Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Choosing a New Direction

As some of you may remember reading, about 10 days ago Hubby and I had the big talk about what our plans were should one or both of us became unemployed. I initiated this conversation because of a couple of things I 'heard' within my industry, and also because I had a niggling feeling that I couldn't quite ignore. Something was on the horizon, I was sure of it.

Gawd, I hate being right ALL THE TIME.

We didn't have much time to implement our plan of action to have the appropriate amount of funds set aside. I got caught off guard when the call came. I lost my job. There's a lot about it that bothers me now, like not having a manager or the owner tell me they were letting me go. Like them trying to weasel their way out of not having to pay what is due to me. Like them not telling me I'd been replaced, and letting me find out when I walked in to the office to find the replacement sitting there in the office. Nice touch, huh?

Yesterday I was angry and grieving on every level possible. I have to admit I cried, said a few choice words (not to any of my former colleagues though), and was so angry, I almost let my temper get the better of me. But I didn't. I held it together just long enough.

Then Hubby and I talked about our next steps, seeing as we were a little unprepared for this (as in not enough money in the bank to weather the storm). We're going to be selling some things on Kijijii, and reducing our expenses every which way but loose. I have about 30 days or so to find some other employment, and to tell you the truth, I think I need a break from Funeral Service.

I really have no idea what else I am qualified to do, so I'm going to do a little bit of soul searching, and using the free services of a local employment agency. I can't imagine that job hunting in this economy can be any fun. Hopefully I can find something that will give me some amount of flexibility that I'm accustomed to for my kids and will pay close to the pay grade that I've had previously.

In the mean time, there is a lot of stuff for me to catch up on around the apartment, and I have a gazillion blog posts that I'll be writing. I think you may see me on here a lot more often.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I spent some time yesterday going through my bookshelves and all the little hiding spots that my books are in. I have piles of them that I keep meaning to do something with, but yet, here they sit.

Wednesday, I ventured into a little used bookstore called "The Book Addict". Right there, in the front window was a copy of Jenny Lawsons "Let's Pretend This Never Happened". If you have no idea who Jenny Lawson is, you should pop over to her blog and read some of her stuff. She's funny in a very weird sort of way, which I love. Her book has had me laughing right from the first page. :)

Anyhow, I asked the lady at "The Book Addict" if they bought books, and she said yes. Oh-my-gosh! Now, I am not expecting to get tons of bucks for the 40 - 50 books I'm trying to get out of my house, but I'll be happy with a little something to add toward one of my top four goal.

I'm not going to lie and tell you that I didn't buy any books this week. I did. Twice. I bought three books for about $25 at one used bookstore, and $17 on another five at another bookstore. When I brought them home, I had to make room for them, so I grabbed a box, and starting clearing out books that need to find new homes.

I've started the annual declutter (LOL). Let's see how long it lasts this time. Maybe I can actually get rid of some stuff that I really don't need to have.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Please keep me in your thoughts.

I have started the yearly paperwork crumminess that accompanies being self-employed. I have HST to figure out and file, year end reports that are due, invoicing to be done, then to start getting all the paperwork together and ready for Income Tax. Knowing me, I should be finished sometime in May. (Ok, I hope not, but gosh - there is just so much paperwork!)

The good news is, I have started. I haven't left it until the last minute (or past the due dates) and will slowly wade through the mountains of paperwork that seem to be ever-fricking-where right now.

If I don't post again within a week, send search and rescue out to find me. I may be under a paperwork avalanche.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Unit Pricing

When you are shopping for the best deals, do you use unit pricing as part of your expense reducing strategy? If not, maybe you should consider it. This strategy alone could save you tons of cash.

What is unit pricing?
When you purchase a case of individual drinks, like a case of pop, or a multi-pack of dry goods, like six boxes of facial tissues, the entire package is a certain price. The cost of one individual can, bottle or tissue would be the unit price.

