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. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Retirement Goal

I've been hemming and hawing over putting a new financial goal in place now that I have my car savings and my emergency fund fully funded. So I've decided to bite the bullet and go ahead and make a retirement goal. It's not set in stone by any means but it does give me something to shoot for.

If you take a read through my other retirement posts you'll see I'm not sure what my life circumstances will be when I am ready to retire (or even when I'll be ready to retire!) So I'm assuming that I'll want to retire when ever I am financially able and that I will just need to support myself.

I currently spend about $1,400 per month on average, I'll plan for a slight increase in that amount since I may want a car and some travel money. In retirement I will shoot for $1,700 per month net, which is $20,400 per year net. With current tax rates in my province that would mean I need to gross $24,480 per year in investment income. I also need to have my house (worth $191,000) paid off.

If my withdrawal rate is 4%, then I'll need $612,000 in savings to generate my desired monthly income. In other words between my house and my savings I will need a net worth of $803,000 to retire. My current net worth stands at $143,975.97.

It's hard to get time lines because I'm not sure what to expect in terms of raises but my investment calculator makes 40 seem like a reasonable age to be ready to retire. In order to make it a SMART goal I'd have to say:

I will be able to retire when I am 40 because I will have my house paid off ($191,000) and I will have $612,000 in savings.

Goal:  $803,000 by November 2029
Current:  $143,975.97

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Black Sheep (and oh so chique)

I'm a bit of a black sheep in my family, and as a result get a fair few sighs and rolling eyes when ever one particular subject comes up - clothes. Every one, including my older brother, puts a lot more thought into what they wear than I do. If you were to ask my family they would probably tell you that I have no sense of style. If you asked me, well I'd tell you I have studiously avoided developing a sense of style. Allow me to expand.

In a recent discussion with my cousins (10 and 12, both girls) they were both shocked and some what horrified to learn the following:

  • I don't own short-shorts. 
  • I don't own and Abercrombie and Fitch or any other name brands. 
  • I've never worn a two piece bathing suit. 
  • Most of my clothes comes from the boys/mens section of the clothing store. 
  • I am still wearing some of my brother's hand me downs. 
  • I haven't bought any new clothes in almost 4 years (and the last thing I bought was my platoon t-shirt which we designed ourselves while doing our basic training.) 
  • I own one skirt and one dress (dress is for winter, skirt is for summer.)
  • I never wear make-up and wear jewellery only a couple of times a year. 
I was also informed by my younger cousin that there was simply nothing that can be done stylish with short hair. (She was trying to think of a way for me to wear my hair other than down or in a half pony-tail.) 

Why am I so laisser faire? Why do I not dress with the latest trends? Why boy's clothes?

  • My happiness is not directly tied to what name is printed on my shirt's tag. 
  • I don't particularly want to display my body to the world, it's mine not something to be gawked at.
  • I don't need to worry about ruining what I have on when I'm cooking, painting, cleaning, running around, or just enjoying myself. It just goes in the wash (yeah rarely do I own anything that needs the delicate cycle) and if it's still all messed up it becomes painting gear. 
  • Men's clothes actually have POKETS! You know those useful things you can put your wallet in. (Are you shocked that I don't own a purse?) 
  • I am not upset/ashamed/embarrassed/sad or all those other uncomfortable feelings when I'm not dressed to the nines. 
  • I can maintain my wardrobe with very little cash which leaves that finite resource available for stuff like retirement, charity, paying off my mortgage. 
  • I don't have to spend a lot of time taking care of my appearance. Instead I can spend that time reading, cooking, sewing, outside, studying, keeping up with house hold tasks, you know, stuff that's important to me. 
  • It allows me to walk in the opposite direction that everybody else is headed. Style is in because the masses have followed whoever decided that something was the "cool" thing to do. When I was a kid lots of people tried to make me be just like them and then mocked me when I refused. You'll find that the more you try and tell me what to do the more stubbornly I'll head in the opposite direction. I don't like being told what I should do or who I should be.
  • Finally I am comfortable in my brother's hand me down kaki shorts and platoon t-shirt. Not just physically but psychologically. That's who I am and I like who I am. 
So where does that leave me? Kind of in the same spot where I started. My family will sigh and try and talk me into something "better." People who are new to my life will sit and stare at me when I say certain things about my wardrobe; and me? I'll just keep be-bopping through life continuing to refuse to be anything other than just plain old me. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A small explosion

