Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Budget Boogaloo


February is quickly coming to a close - now if it would only take the brutally cold air with it!! One of the thousands of things I like better about spring are the reduced utility bills. With this February shaping up to be THE COLDEST ON RECORD then my heating bill is likely to be THE HIGHEST ON RECORD!!

The Lowlights and Highlights of February's Budget:

  • Lowlights - I underestimated my heating bill and electricity bill by $24; considering how cold it's been that's hardly surprising. I took the extra out of my misc budget and sucked it up!
  • a few things have gotten more expensive: my monthly internet bill increased by $3, the hot water tank rental increased by $1, property taxes are increasing by approx. 2.5% but I don't have the new amount yet. That's it for lowlights - nothing broke down, nothing had to be fixed, we stayed warm, ate well and indulged in lots of wine and chocolate!!
  • Highlights - I stayed on budget!! AND I had leftover money in all three variable budgets (gas, food and misc)
  • a decrease in car/home insurance means that the little increases in other bills were mostly covered
  • I have $24 left in the food budget :) ... $85 left in the gas budget :)...and $53 left in the misc budget!! so.....I made an extra payment on my mastercard towards my trip in Sept. and put a little extra into savings to round up the numbers. I'm leaving the $53 in my account to cover gong out to breakfast, going out for coffee, a purchase at Home Depot etc.
  • Savings increased by $664 this month!! $350 of that is from my pension and the rest is from interest payments from accounts and RRSPs. 
  • Misc purchases this month included: 2 little trips to the thrift shop, some new music for my iPod, a guidebook for a possible trip in 2016, a yoga app, new camera batteries, a new toaster, a special Valentine's party for me and 2 girlfriends, a book for my iPad (or two), a new charge cord for my laptop; ...I went to a movie or two, went out for lunch, breakfast and multiple coffees and I went to the Bryan Adams concert!! Which was fabulous!! (and actually paid out of January's misc budget). 
February's budget was a great success! But then it was only a 28 day month! March will be slightly more challenging I'm sure. Having a trip to work towards does help me squeeze my pennies though - it really helps to have a goal. 

Re Gofundme - I think it only makes sense that you really check out what you're contributing towards. Since Nate was Kazi's friend I had no qualms about donating money towards bringing him back to Canada. I would never donate to someone's "sad story" unless I checked into it and made sure it was REAL. 



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bringing Nate Home

It's been a roller coaster of emotions around here, some wonderful, some terrible. First, the terrible.

Yesterday Kazi learned that a close friend died while on holiday in Cancun. (I removed Nate's last name and names of his family members).

Nate was a very special person and his joy de vivre touched everyone he met. This is a tragedy beyond measure. Nate was an alumni of Western University in London  and a fledgling entrepreneur and club promoter. He belonged to the Delta Upsilon fraternity and was a co-founder of "Lion's Den University"; a student lifestyle website.

What has amazed me is the power of social media and the Gofundme fundraising site set up by a close friend to help raise money to bring Nate home.  I love the way Nate's friends and business associates are pooling their resources to help Nate's family during this difficult time. What I haven't shown is the outpouring of love and comments for Nate which is also helping his family and friends cope. The power of social media is incredible. It has given Kazi and hundreds of others a way of helping and contributing and a way of expressing their grief and supporting each other.

I'm sure there are many who feel cynical about such a process, me being one of them ...formerly. But another example of this amazing site and others like it was shown to me a week ago when a 3 year old boy in Toronto wandered out of his apartment building at 4am in -20c weather wearing nothing but a Tshirt, a diaper and boots. After a frantic search he was found - but he didn't make it. Hundreds if not thousands of people in Toronto contributed to an on-line fundraiser set up by a stranger who "just wanted to do something" to help the grieving family.

The world is indeed becoming a "global village" where we can help people we haven't even met and come together as a community to support each other when things go terribly wrong. Updates from the family have expressed their gratitude at all of the love and support being shown for Nate. Even in the short time it's taken me to type this hundreds more dollars have been added to a total which has far surpassed its goal. Money can never replace a loved one but it can help alleviate stress and financial pressure when a sudden tragedy takes place.

Thoughts?


MEMORIALS
$32,392 of $20k
Raised by 683 people in 15 hours

Friday, February 20, 2015

Extreme Cold Warning....still in effect!


Extreme Cold Warning

Issued at 10:48 a.m. EST Thursday 19 February 2015
Summary
Bitterly cold arctic air has once again returned to Southern Ontario. Strong and gusty northwest winds will combine with the frigid temperatures to produce extremely cold wind chill values of minus 30 to minus 35 today through Friday morning. People outdoors should
...More details

Yesterday was a stay inside day and today isn't any warmer! We are amusing ourselves by throwing seeds out onto the snow in the patio area and watching the squirrels fight over them. Luna and Lily are absolutely glued to the patio doors! Do I know how to have fun or what!?!

