12/30/2011

Property Taxes

Up until today, we have been going on the assumption that our property taxes would be about $2,000/year - this is based on what our builder had been telling as about property in the area - so our budget has reflected a monthly amount of $167.  Thinking about it, this was probably a good guess based on the house before upgrades and on the 2010 tax rate.

I had some time to call the City's tax office today and learned quite a bit about how the taxes are calculated/adjusted.

When a new home is built, the taxes are based on purchase price of the home (including GST, down payments, and upgrades - not including CMHC insurance) - that would make our approximate tax bill for 2011 $2,104 - that divided by 12 gives us monthly payments of $175. I'm not sure what the 2012 tax rates will be, so this is the value we've used to sign up for monthly payments to the city.

Because we only owned our home for 6.57% of the year, we we owe approximately $138 for the 2011 year - the payments above are for 2012 while we wait for the adjustment notification that we and our home builder will have to sort out. 

When the new property assessments come out in the spring, we'll find out the City's assessment of our homes value and adjustments will be made for payments from June through to December.  That could mean that for the remainder of the year our tax bill goes up, or down, depending on if we over or under guessed when signing up for the monthly billing cycle.

You might asked why we signed up for the monthly payments instead of paying annually.  Unlike vehicle insurance, there is no interest charged for setting up a monthly payment program vs paying in a lump sum - the only drawback is that we lose out on a very slight amount of interest if we had been putting the money away in a savings account when the annual bill came due.  For us - with home ownership being so new, we thought the monthly plan suited us best.

If you are a homeowner, do you pay your property taxes annually or monthly?  Why?

12/29/2011

The Credit Card is Paid Off!



It feels amazing to have this debt wiped out for the second time...and I hope, the last time.  I'm not sure how many of you caught my guest post on Krystal's blog a while back, but it described how we wound up here ni debt again and more importantly a theory on why it happened again.  I would like to re-post my thoughts here:



When I first started blogging, I wrote from a single person’s financial perspective. And I struggled to stay committed – not to the end goal, but to the process. I found it easy to come up with goals and to write about them, but I had a very difficult time tracking my spending. So while I could check my debt balances, I had no clue if my spending was in line with my budget. I also spent a good part of the first year of my blog worrying about job loss. Thankfully I survived three rounds of layoffs, and I continued to get recognition and pay increases – which helped the progress on my debt goals.
A year or so ago, Jordan (my now husband) and I merged all of our finances. We got a joint credit card that we used for all of our spending. We were able to start tracking where our money was going, and it was a huge eye-opener for us.  We found out that we spent a lot more on eating out and alcohol than we had imagined – including our groceries, we were putting an average of $1,000 in our mouths every month!  That realization brought us to a place where we were more focused than ever and we progressively curbed our spending in those categories each month.
We were able to pay off not only my debt, but his as well. Merging our incomes provided us with opportunity to re-think our spending and saving strategies. It also provided us with the financial power to pay off our debt.
We enjoyed being debt-free for about four months before we started to fall into the debt hole again.
We had convinced ourselves that because we had good jobs. And because we were not afraid of a job loss, we told ourselves we would be ‘fine’ no matter what came up. On top of that, we were both really really tired of thinking about, talking about and writing about money. Then, Jordan and I bought a new vehicle together, adopted a dog, got engaged, purchased a home (through a new home builder) and got married – oh, and we just adopted a second dog. With the wedding planning underway and having to make decision after decision about our new home purchase, we became – quite simply - exhausted.
Most of us have heard of debt fatigue.  Gail Vaz-Oxlade describes it as the mental state that occurs when you have been in debt for so long that it feels like you’ll never get out – so you stop caring and just continue buying. She believes that it is at the three year mark when debt fatigue tends to sit in. The description never really seemed to fit for us; we certainly got debt paid off the first time in less than three years – so why were we so tired?  Why did we stop caring?
My mom found an article in the New York Times that talks about Decision Fatigue which seemed to describe what we were going through. Here is how the article describes it:
No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain.
Wow! That described Jordan and I to a T.
I don’t want to use “decision fatigue” as an excuse, but it certainly helps explain so much of our behavior. We had been making so many huge decisions that our capacity to make small ones has been diminished.  
I’m hopeful that understanding this type of fatigue will help us to avoid getting in debt a third time. Come November, we will take possession of our new home and we will be debt free again – aside from our mortgage and car loan. 
It’s the awareness of our money and our energy levels with both paying off debt, and with the mental energy it takes to make good decisions, that will keep us on track. Combine that with the love and support we have for each other, and a couple of good spreadsheets – and we should be just fine.


