Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve

The biggest challenge for me this year has been work politics. 2009 also marked the most frugal year we've ever had. It felt good (most of the time) and when it didn't, we made corrections to get back on track.

Most often it was due to being too "extreme" with respect to cut backs causing the reflex boomerang response which undid things and under minded the intent. So a more moderate approach made for happier living.

My sense of days and times have been off the last few weeks. It's a great thing to be able to wake up with the sun, nap when tired and not care what day of the week it is. That must be what retirement or a good holiday is all about!

So I woke to find out today is New Year's Eve. We don't have any big plans to party this year, though a good meal is in the works (crab legs).

I wish you all a happy close of 2009 and a happy 2010 ring in. It is wonderful to share this journey with so many great people like you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting Back on Track

Still on the travel research cycle here. I'm repricing flights to see if I can make the current travel restrictions easier. We are lucky in that we live close enough to fly out of an American airport.

It may mean a drive down and hotel stay the night before. Yes, that would increase the over all cost of the trip but the obvious benefit is that I'll have crossed the US border by car.

I've been working on a travel itinerary to Iceland where it would take me 3 flights to get there -- all on different airlines which means re-checking in each leg. I had mentally gotten over it.

Now that it may take 3 hrs to get on a flight to the US, my connection times of 2 hrs in between each leg may not be enough even for someone who won't have a lot of luggage.

On different note, I've been eating a lot of junk foods lately. I may have put on a few pounds and it may also be causing some of the headaches I'm experiencing as I do not normally consume a lot of sugar. Time to get back on track.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Slow Day

Quiet day today. We are catching up on our favorite Food Network shows. It never fails to make me want to eat-- and travel, depending on the show!

Been working my way through my books as well. It's going slower than I expected. It never fails to amaze me how content I am just looking out the window and watching the scenery. Time just flies.

My attempt at starting a homeopathic detox over my holidays has given me headaches. Probably wasn't the smartest idea to give it go at this time of year when I snack more than at any other time of year!

I was hoping that my bank would show the current transactions today but no luck. Our banks in Canada weren't opened yesterday. I'm waiting to see some payments put through last week on our Visa register online as it is due today.

Keeping finances in order during the holiday season has its challenges. There was a lot of juggling going on for us as my last pay check of the year is waiting for me at my office so we had to make sure we can get everything taken care of with D's income. With the new budget categories we are setting up for next year, the end of 2010 will be easier.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Age Travel

The latest attempted airplane bombing has left me wondering about the airlines and how their way of doing business and how our way of traveling by plane will change again.

When the markets plunged this year, people were re-evaluating how they are handling their money. With increased security and delays at airport check points, people who do not need to travel for business may be thinking twice or 3 times before considering air travel. I can understand that. And I can understand if road trips, bus or train travel business get a boost due to the latest news.

How will that impact me?

D and I discussed this over the last couple of days and we believe a new era for air travel is already here. It is a new reality that will need to be accepted. If not, then people will find other ways to get to where they wish or not go at all.

Having caught the travel bug in the last week or so, I have been looking at a few perspective travel itineraries, 2 of which fly through or to the US. I am not scared to fly. I just know that the coming months will be chaotic and I would prefer to do those itineraries once the initial hype is over.

I happen to have traveled during the first few days when liquids where first restricted at Heathrow. The tension was palpable as no airport staff wanted to be the one that messed up. Others who did not know of the new restrictions were distressed when told they would have to dump their $90 face cream or morning yogurt.

Out of the places I was researching, only one (Havana) doesn't involve a connection through the US. I am going to wait and see how things settle before committing to anything.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In Order

We are heading into town again today for another lunch out and some more grocery shopping. It will be fun. The sun is supposed to be shining and the temperatures very temperate for winter.

I've had to come up a better way to handle the yearly various misc. expenses better ie. vitamins, cat sitting etc. I have to admit, I've just been paying it and taking money out of general revenue when in reality, they are predictable and expected.

The best explanation is probably laziness on my part with a dollop of denial. I didn't want to admit that it adds up to around $1200 each year and deserves its own category.

So, I've modified my spreadsheet for next year to incorporate it. The effect will be a less jumbled looking sheet.

Time has been passing by quickly. It is nearing the 2 week mark for us out here and I don't want to go leave yet nor have I been bored at all.

