If We Were Having Coffee – Breathe

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It’s grey again today and it’s cold! It feels like this entire week has been grey. I’m really feeling for the comfort of tea and a sugar cookie, or two, that my mum makes. Want to share?

I’ve just put up the kettle and I’ve got an assortment we can choose from.

How was your week? Ready for the weekend?

I am! I lost my work cellphone on Tuesday and I’ve spent every day repeating,”It’s just a bad moment, not a bad day.”

The mantra comes up when:

  • My priority list at work isn’t finished (every day this week)
  • I don’t have a cuddle with Bunny and she eyes me balefully from her door way
  • When I cancel on friends an hour before I meet them because I’m exhausted and the thought of sitting in a restaurant being pleasant fills me with dread
  • I’ve worn the wrong thing and I’m freezing on that walk from car to office and back
  • When Bunny spills my entire tea cup in an attempt to get more cuddles
  • I wake up exhausted because I didn’t sleep well

To help balance it out I’ve been trying to be more mindful of the good things that happened this week:

  • No meetings were called because I lost the phone
  • We’ve kept the house tidy, in fact I got in a bit early one day and was able to do a decent clean
  • I went out with friends last night, some new, and had a blast
  • I haven’t been late for work a single day this week
  • My current project, a baby blanket for a friend, is coming along nicely
  • I’ve been doing a work out each morning
  • I’ve eaten well, with the exception of chicken wings last night and for lunch today
  • I started writing short stories again

My vacation lessons were useful and definitely helped me balance this week. I am hoping to make lots of good deposits this weekend. They’re starting right now as I savour this tea with you.

 

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It’s Your fault! Living Within Your Means is Easy.

Long post warning! I often aim to keep my posts no more than 500 words. This breaks all my rules.

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I’ve come across a few  articles that address living below your means. Usually the message is if you try a bit harder, stop spending on unnecessary things and stop being lazy you can get out of debt. The author’s message is generally that living well on a budget is not as hard as some think and those who can’t are lacking discipline.

I have a slight problem with this line of reasoning. My problem is that we all have different stories, different levels of acceptable behaviour. My solutions may not work for you and that doesn’t reflect a moral failing on your part.

I really hope that when reading this blog you never feel judged.

Here’s my story, and why this view rubs me the wrong way:

Less than 10 years ago I was in a job that didn’t pay well and I worked 60 hours per week. I was only able to save because I lived at home and in lieu of rent my parents asked me to pay for groceries. Unlike many of my colleagues, I managed to remain debt free at this time only because I had a strong support network and almost no expenses.  Could my colleagues have expanded energy finding good deals, eating well and not spend money on gadgets? Sure but I remember the exhaustion I felt on those weekends. I could barely function.

That company’s values didn’t align with mine and frankly the job was making me and everyone around me miserable. Since I did have a sizable savings I quit the job and began looking for work. Within a month I found another job that seemed to pay me a tonne of money and I worked an average of 45 hours a week. To put my new found wealth into perspective, it was less than half of what I’m making now.

I experienced a lot of big life changes while  in that job. I purchased a car, got married, rented an apartment with ML, furnished the apartment, bought a house, began furnishing the house. During that entire period I struggled with my budget. I was always a bit over and by a bit I mean $100-200 over budget. Every month!

Could we have done better? Oh yes! My excuse is that it was our first time living on our own so we had a lot of one time set up costs. We didn’t want to feel poor, we were happy to not purchase too many extras but sleeping on the floor was not something we were willing to do.

I recently found a budget from the tail end of that period and to be honest my spending wasn’t completely out of control. When I look back at that time I often have allowed myself to believe that I was irresponsible, that I didn’t care enough or search enough for good deals. All those things that the writers I have a bone to pick believe.

