Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Goal Review End July

July was a really fun month, unfortunately my daily to do list has not been moving along with any particular speed. 


- 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 to love how my system just chugs away without me having to think about it.]

- 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 keep making progress towards my third 10% payment.  Also arranged my schedule so I won’t have to take a pay cut until around December.]


-Start Masters of Science / Masters of Science in Nursing in the fall.  NOPE [I’ve got some reading to do and some extra studying I set for myself to get a leg up on my thesis, but I’ve not put time aside to do it, life keeps happening.]


-Join two new clubs in the local area.  CHECK [I’m checking out a new writers group in the area, made up of a very nice group of folks.] 


-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’m in the process of making some final edits to it before I launch it once again into the great abyss.]

-Become a respite foster parent. CHECK [I’m done my PRIDE class, home study still not complete due to my social worker’s case load but it sounds like the very, very latest that I’ll be fully qualified is the end of August.]

-Take a big backpacking trip solo. [This goal got trashed, see why here.] 

-Finish my current crafting projects.  NOPE [After the big push to get my brother’s wedding gift done I’ve kind of slacked off, guess I should get back at it.] 

Down to a dismal 71% (actually a bit surprising, I thought it would be a lot worse).  August will concentrate on 1.Get some studying done for my Master’s (really, this time I’m serious) 2. Get my manuscript back out there.  3. Get back to work on my crafting.  

Monday, 29 July 2013

36 hours - Done PRIDE

It's done, it's all over.  Ten weeks and 36 hours of class.  I now have my certificate for PRIDE.  Well I don't actually have it.  Bureaucracies being what they are it didn't get printed for our last class meaning that I'll get it in the mail at some point.

As much as I'll enjoy having my Wednesday evenings to myself I do have to admit that I will miss the classes.  It brought together a group of divers and interesting people.  That said I'm ecstatic about being one step closer to being a qualified foster parent.  All I need is the rubber stamp of approval on my Home Study and I'll be done.

My house is almost all in order with the exceptions of some furniture that I'm getting second hand (more on that later) and some stuff I need to buy only once I'm approved.  (Stuff like mattress covers and electrical outlet covers.)

At the very latest I should be good to go for the beginning of September.  I'm sincerely hoping to have kids in my home 3 weekends a month on average, mostly school aged to teenagers, with no preference for gender.  I'll hopefully have 4 beds approved for my house (two beds in each of my spare rooms) though I doubt that they'll be full regularly.

Our last class had a bunch of families who had fostered/adopted come to speak with us.  It was great and mostly confirmed what I already believed.  Those things that are the hardest to do are also the most worthwhile doing.  Those are the things that also teach us the most about ourselves; like being in the military, nursing and volunteering.  Being a foster parent is bound to be one hell of an adventure!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Food waste and building my nest bit by bit

I have no food waste, thus once again no picture.  I'll attribute my low food waste over the past few weeks to the fact that we are smack dab in the middle of summer.  For me that means a lot of sandwiches and salads because it's just to hot for a warm supper.  (The other option is that I've just been too lazy to make proper supers every night . . . I think I'll stick with the "it's summer" line.)

So, on to building my nest.  When I was in high school I had a very knowledgeable and very strict French teacher.  I loved her classes and one of the things that I remember most was the little phrases that she would repeat to us often.  (Mostly when people weren't  doing their homework.)  One of my favourite sayings was "Petit a petit l'oiseau fait son nid" for the non-franco's among my readers it means"little by little the bird builds it's nest."

For some reason I have been thinking about this tid bit of wisdom recently.  My faithful readers know that I plan on paying off my mortgage in 5 years by both doubling up my monthly payments and paying of 10% of my mortgage on each anniversary ( You can read the details of my plan in my post "Mortgage Plan Revisited - Monthly Payments"and in "Mortgage Plan Revisited - Yearly 10%".)  With my teachers wisdom bouncing around my brain I was wondering which part of my plan had the most impact on getting my house paid off.  So I did the math:

Downpayment  - 20%
Yearly 10% - 33%
Monthly payments - 47%

The math dosen't lie.  As much as walking into the bank and throwing $15,200 against my mortgage is exciting and watching years drop off my mortgage in an instant is thrilling the reality is that most of the progress made on my mortgage will not be done in a single fell swoop.  Most of it will be done patiently day by day as I keep in control of my money so that, come the 8th of the month, I have the ability to pay yet another double up.  Living frugally and below my means will have much more of an impact than earning more money for my 10% payments, (not that I won't be doing both.)

