Monday, November 29, 2010

Spendy Weekend

I hope everyone had a relaxing, restful weekend.  Mine was filled with spending.....oops.  No trip fund contribution this month as a result, but I was smart with my shopping.

Old Navy was having a great sale, so I took advantage and bought everything on my wish list:
- pj bottoms - $8
- jeans - $20
- winter coat - $39.25
- yoga pants - $12
- dress for work function - $20
- sweater - $20

Total - $130 and change.
My bill said that I'd 'saved' $122.50 with all of the sales.

Unplanned spending, but I didn't need to go to the credit cards to pay for it.

How was your weekend?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Black Friday!

It was only a couple of years ago that you would have found me every Black Friday over in the States doing some major shopping....mostly for Christmas gifts, but also for myself.  I'm a big fan of sales/clearances and have often found myself buying things JUST because they were on sale. 

Currently one of my wants is a new down comforter.  I am currently using a striped blue/black/beige comforter passed down originally from my sister to my mother, now to me.  Does it still keep me warm at night? Yes.  Does it go with the decor of my apartment? Yes.  So, it's a want.

There are likely handfuls of comforters on sale at Target, Macys, JC Penney, Walmart, etc. But I know that if I were to go over to the States to buy just a comforter I'd come out with much more.

My old Black Friday habit:
- Hotel room - $80 (one mall 2 hours from my old house opened it's doors at midnight, so I'd need a hotel to crash in at 3am and resume shopping at 8am)
- Gas - $50 (I'd go to 3 cities in Michigan for different malls)
- Shopping - $500 (that's probably a conservative guess)
- Taxes at the border - $70
TOTAL = $700

Wow, I'm glad that I turned around that bad habit!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tim Hortons Temptation

Over the past two days I've seen a lot of coverage on the newspaper, evening news, and internet about Tim Horton's announcement that they will now be accepting debit cards at almost all stores (kiosks will still be cash only).

Because I often don't carry cash on me, unless I have some planned spending to do, I wonder if this newest convenience will tempt me to purchase the twice-daily steeped tea that I used to indulge in.  Without the $1.50 or so in my wallet it's been easy to cut that bad habit.  I always carry my debit card for emergencies, and I'll need to keep with that rule!

1 steeped tea @ $1.50/day for a year = $547.50 = A flight our West to visit a friend, or food for 7+ weeks, or a new flatscreen tv, the list goes on.

Will Tim Horton's announcement affect your spending?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Planning the Next Adventure

A few people at work have begun talking about plans over the holidays, and it got me wishing that I was off on my next trip.

Most airlines don't allow bookings to be made more than a year in advance, but I'm going to start thinking about what I'd like to do.

Timeframe: Next Christmas
Where to: Central America (4 countries)
With who: Just me, unless there's a special someone in my life then!
How long: 17-19 days

My budget: $3,000.
Travel: $1,000 (flight there and back will be paid for with Aeroplan miles. 40,000 needed for economy, 60,000 for business class.  I currently have just over 50,000 miles)
Accommodations: $900 (average of $50/night if 18 nights)
Food: $550
Attractions: $300
Souvenirs/Gifts: $200
Insurance: $50 (I am covered already for 9 days, so this will be a top up)

Here's what I am thinking, including the recommended budget from Lonely Planet's Central America on a Shoestring in US $:
Panama City, Panama - $20-30
San Jose or Limon, Costa Rica - $35
Managua or Grenada, Nicaragua - $15-25
Roatan, Honduras - $25 on mainland, higher in Roatan

Looks like I'll be kicking my trip savings into high gear!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's That Time of the Month Again

No, not that time of the month.  Today is the day that my Rogers bill arrives in my inbox.

Since signing up with Rogers in July I've called their billing department each month to let them know that I've been overcharged.  This month it's only about $9 - close, but still missing the mark.

Usually I get someone on the line who after saying "no, your bill is correct ma'm" will finally calculate each of the services and realize that yes, I am being overcharged.  With Rogers I have a home phone, cable, and internet.  I don't rent movies through Rogers and I have long distance minutes included with my service, so my bill each month isn't's just always wrong!

After 71 minutes on the phone and 3 different reps, one of which said "I'll explain this to you in another way, because you just don't get it" my this morning the bill was finally corrected.  No free movie or a credit for taking up almost an hour of my time, just a correction to what Rogers should have billed me in the first place.

