Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pays to Keep Searching

We are on a bit of roll with selling stuff. D sold a couple more things yesterday and I bit the bullet and took some old jewellery I don't wear anymore to sell as scrap gold. Things like old hoop and stud earrings, bracelets, pendants etc.

In total, largely due to the high price of gold right now, I netted $770. Not bad for 15 minutes of work. I would highly recommend anyone who has unwanted gold to give it a try! Next stop, silver and diamond rings.

I've decided to keep my camera for now. It is rated really well online and is still worth a bit of money. Once I got reading about it, I got excited about photography again and am considering reviving an old hobby.

My neighbour across the street had his roof replaced this past week. It look like he used a reputable company. It also brought back a slew of memories of the last time we needed a roof repair.

After calling 7 roofers, only 2 got back to me. One told me it wasn't the roof and that we needed new eavestroughs. The other one didn't even climb onto the roof (it is really high and steep but they are roofers, right?!), just measured and gave us a quote for $15000. Not impressed. Our roof was 8 years old...

Finally, I called a roofer I had worked with previously at my last house, who was out of town. His dad had retired but he had taken over the business and I remembered him. He came all the way out, did some detective work, found the leak and fixed it for $400. The rest of the roof was fine.

He said that a lot of roofers don't like fixing roofs. They prefer to do entire roofs. I can understand that from an economical stand point but I feel that if they did a good job, I would use them for the entire roof. Isn't business about building relationships?

While my roofer was here, I asked him to give me an estimate for a whole roof replacement as an FYI. It was reasonable and he will get the job when the time comes. It pays to keep searching with respect to roofing options!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We Are There!

Daisy, over at Frugal Freedom wrote a post a while ago where she realized that her cashable savings was enough to pay off her mortgage entirely. Whether she goes that route is irrelevant. It was the concept of it that had got me thinking since.

When I tallied my cashable assets, I was short. Partly because our cash position wasn't very strong and partly because the markets "took" 50% of it on paper. Now that things seem to be on the incline, when I was updating my NetWorth IQ entry yesterday, I realized we had made it too.

That was a great feeling even though we have no intentions of selling off our stocks etc. but it is nice to know that we had it to sell, should we wish. It is a psychological freedom of sorts. Thanks Daizy, for giving me that idea in the first place!

D has made a couple more sales. The cash is going to supplement our spending money for our next trip.

We've had a couple of small kitchen appliances die on us lately. Our rice cooker and slow cooker. After some thought, we decided to give cooking rice over the stove a go. It has been fine and we haven't bothered to replace it. The old us would have gone shopping for one right away.

As for the slow cooker, D made an executive decision to get another one because he felt the benefits we derive from it far out weights the cost. We were unsuccessful at finding one used and ended up getting one on sale instead. Now D can continue making his famous BBQ pulled pork!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My First Sale

I made my first sale today. Two months ago, I took some hobby equipment to get priced to be sold and have been mulling it over since. I wanted to be sure that I was selling for the right reasons ie. because I really was not going to continue the sport anymore and not because I was taking frugality too far and ridding myself of something I really loved and would not pay to buy it back in the future.

On Tuesday, I woke up with the clarity I needed to make this decision. I felt ready to let it go. So I made an appointment for the transaction and went this morning. It only took 1/2 hr for the exchange and I was handed a check for $2220 -- significantly less than I paid originally but I had made peace with it.

I have to admit that I was a bit sad just before I got into the car to go there. I was saddened by what never got to happen. That I didn't get to a level where I could compete in that sport like I originally intended and all the dreams that went along with it. It was a mini grieving I didn't expect would happen. I guess there was a lot more riding in that equipment that I realized.

By the time I got to the store, I felt much lighter and cheerful. I had made the right decision. By this afternoon, I had forgotten about it -- not until I put the check in the bank, that is.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Online Sale

D made his first online sale! It was for a set of speakers. When we moved 1 1/2 yrs ago to be closer to my work, we upgraded our sound system to complement our projector (in lieu of cable) so these were left over from his old set. The money/product exchange will happen at lunch today.