If a case of 12 boxes of macaroni & cheese is $6.88, the unit price would be ($6.88 / 12 =) $0.573 each. If you are paying $1.25 per single box, you could potentially save $8.12 ( or $0.68 per box).

This type of price comparison is more important when you have two like products but different packaging standards. An example of this would be bottled water. If you want to compare product A which sells water in a case of 15 X 500mL bottles for $0.88 and product B which sells water in a case of 24 (with a bonus of 4 bottles for a total of 28) X 500mL bottles at $2.44.

An individual bottle of Product A would be $0.88 / 15 = $0.058 per 500 mL.

An individual bottle of Product B would be $2.44 / 28 = $0.087 per 500 mL.

Where this really becomes important is when you have coupons. Lets say you had a coupon for Product B, for $1 off the purchase of a case of 24. Firstly, the coupon qualifies for the purchase because the additional four bottles are a bonus from the manufacturer, if they typically do not sell the product in packaging of 28. You would then be purchasing 28 X 500mL bottles for $0.051 each.

Here's the math:
$2.44 - $1 Manufacturer coupon = $1.44 / 28 = $0.051 per 500mL bottle.

When shopping for items that you buy regularly, you should be inputting the Unit Price into your Price Book (you do have a Price Book, don't you) so that you can compare at a glance what seems like a good deal while you're at the store. If the unit price isn't below or near your set point for cost, you know that it's not as good a deal as it is advertised to be.

Over time, using this tool can really help you to reduce your spending. Just remember to actually 'save' your savings. Put the money you don't spend in your savings account, or RRSP where it can actually do some good, instead of just spending that money on something else.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Drive and A Good Talk

Every once in awhile, I have the pleasure of being able to bring Hubby with me to work. I especially love it when we have to go out of town, so I have his undivided attention for a few hours. We usually take this time to reconnect through conversation, and the other day was no different.

I was finally able to tell him my concerns about a work situation. I know that no one has any true security in their job anymore, and I am no exception. Thinking about the very real possibility of job loss, I wanted to talk about what we could and would do if one or both of us were to lose our jobs through no fault of our own.

As much as I love my Hubby, I know that he is a typically pessimistic person and that he usually brings my optimism down a notch or three. So for this conversation, I was not particularly looking forward to having it, nor was I thinking it would be a good one.

I was wrong. (And that does not happen very often.)

Hubby talked about the situations going on at his place of employment, and how it could possibly end up with him having a job loss. Please understand, that since he was 16 years old, Hubby has never been without work for more than a week, so unemployment for any length of time would be a whole different thing for him.

We talked about his options: going back to school for trade specific training, or for a whole new line of work altogether. He said he was willing to take almost any job that paid more than minimum wage, and if necessary, would take a min. wage job too.

We also talked about my options should I become unemployed. I offered a few suggestions of where I might also apply to work to stay in the same field, along with what I could do to increase business should I decide to stay self-employed. If worse came to worse, I would take whatever job I could in order to keep our family afloat.

Things that we could do financially to keep us going were a big part of the conversation. We talked about reducing cable, cellphones, and other variable expenses would be our first line of defense. Preparation was also a main point in the conversation. We agreed that we have been lax in the area of saving up enough money to see us through a rough patch, and have resolved to fix this as best as we can. So on Sunday, I sat down with the budget and financial plan and re prioritised our 2013 goals page. I will sleep better at night once we have at least $1000 each in our Emergency Fund and Emergency Essential Expenses accounts. As for the taxes owing, well, the sooner I get that paid off, the better we will be all the way around. I will be posting occasionally about how we are bumping up these funds and paying off the tax man.

We are no longer burying our heads in the sand. We're thinking like optimists but planning like pessimists.

Have you put any thought into how your family budget would survive a job loss or god forbid, a double job loss? What would you do?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ontario Bloggers

I just wanted to say thank you to 'JustMe' over at Just North of Wiarton and South of the Checkerboard for featuring a bunch of Ontario bloggers yesterday. Now I have lots of new reading material.

