Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Ready to Go

The packing for our trip out west has started. You may be surprise to read that 90% of what is in our suitcases is food! Let me explain.

Groceries are expensive where we are going. It is double or more. Originally we thought it was because we are at a ski resort and being a captive audience etc. etc.

Then we took a trip into the city and found some of the prices even higher?! We were told that it is because it is expensive to get all the food through the mountains etc. etc.

I put my foot down at the $6.99 carton of Tropicana orange juice, the $4.50 package of Fudgeos and the $11.00 pancake mix. We have been bringing our favorite foods with us since.

Ironically, meat, dairy and some vegetables are a good price while bread is not. I cannot figure it out.

It actually works really well. When we took possession of our condo, we flew out to stock it. With our ski equipment and clothing already out there, what else do we use our luggage for?

So all we have to bring out are snack food, dried foodstuffs etc. That way when there is a sale here, we just buy extra and put it aside. At the end of each ski season, D takes an inventory so we have something to work with for the next year.

Last year we brought out a humidifier as the air in the mountain is dry. This year we are bring a new pot, a couple of boxes of cereal, spices, better kitchen knives, potato chips, cookies, kleenex, pasta, a new mattress pad, an espresso maker and a very cool lego set.

The xray people at the airport probably giggle when they scan our luggage.

Carnival of Personal Finance #233 Welcome to Webcomics

Check out this week's Carnival of Personal Finance over at A Gai Shan Life!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Levels of Safety

Because I get paid for the work I do a month later, last Friday represented the last working day of 2009. Once my month end statement gets printed next week, I will know what my income was for the year for income tax purposes as well as if I will owe any taxes next spring. (I'm pretty sure the answer is yes)

I actually look forward to being able to get my taxes done. It is a form of closure for me on another working year (and it has been a tough one) ...yes I know I'm weird!

I also modify my quarterly tax payments according to what type of year I am having so that there would be minimal surprises in the spring. I have fine tuned it over the years such that I am pretty accurate. There is nothing that throws cash flow off like a gargantuan tax bill when it is within our ability to figure it out.

I also like to keep track of that throughout the year because how well my business does affects how much I contribute to RSPs. For the last few years, I haven't been because my goal was to match my registered amount with unregistered money instead as my focus has been on liquidity this year.

Now that the markets have somewhat bounced back, in a shorter time than I had expected, I have close to what I started with in my non registered account and some cash as well. I feel better about that.

So we end the year with:

  • $5000 cash towards the main house roof
  • $5000 cash towards cottage roof
  • $5000 cash as backup
  • $1000 regular working account
  • $1000 as misc business account

For 2010, I would like to bump up the regular working account to $5000 and start a Float account as well, if possible, have $5000 in it too. I would feel closer to feeling "safer" with respect to liquid assets.

We currently are very real estate heavy in our assets and as we cannot eat our homes, just plain old money is good. This economic downturn has sent that message home to me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

No Party This Year

D and I both work in places where there aren't a paid for Christmas party. Personally, I believe they are being cheap. Both of our companies recorded record profits despite the down turn. And it isn't as if a company paid party wouldn't be a tax write off anyways.

I am boycotting mine this year and we won't be around for D's as we will be out west. Even if we were, he has no desire to go. That's an entirely different issue altogether. Me, I like dressing up for a night out. I still have many beautiful dresses (mostly black cocktail ones) left over from my spending days that want to be worn!

The reason I'm forgoing mine is mainly due to me not wanting to hang out with my associates. As they have difficulty accepting my views on life and work (the part where I am supposed to work 40+hrs as week to earn their respect...), I don't need to see their disapproval any more than I already do.

D would love to go and have it conveniently slip out in conversation how great our lifestyle is. That isn't my style. If they wanted to know more about me, they can just ask. Because they don't, they end up making crazy assumptions like I cannot afford a house because I drive a 12 yr old car.

I still remember the look on my face when I was asked where I was renting back a couple of years ago when I moved into the city. Even if they knew my reality, they likely wouldn't even believe it because it is so far from what is possible in their minds. Whereas for me, it's all about priorities.