I wondered yesterday just how long it would take, if left to my own devices, before I would even want to go back to my regular/working life.

Should I win a lottery any time soon, I shall be testing that out. I probably ought to start buying tickets first...

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Merry Christmas Round Up

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating!!!

I love watching the sun rise over the mountains. It is a clear morning and D will be preparing our Christmas breakfast of banana chocolate buttermilk pancakes with choice of sausage or bacon. Yummy!

The resort had a parade and fireworks last night. We were able to catch most of it from our front window. It was fun and joyous.

It has been over a year since I discovered and signed onto NetWorth IQ. I am happy to find that for 2009, we have seen a significant increase due to the recovering economy bringing our stock values back up and a concerted effort on our part to save and pay off the mortgage.

The numbers stand as such. January 2009 net worth -- $520 004 vs. December 2009 -- $652 555, for a difference of $132 551. All in all, a great year.

We are expecting our savings trend to continue next year as there isn't anything dramatic planned in 2010 that I know of right now... travel wise, I'm looking into some cool stuff but money wise, not really.

Have a great day, however you may be spending it!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Graciousness

I find it amusing the number of recent blog posts slamming travel as a worthwhile activity. The topic could easily be substituted with a myriad of other subjects.

What strikes me as strange is the strength of emotion behind the posts. If I didn't know better (or maybe I do), it sounds almost prejudice in quality.

If the topic was approached from the direction of environmental impact, I would understand it more. Calling an activity a waste of time or unnecessary, I feel is inappropriate and unkind.

Not everyone appreciate or enjoys the same hobbies or past times. Not everyone wants children. Not everyone enjoys home ownership. I would not label their choices as wrong just because it is different from mine.

We are fortunate to be living in a country where one can pursue various interests and past times. To knock another person's choice is a petty way of being "right". I would prefer to describe that as a bad case of self righteousness.

What happened to being gracious and open minded to differences? I happen to enjoy reading and hearing about how differently people live their lives. There is much to learn from each other.

Sometimes it confirms the path I am on. Sometimes it changes my path. Both are good.

A wonderful Christmas Eve to Everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snow Report

I've been keeping a keen eye out on my local Ontario weather. Why would I care?

Because we have contracted out our snow removal to a local fellow so I want to keep track of which days he would be working.

We are paying him $25 each time to clear snow from our driveway and walkways as well as to sprinkle environment friendly ice melter as needed.

Our house is on a fairly large corner lot and there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. I don't want anyone to slip. That is one expense those of us who live in a northern climate have to consider when going away.

As much as I wish a white Christmas for those who want one, I'm also hoping that people who have to drive far will have clear highways and byways.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spending Round Up

As I was sipping (gulping is likely more accurate) my peppermint mocha the other day, I said to D that I have spent more money at Starbucks this year than the last 5 years combined. By more I mean around the $50 mark. I don't seem to be tiring of that drink.

Each year both Starbucks and Second Cup introduce their holiday drink series and Starbucks has hit the mark with my taste buds this season. When I fly home in 2 weeks, I will be looking forward to my next dose at the airport!

As the year draws to a close, I'd like to round up the major spending that went on in 2009. My handy dandy spreadsheet is invaluable for this as I have forgotten more than I realize.

Travel starts the list off with flights purchased to France, Argentina, Alaska and Newfoundland on top of our usual ones for BC. We also prepaid for accommodations at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I put new tires and front brakes (2nd set ever) on my car along with some oil spray. D got rid of his car and replaced it with a used one. Before he was able to trade it in, his old car got new brake lines. His new to him car got snow tires and rims and oil sprayed.

We upgraded the insurance on our properties, I bought new skis and donated to various charitable causes.

Had I sprung for the EVO, it would have topped everything on the list (outside of the house in NF that also didn't materialize) but I didn't and looking back, it was the right decision for then. No promises in the coming years though...

Speaking of cars, I am still very pleased with mine. Had I gotten a new one, our plan was to keep mine because it is the most practical for the cottage. We had planned to take D's car to the airport a week ago but had to make a last minute switch as it couldn't hold all of our luggage...

The EVO would be in the same boat as the trunk is practically non existent because they designed it for balance, not practicality (the battery and windshield washer fluid are in the trunk for even weight distribution -- so is the subwoofer).

