Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Day

I over did it. Been doing too many calculations about real estate affordability and now my brain is in a knot. The last 2 days, I have gotten off the calculator, spreadsheet and I am now starting to get back to "normal". I would like to blame my state on the detox but I know better! There is nothing that can get me wound up better than myself!

I can honestly say that I'm done with it and if it happens, then I will know that it can done well and with minimal worries. If not, I have just identified a source of money that can be used for other causes. And I already have ideas there.

Well, it is the last working day of the month. So far, it is looking like I have bettered my income goal for the month but just barely. I'll know for sure tomorrow when the month end statements come out.

This is turning out to be quite the travel year for us. We are using up travel points and flight vouchers with expiry dates. Next year may not be as colourful as we would be starting from near zero again.

In a way, with the economical slow down, it is a great year to take time off. I don't feel as stressed doing so vs. other years when I'm crazy busy and I know I am missing out on business. With things slower, there is more flexibility and accommodation and breathing room. The other day, I actually got a chance to read through a whole research journal. That rarely happens.

On another note, I have noticed some of my colleagues displaying worried looks. When they realize someone is watching, that look goes away but I caught it. Because I do not have a close relationship with those I work with, I have no idea of how close to the edge they live at and what real effects this slow down is having.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Bread

I told D last night that we ought to consider baking our own sandwich bread, pita chips and start making our own hummus. Simple stuff right? I think so.

So why haven't we done it? Because those are relatively "low cost" purchases and like most low cost purchases, it can add up over the course of a year.

Plus, I love the smell of bakeries... and enjoy trying all sorts of Artisan breads. My latest love is a cranberry (fresh) and chocolate chip honey egg bread... so so yummy... it's more like dessert!

We currently bake our own french bread but it doesn't cut into slices that great. It works best being torn off in pieces during a communal meal.

None of the above things are difficult to make. In fact, we already cook and bake dishes much more complicated. It is just another habit that has been allowed to continue unquestioned, that's all.

I'm just shining a light on it now. So I figure that if we can take care of the more everyday stuff, I can go to the bakery for the really cool things that I haven't decided to attempt yet!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hobbies Revisited

Back near Christmas, I was coming up with new goals for the year. I was questioning whether I wanted to take on yet another hobby that costs money to get into and during and after.

I am near decision time with respect to hobbies that cost money -- a lot of money (at least to me) to participate in.

So, here is what is getting the "boot" -- NO to getting my private pilot's licence. It is just too expensive and each flight afterwards will cost a bunch of money. I will stick to someone else to fly me around.

Since reading "Money Can Buy Happiness: How to Spend to Get the Life You Want" by MP Dunleavey, I have been looking at what I already have and weighing things up to the value measure inside me ie. does it really make me excited or just so so?

To do this effectively, I needed to ignore how much I spent on it and whether it was still in good condition or not. It is easy to talk oneself into keeping something just because...

Plus I am changing. There are some hobbies that use up precious resources that I simply do not feel right in consuming anymore.

The next step is evaluating hobby equipment that do not consume resources to participate in but I do not exactly wish to jump out of bed to do ie. I took it up as a challenge and it still scares me!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Trading Places

One of the biggest impact I could make budget wise each year is reducing the amount of travel we do -- to our own properties as well as to other places. Believe me, I do think about it a lot.

D considers himself a lobbyist now because he fights for the "rights" of most everything and anything he feels I'm about to pitch for the sake of saving money. He feels I'm too extreme. I told him to start reading some of the blogs out there and he'll see that I'm pretty darn tame!

The cottage is one space that finds itself on the chopping block now and then. We could realize a good return on investment should we sell. We would also save on gasoline etc. etc.

Reducing our yearly travel would make a huge difference in our yearly budget. One overseas trip represents 1 1/2 yrs of cottage operating costs.

But I cannot seem to make the cut. Not only that, I am actively searching for another place to call home.

Some days, I wish I didn't find such enjoyment from a change in environment or feel like I need it. As much as I grumble about the cottage at times, I sleep so soundly there, feel so light and love the sheer darkness of the nights.

