Then & Now

I started this blog late in January, 2009 - at the time because i just really liked the tracking bars on Give Me Back My Five Bucks.  I started reading Krystal's blog quite a bit, then started reading others - and before long, I had one of my own.

At the time, I had next to nothing in savings and had quite a bit of debt.  My networth was ($7,499):
  • $1,500 in cash
  • $1,870 in retirement
  • $2,000 - value of my car
  • ($9,658) - student loan debt
  • ($3,211) - credit card debt
Through all the ups and downs - one year later my networth is $4,155. It has increased by $11,654:
  • $5,949 in cash
  • $978 in company shares
  • $3,100 in retirement savings
  • $2,000 - value of my car
  • ($7,872) - student loan debt
My Story So Far

2009 commenced with fears of being laid off.  The first 8 months of 2009 was a very scary time.  I learned that I need to plan for unexpected expenses, that aren't really unexpected.  You supported me as a struggled for sooo long to pay off my credit card. You read as Jordan and i navigated combining our finances with the beginning of our joint house fund and later with a joint chequing account

I learnt how large of an impact $15/month can make.  I found a way to take a second job - without finding a new employer - when a started an overtime project at work.  As fears of lay off at work built, i created a budget based on EI benefits - and felt safer knowing that Jordan and I would get through whatever got thrown at us.  I started using Gails Magic Jars to knock some sense in my spending - and boy did that every help!

We've gone through roommate, after roommmate, after roommate, after roommate....

My horse, Starlight, moved to Calgary this summer - and that brought on some more unique challenges.  In efforts to find success, and to avoid more epic fails - in Mid August, i finally cut up my credit card and that's what really saved me from it's rampant use.

Jordan and I gardened, had date nights, and started planning and saving to buy my great aunt's home - and boy did we start planning for Christmas early.  We even learnt a lot about grocery shopping

In September, I became credit card debt free!

I got a raise in October - and we spent some heavy money in November (much to some readers disappointment) - but I hadn't lost my way.  We also negotiated a rent decrease in October and accomplished some serious savings.  Christmas went off without much of a hitch and I explored the true cost of Christmas Trees.

Early in 2010, you all helped Jordan with the first question he's asked in this forum - he loved reading the comments you left!   I actually bought shares and became a very small owner of the company I work for.

It's been an amazing journey so far - thank you!  Here are my top referrers, and some awesome bloggers - if you haven't read them already - i would highly suggest it.
  1.  Saving For Later
  2. Shaking The Money Tree
  3. Frugal Dreamer
  4. Gail Vaz-Oxlade
  5. Give Me Back My Five Bucks 
  6. Canadian Savings
  7. Girl Makes Cents
  8. Punch Debt in The Face
  9. The Asian Pear
  10. The Financial Catastrophizer


Tenant's Insurance

This post is for all of the renter's out there.

Landlords have very few legal obligations to compensate tenants for damage to or loss of personal posessions.  Tentants are repsonsible for harm they may cause to any part of the building where they live.
Renters insurance provides coverage for your personal possessions, your legal liability to others within your premises and accidental injury or property damage caused to the premises or arising from your personal actions. You are responsible for the damage you may cause to any part of the building you live in or to others who live or visit there. For example, a fire caused by inattention while cooking can gut an entire apartment complex. That's a lot of liability!

Catch that?  If you, your stuff, or your friends cause damange to the place you are living - - you have to pay for it.  if the place burns down that you live in -- you have to pay for it.

Jordan and I have $15,000 worth of content insurance and $1,000,000 worth of personal liability insurance.  This covereage is extended to protect us if my horse does something stupid.  What could a horse do?  Well, she could bust through a fence, run into traffic and cause an accident.  That would be horrible.  My renter's insurance protects me paying for stuff like.  We're also covered for $3,000 for additional living expenses (should we have to leave this place for repairs or some such thing) as well as $2,500 in medical payments and $500 for property damage.

Of course - I would have to pay a deductible.

What's a deductible?

It's a sum of money that you pay up front when making an insurance claim before the insurance company's coverage kicks in.  Basically - they don't want you making a claim for small amounts - and this protects them from that.

