1/27/2010

Update - This & That

Little Brother
To all those bloggers who are also parents and have full time jobs - I am so impressed!

With have Jordan's little brother staying with us, the frequency that I have been writing has gone down dramatically over the last two weeks!  We have had some significant trials over the past while - and although I love the kid like my own little brother, I am so glad his parents get back to town tomorrow.

Little brother will stay with us tomorrow night, and then go back to his home on Friday after school. Following this weekend, I hope to be back to a more regular writing schedule.

Receipt Tracking
This past week I've had a hard time keeping and tracking receipts.  We had a lot of additional expenses due to Little Brother being with us (including groceries, socks & underwear, increased gas).  I'm going to try again in February.

1/25/2010

Student Loan Plan of Attack....

One of my goals for 2010 is to completely pay off my student loans.  Now that we're into the swing of things for 2010, I thought I'd review my plan to get it paid off.

The combined balances (after today's deposit) are standing at $8,007.  The Alberta loan is sitting at $5,342 and the Canada loan is sitting at $2,665.  Here's a visual of my plan:



As mentioned in my goals post, I'll need to come up with about $2,500 extra (plus a couple hundred for interest).  I haven't got a chance to do my taxes yet, but once I get my paperwork in, in a few weeks, I'll be sorting that out.  I'm hoping that I can get a solid $2,000 from taxes to put towards my student loans - otherwise... i'm going to have to figure out how to make more money.  Although April is when we get raises at work - it's hard to say what will happen this year.

It's pretty sweet that I'll get my Canada student loan paid off within a week of Jordan paying off his truck!  July will be a month for celebration!!

1/22/2010

I am now an owner!

One of the unique and awesome things about the company I work for is that it is 100% employee owned, in an industry where that is pretty rare (from my understanding of it). All salaried employees can join the share purchase program and put however much away each pay day towards their purchase. You can purchase shares twice a year (end of June and end of December). I’m sure some of you saw the budget line and tracking bar I had, working towards my first share purchase.

This past December the minimum purchase was 20 shares (and then you can buy in increments of 5), thanks to a stellar interest rate when they set the prices, I was able to buy 25 shares!

I feel pretty excellent about that!

It’s confidential information, so I can’t share exactly the structure/dividends pay – but it’s pretty good.

The shares are more than a financial investment, it’s an investment in my career. For me to be able to reach lofty heights in this company – I need to reach a certain….status….we’ll call it. The minimum number of shares for this status, is around 1,700…. So I certainly have a way to go – and owning the shares isn’t the only thing I need to do to reach this status, but it is one of the core requirements. I figure if I buy them up now, it’s less I have to buy in a lump sum fashion 10 or 15 years down the road. It also helps my management team see that I have an ownership mentality, and plan on making something of myself here.  

1/21/2010

Bi-Weekly Budget

Here it is, my bi-weekly budget:



  • Current Balance
    • Whoa! What?!  Is that a minus?! ... yes, yes it is.  It has been an extremely hectic week with Jordan's little brother, and during a visit to the children's hospital this past Saturday I wasn't thinking about $$.  We needed some sustenance (we were there for about 8 hours, I won't go into details, but the kid's doing okay).
    • I'll take a $5 overdraft hit and some interest penalty
  • ING Transfers are all the same as usual
  • I've cut my entertainment and food budget a tad to make up for a $117.34 visa payment. Don't worry about the food and the 14 year old, we're managing well and still have some cash ($20) left over from last week and we're well stocked.  What pray tell is on my visa?
    • A $50+ charge from a restaurant that Jordan and I visited when we were in my home town over Christmas!  It just posted to my account and I  had forgotten about it.  Given this surprise, I'm thinking I should follow some of Gail Vaz-Oxlade's advise and reconcile!
    • $30 from my ancestry.ca registration, I started digging into my family tree again
    • Parking at the Children's Hospital
    • $20ish in interest from visa planning fail over Christmas.  Jordan owed me a couple hundred from Christmas spending and he didn't get paid until after my bill was due.  It was just a couple of days - but that surely won't happen again next year.
  • I'll be making a lump sum payment on my Canada student loan this pay day!
    • I thought about using this money to make up for the trip to the hospital and some of my visa bill, but that's really not in the spirit of getting my loan paid off - even if it was an emergency.
  • It's still crazy winter here, so my horse board will be $165 for a few more months yet (probably won't come down until April or May).
  • yes... i know.. bank fees still suck
  • Regular monthly student loan payments are set to come out as usual.
That should be everything!  questions/comments ?

