Every Little Counts

bottle

About a year ago I began returning liquor bottles & cans to the store for a refund. Prior to that I would throw the containers into my recycling bin as it felt silly collecting them. I don’t recall what changed but I now have 2 cases that I pack empty bottles into and return when full.

Considering the cost of alcohol, I’m in no way recouping costs but it feels good getting money back. As I was hosting again this weekend and suspected a few people may sleep over I returned a case of empties and made $5.

Not a lot I grant you but enough that I was able to get a can opener and have a few dollars left over.

What little bit do you do that helps you save or earn money?

Image courtesy of BrianHolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Advertisements

Let’s Debrief: August

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days : 13 days
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 15 uses in 2015): 6
  • # times ate out: 5
  • # activities with loved ones: 19
  • # months until home improvement fund: 7 months (if every month is like August) 29 is probably more realistic
  • % over or under budget: 3% under budget
  • % consumer debt paid off: 20%

CELEBRATE:

  • I didn’t resort to credit once!
  • Created separate savings accounts so I can see exactly how much money is available for the various items I’m saving for.
  • I feel that my idea to put leftover budget money into a separate savings account is inspired. This way I’m not truly going over my budget. When an opportunity came to have drinks with a friend I was able to take a little out of that account without feeling guilty.
  • When given the option to eat out or brown bag most of my colleagues have opted to bring their own.
  • I was able to repay one of my savings lines with the leftover budget

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • Pretty soon I won’t be using the line but right now the medical piece keeps rearing it’s head. It felt great to know that I could dip into savings for this and not use credit!
  • A sports expense I wasn’t anticipating that I would have to cover came up and I was able to dip into savings rather than blow the budget.

KEEP IN MIND

  • Got to explore investing.

OVERALL

Budgeting weekly seems to be working for me. I was conscious of where my money was going but still open to experiences.

Looking Ahead: September

september

I’ve been struggling with planning my spending in September. This has been largely due to the fact that I don’t have a lot of events planned next month so at first it felt like I had loads of leftover money. Knowing September is when people tend to do impromptu things I was trying to allocate some to miscellaneous funding but a bit more to savings.

Then I remembered a medical expense that’s coming up. I was going to dip into my savings for it but if I don’t have too many unplanned events I would be able to pay that expense out of my monthly budget.

I played with different formats, made a variety of notes and racked my brain to consider all sorts of variable expenses that I should budget for (I even put in a calling card). As of today I’m happy with it.  Using this method I planned for things that I usually allow to creep up on me. At the end though I do feel a bit cramped as there isn’t room for any of those impromptu things I like to do. September is going to be the month where I focus on free activities as frugal isn’t going to cut it this time.

I am going to have to remind myself rather firmly that I was planning to dip into my savings to cover the medical expense so if something does happen I am not going to beat myself up over it.

So far August has worked out and I’m hoping to keep the momentum going!

What are you looking forward to in September?

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Knowing Your Truth

LONG POST WARNING: I don’t recall what triggered this but you get to read the result.

When I purchased this house I had a few well meaning people comment that it was a fantastic starter home. I was incensed, when had a three bedroom home become a starter home! How much more could I grow? And what was wrong with it that I should need to move? It turns out there is an idea that young people need to buy different homes; as their income increases so should the housing expense. I politely disagree.

I’ve been getting a lot of articles recently speaking of the entitlement and grandiose delusions of my generation but we get fed a lot of stupid ideas and unfortunately have to sort the wheat from the chaff. The pressure to purchase a house and then the starter home comments came from a cross-generational group. Generations are raised, they just don’t somehow magically turn out a certain way.

I’m fortunate that though my parents get intrusive questions they rarely decide to pressure me because of them .The house, however, was a hot topic. A lot of people in my age group were buying homes – my friends, people my age with whom my my parents worked as well as the children of their friends. Of course worry set in, if their daughter was working for as much as or more than these people why was she saying she couldn’t afford a home? To prove to them that I couldn’t afford a home I met with a mortgage broker.

I did my math, figured out how much I could afford and went to the meeting prepared. He crunched numbers and then told me with that cautious air of someone about to give bad news, “When I share this figure with people your age they’re often very surprised. It may be a lot lower than you’re anticipating but we want to make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Then he gave me the number. I laughed, he smiled kindly and said, “I know it can be a surprise.”

