12/31/2009

2010 Budget and Financial Goals

Wow, today is the last day of 2009 - with that in mind, I thought it apt to post my 2010 budget and financial goals. 

My budget here is almost identical to the draft 2010 budget I posted a month ago. The only significant change is to the parking.  I've paid up to February at my current rate and come March I'll be getting surface parking at work.  It will be automatically deducted from my pay and is less then i'm currently paying (woohoo!)


I've decided that although I'm budgeting $500/month for my student loans - I'm going to leave each auto withdrawl at $75 (for each loan).  I will do manual deposits bi-weekly to make my $500/month target.  That way - if anything comes up, I'm not locked in.

I have a lot of 'savings' categories - however; the only true savings are my RRSP and my emergency fund.  Further to that, after I reviewed the comments left on my draft post I added an annual expenses category.

I have about $300/month left over which is about pefect.  You'll see once I start posting bi-weekly budget's I don't actually use that much for entertainment/other - it just gives me some flexiblity.  It was a pretty stressful year having every penny accounted for - this provides me with a bit of stress relief.

On to my financial goals....


 You'll see that the timeline is over a year in each category.  After doing a little number crunching, I figured that i'll have to come up with an additional $2,500 and change in lump sum payments to reach these goals.  I think that this is completely do-able.  I should note here that Jordan and I are each contributing $150/bi-weekly to the house down deposit fund.


My student loans are listed here, as well as Jordan's truck loan.  One of our major goals this year to is to wipe out all of our debt!  You can see that it will take about half the year to pay of my Canada Student Loan, after that, I'll roll the $425 over to my Alberta student loan.  To pay off my Alberta Student Loan in the second half of the year, I'll have to come up with an additional $2,000.

So that's it - my budget and my/our financial goals for 2010.

To make it all work, I'll have to come up with an extra $4,500 this year.  I'm hoping to accomplish this through my 2009 tax return, two 'extra' pay days this year, bonus' at work and making more money!

12/30/2009

ahhh... still on Vacation

I'm loving this whole vacation thing that goes along with having a 'big girl' job.  Love it!

I took off four days this week - so I left work at noon on Christmas eve, and don't go back to work until January 4th, 2010.  Pretty Sweet.  We're back in the city now as Jordan had to go back to work yesterday, so i'm just enjoying relaxing at home - having the place to myself.

Speaking of having the place to myself - it's about to end.  We wound up finding a new roommate at the ninth hour (those who follow me on twitter probably already knew that).  We are still trying to settle the damange deposit and final utilities with Jeff, who's being difficult, but hopefully that will be resolved in short order.  New roommmate B-rad, picked up a key yesterday and is planning on moving everything in today at about 2pm.

B-rad wrote us a cheque for his first months rent and half his damage deposit, and next month he'll write one for rent and the rest of his damange deposit.  A fair arrangement I think.

12/25/2009

12/23/2009

It's Payday (tomorrow)!

Wow, it's Christmas Eve tomorrow - and it happens to be pay day.  It would have normally fallen on December 25, 2009 - but they are bumping it back a day.



There are a couple of fantastic items on this bi-weekly budget.
  1. First up, my pay is the highest it's ever been!  This is because I met my CPP and EI maximum contributions!! So I had just my tax deducted (32% marginal tax rate) and my share's deduction (I'm saving to buy shares of the company through our payroll deduction program).
  2. I got a BONUS!! which is amazing!  I guessed I would take home $385 of my $550 bonus, it was actually $374.  Still pretty good I'd say.
  3. And wow - this blog actually made me some money this month - wahoo!  this is a big thanks to all of my readers and to The Debt Ninja who helped me negotiate this fine fee!
  4. My RRSP and Emergency fund contributions are exactly what i'll need to meet my $3,000 RRSP goal and my $1,000 Emergency fund goals - yeah!!
  5. Bank fee's still suck - i'm working on it
  6. I've written a cheque for my horse board, Starlight's on full feed during the cold winter months - so my rate increases to $165 from $90 in the summer months.
  7. I've alloted double what I usually spend in gas b/c - hey it's Christmas and I imagine doing a lot more driving around the normal - though I'm taking advantage of Shell's pretty sweet Air miles offer I got in the mail.
  8. I'll also be paying of my Visa (in full, i'm keeping it paid off I promise).  This is miscellaneous Christmas stuff that I don't want to detail :)

Phew!

After all that, I still have $440 left over!! Wow! yea!


Some of that will go to driving to my home town, but I don't think too much will.  Let's say I have $400 left to work with - what should I do with it?

  1. Use it towards student loan debt
  2. Use it to fully fund my 2010 clothes fund goal
  3. Use it towards my 2010 emergency fund goal
  4. Use it towards my 2010 RRSP goal 
  5. Something else entirely?

oh, and for new comers - things are highlighted in green if  I've already written a cheque or the money has already been transferred. It basically is an indicated for me that I don't have to take any action on it.

12/22/2009

Roommate Updates

December sure has been a difficult month to find a roommate. We have had a couple lined up and then they have both backed out - each time someone commits, we stop looking - which has wound up wasting our time.

Someone is coming by the place tonight after work - and sounded (as much as one can sound via e-mail) enthusiastic about the place.  This one, we'll call B-rad, wants a place for January 1st... so he's cutting it pretty close - maybe that we'll work in our favor.

Cross your fingers for us?

12/21/2009

Guest Post: How to Avoid Overdraft Fees with Prepaid Debit Cards

When prepaid debit cards began to appear a few years ago, many were skeptical about their use. Why would someone want to take the time to load money on a card when they already possessed a debit card connected to their checking account? However, as time went on, the obvious advantages that prepaid debit cards offer to consumers began to come to light. Leading the list of reasons to obtain a prepaid debit card is the fact that they will never lead to overdraft fees, because they can only use the amount that’s available on the card. Which is why overspending that triggers an overdraft fee becomes impossible.

Today many banks are losing money due to the poor economy and increased regulation. To make up for these losses, most are adjusting their policies to make an overdraft fee more likely, while significantly raising the associated penalty fees.

Most consumers don’t realize that debit cards connected to checking accounts usually come with automatic overdraft coverage, which means that a charge will be paid by the bank, rather than be refused. Banks may market this as a convenience for their customers–a wonderful benefit that means their customer’s card won’t be rejected at the checkout counter–but the hidden danger of that policy is the high overdraft fees that occur with each purchase over the checking account’s balance.

Poor budgeting or faulty math may lead to overdraft fees that can add up in a hurry. It’s like bouncing a check every time the card is used when no funds are present to back the purchase. Consumers are waking up to the realization that the overdraft protection is not an outgrowth of their banking institution’s altruistic attitude, but may be a savvy way to increase profits. It is well documented that banks earn millions of dollars from overdraft fees each year.

Prepaid debit cards are increasing in popularity with consumers who have been burned by excessive overdraft fees. In addition, they like the built-in budgeting protection that a prepaid debit card affords. Users are able to preload the amount they want to the card, with the assurance they won’t overspend their budget when their record-keeping fails. The consumer who knows their tendency to overspend is able to prevent in advance binge buying and non-planned sales fueled by emotion rather than common sense. Using a prepaid debit card to assist with good budgeting while putting an end to high overdraft fees is a dynamic financial combination more consumers are choosing every day.

Jessie's Note: Have you ever used, or known someone that used pre-paid debit cards.  This is a service that I have never utilized before.  I wonder if it would work for loading ones 'jar money' onto it for people who don't like carrying jars/envelopes around.

12/18/2009

Overtime Update

I’m entering into the ninth hour for my overtime project.

As of the end of today, I have logged 54 hours of overtime, which is 72% of my goal. To actually reach 75 hours, I would need to put in 21 hours between 5:00pm today and noon on Christmas Eve.

Well folks, that’s just not going to happen. I’m going to work normal hours next week (8:00am-4:30pm), and just enjoy the week leading up to Christmas. I’m not going to go home fatigued and with headache from staring at the screen so long.

