Friday, December 16, 2011

Off the Grid for Two Weeks!

This was a hectic week I wasn't sure I'd make it out of alive.  A few late nights working at home and early mornings where I was the first person in the office for a good 30 minutes, and I had all of my projects tucked neatly away!

I will be off the grid for the next two weeks in Africa making one of my dream trips come true!

Here's where this journey will take me.....

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This Years Hand-Made Christmas Gifts

I spent last night at my work Christmas party and had a great time.  It was nice to see everyone out of the office environment and our team seems to blend together nicely.

We pulled names for Secret Santa a few weeks ago and I got thinking that I didn't want to chose a seemingly random $20 gift that my colleague may or may not like -- we've all gotten those that just didn't match our style or taste -- so, I started brainstorming what I could make myself that she might like.

I've been spending way too much time on Pinterest lately, and thought that I'd pull my inspiration from there and landed on the idea to make my Secret Santa recipient a wreath.

Here's the final product:

Cost Factor: (Limit was $20)
Ornaments: $19.48
Ribbon: $0.82
Wreath Frame: $2.57
Total: $22.87

Definitely an easy project and one that I will do again for myself at some point!

Here's a look at another wreath I made (cost: $17.24) that has my sister's name all over it for Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

One of those weeks....

I have a feeling that this will be one of those weeks that goes by in a flash.

I'll admit, in one respect it'll be perfect because the sooner the week is over, the sooner I'll be on safari in Africa.

On the other hand.....there aren't enough minutes in the work day to finish what I need to/want to finish by the end of the week.  I haven't had the chance to read any of my daily blogs or newspapers, and still have another hour or so of work to go.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Missing Christmas

I will be missing out on Christmas with family for the first time ever this year.  Even when I was on a 4-month stretch of travel over the holidays a couple of years ago I managed to be home for a few hours on Christmas day.

Where will I be this year?  Way back in February I posted about a trip I'd booked.  It's finally here!  (Technically in a week I drive to Toronto, then fly out the next morning).

Between December 17th and 28th I will be in Kenya on a 9-day safari! I chose Gap Adventure's Kenya Wildlife Adventure and I'm beyond excited.  A safari has always been a dream vacation for me and I'm so happy to be getting the opportunity to travel there now.

Thus far I have spent: 

Safari - Gap Adventures
Flight - Air Swiss
Insurance - PC
Airport Transfer
Extra Hotel Night
Travel Supplies
Safari Clothing

** Travel supplies were a Christmas gift from my Mom, so nothing out of pocket for me!

The only upcoming costs I'm anticipating will come to approximately $350 - tips for safari guide, cook, porter, souvenirs, attractions on the last day, transport, and a quick jaunt into Zurich during my 6 hour layover on the way back to Canada.

While I'm sad not to be spending the holiday with my family, I'm sure that we'll have a great time opening gifts, and checking out all of my amazing photos when I return.

What is your dream vacation?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Budget: 2012

With a new salary and new expenses I knew that a new budget would need to be drafted.

So, here goes!
Net Income:$2,636Savings
Fixed ExpensesEmergency Fund$75
Mortgage$698Vacation Fund$250
Condo Fees$75
Planned SpendingGym$11
Extra Mortgage (2)$59Technology$145
Insurance - Home$25Magazines$8
Insurance - Car$79WW$22
Car Maintenance$50Total$639
Total: $218

I know that I'll have a few changes to make after the first month.  I filled up my gas tank for $43 when I first bought the car and it got me to 1/4 tank after 9 days.  At that rate I'll generally only need about $140/month unless I do mini-road trips. 

I also guessed at what my utilities would be.  Since the condo is new I can't see there being many issues with hydro inefficiencies, and I've never paid a water bill, so that was definitely just a guess!

The one element that is missing from my budget is my RRSP Home Buyers Plan payback.  I need to pay back about $23,000 over the next 15 years (1/15th/year), begining in 2012 totaling $128/month.....however, for 2012 I will use my tax refund instead of pulling money out of my budget each month.  This may be adjusted for 2013.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thank you, Ikea Canada

**This post is not sponsored by Ikea, but if the Ikea gods are listening, feel free to bestow upon me a new bedframe, dresser, entertainment centre, and/or sofabed loveseat!

This past weekend, I dug out of my storage space a chair and an end table that I knew wouldn't fit in the new condo and I wanted to donate.  Timing was perfect. In anticipation of the new Ikea opening in Ottawa they're having a Beautification Event where a truck drives around the city and stops in designated areas to exchange one piece of furniture or home decor item for a gift card.  The items will then be donated by Ikea.