I've managed to procure a small fireproof safe, a set of binoculars and some archery stuff to sell as well. Am also debating about an old camera.

Nowadays, I rarely buy books anymore. I use the library. The exception to this rule is when someone I know has published their book. Then I will gladly support their venture. I just did just that. This time, it is a book of poetry.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Odds and Sods

As the warmer weather approaches, I've told D that we will be endeavoring to reduce our air conditioner use this summer. This will mean higher temperatures in house.

D's car sale fell through. All I have to say about that is that using the tactic of "low balling" will not endear anyone, especially us.

D has started selling some of his hobby equipment online. I am going to rummage through my things to see if I have anything left worth selling.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I had the good fortune of having wonderful mentors around me during school. One of them, I just found out, has passed away, peacefully.

I am going to save what I originally was going to write about for another day because it doesn't seem important right now.

This is a welcomed reminder to be grateful for great experiences and even more so for great people.

Love the ones who love you. Stop wasting time trying to change those who will not even meet you half way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dinner Party

No go for the Drive-In this weekend. My excuse was the mosquitoes. They seem to be out in droves, earlier than usual. D can get bitten half a dozen times and won't be phased but one bite for me results in a huge welt that last a week.

I chose our particular latitude for the cottage because of previous experience farther north where mosquitoes, black flies and deer flies exists. We only get mosquitoes and usually only for the month of June and then no need for bug spray for the rest of the summer.

We are heading to a dinner party tonight. For the last few years we have developed a routine of hosting or going to them about 3 times a month. The ones hosting provides the food and the guests will bring wine and dessert.

It has made a huge difference in our pocketbooks as dinners out could easily cost $150 per couple multiplied by 3 times a month!

Luckily, our friends and I enjoy cooking and trying out different types of foods and recipes. So the results have been steadily getting better such that we don't feel like we are settling for a less good or interesting meal.

It's our turn to bring dessert and we are bringing a banana cream pie (with real banana chunks) from one of our favorite bakeries in cottage land.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yeah, Weekend!

We are heading up to the cottage for the weekend. This will also be the first time this season we get to see some movies at the local Drive-In theatre.

I had never been to a Drive-In ever until the cottage came into my life. Man, is it ever fun! Now, I especially look forward to the long weekends where they show 4 movies and we don't come home until 4am! D isn't too keen on those. I just call him an old man! : )

Needless to say, the food there is pretty great. And I buy pretty much everything -- onion rings, fries, hot dogs, popcorn etc. I tend to do the same thing at baseball games, hockey games etc. I think food is part of the experience.

It also guarantees I work out furiously over the next week to get rid of the excess calories!

I have to admit that I am typing this from our desktop computer. I haven't made the transition to D's laptop yet -- intend to figure out my new schedule for next week. I don't make changes as quickly as I would like sometimes!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Life Continues

We got our first 2 string beans harvest already. I am beginning to think that we didn't plant enough plants because that won't be enough for a meal.

Maybe once everything gets going, it will make a difference! All the plants have gone through a bit of shock being transferred outside. I do expect them to bounce back soon.

Meanwhile, I've been investigating some sites that have charts showing the energy usage of household things ie. appliances, computers, treadmills etc.

Was I ever shocked to find that my treadmill uses around the same amount of energy as a dryer!

And our desktop computer uses 4 times the amount of an average laptop and computer speakers drain quite a bit as well!

I took my laptop out west and left it at the ski condo so that I could use it there and I am currently on our desktop. I'm thinking that the laptop is coming home with me.

Other options would be to use D's laptop which would mean changing when I blog, do banking etc. A relatively small issue compared to the power savings.

I would encourage everyone to look at their local power utility website as a starting point to get more info about this. We cannot change when we don't have adequate info.

D's car brake lines were replaced yesterday to the tune of around $833. His friend, after being told about D's previous experience buying a car from a neighbour did not seem phased at all.

The next step will happen next Monday when D's friend will be taking the car to his mechanic for an opinion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fun Times

First day back to work went well. I seem to need time away in order to appreciate what I have. My patience level was great and I didn't feel rushed. I was still rolling along at a comfortable pace.