I’ll just keep plugging away at my project at work, and when I get there I get there. It will likely be in the first couple weeks of January.

are you finished yet?

I'm starting to get this itch, it happens ever year. 

A week or so ago I posted my final Christmas Spending Tally, signifying that I was indeed finished spending this Christmas.  A couple of days ago, the last item that I ordered online finally came in the mail - another indicator that I was finished.

 I can feel it building inside me.

I want to do more, get more, spend more on the people on my list.  There are a few things in particular that I really want people to get for Christmas.  I've been reaching out to see if others are getting these items for them - but if they don't, I fear I will break out the proverbial cheque book - and just keep shopping.

I need to not.

12/17/2009

denied... no CHRP for me in 2010.

I recently wrote about my desire to achieve my CHRP designation and my application to receive an award through work that would pay for it.

Unfortunately, I wasn't selected as a recipient. I was right at the cut off line :(

Dear Jessie,
On behalf of the Regional Directors and the Continued Learning Awards Review Panel, we would like to inform you that your application has not been retained for a Continued Learning Award for 2010. Thank you for your interest and we appreciate the efforts put into your application preparation. We also wish you the best in the continuation of your program.
You will receive an announcement letter in the mail in the next week. If you have any questions, please contact the CLA Review Panel member for your region.

Unless I come up with $1,500 on my own, it's not in the cards this year.

It's Christmas Bonus Time

Hurrah!

My company's Christmas bonus is actually an annual profit sharing award.  The better the company does, the better the reward.  I won't get into all the details - but I will say that not everyone gets the same amount.  There is a portion that is similar for everyone, a portion that is based on your group's performance and a portion that is merit based.  You can receive any combination of the three financial awards.  Often, your award is pro-rated based on the length of time you've been with the company.  So if you've been here less then a year, you won't get a full share.

That was me last year - I think I got around $70.

This year, is different.

The company didn't do as well as we would have liked, but we didn't go belly up either.  My profit sharing/merit award is for a total of  $550 (less all statutory deductions).  If we assume i'll be taxed at about 30%, I'll receive about $385!


Merry Christmas To Me!

12/16/2009

Overtime Update

I'm please to say that for the week ending Friday December 18, 2009 I managed to bank 10 hours (which means I worked an extra 12.50).  My OT is coming right along, and I still have a lot of work to do!

That brought my total banked time up to 47.50 hours or 63.33% of my goal which is an approximate value of $665.

I don't know if i'll reach my goal of 75 hours before the end of the month, but I'm still working towards it.

RRSP Loans

I've been thinking about getting an RRSP loan for quite some time now.  Now that we're getting closer to tax time, I thought I would take a deeper look at my options.  For this exercise, I'm going to look at ING Canada.

My 2009 contribution limit is $13,116 - and I've contributed somewhere around $1,000 this year.  I would like to 'catch up' and use my previous contribution room.  For this exercise, I will look at the cost/benefit of borrowing $10,000 and $5,000.

ING (canada)

Currently, ING offers and RRSP loan at 4%.  You can pay back this loan in 12 payments over 1 year, or wait 3 months and repay the loan in full in 9 months.

Cost to borrow $10,000
  • If I took 12 months to repay the loan, the payments would be $851.50/month.  I would pay a total of $217.09 in interest.
  • If I choose their 9 month option, payments would be $1,140.85 and I would pay a total of $267.88.
Cost to borrow $5,000
  • If I took 12 months to repay the loan, the payments would be $425.75/month.  I would pay a total of $108.56 in interest.
  • If I choose their 9 month option, payments would be $570.43 and I would pay a total of $133.94.
So that's what it would cost, what would I gain?

I used HSBC's online calculator to determine how much of a tax return I would get on the contribution amount, and how much the monies would be worth at retirement age. 

Gain to $10,000 for 2009
  • HSBC's calculator guesses that $10,000 deposited now would be worth $14,802, assuming an annual return or 4%.  So, $4,802 less the cost to borrow ($217.09) results in a net increase of $4,587.91.
Gain to $5,000 for 2009
  • HSBC's calculator guesses that $5,000 deposited now would be worth $7,401, assuming an annual return or 4%. So, $2,401 less the cost to borrow ($108.56) results in a net increase of $2,292.44.
Note: HSBC's calculator assumes that you would pay back the loan with any tax refund you received (which I would do), the ING calculator did not tell me how much (about) the tax refund would be - so that was not calculated into the repayment schedule.

From what I've looked into, it clearly makes financial sense to put more away sooner rather then later for retirement, and if you  pay back the loan within 12 months (some of Gail Vaz-Ozlade's financial wisdom) - the cost to borrow is relatively low to the gains.

.. so what am I going to do?

As Jordan and I have some significant other goals this year (debt and house fund) - I don't think I will take out an RRSP loan this year; however, next year - look out!  I believe it will be a 2011 goal to max out my retirement savings.

12/15/2009

this & that

This past weekend Jordan and I helped a couple of people move.  We worked our tails off on one of the coldest days of the year (-35 degrees celcius) for $15/hour for 8.5 hours. We each took home $127.50.  Not bad for making a little extra cash over the holidays.  I tucked some of it away, but that night we went to Jordan's work Christmas party and so we spent some on drinks and what not, I had also spent some cash on long underwear so I wouldn't completely freeze.  This was also a big grocery/personal hygiene week and Jordan's got to renew the registration on the truck - so with all that, the extra cash sure is nice!

I had planned to put a few extra hours in at work on Sunday, but our bodies were just wrecked from the day before.  I did get a lot of gifts wrapped though.

My parents came into town last night to get their passports sorted and to finish their Christmas shopping.  They took me, Jordan, Brother, and his girlfriend all out for supper - it was such a nice treat.  It was great to have all of us together like that.  They actually drove out (before we met for supper) to see where my horse was, and it sounds like their happy with the place I chose for her.  I'm really glad about that!

12/11/2009

Bi-Weekly Budget - Today is Payday

Hello Friday - we meet once again!

Items that are highlighted in green have already happened, things that are written in green are automatic transfers that haven't yet happened.




I go through this weeks bi-weekly budget line-by-line:
  • My pay is a little higher then expected because for the first time ever I hit the maximum EI contributions.  I haven't it the max for CPP yet, it might happen for the last pay in December.
  • You'll probably notice right off the bat that I was -$211.10 in the hole.  I can only say that it was the result of really poor planning.  I'll get dinged for an overdraft charge, which hasn't happened for a great many number of months - but it's unlikely to happen again.
  • In a move to reduce the number of transactions I  have each month (so I can hopefully eliminate some damn bank fees), I have one ING transfer going through for $70 to a new savings account I have w/ them that I will call my landing account.  I'll will divvy up the money in the landing account every other Friday (that's not a payday). 
  • Car insurance = bleck 
  • I'm going with $100 in my entertainment/other account again to see how well that works out.  This pay I actually have to pick up some things for the fish tanks, so we'll see how long it lasts.  Food, transportation, and joint account are as per usual.
  • I did a little online shopping (among regular shopping) which I used my visa for, that combined with my cell phone bill results in a $300 transfer to that card.
  • I was going to stick with the normal $90/month for my horse while she's on pasture, but with the heavy snowfall and very cold weather, I'll be moving her to full feed (hay, twice a day).  I owe her boarder an extra $55 this month.
  • Finally, i have a savings account w/ my main bank that I raarely use.  I've decided to start putting my 'left overs' into this account.  My money that has no job yet.  I think this will be my student loan lump sum fund - unless other things come up.  Seeings as it's Christmas, I'll probably wait until February before making a transfer.  This will also help cover things if new roommate doesn't move in (I'm sure he will - but I'm a just in case kind of planner).
Well, that's it for the next couple of weeks.  Have a great weekend!


12/10/2009

How to: Tracking Bars

I have been asked by a few different folks lately on how to create the tracking bars I have on the right side of my blog.  I'm very pleased to be able to explain how to set these up, as this was one of the first things I wanted to do when I started my first blog.

My blog is hosted using the blogger platform.  It's free, by google.  If you don't have a blog already - your first step is to create one.  It's a fairly easy process, and blogger guides you through it.