As my teacher said "Petit a petit l'oiseau fait son nid" so little by little I will build my own nest.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Mortgage - The non-payment option

While I was pretty thorough reading my mortgage documents before signing them I must admit that there was one part that I just skimmed.  You see I figured that the skip-a-payment option offered by my bank didn't apply to me.  After all when a girl's planning on paying off her mortgage in 5 years she hardly wants to take a "payment vacation."  (Have you ever noticed that the statement saying that interest continues grow on your unpaid portion is found at the very bottom in a font that would make a fly want to wear glasses?  Gee, wonder why that is!)

Recently though I decided to take a closer look at that part.  Turns out that while the normal skip option is available once every 12 months there is a deluxe option for those of us who have doubled our payments.  While I've not discussed this with my bank (not needing to use the option) from what I read it works like this; for every extra dollar you've paid they'll let you skip a dollar in payments.

If I am interpreting this correctly I could walk up to the bank tomorrow and ask for an extended payment vacation and not make another payment for over 2 and a half years ($20,631.58 extra paid divided by $646.62 per month = 31.9 months.)  Granted I would lose all the headway that I had made paying my mortgage off early and would have to sit there watching the interest slowly grow on the balance (which for me would be excruciatingly painful) but the important thing is that the bank would not foreclose on my house during this time.

Let me be clear, this is NOT my first safety net.  I have insurance coverage should I not be able to work, I have very marketable skills should I lose my job, and I have both emergency and personal savings that could keep me afloat (including mortgage payments) for 3 months to 3 years respectively.

What this safety net does provide is a means to hold onto my house for as long as it would take to sell and make other living arrangements should my life fall apart and my other safety nets become unreliable.  This option is obviously not as ideal as owning my own place outright it simply adds another layer of security, and that is always worth having.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Apologies and Bloggers Helping Bloggers

My sincerest apologies for my absence from the blogging world.  I took the weekend to go and have an adventure (aka I helped my parents moved.)  I hope the fact that I had a blast is a conciliation to all my faithful readers.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the lovely folks over at Bloggers Helping Bloggers.  I just finished a mentorship that they arranged and must admit that it was a very educational experience.  My mentor was Aaron over from Three Thrifty Guys and many of the improvements that you have seen appear on my site were guided by him.

How was the experience?  In a word, great!  I would highly recommend a mentorship such as this to any new blogger. My mentor was more then happy to explain the areas of blogging that I was most interested in pursuing and his advice was very practical.  My advice to any new bloggers looking to get involved in a mentorship is two-fold.  First off, have a good idea of the things that you are aiming to learn.  This will help you and your mentor focus your time and energy.  As much as "Being a better blogger" is a laudable ambition it's a bit hard to formulate into a concrete question =D.  Secondly, make sure you pick a session during which you will have some spare time.  The process does take a weekly time commitment above and beyond your normal blogging schedule.  My brother's wedding fell exactly in the middle of my mentoring session and I certainly felt the time pinch of so much to do and so little time.

Thanks again!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Needs and Wants

One of the first things that we are (hopefully) taught as children when it comes to money is the difference between a need and a want.  Unfortunately, while it is very easy to point out a "want" to a child, that new toy or an ice cream, needs are a bit more difficult which leads to a bit of a grey area.

So I divide the idea of needs into primary and secondary needs.

Primary needs are what you need to live.  Missing them tends to lead to a deterioration of health and then death.  They are found on the bottom two tiers in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  You need water, food, air, shelter and access to appropriate medical care.  Food does not mean caviar, it means basic nutrients that  your body needs to survive.  It doesn't even means variety in the food you eat, just that you can eat.  Shelter doesn't mean owning a home.  In certain cases a tent might suffice, or an apartment shared with a friend.  Just something to protect you from the elements.  Clothes would fit in here only as much as was needed to keep you healthy.  You don't need a $1,000 coat, you need one that will keep you warm when it snows.

Secondary needs are what you need to get and keep a job that will provide the resources for your primary needs.  This means appropriate clothing for your job (office ware for sales men, scrubs for nurses and steel toed boots for construction workers.)  A cheap cell phone (pay as you go) so that you have contact info for your resume may be a need.  Other misc. needs may include fees for a professional college or materials you are expected to provide yourselves. A car is only included if your job includes moving yourself and materials a considerable distance, such as a truck driver or a home health care nurse.