This morning I had to take out the recycling and it was a struggle just to breathe let me tell you! I'll have to find another DIY project to keep myself busy like I did yesterday. I'm so happy with my fix-it job!! I had this kitchen cabinet door that squeaked/groaned horrendously every time we opened it, which was frequently as it's the door that has the garbage bin behind it. A week ago I thought that if I squirted some WD40 on the hinges I could make the squeak/groan go away. No such luck, in fact, I made matters worse because then the hinges were so slippery the door wouldn't stay open. I'd open the door, grab a plate to scrape and the door would be closed!!

So yesterday I took the door off and took off the hinges - turns out one of them was broken. At least that's what my carpenter's helpers told me...

..and they did a very good inspection! 


Off I went to the local Home Hardware store and bought new hinges...so far so good...

...but there was a slight problem - the new screws were a lot smaller than the old screws...they're not going to work very well in the old holes made by the much fatter screws!! Nope, door fell right off again!

I started digging through my large supply of differently sized screws but most were too long as I had less than an inch of depth to work with...

So I wondered about anchors...but again they were too long for the depth I had to work with and stuck out...

So...I flexed my muscles and tried forcing the old fat screws through the slightly smaller openings in the new hinges and it worked!! I didn't think they'd line up properly with the old holes but they did!!  Once in a while things go right!!

Ta da!! The door is back on and nary a sound does it make...

and it stays open!! Amazing how such a little thing can improve the quality of my life - no more groaning, no more closing when my back is turned!!

After that I carved for awhile and then did my first bit of sanding - it's looking good! I
also made a big pot of leek and potato soup which I'm going to have RIGHT NOW!!
A productive day:)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

RRIFS or TFSAs


I am at the point now when I can no longer contribute to my RRSPs. For the first time since I was about 12 I have NO EARNED INCOME!! What a lazy a-- I've become eh? 

The last few days I've been going over my RRSP options. There are many different lines of thought and most have to do with whether to let my RRSPs sit and earn interest until I'm 71 at which time the RRSPs would convert to an RRIF and there would be a minimum amount withdrawn and added to my annual income....OR....withdraw so much a year NOW and add to my Tax Free Savings Account or Tax Free GICs. 

The crux of the matter is which option saves me the most in tax dollars? I'm leaning towards starting RRSP withdrawals NOW while my income is at its lowest. Right now I'm just living on my school pension with additional bump ups to my income coming when I start to receive Canada Pension and then Old Age Supplement. If I wait til I'm 71 to start taking money out of a RRIF then I will be pushed up into a higher tax bracket. For the rest of my LIFE!!

On the other hand if I can get my money out of my RRSPs over the next few years and tucked safely away into a TFSA my tax bracket will remain lower, thus paying less in taxes.  We Canadians are currently allowed to put $5,500 per year into a TFSA where it is tax-sheltered forever. I'd like to start removing $5,000 per year from my RRSPs and place it into my TFSA. Of course there is withholding tax when I remove $$ from my RSP which increases based on the amount withdrawn. The tax rate for $5,000 is 10%. So I would receive $4,500. However, at tax time I might see some of that withholding tax come back to me. 

I feel that this is the right way to go. The consensus is that it's best to withdraw RRSPs when your income is at its lowest. Which is now. 

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Frozen Assets


When I got up this morning it was -29c so is it any wonder my ass(ets) is/are frozen??? I've managed to have quite a few NO spend days this month because who wants to go outside?? That being said I did do some shopping on Friday in preparation for my Valentine's Day guests. But I'm still on track for February and may have some $$ left at the end of the month if I can stay the course!

Gas Budget - I have almost a full tank of gas and $120 left in the gas budget. If you don't drive anywhere gas stays IN the tank!! Also, I lumped ALL my errands together last Friday to use as little gas as possible. I've been averaging $30/week for gas so far which means I might have $60-$80 left in this budget line at the end of the month!

Food Budget - I spent more on food for the first half of this month than I did during the same time period in January. Some of that went for snacks for my party plus I bought extra food that I cooked for breakfast Sunday morning. There is still $116 left in the food budget and I won't be shopping for a a few days as I couldn't fit another thing in my fridge if I tried! I'm sure there will be a few dollars left in the food budget at the end of the month.