Once you've got your blog set up, you can edit it using the page elements section of your account, or by edititng the HTML.  HTML is the language that creates everything you see on the world wide web.  If you are not very familiar with HTML, I would suggest starting by editing the page elements - it will be much easier.

If using the blogger flatform, you'll want to add a 'gadget'.  When you click to add a gadget, a pop up box will appear that lists the most popular types - choose the HTML/Javascript gadget.  When you do, this will open up a pop up box that is blank.  In this box you will eneter in your tracking bar code.

This is the code that I use:

Goal: $1,000<br/> Current Saved: $951.13<br/> <div #555;” style="”width:195px;height:17px;background:#8f8049;border:solid" class="”goal”" 1px> <div style="”height:14px;background:#660000;color:white;width:95.11%;”" class="”progress”"><b>95.11%</b> </div> </div> <div style="”font-size:10px;float:left;”"> START </div><div style="”font-size:10px;float:right;”"> END </div>


There are a lot of ways you can customize the tracking bars to suit you and your blog's needs.  You can change the colours, size, your goals etc.

The numbers that start with a # sign indicate the colours.  If you want to change the colours, I suggest googling HTML colour codes.  Through trial and error - you'll find out the perfect combination for your , blog.  The numbers that are followed by a px (pixels) are what makes the tracking bar it's particular size.  Again through trial and error, you'll find what fit's best.

The first percentage that you see tells the tracking bar how much of it should be filled in with the colour you've chosen.  The second percentage is the number that shows up within the bar.  I keep these numbers the same for obvious reasons.

Well - there you have it, I hope that helps. 

If you have any questions - leave me comments and I'll do my best to help.  If your a reader with advise, please leave a link and I can add it to this post.

12/09/2009

We Found A Roommate!

Already!!!

I can hardly beleive it.  Four people had responded to our ads thus far and we had set up two viewings, one yesterday and one this evening.  The one yesterday went fairly well. He was a little concerned about the amount utilities are each month (i think he lived in a condo before), but other then that - things went really well. 

We had some really steller weather tonight (and I say that with a heavy sarcastic tones - we got another 6-8 inches of snow) - so viewing number two cancelled.

Well right about the time we're sitting down to watch Bones - viewer number one gave us a call.  He's given notice with his roommate and wants to move in on January 1st!!!

Jordan was the one on the phone with him.... him...he need's a name -  let's call him - James - so Jordan is on the phone with James and confirms that he's fine with $500/month in rent and $500/damage deposit - he is - it's great!

Yay!  We can go on with our house fund as planned - this is fantastic news.  It wasn't even that hard!

12/08/2009

Christmas Spending Final Tally

Our budget (me and Jordan) for this Christmas was $1,000 on gifts.  We had a total of 24 people (or groups of people in some cases) to buy for.  Whoa! On the surface, that seems like a lot of people.  Well, maybe it is - maybe it isn't.

This year, Jordan and I decided to do all gifts as joint presents from the both of us - so our list got bigger (because there was one, not two) - but the overall spending went wayyyy down.

Our list included:
  • My Mom & Dad
  • Jordan's Mom & Dad
  • Our brothers
  • Our brother's others
  • Two very good friends of mine (and one of them has a daughter who's three)
  • Our grandparents (my grandma/grandpa and Jordan's grandmother)
  • My great aunt
  • Two of my cousins (Jordan participated in the cousins draw this year - so he'll receive a gift from one of my cousins too)
  • Two sets of Jordan's aunts/uncles
  • Something for each of our co-workers
  • We through in three birthday's into this budget (my brother, my grandpa, and one of Jordan's folks).
Phew!

We spent a grand total of $898.63 on Christmas gifts!  That's $101.37 under budget!! Well that sounds just too good to be true (...so it probably is). A couple of things that we didn't plan for - but will in coming years -include:

  • Decorations
  • Christmas incidentals
  • GST
We spent an additional $337 on decorations and incidentals and $63.82 on GST.

So, in case you don't want to do the math.  Jordan and I have spent $1,340.17 on Christmas - or $670.08 each.  Considering that last year I spent just over $2,000 on Christmas BY MYSELF  - I would call this a success. 

Our Christmas incidentals (which i just called decorations in the spreadsheet) included: ribbon, gift wrap, treat tins, wreaths, the tree, ginger bread houses, tape, tree ordainments, cookie sheets, and a few bottles of cheer from the liquor store :)



I actually think this is a success (although I fear some reader's will think it's not).  Jordan and I have the money, and didn't go into debt for any of our spending this Christmas - and that's a thing worth celebrating.

I should also mention that the numbers above do not include any spending we did or will do on each other.  This wasn't part of our joint Christmas budget.  I won't get into details because Jordan reads this blog, but I will say that I didn't go into debt for Jordan's gifts either. That money was from my entertainment budget and Christmas fund.


- oh, and it feels sooooo good to be finished Christmas shopping already!

12/07/2009

12/04/2009

...So what will we do if we don't find a roommate

A couple of days ago I mentioned that our roommate is moving out.  Joy.

I want to thank everyone for all their support as we go through the roommate finding process once again.  It will be a challenge - but we're up for it.

One reader, Manshu, asked if we have so much trouble with roommates (which it seems we do lately) - why don't we try moving, and renting some where cheaper.  Well, there's a few reasons for that (I responded to his comment, but I thought I would post it here as well).

I've lived in this place for over three years now...it's not just a house to me anymore, it's where I'm making my home (up until the point where Jordan and I buy something of our own). There are also a few, less emotional, reasons why we choose not to move:
  1. Moving is expensive, and not a fun time in the winter
  2. We risk losing our down deposit 
    1. ...and another should we move into another rental before buying a home
  3. We know this landlord well, and although she's sometimes a pain - things do get fixed when they break down
  4. We just recently got a rent decrease from $1,500/month to $1,350/month
  5. Jordan and I can handle $675/month each (although we would prefer not to - which is why we look for roommates).
  6. In all the years I've lived in this place - the last six months has been the only when we've had roommate trouble...
and finally - when my brother moved out a few months ago, we spent a lot of time looking for a new place to see what was available.  We didn't find a thing that fit our needs and our budget as well as this place does.

So, all that was to say - that we won't be moving.  Here's what we will do:

We're lucking out a little bit because December Jordan get's three pays, but our deal was that we would make the 'extra' payment into our joint account - sticking to the bi-weekly schedule.

We have enough money in our joint account (including what's there now, and the next four payments before January) to cover Dec/January's Rent, paying Jeff his damange deposit back, and paying all utility bills owing for November's usage with about $200 left over.

Come January, if we haven't found a roommate - we will have in increase our bi-weekly joint house account contributions to $437.50 from $287.50 - that's a $150/bi-weekly increase.  That works out to $875/month/each to cover rent, utilities (gas, water, electricity, recycling etc), TV, phone, & internet.  Another way to see that is $1750/month total ($1350 rent and $400 bills).

The increase of $150/bi-weekly is effectively, our house fund.

I did round up when guessing what our utility bills will be - because it's only going to get colder - but after a  month on our own we could re-asses to see if we need to be stashing $400/month for bills.  It seems a little high, but I would rather error on the safe side which will just build us a buffer if it's not accurate.

I'm going to wait before changing the 2010 budget until closer to the end of the month - when we know if we have a new roommate or not.

12/03/2009

December Goals

It's Christmas!  Okay, it's not Christmas yet, but I love living in the spirit for the whole month of December (and well into January) - so let's keep this month's goals easy:


  1. Finish Christmas Shopping by December 15th 
  2. Stay within $100 of joint Christmas Budget
  3. Reach all 2009 financial goals
  4. Make a plan for just in case we don't find a roommate
  5. Enjoy the holidays
  6. Do some yummy baking and share it with friends and family
  7. Try to make some extra cash
What are you going to try to accomplish this month?

