My 2016 Wish for you

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I hope you start the new year with a fresh bout of joy and hope.

That your goals are achievable and those who surround you help make your dreams come true.

That you treat yourself with all the love and dignity you would bestow on your greatest idol.

That 2016 be your best year yet!

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Movie Night

Last Tuesday ML & I went with a few friends to watch The Force Awakens. As I had paid for the tickets ahead of time I had forgotten to include movie extras (like dinner before and popcorn at) in my December budget. The day of found me taking a quick peek at my budget to see if we had the funds to indulge that night. It turns out that I had over-budgeted for entertainment so there was still money in that line.

As we were driving someone she told us that she’d treat us at the theatre so ML got a popcorn and drink for us to share. While I was enjoying the popcorn  one of the people we were with said to me he never wastes money at concessions. I was immediately on the defense giving him the story that it was a gift , that I don’t usually buy concessions, etc.

Then I shut up because in my discomfort I realized that I had made choices. I was also proud of my choices. I don’t know this guy’s financial situation but I do know that he goes to the movies almost every Tuesday. Even with a discount ticket he’s spending ~$40 a month at the theatre. I’ve never once thought, ” That’s such a waste of money! You could watch movies at home and have a gourmet meal for that price!” Well until now when I did the math.

He doesn’t know my financial situation all he saw was a woman who he thought was bleeding money.

Everyone makes the choices that are right for them at that time in their life. For me it’s all about saving without scrimping. Once I’ve paid my commitments i.e. bills, budgeted debt payment and savings the rest of my money is mine to spend however I like.  The deal I made with myself was that I would not go over budget.

As I continue to pay down my debt and feel stronger about my finances I don’t want to be the person who judges others’ spending habits. I want to continually recognize that how a person chooses to spend their money is very personal and has nothing to do with me. This blog was created for me to track my journey and share tips that work for me. My budgeting style won’t work for everyone, heck it wouldn’t have worked for the person I was 3 year ago!

Do what’s right for your finances and family. Listen to great advice and learn from other but know that you are the only person who has the key to your financial success.

 

A fresh start

It feels like every year since we got married ML and I would cuddle around Christmas and talk about our plans to get out of debt. We’d set reasonable goals and be filled with hope. This was almost always a result of us having dug ourselves deeper into debt over the course of November and December.

This year however is different. Here’s why: we didn’t talk about it. You read that correctly. We didn’t talk about our debt loads and our plans because there was nothing to talk about. I haven’t been holding out we still have debt but this year the battle plan was drawn in July and we haven’t looked back. So I’m feeling powerful ending the year rather than afraid that I won’t be able to afford the life I want.

How are you feeling about your finances as 2015 draws to a close?

 

 

Boxing Day

I usually avoid sales that I know are going to entice me to spend on things I don’t need. Boxing Day, however, is different; I love shopping on this day.

Full of gratitude from my gifts the days before I’m less likely to purchase things I don’t need. I use Boxing Day  sales to purchase items for my gift closet. This year I gave myself a strict budget and offered ML the option of giving me a list.

He did and when I went shopping with a friend today I took my list with me. There are a couple proud moments today.

First, ML gave me an expensive list and then said only buy things if they don’t exceed my budget. He’s always been supportive so this isn’t a win. The win is that I didn’t feel guilty for knowing I wouldn’t be able to buy everything.

The food gifts were 50% off so I got 2 for the gift closet, 1 as a surprise for ML, 1 as a hostess gift for an event that wasn’t in the budget. This took up about 40% of the boxing day budget.

Since I had money, I started to look for ML’s items. The sales on his stuff weren’t so good so I just picked up 2 items.  When I cashed out I checked the total before paying and found out I’d be paying way more than anticipated.

This is the second proud moment. I asked the cashier if I could remove an item as the transaction hadn’t gone through. I didn’t give in to debt shame! I did say that I gave myself a budget and didn’t want to go over it.