“I can’t afford that,” I told him, ” I did my math, I’m not sure what I’m eating if I spend that much on a house.”

He was relieved and now with proof that I certainly couldn’t afford a house I had one final task: contact a real estate agent and present my parents with the types of places I would be living in if I were to buy the house.

You may have noticed I’ve got some high standards so there were a lot of places that I wasn’t willing to take on a 30 year mortgage for. Just when I was about wrap up my case nicely The House came on the market.

I had a clear vision of what I wanted and my real estate agent had called me when this house went up and said, “You’ve got to go to this one.”

She was right. It was the  home I had described – very little carpet, a small backyard and best of all a bungalow. In a week it was mine.

In the end my parents’ got the last laugh as their pressure resulted in me purchasing my, hopefully forever, home. It did also begin a great conversation between us about how far a dollar goes now and the debts that people take on to please others.

I’m sure every generation goes through this but when hearing how selfish and entitled my generation is, I remember the feeling of helplessness and anger when I felt pressured to buy a home but all the ‘good ones’ were out of my price range. Homes that 10 years ago could have easily been mine were astronomically priced. My frustration that people were willing to give me a loan that wasn’t reasonable and my sadness that living within my, not meagre, means meant that people I loved worried about my financial well being.

Luckily for me if I hadn’t found a home my parents would have dropped the matter and learned a bit of the real estate reality of the time. I’ve had friends whose parents and loved ones haven’t been so understanding. They feel both internal and external pressure to show people that they’re doing alright by going into debt.

My debt  came slowly at first and then more quickly after a rather rough patch when I wanted to prove to people that I was alright. When I purchased this house I knew my financial truth and was willing to face it. I’m back in that place and to be honest I’m happy to recapture that part of me.

What do you do differently when you’re honest with yourself?

Easy Ice Cream

Growing up we had an ice cream maker. It was an event getting it made: my mum cooking the secret recipe and my dad cranking while we salted the ice. Full of the type of fond memories that only a child can have I desperately wanted an ice cream maker. When I finally got one I took a look at the instructions and have never gotten  all the ingredients in at the same time.

I may have a problem  with planning ahead…

To help with this I found a no cook, no ice cream maker recipe.

homemade ice cream

Ingredients

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

1 can of condensed milk (~14 oz)

Mix ins (crushed Oreos is my go to but I’ve used a variety of syrups)

Method:

Whip the cream with electric beaters until it peaks. Once peaks form mix in the condensed milk followed, or along with, your mix ins.

Pour into a freezer safe dish, stir and put in freezer. In about 3 hours you will have delicious ice cream that tastes like you put in a lot of work.

Enjoy!

Let’s Plan a Party!

I hold myself to some crazy standards when hosting people at my home.The food must be laid out properly, dishes must be ready for them as well as a small bar. I do come by it honestly. Every time my parents’ host something my mum says, “It’s not fancy this time,” then proceeds to present an amazing spread of food. Just the basics mind you – appetizers (cheese plate, olives, an assortment of hot hors d’oeuvres) a salad, 2 sides, 2 meats, bread, followed by at least one dessert.

Growing up in a house where this is light fare you can understand my difficulty when trying not to put too much food out. The home was fairly frugal though, I can’t blame my parents for not teaching me the value of a dollar and hard work. They work hard but are very generous.

This time I decided to take a page out of my parents’ book it would be expansive but frugal. The complication here was that I was hosting a folks with some pretty severe allergies to lactose, nuts and gluten so safe versions of products had to be purchased. Here’s the menu:

Appetizers – provided by guests (a gluten free option and a non-gluten free option)

Salad – provided by guest

Meat – Veggie stuffed chicken*, BBQ Ribs seasoned with a dry rub

Sides –   Corn, Avocado and Tomato salad and Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Desserts – s’mores (got to use that s’mores maker!) and angel food cake with a selection of fruits.

A pretty good spread! I had planned some of the menu when I was budget planning at the beginning of the month so I could allocate funds appropriately.  To stay in my budget I made sure to check out sales and be aware of what was already in my pantry.

As you can probably guess there a leftovers which we used to supplement the hot dogs and hamburgers we served at the lunch the next day.

bbq

*I’ll share my veggie stuffed chicken recipe with you later, it’s simple and works well on the barbecue.

