canadiandebtgirl

Posts Tagged ‘Saving Money’

Shopping on the Cheap

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 10:18 am

I’ve been saving up and bookmarking all sorts of cheap online shopping places. Part of it is so I can start to ‘think’ about what I might need for a little baby one day, and others are just because I love to find amazing deals when I am shopping for new things.

For the most part I shop vintage and used. Two reasons: I hate the packaging that new things come in (think for example all those boxes and styrofoam electronics are packed in!); and, I want to keep stuff out of the landfill. The third and most selfish reason is because it is often cheaper. Frugal, frugal!

But sometimes a new item is just a pure act of spoiling. And everyone deserves spoiling sometimes. If I do buy new, it is often online, on sale, and with free or cheap shipping.

Here are some places I’ve kept an eye on in the last few months:

Beyond the Rack: think Winners, but ONLINE! You need to sign up to get the bargains.

Zappos: shoes out the wazoo! Very good deals on sale items, some really good brand names. I like to get my runners here and cute summer sandals when I need them. They ship to Canada for $10USD flat rate so buddy up and combine your orders!

Baby Half Off: Daily deals!

Green Baby Bargains: for eco-friendly baby stuff!

Mama Bargains: More than one deal a day, so check often! Looking for something in particular? You can suggest it to them!

Baby Steals: great finds on this one, you just need to act fast as its popular!

Savings Update

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

I’ve got just a couple of savings accounts for short term goals. I’ve yet to start my RRSPs, I know, I know, so this is what I have so far. My savings sits as such:

Emergency Fund is at $579.37 of the $1,000 I would like to have set aside.

My Baby Fund (a new fund I started) sits at $155.87 of the $2,500 I’d like to have set aside.

My goals are to have the Emergency Fund maxed by April 2010.

The Baby Fund should be funded by January 2011 – its a slow process, with only $25 a month getting deposited automatically and extra money will be added as it comes in as gifts, refunds, etc.

The Baby Fund will be used for topping up my EI benefits while I’m on mat leave. I’ve calculated what I will need to have in addition to what EI brings in during my time off if/when we are expecting our little one. The reason I’ll be topping myself up will be to stay on track with my debt payments (both credit card and other) while off on leave.

If between now and then I happen to somehow land a fantastic job that will top me up, I will use the fund as an RRSP contribution. Until then, I need to have this amount fluid enough that it can be accessed for regular transfers into my chequing account for those 8-12 months off work. I’ve got it all calculated so I’ll add a picture of the spreadsheet soon.

Yearly Expenses

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2010 at 8:00 am

There are some infrequent items that are just hard to account for in your monthly budget. Things like your annual car registration, birthdays, Christmas, annual vet visits, car maintenance (oil changes and miscellaneous), clothing and hair aren’t monthly occurrences.

For 2010 I decided to contribute to an ‘Annual Expenses’ Fund monthly for these line items. Here’s what I have:

Whenever one of these budget items comes up, I pay for it out my normal chequing account and then reimburse myself with a transfer from savings out of this dedicated fund.

So far it is working well. I will adjust amounts as needed, but so far these ones are fitting the bill.

Update: November Goals

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2009 at 12:54 pm

How did I do for November goals last month? Not too bad. Not amazing either. Here’s the November Goals post.

My goals were
– Make 50% of my Christmas gifts by November 30th.
– Decrease debt by $1000.
– Come under budget this month.
– Save money into tax account for small business.

Here’s how I did:

– Make 50% of my Christmas gifts by November 30th.
Nope, did not make half of my gifts. I still have about 80% to go!

– Decrease debt by $1000.
This might have been an ambitious goal. I reduced my total debt by $724.31 and my credit card debt by $526.78.

– Come under budget this month.
I did come under budget, but I haven’t formatted my budget to a way that allows me to share the exact numbers. I promise I will be setting this up for the new year so you can see where my money goes.

– Save money into tax account for small business.
Saved $627.97 into a tax account for my business taxes once I get around to doing them. I will be adding $150 to that this week.

I think I can improve upon my goals from November as well as add a couple small financial goals to them for December. Primarily my goals will centre around Christmas spending and travel since our families are both out of town.

Student Loan Debt in Ontario

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm

So, not included in my huge credit card debt is my student loan debt. The reason I don’t include it is because the interest on it is tax deductible, and it is not a high priority for me to pay off. Plus, the total amount of debt to my name would be so large I think it would scare some of you off. Ha! It scares me when I see it.

When I first graduated and OSAP (the Ontario Student Assistance Program – but more like the Ontario Student Ass-whooping Program) contacted me after my six month ‘grace’ period to start repaying my loans, I was making a measly $11/hr and commuting. Needless to say, an additional $300/mth payment was just not going to work. I extended my due date and got a lower monthly payment. Easy peasy.