It allowed me to gage whether my software booking program was doing a good job because I like the way things worked yesterday and would like it to continue as my regular working speed.

The actual amount I made over my May take home estimate was $789.48. I've started a new savings account called "Extra" and have put it in there. It will likely be put towards our next Nfld trip.

On the subject of extras, we just purchased tickets to see a rock concert -- Depeche Mode! They are playing near my town but we decided to travel and see them at a venue and city that would be more fun.

Going to see them have been on my "list of things I would love to do when the opportunity is right" for a long time, since high school, to be exact. They played on the night of my high school formal and I so wanted to be there (it was their Violator tour). And now I finally get to go.

The funny thing is, they have been on tour many times since then and I did not make a move until now. Why? If I love them so much? Because I have been living a pretty one track mind for the last 10 years. Putting off things until... no more!

It's amazing how many "little" things can bring such joy that can enhance life along the way, rather than be put off until some magical period in time, somewhere in the future! I feel like a teenager again!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back Home

Alaska was awe inspiring. I want to go back and if I was American, I would be looking to have a second home there. I found the people there warm and open and calm. It was great.

It is back to business for me today.

The saga with D's potential car sale continues. The person who is interested in his car is a friend and D is feeling awkward about that.

D had previous experience with buying a used car from a neighbour and the day after he bought it, the alternator died and ended up costing him $600. D is having some flashbacks about that and isn't sure how he would feel if his car did something like that shortly after it changed hands.

Before D's car can even be sold, the brake lines will have to be replaced. He was quoted around $700 or so for the job and it will be scheduled to be done this week. That was a surprise piece of news I did not expect to get when I got home!

On the other hand, we made a change last night for the better.

D is used to having a deep freeze in the basement. His mother always had one and it is filled to the brim with food. So, we have one too.

I did not grow up with one so it was a new idea for me.

I've been pushing for another one month experiment where we eat up the food in there and turn it off to see what affect it will have on our hydro bill. D was hesitant about it but we did it last night.

We didn't have to eat up everything. I managed to organize our refrigerator freezer to make it accommodate all the frozen meat we had downstairs. The only thing that was sacrificed was the ice maker (which I am not a fan of anyways).

It was surprising for both of us that with a bit of organization, our existing freezer can do the job of the downstairs one and we had been paying for 2 appliances to do essentially one job. Now that we are eating less and less meat, an extra freezer makes less and less sense.

One other thing D did when I was away was to buy a special waterproof concrete paint and apply it to the walls of our unfinished part of the basement. It is made to seal concrete and to help with keeping down any humidity there. I'm hoping that it will make a difference in the amount of time the dehumidifier gets used. Again, it is a compressor and (in my mind) uses a lot of electricity.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


It looks like my extra income (amount greater than projected) for the month will be around the $750 mark. More than I was anticipating, a nice surprise.

There has been a number of capitol purchases this year for the house and cottage. Things that won't need to be bought again for hopefully a decade or so ie. mattresses.

This has tested our new workings accounts (For those who don't know about this, they are individual savings accounts that I am building up so that they will have enough to pay for yearly maintenance costs as well as a single large cost, like a roof, car etc).

From a life perspective, this year has been clipping along at a good pace so far.

Each year I attempt to put in place a pattern of time off based on my last year's experience. For example -- If I felt that by certain times of the year, I'm feeling worn out and exhausted, the following year, I would reserve some time then in hopes

I won't get to that point physically or mentally again. I cannot entirely point the finger at work for this. A lot of times, it is my other commitments that can use up energy. Each year is different. Things come up -- sometimes really fun things and they will shift plans accordingly.

Now that we are into May, I am happy to report that I am not exhausted, just slightly tired and achy. Mentally and emotionally very good. This has been my goal for the past few years.

To transition back to a place where I have enough time off prior to exhaustion and enough fitness, so that holidays can be more active and exploratory verses forced restorative -- Having to lay down because I had gotten so dragged out.

So I will head to Alaska with a pretty filled gas tank and I look forward to discovering its ins and outs as well as the chance to eat some great Halibut and Crab.