Saturday I drove to Orleans and exchanged my chair for a $50 Ikea gift card to use in the new store.  Sunday I drove to the Market and exchanged my end table for another $50 Ikea gift card to use in the new store.  Each day I used about an hour to do the exchange....for $100! 

Next Saturday I'll do the same -- bringing my grand total to $150 in Ikea gift cards!!!  Since I sold most of my furniture to my Toronto condo buyer, I've already got a list of new items needed -- this Ikea loveseat sofabed at the top of the list! (In grey of course - typical me style).

Those gift cards sure will come in handy -- now, how to spend the $150 cash I had earmarked for furniture....?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Relocation Blip - a Canada Post rant!

Toronto to Ottawa is the furthest relocation I've ever done, and thus far it doesn't look like it'll be complete until January when I officially purchase the new condo. 

Thankfully all of my belongings made it safely to Ottawa on the Uhaul for my mail, not so much.

I paid for a hold on my mail delivery for the first 3 weeks after my last weekend in Toronto.  Not having a permanent place to stay yet meant I didn't know where to redirect my mail to.  Once my offer was accepted on the condo I rented a P.O. Box to temporarily redirect the mail to until I was moved in.  Off came the hold, and onto the P.O. Box.  Mail has been arriving at the P.O. Box for a couple of weeks now.  What hasn't made it to the box yet, is the mail that was held by Canada Post in Toronto between October 24th and November 16th.....more than 3 weeks worth of mail.....vanished!

I know the location where the mail was being held, but according to every Canada Post Customer Service rep I speak to on the phone, there is no telephone number at the location that held my mail.....interesting, no telephone at a Canada Post location. 

It frustrates me that I've paid $168 for the hold, temporary redirection, and box rental and I'm going to have to pay another $80+ to have my mail redirected to the new condo in January. 

Sometimes I feel like my hands are tied when public services are essential, with only one provider!

Do you have any relocation horror stories??

Monday, December 5, 2011

My New Condo!

My first condo, purchased just this past February, see here, was a palatial 373 sq ft!  No closets, no bedroom, no bathtub, it had a few dowfalls.  I did manage to make use of every square inch, but I knew that my Ottawa condo purchase would be at least a 1 bedroom.

I was pre-approved for a purchase price of between $200,000 - $210,000 if I went with a less than 5-year fixed rate, or $240,000 - $250,000 pricetag if I chose a 5-year fixed mortgage.  Since any figure begining with a 2 scared me, considering my new lower income in addition to the added expense of a car, my realtor and I went on the hunt for a home between $175,000 and $190,000.

Through my online home search before the househunt began I knew exactly what type of place we'd be looking building outside of downtown with 1 or 2 bed condos with 1 parking spot or a 2+1 semi-detatched or townhouse either in Ottawa or surrounding areas (read: Orleans, Kanata) with parking for about 2 vehicles. 

My realtor sent me about 10 listings we were going to see on "house hunting day".  They were exactly the type of home I'd expected.....except one.  Let's start with the nine other listings.  Only 2 had air conditioning....and not the central air I'm used to, but a large built-in window unit.  All had baseboard heating. 

Two of the listings I liked and could see myself in.  The first was a recently renovated 1 bedroom listed for $168,500 (yey, under budget!).  Condo fees were $269 and taxes were $1,507.  Hydro extra.  The building was older (as I'd expected), but it had a pool and an gym, although the machines were really old.  The vibe I got of the building was less than screamed RENTERS.  I don't have anything against renters, but in this condo it didn't feel as though the owners were doing everything they could to make the building presentable.  Monthly cost of this condo: approximately $1,065 incl. insurance (10% down, 30 year amortization @ 2.6%).

The second listing I liked was a 2+1 townhouse located in Bell's Corners near Kanata.  The condo was very clean, recently updated, and located in a good complex.  List price for this unit was $189,900. Condo fees were $230 and taxes were $1,800.  Hydro extra.  Hydro bills for this 3-level home were estimated at $165/month.  Monthly cost of this condo/townhouse: approximately $1,250 incl. insurance (10% down, 30 year amortization @ 2.6%).