Looking to next year, I will likely be replacing my rear drum brakes. They are squeaking pretty good right now and have never been replaced since '97. I was last told in the fall that there was 35% left. People get out of my way because I sound like I am not able to stop. It makes me giggle.

Other than that, I am not anticipating much else outside of oil changes for next year... knock on wood. The rate I am driving it, it won't be ready for the next timing belt for years. I have 272K on it and the next belt is due around 360K.

Sure, I have some surface rust and got a quote a couple of summers ago. I didn't want to spend the money on it and we are working to doing some work ourselves.

I told D I put my foot down on the fiberglass stuff. It stinks so bad, I almost faint from it (bad previous experience with my parents' car). If the rust ever gets so bad I would need filler, then I'm making the appointment at the body shop.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Daily News

Each morning around 8:30am, the ski and snowboard instructors here take off en masse down their first run of the day to scout out the day's terrain and where they will be bringing their respective groups of students.

I look forward to seeing them each day in their black Descente jackets, red ski pants and striped pom pom hats. Man, would I love to be part of that group, despite the weather being less than ideal lately (very foggy) and how challenging it would be teaching in it.

Time is going by quickly here. In a couple of days I will have been here a week already. Hardly seems possible. This year we've gotten more established and organized. When we were in town the other day, we brought back a few bags of groceries.

It wasn't too bad at all price wise, around $58. We remember that last year, each time we'd be at the local grocers, which was every day, we'd inevitably spend $24 daily. It adds up after a few weeks.

Our frugality efforts at home has definitely rubbed off here as well. Over the year, we have become smarter and more efficient food shoppers.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No More Pant Shopping

We went into town for the day yesterday and reacquainted ourselves with a host of favorite places to eat and shop.

There were some clothing deals to be had and I came back home with a couple of pairs of pants to replace some ailing ones I have. Those being replaced won't be thrown out but relegated as official cottage and ski bum wear.

I cannot describe the frustration I felt when I was jean shopping. By the time I was done, I was seriously starting to sweat. Trying on clothing isn't a enjoyable thing for me at the best of times so when you throw in the size chart differences at respective stores, I liken it as fun as a trip to the dentist.

The store I bought my jeans from was Jacob. Their pants are sized according to what I think is hip size. Because when I chose what I thought was my waist size, I couldn't get those pants up past my knees. I realize that my mental body image may deviate far from reality but I honestly couldn't believe it could be that far off!

I ended up 5 sizes larger before they fit well. Lucky for me, I don't get upset with things like that nor do I get offended or embarrassed with the final size number. The most important thing for me is that they fit, they don't exposed half of my behind when I squat and can sit down comfortably.

It is beyond my comprehension just how some girls and women fit into some jean/pants. Some are so skinny, I don't think I could get my arm down them, much less tuck them into long boots as the current style seems to dictate. I know that I probably sound like some old grizzled woman here.

The store manager was the one helping me yesterday and she was very sympathetic to my cause. After the 3rd try on, I was starting to get frustrated and told her that the pants I wore into the store was a size 2 from The Gap, maybe she would know how to convert it to their sizing.

Now that I know what size I am for that store (30), then I will be able to hopefully avoid a repeat of my experience yesterday. Considering I wear my pants for years before they get worn out, sizing charts may have change by then.

I had an easier time at Esprit. Their pants were sized from zero onwards. I'm more familiar with that way and ended up fitting into their size 4. Poor D was the stereotypical guy waiting on the bench outside the storefront. The 2 pairs of pants plus a scarf added up to $87.01.

A great lunch at our favorite British fish and chips place and a post lunch Peppermint Mocha helped to ease my morning pain in the behind.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2010 Monies

I did a quick tally before leaving work a few days ago to see how I fared for Jan '10 income. As I mentioned before, I get paid a month later so the days I worked in Dec will constitute income for 2010. It is a great feeling knowing I've already done 1 month of next year's work already.

Unless something goes awry, I ought to be coming up slightly ahead of my projected income for January. A great way to start the year and a great thought to end 2009 with. I'll know the exact amount when I get back.

As for 2010 projections, I haven't changed anything from 2009. I did do that one exercise recently to see just how low my income can go before I have to sacrifice goals and it was tempting to lower it.

I decided to lower only when actual income has gone down or up for good ie. business reaching a new level. I didn't feel that lowering projections was good for me mentally. It would feel as if I've already accepted it. There was no reason to.

