Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crafty procrastination

This week I've taken time off work to write a significant portion of my major research paper. Consequently, my house is cleaner than normal and I've been quite productive in all areas of life except for writing this darn paper.

Since B has been ripping through pants (literally), and most of his pants are used to begin with, this iron-on patch project was long overdue. Here is the before:

Total cost of patches was $9 from Walmart and about 10 minutes of life. I have a ton of patches left over but couldn't decide between the denim and regular patches so I bought both packages which I'm certain wont go to waste.

On a funny note, we don't iron anything in this house. A few months ago, B helped my mom iron some clothes at her house and asked if she'd buy us an iron for our house. Oh son... we actually do have an iron and though we don't use it to iron clothes, it does come in handy for fixing them!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Another year. More amazing.

This year my birthday fell on a provincial holiday - Family Day. We had a rather relaxing weekend, none of which was centred around the usual birthday fanfare like parties or gifts. I did just get a new car last month so I'd been sufficiently spoiled. My mom sent me a birthday card and a gift certificate for Winners from Florida so I went out shopping alone (!) on Saturday and ended up getting all of this for $51 (socks, leggings, dress, picture frame - a gift for a friend's little girl I just had to buy, hand towel, screen protector for iPhone). Most items were on clearance.

We had dinner plans for Saturday, however, our guests encountered some pretty serious weather and snow squalls so had to turn back. The weather out where we are wasn't too bad at all and since we already had they boys in bed, the wine chilling, and the food in the oven, we called up a friend close by to join us and we had a great night anyway.

Sunday we lazed around the house and DH and I watched a movie in the evening.

Monday, my actual birthday, was gloriously sunny. Since one of my goals for this year was making our house a home, I pulled together some of my favourite photos and frames I had lying around and DH put a couple up on the wall for me. We had some gifted swimming passes from Christmas that needed to be used up by the end of February so all of us went to a local city pool. We even invited some friends and their kids to join us. After swimming, we stopped at a chip truck for a snack which was such a treat since we usually only get french fries from a chip truck in the summer time. For dinner, DH made pizza from scratch and we enjoyed chocolate cake (my birthday present from my sister). Then B and I Skyped with my mom.

All day long, the hubby asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday since it was my special day. I felt weird not wanting for any particular gift or to do any particular activity - except take time away from working on my paper for school. I think I really am just happy with everything in my life right now. So I guess that's a good sign!  Plus... I have an incredibly caring husband, these two silly boys in my life, and so so much birthday love from friends and family by phone, messages, and Facebook. I really am blessed!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Month 4: Debt Repayment Progress

Month 4 was a month of gaining back traction from January (the post-Christmas slump). Four months into this mission and...

We're down $948 from last month which brings us to:


Driving the Prius cuts my gas bill in half. And I love driving a reliable and good looking vehicle. 

We've been having some free and low cost fun this month. 

In reviewing a couple of our loans, we realized they have loan protector insurance on them. Since we have sufficient disability and life insurance, we don't also need these. DH is cancelling them on Tuesday since those offices are not open on the weekend and tomorrow is the Family Day holiday here in Ontario. 

I started preparing our taxes. This year, we thought we'd try our hand at using Turbo Tax to do our taxes so rather than spending nearly $200 on an accountant, we'll spend $50 on the premium package since I have self-employment income to claim along with other employment, social assistance (maternity employment insurance), education deductions, and child deductions for 2012. We usually get a pretty decent return so we'll really be able to put a dent in our debt repayment later this Spring paying off some of the smaller debts in order to free up money to put towards the larger debts. 

Here's to another month of hopefully getting fully back on track and making some serious damage on our debt. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snowstorms and The Hip

We've been having a lot of low cost fun around these parts lately. Last weekend we had a ridiculously huge snow dump which meant a snow day for the schools on Friday and a struggle for me getting home from work. I foolishly thought I wouldn't bother with snow tires this year since there are only a couple months left of snow, it hardly seemed necessary. Boy did I wish I had snow tires, a heavier car and 4 wheel drive! But in the end the little Prius made it home.

The boys made hills and rails in the backyard once again. The littlest enjoyed sitting on the ATV stuck in the snow and I enjoyed going to see The Tragically Hip with some girlfriends, one of which had extra free tickets!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cutting back the grocery budget

I wasn’t sure we could feed 4 mouths nutritious food and pay for household cleaning and personal hygiene items for $100/week but a month of practice in January after the Christmas financial gouge proved to me that it is in fact possible. Some of the changes:

- Switched to generic brand diapers for the baby. He’s older now and his skin isn’t as sensitive.

- Vinegar and baking soda…. very cheap and serve multiple purposes.

- Batch cooking and eating the same meals more often. Originally I was pickier about having variety but it makes things easier and of course the boys don’t mind.

- Using less meat. By making soups, stews, casseroles, spaghetti sauce, etc. I’ve gotten away with buying less meat and using grains and veggies as filler.