Misc Budget - Out of the $313 in the misc budget for the 2nd half of the month I have $230 left. Money has been spent on wine, chocolate treats from the Bulk Barn, movie rentals for the party, music downloaded from iTunes and a book from Amazon for my Kindle app. Upcoming expenditures include going to lunch with a friend tomorrow and the Bryan Adams concert on the 24th (though I've already paid for the ticket!) I hope I don't spend all of the rest of this budget by Feb. 28.

For the next few months any budget remnants will go to paying for my trip to England in Sept. So far I need to pay off my plane tickets and the deposit for my hiking trip with Annie. I therefore challenge myself to direct at least $150 (gas - $80; food - $30; misc - $40) towards my Mastercard at the end of Feb. Whatever is outstanding on my Mastercard will be paid off using my tax refund sometime in March.

Increased savings so far this month includes $350 from my pension and $200 in interest for a total of $550!! I have two more interest deposits from RRSPs to come yet this month. I'm surviving on my pension so far - I'm doing it, I'm doing it!!

Famous last words.....

Friday, February 13, 2015

One's Valentine's Day Plans

When one is single, like this one is, one must makes one's own Valentine's Day Plans...for one....


...unless one has awesome friends who are also single and looking for something to do on that one anti-singletons day of the year - VD DAY!!

Happily one has such awesome single friends who one just happen to also LOVE so all is not lost!! One plus one plus one will be gathering at one's place for some mouthwatering chinese food from one's favourite place to eat - Hong Pings!! One's girls are spending the night so that one plus one plus one can indulge oneselves in a couple bottles of wine plus lots and lots of chocolate!!

One plus one plus one will put one's new TV room into use and watch some movies - one is renting "The Judge" and "Boyhood" ironically:)

So much feasting and indulging will be had by one plus one plus one until we crash! I think one plus one plus one will have a tonne of fun!

Guess which one I am?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Doing it Yourself...(or cheaping out!)

Saving $$ - that's what it's all about! So today's post is about just that...

Exhibit One: I call this one "The Millionaire's Bird Feeder" 
  

Yup, that's a toilet paper roll! Covered with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed and stuck on a large, metal butterfly that has so far resisted several squirrel attacks! Not my idea - gleaned from The Globe and Mail newspaper. It works and it's cheep cheep cheep!

Exhibit Two: Standing Desk

It has taken awhile but I finally figured out a combination that is right for my height. I was using the kitchen counter but it was a bit too low and I found myself bent over and  leaning on my elbows trying to find a comfortable position.

What with all the hullabaloo about "too much sitting being worse than smoking ten packs of cigarettes per day" I thought I'd try and find myself an alternative to hours of sitting. So far so good. I like standing while I'm using the computer... right this minute I'm doing waist twisting and bending and listening to all of my vertebrae crack and pop while I type! Can you hear that? AND I just discovered that I can use the brace on the bottom as a foot rest - SCORE!!

Exhibit Three: Art Shelf
I used to have a tonne of shelves...until I decided to move and rid myself of most of them...sigh... However we all know about "creativity" in the face of "diversity" or "necessity being the mother of invention"...

I used a piece of barn board from my dad's barn that no longer exists. The painting is of an area near Otter Creek in the village of Norwich where I grew up and painted by my talented brother. It needs to be framed but in the meantime it has a sentimental spot to hang out.


There's our barn in the background. That's my dad washing his boat rather large car in the neighbour's driveway. It must be spring as there are no leaves on the trees yet. That's the large back yard where my painter brother and I had fun shooting arrows from his bow and arrow set straight up into the sky. Happily we didn't "take anybody's eye out"!!

Sadly when my parents passed away and our home was sold the lots got severed and now a house sits where the barn used to!! Sacrilege!! That barn had initials, including mine, carved into the boards dating back to the mid 1800's!! Attached to the left of our barn you can see the chicken coop where I would gather the eggs daily right out from under the chickens' bums!  Grope grope grope - no wonder they clucked at me! There is also a house now where the walnut trees were (you can see one to the right of my dad - there were several and earned someone a pretty penny when they were CHOPPED DOWN!!)

A couple of weeks ago I became Facebook friends with one of the boys who grew up in the white house that you can see through the trees on the right side of the photo. My house is out of view on the right side - there was a sidewalk that connected the barn to the house.

Finally - the CUTENESS photos!!  My screen addicts!! Lily watching the movie "Tracks" last night - it was full of camels and dogs and she loved every minute of it.

And Luna watching some "kitty porn" this morning - a friend's post on facebook about a cat lounging in front of a heater on a cold day! Hysterical!!

What have you made yourself lately - any great DIY projects we don't know about??