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How will going from red to black affect my blog?

Gail Vaz-Oxlade would be so proud of me. I went from (reckless Princess) slightly spendy to downright frugal and showed my debt who’s boss. I must say, being debt-free for the first time in my adult life feels great.

Woot!

That being said, I feel like I’ve harped on my debt for long enough and inadvertently turned this blog into a Dear Diary of sorts. As a result, I feel like I’m not relating to readers as well as I should be and I’d like to change that by talking less about me, me, me and more about topics that affect everyone. But of course infused with a bit of me, me, me. 😉

Unlike some of the bloggers I love reading, I haven’t shown a true commitment to the art. I blog when I want to, and sometimes it’s pretty sporadic. I don’t think this is going to fly if I want to become a legit blogger so I’m going to have to stick to some sort of schedule as well. I’m also not so into the monthly goals and spending reports, etc. but I think that’s okay! In all honestly, I’m not sure what this blog will evolve into. Maybe it will become part PF, part life, and part everything in between. Maybe it won’t even be PF at all. Right now I’m just going to stop worrying and let it grow organically.

Will I ever be a big time blogger with thousands of readers? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not. That’s okay too. Right now I’m just happy to have my own little corner of the internet where I can say what I want and connect with great people.

I know this is a bit of a random post but I just wanted to give you guys a quick update. Hope you’re all enjoying the summer!

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The countdown is on…

$1062.49

That’s the magic number.

The number that will solve all of my problems.

…not really, but it sure will make my life a little bit easier.

The number that will make my life complete.

…okay, maybe just one step towards completion. But a big step!

It’s the number that makes me rich break even!

Today I called up the student loan centre and asked what my total loan amount will be as at May 11, 2012. The nice man told me $1062.49. And there you have it. The number standing between me and student-loan-freeness. I also asked if I would be receiving a letter confirmation and he said I would indeed receive something within a week to congratulate me. That’s a letter I will be keeping in full view to remind me everyday of what I can do when I set my mind to something.

I’ve also noticed some nice little numbers on this here bloggy which makes me extremely grateful that people are actually interested in my journey to debt-freedom (and beyond). Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and generally being awesome. You rock!

Please get me a bucket for the tears of joy I may be crying in a week + 2 days from now!

LF

My pricy and awesome weekend

Ever since catching the case of the frugals about a year ago, I’ve really cut back on fun spending. I still try to see friends and do fun things but in moderation. This kind of bites but it has definitely paid off! Now that I’m almost out of debt (yay!) I’ve been trying to focus on making as much and saving as much until May when I am set to pay off my school loan. So you can all imagine how guilty I was feeling when I went out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not only did I spend money each time but I had some super long days because I also worked each day. Tiring, bank-breaking, but glorious.

I know it may be ridiculous for someone that claims to blog about personal finance, but I am horrible at tracking all my purchases. I monitor everything I’ve spent via my credit card statement throughout the month and also how much cash on hand and adjust my spending accordingly but I don’t categorize each purchase and evaluate. There is a reason I don’t do weekly spending reports like so many other bloggers.

I’ve decided to make an exception for this weekend because I am curious to see how much it cost me and also want to tell you about my weekend!

Friday
Went to work (day job) and met a really good friend whom I haven’t seen in ages. We went for Thai food and then over to her place for tea. I actually suggested a Starbucks and she suggested her nearby condo for a frugal option. Sweet!

Spending:

Thai food: $16

Saturday
I had an opening shift at the restaurant, which would normally last until after the lunch rush at 2-3pm but it got incredibly busy and I wasn’t out until 4:30! This wasn’t fun as the bf and I were going to a birthday party and expected to be at laser tag (yup, you heard me) for 4. I rushed out of work, went home and changed and raced out the door. Laser tag was absolutely hilarious with a few of us grown ups battling it out with little kids. These kids meant business and I found myself being ganged up on by groups of kids that couldn’t have been more than 3 feet tall 🙂 I won’t count the cost of this as the bf paid but at $9 per person per 20 minute game, this could add up very fast! Luckily we were only there for one round so it didn’t get overly costly. Afterwards, we all went to an Indian restaurant to eat. They didn’t do separate checks so another girl and I worked through the bill and figured out each person’s total. It went very smoothly!

Spending:

Indian food – $20

Note: BF and I had a joint total of $40 and normally one of us would just pay but because we both had some cash, we each paid our portion. I have yet to write a post about how we handle finances but I will, I promise!

