Christmas Planning

If you’ve followed me for the past couple of years, you know Christmas is a time that sends me into a tizzy. You’d think after penning so many posts about my angst and always coming to the realization that gifts just need to be meaningful and thoughtful I’d finally have conquered the crazy.

Not quite but I’m getting there.

One of the big helps is that my side decided to only give gifts to each couple and put a firm limit. My parents went a step further and requested gift cards. I’ve gone from spending $50 per person to the same amount per couple. It’s a huge guilt-free savings.

Today I started truly Christmas shopping. I was feeling awful because I’m behind. Usually I start planning in May and keep an eye out for items.

ML and I hit Costco with a list and got most of the presents. It felt good to go with a list and know who we are giving gifts to and have strong ideas of the types of things we want to give them.

Leaving the gifts to a reasonable time frame and having a list of those who matter means that I will be under my usual budget and we’re giving thoughtful gifts.

Have you started thinking of the Holiday season and gift giving?

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Gift Giving

My family is big into gift giving. It’s our short-hand to say, “I love you!”

Last night my mum called to chat about our upcoming anniversary. It was an interesting and strange conversation which included this beautiful acknowledgement:

“You and ML have reached a stage in your life that most people reach when they’re in their fifties. You’re very aware of what you’re bringing into your home and what you’ll use. “

She went on to share that knowing this, they didn’t want to get us something that we would feel obligated to keep but not enjoy.

By the end of the conversation, she asked that I let her know if there was something we would like that fit into the traditional or modern anniversary gift model. If not, my parents will be happy to give us a financial gift.

The offer of a financial gift is a huge move. My parents previously hated the idea of gift cards, much less, handing over money. They felt no thought or love went into the gift when you throw cash at people.

My sibling and I feel differently and slowly have managed to adjust their perception. So much so that all they’re asking for this Christmas is gift cards.

Knowing that my parents prefer to give gifts but that I didn’t want to ask for anything, ML came up with a compromise: a salad bowl.

The one we received at our wedding was recently chipped and I’m working my way to throwing it away. This would be a lovely, meaningful gift that will allow my parents to layer another memory into our lives.

 

Not counting

Well, a little counting. At last check I was $700 over my August monthly budget. This meant that I had blown through my ‘extra’ income as well as had no savings lines to deplete for my expenses.

To be very honest, I do have savings lines that can work but they’re currently saving for something(s) and using the money to fund my “Treat Yourself” spree is not a good idea.  While I know that not looking isn’t going to make it any better, I cleaned up my act as soon as I realized how much I had spent in August.

Looking now isn’t going to make me be better but will definitely make me feel worse about myself.

The money spent in August went to:

  • Skincare products (my very first facial included!)
  • Clothing
  • Treating my friends to a great time
  • Enjoying our vacation

All those expenses made me feel better about myself. I’ve returned to work and my life feeling rejuvenated and ready to put my best foot forward  None of that money is wasted.

Where does that leave me now?

I’ve already recognized that in September I will be at least $600 over budget this is because we have a host of gift-giving events and my Gift Line has been depleted. I started strong but we’ve had a host of celebratory events this year. On top of the gifts, we also have transportation and fashion costs.

Knowing that September is going to be tough I’ve got a two areas that I’m planning to spend less:

  • Eating out: hopefully this will be easier as I’m being quite strict with myself about my diet. The budget wasn’t the only thing to go out the window in August
  • Entertainment: We’re doing 2 weddings in one month, how much more entertainment can I need?

While I usually try to curtail my grocery spending as well, I’m focusing on eating well and feeding body and soul so I’m not sure how much tighter I can get with my groceries.

I’ll be heading to October with a financial setback.

This terrifies me a bit as I know that this can easily snowball and make me feel like I’m going to end 2017 poorly. Once I caught that thought, I was able to rejoice in the fact that I am looking so far ahead.