Once my contract is up with Rogers I can't wait to switch to a new provider.
Any suggestions out there?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Splurging Once in Awhile

This weekend was my biggest spending weekend in a long while.  And by spending I mean approximately $60.

A high school girlfriend came to stay with me for the weekend, and we had a few activities planned.  Here's how it worked out:
Ontario Science Centre = Free.  It was teacher and family day, so my friend used her teacher card to get us in. Would have cost $20+ in admission just for myself.
Sushi on Bloor = $17. A pricey lunch, but I wanted to fill up before the evening.
Food & Wine Show = $40. I purchased $20 in drink and food tickets. $20 was spent on my Mom's stocking gifts; a bottle of avocado oil, a bag of fancy chocolates with toffee and crushed roasted almonds.
Starbucks = $3. I took advantage of the 2-for-1 deal that took place these past 4 days

I made a plan to save for this weekend, knowing I'd spend more than what I'd alloted in my entertainment budget for the two week period, and it was well worth it.  No regrets from me.  Now the next event I'm saving for is being home over the Christmas break.  Knowing that friends will want to go for coffees/movies/dinners that I wouldn't normally do every week will need some planning.

Friday, November 19, 2010

New vs. Used vs. No Car

I've had a car since I turned 16 years and 8 months when I received my G2 Ontario License.  Since moving to Toronto in July I've been trying to live without a car.  Let me tell you, it's been tough.

I'll hopefully be sitting on a volunteer committee for an event outside of the city for which I will be attending meetings anywhere from once per month to once per week.  Calculating the options via TTC it'll take me approximately 1hr 15min depending on where the meetings are held.  So, I've been contemplating buying a car.

Note: All projected costs do not take into account possible lower insurance amount as car depreciates, fluctuation in gas prices/maintenance charges, or parking fees.
Option 1: NEW
2010 Hyundai Accent GL - 280.32/month finance, 60 months @ 0.0%
Insurance - $262/month
Parking - $15/month street parking
Gas - $50/month
Maintenance/Licensing - $40/month
Cost over 5 years: $38,839

Option 2: USED
2002 Hyundai Santa Fe - $3,995
Insurance - $198/month
Parking - $15/month street parking
Gas - $60/month
Maintenance/Licensing - $60/month
Cost over 5 years: $23,972

Option 3: NO CAR
TTC Pass: $40/month until 2012, $111 thereafter
Occasional Car Rental: $20/month
Cost over 5 years: $6,724

And my own verdict is: No Car is the best option.  Over a 5 year period not having spent a minimum of $17,248 makes a big difference to my lifestyle as well as options for buying a home.  Not tying up hundreds of dollars a month will allow me to save for a bigger down payment, pay off my mortgage faster once I get one, and will tree up travel money.

If some sort of circumstances life- or career-wise change whereby I need to think seriously getting a vehicle, then I will be sure to look at all options again!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fundraising Gala Outfit

I will be helping at our organization's annual fundraising gala in a couple of weeks and realized that none of the dresses that I have are right for the gala.  I have only two possibilities and one is entirely red and I recently wore it to a wedding (a bit more "party" like than for a formal gala).  My other dress currently doesn't fit, so that one's out.

So, over the next couple of days I will be on the hunt for a reasonably priced gala-appropriate dress for under $50 (incl. taxes).  This will unfortunately come out of my clothing and entertainment budget.

I love the dresses that Ricki's currently has in stores, but this will have to be one of those temptation avoiding goals for the month!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gift Card Trading Program

I've been holding onto two gift cards that I just wasn't sure what to do with.  I have a $15 iTunes card and a $25 Sport Chek card.  I've tried to sell them on Craigslist, but was getting low offers - $25 for $40 worth of gift cards. 

Reading an article on Moneyville today I learned about Gift Card Recycle Canada.  Let me tell you - I am in LOVE with this site.  I was able to trade my iTunes and Sport Chek for a Chapters gift card totaling $40.  I paid just over $4 in fees (you can pay either by credit card or PayPal) for the opportunity to trade my cards. 

One note I'll make is that while there is a big list of potential gift cards, you aren't able to trade for just anything.  A $20 gift card for the Gap for example could be traded for a $20 card to Build-a-Bear, Panago, or McNally Robinson.  A $40 gift card for Shoppers can be traded for a $40 card to La Senza, and a handful more less valued cards. 