Being pulled physically away from technology and everyday routine allows me to really feel just how I am. I guess that is one reason why people seek out alternate places. I hear different sides of myself when exposed to different places.

I've asked myself if it is possible to create that at home? Do I have the discipline to unplug the phones, not touch the computer, not do anything chores, find a way to make silence and darkness?

The reality is that my home isn't my cottage or ski condo. It never was and cannot be converted without losing itself. As beautiful as I feel my home space is, it doesn't provide everything and it cannot be everything. No more can my spouse or my career or me can.

My travels and multiple location lifestyle is very much a luxury. I am willing to let them go if need be. In the meantime, I am doing my very best to compensate for them by being frugal everyday.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On Meat

Over the last year or so, our organic butcher was in the process of cutting back hours in our local shop. We got tired of the long Saturday morning line ups and decided to take it as a sign that maybe, this is finally the time to start seriously cutting back our meat consumption.

The benefits are obvious and the timing was right. We had switched to organic meat a few years ago as our effort to move away from antibiotic and other drug tainted meat. Reducing consumption was where I was hoping to go and now it is here.

For the last year or so, we've stopped buying things like Prime Rib, steaks, rump roasts etc. We do still buy bacon, ground beef, chicken, turkey and pork. I cannot remember the last time we grilled a steak. And our portion sizes of meat have decreased dramatically -- 50% less.

Whereas, our previous heavy meat eating lifestyle would include steak/prime rib weekly. For us, it just doesn't make sense anymore, from the pocketbook perspective nor the environmental one.

I cannot say that I will ever become vegan but I would like my food pendulum to move more that way this year.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Local Food

It's spring and farmers' market season has started. What a relief!

Over the winter I've struggled with the concept of buying local food vs buying foods that have been imported from other countries.

In Canada, where I am, we have snow and thus not much local produce to buy after October.

I understand the concept of eating with the seasons and eating local foods that didn't require a whole lot of shipping costs, but really, there wasn't a whole lot to chose from.

So this winter, I bought lettuce and oranges and asparagus etc. that were shipped from around the world, once I got tired of cabbage.

Some days, I wish I lived in a more temperate area where I could get fresh produce year round!

Our seeds are coming along nicely, most of them, that is. There are some that simply haven't germinated but it will give us the chance to replant new ones allowing us to stagger our (hopefully higher than last year) yields.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Less Pressure

There has been a change in the air around me since this "recession" has come. The best description I have is that things feel like they have "retreated" somewhat. I've noticed that people seem more conservative, more withdrawn.

Personally, I believe it is a good thing.

Around my office, there is less hype, less rush. I guess one too, can interpret that as not a good thing business wise but I see it as more relaxed and I am enjoying it. It's as if there is less "pressure" somehow.

When external factors create an environment (real or imagined) that is conducive to slowing down, I tend to embrace it as I view it as a cycle. Like most cycles, it too shall pass.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life Goes On

It is nice to get my computer back! For the last day or so, it was under siege by some Trojan virus which made going online impossible.

I'm amazed just how dependent I have become to the Internet. My banking gets done online, I get my news, keep in touch with friends and book trips etc.

On the flip side, I got more house organization and cleaning done while the problem was being fixed.

Good news for variable rate mortgage holders, the Bank of Canada rate went down again 25 basis points to what they are saying is the lowest it will go.

My mortgages will be at a staggering 1.35% and 1.50% respectively once my bank (hopefully) follows suit in a couple of days.

A return trip to Nfld did get booked today and I've been madly looking around for things to sell in order to support my habit... : ) D's coming this time. He wants to see what all my hype is about!

My Spanish review is going slow but steady. I've added my treadmill workout to my current bike workout and also started a homeopathic detox tonight.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back to it

We buckled and used the dishwasher on the weekend after hosting a dinner party. We had been washing our dishes by hand since Dec after finding out that our energy star appliance still used more energy and water than hand washing.

