Friday, December 31, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy New Year from my computer to yours!!

I have a wish for you in 2011. Or maybe I should call it a challenge.
As I made a list of things I want to do for myself next year
I thought I should call 2011
 "The Year I Look After Myself."
I have a list of things I want to do for myself - things I should be doing already but don't take the time to do. Does anyone else have
health benefits they don't take advantage of?
Well I sure do.
I have coverage for massage therapy and naturopathy (among other things) that I don't use. Why not you ask? Because I spend most of
my time looking after other people and don't treat myself as
well as I treat other people.  Silly eh?
But very common among women.
Does anyone have any health concerns they've put off taking care of?
I have.
No more putting things off, no more making excuses, no more
putting ourselves last.
We might have to schedule things in our planners
if you use one like I do...or that calendar on the fridge.
Right now (well after typing this) I am walking over to the
fridge and I am going to mark a few things in it for January.
I am going to write down "bubblebath by candlelight"
and "call massage therapist" and a few
other items like "go hiking"
and watch The Comedy Network and
read that book that's gathering dust on top of
the rest of the books you want to read.
Start that journal you've been wanting to keep.
That's one I'm starting tomorrow.
Michael and I each bought ourselves (50% off at Chapters!! and it was the last $15 in my wallet other than the $10 I put in the Crofters Lane Jar)
a journal book called "The Sacred Journey - Daily Journal for Your Soul"
I'll tell you more about it once we get writing:)

So I hope I've struck a nerve with some of you.
When you get right down to it no one is more important than YOU!
Will you join my challenge?

HAPPY NEW YEAR MY FRIENDS!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goals for 2011

http://www.executivesbranding.com/1745/setting-career-branding-goals-for-2011/
Anyone interested in setting career goals should follow this link!




So I want to set some SMART goals for 2011. I'll try to be serious for a while as I figure out what my goals will be.  My first assumption is that for a goal to be a goal it has to take you somewhere other than where you are right now AND that is should be an improvement on current circumstances. Goals should be attainable (so no pie in the sky), measurable (oh no, more math), and have an ending point...ie. one day, one month, one year, when hell freezes over... (Oops, my serious hat fell off, just let me get it back on...be back in a sec...

There. Ok, here goes...

Financial Goals:
I'll start with the goals that are easy to measure (with a calculator in hand).
  • Save another $5000 for my TFSA (at $650 savings/month this should by attained by August, 2010)
  • Save $2400 for RRSP contribution (at $200/month beginning March 1st this goal will be reached in time for next year's taxes (Feb.29/12)
  • Save $2250 to add to my Emergency fund bringing it to a total of $3000 by year's end
  • save $1500 for Christmas by Dec. 2011
  • Pay a total of $17,400 towards debt by Dec. 31/2011 (this includes $1200/month on Line of Credit and $250/month on PEI mortgage
  • maintain $100/month to World Food Program (now on automatic withdrawal so I won't miss a month due to forgetfullness!), and make six NEW Kiva loans this year ($150) in addition to reloaning the $$ that is repaid to me from previous loans
  • TRY to spend a maximum of $225 twice a month on groceries
  • TRY to spend a maximum of $100 twice a month on gas (this will work out til the end of June and then will have to adjust due to doing a ton more driving in the summer - like to PEI!!! My Crofters Lane jar will help to cover summer driving.
  • Through a variety of methods (snowflakes, budget leftovers etc) increase amount in Crofters Lane jar from $360 to a minimum of $650 by June 30
Personal Goals:
  • ride stationary bike 3-4 times per week and record mileage in sidebar
  • lose 10lbs by 2nd anniversary (April 18)
  • list books I read in my sidebar & read one non-fiction book for every five non-fiction books I read (increase learning)
  • plant 50 trees at Crofters Lane this summer
  • declutter the basement by June
  • organize my cajillions of digital photos by the end of January
  • make at least one person laugh each and every day
  • use http://www.spendingdiary.com/ daily to track my spending
  • get out into nature a minimum of once per week
Nothing too earth-shattering, I am keeping "attainability" in mind so that hopefully I won't give up. Also some goals are achievable sooner than the end of the year which is tooooooooo loooonnng of a time to stay motivated for EVERYTHING.

* I also reserve the right to make adjustments throughout the year depending on circumstances - both positive and negative...for ex. I fall and break my leg thereby not being able to ride my bike...or...someone dies and leaves me a cajillion dollars...or...I get fired...well...you get the picture:)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Didn't Want to Do It!! (But now glad I did!)

Christmas is Over!
No, you can't make me...noooooooooooooooooooo!

You know when you are watching a scary movie and you know something intense is about to happen and you squeeze your eyes almost shut or hold a pillow up to your face and just sneak a peek every once in a while??

Well, that's how I  feel about looking at my December 2010 monthly spends - I just want to take a quick sneak peek, or maybe just keep my eyes tightly shut and pretend it never happened.

But I know I must face the music, the sooner the better, like removing a bandaid with one quick painful RRRRRRIIIIIIIIIPPPPP!!!

So, I opened up http://www.spendingdiary.com/ (thanks Maureen for this site!) and entered my last few spends.

The results are in so may I have the envelope please.....cue drum roll.......