12/02/2009

November Goals - ReCap


Here was my list of goals for the month of November:

  • Clean up Halloween decorations within the first couple of days
  • Resist decorating for Christmas until the last weekend of November
    • I wound up starting to decorate the second weekend in November
  • Start Christmas shopping
    • We're almost finished!  We have three people left to buy for and then each other!
  • Have a fabulous time visiting my mom
  • Reach 2009 goal of $1,000 in my emergency fund
    • This will happen by the end of December
  • Reach 2009 goal of $3,000 in RRSPs
    • This will happen by the end of December
  • Bank at least 30 hours of overtime
    • I'm at 35 hours!
  • Receive final utility cheques from my old roommates

Roommate Wanted...

It would seem, that once again, that Jordan and I need a roommate.

Last night roommate gave his notice.  He has a friend in need, and he's going to move in with her to help her out.

I'm tired and frustrated - didn't sleep well at all.  Everything was just humming along - and now we have to try to find a roommate over Christmas/News Years.  I think the chances are slim to none, Jordan thinks we should stay positive because otherwise we'll be grumpy and without a roommate.  He also said we set ourselves up to fail if we think we won't get a roommate right off the bat.  He makes a couple of good points, so I'm going to try to stay positive.

I posted our old add (that got us this roommate) on  Facebook, and will put it out to a few other places as well.

We shall see.

12/01/2009

How Much Does Your Christmas Tree Really Cost?



Real or fake - do you know how much your Christmas Tree really costs?

Growing up, my family always went out to my grandparents farm and cut down a tree for Christmas.  After I moved out and had my own place, I continued to have live trees each year - as I'm now a good three hours from the farm - I buy one.  This year, Jordan and I bought our tree from Super Store.  They had a save double the GST day last weekend - so it wound up being $38.  It's a beautiful tree (see left) !







My parents on the other hand, have moved to a fake tree - it's something my dad has always wanted because he didn't like the mess a tree makes.  I believe mom got it at Costco for $150-$200.

One argument is that mom & dad (and everyone else who gets a fake tree) will be able to use it year after year - that's true.  For a great many years they will be able to enjoy the same one whereas Jordan and I will have to purchase a new live tree each year.  After 4 or 5 years the fake tree would have 'paid for itself' so on the surface, it would appear that we should buy a fake tree.

Well, that's not going to happen.

One, I'm a traditionalist to some extent and going out and getting a tree (even from a store), sawing of the base, setting it up, the smell, the mess is part of Christmas for me - I love it all!!

Two, I would argue that it actually costs more to have a fake tree.

According to an article written on about.com (and something my aunt told me this past weekend) fake trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (or PVC, otherwise known as vinyl), one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic.


The article continues by detailing the perils of PVC....


...several known carcinogens, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, are generated during the production of PVC, polluting neighborhoods located near factory sites. Most of those factory sites are actually in China, where 85 percent of the fake trees sold in North America originate. Labor standards there don’t adequately protect workers from the dangerous chemicals they are handling.


Now - there is a downside to purchasing a Christmas tree like Jordan and I did.  Often, these trees have been treated with repeated applications of pesticides over their typical eight-year lifecycles. Therefore, while they are growing--and then again once they are discarded--they may contribute to pollution of local watersheds. The plus of going out and cutting down a tree yourself, like we did when we were little, is that they won't have been treated by pesticides (at least if your getting your tree of my grandparent's farm).

Beyond the run-off issue, the sheer numbers of trees that get discarded after every holiday can be a big waste issue for municipalities that aren't prepared to mulch them for compost.  However; if a city/town is able - these trees can be composted/recycled - which fake trees cannot (at least that I am aware of).

There is a fourth option that I have never tried - I'm curious if any of you have.  You can purchase a live tree, that still has it's roots.  It can then be planted back outside after Christmas.  I've learned that since trees are dormant in the winter, live trees should spend no more than a week indoors as  they may“wake up” and begin to grow again in the warmth of your home. If this happens there is a good chance the tree will not survive once it is returned to the cold winter outdoors and replanted (about.com)


So...Do you know how much your Christmas tree costs?

11/29/2009

ING - Do you have your account?

I've noticed lately that a few bloggers I read have not yet opened an ING account.  I find ING one of the easiest ways to automate and track my savings goals.  Once your account is openend you can open as many (or as few) savings accounts as you like.  You can create trackers and automatic transactions (if you like) - and it's all free!!

I have my emergency fund, Christmas fund, clothes fund, house fund and an RRSP with ING - all in seperate accounts.  All except for the house fund are single accounts - but the house fund is a joint account with Jordan.  I really liked that we could set this up fairly easily as well!


If you haven't opened your account yet, you can use a referral code to get a sign-up bonus. Mine is 17396382S1 and the link to ING is http://www.ingdirect.ca/en/signmeup/index.html. If you use my code, we should each get a $25 bonus!!

My mom did this a month ago or so, and it worked out pretty well! 

11/27/2009

November Top Referers

This is just a short thank you to my top referrers in November:
  1. Saving 4 Later
  2. Frugal Dreamer
  3. Canadian Savings
  4. Shaking The Money Tree
  5. Girl Makes Cents
  6. Give Me Back My Five Bucks
  7. Financial Catastrophizer
  8. Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Blog
  9. Small Steps for Big Change
  10. Punch Debt in The Face
Thanks everyone!  I love the Love - you're some of my top reads as well!!

11/26/2009

Bi-Weekly Budget - Tomorrow is Payday

I got my paystub this morning for tomorrow's pay, so I thought I would post my bi-weekly budget.



My current balance is a little higher then usual as I transfered over the rest of my Christmas fund into my main account to pay my mom back from some shopping she helped me out with.  I also have a little bit of extra income this month from my recent participation with a research panel.


  • RRSP/Emerg/Clothes fund are as per usual.  
  • Yes I know, bank fees suck -
    • I'm in the middle of fighting with my bank about them - once it's sorted, I'll do a post and let you know how it goes.
  • I have an extra RRSP deposit this month so that I can reach my 2009, $3,000 goal
  • I've been trying to get a hold of my horse board guy to confirm December's amount, but I haven't heard back yet - so I'm defaulting to the max
  • Student loans and joint account - as per usual
  • I bumped transportation a bit b/c we are heading to BC this weekend; however entertainment/other is down a little
    • After a few comments from FrugalDreamer about her thoughts that my allotment of $150 was too much - i thought I'd see how it would go
  • Misc. item's on my credit card are also being paid back
    • I bought both of my scores and Jordan's as well (I wanted to know what it was, so I volunteered to pay for it)
    • It's Christmas, so I elect to put 'other' instead of get into specific details on the final entry

So that leaves me with a little more then $110 left over.

Let's see how it goes.

11/25/2009

Making More Money

Jordan has discovered a great way to make more money!

Okay - well he probably didn't 'discover it' but he introduced it to me.

On Monday night we participated in a two hour research panel and each made $75!  Not too shabby!  It was a group of 8 people (plus a facilitator) and he just guided th conversation around the topic at hand.  There were people behind a two-way mirror, mics, and cameras so they could review our responses and conversations at a later date - it was pretty frosty.

You can participate (if you qualify) about once or so a month.  I'm going to sign up for a few more of these!

11/23/2009

Joy - Parking Rates Go Up...

Here's the e-mail I received this morning:

Dear Parker,

As you may already be aware, effective December 1, 2009 the monthly parking rate will be increased to $57.50 per month and for those customers who pay quarterly (every 3 months) the rate will be $170. Please note these rates include GST. For example, those customers who have paid for a 3 month period which includes December, the next billing period will reflect the $170 rate and the renewal rate will be effective January 1, 2010. These rate increases are due to higher property taxes, and increased enforcement/security costs.

On or around December 1st, you will be receiving a notification via email that your OLD subscription payment scheme has been cancelled. You will need to re-establish your subscription after December 1st by extending your parking term under the new rates. You will receive detailed instructions on or around December 1st which you will need to follow to ensure your parking subscription is maintained under the new rates after the expiry of your parking term under the old rates.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your parking space or extending your term please do not hesitate to contact us at (XXX) xxx- xxxx.

