Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Writing Fun

Many of you will know that I was absent from this blog a fair bit last moth because I was partaking in an absolutely silly venture. I signed up with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to write a 50,000 word book in November. I can now say that I won!

Yes folks, over the course of 30 days I pounded out 50,000 words in the form of a novel. Either I'm really good or I need my head checked. So what did I learn from this insane venture?

1. Friends are important. One of my good friends also took part in and won the challenge. We had each others backs that whole time and e-mails back and forth were frequent. We pushed each other and then got to celebrate together at the end.

2. I had cut active fun out of my life way too much. Sure I took in some passive fun, usually watching TV while I made and ate supper or folded laundry, but I wasn't DOING things that I enjoyed. Writing a novel every day was to be constantly thinking planning and plotting, on the bus, during chores, and as I slept. I was always excited about getting just a couple minutes alone to pound out some words.

3. I can manage a heck of a lot when I put my mind to it. I worked 32 hours a week and was doing a full time masters (including final projects) while I wrote my book. Nothing else suffered as I dedicated myself to my writing during my off time, if anything I felt more balanced.

4. I need to set more writing goals and work at them earnestly. My friend from point 1 will be helping me out with this by holding me accountable as I hold her accountable.

5. I am so doing this next year. A novel in a month is sooooooooo much fun. Especially when there several 100 thousand other people doing it too.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Pay Day 1 December 2013

So my monthly pay check is in for a total of $3,805.97.  My pay has increased for the next few months as I’ve paid my EI for the year. My budgeting will continue as if I did not see this extra $200 and that amount will be put towards my House Payments

Housing 40% - $1,439.35
Mortgage - $646.62
House Maintenance - $315.00
Housing Taxes - $192.00
House Insurance - $72.00
Utilities – $213.73
Total – $1,439.35

Savings 10% - $359.83 – All going to my RRSP

Extra Mortgage Payments 10% - $359.83

Transportation 15% - $539.75
Bus Pass – $0
Train - $0
Other - $15
Car Savings – $0
Total - $15
Leftover - $524.75

Life 25% - $899.63
Food - $130
Cell – $30
Internet - $60
Health Insurance – $23.52
Clothes - $10
Gifts - $10
Misc - $10
Big Ticket Item - $100
Entertainment - $10
Social/Sports - $0
Financial Planning - $14
Cat - $10
Slush – $492.11
Total - $1107.21

Extra from not having to pay EI - $207.58

Of Note:

- Between my normal mortgage payment ($646.62), my Extra Mortgage Payment Amount ($359.83), what is left from the transportation budget ($524.75), my Slush money ($492.11), and my Extra from not having to pay EI ($207.58) I have a total of $2,240.89 to put against my mortgage. Which means not only can I afford to increase my monthly payments from $711.28 to $782.40 but I can double up my payment to $1,564.80 and have $666.09 left over to add to my yearly 10% pot.

- My BTI money is earmarked this month for a wisdom tooth extraction. Truly there is nothing more exciting to spend $100 on. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

End November Goal Review & Salad Waste

First things first I had to waste the last serving of a wonderful salad because one of the ingredients had gone off. I made a huge bowl of it at the beginning of the week and just kept eating it. The down side is that when one part goes the whole thing need to be tossed. The up side is that I actually ate salad this week. The result being I will make more week long salads and just make sure that I use ingredients that are roughly the same age.

Lets take a quick look at how goals shaped up over the last month.


- Set up RRSP investments with my return of value pension from the military and contribute $359 a month for the year, along with any tax refunds. CHECK [It's on auto pilot and I'm looking forward to more RRSP room next year.]

- Pay off house in 5 years.  I should be able to accomplish this by doubling up every payment and paying a 10% lump sum every year.  CHECK [I put my second 10% principle payment down this month and now own 43% of my house.]


-Start Masters of Science / Masters of Science in Nursing in the fall.  CHECK [One take home exam and one big paper and I will have passed my first semester.]


-Join two new clubs in the local area.  CHECK [I’m actually up to two writers groups plus quilting.] 


-Have my novel accepted to be published.  I plan to have it ready by the end of the month (January), so I can start sending it out. CHECK [Getting ready to launch query letters at people again, plus I'm 48,443 words into my second novel.]

-Become a respite foster parent. CHECK [I’m in the process of being matched up.]

-Finish my current crafting projects.  NOPE [But Christmas break is coming which is usually a very productive time for me in this arena.] 

A respectable 86%. December goals will be (1) getting my school work done in the first half, (2) spend some time on crafts over Christmas, and (3) keep up the good novel writing habits I developed in November. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

I'm Alive

A small note to all my readers that I am indeed alive and well. I do apologize profusely for my absence from cyber space. I have been somewhat busy between my day job and wrapping up my first semester of day classes. On that note I thought I would share a little joke with you.

What do Duplo, a stuffed panda and a TV remote all have in common?

They are all absolutely essential if you wish to explain the Neuman System's Theory to people. Seriously though, if you ever have to do a Graduate Studies presentation bring Duplo. People will laugh and enjoy your presentation instead of falling into a coma looking at power point slides.

Switching to the more fun side of my life I'm still going strong in the National Novel Writing Month competition. I've hit 44,728 words so far this month so I should hit the target 50,000 words by midnight on the 30th. Add to that I've finished all my paperwork for a volunteer position at my local children's aid so that should start soon as well.

