January Budget Recap

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Wow! Where I have been for the past 3 weeks. Busy with work, getting our apartment more organized, cleaning out my closet. Nothing that important, but I’m back!

Here’s how we did for January (not too bad, but not the best either)

 

Housing

BUDGETED ACTUAL +/-
Rent $856.00 $856.00
Heat/Hydro $40.00 $0.00 -$40
Phone/Cable/Internet $275.00 $272.96 -$2.04
Insurance $27.75 $27.75
TOTAL $1,198.75 $1,156.71 -$42.04
       
Living      
Groceries/Household Supplies $300.00 $399.64 +$99.64
Dry Cleaning $15.00 $16.10 +$1.10
Personal Care $110.00 $160.56 +$50.56
TOTAL $425.00 $576.30 +$151.30
       
TRANSPORTATION      
Insurance $186.60 $186.60
Gas/Repairs/Maintenance $350.00 $314.69 -$35.31
TOTAL $536.60 $501.29 -$35.31
       
PERSONAL      
Personal Spending $200.00 $228.66 +$28.66
Date Nights $80.00 $91.96 +$11.96
Hobbies $25.00 $23.05 -$1.95
Club Memberships $20.86 $20.86
Gifts $100.00 $43.89 -$56.11
Donations $25.00 $60.00 +$35.00
Miscellaneous $203.79 $94.06 -$109.73
Wedding $0.00 $42.73 +$42.73
TOTAL $654.65 $605.21 -$49.44
       
FINANCIAL COMMITMENTS  
Student Loans $505.00 $505.00
My Parents $350.00 $350.00
Line of Credit $200.00 $200.00
TFSAs $500.00 $500.00
Emergency Savings $100.00 $100.00
TOTAL $1,655.00 $1,655.00
GRAND TOTAL $4,470.00 $4,494.51 +$24.51

We were able to save in a few areas, and did buy some wedding stuff that we didn’t budget for. I think we stayed within a decent amount of our budget.

However, there are a number of areas we really need to work on! Our grocery bills were out of hand again this month (we’re trying to shop the flyers more, and we have a good stock in our cupboards now which is nice, but I’d like to spend a little less). We also spent too much going out together. There were a few times we went out with friends and spent more than necessary. Oh well, we’ll just try harder this month! 🙂

How was your January? Any special plans for Valentine’s Day? We’re going to have a nice night in and spend some quality time together!

Frugal Friday: Date Night In – Let’s Save Money!

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The Banker and I have lived together for over 3 years now, but we still try to make time for dates and quality time together (something that’s not always easy when you’re in the routine of living together and seeing each other all the time). We do go out once or twice a month, because we enjoy it, but we try to do other dates that are simple and don’t cost a lot. How can you connect while trying to save?
One of our favourite “dates” is very simple – staying in. This might not sound like a date, but we make it one by doing a few things. First, we put away all electronics, and vow not to look at them during the night. Second, we like to light candles or make the apartment feel special by changing something (simple things, like putting linen on the table, using a centerpiece, putting flowers out, etc.). Usually we make a meal together, something we don’t make on a regular basis, and watch a movie together.

It’s a very simple thing to do, but it makes you reconnect with your partner without spending any extra money. Just making time to be with your partner is important, and you can connect without doing anything extravagant. We’re all so used to being “plugged in” all the time, the simple act of putting all electronics away can make the night special.
What’s a simple way that you and your partner connect or make time for one another?

My New Job

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By now, you all know that I work as a substitute teacher, with an Autism organization, and at a cheese shop. Now, I have a fourth job: respite. Respite is basically at-home care for people with special needs.

There is a child who came to Autism camp this past summer and his parents had contacted me to do some at-home care with him. I did a couple of days last year, but it was just very casual. Now I will be working with him after school for a couple of hours every Monday and Wednesday. It’s going to be busy, and not easy, but it will be nice to have a little extra income, plus he’s a great kid (difficult at times, but amazing). He’s very busy, so I will be planning for lots of activities, and hopefully we can spend some time outside in the snow!

Do you have any new side jobs for this year?

2014 Book Review

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I made a commitment to myself to read 12 books in 2014, but I surpassed it and read 14. They weren’t all classics, as a matter of fact, many of them were fluff, but I read them and they count! I know I always love learning about new books and getting recommendations, so I thought I would review all 14 for you and hopefully there will be something new that you might want to read 🙂

