New Year, Same me?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted!

What’s changed? Other than:

  • A global pandemic
  • Working from home
  • Major health issues

It’s pretty much the same. I ended the year with 0 Consumer Debt an unimaginable task a few years ago. As the world has been rocked with COVID-19, ML and I have been less careful with our spending. It stems from feeling very fortunate as we’re both still employed and didn’t have to take pay cuts.

Rather than increase our savings we decided to share the wealth as much as possible, which has included: increasing our donations to causes, ordering in food from local restaurants and shopping at local stores. All of these are increased costs for a couple who have been trying to find the best deal for a while.

Due to my health paranoia (is it paranoia if I was sidelined for 6 weeks by a common flu?), I’ve decided to maintain my lockdown until the vaccine makes its appearance to all and sundry in my country. While it may seem that this would have a positive impact on my pocket book the world of online shopping (I’m looking at you Instagram ads) is rife with temptation.

I’m not going to make any budget promises to myself but I’m going to think about how to use this time of physical isolation to tend to my soul. Saving in 2021 will not only be financial, it will incorporate energy.

I abandoned this blog because my post-concussion syndrome was so bad that I couldn’t manage tracking my budget and reflecting upon it while being a success in all the other areas of my life. It’s taken me years to recognize that.

This year I’m going to work on building my awareness of my own needs. I’m curious to take a wander through this blog and see how far I’ve come on some goals and work on setting some new ones. No promises that I’m back but here’s to hoping that 2021 involves a whole lot more blogging!

Clean Slate – August 2019

At first glance, my budget is in shambles! I had not carved out time to do any real checks over the last few months. This morning I spent time combing over my finances and discovered some huge expenses that I hadn’t properly prepared for:

  •   $540 on a friend’s bridal showers
  • $1400 attending her wedding.
    • That money was definitely not saved! I suspect the $1400 could have been lessened but I was emotionally and physically exhausted from my work schedule that I did very little research into the trip and my cost saving alternatives.
  • $780 on a conference, I will be reimbursed for this
  • $600 on a vacation where I hosted someone.
    • This was fairly frugal as it was 2 weeks of entertaining and is largely us eating out. This vacation served to highlight that I still have difficulty saying no to things in stores and I’m apt to fall for ‘good deals.’

There are also a host of charges for things that I felt I should get:

  • outdoor furniture as our last set had to be retired after 8 years
  • outdoor covers for the furniture so that it won’t get damaged by the elements
  • Just Junk – removal of the items that have been in the basement from the previous owners as well as our own accumulation of items


When I thought I was only going to be working 2 days/month from May – June I started putting away some money. As I had picked up a part time job I hadn’t touched the money. My hope had been that it would get moved over to the Pay off the Mortgage fund. That money will now be moved to pay for all the wedding related costs and the vacation.


This year, I haven’t managed to work within my budget as yet. I’m aiming to change this in August. My plan is to only use my debit card and keep a running tally of my spending in my wallet. I also need to submit my item for reimbursement quite soon as I find I get a bit lax on paperwork and end up paying for things I shouldn’t.


Preparing for Partial Layoff

I took a new position this year that has a partial summer layoff. This means that for May, June and July I will be bringing home around $700. To put this in perspective, my pay is going to be about the same amount as someone who is currently working for minimum wage in my community.

The last time I worked for minimum wage I was living at home with very limited financial responsibility. My goal at that time was to save as much money as I could while contributing to the household by taking over one bill payment and taking care of the majority of my personal expenses.

This time around, I am responsible for:

  • Insurance for the house and car
  • Internet and cell phone bills
  • Netflix
  • Groceries
  • Pet care
  • Home maintenance
  • My Clothing, personal care items, entertainment and  life insurance policy
  • Savings for gift giving, home renovations, car care, medical costs, vacation fund, rainy day fund

This seems like a lot until you take into account that ML pays:

  • The mortgage
  • Gas for the car
  • Electricity
  • Gas for furnace
  • Water
  • Rental for water heater
  • His life insurance policy, personal care items, clothing and entertainment

The split we use is based on our incomes. Basically ML keeps us housed and I do the rest. It’s worked for our entire marriage and I don’t intend to shift it now.

As you may know I love seeing how our spending stacks up against conventional wisdom so when I got an email from a bank indicating the breakdown of funds to ensure that you were living within your means I plugged in my numbers (ML’s aren’t included).