On the weekend, we went to look at getting some mulch delivered for our gardens. After finding out that the delivery charge was going to cost more than the materials, we picked up some shovels and started shoveling the stuff into the back of our vehicle (over a tarp, of course!), to the tune of just 1 yard, saving the $75 delivery charge.

It took another hour to wheelbarrow all of it and spread into the various gardens and we figure that if we did that once a year, we would be in great shape and any weeding would be exponentially easier. It felt good to do work like that.

Other than that, there was a list of small organizing things that was done around the house. You know those things that you walk by all the time that you make a mental note of... like moving that vase over there would be better, or that needs to be put away, books need to be organized, that need dusting behind know, little things that don't really get in the way but add up over time. Those were done.

On a different note, I really really noticed how much healthier I am when I am on vacation than at home. I realize that things are relative and that I'm not in dire straights at home, but my home habits aren't as good, that's all.

I drink more water, I walk more and I do not tend to snack when I'm away. Perhaps I get so blown away by my new environment that I am distracted in a good way? I do eat really well as I love trying different restaurants, but I still end up losing a pound or 2.

Once I get home, I noticed that I would go back to rummaging through the pantry looking for snacks again...sigh! Maybe I have too much food temptation available here...

On financial news, I brought home $1189.65 more this month! My no tax account is getting maxed out today, net worth is inching up again and the Bank of Canada rate announcement is due out tomorrow morning.

I've also re-jigged the dream account and working accounts just in case something works out in the Nfld front. I'm considering a return trip this summer.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I'm back from Newfoundland. It was wonderful. To me, it has that even larger than life feeling. I loved it.

I followed my gut and made no appointments/meetings prior to my departure. My experience with Realtors up to now, via email and phone, left a lot to be desired so I decided I would just feel my way around on my own. (This was a solo journey)

As a believer of releasing things to the universe when faced with situations beyond my control, I was pleased when the proprietor of the Inn I stayed at connected me with a Realtor (they had worked together previously for the government) who he felt was the most honest person he knew.

So off we went, touring various areas and properties. Learned a lot and got a great feel for the different areas. Found out important things like, how far is it reasonable to drive, how nice is the drive, how it is possible to be in an area that is too barren, where the major service areas were and how different the geography can get even in matter of minutes.

Right now I'm in love with a few areas. One of which can get downright scary to drive to...and yup, I like this one the best...

Because of the last minute nature of meeting the right Realtor, we were not able to get access to all the properties that were available. But, we do have a plan in place to screen thoroughly prior to viewing.

Can you believe that ceiling height can be an issue? I never thought that would come to be but we saw a couple of places that were barely higher than 6ft. D is 6' 1''.

Other places were in very dramatic locations but the area around it had an abandoned feeling. I didn't like that.

One thing was consistent though. Any time a local person found out that I was hoping to make Nfld home, they just started beaming. The pride of the people there was contagious.

The search continues. To get what I would like may end up costing more than I had in mind. That may end up changing the timing of it all but what I know for sure is that the price of poker just went up.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Easter

I'm getting ready for my extended Easter long weekend. I am mostly looking forward to the time, to reflect on the occasion as well as time for me. Hope to get some more reading (and less chocolate eating...) in as well.

I've secured our rental apartment in Buenos Aires and budgeted for our spending money. Next, will be looking into potential immunization requirements for the country.

Some alternative health practitioners are "anti" immunization but I am not one of them. For example, there is no cure for yellow fever. I am not willing to take that risk, even though I feel I am fairly healthy.

I am down to my last $750 left in contribution room towards my non tax savings account. Ought to be completed this month.

Am also gearing up for my Newfoundland trip. Who knows what will happen there?!

Since I've read some of James Hollis's work, I've been ultra aware of my potential pass imprinting affecting how I am now. He describes it as a necessary process to determine if you've truly "left home". Fascinating!

I'm also very excited to see what will happen this morning at my appointment. I am going to be uber tuned to my gut.