In short it's been a crazy wonderful month and I'll try harder in the future to keep you entertained with the goings on around my place.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Keep Busy, Have Fun

I've always been a busy person. My parents can well attest to the fact that as a child I was always launching into great big fun projects (from my perspective) that were guaranteed to eat up all and any free time for the foreseeable future (from my parent's perspective). As a kid I competed in sports every season of the year; went to schools (of course) and spent more time on homework then any other kid in my class; acted in plays; entered math competitions and science fairs; volunteered for different charities over the years; learned to sew, cross stitch and crochet; concocted hair brained schemes with my siblings (house wide elections, our own science museum, etc.); and devoured book by the ton. This turmoil of activity has taught me two things.

The first is to manage things wisely. As a kid my mom was the one who threw on the brakes when she figured I was going to take on too much for me to handle. As an adult I think I've learned to manage my own time fairly well. None of what you're doing is fun when you're to tiered to enjoy it. But I've also learned to prioritize. There does need to be time for the fun stuff that you do just for the heck of it along with all the purposeful activity that comes with being an adult.

The second is that anyone who is bored isn't looking hard enough. That also goes for anyone who has to spend gobs of money trying to entertain themselves. There is so much out there that no one should be sitting idle. Learn something! With the internet you can get info on pretty much any subject for free. Make something! The next time you need something make it yourself. So what if you've never baked your own bread or built a table? There was a time when you had never tied your own shoes, you've managed that eventually. Go outside and look at stuff. There is an amazing, beautiful, absolutely insane world out there.

Sure when you get busy and start doing stuff besides watching TV there are people who will tell you that it's a bad idea. Just tell them Elizabeth said it was ok and refer them here.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Disgruntled Lettuce and Where I've Been

My food waste confessions for the week include half of a slimy green pepper, the tail end of a container of yogurt and some lettuce. I have good reason to believe that my lettuce is disgruntled because I completely forgot that there were a few leaves left and started and almost finished eating a large package of spinach. I am truly sorry for my neglect Mr. Lettuce.

As for where I've been. My regular readers will have noticed that my posts have slowed down a good deal. The irony is that I'm writing even more than I use to! You see there was a reduction in posts so that I could keep up with working 32 hours a week while doing a master's full time. That said my writing per day has increased as I've been involved in the NaNoWriMo competition. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it let me explain. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is basically a bunch of crazy people decide that getting together and writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days is fun; of course I thought "why not?" and dove right in.

We're halfway through the month and I have reached 26,360 words. I've also been having a blast. I could expand on all the lovely reasons why my current excursion is a good idea. But that is not for now. Simply rest assured that if my posts are less frequent and shorter than usual it means my main character is having one heck of a day.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Mortgage - The First Year

As I passed the one year mark to owning my own home I got to throw another 10% of my mortgage amount onto my mortgage and can now happily report that I own 43% of my house. (If you're interested it includes my front sitting room, my den, a bathroom and pretty much all of the kitchen/dining room area.) Left to pay off is the second bathroom, all three bedrooms, the family room and the utility room.

Amount of House Owned
Goal:  $191,000 by Nov. 8 2017
Current:  $82,078.92

As you can see from the above graphics I currently have $82,078.92 worth of principle in my $191,000 house. Other interesting facts:

-I started with a 360 month (30 year) amortization period. I now have 195 months (16.25 year) left if I were to stick to the normal payment schedule (ya right).

-The line of credit on my house now has $43,878.92 on it (equity built in the house minus the 20% down payment). Not that I'm planning on using it, but it is fun to watch it grow.

-This should drop my monthly interest from over $300 a month to around $280 which means even more of my payment is going to principle.

-I am bang on my schedule of having the house paid off in 5 years (which is my term, after which interest rates may change)

-According to my calculations and my general understanding of my bank's "mortgage payment vacation" rules I could not make another payment for the next 12.75 years and though I would loose all most all of the gains I have made in paying off my house they wouldn't foreclose

Paying off my house is going to get a bit trickier over the next year and a half as my pay will be decreasing as I take time to do my Masters (which is another big cost). That said it's been good so far and I'll be doing my best to keep the momentum going.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Food Waste - 1 Year Anniversary

The food waste front is in great peril. Though I haven't had to toss anything yet I bought salad makings last Saturday and they haven't been touched since. My solution is to make a big salad this weekend and eat it for the rest of the week. (Because making a salad every night just for me is a lot of effort and as a result it simply doesn't get done.

On a slightly happier note it is the eighth of November today! For those of you who are confused about the significance of this it means that I have been the owner my first house for precisely one year. As a result at some point over the next 24 hours a little button called "Pay Principal Only" will appear on my online banking page. This means that the I can pay 10% of my mortgage amount off in one fell swoop. This of course will be followed by a happy dance and an excited call or e-mail to my parents so that they can join in the celebrations too. Until then let me list the things that I've come to realize about owning my own home:

  • There is a lot of fun and excitement to be had running around fixing stuff up. 
  • The best places in my house are out in the garden in the summer and down by my wood stove in the winter. 
  • Little by little the bird makes his (or her) nest. (Take the time and effort to make double-up payments each month. By themselves they look small but when added together they make a significant sum.) 
  • There is something really nice about coming home from a long vacation to house that you own. Because it is yours and (once all paid off) no one can take it from you unless you decide to sell. 
  • You get to have guests and be proud that the home you are showing them is something that you worked hard for. 
Do you want a list of cons? I didn't think so. (Plus I'm having a lot of trouble thinking of one.) Maybe that the house is kind of big when it's just you there. But I have a cat now, so it's all good.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Wood Stove

I made it through my first weekend heating with my wood stove. I am happy to report that despite a rather smoky beginning the house made it through intact and I only suffered a small burn to one of my knuckled where it brushed the top of the stove. I could sum up the weekend as follows:


A little too enthusiastic? Perhaps, but I very much want one in all of my future houses. I must admit that I approached this experiment a bit dubiously. The stove cranks up my insurance prices and I have memories of stacking wood as a child in the middle of november while freezing rain is coming down. But I decided to test it out and see what happened.

