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?

Anonymity and building my personal brand

A few bloggers have written posts about anonymity in blogging. I’ve decided to jump on board because it is something I’ve been thinking about for the past little while. Unlike many PF bloggers, however, blogging is very much tied to my career.

A background 

I admit I’m fairly elusive on my blog. I haven’t given you guys many details on who I really am or what I do aside from the fact that I’m in communications full time. I know you’ve all been dying to know more, so here goes. Out of university, I was an economics/accounting major (nerd alert!) and went into the field full time for 1.5 years. I knew pretty quickly that I needed a change. I decided to go into communications after finding a college postgraduate program that seemed really interesting, had a great reputation, and also seemed to have great career prospects. Since completing the program, I’ve been interning for the past year and gaining as much experience as I can.

…But something is missing. Those of us in communications know that personal branding is key. I had a go at this last summer after starting my first internship, and started a personal wellness blog. This was short lived, so I guess I really didn’t care about personal wellness. Let’s face it folks, I haven’t exercised in ages and I often eat junk food like it’s my job. I am no authority on being healthy. The thing is, that blog was public. I had decent readership only because my 400+ friends on Facebook were being blitzed with all my new posts. My personal Twitter was also linked to it. I was easy to find and I guess I had started to develop a personal brand.

Upon the death of that blog, I started this one. I knew it was a topic I had immense interest in, as I was vigourously paying off my debt and reading tons of PF blogs. I decided to remain anonymous because I didn’t want all my friends to know that I was broke. I mean after all, I was 27 and half my friends were married and saving for houses or buying their own places while I was in debt.

Personal branding

Flash forward to today. I have a super famous blog with millions of followers. Ok, not true BUT I’ve found a niche that I like and everyday I’m surprised that people actually read me. I try to write regularly and I’ve been trying to engage more on Twitter. In short, I’m building a personal brand. But what good is this brand if no one even knows who I am? Am I really building a brand if I’m simply a nameless, faceless online caricature? I mean no disrespect to all the other anonymous bloggers out there because I completely get why you (and I!) do it. In my case, however, I just think that the work I put into running my blog should be linked to my personal brand.

Anonymous me!

Career progression

Why do I care about my personal brand? Two words: career progression. Ever since switching fields, I’ve known that I have to work twice as hard. It’s a competitive field with arguably little-to-no barriers to entry. The experience I gain through internships is key, but so is my personal brand. I know this because I interviewed for a job with a PR agency that happens to be a fantastic employer. In passing, I mentioned my blog and the interviewer was intrigued and wanted to see the blog. I voluntarily divulged the information because I wanted her to see that I was actively writing about something that interested me and could effectively utilize social media to engage with readers. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job, but they were nice enough to remember me and called me in for another interview. This time I also mentioned my ‘alter ego’ and the fact that you’ll find me tweeting more through that than through my personal Twitter. Sure enough, he had looked up my personal Twitter prior to the meeting. I’m glad I mentioned it because to the unknowing eye, my ‘real life’ brand is fairly stagnant: little Twitter activity and no blog. Why hide the fact that I do in fact have an active online identity?

When I say career progression, I also mean freelance opportunities. I will soon be published on a popular blog and I recently redid the content for the entire website of the company I currently work for, including blog posts. I would love to link my blog to all this content!

Conclusions?

Sorry guys! Haven’t come to any. These are just the thoughts running through my over-active little mind. In terms of relationships with other bloggers, I know that some of us can’t take each other seriously when there is no real identity attached. And I’ll admit I do feel a more personal connection to a blogger when I know their name and face. Going back to the very reason I decided to be anonymous, I’m no longer in debt – YAY. I don’t do spending or net worth updates like some bloggers do, and I most certainly wouldn’t with everyone I know reading my blog. So do I really have anything to hide anymore?

Is personal branding important in your line of work? If you’re anonymous, have you thought of ‘coming out’?

LF on being cheap

It has been discussed time and time again, but recently it has been bugging me: being cheap.  Here in the PF community, I like to think we’re a frugal bunch – not a cheap bunch. This is why it bugs me when people can’t make the distinction and plague society with their flat-out cheapness. Wtf?

Just don’t.

…on going out to eat

At the restaurant where I waitress on weekends, there is a young family of four that comes in every Saturday. I always get stuck with this group and I hate them for a few reasons:

  • Our receipts have a survey link at the bottom that you can fill out for a free appetizer on your next visit. This is fine and a great way to enjoy a free app, but they do it EVERY SINGLE VISIT. The point of the survey is for us to assess the quality of our food, service, etc. Having the same people critique the same food and the same service every week does us no benefit beyond the first, I don’t know, 100 times? This is purely exploitative of the system, I think.
  • They order three waters and one pop. The pop is bottomless. Enough said?
  • They order one kid’s meal for TWO KIDS. The kid’s meal is tiny. Why are they making the poor kids share one?
  • The woman works for the same chain of restaurants so she uses her discount card, which gives her 20% off. Of course this is fine as that’s what it’s meant to be used for. But between exploiting the survey and using a discount card, a meal that would easily be $45 ends up being $25.