12/26/2011

Organized for the New Year

I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas/Holiday celebration with friends and family - I've enjoyed having a week off and am looking forward to another.  I spent some time this morning finalizing the transfer of all of our accounts to our new house and getting our 2012 budget confirmed.  Jordan and I, unless an unforeseen disaster strikes, will have our credit card totally paid off by the end of the year and we are both so looking forward to entering 2012 being consumer debt free (aside from the vehicle loan).

We have settled on the following as our monthly budget:

Our utilities won't be that high - but it was the average of the bills in the rental.  While our home was built with some upgrades in the windows and insulation and we also have six months free of our phone, internet and satellite tv services - we haven't received our first bill yet and just want to have a bit of wiggle room.

Our insurance has been a huge win, we had further discounts when we actually moved and so this payment includes both of our vehicles as well as the house.

I have increased our gas budget because our commute is a bit longer - we don't have a good gauge on what it will be, but if it's more - the overage in the utilities guess should cover it.

I'm not really concerned if we spend more or less in either booze or eating out/entertainment categories - as long as the three combined are equal to or less than $450/month.

We have started our allowances up again so that we have a bit of personal spending freedom.  It's so nice to be able to treat someone to lunch without having to check in with each other first.

The Joint House account is a planned spending account that includes everything from clothes, shoes, hair cuts, pets, annual expenses, vehicle and home maintenance as well as large household purchases.

The majority of the Joint Gifts account is for Christmas, but it is also intended to include birthday presents/housewarming gifts and that sort of thing too.

The Joint Emerg and RRSP accounts are pretty self explanatory - although last year we only put $100/month into each of these and we've increased it to $200/month for each of these categories.

Financially, I'm feeling a lot more positive as Jordan and I embark into the new year as a married couple in our own home.  I'm looking forward to staying positive in the rest of my life too!




12/05/2011

think..think..think...

I feel a bit like Winnie the Pooh tonight - always had a lot going on, but had troubles focusing. 

Financially there's a few interesting things going on, I'm getting a Profit Share from work and we got part of our damage deposit back from our landlord - but I've talked so much about it with Jordan and I'm not really motivated to go into great detail about it. 

Emotionally I'm pretty drained.  My Maid of Honor has made it really easy to settle in at her place, but it is her place - not our place and so I feel a bit out of place. 

Family wise....My brother just got a promotion at work - so we're really excited for him and he's starting to take a pretty keen interest in his finances which is awesome.  My dad is sick, and while most of the time I'm pretty okay, once in a while I hear a song or think of something and just have to have a little cry.  Jordan is pretty amazing thought, I get hugs whenever I need them.

Work is super busy right now.  We are completely understaffed and don't appear to have a training or hiring plan in place...we're not meant to work any over time, but I am and am hoping that the axe doesn't fall on me for that.  I feel like my team is spinning a bit out of control and I'm doing what I can to hold it together, but I really don't feel like I'm doing a good enough job (I'm not a supervisor, am one of two intermediates on my team).

I'm really looking forward to Christmas, but am starting to put a lot of pressure on myself to get the house totally unpacked and settled before the holidays, but I'm not sure how realistic that is.  It's like I can't help but to put pressure on myself where none really needs to be there.

I asked Jordan what we were going to do with ourselves after we get settled in - it's been a pretty big year with buying a new vehicle, adopting two dogs, getting married and building our first home.  We had some jokes about it - but I really am not sure what I'll do with all my energy. 

Will I put more into work? life? family?

I hope to put a bit more time into family and friends and maybe, just maybe, a little time for myself.

12/04/2011

Unexpected Laptop Issues

While my computer is packed, we kept Jordan's laptop out and available for our transition period of homelessness.  Unforutnatly, a couple of days ago we realized it had shifted in the vehicle (read dropped) and unforutnatly the hard drive crashed.  In to Memory Express we went - $250 later, we have a new hardware and new operating system.

The good news is that $250 is a lot less money than a new laptop!

The next couple of days should be pretty quiet as we had our last house related meeting, prior to possession, on Saturday.  I'm hoping to get caught up on blogging and go visit the pups a few times while Jordan is studying for and then taking an exam this week.

I hope you all had a great weekend!

12/01/2011

Officially Homeless

We handed over the keys to our rental last night to our landlord and don't have possession of our new home until December 8th - we are officially homeless.