Other note: Figuring out tabs with large groups can be difficult but this time around, the girl helping me had a really good idea for simplifying just a tad. Instead of figuring out each person’s subtotal, tax and tip, we figured out the overall tip, then added the tip and the tax together and divided by the number of people. Then we took each person’s subtotal and added in that fixed amount. I know this isn’t completely accurate but because each person’s total didn’t vary by a huge amount, the difference would have been miniscule anyway.

Sunday

I went to a bridal shower! This was fun and I got to see a bunch of my high school girlfriends. There was a great spread of food (hello, sushi!) and even though I find shower games super lame, they were actually fun. Afterwards, I went to work. It was super busy yet again!
Spending:

Shower gift – $30 (A few of us chipped in for a teapot and grater off the registry. I completely forgot to give my friend this cash to pay her back but I’ve set it aside for her.)
Grand total: $66

I can breathe again. This is not nearly as horrible as I thought it would be! I normally spend next to nothing on the weekends because I try not to make plans due to work but this was a rare exception where I had plans each day. I’m learning to feel less guilty about spending money slowly but surely. I’m also grateful that I have a part-time job that not only supplements my income but is flexible enough that I can make plans around it. This is the main reason I’ve stuck around for as long as I have. My managers like me and are very flexible in terms of days off and almost always give me the shifts that I want!
How was your weekend?

Dear debt-ary

Dear debt-ary,

It has been a fun ride. We’ve spent an enjoyable few several years together. You helped me get through university and even funded a drink (or ten). You waited patiently while I traveled far and wide. In fact, you encouraged me because you knew it meant you could stick around longer and grow. If only I were as smart as you, debt-ary.

You saw me through good times and bad. You waited and waited while I looked for my first job out of university. In fact, you even agreed not to grow for a few months. You waited once again while I went back to school. Now you’re back. This time I’m ready for this relationship to end.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and my early 20s would not have been the same without you. You afforded me luxuries that I wouldn’t have been able to indulge in without you. More importantly, you afforded me an education. For that I thank you. But now it’s time to go. In two short months, I am wiping you out forever. I’ll be replacing you with a new friend named savings and I have a feeling this relationship will be a lot less toxic.

Once again, thank you and goodbye.

LF

Travel: The best and worst thing I’ve ever done

The other day I was ruminating over the best and worst ways in which I’ve spent my dough. I was surprised to find that travel ranked pretty high on each of those lists.

Best ways I’ve spent my money: Travel. Education. My laptop. My Repetto booties.

Worst ways I’ve spent my money: Travel. Eating out. Buying more clothing than I’ll ever need.

Repetto. Charming ballet/shoe store in Paris.

So, how does the same item end up topping both lists you ask? 

Travel is something that has played a major part in my recent life, and has been sprinkled throughout my early 20s. A dash of Italy here. A hint of Paris there. Some of it I wouldn’t change for the world – I had always wanted to visit Italy, France, and Greece to name a few. I was happy to have been able to save the money and go while I was as young as I was. Carpe diem, right?

I said yes to everything. Friend needs a roommate for her Cuba grad trip? Yes! Friend has always wanted to visit British Columbia, want to come? Yes! Hey, wanna go to the Dominican? Yes! I felt like I was always entitled to trips because I worked hard and made money. Oh wait, that’s not even true because I had no income when I took those three trips. I never budgeted so I never knew what I could and could not afford and didn’t even think about how much I was spending on each trip. Since I never did it back then, let’s guesstimate and tabulate my costs now…you know, just for some PF fun.

Costa Rica. Spot the alligator?

Trips I loved

  1. Italy/France – $2,000
  2. Greece/England – $2,000
  3. Costa Rica- $1,500

Grand Total: $5,500

Trips I could have done without

  1. Vancouver – $1,000
  2. Spain – $2,000
  3. Cuba – $1,300
  4. Dominican Republic – $1,300
  5. Alberta – $1,000

Grand Total: $6,600

(Note: None of this includes my month in Paris that cost well in excess of $7k. Not even sure which category it  falls under.)

Uh, what? My absolutely unnecessary, sometimes spur of the moment trips probably cost more than the ones I really value? And as much as I like to tell myself I earned and paid for my major European trips, the fact that I didn’t go further into debt to travel does not discount the fact that I stalled my debt repayment to travel. *Guilty feelings*

That, my friends, is the reason that traveling is the best and worst thing I’ve ever done. I love the idea of getting to know a new city and culture. I love meeting the people, trying the food, visiting the sites. The lesson for me though, is to use some financial sense while doing the things you love. Budget, figure out what is really important to you and make the time and money for it.

