Monday, February 28, 2011

Everyday Fun

I finally did my bookkeeping for January. Just in time to get ready to do Feb's too. Income wise, I am running a little over $3000 compared to projected.

I wish I can say it is sitting in a bank account somewhere. It probably is but as with most variable income businesses, it isn't so simple.

The $3000 is made up of cash and credit income. This year, as we are stable enough in our savings foundation we are able to continue to divide credit income between D and I.

Yes, we finally get actual spending money (outside of the "house" sponsored trips)! Not just the $40 a month allowance we've been living with for the last few years.

And it has been a great raise for us -- In the average range of $1000 each/month to do with as we please. This is why my 2010 trips are paid for and I've started looking at cars...

My cash income has been so far, enough to cover our savings goals, mortgage prepayments and visa bills. And when there is more cash coming in, then our savings goals get reached earlier.

It's divide and deposit after each work day. When my mortgage prepayment job ends in Jan 2011, it will be awesome. Life will get simpler. There will be less pressure to achieve a consistent level of income.

Last week, I treated myself to one of these and a facial. It was super! I hadn't been to a spa for over 2 years. Prices have not waited for me to catch up either. My total bill came to $136! You know what would be fantastic? To go once a month.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Car Ratings

Since I started on my car hunt, one of the most surprising things to come up has been the sheer diversity of insurance payments people pay.

I guess it is reasonable to expect that the topic would come up when discussing automobiles but I didn't expect the numbers to be so different.

Our insurance bureau has published a fairly comprehensive pdf rating the various cars.

If you work through the definition of terms and colour codes, you'll start to see how vehicles look like on their end and begin to understand why some quite "regular" cars have such high insurance.

Food for thought. Check out how your ride rates here in Canada.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wish List Item

It's rare that I actually pick up a real book anymore. I read my news and books electronically. Because of that I'm considering buying a tablet computer of some sort.

We were at Best Buy a few weeks ago and they had just got in one of these... an Asus Eee Slate. The concept is pretty neat, I love the size though I'm not sure you wouldn't develop carpal tunnel holding it up.

Don't know if it comes with some kind of stand but it does come in 2 different hard drive formats. I'd buy the bigger one.

It would substitute for my laptop when I'm away and I will have something even lighter to read from. I find e-readers too restrictive size wise and function wise. The screens all seem too grey and small.

At the risk of offending Apple users, the ipad seems too trendy and more like a toy to me. I want something that can substitute for my computer when I'm away and something I can read with anytime.

I'm not interested in buying apps or books. I want to be able to use my library e-reader and continue to read free books without having to pay for data, therefore wifi is a must. My library system isn't compatible with Kindle or ipad.

I just want to be able to do what I do on a daily basis but in a thinner and lighter package. Where it can be packed away in my purse or carry on without an extra carrying case, without attracting notice.

Since I'm using Windows 7 and like it, the Asus felt like home to me. The price is steep as it is new but I'm expecting it to drop once the market becomes more saturated with similar products.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Some Guilt

One thing that has bothered me since the beginning of going out on my own is the fact I have not created any jobs.

My business is a 1 person show. I have honed things such the I am able to mostly manage all the moving parts. I say mostly because I am still getting used to the increase hours.

The extra administrative work I take on places my total weekly hours to 36.5 hrs a week of which 20 of it is admin. It started in the 50's.

I guess I could consider hiring someone to take over the 20 hrs but the work isn't challenging or hard. It is just menial. As long as I am willing to do it, my overhead stays very low and with my current rental income, I get to keep all of my pay.

I also like the scale of my business. It has shrunk since my move as some office constraints will not suit some clients. But the lowered numbers have been more than offset by the decreased overhead. Ironically, I take home more money now seeing less people but doing more admin.

More often than not, I can mentally see myself putting along like this for a while yet. That is a huge departure from where I was mentally at my old spot. I just couldn't wait to get out. Plus I really like collecting actual money, not just a paycheque. Who would have thought?

