Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

For 2012, I set out to do the following and here is how I did:

   I want to continue to eliminate clutter from our lives and improve our financial security. I haven’t done as good a job as I had planned to do with eliminating clutter but I have been a mindful consumer and we’ve done pretty well sticking to our household budget and paying off debt. We even decided to make a concerted effort to being debt-free by 30
   Continue to find meaningful ways to give back to my community. Yes. Yes. Yes. I took a lactation consultant course and helped a local agency for young parent support organize their annual fundraising event. I also continued with my two regular volunteer positions. We donated items for food/toy drives throughout the year and I also signed up to support our local United Way for 2013.
   Immerse myself in my thesis research and give it my all. Though I haven’t been exerting 100% of my effort on my thesis research, I decided to do a case study using my home town so my research will be meaningful to myself and for my local community which is what I set out to do. Mission accomplished.
   Cherish the little things – I think I did a pretty good job of this. I kept a daily bests journal for more than half of the year. I really liked reflecting on the good. Not sure if I’ll get back to this but it was a good exercise.
   Act on the fact that "life is short" – I need to do more of this but I did make more plans with friends this year and I did splurge on an impromptu trip to Edmonton to visit my best friend. Next year there will be more!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Month 2: Progress Update on "the Mission"

Two months after the project began to wipe out our $64,000 of debt before DH and I reach our 30th birthdays and...

How'd we do? We're down $1,793 which brings us to:


This month we did pretty darn good - I think - on paying down the black cloud. Last month I had anticipated we wouldn't do as good this month as last with Christmas. I said I'd be happy with anything beyond our allocated $1500 so I'm happy. 

As for the Christmas budget, we totally blew the budget and came in $200 over budget. So we've spent just below the "average Canadian" amount of $630. I'm a little bit disappointed since I succombed to some pressure from other people to spend more on gifts or buy something extra. I was also ridiculously busy this month with end of term submissions for school and work. The beginning of the month was really crummy rainy weather and so on a whim I asked DH to pick us up a tree.. fully thinking that he would stop by the closest tree farm and choose and cut a tree on his own. He decided to stop at a school fundraiser and pick up a tree...a beautiful tree..but the $60 he spent was twice the amount I allocated to buying a tree. I guess that was part of our charity contribution. The little things really just added up. Next year, Christmas shopping alone. No exceptions. Since we spent $1200 last year, I'm at least happy we didn't spend more this year AND we didn't charge anything AND we still ended up paying off more debt than our minimum monthly allocation. 

The red and green above seem fitting. 2013 will be all about the green!   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

A tree was gotten, decorations were brought out (many of which were bought at dramatically reduced sale prices during Boxing Week last year), the Christmas music channel was playing, and a few glass ornamental bulbs were broken.

It's officially holiday time in our household. Just waiting on the snow.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A little Christmas consumerism

Christmas is one of the only times we visit the shopping mall anymore and it isn't even to shop.. it's to see Santa. N was scared of Santa last year. This year we managed to get a decent photo of him. My littlest munchkin is not much a fan of the camera (or Santa). We attended two Christmas parties on the weekend and he cried both times when we took him and B up to recieve their gifts from Santa. He must have remembered that he was scared of Santa after seeing him at the mall. B is really getting the idea of Christmas this year. He watched the TV classic Rudolf yesterday. We sang some Christmas carols  together as he helped me make dinner tonight. They're practicing in his class for their Christmas Concert so he's learning all of the songs.

As for the Christmas shopping, I'm a little over half done which wasn't exactly where I had wanted to be right now but I'll forgive myself since I'm working tirelessly to finish my literature review to hand in very soon. On the plus side.. I am on target to meet the budget of $1000, even after blowing the budget I had set for the boys gifts. Mainly B. There were so many things I could get for him. He is after all a school age kid with lots of wants. N on the other hand needs very little since he plays with all of B's toys and wears a lot of hand me downs. He was quite difficult to buy for. I kept second guessing myself on whether he really needed the item or whether he would actually play with it.

Now to go cut the perfect tree this weekend!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Month 1: Progress Update on "the Mission"

Here we are.. one month after I declared our intent to wipe out our $64,000 of debt before DH and I reach our 30th birthdays - a 53 month mission.

How'd we do? We're down $2,347 which brings us to:


This month we did awesome on repayment despite Hurricane Sandy making a dent in DH's paycheck. DH even accidentally made an additional visa payment, not realizing I had already made one for the month. Score. With Christmas fast approaching, I don't anticipate our repayment will be anywhere near as good for the next couple of months. As I mentioned in our budget post, we allocate just over $1500 per month to debt repayment so anything above and beyond I think we can feel good about.

Our total Christmas budget is $1000 which includes the tree, Santa photos, gift wrap, small christmas charity donation, etc. Some studies have shown the average Canadian will spend about $630 for Christmas so we're doing alright at $500 each. Last year we managed to pull Christmas off for $1200 without going into the hole so this year we'll do the same only with a smaller budget. Side note - we were visiting family yesterday and my sister-in-law mentioned they are getting one of their children an iPad for Christmas. I couldn't help but think that an iPad would be half of our ENTIRE Christmas budget.. not to mention they have two kids so assuming they spend an equal amount on the other child, that would equate to our entire family Christmas budget in two gifts.