Those of you who get to party it up this season, Enjoy and Have a Great Time!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It seems like I need to clarify our $250/month grocery and household supply budget. It may seem low to some. When I was single, I was spending over $1000/month on "food". I also didn't use my kitchen much.

If all you do is buy real food ie. fruits and vegetables, some meat and seafood (we like shrimp) and no processed or modified foods, it is amazing how much you get for $250. That is all that money is intended for.

Yes, we do eat out. It comes from a fun account or our own allowances, which by the way is $40/month each. We also have a "dream account" for solo interests and ventures which gets funded to the tune of $80/month each. There is also a misc. account that we put in $80/month for anything else that comes up.

There hasn't been a need to set up clothing or gift accounts because we rarely spend on those categories. For Christmas, we buy for 2 people. That's it. Total cost is usually around $100 max.

D and I do not exchange gifts. We enjoy going out for dinner instead. And we buy clothes out of replacement necessity, not fashion. I just bought a pair of pants over the weekend to replace a pair that has been with me for 9 years.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Year End Food Round Up

This year's tomato harvest was a bust. Our peppers did much better and D has finally perfected his hot sauce and kosher pickle making techniques.

He is optimistic for next year though I am hesitant in putting more money into supplies when I can support local farmers instead.

Our food budget is $250/month including household supplies. It wasn't until we started to watch "Til Debt Til Us Part" that we realize we spend less than all the people we've seen so far on the show! Most of the families are getting around $125/wk for groceries, even couples!

The major factor that has helped us with keeping our food bill low is our reduction in meat consumption. It is at least 50% of what it was a year ago. We also started buying dried beans instead of canned.

We plan our meals around what is on sale that week. Something I've never done before. I actually look forward to Fridays when our neighbourhood flyers arrive. If I see something that I know is good (we have a price book), I will circle it and go from there.

In the category of non grocery food items such as eating out, it comes out of our allowance. Same goes for meeting friends for coffee or lunch.

We actually had money left over after the last grocery rounds. That was a first. And I can honestly say we have never ate or felt better.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Laptops vs Netbooks

I've started my laptop vs. netbook fact finding mission. I've used laptops for the last 12 years. My first one being a Compaq Presario. My current 6 year old one is by HP and weighs about 17 pounds probably.

D has been encouraging me to get with the times and move to a netbook for the size and portablilty. This D seems to like encouraging me to spend money....

I do have trouble embracing new technology easily and quickly so it was like pulling teeth to get me to even take a look at them. After all why test temptation? I figure, if I don't see them, I won't suddenly want one.

We looked at them in 3 places -- Costco, Staples and Best Buy.

I was tempted at Costco when I saw an HP netbook for $450. The smallest ones didn't do much for me but this one was slightly larger. In Staples, I decided against laptops once I saw how big they have gotten. Full size keyboards are the thing now.

I did see another HP "laptop" that didn't have a DVD drive for $700 that caught my eye. It was finished in brush metal and I really like that look. Finally in Best Buy, I was willing to get a laptop again because they had a special on a HP one for $550.

My thought was I can get new technology and more power for $550. I can compromise on the size thing. Spending $700 was too much but for $100 more, I get a better machine than the netbook I saw earlier. That is the quirky logic that goes on in my mind.

For fun we looked at Macs. They are really sleek and really the price is similar to what I've paid in the past. D is a Lenovo guy so I've been told "no tech support" should I go the way of a Mac...

I paid $2200 for my Compaq and $1700 for my current HP. I cannot believe I can buy a better replacement for $550 plus taxes. That just blows my mind. And things will probably just get more competitive and even better. And no, I didn't buy anything. I'll just keep the research neatly tucked in the back of my mind.

Festival of Frugality- My Best Purchases' Edition

This week's Festival is up, hosted by The Financial Blogger. There are a slew of cool articles there. Enjoy!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fun Weekend

My snow tires are getting put on today. I've had no luck finding used rims at the wrecking yards or private sales. My car is too old perhaps or maybe the other people who own them still have theirs' and do not get into bad accidents? So I will bite the bullet and pay for the tire swap. Note to self, next car, buy extra set of rims immediately.