I do not plan to have access to internet over Easter, so Happy Easter everyone!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Longer Serves

I have a weird habit -- I am just starting to realize that I have such a behaviour but D says it does surface frequent enough to be a pattern.

He describes it as my tendency to get rid of things, things I really like, before it is taken away from me by an imaginary someone.

The back story is that one of my early memories as a 6 yr old involves having my favorite coat taken off me by my grandmother so that it could be given to a younger cousin of mine who wouldn't have been able to have such a coat. I was given my cousin's coat in "exchange".

I remember my mother coaxing me to be the "bigger" person because it was cold and I didn't want to give away my favorite red coat. I remember holding back the tears.

One positive outcome of this experience is that I find it extremely easy to give -- anything --literally -- I would give someone the shirt off my back. In fact I have Willed 8/10ths of everything I own to various charities.

The flip side is that I have been known to pry my most treasured possessions away from myself, when there isn't any real need to, to the point where, in the past, I've thrown out mementos and awards etc. when I didn't really want to, in the name of decluttering.

D feels it is my response to my early experience and to voluntarily give something valuable away is my way of controlling loss because it would be on my own terms and not by someone else's. It does make a disturbing amount of sense.

I haven't done that in a while (perhaps I have precious few things left...sadly) but now that D has pointed that out, I am in deep thought about this as I have an appointment tomorrow morning to get some of my more valuable hobby equipment evaluated for potential sale.

I would like to think that know I'm "onto it", and aware of it, I will make a decision purely based on its own accord and not led by some past imprinting that no longer serves me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Stereotypes Not to Live By

Not to be outdone :) , I too work with a couple of female "stereotypes" that I am shocked by.

C is a successful business owner who cannot understand why she hasn't found "the one" yet. She feels she has a ton to offer the right guy and has gone on hundreds of dates in the last few years.

Here's the catch. She is looking for someone that is willing to work around her schedule, her life and preferably has health/financial benefits that she would be able to take advantage of once things got more serious....

Need I say more?!

What I do not understand, is why would she be hung up on getting financial benefits when she is doing very very well financially, has a source of passive income and is always on the hunt for other business opportunities!

I don't understand this.

Next up...

D has changed careers a few times in her life. Because of this, she is currently starting a new career where there has been a substantial investment in time and money owed along the way. What is the catch?

There is a burning desire and timeline with respect to having children. And she would allow pregnancy to trump debt and career. So much so, she is willing to have children with someone who has a pass and present history of substance addiction, just so she can meet her biological deadline.

Should things go sour, D would not be able to manage things financially at all, on her own. She cannot manage things right now, sans baby.

I just don't get it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

All Going

The total this time around was 3 large garbage bags full of great clothes, a DVD player, a couple of gifts that was never used, a pizza stone, a desk and a ceiling fan. All of which will be picked up before noon today. Yeah!!!

My closet looks amazing. Things are actually organized. I cannot believe how putting all the similar types of clothing in the same area helps me to appreciate just how much I have. My "need" for work pants isn't near as dire as I thought. Between the pants that have stayed and the skirts and dresses I have, I will not need any more.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Good and the Crazy

There is a bag on the kitchen counter containing a 12 inch pony tail that was cut off the other day. It will be sent away by post next week in support of the cancer society.

I'm happy with my short hair do and I am happy part of me can help out. (My stylist and I were aiming for 8 inches but neither of us had a tape measure so we cut off as much as we could to be safe and hoped for the best)

Didn't get to the sweater try on yesterday but D did his part and we now have a pile of pants and sweaters and shirts that he is giving away.

Over dinner last night, we were discussing "what we would do if we found ourselves in such a spot" with reference to a conversation D had with one of his colleagues.

A is a proud new dad and his wife B is just loving being a mother. Nothing wrong here but B has an addiction to shopping so their debt load (they have a mortgage, lines of credits owing and well as 2 fairly expensive car payments) is growing steadily each week -- to the point where A has asked her to stop buying.