Some people separate the concept of debt into "good" vs. "bad". It is easy to understand why though I don't tend to do that. To me, debt is debt. It is money I owe.

Sure, some debt represents things that will make me money and some will not. Just like some educational degrees are for self interest and some graduate with tools that will enable a lucrative career. So not all education is "good" debt.

A mortgage for a property that I do intend to sell wouldn't seem like good debt to me as any capital gains may lay unrealized until I die. Whereas a mortgage for a rental property that benefits me while I'm alive appears better.

For me I just lump everything in one pile for ease of remembering. I prefer bottom line numbers anyway.

If someone has 10 credit cards with different balances, a few line of credits, a mortgage, a car loan etc. etc. I'd just add it all up and deal with it from there. A whole number makes a bigger impact and doesn't allow the mind to minimize what is really owed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

BC Calling

The number is currently 43 and climbing. No, not our ages but the number of Windows updates my laptop is requiring after being dormant since March. And it is taking forever. So this is one con of not bringing it home with me.

After our laptop vs. netbook research in the past month, I thought I would be dissatisfied with my older laptop but surprising I'm not. In fact, I like my laptop more. It has held up to the test of time in appearance and size.

I would prefer that it was 50% lighter but I am content with it and will again, leave it here until I return. Now that I know it will need to catch up for a while, it won't be as much of a shock next time.

We get 99% of our bills online now and this morning our gas bill came covering the period between mid Nov to Mid Dec. In fact, they had just done the reading 2 days before we left for BC.

Natural gas prices did come down significantly from last year. Remember I had mentioned how unsatisfying it was to have reduced usage 50% and still pay the same? Well, I have some hard numbers now to back that up.

For mid Nov - mid Dec '08, our usage was 346 cubic metres costing 33.5 cents per cubic metre. The bill came to $171.55.

For mid Nov - mid Dec '09, our usage was 177 cubic metres costing 19.9 cents per cubic metre. The bill came to $52.82.

As D already segregated the monies for utilities, we now have a small windfall which will go towards groceries and eating out as food prices here are still kinda crazy.

I was shaking my head at the $6.83 tag on a jar of "Classico" spaghetti sauce and the $2.85 can of Campbells chicken noodle soup the other day. Thank goodness we are able to bring some food with us in our luggage.

Otherwise it has been a smooth transition back to our western home. We got to ride up with the same driver who brought me back to the airport in March. I think I freaked him out when I mentioned some of the things we had talked about.

He was the interesting scuba diving, computer programmer fellow who had talked me into taking up snowboarding. He was still shaking his head in disbelief that I would remember him when he left us at our doorstep. D was warned not to ever lie to me...

I hope we meet up again. He and his wife went to Alaska for 2 weeks around the same time I was there and I would love to hear about his experiences.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Canadian Mortgage How To's

In response to a comment question, I decided to modify and re-post my long answer in case anyone else is interested in how mortgages work in Canada.

  1. When you get a mortgage here, you commit to an overall time frame ie. 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 yr amortization.
  2. Then you pick the type of mortgage, variable or fixed rate, open or closed.
  3. Finally you pick your term ie. 1-5yrs. That and your credit rating will determine your rate.
  4. You are committed for the duration of the term to whatever rules apply to your mortgage. Our banks don't like it when you pay too fast and too soon so they penalize. Open mortgages allows you to pay it off any time you want but the rate is quite high and the term short -- currently 6.55% for a max. 1 year term.
  5. When the term is up, then you renegotiate for the next block of time, choosing the type of mortgage product you wish and this continues until you reach the end of your amortization.

Thus, you are privy to whatever is happening to the world at the time of renewal. We are just "lucky" that the rates have dropped in our variable mortgage because the economy has tanked. This is the 4th and 5th house I've bought in my lifetime and the first time rates have fallen so dramatically.

Two years ago, we amortized for 12 years, taking a 5 year variable, closed mortgage. Eight months later, we did the same for the ski condo at a slightly higher rate. When both 5 year terms ends in 3 years or so, I don't want to renegotiate as I would likely have to at a much higher rate.

That's why we are doing what we are doing, within the confines of our mortgage rules. Luckily, we can get very close to our goal despite their rules. I have cash and a line of credit that charges prime + 1% I will use to pay out the rest of the mortgage if there is an amount left over in 3 years. I don't want an open mortgage unless my bank makes me offer that beats my line of credit.