Arguably, I could have done better using the knowledge I now have but I suspect my overspending would have continued. I was always one emergency away from having to start over.  One of my lessons is that as you get more ‘settled’ you tend to spend less. I no longer purchase items for the home often because we have everything we need. I rarely purchase clothing now as I have all I need and the space to store items so I can refresh my wardrobe on an almost monthly basis without spending a dime.

The other bit that has a huge impact on my quality of life is I now work 35 hours a week and make significantly more. This means I have resources that were missing previously. I have the time to seek and acquire good deals, I’m not battling exhaustion, I have the funds to indulge in worthy sales and to save for multiple goals concurrently.

This isn’t to say that I couldn’t have done a better job and that I don’t have a responsibility for some of the debt I accrued. When I got my current job my excuses, for the most part, went out the window. With my new found riches I indulged in the life of those around me: eating out too often, drinking, purchasing wardrobe items for a change rather than because of need.  Then we decided we wanted to start our family. I began saving but in a desire to save my future self money I purchased loads of fun kiddie things. Once kids were no longer on the life agenda I went a bit spend crazy.

Currently the view that if I tightened my belt I would be out of debt and could probably stay out is accurate. Six years ago it was insulting because I didn’t have the financial or emotional resources to do so.

I don’t know why you’re in debt (if you are). I don’t know what tools will work for you.

I do know that my climb out of debt has had a lot to do with securing a better paying job that gives me more time to focus on getting out of debt. I’m also in a space emotionally and mentally to tackle my debt and pursue my financial dreams.

I want you to feel safe and comfortable when you visit this blog. If my words ever hurt you please tell me.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Debriefing April 2016

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TRACKING

  •  # Buy nothing days : 10 days (as of the 27th)
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 8 uses in 2016): 2+0=2
  • # times used champagne saucers (aiming for 7 uses in 2016): 3+0=3
  • # times ate out: 4
  • # activities with friends/family: 10
  • # months until home improvement fund: 4 months maximum, though I’m hopeful that it’ll be gone next month.
  • % over or under budget: 3% over budget; not great but much better than last month!
  • % consumer debt paid off:  93% of the debt being paid since August.

CELEBRATE:

  • ML paid off one of his loans!
  • Was able to purchase gifts without dipping into savings
  • Considering that I tightened our belt a fair bit we did really well!

DIP INTO SAVINGS/CREDIT

  • Used a bit of the medical line to cover some cold medicine

KEEP IN MIND

  • I’ve got to keep my misc. line in check! That’s where I went over
  • Gifts! Gifts continue to be a great expense. This month I purchased three: 2 for immediate use and one for a September birthday as it was half off. I may need to increase this saving line or find a way to get a better handle on the number of gifts we purchase.
  • Next month’s trip to the wedding is going to take some careful planning so that we maintain our budget

 

OVERALL

This was a good month, my overage came from costs that I hadn’t factored into my budget. If I wasn’t saving for so many specific items my savings would have covered these. Instead, I received a small tax refund that will cover those overages so I’m not doing too badly.

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Scream for Ice Cream!

We have a friend who is lactose free that we saw this past weekend. It’s been lovely outside and I was craving ice cream so I  found a dairy free version that I fell in love with.

I did make a few adjustments to it to better suit my pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 3 very ripe bananas sliced and thrown in a container in the freezer
  • 3 tangerines, peeled and pegged, and thrown in a separate container in the freezer (this was done so I’d have two containers as I knew I would be separating the ‘ice cream’)
  • 1 tin of coconut milk in the fridge

Method:

  • Go do anything else for a few hours as the fruit freezes. I indulged in a Supernatural marathon while knitting a baby blanket.
  • Remove the containers from the freezer and carefully remove the tin from the fridge
  • Place the fruit in a food processor
  • Open the tin, you should notice that the coconut milk looks like cream
  • Spoon the cream into the food processor; you’ll see a watery bit reserve that
  • Process on high until you have soft serve consistency
  • Enjoy! or you know put it back in the freezer and share with others

Note: if you’d like to use the entire tin and not reserve the lighter bit make sure you shake the can when you remove it from the fridge.