Our deductable is $500.

so, what does it cost for all of this lovely protection?  A total of $144 - a year.  The bill is due at the end of March, and Jordan has said he'll pay this year because I did last year.  Thanks Love!

Well worth the peace of mind I'd say.

One of the reasons why I am particularly passionate about making sure we have proper tenants insurance is because a few years back - our family home lit up on Christmas Eve (that picture above is of my parents house - all of the garage burnt up and the corner and attic of the house did too).  It was tretcherous watching them go through dealing with everything - and should that ever happen to my home, I want to be prepared.


Homemade Bread - I Did It!

Back in October I had mentioned I wanted to learn how to make my mom's bread.  Well, at Christmas - I got the KitchenAid I so desperately wanted, and just this weekend I finally made my first loaf of bread!

I'll share with you this experience, in pictures!

After mixing all the ingredients in my lovely Kitchen Aid - I got to the best part... kneading!

Then it has to rise, not once

  but twice

 into the oven....


mmm yum!

I had halved the recipe I used b/c I wasn't sure how much it would make - next time I'll use the whole recipe and put a bit more dough in each pan.

Joint Chequing Gets a Boost

Yesterday I wrote that we might help new roommate out by letting his spare friend stay here for a couple of months - well we met him tonight and we're a go.  The guy seems pretty decent, just down on his luck - girlfriend kicked him out.

We chatted for quite a while, then did a tour and talked about money.  We said that in the interest of being fair to new roommate and because we don't know either one of them - we would be willing to make the same arrangement.  $500/rent $500 deposit - up front and then 1/4 of utilities.  He said it was manageable - and it's only for two months.

but hey - that's an extra $1,000

now we could get silly and make plans for that money - but instead, we're being smart.  Jordan and i are going to leave the extra money in our joint chequing account as a joint emergency fund of sorts.  The next time a roommate leaves (and we don't expect it) - we won't have to worry.  The money will already be in place.

wow.  that wasn't even a goal.


Budget Booster Potential

As you all know, Jordan and I recently had to find a new roommate.  Well, Roommate Number 4 gave us a call last night - he did not, surprisingly, say he couldn't move in.  He has a friend who is a student, and recently broke up with his girlfriend - he's down and out, trying to find somewhere to stay.  Girlfriend had all the furniture, and the place they were renting, and now he's got nothing.

Roommate Number 4 knows that we have a fully furnished spare room.

He would like for us to rent out spare room, to spare friend for a month - two tops, until he can get back on his feet. Jordan and I were really torn, because we really enjoy having that extra space for people (friends and family) to be able to use when going through the city or what not.  It's also nice to have our printer set up in their and an extra desk.

We talked it over and Jordan and I decided that we would temporarily rent out our spare room to spare friend. However; the arrangement would be the same as Roommate Number 4.  Same damage deposit, same rent, and a split of the utilities.  Yes - we could re-arrange how much everyone pays but its very temporary, and we're technically not supposed to have more then one roommate living with us (the deal we made with landlord to reduce the rent) - because there is a big risk, we need to maximize our potential benefit.

All of this is dependent on meeting spare friend.  They are coming by the house tonight about 6pm to meet us.


Where the money's at

I feel tight, strapped in, restricted.

It's only been two and a half weeks since I was in crisis mode when my grandmother fell and broke her hip.  I had felt like things were going to be okay, but now I feel like stressed out again.

I think what has happened is that after wracking up almost $700 in one weekend on my credit card - the $450 I put on it the following pay day didn't feel like it made a big enough dent, but let me tell you it sure put me in a squeeze for the last two weeks.  So much so that I have been using my credit card far too much lately - so now I'm going to have to do another big payment (more then the $250 I had originally planned).

I was going to put up exactly what I've spent on my visa over the last while - but I don't think everything has posted yet.  I can tell you that I owe about $700.......*sigh.

New charges do include:

  • Groceries
    • About $80 over a couple of different shopping trips
  • Cell phone bill (automatically charged)
    • About $55 - some extra long distance here from when I was in BC
  • Some Liquor
    • Maybe $50
  • Ancestry subscription
    • About $30
  • Best buy
    • I had a $100 gift card which we used, but ended up spending an extra $100
  • Ikea
    • About $25
  • Eating out a couple of times ($15 here, $20 there)
  • Some charges from websites - to post roommate wanted ads
  • Also I bought gas two days ago b/c i couldn't quite make it to pay day (today).
What does Gail always say - she says not one of those things seems very big, but put them all together and you've got $700 worth of STUFF.