My gracious Maid of Honor and Best Friend has opened her doors to us and we've now taken over her spare bedroom - we brought more items that we had planned on because the weather dropped into freezing temperatures and we didn't need exploding/frozen bottles of cleaners and bulk kitchen goods in the truck...good thing she's such a gem!

Jordan and I are both mentally and physically exhausted and are looking forward to resting for a few days.

We have our orientation of the new house this afternoon - wish us luck!

11/28/2011

Tracking Bars Updated

Just a quick update this morning -

We are now permitted to spend the funds we had been required (by our bank) to allocate to closing costs.  While Jordan and I knew that our closing costs would only be beer/pizza/uhaul rental (so max $500) we were required to have 1.5% of the value of the mortgage available for closing costs.

Jordan and I have moved some money into our emergency fund, Christmas fund, and new home furniture fund as well as made a large credit card payment.

yay!

11/24/2011

Spending Update

Below are September and October spending recaps (I get the bills in the first week of the following month - that's why I have Oct/Nov below).  The October bill was a bit horrific...oops, but November was back on track with spending of just over $1,600.

Our gas bill has gone up significantly as we've been driving out to see our new house every couple of days, monitoring the progress of the build.  

I did some early Christmas shopping which shows on the October bill and Jordan and I also bought a few pieces of new furniture for the new house (home maintenance) that were on an amazing sale.


11/23/2011

11/22/2011

Home & Debt Update

If you follow me on Twitter you know that Jordan and I have our possession date - December 8th! You also know that to save money we gave notice for November 30th, which means we're pretty much going to be homeless for eight days.  At first we thought we might stay at a hotel because even that would be less expensive then rent and utilities for the full month of December but then both our Maid of Honor and Best Man offered their homes to us and while smaller, we chose to stay with my Maid of Honor.  She lives in a quieter place and also has a free parking stall that we can use for one of our vehicles.

Here's a few pics of the house:











We've been purging and packing every night for the last few weeks so that we're only bringing things into our new home that we want to have there - everything else has to go - including everything that old roommates have left behind.  So far, we've filled our recycling and garbage bins three times (full!) and sold $460 worth of goods. After a late night delivery last night of a few items, we stopped by the bank to make a deposit - it felt soooo good!

Here's an update on our joint credit card debt after making a payment this morning - unfortunately, it's gone  up a bit but we are still on track to have it paid off at the end of December - where is this extra money coming from you ask?  It's an assumption that I'll get a bit of profit share from my company, some of our damage deposit back and will pay out some banked overtime hours if I have to.


I hope to get back to posting a bit more regularly soon - but for now I imagine it will continue to be sporadic.

11/18/2011

Miss Me?

Life has gotten hectic lately!

Work has been extremely busy and life has been a roller coaster.

We have our possession date for the home - December 8th!  I'm far to frugal to have paid a full months rent for December so we're going to be homeless for 8 days - we'll be couch surfing and our dogs will be in a kennel.

My dad is pretty sick so that's caused a bunch of stress too - he's responding well to treatment so we are all very positive.

I'm planning to get back into the swing of things soon; however, I really don't think I'll be settled into routine again until the new year.

11/01/2011

10/27/2011

Christmas Budgeting

Can you believe that Christmas is right around the corner?  Don't believe me...check out the Christmas Countdown Clock....at the time that I'm writing this post...



wowza...only 62 days!!

Jordan and I are going for an even more frugal Christmas than we normally have - trying to focus on thoughtful versus expensive.  We make this plan every year - but it's so hard to stay true.  I just keep seeing things that I want to share with my loved ones.

We're going to try to stick to about $50 a person - so if we're getting a gift for a couple our budget would be max $100.  We have 16 groups of people - for a total of $1,150 - which is more than we have saved so we'll actually have to try to shave the budget in some places.

What do you all try to do?

10/26/2011

House Update Wednesday

Wow!  So it's been a few weeks since I've given you an update on the house...what a slacker.

Sooo much has been done since my last update when I told you that the plumbing rough-ins were being done.  Since then the insulation and siding has been installed, the drywall has been installed and mudding and taping is nearly finished! The basement floor has been poured and they have prepped to pour the sidewalk/stairs leading up to the house.

Here's some pictures from the last few weeks:





10/25/2011

August and September Spend Report

I've been a bit of slacker lately with keeping up with my regular posts - so without further delay here is our spend report for August and September of 2011.

I've cleaned up the categories a bit and made them more colourful - but other than that - it's the same basic spreadsheet.