Thank you, The XYX Parking Team


Joy of Joys.... it's going from $147/quarterly to $170/quarterly - I'm unimpressed!  

11/20/2009

Overtime Update

By the end of today I will have 26.75 hours of banked time - that's 35.67% of my goal of 75 hours before January 1, 2009.  I actually had another 7.50 hours, but I used that when my family was in town.

So.. what does that mean?  Well, to reach my goal - I'll need to bank another 48.25 hours.  I have 4 full weeks left prior to the end of the month, and two short week when Christmas falls & January 1st falls.  As i will be taking a few days off around Christmas, I think that I should try to get the rest of the hours in during the next four weeks - that way, I don't have to worry about it during Christmas.

48.25/4 weeks = 12 hours/week

Remember though - each week i work overtime, I 'give up' 2.5 hours (because of my 37.50 hour work week). That means, I'll actually have to put in 14.5/week, or an extra 3 hours a day. As of late, I've been working 7:30am - 5:30pm and taking 30 minutes for lunch instead of an hour - which gives me 9.50 hours a day (2 extra hours).

To hit the three hour mark, I'll need to work 7:00am to 6:00pm and continue only taking 30 minutes for lunch.


What do you think, is it do-able?  Will I drive myself crazy?

11/19/2009

...an update on my recent raise

Last month I wrote about the raise I received which was effective on October 3, 2009. I guessed at what my income would be, and even shared what my first new pay cheque looked like, but now that I have had a few, I thought I would share what my income looks like now.

My benefit premiums are split over two pay periods each month, dental comes off of each and my Long Term Disability premiums come off the second.  Due to this, each pay is not the same. My pay is now $1320.52 and $1,289.93 or $2,610.45/month.  This is true for 10 months out of the year.  Two months out of the year, I receive three pays.  During these months, on the third pay period, no benefit premiums will be deducted and my pay will be $1,333.87.

My net increase in pay, each month, was $95.  That said, on October 1, 2009 our benefit premiums actually increased slightly, so my net pay increase after that is considered, is actually $90.50. Not too shabby during a recession.

11/18/2009

2010 Monthly Budget - Draft

I've been humming and hawing for the last month or so about what my 2010 budget will look like.  Before I could post it, we had to figure out a few things.

  • What my salary would be in 2010
Tomorrow I'm giving a full update of my monthly salary, but for the purposes of my 2010 budget, my monthly income is $2,690.45 (this assumes bi-weekly contributions of $10 into my share fund, not $50 as I have been doing).
  • What our house fund contribution would look like
  • How much I could commit to my student loans
  • What savings funds I wanted
  • Specific goals I wanted to achieve
The largest goal we have coming up is the possible opportunity to buy my great aunts home next year.  Due to that, our largest goals are getting my student loans paid off, getting Jordan's truck loan paid off, and accumulating money in the house fund.

A few notes
  • Everything that has a * next to it represents an amount that will be divided in two and contributed to bi-weekly.  
  • The total left over is my everything else/other/entertainment money.  After a great conversation with Jordan and discussing the psychological benefits of it - I've decided not to put this in a physical 'jar' but leave it in my account.  I will have a notebook that i can track my spending in next year.
  • I will keep the Food/Transportation jars and Jordan will continue to contribute to the Food jar.
  • My horse board actually varies between $90-$165/month
  • The joint account represents rent, utilities, phone, internet, and TV.  Jordan contributes the same amount bi-weekly
  • I will continue to post and stick to, bi-weekly budgets, this is just 'big picture'
  • I will look at getting rid of bank fees, but I have them now - so I budget for them now
Okay - here it is:



According to Gail Vaz-Oxlade's budgeting system, here is how i measure up:



It looks like I'm doing okay - what do you think?  Do you have any questions, would you recommend any changes?

11/17/2009

My Canadian Credit Score

Your credit score is a judgment about your financial health, at a specific point in time. It indicates the risk you represent for lenders, compared with other consumers. In Canada, there are two credit reporting agencies: Equifax and TransUnion. You can receive either just your credit report via mail, or you can receive your credit report and your credit score if you pay a fee and order them online.

It's been about a year since I last ordered my scores, so I thought it was a good time to check them again. With our home buying timeline advancing, we're also looking at checking Jordan's credit score to see how much it's improved over the last year and what we need to do to continue to improve it, I'll write more on his another day.

The last time I checked my scores in January, they were 788 (TransUnion) and 749 (Equifax). They are now 829 (TransUnion) and 769 (Equifax). These scores are very good - but it would be nice to see Equifax at the 800+ mark like trans-union is.

A lot of people have written about how to improve your score and how to actually order your score, but I'm curious about what the difference is between the two companies, and what do the differences mean. In my reading, I have found out that Equifax reports your FICO score, and is apparently used by most major banks. Transunion scores you, but it is not a FICO score.

hmm..

Can anyone shed some light on this, do you know what the difference is?

I know, at least in part, why my scores are so different. Forever ago I accidently opened a department store credit card, and cancelled it a few months later. It still appears open with Trans union, however is closed with Equifax. Further to that, Trans union doesn’t have my cell phone account listed whereas Equifax does. Finally, both bureaus have incorrectly listed one of my repayment amounts (it appears lower then it actually is).

I wouldn’t have thought that the above would translate to such a huge discrepancy. I wonder if the department store card is giving me a ‘false history’ with Trans union.

Does it even matter, if Equifax is the bureau most often used by big banks?  What are your thoughts on credit scores and the differences between the two reporting agencies in Canada?

11/16/2009

Tracking Bar Updates

I have updated all of my tracking bars, and am pleased with the progress.  Here is a summary:

Emergency Fund
I'm exactly $75 short of reaching my $1,000 goal for 2009!  As I don't plan on changing my bi-weekly contributions - but the time January 1, 2010 roles around - I will have reached this goal!

Shares
Each pay $50 comes straight off my pay cheque and goes into an account managed by work to buy shares.  I needed to have at least $800 by the end of December to be able to by shares this year (you can buy twice a year), and I've made that goal.  Come January, I will reduce my contributions to $10/bi-weekly as once you buy your first big chunk of shares you can buy in smaller increments.

Loans
Both of my student loans continue to slowly decrease, in 2010 I will increase my debt repaymtnts significantly to get these paid off!

House Fund
Our house fund has been on hold for the last few months (since all of our roommate changes), however; Jordan and I will be starting back up again in 2010.  We have been able to repay $50 of what we borrowed from oursleves, and Jordan recently sold another couch for $30 that we will also use to pay back this account.

Clothing Fund
I recently emptied this account to purchase a few, much needed, bras and I've changed this goal to $250 before I go out and buy some new clothes.

RRSP
My RRSP account is coming along strongly this year - next pay, I'll top it up to reach my 2009 goal.

Overtime
Things are coming along here - I'm looking forward to stepping this up in the coming weeks.

11/13/2009

Payday!

Below is an image of my bi-weekly budget for the next couple of weeks.  You'll see that my first joint account payment is set to go, and last months utilities.  Jordan and my utilities will be held in the joint account and my past roommates will be held in my account - because so far, only one provider has processed the requested to swtich the account that the auto-payments come from.  Next month will be much smoother!




My Christmas account is fully funded and Jordan will be adding his portion soon, so I have stopped my bi-weekly contributions to that account for now.  My RRSP, Emerg fund, and clothing fund deposits are all on schedule.  This pay day will see two biggies - car insurance and my quarterly parking bill (yuck).

My emergency fund is getting a big boost, and that will take me to $925 in that account.  I'll reach $1000 before the end of the year with my ongoing, regular, contributions.  Wow that's a great feeling!  My visa also gets a chunk of money to finish paying off the new bras I bought last weekend.

You'll also see a postive $30 and change, that is from a little stash I have (that I don't track, it's very small and new).

Have a great weekend!

11/12/2009

What an uplifting experience....

this is a post for the girls...

I love bra shopping!

I breifly mentioned on an earlier post that I went bra shopping with my mom, aunts, and grandmother this past weekend.  We were all blessed, and cursed, with the same.....affliction body type.

