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Windfalls All Over the Place

December 15th, 2004 at 06:40 pm

What a nice time of year for little things to be happenening. In the past few days I feel like we've been very blessed with extra cash. First Dad gave me $250 to spend "on myself", then I caught Xander playing with a card from Dean's aunt that happened to have $50 in it- I still don't know where that card came from, I got my phone bill with a $102 credit on it and the Royal bank credited us $80 for erroneous fees. Wow! That's almost $500 in about 24 hours. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I don't know what to do with it. Our Visa bill is paid except for the computer that I bought for Greg. He gave me a cheque postdated for the 17th to pay for that, so it's pretty much taken care of. I will have about $100 on the Sears card for Zach's Christmas present due on the 13 of January, but other than that, there is nothing else.
I guess I'll just transfer the bulk of it into the ING account and sit on it for a while. We are looking at buying a very expensive treadmill in the next couple of weeks. I guess this money could easily go toward that. The store currently has 6 months no interest or payment financing, so depending on whether there are charges to take advantage of that, we could just save the money and let it grow until the payment comes due in June.
What a blessing. I'm really excited and grateful right now.

Show Me the Money (Please)

November 29th, 2004 at 05:46 pm

I went to town to do my shopping today. One minor glitch- payday didn't come today. I guess it's going to be tomorrow. It sure would be nice if they decided what day payday is going to be this year. It appears to change every month.
I transferred $100 into the chequing account and went into town anyway. I really had to since when DS asked for milk this morning all he got was a tiny dribble- maybe a tablespoon full.
So I stocked up on some things, but not all the things I was planning on. I spent a total of about $140 and got a number of bulk items that will last us for weeks. I am well prepared with my monthly menu on hand and I'm ready to keep close tabs on the grocery bill again this month.
On another note, I am pleased that Dh got his paystub today and has indeed received his increment. At this time he is bringing home a little over $400 more per month. The only thing is that since it's the end of the year there are no CPP and EI deductions right now. I'm sure that they will eat up this increment, but he'll still be bringing home more than last semester.
Also to offset that is the approval we received today to decrease his withheld taxes by about $300 a month. Bascially, I'm not positive how much his actual take home pay will be, but I imagine it to be close to what his cheque is this month. That is about $500 more than last year's salary per month. Nice increase.
I have already increased the mortgage payments to the maximum we're allowed. We will have to use some of this raise to max out his RRSP contributions, and the leftover will go into the "freedom account" that has been suffering of late. I'm looking forward to having a sustantial savings account again.

May Have Made a Financial Mistake

November 28th, 2004 at 06:40 pm

My oldest brother is a bit of a financial holocaust- to borrow a term my girlfriends use. Last year he had to claim bankruptcy due to delinquent business taxes and numerous other financial errors. During the bankruptcy process he is only to make a certain amount of money which is easily handled by my parents since he works for them. They have been saving the remainder of his total earnings to give to him once the bankruptcy payback period is over. This means that he will be getting a some figure int he thousands of dollars in January.
So, my brother was over this weekend tiling my front entrance. He asked me to build him a computer to give to his family as a Christmas gift. I priced out components and spoke with him about it. Then I ordered the components on my Visa. Yup, the same Visa I'm suposed to be paying off tomorrow.
I have to admit that I am a little concerned that he won't have the money to pay me back. He has numerous debts floating around out there including a few with family members. I know he is thinking that he'll pay me back with the money that my parents have been holding for him, but I think that money is already either spent or promised to others well past the sum of the money he will be receiving. *sigh* I guess there's no use in worrying about it now. I'll just have to hope for the best and if nothing else, kiss that money goodbye. Ugh $1000 down the tubes.