  • overspending on groceries wasn't too too bad - spent $517.04 and budgeted $450 so over by $67.04
  • entertainment - a whopping $526.01 - this included $73 for tickets to the ROM, restaurant meals, movies, popcorn, coffees, parking in Toronto, books from Chapters, LCBO, a couple of lunches - didn't really budget for any of this!
  • gifts - $697.92 which includes the clothing purchased in Toronto - had $800 saved so did ok there so the extra $100 helped out with my high entertainment costs
  • On the plus side I reduced debt by $1171.00 and saved a total of $1050 (includes TFSA, RSP & Emergency Svgs)
So I will start planning NOW for next Christmas so I am in control of my spending (I had to take some $$ out of savings as I didn't set nearly enough aside) so will start saving $100/month in Jan. I don't pay property tax in Nov. and Dec. so always add that into my Christmas account so I will have a total of $1500 for next year's Christmas. I am also going to cut down in some areas and use any leftover to pay down debt.

You know - it could have been a lot worse. In the past I have thrown caution to the wind and spent much much more - I was more restrained in gift buying this year and spent with more awareness but there is definitely room for improvement...isn't there always??

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

January 2011 - Budget Blues

Well it's that time of year again - that time when I do the spinnerama on the ol' budget. The really fun part is NOT knowing what my pay will be in January and when I do find out it will only change again in February. So I've been juggling numbers all day, looking back to see what the differences between my Dec./09 pay and my Jan./10 and Feb./10 pays were and trying to make an educated GUESS that won't leave me too far in the hole in case my guess is not as educated as I thought I could make it. Hoo boy!

This is what the inside of my brain looks like right now:

Anybody else remember dance class in highschool? My physed teacher was trained as a Nazi SS folk dancer - just when you thought you were going in the right direction...no NO NO you dumbkopfs...not that way...left, no right...oh I give up!

Yes, that's right...I've got the Budget Blues...

I'm standing at the crossroads
don't know which way to go
no matter which way I choose
I know I won't have enough dough...

Bills pile up to the left of me
savings wave bye-bye from the right
my money has wings and heads for the sky
man it sure is a turrible sad sight...

What should I do I ask myself
estimate high or estimate low
it really don't matter which road I take
one thing's for sure my money will GO!!

Oh I got the budget blues....


 So watch my hands veeeerrrrry carefully as I shuffle my money around and around and where it goes nobody knows....

JANUARY 2011:
  • I need to bump up my RSP in January and February as I missed a few payments last summer due to house purchase, lawyer fees etc etc so am reducing my emergency fund payments for two months and doubling up on my RSP payments - not happy about it but it's only for two months
  • I've decided I want to pay down my line of credit faster so am reducing my savings by $200 a month and adding that to my line of credit payment making it $1200/month instead of $1000 so my LOC will be paid off in 41 months instead of 49 - insert BIG SMILE here!
  • since I had money leftover in my grocery and gas envelopes each of the last four months I am reducing both by $50/month
  • had an increase in condo fees by $20/month which seems rather excessive but can't do anything about it
  • still waiting to hear how much my property taxes will increase by :(
  • decided to save for Christmas starting in January because I didn't have nearly enough this past Christmas so diverting $100 month into the Christmas/gifts account (and will try to cut back even more in 2011)
  • of course by increasing LOC pyt and putting $$ into a Christmas account every month means my savings account takes a big hit - instead of saving $1000/month I will be saving $650/month but I am hoping that what I put in there will STAY in there because I will have planned for my other expenses - insert CROSSED FINGERS here!
  • I have left myself $311 misc for the month of January - I am hoping that having a little extra misc $$ that I will be able to cover anything that might pop up from time to time
  • February's pay will be a bit higher and will remain the same until July when it is higher yet again due to NO union dues being taken off in the summer and then from Sept. to Dec. I have my BIG paycheques due to having paid all of my CPP by then so the point is January is my smallest paycheque then things start to look up plus there's a nice big juicy tax refund to look forward to:)
Hope your budget isn't giving you the blues, but if so let me know cause I can REALLY empathize!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Link Love

This week is a week of reflection: counting my blessings, thanking those who have helped me in innumerable ways, acknowledging progress - personal AND financial, redefining future goals - short and longterm and developing ideas that will hopefully benefit others.

So the first thing I want to do is give a big thank you to my online community.

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!
The following are the top referring urls for my blog:

Thank you!!

A big virtual hug and thank you goes to Laura Jane at Whimfield who, back in August, posted a blogroll with my blog added to it. Then Witch came to visit and the rest is history. I checked out Laura Jane's and Witch's blogroll and found my way to all of you. And I am so grateful that I did!

I've had your support through the good times and the bad, I've made friends with women who are intelligent, thoughtful and thought-provoking, compassionate, helpful, funny and sincere.

I look forward to learning so much more in 2011 through my connection with all of you and I hope I can add something to the conversation. May the conversation be fierce, honest and productive...may we listen, challenge and grow together.

Have a wonderful and safe New Year celebration whatever that may look like. Going out or staying home, with friends or family, have a look around at all you have to be thankful for. We are blessed in so many ways.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas My Friends!!

Click to play this Smilebox greeting
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox
This greeting card made with Smilebox

We've Come a Long Way Baby!!

Any of you around my age will remember the following ads:



It would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. As women we've progressed so far along the road of freedom that we can now smoke and they even made a cigerrette just for us!  Yeah baby! 

Well that was back in the sixties. Go back in time just a few more years and you encountered something like this:



This is my mother's cookbook from 1953. Look at the names of the women who submitted recipes. I can remember some of those women as the recipe book was a local fundraiser in the village of Norwich where I grew up. They were amazing, strong, forward thinking women - even though we don't know their names.

