Friday, January 30, 2009


My colleague told me of a conversation that occurred a few years ago that involved a comment made about my work schedule by one of my associates.

This came up yesterday while we were chit chatting about her cutting back her work day by 1 starting this summer. I was ecstatic for her. She felt that the move down will garner some resistance. Of course she will be able to do it -- it's her business after all, but nonetheless she expects some "disapproval".

I then proceeded to say that I've not been privy to such resistance through my many changes to my work week schedule over the years. Then she told me.

Apparently my associate said back 3 yrs ago or so when I made a work reduction that he felt I wasn't "in this for right reasons" whereby my colleague replied with "she is building her life, that's reason enough". I thanked her for saying that. But I felt angry nonetheless.

Where does he get off projecting his more than full time work hours as the "gold standard"?

Taking 2 weeks of holidays a year isn't a great example of health!

Not seeing his family isn't a great way to tell them you love them!

Work is a means to fulfill part of my life and allows me to fund the other part. I'm lucky that what I do enables me to help people directly along the way and get compensated for it.

You know what the funniest thing was? This particular associate also assumed that because I work the hours I do, I was not able to afford to buy a house either! He asked me where I was renting when I moved closer to work 1 1/2yrs ago. That comment speaks loudly of how money must flow in his life.

If he only knew what I've managed to do with my income...frugality goes a long does some life skills!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Here, Here!

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find—at the age of fifty, say—that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

I am particularly moved by today's "quote of the day" from one of my gadgets in the side bar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random Thoughts

Had a great ski lesson today. Wasn't all that motivated to go as it was snowing really hard and the drive wasn't so great. But once I was there, the energy of the instructor was contagious and off we went.

Our bank who holds our mortgages did pass along the savings that came with our Bank of Canada lowering their rate on Tuesday. We are now at 2.10% and 2.25% respectively!

With each of the rate increases, the end result is a lowering of our biweekly payments as our bank keeps the same amortization. We know that we're taking a risk here by increasing our payment amount what it was before (thus saving a couple more months of time). The reason it is a risk is that should rates go back up, our payments will also. We are not allowed to lower it once we have increased. So we are gambling a bit.

Cedric is doing great. I'm still working on getting cat sitters for the year. I calculated that if I have someone come in every other day to clean the litter box, play with him, replenish food and water etc. while we are away, it is going to cost around $375 for this year's worth of holidays.

I've finalized a couple of getaways. One includes St. John's, Newfoundland -- can you believe it?! I am going to visit the capital city for 6 days , probably talk to a couple of Realtors and maybe even see a property or 2 if time permits. The areas I'm interested in is about 4 hrs away. I need to figure out what this pull I have for Nfld is all about.

My ski trip in March has gotten extended to 1 1/2 weeks with the scheduled leave right after my last ski lesson.

January net worth went down due to falling investments. I was bummed out about it because I felt our debt repayment and savings efforts should have evened it out. It's amazing how I look to numbers for encouragement. I've also started to update numbers twice a month, again for encouragement!

I'm thinking that my hair donation will happen in May, after I come home from Alaska. By then, the nicer weather will be here.

My local association (re: work) made an urgent appeal for funds for an advertising campaign. I was moved by this year's president and his passion for uniting all in the area to create a common voice and presence. His enthusiasm came through even via email. I replied that he could count me in.

I had been avoiding association meetings for the last 9 years. They turned me off because all I could see was a bunch of people, full of themselves, bragging about their business. There was no networking, mentoring or much good will. I was not going to cut my business day short for that!

When I'm not working at my career job, the last thing I want to be talking about is that. I'm usually off living the rest of my life. I find that I feel uncomfortable around people who live, breath and eat work because inevitably I would end up feeling guilty that I am not working longer and more! When, inside, I'm thinking that they need to get a life!

Finally, there is an opportunity to help out my local ski club. They have been working on expansion plans for the last decade and apparently are very close now. It is a sponsorship thing where you can put your name on the back of a ski lift. I have to get in touch with the person in charge of donations but right now, I'm thinking it would be good place for some of my charity dollars this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Against the Grain

I took up skiing and skating to get over some fears of mine (heights, speed, falling etc) and so that I could enjoy those sports in places I hope to visit some day (Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Kitzbuhel).

Another large reason, it to help keep my metabolism and overall energy level higher during the winter months.

You see, I naturally want to hibernate and eat when the cold weather comes.

Our society makes most of us work throughout the year, regardless of whether our bodies want to do not. It causes a lot of stress to go against our natural grain like that. Perhaps that is why a lot of us want to retire early -- in order to finally live according to natural cycles? I know that is true for me!