The condo I fell in love with was our last visit of the day.  All I could think about all day was this condo.  It is a new construction boutique style complex with 16 units.  My unit is a 593 sq. ft. 1 bedroom including the balcony.  Finishing standards of the condo were hardwood floors throughout, 6 appliances, and granite counters in both the kitchen and bathroom.  The condo is about 11km from work and about 400m from what will be the largest Ikea in North America, and my favourite store, Chapters!  I paid an additional $1,500 to upgrade to stainless steel appliances, bringing the final price of the condo to $191,400.  Condo fees are $75/month, and taxes will likely fall between $1,700 - $2,100 (I'll have to wait until MPAC assesses the condos and it's determined by the City of Ottawa.  My only issue with the condo is that it doesn't come with parking, so I'll have to get a permit from the city.  Coming from Toronto though, where so many 1 bedroom condos built now don't have parking, it's something I can live with.

My monthly costs including mortgage, estimated taxes, insurance, gas/hydro/water will be approximately $1,083 -- an amount I can definitely live with!

Artist rendering of my reality the brick is much lighter....That'll be me at the bottom right hand corner!

Friday, December 2, 2011

My New Job

Since I began working full time after school (June 2008 if you're counting) I've worked two contract positions.  One I was thrilled to even get an interview, let alone hired -- hello, Vancouver Olympics! -- but since the beginning of the year I'd been itching to transition from my second contract into something permanent.

A permanent position opened over the summer and while I had a great interview, I did not get the position - it went to a colleague of mine who had the exact skill set and experience the job required.  Seeing so many former colleagues and people I went to school with applying for jobs for months at a time and not being successful I didn't want to be jobless when my contract ended in March 2012.  So, I started looking around.

A former colleague emailed me a position that was opening up in her office in Ottawa and I jumped at the chance to apply.  Admittedly I'd never filled a role exactly like this one in a position, instead I'd dabbled in elements of it in other positions.  However, after a great face-to-face meeting, and a Skype interview I was offered the position.   Two years ago I'd have never considered taking a position at this salary, but looking at my current industry and seeing my former colleagues struggle to land something, I jumped at this transition.

Here's what my current salary/benefits look like:
Salary: $40,000
Pension Matching: 5% or $2,000
Vacation: 2 weeks to start, up to 3 next year
Benefits: Dental, Medical, Vision (I've already used $300 towards medications!)
Work environment: FUN! Our next staff event is a cooking class
(In my previous job I had neither pension matching nor benefits, so these new additions are great)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My first car purchase!

I am 29 years old.....I've had a car from the time I was 16 until two years ago, but I'd never purchased a car until last week.  I was loaned/eventually gifted a car by my parents, a 1992 Chevrolet Cavalier from 1998-2003, then a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am from 2003-2008. In 2009-2010 I drove a work vehicle.

Knowing I'd be moving to Ottawa, further away from friends and family and wanting to be able to leave the city on weekends, I knew that getting a car was in order.

I didn't realize just how stressful it would be narrowing it down to what I wanted.  After contemplating new (I just couldn't add in a car payment to my tight budget), pre-owned, car, SUV, automatic, manual, make, colour, etc. I found a 2009 Chevrolet Aveo LS Sedan in dark grey metallic.  It is a very simple car.  I have manual windows, and locks, no heated seats, no cruise control, no remote starter....but, it is automatic and has air conditioning (this was a non-negotiable).  It's a bit high on the mileage for a 3 year old car - it was first registered in 2008, at 70,000km, but was well maintained by the previous owner, aside from a couple of small dings in the bumper.

I paid $6,200 for the car, in addition to $955 in vehicle registration fees, taxes, and a licence plate sticker taking me to August 2013.  I elected to put winter tires on the car as well, and paid $350 for a set a 4 tires. I have $150 set aside for a tune-up come spring when I'll need a oil change and the all-season tires put back on.

For those 10+ years that I did drive, I was always listed on my parents' policy, so my first check into car insurance was with the same broker they've worked with. By bundling my condo insurance policy with my auto insurance was a given, since I was looking at anywhere from a 5-15% savings.

Quote #1: Insurance company who has known me for 10+ years: $1,735.29
Quote #2: Belair Direct: $1,689.24
Quote #3: TD Meloche Monnex: $1,250.52

How was it that the quote from TD Meloche Monnex was so low?  I graduated from Brock University and UWO....they both have alumni associations.  One of the perks of being an alumni at both is a discount for insurance!

After 1 week of driving round trip to work each day, as well as a couple of trips running errands around the city I'm very happy with the car.  I filled up the tank the day I bought it for $43 (gas was at $1.15) and have 1/2 tank left - I had initially budgeted for $240 in gas, but at this rate I can probably lower it to $150!  We'll see how the next couple of months go.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How I'm spending the money!

Back again this morning for an update on how I'm intending to spend these condo profits!

Amounts with a strikethrough are payments that I've already made.