I showed this to Kazi yesterday when we were baking cookies.  Then we got into a discussion about last names, getting married, taking our husband's name (which I didn't do), what her name would be if she married her greek boyfriend and paired his surname with her polish first name. Yikes - what a moniker!!

It doesn't matter to me what she decides to do...what matters to me is that she has the choice and that she won't be known as Mrs. George Gian_______.

Miraculously, one thing transcends this whole discussion, and that is the cookies themselves:



My thanks to Mrs. Jack McMillen, whoever you are, for the Rich Pecan Cookies recipe and to my mother Mrs. Edith Jane Eileen Harrison (Catton) for making them every Christmas. I am carrying on the tradition and they taste just as good as they did back in the l950's, 1960's and l970's when you baked them for all of us kids:


I'm the littlest one



Thursday, December 23, 2010

PEI Singing the Weather Blues!!


Stanley Bridge, Cavendish PEI
 
Grahams Pond, Montague PEI

Malpeque Harbour, PEI
 
Northport Wharf near Alberton, PEI

Rusticoville, PEI
All photos taken from http://www.weathernetwork.com/
 To all my maritime friends - I hope you are safe, warm and dry, and that your homes and properties are not suffering as a result of all the stormy weather you have been having.

Bev - how are things in Alberton? 

The great thing about living in PEI is no matter where you live you're always close to water, which can also be the not so great thing about living in PEI when you're having a lot of WEATHER!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Trip to the Optometrist


Will I look like Paris Hilton?


I am feeling blessed today. I really really appreciate your supportive comments re shopping trip with DD. Really. That good ol' catholic guilt is going back to the confessional where it belongs. (I'm Anglican, not Catholic, however I teach at a Catholic highschool, attend mass, and hang out with Catholics all day so it's bound to rub off just a wee little bit:)

But seriously, (yeah right, like I can ever be serious:), several comments on yesterday's post had the following themes:
  •  All of your spending less in the past couple of months allowed you to LIVE MORE this month!  from Sharon
You're exactly right Sharon - I have squeezed my pennies so hard  the last few months that I exceeded both my debt repayment goals and my savings goals.

  • if you can still pay for your bills & don't use a credit card, you are so far ahead of the pack!!! ...good for you on splurging on you - i bet you haven't done that in a while! from jpkittie
Yup, no credit card saw the light of day except at the Hilton to pay for valet parking. I have paid that off already. I carry zero balances on my two credit cards. However, I did make a vow not to buy any new clothing for a year so either I accept a failure there or perhaps renew the vow but for say, 4 months at a time instead of a whole year??

Oh yes, I PASSED my eye exam so I take my place amongst all of you scholars out there lol! No studying involved either:) But the great thing about that is I am going to keep the glasses I have for two more years and am putting my $400 coverage towards a pair of prescription sunglasses...so no more ill-fitting clip-on shades over my regular glasses:) AND I was SO HAPPY because my previous coverage was only $200 and didn't cover the eye exam but my benefits plan was updated last year and now I have $400 coverage PLUS they pay the $95 eye exam!!!!  So that's one expense I thought I would have to pay for and now I don't!! Merry Christmas to me!

However...the new sunglasses plus glare coating and scratch resistant coating came to $552 so I have to pay $152 BUT I still have enough in my misc. budget to cover it so I am super duper happy as I thought I would need to transfer more $$ from savings for this expense.

So I am feeling much much happier and less guilty today thanks to you wonderful people and my benefits plan.

Thank you thank you and thank you!  This is why I blog - to be part of such an amazing group of smart, funny, generous and thoughtful people, who just all happen to be women...hmmm...nope, won't go there today:)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS!?!?!?!


The saddest part of this video is how much the parents are laughing in the background.
Poor kid doesn't have a chance.

The Day of Reckoning is Upon ME!

Shopping at the Eaton Centre

I don't really want to do this so that is why I must!! Then I can either regret my lapse of good judgment and tell myself "better luck next year" or I can make a plan to recoup the money I spent. Either way it's best to shine the bright light of clarity on my shopping trip rather than hide it at the back of my closet.

To my credit no credit card was used. I think I just made a joke.
  • Smart Set - 2 blouses both marked down twice for a total of $53.17; also got a cardigan but my daughter bought it for me as a Christmas gift
  • Nike Store - bought an extra (oops) gift for Michael so shhhh! also marked down twice for a total of $20.34
  • Bath and Body Works - my favourite shower gel for me (Lavender Chamomile) not on sale; and 3 small tubes of combination hand sanitizer/hand lotion - pretty cool stuff, I don't know about you but working with kids I use hand sanitizer frequently throughout the day and have the scaly dry hands to show for it...they were on sale for 30% off so total spent there was $25.99
  • Dynamite - two tunics to wear with tights...one for New Years Eve and one for work, bought the tights too; total came to $98.03 but Kazi had given me a $25.00 gift card so I paid $73.03
  • Reitmans - 2 sweaters and 1 top all sale items for a total of $58.79
  • La Senza - bought 3 much-needed let me tell you bras, and received a 4th one for free - for a total of $100.01(they were on sale for $29.50 each yet with HST still comes to $100 - tax bites!!
  • Roots - bought a jacket that was on for 50% off - total $67.79
OMG!! So excluding the gift for Michael I spent $378.78 on myself. Insert blush here!) In addition Kazi and I each paid $25.00 for our dinner at Big Daddy's which was very cheap - we had $56 in coupons because it was part of our Mirvish Package. I also paid $12 for parking at the ROM and $35 for valet parking at the Hilton. Sort of a necessity in downtown Toronto.