Annual Budget March Budget
Housing (land tax, house insurance, mortgage top up) 35% 15% 15%
Household (internet, cell phones, Netflix) 5% 10% 13%
Food (groceries, entertaining, eating out) 15% 14% 12%
Transportation (gas, car repair fund) 15% 10% 10%
Personal  (pet, fashion/personal care, misc. fund) 10% 7% 5%
Savings (short-term emergency fund, home reno, vacation, medical, summer layoff savings) 10% 36% 36%
Debt  (As we don’t have debt I moved this to be Long-term savings) 10% 4% 4%

“Pretty good!” I thought before remembering the upcoming layoff. While these numbers work well with my current salary my projected income isn’t going to hold up. The savings will be decreased a bit as 20% of the current amount is actually money I’m putting aside to help with the layoff. The other 16% goes towards vacation, emergency fund, medical savings and gift savings. None are things I feel totally comfortable cutting as they’ll just end up on credit if we don’t have the funds available.

I’ll spend today playing with numbers and realizing how fortunate I am that both ML and I are working at jobs that pay above  minimum wage and are able to enjoy the lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to.

It’s also a great reminder that I really do need to be careful with my money. My $300 shoe extravaganza yesterday while fun and useful suddenly takes on a different tone in the light of my upcoming change in circumstances. $300 could be the difference between putting an unexpected fee on credit versus using our savings to fix it.

I’ve got 3 more full paycheques to go so I’ll be very conservative from now on.




Monthly Debrief: February 2019


  •  # Buy nothing days :14 (50%)
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 6
  • # activities with loved ones: 2 really meaningful activities
  • $ saved at Costco: No Costco visit this month
  • % over or under budget:1% under budget (This is the first time in about a year that I can put it into my Fun Fund)


  • Usually February is a bit of a mess as I go to a conference and end up overspending
  • We’ve been eating healthier, going to a local zero-waste store and sticking pretty close to the budget
  • I have been kinder to myself


  • Medical cost – I’m exploring a therapy that isn’t too expensive but isn’t covered by my insurance. It may be a placebo effect but as it’s helping with my mental illness I’m using it.


March is Costco renewal month and I just got a crazy cell phone bill as I haven’t been making frugal phone choices. If I keep my budget and goals at the forefront I can keep the momentum going in March.


This month was pretty good. I’m beginning to feel as though we’re missing out on experiences (dances, movies, theatre) as I’m being pretty strict with myself. It does help to look back at 2018 and realize that we for a $30,000 anniversary gift to ourselves without going into debt. Missing out on a few experiences is totally fine compared to the stress I would feel if I was $30,000 in debt.


SPENDING CATEGORIES (according to my credit card company)

Screenshot_2019-03-03 Transactions

As I mentioned, this feature doesn’t totally align with my own tracking. However, it’s a great way to see where most of my money goes. Household and Services both hold a lot of money for car repairs.

If you change household to Car Repairs and made Services everything else in those 2 categories my list would be:

  1. Car repairs
  2. Groceries
  3. Restaurants
  4. Services – Medical appointments; Netflix
  5. Transportation – gas
  6. Shopping
  7. Other

This does not include all the things I pay from my bank account but it does give a pretty good snapshot of my spending.



My Credit Card Spending

My credit card company has been bought out by another institution and while I can’t say I’m happy with all the changes (goodbye easily downloaded transaction records!), I’m thrilled with the charting features.

This one allows me to see how much I spent in a specific date range and where I was spending the majority of my funds.


If you scroll over the bars it tells you the amount you spent*:

  • Groceries: $116
  • Shopping $57
  • Restaurants: $33
  • Transportation: $32
  • Household: $12
  • Services: $10

I try to use my credit card for all swiped purchases as I get points so the only thing not on here are my bills, cash purchases and e-transfers. This month is a bit of an anomaly as I spent nearly $400 through cash and e-transfers. It will be interesting to use this feature in coming months when I’m sticking to my credit card.

*The system doesn’t entirely align with my own tracking as it throws all the Walmart purchases into Groceries, whereas in my own spreadsheet I would put it in the category that aligns with the products purchased.


Debt Free (ish)



We just paid off our kitchen!!! The goal, which seemed quite aggressive, was to pay it off in 12 months. I’m in shock that we did and still had some savings left over. So much in fact that I was able to pay off a sizeable amount of the debt I accumulated in December through an emergency trip home as well as reckless spending.

Now I have 2 choices:

  1. put money in my savings account as per my budget
  2. put the money towards my debt

A large part of me wants to keep adding to my savings as they’re pretty tight and I’m very familiar with the cycle of debt when you don’t have built in buffers. The other bit is feeling very good seeing that I am now debt free if I don’t add to savings.

This would mean that I would begin February debt-free and able to put more money in savings as the debt allocation would be erased.