Everything else that you spend money on is a want.  I doesn't make it bad, it just means you don't need it.

Monday, 15 July 2013

July Mid Month Check-Up

Bills/Savings Paid

Mortgage - Successfully doubled-up
Retirement/Emergency Savings - On Track
Housing Taxes/Insurance – Taxes have been increased based on my predictions for next year’s bill.  Insurance is on Track
Travel – No longer saving, has been rerouted to mortgage payment
Health Insurance – Spent – but need to claim last round of meds
Bus Pass - Spent
Car Savings – Will have enough come August first

Bills waiting to be paid

Cell Phone/Internet - Bills have not yet arrived, had to use my extra to pay for increased internet usage when my room mate was here. 
Financial Planning - $14.32.
Utilities – $264.28 at my current rate I should set enough aside during the winter to pay for the spike in costs.  The utility company offers to do a similar thing, but it’s cheaper to average it myself. 


House Maintenance - Savings are up to $1,772.13. I’m slowly learning the value of small and constant maintenance. 
Big Ticket Items - $485.18 in savings. 
Train - $51.71 still there.  Spent some last week so I can go see my folks.  = D
Other Transportation - $90.70 set aside, mostly because people have been offering rides or lending me their car when I’m out past the time that busses run.  
Food - $172.71 left.  I’ve only gone shopping once this month so far. 
Miscellaneous - $20.59 
Entertainment - $15.44.  I’ve been buying books from the local library at 2 bucks a pop, it’s great and cheap. 
Social/Sports - $40, savings are going to stop here until I actually start spending some of it.  
Clothes - $70
Gifts - $48.40.   

Life is steadying out, and along with it so are the finances.  That said I wouldn't want you guys to get bored so FYI my finances should become a tad more challenging come September when I start my Masters since my full time pay check may decrease and I may pick up short term stints as a teaching assistant or research assistant.  

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Just Blow Up Your Brain

I have spent the last week in a valiant effort trying to blow up my brain, seriously.  Here's how you go about doing it.  Chose a venue full of people who are generally older, more knowledgeable and more experienced than you.  Go ahead and plunk yourself (along with them) in the middle of a course which is geared towards people with twice your credentials and for which you have no preparation except perhaps a course or two . . . four years ago.  Then stay there, for one whole week.  In other words attend a conference similar to the one I was at this week (though you do have my blessing to attend one that is relevant to your occupation.)

Stretching your brain such as I described above has positive numerous effects.  Though to be entirely honest you probably won't appreciate them until you're done.

  • It will show you just how much you don't know and point out where you need to focus your learning.  You'll find out first hand where you need to concentrate your efforts, be that improving a single skill or taking time to get an over view of a certain subject.  
  • You'll meet a lot of smart people.  As a result of my course I am on a first name basis with two of the professors who will be teaching me during my masters (which starts in September.)  Both of them have expressed that they look forward to seeing me in their classes.  
  • You'll meet people further along you're career path.  Chances are they'll also be like the second year masters students that I got to know and they will be more than happy to give you lots of advice that they wish they had known in your shoes.  
  • You'll sharpen your thinking.  Usually when they start giving you complex theories it's not about the memorization, it's about making connections and analyzing what you have in front of you.  This subsequently bleeds into other areas of your life.  
  • You'll be ahead of the ball.  While all of your peers are learning the basics you're moving onto more complicated materials and making connections with what you're presented.  
  • You'll learn some new stuff.  I put this last because it is also the least important.  Sure you're going to walk away with some new knowledge in your brain but that is of minimal importance compared to what is listed above.  
Whether it be for school, work, or personal growth I recommend you skip ahead and take the next level of what ever interests you.  Occasionally trying to blow up your brain is good for you and life's too short to be spent taking baby steps the entire way.  

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Revisiting my Vacation Goal

Good goals are flexible and change with the person who's made them.  That's not an excuse to leave your plan in the dust at every bump in the road, however, it is a good reason to revisit what your goals are and why you want to reach them.

Since mid October I have had the goal to "Take a big backpacking trip solo" and I have been faithfully saving the cash to do so each month and not taking a single day of vacation (if I'm paying to fly some where I want as many days in that spot as I can.)  I've been hemming and hawing over this goal for a while now and I'll take you through my "Goal Revisiting" process.  