Then there were various coffees/muffins and I bought lunch on Saturday and Kazi bought lunch on Sunday.

I had $320 set aside so am short by (378.78 - 320.00 = 58.78 + 12.00(parking) + 35.00(parking) + 25.00(dinner) + $20(lunch/coffees/muffins) + $20(Michael's extra gift) = $170.78 OVER BUDGET

Gas $$ came out of my gas budget but still have enough to take me to the end of the month. I have transferred money to cover my overage from a savings account but will try to recoup the money in some other way. I got a little carried away and purchased "wants" instead of "needs" (except for the bras - definitely needed) so feel that I need to make up for it by replacing the $$ I took out of my savings. 

I had another expensive day today but budgetted for thankfully! 
Costco - $143 for food (included $25 recharger with AAA & AA batteries - no more buying batteries)
Superstore - $53 for food (includes a nice big turkey only 87 cents/kg.
Bulk Barn - $77 baking supplies for months to come:)
LCBO - $59 (wine for mulling, wine for Christmas Day and Boxing Day potluck dinner, fancy beers to share with my connoissseur brother & nephew on Christmas day)
Wine Rack - $17 for Cartier's Irish Creme

Holy Hannah - can't wait for the more sedate spending of the new year!! After months of frugality I feel like I just stuffed myself at an all you can eat buffet! Tasted great while I was eating but now I can't move!!

Anyone have any shopping regrets?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Comes Early ...and other adventures...

As you know Kazi and I went to Toronto for a weekend of mother/daughter bonding and
general rabblerousing (tee hee).  The drive there was uneventful, no slowdowns at all
along the QEW or the Gardiner Expressway. We drove straight to the Royal Ontario Museum
and found parking closeby. (Oh yeah, that reminds me...I used a credit card to pay for parking so better make a quick payment to offset.)  At the museum we toured the amazing exhibit of
the Terracotta Warriors.  We weren't allowed to take any photos but you can see a whole whack of them if you click on the link.  After the tour we wandered off to our favourite areas - East Asia, Greek and Egyptian while getting up to our usual hijinks with the camera:)



Receving knowledge, dispensing knowledge...the way of the teacher. But...
why so blue?


One of my favourite Christmas movies is The Christmas Story. Poor Ralphie longs so desperately for a Red Ryder BB gun. His dad, however, longs for culture. There is something about
the picture above which reminds me of this movie - any guesses? 


Oh fuddle duddle...you'll have to turn your head or your computer sideways to figure out whose famous head is on this pair of underwear awhich is displayed in the textiles and costume exhibit!
Guesses?


This is where we ate dinner Saturday night. If you like your food hot and spicy like I do this
is the place to go. The decor is New Orleans style and the waitress we had achieved the
perfect balance of attentiveness without hovering.


The first of the day - a Big Easy martini:)


After a feast of cornbread with bruschetta and goat cheese, jambalaya stew and pecan pie
with icecream we rolled ourselves a little further down the street and into our seats at the Royal Alexandra to see the musical Rock of Ages. I took a couple shots of the set and
immediately had an usher waving her hand at me:( so I've included a link. The show is only in Toronto until Jan. 2nd which is too bad as I'd love to see it again. It's the only musical I've been to where they deliver beer right to your seat:)  The show was pretty risque - I wouldn't take anyone under the age of maybe 16 so I was surprised at the number of young kids in the audience. The main storyline is about a young woman who leaves her midwest town to make it big in L.A. but to make ends meet she works in a bar, then a strip club. Lots of skin. It was totally irrereverent and bawdy and over to top - we laughed and laughed - a) because it was hysterically funny and b) because that's exactly what the 80's were like.


The view from our room at the Sheraton.  That's city hall.

And here we are Sunday morning at the Eaton Centre before the crowds got too huge. I have some disappointing news...you'd better sit down....I know you think I'm superwoman with nerves of steel and an iron will...but I crumbled, my resolve to not SPEND any $$ disappeared as quickly as the dancers' shirts in Rock of Ages. (See it!)
I haven't done a full reckoning yet but let's just say that today Kazi and I are suffering
from S.A.D. (Shopper's Arm Disorder). For any of you non-marathon shoppers thata's when the muscles in your bag carrying arm ache the next day from the weight of the shopping bags you supported over the course of six straight hours of shopping.
Now I am making it sound worse than it was, though my arm (and Kazi's) really hurts. We made the mistake of purchasing heavy things at the first store we went into and thus had to carry
the weight of the bags looped over our left arms ALL day.  Poor planning:)

Further details coming but you know what?  I don't regret a single moment. My DD and I enjoyed so many "moments" and so much "laughter" that I would do it again in a second.  In fact, we are already planning next year's trip...perhaps the Nutcracker?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap

http://www.barnespaper.com/

News Beat:   Did I have any no spend days this week?? Hmmmmm...yes, I think I had a couple, this week has been a blur so my memory is a little hazy...that's not a good thing...bad things can happen in a haze...like...overspending...yikes!!

The good news: our breakfast went off without a hitch! but almost with a stitch! or two! Sigh...I was doing EVERYTHING in a hurry today as I wanted to get to school even earlier than my usual 6:45am so here's one thing NOT to do when you are in a hurry: trim the hair around your ears with a sharp pair of scissors:( Do you folks know how much ears bleed when you give them a little snip??  Oh my.  So picture this - me with a huge hunk of gauze embracing my ear with my glasses sitting on the outside of it so that no blood drips while I  crack 60 eggs. Not an easy feat but I did it. Luckily I was all alone so no one had to witness my weirdness. After what seemed an imterminable length of time it finally congealed enough to remove the gauze. When my EAs started to arrive I let them take over cooking the eggs.

