Featured Friday – The Banker – Me Money

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Hello again everyone! I know it has been a while since I have wrote a post but I thought that for my return I would write something that you might not expect to hear, especially coming from a person who makes his living helping people plan their finances. The topic of my post today is about spending some money on yourself!

First things first, I am not going against any of the great ideas presented in previous posts and comments, and I am not going to downplay the importance of saving for the future and for the unexpected. Nor will I denounce the need to pay down your debt as quickly as possible. I am actually writing about something that should be talked about alongside those ideas.

We live in a fast-paced, stressful world and spend so much time focusing on things like family, work, school, hobbies, the list is endless. These things can cause us quite a bit of stress and, combined with financial worries, it can almost make you feel helpless. As a financial advisor I see and hear stories like these every day. That is why I truly believe that part of any good budget has to be a little “me money”.

If you have been reading the past post and particularly the previous post (March budget) you can see that we from time to time have a large Miscellaneous or Date Night expenditures. I firmly believe that these expenditures, for example spending $225 to watch an NHL team that is mediocre at best (clearly I am not a Leafs fan) (rude-J). While perhaps they are a little bit much sometimes, they’re necessary for us to maintain a healthy balance. We often speak and focus so much on debt repayment and saving plans that we can forget about having some fun and relaxing. Everyone’s “me money” will be different; might be dinners out, tickets to sports or concerts, or shopping. Whatever it your “thing” may be make sure that you take some time, and money to enjoy it and relax.

Life is short and we never know what’s coming next, why not enjoy some of it!

Cable – How Much Do We Really Need?

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For the longest time The Banker and I had a decent cable package. We got sports channels, TLC (for all those guilty pleasure shows), and a whole lot of stuff we didn’t watch. We paid the bill every month, and didn’t really think too much about it. Until one day when The Banker asked if I would be okay with decreasing our channels. I watch a ton of stuff on Netflix and a lot of things can be streamed, so I said sure. Then, after a few months we missed the channels we no longer had and upped it again. Then, we switched providers but continued to have a large number of channels to watch (and also a free PVR and second box – hello TV in the bedroom!). We kept the package we had for a while, but when The Banker asked again about decreasing our service, I didn’t hesitate and readily agreed.

At the highest, we paid $88 a month. It truly is unnecessary. Why did we feel the need to have so many channels? Yes, it’s nice to always know you can find something to watch, but you can always log in to Netflix. It’s nice to be able to see all the sports programming you want, but we still see all the major games, have TSN to recap, and could always go to a sports bar or friend’s place if we really didn’t want to miss something.

Right now we have basic cable, with the PVR (which is awesome to record stuff during the day or late at night to watch at those times we can’t find anything) and the TV in the bedroom (thanks honey, I know you hate it); we still pay more than I would want to, around $42 a month. And you know what, we’re happy and have more than enough to watch. (Really, we should probably be watching less.) There are a few shows I miss, but I catch up online. I love talk shows, and they are all available to me on basic cable. And for those times there isn’t anything, we pay our small $8/month fee to have Netflix to turn to. There is really no reason to waste so much money on entertainment that we don’t really love. I’m quite happy with what we’ve got now, and our wallets are thanking us too!

What are your thoughts on cable? Have it all? Have none at all?

Getting Fit with FitBits

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Shortly after Christmas, we made a purchase that put us over budget, but that we are really happy about. We’d done some research about FitBits, and I even asked for one for Christmas (but I knew we were scaling back this year, and didn’t think I’d get one). We were intrigued by them, especially since we want to start shedding for the wedding, but were put off a little by the price. It’s a lot to pay for a glorified pedometer.

We got lucky, and found FitBit Flexes at a liquidation store for $39.99 (compared to $99.95 online!). This made the decision easy for us, and we grabbed a couple right away. For anyone who’s unsure what a FitBit it, it tracks your steps, sleep patterns, activity levels, miles walked, calories burned, weight lost, water drank, and it connects to other apps like MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun to track exercise and calories eaten v. burned. For a more in-depth explanation, and a good review, you should read Cait’s post here.

I am completely obsessed with seeing how many steps I take in a day. I make extra trips to clean stuff up in our apartment, walk around classrooms more, and even walk on the spot while watching TV just to hit my targets. Some weeks are better than others, but overall I have to say that The Banker and I are, if nothing else, much more away of what we’re doing. So far, it’s worked better for him than I, but I’m not giving up and plan to up my step goal from 10,000/day to 12,000/day within the next couple of weeks.

While it may not have been money we needed to spend, I’m happy that we did, and think it was a good investment for us!

Wedding Wednesday – Some exciting news

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I have some exciting news today! I went shopping this past weekend, and I said “Yes to the Dress!”

I was so lucky; I was able to have my mom, dad, and sister (and Maid of Honour) there with me while I was shopping. It was a relatively painless process. I tried on five dresses, and it was the final one that I loved. I won’t describe it here – I want it to a total surprise for The Banker! But I will say that it’s a dress that I can dance all night in!

