 3 times since Tuesday.  I'm still fighting a cold, so my energy levels haven't been at their highest but I'm trying my best.  Hoping that next week gets better.

Today we have a birthday dinner to go to.  It's at a Chinese food restaurant.  I'm allowed to have a "cheat meal" once a week, so this will be it.  I will just make sure I don't go overboard on the fried rice and noodles.

Hope everyone's first week of 2012 is going well!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Birthday lunch today.. it's ok I'm still on track.

So today was a coworkers birthday and I went along with the group to treat him out for lunch.  It was a tough decision since I brought lunch to work today.  However we're a really close working team and I did allow myself one purchased lunch a week, so this will be it.  We went to Boston Pizza and it was very tempting to have an individual pizza, but the thought of calories/fat/carbs had me choose the lemon baked salmon w/ veggies and side salad.  It was alright, it did the job.  What hurt was the cost.  $18.00 w/ taxes!  Ouch!!  But I knew that healthier eating (especially eating out) came with a higher price than just a burger and fries.  I also pitched in $5 for my coworkers lunch.  With tip, total lunch: $25.

That's way more than I had hoped, but the good news is that yesterday was a No Spend Day! Yay!  It felt good at the end of the day to look back and realize that I didn't spend a penny.  I packed enough food for the entire work day, didn't feel deprived and had no cravings.  It was a really good day.

Today after work, I will need to run to the grocery store to pick up a few more things to make it through the week.  On Sunday, I'll make sure I've got the meal plan all worked out so that next week, I'm making one single trip to the supermarket.  I'm feeling good about this and know that I can stay on top of things.

On a side note:

I carpool with a coworker and yesterday on our drive into work he had to get some gas.  We pulled into the gas station and there was a sign indicating that gas needed to be pre-purchased.  So my coworker stepped into the gas station and after a few minutes I realized that he was still in there.  I looked into the gas station to see what was going on and he seems to be at the register trying to pay for the gas.  In the past he mentioned that finances were tight at the moment so I started wondering if he was having trouble finding the cash or credit to pay for the gas.  He came back to the vehicle and asked his wife for $20.  Luckily it all worked out, but it seems that he had no cash or credit to use.

It was a reminder to me that I was lucky to not have ever been in that position and thankful that I'm working towards never being in that position.  I feel bad for him though, as he's mentioned in the past that his wife loves to shop, and only shops the brand names.  I hope that they realize that they can't continue spending the way they do and decides to make some financial spending habit changes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Addition of Health & Fitness goals

As I mentioned in my last post, on top of the No (Low) Spend Challenge, I have also started a health & fitness challenge to get into the best shape possible before the end of February.

What does this mean?

  1. No more hashbrowns for breakfast (works hand in hand with cutting out coffee shop purchases)
  2. No more snacking on muffins and/or donuts (again helping with the coffee shop purchase goal)
  3. Complete 3 1-hr cardio sessions a week
  4. Complete 4 weight training sessions a week
  5. Drink 3 glasses of water a day (usually after my morning cup of coffee, I have nothing else to drink all day, so this is a big goal for me.  Eventually I'll work up to 8 glasses a day)
  6. Substitute the not-so-healthy meal options for healthier meal options - white rice -> brown rice, fried -> baked/grilled
  7. Ultimately I want to have a defined waist (possibly some ab definition)  It's quite the stretch goal and it's a very aggressive time line.
So in total I have just over 7 weeks to reach that ultimate goal.  In the end, I hope to be eating healthier, not because I'm working towards a goal, but because that's just the way things are.  I'm quite excited to start searching and trying out new recipes.  Whenever I come across any awesome recipes, I'll make sure to post them.

1st update of 2012

Ok, so with this being my first post of 2012, I feel like there's so much for me to write about.  Since Christmas I really haven't had the time to write a post, except for the post regarding joining the No (Low) Spending Challenge.  And how is that going?

I gotta say, it's going pretty good.  On top of this challenge, I also started a health and fitness challenge.  DH is helping me reach my health and fitness goals.  With that, I've had to run to the grocery store a few times to pick up groceries that better fit my healthier eating.  These grocery expenses will come out of the overall food budget, so I'm focusing on staying on budget.

Current 2-week budget (til January 15th):

Food: $180.00
Used so far:  $88.42

Transportation: $120.00
Used so far: $0

Coffee Shop: $0
Used so far: $0 (although I've only been back to work for 2 days, but so far so good)

My goal this week is to set up our ING sub-accounts so that we can start saving for Christmas 2012 as well as have accounts for a car maintenance/repair fund, and a new blinds fund.  I haven't figured out yet, the amounts that will be deposited and at what frequency (semi-monthly, monthly) but if I can get the accounts set up, that's the first step.