Christmas Shopping

November 27th, 2004 at 01:19 pm

I went to do some more Christmas shopping yesterday. After "selling" the first gifts I bought for the kids to my Mom, Zach had nothing for under the tree except 2 sets of peek-a-blocks. I ended up heading to the mall yesterday and bought him a Jumperoo for Christmas. I decided to put it together today since it will give him an extra month of use out of it. I hope he can use it for at lest 6 months and I'm keeping the box and instructions so that I can sell it afterwards. It will probably be in like new condition.
The jumperoo was on sale for $84.99 and I put it on my Sears card so I won't have to pay for it until the payment is due in January.
I also bought myself a new sweater for Christmas day and another blouse as well as a belt- because my pants won't stay up. LOL
On the way home I was running really late so I picked up KFC unstead of making the usual Friday homemade pizza. We only pick up food about 3 times a year, and after eating it I remember why. Why does that stuff always make me feel so ill?
My MIL did decide to skip taking the car payment this month again. I presume it's because she thinks we need the extra money for Christmas. I think we'll start giving them cash every payday instead. It bugs me that the balance on that loan isn't going down. But I don't usually feel too guilty about absorbing that money when she does skip a payment as long as it goes to debt payment or something for the kids.

The UPC Queen

November 25th, 2004 at 07:25 pm

I've been scouring the household for UPCs tonight. I joined a program that gives money toward an RESP when you send in UPCs for sponsoring products. I also found a $50 gift certificate for Leap Frog products when you purchase $100 worth of baby items between October 1 and Dec 31. Since they are pretty much all things I buy anyway, I should have no problem getting 2 of them. It will be great for birthday presents! I love free stuff!
Tomorrow I'm going to head into town to do a few small errands and I'll scour Mom's place for UPCs as well. It's an interesting mindset to take on when you spend that amount of time looking for UPCs to get a 50 cent credit toward and RESP. I just figure that's 50 cents per item plus the 20% government grant and 16 years' worth of interest- it has to amount to something in the end!

Shocked and Appalled

November 24th, 2004 at 07:26 pm

I figured out today what I've been spending on diapers. About $3 a day. I put $3 a day into the trash. This wouldn't be a big deal if I didn't have reems of cloth diapers in the cluttered up bathroom closet. Sick, sick, sick.
I overhauled part of that closet today as well as some of the drawers in the bathroom as well. I got those cloth diapers out and onto little bottoms today. Zach didn't appreciate them very much as he's used to disposables, but Xander doesn't care much at all. I'm sure Zach will get over it because I'm only going to be using the disposables when we're in town and overnight.
So the lesson of the day for me is that getting rid of clutter is the gift that keeps on giving. With diapers alone it will earn me $3 a day.

Shopping Today

November 23rd, 2004 at 01:44 pm

Well, I picked up my groceries today. I stuck to what was on my list except for a box of Bear Paw cookies. Xander loves them and I don't mind him eating them because they're not full of lots of junk. They sure are expensive, though! I promised him a "treat" if he behaved himself at my Mom's today. He sure has been a little pill these last couple of weeks. Sometimes you just have to resort to bribery. So, groceries were only $45 and change. Well within my $85 limit.
Problem is that I also bought a few other things for the house. I needed some new cannisters for flour since the one I had for AP flour was broken a few weeks back and I never had one for WW flour. I also bought 2 new one-piece sleepers for Xander because he has been taking his PJs and diaper off at night- just for fun- and peeing in the bed. With one piece sleepers we put them on backwards and he has yet to figure out how to get them off. While I was at it, they had some baby toys marked down for clearance so I picked up two for Zach's stocking. I let it go a little further than it should have. I ended up using the debit card for the extra items and I may end up going into the overdraft before payday if a few of the cheques I've been waiting on clear. I strongly suspect that the two DH wrote for work related expenses won't be cashed until after payday, but if they come out before I guess I'll be about $30 into my overdraft.
MIL was supposed to deposit a cheque for the car payment a month ago and still hasn't. When DH asked about it she said she'd deposit one at the end of the month. I don't know exactly what that means, but I wish I did. If she's not taking a payment this month (which happens often) then I could use that money to pay down the Visa. I just wish she would deposit the cheques I've given her. I really would rather pay them back than feel like we owe them.

