March Debrief 2021

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days :19 (61%)
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 5
  • # activities with loved ones: 19; these included video calls, good news calls and walks outside
  • % over or under budget: 2% over budget – we extended on the eating out

CELEBRATE:

  • First month of pretending ML isn’t working went well
  • I got into Grad School! As I’m able to keep putting money into that savings line, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to keep going no matter what happens with the other bits.

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • Not this month

KEEP IN MIND

—-

OVERALL

I realized I hadn’t done this at the end of March. We’re halfway through April so I can’t recall most of March. I think it was a good month. I recall feeling good about the spending and having conversations with ML about his plans.

He’s been reviewing job postings and collecting resume tips so that he’s prepared for this next step.

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Pity Party

Is there anything more annoying than someone with a near perfect life bemoaning the fact that their life is imperfect? If our response to public figures is any indication, the answer is a resounding, “No!”

I know better. I know that both situations and chemistry play a part in mental wellness. I know that, much like a cold, you can do a lot of good things and end up getting sick anyway. I can have a meaningful conversation with a friend as to why they don’t need to have a reason to be fighting the mean reds. But then it happens to me.

I have a list of reasons why I should not be sad. I can easily rhyme off a dozen of them:

  1. I have a job I love
  2. I am married to the love of my life
  3. I have medical coverage that includes massage and psychological health
  4. I have a good relationship with my parents
  5. I have a good sibling relationship
  6. I have a good relationship with my in-laws
  7. Some of my in-laws provide the best made up family (siblings, cousins, etc.)
  8. I have amazing friends who I can call up in moments of joy or sorrow
  9. My home is perfect (even excessive) for my needs
  10. I am surrounded by books I love
  11. My pet is cute and occasionally cuddly
  12. I can move freely both with my body and in my community

That was less than a minute and I can keep going, yet it doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel guilty. I have all this good and on a bright, sun-shiney day I want to do nothing. I want to watch the day roll by and pretend nothing exists or matters.

My depression isn’t crying in the bed. It isn’t not being able to have a conversation. It isn’t a lot of what we see in television and movies.

It’s a deep feeling of shame, of lack of self-worth, of trying extra hard to be “people.”

It’s not wanting to do anything but forcing myself to clean, because if I can fake it for five minutes at least when I’m back on the couch with my numbing agent of choice my surroundings will look pretty.

It’s filling my days with back-to-back meetings so I have a ‘reason’ for not having work done.

It’s working myself to exhaustion so I have a reason to take time off because I can’t love myself enough to take a break early. Because I don’t think I have a ‘reason’ to be depressed.

I know this will pass. I have been here before, I will be here again. I just need to be alright with the moment, the cloak that enshrouds me.

Maybe one day.

Monthly Debrief: February 2021

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days :18 (64%)
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 4
  • # activities with loved ones: 19; these included video calls, good news calls and walks outside
  • % over or under budget: 2% over budget – I also cheated a smidge and moved some of those over to the March line. This was because they hadn’t appeared on my credit card statement in February or came out after my last paycheque in February which is earmarked for March spending

CELEBRATE:

  • We got ML’s news on February 18 and behaved well, we did order out that night to eat our feelings but chose an option that meant we also didn’t have to cook for a few days
  • We were able to have a good conversation and play with budgets immediately to offset concner and determine how long we could be alright in a worse case scenario

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • Not this month

KEEP IN MIND

This was the first year since 2015 that I haven’t attended a work conference in February. That definitely helped keep the spending in check!

OVERALL

This month was good. I didn’t move as much as I wanted to, however, the relationship front is strong. We were pleased to discover that we are now better equipped to handle job loss and budget conversations than we have been in the past.

I also took the final steps in my grad school application. I’m hopeful that it shall go well and I’ll be part of the 2021 cohort.

The P Word

Privilege is the word I’m thinking of.

It’s tempting to pat ourselves on the back for making good choices. Choices that mean that if, God forbid, ML is out of work until March 2022 we shouldn’t see a decrease in our lifestyle. Here’s where I see our privilege:

  • We both have jobs that allowed us to get out of the debt we accrued when we were making less than a living wage
  • The housing market, when we purchased, was no where near this crazy
  • We each tend to work only 35-40 hours a week, which has given us time to build our community, invest in ourselves (including shop for good deals) and stave off health-related issues due to exhaustion
  • We have good health benefit packages so have been able to deal with injuries and illnesses quickly; those jobs also gave us the time off needed or accommodations to recover

I’m highlighting all of this because while I celebrate the good stuff, I also want to recognize that I’m lucky. Sure I did the ‘right things’ but I also had the opportunity to do it. ML & I were reflecting that 10 years ago this would have been a crushing blow that we would take us years to recover. Ten years ago we had the house, student debt, consumer debt, car payments and no network. I know other people in similar financial situations who haven’t weathered these changes as well. Here’s how we’re doing it.