Stop by these blogs and show them some love. You may find something new and interesting.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Frugal Cooking

Hubby came home from work today, not feeling so well. I think it may be the dreaded flu that's going around and kicking everyone in the butt! I don't really want to spend a whole lot of money these days (the CRA thing has got me terrified) so I thought I should be a good girl, and make something yummy for dinner.

Enter Club House Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup Starter. I have several of these in the cupboard that I bought on sale last month. I wish I could upload a picture of the package, or even find one online to show you, but alas, I cannot. Try googling it. It comes in a pretty blue package.

I had some leftover chicken breast in the fridge, so I chopped that up. I had to purchase some veggies for the soup, but I did manage to snag 2 celery bunches (heads? stalks? ribs? WTH is the correct terminology anyway?) for 99 cents on the reduced rack, and a package of baby carrots for another 99 cents. I also had to buy egg noodles which was on sale for $1.47. Between the celery, carrots and noodles, I should be able to get another 3 or 4 batches of soup out of what I have. :) I'll be chopping the remaining veg, cooked chicken thighs (I already had theses in the fridge) and putting one cup of each into freezer bags, so when I want to make more, I can just dump it, with the seasoning package and water,  into the crock pot and I'm set for the day.

Now, let's see if I'm any good at math:

~ package of chicken thighs (on sale) : $ 4.07
~ celery: $ 0.99
~ baby carrots: $ 0.99
~ onions (on hand)
~ egg noodles: $ 1.47
~ seasoning package: $ 1.25 each, so $ 3.75

$11.27 for three batches of Crock pot Chicken Noodle soup. Give or take. I had onions already and one cooked chicken breast, so add another $3 onto the total. About $15 for several meals.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

They also have a Vegetable Beef Soup Starter for the crock pot that I will be trying out sometime this month. I'd love to try lots of different kinds of recipes for my crock, but I live with some really picky eaters. I am on the hunt for good crock pot meal recipes, so if you have a favourite, please share with me.

Now if I could only find the Crock pot cooking liners in any store around here. Maybe I could get a friend from the US to send me a pack?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Phone Call I Don't Want to Make

As you may remember a few short weeks ago, we were able to hit a financial milestone; we became consumer debt free. With things being what they were for bringing in an income, we decided to get a loan for a new vehicle. Some would definitely say this was incurring more consumer debt, and I suppose technically it is. However, my ability to earn an income is dependant on my vehicle of choice, so the decision to do so was a no-brainer for me.

I would love to say we have no debt at all, other than the vehicle, but I would be lying. On one of the side pages, Expected Debt Payoff Dates, you will see that we still have some lingering debt, none of which is considered 'consumer debt'; at least not by us.

First and foremost is the money owing to The Tax Man. I have been having difficulty for the last three years determining how much income tax I will owe because my income fluctuates from year to year. Part of the problem in the beginning was that I never gave any thought that I would owe money, therefore I never saved any to give to the Tax Man. Gosh was that dumb!

Fast forward to yesterday. I get a nice letter in the mail from CRA saying they have tried to contact me with regard to my outstanding balance. (For the record, I haven't had any contact with them No phone calls, no voicemail, just my regular statements in the mail.) It seems that the Tax Man has just about run out of patience, and wants me to make a deal with him to get my taxes paid. Just in time to add on the 2012 taxes owing too. Woo hoo, am I excited! (If you didn't catch the sarcasm there.....)

I know that when I do call them, they will want me to commit to a repayment plan that will have all outstanding debt paid off in 12 months. Truthfully, I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to manage adding an additional $1000 per month payment to my already difficult budget. I don't know how to even incorporate an additional $500 payment to our budget. I guess its time to go back to the basics, look over the budget, and trim, trim, trim. I'll have to put every extra dollar not already earmarked for something toward this debt. The alternative is rather scary, to say the least. Do you have any idea what CRA can do to someone when the demand their money? It sure ain't pretty, I'll tell you.