Winter is the season where the decreased sunlight triggers a hibernation response in humans and animals. Those of us with a winter would know what I'm talking about. We are not that much different than the bears!

I know of people who are prone to depression during the low sunlight times of the year. I know of people who use tanning salons to get their UV fix and claim to feel much better (same with people who head South for the winter). I know of people who use special full spectrum lamps at home for the same reason.

We heal and regenerate during the "down times", our nightly sleep, seasonal hibernation and siestas etc. I personally feel we don't have enough down time at the right times.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being Tested

I was seriously tempted this weekend.

Since we have moved toward a more frugal approach to everyday life, one thing we haven't missed is non food shopping. We just don't do it anymore unless we needed something. This past weekend, we found ourselves at a discount department store that has a bit of everything.

What do I do? My legs magically led me to the shoe section whereby a pair of high heeled fashion boots just managed to pop on my feet. As I was strutting up and down the aisle with D looking at me miraculously, frugality was as far from my psyche as Mars is.

We were there to look for a pan, not high heeled boots...

I managed to browse the rest of the store all the while carrying my boots. Whoops, I used the word "my", didn't I? After all they were marked down from $190 to $60...

No I didn't buy them. D almost went back into the store to get them for me because of the immensely forlorn expression I had when I went to put them back.

Wow. That was close. I can say this now but it seriously took me 1/2 hr to get over the apparent "sadness" of not buying. How crazy is that? I had no idea how strong my hidden "buy, buy, buy" programming was. Here I was thinking I've moved beyond that.

There. I've said it.

I have a secret wish. It has been brewing inside for the past 3 years. D would say he has seen me obsess over it to no end.

Have you ever yearned for something that doesn't really make any sense?

In my case, it is a small home in a rural Newfoundland fishing village.

I've never been there. My desire runs too deep to blame it on advertising. It is like I've lived there before and now want to go back.

The weirdest part? I don't want to go there on vacation. I've booked many trips just to cancel them because the way I was going about it didn't feel right.

I want to just show up there just like that with keys to a home I've never been into.

As you know, I am a big lover of real estate. But I have never purchased property sight unseen nor without any large amount of due diligence.

I see this place as my secret hideaway. A form of escape? A mid life celebration gift to myself? I don't know. I just don't quite understand why I feel for it or where it is coming from.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Smiles -- The I Love Donkeys Edition


I've made my Tax Free Savings Account decision.

I am going to open a Tax Free Mutual Fund account with ING Direct Canada.

They have 3 types of balanced index funds depending on your risk tolerance. The major differences is in the percentage invested in each category.

The lowest "risk" fund has 70% Canadian Bonds, 10% Canadian stocks, 10 % US stocks and 10% International stocks.

The moderate "risk" fund has 40% Canadian Bonds, 20% Canadian stocks, 20 % US stocks and 20% International stocks.

The highest "risk" fund has 25% Canadian Bonds, 25% Canadian stocks, 25% US stocks and 25% International stocks.

I've chosen not to stay with my current brokerage house for this account because of their yearly administration and transaction fees.

So, I'll give the no fee, no load approach a go. It'll make for a good comparison as the rest of my investments are with a full service brokerage which means fees!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Coming Together

D and I got together when we were both in our 30's. We each owned property and had assets. It was and still can be a challenge figuring out what is "fair" and equitable from a respect point of view. We both have individual ideas for investing and asset allocation.

Some questions we came across included:
  • Do we split everything 50:50 even though we do not make the same salary?
  • Will we stay common law?
  • Is there any advantage of getting married if we are not planning to have children?
  • What are each other's financial goals?
  • How do we see ourselves living in 20 years?

We both agreed that things would have been much more straight forward had we met at a time when neither one of us had anything of value. Then it would mean we build it together. 50:50 split would be obvious and easy.

My previous post about my friends A & B was an example of how complicated things can be when there are egos and financial "hangups" involved.

I have read advice that recommended that in cases of non matching income, it would be fair to split expenses by percentage of take home pay. Thus if one person made 60% of the total income, they would be in charge of 60% of the expenses.

We tried this method at the start. To be honest, we may not have given it a real chance.

I admit I was hesitant about completely combining both incomes into what I call the "common pot". I was afraid of losing my identity and my assets. I didn't want to be in a situation where I would have to buy my house back from anyone should my relationship go sour.

I know of one woman who "bought out" 2 houses from 2 different men and found herself in her late 40's with minimal savings. D's own brother still talks about him having to buy his house twice after a nasty split up.

As my relationship with D progressed, I found that I wanted to share things 50:50. In the beginning, D was adamant in clarifying what he has brought into the relationship and that should things not work out, he would only take back what he put in. He wants things to be fair and did not wish to make it look like he is taking advantage.