This is generally what my kitchen looks like on Saturday afternoons . . .
For some reason cleaning up isn't nearly as fun as the creating
 Yes, I realize that it looks like a small explosion took place, but it is generally all for a good reason. I was cooking. Cooking, for me, is a wonderful form of entertainment. That doesn't mean that I'm good at it, it just means I have a laugh doing it. The result of this chaos and mayhem was the following:

  • A double batch of vegetarian chilli (Saturday's supper and to freeze for future meals)
  • An Angle Food Cake (To use up some eggs and have something to put my Plum Sauce on)
  • A batch of made-from-scratch-without-a-machine spaghetti (An experiment, I'll let you know if it's worth repeating when I cook it up latter this week)
  • Green Plum Sauce (Another experiment, and food waste reduction method!)
The green plum sauce is an original idea that came to me a number of weeks ago as I saw all the green plums that were being wasted when they fell from the tree before ripening. Not wanting to waste my bounty I started looking for recipes. All I could find though were exotic recipes generally involving meat that, of course, are not much use to a vegetarian. So I decided to see what I could invent and decided to make a sauce. 

It's a work of art this sauce - I swear
I diced up the plums, threw them in a pot with water and a bunch of sugar, then heated. I didn't even measure the ingredients. The results - heavenly. 

My night time snack, Angel Food cake with
 Green Plum sauce, and a cold glass of milk!
I tried to get rhubarb for my garden in the spring but couldn't find any. It was a tad disappointing because I love rhubarb and strawberry cobbler, and rhubarb sauce. Well folks it turns out that green plum sauce is remarkably similar to the rhubarb sauce my mom use to make for us as kids. Great on ice cream, cake, and straight off the spoon. Mmm. Next season I'm really going to have to see if I can use them as a replacement in cobbler. 

When I started experimenting in the kitchen in University I succeeded with maybe one third of what I tried. Now only one third of what I try is a one off thing. The one thing that 
doesn't change though is this: If you haven't gotten dirty while baking - you're not doing it passionately enough. 

** Oh and by the way after writing this at 9pm I got a tad board so wandered into the kitchen to try my hand at making oat cakes, which I've only ever read about never eaten. Even though I had to translate the recipe from weight to volumes, which I did rather loosely, and then added too much water, they turned out pretty good. I'm thinking that their next incarnation will have berries and honey to make a nice breakfasty oat cake. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Food Waste and Plums, Plums, Plums

I have no central topic for this post, just a bunch of little ones.

First off Food Waste. The only thing wasted this week was a half cup of spaghetti that I couldn't get through before going on vacation and didn't survive the week - no picture though.

Yes Mom, I did carry them in in my shirt.
But they were pretty clean to start with because
it had been raining. :- )
I have been eating tons of plums though. The tree in my back yard is finally bearing fruit and I've been out every night munching.  Below you can see last night's haul which was quite tasty and, yes that is a half eaten plum in my hand. I usually eat at least one in between the walk from my back yard to inside.

I love, love, love my fruit tree, and any time now my grapes will be ready to go. I am seriously considering adding more fruit trees to my property, probably one up front (since I am the only house on my street without a tree out front by the side walk) and one at the far back of my property. This will probably have to wait until next spring but I'm starting to look now because I want trees that will produce at different times.  I'm thinking at least one apple tree, not sure about the other though. I'll have to get back to you on that.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Best Vacation EVER

I apologies for my prolonged absence. I have been on vacation over the last week, my first one in a year. Let me just reiterate it was AWESOME! I spent it at my grand parent's cottage. There at the same time as me were my young cousins. I came away with three big realizations.

1 - This type of vacation is sooo much better than the sunny south or Europe. I get to spend time with my family, I got to be useful, and I enjoyed scrumptious food and breath taking scenery. Because I spent it with family (and my grandmother wouldn't ever considering taking any more then a small gift to say thank you for the visit) so I didn't spend a penny on my vacation.