I've had a bit of a rocky start as a kid when it comes to fire and burns. Namely I once decided that the stove element looked lovely when it was all read an glowy, so I put my hand on it. It didn't go well and I developed a bit of an aversion to anything that was hot. Fortunately, I ended up in the Duke of Edinburgh program with my siblings and as a result went on a number of camping trips. Since I was disinclined to let them be better woodsmen than me I did learn how to start a proper fire and keep it going.

This weekend (despite the burn I sustained) I really enjoyed having the fire. Building on my camping skills was a bit of a challenge but lots of fun. For example initially I had no idea that the little leaver at the bottom controlled air flow, it's not like the camp fires I'd built had leavers associated. Fortunately I figured it out pretty fast (after calling my dad for help). Amazingly enough once the stove got going it kept my entire house at a balmy 21.7 degrees Celsius without the electric furnace. Not to mention the nice smell, the ambiance, the challenge of timing the logs that you add, and the fun of heating stuff up on top of the wood stove.

Like I said, I love my wood stove.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Food Waste - November Budget

No food waste to declare, though the tail end of a head of lettuce is starting to look pathetic. I'm also low on the food front. Milk's all gone, no more fruit left and the only bread I have is in the freezer. I need a big groceries trip Saturday morning. Probably before breakfast because I haven't got much left to make breakfast with.

As for my monthly pay check it is in for a total of $3,615.97 which is a pay raise from $3,598.39.  For the moment I'm going to act like a didn't get a lovely pay raise of $17.58 since my income will be dropping next month as I reduce hours to work on my Masters. Extras that came in were $372.57 from my employer to cover professional fees that I paid and $101.00 in a GST rebate which went to the "pay down the mortgage fund".

Housing 40% - $1,439.35
Mortgage - $646.62
House Maintenance - $315.00
Housing Taxes - $192.00
House Insurance - $72.00
Utilities – $213.73
Total – $1,439.35

Savings 10% - $359.83 – All going to my RRSP

Debt 10% - $359.83

Transportation 15% - $539.75
Bus Pass – $0 (covered in tuition)
Train - $15
Other - $0
Car Savings – $0
Total - $15
Leftover - $524.75

Life 25% - $899.63
Food - $140
Cell – $30
Internet - $55
Health Insurance – $23.52
Clothes - $10
Gifts - $10
Misc - $10
Big Ticket Item - $100
Entertainment - $10
Social/Sports - $0
Financial Planning - $14
Cat - $20
Slush – $477.11
Total - $899.63

Of Note:

-I dropped my food budget because I've developed quite a surpluse in that account. 

-The Cat category has been added with $10 a month being put aside for food and $10 a month being put aside for vet fees. 

-My mortgage payments and the other extra space in my budget adds up to $2,008.31, of that $1,422.56 will go towards my normal payment and the double up and $585.75 will go towards the "pay down the mortgage fund" in order to be used for a 10% principal payment. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

how to make a meal plan and groceries list

I must admit to being a bit supprised when I found out that some people don't make meal plans. After all how do you know what to buy if you haven't planned what you're going to eat? Then I started to look at some of the tools that are out to help make a meal plan and I was amazed. With fancy fonts and charts they made the whole thing seem complicated, when it doesn't have to be.

1. On the top of a blank piece of paper write down the days of the week.

2. Look at your schedule for the next week and decide what you are going to eat for supper over the next 7 days. Be logical. Chose easy meals or leftovers for days where you won't have much time at home and leave more elaborate meals for leisurely evenings.

3. Write down what meals you have decided on.

4. Go down the list of meals and see what ingredients are needed for each meal. Check and see if you have each of these ingrdients. If you do not write them on the bottom of the piece of paper.

5. Take a tally of what you normally eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks and make sure that you have the makings. If you don't add them to the list. (In my house this is easy because breakfast is the same every day, lunch is the leftovers from the night before and snacks are almost always fruit.)

6. Make sure you have enough of your beverage of choice. (MILK!) Add to the list if needed.

7. Decide if you will be doing any special baking over the next 7 days and if yes make sure you have the ingredients, if not add them to the list.

TADA! You're done, no one died and with a bit of practice should be able to do this in 10 min or less. You no longer order take out or buy frozen or canned dinners. You don't end up throwing stuff out that never got used.

Essentially I've changed the way that you look at grocery shopping for the rest of your life.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Meet my new Friend

Hi everyone meet  the newest member of my household. She came to me via the humane society as I get lonely in the evenings being the only person in the house most days. Originally named Tweek I've renamed her Tia and she's a real darling. Turns out that the fall is a good time to go looking for a cat since the humane societies are over run with kitten and will often offer sales. Here is how the price for kitty has stacked up so far. 

Cat - $60
Collar - $4.51
Carrier - $45.19

Food (BIG Bag) - $58.75
Litter (BIG Bag) - $9.02
City License - $6.00

Total Cost to date - $183.47

Let's call it an investment in happiness shall we?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Food Waste and Fun Money

I have once again accomplished 0 food waste. Mainly by eating the same thing four times in the same week. It's a good thing that I don't mind leftovers or my Masters studies might just drive me nuts. That said I have half a head of lettuce that is still in good shape but needs to be eaten in the next week, or it will cease to be in such good shape. I also have a container of plain yogurt that I haven't even cracked the seal on. That too needs to be eaten this week. But I think that those are manageable tasks.