I went through an interesting exercise this weekend. My spreadsheet currently goes to 2013. My question to myself was "How much more can I decrease my earnings before I have to compromise my goals?"

The impetus for the question came earlier this week when I realized that I am now making roughly 50% of what I did 6 years ago. Over my 12 year career, I've been gradually decreasing my working week so that I can gain more life. With it, came the decreasing income.

I figure if I can still afford to save and pay for everything else and retire early, what is the problem? This last year of frugal changes has helped more than I could have thought possible, making it much easier to live on less. It also gives others the opportunity to make more.

The results of the spreadsheet was this. I can afford to make $1500 less per month and still make my mortgage prepayment and saving obligations. Any more and I would be under. Now I know what the low water mark is for the next 3 years. It was a worthwhile exercise.

Once mortgage prepayments are no longer needed, I then can afford to cut back some more (very likely), keep things up for a year and see how I feel (not likely) or quit altogether and have D take care of things (not sure my ego can take that).

Being that our Christmas shopping has been done for a while (yes, I'm one of those types), I like going into shops this time of year to take in the various decorations and holiday spirit. It's really the only time I go into a shopping mall nowadays.

Our tradition is to buy this year's holiday coffee from Starbucks or Second Cup (for me, always something chocolate mint flavored, with loads of whip cream) and just wander and people watch. It's really nice when you are not pressured to find something. We would also end up grabbing a slice a pizza for a snack and our journey is done for another year.

Where we did end up afterwards was much more fun. We went to an art supply store. D is developing an interest in sketching so he wanted to look at the various types of pencils, erasers and paper available.

It has been a while since I've been in a good art supply store. I've always felt that such stores ought to be crowded and loaded with stuff to feel authentic. We weren't disappointed yesterday. Apparently I was walking around with a big smile on my face.

I practically lived in an art store growing up and when I studied art on weekends seriously for 7 years. I also forgot how much I know about art supplies and how much stuff I've used and owned over the years. They are looking for part time help. I'm considering it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Negative People

One of my all time pet peeves are people who do not seem capable of being happy when they see someone else succeed. Often, they can be downright angry about it.

  • Because how the success was achieved didn't fit into their idea of how "it ought to" have happen.
  • Because they feel the person didn't work "hard enough" to deserve it.
  • Because that person isn't as talented as the one who is resentful.
  • Because the angry one is so much better and the world just doesn't know it yet.
  • Because that person was lucky.
  • Because the world is crazy for buying into this person's ability when they don't really have any.
  • Because they are jealous.
  • Because they are suffering inside and out and can barely make ends meet.
  • Because they don't like themselves.
  • Because they didn't take a chance.
  • Because it is easier to make excuses than to go out and do it.
  • Because they are scare to fail.
  • Because they have too many useless restrictive rules for their life.
  • Because they set themselves up for failure.
  • Because they are not ready to be successful.
  • Because they feel the world owes them.
Either way, it is all about them. That's why there is not enough room to feel joy for someone else. I have no patience for such people.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Year End Utilities Review

D keeps track of monthly utilities via a spreadsheet. His year end summary showed the financial gains we made from our frugal changes over the year.

Here they are.