Back in 1 1/2 weeks.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sounds Too Good To Be True?

Wow. Do I have a story for you.

I just found out of a Charity Scam that went around a few years back whereby loads of people "invested" in this start up charity and for their efforts, got large tax refunds immediately after. The returns were in the 17% range for someone who made $55000.

Apparently, people were asking their family members who couldn't afford to "invest" to put through these receipts on behalf of others who can. When the refunds would come in the mail, it "confirmed" that this was legitimate and subsequently set off a fury of activity and many an investment account were cashed out in order to participate in this "charity".

Fast forward 1 year. The scam was revealed in the papers. I didn't pay any real attention. And Revenue Canada started its investigations.

Someone I know told me they got their letter of re-assessment last summer. The government wasn't allowing this charitable donation and they want their money back with interest. For this person, it means $19350 for something that happened in 2005.

It didn't end here. There was a second "donation" in 2006 to the tune of $60000. So they are anticipating another audit result to appear and this is causing sleep disturbance. Monies has already had to be borrowed in order to pay back what is owing to the government.

The most difficult thing about this for me to understand?

This person allowed a family member to use their income tax form to put it through and monies gotten from the donation was given to the family member. Now that the government isn't allowing this claim through, the family member has refused to pay back this person. There have been people who have had to declare bankruptcy over this.

The charity wasn't a charity. But, allowing someone to claim something that isn't yours on your tax form is fraud. It is not different from carrying someone else's stuff you know nothing about in your luggage for them at an airport...

I feel awful for this person. The family isn't a family anymore. I suggest they continue to ask for the former family members (Son and ex-wife) to do the right thing and own up to making a poor decision and let's fix this situation together.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On Pensions

I got "ticked off" at a comment made by someone the other day. It basically was bemoaning their husband's fully funded and indexed pension and how they cannot possible live off of it....

If I had to come up with enough savings to pay me $45000 after taxes a year for the rest of my life, indexed, with no fear of it disappearing, I'd need an excess of 1 million dollars! Not easy to muster up, especially when she never had a career that "brought home the bacon"!

Not only that, she makes her husband go back to work on contract after he had retired in his 60's, stating, that it is only a 4 days a week, when she quits her job, retires at the age of 57 and refused to go back for a day or 2 when asked because she is enjoying retirement so much. Where is the partnership here?

Perhaps I was oversensitive. I know how much discipline it takes to stay in a career that isn't fun all the time, save money and pay off a mortgage very quickly. It isn't easy. I'd be quite happy and grateful to have a pension, to be paid in addition to getting paid...just for showing up! She has never had to live a life where a significant portion of income needed to be saved in order to plan for future.

It is easy to spend most of what you make when you know you don't need to save. And yes, it is nice to be able to chose the best choices when eating and travelling with such a high disposable income but when all of the people you are speaking to, do not have pensions and cannot spend in such a way, some sensitivity is in order. I would bet that should she have to save 50% of their household income towards retirement, their lives would have been dramatically altered.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting Married Revisited

I am warning everyone that this will not be a frugal post.

Miss M is in process of planning her wedding and honeymoon next year and asked if I had any ideas.

Yes I do! Whether they are relevant to her and her love's style, I don't know...

This question brought back a slew of memories for me because during my first relationship with a very non frugal guy, a long time ago, I would daydream about ways to get married that was different, fun and meaningful to the couple, as I felt that was what the union was supposed to be about.

Here was my top 3 choices in no particular order:

1) Rent out The Inn on Mt Ada, Catalina Island and fly a very small group out there to participate in our union. We would pay for everything and it would be a great backdrop for what we considered an intimate and "traditional" gathering. Wow, seeing those pictures again was great.

2) Get Married Polynesian style. One of my closest girlfriends hails from Tahiti. When she told me about the philosophy of her cultural weddings, I was taken. The idea is that the Man, has to earn his way to his Woman. So, he has to prove his worth by braving waves in an outrigger canoe in order to fetch his to-be wife in time to have a sunset ceremony under a sacred arch. The ceremony is to be just the bride and groom and a local priest where you are expected to learn your lines in local language. Afterwards, celebrate with friends and family with canapes.