D has gotten comments from his male friends that make fun of him (non malicious) as a "kept man". I did take offense to it even though I have been told that that is "guy humour" and he was told to not tell me about it.

D tells me that he gets razed about things because the guys are openly jealous of our lifestyle and that's why they make fun of him. He is witty enough to always provide a sharp retort but I don't get that. My girlfriends would not say such things.

As the years have gone by, as our relationship deepened, came an increased comfort zone and trust with each other's ability to manage money, allowing a true partnership has emerged.

So, do we have a prenup? Sort of. We have broad concepts on paper. Neither of us will end up with less should things not work out.

We also have wills in place. Being married has the added bonus of simplifying things from an estate perspective. And having both names on title for all properties ensures a seamless transfer. By doing this, we are taking care of each other now and later.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Simple Life

A buddy of mine commented that he felt I was complicated. Boy, I didn't take that as a compliment.

I interpreted "complicated" as "high maintenance" (diamonds, fancy homes/cars/clothes, plastic surgery...) so I disagreed, stating that I just want a simple life, to which he just laughed out loud.

I guess our definitions of what a simple life is vastly different.

He felt that because I happen to enjoy opera (he knows I used to teach it...and he came along with my class on our yearly opera outing), that made me complicated.

He saw simple living as more "back to the land" without things like skiing, symphonies, multiple homes, museums, gourmet cooking.

Whereas I see it as enjoyment of the best humans and nature have to offer and it doesn't necessary have to be expensive.

My definition of simple living includes art, music, inventive cuisine, the world, sports and lots more. It is a life of awareness and inclusion without excess.

Would you classify that under "complicated"?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dream Jobs

If money was no object, would you be working in where you are now?

Here are some "dream jobs/careers" on my short list:
  • music history teacher
  • part time librarian
  • art gallery gift shop attendant
  • ski instructor
  • short order cook
  • driving instructor
  • ballroom dance teacher
  • art teacher
  • receptionist
  • local theatre usher
  • architectural technologist
  • travel agent

What 's on your list?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Contest Opportunity!!!

Oops! Almost forgot.

My bank is giving money away. If you are still undecided about the new Tax Free Savings Account, Scotiabank is giving $5000 a day for the next month or so to help you out with your decision.

Good Luck!!!

Part of the Problem?

The news is out. The Bank of Canada just dropped it's lending rate by 50 points. Of course I am ecstatic and will be even more so if the major banks follow suit. They haven't all done that lately.

As I revel in the prospect of an even lower mortgage rate, it occurred to me that I may be part of the "problem".

You see, I have 2 sub-prime mortgages. They are both variable rate. The main one (for our main home) is at prime minus 0.90 and the tiny one (for the ski condo, taken from the equity of the main house) is at prime minus 0.75.

Right this minute, pre-(hopefully) rate decrease, they are costing us 2.60% and 2.75% respectively. Potentially, they can get as low as 2.10% and 2.25% with 3yrs 3 months and 4 yrs 4 months left on their current terms respectively. My extra bonus goal is to not have to renew either mortgage at all.

So getting back to my realization. Canadians used to (I say used to because times are changing) believe that we were immune to the sub prime mortgage crisis in the States, that our banking system is different, that we are so much more conservative.

We may not have the type of mortgage products where payments double or triple within 3 years but we did start getting into 40 year, 0% down mortgages. Now, they've changed things so that the maximum length of time is 35 years with 5% down. And quietly, people like me have signed up for mortgages at rates below prime not really putting 2 and 2 together.

I realize that I am qualified to take out a mortgage for the amounts I got and that I fit into the banks traditional lending ratios and if I lost my job, D can cover. But, I have to wonder if my mortgages had been packaged up and sold to investors who have gone belly up?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Back to It

January has been a tad unorganized in our household. Coming off a December break made for a slow start back to our normal weekly routine. I guess D and I are still in holiday mode even though this is the 3rd week back to work and of January.

We've exhausted our respective allowances indulging at some of our favorite restaurants as we were both too lazy to cook. So this weekend, we got working again, making up large batches of chili, spaghetti sauce and beef stew. Tonight will be cabbage rolls. That should do us for a while.

Does anyone else find it hard to gear back up to regular routines?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Time Off

How many weeks holidays a year do you take?

From a health perspective, I feel North Americans are overworked to the point where I frequently hear comments like "I am not taking all of my 3 weeks off this year because I don't want to be swamped when I get back." !!!

Isn't that terrible?

In Canada, we do not typically get the same amount of paid holiday time as say, our European counterparts do.