You can see that we're already spending more in gas then normal - we've been driving out to our new house a few times a week which is bringing this up a bit.





We've been really good about eating out and buying alcohol so I'm really pleased with those numbers.

Banking is annoying - it's interest.

10/24/2011

A Financial Year in Perspective

A little more than a year ago Jordan and I had merged our finances and were learning about each others money management styles.  There was one particular conversation that we had where we were both feeling a bit exasperated.  I felt like money was going down the drain and Jordan felt like we saved too much - we both didn't understand where all the cash was going.

It was in the weeks following that frustration that we decided to stop using personal debit, credit and cash sources and use a single joint credit card account - that way, we would both have access to it at any time and we could both see exactly where the money was going.

I started doing monthly spending recaps as we learned where are budget leaks were.  You followed along as Jordan and I battled our addiction to Wendy's Fast Food and Coors Lite.  You saw us working to keep our wedding budget in check and stay on top of annual expenses too.

In our most expensive month - a whopping $4,585.36 -  went down the drain.  In our least expensive month we spent $1,515.15. 

Below is a re-cap of our financial journey from the last year - thanks to everyone who followed along and provided us with such wonderful support and insight.

We're looking forward to another year long journey as Jordan and I embark on home ownership - which is sure to be a financial game changer.

10/20/2011

A, B, C's of Me

I've seen a few bloggers with this post, so I thought I would join in the fun!


A-Age: 27
B-Bed Size - Queen
C-Chore you hate – Folding Socks
D-Dogs – We have Two!
E-Essential start to your day – coffee!!
F-Favourite Colour- purple
G-Gold or Silver – white gold
H-Height - 5'10" (always dreamed of being 6 feet, but never made it)
I- Interests – reading, baking, finances, work
J-Job Title- Human Resources Generalist
K-Kids – soon!
L-Live – In Alberta
M-Mothers Name – She responds to posts as 'Jessie's Mom'
N-Nickname - not tellin'
O-Overnight hospital stays – so far, none!
P-Pet Peeves – loud eating & dirty soap
Q-Quotes from films – I don't really remember movies...I just enjoy them, while I'm watching them
R-Right or Left Handed – right
S-Siblings – one older brother and two women that I have chosen as my 'sisters'
T-Time you wake up - usually get up around 6:30
U-Underwear – umm...weird question but yes I wear it
V-Vegetables you hate – none...that I know of
W-What makes you run late – staying at work too long
X-X-Rays you’ve had – just teeth
Y-Yummy food that you make – I love to cook all sorts of things
Z-Zoo animals – Lions

10/19/2011

Prioritizing

With possession of our new home about six weeks away - it's hard not to dream about all the things that we think would help turn our place into a home.  Some things we feel we need, others we know can wait - it gets a bit fuzzy in between when you're walking down the isles of Home Depot, Ikea and others.
So..Jordan and I made a list - we wrote out the item and the approximate cost...very approximate.  

Then..here's the big part, we actually prioritized those things together (I felt so grown up).

We chose, as a team, what we wanted as soon as we got settled into the new place, then what we wanted to do in the spring, the fall and then as we can afford each item.  In all practicality - it may take up to five years before we are able to save and pay for each of these items...but we will be assured that we have a plan and everything we want isn't a 'no' it's a 'where does it fit on the list'.

10/13/2011

Christmas Draws

I have a guest post over on Krystal's blog today, Give Me Back My Five Bucks, if you've come my way from there - welcome!  If you haven't seen my post there yet, I hope you check it out.


It is that time of year where quite a few of us will start thinking about Christmas (if we haven't already). With Jordan and I buying a house, and getting out of consumer debt for the second time - I'm more aware than normal about our upcoming Christmas budget.

We have already pared our list down from the usual 20 or so people to about a dozen and are trying to come up with creative, thoughtful gifts that are budget friendy.

There is one gift giving opportunity in my family that is really non negotiable as far as I am concerned and that is the gift draw that my cousins and I participate in every year. We all grew up very close and Christmas reinforces our relationships - when we can reflect and spend time together. There are ten of us and quite a few of us are in long term relationships and our partners have started going in on the draw as well - so Jordan and I now buy two cousin gifts each year.

Well, this year, instead osf purchasing gifts I through up an idea on Facebook and tagged all of my cousins in it - I asked if they might want to put a hand made only rule on our draw.

I was so so surprised, everybody is excited for it and said yes!

So out Christmas cousin budget just dropped from about $150 to very economical.

Now....does anyone have any homemade gift ideas?