- Frozen and seasonal fruit and vegetables. In the winter here fresh fruit and veggies are more expensive. Frozen veggies like peas, corn and green beans are very affordable and most don’t have additives. Fresh veggies that are in season are usually cheaper like cabbage or brussel sprouts right now. Apples and bananas are pretty cheap here so we load up on those too. We also buy frozen fruit for adding to yogurt or baking which is much more affordable in the winter and requires no prep work. Fruit in containers like peaches and pears are also cheaper if you can get them on sale or jarred unsweetened apple sauce. We just make sure they are in the plastic containers rather than the cans (to avoid BPA) and in fruit juice rather than syrup.

- Simplifying dinners. Simple meals have fewer ingredients than more extravagant meals. I save the dinners that require more prep for the weekends so we do usually have 2 more extravagant meals.

- Choosing generic brands when the budget is getting tight – we prefer Heinz ketchup but President’s Choice brand isn’t too bad as a compromise.

- Have one fun dinner/week whether it is a new recipe, a slightly more expensive meal, or a family member’s favourite. 

Some meal planning tips I use are:

1.     Write a list of your staple items. The ones you need every week like bread, milk, and eggs. Write out the cost of these items beside. You should know this!
2.     Write a list of the other items you need to buy (maybe you’re out of toilet paper or coffee). Also write the corresponding prices beside. Calculate this and the rest of your budget is what you have to work with for planning meals for the week. If you have a lot of household or staple items you need to buy, you might have to plan simpler, cheaper meals for the week.
3.     Survey your cupboards before planning your meals. Try to incorporate ingredients you have on hand into your meals for the week to avoid waste and save money.
4.     Check the flyers and set aside the ones you’ll use for price matching. Incorporate the deals into your meal planning. Martina has a pretty good process for this!
5.     Be somewhat generic in your list so you can take advantage of in-store sales (not always advertised). For example… my list says Fruit ($10). If I shop the sales, I can get more fruit for my $10 budget or transfer the unused budget to another category like snacks!
6.     Organize your list in the same layout as the grocery store (fruit/vegetables, bakery, frozen).

In case you’re interested, here is what we’re eating this week for dinner:

Thursday – Bacon/avocado grilled cheese with vegetable soup
Friday – Pan-fried crispy beef strip loin with mashed potatoes, peas, and steamed carrots
Saturday – Turkey sloppy joes with salad (bagged garden $1.47!)
Sunday – Macaroni and cheese with frozen left over bacon from Thursday added and salad (same as above)
Monday – Fish sticks (frozen), noodles, and peas and corn (frozen)
Tuesday – Sheppard’s pie (homemade frozen filling) – so only mashed potato to be added to the top and cooked
Wednesday – Spaghettini with sausage and veggie tomato sauce (homemade frozen sauce) and garlic bread

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Household Budget Revisited

 Awhile back when this whole debt repayment project began, I posted our average monthly household budget. Since then, of course easing into some things, I’ve been working on reducing it to free up more money for debt repayment. So after having some time to test out feasibility…

Housing Expenses
We make weekly payments (DH gets paid weekly).

Status: Unchanged.
Property Tax
Our city has quite high property taxes. We also have a fairly large lot by city standards, back onto "ravine", and are in a desirable location.

Status: Our property assessment came back AND in January our property taxes went down by $32 per month.
House Insurance
Status: Same.. but working on seeing what insurance company can do to lower our monthly insurance bills.
Water Bill
This bill comes quarterly so this is a monthly average.

Status: Unchanged.
Electricity Bill

Status: Stay tuned for a post on this.. changes are on the horizon.
Natural Gas (furnace, stove, hot water heater)

Status: Same as above.

Insurance (Car Insurance, Life Insurance)
Status: Our new car needed more coverage than the old one, which was a difference of $30/month. We’re working on seeing what our insurance provider can do to reduce these costs.


For both kids. It is not much but if we stay with this contribution, they would each have enough money for approx. 3 years of tuition at a local university. We’re comfortable knowing we could at least help them with this. We also want them to play some role in contributing to their own education.

Status: Unchanged
DH and I each have one. This money is only used for “emergencies” and is therefore not a substantial amount.

Status: We stopped contributing to TFSAs and instead transfer the money to credit card repayment each week. If an emergency arises, we’ll have access to credit to cover it.

Household Expenses

Home Phone, Cable TV, Internet, Cell phone
Note: Includes long distance package, some specialty tv channels, and a PVR (rent-to-own - $40 more over the term than to purchase flat out). Cellphone is a  smart phone on a pretty good student plan $60/month

Status: Called customer loyalty department and got them to shave off $40/month since I noticed their fees were increasing.
Cell phone
Note: Cellphone is a smart phone on a pretty good student plan $60/month – yes this is under my name too...
Status: Unchanged.. patiently waiting until September when the contract is up.
Includes all household cleaning supplies, diapers, personal hygiene items, etc.

Status: Expect a post on this soon.
DH travels approx. 120km round trip to work. I travel about 30 km.

Status: Got a new vehicle – now spend only about $20/week in gas. Nearly half of what I was spending before.

Family member watches kids (1 f/t, 1 p/t)

Status: Unchanged

Debt payments
 Some are interest only payments… sigh…

Status: TFSA redirection.

Total Monthly Budget
Status: So far, we’ve dropped the monthly budget by $243. Hoping that we can make it down to $5800 by the end of the year.