Typically, when starting a new job, you do not get any paid holidays in the first year. In the 2nd year, you may get 2 weeks. After 5 years, 3 weeks and after 10 years, 4 weeks.

That's pretty dismal.

Some workplaces will allow non paid leave, some won't.

One of D's biggest wishes is to have more time off. He would take it in lieu of a pay raise.

It has been 2 years since he started working for a large corporation. They started him with 3 weeks off a year and it will not reach 4 weeks until he's worked 10 years. The maximum paid time off available in his company is 5 wks at 20 years of service.

Am I the only one who thinks that's ridiculous?!

He is lucky that he is able to work remote, so that he can be out at the ski condo for a few weeks and still be working. If we get Internet at the cottage, he would benefit that way too. But what about the people who are not able to do this?

Much of the stress I see in my work is due to work. I realize there is no "perfect" job but I feel that the amount of time off given in North America is not enough for people to really detach from their work properly.

Our plan is to have D start taking non paid time off once we finish paying off our mortgages in approx. 5 years.

Introducing Cedric

Frugal Pet Ownership?

Having had Cedric come into our lives after a few years of being pet free has created a whirlwind of activity on our parts. He's handling it just fine. It's us who's scrambling to get everything in order.

A few trips to a pet store showed just how much things have changed since the last time I owned pets.

You can spend an inordinate amount of money there!

I am a believer that pets want to be loved and part of your lives. They are not going to feel inferior or hard done by because they are not wearing a $100 collar or have fancy food bowls and beds. It was crazy! A brush that just looks like a brush cost $9 because it was called a pet brush.

We bought 50lbs of kitty litter, 20 lbs of premium cat food, a basic cat carrier, a brush, a toy, a blanket and cat spray on/wipe off shampoo for under $80. I'm happy with that. He now has more toys and treats courtesy of his first visitor this weekend.

Of course with our travelling, the biggest yearly expense will be cat sitting as we feel the air travel would be too stressful. I cannot imagine having Cedric with me on my last delayed flight of 16 hrs!

The jury is still out with the cottage because D believes cats would prefer to stay home. Any opinions on that? It would mean a 3 hr car ride each way. The last time I lived with a cat, I didn't have other properties.

If anyone has any frugal pet tips, I've love to hear them!

Friday, January 16, 2009


The last 24 hrs has been crazy busy!

A client of mine is a volunteer for the local animal shelter and a cat (4 -5 yr old) was dropped off a day ago by a neighbour of the owner (84 yrs old) who had passed away.

The shelter has had to put the cat away from the others because he is completely de-clawed and thus would not be able to defend itself.

So, D and I are the proud new owners of Cedric the Black Cat. We have been running around getting all the necessary cat stuff.

We lost our dogs and cats a few years ago so it will be great to have a fun furry friend around again.

Relationship Scenario Discussion

This post is further discussion of my wpersonalfinance guest post comments. If you haven't read the post, you can find it here.

Suze Orman is known for saying that you can tell a lot about people by the way they handle money. Basically, if they are cheap, then it is likely they will be cheap with you emotionally and vice versa.

Whether her observations are universally true or not, it does apply to the partners of A & B. Both men are really really tight with their money. They hold a mine vs. yours mentality and they guard what they have with what I would describe as a "desperate" type of energy.

Which brings us to relationships. How does one get along with someone who hordes money from their loved one? How will that translate to the children? Because both A & B recently had their first, so time will tell.

As far I know, neither one has put in place any savings plans yet. I know that B does not have the funds right now and A has been completely overwhelmed with running the business full time and child rearing at the same time. Neither women took much more than a month off post birth.

What has bothered me the most is the apparent lack of support both women are getting from their partners. I know that I would be livid and why would you bother being in a relationship if you are going to be doing it yourself anyways?

Because both A & B are long time girlfriends who have seen me through my crazy choices, so it makes it especially difficult to comment.

But I do anyways because we are such good friends and I would expect that should they ever feel I was in a not so nice situation, they would step up and speak up regardless of whether I wish to hear it or not.

I don't believe that my questioning and commenting is being respectful of their choices. I figure that they would not bring it up if they didn't wish to talk about it.

So here's what I've said:

  • Do you think it is important to discuss and understand what underlying money issues existed in his family growing up?
  • Why is he so afraid of losing "his" home?
  • What is his definition of partnership?
  • Actions speak louder than words and his actions are saying that he is wanting to control. Is that really the message he wants to send?
  • What do you think he will do with respect to children if your relationship doesn't make it? Will he fight for custody?
  • Do you have a will?
  • Do you think he will ever make life "hard" for you business wise since he owns the building?
  • Outside of love, what do you get from this relationship?