  1. Open City – Teju Cole
    The protagonist in this book is a foreigner going to medical school in New York City. He’s trying to get through, make friends, and have a life. It’s a bit difficult to get through, but gives an interesting look at what it might be like to be an immigrant in a big city.
  2. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
    If you’ve seen the movie, you know what this book is about. A young man is stranded on a lifeboat after the boat he is travelling on sinks with the crew and his family. He lives for an extended period of time with dangerous animals on the boat with him – or does he? The ending leaves something up to interpretation. Overall, I think it’s worth the read.
  3. Revenge Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger
    The sequel to Devil Wears Prada, this was a little disappointing. I hadn’t read the first book, but had seen the movie (numerous times), and didn’t get the drama from this book that I had hoped for. It’s an easy read, and not bad, but it’s not one that I would run out for.
  4. Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman
    You’ve probably watched, or at least heard of, the Netflix series based on this book. Piper is convicted of a crime she committed years ago, before she met her husband and changed her life. It’s a true story of what prison is like, which I found very interesting.
  5. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
    I’m sure you’ve all heard of this one. The story of a young girl with cancer who meets her soul mate in a support group that her mom forces her to go to. They go on a wonderful adventure together, and it really is a beautiful, but tragic, story.
  6. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
    O-M-G! A wife goes missing, presumed dead, and the husband looks awfully suspicious to everyone. But there is such a turn you won’t ever expect! I gasped as I read it (looking like a crazy on a plane!). So good – I highly recommend you read it!! (I haven’t seen the movie, so I couldn’t tell you if the plot line is the exact same or not)
  7. Dewey’s Nine Lives – Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
    An odd choice for me, as I don’t like cats (at all!), but it was a gift, so I read it. It’s a sequel to a book about a cat that was abandoned in a library book return, became the library cat, and was loved by a town. This book has stories of other cats whose owners wrote in to the author after reading the first book.
  8. Anchorboy – Jay Onrait
    So funny! If you don’t know who Jay Onrait is, he’s a Canadian sportscaster who now works for Fox Sports in the US. And he is absolutely hilarious! This is a book full of stories of his life, and every single one made me laugh out loud.
  9. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
    A classic book, that I’m sure many of you have read or at least know. Set in the 1920’s, it tells the story of a young man who meets Jay Gatsby and goes along for the ride. Parties, affairs, day trips – it’s all fun. I found it difficult to get in to, but it was a good read.
  10. There’s More to Life Than This – Theresa Caputo
    Theresa Caputo (aka Long Island Medium) talks about her gift. It’s not what I was expecting (stories of her readings), but still a good read. She talks about what it’s like to be a medium and what she’s learned of the afterlife since embracing being a medium.
  11. Bossypants – Tina Fey
    Hilarious!! Tina Fey tells stories of her life growing up, getting into the business, and what she’s done while famous. This was an easy read, with lots of laughs.
  12. The Spark – Kristine Barnett
    This is written by a mother of three, one of whom has Autism. She was told her son would never do anything, and would likely never even have language. She refused to believe this and set about finding the “spark” that would motivate him, and dozens of other children she helped through programs. He went on to attend university and become the youngest paid researcher at a university, while barely a teenager!
  13. Life Animated – Ron Suskind
    This is similar to The Spark, written by a father who has a son with Autism. The son fell in love with Disney, and the father drew him out with that passion. They made many breakthroughs by using Disney in therapy, at home, and at school. The son went on to be independent; this is a beautiful story about what a child can achieve when he is not given up on.
  14. I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    This is an amazing book! I’m sure everyone already knows who Malala is, but if you don’t, she is a young woman from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, who recently became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She stood up for the right to education for girls, and was shot in the head because of her beliefs and her activism. This is a remarkable story of her life before and after the shooting. This would be my #1 must-read book for 2015 if you haven’t read it yet.

I hope you found something that interests you and that you might choose to read. What was your best book of 2014?

How The Banker and I Put an Extra $3,000 in our TFSA

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Last January, I came across a few blog and facebook posts about the “52 Week Challenge”. I’m sure most of you have heard of this by now. You put a dollar amount in an account/jar that corresponds to the week number. I’ve put a chart here to better explain.

 

The Banker and I both contributed, so we did the challenge x2. With the interest we earned, plus added a little extra at the end of the year, The Banker and I put $3,000 from this challenge into our TFSA. And you know what? We didn’t miss spending it at all! This year, we’re going to do the challenge backwards (starting with $52 and working our way down). We’ve decided to do it this way because we’ll have a higher balance from the start, earning us more interest. Hopefully we’ll be able to contribute even more this year.

We plan to use this money for our wedding or a down payment. J Have you tried the challenge? What are your thoughts?

December Budget Recap

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Well, not so surprisingly, we went over budget in December. We hosted a party, went out a lot with friends, and just generally did things bigger in December. We’re going to rein it in this month and hopefully we can cut costs a lot in January.

We were able to contribute more to our savings, which was nice, and hopefully will set a new precedent for 2015.