Looking into my student loans is something I allow myself to do once a year because the principal takes forever to go down. It is depressing. This week I logged in and checked it out. The National Student Loan Service Centre actually improved their website immensely. It is very easy to use, and has some really useful calculators that allow you to punch in how much you want to pay per month and it divides the payment amongst your loans, showing you your months left to D-day. Or when you will be free of your student loan debt. Cool.

While playing around with the numbers, I realized if I could contribute an extra $288 per month to my student loans I would be free of them in less than 5 years. Hey, that actually fits into a foreseeable future financial plan. Not bad. But, since at this point in time my financial focus is on repaying my high interest credit card debt that keeps me up at night, I will revisit this topic again in a year’s time.

In the meantime though, I changed my monthly payments to bi-weekly. I had no idea that was even an option, but it was easy to do with a quick call to the NSLSC and no paperwork was required. Sweet! See you later student loan.

New Computer

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Jenn at her Paying Myself is talking about getting a new computer. This reminded me I will be due for a new one soon too.

I’ve currently got an old Mac at home, and lurrrrrve it! But, the cost of a new Mac is simply out of my budget when you can get a perfectly good PC laptop for a LOT less. Like $700 less. $700 is a good chunk of change towards paying down debt. $700 is a lot of extra cash to save up just for a pretty Mac.

Especially when there are ideas around the interweb on how to run MacOSx on a PC! Yes. You heard right. Some snooping around found me these useful tidbits of info from Lifehacker:

Install OSX on your Hackintosh PC – No Hacking Required
Build a Hackintosh Mac for Under $800

Now, whether or not I do this is another question, but it is interesting.

Me, I’ll probably still get the Mac because I can use all my previously purchased Mac software on it. But will I buy it brand spanking new? Likely not.

Winterize Your House to Save $$$

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2009 at 10:24 am

In our cold climate, most people winterize their homes without even thinking about it. But if you are consciously making the decision to make sure your heating costs are the most efficient, there are cost-efficient ways that can make sure this happens.

1) Thermostat Programming (FREE)
This is your easiest method to save heating costs and requires no manual labour. Program your thermostat to come on only during hours you are home. The rest of the time, set it low (you don’t want to turn it off – pipes freeze here in Canada!). We set ours to 16 when we are not around, or when we are sleeping and it comes on to 19 (Celsius of course) when we are home. The most important to remember is when you are away for the weekend or on vacation – set it down to a low temperature for the duration of your stay away.

2) Foam Insulation on your outlet covers ($5)
The next least labour intensive activity is to insulate your outlets! Drafts can come in through these holes in your drywall – if you have a place like ours, you can often feel the chill coming through on your outside walls. Buy some foam insulators from your hardware store (like this) take a screwdriver and put the insulator underneath the outlet cover. Easy peasy.

3) Drafty Windows No More ($15 for film, $3 for caulking)
If you have an older home, the windows can often be older too. Some of ours are single pane windows with wooden frames – now that’s old! There are two ways to tackle this: caulking (here) or plastic film (here). The best option is to update your windows, but lets be honest – not everyone can afford to do this in time for winter. Our solution until we have saved up our ‘new windows fund’ is to put the plastic film on them. It significantly decreases our heating bill and makes our place cozy!

4) Furnace Filters ($20 for 6)
We replace our furnace filters very frequently. This not only makes your furnace more efficient, but it keeps your air clean. We don’t invest in the expensive ones because neither of us have allergies, and we change them so frequently it makes sense to buy the ones that come in bulk at a better cost per filter. We buy these ones or whatever is on sale when we go. Once a month works well for us since we only have our furnace on from October through to April. We also make sure we have our furnace serviced once a year. It is an annual checkup and maintenance cleaning they do. It is $100 but it will catch any issues before the season starts, eliminating any need for emergency furnace repairs which are often very costly due to the urgency of the situations in our Canadian winters.

There are lots of other ways you can improve the heating efficiency in your home. Adding insulation, having new windows installed, using water heater blankets, and making draft stoppers (a great Christmas gift idea for you crafters) are all ways you can save even more energy.

The great thing about using the window film is it forces you to clean your windows inside and out before winter comes. The better to see the birdies at the birdfeeder, I say!

Saving Up for Maternity Leave

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2009 at 8:00 am

It would be wonderful if I had a job that provided a maternity leave top-up, but currently where I work they do not offer any top-up. I’ve come to understand that this is the norm and most people seem to make do without getting much income while on their maternity leave. I presume most people are not in debt when they have kids? I am sort of at a loss to how this will work for us unless we save a big nest egg for my Mat Leave. I would be able to take my leave, but I would only be bringing in the usual EI income.

The way it works is Maternity Benefits cover the mother for 15 weeks. After this time, Parental Benefits come into effect and cover the parent for a maximum of 35 weeks. This is a total of 50 weeks of EI coverage. The other 2 weeks come from your minimum vacation time per year, which I assume should be paid by your employer when you leave, or however you negotiate it since you do pay into it all year. Typically, since there is a two week wait for Maternity Benefits to come in from EI your vacation pay-out should help balance it out.