I will call them and see what we can figure out. Hopefully, they will take it easy on me until I can get this mess sorted out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I can reply on comments now

Some days, I don't feel so smart. I have been trying to figure out for the last month or so how to have a 'reply' feature on my blog comments. Until the other day, this feature has eluded me.

I know it had to be something rather easy to do, because lots of bloggers have this feature. It's just that I wasn't one of them.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am somewhat technically challenged. I lurve my electronics, but somehow, someway, I manage to mess up the most basic stuff. Simple stuff. Like being able to reply to a comment from a blog visitor.

It took me near tow flipping hours Sunday morning to figure it out. Blogger tends to have rather idiot-proof set-up and instructions, but 'reply' was one of those things I just could not figure out. So I went back to the beginning of the instructions (like a moron), and read through until I found what I was looking for. Two measly clicks. That's all it took for me to be able to thread conversations with you all.

I've already replied to some comments, and will be doing more in the next week or so. Now, I won't promise that I'll reply to every single comment I get, but I will be replying when I feel the need.

Thanks Blogger for making a college educated woman feel like a dumb-bunny. :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

During the past week

  • we drove to Etobicoke to have our 'Money Rules' book autographed by Gail Vaz - Oxlade.
  • paid off the balance on the credit card for the month
  • went to the bank to see Suzy, and get her to set up (and fix) monthly and bi-weekly transfers to RRSP, RESP and Down payment fund
  • drove to Sarnia, Ontario and back for work
  • jumped ahead on my 52 Week Savings Challenge and got all the deposits for January done
  • went back to the bank and got accounts set up for Hubby so both of us will have access to everything (in preparation of him closing his TD accounts)
  • took the plunge and added Hubby as joint on all my accounts, and he added me on his
  • kept kids home from school Friday, even though it wasn't until 8 a.m. that I knew for certain that schools were open ((Elementary teachers strike/walk-outs and/or protests)
  • managed to get two loads of laundry done (folded even!)
  • went to Windsor, Ontario to see Bill Engvall do his stand-up routine
  • spent the night at Ceasars Windsor casino and spent time with our best friends
  • DD2 went to the first rehearsal/group meeting with Western Young Winds program
  • DD1 went and enrolled in adult education classes (a step toward getting her HS diploma)
  • I walked with Cub to school 4/5 days this week
  • I spent some time knitting my cowl (need more of this!)
  • spent lots of time with Hubby talking about the budget - savings goals and bills

I think I'll spend the day at home today, doing more laundry and maybe venturing as far as the grocery store. It's been a busy but productive week. I'm going to aim for 4 blog posts this week, other than this one.

How was your week?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hey, I Know These People!

The December/January edition of MoneySense Magazine held particular interest for me. A couple that used to attend the London Gail Club were featured in a series called "Making It Happen".

This London couple paid off their debt in three years, and are living a happy, comfortable life.

Here's their story:

I couldn't be more happy for them.

Please leave a comment congratulating them on their success. I know that Sarah reads my blog from time to time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Weekly Savings Plan - Year Two

Over the past week, there have been lots of visitors to a certain post from last year, A Dollar a Week Savings Plan. I found it interesting that lots of folks were looking at that post, maybe hoping to start out a new habit in the year 2013, to save some money for something-or-other.

A friend of mine (HI Angus!) posted or rather shared a photo on her timeline of a schedule of how the dollar a week savings plan only it was called the 52 Week Money Challenge.

Here is the best link that I can find to the chart. There is even a printable form for those who want it. :)

There have been some folks who are concerned that toward the end of the year, the amount to deposit would reach an amount that would be difficult to find in an already strained budget, with Christmas and New Years right around that time. You know, you could technically start at either end of the list. Week 1 you could deposit $52 instead of just $1.

Then the wheels and gears in my head started spinning. For some folks, that's really not enough of a challenge. I started thinking about my Sealed Pot Challenge. What if I could combine the two, in a fun sort of way for me?

