Friday, April 29, 2011

Will and Kate - My Best PhotoM

My best shot of the day, I think...
at least it's my personal favourite!

Will and Kate - They Did it Their Way :)

It was almost as if I was really there:

I LOVE this photo!

Elton looks like he's wearing a lady's hat!

Almost, but not quite...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Kinky Five Dollar Walk

While out for a long walk with Michael (but perhaps not quite as long as this sentence) after school on Tuesday, (back when it was warm and sunny, not like now when it's raining, cold and windy...remember that one good day?) we hit upon what we thought was an economical way to spend some time (and very little money) that was not only good exercise but also inspirational, original, magical, illuminating, humorous, relationship-enhancing and perhaps even a little bit kinky!  

While we meandered through a cemetery, a used book store, a lot of back streets, up and down countless hills, a Tim Horton's, a Price Choppers, several green spaces and a park (whew!), we purchased a 2nd hand book that has been on Michael's must have book list for over a year about building community through drumming, a box of Oatmeal Crisp AND a Timmy's coffee (we shared).

We had so much fun that we thought we would turn this walk into a regular event and call it The Five Dollar Walk. We would take only $5.00 with us and see what possibilities present themselves and anything we didn't spend we would add into the next walk's money. Sort of a VERY FRUGAL speed-walking mini-vacation life enrichment workshop all rolled into one. 

I'm not even kidding....except maybe about the kinky part. But I have an open mind and I think you do too, or you wouldn't still be reading this!  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Love is Blue

Hello my friends: I want to see if anyone has as long a musical memory as I do. My blue flowers (crazies), blue blog background (nice tongue twister) and Blue Book made a certain song pop into my head a minute ago, I haven't heard of or thought of this song in _______ years! 

Do you remember this song?

BTW - For an instrumental song it was an amazing feat I think to top the charts for 5 weeks in l968!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Little Blue Book

It's never too early to start planning for the summer, or for the rest of your life for that matter.  Hence the birth of the Blue Book.  Our Blue Book is also Green, in that it's been repurposed from its original raison d'etre (I don't really know what that was as it was Michael's book but let's not worry about that right now, perhaps Michael will add a comment to this post and let us know what the original purpose of the Blue Book was). (ooooh, maybe it was his little black book!!) Obviously, it didn't get used up for that purpose (whatever that was) because he removed just a few pages with an Xacto knife and voila - new Blue Book!

We are using the Blue Book to help us plan for our trip east to PEI & Crofters Lane this summer. It now contains (after rifling through all of my mess of papers from last summer's two trips) phone numbers of those folks we may need to get in touch with like the driveway guy who also repairs and replaces septic systems, things we need to take with us like bedding and towels, things we need to purchase like an ax and a bed, a prioritized (eventually) list of things we want to change and add to our property, everything from an outdoor shower to a labyrinth & gazebo in the forest. 

Places we want to visit, decorating ideas, utility companies, neighbours names and phone numbers, stuff to list on kijiji to raise $$ for our trip, name and phone number of the plumber and electrician, where to buy a lobster pot, how to rig up a spit over the firepit and on and on. We have so many ideas we can't keep them all in our heads. So as a wise man once said to me "on paper, off mind".  

Who was that wise man??

Monday, April 25, 2011

Putting the Squeeze on the Budget

Last week I wrote about putting the You Back in Frugal.  I decided that I desperately needed to add an Entertainment line to my budget, plus I was trying to figure out how to cover my entertainment costs for the rest of April.

I sat down and figured out how much $$ I would need for upcoming social events - coffee with my brother and sister-in-law, dinner with my nephews, movies with Michael, wine to go with dinner at my brother's house yesterday and Easter goodies for Kazi. I budgeted $105 (using my credit card for points & to be repaid next month so I wouldn't have to withdraw money from savings) and I think I came in a bit under budget!!

Budgeted                                                  Actual
Coffee - $3.00                                            $3.25 (had a tea AND a coffee)
Two movies - $12.00                                   $16.75 (movies were $7 each &
                                                                 I bought a diet coke but I 
                                                                 snuck in my own popcorn!!)
Dinner - $50.00                                           $35.00 but then Kazi and I went
                                                                 to Yoyo's for frozen yogurt so
                                                                 that came to:
Wine - $20.00                                             $19.95
Easter Goodies - $20.00                               $7.76
Total                                                         Total
$105.00                                                     $88.17

I can live with that - I came in under budget and didn't break the bank. I'll pay that back next month (well, payday is Friday) and I've also managed to add an Entertainment line to my budget for $100.00 in addition to my usual Misc money.  It's not a lot but I'll see how it goes. 