Tomorrow I'm off to the post office to mail the company my two gift cards, and once recieved I'll be sent my Chapters cards.  Let me tell you, I'll be using this site again when I recieve a gift card at a store I'm not too keen for!
What new websites have you discovered lately?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How I Wiped Out a $33,000 Debt in Under 1 Year!

I entered University in 2001 with $2,500 in the bank with no Educational Fund.  Forward to 2008, a bachelors and masters degree later and a bill for $33,000 in student loans. 

I was very lucky to have landed a full-time job before graduation, my dream job actually (read: Vancouver 2010 Olympics!).  This was an 18-month contract, and I knew that I wanted to have this student loan off my back before the contract ended.  I set myself a lofty goal of 1 year....eek, that's $2,750/month not factoring interest.  "Okay, I can do it".

Here's how I ditched the debt (including interest):
1) I paid a minimum of $1700 per month onto my debt = $22,400
2) I applied my tax refund onto my debt = $5,400
3) I sold my car = $1,800
4) I put every per diem cheque from work onto my debt = $7,000
5) I put every birthday/christmas money onto my debt = $600

I was fortunate enough have a parent who let me live rent-free while I was paying down my debt. I was fortunate enough to have a job that provided me with a vehicle, so I was able to sell the car I'd had since high school.  My job paid us $60/day per diems, and since we'd generally be too busy to eat we usually netted at least $35/pay.  More than 200 days on the road sure adds up.

It wasn't easy, but I was able to pay off my loan in 10 months, 2 months shy of my goal!

What has been your greatest financial achievement?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Free in Toronto

Having grown up in a small city (pop. 75,000) compared to the metropolis that is Toronto, I'm trying to take advantage of the many events/attractions that Toronto holds.

I'm hoping to attend at least 2 events or attractions per month.  Here's the list I've compiled so far until 2011:
  • Ontario Science Centre - Teacher Day is November of my girlfriends who'd already planned to visit over this weekend for the Food and Wine show is a teacher, so we'll be taking advantage of this day - saving $20 each!
  • Riverdale Farm - Open year round, access to the farm animals is free
  • Cavalcade of Lights - November 27th, lighting of Toronto's official Christmas tree, fireworks and live musical performances by Shawn Desman, Divine Brown and Sarah Slean.
  • Public Skating - Free if you bring your own skates, Nathan Phillips Square, usually opens end of November
  • Santa Clause Parade - November 21st, free breakfast, coffee/hot chocolate in Yonge-Dundas Square
  • Kidzfest - November 27 and 28. I don't have kids, but thought I'd mention it anyways for Toronto readers who do.
  • Ice, Wine, and Dine - November 13. Live ice carvings, fire performers, live music.
  • Art Gallery of Ontario - Free admission on Wednesdays from 6:00pm - 8:30pm

What free events will you be attending in your city?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Lunch Recap

Here's what happened lunch-wise this week:

Monday - Sandwich, banana, yogurt
Tuesday - Viatnemese for lunch (veggies with brown rice, 2 spring rolls)
Wednesday - Italian for a colleague's going away lunch
Thursay - Sandwich, salad (at home)
Friday - Pesto Chicken Salad (at home)

I wasn't supposed to go out once this week, let alone twice. That's $20 that didn't need to be taken out of my Entertainment budget! 

Good news is that I froze 4 beef stews and 5 roasted butternut squash soups on my day off today, so next week I will NOT eat out at all for lunch.

How was your week?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Poppies got me thinking......

Every year for as far back as I can remember, I've always had a poppy on my coat around Remembrance Day.  As soon as I see the first Veteran selling poppies I donate to receive one.  I end up buying at least 5 poppies within that 2-3 week time frame.

Whenever a friend/colleague/family member is fundraising for a race/walk/bike I always donate as well.  Sometimes its $5, sometimes $10, sometimes $20.  I've gotten tax receipts for almost everything over $20, but often times do not get one for the smaller donations.

Let's say I donate $12 per pay cheque (in my case semi-monthly) into everything from a local race to a school fundraiser, to UNICEF at Halloween-time, to poppies at Remembrance Day, to the local charity at the grocery store checkout.