This was by far the most expensive choice. The whole experience included a few nights at each society island (Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora etc. as well as a 3 night cruise to the Cook Islands). The ceremony wasn't considered "legal" to North America standards back when I was searching. So we were going to get married at a local Justice of the Peace first, then have our ceremony later.

3) Get Married Navajo style. I have a real love for the Southwest US -- Arizona, Utah. So, it would make sense that I had looked into getting married by a Navajo Indian Chief. The union of the couple is a union of the spirit. The ceremony is simple, by cliff side, and an intricate, handmade blanket is used to drape over the shoulders of the bride by her groom as a symbol of the union. Indian Sign Language is used to signal certain parts of the ceremony.

Wow, seeing those pictures again was great. Remember, I was daydreaming these dreams when I was 26 yrs old! As my readers know, I didn't chose any of the above, including the guy. I had a great time researching the symbolic representation of marriage though and still feel it would be really cool to re-marry every so often in different ways to renew your commitment to each other.

On that note, I'd love to have a ceremony at Bourges -- my all time favorite Gothic Cathedral.

Not sure if any of the ideas appeal, Miss M, thanks for the opportunity to go down memory lane!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Car Revisited

There is a rumour that D may have a buyer for his car!

Last fall, I brought up the notion of going down to a 1 car family. (Mind you, after walking home in torrential rain earlier this week, I was thinking, "What are you thinking?!") Our insurance costs would be halved and I wouldn't have to budget for double the tires, maintenance etc.

I hope this lead is fruitful. It won't impact him at all because he would be driving my car -- it's just not his car -- and we drive the same car, same year, just different colours... that wasn't deliberate, we met that way!

I have already observed our local transit system and know what the schedule is, should I encounter a day where walking isn't a great idea. The bus gets me within a block of my work for around $2, so a pretty good deal. The bus stop is probably about 1 min away.

I'm going to keep $2 in my wallet in a special location, just in case this all pans out.

Off to a different topic now...

As an ongoing theme of reducing hobbies that have a relatively high cost per use, I've knocked scuba diving off my wish list. Ballroom dance lessons is likely to be next -- though if I ever decide to take a job as an instructor, I may get to use my dancing shoes again... this is one of my dream jobs!

Friday, May 1, 2009

So You Wanna Hike the Grand Canyon?

I Cannot Believe it! I managed to have gotten through on the busiest day of each month to Central Reservations at Xanterra Resorts to get what?

To Get Accommodations At The Bottom Of The Grand Canyon!!!!! Yippeee!!!!

They sell out like concert tickets -- in 1/2 hr!

They open up a new month's worth of accommodations 13 months in advance so our reservations are for May 2010. You cannot just show up down there and those who camp have to apply for permits way in advance too.

D is super pumped as he has not hiked it before. My last hike down was 10 years ago.

This is the first of our 2010 efforts to travel more budget -- to help balance out this year's adventures.

I started re-dialing 5 minutes to and I wasn't alone as I got busy signal after busy signal. There are 30 lines that once open, pretty much wipes out the inventory.

I got through about 2 minutes after 7am mountain time and I told the agent that I feel like I've won a lottery.

Reservations have to be paid fully in advance and you also have to order all your meals at the same time as food is carried down by miles.

As the path is fairly narrow (not much more than 2 ft), without railings at about 10000 ft, with mules getting the right of way, hikers have to squash themselves against the rock wall in order to let them pass. I would not recommend this hike for children.

There are also no active rangers on the route. Hikers are advised to bring a small mirror to reflect light up to the top as there are rangers with binoculars looking down for signs of distress.

Depending on the trail you take, there may not be potable water available so you would need to carry min. 1 litre for each hour you take -- it gets heavy!

Coming up will tend to take much longer than coming down -- think double -- so an early start is a really good idea as temperature skyrocket pretty fast. You would like to make it to a certain elevation (almost 1/2 way) by 9am.

Cell phone reception is unreliable/non existent. Make sure you have adequate travel medical insurance that includes emergency helicopter transport.