I'm returning to the fun money that I got back in March. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about I got a large sum of money earlier this year from Veterans Affairs in order to compensate me for the damage that was done to my knee while in the military. The first $44,000.00 went to sensible stuff like paying down my mortgage and funding my Masters degree. The last $788.20 was put aside for me to have fun with, anything I wanted any time I wanted. Eight months later and I haven't touched a dime of it. Guess there isn't much that I want.

There have been lots of things that I've thought about spending it on. Some things got rejected because I don't have the time at the moment to start a new project or hobby, and other ideas got nixed because I wanted to make sure I got the most bang for my buck when it came to happiness. After all I spend that money it's gone along with the anticipation of spending it. There was also a bit of an emotional tag attached to it. The money was given as a payoff for a bad thing happening, and as far as I'm concerned there is not amount of money for the loss of my dream career let alone living with chronic pain. So buying something trite like a new book would make it seem more like a payoff.

So it's sat there and sat there. The first $44,000.00 was so simple. Spending it on education and my house made sense and felt good because it increased my financial security and quality of life. The last bit not so much. That said a decision has finally been made on the fun money. I'm getting a cat.

Before you start thinking that I'm going out and buying a supper expensive cat; I'm not. In fact I'm planning on buying one on sale from the Humane Society. What the money will do is pay for the cat's expenses for the first year which will get me through most of my masters before my new best friend starts diverting funds from my cash flow. A cat will provide me company which is greatly needed when you live alone and away from family. So hang around and hopefully I'll be able to introduce you to the newest member of my house hold shortly.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

It's Cold . . . Again

The time has arrived once again. I moaned and dragged my feet, but come last Monday I had to give in. It hit 17 degrees Celsius, and I turned on my heat. Fear not my automatic thermostat is set and my car port is stocked with wood. This coming winter's goal: use less electricity than last year.

I'm hoping to accomplish that via a number of steps I've taken in the recent past.

-I went conservative with my temperature setting, 20 when I'm home and awake, 18 otherwise.
-Heat with wood on weekends. This is completely uncharted territory for me but $280 bought me a cord of wood and we'll see how long it lasts and how efficient the stove is.
-I turned down my water heater.
-I got carpets and slippers so that I'll feel warmer on my wood floors.
-Sweaters are my friend.

My last utilities bill (water, sewage and electricity) was $98 which is a record low for me just prior to the cold season and the slow yet inevitable climb upwards in cost.

It was a bit of a debate before I could come to a decision on my wood stove. It takes more effort to run than my furnace and it costs me an extra $80 a month in insurance so I wasn't sure if it was worth it. I've decided to give it a go for a number of reasons.

-My central heat isn't very effective in the basement which makes half my house less useable in the winter
-I think the ambiance might be cool
-It might save me money (never know until you try)
-It is a sustainable source of heat
-It won't go out of commission unless I let it. (Unlike electricity)

I do have a fond memory of my mom reheating canned soup over our wood stove during a power outage as a kid. In a country that can experience temperamental weather having a backup source of heat is certainly a good safety measure.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Someday List

I have a bit of difficulty with the concept of patience. I need to be doing something towards my goals or I get antsy. The thing is that there are so many things that I want to see, do and learn and I have a limited amount of time and money. Of course I have the rest of my (hopefully) long life to complete all my goals. I'm trying (really hard) to concentrate on doing a few goals really well while the others bide their time. I don't want to lose track of all the wonderful things that get planned in my head so I've made a someday list that will reside on my blog and you will hopefully get to see some stuff crossed off. I debated really hard over putting financial goals on the list and ended up putting them separately. They are not goals for their own sake, but they will help me achieve my actual goals.

-Be a parent
-Write the books in my head (currently at 6)
-Sponsor an refugee
-Learn basic carpentry
-Learn basic pluming
-Learn basic welding
-Become the owner of a BIG piece of land with trees and water
-Build my own home
-Become proficient in the following languages:

  • Arabic (started)
  • Spanish
  • Russian
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Polish

-Backpack in countries that speak the above languages (plus French since I already speak it)
-Learn more about Astronomy and the universe
-Spend 6 months of the year on a Volunteer Abroad excursion like this:
-Earn my Masters
-Earn my PhD
-Explore history through the books, and then go visit the places
-Take a kayaking/camping excursion
-Climb a mountain with a via ferata
-Take a 12 month Kiva Fellow placement

-Pay my mortgage in 5 years
-Have the opportunity to retire early

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Yes, I realize it's actually the day after thanks giving but yesterday comprised of a leisurely brunch and some rather laid back house work accompanied by some of my favourite shows. So I sat back and enjoyed myself.

I did, however, do some reflecting on the things that I am thankful for. (The list is in no particular order.)

1. My family. I truly have the most amazing and supportive family any one could hope for. That includes my extended family. When ever we get together there's lots of reminiscing and creating of new good times. Any time somebody needs something the rest of the family pulls together to help them out. Sure, we're not perfect. But that would be a tad boring.

2. My health. While I do have a busted knee I'm a lot better off then a lot of the people in the world. I can still move about easily and take care of my self. My health is not gradually deteriorating. I have all of my sense and my mind is more or less together. (With a 95% confidence interval depending on how close to stats class I am.)

3. The chance to push my horizons. I'm working at a job that pushes me intellectually and I'm working on a Masters that will allow me to enter into the field of independent research. (And make really cool discoveries that will change the world!)

4. My job and financial savvy. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the world of personal finance as a teenager.  Add that to the fact that I was surrounded by people willing to point me in the right direction and you have the makings of a true personal finance nerd. :) I also managed to find a good job that pays well, is extremely flexible, and has introduced me to the field of research.