B's response ranges from "I never wanted kids until we got married" to "you just bought yourself such and such...". B has no intentions of going back to work -- she doesn't love it and doesn't feel she needs to.

A is feeling the pressure as he is not only responsible for her students loans and because he has done it time and time again, will continue to be responsible for bailing out the maxed out credit cards each month.

As a woman, I am embarrassed.

B went to university, graduated with a profession and gave it a go for 2 years and never went back. Then it morphed into working overseas but came back with more debt. I believe that I've likely gone to school longer than B has ever worked in her life.

A works about 60 hrs a week. He has just completed a graduate business program as well. He has a spending problem and he feels that creates justification for B to spend too as they are married and everything is "equal".

Personally, I would not be able to stand by and see my spouse work like that and not be worried about health and well being. Nor would I make a decision of never working again, when there is so much debt. Buying expensive things you cannot afford frequently is masking underlying currents of discontent.

In my office, because most of us women are self employed, the ranges of maternity leave have been from 3 weeks (due to husband lay off) to 3 months. That's it. It isn't because those women hate being mothers or wasn't completely torn with having to leave their babies or that they are irresponsible.

There wasn't one of them who didn't cry the first week they were back. It was a matter of making the best decision for their family's current and long term security as well as protection of their respective practices that they spent years building.

Self employed mothers do not get maternity leave benefits. We have to save up on our own. So I am definitely biased when I see families that are not even close to "working together" to create a life where everyone benefits.

The women who weren't self employed mostly took the entire year off except for one who seriously didn't enjoy staying at home and opted to go back to work at 6 months.

The other issue I see is the need to spend and the feeling that one person's spending justifies the other to "match". That has turned into a contest where the stakes are getting higher and higher -- out of anger and spite and "not to be outdone" instead of realizing that by doing so, it chips away at their very foundation.

I think they need to speak to someone about their spiraling debt as well as someone else about their relationship dynamics. I am scared for them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Exciting Times

Yesterday's pant try on was a worthwhile exercise. I had pants in there I had forgotten about. Considering that I just moved 1 1/2 yrs ago, that too is embarrassing!

Total donated will be 7 pairs plus 1 pair to be thrown out. There were 2 pairs (in a past pile labeled for donation) that suddenly "worked" again so I gained in a way!

Not sure if I will have time this morning before heading off to work to attack the next topic --sweaters but if not, then perhaps tomorrow.

Made a decision about summer travel. The winner is Buenos Aires. It will be their spring. My dream account will be all used up for the year. Funny enough, I will have "caught up" on the 3 trips I canceled last year but taken in very different forms from how it was last year. Very excited nevertheless! My Spanish books will get dusted off this weekend!

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Continuing On

I'm embarrassed to admit that I tried on 13 coats (not including ski and currently used winter ones) yesterday... am going to donate 3 of them -- a wool one, a leather one and a suede one.

It happened just like I imagined it would too. I would put a coat on, and there was an immediate feeling of Yes! or No! So the whole process didn't take near the time I thought it would.

This morning will be pants. The pickup of the desk and various kitchen supplies as well as clothing will be on Monday. So this weekend will be cut out for us. I work better at things like this when I have a deadline.

Yesterday I was tempted by fabulous Italy flight deals through Alitalia. No decisions yet but it is fun to "window shop"!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In and Out

My goal today is to try on all of my coats. If the fit is no longer satisfactory, they will be donated to a local store whose profits go directly back into my community. We have a desk in the basement that will go to the same place.

For the past decade or so, I've been ultra aware of what comes into my home -- purchases, gifts etc. For every piece that comes in, I look for one that goes out, so that there can be some semblance of equilibrium. Anyone else do that?

Both D and I are in (almost dire) need of new work pants. They are either worn out or no longer fitting well. If we go shopping this weekend, I would like some current pieces to go first.

One last thing that has been on my mind are sports equipment that are no longer used. I cringed when I made a call inquiring on selling them. The store's cut will be 30% if I sell on consignment and 50% if they buy it directly from me. Ouch!!!

Yet another confirmation to really think before you buy!