Starting Balance
Remainder of Condo Deposit*
Remainder of Condo Down payment
Estimated Purchasing Legal Fees
Estimated Purchasing Disbursements
Estimated Land Transfer Tax
Estimated HST (On CMHC Fees)
Estimated Utilities Setup Fees
Legal Fees – Title Search Fee
Condo Upgrade**
Emergency Fund
Travel Fund
Kenya Trip – Vaccinations
Furniture/Home Decor
Vehicle Registration/Taxes
Winter Tires
Vehicle Tune-Up
Bank Fees/Certified Cheque Fees

* I’ve already paid a $2,500 deposit to the builder – it is a new condo and a tiered payment structure has been established.
** I opted to upgrade only one item separately (although about 8 others I’d have loved of my list was travertine tiles instead of the standard porcelaine, but I wasn't willing to spend the $750 on top of the upgrade I selected) – I selected to have the microwave mounted above the stove instead of having it sit on the counter.

Have you ever purchased a new home and got sucked in by the upgrades available??

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too many changes to count!

Well, after a 6+ month absence from the blog, I'm back!

A lot of changes happened in the since April, when I last posted....I've sold my condo, moved to Ottawa, started a new job, bought a car, and bought a new construction condo which closes in January. 

Over the next few posts I'll detail what that means for each of these changes.  Let's start with selling my condo.  Last time I posted in April I was contemplating selling my condo.  In July I took the plunge.  I knew that I wasn't entirely happy with my job and that I wanted to look for a permanent position, instead of going for another contract, which could potentially see me living in a new city. 

I sold through Comfree, which I mentioned in the previous post. I settled on the Classic Package for $199+tax with the option to have a realtor post my property on MLS (1 photo and a link to my Comfree listing) for another $199+tax. Here's a link to my listing...

After 4 open houses, two weekends back-to-back and another 2 private showings, I accepted a full price offer, minus a $5,000 flat fee commission to the buyer's realtor.  I diligently returned phone calls, emails, and updated my property on all of the free sales sites (Kijiji, Craigslist) each day -- selling privately is hard work, but I loved it.  I printed out feature sheets, and provided potential buyers with as much informaiton as I could.  I ended up with 2 offers which would have netted me $195,000 and took the one whose buyer I felt would appreciate the condo as much as I did.  By not using a realtor to sell, I saved myself approximately $5,000.

So, financially how did I fare in the sale?

Condo sales price + Furniture Sale
Mortgage + fees
Buyer’s Realtor
Cost to advertise property
Legal Fees + Disbursements
Registration Fee


If you recall, I initially put down $17,500, plus closing/legal fees.  Minimal renovations were done by my Dad, the largest cost being the new floors (a gift from Mom), so all in all, I walked away with a very good profit after only 10 months of ownership -- the condo closed only last week. 

So, where is this sizeable chunk of money going?? I've broken it down into a list, which I'll share next post.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Condo Price #2

Now I'm confused!!!

My second loft expert came to view my place on Tuesday evening.  He came well prepared (PowerPoint presentation and all) and he's well versed in my building.  His company had originally sold the lofts from the developers to the original buyers.  He's also sold my unit before.

I'd have loved for him to have seen the condo before I purchased it.  I was trying to explain that it showed horribly -- a makeshift platform bed, no place to eat, dirty, bad use of space, etc. 

His first words were "you'll definitely lose money on this".  However, the more questions I'd asked, such as "are there any other lofts listed for under $200,000 in Toronto?" and "how many first time single buyers come to you looking for a loft in this price range" the more he changed his tune price-wise. 

So, we went from a potential list price of $175,000 (what I'd paid for it) to the idea that we could try and put it on the market at $199,000 since I'd have no competition. 

Like I'd mentioned after the first visit, even if I did sell for $194,000 I'd be making just less than $5, my mind, not worth it.  The only reason I'd sell is to be able to get into a larger place and renovate it. 

That got me thinking: what if I sold it on my own and saved the realtor fees.....

Comfree/formerly By The Owner offers packages for sellers to go at it without a realtor.  For $299+tax I would get:
- a listing on their site for 6 months
- email alerts to potential buyers
- listing on (an extra $179)
- 7 day display on the featured listings page
- 10 professional photos taken
- access to real estate lawyers to answer questions
- directional signs/lawn signs - nice, but according to my condo regulations I can't use this anyways!

Saving even 2.5% (sellers commission) would be helpful to the bottom line - that's potentially $5,000 extra in my pocket.  My parents sold our childhood home without a realtor, so I know that it is possible.

Do you have any experience selling a home without the use of a realtor??