5. My Dreams. I'm so very glad that I'm a dreamer. It gives my life direction and passion. I'm not sure I'll ever understand how some one can exist without a dream that puts fire in their eyes.

So . . . That's what I'm thankful for. I hope that you have just as much to be glad about.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Food Waste - Eating the House Clean

No food waste this week! This is probably the first week since I started my Masters that I can announce that. This is partially due to the fact that I'm eating my house clean over this week and next.

What does that mean pray tell? It means that besides the bare minimums of fresh food (milk, a bag of apples and MAYBE some veggies) I concentrate on eating up what's already in the house. It allows me to get rid of every morsel of leftovers and see the bottom of my fruit and veggies drawer. It's a great way for curbing waste when it gets out of hand.

That said I wouldn't recommend this when you have other people in the house who wouldn't want to eat leftovers 3 days in a row or some really strange recipes to get of that odd ingredient that's been floating around.

Also when working on eating your house clean I would recommend that you do keep a good stock of protein (canned tuna and peanut butter for me), complex carbohydrates (whole wheat bread for me) and plant matter (apples for me). Which a) will not go bad quickly and b) will give you sufficient nutrients should you eat your house clean part way through the week and not have time to shop. (Mostly for nuts like me who work 80% a do a full time masters degree . . . because we like the challenge and as a result have no spare time.)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Mortgage Update

Well I'm one month away from my 1 year anniversary in my house so I thought that I'd take a quick look at where my mortgage stands.

Original Balance: $152,000.00
Current Balance: $125,223.25
Change: -26,776.75

Original Number of Months: 360 (30 years)
Current Number of Months: 235 (19.58 years)
Change: 125 (10.42 years)

Original Equity: $39,000 (20.42%)
Current Equity: $65,776.75 (34.44%)
Change: $26,776.75 (14.02%)

Not bad for the first 11 months of a 5 year stretch. I've stuck with it and paid the maximum amount allowed each and every month and paid down my 10% principal to boot. As a result I've paid down 17.62% of my mortgage balance. [($26,776.75/$152,000.00)*100]

You may be scratching your head saying well if she want's to pay it down in 5 years shouldn't she pay off 20% per year? Well in order to avoid penalties I have to play by the banks rules. One of these is that I can increase my monthly payment by 10% each year. So my payment which started off at $646.62 is currently $711.28 which doubles up to $1422.56. Come next November I'll be able to increase that to $782.40 which doubles up to $1,564.80. As a result I can pay down a larger amount each year. Thus the fact that I paid down 17.62% of my balance instead of 20% is ok, since in the last couple years I'll be able to pay more then 20% of the balance without penalty.

Looking forward not only will I be able to increase my payments to the aforementioned $1,564.80 per month, but I also have my next 10% principle payment ready and waiting to go for the 8th of November.

The anticipation is killing me. :)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Food Waste - Awful

Awful just about sums up my food waste at the moment. Unfortunately none got photographed for posterity. They just got dumped as I came across them. Thus far I've had to trash:

-The tail ends of a loaf of bread (I don't care what others say, the crusts do taste different!)
-One tortilla
-Some left over spaghetti
-The end of a cucumber

There's also half a bag of carrots that I'm going to try and save this weekend . . . we'll see if they can be used for baking.

Ever since starting my Masters (on top of my day job) fresh food in my house has been a high risk population. Mostly I have plans for it but end up not taking the time to make a fresh supper. Instead I just pull something out of the freezer or end up making a huge batch of a meal on the weekend and then eating it multiple times during the week.

On a brighter note even though bread and veggies have been having a rough go of late there is no danger of being a fruit in my house. I can polish off a large bag of apples every week so there's no danger of them going off.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Business Tips

I'm not a business person, and at this point in my life I really have no desire to be. So I thought that I'd give some tips on how best to get my business.

There are all the standard requirements, price your services well, do the job well, etc. But there is one aspect that I find varies a lot, accessibility. Some small companies do it well, some big companies do it well, in fact it's a bit of a crap shoot to see who in the local area will hit this mark.

Allow me to explain. I'm busy. I work 32 hours a week and I'm doing a Masters full time. I also try to maintain somewhat of a social life (variable success in that arena.) Most of the time when I'm trying to get in contact with trades persons or other service providers happens over my lunch break, or if I'm busy at the office as soon as I get home at 4:30, or if I get home late, the next day at lunch. The result can be an often frustrating game of phone tag trying to get things organized. It gets even more frustrating when the business has any of the following traits:

-No voicemail
-No e-mail
-Slow response time
-Don't return calls

Actually the last one pretty much guarantees that you will never ever get my business so long as there is another company in town. I have better things to do with my time then trying to chase people down. Use the technology that is available! You don't need to know much about the web to set up a basic website, you need even less to have an e-mail address.

And your harried customers will keep coming back.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Pay Day 1 October 2013

So my monthly pay check is in for a total of $3,598.39.  No extra money came in this month, though my work has agreed to pay for my Association fees which will be $372 that will not be coming out of my own pocket. 

Housing 40% - $1,439.35
Mortgage - $646.62
House Maintenance - $315.00
Housing Taxes - $192.00
House Insurance - $72.00
Utilities – $213.73
Total – $1,439.35

Savings 10% - $359.83 – All going to my RRSP

Debt 10% - $359.83

Transportation 15% - $539.75
Bus Pass – $0
Train - $15
Other - $0
Car Savings – $0
Total - $15
Leftover - $524.75

Life 25% - $899.63
Food - $160
Cell – $30
Internet - $50
Health Insurance – $23.52
Clothes - $10
Gifts - $10
Misc - $10
Big Ticket Item - $100
Entertainment - $10
Social/Sports - $0
Financial Planning - $14
Slush – $482.11
Total - $899.63

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Goal Review End September

I was kind of curious to see how my goals list was going since I started my Masters. 