Last Week Until Payday

November 22nd, 2004 at 06:58 pm

Tomorrow will be my last shopping day until payday next Monday. I need very few things. The usual milk, formula, a couple veggies, some bananas. There are a couple of things that I'm debating buying but probably won't. I just want to make sure I don't spend every penny I have in my wallet.
Dh gets a raise with this cheque, plus we sent in the forms for the tax credits that have changed since Zach was born. I'm excited to see how much more we will have monthly. Gee I hope it's more...
I already increased the mortgage payment, so some of that raise is already spoken for. Whatever is leftover will go to paying off the C.C. and topping up Dh's RRSP. Then in March we will get at the RESP contributions for the kids.
I decided to go ahead and use some of the kids' money to get rid of that lingering Visa bill. I'm just not used to carrying C.C. debt. I will feel so much better when it's gone. Hopefully that will be before the middle of December. I decided to borrow that money and then pay the kids back just to save myself the 18% interest and the emotional strain of having a Visa balance.
I'm still trying to figure out who we're buying for in Dh's family for Christmas. I hope we can gas all the gifts, but I doubt it will happen. SIL always wants to do a gift exchange with the kids because she likes buying for our boys. The problem is that she has 4 kids and we have only 2. Worse yet, BIL has no kids and still feels like he has to buy for all of them. It's not very fair. I can't buy for those kids for less than $100- unless I get really creative this year. They're old so they actually care what they get-where mine wouldn't care if they got nothing.
On a side note Oprah's "Favourite Things" show was on today. Every year it makes me a little sick in my stomach the way people freak out when they get all that free stuff. It's like rampant consumerism (and greed) at its best. Yuck.

Non-spending Weekend

November 20th, 2004 at 01:20 pm

Okay, that's not totally true since every time we drive into the city we use gas that will have to be replaced. So it is essentially costing money. But, generally speaking, I have been in town 4 times this week and haven't spent much money. Monday was grocery day, Thursday I returned some stuff and picked up formula, milk, and a magazine that I didn't "need", but bought because it had some mutual fund reccommendations in it. Friday I went in to take Xander to the indoor playground for a playdate, but I also took my 2 neices along. Since I was taking the girls' off of my Mom's hands, she gave me money for the playground and lunch for all three kids. So that was free for me. Today I went into town to meet my girlfriends for brunch. I have "treated" one of my girlfriends a few times because when we go out she often goes to pay with her Visa. I can't stand to see that, so I usually pay for both of us. Today she returned the favour by buying me brunch. Again- free for me.
I was going to hit the fabric store to buy some applique's for the boys' Christmas pajamas, but by the time brunch was over I had changed my mind on that and decided to just head home.
DH had taken the boys into town with him so I took advantage of the free time by getting some things done- one being rolling the change that has been accumulating in my jar. I ended up with about $36 from there. I guess that means I "made" money today. LOL Can't complain.

Loving the Government Today!

November 18th, 2004 at 02:15 pm

I found out today that the provincial government is on a mission to ensure that Saskatchewan has the lowest utility rates in Canada. To that end they are crediting all households for $137.00 on December's phone bill. That will cover our phone bill for 4 months! Yahoo! It's so rare to get those little bonuses from the government, but they sure are nice!

Go Shopping- Make Money (sort of)

November 18th, 2004 at 02:11 pm

Headed into town today to return a couple of things. I'm making a concerted effort to return things I buy that find I won't use or I find on sale elsewhere. Returned about $17.00 worth of stuff. Not a big deal, but had to be done.
I also "sold" some of the Christmas presents I bought for the kids to my mother. I went Christmas shopping in mid September. Hit the Toys R Us sale and got quite a bit of stuff for just over $100. Then Xander's birthday came along and the house was overrun with toys. I started to rethink all the stuff I had bought the boys and considered returning some of them. I mentioned this to Mom and she offered to "buy" some of the presents fro me so that she wouldn't have to go shopping. So today I took two toys to Mom's and she gave me $100 for them. Good deal for both of us I guess.
Feeling secure that my potential grocery deficit is now taken care of, I grabbed some extra formual, a gallon of milk, and a six pack of those blasted little yogurts that Xander loves so much.
I'll write up my grocery list this weekend and should be good to go for next week.