By 8:10 everyone had arrived, we said grace and sat down to scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, hashbrown casserole, croissants and orange juice. We had a few leftovers that we managed to get rid of at lunchtime and what with tins of cookies and homemade peanut brittle that students brought in we were stuffed to the gills!

The bad news: I'm stuffed to the gills...no that's not it...I'm pretty sure I won't make it to the end of the month before the end of my money. So...do I make a transfer now from my savings or wait til the end of the month, calculate the damages and then make a transfer. If I transfer $$ now will that just encourage me to spend more resulting in possibly yet another transfer of $$?? Hmmm...I think I'll wait and be very CONSCIOUS of my spending...I'm not going to throw caution to the wind. Boy, December is very challenging isn't it? I felt the old pull of bad thoughts a few times this week: have I bought enough, should I spend more, oh oh sounds like Michael spent more than me, should I buy him another gift? what about Kazi...will she be satisfied with just 3 or 4 gifts this year instead of 10 or 12? I think it will take a few more Christmases before I get used to this downsizing. I'm willing to do the work.

Heartbeat:  Tomorrow morning Kazi and I leave for our trip to Toronto. Yesterday she drove for only the second time.  She needed to pick up her contact lenses so I went with her. She had to turn left at a major intersection and got really stressed out - after she made the turn we pulled into the optometrist's parking lot and she had a few tears. This is not going to be easy.

This photo of an ice-covered lighthouse was taken by the Associated Press and is making the rounds on the internet. It was taken December the 10th at the mouth of the Cleveland (Ohio) harbour.
It reminds me of the Kremlin.
Isn't it eerily beautiful?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

O Thursday Night..

Wood Island Winter Sunset
http://www.macqueens.com/photos/wood-islands-winter.html

Feeling somewhat relaxed leaning up against my vibrating heating pad after a spicy hot pork dinner a la Michael. Somewhat...not totally. Not quite yet. But soon.

Yesterday I finished up my shopping with incredible ease - $50 iTunes card for only $40 (and no tax) for my godson at Future Shop; $20 Subway Card for Kazi (that's it for her..already bought her iPad classis & stocking gifts), beautiful gift basket for my neighbour purchased at Winners for $24.95, and some things for Michael who might read this before Christmas so ha ha ha:) P.S. the upstairs closet is a NO Michael zone so STAY OUT tee hee!

We loaded up on free movies from the library and in about two shakes of a lamb's tail I'll be in bed ready to fall asleep watching one. Man, a movie works better than any sleeping pill for me. I don't really understand why a movie puts me to sleep...when it's done and it's quiet that's when I wake up?!?

Waiting for the flyers on Friday then we'll do our Christmas grocery shop. Printed off all my directions today for getting around Toronto for Kazi's and my trip this weekend. Feeling so efficient:)

Got my classroom all set up for our big breakfast tomorrow morning. One of my senior students who has a work placement at the nearby Hilton Hotel cooked all the bacon and sausages today and put them on cookie sheets so I just have to pop them in the oven when I get to school in the morning.  Then I can start cracking 60 eggs for making scrambled eggs.  The OJ is ready and fresh croissants and hash brown casserole will be arriving at 7:30am. I LOVE breakfast!!

Then I can relax until noon when the Christmas assembly starts. This is not a bunch of kids singing Christmas carols ..oh no..students rehearse for months for this assembly - they have to audition and only the cream of the crop make it through.  We'll be listening to choirs and rock bands and watching hiphop dancers  - it's usually a totally awesome and deafening experience.  

Then we'll get the kids on their vans, wish them a Merry Christmas and collapse.  Once the room is cleaned up we'll all head out for a well-deserved two week break - I can't wait.  A little packing tomorrow night and at 8am Saturday morning Kazi and I will be enroute to Toronto - for a day of the Royal Ontario Museum, dinner at Big Daddy's and off to the theatre to see Rock of Ages.  There is supposed to be NO SNOW for several days, thank goodness. Sunday brings breakfast in the penthouse at the Sheraton, shopping at the Eaton Centre and perhaps the Voyage of the Dawntreader if we can fit it in. 

I'm a bit worried about the amount of $$ I have left for the next two weeks. I didn't plan for the $80 visit to the eye doctor this Monday plus I spent an extra $72 on special exhibit tickets at the ROM - wasn't planning that either.  This means I might have to cut back on my savings a bit more for this month - I hate that but I also hate squeezing my pennies super-tight over Christmas, so I must chill out and enjoy...but NOT overdo.  Even Michael said yesterday it's SOOOO tempting to overspend when you're out Christmas shopping- you get so filled with a sense of well-being and generosity you just want to treat everyone to something special.  And when you add the whopping 13% hst to all of your purchases well sheesh - it adds up so fast.

But first - bed and a movie. Going to need my strenght...and most of all my patience...for Friday.  Talk to you tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Debt to Income Ratio - It Makes NO Sense!!



Figuring out one's income to debt ratio is a confusing business. There's the front end ratio and the back end ratio...some calculators use gross income, some are for "disposable" income etc etc.