What do you think?


Image from Giphy

January 2019 : Week 3

I’ve just completed my budget and with 11 days left in the month I’ve overspent by $1.  This would be cause for concern at any other time but this month it’s a bit of a celebration. Why?

I had $300 in unanticipated expenses:

  • $200 on 1/12 of a cow
  • $100 on a rabbit, her hutch, food and accessories

My savings accounts are all very tight at the moment as I’m trying to climb my way out of ~$4,000 in debt.

My expenses for the rest of the month are:

  • Rabbit food: $25 = $5 for kibble + $20 for vegetables
  • Groceries: $20, possible spend next weekend though I’m hoping our pantry will provide or maybe I can use points
  • Rabbit vet visit: $120 for baby’s first exam that is a necessary cost

Anticipated overage: $165

You’d be forgiven for asking why in the world we’d get a rabbit if it doesn’t fit in the budget. The simple answer is we were saving for a rabbit in early March and this little girl needed a home now or she was heading to the humane society.

The emotional answer is:

She’s in our lives because of Bunny. Bunny passed away last August but a few days before she met with a family to discuss the wonders of rabbit friendship. The family was sold and within a month or so had found Bearie. After 4 months, they realized that Bunny had made it seem easy but taking care of a rabbit is a lot of work.

I had babysat Bearie over the holidays so they reached out to ask if I would take her. She is everything Bunny was not, in both good and bad ways, and feels like a parting gift from my first baby. How could I say no?

This means that my priorities have to change a bit so that we can provide Bearie with the necessities and keep on track with our own goals.

Have you made an emotional decision that ‘s impacted your finances?

January 2019: Week 2

My dual tracking system is definitely helping to keep me on track! I’ve just returned from an Introduction to Plant Based Eating Workshop. I’ll be honest: my first inclination was to purchase some of the staple that were mentioned so that I could jump start my journey.

Instead of giving in to that feeling, I have kept my regular process. I’m going to find recipes that are easy and use existing pantry items. Then use those recipes to create my grocery list. I’m hoping to do that this evening.

This week has been pretty good. I’ve spent money on a few groceries ( fruit and peanut butter), dinner with a friend, and getting some things for the new rabbit (litter and treats).

Looking Ahead

I have a few things that I definitely have to spend money on in the month. These include:

  • Team lunch next week ($20)
  • Hosting a friend for dinner ($40)
  • Purchasing a gift for a new baby ($50)
  • Rabbit greens ($20)
  • Groceries ($80)
    • This works out to be ~$20/week

The costs that I’ve noted above line up almost exactly with the amount leftover in my budget. I’m hopeful that I can stick to the above outline.


January 2019 Week 1

I’m starting off strong with not only tracking my spending but blogging. This month I’m trying to spend as little as possible so I’ve gone old school:

I’m still using Excel but I thought this cumbersome step may help keep me on track.

I have managed to spend 51% of my budget in week 1 as the Grocery line is just a tad high.

ML and I have wanted to purchase meat from a farm for quite sometime and when the opportunity arose out our names down for 1/12 of a cow. Our box of beef arrived today so we’re starting off with a half freezer full.

I haven’t even checked the packages yet but will do that tomorrow as we menu plan for the month.

How’s 2019 treating you so far?

2019 Budget Planning

In previous years, I have pored over budget to see my trends and identify areas for improvement. This year I seem to lack the energy to engage in this level of self-reflection. I know a great deal of this is because 2018 was a tough year. I was constantly over budget and fell into some awful habits, such as telling myself., ” It’s just $xx, I deserve the treat!” or “It’s such a good price! We could use this.”

With a kitchen renovation that dragged on followed by lots of hosting it’s no shock that my grocery, eating out, and miscellaneous lines were insane. In lieu of delving into past misdeeds, I went ahead of planned my budget as though 2018 didn’t happen, with the exception of the grocery line as the cost of living keeps creeping up.

The traditional aim is to have 50-30-20 but as my salary has increased over the years I feel its more appropriate to flip my categories. Future for me refers to any savings so my retirement planning, vacation savings, sky is falling, summer layoff etc are all wrapped up in that figure.

My Aim 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Essential 20% 57% 48% 33% 25% 27%
Lifestyle 30% 27% 28% 30% 29% 21%
Future 50% 16% 24% 37% 46% 52%

Did you catch summer layoff? 2019 is going to have a new challenge as I’ll be working only 2 days a week for 3 months of the year. The money that had been going towards the kitchen is now being put in an account to help us with those leaner months in the summer.

Next up to figure out my Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

Happy Planning!