Extra tip:

I opted to turn the excess into morning smoothies. I simply:

  • take the frozen bit down to thaw when I wake up
  • Scoop some into my food processor and add some of the coconut liquid
  • Process until I have milkshake consistency

I have no idea how healthy it really is as tinned coconut milk isn’t exactly a low fat option but it tastes like a tropical vacation and gives me a bit of a fruit serving first thing in the morning.

Total cost: less than $3

 

 

Food Budget

I had purchased The Complete Tightwad Gazette years ago at a jumble sale. It really is quite interesting as it has tips and tricks for different stages of life and frugality.

I was thumbing through it the other day and came across this table.

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It’s a cost of food at home cart prepared by the USDA in 1993. It appears to be based on weekly spending.

I must confess, though I’m often inspired when I dip into this book some of the costs don’t work for me as the pricing here is a bit different than in the US. So imagine my surprise when I realized that ML and I fit into the low-cost plan!

It was a pretty proud moment as it wasn’t so long ago we were spending liberally on a near weekly basis. The big change was that we stopped purchasing as much packaged food even when it’s on sale. I used to load up on chicken nuggets, frozen pizzas and jars of spaghetti sauce. Now my focus is on menu planning and shopping the outside aisles.

The app Reebee has helped a great deal as I can select all items that are on sale, compare prices, and take a guess at my grocery bill all while on my phone.

Once I select the sale items, I make a note of any additional items we need and provide myself with a total. I note this in the app as an additional item. If my total exceeds the budget I take a look at which sale items are nice to have rather than necessities.

ML loves me enough to be happy that I’m excited about this :). He’s also gotten on board and now seeks out great deals or will even mention if a sale items isn’t worth it.

How does your grocery budget compare with the chart?

Update: Fabulous Frugality found the most recent version! 

If We Were Having Coffee – Big News

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If were having coffee I’d be ready to burst with my news.  I’ll pull you into a hug and say, “Hold onto your hat!”

I’ve shared my goal to get rid of my consumer debt as soon as possible but I don’t really tell you about ML’s finances. Mainly because we have separate accounts and budget differently. But today, today is different!

He found out yesterday that he paid off one of his student loans!

As my debt is going to be gone soon and one of my goals is to help him with his he called in to get a total. The person on the other end told him he’s getting a refund, the letter hasn’t even gone out to tell him he’s conquered that debt. This means that instead of 3 sources of credit to pay off he’s down to 2: a credit card and another student loan.

If we keep up our good behaviour we could be consumer debt free by the end of the year!

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this good news than coffee with you.

How are you? How’s your week been?

 

 

Photo by Apolonia courtesy of FreeDigitalPhoto.net

Of Course I will Plan Your Shower!

A friend of mine announced that she was pregnant and asked if I would host her baby shower. I didn’t stop to think of responsibilities or budgets I responded with a hug and an excited, “Of course!”

I’m determined to pay off my debt soon and stay within budget but an unexpected shower, well that throws things off! I refuse to backpedal on this one. The point of this blog was to help me identify ways to live the life I want on a budget.  I decided to explore how I could create a fun and memorable day for her with a limited budget. I’m dipping into my Life Happens account for this so my budget is $200.

The mum to be is a fairly frugal soul and is super creative. She planned her wedding in 6 weeks and it looked magazine perfect. Together we’re going to make this fantastic. We had a quick phone call and decided on a date and theme.

It will be the end of May and have a rubber ducky theme with a yellow and orange colour scheme. As we live about 5 hours away all planning is going to be done over the phone and e-mail.

Here’s what we have so far:

We’ll invite everyone via Facebook so there are no invitation costs and will hosts at her parent’s home so no venue cost.

For centrepieces, I’ve got loads of vases and the dollar store sells gel balls you soak in water that pop up. I’ve got to find rubber ducks, I suspect that these are going to be my big expense.