We are all in the range of 36G through to 42H (or higher - I'm guessing) - yeah, it goes up that high (and we're allll natural).

These lovlies need all the help they can get - which includes an annual bra-fitting.  Women's bodies change and so do the rest of their clothes - it only makes sense that bra's would need to change as well.

Places like La Senza, or even La Vie en Rose usually only go as high as a D or if you're very lucky a DD... there's a lot of letters between D and H!  If you know much about sizing, each letter represents another inch... so no way are you squeezing an H into a DD cup - no way!

So, we found our selves at Knickers 'n Lace.  If you don't know much about how a bra is supposed to fit - I would really suggest checking out their website, they've got some great information on there.

I spent $357 on TWO BRA's - yea... they were $175 and $165 (plus 5% gst)

...and to any nay sayers out there - it's worth it!  You wear these every day for 10-12 hours a day - you need some high quality suppport and Sears and Walmart just don't have it! My mom, because she's amazing, bought me a third. It's a strapless - it works! I've never had a strapless that actually worked - it's amazing! I love my mom.



Oh right - you want to know how I'm paying for it?... well I had $170.05 in my clothing fund already and have set aside another $186.95 from tomorrow's pay to cover the rest.

Christmas Spending Update

When I first made a budget for Christmas, I just sort of guessed that $500 would work - well, it turns out that, that, is not a very realistic number.  I have a great many people in my life!  Not only that, so does Jordan. 

Jordan had a great idea of giving gifts as a couple rather then gifts from each of us.  This will allow us to do one great gift intstead of two smaller ones - so, the budget and the spending will nearly double!  Which is fine, because two of us will be paying for everything.

I won't post all the details b/c some of the people we'll be buying for read this blog from time to time - I will say that we are buying for 22 people (not including each other and we also have two birthday gifts in here)!!  What fun! 

Our total realistic budget is about $1,100, though I'd like to  keep it at, or under, $1,000.  We'll be spending anywhere from $15 (secret santa at work) to $150 (close family) a person.   This past weekend we spent just under $400 on Christmas presents allready and crossed 9 people off the list.

Has anyone else started Christmas shopping?

11/11/2009

Buying a Home of Our Own

As some of you know, Jordan and I are planning on buying my great aunts home in a few years when she is ready to move into an assisted living home.  We brought up buying her home about a year ago when she mentioned she was thinking she might move, that's when we started the house fund.  She was more then happy with the suggestion and we often talk about different things that we would like to do or that she would like to see done.  We haven't talked about details, just vague timelines  The last time we talked she said it would be 2-3 years before she was ready.

This past weekend, she spent a good few hours with my grandmother (her sister) - and later my grandma mentioned that Isabelle thinks she might be ready this time, next year.

NEXT YEAR... whew! We could be home-owners in a year!

The home is 100% paid for (has been for several years) and as Isabelle is looking at moving into an assisted living home, she likely won't need a large sum of money up front to purchase her next home - she'll be renting.

So, with that noted it's possible that she maybe be able to hold a mortgage for us (rather then us getting  a mortgage from a bank), we could also pursue a traditionally mortgage as well. 

Jordan and I need to get ourselves in the best financial position we can within the next year.  Although we were already thinking about some of these things, we're going to have to make sure that:
  • Jordan's truck loan is paid off
  • My student loans are paid off
  • Jordan's credit score is higher
  • We have money in the bank!
It would be good to have at least $10,000 I think - but we'll look at specifics in the coming weeks.  If not for a down payment (depending on how things work out), it will have to be for renovations (of which there will be plenty)!

I'm so excited for this new journey, I hope you are too!

11/10/2009

Overtime Update

Last week I was able to accumulate 8 hours of overtime, which was fantastic!

As my family was in town this weekend, I had booked Monday off to spend a little extra time with them.  I used 7.5 hours of last weeks OT (instead of a vacation day) and so only increased my tracking bar by 0.50 hours.  This week, I hope to plug in a few more hours - and should be able to!

11/09/2009

Weekend Update

I had an amazing weekend!

I was actually pretty sick for most of it with an awful cold, but my mom, two aunts, and grandmother were in town for our annual Christmas Shopping Trip, and how could I complain about a cold in such great company.  I'm pretty sure I stayed on budget - but i'll check my receipts and do up a post on that later on.

Not only did I accomplish a lot of Christmas shopping, I also bought two new bras that I'm very excited about!! and my amazing mom bought me a third that I wanted!!  Any bigger chested women who read my blog will understand what a great bra feels like and how exciting it is to get one (or three!).  I'll write more about this in a seperate post.

That's it for today - I've got receipts to go through and presents to hide!

11/08/2009

11/06/2009

House Fund Update

A while back, Jordan and I went on a bit of a spending spree and aquired some household things that we would need given the changes to the household.

We bought a couch, a chair, a tv stand, a souround sound system, new pots and pans, some home decor, and a few kitchen odds and ends (popcorn popper, gravey boat, cups, mugs)...i think that about coveres it.

Right before we did this, we had broken the $5,000 threshold.  Given the total balance in our account new, we owe ourselves $1,549.67, or $774.84 each.

We had put all of our old, used, couches up for sale as well as one of our fishtankes when we downsized from three to two.

I'm please to say that we have now sold one couch and a coffee table for $50.  I've deposited that money into our house fund.  So we now owe ourselves $1,499.67, or about $750 each.

It seems like a lot, but between now and the time we receive our tax returns, we'll get it all paid back. Aside from selling the things above that I mentioned (which will probably net us around $300-$500), we'll focus on this once we get through Christmas.

11/05/2009

Household Bills Are In.

On the 5th of each month, I receive the final bill (of three) for the household for the previous month.  I don't know that I've posted this before, but I'm going to start so that I can keep track.
  • Enmax $235.55
  • Bell $75.98
  • Shaw $41.39
Total = $352.92

what a fantastic number!  I've written about it before, but I will mention that I'm pleased with these numbers because over the last few months I've been able to negotiate a $20 Bell bill reduction for 12 months, plus we got on the student plan for our internet/phone with Shaw (our bill this month is $26.34 then it was last month)!

When Samantha moved out, we made an arrangement whereby she would pay $20/week for utilities for each week in October.  That way, she didn't have to wait until the end of the first week in November before getting her damage deposit back.  Based on the date she moved out, I held $65 for her portion of the utilities (our agreement was that I would deduct final utilities from her damage deposit as she didn't have cheques).

So, the total $352.92 less $65.00 is $287.92.


This number is then divided by four as these utilities were from the month when Jordan/ME/Brother/Lindsay were all living together.

So, we each owe $71.98.

Common-Law

I've recently had to fill out some paperwork at work where I had to identify my relationship status.  After a few conversations with family and Jordan, we decided that we are very likely common law.

As it turns out the law varies province to province and even federally.

According to Wikipedia
In Canada, the legal definition and regulation of common-law marriage fall under provincial jurisdiction. A couple must meet the requirements of their province's Marriage Act for their common-law marriage to be legally recognized.

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, as of 2007, a common-law relationship is true if at least one of the following applies:



  1. the couple have been living in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months;


  2.  the couple are parents of a child by birth or adoption; or


  3. one of the couple has custody and control of the child (or had custody and control immediately before the child turned 19 years of age) and the child is wholly dependent on that person for support.


In many cases common-law couples have the same rights as married couples under federal law. Various federal laws include "common-law status," which automatically takes effect once two people (of any gender) have lived together in a conjugal relationship for five full years. Common-law partners may be eligible for various federal government spousal benefits. As family law varies between provinces, there are differences between the provinces regarding the recognition of common-law marriage.

Okay, so that tells us that federally - Jordan and I are in a common law relationship and have been since March, 2009 ( a year after he moved in).


According to the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act which was passed during the fall 2002 sitting of the provincial Legislature and became law on June 1, 2003, there are two key elements that define an adult interdependent relationship.
First, an adult interdependent partner is a person who is involved with another person in an unmarried relationship of interdependence where they:

  1. share one another’s lives


  2. are emotionally committed to one another, and


  3. function as an economic and domestic unit.