I may not end 2017 as strongly as I did 2016 but I’m going to do my darndest to start 2018 debt free. Maybe I won’t have as much savings but I won’t be in the red.

To do this I need to:

  • re-instate weekly budget check-ins with myself
  • Be very clear about what matters to me
  • Ensure that my spending aligns with my values and goals
  • Make a Christmas spending plan

 

I’m not sure what the rest of 2017 will hold but I do know that I have the tools to live frugally and enjoy my life.

 

Reality Check

 

This blog has always been about living within my means. While I chat about frugal tricks I employ and have dug myself out of my consumer debt, I also speak about luxury items such as re-decorating my home or going on holiday.

I am very fortunate and though I have worked hard it would be a mistake to not recognize that some of my experience is due to luck or that word that sometimes rubs people the wrong way…privilege.

Image result for images: privilege

Some people get quite worked up about privilege, insisting that they check all the boxes but are no better off than so and so. While I can’t speak for others I can tell you that I have won a lot in the privilege lottery.

I recently was involved in a United Way meeting in which they had us ‘play’ Make the Month. It was a stark reminder that while I waffle over whether I spent too much on cosmetics or vacation others are battling with if they can make rent or afford utilities & food for the month.

I did it a few times and sometimes I had money and made it to the end of the month but more often than not I didn’t. it’s realistic in the sense that there are hidden costs to choices so though you think you’re making a good choice sometimes you lose additional  money because your work sends you home or you need to purchase parking, etc.

It also served as a reminder that I really need to keep my savings accounts up so that I don’t fall into the norm of living paycheque to paycheque and will be able to keep my head above water if anything horrible happens.

The benefit of being me is that I have:

  • a full-time job with benefits
  • The time and health to explore good deals
  • The ability to do a lot of my own work so that I’m not paying others to cover basic needs
  • A supportive partner
  • Network of family and friends who provide emotional support

It’s important for me to have these wake up calls and recognize that my stress about going over budget while appropriate and something I should work on being good at it is a result of my own privilege. I often go over budget because I’ve indulged over the course of the month.

I’m not going to try to rectify this in August as I’m hosting 2 friends and will be touring with them but will make it the focus of the latter part of my year. What I will do in August is not be stressed about my finances, I won’t complain about the budget and I will recognize that I am choosing to indulge in this final month of summer.

 

Image from here

The Décor Snowball

Last time, I confessed how my spending can snowball and suddenly I’m diving back into the mess I just dragged myself out of. Well maybe no that bad.

Today is another snowball; some artistic licence has been used to tell this story but the order of events is very accurate!

It all started with painting the baseboards.

“First, we must do the stair railing,” I said.

With a shrug ML agreed.

“Not white, though,” I Continued,

“You’ll never know I worked at it!”

 

Together we looked at the chips and found the perfect colour:

A soft green that goes so beautifully with that painting in the hall.

 

“I like it!” ML announced while I hemmed and hawed.

“Too light? It looks off white.” I declared

“Let’s do the baseboards a slightly different colour.”

With a shrug ML agreed.

 

Together we looked at the chips and found the perfect colour:

A mint green that highlights the railing and flows beautifully.

 

“I like it!” ML stated.

“Me too! But those doors are looking sad.”

I stared balefully at the offending off white.

With a shrug ML agreed.

 

Together we looked at the chips and found the perfect colour:

A deep teal that will make it feel tropical.

“I like it!” ML professed.

“Too dark for all the doors though,

Can we paint them all a different colour?”

With a shrug ML agreed.

 

Together we looked at the chips and chose all the colours:

Cousins of the teal that make me feel like I’m surfing a wave.

 

“I like it!” ML announced.

“Me too! But the bedroom doesn’t live up

To the promise of the door. Should we add?

With a shrug ML agreed.

 

I went to lunch today,

$120 I spent on lunch:

1 duvet cover, 1  mirror, 1 curtain.

“I think I should stop.”

