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Switching banks, switching phone plans, starting fresh.

Isn’t it funny how people are so resistant to change that they’ll stick with the same thing even if it’s unnecessarily costly? I know because I’m one of them. For years and years I’ve stuck with the same bank because I was lazy. As a result, I’ve become a loyal CIBC patron by default. Similarly, I’ve become a loyal Rogers patron by default. Now let me just be clear: neither of these institutions has particularly wronged me in the past. I simply think that shopping around to get the best deals is something I need to become more proactive with.

PC Financial

After reading Shawanda’s post, I realized that I’m throwing away too much money on banking fees. Although they have been negligible in the past, as of late I’ve been paying $8-10 per month for a minimal amount of transactions. Whaaa?! I’m pretty sure the only activity on my account is four direct deposits per month, one bill payment, and a cash deposit. For the most part, under ten transactions per month. It truly makes me wonder. I will walk for half an hour in heels while holding an awkwardly large vase in order to save a $10 cab ride but I sit around watching the same amount of cash vanish from my bank account every month simply for having a fairly inactive account.

…but no more! President’s Choice Financial is wonderful and boasts a no fee bank account that will let me transact to my little heart’s desire. Sure I won’t get the convenience of going to a physical bank but I rarely do this anyway. I finally made my way over to a pavilion this past week and a nice man helped me open an account. Sweet! Speaking of sweet, the trip ended with a coupon for free PC ice cream! If anyone hasn’t tried PC ice cream shop flavours, they are delicious.

Before picking up my ice cream, I made my way over to Joe Fresh and picked up a new dress. At $30, it will pay for itself within three months of saved bank fees!

Wind Mobile

Now that I’ve dealt with my banking situation, I will soon be moving onto phones. Unfortunately my phone contract is not over until November, but I’ve decided to switch over to Wind Mobile. I have heard mixed things about reception with this provider, but at $40 for unlimited talk, text and data, I’m willing to deal with a smidgeon of inconvenience as I barely use my phone. Oh, if you haven’t heard, I’m also the last person on Earth with a not-so-smart phone. This will all change with my new plan! I pay about $35 for no data right now, so $45 (w/ tax) won’t be a huge stretch. The downside is I’ll have to buy my phone outright, but I also won’t have to deal with the inconvenience of being locked into a contract.

Do you shop around for the best deals or are you guilty of sticking around simply for the convenience of not switching? Anyone use Wind or PC?

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Baby’s first TFSA

By baby I mean me. By first I mean not really. When I was about 25, I had about 16k in debt and 10k in a TFSA. Those were the days. I remember the advisor at the bank being impressed that I was thinking about saving money so young. HA. A few life changes later I was back to broke.

Now that I’m back in black, I am once again considering tucking away some money into something that isn’t a lame chequing account that not only doesn’t pay me anything, but charges me an exorbitant amount of fees.  Originally I wanted to start storing money away in an RRSP but was quickly told not to.

What’s the difference between a TFSA and an RRSP?

Okay, I’m sure someone much smarter than me can probably give you the rundown (like here or here), but I’ll just tell you what the difference is in the context of moi. An RRSP offers a tax deferral, meaning you receive a hefty tax refund when you contribute the maximum. A TFSA, on the other hand, is more liquid and allows your investment to grow tax-free but isn’t eligible for an income tax deferral.

Background via banknerd.ca

Why shouldn’t I opt for the RRSP?

Originally I wanted the RRSP because it is less liquid – I like my money where I can’t see it. I was told, however, that because my income is likely in the lowest bracket (womp womp) and because I still have education tax credits, I likely wouldn’t benefit much from the tax savings of an RRSP. Storing my funds in a TFSA and waiting until I know my total taxable income for the year is my best bet for now. In later years when I have a higher income and no education credits, I can use all of my RRSP room, including carry forward amounts to max out my RRSP.

What now?

From hereon out, I’m going to try to put about $1,000 into savings every month. Key word being ‘try.’ Yeah.  As much as I wish I already had a ton banked away, I’m a saving ninja so hopefully I can make up for lost time with a healthy mix of working hard, frugality, and just plain ass-kicking.