As we moved away from the cash the friend with me mentioned that he  really admired the way I stuck to my budget.   This was great as a few months ago I would have been a bit bashful about asking a cashier to remove an item but I definitely would not have wanted to do it in front of a friend.

My boxing day shopping was an unqualified success!

 

Planning my 2016 Finances

This year I’d like to not use credit to pay for expenses that I’m aware of ahead of time. I think it’ll go a long way to ensuring I get out and stay out of debt. This means reviewing my budget quite closely to see areas in which I can tighten in order to meet this goal without sacrificing my steep debt repayments.

Here’s a list of anticipated spending that I’m aware of:

  • February: attend an out of town conference, shoes for said conference, Day o’ Fun
  • March: gift for ML, Renew my license sticker and have a diagnostic test on the car
  • May: attend an out of town wedding and road trip to see a friend, gift for family member, wine tour
  • June: wine tour
  • July: house insurance due, gift for family member
  • August: road trips to see friends, wine tour
  • September: Homecoming
  • October: Halloween candy and party
  • November: tickets for shows
  • December: gifts and socializing for holiday season

I’ve already increased my budget categories for the car (in January and February) and House Insurance (until July) to ensure that those two anticipated expenses will be paid cash. I’m especially proud that I was able to do this without sacrificing my debt payment.

In 2016 I’d also like to start saving more. This is going to be impossible without increasing my income*.  For the first part of 2016 I’ve decided to do this to the tune of $40. This will only have a minimal impact on my debt repayment but will be a great help in the long term.

Do you already know some of your big 2016 expenses?

*I don’t budget using my true income as I’ll be tempted to spend just a bit more and those $2 and $5 add up quickly. Instead I budget using the minimum amount that I feel will allow me to continue living comfortably. I’ve found that if I cut too close I end up overspending and remain in a debt cycle.

 

 

Goal Setting

Ernie over on Purple Sweatpants inspired me with his Big Hairy Audacious Goal  which resulted in this post.

Goal 1: Goodbye Debt

In July 2015 I had figured that I would be out of consumer debt in 30 months. In August and September it became clear that my aggressive plan would allow me to pay this debt off in less than a year. I’m aiming to pay off my debt by August 2016. Once this is done I’ll be able to start on my other goals.

Goal 2: Emergency fund

While technically I have enough money to not live paycheque to paycheque all the money is currently in savings accounts earmarked for specific spending. Generally it’s non-essential spending so if I were to not get paid one month I’ll be alright. For me this isn’t enough security. I’d prefer to have enough savings to keep me covered for 6 months.

Once I reach my August Goal, I’m going to put some of the debt repayment money toward an emergency fund to be used in case of job loss. I’ll revisit this in September to see how long it will take to build up the buffer I want.

Goal 3: Start Home Improvement Fund

The deal was that when I paid off my debt I’d be able to put money toward my home improvement fund. There are 2 big renovations that our home would value from: the kitchen and putting in a washroom in the basement.

I will have to revisit this and figure out a reasonable budget for these in September and then a savings timeframe.

 

Goal 4: Help ML

Originally when I started this process, I thought I’d pay off my debt, funnel some of that money to savings, and put the rest in my budget to play with.  Doing this exercise for the past few months made us realize that we didn’t miss the money I was putting toward my debt. Rather it made us more conscious of where our money and energy were going.

ML has a debt load of his own that he’s paying and my aim is to use some funds to help pay those beginning in September.

I’m not sure where this year will take us but I feel good planning that this is the year I will finally be debt free!

New Year’s Resolutions

I love the new year preparations! There is something wonderful about taking a moment to reflect on the year that’s gone by and making a conscious decision to be a better version of me going forward.

I used to make resolutions the same way I make my To do list at work:

  • Exercise more
  • Eat well
  • Learn patience
  • Don’t blow the budget

The problem became that I would start out doing well but then a few months, even weeks, into the new year these items would be lost.