Here's a link for calculating yours if you're interested:

Canadians' debt to income ratio is the highest it's ever been at 148.1%. What does this mean exactly??  What "they" would have us believe is that for every $100 we earn we pay $148 on our debt. HOWEVER...their calculations are based on "disposable income" and it doesn't state whether they are using gross income or net income and whether such things as mortgage payments are included or whether they are using just personal debt like credit cards and what, if anything, is being deducted in order to determine "disposable income"...things like insurance.

So the 148.1% is kinda ambiguous. All of those variations listed above make a huge difference in one's calculations.

For example:
  • if I include my PEI mortgage payment and use my net monthly income my debt to income ratio is 35.7%
  • if I don't include my PEI mortgage payment the ratio becomes 31.25%
  • if I use my gross income the ratio drops to a jaw-dropping 17% (I got this low ratio using the calculator link provided above for MSN Money
So you can see what different ratios you can achieve by making an adjustment or two which REALLY makes me wonder how "they" achieved the 148.1% ratio.  If anyone can give me a concrete answer on this I am dying to know!! Can you tell I've had a LOT of time on my hands today??

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Apologies

OK, here goes....I'm sorry.

Occasionally when I post and often when I make a comment on someone else's post, I refer to the fact that the financial situation in Canada is not as bad as it is in the U.S.

Well, today that has all changed. For the first time in Canadian history we steady-as-she-goes, practical, frugal, boring, conservative and formerly smug Canadians have a higher debt to income ration than those spendthrift, carefree, live for today Americans. Yup, it's true, according to my favourite newspaper, The National Post.

Sorry for the blurry shot but online they don't let you look at the paper for free so I could only capture a screenshot of the tiny front page from their website. But I can still read the headline of the article in the upper right corner:
"Nobody Wants to Crash this Debt Party."

We have a bit of a problem and no one wants to take the blame or step up and do anything about it.  The Bank of Canada feels pressured to keep lending rates really really low due to the less than stable economic environment.  Banks have been encouraged to ease up on lending restrictions because more and more $$ needs to be injected into the economy so that manufacturers can keep on manufacturing. And the average Joe keeps borrowing more and more because hey - it's almost fricking free money!  Let's make hay while the sun shines!! Last year's car - yuck - let's get a new one with ALL the options! Yes, I really really need 15 pairs of designer boots - baby it's cold outside! Make a meal for supper - why? when there are a hundred different restaurants out there struggling to keep afloat?? We're spending for the economy people!! We're patriotic!! We're STUPID!!!

I'm so embarrassed. I'm so disgusted. I'm so fed up.

Why don't people realize that when interest rates go back up..and they WILL go back up.. they won't be able to afford their payments?? Huh??  All of a sudden I don't feel so good...there's trouble ahead...the recession was nothing compared to what's coming...prepare yourself. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feeling Frustrated

If only.

Tonight was one of those nights. I sat down hours ago to write my daily post. The computer would not do what I wanted it to do and being computer illiterate I couldn't figure out how to make it WORK!!

(moments are passing as I pause to deep breathe...)

Ok...moving on.

Today was a day of making a chart for this week, day by day, and filling in all of the things I need to accomplish for school and for home. This is a hectic week with lots going on and having a list that I can look at every 5 minutes is the only way I can maintain my calm exterior (you don't want to know about the interior!).

So today at work I:
  • met with autism specialists in the a.m. regarding one of my students
  • set up two envelopes to collect $$ - one for one of my EAs who just had surgery and one for one of my students who was put into foster care last Friday:(
  • ordered the flower arrangement for my EA and arranged delivery with another staff member
  • prepared a letter to parents about all the events this week and sent it home with each student
  • organized all of our poptabs for the breakfast challenge (the classroom that collects the most wins a free breakfast - we have won several times)
  • called a parent regarding one of my students who said he was kicked out of his house (not true)
  • met with my dep't head
  • organized myself for a meeting after school tomorrow
  • met with 2 students regarding a Best Buddies fundraiser they're planning
  • met with EAs after school
Then after work I:
  • shopped for paper plates and table cloths for the Best Buddies breakfast we're hosting Friday morning
  • bought all of my stocking stuffers for Michael and Kazi (yay!!)
  • chatted briefly with Michael before he headed off to work
  • read the National Post
  • talked to Kazi about her exam today - it went well!
  • input my spends at spendingdiary.com -thanks for finding this site Maureen!
  • spent seemingly endless hours wrestling with my computer while also trying to eat my soup; soup is cold
  • gave up
  • wrote this post, going to bed!!
  • The End
  • Good Night!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When One Door Closes...


Door from the dining room at Crofters Lane into laundry room

Tis the time of year to reflect on the highs and lows of the previous year and to begin to set goals, both personal and financial, for the coming year.  The biggest high and low of 2010 for me was The Accident.  Admittedly, it is hard to comprehend how a car accident involving my darling dumpling of a daughter can be seen as a high point, but if we allow ourselves to stay open and analyze the various outcomes of a serious event it can alter our perceptions quite radically. 

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us." - Alexander Graham Bell




Crumpled Cobalt
Since the accident happened just over 7 weeks ago I have tended to focus on the ill effects it had on my daughter- the fractured wrist, the fear of driving and the possible police charge against her. I worried about the rising cost of insurance and the trouble and expense of finding a replacement car that stayed within our budget. 