  • Do you feel trapped?
  • He knows you don't have money left over at the end of the month. Why doesn't he offer to help?
  • Why is he not paying for child care?
  • Has he ever come out and said what his definition of a wife is?
  • Does he respect you?
  • Have you modified your wills?
  • What are you getting from this relationship?
  • What is he scared of?
  • Would you consider selling the building so that you can debt free sooner?
  • Do you think he is punishing you for his past relationship experiences? (He almost lost his entire nest egg to his previous wife) If so, is that fair or healthy to be doing that?

A is working hard putting money away. B doesn't have any significant amount of savings. Both have supportive families.

My relationship with D is not similar at all to my friends A & B. D & I spent a lot of time and talking about our views of money, how we manage expenses, how to deal with 2 different income brackets etc. (a future blog post) before anything even became serious.

With any relationship, if you give back what you get, than it's balanced. What bothers me is I do not feel either A nor B is getting very much. Obviously they are getting enough or else they wouldn't be there but I know it isn't the type or amount for me. That's why I'm having a such a time relating to their situation.

Not everyone wants what I call a "common pot" scenario for a relationship where everything is shared. We don't all come into a relationship offering the same amounts financially or emotionally. I guess you get what you "negotiate" within a relationship?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Women, Relationships and Money

I'm stumped.

I've run out of financial advice and comments for 2 of my good friends. Today's post is a guest post at wpersonalfinance about relationships, prenups and money. Is this now the new normal?

I'd love to get both male and female views on the situation. If you know of, or are in a similar relationship, please share your insights.

I feel I am standing too close to be totally objective anymore.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Continuing Health

The start of a new year generally ushers in a number of health initiatives. I'm stumped this year. It isn't because I am 100% the way I would like to be physically or am I already eating or doing all the "right" things. It is because any changes I commit to doing would ideally be ones that will be integrated into my life and that puts a certain "weight" to choosing something. It is a work in progress.

Previously I've embarked on short term challenges that happened to have a health benefit attached to it such as training for a 10km road race. I was never a great runner in grade school (translate as always coming in last...) and I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. Turns out I can. I just needed to learn how to breathe properly (go figure!).

I'm proud to have run 4 races but running isn't a passion for me. I will continue to do races on days when D does his (he is the serious runner in our family--6 marathons under his belt) because being a pack mule can be long and cold! Plus races usually are raising money for a good cause and there is something about being part of a large group and hearing the music and cheering that makes it a lot of fun.

Some healthy habits I am continuing to work on this year include:

  • eating less meat (our consumption has decreased at least 50%)

  • eating more greens (would mean taking less vitamins too)

  • continue current workout (walking, stairs, biking, sports)

  • minimizing sugar intake (too much sugar makes me ill)

  • minimizing salt intake (this is my weakness--I love salt)

  • taking more time off

  • keep sleeping well (I average 7-8hrs a night)

  • eating smaller portions (part of my decrease 100 calories a day goal)

  • keep eliminating processed/packaged foods

  • staying alkaline

  • stretching daily

  • journal daily

  • listening/playing music daily

  • allowing some wiggle room (I don't do well when I feel like I'm being forced into a corner)

  • letting go

  • meditate daily (even for 5 minutes!)

  • keep cooking

  • giving back / gratitude / giving thanks

  • keeping clear (I do not like to depend on a substance to "get through my day" thus I am not a coffee drinker. If I have 1/2 a glass of pop a month, that's being generous. If I have more than 3 drinks a year, that's pretty unusual)

  • listening to myself (short circuit the brain once in a while)

  • staying away from toxic people / situations

  • helping those who are ready

  • working on being as spontaneous as I know I can be

Pantene's Beautiful Lengths Program

I'm really excited about this as I've wanted to do it for a long time. That is, donating hair to make into wigs for cancer patients.

It used to be that they would only take 12 inches but Pantene has a program called "Beautiful Lengths" for people who are willing to donate a minimum of 8 inches. They will even pay for the postage! I found this program through the Canadian Cancer Society website. Hopefully it exists all over.

I've earmarked this spring as my date for the cut. I'm even going to splurge and see my old stylist for a chic new look.

More Mish Mash

Ok. New habit for this year -- I am going to write my post before I get reading other blogs because they are so interesting, I get replying and I end up forgetting what I was going to write about!