The way I came up with the extra $100 was by estimating a few costs a bit closer to their actual costs instead of over-estimating. The amount I pay for interest on my line of credit has decreased but I hadn't adjusted the amount in my budget, also Union Gas and London Hydro have been about $30 less each month than what I had budgeted. 

In May I have a few extra expenses so I hope that doesn't rock the budget too much - I have to pay for my car sticker ($74) and we are going away TWO weekends - one for a wedding (so need to cover a gift and one night at a motel) and one weekend for my birthday. We'll see how it goes.                           

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Westminster Ponds Walk

Looks inviting, yes?
If only the entire trail was on the boardwalk,
but the boardwalk only exists to help us cross the
very boggy areas. The rest of the trail was mud, mud and
more mud. My wellies would have done a better job. As it was
I held onto tree limbs and bushes to skirt the worst of the mud and
puddles, plus we each used a branch as a walking stick. Part way in
and I was ready to turn around as it was slow going - I couldn't even take
any pictures as I needed both hands, feet and walking stick to keep me
from tumbling headfirst into the muck. The photos shown here are after we
got through the worst of the mud. However, we weren't finished with natural
obstacles yet!

Not too bad eh? You should have seen my pant legs!

The trailblazer suffered a bit more from the muck than I did.

A lot of areas that are usually dry were still under water from the
winter runoff and the days of rain we've had.

Looking into the water on one of the boardwalks.

There are certain plants that grow here that are right at home in
swampy conditions. 

They make excellent photography subjects.

And don't you just love the vibrant green colour?
Life is coming back to Westminster Ponds!

Makes me think of the paintings by Georgia O'Keefe!

We were almost finished one long loop of the trail when we met up with
flood conditions which were impassable. The pond in some areas has flooded
the trail and there was no way to get around it. Michael tried putting in a couple of logs and fell in trying to cross over. He kept going anyways and discovered that further on there were more flooded areas.  So we had to turn back and find an alternate way back to our starting point and our CAR!
If ONLY we were wearing rubber boots!!

These trees were on the opposite side of the trail from the pond and were under a foot or two of water. I stood on a log to get this picture.

We did find another way through and ended up walking down Wellington Rd. to where we'd parked. Along the way I encountered these brilliant blue flowers blooming in profusion. I don't know their real name - my mom used to call them Crazies - they grew wild in our lawn just after the Snowdrops were finished blooming.

Aren't they gorgeous?

Friday, April 22, 2011


So far I am REALLY enjoying my long weekend. Although it's just barely started I have had a nice coffee date with my brother Gord and his wife Pat, and Michael. Pat was recently hospitalized for almost 3 weeks due to bronchial pneumonia so it was wonderful to see her looking healthy again! Lots of laughs!
Me in the morning except of course I have no need for curlers!!
 The sun is finally peeking out now. Earlier I thought I saw a snowflake but it must have been my imagination !?!  Michael and I are going for a hike this afternoon followed by computer/coffee/PEI Blue Book time at Starbucks.(Our PEI Blue book contains all of our needed info about PEI, a list of things we want to do each summer, places we want to visit on our drives out, etc etc) 

Tonight we're visiting a friend and then heading to the movies. We're going to see "Of Gods and Men", about Christian monks having a difficult time living in a violent Islamic society in Algeria. Seems appropriate for Good Friday. We have a theatre in London, the Hyland, that shows less mainstream movies and we LOVE it. We have memberships so it's only $6.00/person. They also have the BEST popcorn :)
Tomorrow I am getting together with my nephews again and we're having dinner at Jambalaya - my FAVE place to eat! Michael is working so he'll be serving us (ha! just like home!) This will be followed by drinks, dancing perhaps? 

Sunday will be dinner with my artist brother Kim. I can't remember him ever cooking me a meal before so it should be interesting! I also have Monday off so leaving that unplanned for now. Due to the cold weather it's not likely that we'll get to the trailer but you never know.

Hope your Easter plans unfold in  a loving family atmosphere filled with laughter, joy and sunshine!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Own Financial Bloggers Hotline

Yesterday I was talking about adding an Entertainment line to my budget. I received a lot of good advice and thoughtful comments and I want to thank everyone who commented - it's like having my very own financial hotline!! I have decided to go with Borrower's suggestion of using my credit card til Friday and include as an expense to pay off next month rather than reduce my savings now. As of this moment I have $10 left in my wallet til next Friday, April 30th.