Oh - and in case you are worried that having $0 for entertainment will set me up to use my Visa - I think it's safe - I've got some gift cards that I have saved from work and Christmas - but that's for another post.

1/20/2010

do you shop Costco?

Not too long ago I highlighted the grocery comparisson that CTV Calgary does each month.  The reporter compares the top four grocery stores in Calgary and there are pretty consistent results in terms of where it costs more/less to shop.

I have been a long time beleiver that Costco is cheaper to buy a great number of items.  Today, I thought I would compare the meat prices found at Costco, with the meat found at the grocery stores that CTV reviews each month.  Though I don't see posting exactly what I purchase as a regular feature on Jessie's Money, I thought it would be valuable to share a stocking up shop.  Jordan and I probably do a meat shop like this every 10-12 weeks or so (I'm guessing, haven't ever really paid attention to the frequency).

mmmmeat!!

Here's the breakdown of the Costco shop:


* The sausage was two dollars off! That's why the weight and regular price/KG don't add up to $9.20



I gathered my comparrison data using the most up to date flyers I could find online.  I had troubles comparing the exact same roast, but that's the only one I'm not sure of.  Here is a price comparisson of Costco against the four main grocery stores in Calgary:




Unfortunatly I wasn't able to find details online about each product - they don't all have the same items listed online - and at this point, I'm not willing to drive to each place to check it out.

I'll tell you though, going through this exercise took about 90 minutes, and I'm much more aware of how much meat could/should cost then I was when I ventured out.  Overall, I'm pretty happy with the prices I paid - though I'm cetainly going to watch for sales on chicken breast.

1/18/2010

Book Review: Your Money Ratios

I was recently approached to write a review on Your Money Ratios: 8 Simple Tools for Financial Security, by Charles Farrell. I’ve so far seen a couple of reviews crop up already, and I must say – I’m impressed with your work! I’ve picked up and put down this book a solid half dozen times trying to read it. I wanted to be able to provide a comprehensive, thoughtful review.

Unfortunately, I am only able to share with you some basic highlights.

I found this book very hard to get into. Not that the language was difficult – it was actually very basic language – and so on the surface easy to understand, however; it was also very repetitive which made it frustrating to try to read. At times I felt like the author was speaking to someone very young, so you could say aspects of the book also felt somewhat condescending; however, that may have been just due to the repetition.

The book set out to answer five questions:
  1. How much should I be saving each year? 
  2. How much should I have saved at my age? 
  3. How much debt can I carry? 
  4. How should I invest my savings? 
  5. What type of insurance do I need? 
These questions, were meant to be answered through a variety of ratios. Basically, by age X you should have saved $X/$current salary = ratio of savings to salary. I won’t detail the progression, but I will say that the books’ message was by the time you reach retirement age you should have saved 12x your salary. The ratios themselves seem pretty easy to follow along – but I didn’t necessarily agree with the information provided – there wasn’t a solid reason behind the math, why 12X?

I’ll be the first one to say, that by the time the book got to the math, I may already have had a mental block that it wasn’t going to work. It’s hard to say at this point.

I am sad to say, that I stopped reading after the introduction to Chapter 3: Social Security. Up until that point, there was no specific mention (that I caught at least) that the book was directed to folks from the U.S. of A. I am Canadian. I said to myself, and to Jordan, maybe the concepts will still apply. Again, I tried to get through them but unfortunately the American language was so lost on me, that I gave up.

I so appreciate that this book try’s to provide guidance on answering some age old questions relating to how much and for how long someone should save – but I truly believe that every case is different and it so depends on your personal circumstances.

1/15/2010

The Truck Loan

Last week I posted a question that Jordan had about some vacation that his company wanted him to either take or have paid out.  After some really excellent feedback (thank you everyone), he decided to request the pay out and put it towards his truck loan.

His company works quick!  They paid him out yesterday, along with his regular pay.  He requested an even $500.  After deductions that worked out to be $341.60.  With his brother staying with us, he's decided to keep the $41.60 as he'll probably need an extra tank of gas and pay $300 towards the truck loan.

I've just completed the online request to make an additional loan payment  - the online system said that it can take up to two days to process.  Given that it's Friday morning, I won't call the bank until Wednesday morning (if it's not processed by then).

So lets have a look at the numbers:

Current Balance: $2,373.49
Less Vacation:         300.00
New Balance      $2,073.49

With an interest rate of 9.25%, of each $150 payment (bi-weekly) $141.10 goes towards the principal of the loan.  That means that there are now 13.82 bi-weekly payments left.  Rounded to 14, the truck will be paid off by July 29, 2010!!  Wow! Jordan will be complete debt free by this summer!