10/12/2011

School Lenders

Have you heard about Gail Vaz Oxlade's School Lender's Campaign?

If you haven't heard of it yet, now is the time to find out what she's talking about.  She's asking everyone she knows, through her blog, twitter and facebook - to get involved.  She asserts that the lending system is broken and we all need to take action to implore our MP's to make a difference.

You can - Join the School Lenders group on Facebook to stay tuned for announcements and you can write to your MP (Gail's got a nifty pre-drafted letter for us) to demand a change in legislation. Finally, during School Lenders Week (Nov 13 - 19) she wants Canadians to commit to not using credit for anything during that week.

It sounds pretty powerful to me!  While I only have about 200 hundred visitor's a day - I know that some of you have blogs that are far more widespread then mine.  Do you agree with Gail's message, will you help spread the word?

10/11/2011

Accelerate - Vehicle or Mortgage

Over Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to talk to my family a lot about our upcoming Mortgage commitment - fixed or variable and accelerated or standard - there are so many options!  What we're stuck on right now is once everything is settled in the new house and we've paid off our credit card debt - should we put any un-allocated  money we have on the mortgage or on the Escape payment.

I was originally thinking that we should go with the higher interest rate and smallest debt - the Escape.  It would free up $388.62/month which we could then add to our RRSP's or Mortgage or life..or some combination.

My mom suggested that we consider putting any extra money towards the Mortgage because of the effect of compounding interest over thirty years.  Making additional principal payments have the biggest impact the sooner they are made into the mortgage (the same rationale is used when contributing to RRSPs).

Have you ever had to make this decision, which way did you go and how did you decide?

Jordan just heard me talking about this post with my mom and he voted for the higher interest rate...and while that was my initial feeling to - I'm going to give my mom's idea a chance and put the math into excel.

This first chart shows the savings after three years, but does not account for the long term savings of paying off mortgage principal early on - unforutnatly, I can't figure that out so maybe you can help?

10/10/2011

Insurance!

I have a guest post over on Krystal's blog today, Give Me Back My Five Bucks, if you've come my way from there - welcome!  If you haven't seen my post there yet, I hope you check it out.

For the last few years, I haven't had much luck when seeking out new insurance quotes.  I, unfortunately, do not have a stellar driving record and so I have just accepted a big insurance bill each month.  That said, each year I call around a bit to see if I can get a better price.

As my vehicle insurance for the Ford Escape is up for renewal at the end of October I started playing the insurance game recently.  Given that Jordan and I just got married and we will take possession of our new home sometime in the next six to eight weeks - I thought that we might have a bit more negotiating power.  So when I started making my phone calls, I got quotes for our two vehicles and the house.

I called AMA as that's who I use currently and TD because that's who Jordan uses.  We also called a broker (brokerlink) who give rates for Insight (though I'm told I might have heard wrong and it's intact) as well as Peace Hills and Economical.  As a last ditch effort - I heard TD Meloche Monnix has good group rates for alumni so I have them a call too.


Here are the rates they gave us:



I'm astonished at the difference - even in the house quotes alone there were huge variances which is something I wasn't expecting at all.  The choice - is clear.

Switching to TD Meloche Monnix is going to save us $107.91/month - nearly $1,300/year - plus we'll have house insurance too - pretty incredible I'd say.  We've got everything to switch over on my renewal date and then once we take possession of the house we'll call and formally add the house to the insurance plan too.

...next step, life insurance!

10/07/2011

Roommates

We knew this was coming, but I was hoping it was going to be a month later.  Our roommate has given us notice and is planning to be out for November 1st.  We should be taking possession of the new place in November and are tentivly planning on giving notice to our landlord for November 31st - so it would have been good to have roommates rent $$ to hit that credit card hard...but cest la vie (if that's how you spell it).

Nothing will change for the rest of this month but I've had to re-jig November's spending plan a bit...here's what we're looking at now:


You can see in this spending plan where we have re-allocated part of the credit card payment to purchase shares this month that I wrote about yesterday.

10/06/2011

quick debt load update

Things are getting pretty hectic on a personal level right now, so I won't be writing (at least I say that now) a lot in the short term.  That said, I did want to post a quick update.

We've been sticking to our credit card debt pay off plan (just made $1,500 worth of payments this morning).  Jordan's credit card will be paid off next Friday and then mine will be paid off the following week.  After that, you'll see that we'll just keep hammering the joint credit card until it dies.