I do use my PC Mastercard for almost every purchase anyway as I collect the points for free groceries so the only difference will be that instead of paying it off each time I use it I will wait until I get paid on the 30th. Just this once. And while working on my budget for May this weekend whatever I spend will be added as an expense just for May plus I will jiggle the money around to create an Entertainment line. Right now it seems like an impossible task to find the money to create yet another budget line but once I start to crunch the numbers I'm sure I can come up with something.

The Witch also made a comment that I really liked: any unused money left in the Entertainment budget line at the end of the month stays there and can build towards a bigger treat like a weekend getaway!! A fabulous idea!!

Further updates to come - enjoy your Thursday!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Putting the YOU back in Frugal!!

I find myself running out of money this month. After I pay for volleyball tonight I will have only $20 of spending money left. And there's still ten more days of April. I always thought I was pretty good at math so I think the flaw is in my lack of planning for my spending.

I've been sitting pretty smugly on my laurels the past few months blithely saving away and reducing debt while NOT thinking about how much I need each month for LIFE.  I have vowed to live frugally but I didn't vow NOT TO LIVE at all!!  In fact, over the past couple of years I've discovered that I need to live each day NOW, not just wait til retirement for the party to begin.

Here's the dilemma - (though I shouldn't be looking at upcoming social events as a "dilemma")!! (I REALLY want to get away from the mindset that doing things with family and friends is to be avoided due to having to spend some $$.  I also don't want to sit and drink water while others are having a glass of wine...or just order the cheapest appetizer when everyone else is having a full meal)!!  That's not LIVING!!

So I have decided to put the U back in frUgal!! I don't go out often but I'm not going to AVOID going or be a cheapskate when I do go out. Neither am I going to throw my money around carelessly. What I DO need to do is put more planning into each month, estimate what I'll need for upcoming social events or outings with Michael and put a number to it.

I need to add an "entertainment" line to my budget. Currently I just use my catchall MISC category to cover any entertainment-related activities although when I enter my spends into I do have an entertainment line. Sorta inconsistent aren't I??

My next task then after adding an entertainment category to my budget is to figure out what I need for: a beer tonight after volleyball, dinner out with my nephews on Saturday, Easter goodies and Easter dinner with my brother on Sunday and what I might need to make it to my next paycheque on the 30th.

This is kinda exciting - I feel like I've made a breakthrough in my thinking. I hate like hell taking money out of savings once I've put it in but it's necessary to my sanity:) But don't get me going on THAT topic....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

No More RSPs For Me

Big Pile of Locked-in Money

I do not enjoy giving the government my hard-earned money. Before I even see my paycheque the government has taken their cut which amounts to about $3,000 a month. As if that wasn't enough I pay huge taxes on just about everything I buy from gasoline to groceries. GST, PST, and now HST. Oh, I'm not done yet...there's also all the other little or not-so-little fees throughout the year for things like a fishing license, a new sticker for my car's license plates and so on.

So, I try to find ways to hang on to more of my money hence I've been a faithful contributor to an RSP account for over 20 years. Because my employer takes off a big chunk every month for my teacher's pension I haven't had a ton of contribution room in my RSP each year therefore I don't want to lose a lot more of my money to withholding taxes when it's time to withdraw.

Yeah, here's the kicker. Putting money INTO an RSP really helps out at tax time - I've gotten some juicy refunds over the years. However, I didn't do the smart thing and reinvest that refund - if I had I'd be sitting on a pretty nice cushion of savings right now. No, being a single parent meant I used that refund to catch up on bills, buy my daughter a new pair of ghillies for her highland dancing and pay off credit cards etc. 

BUT, using another highland metaphor - EVENTUALLY YOU HAVE TO PAY THE PIPER!!  Yes, the government was nice to you when you put your money IN, but when you take it OUT they want more than their fair share.  See chart below for taxation rates depending on the amount you withdraw.

