Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Year Next Year

I don't have any desire to write up my annual review. My mind has already transitioned to 2012. The next 2 yrs of spreadsheets are very similar. I guess that means I am not expecting month to month life to change too much.

We don't have any lofty financial goals, just keep plugging along with monthly savings. Not expecting any major changes in work. Outside of full retirement, my work load is as small as it is going to be. Hopefully D's work will continue to be predictable.

I want to continue to simplify our home and life next year. Already have a list going of donation items for when we return home. No firm directions for 2012 travel. I tend to let opportunities guide me, finances pending. Our yearly return to France is the only set thing.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1st Trip 2012

The first trip for 2012 has been booked. Destination will be Hawaii for a couple of weeks. I've never been and am excited to get an overview of the islands.

I'm quickly finding out that helicopter tours are what people rave about and are the scenes from which people think of when Hawaii is mentioned. Not surprising, they are the most expensive tours. I'd like to take some surfing lessons. And eat some great local food.

Can't believe it has already been a week since I last worked. It hasn't felt like that long and it will be another week before I return to work. Not going to rush the time. I'm enjoying not having a schedule. This year was full of running around.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quality Issues

Against my better judgement, I purchased a "no name" hand held massage device to replace a 14 yr old one one its last legs. They are excellent for sore muscles after work or workouts. We have one at home too.

At the mall the other day, we weren't able to find an exact replacement. So in desperation, I bought one that didn't look too durable (from one of those stores that well stuff you see on TV commercials) without checking on the return policy. Once we got it back home it worked for less than a minute.

I called and spoke to the gentleman who helped us and was told they didn't have a return policy, just an exchange one. The news didn't impress me but it was my fault for assuming. I don't want another one and have found some other things on their website we will exchange for tomorrow when we return.

Contrast that experience with a phone call I made to Bose this morning inquiring if they service and sell replacement ear cushions for my noise cancelling headphones.

I had a couple of instances on flights in this year where I experienced shocks to my right ear during an in flight movie. The gentleman I spoke with helped me troubleshoot whether that was caused by a faulty line or not.

We narrowed it down to the 2 prong connector that some planes require and he promptly sent me a replacement for free. My job was to use the headset with my iPod and computer to see if I can reproduce the shocking feeling. If not, then the headset is fine. It has been fine.

What a different experience dealing with a company that stands behind its products! I thought I was going to be buying a new headset ($399 + tax) and now I will just be replacing the ear pads for about $40 instead with shipping free, plus the free 2 prong adapter.

He really was discouraging the idea of my buying a new headset. That's not what you expect nowadays. Should the day come I need to actually consider a new set, I can buy just the headset part, (use my existing battery and line) for just $109 + tax. So I would never need to spend the original amount again. Pretty awesome news!

I'm going to buying their in ear bud headphones as well. The ones that come with iPods are in my opinion, pretty awful. Plus the rubber around it disintegrated ages ago. I've been using my Blackberry ones.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Electronic Cleanup Continues

I cannot adequately express how much better I feel since clearing out excess email subscriptions and old emails.

In this dense electronic age, I've found myself increasingly bombarded with self and non self inflicted emails. What a time waster it is just servicing it daily. As my emails can also be read on my Blackberry and tablet, I'm potentially dealing with them three times.

I've opted to cancel forwarding all my email accounts to my tablet. I'm going to look at it for my phone as well. The clean up continues!

Next up will be Facebook. I'm not a huge user and I use it to keep in touch with friends that I am not able to see in person. Thus my list isn't large and I love looking at others' photos as most of my friends are out town/country.

I think I will also eliminate some peoples' updates -- those friends who have a habit of updating every minute of their day thus clogging up my news page. Or those people who have decided to use Facebook to continually sell stuff.

D and I had a simple Christmas dinner this year. We had giant shrimp cocktail followed by homemade bacon potatoe leek soup and a candy apple. Hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas holidays.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Settled In

I've been out west for the last couple of days. Takes a day or two to roll with the rhythm of this place. The snow is squishy and easy to ski on.

It will be a green Christmas back home with local ski resorts not at full opening yet. I feel bad for those businesses because they are relying on holiday business and I know a few kids who were looking forward to the holiday time ski and snowboarding camps. Not to mention the tobogganing and tubing fun.

I'm also wrapping up final 2011 expenses with what's left of income. We are anticipating some more expenses next week ie. new convection oven and pillow for me. On the list for this location was a new TV but to our surprise, we found out it wasn't the TV to be blamed for the bad picture.

It was the quality of the cable here. They must have fixed/upgraded it because the picture is much better so no new purchase needed. We are rocking a 22" CRT from who know how long ago -- came with the condo.

Merry Christmas to my fellow bloggers and readers. Here's to another great year!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I just got off the phone with my insurance company. We went over some scenarios I had with respect to the different types of potential water damage.

In order to be mostly covered (mostly because there are exclusions we cannot buy coverage for), we would need to to upgrade our coverage by about $240/yr. I said yes.