So far I have spent $230 and there are 5 pays left until Christmas (DH gets paid weekly and I get paid bi-weekly so we have a pay every week). This means we'll have to fit in about $150/week for the next 5 weeks into our budget.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Better Late than Never November Goals

I'm really needing some help, I think, to get through the rest of this month. It seems like Christmas is fast approaching which means I have a ton of school work, shopping, and social commitments all piling up. Writing my goals down seemed like a good idea. Here is what I am hoping to will accomplish by the end of November:

- Help out at two events as part of my volunteer affiliations
- Prepare annotated bibliography entries for half of my course readings/research
- Start my graduate assistantship work
- Get half of my Christmas shopping done
- Host a family birthday dinner for my mom
- Continue with regular debt repayments & stay out of the hole. Work has been slow this month for DH. We got the fall out from Hurricane Sandy so it rained for about 10 days straight which meant very few hours of work (I don’t think I could live in Vancouver – lack of sunshine really took a toll on me). Luckily he gets paid weekly and there are 5 Thursdays this month, which means an extra pay. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Debt Breakdown

When I originally posted about our goal "Debt Free by 30", Kelsey asked whether this debt included debt for our house or schooling. I thought I'd share the answer to this question and provide a breakdown of our debt as promised (numbers are approximate). The orange is our priority debt (high interest/smaller loans/family). The rest is mostly hanging out on interest-free status while I'm still a student until the Spring and then we'll have a 6 month grace period before repayment begins. Consequently, we want to get rid of as much of the orange as possible before we start repayment of the other "student debt". Next week I'll have an update on our progress! *Note: We do have a mortgage on our house and don't consider it as "debt" since technically we could sell our house tomorrow for more than what we paid and retain the equity.

The Debt
Renovating our old house – we completely gutted and renovated a 1928 home. Which we bought for $150K and sold 3 years later for $225K. The profit was used to pay the downpayment on our new house along with real estate fees, paying off a small renovation loan, and a hefty $10K buy out from our old mortgage provider so we could switch to a lender with a lower interest rate. 
This debt is on a low interest student line of credit (one of the benefits of being a student).
This debt is my biggest regret. It was for my first car, which was around and in good repair for about 6 years. This equates to about $150/month if I had of paid it off over those 6 years. Instead I just made interest payments each month. Sigh…again this is a “student debt”.
DH’s debt from attending college
Approximate remaining payments left on our two vehicles.
Mostly made up of bad purchasing decisions or covering large expenses like "unforeseen" vet bills, car repairs, etc. Just over half of this is on a consolidation loan that we are actively paying off and will be gone in just under 2 years. $5K is spread over 2 visas and about $4K is a loan through a family member that I am paying off at about $700/month and should be gone by the Spring.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Jolly Birthday Party

Imagine my delight (both in the environmental sense and in the frugality sense) when we received this invite hand delivered from the birthday boy's older sister.

Nice to know we're not the only ones in the neighbourhood getting creative.

I managed to catch a grand opening sale at Mastermind and save 25% off the gift this weekend. I'm feel ing good! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Won't be long and he'll be making me dinner

B is 4 ½ now and quite independent. He does have some responsibilities around meal time like emptying any leftover food off of his plate (yes, a couple of times the plate has fallen in – after having to retrieve it out of the “muck” a couple of times, he quickly learned to hang on tight). Once he is done this, he puts his plate and utensils in the dishwasher. 

Up until now, we’ve been reminding him to ask nicely for what he would like i.e. “May I please have a glass of juice?” rather than “I’m thirsty” or “can I have a drink?”. If he starts with the latter examples then we usually respond with “pardon me” or “what’s that?” to which he responds with the appropriate more polite line. For the most part, all of his requests these days are polite. However, at this point, the demands sometime wear on me. Some of these demands include: preparing a snack or drink, putting a movie on, getting out his art supplies, and so on.

So on the weekend when he asked for a jam sandwich, I told him he could make his own. I got the bread, jam, and butter knife (yes I said knife) out for him, along with a plate and away he went happily jamming his slice of bread. Despite having a little more jam on the bread than what I would find to be appealing, there was no damage done and no mess left behind. Even better, he was so proud of himself and actually enjoyed making the food for himself. Hmph.. wonder how many jam sandwiches I made for him when he was perfectly capable of making his own. 

The next night, DH and I were sitting on the couch and he came in the living room and, again, asked for a jam sandwich. This time I told him he could go and get the fixings and make it himself. I fully expected to hear him ask for help to get something but he didn’t. After some rustling in the kitchen he came back into the living room with his piece of bread which was loaded with jam and had some goldfish crackers scattered atop. DH was impressed. However, more critical than I, he remarked – “Yes, but did you clean up after yourself?” Without hesitation, B proclaimed that he had. He told us that he had put the bread away, and put the jam in the fridge, and put the knife in the dishwasher. Sure enough, he had!

Rest assured this little boy is well on his way to being able to feed himself when he leaves home. I actually had a roommate in university that couldn’t even make a pot of Kraft Dinner since they never had to prepare a meal at home.