Receipt Tracking

Last week, in my bi-weekly budget post, I promised that I would keep track of all of my receipts to try to get a better handle on my budget and to ensure that I had correctly allotted amounts for each category.  Week one is up, here is a summary:



 Jordan and I contribute $100 to our food budget/jar each pay day - as we are paid on opposite weeks - this is $400/month.  This includes groceries as well as personal items that would be purchased in a grocery store.  So that worked out just about perfectly this week!  This week I bought a few new scrapbooks that I want to work on (a budding hobby).  They are half sized - so I'm hoping they won't be as daunting as my first try doing a big book.  McDonald's was a bit of an indulgence, we were out almost all day and starving - when we get hungry - we get b*itchy with each other....so the food was worth us being nice :)

I included the car wash as an 'other' but perhaps that should have gone in transportation?  I'm not really sure.

Over all, I'm pretty happy with this.  As long as I don't spend more then $20 over the next week - which should be completely doable.  I would like to get out of the habit of spending my variable budget money during the first week I get paid, but it works out b/c Jordan gets paid on opposite weeks.

1/13/2010

Utilities in the Winter

I`m not sure about all of you folks, but for me, winter is the hardest time of year to keep the utility bills down.  It's cold and costs more to heat the house, and people generally spend more time inside and at home (using more resources).  Rainy Day Saver has spoken about her struggles with this as well.

To try to combat the house heating woes this year, we installed some special indoor glass plastic over the windows that is supposed to act as an insulating double pane.  I did this before Christmas, and as the heating part of the utility bill is always a month behind, we`ll see the effects on the bill at the end of the month.

Before that happens, I wanted to share with you how easy it was to install!!  I did it myself while Jordan was watching hockey.

Before:                                                                     After:




Other then a bit of shine, you can`t tell the difference between the two!  I`m really hoping that in a few weeks, I`ll be able to share how much $$ we saved!

Further to the fake double pane, we also where sweaters and use a small room heater when necessary - so we're only heating an extra small space instead of the entire place. We keep the house at 20C, and I turn it down to around 16C when we leave for work in the morning.

Do you live somehwhere where you have to combat the heating bill each winter?  I'm also wondering if folks have used this type of insulating plastic before and if you noticed a different.  We used it on our the bedroom/bathroom windows as well as the door - all of the major heat loss affenders.


1/12/2010

ahhh.. Finished The Basement

Yesterday I mentioned that Jordan's little brother (14 yrs old) is coming to stay with us for two weeks and that I was working to get the basement in order so he would have somewhere to hang out with friends, other then his bedroom, if he didn't want to hang out with Jordan and I.  After all of the moves in and out over the last couple of months a lot of work had piled up but I finished last night.

Before:

















After:












I`m really pleased with how the space came together.  The fish tank you see in the corner of the first after picture is up for sale, and someone might actually want to buy it now (worth about $300 with all of the stuff that goes with it).

I through away 2 bags of garbage and had a huge box and a bag of recycling!  There is still a pile of electronics for Jordan to go through - but other then that, it`s pretty excellent I`d say.

1/11/2010

Comment Moderation

Hello Folks,

I apologize as I have a couple of spammers that are starting to crop up.  Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to manually delete comments if I didn't have comment moderation on to begin with.  I  have just changed my comment settings to have word verification to hopefully stop any further spamming.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

 - for those who use blogger, if you know how to delete comments - please let me know!

[Edit]

As it turns out I had to remove word verification b/c people couldn't see the box to enter in the word :(  I'm going to try comment moderation for a while, to see if that works.

This Weekend

So... what did we do this weekend?   I didn't post a list like some did, but there were a few things we wanted to and got done.

  • We bought my great aunt a laptop (she paid for it, we just shopped for it).  She wants to be able to e-mail family.  She's 80, and never experienced a computer before, so it'll be pretty interesting to teach her how to use it.  We've got it set up, and i'll probably deliver it on Tuesday.
  • Played WOW! Yea.. that wasn't really on the to do list, but I asked Jordan what we accomplished - and he said 'we played wow.
  • We did some grocery shopping (and yes, i kept the receipt and will be posting a summary of my spending at the end of this two-week period).
  • We got a huuge start on cleaning out the basement.
When we had all of our roommates shuffling around for the past couple of months, the basement became a sort of dumping ground.  We have Jordan's little brother coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks (starting Wednesday after school), and it was important that we gave him a space to hang out that wasn't his bedroom, or the living room - because we're just not very cool these days lol.  I really want him to be comfortable during his stay.  There's still some saving, selling and donating to do - but it's coming along.