It was right around my price point, which I was so happy about, but it ended up not to be a worry. When I was finalizing the paperwork, my mom surprised me and said she was paying for the dress. I was in shock, my parents are already giving us money towards the wedding, and I never expected them to pay for my dress as well. It was such a fun day and I loved that my whole family got to be there!

Other than that, we haven’t done much since the last Wedding Wednesday post. We blocked some rooms at the hotel in my hometown and got in touch with a florist. We also signed the contract for our photographer and put down a $500 deposit.

Our next steps are to book an officiant (this is way harder than I expected) and book the florist. We also need to look around for DJs. Hopefully we can get this done quickly and relax for the holidays 🙂

Any tips on our next to-dos?

October Budget Breakdown (finally!)

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Sorry that this is posted late, it’s been a busy week and weekend! (Stay tuned to hear some big news on Wedding Wednesday!)
I have finally finished my October budget breakdown, and in general, it’s okay. I didn’t put nearly as much as I wanted into savings (and by that I mean, I put nothing in savings!), and I didn’t pay back as much of my loans as I had planned. It wasn’t a great month in terms of substitute teaching income, nor did I bring in a lot from my other jobs. I did alright, but hopefully I’ll have a better month in November.

Budgeted Actual +/-
Rent $430 $430
Student Loan $350 $350
Parents (Personal Loan) $250 $100 -$150
The Banker (Personal Loan) $250 $100 -$150
TFSA $500 $0 -$500
Emergency Savings Fund $250 $0 -$250
Insurance $75 $75
Groceries $150 $197.72 +$47.72
Cable $50 $50
Gas $150 $85 -$65
Cell Phone Bill $80 $85 +$5
Personal Care $150 $35.49 -$114.51
Wedding Expenses $200 $0 -$200
Food and Entertainment $100 $45.64 -$54.36
Date Night Fund $40 $40
Clothing Fund $40 $40
Home $25 $56.48 +$31.48
Gifts $100 $87.97 -$12.03
Charity $25 $25
Miscellaneous $36 $254.57 +$218.57
TOTAL $3,250 $2,014.87 -$1,235.13

While this looks amazing and like I really scrimped this month, in reality when you take away the loan repayments and savings contributions that I didn’t make this month, I’m only $185.13 under budget. Still great, but it’s upsetting that I couldn’t make those contributions this month.

I had one large unexpected cost this month – renewing my passport. I got a 10-year renewal that cost $160. It was a lot to pay when I didn’t have it anywhere in my budget, but well worth it! Hopefully this travel bug I’ve caught will stay with me!

Wish me a good November, and I hope your October was better than mine 🙂

Something we will always make room for in our budget – charity

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This weekend we were able to attend an amazing fundraising event in a nearby city. The event was put on by a family and a committee who provide funding for kids to join sports and other activities. They created the event and the fund in memory of the family’s young son who passed in a drowning accident while on vacation. This family took a horrible tragedy and created something so beautiful and amazing, and I am in awe of them every time I think of them. In 9 years they have raised over $192,000 and placed over 300 children in activities. How could you not be amazed by this?!

While The Banker and I are constantly striving to save money and pay our debts down quickly, we will never ignore charity. We think it is important to support causes that are close to us and help those in our community. We may not be able to give as much as we would like right now, but we donate what we can and do everything we can to support and raise awareness.

It can be difficult to decide how much of your budget should go towards charity, but we tend to donate $25-$50 a month. Sometimes we are able to give more, and other times we may not be able to make it work. We tend to focus on charities that are close to us and have effected our families – The Canadian Cancer Society, The Canadian Breast Cancer Society, The MS Society, Autism Ontario to name a few – but that doesn’t mean we aren’t open to donating to other causes either. While most of these are large charities that may be controversial in their distribution of funds, they have helped loved ones and so we choose to continue to support. What charities do you support and how do you decide how much to give?

Combining Finances

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Even though The Banker and I have lived together for over 3 years, we haven’t ever really combined finances. We have a shared account that our rent comes out of, to which we each contribute equally. But our other expenses are split. We take turns buying groceries, he pays for internet and cable (with a contribution from me), and he pays the hydro bill. It may seem unfair, but he does make a significant more than I do at the moment, and I typically buy all of the “home” stuff (things like décor, organization items, other supplies, etc.). We have talked a few times about combining our finances, but never really made a decision.

Now that we’re getting married, we’ve had the discussion again and decided that starting December 1, we’ll be combining all of our finances. The reason for the wait is to switch over direct deposit pay, and automatic withdrawal bill payments. We’ve decided that we will each keep $200 a month for our personal spending. This is a tentative number to see how much we spend and we may adjust that as we see how it all affects our spending and budgeting. We both think it’s a good idea to have some spending money, where we can get stuff that the other might not think is as important as the other (I love my lattes and he loves craft beer), and we are both on the same page for having a little spending money that we don’t need to justify to the other. I’m hoping that putting our money together will keep us even more accountable to our budget, and hopefully we’ll be able to pay down debt more aggressively with combined finances as opposed to tackling it on our own.

It will certainly be an experiment, and I’m sure we won’t get it right straight away, but it’s a learning curve and hopefully we can make it work well.

How do you work combined finances? Any tips or tricks to share?