  1. Main House Hydro & Water -- down 19.98%. We have moved away from using our energy star dishwasher to hand washing most days. We manual turn on and off our electric hot water heater as we have found one charge can last a few days. A mild summer meant next to no air conditioning usage. (Average $105.69/mnth for a 2880 sq ft home built in 1854 that has been completely updated and restored)
  2. Main House Gas -- down 8.14%. Our thermostat last winter was kept at 69 degrees F as the high when there was someone home and off at nights. We are aiming for a high of 68 F this year. Depending on how damp the air is, there are days where 63 F doesn't bother me and other days, I'm freezing. They are saying it will be milder winter... (Average $78.32/mnth)
  3. Main House Phone & Internet -- down 14%. We changed service providers to a small local company from the large conglomerate. (Average $60.69/mnth)
  4. Car Insurance -- down 9.62% --Despite trading in an older car for a newer one. (Average $144.10/mnth for 2 cars, 1997 Honda CRV & 2005 Honda Civic Coupe)
  5. Cottage Hydro -- down 7.80% -- Having a temperate summer meant no need for air condition here either. (Average $30.15/mnth for a 700 sq ft one storey structure that isn't as well built as our house)
  6. Cottage Gas -- down 11.20%. We didn't go up as often during the winter because of terrible road conditions. This winter, we are planning to not go up as often either. We are trying out the concept of using keeping it seasonal and seeing if we like it better. Gives us more time to enjoy our home. (Average $16.05/mnth)
  7. Toll Road -- down 12.53%. We have been experimenting with going to the cottage via various back roads. It takes 1/2 hr to 45 min longer but we get nicer scenery and no road fees. We didn't come up with the idea until the end of the summer so next year we'll get a whole season benefit to look forward to. I draw the line when it gets dark early. Winding through pitch black country roads with lots of animals around at night isn't my idea of fun. (Average $10.56/mnth)

Total money savings translated to $702.46 for the year.

When we were doing the cottage insurance shuffle this past summer, the was a 2 month spike in expenses. When we got fed up with the Brokers and changed back, the costs went back down.

The monthly fees at the ski condo went up a couple of percent to $138.76 which includes hydro, heat and water. I still feel it is a great deal and can't wait until the day I move in there full time.

Thanks D, for keeping track!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No Sense

There is something I haven't done for my car that has been costing me more money than it ought to -- buy steel rims for my winter tires.

My car is 12 years old with no signs of slowing down. I didn't think I would still be driving my first car but here she is, still with me. So each year, twice, I pay to get my Blizzaks on and off my rims.

It costs a lot more than if I had separate rims. I just didn't want to spring for them at the time. The resulting math doesn't make sense. It takes 1 hr and about $85 to get them on and off each time. Over the years, that adds up. My appointment to get my tires on has been pushed forward to next week. Will this be the year I finally spring for rims?

The way I've let this slide added to the long look I got at work yesterday now that the word is out I will not add to my work week has made me question whether I've let my work situation slide as well.

Would I have been better off starting my own spot years ago? I tell myself that I am there for the people and my working days are numbered anyways. I hope I haven't deluded myself like the tire rims. Both situations are testing my commitment -- to my work and to my car.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bits & Bites

This time of year I like to dream big. I think of giving beyond Christmas and Birthday gifts and just plain cash. I dream of giving of myself.

On another fun note, someone I know who works here has a free offer. Enjoy, my Canadian readers!

Remember the guilt talk I was supposed to get from my associated about working weekends? They had a perfect chance last week and nothing happened. I put it out of my mind and figured they really were scared of me after all... As Machiavelli says, it is better to be feared than loved...when it comes to business...

Well, the phone call came yesterday and it was their assistant who was asked to ask me... so they wouldn't even do it themselves...what does that say? I politely declined and said I wasn't interested. End of story.

ING finally processed my sale request of part of the gain from my non tax account. I am putting the proceeds into an RSP. That move will net me a few hundred dollars. My only issue with them is that the price of the sale is on the day they process the request, not on the day I chose to sell it. So I won't know the price I will buy at until it is processed. It is the cost of dealing with an online entity.

D has had a couple of issues with his new to him used car he purchased at the end of August. As you can imagine, neither one of us are thrilled about it. We didn't trade in a '97 CRV for a '05 Civic to have more problems. Both issues are covered under warranty but still...We decided that if one more issue creeps up, we're getting rid of it and D can drive my car until we decide what to do next.

Yes I am going to the New Moon Premiere on Thursday night! D will likely be hiding his face but he's coming too. It is possible we'll be the oldest ones there and we may not be able to handle the hoards of screaming young girls but it will be fun and make us feel crazy younger...

Monday, November 16, 2009


No, I do not believe the right word yesterday was snobby. Last year I purchased a Paris apartment coat from an antiques store. So I am not adverse to wearing used clothing.