My next step was to take it month by month, for example, I’d spend January whipping my finances back into shape and giving myself structure, February I’d make a point of exercising everyday followed by incorporating more veggies in March. I wouldn’t plan out my year in advance but would promise myself to focus on something that made me better. This worked really well especially as it helped me build some momentum and kept my good habits top of mind.

This year, with the creation of this blog, I brought a lot of those pieces together. I spent a lot of time figuring out what mattered to me . When thinking of resolutions I revisited this list and my ways of tracking my success. It turns out I don’t have traditional resolutions this year, I’m just going to keep building on the success of 2015. I’ll be posting on how I plan to do this during the last 2 weeks of December.

What’s on your agenda for 2016?

 

December Week 3

I did my check on Sunday and I spent $16 more than anticipated. I’m feeling quite good since there were two items that popped up that I hadn’t been prepared for. The combined cost of those were ~$50 so $16 is a win!

When I did my monthly budget I gave every dollar a job but with my weekly breakdown I gave every job a dollar value. This means that there’s a bit of money that was not allocated so I would be able to indulge in impromptu get-togethers. Because I’ve gotten to know my lifestyle very well through tracking the ‘extra funds’ are mainly in the grocery and entertainment lines

I’m so glad I did this as my end of December is getting busy. I’m going to Star Wars, attending game night at a local cafe and we’re now hosting 2 small dinner parties.

Do you track your spending? What has it taught you about your lifestyle?

Stuff and Sharing

I struggle because I want to donate funds and time to groups but when it comes to my funds I don’t feel like I truly know where they’re going and it turns out that I’m rather stingy with my time. When I get home I want to relax not jump into another job with deliverables and timelines.

I love the Christmas season because it’s so easy to donate. There are opportunities in stores, malls and at work to donate in some form or fashion. Then I saw this idea for a reverse Advent calendar. The culture I grew up in didn’t have advent calendars rather we were encouraged to do good deeds to honour the Christ child. The reverse calendar is very similar to this idea and I love it.

It’s a stark reminder that even when I’m struggling to balance my finances that my problems are definitely problems of privilege. When I say no to myself I’m usually saying no to excess. My basic needs (food, shelter and clothing) have always been met and often met is putting it mildly. I can purchase an array of groceries and eat out, I live in a house in the suburbs and I have quite an assortment of clothing for each aspect of my life.

In 2016 I want to make more efforts to give back to my community to keep the spirit of giving and gratitude alive year round.

 

 

What’s it Worth?

I was the first one to take in holiday gifts to the office. Mostly because I didn’t want to miss anyone going on vacation. The lesser reason was that I was afraid that if I waited I may feel that my gift ideas weren’t good enough and end up spending lots in last minute shopping.

Yesterday I opened the presents that I got from 2 of my colleagues and I was very surprised. Both had purchased beautiful travel cups. In spite of these being very thoughtful gifts I had a moment where I thought, “My fudge must look so cheap!”

I gave into the feeling for a bit and then pulled myself together. Since they had received my gift 4 days prior to reciprocating they both had ample opportunity to purchase a smaller token. I also realized that I consistently undermine the value of my homemade items. As ML pointed out, they gave me items that they perceived to be of similar value. It was a little shake to remind me that I need to stop under-valuing my gifts when I make them at home.

Here’s how I undermine my talent:

  1. I know the cost of my supplies so I assume that is the cost of the gift
  2. I enjoy what I do so I don’t think of it as work
  3. Since I don’t think of it as work I don’t count the time it takes to create the items

When someone gives me a home made gift I am always thrilled because it means that they carved time out  to think of me. Every time someone gives me a gift they’re giving me a bit of themselves but this is especially true of those handmade items because they’re also giving me their talent. So why in the world do I think that others don’t feel the same way?

Here’s to hoping I remember this lesson throughout this season!