Just some thoughts on various things today.
  • It turns out that a few hours ON for our hot water heater (electric) is enough to keep us going for a couple of days. That included 3 loads of laundry, daily cleaning, bathing and showering this past weekend.
  • We created our version of the "fireplace plug" using an old pillow and a garbage bag (for our wood burning fireplace). I read that you lose a significant amount of heat up the flue in the winter. You can buy an official one but I'm not going to consider it yet.
  • Since coming home from the ski condo where we live very compactly (under 300 sq ft), I've been naturally washing all dishes by hand. There is a debate going on in our household (read D) about whether the dishwasher is more efficient. The jury is still out on that one. I figure it'll show in our bills. Stay tuned.
  • Started to take cordless phones off their stands as the handheld battery lasts a long time and do not need to be in charge mode 24/7.
  • Finished reading "The Key" by Joe Vitale last night. There is this one sentence that astounded me. It is "How good can you stand your life?" He was talking about our hidden upper limits to our possibilities. I've just never heard it framed that way before. I like it. I'm still working on that one.
  • Was diverted away from the bank on Friday so didn't get the currency I had intended. Turns out this morning, I found out that I may be owning more in taxes than I thought so I many end up making a last minute RSP donation after all.
  • Had an awesome ski lesson last Wed. My instructor this year has been the club's ski racing coach for the last 15 years so I think I ought to be able to ski faster than D by the end of the program! In reality, I'm a big chicken but I'm with a group of brave women so it helps to have others egg you on.
  • Increased our bi-weekly mortgage payment by $10 this morning. It should shorten our overall amortization by a few months.
  • Looking forward to the next Bank of Canada rate announcement next Tuesday. Hoping for another rate decrease.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2 Books

If you are looking for some outside of the box thinking and inspiration, I would recommend checking out the books below.

Screw it, let's do it : lessons in life / Richard Branson

Jump in! : even if you don't know how to swim / Mark Burnett

Both very interesting life stories and quick reads.

I had a chance to hear Mark Burnett speak a couple of years ago and is he ever funny! No idea that he was so skilled (in a military way). Guess it makes sense that he'd come up with shows that test people in extreme environments.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Programmable Thermostats

A couple of bills come through yesterday. One I'm alright about and the other, not so much.

The cottage electrical bill is a quarterly one. I'm ok with this one. The total was $91.92 with $14.51 of it actually for electricity use, the rest all those fees of theirs. The cottage is heated by gas and electrical baseboard heaters.

The gas bill for the house, I'm not cool with. It came to $180.14 even though our consumption is 15% less than last year. This beats our highest bill for the coldest month last year. Yes, the cost of natural gas has gone up but where am I going to look for more savings?

We are going back to my old ways.

D is an avid supporter of the electronic thermostat. I'm not. I'm used to turning on the heat manually in the mornings, off when I'm warm enough and on when I need it and off at night. The house is insulated well enough that we are not dying overnight or in the mornings.

Right now, it is programmed to turn on at 6:30 am til 10 am and then back on at 5 pm til 10 pm to a high of 69 degrees Celsius.

Most times, I find that I do not turn it on at all. If anything, the morning heat wakes up me earlier as I find it easier to sleep in cooler conditions. I do realize D goes to work earlier than I do and do not wish to freeze while showering.

So what D has agreed to do is turn off the heat after his shower and I'll turn it on if I get cold. He's gone for the day anyways so it doesn't affect him. He is also going to start dressing like it is winter and not in T-shirts! And the heat will be turned on by the first person that comes home each day.

We're going to give it a go for the remainder of the winter and if all goes well, will continue onto air conditioning season.

Programmable thermostats have been touted at least here in Canada as a great "savior" of energy but like any tool, it is relative to the individuals using it. I've never had one until now and it will be interesting to see if a few hours savings here and there will make enough of a difference to the bottom line. I'll let you know!

Friday, January 9, 2009


I'm starting January '09 off on a good foot financially.

After analyzing my month end for December, I realized that my actual pay for January will be $1383.86 higher than my spreadsheet estimate! Hurray!

What to do about the extra monies...

The logical thing would be more prepayment towards the mortgages but I feel we are doing "enough".

So I am stopping by the bank on the way to work today to get some cash to put aside -- Canadian and US cash. I already have Euro stashed away.

So if we ever needed cash and the bank machines are not working or there is another major power blackout, we can still buy batteries, groceries and gas etc.

As for the US cash, it is nice to have for those last minute weekend trips and for airport expenses en route somewhere.

The 2 currencies won't eat up all of the monies. I'll likely put the rest towards what I know for sure will be spent later on the year ie. BC property taxes, hockey season tickets, flights etc).

All in all, a good problem to have.

I'm also happy to report an increase in net worth for Dec '08 due to increased debt repayment, cash position and some little increases in stock and mutual fund values. I am using NetWorth IQ to help me track this (see side bar).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hot off the Press!!!

The mailman has just delivered the property assessment for our BC ski condo.

