Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Retiring to Nova Scotia

Why retire in Nova Scotia? Funny you should ask!

The idea first came to me over this past Christmas while holidaying up in Bracebridge with my older sister. She and her partner are thinking about retiring in Prince Edward Island because he has a brother living there. There is a farmhouse they have their eye on with about 30 acres of land and they think they can get it for about $50,000 to $60,000.

When I heard that I knew I had to investigate. As a single parent and single wage earner I need to get as much bang for my buck as I can. Shown above are three homes, 2 with acreage, for sale in the maritimes.
The first photo shows a home for sale not too far away from Halifax with both river frontage and lake frontage. It comes with a couple of acres of land and sells for under $70,000.
Not too shabby eh?
The second photo is of a gorgeous year round cottage close to Moncton, N.B. (rated as one of the top retirement destinations in Canada!)
Price tag - under $60,000.
If price is no problem you might be interested in the final heritage home, known as Tray Cottage, located in Upper Island Cove, Nfld. For a whopping $110,000 you get an ocean view and access to the community wharf.
Very tempting...
Being of Scottish descent I am being pulled to the highlands of Cape Breton Island where almost every home has a view of the ocean or inland lake.
Gotta stay on plan!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday's Menu: Memories of India

I have a confession to make: before Saturday night I had never eaten any food of the Indian persuasion. I have been missing out!

A friend cooked up a feast to share by candlelight during Earth Hour on the weekend. The bread - roti - was delicious and while most of the foods were familiar (rice, cauliflower, potatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers) the unique combinations, the sauces and the spices resulted in flavour sensations that I never wanted to end!

All the dishes served were vegetarian and pretty inexpensive to prepare. Now that I have ventured outside of my comfort zone I want to continue exploring and savouring these new tastes by making a few recipes myself. I have discovered a great blog called Enjoy Indian Food, which just happens to be a Blogger blog. There are so many recipes on this blog that I should be able to experiment for months and months to come.
Check it out!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekly Budget: Balanced or Blown?

Oops - a new jacket is hanging in my closet. Let's see if my weekly budget is balanced or blown.

Groceries - $65.74
23.42 (ingredients for a dessert for tonight's dinner party)
Gas - 20.80
Scarf - 16.95 (on sale at Reitman's)
Jacket - 124.26 (obviously not on sale - oops! but it goes with my silver-grey hair stunningly!)
Baking pan- 25.99 (clearance price)
Beer - 10.00 (after weekly volleyball game)
Charity - 5.00 (casual Friday)
Total: $292.16
Budget $300.00
Surplus: $ 7.84

Extra money earned this week: I had budgeted $65 for hydro this month but the bill was only $57 so I was able to add $8 to my balance. Always a good idea to over-estimate to get those nice little bonuses throughout the month. With $300 budgeted this week for variable expenses I ended up with a credit of $15.74. With other little savings during March I have about $120 left with 3 days left in this month. I'll probably put that towards my new visa debt.

Although on target for this week I did make a large expenditure using visa although it hasn't shown up on my bill yet. The reason for falling off the credit card wagon? Neil Young is coming to town, to little ol' London, Ontario. He is one of two performers I want, need, must see before I die, the other one being Paul McCartney. So I am shelling out $375 on 2 tickets - I mean if I'm going to see Neil Young I want to be as close as possible, it may only happen once.

Yes, a rationalization, but how would we get through our days without them?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekly Dump: And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Just a few of the items exiting the ol' homestead this week: a beeootiful cat scratching post that my two snooty cats totally ignored for the last 10 years, an old tray (with stand) that I just never got around to refinishing, a wooden doohickey bought to display some items I was selling at a craft sale (bought at Talize & returned 3 years later to the same store), and yet another ugly Christmas decoration bought only God knows why!

As I look at that pyramid of discards I just see the money wasted on silly, impulse purchases. More important than getting rid of such items is ending the shopping habit once and for all. I hereby vow to only shop for specific items I need like I did today. I went into Home Sense looking for a 13 by 9 baking pan to make a dessert for a dinner party I'm attending tomorrow night. I was mightily tempted by the gorgeous displays, especially the home and garden displays that were front and centre now that the temperature has risen above 0.

I proudly announce I left with only the baking pan which was also on clearance so YAY! Then I went to the grocery store and bought the items I needed to make the dessert and made only 1 other purchase that wasn't on my list - applesauce! Not bad!

AND I went into Winner's because I haven't had a new spring jacket since my mom bought me one when I was 10 and that's what I bought. I admit I hovered around the jeans for awhile but actually said "no" to myself and my self listened.