What bothered me about the store was the quality of the clothing there. They looked out of shape, like they have been shrunk in the dryer and now are out of proportion. I'm not sure you can look presentable in it.

So the question of dignity came up. It is possible to be poor and have few articles of clothing and still look clean and fitted. I ought to know. My family was quite poor growing up ie. a few generations living under the same roof etc.

I never had nice clothes. My parents felt that as long as you and what you were wearing was neat, clean, tidy and fit, then you had dignity. I may not have had many articles of clothing and what I had wasn't trendy or cool but it was nondescript and fit.

My mother felt that a few new pieces of clothing worn over and over again was better than tattered used clothing so she never bought used clothing for my brother and I. Mind you, I think there are better used kid's clothing stores now vs. when I was growing up.

As I got older, I received hand me downs from my aunts. They were always great and fashionable. I looked forward to them.

Because I didn't have an allowance, I was taught that I could have anything I wanted. I just had to work for it. So go out and get a good education in something that will make money and the life you build will mean more than if someone just gave it to you.

I wasn't allowed to have a job either so I couldn't buy anything for myself until I was 18. By then I was busy saving money for my education as my parents couldn't afford to send both of us to school.

So I kept a mental list of things I wanted, dreams I wished to fulfil. Delayed gratification was me.

Gosh, I remember so clearly still how much more money other students had than I throughout university. I remember this guy I wanted to date and how nicely he dressed and how he had such a ease about him, like he never had to worry ever.

I felt very insignificant and backwards around him and his friends. I certainly did not look cool. To make up for it, I had a lot of dignity and confidence that I was going to make something out of my life.

We fell in love and on and off years after, I moved away for a work opportunity. Come to think of it, it was all very "Pretty in Pink".

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Educational Experience

D is on a mission to find a cheesy ski sweater. Why? Because he is D and that is what comes out of him sometimes. It's his alter ego from the business D, I guess, and one of the many ways he makes me shake my head and laugh. He takes me out of my all business mode.

Me? I was on the hunt for some new sunglasses -- Serengetis -- to replace my ailing 12 year old pair. I found some I liked very much that actually fits. I have a fairly small face/head so finding sunglasses and hats are a challenge.

The ski sweater search brought us to a used clothing store. When I lived in larger cities, these type of stores were starting to be trendy. They would have period items and high end names at relatively bargain prices.

We didn't end up at one of those stores. We went in to what would be equivalent to a Goodwill store. Places where I would donate my stuff to. It was an educational experience for me.

I tend to notice the energy of places and people I encounter. The energy wasn't bad but everything looked tired, including the people there. No one smiled and it seemed like people were determined not to make eye contact with others.

I came out very happy that I donate. No where did I see anything that resembled the quality of things I give so there is a need to share and give more.

It also made me wonder what it would take for me to shop there regularly, not just for something kitschy?

Frugality isn't going to do it this time. I'll happily get my hair cut once a year for $15. Shopping there however is going to take a different kind of motivation and I just do not see it happening.

Am I being snobby about this? Is it even the right adjective?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Everyday Finance

Good news came in the mail yesterday. For some reason our property tax bill is lower than it ought to be.

I'm not complaining -- just surprised as our property assessment was significantly higher. The difference it is going to make is $8/month. I'll take it.

Each fall, D's company allows its employees to make changes to benefit/insurance amounts. We went over this yesterday. For us, we like to reassess life insurance needs.

As we do not have children, the term policies are in lieu of mortgage insurance. As our mortgage amounts decline each year, we reduce the insurance amounts accordingly.

D is older than me by 4 years so to buy the equivalent amount of money for him costs more than mine. We will be saving $95/yr for 2010 with our recent decrease.

The jury is out as to whether we will maintain a "base" amount of life insurance once the mortgages are done. Not sure if we need it. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

Other than that, D is getting his winter tires put on today. Mine will go on next week.

Get to deposit my pay cheque today. Can you believe they do not do direct deposit?! I wouldn't have to juggle cash flow so much at the end of each year if I had access to my pay.