I don’t know about you, but when I use any sort of discount at a restaurant (coupon, group deal, etc.) I make sure to tip on the entire amount. I think it’s embarrassing to go into a restaurant, exploit every type of discount, and tip a whopping $4 for a table of 4. I understand that some people don’t have an abundance of disposable income, but if I don’t feel like I can afford to go out and enjoy a meal, then I don’t go out and enjoy a meal.

Of course after working in a restaurant for two years, I can write a whole blog post on cheapness in restaurants but I’ll leave it at that for now!

…on shopping

I love me a good sale!

I know a few people that do this, but to me buying a dress and wearing it to a party and returning it the next day is cheap.

A coworker of mine told me that her mother uses appliances from department stores until they’re completely worn down and then exchanges them for new ones. She gets away with it. This is cheap.

Bargain hunting (even if it takes you hours!) is frugal. It doesn’t involve wasting people’s time, scamming the system, or generally being a burden to the world in order to save a few bucks.

…on being social

Going to a potluck and bringing a bag of chips when everyone else has made extravagant salads, dips, pastas, etc. is cheap. There is nothing wrong with bringing snacks but I try to ensure that the price will roughly match what everyone else is bringing (i.e. a bag of chips with a homemade taco dip…yum!)

Going to a potluck and bringing nothing. Ummm! Cheap and awkward.

Allowing a friend to cover a meal and never reciprocating. Cheap.

I invited a friend of mine over for dinner and she insisted on contributing to groceries. I did not allow this because to me, inviting someone over for dinner means I’m treating him or her to dinner. Allowing her to bring groceries would have been cheap in my opinion!

Overall, I think the distinction between cheap and frugal is tact. I am all for going on a coffee date instead of a dinner date to be frugal. I am all for waiting for a dress to go on sale before buying it. I use group buy coupons. I walk instead of taking a bus or cab. None of these activities are exploitative or tactless. They don’t make a mockery of the system and they aren’t disrespectful to the people you care about. That’s where I draw the line.

Where do you draw the line between cheap and frugal? Do you have any cheapo stories? I’d love to know!

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

Finding balance

Life is hectic. Right now, I’m working two jobs, trying to update my skills in order to make myself more marketable, volunteering for a not-for-profit, trying to keep up with blogging, and looking for a job as my current job is not permanent. I’d also like to do some reading and for once, not the guilty pleasure kind – the kind I refuse to call ‘self help.’ I currently have Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ sitting on my desk beckoning me. Will it be life-changing? Will it be eye-opening? I really don’t know, but there’s only one way to find out.

I’m sure my schedule doesn’t phase most of the PF bloggers out there. I can think of a few offhand that have equally busy schedules and manage to do it all. I can’t pretend to understand how it happens short of having a few clones doing all their biddings. I’ve been exhausting myself these past few weeks by thinking and thinking about all the things I need to get done and how I’m going to do it and am I going to burn out and are there enough hours in the day/month/year/lifetime. Should I become Martha Stewart and sleep 4 hours per night?

How will I find balance?

Make a schedule. There are a few things I want/need to do right now, including working from 9-5 plus weekends and usually one weeknight. Those hours are a given and I need to work around them. This leaves me with 4 weeknights. I can study the computer programs I would like to learn during 3 of those nights and leave one night for relaxing. That’s where the balance comes in!

Set goals. You’ll hear it time and time again, but setting real, measurable goals is effective.  I found that with job searching, I was most productive when I told myself I’d apply to at least one job a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but with each application taking so long to tailor, it’s easy to procrastinate and go days without applying to a single job. Saying I’ll apply to at least one job a day is less daunting than just saying I’ll apply to tons, and also very achievable.

Take mini-vacations. You may not be in a place where you can take real vacations. For me, it’s financial constraints I’ve placed on myself as well as the whole not having vacation time thing. At the same time, however, I don’t really want to burn out. For me, taking a weekend off once every so often is important. This summer, I’ll be going to a friend’s cottage for a long weekend. Long enough (and inexpensive enough!) to satisfy my need to get away and take a break from the daily grind!

Stop wasting time. Spending hours finding out way too much about people I don’t really know on Facebook is probably not the best usage of my time not to mention creepy as f(*&. I need to stop…right…now. Wait, let me just stare at my friend’s friend’s sister’s vacation pics first. Oooh Hawaii!

Stay positive. Every type of wisdom from ancient to new-age comes down to one basic concept: positivity. You get back what you give to the universe. You’ll have good days and bad days but when it comes down to it, it really will be okay. Focus on your immediate goals and make them achievable. Sometimes it is that simple.

I am by no means an expert on finding balance (obviously), so I’m hoping these tips will help both you and I cope with stressful situations. At the end of the day, I know I’m lucky to have had the opportunities that I’ve had and that if I keep trying, more will come to me. For now, I’m going to follow Dory’s advice:

And that’s the truth. On a completely different note, I just found this online and it has completed my life. You’re welcome.

Have a great weekend!

LF

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!

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?