Hubby DOES have top-up, but since he can’t be the one who actually gives birth, I will still need to take time off work. But since he can take parental leave, he will take 4 months with top-up, and I will take 8 with no top-up.

This means we have to plan for the parental leave. 8 months of savings will be needed. I’ve done all the calculations so I know how much we need to save in order to take time off to have a child. Here is what I’ve come up with so far. If you see any loopholes or things I have not thought of, please let me know.

My items that need to be covered while on Mat Leave:
My half of housing costs:
My debt repayment amount:
My car and insurance:
My student loan payments:

My income that would be coming from while on Mat Leave:
The amount received from EI benefits (55% of salary, to a max of $447 a week minus taxes – I subtracted 22%, but maybe this should be more? If anyone knows the net amount that comes in per month in Ontario, it would be so helpful with my planning!)
Child Tax Benefit (which is pretty measly, in my opinion)
Universal Child Care Benefit (a taxable amount of $100/month)

Essentially, I calculated we need to save $12,046 to cover off my usual expenses for 8 months. If Hubby could cover the entire housing costs, we would only need to save $6,756!

We will need to discuss how this will work for us.

And hey, maybe by that time next year I won’t even need to worry about this because I’ll have a job with Mat Leave top-up and the amount needed to save will be much, much less.

How do people afford to have kids?

My calculations don’t even cover any of the extra things we’d need to consider with raising a child or having a baby in the house. Things like cloth diapers, any extra food, and clothing.

My plan is to have most things already purchased (or acquired is more like it!) prior to going on leave so they can be worked into the usual budget. Things like baby furniture seem kind of silly to me since so many people give this stuff away on sites like Freecycle and sell old (but still in new condition) furniture on Kijiji. Plus we’ll get a lot of hand-me-downs from the family too. I don’t think we’ll spend a lot on furnishings or the nursery. The main costs will be cloth diapers (I am 100% firm on this) and clothes.

Maybe I am totally unrealistic? Anyone care to share their thoughts on my plan?

Another motivation for getting to debt free: if I had no debt repayment amount, we would only need to save $6,045 and I would still be contributing my share of the housing costs! For me, motivation to repay debt comes from tangible milestones in my life. For example, being able to have a baby without worrying about my debt payments. Or being able to contribute more money to my RRSPs so that our retirement can consist of travel and freedom to not be worried about part-time jobs. Or living in a house that is 100% our own.

One day. 😉

Debt Reduction Update

In Uncategorized on October 9, 2009 at 10:04 am

Well, I decided to tally up my payments to my credit cards since March of this year. Sadly, some of these payments are for expenditures on them in addition to my regular debt reduction payments (i.e. travel tickets and online purchases for my business) so it is not an accurate reflection of my debt repayments.

HOWEVER.

I was stunned to see how much money went through my hands and into their pockets. Ready for the total?

Since March 2009, I have paid $12,065 to credit card companies.

Yep, you read that right.

Now, in light of another blogger’s recent post over at Small Steps for Big Change, I asked myself the question: what would I do with an extra $12,065?

Well, I would have capped off my RRSP contributions for the year, and also made a big dent in my car loan repayment. I also would have stocked up my emergency fund and saved a lot in interest.

On a happy note, I guess, is the fact that I’ve updated the amount repaid to my debt on the side bar.

I have paid off $6,448.83 to put my new credit card debt amount to $23,583.64. That includes paying off one card in total.

No Spend Month: Update

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Spent so far in October:

$9.23
post office
I had to spend this to ship something back to a friend. It was a time sensitive mailing so I paid Xpresspost rates.

$39.16
Christmas gift
This was actually a cheque I had sent about 3 weeks ago that just recently got cashed. I should get the gift in the mail this week and will be able to scratch the in-laws off my Christmas list.

$3.73
fast food
Spent for hubby so he had something to eat while we helped out friends out this weekend.

$24.85
Wal-Mart
Toiletries and household items.

$4.31
Christmas gift supplies
I committed to making almost all of my Christmas gifts this year! This was some yarn.

So far the unexpected spending category totals $12.96 for the postage and fast food. Reflecting on these, I wish I had just put a regular stamp on my mailed item instead of paying the premium, as I’m sure my friend would understand. As for the fast food, I should have just packed along some snacks from home, but we hadn’t planned on needing to buy food… Ugh.

Christmas gifts and supplies are part of a budget line I contribute to every month all year long so they are not counted towards my no-spend-month.

I feel kind of crappy about spending the money I have so far, but instead of dwelling on these things I will be carrying on through my no-spend goal in hopes of being able to contribute a good sized snowflake at month’s end to my debt repayment plan.

Some upcoming costs for the month include more supplies for Christmas gifts, gas money for travel on the Thanksgiving weekend, and we are out of cat food, but this is also budgeted.