Debrief: May 201

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days :21 (65%)
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 6
  • # activities with loved ones: 19; these included video calls, good news calls
  • % over or under budget: 0.24% over budget –WOOHOO

CELEBRATE:

  • I got vaccinated!
  • We weren’t bored at home – lockdown continued but we were entertained at home

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • House Insurance – was able to cover the bill completely
  • Gifts – Friend is recovering from COVID and I’m welcoming a niece later this year
  • Car – the tyres and some check ups

KEEP IN MIND

  • This month was amazing! We did really well but I’m going to have to remember I’m heading back to work outside of the home next month and that’s going to result in some extra food spending.
  • Lockdown continued so there was no where to go and nothing to do which meant no calls on spending.

OVERALL

We did well! Either the money went farther than anticipated or we were choosing frugal spends. It’s also so important to acknowledge that our savings saved the day. Without having those accounts in reserved we’d by over $2K behind.

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April 2021 Debrief

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days :20 (66%)
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 3
  • # activities with loved ones: 19; these included video calls, good news calls
  • % over or under budget: 15% over budget –seriously went over this month!

CELEBRATE:

  • I began working with a mobliity coach who specializes in the mind/body connection
  • We were able to get the Bear treatment right away
  • 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

  • Movement Coach – I’ve registered for a 3 month program and we’ve decided to dip into my savings for that. This way ML is still able to save in case of job loss/break.
  • The Bear was an expensive and unplanned vet visit

KEEP IN MIND

  • The prices of groceries are rising; I haven’t done a price book in ages and as the days of grocery hopping are gone, I need to re-assess the grocery budget.
  • This was a busy month – we hosted a going away party (COVID style, which means an outdoors brunch); the province re-entered lockdown/stay-at-home; we’re making an effort to eat healthier
  • The misc. line was divided between “going out of business” athletic things and grad school printing

OVERALL

I hit a snag somewhere with how my paycheques fund things. The aim was that I would have been able to not touch my last April paycheque until the beginning of May. That didn’t happen. It’s also why I’m over budget but my bank account looks great. The problem is then I no longer have additional savings and I’m living paycheque – paycheque. I’m hopeful with May I’ll be able to start getting that back under control.

Overall the month went well. Our biggest sucks were groceries and Misc. spending. By using May as a clean slate, I think I can get back on track with it all as we have enough groceries to last us until at least Mid-May.

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.

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.