On the PF side of things, Jordan's mom is giving us $150 for the duration of his stay.  Jordan and I give ourselves $50/week/each for groceries - so figured that $100 is safe for his stay, and the $50 is for any other incidentals that may come up...that said, neither of us know how much a 14 year old eats.  Any tips?

1/08/2010

Bi-Weekly Budget

It's that time again - below you will find my bi-weekly budget:



This weeks pay is about what I thought it would be given the changes I made, but there of courses were variances because each year the tax man changes the rules around federal/provincial taxes.

You can see all of my ING transfers are set to go through for my new funds detailed in my 2010 budget.  I'm looking forward to see all of these 'funds' going up!

The joint fund as well as the Transportation/Food/Entertainment (other) are as per usual.  It's been difficult but I'm sticking with $100 on the entertainment/other category.  I find that I have been using my credit card to supplement it through, so it may be worth it to try tacking expenses a little closer for a while to see if the budget as a whole needs re-working or my thinking does.  Either way, I've got a visa payment on this budget that pays off the balance.

Something new you'll see on my bi-weekly budgets is a CSL - Lump Sum Pay category.  Any monies that I have not allocated somewhere else will go towards a payment towards my Canada Student Loan.  My snowflakes - to take from Jolie at Shaking the Money Tree.  I anticipate that each month this should equal about $350 or so.

For the sake of being honest...which i'm not excited about...The Visa payment includes:

  • Lunch with Jordan
  • A few household items at Ikea
    • we decided to finally get an area rug and needed a few things for the kitchen
  • Staples
    • got a can of air to clean out my printer which has been crapping out, also needed this for my computer. we also bought a small shelving unit to store all the movies/games we got for Christmas.. they were just stacked in front of the tv looking messy and disorganized.
  • London Drugs
    • this was a tub for storage of Christmas decorations and paper for my printer and some tinsel for next year that was on sale
  • BBQ Galore
    • I gave Jordan a smoker for Christmas but we needed charcoal, wood chips & lighter cubes - he smoked an entire 10lbs turkey - it was great, and we've been using it for sandwich meat.
  • Liquor Store
    • a few odds and ends to re-stock after Christmas.  I like to have a couple bottles of wines handy should be invited somewhere for supper - don't like to show up empty handed
  • A few household items from Walmart
    • i can't even remember what we bought.. so that's a bad sign - I'm defn. going to keep receipts for the next two weeks...now that I'm thinking about it - I believe there were a couple of blue ray movies on sale that I bought.  oops.
There were certainly some indulges there (ie lunch out) - but there were a few things that I feel were needs (yes some were just wants).  So I will track all of my spending for the next two weeks to have a look at things.  

1/07/2010

Jordan's Response

...to yesterday's questions was:

@Jessie's Mom - I have carry over due to the fact that my employment date started Aug 8th of 2008. Of which time I didnt take any vacation hence the roll over.

@Frugal Dreamer - aside from not having a performance review since I've started working here... its been great. I've been blessed with having only 2 bosses ever that were intolerable.

@All - I am going to cash in the vacation pay as being able to have the truck paid off during the month of July (which is my birth month) that'll be my xmas present to myself :) Also I was planning on re-investing my tax return for our savings goals... so either way I win :)

Thanks for all the feedback on my situation

Jessie Says > He did leave the above in the comments section this morning, but I thought I would post it for those folks who don't go back to read them.

1/06/2010

Vacation Pay: Carry Forward or Pay out?

I'm sure most, if not all, of you know that my boyfriend/common-law partner is Jordan.  He receives each of my blog posts via e-mail, reads them, and rarely comments - though sometimes we talk about them after work if something was particularly interesting for him.

He's called me - and has a question for all the Jessie's Money reader's out there.

Unlike Frugal's partner H, who's Boss in an Ass,  his employer actually tracks and pays for vacation properly.  He's just found out that he has $527.39 worth of vacation left to take from 2009.  His employer is giving him the option to carry it forward to 2010 or to have it paid out.  He'd like your/my help in figuring out what to do.

I'll break this down for you.

His annual salary is $38,400 (or approximately $18.46/hour).  That means the above mentioned amount of vacation is worth 28.56 hours or 3.57 days (based on an 8 hour work day).

Jordan mentioned that after taxes, his net pay was $30,000 which means his marginal tax rate is 21.88%.  So, if we deduct 21.88% from $527.39 Jordan would receive a payout of approximately $412.