“Definitly!” ML agreed

 

All because the baseboards needed some love.

 

Hitting a Slump

I haven’t been posting a lot because I’ve spent the last couple of months hiding from my budget.

My frugal re-set over the course of the last few years has worked in the sense that I always seem to have a bit after my paycheque even if I exceed my budget. However, I have been spending on things and then not wanting to hold myself accountable.

Here’s an example: I would like more summer dresses. The season is so short and I’d like to really enjoy it when I can.

Step 1: Pull out all my clothes and assess the number of outfits I have. It turns out I have a lot of casual, weekend dresses  but only a few work appropriate dresses

Step 2: Figure out a realistic number of dresses that would help me fill the gap. To wear 2 dresses/ skirts per week I would need 5 more dresses.

Step 3: Set a budget. I thought $75 would be good as one good work dress at a big box store at the mall ranges from $70 – $120.

Step 4: Hit the thrift store.

This all sounds great, right? If the cycle ended here it would be alright.

Step 5: Find lots of dresses and have a bill that goes up to $99.36. That $0.36 counts as my goal then became spending less than $100.

Step 6: Avoid looking at my budget as $75 was already tight in the budget but the extra $24.36 is making it worse.

Step 7: Since I haven’t looked at my budget, completely forget that I had already spent my entire fashion and miscellaneous lines so I spend a little extra at the grocery on some seasonal items.

Step 8: Find the Thrift Store bill and resolve to not look at my budget but also not to spend another cent.

Step 9: Forget the resolution and buy Bunny the jumbo version of her pet food and throw in the jumbo version of birdseed for the outdoor families of birds, chipmunks and squirrels that raid the feeders.

I’ve only done half my budget so I’m not actually sure where I’m sitting right now. That’s a job for tonight.

My only resolution at this point is to re-instate my weekly budget dates!

 

Change and Rebirth

I recently returned to work full time. It is wonderful but exhausting and I realize I’m not the person I was before the concussion.

That woman couldn’t wait to have lunch with friends, enjoyed staying an extra thirty minutes to finish tasks, and was patient. The person I am now craves that hour alone to read or nap, is ready for the end of the day, and is much quicker to snap at any mild inconvenience.

Needless to say I’ve been in a foul mood for the last few weeks as I’m not me yet. Last night I had a bit of a revelation: that woman is gone. She needs to be mourned and acknowledged but I need to stop trying to be her. Instead I need to tune in to the current me.

This person has some great qualities, she:

  • enjoys long walks
  • doesn’t binge watch Netflix
  • Takes her time to cook
  • goes to be early
  • doesn’t drink nearly as much ( I didn’t drink a lot previously, under the recommended amount for women but I’m now a one glass of wine a week gal)
  • significantly cut sugar (no more dessert for lunch)
  • is not addicted to caffeine
  • Still reads like crazy

I haven’t blogged a lot since getting hit and I wondered if this was another interest I had lost, if my mind just was not letting me focus. I don’t think so. I think blogging is harder for me now as I no longer want to be near a screen as much.

While I haven’t been posting, I’ve been reading. It takes me longer to formulate my thoughts, which in turn make me feel like I’ve missed a window to jump into a conversation. I will return to blogging but I suspect I’ll make it a weekly post for a while as I slowly get my feet back under me.

The concussion was hard, not as bad as some but worse than others, and it definitely changed me. Some of that change was immediately good, while other pieces need to be accepted. This is how I feel:

giphy

Which is much more powerful than waiting to return to the person I was.

Photo from here.

 

 

Spring Cleaning

Spring is here and I know it because that urge to tidy and clean up is strong right now. It may be more pronounced since an acquaintance recently put her home up for sale. Of course, being a slightly nosy person I went to the real estate website to check out how her home looked.

It looks fantastic!