Over the year, I will have donated $288 into different charities/causes. For me, that's almost 1 month worth of food!!  I've seen on income tax forms a section for donations and thought I'd investigate. I had tax deductible receipts for that $288 donation I would be eligible for a federal tax credit of 29% and a provincial tax credit of 11.16%. 

So, what does all of this mean??  If I donate $288 in 2010 (and have the proper receipts), I would get a tax credit of $78.44.....that means that the $288 really only cost $209.56!

Living on a tight budget, this benefit is something that I will definitely take advantage of.  Hopefully my donations over time will grow with each bump in income!

To perform your own calculation, no matter the Province/Territory, visit:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creating SMARTER Goals

I've heard Gail Vaz-Oxlade say on the new show Princess, that a goal is just a dream until you fill certain parameters of that goal.

A great acronym has been established to turn those dreams into goals.  My number one goal right now is to save a down payment for a home.  Here's how I will turn that dream into a goal and an ultimate reality

Specific - I will save for a down payment and closing costs for a 1 bedroom condo in Toronto.
Measurable - My savings will total $40,000; $35,000 for the down payment and $5,000 for the closing costs.
Attainable - My monthly income is $3,072 with approximately 45% going to essentials, this leaves 55% for long term and short term savings as well as my wants.
Realistic - In order to save $40,000 I will need to save approximately $1,300/month until March 2012.
Time Bound - I will have saved $40,000 by March 2012 (this date coincides with my end date for my current contract).
Evaluate - I will look at my budget each month and determine if I can increase my savings and decrease my spending.
Re-evaluate - At tax time when I receive my refund I will evaluate if that money can be re-invested into savings.

Challenge:  Turn one of your dreams into a goal by making it SMARTER!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Personal Finance Books

One of my 30-by-30 goals is to read one personal finance book per month and thus far I'm on track.

In this post I thought that I'd share a few of the tips that really resonated with me and what I loved about some of the books I've read so far.

1) 397 Ways To Save Money by Kerry K. Taylor:
Feature I loved: Month-by-Month Maintenance Checklist
Best Tip: Fly from a U.S. airport.....great for those of us who live close to a border!

2) Rich by Thirty by Lesley Scorgie:
Feature I loved: A list of file folder topics for a standard filing system
Best Tip: Always take free money.  In my last job my employer matched RRSP contributions up to 4% of your income.  It baffled me that not all of my colleagues were taking advantage of this money.

3) The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner by David Bach
Feature I loved: The Double Latte Factor Challenge - included writing down each bagel, donut, coffee, phone service, modem rental, etc. that you charge each month and tracking if the item can be either eliminated or reduced.
Best Tip: Don't be afraid to ask for a better deal when shopping around for a mortgage (not necessarily on the rate, but perhaps on the closing costs)

4) Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style by Marjorie Harris
Feature I loved: The shopping tips - for a mattress, dishwasher, home decor, auction and estate items, and especially the garage sale how-to
Best Tip: Buy well and you buy once. Quality is the hallmark of thrifty shopping.

5) The RRSP Secret by Greg Habstritt
Feature I loved: The sample mortgages.  Having never purchased a home I'd never seen a mortgage document.
Best Tip: Do the math on your deal and you may find out that what seems like a high interest rate allows you to create a significant profit.

6) Home Girl by Brenda Bouw
Feature I loved: The Checklist and Common Mistakes to Avoid at the end of each chapter
Best Tip: To avoid nasty surprises [when buying a home] spend some time in your desired neightbourhood at different times of the day.

There are some wonderful books out there, and these are just a snapshot of the books I've enjoyed.

What are your favourite personal finance books and what are the best tips you've learned?

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's on Your List?

With Christmas just around the corner now, I've been asked from family and friends what I'd like to recieve this year. 

After giving it a bit of thought, here's what I've come up with:
- A pair of shoes to keep at work during the winter
- A gift card/credit towards my ZipCar membership - when the snow gets bad I'm hoping not to have to lug my groceries every week, so doing a 1-hour ZipCar rental per week would be perfect
- A gift card towards Loblaws/No Frills to free up some money to put into my trip fund.
- New creme brulee torch - mine broke
- A gift card towards Michael's so that I can finish my scrapbook - I didn't realize how costly this costly this hobby is!