We don’t have kids

This seems like a strange thing to list, however, because we don’t have children we haven’t had to worry about so many things that parents consider namely the feeding, clothing and mental stimulation of children. Daycare alone would have taken away almost half my monthly income for at least 3 years and then about a quarter of it as we would need before and after school care.

Combat Lifestyle Inflation

We’re in a starter home. It’s what it was termed when we bought it and it’s most likely how it will be listed when we sell it. While mortgage brokers and banks are happy to extend us further credit to purchase a larger house or at least one in a swankier area, we decided to make this our forever home. We opted to invest in renovating our kitchen to better suit our needs once we though we could do it with minimal credit support. I was so pleased that we paid 0 interest on that kitchen! Even when we’ve made decisions that were a bit pricey, I was usually able to shift back within a short time frame.

COVID

The pandemic has actually been fantastic for helping us stay in our budget. With the limits to hosting, opportunities to eat out or find entertainment outside the home – so many of our previous spending triggers have gone. Our practice with frugality also makes us work to find the ‘free’ version of something.

Being Present

This seems like a strange one to list, however, enjoying our now and what we have allows us to not bee searching for the next best thing. I very rarely accept the free-trial of anything. Why? Because once you get used to something, it can be hard to give it up. This ties into the way we have avoided lifestyle inflation.

Practice

I’ve been using this blog since 2015 and though my blogging has dropped sharply, my budget use hasn’t. I have been finessing my budget spreadsheet over that time and have been tracking my own rise and fall annually.

Making Savings Work for us

The way we save may not work for everyone but it works for us. I have lines dedicated to the things that matter to me and every time I have gotten a raise, I’ve figured out how to either incorporate it into my existing savings plan (increasing our mortgage repayment fund was one of these) or direct it to an area of interest (my layoff account which turned into an education fund which has been redirected to bill paying).

The decision to increase savings lines that could have long term impacts on our financial well being (home reno, mortgage repayment and car care) rather than increasing either our spending or short term savings (gifts,medical not covered by insurance, or vacation) has meant that now that something big is happening we’re not trying to re-evaluate our values and see how we can work within our means.

I’m feeling pretty proud of who we have become.

Do we spend too much on things we don’t truly need (I type as I consider our bar, tea collection and my array of candles)? Yes!

The name of this blog has always reflected our values. Can we pull back in these areas when called to? Yes!

Will it be hard to not click on the next pain relieving, must-have tool that Instagram offers up in the ads? Yes!

Will I resist temptation? Most likely because I’ve got my budget as a guide and I’m using this blog again to help keep me honest.

Is this all possible because we’ve both been making (above) living wages in good working conditions that leave us with enough energy and time to be thoughtful? YES!

We Got News…

And it’s not the good kind.

Last Thursday, my husband found out that the business he works for is closing its doors via a press release. After the initial shock of the bungled announcement we got down to business. While the company’s PR is good, we’re less certain about their ability to truly help employees who will be out of a job by the summer.

That night we had a conversation about our budget. ML and I have separate accounts and are each responsible for specific bills. We trust the other is paying and saving according to our goals. The system has worked for the last 12 years. That night, we figured out how many of ‘his bills’ I could take over.

It turned out that if I decreased our savings , I could take over all the bills he takes care of minus our mortgage. Our aim then is to have me do that starting in March. This will allow:

  • Him a chance to save the majority of his salary
  • Us to test our theory and finesse our strategy

Based on our math, we should be fine until March 2022. Then we may need to revisit our strategy. As he’s guaranteed employment until June, he’s using this time to:

  • Assess what he’d like to do
  • Update his LinkedIn
  • Reach out to his network to figure out what opportunities may exist
  • Apply for jobs

Have you been in this position? If so, any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated!

Valentine’s Day

Photo of pink paper hearts dangling by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

My family used to celebrate Valentine’s Day with little tokens to each other – candy, a book of poems, a trinket. It wasn’t a big deal but something that we were trained to think of as incorporating all types of love rather than just romantic love. That may be the reason that I’ve never had a hated relationship with February 14 or it could be the fact that by the age Valentine’s Day starts to feel like a ticking time bomb to some I was already married.

ML and I don’t usually celebrate Valentine’s Day. This year, we considered ordering one of the specials that local restaurants are putting out. While we managed to do a cocktail pack that popped up in one of my Instagram stories, we seem to be reverting to form. Our valentine’s celebrations will include:

  • Making a 3 course dinner tomorrow night
  • Creating a drink menu to accompany dinner
  • Eating at the dining table, rather than the recent habit of dinner and show
  • Playing games – we have a collection of board games and conversation starters

Laid back, low key and totally us.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s? If so, what are your plans

Monthly Debrief: January 2021

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days :20 (65%)
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 2
  • # activities with loved ones: 10; these included video calls, good news calls and walks outside
  • $ saved at Costco: No Costco visit this month; we’ve decided to not renew our membership as Costco is more expensive online and we’re not comfortable going to the store
  • % over or under budget: 3% under budget (I’d abandoned the fun fund over the past couple years so it’s nice to be able to put money in there again)

CELEBRATE:

  • I have avoided the allure of online shopping and leaned into my stay at home life at the moment
  • We supported a local restaurant we love and did a good job of eating the food we’ve purchased

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • I paid my school fees, books and applied to an MA program through my savings line

KEEP IN MIND

Not only are we in the midst of a pandemic but there’s an emergency order in place keeping us pretty close to home and removing the usual temptations. While this is a grand January , budget-wise, I hope it’s an outlier.