Finally, in Canada we are not allowed to write off mortgage interest on our income tax so it is in our best interest to get rid of a mortgage ASAP.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Packing and More Packing

Finishing up our packing has been overwhelming. It always starts off like a bit of a challenge as we are managing foodstuffs and some kitchen appliances. I'm fairly good spatially and D is very good with estimating relative weights.

It took about 3 combinations between the 4 suitcases in order to protect the right things, weigh in under 50 pds per suitcase and have it packed such that when vertical, nothing gets too squashed all the while leaving room for the morning of stuff. After all that, I haven't done my personal packing yet.

My stuff doesn't take long and will be housed in my 2 carry ons. It looks like it will be mostly books this year. I am starting to really appreciate the concept of the Kindle now as I stuff my 8th book into my knapsack.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mortgage Roundup

It is close enough to the end of the year that I can round up our mortgage progress for 2009.

We only have one more payment left, due to come out on Christmas day and I am able to calculate what we end up with.

We started Jan 2009 with mortgage balances of:
  • $140055.95 on the main house, 10 yrs 3 months amortization, 2.60% rate
  • $48462.59 on the ski condo, 10 yrs 2 months amortization, 2.74% rate

We end Dec 2009 with mortgage balances of:

  • $116458.84, 5 yrs 8 months, 1.35% rate
  • $34626.77, 4 yrs 7 months, 1.50% rate

For a decrease of:

  • $23597.11 in principal for main house
  • $13835.82 in principal for ski condo

Friday, December 11, 2009

End of Week, End of Year

It has been extra busy socially as of late. Something about the end of a year that seems to make people realize they haven't seen enough of each other during the year and now is the time to do it before Dec 31st.

I am enjoying the extra lunches and dinners. My pocket book has taken a bit of a hit because of it. In fact D has a breakfast and an after work function while I have a dinner out with a girlfriend tonight. Tomorrow night is another dinner party and Monday another lunch for me. Good stuff.

Next week is my last quarterly tax installment for the year. I am leaving the amount as is, even though I know I will owe next year but I don't want to mess up my cash flow for the rest of December. Remember I won't have access to the second half of my pay cheque until Jan.

We are about 75% packed. I'm afraid it is me that is lagging behind this year. I just haven't felt like it. It won't take me long, probably less than 1/2 hr so that is probably why I haven't bothered. I know I can get it together in no time.

I took a closer look at our last hydro and water bill of the year yesterday and found an interesting fact. Last Nov. we were in France for 1 1/2 wks. This year we didn't go but I took the time off anyways. The usage amounts were almost identical. I'm very pleased with our conservation efforts.

We also got a notice of rate changes for hydro. As our province is slowly switching to "smart meters" (our cottage already got her's), it was a reminder of what we will be paying at different times of the day.

Currently we are paying 5.8 cents per kilowatt hour any time of the day. Smart meter pricing will really help all of us understand the true fluctuation and demand on the system. The on peak price will be 9.3 cents/kwh, mid peak price will be 8 cents/kwh and off peak price will be 4.4 cents/kwh.

This will make a big impact on changing peoples' usage habits. I know we will be doing laundry and most of everything we can within reason on off peak hours. We are lucky that weekends are considered off peak and what is when we are at the cottage most often. We will have to switch gears to our new reality when we are there for week long durations.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Selling Stuff Summary

I made a sale earlier in the week and have been tracking its course to BC since. Even though it is insured and sent, I like to know it got there OK and they like it.

This item is likely the last thing I will sell before 2009 ends. It was a couple of pieces of Swarovski crystal (gifts from a long time ago) which brought in $105 not including shipping.

Overall monies made this year from my first ever selling stuff attempt clocks in just over $5000. I'm fairly comfortable now with selling. If you remember, it was D who started it off by selling a set of his old speakers.

When we upgraded our sound system, they've been sitting in our basement. Not to be outdone (I have a nasty competitive streak), I decided to try my hand at it. Glad I did because I've really enjoyed the experience.

This year I've been responsible for over $4000 of total sales and we have parted with: A hand held VHF radio, lots of hobby equipment, gold and silver jewellery, concert tickets, voice activated recorder, a mini safe, binoculars, receiver, several sets of speakers, center channel console and crystal.