I know, I know...If I wasn't out west skiing, I could pick up my pay cheque. I would like them to get with the times, that's all.

Ski season kicks off this weekend for many places, ours included. D is super pumped about it and wishes he was out there. That is a big motivator for him moving towards work that is not location dependent.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Saving vs. Investing

In hopes of higher returns, I have been considering moving more money out of savings accounts into non registered accounts/non tax accounts. 

Our timeline for potential use of this money is 3 - 5 years at the very least.  Basically it is when the roofs may need replacing at home and at the cottage.  Makes sense right?

The panic is coming from not seeing the money in the savings accounts.  You see, I view non registered accounts as not being as accessible as a savings account even though I know is it a matter of days when the money gets into my hands, I feel as if I've "lost" it. 

Also, I've gotten used to seeing a relatively high balance in the bank and I really like that.  It is as if I was carrying it in my wallet or something.  I realize I am being mental about this.

So do I just swallow the next to nothing gain, just so I feel "richer" or do I bite the bullet and take the mental hit of seeing a 4 digit number instead of a 5 digit one? 

I believe I'll end up investing it because it is the smarter way to go.  I cannot guarantee I will not whine about it. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Good news on the job front for D. Since his work trip to NYC, he has been considering a shift from Project Management to Consultant.

He had a meeting about it yesterday and he's officially "in". Which likely means more business trips. I am thrilled for him. Hopefully I'll be able to go on some!

It will be 5 weeks today we fly out west for our Christmas holidays. We'll be there for 3 weeks. I'm thinking I will give snowboarding a go after being talked into it by the driver who took me to the airport last spring.

My printer finally passed on and we have an ink jet now in its place. It's one of those all in one wireless copier, fax, scanner etc. things and makes a horrendous noise just getting ready to print. Had I known, I would have sprung for another laser.

I had been spoiled with mine. It was a Lexmark laser printer I bought 18 plus years ago when they first came out for the incredible sum of $2300! It took me through university and beyond. Don't laugh -- I get attached to stuff like this.

I just finished Ramit Sethi's book "I Will Teach You To Be Rich". He has a good sense of humour and pokes fun at his Indian heritage but there wasn't anything in it that has made a difference for me. Our financial account set up is pretty good.

What I really liked about his over all message is what I would call his "Middle Way" approach. He has no problem with someone buying a BMW, for example, if they have all their accounts and savings plans in order and executed.

All the "leftovers" are to be spent. What else are you going to do with it when you've already saved enough and owe nothing? Makes sense to me.

I have been asked how I was going to pay for the EVO I didn't end up buying. So here's my answer.

In order for me to have moved ahead with that purchase, I needed to find a way to fund it without changing my current accelerated mortgage plans. For me, it meant liquidating some stocks, using some cash savings and calling in part of my annuity from D early.

What is happening now, is a new account called "Car Fund" has been set up. I will put money into it for the next 3 years or so and when the times comes, if I still want it, I will buy it or spend it on something else that makes more sense. Lots of options.

Remembrance Day 2009

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recovery Costs

Care giving is tough. It can be draining mentally and emotionally. I was tired out after yesterday's visit with my aunt. Her temporary circumstance opened my eyes on the reality of how much care is needed post surgery.

She isn't able to lean forward, lift or bend down. Therefore she cannot bath herself or reach for a pot from her upper or lower cupboards. She cannot run a vacuum or go up the stairs or take the garbage out. Thus the temporary bedroom in the living room.

Canada has good social services. So she is getting help every few days for bathing and rehab. There is a program call "Meals on Wheels" that will deliver one full meal from Monday to Friday for a fee of $7.50 a day. She still needs to fend for herself for the other 2 meals of the day and on weekends.

It is very understandable that she is very frustrated and lonely. Having been widowed for the last 55 years and not knowing how to drive, her life is quite dependent on others as it is. Now it is way worse and embarrassing. There are no family members in the same city as her. The closest is 45 mins away and I am 1 hr 15 mins away.

Had it not been for the surgery recovery, she is otherwise spry and limber for a 85 yr old woman. She cannot wait to heal up and get back to herself again.