OVERALL

This month was fantastic. I’ve been trying to embrace the “Little Goes a Long Way” philosophy to encourage myself in moving but not pushing so hard I cause flare ups of pain.

Budget Review & Mortgage Update

I was scrolling through my budget document and saw the list that I used to break down my expenses into the categories: Essential, Lifestyle and Future. I had skipped this process in 2020 so was curious to see how my current budget lines up with my goal to flip the suggested 50-30-20.

Here’s how it lines up with both the aim and previous years:

My Aim201520162017201820192021
Essential20%57%48%33%25%27%34%
Lifestyle30%27%28%30%29%21%20%
Future50%16%24%37%46%52%43%

While my Essential and Future costs are moving to the more traditional direction, I noticed that my essential block contains an increase to my monthly mortgage payments. With the added payments, we’re on track to pay off the mortgage in 11 years and 5 months – June, 2032. This would bring us 2 years shy of the original 25 year amortization.

Paying off the mortgage ahead of 50, would give us a solid opportunity to save for our retirement. This would include not only the savings to cover reduced income but the ability to outfit our home so we can stay in it as long as possible.

New Year, Same me?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted!

What’s changed? Other than:

  • A global pandemic
  • Working from home
  • Major health issues

It’s pretty much the same. I ended the year with 0 Consumer Debt an unimaginable task a few years ago. As the world has been rocked with COVID-19, ML and I have been less careful with our spending. It stems from feeling very fortunate as we’re both still employed and didn’t have to take pay cuts.

Rather than increase our savings we decided to share the wealth as much as possible, which has included: increasing our donations to causes, ordering in food from local restaurants and shopping at local stores. All of these are increased costs for a couple who have been trying to find the best deal for a while.

Due to my health paranoia (is it paranoia if I was sidelined for 6 weeks by a common flu?), I’ve decided to maintain my lockdown until the vaccine makes its appearance to all and sundry in my country. While it may seem that this would have a positive impact on my pocket book the world of online shopping (I’m looking at you Instagram ads) is rife with temptation.

I’m not going to make any budget promises to myself but I’m going to think about how to use this time of physical isolation to tend to my soul. Saving in 2021 will not only be financial, it will incorporate energy.

I abandoned this blog because my post-concussion syndrome was so bad that I couldn’t manage tracking my budget and reflecting upon it while being a success in all the other areas of my life. It’s taken me years to recognize that.

This year I’m going to work on building my awareness of my own needs. I’m curious to take a wander through this blog and see how far I’ve come on some goals and work on setting some new ones. No promises that I’m back but here’s to hoping that 2021 involves a whole lot more blogging!

Clean Slate – August 2019

At first glance, my budget is in shambles! I had not carved out time to do any real checks over the last few months. This morning I spent time combing over my finances and discovered some huge expenses that I hadn’t properly prepared for:

  •   $540 on a friend’s bridal showers
  • $1400 attending her wedding.
    • That money was definitely not saved! I suspect the $1400 could have been lessened but I was emotionally and physically exhausted from my work schedule that I did very little research into the trip and my cost saving alternatives.
  • $780 on a conference, I will be reimbursed for this
  • $600 on a vacation where I hosted someone.
    • This was fairly frugal as it was 2 weeks of entertaining and is largely us eating out. This vacation served to highlight that I still have difficulty saying no to things in stores and I’m apt to fall for ‘good deals.’

There are also a host of charges for things that I felt I should get:

  • outdoor furniture as our last set had to be retired after 8 years
  • outdoor covers for the furniture so that it won’t get damaged by the elements
  • Just Junk – removal of the items that have been in the basement from the previous owners as well as our own accumulation of items

CLEANING UP

When I thought I was only going to be working 2 days/month from May – June I started putting away some money. As I had picked up a part time job I hadn’t touched the money. My hope had been that it would get moved over to the Pay off the Mortgage fund. That money will now be moved to pay for all the wedding related costs and the vacation.

MOVING FORWARD

This year, I haven’t managed to work within my budget as yet. I’m aiming to change this in August. My plan is to only use my debit card and keep a running tally of my spending in my wallet. I also need to submit my item for reimbursement quite soon as I find I get a bit lax on paperwork and end up paying for things I shouldn’t.