D thinks he is out of things to sell. I'm getting really close to that conclusion myself though I'll still go through the household with a fine tooth comb and see what I can come up with for next year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Gail's blog post today struck a chord with me. She wrote about the halo effect -- how we are influenced by how we perceive others. It brought me way back to when I was between 10 - 13 yrs old.

My music and ballet classes were held on Bloor Street in Toronto. I walked that stretch of Bloor between St. George and Yonge St for many years of my life.

Those who are familiar with those few blocks would know that is where some of the biggest names in fashion and jewellery are found -- Chanel, Max Mara, Holt Renfrew, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany, Hermes etc. etc.

I remember when my aunt was looking for a shop space for her business. She insisted on looking in Yorkville (same region) because that is where the "action" was. I also remember how she would covet the Louis Vuitton store and when she and my other aunt bought their first purse there, it was a big deal.

Personally, I still don't see what the big deal is. Even as a 10 yr old, I didn't understand what the appeal was. I really like their steamer trunks and luggage collection but I wouldn't spend the money to buy it, even now.

So I grew up thinking someday, I would also be shopping at those stores. After all, I've had many years of window shopping under my belt and I had aunts who were grooming me for the "good life".

I still remember the very first thing I bought at Holt Renfrew. It was a hair clip that cost $55. I remember being pretty giddy about it.

Then came the time when I was shopping for a Tag watch. And the time when I realized I owned 59 pairs of shoes from Town Shoes. And the first time I spent $600 on a coat. And the time when I bought a plane ticket for $2200.

Those days are long gone now. I moved myself out of Toronto deliberately so that I wouldn't be so swayed by status and wants. Not all thing expensive caught my eye then nor now.

The things I would still buy are worth it from a design or function perspective, not because they have a great name. Sadly, there are many poor quality things that have a big name attached to it.

In my senior high school economics class, I won a contest on "conspicuous consumption" by providing the most expensive item you could buy that wasn't jewellery, electronics, cars or houses.

What did I win with? A haute couture gown by Yves Saint Laurent found at Holt Renfrew. I believe the tag said something in the mid $20000.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mortgage Rates Hold

Good news for all Canadian variable mortgage holders, the Bank of Canada rate is staying the same. This morning's announcement is the last one of the year.

I've already put next year's announcement dates in my new day timer. Never in my life have I tracked BoC rates until this year!

As an FYI, I used my bank's online mortgage calculator to find out how my amortization would be affected should my mortgage rate rise from the current 1.35% to 4.50% (where it was 2 years ago when we bought the house).

The amortization would increase by 7 months, assuming our current payment stays the same.

Our payment wouldn't stay the same. I have one of those mortgages whose payments will increase with the rate such that your amortization will be the same.

On the other hand, should rates fall, as we have lived through in the last 2 years, our payment falls and our amortization lengthens if you do nothing about it.

We did something about it. We raised our payments so that our amortization stayed the same and then boosted it higher.

The caveat is, we are not allowed to lower the payment once it has been increased. Should mortgage rates go up in the future as people are predicting they will start to, our payments will continue to creep up.

This phenomenon is as close to the type of mortgages we hear about in the US where you start out small in payment and after a year it leaps up etc.

We are prepared to handle increases should they happen in the next 3 years. Our current amortization for the house mortgage is 5 yrs 10 months. The ski condo is at 4 yrs 9 months.

Our goal is to get them to 3 yrs and 3 yrs 8 months respectively by utilizing the allowable yearly mortgage prepayment.

In 3 yrs and 3 yrs 8 months is when we would normally be renewing. I do not want to renew. If there is a small balance left, we will pay it out with cash or a line of credit.

Monday, December 7, 2009


My 2010 day timer has been in my hands for at least a month now. I usually get one in July when they first start arriving at the business stores. Why so late this year? I'm afraid it is because I know I won't be putting anything too exciting in it and most of next year will be similar to this year. Sad but true.

I am most excited to get a calendar when I have daring trips planned and need to madly calculate now many working days I have vs. how many days off I'll need. There aren't any really big plans for 2010.

Next year, the year after that and the year after that will be similar. They are all accelerated debt payment years. I had 1 1/2 yrs of not participating in that before jumping back on the bandwagon this year. I miss those years.

Honestly, debt repayment isn't anywhere near my top ten list of fun things to do. I am not excited about it nor the amount of spreadsheet work I do to balance everything. There is nothing living about it.