Maybe, just maybe, I can get more stuff out of this place than is coming in so when it's time to retire and move I can rent just the little wee truck.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Money Saving Tip of the Week - Make Your Own Tea

There's nothing like a warm cuppa on a cold morning, nobody appreciates that little comfort more than I do. In years past my early morning routine included a not-so-quick pitstop at my local Tim Horton's to buy a steeped tea for about $1.65.

In the interest of saving time I decided to make my own tea at work. I refuse to use the drive through window and didn't enjoy having to park and wait in line inside Timmy's for the privilege of paying them to make me a cup of tea. At that point I wasn't even thinking about the money I would save. But I'm thinking about it now as I look for more ways of hanging onto my hard-earned cash.

Let's do the math: if I stop for coffee 250 times a year @ $1.65 I will spend $412.50. That's basically flushing $412.50 down the toilet! Yikes!

Now each morning as I pour boiling water over my 4 cent Red Rose teabag I can rejoice that something so comforting is still so cheap!

For more widgets please visit www.yourminis.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

I just love this photo. I know I'm not supposed to blow my own horn but it gives me such joy to see new life. I took this just over a week ago and look at it everyday to remind myself that spring is indeed coming.
London, Ontario

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why Blog about Retirement Five Years in Advance?

My five year plan, if successful, will allow me to retire on a reduced pension two years earlier than waiting for a full pension. That means "freedom 58" rather than "freedom 55" but since I didn't get into teaching until I was 36 I have to hang in there a little longer than most.

Taking a reduced pension means approximately $375 less per month. For me, it's not about the money, it's about realizing my goals sooner. Is it worth it to me to have two extra years of retirement instead of having an extra $375 a month? That sound you just heard was my resounding YES!

So to make that happen I have to plan. In five years I want to be debt-free and have approx. $125,000 in savings, not counting my home equity. Now, my blog isn't directed to those folks to whom $125,000 is spare change (although there are 373 fewer billionaires than there were a year ago...boo hoo...) but is instead aimed towards people like me, who have worked hard all their lives to make an honest living, who have lived on ONE income, who may be a single parent like me, and don't want to retire with nothing more than the old age supplement.

Yes, my numbers are modest but I believe in "living small". Forced to live frugally for most of my life, living on a reduced pension with savings to back me up and no debt to weigh me down sounds pretty manageable.

We'll see how it goes.....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Arts for Old Farts: London Music Club

It was the "usual suspects" last Thursday at the London Music Club...Peter on guitar and vocals, Terrence on the harp. A plea for someone from the audience who had never been on the stage before to join him in singing "Knock Knock Knocking on Heaven's Door" brought one brave young man to the centre mike.

If you enjoy the blues the London Music Club can't be beat. Never the same twice, local musicians and those just passing through, join forces to create an always memorable experience all for the price of a jug of beer. That's right - no cover charge on Thursday nights!

Economical, fun and bluesy...bring your own guitar and join in the fun - they are always looking for new talent. One prepubescent guitar player came along with his mom and dad and joined in the first set and despite looking rather frightened gained lots of respect from his fellow jammers and audience alike.

Good times!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sure Sign of Spring in London, Ontario

This fellow looks particularly fat and sassy. He is welcome to all of the remaining crab apples on my tree because they have been splatting on the hood of my car and make a heck of a mess.

Weekly Budget: Balanced or Blown?

I did so so on the budget this week. This being March break I spent more than usual on eating out but that was balanced by less spent on groceries.

Groceries at Real Canadian Superstore on Oxford- $45 (10% discount thanks to my daughter working there!)
Dinner at Aromas on Richmond St. - $40 (A real steal! Felipe, the owner gave us a yummy bottle of wine free & a fellow diner paid for a bottle, so my share of the wine bill was only $6...we also weren't charged for our glasses of wine while we waited 45 minutes for our table)
Lunch at Tony's on Dundas St. - $20
CD - $5 (More on this later)
iTunes downloads - $7 (one of my regular indulgences)
Movies - $16 (ok, so I bought a bag of licorice too)
Icecream at Dairy Queen on Highbury Ave. on 1st day of spring (good excuse eh?) - $7
My 1/2 share of junk removal - $40 (1-888-Junk-Van was charging 1/2 price this week so my neighbour and I shared a van - got rid of a mattress and some old plywood)
Drinks & food at London Music Club on Colborne St. - $20
Gas - $25 (Real Canadian Super Store!)
Wine - $65 (hey, that's not bad for 6 bottles of wine - two were on sale, honest!) (And they'll last me much longer that a week, maybe even longer than 2 weeks!)