However, both Michael and I have noticed changes in Kazi - positive changes no doubt linked to the accident. She is at home so much more and she enters into family activities with enthusiasm and good humour. She chatters away to us both, opening up about things she is concerned about like issues in her boyfriend's family. She hugs us more, laughs with us more, hangs out with us so much that I feel our blended family has become a tighter, closer unit.  The moodiness is gone, the one word answers have disappeared, the lack of involvement in household tasks vanished. 

Today we were talking about how a family's "outside image" can be so much different than what it's really like behind closed doors. We reminisced about our many journeys across Canada during her Highland Dancing days and how much she appreciated me putting our wee family (her and I) first all these years. She's glad I wasn't solely career-driven like her boyfriend's mom and dad who don't get home til 8 or 9 each night and also work weekends. My career choice (teaching) allowed us to have the same schedules so we could always be together when the school day was complete. Our holiday schedules were the same too and we spent pretty much every spare minute together.

Now I feel like we're back to that point again. Instead of going our separate ways now that she's in university and has a job and we have completely different schedules we're as close as we ever were. With all my heart I am so appreciative of our close bond. I have shed many a tear over the past few years as she gradually freed herself from my apron strings and launched herself into the great big world. I knew (from my own experience) that she would inevitably find her way back to me but didn't anticipate it happening like this and so soon.

Michael has commented on the change in her - in his life coach lingo he feels something has shifted in her, he feels more accepted by her and that consciously or unconsciously she has opened up and expanded her thought patterns. 

We all face many tragedies and challenges in our own lives and in the lives of those we love most. In addition to focussing on the immediate and concrete outcomes (injury, arguments, jailtime, bankruptcy, grief, loss) we need to, if we can, be open to and aware of the less obvious and perhaps less tangible outcomes: have we stopped doing things we love, like writing, are we avoiding certain people, do we feel shame or anger or even hate, is there an underlying sadness or depression or do we feel more motivated, determined, revitalized, reborn, enlightened, encouraged, more alive, closer to our loved ones or those in our community, what opportunities are there for us to learn from, what have we learned about ourselves or those involved in the serious incident or situation? Is there a way we can change a negative situation into a positive one and what would it mean to us to do that, what would it take? Do we tend to fight or to flee when the chips are down? Why?

I don't have the answers but I have lots of questions. I'm grateful that while Kazi was knocked down she wasn't defeated. I don't know if she's aware of the changes inside her but I want to have that conversation. Next weekend is our trip away and we will have the opportunity to continue to build and grow our relationship. I look forward to that.

What challenge or serious situation has influenced or changed the way you think or look at a particular area of your life?



Momsy and her Pumpkin Noggin
 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weekly Wrap

Only two weeks left til Christmas!!

Yes, the picture in my header is of my patio fence - for a while I was worried that all HOPE would be lost but thankfully the snow finally stopped...well, except for that Alberta Clipper that passed through yesterday, but the good news is that we're not supposed to get any more snow until well, tomorrow, but it COULD BE RAIN instead. Who knows anymore??

So the good news of being snowed in is that I didn't spend any money after that extravagent meal last Saturday night until last night's doubleheader at the movies. (PS - the meal included a bottle of wine that Michael and I shared as well as appetizers and dessert - the whole nine yards!)(PPS - I still had the $20 bill left after last weekend and popped it into the Crofters Lane Jar this morning:) The movies we saw yesterday (the first was a half-price matinee) were Love and Other Drugs (involves a girl with Parkinson's which my mother had so I did shed a tear or two - it was SUCH a good movie); and the just released The Tourist with Johnny Depp (whom you know I adore) and Angelina Jolie who is equally talented - I was so happy to see that Johnny Depp was able to be "himself" in the movie - his fans will know what I mean:)

News Beat:
The good news is that I recouped all that I spent last weekend (dinner and purchases at Talize, a used clothing store) by way of an under budget cell bill (saved $16), an under budget utility bill ($13), reduced line of credit interest charge due to extra $2500 payment in Nov. ($4), reduced car insurance bill ($5), a transfer from my Christmas account at ING ($180) and a $100 HST cheque!! So my misc. spending budget is only $2 less than what I started the month with - talk about a Christmas miracle!!

However, (isn't there always a however:) from the misc. budget I must cover the following: a few items at the grocery store to make the quesadillas for tonight's Mexican themed potluck, yeah, I know, Mexican food for a Christmas party...I guess it will help to heat things up yuck yuck!!; wine for tonight (and a few other nights:); stocking gifts for Kazi and Michael, a gift for Michael, a gift for my godson, and for taking our neighbour to Swiss Chalet to thank her for everything she does for us throughout the year. She's a single lady in her 60's, retired, and thinks of Kazi as a granddaughter, which is wonderful for Kazi as she has no living grandparents. I will also have to pay for the movie Kazi and I plan to see in Toronto (the next in the Narnia series - The Voyage of the Dawntreader), entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum and any shopping I might do at the Eaton Centre, and it will help to cover those items I have forgotten about like my eye exam ($80) which only pops up once every two years and just happens to land on Dec. 20th this year:(

That sounds like I have to stretch my $$ a very long ways but I'm still hoping for a few more things to come in under budget such as gas for the car. I still have $125 in that budget so will likely have $100 remaining by next Wed. when I get paid again. I will add that $100 to my misc. spending plus any other under budget amounts. Usually I use that money to pay down debt or bump up a savings account but not this month.