I'm not aware if this system exists in different forms around the world but here in Canada, most provinces have an assessment procedure for property based on market value. Despite what they try to say, this assessment does get used in the calculation of property taxes.

We've already received the ones for our home and cottage and one for the condo has been highly anticipated. (yes, I need to get a life...)

The BC assessment surprised me. There was a letter in it stating that for the first time, due to the current market challenges, they are listing both the "value" of your property as of July '07 and the "value" as of July '08 and if there is a difference, they will chose the lower of the 2 values to calculate taxes.

How progressive is that?!

Well, our condo, which we purchased in May '08 was assessed 17% less than last year. So our property taxes will be lower this year! (current taxes $420/yr)

The lower assessed value doesn't bother me as we have no intention of selling for a very long time. It is just paper value.

My home province wasn't so generous or progressive. Our cottage didn't fare as "well" from a cost cutting perspective. It was assessed 30% more this year (current taxes $952.56/yr). Our main home was assessed 17% more (current taxes $2781.36/yr).

So the decrease in the BC taxes will help offset the other 2.

How did you fare in your property assessments? Is it used to calculate property taxes too?

Comfort Zone

I am attracted to people who are passionate about life. It doesn't matter if their passion is for bowling or cooking. It is their energy that I'm drawn to. The feeling that distinguishes them from the masses.

As a lifelong learner, I feel it is important to stretch oneself. Thus when I go about goal setting, I will chose something that I am not comfortable with -- the goal being to stretch a part of myself.

In the process as a newbie, I am inevitably immersed with people who are very passionate about what we are doing. They are happy that someone new has shown up and am very happy about mentoring and nurturing a budding spirit.

I've made a number of friends throughout the years this way. Connected with many kindred spirits and am a better person because of it. Some things have become hobbies, others have not, but that was never the point.

How do you stretch yourself?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Habits and Appliances

I've had a couple of rare nights alone as D doesn't roll in until later this evening. Funny enough, it only took moments to revert to some of my old habits.

One of the things I am starting to do is observing myself more closely -- my behaviours, attitudes, how I go about doing things.

I chuckle as I shut the light to the kitchen and proceed to turn on the light in the dining room. D finds that behaviour funny. To me, it is normal. Have light in the room I am in. It's as simple as that. From the street, I guess it may look different or cheap but the light literally lights my steps around the house.

On my way home from a long day of work, I was very tempted to stop and have dinner at the neighbourhood Thai restaurant as a reward for working hard. My mind was into it, but my feet kept walking so it was funny to see my head turning back towards the restaurant as I kept moving forward. I see that I've got my feet trained to frugality without even knowing it!

I walked through my home as if for the first time. I had been away from it long enough to appreciate it anew and it brought back some memories.

The stove and dishwasher that came with our house was not adequately functional upon closer inspection. So within a day of moving in, I got the job of looking for replacements.

I had never used a gas range before nor even a gas barbeque. In fact, I was rather scared of the idea of blowing up the house. Charcoal was the type of barbeque my family used and electric were the ranges I'm familiar with. My last home was new and came with new appliances so I have never even shopped for appliances before. I was in for a surprise.

I had no idea how far along appliance technology and design had come. The salesman must have thought I was some hick woman from some hick town, the way I was literally gawking around (I'm a visual person). Once I calmed down, I learned a lot.

For instance, the benefits of a stainless interior for a dishwasher, the levels of quiet available for dishwashers, sensors for amount of "dirt" in the dish washing water allowing it to shorten the cycle to save water and energy, how having a tile floor under the dishwasher can cause installation problems etc.

With respect to the range, I didn't realize that I needed to hire a licensed gas fitter to be present when the appliance was to be delivered. That it needed an electric start -- thus needed to be plugged in (duh!), that warming draws existed, that I don't actually see the flames in the oven when it is on (there is a cover), how cool a built in thermometer (for roasts) is and how neat that one flip of the grill top created a wok holder.

The purchase was made at a small store that was family owned for over 50 years. All three places I went to had stock but they were the only one who were willing to coordinate the arrival of the gas fitter for me as I was getting nowhere with the yellow pages.

As you probably have experienced, when you are expecting a delivery, there is not usually a set time but a few hours range of time and when they are also removing the old appliances, I needed the gas fitter person to be there to detach the old stove and attach the new one (it's the law, I cannot do it myself, nor would I be remotely interested in trying). So I could not book anyone when I didn't know the time.

They said 8:30 am the next morning and they were 10 minutes early. I couldn't believe it. And who shows up but the owner himself (the one who helped me through my purchase) with his friend the licenced gas fitter/plumber who was to install the dishwasher as well.