What's on your wish list?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Toronto National Women's Show

Yesterday I attended the National Women's Show here in Toronto and had a great time.  I arrived at opening time (10:00am) and saw a lineup of about 800 ladies - the show staff were great and I waited in line one 10 minutes.  Upon arriving I recieved my first goodie bag.

In total here are the samples that I recieved at the booths:

Definitely worth the $12 admission that I paid.  With all of the free food samples I didn't even need lunch, or the granola bar I'd brought with me just in case.

There were specific areas of exhibitors at the show:
  • Fitness, Travel & Leisure
  • Business & Career Centre
  • World of Taste
  • Marketplace
  • Fashion & Accessories
  • Beauty & Wellness
  • Home Renovation
  • Fashion & Style
If you have the opportunity to attend a show, I'd definitely recommend it -- next year I'll be bringing a backpack!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Spending Weakness

I've known for a long time what my weakness is: decorating my apartment.  Decorating with a pillow, candles, flowers, kitchen appliances, tabletop books, lamps, pictures, place settings, etc.

While I am trying to go cold turkey - really, do I need another appliance I don't use??  I sometimes use my entertainment money to decorate.  Yesterday's purchase (which was paid with a gift card, so technically it didn't come out of my budget) was two red candle holders, perfect for the Christmas dinner table. 

In recognizing my addiction the stores I need to stay away from include: Urban Barn, Crate and Barrel, Pier One, Home Sense, Williams Sonoma, Bouclair, Pottery Barn, Home Outfitters, Bowring, Ikea, and Bombay Company.

When the time comes to buy my first home in 2010 I'll be allowing myself a budget of $2,000 for home decor - my main item will be a couch, so that will take up a big portion.  The style of couch I'm looking for looks like this:
Until that time comes I'll be clipping out magazine photos and imagining my perfect space!

What's your spending weakness?

Friday, November 5, 2010

This week's lunch recap!

One of my new goals will be to eat 18 home made lunches per month - allowing myself one store-bought lunch ($10 or under) per paycheque.  I have also pledged to make tea/lattes either at home or at Tim's/Starbucks/Second cup for this girl.

Here's how this week went:
Monday - Turkey Sandwich, apple, yogurt
Tuesday - Turkey Sandwich, apple, yogurt
Wednesday - Restaurant Lunch ($9) - amazing restaurant called Passione on Yonge St.....yummy Italian pasta on a cold day. 
Thursday - Homemade beef stew, apple, yogurt
Friday - Day off, so I'll make something from scratch.

During the winter I love having a 'hot lunch' at work!  Hence my newly discovered "Slow Cooker Sundays".

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Health Insurance Options

I've been putting off purchasing health insurance until I was comfortable with my budget and what I could afford.  My new job doesn't provide health insurance coverage and so far in the last two months I've spent $350-ish on dental work.  It's time to get cracking on finding a plan that suits my needs.

There are two plans that I'm currently looking at:
1) Manulife - Combo Plus Enhanced - $123.70/month or $1,484.40/year
  • Prescriptions: $10,000/year - pays 90% on the first $2,222 and 100% on the following $8,000. (covers dispensing fees, name brand or generic brands)
  • Dental: pays 100% on the first $500 and 60% on the next $700.
  • Vision: pays $250/24 months on glasses/contacts and $50/24 months on eye exams
  • Travel: covers $5million per year for 9 day travel
  • Air Miles: 50 miles for signing up and 10 miles each 6 months
2) Green Shield - Prism Spectra - $94.00/month or $1,128/year
  • Prescriptions: $3,000/year at 90%
  • Dental: pays 60-80% depending on services on $500 (year 1), $750 (year 2), and $1,000 (year 3)
  • Vision: pays $150 (year 1), $200 (year 2), $300 (year 3), pays $65/24 months on eye exams
  • Travel: covers $1million per year for 15 days travel
For me, I think that it all comes down to dental.  Since this year I've already spent so much out of pocket I just don't know if in a year I could only spend $500.  If I went with the Green Shield plan I'd need to pay 20-40% out-of-pocket just to get to the $500, plus anything above that number at 100% myself.

It looks like I'm going to go with Manulife - wish me luck on the call to them today!

Adventures in Price Matching

One of the ways I am able to make the most of my weekly budget is by being a smart shopper - in the grocery store that is.  Sundays are my grocery shop days, so when the new store flyers come out on Friday I used to go through each and make 3 separate grocery lists (Sobeys, Loblaws, Metro).  After wandering past a No Frills just a few weeks aso I noticed a sign that said that they price match.  Yippee, no more making 3 separate trips to different grocery stores just to get the sale prices. 