I've been travelling a lot which is inflating the balance of our joint card (le sigh) but I've been submitting my work expenses as quickly as I can and keeping track of what's owed in the chart above.  We currently have a bit more than a $1,000 that we'll still be owing come December which is the result of my being offered to purchase shares at work - a huge opportunity that Jordan and I decided to take advantage of.

We still may be able to get things paid off depending on how Christmas profit share and home buying closing costs all work out - but we won't be banking on those things.

9/27/2011

travel, travel, travel

so....I have been travelling a lot!

Sunday night I flew into Saskatoon and came home on Monday.

This morning I flew into Fort McMurray and will go home tomorrow evening.

Next weekend Jordan and I drive into BC for my grandmother's 75th birthday and then Monday/Tuesday I'll be in Burnaby for work....that trend is going to continue until the first week of November.

One one hand I miss Jordan when I'm travelling a lot, but on a positive note I'll get some great networking opportunities and some overtime to boot. It's also going to be distracting me from the house - which might be a good thing because I'm so so eager to get going.

9/21/2011

9/16/2011

Debt Update

So far so good in that we're sticking to the plan, as of today we're under $10,000 - here is the debt breakdown:



This is what we have left for payments:


You can see that Jordan and My credit card are now under their 1/3 balances and we're half way their for the joint credit card.  We've received confirmation in the mail that Jordan will be receiving his grant monies within the next ten days - so that will go straight on to the joint card once we get it.

We have to make a slight adjusted to Jordan's pay off plan as something happened and there is $76 dollar's more than I thought (I probably wrote the numbers down wrong the first time or something).

Hopefully we'll get some bonus'/windfalls or some such thing to get the joint card paid of by the time we take possession of the house but I think we'll wind up having to use some of our closing cost monies (which we won't need all of for the house) as well as potentially the damage deposit from the rental that we're in now (which isn't a guarantee).

9/14/2011

House Update Wednesday

It has been a very exciting week for the house!  Last week they had started framing and so we've got some great photo's to share.  They finished the four walls on the main floor and the interior framing on the main floor on Saturday this week.























Yesterday the builder got in touch to let us know that our framing should be done by the end of this week and they'll start on rough in's shortly!

I took this pic at lunch today - so from Monday to today they got the second floor done and the roof!


9/13/2011

Wedding Budget

Two days before the wedding I lost my life.

That's right, the little USB that I carry around with me everywhere - it's always in my purse, always.  and...I.Lost.It.  Thankfully my mom and my Maid of Honor helped keep my head on straight and we figured out who I owed money too and what the itinerary was.  

Jordan couldn't find the USB back home and I was convinced that it was lost for good - so I kind of gave up on keeping track of the last few things we had to buy for the wedding.  I've gone through credit card statements and banking statements and tried to figure it all out.  So it's taken a little while but I've finally finished tallying all the numbers from the wedding and honeymoon. 

9/12/2011

Guest Post: Top 3 Websites to Get Financial and Stock News

Melanie DeMonte is a retired stock broker who worked at the TSX for 15 years. She’s now a private financial adviser.

As an important factor in the increasing or diminishing confidence levels of major players in the investment world- whose collective decisions can make or break the economy- the stock market, it turns out, does matter.  A major key to our economy making a full recovery is for confidence to be restored across the board in, among other things, the stock market. In order for that to happen, it’s vital that more people understand and follow it.

As we all adjust to our new reality, featuring a world that is post-leverage and less dependent on castles in the sky, the stock market remains as forward looking a meter of the life and times of the finance world as is currently available.

If you plan to follow the stock market, it’s important that you have at least a basic understanding of what you see. Three important things to grasp that can give you a basic understanding of the stock market are 1) what the stocks themselves are 2) the reason trends are important, and 3 )the role of trading strategies.

Stocks are literally small pieces of companies that the companies have put on the market to raise extra capital. When you buy stock in a company, you go into business with that company. Although you may not know a company’s reasons for selling their stocks, it’s important to get to know a bit about any given company before investing in it.

Market trends can either work for you or against you, but either way, it’s important to understand them. Trends can help you decide which stocks to invest in for a good chance of profit and which to avoid, so keep an eye on how a stock performs over time before deciding to purchase it.

Trading strategies play an important role in the fluctuations of the stock market. Long-term strategies involve holding onto your shares for longer periods of time in order to reap long-term gains. Short-term strategies are more risky and involve keeping an eye out for stocks with sharp rising trends, buying them, making a quick profit, and then selling them before the trend ends.