A couple of friends of ours found themselves in flood damage situations recently. One had the right type of coverage and the other one didn't and is currently spending a lot of money just in the clean up phase of their basement.

We have a hybrid of coverage of our friends'. As we all have different insurers, our respective packages are slightly different. So the exercise was partly topping up and adding on to our existing policy.

Next up will be re-evaluation of our extended health care and life insurance policies. Each year, for one month, D's company allows such change. We will be coming up to that time shortly. I've been given the chart with all the categories but haven't the time to really look at it yet.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


What a long couple of weeks. D had been putting in 60 hr weeks as he had been asked to help out with a few extra projects due to teams being short staffed. It gave him a nice taste of how life would be at the next job level.

We talked about the pros and cons of him working towards the next job level and pay grade. There is an overlap between pay grades and he is already well into the next one but his job level is not which really only affects bonus percentages.

Neither one of us feel the next level up positions are worth going for. He doesn't want to work those increased hours or have to check his Blackberry on weekends. We are happy with his bonus structure and all that extra work for an extra couple of percent at the end of the year doesn't pay off in our minds.

He doesn't have to work more and neither do I. Our savings rate would obviously be quicker if we both did but I've already done my sprint money wise. D and I are going to take the rest of they way like an ultra marathoner -- moderate and steady.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mortgage Brokers

Plumber did return and the job was completed well. No idea what the bill will be. Will be budgeting around $300.

I've heard a couple of horror stories about mortgage brokers recently. One of my friends who had a 1 yr term had an impossible time reaching his broker to talk about renewal. Finally, with 6 days left till the deadline, went directly to the bank who handled it for him.

The other story was from another friend who upon being told they were "approved" for a mortgage, went ahead and bought a house and now with a week left till closing, found out they weren't really "approved" and because of the extent of paperwork outstanding (the deal was signed 3 months ago), the deal may not close on time.

My one and only experience with a broker came from a recommendation from D who used one for one of his house purchases. When I spoke with him, I found him to be abrupt and when I could not get a firm answer on the pre-approval process vs the approval process, I ditched him and went back to my banker who was able to assure me I was really approved and can go in firm (back when I bought the cottage).

Are brokers making so much money they can afford to let deals and relationships go sour? Is there so much business going on that details like required paperwork can run 3 months behind?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All Adds Up

No plumber. Truck wouldn't start. D was not too impressed. Rescheduled for today. Good thing was the city did come out to identify where the water shut off was and tested it. Now we know it won't interfere with any future driveway replacement plans.

One of our windows has developed a crack in the glass. I hate losing a pane of original glass but we have been told the replacement is "pretty simple" (famous last words..). Probably won't get around to fixing it before our holidays.

End of year spreadsheet balancing always starts off fine and then all hell breaks loose. Extra expenses crop out of nowhere and I cannot even blame it on buying presents as we don't have gift exchange in our family.

I'm scrambling to figure out why now? D needed a new winter coat. His down jacket leaks the equivalent to one duck's worth of feathers with each wearing. We scored a great down North Face jacket at a really good price because it was last year's style (who cares?).

I put in a vitamin re-order. We have a few medical appointments what won't get reimbursed until later. We have gone out for a couple extra meals. It all adds up and it messes with my neat spreadsheet.

It would be easier if I didn't have every penny accounted for but the temptation for mindless spending is higher when all I see is an account with money in it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Water Issues

D was pretty embarrassed on the weekend when he went to identify himself as a winner of his purchase. I teased him with the thought of getting his picture taken. As with most winners, he turned around and spent (planned) what he had won as we needed pillows.

We had a plumbing issue later that day when D went around testing taps in an attempt to remember which taps we will be closing for safety purposes before we leave to go out west. In previous years, we hadn't taken this step but have recently read it is a good idea to close the water to toilets and washing machines.

D took it one step further and touched the main tap coming in from the street. So now we have a small leak. A plumber has been called. D rigged up a system to it drained into our basement drain using our dehumidifier bucket which has a hose attachment.

No idea how much it will cost to replace the tap but the city will have to involved because our main water has to be turned off before any work can be done.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paring Down

I'm a bit stunned because my estimate taxes I did using my yearly online software is showing a refund this year, much larger than the $60 odd dollars I got back last year.

Didn't think my numbers were that different from last. In fact I made more money but my expenses must have gotten bigger too. Right now I'm not seeing it but I'll be looking at those numbers many more times until filing.

I must have missed something. If it turns out I didn't, I'll hold off claiming my rsp donation until next year.

Am in the growing out phase with my hair. Had enough with bangs and shorter hair. Found it to be fun but way higher maintenance. Long hair costs less for me. So back to long it is. Plus I can donate it again when the time comes.

To get a handle on the amount of paper (trees) we seem to get in the mail each month and the feeling of having to read a whole pile of stuff, I've been paring down on our magazine subscriptions.