Jessie, stop buying stuff.

I think my bi-weekly budget will look like this:

I did reduce my variable spending budget by $50 - but I don't want to cut it any further - because I'll use my visa again.

I think that when I owe something on my visa - I rationalize spending more.  It feels like it's easier to justify  "Well, I owe $400 on my visa already, what's another $25".  Further to that, I thought it would be better to just pay off my visa each pay day, rather then taking from my emergency fund when we had our family emergency.  I now think that that was a mistake, because it set me up to spend more money.  If I had just paid it off, then committed to replenishing my E-fund - I bet I wouldn't have spent another $450 bucks.

Lesson Learnt.


Back to work

I'm sure that some of you know, the province of Alberta just enjoyed a lovely long weekend.  Monday was a statutory holday for us: Family Day.

We had a pretty fantastic weekend.  I got the pleasure of taking my dad to the Flames vs Ducks game on Saturday night - where we won 3 to 1.   It was his first NHL game EVER - and it was pretty cool to watch him/be with him during his first experience. Though unfortunatly, I slipped on the stadium steps, caught myself with my open palm and have messed up something in my hand where my thumb contects to my hand.


Sunday we spent lazing about the house - played a lot of world of wardcraft and ejoyed naps on the couch.  Pretty much lived liked sloths.

Monday we got some running around done we needed.  We cleaned the house from Sunday, did some grocery shopping, exhanged a faulty wireless router we recently bought, and visited my Great Aunt - who turned 80 yesterday.  She was born in 1930.


Short but sweet this morning - hopefully I'll have something PF related to say tommorrow.


Programming Change

About five months ago, I spent some time exploring our utility bills in great details.  In particular, I was looking to reduce costs of our TV (Bell) bill.  At the time I wasn't able to find a better deal for the programming we were receiving, and we were splitting the bill 5 ways - which significanly reduced the individual expense.

Shaw has been trying to woo exisiting phone/internet customers to become tv customers as well.  Before now, it hasn't been worth it to switch.

I won't get into all the details of the negotiaion - but I will share with you the end result. 

For a total price of $35.60 this is what we will get:
  • Price guarantee for 12 months
  • Free rental of their HDPVR
    • PVR is a duel tuner with 160G hardrive
  • Includes Digital TV package
  • Includes 13 HD Basic channels
  • Includes 18 HD Plus channels
  • Includes HD Time Shifting
    •  East and West feeds of ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC HD channels in most markets 
The regular price for this package is $69.95 plus $19.95 for rental of the HDPVR.

The cost to cancel Bell's service early is $150, and our contract end date isn't until July.  I did call and let Bell know about Shaw's offer - I told them that if they could come up with a discount equal to or greater than $30/month ($150/months left in contract = $30); however they wern't able to be competitive with Shaw's pricing.

We currently pay $78.12 for Bell - the difference between that and Shaw is $42.52.  So, in the next 5 months we will save $212.60.  After the cancellation fee - we still save $62.60 (taxes included).

We're happy with the programming that Shaw will offer, and the savings is worth it!


We should install a rotating door...

Seriously - there would probably less wear and tare on the place.

Those of you who follow me on twitter, you know that we have found another roommate.  This one, let's call him....Aaron - had a look at our place the afternoon after the last person backed out and showed up the next day with TWO CERTIFIED CHEQUES.  I'm super impressed with this guys style, and I beleive he's set a new standard for future roommmates ('cause you gotta know by know he won't stick around for long lol).

Aaron was actually quite up front about what he was looking for and his longeviety potential.  He told us that he's currently a student and is planning on finishing this semester and one summer semester in Calgary (so we're good until end of June) - he said he's not sure where he'll be as of July 1, 2010 - that all depends on if he gets into the school he wants in BC.

So even though he's temporary, we're already ahead of the game because we know we'll be looking for someone again in the summer.