Financial news websites can give you a well-rounded picture of the stock market and its current trends and climate. Here are three of the best sites where you can find solid financial news.

Globe Advisor
GlobeAdvisor.com features a wealth of relevant industry release, mutual fund, and stock market news. Market action trend graphs and crucial index levels including recent gains and losses are featured directly on the home page for easy access. There is also a list of top performing stocks and handy fund and market update alerts that you can have sent directly to your email.


The Street
Besides all the typical stock market news and trend updates, TheStreet.com features videos of stock-related newsworthy tidbits for an easier audiovisual grasp on the market. This website also features lively discussions on the latest market news that can help you become a part of the action.


Market Watch
MarketWatch.com’s specialty is its intelligent commentary on the latest market news and trends. Experts offer insight and educated views on the latest happenings completely free of charge. MarketWatch.com is a site with a great grasp on the market and what makes it tick.

The world of finance is far too complicated to be measured by any one means in a way that is comprehensively accurate, even if that one means is as far-reaching as the stock market. Still, following the stock market can give us a picture of the current financial climate that is better than almost any other available gauge.

9/07/2011

House Update Wednesday

We went out to see how things were progressing over the weekend and were a bit sad to see that the fifth house in the row of five that they are currently constructing was being framed, but the others were not.  We did see however, a huge pile of lumber in the front and in the back of the house.

I'm so very, very excited to share with you that our update for Tuesday was a very short one:





"Framing started today!"

9/05/2011

Little Things

As part of 'the plan' Jordan and are are going through recent credit card transactions as well as our checking accounts and looking for auto transactions that may be adding to the debt load with out us being fully aware.  In the last two weeks we've found and cancelled the following things:


The RRSPs an Allowances we did straight off the bat, but all the rest we have found during the last couple of weeks.  I'm really thankful for Jordan for these because they have all been by his initiative - without noticing those, our credit cards would have gone up by $103/month without really understanding why.

Thanks Jordan!

9/02/2011

Fish Tacos

My best friend and I have decided to get together once a week and cook dinner together. The only rule is that it is supposed to be something new and interesting and we'll try to rotate houses and who picks what we're making.

Last week we made Fish Tacos - they were amazing! Here's the receipe:


Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay
Prep Time:35 min
Inactive Prep Time:25 min
Cook Time:45 min
Level:Intermediate
Serves:4 servings

Ingredients

Tacos:
1 pound white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi or orata
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped (we used just a few rounds of jarred jalapeno peppers b/c I'm a chicken when it comes to heat but my BFF and Jordan added a few to their tacos after)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (we used basil as a substitution and didn't use nearly as much)
8 flour tortillas (it actually made six good sized ones)


Garnish:
Shredded white cabbage
Hot sauce (didn't use this)
Crema or sour cream (we used sour cream)
Thinly sliced red onion (instead of onion we used apple and edible flowers from my BFF's garden)
Thinly sliced green onion
Chopped cilantro leaves
Pureed Tomato Salsa, recipe follows
Pureed Tomato Salsa:
2 tablespoon peanut oil (we used what we had handy in the cupboard)
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped (we used apple)
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 serrano chile
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce (skipped)
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (again we used basil)
Salt and pepper
Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place fish in a medium size dish. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, ancho, jalapeno, and cilantro and pour over the fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the fish from the marinade place onto a hot grill, flesh side down. Grill the fish for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.

Place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 20 seconds. Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with any or all of the garnishes.

Preheat grill or use side burners of the grill. Heat oil in medium saucepan, add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, serrano and jalapeno and cook until tomatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Puree the mixture with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Add the hot sauce, oregano, cilantro and lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste.



9/01/2011

September Budget

...no surprises here:


September is a three pay month for me which is giving our debt repayment plan a significant boost!  This month we'll see all three credit card balances dip below the 1/3 mark of their total available credit limits as well as see Jordan's nearly paid off.

I am so looking forward to seeing a big bite be taken out of the debt this month...each payment and the knot in my chest loosens just a bit more.

We don't have our cell phone bills just yet, so those numbers may change yet.

I'm also waiting for two final cheques to clear from the wedding from our officiator.  One for the rehearsal and one for the ceremony.



8/31/2011

House Update Wednesday


 Gah!  This is the first week where nothing has changed....waiting is hard.  


Tuesday's Update:

Construction is still waiting on the city to complete their inspection on the back fill.  They are planning to commence framing within the week; however, if it continues to keep raining it might be early next week before they start.

8/30/2011

Honey Moon Spending


This picture is like straight out of a postcard stand...
but we actually took it with our new fancy camera.