So, last Friday I made my list (finally, only one!!) and was on my way to No Frills with the flyers, just in case they needed to be verified.  The store was quite busy that day, so when I got to the checkout I was well organized so that all I'd need to do is recite the "new" price before the cashier rang the item in.  My cashier though didn't know that there was a price match policy at No Frills.  I pointed out the floor-to-ceiling window decal that appeared a few meters away from her. 

I had about 15 items to be price matched, and it took calling over 2 Managers (one ended up walking away saying "we only match one item.  That's it, one!"  Each of the 10 items had to be scrutinized by the employee and the Manager - really, a 2L carton of Neilsen milk was the EXACT same as the 2L carton of Neilsen milk from the flyer.

While all of this is going on the lineup behind me is building, and building.  I felt so embarrased by holding up the line only to follow a policy that the store had in place.  The gentleman behind me said that it was a great idea to price match, but next time he'd try a different No Frills, as will I.

Have you ever had a bad price matching experience?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's in Your Filing Cabinet?

While filing away my October metro pass into my filing cabinet, I thought, "I love keeping bills/reciepts organized, maybe filing cabinets would be a great post".

Please, have a look into my filing tote:

The individual files I have are:
  • Jobs -  job offers/contracts from former employers, old ROEs, projects I've worked on.
  • ING - high interest savings account, TFSA, kick start ING accound - just opened today
  • Old Bills - the last bill for my old cell phone, hydro, water - I've heard you can have hook-up fees if you prove that you've had good credit with another provider
  • RBC - RRSP - this may be changing soon though, as I'm not completely happy there
  • TD - Visa - I keep only 1 year worth of these bills
  • Rogers - phone/internet/cable - I usually only keep 2 or 3 months worth of these bills
  • Recieps - laptop, computer, kitchen appliances, camera, phone, etc.; basically anything that might break that I'd want fixed
  • VANOC - my last job; I should merge this with the Jobs folder now that the contract is over
  • Taxes - 7 years worth.  I have a 2010 folder on the go where I put my monthly transit passes and my 2009 assessment
  • Buying a Home - when I run across personal finance tips around buying a home I print them off and store them here
  • Personal Finance - once per year I find out my credit score and this is where the reports go
  • Mortgage Info - info about different types of mortgage available - this file is ever changing it seems
  • Home Expenses - insurance information goes into here; when I buy a home maybe the condo association information or taxes will go in here
  • Insurance - life insurance information will go in here
What's in your filing cabinet? 

The All Important Emergency Fund

According to an article in this morning's Globe and Mail, 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed. 

"As of September, 300,000 of Canada’s 1.5 million jobless workers have now been out of a job for 27 weeks or longer."

These scary figures should put to rest any arguments Canadians have about not having an Emergency Fund.  Some financial experts say that having a 3-month emergency fund, but for those 300,000 Canadians mentionned above that 3-months might not have been enough - even with unemployment benefits. 

My first real job out of University was a 2-year contract position.  Knowing full-well that I would be out of a job (there was no option to renew since the contract was for a one-time event) in 2 years, I started saving for unemployment my first day on the job.  Sure, I might have gotten the next job two weeks after this contract ended, but it also could have been 6 months -- in reality it was 4.5 months.

I calculated what my bare necessities were to live on (rent, food, transportation, phone, a few misc. items too).  I did not factor in unemployment, because what if for some bizarre reason I didn't qualify, or the maximum amount allowed was lowered.  I calculated that aside from the trip I'd planned and paid for after the contract ended that I would need $1,200/month to live on.  So, I socked away $300/month for two years to come up with a 6-month emergency fund (I put this into a TFSA).

When the time came around to file for unemployment, I did qualify and my payment came out to $804/bi-weekly.  During that 4.5 months of unemployment I actually came out ahead each month, PLUS I didn't have to touch my emergency fund.  Since then I've moved it over to my RRSPs for the tax benefits and am now rebuilding it -- especially because the new job I have is contract and it will be time again in 2012 to look for something new!

How ready are you in the event that unemployment hits? 