Yesterday's visit forced me to think about elder care and the cost of it. If she was willing to, she could pay someone to clean her home and do personal care on a daily basis. Also, have prepared meals delivered for the rest of the time if she did not wish to cook. All of these services cost money and it adds up quickly.

Luckily for her, a retirement residence/nursing home isn't needed. Should it become needed, they can be really expensive, upwards of $4500 per month per couple for full meals and activities.

We do have government subsidized nursing care housing but they are run like a hospital and are for people who have no income and cannot care for themselves. It seems like that the more independent you are, the more it costs to move into a "lifestyle community".

Monday, November 9, 2009


Due to the increasing business expenses I have, I've decided to create a new savings account in my system to handle end of year cash flow issues and impromptu workshop expenses.

This has been long overdue. It also represents my renewed commitment to stream line work costs easier and cleaner.

I got confirmation of my article acceptance to the trade journal I subscribe to. It is going to be published in the next issue.

The cottage got closed up (plumbing wise) with great success this weekend. It would have cost us over $200 to get it done professionally. So we spent part of it going out for a celebratory dinner instead. I believe it is going to be a yummy yearly tradition.

For you foodies out there, I had a curried butternut squash soup to start, a braised lamb shank over garlic mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables and a maple walnut tart with homemade vanilla ice cream. A real stick to your bones meal and a rare meat meal for me nowadays.

I'm really enjoying being at home for this week off, though as I type this, I realize I spent very little of it at home today. I drove out to visit an aunt who just came out of surgery. She cannot move well so I brought lunch and offered to get groceries and stuff.

She isn't a true blood relative rather the aunt of a guy I used to be engaged to. When our relationship ended, I stayed in touch with her and 12 years later, her turning 86 at the end of the month, we are still going strong.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cost of Work

Even though I know enough to plan for it by now, the end of each year is one of the toughest times cash flow wise. It isn't because we go all out for Christmas gifts, it is because of the large expenses lurking around the corner in the first week of 2010.

My licencing fee renewal just got here. For me to continue working legally, I need to pay this. This year, it will cost me $850, due in one lump sum on Jan 1/2010. I can pay it in 2 installments, six months apart for $450 each. I have refused to pay the $50 premium for this service.

When this bill comes, I then get reminded of my liability insurance notice. It will likely grace my mailbox in the next couple of weeks. Last year, it cost me $1200. If I do the upgrades that I'm thinking of, the price will be in the range of $1550 also due Jan 1/2010. There is a 4% premium should I wish to pay this in any other way than lump sum. I hate being charged extra so I too pay it all at once.

I pay my association dues monthly as there is no penalty to do so. It is about $1000/yr. These three expenses make up the core of my mandatory business expenses. And I haven't made a penny yet!

I remember this being overwhelming when I first started out because I felt already behind and real life ie. rent, car payments, food, telephone, savings, student loan repayment etc. etc. hadn't happened yet.

It is just part of doing business now and once a year, I think about it. There used to be a fourth line item called disability insurance and I got rid of it once I realized the plan doesn't cover part time work very well. (remember I got to test that out when I broke my wrist learning to figure skate a couple of years ago...)

So anyways, with us going over budget on the visa for Nov. and all these bills coming in, and not having access to my 2nd pay cheque in Dec (because we head out west mid Dec) means I have to make everything happen with what will be coming in for Nov. and the first half of Dec. It is making me juggle!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Day

My last day of work before a week off! Yeah!!! Not sure if it will be busy though not worrying about it either way.

We will be draining/pushing the water out of the cottage pipes this weekend thus the need for the new compressor valve. Last year's attempt was a bit of a fiasco as the valve wasn't working well (despite it being new) and overall time taken was just too long and unpleasant. I'm keeping fingers and toes crossed this year that it won't lead to divorce!

Not much to report financially today. The weeks that neither one of us get paid tend to be pretty boring financially.

The budget area we seem to be excelling in is our food/grocery account. We have been sticking with it with no whining or anything.