What are some of your favourite summer recipes?

August Week 4 Down?

I know I just posted that Week 3 was down yesterday but I figured I’d give you an update on how I plan my spending.

I budget from Saturday – Friday so that means that usually on Friday night I know where I’m at with my weekly spending. I opted to start posting my summaries on Mondays as I wanted to make sure that I was providing updates consistently.

The reason for my budget week is that I spend the majority of my funds on a weekend, that’s when I do groceries and the bulk of my fun things. This weekend I hosted a budgeted dinner party for 8 and a completely impromptu luncheon for 9. The luncheon occurred because I couldn’t attend a family gathering that included people I see maybe twice a year. The twice a year is because of proximity not lack of love.

I had planned a pretty fantastic dinner and wasn’t willing to compromise on any of it. An additional reason I couldn’t easily trim back was that a lot of my guests have rather severe allergies and health issues which meant that I was purchasing gluten, lactose and nut free products. I’ll share the menu details later this week.

Adding lunch for 9 meant that I used my entire grocery budget and had to dip into my remaining “leftover weekly savings.” I had a moment of panic on Sunday night when I was looking at a $0 balance before remembering about that savings account. As I had posted about setting realistic expectations before I was able to feel good about using that money rather than further beat myself up that I was using it.

I’ve got one more visit tomorrow night and I’m fairly certain that as of Tuesday there will be $0 in the account. The freeing aspect is that for the first time in a long time that’s alright. It’s not a cause for angst or fear. It means that I budgeted to perfection and I lived within my means.

August Week 3 Down

So in my week 2 look I had mentioned moving funds over for my medical appointment and dinner from my savings. Well the medical appointment had no payment required this week so I put that money back. The dinner didn’t happen as planned which means that money wasn’t used. The dinner money was leftover budget money from week 1 so I put it in the leftover budget fund.

This means that early in the week I was able to put all the money back into the saving funds!

Then… I was invited to two friend events. Like me these friends are pretty cost conscious so the total amount would be under $20. That’s less than I had budgeted on dinner. That’s when the going got tough.

Should I dip into the leftover budget fund? I decided the answer was yes. The reason I had separated it out was so that I could use the money in that account to offset any additional items that came up. If there’s no money in that account then I would have to say no to extras.

In the end, I’m happy with my decisions and most importantly didn’t use credit to live the life I want. In my book that’s a success.

What’s your Pleasure?

This post is inspired by Krista at From Food Stamps to a Future, who shared her guilty pleasures on Tuesday. Reading her list got me to thinking about how deprived you can feel when curbing your spending.

It’s so easy to add up all the things that you can’t do but I when thinking of my own lists none of the items break my budget.

reading girl

In no particular order here are 5 things that bring me joy:

  1. Reading a fantastic book in a comfortable location. Price: free as I get all my books from the library or bookbub.
  2. Cuddling with Bunny. Price: free, I’m not counting the cost of keeping Bunny happy
  3. Dulce de Leche Cheesecake. Price: $5, this cake has special meaning to me and I get it a couple of times per year from a local bakery.
  4. Perfectly chilled cola. Price: ~$1, I don’t drink a lot of pop anymore but buy a case when it’s on sale for when I entertain
  5. West Indian Roti. Price: $10. This can be expensive for a lot of reasons, notice that I like it from a specific region? Well if I don’t make it at home I need to drive to a different city to get it and that involves paying for gas. If I’m really down or feeling quite ill I’ll make the trip. If it’s just a craving I’ll either make it myself or beg my mum.

What do you enjoy?

Image by anekoho at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Side Hustles

books

I was inspired by Rachel from Lady and the Budget when she spoke of side hustles. I don’t need another job but her suggestions for August made sense to me. In light of my recent cleaning I have a few things that could be sold.

So I made my list of items that needed a new home and visited a few shops in town that buy used goods. On my books and CDs I made $108!

I was anticipating $50, so I saw very glad that I had originally decided that I was getting cash not credit and any side hustle money was for debt repayment. It took away the temptation to purchase items.

I still have my clothes to sell and I am hoping to get a decent amount for them. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Rachel’s side hustle idea is working well for this month but now I am wondering what I can do next month to bring in a little more.

Image courtesy of Surachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net