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?


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:


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.


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.


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



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'.


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?


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?


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?



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!



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.


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.

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