Note: Because I don’t want to get sued for stealing images, because I don’t want traffic sent to my blog because of random titles of pictures I’ve innocently stolen, and because Jeremy scared me into thinking I’ll go to jail, going forward I will no longer be using images I stumble upon on the internet. Instead, I will be subjecting you all to my bad Photoshop skills as I practice. I promise I’ll have mad skill soon and won’t have to subject you to my awkward photo manipulations.

Do you have any tips for me and my savings plans? Do you like my awkward photos? Do you want me to stop?

LF

I’ve forgotten how to have fun (part deux)

I’ve noticed that the search term ‘I’ve forgotten how to have fun’ has brought more than one reader to my blog. I find this fascinating and sad! Why have so many of you forgotten how to have fun? Admittedly, I think that more and more, I’ve become the opposite of fun. I’ve opted for savings over sangrias, frugality over fashion and friends. It’s true.

Instead of turning this into a sad post, I’ve decided to revisit the topic by brainstorming suggestions that might remind you AND me how we can strike a balance between saving money and enjoying life.

Set ‘fun’ goals

As PF bloggers, we are generally inclined to set savings goals and debt payoff goals. Why not set fun goals as well? I’ve tried to do this in the past, but to no avail. Along with saving X amount, why not make it a point to catch up with one old friend every week and do something frugal? A walk in the park, a coffee date, or a night in all work well.

Remember it’s not just about the moolah

I’ve been so wrapped up in debt payoff and savings and I think it’s the culprit. I go out for drinks and feel guilty the whole day leading up to it. ‘How much will this set me back?’ ‘I really shouldn’t be drinking beer and eating bar food…’ are some of the thoughts that float through my neurotic head. Surprisingly enough, I end up going out and having a blast and catching up with great people. And the bar food is delicious. And it’s fun. And it only costs me $10 max if I’m careful – which I am.

Use group deals

Groupon, Teambuy, WagJag and about a gazillion other group buying sites make it easier than ever to find fun things to do in your area at a fraction of the original cost. Do something you wouldn’t normally do like salsa lessons, canoeing, go karting, or whatever it may be. Cheap and fun!

Challenge yourself to discover something new in your city

Do your research online and find out what festivals are coming to town this month. Or perhaps there is a beautiful park you never knew about. Be a tourist in your own city at no cost! I dare you.

So, for any of you that find me because you’ve ‘forgotten how to have fun’, snap out of it. I promise I will (try to) too.

Do you ever feel like you compromise fun in the name of frugality?

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

Restaurant ban?

Last week I am proud to say I did not go out to eat once. This week was on track to sharing the same fate. I’ve been going home and relaxing every single night, old lady that I am. I enjoy the downtime and more importantly, going home is free. An empty social calendar means I can safely say my discretionary costs for the week will be low and that gives me some peace of mind.

I was almost free and clear until yesterday. My good friend – we’ll call her Tinkerbell – texted me and asked if I wanted to go for cheap martinis at a really yummy restaurant downtown. Tinkerbell is always tempting me with offers like this and quite honestly I don’t understand where she has the funds to go out to eat all the time considering she isn’t currently working AND pays rent for a condo downtown.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame my friend for inviting me out. It’s more like I blame myself for not being able to resist.

Does anyone ever have this problem when trying to live frugally? I find eating out the toughest thing to overcome because it’s social and it’s hard to say no to catching up with a good friend and eating yummy food just because you don’t want to spend money. I have in fact rejected dinner plans in the past for this reason but it can be difficult to do all the time.

At the end of the day I managed to be frugal with my dinner tab by deciding to opt out of martinis (cheap martinis still rack up a hefty bill!) and shared a pizza with Tinkerbell. My bill was a whopping $10 with tax and tip, which is really nothing to stress over. But I can’t help but think that I could have also just as easily gone home with the $10 in my pocket.

I know that Fabulously Broke has decided to cut out restaurant spending and I don’t blame her. Eating out is a complete indulgence and one that I find unnecessary. The bf feels the same way and we’ve just about completely cut it out. Friends are another story. I find random friends coming out of the woodwork suggesting dinner plans.When it’s someone I like and haven’t seen in ages, I usually oblige.

I’m sure some of you will suggest coffee dates and I do have a few fellow-frugalista-friends (say that 10 times fast!) that will always suggest coffee and it’s great. When it’s a bigger group, however, it somehow automatically becomes dinner.

What do you think? How do you manage to stay social while cutting spending?

LF

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?