Joint Benefits

Jordan and I have finalllly put each other on our employer paid benefits!

It tooks us long enough, but we'll start to reap the rewards very quickly.  From everything to prescription drug coverage to dental care - we're now doubly covered.

I put together a summary of Jordan's and my benefits below, hopefully it all makes sense.

There are other benefits of course, such as travel insurance, ambulance coverage etc. but the above summarize the most relevent information I think.

I'll explain a few things:
  • We both have 90% coverage on presecription drugs - we don't now have 180%, we now have 100% coverage.  After one plan pays, the other picks up the remaining 10%
  • On the paramedical services, we know each have $1,300 in coverage (except for the two items that don't over lap)
  • Each plan will pay for the  maximum in vision care, so that's awesome for me b/c I wear glasses!
  • Jordan added me to his dental coverage (hurray!), but I did not add him to mine.  This is because Jordan doesn't pay premiums for his dental coverage and I do - the increase in premiums isn't really worth it (at this time) because Jordan is also covered by his inuvialuit benefits.
  • We don't share in each others life insurance, LTD, STD etc. benefits except where there is a spousal dependent benefit if one of us passes.  This is just how the plans are set up.
If anyone has questions, I would be happy to answer them as best I can.


Mileage - What's yours?

When buying a new/used car, often one of the first questions people ask is 'how good is the mileage' - meaning how many km's (or miles) can I drive per liter (or gallon) of fuel.

I've done a lot of driving over the last while, so I thought I'd explore this question a bit.

I currently drive a 1997 Mazda Protege, and according to CarsDirect.com - I should get between 20-25MPG (miles per gallon) in the city, and between 32-37 MPG on the highway.

Here is a summary of my calculations:

1 km = 0.621371 miles
1 liter = 0.264172 US gallons

I'm actually quite surprised!  When I was doing more city driving my MPG was 25 and 26, when I drove from one city to another (3 hours on the highway) my MPG was 33.  It seems like my city driving is great, but I could improve my highway driving mileage.

Here are some tips to improve your fuel economy:

  • Don't speed
    • speeding as well as rapid acceleration and braking wastes gas.
  • Remove excess weight from your vehicle
    •  An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent
  • Avoid excess idling
    • Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas at idle than do cars with smaller engines.
Do you know what your mileage is?


Parking - Saving Money

Not too long ago I told all of you that my parking rates were set to go up in February. I had hinted when I posted my 2010 budget that my parking situation would change but now the time is actually here!

I called the folks who manage the lot where I park and it seems that I am fully paid for the month of February - I thought I had to pay for this month still, whoohoo!. At the end of the month I will courier them my parking pass and then they will courier me a $25 cheque which is the refund of my deposit on the parking pass. I'm currently planning on putting that $25 towards my student loan debt.

My new parking rate, starting March 1, 2010 is $35/month.  The wait list for surface parking where I work is currently a few years long (I've been on it about a year now), but a girl I work with is going on maternity leave and doesn't want to give up her spot.  I'm effectively renting the spot from her until either she comes back from leave, or my name makes it to the top of the list.  Thankfully, work is actually going to just start withdrawing the funds from my pay so I don't have to write the girl a pile of cheques - that makes it wayyy easier for both of us.

The $35 will be deducted from the last pay of each month, I'll be updating my bi-weekly spreadsheets to reflect the changes :)  This change saves me $22.50/month or $270 for the year! Go debt repayment go!


January Utilities - Bills are In

I'm staying with my family this weekend while visiting my grandmother in the hospital and got to talking about the utility bills with my mom.  In the spirt of that conversation I thought that I would post this months bills.  When I say this months bills, I actually mean last months usage.  I get the last of the three bills on the fifth of the month following the month we're being billed for (follow that?)

The Enmax bill, which includes gas (heat), electricity, water, waste water, recycling (* relitlvely new), etc. went up by $7 since last month.  According to Enmax (yea, i asked) our water usage is about half of where most peoples are (proportionate to the number of people that are living in the house) - stayed about the same, electicity stayed about the same - it's just the gas part that went up a bit - this is heating costs.  I hate to imagine how much it would have gone up if we hadn't covered our windows.