Frugal Feeds tonight ;)

November 16th, 2004 at 03:11 pm

Days at home are generally uneventful. That means that 5 or 6 out of 7 days I don't spend any money and DH generally doesn't either. I was once challenged to save $1 a day. When you don't spend most days that is hard. Harder than for those who say, spend $2 on coffee at Starbucks every day.
My plan to save $1 a day is to take on a few things that will save me dimes and quarters every day and hope that it adds up to $1 a day. So, today it was about using what is on hand for supper.
I try to make a meal of soup and bread once a week. Dh loves homemade soup. When the kids allow it I will bake bread or buns, but today wasn't a co-operative day with the kids.
Anyway, I found a bag of potatos in the kitchen. Let's just say they were getting somewhat long in the proverbial tooth. There were quite a few eyes staring back at me when I looked into the bag. So I blinded them and threw them into the microwave. A little flour, butter, half a can of leftover evaporated milk, half a tetra pack of leftover chicken broth and a good dose of 1% that was in the fridge- voila. Baked potato soup. And I cleaned out the fridge. I'm feeling quite proud. Add to that some garlic bread that I'll make out of some hoagie buns that were marked down for quick sale and I am happenin'. I'll probably throw together some baked poatao toppings to put on it as well.
My grandmothers could both make a meal out of nothing. They had to, they were dirt poor but they were fabulous cooks. I have a sense today of satisfaction and sisterhood with my grandmothers. I think I've done them proud.
On a side note, I am very happy to say that I got a rebate cheque for $30 in the mail today. Our grocery budget for next week is looking like it will be just fine. The timing couldn't be better.

Weekly Shopping Came Early This Week

November 15th, 2004 at 05:25 pm

I ran out of formula last night :0 I made up the last litre of formula and realized that I didn't have enough to make it until Tuesday- my regular shopping day.
I also decided that it was time to stop putting off buying a mattress cover for DS's bed as he took his diaper off in the night and peed the bed. *sigh* So I finally made time to get to Walmart for a vinyl mattress cover.
I stuck to my list this week with the exception of deciding to buy disposable diapers for the baby. I was going to use cloth during the day and put DS's larger diapers on the baby- since they're only 1 size up from what he wears, but had a change of heart when I was at the store.
Oh, and I also bought two patterns for making Christmas PJs for the boys. I have a ton of fleece in my bins so I am going to take the plunge and sew PJs this year instead of buying. I hope it costs little to nothing other than the price of the patterns.
I've been balancing the chequing account and finding it a little short this month. I have thus far stuck to my budget with the groceries and the household items, so I'm not sure why we're stretched this month. Part of it is due to the $100 cheque the ILs bank returned. I got a new cheque in the mail with a letter of apology from the bank today. That will go into the account, but I'll still be pretty pinched for spending cash and grocery money next week.
I'm not really concerned as my menus are already laid out until payday and all I'll absolutely have to buy is formula and milk. Anthing else will probably be able to wait. I may decide to head to town with some baby items that we no longer need. Those may bring in a little bit of quick cash if I need it. I've been wanting to get rid of the bassinet, crib bedding, and some of the clothes anyway. I don't have a clue how much I'll get for it at the consignment store, but any little bit helps when it comes down to the wire. My hope is to squeeze enough money to be able to buy the needed groceries next week without going near the overdraft. Here's hoping.

