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.