- Set up RRSP investments with my return of value pension from the military and contribute $359 a month for the year, along with any tax refunds. CHECK [I’ve started thinking about strategies for optimizing investments in my TFSA and RRSP when the new year rolls around.]

- Pay off house in 5 years.  I should be able to accomplish this by doubling up every payment and paying a 10% lump sum every year.  CHECK [Not sure what my hours are going to look like especially in the winter semester so this may slow down. On the other hand the second half of the 5 year period is post masters so I may see a pay raise for the second half.]


-Start Masters of Science / Masters of Science in Nursing in the fall.  CHECK [I’m having lots of fun, and the concepts aren’t too hard.]


-Join two new clubs in the local area.  CHECK [I’m actually up to two writers groups plus quilting.] 


-Have my novel accepted to be published.  I plan to have it ready by the end of the month (January), so I can start sending it out. CHECK [I have once again launched my book to two agents, one ha said no, I’m still waiting on the other.]

-Become a respite foster parent. CHECK [I’ve got my rooms ready (finally) and have spoken to my worker about possibilities for weekend placements.]

-Finish my current crafting projects.  NOPE [Well I’ve done some stuff. The only thing is that I can’t sew in 15 min intervals. I need to know that I’ll have at least an hour uninterrupted. This will slow down until my next school break.] 

A respectable 86%. For October I’m not going to worry about the crafting or where my novel is. I will be concentrating on my studies and on getting started with foster care.  

Monday, 23 September 2013

Home Remedies

As a nurse by profession I have an interesting relationship with home remedies. On one hand I want scientific proof that they work before my patients start messing with them (which few remedies have been studied.) That said the active chemical in aspirin comes from willow bark which was used in the old days for pain and fever. So it's not all snake's oil.

Last Monday though I was coming down with a sore throat and cold. Being a nurse I have seen many a patient with my symptoms and when they come to me there's not much I can do. Get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, etc. None the less I didn't want my cold to put me out of it for several days since that would put me behind in school work. So I was a bit desperate. What did I do? Salt water, lemon and honey tea.

1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp honey, 1 cup boiling water
(It tastes really good despite it's suspect appearance)
Salt water gargle is actually backed up by some science, and anyone who's had as many teeth pulled as I have knows it well. A lot of bacteria that invade our bodies can't survive salt water. While you may not want to literally rub salt in your wound (please don't it will really, really hurt, your better off with traditional antibiotics) it's perfectly good for cleaning out your mouth and the back of your throat.

Lemon and honey tea. I have no idea how bacteria react to lemons, but most bacteria aren't big on acidic environments. Add to that the fact that honey has some antibiotic properties (and tasted good) and you've got about as good a cold fighting tea as you'll get. Not to mention that warm liquids tend to sooth the back of the throat when it get's irritated.

The end results was a 2 day cold which I pushed through with only minor inconviniences.  Of course
correlation does not infer causation as we say in my stats class . . . but it helped me get through it.

Friday, 20 September 2013

My from scratch goes fuzzy

One of the (few) disadvantages of cooking from scratch is that there is no best before date. Generally this means that the first time you find out that what you made won't last that long in the fridge is when it goes fuzzy.  As evidenced by my refried beans below.

I've tried to come up with a strategy for minimizing this but the reality is I cooking in batches so that I don't have to cook every night and at some point I'm going to end up wasting some food in order to learn it's best before.

The other thing that got wasted this week was some spinach. Despite my best intentions I just didn't get around to my greens. I think that part of the problem is that they sit in an air tight plastic container with their own moisture.

Next time I get spinach I'll try moving them to a bag with a bit of paper towel to cut down on moisture.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

September Mid Month Checkup

Bills/Savings Paid

Mortgage - Successfully doubled-up
Retirement Savings - On Track
Housing Taxes/Insurance – Taxes have been increased based on my predictions for next year’s bill.  Insurance is on Track
Health Insurance – Spent – but need to claim of meds in progress
Financial Planning - $1.64 left over.

Bills waiting to be paid

Cell Phone/Internet - Bills have not yet arrived, $46.89 and $50.68 respectively
Utilities – $383.86 I’m looking into price of wood for my fireplace which will take a bite out of this.


House Maintenance - Savings are up to $2,385.27.
Big Ticket Items - $588.53 in savings. 
Train - $66.71 still there.  
Other Transportation - $77.72 set aside.
Food - $240.27 left.  I could throw a party! 
Miscellaneous - $28.98. 
Entertainment - $22.87. With all the time I spend studying there isn’t much time to spend.  
Social/Sports - $40, but I should need to pay a $30 club fee soon.
Clothes - $90
Gifts - $68.40.   

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The perpetual Todo list

I one of those people that need to write things down. Failing to do so will have them fly out of my head. It will eventually fly back into my head, usually at an inopportune moment, normally right before I need to have the thing done. Of course there are the things that have no time line that I only remember when I don't have time to do them. So they never actually get done.

Enter my perpetual todo list. Most people find a list that never gets finished a bit depressing. I'm finding it quite useful. The perpetual Todo list rides around in my backpack and can be added to the moment that something comes up. Having it all in one place keeps track of every little thing that is going on in every little aspect of my life. What's more, because it travels around with me (opposed to sitting on my fridge) it is constantly being looked at and the things on it will actually get done. When sitting and having lunch at work I'll normally pull it out to see if there are any phone calls or e-mails that need to be done. One task per lunch hour keeps a lot of the little appointment making and getting back to people up to date.