When you See it in Black and White

November 14th, 2004 at 07:18 pm

It doesn't look good. I made up a 2005 budget in Excell today. yuck.
We're not in dire straits, far from it. We don't really have alot of debt. We certainly have sufficient means to discharge the debt we do have in a timely manner. But when you look at it in black and white we still look broke.
Our actual bills not including the mortgage, credit cards and Line of Credit are about 40% of Dh's take home pay. The rest of take home pay goes to mortgage, CCs, Line of Credit, and car payment. YUCK! That's all bad!
I cannot wait until the debt is gone. I cannot wait until we can actually save that other 60% of take home pay. There is motivation to keep a lid on the spending, that's for sure!
I've been trying to figure out exactly how much we need to be putting into retirement savings. I'm hoping to find a balance between saving for the kids' futures and saving for our own futures. If we only really live on 40% of take home income now and we won't have any debts when we retire, then we don't actually need to save for retirement at all. DH's pension is 60% of Gross pay and the tax bracket will be lower. Our living expenses are pretty well covered right there. Plus, we will both get the CPP that we have paid in. And we have a nice little nest egg already secured. So, why are the financial advisors telling us to invest every spare penny we have lest we not have enough money to last us until we die? I guess it's all about money- the money they earn off of our money. Their commission.
Okay, I'm not anti retirement planning. I enjoy watching our RRSPs and mutual Fund accounts grow. We will be saving for the future still. But boy, when one is stressing over finding enough money to do it all and then you find out that you've been led somewhat astray by people you trust, it comes as a HUGE wakeup call. Things are going to change in our financial planning procedure for sure. And I'm relieved to be able to say that.

Opting Out of a Savings Program?!

November 14th, 2004 at 07:05 pm

Yup, that's what I did today. On Thursday we had a lady out to tell us about an RESP plan the she was selling. She was really nice and gave us a rundown of the "pooled" RESP plan that she was selling. Just when things got hairy with the kids she pulled out the paperwork and said "Can you spare $25 a month?" Well, that led to us buying 5 "units" of this plan for each of the kids and an 18 year commitment to at least that $25 per month per child. Before I knew it she had us signed up. Boy, she was slick.
After she left I started looking at the prospectus for this plan. $100 per unit signup fee (that's $1000 right there). 100% of contributions to go toward fees until fees are 50% paid. 50% of monthly contributions to go toward fees until the remaining 50% is paid. Fees may be refundable if child qualifies when education assistance amounts are disbursed. HUH?
It all just didn't sit right with me. I mentioned it to Dh and asked for his opinion. His response was "If you're not comfortable with it, I'm okay with cancelling it." I wish he actually had an opinion sometimes... I tossed it around in my head all weekend. RESP- good, Fees- bad, Nice lady- good, Increase in cost per unit based on age- bad etc, etc.
Then I was reading another financial planning book and came to a chapter on "Free Financial Seminars" and the pitfalls therein. Something in that chapter hit me. I remembered that the reason this woman started calling me 4 months ago was because I agreed to receive information about RESPs when I purchased Zach's hospital pictures. The catch was that if I agreed to receiving the information I got a free 5x7 print. Hmmmm. Do I really want to give my money to a company that solicits customers this way? Do I really want to give my money to someone who works for a company that solicits customers this way? Um, no. So I called and cancelled the plan. luckily the paperwork wasn't processed yet and it was easy to opt out. What a relief. Beware the travelling RESP salesperson.

Retirement Wonders...

November 12th, 2004 at 08:16 pm

I'm trying to figure out exactly how much we need to save now in order to retire when we plan to. How does one project these things?
The plan is that we won't have debt. The mortgage will be paid off in a few years, and after that it's all about saving and using cash. $$$ We're not about to be going out and financing fancy cars or anything, so that's not a concern.
The point is that the financial planner thinks we need to match our current income. But, why? We could be living off of 60% of our income now if not for mortgage and other debts. As far as that goes, DH will get a 60% pension when he retires.
That's not to say that I don't want to save at all. I just want to know how much we'll actually need and save accordingly. I'd like to be able to enjoy our money more and save for the kids' futures- beyond RESPs. But when I sit down with the numbers it all gets so incredibly confusing.
Plus, this RRSP thing I don't get. I know it is a tax deduction now, but we'll have to pay tax on it eventually. If we're matching our current income with the combination of RRSPs and pension won't our income tax bracket still be that same? So, where are we benefiting from the RRSPs? Bah! It's too confusing.