What was my original motivation?

-Escape.  When I first started dreaming of travel my life was falling apart.  While the job I was working was sometimes interesting it also included bouts of tedious work and one of my boss's was particularly aggravating.  The place that I worked looked like a cross between my old high school and the prison I worked at for 4 months.  I was isolated by the fact that there was no one else with my rank there the majority of the time, my good boss was frequently traveling, and I could go several days in a row without actually talking to someone.  I truly wanted to be any place else for a number of months.

-Down time.  Every one needs a bit of downtime, and I hadn't had any for a while.

-Learning.  I wanted to visit other cultures and historic sights.  They say you learn twice the amount of stuff about yourself while traveling as you do at home.  I wanted to put this to the test.

-See amazing sights.  I have a list of things that I want to see, to take in the grandeur, marvel at things that are truly one of a kind.

-Fill the status quo.  I have several friends/relatives who are about my age who have gone backpacking and spent weeks in exotic locals.  It seems to be the thing that a 20 something does before settling down.

Are these motivations still relevant?

-Escape, not at all.  I'm at a great place and feel no need to leave it all behind or to get free.  I am no longer desperate to be anywhere else except for here.

-Down time.  I do still need some but don't necessarily need to go some where else to achieve it.

-Learning.  I always want to learn more.  But there are a hundred different ways to learn.  Add to that the fact that my grandfather has offered to teach me some new hands on skills if I help out for a week around his cottage.  I don't need to jump on an airplane to learn something valuable.

-See amazing sights.  Thinking back some of the most amazing sights I have ever seen have been of my countries natural beauty.  I remember holding perfectly still as a loon swam no more than 4 meters away from me, or watching the sun rise an set away from the crush of humanity.  There may be majestic sights abroad but there are just as many in my back yard.

-Fill the status quo, I can't believe I was measuring myself!  I'm only human sometimes but stepping back and taking another look gave me another perspective.  Sure I'd love to see all the things that they've seen that said I could spend my life looking at every single sight another human has seen.  Just because someone else has seen it instead of me doesn't mean that it is a better sight than what I've taken in.

The thing is that I can hit all my still relevant motivations by staying near home and spending less money.  Add to that the fact that all the vacations that I have truly enjoyed I have enjoyed because I have spent it with people I care about.  I can't get that backpacking solo.

I'm not saying I will never do it, but at the moment I am happy to go for a simpler and less costly vacation.  As a result I am going to use up my saved vacation days by taking a week off in August to go to my Grandparent's cottage and the remaining days I will use to take off one day a week for the months of September and October allowing me to still be working full time while doing my Masters and keeping my pay from falling for another couple weeks.  As for the money I have saved thus far, a grand total of $1,404.68 I am planning on moving that to my House Payments account and using it for part of my yearly 10% payment.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Making Bread - A Lesson in Patience

I didn't have the self control to wait until I had taken a
picture before having a slice.  Hence the loaf in the
back right corner.  
Ever since my university years I've been experimenting with making my own bread.  I've done sour dough, white sandwich bread, and my current favourite whole wheat sandwich bread.  In fact this weekend I took the opportunity and ended up baking 6 loaves of bread.  (5 of which promptly got stuck in the freezer.)  During my baking spree I came to the following conclusion.  Everybody on the planet should make bread from scratch (with out a bread maker) at least once in their lives.


First off it will give you an appreciation for the dying art and an understanding of where your bread comes from.  The same way that cooking from scratch and growing your own vegetables are beneficial making your own bread brings you back into touch with that you are putting in your mouth.

Secondly, the taste of fresh home made bread is heavenly.  If you make it and taste it just once you may never want to go back to the store bought loaves that don't go mouldy.  (Seriously, are you going to trust something that doesn't rot?)

Finally, and most importantly, making bread is a lesson in patience.  If you hurry through a step your bread may not rise and you'll end up with a brick instead of bread.  If your concentration is elsewhere you could very well end up killing your yeast and wrecking the dough.  I am not the most patient person on the planet, truth be told I hate waiting for things to happen.  I'm going to assume that a fair portion of the planet is with me on this as the human race continues to come up with more and more sophisticated ways to make our world go faster.  When it comes to bread though, you simply have to accept that it will rise when it rises.  It will not follow your schedule and if you try and change it's schedule you'll end up with a mess.