Second, to be considered adult interdependent partners, one of the following must apply to the relationship. The adult interdependent partners must be:

  1. living in an interdependent relationship for a minimum of three years


  2. living in an interdependent relationship of some permanence where there is a child by birth or adoption, or


  3. living in or intend to live in an interdependent relationship and have entered into a written adult interdependent partner agreement.

Jordan and I have been living together for two years this coming March.  So according to Alberta's law, we are not in an Adult Interdependent Relationship.

hmm...

After chatting with Jordan, we are both comfortable with a common-law marriage status.  In Jordan's words 'we eat together, sleep together, and bank together' - what else need for us to consider ourselves common law.  Frankly, I agree.

Wow.
don't worry - i'll be writing about financial implications of this soon.

Are you in a common law relationship, how do you know that you are in your province/state?

11/04/2009

Getting Married

What does it cost?

(ha-ha you thought Jordan proposed didn't you - don't worry, he hasn't)

Jordan and I did have a conversation a weekend or two ago about what we thought a wedding would look like if it happened in the next year or two.  We even got as far as making a guest list.

Jordan Dream:
Jordan really wants to have a wedding/reception in a fancy hotel where we can eat/sleep/wed ect all in the same place.  If we did something like this, he would love to see it at the Banff Springs Hotel over a period of three days.  Jordan would like to have an open bar and lots of great food.  Following the third day, he'd want to drive to Calgary and take flight to our destination of choice for two weeks.

Jessie's Dream:
Get married in my home town in either a family member`s back yard or park.  I would want to be married by a justice of the peace (not a minister of any particular faith) surrounded by friends and family on a warm fall day.  I would want a casual reception at ... well, that`s where my thoughts get more hazy...  I`m not sure where I would want the reception to be, but I think at a family`s home would be great - but if it wasn`t large enough, we`d probably be able to rent space at a hotel which would work for out of town guests as well.  I would want to have a loonie bar to help off-set the cost.

We came up with a guest list of 50 people.  Wow! I thought I didn`t know anyone, my list actually had I think 5 more people then his did.  Lets say we got married in 2 years from now, we`d probably expand the network of people we know and would want to invite - so it could be as many as 75 - 100 people (my bet would be on a smaller number).

So before I do up a pseudo-wedding budget. Yes, I budget for random things that may or may not actually happen (it;`s fun - and Jordan actually asked me to). I`m calling out to all of my readers who have been, or will be getting married. What things do I need to consider before doing a little research?

Obvious things that come to mind are how much the hotel would cost, food, alcohol, justice of the peace, travel arrangements, clothes (dress, suite), rings...hmm..

What else should we think about before launching into creating this budget-plan?


11/03/2009

Debt Update

I don't believe that I posted an update on my total debt for a while, though I think that most of you know it is down to just student loans.  As my student loan payments just went through, I thought I would post an update.



I am 38.91% towards my goal of being 100% debt free.  Slowly but surely, it's coming along.

I've been playing with my 2010 budget some, and have hopes of increasing my student loan debt repayment to about $500/month. This will likely start in January, 2010.

I have read on some blogs, that many people feel that student loans aren't/shouldn't be a priority.  I think that because my other debt is paid off, it should be my number one.  Jordan and I chatted about this, and he is going to make sure his truck loan is paid off in short order as well.

November Goals

Writing out my goals for October seemed to work pretty well, so I thought I'd have another go of it for the month of November.

  • Clean up Halloween decorations within the first couple of days
  • Resist decorating for Christmas until the last weekend of November
  • Start Christmas shopping
  • Have a fabulous time visiting my mom
How about some financial Goals as well:
  • Reach 2009 goal of $1,000 in my emergency fund
  • Reach 2009 goal of $3,000 in RRSPs
  • Bank at least 30 hours of overtime
  • Receive final utility cheques from my old roommates

11/02/2009

October Goals - Recap

Last month I tried posting monthly goals for the first time, here's the results:

  • Meet Christmas 2009 Goals of saving $500
  • Turn Sam's (old roommates) room into a spare room/office
  • Decorate the house and my workstation for Halloween
  • Learn how to make apple cider Incomplete
  • Start second phase of overtime/filing project at work

There we have, I met 4 out of 5 goals.  I didn't get a chance to make the cider with the apples from my trees because it froze in dear old Alberta wayyy to early!

Joint Cheques Arrive

This past Friday, our joint cheques arrived!  It was pretty amazing to see both of our names at the top of the cheques, with our address.

We dropped of six months worth of rent cheques to landlord (November through to April) - we've just got to remember to put a reminde rin our calander's that we'll need to write a few more come May.  When we were writing out the cheques, we actually took turns signing them.  It was a great feeling.

10/30/2009

Savings Snowball Update

It's Friday!! Love Fridays!

I've updated my side bars and am pleased to say that I'm right on track.

Below is an image I've taken from my savings snowball tracking spreadsheet (from late September on).  Today I transfered about $50 from my Christmas fund (b/c I already hit that goal) to my emergency fund, that combined with next pay days big deposit I'll have reached my goal of $1,000 in my e-fund before 2010!

You can see that I'm also on track to reach my RRSP goal for 2009 as well!


Joint Bank Account

Recently I mentioned that Jordan and I would be opening a joint bank account for rent and utilities.  Well, we've opened the account and I've sent away all the notifications to each biller to have the automatic withdrawals changed.

Each biller said it would take about two weeks to process, and I'm just now receiving October's bills.  So, in theory, by the time we get November's bills (during the first week in December) all of the changes should have happened and we'll be good to go.

Starting on November 5, 2009 Jordan and I are each going to be contributing $325/bi-weekly to the account. As we are paid on opposite weeks, that means that there will be money going into this account each week.

I'm so looking forward to this!!

[Edit]

With our recent rent reduction, we will be each contributing $287.50 bi/weekly which equals $1,150 when there are 4 pay periods in a month which is exactly what we estimate our new rent and utility expenses will be.

We set up all of the automatic transfers last night = so exiting!

10/29/2009

Landlord & Rent Update! Wow!!

I don't say this often, but I am absolutely impressed with myself right now!

Over the last while I've been in negotiations with my landlord.  It was most recently left off with people encouraging me to just pay the $1500/month and never mind the rest b/c being in a month to month lease was worth it.  Well it turns out we're getting a rent decrease, with no other changes to the terms of the lease.  We'll continue operating month-to-month.

Starting November 1, 2009, our rent is going from $1,500/month to $1,350 a month.  That's a savings of $150, or $1,800 combined for Jordan and I (or $900 each).

This has wonderful implications for our budgets!!! waahoo!

Here's how it all played out:

"Good Afternoon Landlord,

I hope this note finds you well.

I am following up from our e-mail conversation whereby you stated you would get back to us upon your return from your trip on October 12, 2009. As it is nearing the end of the month we thought it best to touch base to ensure that rent is taken care of for November.

Please let us know your address so that we may drop off a rent cheque prior to November 1, 2009.

Thank you,
Jessie"



"Thank you Jessie.
Our address is XYZ.
[instructions to the house] & [description of the house]
If you could leave it in the mailbox, we would certainly appreciate that.
Thank you.
Landlord"

"Hi Landlord,

Thanks for writing back.

Should we assume that you have decided not to consider a rent decrease and that we should leave a cheque for $1,500?

Thanks,
Jessie"


"Jessie – I will reduce the rent to $1350 per month."

"Hi Landlord,

Thank you for confirming the new monthly rent. I will drop off a few post dated cheques for you, for your convenience.

Have a great weekend,
Jessie"



Bi-Weekly Budget - Tomorrow is Payday

It's that time again, my how the weeks fly by.

Below is how things are shaping up for the next couple of weeks.  I have a bit of a heavy current balance that is being carried forward from last pay - this is for two reasons.  One, I had expected to have rent of $750, which I don't because somehow we actually managed to find a roommate.  The other bit of money is due to the benefit reimbursement that I received yesterday.