Extra income!!!!
$1.60 in returned bottles at the Beer Store on Adelaide St.
$0.66 redeemable at the Superstore for buying their gas
200 points from the Superstore for buying groceries

That brings me to about $287.74 for the week and my budget is $300 a week for spending on food, gas and misc. I may have forgotten a few things but as luck would have it I can't log in to TDCanada Trust right now - they are having a few problems...hopefully not with MY account. So for blogging purposes I'll assume I came in under budget this week (a wink is as good as a nod...to a blind horse).

Stay tuned for next week's episode of "Weekly Budget: Balanced or Blown?"

Friday, March 20, 2009

Money Saving Tip of the Week - President's Choice Mastercard

Just to be clear - I am not suggesting that the use of credit cards is a good thing. For many it is the first step down the slippery slope into masses of credit card debt. However, I have found that I can make most of my purchases with the PC Mastercard (Costco doesn't take Mastercard) then go home and pay the bill online the same day. I even pay for my groceries with the PC Mastercard and use it to buy gas (PC gas of course, which is usually 2-3 cents cheaper per litre). President's Choice makes it easy for you to track your spending with online statements that are available for viewing anytime. Paying your balance regularly throughout each month eliminates any interest charges.

Why do I do this? For the points, of course.

Since acquiring the credit card in December I have earned around 60,000 points which equates to $60.00 I can use to purchase more groceries at any Real Canadian Superstore. Also, I have received around $15.00 by keeping my gas receipts, each of which has a barcode for a small % of your gas purchase, which again can be used in the store for groceries or anything else the store offers.

Being the thrifty person I am, I also get the satisfaction of feeling that I'm pulling one over on President's Choice. I know I'm exactly the kind of shopper they don't want, one who responsibly pays off their credit card on a weekly basis. But - they also get most of my business so it's a win-win situation. So far I haven't succumbed to any impulse purchases, none that I'm admitting to anyways, I just think of it as the same as my debit card and not to spend more than I have available in my bank account for shopping. Once that thinking becomes a habit, anyone can rack up the points interest-free!

I plan to save up my points until it gets warm enough to start going to my trailer. Then I'll use the points to fill my fridge for summer eating. Can't wait!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tax Refund Heaven

That's me doing a happy dance. I've been checking daily to see if my refund had been deposited yet and today was my lucky day. Woot woot!! Isn't it great that we are so brainwashed that getting some of our own money back warrants such jubilation!

Jonathan Chevreau, author of the Wealthy Boomer blog at the National Post, wrote about tax refunds on March 11th: "most Canadians will use it to pay down debt, says a survey released today by Dr. Tax Software Inc., makers of U File".

Oh we Canadians are a cautious bunch aren't we? I took $2700 of my refund and paid down my line of credit so it now sits at a nice round figure of $30,000. (I do take such personal satisfaction in nice round numbers, don't you?) With the interest rate on my LOC sitting at an all-time low of 2.5% I can afford to pay more on the principal. Most folks I have spoken to say they are putting all they can into debt repayments also - why the hell not?

Although our government has chosen to spend its way out of this recession I (and many others) am choosing to keep the lid on spending and have revamped my budget to make the most of my income. I've ramped up my debt repayment from $500 to $1000 monthly and increased my savings from $690 a month to $830 a month. If I can stick to this budget (a big if) then my challenging Five Year Plan for retirement will stay on track. My concern is that I don't have a lot of wiggle room. I hope by maintaining this blog I'll be more committed to the PLAN. Either that or I'll just plain be committed!

Suggestions and savings hints are welcome!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Story of Stuff - Ch.6: Disposal

To see The Story of Stuff in its entirety go to Youtube.

The Story of Stuff

Getting rid of stuff isn't so easy if you have a conscience, which I do. But did I spell it right?

I watched The Story of Stuff a couple of years ago and again today. If I knew when I was 20 what I know now I hope I wouldn't have bought so much stuff. In my defense I was raised to reuse and recycle by parents who had lived through the depression (the great one), and have also had to live on a meagre income most of my life. I guess what I'm saying is that I could have had a LOT more stuff if I'd been able to afford it. Happily I wasn't one to buy on credit so that helped limit my purchasing power.

However, what remains is still a lot of stuff I want and need to get rid of as I begin to downsize for retirement. That said, I vow to put as little into landfill as possible utilizing all the many Value Village, Goodwill and Talize stores that are in my neighbourhood.

I hear in the news that these stores are doing quite a good business during the current economic setback so hopefully my stuff can be put to good use.

(I also hope family members will take some of my stuff for sentimental reasons - who wouldn't want the shaving mug my father used 30 years ago?)

Anyone want a free piano?