If I did hire someone part time and wish to bring home the same amount of money, I would have to work more. Would one just replace the other? In reality, no. I would have to work 2 more hours to offset the cost.

The thing is, I don't want to see more people. I see enough people. And I don't want to spend time managing people either. I like having the control. Guess I am coming back to the same answer as I did last time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Food and Cars

We are doing super with the great freezer eat out. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, D and I decided to eat what we have (mainly meat) from the freezer since January.

And we are still going. There isn't much left and I cannot believe we had enough food in there to last us this long.

Next stop is the pantry. I got a start on it recently and cooking with what you have in stock really tests your creativity as well as points out any glaring deficits in your pantry stock.

We are finally at the point with our food account where there will be money starting to build up. I was hoping for it to already happen by now but a slew of household items needed re-stocking so our unspent food money went towards that.

I haven't decided if we'll just let the excess money build up or use it for something else. There aren't any more household items I can think of needing replacement.

No new news on the car hunt. Now that I've priced out new ones and insurance to match (worst case scenario for my pocketbook), I'm looking at used cars when available to get an understanding of depreciation of the different brands.

I've also learned a tonne reading the various owner forums. The information gleaned from them and chatting with friends who know someone who drives a "insert brand"...has helped me rule out some from my list, potentially saving me a bunch of money and headaches.

Newer cars are so complicated it seems which can mean increased maintenance costs and sophisticated computer managed systems don't come cheap to replace or fix.

I feel old and resistant to change when I get looking at some of these cars. I'm used to manual dials for heat and air conditioning, not a center touch screen where I can precisely adjust the heat on the car seat for the spot in between my shoulder blades...

It was mad confusion for D figuring out how to turn my seat warmer off as I don't like it, as I drove off a the dealership lot during a test drive.

There is a big gap between what I mentally classify as wanting something "fancier than my car" and where new cars are now having been out of the game for 14 yrs. For me, it is almost too much. The learning curve has been steep enough.

D groaned when I told him last night I will probably end up with a 4 -5 yr old Subaru Forester or Outback. He's still holding out on the hope I'll pick something a lot more fun than that. So much so, he has offered to pay for half...

Friday, February 18, 2011


I admit it. I tend to be a homebody when I'm at home. And I really enjoy just puttering around without a schedule.

That's probably why some of D's friends cannot get their head around me travelling around by myself. I guess they've only seen the homebody me.

This came up the other day during a conversation with a friend of mine who runs a solo home business. They are a one car family so when she's at home all week, she feels stranded and stuck.

So they are now looking for a 2nd car. She did have a car but gave it up when the lease expired, thinking she wouldn't miss it.

Yes, I'm full of ironies as I don't feel stranded when at home for long stretches but I'm the one car shopping.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wrap Up

I'm behind in my 2011 bookkeeping. I have all the papers and numbers ready for Quicken but haven't sat down to start it -- maybe this weekend.

Despite February being the smallest month of the year, it tends to feel like the longest to me. And despite my having just come home from a short vacation, I am ready to leave again.

I think it is the winter blues/blahs etc getting to me again. I do use a light box and am working out on my exercise bike again. And in a few weeks we will be leaving again.

There are 3 more test drives to be done and the car research will have wrapped up. No real timeline for a decision. It's nice not to have pressure that way. I'm sure the salespeople wish otherwise.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Work Balance

The 2011 work year has started off really strong. So far I am ahead of projections significantly, by almost 3 weeks.

Being self employed has its benefits when something like this happens. The first thing to pop into my mind is "why don't I take more time off?".

So I'm toying with taking a week off mid year should my numbers continue to be ahead of the curve. I'd love to go back to Italy or spend it up north.

I know my way of thinking is "anti-entrepreneur". More profit isn't always better, especially if it leads to burn out. More time for me, works better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Insurance Comparisons

Hunting for next vehicle candidates have been alright. I'm not your typical car buyer and no matter how excited I may be about a car, there isn't any way anyone can talk me into buying anything more expensive than I can afford.