I guess that is one of the reasons why we do things like go see puppies or go out with friends because you need to inject some real life in everyday life outside of couple life. To remind oneself that other things are going on out there that doesn't follow the bi-weekly schedule of mortgage payments.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lots of Fun

We tempted fate yesterday by looking at puppies for sale at 2 different farms. Both of us are pro shelter dogs but the cute puppy pictures were irresistible. I've never had a puppy, just older dogs so the thought of puppy training is daunting.

When we head out west in another week or so, I will be paying for a staff of mine to care for our cat every other day. It will cost $135.

Should we have a dog as well, the care would involve our favorite country club for dogs -- which translates to $25/day. Multiply that by 3 weeks and you get the picture. And here we are only talking about Christmas each year. There are other times of the year that we are away.

Not a cheap thing, pet care. That's after you spend money to buy them. I am a lover of English Bulldogs. D is lover of Australian Shepherds. Complete opposites. Those were the 2 breeds we saw yesterday. They cost $1800 & $900 respectively.

My group of Bullies were earlier in development even though they were the same age (8 weeks) as the Aussies. I had great fun playing with the mom and dad as well as the other ones on the farm. It was extremely hard not to commit to one.

D feels his favorite breed would be too much for our household. I would have to agree. It was overwhelming watching 7 puppies tear around you like a hurricane. This was after they stopped to climb all over us, said enthusiastic hellos and peed on me!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Minimum Space Requirements

warning... long post!

I found out a vital piece of information from my financial advisor yesterday that has helped me make a decision about my spring tax situation.

After asking her to sell 50% of a stock to put it into my registered account, she told me that I could just transfer it laterally without having to sell and that amount would be based on the last closing rate and would be considered a rsp contribution. I did not know it was possible to do that.

In my mind, I've kept those 2 accounts as separate and not related so this move was a pleasant surprise. So yesterday, I made a $11575 rsp contribution! It's especially great as I didn't need to use any new money to do so.

The personal tax exemption is supposed to go up as well this tax year and I have a few small expenses in Dec. to input. Hopefully when the dust settles, I won't be out too much. Right now I still owe in the low 1000's. Oh yeah, I missed out on the private rim sale. Someone beat me to it.

I want to write about minimum living space today. Dave, the new co-blogger over at Canadian Dream, wrote this piece a few weeks ago and the concept of it has been rolling around in my mind since.

As you know, I have a thing for real estate and we own a 3 of them (1 outright and 57% of the other 2). When I read the comments to Dave's article, a number of people spoke of un-used space in their respective homes. It got me thinking.

D and I use every square inch of our houses (when we are there). How could that be when we are just 2 people?

In our main house (2880 sq ft), we have 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and a very small basement, not really usable outside of a workshop as it is a very old house (1854). So our square footage is pretty much all above ground.

The main floor houses the kitchen a 3 piece bathroom (that D uses after his runs as I refuse to let him drip all over the house to use the upstairs shower), laundry, kitchen, living room (doubles as D's work area) room/dining room combo, study and sun room.

We hang out in the sun room and study when not eating, working or watching movies. The 2 rooms are completely different in feel and experience as is all the other rooms.

Upstairs is our 3 bedrooms. One master with en suite (mine), and another bathroom (D's). The 2nd bedroom is our guest bedroom/office. Mostly office as we very rarely have guests. I am typing in that room right now.

The other bedroom is our theatre room. It houses our TV (we don't pay for cable) and our projector. We like movies and concerts.

D and I spend a lot of time together compared to other couples we know. Luckily we like to do that and each other. When we work, we like to be separate.

If you were to come to my house, you'd see minimal if any clutter. When we moved here (from a 1000 sq ft townhome), outside of furniture and clothing, I had 7 or 8 bankers boxes. Since then I've reduced it to 2 (will probably all end up as recycling), mainly stuff from the desk I recently donated.

Our rooms have nice furniture and antiques but no trinkets all over the place. There are paintings on the walls, built in book cases in the study and a couple of rugs, my piano and that's it. I let the architectural details of the house speak for itself.

When we are at the ski condo (just under 300 sq ft) and D has to work, I cannot seem to be able to relax as well. I think it is because he is giving off a different energy when working that doesn't mix well with my relax zone.

Plus the noise when he is on a call etc. I cannot escape it as there is no place to go other than out. It is open concept. We live very small and it is cosy and simple. It is very easy and I do not miss anything when I'm there.