Coupon Heaven

I love coupons!  I've recently used a couple of websites to feed my hobby of coupon clipping; my favourite is

While I love shopping with coupons and shopping in bulk, my apartment often doesn't.  Over the weekend I did a big clean of everything in storage spaces/closets/totes and came to the realization that I have hoarding tendencies.  My house isn't the kind of space you see on the TV show, but it has the potential of getting out of control.

Since I love to shop with coupons I often times purchase items before I actually need them.  Last week I had a coupon for toothpaste, and found a sale for the same brand at Rexall, so I bought one.  Did I need yet another tube of toothpaste?  No, I had one new one just opened, one in my gym bag, and two in my storage tote already.

So my goal from now on is to only purchase things like toothpaste/brushes, tea, shampoo, shaving cream, makeup, dish detergent, etc. when I'm down to my last one.  After all, who needs another pack of toilet paper when you have 100 rolls in the closet already?! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quality vs. Quantity

This morning I read an interesting article on the National Post website discussing the success that Lululemon Athletica, a Canadian company, has experienced south of the border.  One quote in the article struck me as being a bit off:

"Affluent women willing to fork over US$100 for yoga pants or US$60 for a tank-top have helped the high-flying Canadian company wallop quarterly earnings expectations and drive same-store sales up 31%"

I own three pairs of Lululemon pants/capri and 2 tops.  These were all purchased back when I was a student, so anywhere from 3-5 years ago.  Back then I most certainly wasn't an affluent woman.  I didn't jump onto the Lululemon bandwagon when it first appeared in Canadian stores.  I was originally shocked with the prices - $100 for a pair of workout pants, are you crazy??  After reading many reviews online praising the quality of the brand I caved.  My first pair of yoga pants are still going strong, after 5 years.  That approximately $100 paid works out to $20/year or $1.66/month of use. 

I've made the mistake before of purchasing gear from one of the big box discount store and have always found that the material loses its comfiness, stretches, wears thin, loses its colour, or any number of other changes.  My Lulu pants have remained about 80% of their original look despite my size fluctuating over the past 5 years.

My vote is always Quality over Quantity -- providing that I can afford the $100, and I'm not out buying a new pair every few months!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What I Dream About

According to the ING Direct calculator (I find their website so easy to navigate) I could afford at this point in my financial circumstances a mortgage of $185,475 – or a purchase price of $202,475.
The following information was entered into their system:
     Income: $47,000
     Debts: $0
     Down Payment: 17,000
     Condo Fees: $275/month
     Taxes: $2000/year

I've recently found, a website that compares Mortgage, Insurance, Credit Card, GIC, and RESP rates from around the country.  Plugging in the maximum mortgage value I can currently afford my monthly mortage payment would be $812.51 (ING, 5year Variable Closed, 2.3%).  **Not accounting for CMHC fees since I'd only be putting down 9%)

I want to live in Toronto, not Mississauga, or Markham, or Scarborough, etc. I grew up living on the waters of Lake Huron, so I want to be as close to the lake as possible, and also close to events in the city.  In my price range I could be purchasing a 365sq bachelor apartment.  Not quite my dream place....I'm currently renting a bachelor apartment, and I'm ready for the transition to separate bedroom/living space.  

My goal for my 30th birthday is to have $35,000 as a downpayment, $5,000 in closing costs, a salary of at least $53,000 and an emergency fund of $5,000.  Using the same calculations as before at that point I could afford a $200,217 mortgage with a purchase price of $235,219 making the monthly mortgage payment $877.09.  I would still need to pay 1% CMHC fee, because I'd only be putting down 15%, but that's not too bad.    Listed in that price range right now is a very cute 1 bedroom condo downtown, about a 10 min walk from the lake and close to a great farmer's market.  I know that particular condo won't be listed in 2 years time, but I now know what I'm looking for in my first home and can concentrate on that checklist when it's time to start house hunting.  

November Goals

In an attempt to be more accountable to myself, at the beginning of each month I will post my personal and financial goals for that month.

November's goals are as follows:
- Save $1,500 - this can be in any of my savings accounts (house, emergency, travel)
- Avoid 1 temptation to spend per week
- Go to the gym at least 12 times
- Have 100 visitors to my blog
- Read 1 personal finance and 1 fun book
- Attend 2 events in Toronto....on the cheap!
- Try 2 new recipes

What are your goals for the month??