One of D favourite sites is "leasebusters" where you get to read the sometimes pathetic stories of people who are looking for others to take over their leases of mostly high end luxury sports cars just months after they committed.

I just don't see how someone could be talked into signing on the dotted line for a 6 figure automobile. You'd literally have to drug me out for that to remotely have a chance of happening.

I continuing my due diligence yesterday by giving my car insurance people a call to get quotes on potential next vehicles. Man, did I learn a lot.

My assumption was that I would run away screaming by the time I got to the higher priced vehicles as I thought the pricier the car, the higher my insurance would be. Turns out that is only partly the truth.

Vehicles are rated on bodily injury (1 - 10) and comprehensive (1 - 99). If I understood properly, you want the lowest number for bodily injury and the highest number? for comprehensive. The safer the car, the lower the rate for most vehicles. Some really high end vehicles are the exception.

Here's how my insurance quotes played out: (based on $1000** deductible), total purchase price at the end in brackets.
  • 1997 Honda CRV : $581.00/yr or $48.42/mnth with no collision insurance anymore (current vehicle, my first car)
  • 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited : $760.00/yr or $63.33/mnth ($41945.60)
  • 2011 Audi Q5 2.0T Prem Plus Tip qtro : $700.66/yr or $58.39/mnth ($57931.37)
  • 2011 BMW X3 xdrive 35i : $749.00/yr or $62.42/mnth ($62022.00)
  • 2009 Porsche Cayenne GTS : $912/yr or $76.00/mnth ($88671.10) **The deductible on this vehicle is a mandatory $5000 for comprehensive whereas the collision is $1000. And finally, a neat fact -- Porsche has never had a recall.
I had a great chat with the insurance representative as her dream vehicle is the BMW X3. Hope this helps those of you out there who are searching as well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Too Much Fun...

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

We don't celebrate it, meaning we don't exchange chocolates, cards, gifts or go out for dinner because of the day. I don't believe it is because we have no spirit.

We just don't need a day on the calendar as an excuse to do nice things for each other. If it happens to land on an "official", then extra cool. Otherwise, we don't worry about it.

I've been a bit of bad girl lately. I'll get to that later.

First of all, a monumentus discovery at home -- We finally figured out our dishwasher! For the last year, we had resigned ourselves to not using it much because it just takes too long.

The results are better than any other dishwasher I've seen or used but 3 hrs is too long. That's on regular cycle. So, I've been sulking since then because I spent a lot of money on it. It is a KitchenAid.

Reading the manual is usually a good idea and we decided to try the "quick clean" cycle to see what the results would be. It wasn't described as suitable for much outside of getting some drinking glasses clean but you never know?

To our surprise, it got our whole load of dishes clean in less time than it takes me to take a bath. So we are back on the dishwasher bandwagon and I am just ecstatic!

None of the other places we own have dishwashers so I'm taking advantage of having one here.

As to the "bad girl" part, I went to check out vehicles at a Porsche and Audi dealership...

I sat in a couple of Porsches (Panamera and Cayenne Turbo) and they kinda scared/intimidated me. They can paint/make a car in my favourite colour. All I have to do is give them a swatch.

Isn't that crazy? What is also in the crazy category is the price. The used Cayenne Turbo cost $88000.

I was quite taken with the Audi Q5 but so is everyone else. There is a 3 -4 month wait on one. I wasn't too impressed with the drive. I expected more fun out of something that is built from an A4 platform.

What it lacks is partially made up by the rest of the package. I've wanted an Bang and Olufsen stereo system ever since I was a teenager. And that panoramic roof with a built in noise screen? To die for...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2010 Mortgage Summary

I look forward to my bank's annual mortgage summary statement each year and ours came yesterday.

Here's how the numbers played out in 2010:

Main House

  • Jan 1, 2010 balance $117258.84
  • Regular principal payments $19963.77
  • Additional principal payments $26139.33
  • Dec 31, 2010 balance $71155.74
  • Total principal paid $46103.10
  • Total interest paid $1529.23

Ski Condo

  • Jan 1, 2010 balance $34626.78
  • Regular principal payments $7286.99
  • Additional principal payments $6500
  • Dec 31, 2010 balance $20839.79
  • Total principal paid $13786.99
  • Total interest paid $504.20

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our Nexus Cards

Our Nexus cards came in the mail yesterday. My picture is not great as I had suspected since the person who took it was holding the camera with one not very steady hand...