Then I came up with the random idea. Why not take the weekly deposit amounts and make the order random? I popped over to and listed the week numbers 1 through 52. I hit the Randomize button, and there I had a random weekly list of deposit amounts. My deposit amount list looks like this:

Week 1: $26
Week 2: $3
Week 3: $4
Week 4: $52

(To see the entire years deposit amounts, check out my page "52 Weeks Savings Challenge".)

I look at what week number I am on and put that dollar amount into my Sealed Pot. This will ensure that there will be enough money to take Hubby on a very nice getaway for just the two of us. At the end of the year, I know that there will be at least $1378 in the pot, plus whatever random change and bills I can add.
Some weeks will not be a challenge at all. In Week #51 I will only need to add $1. But Week #4 may be a bit of a challenge, as I will have to 'find' $52 to deposit, most likely by reducing spending that week, or if a reimbursement cheque or something similar comes in.
I have, have, have to make sure there is enough money to go away on vacation next winter. I have been promising this way to long, and have not done it. It truly isn't a need, but now that our consumer debt is gone, it will be a wonderful way to celebrate our new way of life with our money.
Have any of you taken on any kind of challenge like the 52 Week Savings/Money Challenge? What were the end results like? I'm interested in hearing your experiences.

Sealed Pot Sunday - 30/12/12

Here are just a few of the times I added to our sealed pot:

  • DH gave me money for taxicab fare. I added the 2 X $5 from the change to our pot.
  • I've been sneaking the pennies, nickles and dimes from the van.
  • I emptied all the change (minus 1 each of quarter, dollar coin and two dollar coin) from my changepurse to add to the pot.There was also twenty-seven cents that I've found over outside over the last couple of days.

I know over the first few months of the year, I will be adding to the pot less and working on other goals more, so I'm making a conscious effort to add a little something every week, regardless of the amount.

I've decided to not keep track or count how much I'm adding weekly. If I know how much is in the tin, I may decide to raid it in a moment of insanity (and I have many of those) thus defeating the purpose of seeing how much I can pull from my spending for saving.

Do you have any specific ways you are saving for your sealed pot?

Friday, January 4, 2013

On My Needles

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a set of Knit Picks Harmony Multi-Coloured interchangeable round knitting needles. What a beautiful set of wooden needles. I didn't want to wait any longer to make something that would be equally beautiful, in pattern, colour and fibre.

I returned to the scene of the crime where DH purchased these beauties; The Little Red Mitten in St. Thomas, Ontario. I arrived this morning a few minutes before store opening, and took in the view from the porch of the establishment. To my left, I could see the statue of Jumbo the Elephant (you do know the story of Jumbo, right?) and looking down Talbot Hill, I could see countryside covered in snow. What a beautiful sight to see. One of the ladies came to open the door, and I was in pure, sweet heaven!

My eyes were treated to skeins and skeins of yarn, all sorted by fibre content, colour, and manufacturer. I didn't even know where to start. I was allowed to wander for a few minutes before I was asked if I was looking for anything in particular. The nice lady (I'm sorry that I can't remember her name) was the same person who assisted my husband with his purchase a few weeks earlier. I mentioned that I wanted to knit something special for myself, a cowl that would be suitable for work and casual occasions as well.

She offered several different types of yarn, focusing first on softness and colour. When she mentioned a tweed, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, I'm sure. I have a soft spot for tweed yarns. The Charcoal was exactly what I was looking for. This yarn is 40% Wool, 30% Llama, and 30% Silk. It is so soft, I can't wait until I am wearing this beautiful cowl.

I was given a pattern that she had written up for this cowl, along with some handwritten notes to try one of two different sized needles, as well as the number of stitches to cast on. She carefully explained to me how to cast off using the pattern sequence to make the final product look nicer.

The yarn certainly was not a frugal purchase. It was quite expensive, as a matter of fact. When you add in the cost of the yarn, and the cost of the amount of time it will take to knit up, it will likely be the most expensive neck warmer on the face of the planet. But I don't regret this purchase. No, not one bit. I wanted my first project on my new needles to be something special; something special for me.