2 - I've found my weakness. The cottage that I've been visiting since I was a child is my version of paradise. I was in the water every day, feed chipmunks from my hand, and was a stone's throw from a pair of loons. Any one who's looked at my monthly budget would say that I never give into temptation. The truth is I am rarely tempted, I don't want new clothes or a fancy coffee. But at the moment I so much want to own my own little peace of paradise. I don't even need a cottage for the moment. I would be happy to just have a little piece of land upon which to stake a tent every other weekend. I could afford it too, it would just mean putting aside some other goals. I am currently battling with the desire to put just a couple hundred dollars a month aside so that I can have my paradise, I let you know if my rational mind losses the battle with my heart.

3 - I am very much ready to be a foster parent. I took the roll of both friend and authority figure with both my cousins (10 and 12) over the last week and I loved it. Sure nagging a kid to go put away the dishes isn't my preferred past time but I don't dislike it. Though many times I had to be the adult and spend more time supervising the activity than taking part I enjoyed being able to facilitate their fun. I must have treaded water for over an hour (in the middle of a very deep lake) while teaching one of my cousins to water ski; and I'd do it all over again in a heart beat. I have neither the means nor the time to take a child full time at the moment, however I am very much meant to be involved in kids lives and hope to start as a foster parent soon.

To round it all up I'm hoping to do the exact same thing again next year.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Percentage Allocations

There will be no mid-month report this week as by the time this posts I will be off for my summer holidays and though I will keep an eye on the comings and goings of my hard earned dollars I will not be writing a report for you lovely folks.  Instead I though I would take a look at what percentage of my money is going to different parts of my life on average. Especially now that I've met several of my savings goals and proportions are changing.  When I started building budgets I used a variation of Gail Vax-Oxlade's "Life Pie."  I divided my money as such:

40% Housing (5% more than recommended because that's what I need to swing owning my own home)
15% Transportation
10% Savings
10% Debt (5% less than recommended because my only debt is my mortgage)
25% Life

I decided to plug my numbers into her interactive budget and see how things lined up.  Keep in mind that the numbers I used are not what I put aside per month, but what was actually spent, all amounts are based on the average for the last 7 months, and all amounts were rounded to the closest $5 except when they were a fixed expense.  I also calculated three scenarios - the first one doesn't count the amount that I pay extra towards my mortgage and the percentages are as follows:

Housing - 40%
Transportation - 2.31%
Savings - 10%
Debt - 0%
Life - 7.60%

Spending only- 59.91% of my income.  Some people would look at my Life category and ask what on earth I am depriving myself from.  The reality is nothing.  I am living the life, and I if you saw my average day you would probably agree too.  

The second scenario has my extra mortgage payments under the debt category and it looks like this:

Housing - 40%
Transportation - 2.31%
Savings - 10%
Debt - 40.09%
Life - 7.60%

I can just imagine what Gail would say if she saw those numbers without a context.  "Lord love a duck woman!  What have you done with your money!"  I guess context is supremely important in the world of personal finances.  I'm really not up to my eyeballs in debt.  

The third scenario has my extra mortgage payments under the housing category and it looks like this:

Housing - 80.09%
Transportation - 2.31%
Savings - 10%
Debt - 0.0%
Life - 7.60%

Eek!  Where do you live girl? The Taj Mahal?  Ok, this representation is a bit deceiving since half of the housing category is voluntary.  

I guess it is truly hard to capture the extent of a financial picture with only five categories and percentages.  This gives you no context or look into the intricacies of spending and saving.  What comes home to me after each one of these calculations is this; I live on 50% and I save 50%.  What does this mean?

- It means I could support myself fully, without a change in living arrangements or shift in quality of life, with a part time job.  
- It means I could live off of maternity benefits (without an employer top-up) without a change in living arrangements or shift in quality of life.  (No mom, I'm not pregnant or planning on being so, this is just the kind of information you pick up when you hang around people with babies or who are planning on having babies.)
- It means that, according to the Shockingly Simple Math behind Early Retirement, I could retire 17 years after I started working (16 years and 3 month from today)
- It means that I could take six months a year off to pursue what ever I want to

Monday, 12 August 2013

The Penny vs. The Pound

There have been two old sayings I've been mussing over for the past couple of weeks:

"Penny wise, pound foolish."

"Take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves."

One is about looking after the big costs in your life such as your mortgage, car payments or the purchase of large items.  The other is about watching those little drips and drabs of money that just seem to disappear.  Funny thing is that they are both right, it all depends on the problem that you're facing.