We thought we would get our irises scanned at the interview office but were told it is done at an airport so we'll have to figure something out as the real value of the cards for us is for air travel.

We also found out it is a requirement to show up at a border office once a year to update information. It is an informal thing but necessary none the less. I feel it is an additional hassle that isn't spelled out anywhere on their website.

The interview process wasn't, in my opinion, very professional. I thought we would be taken into an office to be interviewed. Instead, they were set up to interview 4 people at a time with each of us standing at a counter where you could hear what everyone else was saying.

As the questions were of a personal nature, I couldn't help thinking this wouldn't fly in Canada where we take our privacy laws very seriously.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Car Woes

I don't lead a typical life. Nor do most of you out there in blog land. We lifestyle and personal finance bloggers tend to go against the grain.

We are hoping to strive for "typical" life goals earlier and faster than most and we are choosing to live differently in order to do so.

Most of us have not inherited any large sums of money to give us a head start. We seem to enjoy "beating others at their own game" and circumventing what social norms we have around us.

I wonder then, if that particular mindset has led me to attract the "not easy" things in life?

D wondered that out loud yesterday when we spend a few hours looking up potential candidates for my next vehicle.

It does seem like I cannot settle on an "easy" vehicle either in availability or in just the right combination of features at the right price.

So the search results show like this: Only 30 in Canada, I hate the seat fabric, it is on back order, you cannot even find one in the showroom to look at because they are sold out, what I would like costs more than my mortgage outstanding or I would have to buy it from another province without ever seeing what the colour really looks like...

Why can't I like an "ordinary" vehicle that is mass produced, with many found on dealers lots?

Because I've been driving one of those for almost 14 yrs now and she is still going strong and will likely keep working for me for another 5 plus years at least.

And because ever since we came back from Berlin, I've grown an appreciation for German design, engineering and performance.

These are problems of the privileged, I know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back Home

I was very lucky. In the midst of multiple snow storms in the US, my flights managed to dodge them all and I made it home on time and unscathed.

With what seems to be signs of increased extreme world weather "getting there" and "getting home" can't be taken for granted necessarily anymore. It has made me reconsider whether I would travel during the winters in the future.

Having said that, I enjoyed just glorious weather on my trip. It was nice to spend the day outside in shorts again.

One glaring thing I noticed this time around, revisiting some old haunts was the cost of things in Miami and Nassau. Food was significantly more expensive than 3 yrs ago when I was there last. And I am not talking about tourist traps.

I spent more of my cash than I ever did before there. When things are $5 more expensive on average, a few items later, it adds up each day. I also tipped more this time around so that was part of it too.

The spirit of the people I met were "dampened". It could be the recession has taken a toll on peoples' enthusiasm. There was a consistent base level of desperation exuded from the various salespeople I encountered. It made me sad to experience it amongst a backdrop of light hearted winter vacationers' celebrations.

I'm one of those people who cannot turn a blind eye to the realities of life. One of the main reasons why I've never been to an "all inclusive" vacation. Most of the resorts I hear about are compounds where you are separated from the reality of the rest of the island which most of the time are very poor.

I'd want to interact with locals and depending on where you go, it may not be advisable due to crime. I also wonder what the locals must think of the people they see bused in from the airport who spend their week drinking and eating up a storm getting all red from the strong sun?

I never tell my clients where I go when I take time off. Because most of them have either lost their job or are feeling the fall out in their line of work, it doesn't seem kind for me talk about my vacation plans as I tend to travel more than most people I know. Plus it would not be considered professional for me to do so.

I'm not saying that they wouldn't be happy for me, I just feel my news may act like salt on a wound as I'm sure they would like to be able to go too but maybe can't right now.