I'll start fresh again in January with a new budget and new goals. I can't make the new budget yet because I don't know how much my paycheques will be. My paycheques will go down by at least $300 a month because Canada Pension deductions will start up again. My paycheques for Sept. Oct. Nov. and Dec. are much higher every year because a) that's when my raise kicks in each year and b) my yearly contributions to Canada Pension plan are all paid up. It's really nice to have that extra $$ before Christmas but I get used to it and then it's hard to go back to a smaller paycheque in January.

Oh well, who doesn't like a challenge?

Heartbeat:

I am leaving you with a humorous video I found today on youtube. There was a song I really liked in the Love and Other Drugs movie and I managed to find it this morning. I just put it on my iPod so I can play it for my friends tonight at our party. The movie had quite an effect on me because of the relationship problems experienced by the lead actors: she has early onset Parkinson's and he has never had a committed relationship before - not even with his family. It made me appreciate so much "loving and being loved".

I think this song really represents that joy we find being in relationship with each other not only because of the song and its lyrics but because of the group of people in this video. I love the joyful abandon this group of friends display in the middle of a mall. And you just have to really believe that this guy has amazing, supportive friends:) You will laugh but you will also feel their joy!





Friday, December 10, 2010

Surveys Update

Just a quickie post before my staff and students arrive (I've got about 10 more minutes of peace:). Thank you to all the responders about legitimate surveys; I'm posting a list so those who want to investigate further can do so. I am definitely going to check some out myself - in fact I already joined Opinion Outpost (thanks 444!)
  • You Gov. (in the UK, not sure if elsewhere?)
  • Opinion Outpost (Canada and U.S.)
  • Pinecone Research
  • Survey Savvy
  • Angus Reid Forum Global Test Market (is that all one company?)
  • Global Test Market
  • Netpanel Surveys
  • Toluna
  • Web Perspectives
  • Ipsos Reid
  • Swagbucks - to us at Amazon
These are survey sites that readers have used and received $$ either in the form of a cheque or directly into their paypal account so therefore deemed NOT a scam:)
Let me know if you join any of these sites and how they are working for you!

Thanks again dear readers - it's so gratifying to be able to pop a question out there and received such a fast, informed response. You're the best!!

Happy Friday already!! Gee, I could get used to a two day work week lol!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting Paid for Surveys



So I notice some folks get paid for doing online surveys.  Is this for real? It's not a scam??

I've only checked into it a little bit and when I try to go to a website that pays you for filling in a survey to "join" I get a message from my computer saying not to open the site because of spyware etc attached to the site.

So folks, what's legit out there and what's not? There seems to be endless numbers of these sites to make a quick and easy buck but I'm not sure of what I'm getting into, or what I'm getting my computer into...

Any advice??

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Charitable Journey

A woman in Africa that I support through Kiva

A lot of folks have blogged about the "charity line" on their budgets lately. As it is the season which emphasizes "giving" I thought I'd tell you a little about what I do.  First, however, I must confess that although a staunch Anglican (but working for the Catholic Schoolboard tee hee) I have stopped going to church. It had become such a chore (way too many committees) and such a hotbed of gossip that I just had to give myself a break. To me "church" should be a place of peace and community but it had become ALL about fundraising to stay afloat and people had divided into various competing factions and there was no longer any JOY.  So instead, being the "druidess" that I think I am I have turned to nature instead to find my JOY. One of the things I had to think seriously about once I cancelled my monthly "givings" to the church was what to do with my charitable dollars.

While searching the internet for likely causes to support I was overwhelmed by the numbers of registered charities. I had to narrow down my search and decided to concentrate on women and children. I have read that women in developing countries, especially in African nations, will use $$ given to them more wisely than men.  The women will use it to feed and educate their children while the man of the family, if indeed he is still with his family, tends to drink/gamble it away. So I came across Kiva, a microfinancing organization and coincidentally one of Oprah's "favourite things" for 2010. 

So far in the past year I have made 14 $25.00 loans, mostly to women in Africa. The $$ goes to help them in a small cottage industry and usually I get paid back in full. Then I reloan the money out again. I try to average one new loan each month. Also, last year on the anniversary of my mother's birthday I gave a $25.00 Kiva gift card to each of my 4 siblings so they could experience the joy of picking a deserving person to help with their business. Its so much more worthwhile I feel to help someone develop a self-sustaining business than to just give $$ away. 

My Impact:

Number of Loans Made 14 
Number of Kiva Cards Given 4
*Updated as of Dec 08, 2010 12:12 am

The other charity I support on a monthly basis is the World Food Programme. I have set up a monthly withdrawal of $100.00 from my account and I have chosen to have it distributed to wherever it is needed the most. My money has gone to support the people of Pakistan who were devastated by the huge flood and to Haiti and Afghanistan. 

Help Karamoja

I chose the World Food Programme because they are among the "first responders" to any emergency in the world. When the earthquake hit Haiti WFP workers were on the ground dispersing food and water within 24 hours. I decided I want my $$ to have an immediate impact as well as a long-lasting impact (Kiva).

There are many other charities I support also with one-time donations, but these are the main two. I wanted to share them with you in case you are undecided as to where to direct your charitable dollars. These are two that I feel very strongly about. Every little bit counts.

There are also many places online you can go to and "click" for charities and it costs absolutely nothing at all, but a little of your time.  One site I have my students go to on a regular basis is http://www.freerice.com/. By playing games (all subject related like math and english) they win "grains of rice" which is donated to where it is needed most. It's one of the best ideas EVER!!

If you go waaaaaaay down on my sidebar you will see widgits for my Kiva loans, World Food Programme and Free Rice in case you want to explore them further.

There - I never mentioned the weather even once....oops!