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We’ll keep the orange and yellow theme going with the food serving lemonade, orange juice, fruit trays (pineapple, mangoes, peaches, oranges), veggie trays (yellow and orange peppers, carrots), deviled eggs, ambrosia salad, and a cake.

She wants to play a few games:

Diaper game – she’ll provide diapers and I’ll get candy which will also be used as the prize

Price is right game –  she’ll create and I’ll get a prize, maybe a bath set. This one is a bit tricky as I suspect that she prefer I do the Baby version on this site. I’m a bit torn on this as if I do this version I can’t get her a separate gift.

Nursery rhyme game – she’ll create and I’ll get a prize, possibly a book of nursery rhymes

Don’t say Baby – we’ll need clothespins and another prize

She’s always given favours at her parties so she offered to pick up travel sized bottles of body wash to give each guest and to create a label for them. She also would like a guest book so that people can leave wishes for the baby.

Here’s my anticipated budget:

Menu $80
Games & Prizes (4 prizes and clothespins) $70
Décor (centrepieces, plates, cutlery, tableclothes, guest book) $50
Total $200

Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated!

2 Tomatoes

They sat on my counter looking very forlorn, the rest of the batch had been used in salsas, sandwiches and salads. But these two had been neglected when I got sick and ML cooked something else.

They were at that soft stage that I knew they wouldn’t taste right in most things and I didn’t have a lot of energy. So I decided to make a Trini dish : tomato choka.

Now to be fair this is my version of it. The true version uses fresh ingredients but based on my situation at the time I used what I had.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tomatoes
  • Dehydrated onions
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Roast the tomatoes in your oven
  • Once the skins begin to roast remove them from the oven
  • Once slightly cooled remove the skins
  • Mash the tomatoes to a pulp
  • On the stove, heat a bit of olive oil and add the seasonings to taste
  • Mix in the crushed tomato
  • It will look like a salsa

In this instance I had it as a side with rice and chicken.

What do you do with sad tomatoes?

It’s Frugal to be Healthy

After 2 weeks of illness I’m back to a fairly healthy state and I’m determined to keep it that way.

I’m entering a rather busy time at work so it’s no surprise that I got sick. Stress, not sleeping well and not putting a lot of thought into my diet all played a role. I haven’t figured out the exact cost of that but I’m going to guess I spent an extra $50 – $80 this month because I got sick.  Getting sick is bad for me but it’s also bad for my budget. Both these things need to be fixed.

I follow All About Healthy Choices on WordPress, the blog is the work of Dr. Jonathan Neal Colte and his daily advice and reminders have been a great source of inspiration since I began blogging. As I’m recommitting to being good to myself, and not spending more money at the pharmacy, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite posts of his.

First up is the article in which he outlines the 8 things I should do to stop getting sick! His list is easy for me to do and none of those items will cost me more money than I’m currently spending. It does,however, have the ability to save me $50 every time one of us gets sick.

Since my goal is to hit the 8 things listed in the above post, this post is a great way to decide if I’ve really been trying to do well or just paying lip service to my goals.

I don’t enjoy exercise. I enjoy the feeling I get afterwards, the way my body looks and the fact that I can say I did it. If given the choice between a book and a walk I’ll take the book any day. So I’ve always assumed that my friends who opt for the walk or spend their time working out are just fundamentally different from me. Then Exercise Confessions was posted and I lost all my excuses.

Great goals but are they realistic or am I crazy? This post is probably my all time favourite! It’s putting a lot of health advice and applying it to his pet’s day. Frankly, his dog is kinder to himself than I am to me. That was a wonderful wake up call.

If you’re looking for inspiration to change your attitude about health I really recommend visiting his blog. I’ve found reading his posts daily has made me more aware of my behaviour and I’ve already seen the benefits in my life.

Here’s to a healthy Spring!