The Shaw bill went down by about $6 because I talked less... I used my cell phone quite a bit last month, and actually went over in minutes (don't worry, not by too much).

Bell is the same as it always is (unless Jordan orders a pay-per-view or some such thing).

So, we each owe $147.77

It's not so bad, but it's not so great.  When Jordan and I set up our bi-weekly contributions to our joint account, we estimated that the highest utilites would ever be is $150 (with three people splitting them).  As long as the bills don't go up again, we'll be right on the mark - and they should start to decline as the weather warms up.

I fear that some of you will say the bills are too high, however; I have actually negotiated lower rates on all of the bills above.  Unforutnatly we're bound by a two year contract with Bell - so can't look at other HD television providers until the middle of this summer - but that time will arrive before we know it.


Bi-Weekly Budget

Here is this pay period's bi-weekly budget:

You'll notice quite a few changes as a result of the last few weeks that were in turmoil.  I wrote yesterday about my praise for emergency funds and that I decided that instead of taking ~$650 from my emergency fund account, I would just adjust my budgets for this week and next payday to cover the unexpected expenses.

  • I've transfered $50 from my ING annual expenses fund to help cover the cost of my car registration which I have to pay this month.
  • I've put a temporary stop on all ING savings/funds (except for the house fund) for this pay and next until I pay off my visa
  • My variable categories are the same (transport, food, entertainment, and other).  The entertainment is likely to just go to gas as I'll be trying to visit family this up-coming weekend
  • I've put my student loan lump sum payment on hold
The rest of my visa bill will be paid off next pay day.


Hurray for Emergency Funds

As you all know, last weekend I was in crisis mode. I had a family emergency that pulled me away from Calgary and had me driving all over BC and spending a few nights in a hotel.  My grandmother (thanks to all who asked) is doing well; however, there are still risks and next steps that the family will have to take on in the coming months.

From the moment I left work on Friday morning, to when I got back home late Monday night - I was not worried about money.  I wasn't worried about gas money to drive, or money to pay for the hotel ($110/night), or money to buy supper - heck I bought supper for the family twice. I was comforted that I had over $1,000 in the bank for just this sort of thing.  I was so much more relaxed and able to focus on what was needed because I knew this wouldn't be a problem.

Here's a break down of what I spent:

Most of the category's are fairly self explanatory however something hasn't posted to my account yet, so there's $10.00 not accounted for.  This is likely parking or some such thing.  I also purchased an update to my GPS that I got for Christmas prior to all this and it is also sitting on my Visa.

You'll see on tomorrow's bi-weekly budget that I have allotted $450 to pay the majority of this off and I have set aside an additional $220 on my next pay day (Feb 19) to pay off the rest, because although knowing I had my emergency fund gave me peace of mind, it looks like I won't actually have to use it.


Roommate Wanted...follow up

Earlier today I wrote about our options when it comes to looking for a roommate and asked for a bit of help. Thanks to those folks that replied to the post, and to those that comment via twitter:

  1. eemusingseemusings 
    @jessiesmoney personally? flat rate, assuming its realistic and reasonable. if i was the head tenant, rather split bills
  2. Krystalkrystalatwork  
    @jessiesmoney well. if I'm the renter, I would like flat rates. But if you are charging others, I'd go for separate.
  3. Jenn @ Paying Myselfpayingmyself 
    @jessiesmoney - definitely flat rate that includes utilities.
  4. Krystalkrystalatwork  
    @jessiesmoney definitely a flat rate. Makes it easier to budget monthly expenses

  1. Frugal Dreamer FrugalDreamer 
    @jessiesmoney Flat rate that includes utilities.
  2. David Coulsondcoulson 
    @jessiesmoney Separate utilities is the way to go - Protects you against unexpected usage if they are paying a percentage.

So far, it seems that most people think that a renter would prefer a flat rate.

I thought I should also look at our joint account and make sure we can get through the next month or so if we don't find a roommate.

I'm still waiting on the shaw (internet/phone) bill for January's usage, so I've just guessed what that will be (and therefore how much utility money we'll get from brad) - but it's accurate within a couple of dollars.