When you're budget is way out of wack, you need to come up with money for debt repayment, or you you need to boost your savings you may be "Penny wise, pound foolish."  It's for those who buy large expensive items when already in debt.  For those who's housing or transportation budget eats up more than 35 and 15% of their budget respectively.  Taking steps to get their big expenses back in line might be what they need to get back on track.  Downsizing houses to reduce costs, selling a car to come up with debt repayment money, or not buying that big ticket item in the first place may help solve their problems.

When you're fixed expenses look reasonable but for some reason you run out of money before the end of the month or that credit card balance keeps creeping upwards means that you might need to "take care of your pennies so that they'll take care of the dollars."  A couple dollars a day for coffee or not bothering to shop around for your groceries can slowly add up to an appreciable amount.  The problem is that with out meticulous record keeping (read: recording everything) you'll have no idea where it all went.  If your large expenses seem reasonable and you have no idea where the money's going you may be having trouble with your pennies.

Of course you could also have a combination of the two, which means that you really need to do something, and quick!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

I'm back . . . with loot

My apologies to my faithful readers.  I had the very best intentions to post over the long weekend (scout's honour) only to learn upon arrival to my parent's place that they have no internet hookup yet.  Thus, silence in blog-land.

On the bright side it was an amazing long weekend with loads of stuff getting done, the ever entertaining process of moving and, of course, some loot.  My parent's house is currently the repository of household items they no longer want or need due to downsizing.  As a result I have been the very lucky recipients of some very nice furniture and other household goods.  I should mention that when the furniture coming my way I will have fully furnished my house, pictures and all.

I will have taken 11 months to fully furnish my 1800 sqft house (well it's only 900 sqft if you don't count the finished basement.  The entire furnishing process cost between $537 and $612.  Not to bad if I say so myself.  I say between because I am planning on replacing the kitchen table and chairs that I bought off of Kijiji with table and chairs that are larger, better built, and much  more stylish.  As a result my current table set will go back onto Kijiji for the same amount that I bought it for and we'll see what happens.  If you want to see how I spent the money you can take a look under BTI in the label list and the bottom 5 articles will explain the spending.  I'll share with you how I didn't spend money on furnishing my house.

Most of my furniture came in the following manners:
- Hand me down's from parents, particularly the bedroom set that I had as a teenager and some other things that they no longer had any need for
- Hand me down's from other family members such as Grandparents
- Gifts, house warming as well as birthday and Christmas
- Hand me down's from acquaintances, I have couches both from my work place and my mother's next door neighbour's
- Off the curb (yes I have one dresser and two end tables that I got off of the curb for free with the owner's permission)

How do you get all sorts of nifty free stuff:
- Ask around, people are generally happy to help you if they know that you need help, of course they can't help you out if you don't know what you need
- Ask for useful presents, since I was a teenager I've been asking for tools and dishes and other useful stuff, it's better than a knick knack that you see twice and than forget about
- Be patient, it'll be almost a year by the time my place is fully furnished, these things take time
- Keep your eyes open, a sharp eye on the curb will let you catch the real treasures
- Be open to the quality and stylishness of what you're getting.  Sure you want to avoid junk, but a bookcase that will only last a couple of years still gives you two years to find just the right one for just the right price.  Some of the pictures on my walls are the product of high school art classes, they're still pleasant too look at though.  Be prepared to repair and add flair; the cost of refinishing an older piece may be a lot cheaper than buying new and it gives you the ability to be flexible.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Pay Day August 2013 Meets Food Waste

It' both a friday and the day after payday so you folks get a double post!  On the food front I can report 0 waste this week though I do have a drawer full of produce that I need to use up in the coming week.  Not to mention two full tubs of plain yogurt for same baking that I had planned . . . then didn't get around to.  

On the bright side my plum tree had produced it's first ripe fruit of the season and they are awesome!  I've been eating them as soon as they ripen, checking for new ones every day when I get home.  

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

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:

-$416.11 of the Slush money is going towards my monthly double up for my mortgage.  This leaves $66 in the Slush account

-My Emergency Fund is fully funded and my vacation goals have been re-written, thus no more contributions to those two. 

-This month is the last month contributing to my car savings, which have now hit $9,000 and will happily sit around collecting interest until I actually want a car (Hehe, ‘cause we know that going to happen some day soon).