So what we are opting to do this year is have D work minimally during our upcoming holidays so that it will feel like holidays. This has meant using more of his paid holiday time to ensure it.

I don't want to live the exactly same way everywhere I go. For me, it would take away from the experience. I even fought having Internet there for that reason. Eventually I relented as it is very useful for checking flights and weather etc.

At the cottage (700 sq ft), we have no TV or phone or Internet. We are as unplugged as can be and love it that way. We have 2 bedrooms, the 2nd one more as storage as there is only one closet, a main living area with 2 couches, bathroom and kitchen. That's it. Not even a book case. We don't miss a thing when we are there either.

We've talked at length about how it would feel living full time at the cottage or ski condo and what we would be giving up. There is a very obvious cost difference with each one. I guess it depends on how anxious we are to fully stop working and move.

Right now we like being able to enjoy living in 3 very different places -- ranging from what I consider to be luxury to basic. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the process and are very grateful for being able to do this right now. It hasn't escape me that maybe the reason it is so easy to not miss stuff is because we know we are coming back to stuff?

Given the choice, D would keep all 3. I would be willing to sell everything and move out west right now. I'm not scared to start again and start small. I crave time more than anything else and I would have the luxury of time if I did that.

I say I because full time in that space with 2 people would probably drive both of us crazy. We would likely need to buy another unit for it to work long term. So I guess, I did end up answering the question of Dave's post. I need at least 300 sq ft for myself to keep sane.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Over The Shock

I've picked myself up from the tax shock of yesterday and have started to form a plan.

The most likely scenario will involve cashing in one of my stocks that have done well and putting into my rsp. I am considering liquidating 50% of my holding.

It will still mean I'll owe taxes but it will be in the lower end of 4 figures. I can live with that. Should I liquidate it all, I'll still owe a very small amount. There is value is keeping the stock so I'm leaning towards a mid way approach.

In other news, I think I may have found rims for my car. If it works out, I will buy them.

I've also taken pictures of some things I want to sell. There may be enough time to test out the market before we leave for holidays. It will also depend on how cooperative photobucket is. I've found them to be hit and miss.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Freak Out

I managed to totally freak myself out last night. So much so, I sent D off to bed by himself so that I could work on it late into the night.

First of all, I got my month end statement from work. It was good. I made $222.16 extra (take home) over projections and now I have my income for the year. Total extra net income for 2009 comes to $10765.43.

All was good until I inputted the numbers into my online income tax software. I thought I was close to breaking even with respect to income tax. Here I was thinking I got the system down pat.

It turns out I didn't, not by a long shot. When I started replacing last year's expense numbers with this year's, I noticed a trend.

My frugality efforts at home has significantly rubbed off at work too. My default expense tax numbers from last year were too high, way too high, some cases 50% too high.

So you know what that means, I will owe next April, in the thousands. Not happy that I will need to make room for that expense on the spreadsheet.

I still have Dec. expenses to add in but it will not likely make a significant impact as I am not anticipating spending much on my business in the next few weeks.

Yikes. My first frugality horror story!

I can now understand why people scramble for "write offs" at the end of their fiscal year.

D thought this would be a great use case for going out and leasing my EVO... (he was joking) Fortunately I am not the type to do such spur of the moment things for tax relief.

Really, when you think about it, you still need to spend first and that goes against the point of this exercise.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gas Usage

D printed out a couple of neat graphs courtesy of our gas supply company. It shows our 2 year gas consumption and bills. We have been in our main house for 2 years now and the results are really interesting.

Our overall gas use has decreased 1/3rd this year compared to last year. How? Basically by manually turning off the heat when we are warm and not using our electronic thermostat.

It goes against the recommended way but it works for us. I found that I didn't need the house at the same temperature the whole day and it was a waste to leave it on at all when we go out.

Funny enough, we cook with gas and that has actually increased as we are eating out less.

Ironically, our bills were similar both years even though our consumption decreased. Why? The cost of natural gas skyrocketed last winter. Had we not made our thermostat changes, our bills last winter would have been higher.

Even though I would have liked to see our monthly amounts reflect our efforts, I cannot control the cost of the resource. Who knows what this winter's prices will be?

We are lowering our in house max temperature as a start. I've even talked D into wearing an extra layer. We are going to keep cooking.