And that’s that!

LF

Do you ever regret traveling?

April

It’s quickly approaching.

Do you ever get that so-excited-you-can-hardly-stand-it feeling? It’s the feeling I used to get before a big trip but now it’s the feeling I get when I think of April. No, not because it’s Will and Kate’s first anniversary. Not even because April showers bring May flowers. Although that is a nice bonus. April is the month that my financial situation takes a huge turn for the better.

  • As I’ve mentioned before, I plan to have my debt paid off by May 1, 2012. At just over $6,000, this is very attainable. It will mean paying down an aggressive $2,000/month until then, but my impending tax return will give me a little wiggle room.
  • My job contract ends at the beginning of April. I’ve been working very hard at my job and am hoping that this resonates with my boss and that I will be kept on full-time. Historically, most interns have transitioned into full-time roles so I am hoping that I’m no exception. Of course I have to be ready for anything but right now I am cautiously optimistic. I love the company already and I think it will be a great long-term fit.
  • Assuming I do get hired on, I can expect a significant raise (anything is significant when minimum wage is my basis for comparison!). No debt and a nice raise? Hello!

These are the reasons I can hardly contain my excitement. I know that after April, I will feel much more….free. For instance, I will be able to afford to take some Saturdays and/or Sundays off serving to enjoy the summer. This is a far cry from last summer where I worked almost every single weekend. It was a huge sacrifice when every time I went into work, the sun was shining and I wanted nothing more than to go to the beach or sit on a patio with the bf…instead, I was serving on a patio!

So there you have it! April, April, April. I assure you nothing will top it except maybe meeting a real live panda. As February approaches, the countdown is definitely on! Three months! Three months! Stay posted on this here blog and as always, thanks for reading.

LF

P.S. I’m sure you will notice that the blog has undergone a much-needed makeover. It’s still a work in progress but I changed the WordPress design plus finally made my own banner. The background is from Monet’s waterlilies – actually, from a photo I took from the real waterlilies in Giverny, France! Cool eh?

Debt update

I’m very excited because between getting a government GST cheque of $96 and selling an old textbook for $60, I have a bit of extra cash and didn’t have to do very much to get it! This week I’m going to put another big payment into my loan and this will bring my total down to about $6800!

Update: Just did it this morning. It’s always such a rush to pay down my loan in huge chunks. Funny that the rush I used to feel from buying a cute dress has evolved into a rush from paying down debt. Oh how times have changed.

My payoff schedule is not very forgiving for the next 3 months so I’m trying to figure out new ways to make a bit of extra cash. It looks like this month I will fall a bit short of paying off $2000. I really, really don’t want to serve anymore than I already do (this would mean picking up weeknight shifts, yuck) so I have a few things up my sleeve.

– Secret shopping. I recently read about Bestmark on another blog as a decent secret shopping service. Unfortunately I think they pay better in the States than they do here in Canada because the shops that are up right now are for the Estee Lauder counter (yay, makeup!) and only reimburse you up to $15 for your purchase and pay you $7 for the shop. Yay, I’ll have 1/2 a lipstick please! Ugh. Basically I’m just hoping that I can do some restaurant shops and eat for free and make a few bucks. In terms of money goals? FAIL. 

– Focus groups. I’ve always thought back to the one focus group I did back in university. All I had to do was sit around and talk about my bank for an hour or two and came out with $60. Easiest money I ever made! I had been thinking about it the other day and as luck would have it, a friend of mine mentioned she had started doing them! She said she’d refer me to the person sending her to them so I was happy about that. Then yesterday, I spoke with my cousin who apparently has also been doing them too! He said he’d refer me to his person too. Now all I have to do is harass my friend and/or cousin to give me the names of their contacts so that I can be sent over to a few focus groups. A few of these a month would definitely put a good dent in my loan. Besides, my opinions rock so who wouldn’t want me in their focus group. Money goals? PASS.

– Freelance writing. This probably won’t happen in the next three months but as an ongoing goal, I would like to secure a few writing projects. To do so, I first started by calling up an old teacher from my communications program who made a career out of freelance writing. He referred me to a few books and gave me some helpful hints so I’m hoping I will actually be proactive about this and sell myself well enough to secure some projects. My ultimate goal for the year would be to transition myself out of waitressing as a side gig and into freelance writing. Money goals? PENDING. 

Those are just a few things I have up my sleeve. Am I looking for a get-rich-quick scheme? Nahhh. Am I looking to hustle some cash fast in order to make my loan payoff deadline of May 1? Heck yes!