I cut out 2 last year, just decided not to renew a 3rd and have one left which won't expire for another year -- Considering cancelling and getting some money back. Meanwhile D has added 2 so we are going to have a talk about it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Answers Finally

Well, the decision was made for us. D's bonus is going to be cashed out this year. The account D opened back in Sept to house any bonus monies was supposed to include a fax in of the paper copy which D was not aware of.

It was due Nov 30th. Had he done it, the entire amount would have been sheltered and a tax receipt would have been issued. Now that we know, we have till Nov 30th of 2012 to get that fax in for next year's bonus (hopefully).

An interesting discussion came out of it with one of D's colleagues -- The only one D found (outside of the finally locating someone in the pension dept) who had knowledge of how this all worked and has chosen not to take advantage of it.

He is anti RSP and likes knowing what his bottom line is all the time so non registered investments is his preferred vehicle. He figures you either pay tax now or later. You may as well get it over with now.

I can respect that. Plus, having a good pension will mean a higher tax bracket come retirement so you stand to pay potentially higher taxes later. Made us stop and think about D's retirement big picture vs mine. Maybe this fax error was a blessing in disguise.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Clipping Along

We haven't made it up to the cottage yet to check out how things look after the plumbers did their thing with the plumbing. I'm still a bit scarred from the mess they left a few years ago. Last year was good. If the weather holds, we'll be heading up this weekend.

On the receiving free money front, D's roll continued with a couple more gift cards totally $70 courtesy of Sporting Life Bikes and Board store where he purchased his road back a couple of months ago.

Maybe this is an emerging trend as neither of us have been given such gifts after purchase before. I'm sure there has been some study done showing how much more people spend if you give them free the feeling of goodwill you get for the establishment.

Part of my down time work yesterday involved getting a quote for new attic insulation for the cottage. I don't know the breakdown of the parts of the job yet but I'm guessing the bulk of the $3000 - $5000 quote range is for labour. It seems high to me. I was mentally budgeting no more than $2000.

We are still waiting for D's 1st pension statement to magically show up. We've been told Nov, Dec and now it is officially Apr/May. It's frustrating when no one seems to know when that happens. Why the secrecy? Or perhaps it is because people don't track it so it doesn't matter when it appears?

As we are trying to get answers about D's bonus savings options, D is finding most people are relying on it to pay for Christmas and even though they know (vaguely) of the sheltered route, only one person he has talked to so far have taken advantage of it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Down Time Work

I'm rarely sick and when it happens, it is usually because I've overdone something and got out of balance. So I've spend a lot of time today clearing email clutter. It is amazing how much time it takes me. I aim to do it once a year but realized I hadn't done it last year. Multiply by 3 addresses and the process has eaten up lots of minutes. The day is flying by.

We got lots of good news yesterday. D got the numbers corresponding to his tiny raise and bonus. The raise is approx $30 per pay cheque. His bonus is just shy of $10K which surprised both of us. Don't worry, we are not complaining!

As mentioned in an earlier post, we have to put it into a registered savings vehicle in order for it not to be taxed at almost 50%. D told me he can only do it for 85% of it. The other 15% has to be taken as cash so therefore be taxed fully. The sheltered 85% will garner a tax refund which he will put towards the "car" portion of the recently consolidated mortgage/car loan.

I came home from work to find a Christmas card from my Capital One MasterCard. Inside was a $15 gift card to a department store. When have you ever received free money from a credit card company? Especially when the card is free? First time for me!

Later in the evening, D got an email from a department store we shopped at on the weekend stating we won our purchase! He filled out something online with our receipt code and voila, he won. Now, our purchase wasn't large or anything, under $40. It doesn't matter though!

Friday, December 2, 2011

What the Heck?

Are you serious?! I asked my computer when it started to not like the 2nd new battery yesterday.

I'm going to keep it plugged in and charging even though it isn't really charging to see if things snap magically back to life. Not impressed.

There are 5 more work days until holidays so I'm not going to worry about it. The computer is usable when plugged in. So I'll just have to bring the charger with me to work until I figure out what to do next.

Just put the old battery in and it likes it...what the heck?

End of year is exciting for me from a bookkeeping perspective. I get to see soon whether I owe tax or not. Last year's projections were pretty much spot on. I got about $61 back from the government.

I'm expecting next year's income to be smaller so I'll be happy to cut back on my quarterly tax payments/savings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Whenever I "declare" something, the universe seems to send an automatic temptation to test my resolve. This came in the form of a cyber Monday sale courtesy of KLM.

Pretty incredible to consider you can fly round trip to Istanbul from Toronto for $749 taxes in, considering I just paid $690 to fly out to BC. I didn't budge but did search out apartments though.

Not this time, D says, there's many more chances to come! He doesn't believe I will be able to hold out for long.

D had errors made on his last flight and didn't get all the award miles expected. But a couple of emails later, it was corrected and he is on his way! He was quite impressed with Delta and their efficiency.