Yes, we found out that we did have ceramic tile under the old dishwasher so it was a job trying to find that small fraction of space without having to take the counter off the island. I had to go to work by that time so D took over.

I cannot say more about that store and when it is time to buy my next appliance, I know where I'm going. I hope that I come even close to providing the same level of real service to my clients as I feel I've received in this experience.

The owner tells me that he won't be selling me another range or dishwasher for probably a couple of decades or more because that's how long they last. The clients he has who are purchasing their second ones are all retired.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Heading Home

Well, it is time to go home and head back to the working world...seriously not jumping up and down about it but I'm all packed. D comes home on Wednesday and I leave early tomorrow morning because my ski program starts on Wednesday and I wanted to get in a full work week -- what was I thinking?!

Didn't get much skiing in today because of the fog. Visibility was not the greatest so safely was an issue. If I've learned one thing over the last couple of weeks, it is to go with the flow -- not something I'm really good at normally but surprising enough, seems to come by easily here. That's a great thing for a control freak like myself.

I'm hoping my journey home won't take 16 hrs like the one getting here but if it does, I'm sure I'll meet some great people along the way.

We are currently in the midst of a crazy snow storm so who knows what will happen.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I want to tackle the topic of hobbies today because for some, it can be perceived as an "un-necessary" expense that stands in the way of debt repayment.

As my blog is about living life without extreme deprivation nor extravagance, I've made it pretty obvious where I stand but do realize there exists a sliding scale unique to each individual / family.

Some questions immediately come to mind.

Would you chose hobbies that are only free or close to free in order to be debt free?

Would you chose to eliminate hobbies / activities that cost money only until you become debt free?

Do you view hobbies / extra curricular activities a necessary part of life or an extravagance?

For those who have children:

Do you go about choosing sports / artistic lessons for your kids based on price?

Where would you "draw the line" with respect to cost?

I have not hidden the extent of my extracurricular travel, lessons and habits. They cost money. My view is that being able to participate in those activities is the reason why I work for money.

There has been times where I feel the desire to cash everything in and live my life out hidden away from everything but that tends to be short lived.

Do I have debt? Yes!

Would I pay off my debt earlier if I didn't travel, ski, eat out etc? Yes!

So yes, I realize that I may be undermining my debt repayment efforts by indulging in higher cost activities while I still owe money.

How I decided to write about this today came last night when I stumbled upon an ad for an aviation headset for sale. Earlier I had updated my sidebars with newer goals and thought the timing may be right to start my flight training this spring after ski season ends.

An initial search for ground school books led to headsets and so on. Now I am in negotiations to buy books and a used headset.

Then I stopped.

Here was yet another high price hobby. Do I really want to do this? It certainly isn't a need. I've changed since my intro flight lesson 3 years ago. This is the question I've been struggling with and don't have a firm answer yet.

Financially, the cost of the lessons won't impact my debt repayment or savings efforts. But I do not want to be doing something because I can vs. really really wanting to. Without passion, the value won't be there and it would be a waste of money.

Friday, January 2, 2009

First Purchase 2009

I hope everyone had a great start to the New Year!

We ended the year by watching a couple of pretty fireworks shows and eating some good food.

Ironically we also found out that we have cable at the condo?! Of all the people to receive cable for free, we are likely the least appreciative as we don't normally watch TV. I have since after rediscovering the Food Network!

The bright sunshine coaxed me out this morning to ski first tracks even though I was feeling cosy under the comforter and catching up with blog reading and commenting. I continue to discover such great new blogs that just reading takes some time now!

Shortly after my 2nd run, I called it quits and an emergency purchase had to made. We found out that it is -21 celcius at the top of the lift with a windchill of -38 celcius and I have to say that I agree with them. We nearly froze our fingers off.

Our gear is top notch but it needed to get better so our first purchase of 2009 were ski mittens. It is amazing how you can feel each seam in the glove when it gets so cold. I may return later to buy a open face balaclava (yes, I know that I will not be winning any fashion awards here...) to get some coverage in the in between places my neck tube and helmet miss.

This reminds me of a funny story from my last ski program. It was 8 women for 8 weeks, in a ladies' ski afternoon program. Our instructor was a spirited German man who was a realtor the other part of the time.

He was very inspiring as he didn't start skiing until he was 51 and wanted to give back to the community by volunteering to teach -- he could definitely relate to our collective apprehension and fear regarding heights, hitting trees and breaking various body parts.

After the last lesson was a wine and cheese and you should have seen his face when he "saw" all of us for the first time, with jackets, helmets and tinted googles removed! He said "My god, I do teach a group of women! There isn't one person in this room who isn't good looking!" We just howled! I guess we never considered just how covered up we really are in this sport.