A reader gave a fantastic suggestion regarding our Costco membership. I did not know that we could buy gift cards that would allow us to continue shopping there for 1 year after our membership expires without having to pay to continue our membership. We could even ask friends of ours to buy such cards for us, effectively eliminating the membership altogether!

So at the very least, we had reduced membership costs to every other year. I'm in the midst of calculating our annual expenditures at Costco to decide how large of a gift card to buy by the end of this month. Thanks again for the tip!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reining It In

I may need to revise our monthly Visa budget. It is supposed to be use for gasoline and D's monthly parking costs. If we use it for other things, then the amount gets paid for from other working accounts right away.

As of late, we've been going over in the non gasoline/parking category. That bugs me because it means there are extra things we've been buying that doesn't fit into regular spending categories. We've gotten a bit lax.

So, I'm staring at the $788 balance instead of the budgeted $180 wondering what happened?! Well, it's called by many names such as some really good chocolate, DVD's not found at the library, a couple of meals out, oil spraying 2 cars, food processor, pet shampoo, new work clothes for D and a Lego set.

It'll get paid for, of course, and I remind myself it is all within our control.

My month end numbers for Oct. came in and I seriously just squeaked by my monthly projection by $72.96 take home. A bit close for comfort and the closest yet this year.

When I was on my car hunt, we encountered 2 salespeople. The first one was terrible, the second one was the one I've been in contact with. Now, the first one will not leave D alone. I'm not sure how calling over and over again and emailing is going to motivate D into buying a car when he is not the real buyer.

It's probably just as well as I have less patience than D and would likely just tell him off. In this day and age, I cannot believe that the stereotype of the "guy" making all the financial decisions still exists.

On a really funny note, we were at "Princess Auto" on the weekend, looking for a compressor valve when I was approached by 2 farmers asking if I worked there.

I almost burst out laughing after a split second of shock because I thought they were taking the name of the shop perhaps too literally... they were pretty embarrassed when I said no.

Seriously, I was wearing a pair of 2 1/2 inch brown boots, a powder pink fitted North Face jacket and pale corduroys. I guess that makes me look like a "Princess"? ... or maybe I really did look like I knew what I was doing!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The verdict is in.

There will not be a new performance car (vs. my current get me from point A to B car) added to my life right now. Who knows if I will still want it in 3 years? (Probably, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there) It is a relief to finally make the decision.

What it came down to was my unwillingness to spend the money Right Now. (I don't usually have a problem with spending large amounts of money) The timing isn't ideal and it is as far from a necessity as it gets. That doesn't mean I've stopped lusting for it but I can control it...for now.

My H1N1 inoculation yesterday knocked me out literally by 8:30pm. I slept for almost 10 hrs and awoke to some soreness around the injection site. Shouldn't affect work today too much.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Odds & Sods

I have a confession. I just ate a coffee crisp for breakfast! Leftover loot from Saturday...

Pretty much finished the editing of the article I'm submitting for the magazine. It's going out for the first read today. The actually hard deadline is in 1 1/2 weeks but I have a week off starting this Friday and don't want to do any formal work during that time.

Going to attempt to get my flu shot today. There is apparently a shortage right now so if there is a lot of pushing and shoving at the public clinic, I'm going straight back home.

They are estimating that there is only enough to inoculate 60% of the high risk people -- of which I am considered one due to my profession. I'm just not going to worry about it, if the doesn't work out. Stressing out will only make things worse.

On my quest to get up to speed with my health appointments, I have a dental checkup and cleaning this week too. Yeah... I'm not a fan of going to the dentist...

Turandot will be shown live from the Met at movie theatres in HD this weekend. I'm going to go. It was this opera I had a ticket for but didn't end up being able to go, the last time I was in NYC.

D and I braved the crowds at Costco yesterday to load up on stuff as our membership is expiring this month. What I would like to see happen this year, is to not renew for preferably 6 plus months later, to spread the costs farther apart.

I've also been pricing out some continuing education courses and better liability insurance plans for work. They are in the fairly necessary category of things so I'll be working to build them in financially.