Housing Budgeted Actual +/-
Rent $856 $856
Heat, Hydro, Water $40 $0 -$40
Phone/Cable/Internet $275 $256.87 -$9.13
Property Taxes, Insurance $30 $27.75 -$2.25
Living Budgeted Actual +/-
Groceries, Household Supplies $300 $433.78 +$133.78
Clothing, Dry Cleaning $15 $0 -$15
Personal Care (eg. haircuts, toiletries) $50 $24 -$26
Transportation Budgeted Actual +/-
Insurance, Licenses $185 $186.60 +$1.60
Gas, Repairs, Maintenance $350 $454.84 +$104.84
Personal Budgeted Actual +/-
Personal Spending Money $200 $339.93 +$139.93
Date Nights $80 $181.13 +101.13
Hobbies $25 $0 -$25
Club Memberships $24 $20.86 -$3.14
Gifts $200 $245.38 +$45.38
Donations (eg. charitable, political) $25 $0 -$25
Financial Commitments Budgeted Actual +/-
My Student Loan $350 $350
The Banker’s Student Loan $200 $200
My Parents $200 $200
Line of Credit $300 $390.54 +$90.54
TFSAs $300 $500 +$200
Regular Retirement Savings Contributions $100 $100
Emergency Savings Fund $150 $0 -$150
TOTAL $4,255 $4776.14 +$521.14

I’m feeling refreshed, and looking forward to a new year where we’ll be buckling down and really focusing more than ever on our finances. I have some big goals to meet this year, and I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you.

How was your spending this holiday season?

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed your holiday time with family and friends and that you rang in the new year in style!
I have a few posts coming, and I’m promising that one resolution I have is to post more often and take care of this blog.

There are a few other goals that I have for this year, a few of which I want to share with you.

  1. Read 15 Books
    I read 14 books in 2014, so this is definitely an attainable goal. There will be some fluff books, but I have a few classics that I really want to read.
  2. Get my student debt down to $18,000
    This means paying off a little more than $5,000. It’s a big goal, but one that I think we can handle. I really want to see my student debt go down in 2015.
  3. Pay the debt I owe my parents completely
    I owe my parents $2,050 right now, and I plan to have it paid in full by the end of the year (I promise mom!). This isn’t a lot, but with our student loans looming, and paying for a wedding, this small amount seems like a lot more than it is.
  4. Get my emergency savings to $2,000
    This is just an additional $800 so it’s completely do-able. But again, with wanting to pay off debts aggressively it’s sometimes tough to allot the money needed to go into the emergency savings fund.

What do you have planned for 2015? Any big goals?

Frugal Friday – Christmas Gifts

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I love Christmas! I love decorating, I love time with friends and family, and I love gift giving! However, it can get very expensive, very quickly! That’s why I love to give baked goods.

Baking takes some time, but if you put on some Christmas music (or Netflix on your laptop) it becomes a fun activity that doesn’t seem so tiring and time consuming. Plus you can do a lot with not a lot of money. People love receiving gifts with thought and love put into them, and baking is just that. You can make 3 or 4 different things, put a few of each on a plate or in a Christmas themed cellophane bag and it becomes a wonderful little gift that people can enjoy throughout the holidays!

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Try some of my favourite recipes and tell me what you think:

Peppermint Bark

Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies

Swirl Sugar Cookies

No-Bake Chocolate Macaroons
What’s your favourite go-to inexpensive gift?

Debt Repayment

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Since The Banker and I combined our finances this month, we had to have a discussion about how we were going to pay off our debt. We had a few options. We could continue to pay the same amounts we had when our finances were separate; we could change my monthly student loan payment back to the minimum, and put the difference on his loan; we could aggressively pay back on specific debt while paying the minimums on the rest.

I’m happy that while The Banker is in the field, he still took my opinion into consideration, and we were able to have a good conversation about what to do. While what we’ve decided will work for us probably isn’t what works for everyone, I think it’s very important to have the conversation. There is no reason to hide anything, we’re in this together! (I just keep thinking of the How I Met Your Mother episode when Lilly has a ton of debt she’s hiding from Marshall – what a mess!)

In the end, what we decided to do was to pay off any remaining balance on our credit cards with The Banker’s Line of Credit. We did this because the LOC has a much lower interest rate than the credit cards. Also, it gets rid of 2 other payments we would have had to consider paying each month. (Now, these balances weren’t high, and we will continue to use our credit cards for the rewards, we’ll just be paying them off as soon as we make a purchase.)

We also decided that I will continue paying my student loan at the rate I have been, and that The Banker will continue his payments as usual as well. However, now that everything is together, when we have extra money (hopefully that’s often!), it will go towards The Banker’s student debt first. The reason we chose to pay that off quickest is that it has a similar balance as his LOC, with a higher interest rate. Also, his student loan is less than half of what mine is. So, while I am accruing more interest, we thought it would be best to get one fully paid and out of the way. Once his is paid off, we can take the amount we are used to putting towards his student loans and put it towards mine.

This is our plan for now, it may change as we adjust. We will also continue to put money towards savings, for a house, for the wedding, and for emergencies. How did you decide where to allot your funds when you combined? Or how do you think you’ll go about it?