A few notes:
  • My pay is higher then normal (by about $30-50) because there was three pay periods this months, so i had no benefit premium deductions (these were all done on the first two pays)
  • My Christmas, RRSP, Emergency, and Clothing fund are all receiving their $25
  • My horse board is due, and I have already written a cheque for this (that's why it's in green).
  • I've given myself $290 as my bi-weekly jar money.  I would have liked to bump this up some because I have family come to town next weekend to start Christmas Shopping, but that's not the way it's worked out.
  • Bank fees = boo!  But if I could ever get this account to a steady $1,000, they would waive the fees.  Something to think about.
  • Student loans will be auto deducted on the last day of the month ($75/each loan)
You'll see quite a large C/c payment this month.  This is for a few different things that came up, which are detailed below.  The payment brings my C/c balance down to $0.  Wow that feels good!




There we have it.  Questions?

[Edit]

I forgot to mention that when Jordan gets reimbursed from work, he'll be giving me $100 for his work boots, which I'll dump into whichever pay period that works itself into.

10/28/2009

Overtime Update

Phew - it's been a crazy week, both on the work front and the home front - and it's only Wednesday!

I've just hit the 40 hour mark today (including 7.5 hrs for both Thurs/Friday).  So any time I work above and beyond my normals hours for the last two days of the week will go towards my OT count.  It defn. won't move as much as last week, but I'm hoping for at least 2.5 hours each day.

Benefits Reimbursement

So not too long ago I mentioned that I had bought some glasses but had to wait for my benefits to reimburse me. Well they finally did.  I received $126.  It was deposited directly into my account yesterday, how fantastic!

I was actually confused for a good 20 minutes trying to figure out where the money came from, but was pleasantly surprised once I figured it out.

10/27/2009

2010 Monthly Budget - Looking Ahead

Have you starting thinking about your 2010 budget?

I have, off and on, for the last few months.  My Mom and Jordan have been encouraging me to just get through the rest of this year before worrying about it - but there are seriously only two months left!!

It's hard to figure out what I really want to do.  Do I want to eliminate my student loan debt, reach $10,000 in the house fund or max out my RRSPs.  I don't have unlimited funds - I can probably either do one of these things really well or all of these things half-a$$ed.

10/26/2009

Slow OT start this week...

When I commit to putting in some serious OT at work, I like to get the first 2.5 hours out of the way on Monday.  That way, the rest of the week is all banked time.  Unfortunatly, Jordan and I slept in this morning and I only worked an extra .50 hours.  So tomorrow, I'm going to go for a loonng day to try to catch up.

Weekend Update

Phew! What a busy, busy weekend we had!

Samantha finally finished moving on Friday (October, 23) which was a full two weeks later then she said she would be.

Nelson and Lindsay have nearly finished moving as well.  They did the bulk of their things on Saturday, and then came on Sunday to do a little cleaning and do one more car load.  They still have quite a pile of things to move, but at least the bedroom/bathroom for new roommate was finished.

We spent just about all of Saturday out of the house to give everybody the space they needed to move/clean. Unfortunately, I had to spend a good hour and half to two hours cleaning our roommates left overs on Sunday.  The bathroom had a lot of things under the sink and what not that had to be cleaned/sorted and the floors/toilet had to be cleaned. Both bedrooms had to have the walls washed (scuff marks) and the floors needed a good second vacuum as well.

We spent the rest of Sunday re-organizing and cleaning our things.  We were able to move my desk out of our bedroom and bring the spare bed upstairs, so we now have a really nice spare bedroom upstairs.  I'd like to maybe put some art on the walls - but it's good for now.  We were also able to clean the living room and bring out some of the new art pieces we've been collecting over the last few weeks and we brought up my glass coffee table from the basement as well.

The kitchen and our bedroom need a few more hours of love, but it's all coming together really nicely.

10/24/2009

Kindness pays double time...

So my supervisor/boss-lady at work was sick for half the week and in all day meetings for the half of the week.  On Tuesday she dumped a pile of work to get done (some of which I hadn't done before) - and I managed to get it all taken care of for her. 

She gave me a gift card for The Keg for $50, when I combine that with the one we got earlier in the week - that means we're going to have a fantastic supper tonight!

10/23/2009

what to do about cell phones...

My cell phone is crapping out.

I actually used to work for Bell for a couple of years when I was going to school, when I graduated and got my real job, I left the cell phone world.  At that time the best plan I could get was with Solo Mobile, a subsidiary of Bell's.

Unfortunately, my solo hardware (LG Rumour) is dieing.  I'm getting these white screens of death, when it's not white, it's green/yellow.  It's not water damage, it's not pressure damage. It's just lame product defect.  Unfortunately, it's not under warranty anymore.

So here are my options:

  1. Cancel the cell phone plan and not have a cell phone
    1. Cost: $300.00 to cancel
    2. No more cell phone monthly cost - save $45/month * 21 months left in contract = SAVE $945
  2. Cancel the cell phone plan, find a new phone and provider
    1. Cost: $300, $0 new phone, $50/month for a plan and locked into a new 3 year contract
  3. Cancel the cell phone plan, use an old Bell phone I have and go on a month-to-month plan 
    1. Cost: $300, $50/plan but not locked into a contract
  4. Buy a new solo phone for about $150-$200 bucks and put it on my account.
So...what do you think I should do?

Joint Bank Accounts

Jordan and I have taken the next step towards joining our finances and our budgets.We have been talking for a quite a while about this possibility, and I've written about it before as well.

Our joint account is going to be, strictly, a bill paying account.  We will pay our rent and our three household bills from this account (shaw, bell and enmax).  This is going to achieve a couple of things for us.
  1. It will create some stability in our accounts.  We are going to come up with a bi-weekly amount to contribute to this account that will cover rent & utilities.  Our roommates money for rent/bills will also be deposited directly into this account.
  2. It will create a stronger financial unity between us.  I have been managing all of the household bills for the last 3+ years, making this changes allows Jordan and I to do this together.
  3. Through contributing bi-weekly (rather the monthly) we will develop, in short order, a buffer in this account, or a joint emergency fund if you will.
I'll explain the third point in more detail.

Assuming our rent stays consistent at $500/each, and approximating utilities at $150/each (for 3 people) we come up with a monthly amount of $650. Dividing that amount by two gives us $325/bi-weekly.

Jordan and I are paid on opposite weeks.  That means that there are four months out of the year that have an 'extra' pay cheque.  So, within a years time we will have accumulated $1,300 ($325*4).  I think that's a pretty crafty way to build a joint emergency fund.  Once we hit the $1,000 mark in that account the 'account fees' will be waived, so there's another bonus to leaving the money in that no-interest baring account.

10/22/2009

Bill Reduction

Not too long ago I reviewed some cost saving options on our phone/internet plan.  When I did that assessment, we had five people living in the house.  Now that we're down to three - I called our phone/internet provider to see how much we could save if Jordan and I eliminated our house phone.

During the conversation, I found out that this company has a Student Plan.  WHAT?! A student plan!? I've lived with and/or been a student the entire time I've been in calgary.

Okay, not going to dwell on that.

Jordan happens to be a part-time student right now, hurrah!  So, as a first step we decided to get on this student plan and then decided next month if we want to keep the phone or not.

We were able to reduce our plan from $55.95/month to $44.40/month (plus GST of course)

That saves us $13.55 every month!  


Granted - that's not a huge sum of money, but I'm a firm believer that every little bit helps.

10/21/2009

Kindness really does pay...

The week before last I briefly mentioned that Jordan and I would be house sitting for a co-worker of mine from the 10th to the 17th.  We agreed to for a couple of different reasons, but mostly - it's nice to be nice.  

When I got to my desk this morning I saw a little blue envelope with my name written on it and inside was a delightful little thank you card and a $50 gift certificate for The Keg.

What a wonderful surprise it was (and I made sure to tell him) - Jordan and I really looking forward to using that card.  Maybe next weekend when all of my roommates are planning on moving out on the same day (have fun guys).

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