He has given me these five options:
  1. Leave the 'money' as vacation, and use it during the year.  I kind of like this idea because I get 3 weeks vacation each year, and Jordan gets 2 weeks.  Keeping the 3.5 days would mean we could take more time off together.
The next four involve having the vacation paid out.
  1. Use the money to play - new video games or some other such thing!
  2. Use the money to contribute to his newly opened RRSP (currently has about $550)
  3. Use the money to contribute to our house fund
  4. Use the money to pay down his only debt, the personal loan we took out to get him a truck.
With regards to the debt, I'll give you some details.

We took out the loan for $4,500 a while back, and Jordan was making payments of $216.06/month - which would have the loan paid off in two years, $8 of that payment was also for loan insurance b/c at that time our jobs were uncertain.  In September '09, Jordan increased his payments to $150/bi-weekly which shaved off about 6 months to the re-payment timeline.

The loan is currently sitting at $2514.59 w/ an interest rate of 9.25% - which leaves 17.88 bi-weekly payments left or a Debt Elimination Date of Sepetember, 2010.

If he uses the money to put towards the loan, it would result in 14.95 bi-weekly payments, or give him a Debt Elimination Date of July, 2010.

Phew - okay, so I've obviously put more thought into the debt repayment option - but don't let that sway you (it's just kind of what I do).

So - what should Jordan do?  Should he keep the vacation as vacation or should he request a payout.  If he get's it paid out - what should he do with the $412 he'll receive...

Thanks All!

The house fund... is back!

Back in October, Jordan and I put our house fund on hold.  We had just gotten notice that all of our roommates would be moving out - and weren't sure if we'd be able to handle the rent on our own (It was $1,500 back then).  Since then, we successfully negotiated a rent decrease to $1,350 and went from having three roommates to just one.  Our rent effectively went from $300/month to $425/month.


Even with an increase to our monthly expenses, I'm pleased to report that both Jordan and I have set up our bi-weekly automatic transfers into the house fund.  We will each contribute $150/bi-weekly on opposite weeks.  So each month, the fund will get $600/month, except for four months out of the year where it will get $750 (thanks to our 'extra' pay days).  It's pretty powerful, saving for a joint goal this way, the savings increase very quickly - and thus we are encouraged to continue to save.  


I'm sure a few folks remember that we also took a loan from ourselves to the tune of $750/each (so $1,500 total) to purchase some much needed household items.  We are still planning on depositing any tax returns we get to the fund to top it back up.


That said - would you folks out there suggest we stay that course, or take any tax refund we get and pay down debt (Jordan the truck loan and me a student loan)?

1/05/2010

Overtime Project II - Payout Question

In October, I wrote about my Overtime Project II.  My goal was to reach 75 hours of OT before Christmas, which would net me approximately $1,000 to put towards my student loans.

I actually reached 54.00 hours, 72% of my goal.  I'm pleased with my effort - and still have some extra work to do in the office.  I'm going to continue to plug away at work, and if I get some more OT - that's great, if not - I won't beat myself up over it.  It's a lot of work - to put in so much work ;)

Currently, I plan on waiting until April before requesting a payout.  I should get a raise in 4 months, and my OT hours will be worth my new rate (it's an accepted practice at my office).  So currently, those hours are worth $24.10 (I gross 47K annually).  I was told in October '09, that my boss would like to see me making $50-$51K - so let's assume I get a $3K raise to $50K gross - my hours would then be worth $25.64 (based on a 37.50/hour work week).

That would mean my 54 hours of overtime would be worth $1,382 (gross) vs $1,301.40 (gross). Considering taxes (marginal rate of 32%) - I would get $884.95 now or $939.76 later.

Would you wait for April, or should I request my OT payout now?


[Edit]
Thanks for all the great comments so far - here are my interest rates:
Alberta Student Loan Interest Rate - 2.25%
Canada Student Loan Interest Rate - 4.75%

1/04/2010

Personal Goals

Hello All!

What an absolutley fabulous Christmas/New Years vacation I had! 

I'm feeling a little rusty, but am eager to get back into the swing of things.

Thanks to everyone for their postive feedback on my 2010 budget and financial goals - I think it's going to be an excellent year!  In terms of personal goals, I've only come up with a few so far.
  • Give myself more time in the morning to get ready for work
    • I often find that I wind up sleeping in and so only have 20 minutes to get out the door.  I want to push that to an hour and get my mind in body in shape using that time.
  • Be a healthier me
    • This means taking the stairs at work, drinking more water, being more active in general & eating salad
That's it!

I'm keeping it simple and acheivable.

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