It's also how I look at the list. I never look at it in its entirety. I don't care how long it will take me to do the whole list. Instead I take it item by item, which usually don't take a lot of time by themselves. In fact I'm regularly surprised when the dreaded phone call I have to make to the insurance company only takes 3 min to resolve.

For bigger tasks I break them down. Instead of "Claim XYZ through insurance" it will be, "Assemble insurance paperwork," "Set up insurance account login," "Fill out insurance paperwork," and "Mail insurance paperwork." That way instead of having a task drag on for a week and becoming discouraged because it never seems to go anywhere I can cross something off whenever I make even a little bit of progress which keeps me motivated. And ultimately, things get done.

Friday, 13 September 2013

No food waste, fruit tree payback

I once again am proud to announce 0 food waste. Though it was a tad close. I'm sure everyone knows at least one recipe that tastes absolutely wonderful . . . but makes terrible left overs.  One of my experiments turned out to be one of these recipes and though I will do it again I'm certainly going to half the recipe so that I don't have as many leftovers.

My lovely plum tree has finally run out of plums for me to devour so I thought I'd do a rough estimate of how much fruit I got off the tree, and then convert that to a dollar amount.

I didn't keep an accurate count of how many plums I ate but I estimate that it was four buckets full (I use a 4L ice cream bucket for my plum picking.) The bucket holds roughly 27 plums at a time which means that I consumed approximately 108 plums in four weeks. : )  (I was a bit surprised at first, but looking back I was munching on them constantly.)

Thought I'd add a picture of my plum tree in the spring so
that you could admire it!
At my local the cost for 3 plums is $1.27. Which is $0.42 per plum (1.27/3 = 0.42). Since I ate 108 of them that's $45.72 worth of plums (0.42*108).

My tree came with the house, but when it comes to buying a new plum tree the standard cost that I've found online is $20-$30. In other words a plum tree will more than pay for itself over a single season once it's mature. Not to mention the beauty of the tree, the shade that it provides and the biodiversity that it helps to promote. I would most certainly say that a plum tree is a good return on investment.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Hazard: Your Brain May Explode

I have just finished my first week of real classes at the graduate level. I managed to spend most of the last 2 days with a mildly dazed and tingling feeling going on in my brain. Oh, and I went home exhausted after a only one class and 4 hours of work completely exhausted. No I'm not sick. That's just what happens when my brain feels like it wants to explode.

Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying my classes, new classmates and the ideas I'm being introduced to. In fact I've discovered that a week or so of oh-my-God-my-brain-is-so-full-it's-going-to-start-coming-out-my-ears every few month or so is very good for me. It's just not all that pleasant when you're going through it. (And here I am paying large sums of money to have this happen to me.)

I must admit that I've never been a big fan of higher education just for the sake of higher education; especially when it puts you into debt. But I think that I just may be starting to appreciate education simply for the benefit of learning how to think. I chose my Masters because it will help with my career progression, but I'm beginning to see that I'll be getting a lot more out of the process than some qualifications and a higher pay scale.

Sure you can get a good deal of education out side of the class room. I've learned loads from folks who haven't got a university degree and I think that practical and useable knowledge and skills are just as important as philosophical thinking. However Graduate school brings together a group of people, both students and teachers who want to be challenged, pushed and explore a level of thinking beyond what they currently use.

I'm thinking that my Graduate studies venture will be a good investment.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Over Budgeting Food

Those of you who follow me regularly will notice that I always budget $160 for food each month. What you probably don't know is that I only spend around $120 each month. That would be why I started out September with $285.11 in my food section. Why do I do such a strange thing, putting more in than I know I'll spend?

It's a luxury, which I can afford and enjoy having. When I was transitioning between jobs and had just bought a house money was a tad tight. As such I really did have to tighten down on my food budget and pay attention to what I bought. I would have two sections on my grocery list, the need to buys in order to feed myself for the next week, and the nice to haves which was treats, stocking up on food for later and so on. I kept a running tally in my head of what was in my cart and when necessary but things back or didn't pick them up to begin with.

Now I make my list, pick everything up and check out with out paying all that much attention to the cost. I still spend on average $120 a month on my food, but unlike previous months there is no pressure or worry when I shop. It's a small luxury, but it's one that I enjoy and can afford.

Obviously I will not accumulate extra food money indefinitely. One of these days (probably after Christmas) I'll cut back on my food budget and use up some of the extra in that section. But for now I enjoy the privilege of eating what I want without thought of cost.

Friday, 6 September 2013

0 Food waste and Cooking with beans

I haven't a shred of food waste to share with you this Friday. Though in all fairness I did end up eating the same meal 4 times to get through one set of leftovers. I do need to concentrate on getting through my container of spinach though . . . I've been avoiding my salads because they take time to make, it's a bad habit that I've been trying to get rid of forever.

On the other hand I thought I'd share some ideas with you about cooking with beans. They've made up a large part of my diet since I went vegetarian and I've gotten pretty good at cooking them. I use to do the canned beans thing, so simple. You just open it up and pour. But to experiment further with cooking from scratch I ventured into the world of dried beans and never looked back. For me the advantages of dried beans over canned are:

1. They are less expensive.
2. They use less packaging
3. You can buy them (and store them) in bulk.
4. You control and added ingredients, such as salt.

When I started cooking with dried beans I was looking for a standard equation of how much water and how long to cook them. Much to my dismay it doesn't work that way. Now a days cooking beans looks something like this (if I need them soft to go into the recipe, some recipes actually call for dried beans and provide specific instructions.)