It of course got me on a kick of checking out other homes that are for sale in the area. One of the things I noticed is that a lot of the homes seemed staged. I could be wrong maybe they live with perfect light, fresh flowers, and perfectly accented furniture all the time. If they do that’s fantastic and frankly how I want to live. There are loads of tips on how to but the most consistent tip was: make it look like you have lots of space by packing up as many of your belongings as possible.

The aim is to pack up your excess things so it looks like you have more space. Like this:

Image result for before and after staging photos closet

 

Since embracing the life-changing magic of tidying up and minimalism I’ve found my outlook on my space has changed. While I do wish we had more built in storage, this desire to have my home feel like a fantastic oasis has resulted in me attempting to make the staging goal of having 30% of cupboard space clear my reality.

This resulted in two boxes of household goods and clothing being delivered to a charity shop, a large garbage bag of items dumped, and a few things being gifted to friends and family members who were interested in them.

It’s amazing how much a good a decent scrub and tidy can do for our home. My hosting schedule has taken a hit as I don’t have the energy to have people over. Since the house is feeling more welcoming I’m wanting to invite people over even if it’s just for some snacks and conversation.

Has the spring cleaning bug gotten you yet for the year?

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Yesterday, I went public with my crazy goal for 2017/2018.

This had me reviewing my BHAG for 2017 as they’re definitely in need of an update now.

Here’s how they’ve been adjusted:

Goal 1: Save for new kitchen

2018 is going to be our 10th wedding anniversary.We’d still love to throw a big party. In fact that’s what got the kitchen ball rolling. When we looked into a what we wanted to do we realized it was going to cost us at least $10,000.

That money seemed better spent on a kitchen, we could then host 120 people in our home for an anniversary open house. We’re willing to forgo the vacation if we can get a fantastic kitchen that allows us to entertain and actually enjoy cooking together.

Goal 2: Home Improvement

This will be the year that we fix the sinking driveway and update our light fixtures. I feel that these are two realistic goals that can easily be achieved and will make our home seem much more welcoming. I’ll give myself until May before I think about the driveway properly since it’ll be either snow or rain covered until then. The light fixtures we can begin our search in the new year. There are at least 4 that must be replaced with a couple of others that would be nice to have done.

Other Goals

While I would still love to work on my emergency fund, I’m not going to throw all my additional money into it. The aim is to not use any of the money in it for the new kitchen.

 

 

17 for 2017

Carol recently did a post that asked a surprisingly hard question: What is on your 2017 list that is fun stuff, not about debt or work etc?

I left a brief comment that I really had to think about and really doesn’t make me feel really joyful. I want a list that makes me feel like this

giphy

I don’t know about you but everything seemed to come back to some sort of goal, whether it was finance, fitness or friend related. I also have a bad habit of turning fun lists into chore lists ( reading a magazine – check!) but this time I swore it would be different.

Drum roll please! Here’s my Fun 17 for 2017:

  1. Sit around and do nothing or something (reading, daydreaming, meditating, knitting)
  2. Experiment with the funky liqueurs that I got as gifts
  3. Pamper myself – bath oils, hair treatments etc
  4. Do a tour of the national parks within a 4 hour radius
  5. Once summer comes, eat outside
  6. Sing, out loud, whenever the feeling strikes me
  7. Dance when the mood hits (that crazy woman dancing to Britney in the grocery store might be me!)
  8. Open the curtains on bright days
  9. Light candles on dreary days
  10. Keep up the zero waste goals – I feel like a rockstar when we we don’t put out lots of garbage
  11. Stay in bed as late as I want on weekends (also don’t overbook my weekends)
  12. New recipes
  13. Tea with Bunny!
  14. Aim to blog at least twice a week
  15. Hang out with ML doing something fun, last year it was walking
  16. Say no to things that  I know will be draining (yes I adore you, no I don’t want to go out)
  17. Because it is actually fun for me: see if I can increase my fun fund by spending less than I budget

How about you? What would make you crazy Kermit happy?

GIF from here