Overall, we're okay for February, however; I carried the numbers through to the end of March (this assumes we can't find a roommate - just in case) and I added an 'end of day' line as well.  If rent for March goes through on the first of the month (rare, but sometimes the landlord is on her A-game) it will bounce.

To cover our butts, I'll transfer $150 from our joint house fund into the joint chequing account which will give us enough breathing room until April 1st.  If we still haven't found someone by the middle of March, we will stop contributing to the house fund and re-direct those funds to the joint chequing account.  We are fairly confident that we'll find another roommate as although people haven't stayed, we've been able to find a roommate each time before.

Roommate Wanted...

I feel like I've written this post a hundred times before....well - this is actually the third time.

After I got home the night before last, Jordan and I got talking and realized roommate, B-rad, hadn't left a rent cheque.  Jordan called him to ask if he had left it somewhere we couldn't see.  He say's something to the effect of ...'umm... about that'

Apparently he and is on-again, off-again, girlfriend of 4 years are on - and are getting engaged/married this summer.  He and she are looking to find their own place.  Just like the last one he was here a month and is moving out the next month (for a total stay of two months).

It's a very stressful time, but just like before we will endeavor to find another roommate.

Rent for our 3 bedroom townhouse is $1350 (plus utilities).  We rent the room for $500 plus a third split of utilities (about $100 in the summer and about $150 in the winter).  Jordan and I split the remainder.  There are a few reasons why we charge a roommate a bit more then we pay ourselves:

  • the rent was set at $500 before we negotiated a rent decrease
  • $500 seems to be fair - market wise I checked out a few other places and it seems priced right based on the neighborhood etc.
  • jordan and i are ultimately responsible for the place
    • we are the only names on the lease at this time
  • we are in a month-to-month lease and cannot ask someone to sign an agreement
  • with paying less, i don't expect roommates to buy garbage bags, dishwasher soap and things like that
  • jordan and i are responsible for yard maintenance and thus must provide/repair the equipment used for yard maintenance
That said, with next roommate, we need to find a way to keep someone for a sustainable period of time.  My dad suggested a rent decrease if people pay a few months (say 6) upfront.  Another idea could be a rent decrease if they guarantee two months notice if they move or we hold back full damange deposit (have no idea if that's legal).

Do any of you folks have ideas on how to keep people around?

Another one of our problems has been that we don't get all the months utility bills until the fifth of the following month.  Our last roommate refused to give the key back until he got his damange deposit back, and I refused to give his damage deposit back until the utility bills came in.  I could understand his point, but I'm not really sure how to handle this going forward.

I thought perhaps if we rented the room for $650 all inclusive that could solve the problem (or thereabouts) - but my aunt suggested that people who don't have variable utilities may not care about them and that could drive utilities up (if they don't care it may mean leaving lights on, extra long showers, turning the furnace up...etc).

Does anyone have ideas on how to solve this gem?

Yes we could move,  yes we could just live by ourselves - but the current arrangement (with a roommate) enables us to save as much as we do towards a house down-payment ($150/week rotating b/w jordan and i).


Crisis Mode

We have gone from one crisis to another and then slapped with another.

wow, am i ever tired. my whole family is tired.

My grandmother fell on Thursday night. She broke her hip pretty badly. She was rushed to hospital, which is where I rushed to on Friday morning after I found out (a three hour drive). By the time I got there they were loading her up to take her to a different hospital (another three hour drive in a different direction). They have bolted her hip back together; unfortunately she has hip dysplasia which is compounded by severe osteoporosis and arthritis. It is unfortunate because it means that it was a very difficult surgery and her bone may not be strong enough for it to be an excellent prognosis.

I got back to Calgary late Monday night - Jordan, being the super awesome guy that he his had started laundry and had supper ready when I got home (he had come to the hospital city for a couple days, but left on Sunday to get back to work).

Posts to come include great praise for the emergency fund once I figure out all the money... my visa took some punishment this weekend. I'll also be writing about fuel mileage as there was a lot of driving about (once I get all my receipts organized).

I apologize if this post is riddled with spelling mistakes and grammar errors - I wanted to write something and this is just what I wound up with.

oh...and our roommate, yeah - the third new one since my brother moved out - just gave us notice.

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