Withholding Taxes

Funds withdrawn from an RRSP will be charged withholding taxes. This amount must be held back by the plan administrator and remitted to the government on your behalf.
Effective January 1, 2005, the following withholding tax rates apply:
Amount of RRSP WithdrawalAll Provinces Except QuebecQuebec
Up to and including $5,00010%21%
$5,000.01 to $15,00020%26%
More than $15,00030%31%
You will receive a T4 RRSP receipt for any funds withdrawn during the year showing the amount to be included in your taxable income and the credit for the withholding tax.
YIKES, right? Just think a minute. $15,000 x 30% = $4,500!!! Whoa Nellie!!
My plan, then, is to only withdraw $5,000 per year so that I pay the lowest taxation rate of 10%. So for every $5000 I withdraw I will only receive $4,500. HOWEVER, that's not the end of the story unfortunately. The gov't has a mighty long arm here in Canada and when TAX Time rolls around again the next year I will have to declare that $4,500 as income because when I put it into my RSP it was DEFERRED income. Soooooooooooo if my income is too high the gov't will take some more of my $4,500. It's so frustrating!!!
So I have a plan. You know me, I've always got a plan. I will retire in June 2014. The following year, 2015, I will withdraw $5,000 from my RSP and put it into my Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).  My income will be drastically lower due to living on a reduced pension so HOPEFULLY I won't have to pay any more tax on my RSP withdrawal come tax time. 
I will put off collecting Canada Pension until at least age 65 in order to keep my income lower. Once I've got all of my money out of RSPs and into TFSAs I'll start to collect my Canada Pension Plan which will be a higher monthly amount than it would be if I started collecting it at age 60.
So I can no longer put any money INTO RSPs as it's going to take me up to ten years to withdraw my $$ at $5,000 per year. From now on my savings will go into my TFSA, so I'm really, really hoping that the contribution rate of $5000 per year gets doubled to $10,000 per year after the Federal Election.
Other factors in my decision:
  • I want to have the control over my money, not the gov't (yeah, right!)
  • I want to have access to my RSP funds in the years before I'm eligible for OAS (Old Age Supplement) and before accessing my CP (Canada Pension Plan). Once I hit 65 I will be receiving CP & OAS as well as my teacher's pension. It will be the years from 58 to 65 that will be the leaner years, income-wise thus making it the ideal time to withdraw funds from my RSP and keep tax rates at their lowest. (Not that 10% is low by any stretch of the imagination!!)
So that's my story and I'm sticking to it! I hope.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weekly Wrap - April 15/2011

A Healthy Wrap!
This week's wrap is brought to you by the good folks over at Eatin' Healthy! and is based on the Mediterranean diet (which is a way of life, NOT a DIET!)

Let's look at the numbers shall we?

Numbers are are a bit down in savings and debt from their usual monthly amounts because of purchasing a painting this month and paying my annual trailer fee. Oh well, that's life and the TRAILER is a HUGE part of my life!! And so is having my brother's original oil paintings on my walls:) 

Entertainment is up a bit too due to having a couple of restaurant dinners. I used a $50.00 coupon to help defray the cost of one of them however, so not as bad as it would have been. 

Transportation is up a bit due to an oil change and air filter change and also the rising cost of gas. Trying to conserve by not driving around the city as much but that's difficult to do with three adults having to go hither, thither and yon everyday. Stupid barrels of oil and our dependency on them!!

I'm looking at my food total and know that can't be correct as I've started using the last two week's of grocery money already - that number should be around the $225 mark so will have to check my receipts, guess I missed one. I think we're doing REALLY WELL with our food budget bringing it down from $500 per month to $400 per month.

So what did I spend $120 on in my Misc budget line? Ummmmm, oh yeah, I renewed my computer virus protection plan ($56), some Timmy's coffees and a lunch, paid for Turbotax ($38.40-2 returns), one iTunes song ($1.29) and a couple of newspapers.  Some exciting life I lead huh?

I have about $100 left for Misc spending til the end of the month. I think I can make it. Hopefully I won't have quite as many extra expenses next month other than renewing my car's license sticker ($74), an annual expense.

How's your budget doing?  Are you on track??

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Night Delight!

Thanksgiving at the trailer!
Just a quickie :) before I catch up on your Friday posts! Don't ya love my suggestive post titles lately: "Tonight's the Night", "Quickie", and now "Friday Night Delight"? 

"Tonight's Delight" will soon be served a la Michael. Yes, he is braving the cold and wind to BBQ us up some chicken (yes, we eat a lot of chicken as I rarely eat beef, but that's another post), he bought us a bottle of wine (we've just discovered a NEW FAVOURITE - it's from South Africa - a cabernet sauvignon merlot called Cape One for only $9 - it's so smooooooooooth & yes I'm sipping some right now) and I'm munching on some of the best green grapes I've ever had as an appetizer 'cause it's 7:01pm and lunch was at 11:30am! Whew!