Jordan and I planned on spending about $3,000 while in Vegas (not including our flights)....here's how we did:

The shows category includes tickets to see the Blue Man Group, Penn & Teller as well as front row tickets to Zoomanity - a Cirque Du Solei production.

Entertainment included going to Madame Tussauds wax museum, The Gun Store,  the Mandalay Shark Reef and even getting a couples massage!

Stuff included things we bought for ourselves that weren't clothes...things like: books, perfume, a suitcase, duty free alcohol cigars, and  tourist 'we did that' Tshirts among other things.

so...wow!  Are you surprised?  I actually am.  I thought we would have been somewhere between three and four thousand...I didn't think we'd topple four!  Wow!  Serves us right for not keeping track while we were there.


We have never been on a vacation (other than camping) together so this was an eye opener for how much cabbing and eating out everyday costs!

Part of my gift to Jordan was to not be so focused on money while we were celebrating our union together - I wanted to give us both a break from thinking and talking about money all the time.  We both knew we were coming back to a pile of debt and that things were going to be very tight for sometime...which means talking about money and saying no a lot.

I don't regret a single purchase and am so pleased with our trip, it was absolutely amazing!



We did even make some decisions that helped us save several hundred dollars and probably prevented us from going over $5,000.


 We didn't bring a single device with us, so no big cell phone bills to pay and we also went grocery shopping to supplement our eating out.  We ate breakfast in six out of the seven days we were in Vegas as well as cooking supper in twice.

Our accommodation was gifted to us by my grandparents which was a HUGE savings!  The bill we had was from a few meals charged to the room and one extra night.



So that's the honey moon spending...questions?  Comments?

8/29/2011

Credit Card Spending Check In

As part of our 'the plan', our credit card budget for the month of August is $500 for gas and groceries.  This is just a quick check in to see how we're doing:


It's August 29th and we're at $543.47...oops.  We made it so so so close!  The budget for August was a bit of a  guess, because we had spent half of August in my hometown and then in Vegas for our honeymoon.  We didn't get a chance to buy groceries as soon as we had intended (which is why we grabbed Wendy's...just the once).  I had also forgotten about our Netflex subscription when I was putting 'the plan' together - so we'll have to account for the next month.

This is the closest that we've come to sticking to a spending goal with the credit card and I'm hopeful we'll be able to stay true to 'the plan' for September-November and stick to a $700/month budget for gas and groceries.  


  

8/25/2011

Debt Update

As of today (Jordan's pay day) we have made our last large payment for the month of August towards our debt and have so far only used our credit cards for gas and groceries as we committed.  I know it's only been a week...maybe less, but I think it's a win!

I've made a couple of slight adjustments to 'the plan' - come on....it's me, of course I did.  Here is how we're shaping up for the next couple of months:


Jordan's dropping off the grant paperwork today, so I'm hopeful we'll have that $1,000 within the next week or two.

I'm keeping our tracking bar (top right) up to date as well, so if you're ever curious where we are at - that will give you a clear picture as to whether or not we're sticking to our plan.

8/24/2011

House Update Wednesday

Every Tuesday Jordan and I receive an email with an update to the progress of our new home, I've decided that each Wednesday I'll do a post update you on what's going on.

So far the property was excavated and our foundation was poured here's a picture from this past weekend:



Update:
Currently, your house will be back-filled tomorrow, and at your request, I asked our Site Supervisor if possession was still tentatively set for sometime in November.
I am pleased to tell you that everything is running on schedule and the estimated month for possession is still set for November.
So so so excited!   Including today, that's 89 days until possession...assuming the very last day of the month in November! Wowza!  

8/23/2011

Downsizing


Part of our plan to prepare to take possession of our new home is based on financial goals, the other part of that plan is to downsize significantly.  We have accumulated a lot of 'stuff' in the last four years in our rental.  Some our own, some past roommates items that have been left behind.  We're not interested in moving things that we don't have a place for in our new home.

I have been posting ads on kijiji.ca to get rid of some things around the house - and wow!  We've had a positive response.  I've already sold two ikea chairs and and ikea book shelf that we've had for sometime now.

I got $40 for the set of chairs and $75 for the book shelf:

Next on the list are a couple of coffee tables, an old couch, and old futon and a few lamps.  We'll be using the money we get from the sale of these items to bolster our cash budget to prevent us from using our credit cards and staying on track with debt repayment.
We may also earmark some to go towards any new items we need for the new place. 

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