Measure out wanted amount (you need to know how to convert dried to cooked) put in large bowl of water to soak overnight. Put in slow cooker in morning with as much water as it will hold (at least 3 cups of water to 1 cup of beans.) Turn on. Turn off when you get home/when beans are the desired level of mushiness (yes that is a scientific word!)

Of course this takes some preparation and planning. So does taking meat out of the freezer the night before (which I was awful at doing by the way.)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Time to hibernate!

The first day of grad school is over and done with, wow what a day. It is going to be a lot different than my undergrad, but I think it should be in mostly good ways. In my specific program there are only 4 of us and we are currently huddling together for mutual protection.

When I decided to go back to school and work 80%  I knew that I would have my plate full. I put a good deal of thought into the best way to handle the heavy work load and not be working and behind the ball the entire time. While I did enjoy my undergrad I will admit that most of the time I did little other than study, and while it was tolerable for 4 years when all my peers were doing the same I'm going to strive for a little more balance this time. I'm going to do my best to see that work and study occurs on week days. Yes, that may mean some very long days during the week but I figure since I'm home by 5:00 I can get a good 3 hours a night of Masters work in and maybe another 30 min a day of text book reading on the bus and while waiting for appointments. That's 17 hrs a week at home study for my Masters (plus 6 hours a week in class) and 32 hours a week for work. I'm hoping that 23 hours a week will suffice for my Masters so that I can confine my work to 55 hours over 5 days leaving my weekends free for foster care, house work, and my own leisurely pursuits.

The other issue that I put a lot of thought into before starting was how to take care of myself. I recon that I've done pretty well in the last year when it comes to getting decent food on the table each night, but that hasn't always been the case. I have had trouble in the past with finding the time and energy to put together a proper nutritious meal every night. It tends to be one of the things that I let slip when I'm living alone and busy. So, I decided to lay up stores in order to go into hibernation over the next 8 months. Over the summer I've been making extra foods and freezing it in portion sizes. Each portion has enough food for one supper for me and one lunch for me (since I always do leftovers for lunch.) I have currently:

15 portions of Lentil soup
8 portions of Pea soup
12 portions of Chilli
5 portions of Baked Beans

I also have roughly enough refried beans frozen to make either nachos of tacos once a week for 8 months; as well as 7 half loaves of bread. (I never thaw more than half a loaf at a time because I don't eat them that quickly.)

The idea is that between the stuff I have frozen in the freezer and making doubles of my recipes on weekend I won't have to do very much cooking during the week. Meaning that I can keep my nose to the books and stay on top of my classes.

That folks is the great Graduate study hibernation plan. I certainly hope that it works out.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Pay Day 1 September 2013

So my monthly pay check is in for a total of $3,598.39.  No extra money came in this month. 

Housing 40% - $1,439.35
Mortgage - $646.62
House Maintenance - $315.00
Housing Taxes - $192.00
House Insurance - $72.00
Utilities – $213.73
Total – $1,439.35

Savings 10% - $359.83 – All going to my RRSP

Debt 10% - $359.83

Transportation 15% - $539.75
Bus Pass – $60
Train - $15
Other - $0
Car Savings – $0
Total - $75
Leftover - $464.75

Life 25% - $899.63
Food - $160
Cell – $30
Internet - $50
Health Insurance – $23.52
Clothes - $10
Gifts - $10
Misc - $10
Big Ticket Item - $100
Entertainment - $10
Social/Sports - $0
Financial Planning - $14
Slush – $482.11
Total - $899.63

Of Note:

-Between my “Slush” category, leftover transportation money, debt repayment, and mortgage money I have $1,953.31 set aside. Of that $1,422.56 will be my mortgage payment/monthly double up and $530.75 will be for next year’s annual 10% payment.

-While I do get a “free” bus pass with my tuition I don’t get that until midway through the week. So I took out $60 in toonies and quarters. Some of it will be bus money for the first couple days and the rest of it will be bus money for when I have to take the foster kids places.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Goals and better late than never

I really did have the very best of intentions to get my food waste blog post up yesterday. Then I got sick and best intentions were all left behind. For those disappointed souls here is my waste - six potatoes that went kind of yellow and fuzzy.
Usually I keep them in the fridge so that I can get through at 10 pounds before they go. But when I got my room mate a couple of months ago they go moved out and I forgot to put them back. Lesson learned!

Man that was a fast month, it's kind of all a fuzzy happy daze!


- Set up RRSP investments with my return of value pension from the military and contribute $359 a month for the year, along with any tax refunds. CHECK [I've got my eye on the clock waiting to make my next RRSP contribution, sometimes time goes sooo sloooow.]

- Pay off house in 5 years.  I should be able to accomplish this by doubling up every payment and paying a 10% lump sum every year.  CHECK [I've hit 33.3% ownership, one whole third of the house is mine.]


-Start Masters of Science / Masters of Science in Nursing in the fall.  CHECK [I’m as ready as I'll every be for the start next tuesday.]


-Join two new clubs in the local area.  CHECK [Actually surpassed this a little, I'm now in two writers group and quilting is about to start again.] 


-Have my novel accepted to be published.  I plan to have it ready by the end of the month (January), so I can start sending it out. CHECK [It's been sent to another couple agents, I start waiting again.]

-Become a respite foster parent. CHECK [PRIDE is done and I'm waiting for my social worker to come back from vacation to finish my homestudy.]

-Take a big backpacking trip solo. [This goal got trashed, instead I had a blast up at my grandparent's cottage.] 

-Finish my current crafting projects.  NOPE [Yeah, I haven't touched a needle in 2 months.] 

A respectful 86% this month.  September's going to have a lot of changes so I'm not to bothered about doing all my goals equally. At the moment I'm just going to concentrate on getting on an even footing for my masters and diving into foster parenting.