Michael has also lit a few candles around our living room where I'm sitting right now talking to you. Great food, delicious wine, soothing ambience - that's my Michael! It's been a tough day and a tough week so it's just so appreciated to be able to unwined (tee hee - think I'll copyright that one!) while dinner is being prepared.

Though Michael did want me to mention to you that I did help with dinner - yes indeedy!  He handed me half a sweet potato aaaaand...wait for it... I put it in the fridge!!

Ok, signing off for now - going to read your posts.  Will be back later with new photo for my header and the mid-April weekly wrap!  Unless we open that second bottle of wine.............

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Living with Adult Children

My 20.5 year old daughter, Kazi, just left to go write her first of several final exams at UWO.  She has successfully completed three years of her French degree. One more year at UWO, then teacher's college and she'll be on her way to total independence.

At least, that's the plan.

I don't know (yes I do) who is having a more difficult time with her transition to adulthood and subsequent independence - me or her.  Yes, it's me. I am really struggling with this. I've come to the conclusion that when our children go to university they should really GO to university - to live as well as study. Having one foot in university life and one foot in your parent's home is an uneasy balance at best. At times it is downright awkward and at others kinda scary and tense. 

I think I could manage a whole lot better if I didn't know what time she is coming home at night or even if she IS coming home at night. Can you believe that a month ago I grounded her (an adult) because she didn't let me know she was spending the night elsewhere so I found her bed unslept in when I was getting ready for work the next morning. What's even more unbelievable is that she went along with it and stayed home for a week. She thought is was ridiculous but did it to appease me. It was the only time I've ever grounded her in her entire life. 

To help support herself she has taken a new job as a server at a university club called Jack's. She loves working there because a ton of her friends from school hang out there.  So does she when she's not working. One day last week she told me she got home really late (like 4am) because there had been an incident outside the club and the police were talking to her manager so they couldn't leave. Yes, apparently some guy outside the club was waving a gun around. 

I didn't know what to say. I knew I couldn't say what I wanted to say which was QUIT THAT JOB RIGHT NOW OR ELSE, so I just said I'm glad no one was hurt blah blah blah. 

In my head I've come to the point where I know I can no longer impose my values and lifestyle on her but it is still so hard to bite my tongue when I KNOW I know better than she does about certain situations. I've been doing a lot of research lately and keep reading that at this point in our kid's lives we can only "offer advice when it's solicited" or "pop in a leading question when the opportunity arises" but when it comes right down to it they are going to make their own decisions...they HAVE to make their own decisions, right or wrong, good or bad. 

This is the process, called maturation (or learning from one's mistakes), that we all have to go through...the true rites of the passage into adulthood. Trying to protect them from "life" only slows down or inhibits the process. The tough part for us moms and dads is watching them stumble and fall knowing that if they'd only listen to us we could save them from so much pain and hardship.

Huge sigh...

However, this was not meant to be. I have to keep reminding myself of all the idiotic and risky things I did at her age and realize that if it wasn't for those harsh life lessons I wouldn't be the strong and (somewhat) wise woman that I am today. 

More to come.......................................................................................... .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................


Just a quickie as I wait for staff and students to arrive. Last night I didn't post as I had a headache but feel fine today. I have several weighty issues on my mind these days and once I can make sense of them I'll be posting about them. Here are just a couple of clues to what I'm struggling with:
  • we might love our family members but we don't necessarily "like" them
  • 20 year olds are hard to "parent"
  • the best laid plans (retirement) don't always go the way you expect
So I guess you could call this post a "teaser" of topics to come in the near future once I get my head wrapped around them in a logical, "writeable" way.

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tonight's the Night!!

If the above scientific diagram is accurate, and who am I to argue with science, then I'm still a teenager...bwahahahahahahaha!!

The big news tonight is I've just passed the halfway point in my cycling trek to Alberton, PEI.  That's right - I've cycled 962km since January 1st leaving a mere 940km left to go. And I feel pretty darn good!  Perhaps not quite as fit as when I was 18 but pretty close. 

Michael and I have recently embarked on a "healthful journey" by increasing the numbers of organic "superfoods" in our diet and eliminating almost all processed foods. More on that soon. I will say this much: our vocabulary now includes the words "chia seeds" and "quinoa".