Like so many things on the planet there are no short cuts, just the prudent use of time spent waiting.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Goal Review End June

Given the general chaos cause by my brothers wedding my goal review got pushed back and ended up on today, the 5th of the new month.  I guess it’s better late than never.  Let me first comment on my usual Food Waste Friday.  Turns out that upon leaving my house mate hid some vegetables in the bottom of my fridge.  (Ok, I wasn’t looking all that hard to begin with, I was a tad busy.)  Anyways last night I had to do something with the cabbage that she left and which was going bad.  So I made my very first coleslaw (which wasn’t half bad!)  The next part is my monthly goal review. 


- 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 [My RRSP and Locked-in Account are all set up and my savings are chugging along, though I do need to see my bank about some more investments.]

- 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’m keeping up with the payments and now that my emergency fund is full and my car fund is almost full I can pay each monthly double up (total of $1,422.56) from my pay check.]


-Start Masters of Science / Masters of Science in Nursing in the fall.  CHECK [I’m in the process of signing up for classes, doing some review, can’t wait to actually start.]


-Join two new clubs in the local area.  CHECK [Quilting has stopped for the summer but writing group’s still going as long as I host.] 


-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 [Unfortunately after sending three chapters in to an agent they decided it wasn’t for them, oh well, there are other fish in the sea.]

-Become a respite foster parent. CHECK [I’ve done 6 of the 10 courses so far and I have another 2/3 meetings with my assessor.  Hopefully I’ll be done by the and of the month.]

-Take a big backpacking trip solo. CHECK [I’m still saving for this but I get the feeling I’m going to be revisiting this goal (more later.)] 

-Finish my current crafting projects.  CHECK [I did finish the table cloth I was making in time for my brothers wedding (you can see it here) though it did mean a couple of late nights to get it done.] 

Once again I pulled in a marvelous 100%.  That said I’m going to have too look at adding new goals/updating the ones that I have.  In July I want to focus on a couple of things.  1.Get some studying done for my Master’s 2. Get my manuscript back out there.  3. Take a good long look at my travel plans. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Pay Day July 2013

So my monthly pay check is in for a total of $3,598.39.  During the month of June I also earned $400 from renting one of my spare rooms and $158 tutoring.  Both extra amounts went against my mortgage.  

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 – $68.25
Train - $0
Other - $0
Car Savings – $471.50
Total - $539.75

Life 25% - $899.63
Emergency Savings - $233.15
Travel - $175
Food - $160
Cell – $30
Internet - $50
Health Insurance – $23.52
Clothes - $10
Gifts - $10
Misc - $20
Big Ticket Item - $100
Entertainment - $10
Social/Sports - $5
Financial Planning - $14
Slush – $58.96
Total - $899.63

Of Note:
-My Emergency Fund is now fully funded meaning that this money will be redirected to paying off my mortgage. 
-My financial goals have been updated here (except the house my mortgage payment only come out on the 8th), and I have moved forward in all goals (except the house)
-I continue to be able to put most of my transportation budget towards savings for a car since I have been able to get around with only my bus pass and the occasional ride from a friend
-Some reshuffling concerning budgeting methods and financial goals will be coming soon, stay tuned!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Wedding Season

Let me first wish each and every one of you a happy Canada Day.  There is nothing like spending a day celebrating the fact that you live in one of the most privileged and peaceful places on earth.  But I digress.

My weekend absence from this blog was for a very good reason.  My brother got married on Saturday, which naturally necessitated a three day long celebration (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.)  I must say that their wedding was exemplary in it's sensibility.  (I know that's what every bride wants to hear.)  But it really was nice and only once did I see someone running around like a chicken with his head cut off (and that fire was but out quite quickly.)

Instead of pomp and circumstance the emphasis was on spending time with family.  Friends supplied both the venue and the play list.  Family hosted the parties on Friday and Sunday, and supplied the cakes.  Knowing that most family members would be coming a great distance to join in the festivities the bride and the groom requested that there be no presents.  For them having family come to spend the day with them was present enough.

Of course several family members brought presents anyways, myself included.  (Let's be realistic now, it's been years since I did what my brother told me.)  That said, I didn't go over board on the present.  It cost me maybe $10, oh yes, and about 150 hours of work.  I don't think that popular culture appreciates home made gifts as much as they use to.  Even though making something yourself takes much more effort and thought than picking something up at the store (no matter the price) ever could.