Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Joined Twitter!!

I've just taken the plunge and joined the world of Twitter!

You can find me here:  @B_C_B_B

February Challenge - Final Week!

February seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye - hopefully Spring will arrive just as quickly this year!

Here's what happened in the final week of my February No Spend Challenge:

February 22:
Esso - $30
Canadian Tire - $7.97 (at home herb growing kit)
Winners - $18.37 (flower pots)
Chapters - $8.19 (tea towels)

February 23: NO SPEND

February 24: NO SPEND

February 25:
Chapters - $39.30 (2 travel guides, 1 magazine)
Extreme Pita - $8.34

Tim Hortons - $2.75

February 26: NO SPEND

February 27: NO SPEND

February 28: 
Tim Hortons $2.75
Walmart - $34.61
LCBO -$14.95 (wine for dinner I'm hosting)
Loblaws - $30.71 
Loblaws - $15.19
Ikea - $23.71 (patio chair, 2 glasses)
Michaels - $18.97 (Easter wreath)

February 29: NO SPEND

Drum roll please......out of 29 days in February I did not spend on 18 days!  Originally my goal was to spend only on the weekends, but I ended up just aiming for 5 No Spend Days each week, meaning I should have ended the month with 21 No Spend Days -- not too shabby!!

 Any ideas for a March challenge?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Since I love surveys.....

Here's another survey that Two Degrees of Unemployment tagged me in!

1. What does your wallet looked like? Is it organized or cluttered? I'd say organized. My most used cards are the first ones I see and each week I remove all receipts and bits I've jammed in.

2. If you had $10 to spend on a date, where would you go? Driving range or mini golf

3. If you had $200 to spend on a date, where would you go? Into Montreal for a few hours: walk around the old part of the city, into a shop to try poutine, a museum or two, and a nice dinner.  Gas money too!

4. What was the first blog that got you into PF blogging?  I read Gail Vaz Oxlade's blog for about 3 years before launching Big City...Beer Budget.

5. What was the last thing you purchased?  A tea from Tim Hortons.  So far I'm 1 for 1 in Roll up the Rim!

6. Do you ever pay full-priced for books? Why or why not? I will buy full price books if I know that I'll read the book more than a couple of times, if it's a book I'll loan friends/family or it's a small travel book that I will travel with during a trip.

7. What is one thing you absolutely refuse to pay for? Banking.

8. What do you like to do to relax and unwind?  Have a nice hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.

9. If you could resurrect one musician from the dead and watch him/her perform, who would it be? I would love to have seen INXS when Michael Hutchence was still alive.

10. What would your ideal retirement look like? Travel, travel, travel! Otherwise I'd love to spend summers in Canada at a cottage and winters down south.

11. Are you going to do your taxes by yourself this year? Of course!  My taxes are still simple enough to do on my own...I received a refund of $3,583 (see why here).  I filed on the first day I could, February 13th and my refund was deposited electronically into my bank account on February 23rd.
 What my wallet looks like!

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Newest Favourite Blog!

Having purchased my first condo in the ridiculous Toronto market, I am enjoying the new blog FML Listings!  I'm sure I ran across the site from Moneyville....

This blog showcases ridiculously priced homes/condos/townhouses currently on the market -- really, a 1 bedroom condo for more than $600,000?!?  Back home even houses with beach frontage on Lake Huron isn't that much!

Here's just one snapshot of the listings covered:  Enjoy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Condo Board of Directors

This week my condo transitioned from being run by the builder to establishing the Board of Directors. 

Being the Type-A personality that I am, I immediately put my hand in the air when the head of our property management company asked which owners would like to be considered as Board members.  About 15 minutes later I was appointed Board Member/Secretary.  Two other owners (both men in their 40's and 50's) sit on the Board as President and Treasurer. 

Why did I want to get involved on the Board of Directors?  I actually got the idea after reading this article last year on one of my favourite blogs, Toronto Realty Blog

By becoming part of the Condo Board I will now play a role in all decision making as it pertains to my condo building....for example, what rules/regulations will be put into place around visitor parking, I'll be one of the first 3 set of eyes reviewing our corporation's financials, when our contract for snow removal expires deciding where should we go next, etc. 

I have a feeling in this first year it'll be a quick learning curve....Reserve Fund Study.....Performance Audit.....everyday hiccups as we learn what works/doesn't work in this new building.  I'm excited to count this as one of my new "volunteer" projects!

Have you ever sat on a condo Board of Directors?  Any advice for me?!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February Week 3: Update

I can't believe I'm already doing a Week 3 No Spend Challenge Update!!

Here's how it went:
February 15: NO SPEND!

February 16: NO SPEND!

February 17:
Food Basics - $3.82
Walmart - $9.57
Loblaws - $7.33
Loblaws - $42.90

February 18: NO SPEND!

February 19:
Esso - $40.00

February 20: NO SPEND!

February 21:
Five Guys - $5.07

Two unexpected spends this week - flowers at Loblaws and Five Guys....not too shabby.  Thus far I've had 13 no spend days out of 21.  Fewer than what I was aiming for by this point, but still a great start!

I did purchase a couple of flights and prepaid for accommodations in Prague, but those funds come from my Travel Fund account with ING, and aren't reflected in weekly spending. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Planning Europe Trip to the Last Detail!

I am not a traveler who can book an incoming and outgoing flight, leaving everything in the middle up to chance. I buy every train ticket in advance, book every hotel, and figure out which museums I'm going to see when I arrive.

Being the hyper-planner I am, I've read through three Eastern Europe travel books from the library already, and have a rough budget set out.

Here's what I've come up with thus far budget-wise:


Aug. 10: 06:12 - 21:20

Train: Bratislava to Budapest
Ottawa - London

Budapest (Aug. 19 - 22)

Aug. 26: 11:35 - 22:21

Hotel (Airbnb)
Venice - Ottawa

London (Aug. 10-13)

Hotel (only 2 ni. need to be paid)
Train: Budapest to Zagreb
Zagreb (Aug. 22-25)

Hotel (Airbnb)
Flight: London to Prague
Prague (Aug. 13-16)

Hotel (Airbnb)
Train: Zagreb to Venice
Train: Prague to Bratislava
Bratislava (Aug. 16-19)


In my attempt to make this big 3-0 birthday trip a bit more upscale, but keeping with my beer budget, I am opting to stay in neither hostels or hotels.  I'm going to give Airbnb another chance - my first experience staying in Ottawa in a room rented through Airbnb was a disaster!

Here's a look at my first booking in Prague (I read over and over how busy Prague is in July/August, so I booked in advance!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Was Tagged!

Last week Girl Makes Cents tagged me in the blogger survey that's going around - I love surveys!!

Here goes......

1. What is one (or two) thing(s) you want to learn in your lifetime? How to run! I've never been a runner and always wanted to say "I think I'll go for a run this morning".  I'm looking into the Running Room this spring.
2. What are you saving your money for?  In no particular order: Travel, Retirement, Emergencies, a wedding in the summer, birthdays throughout the year, my upcoming tire purchase
3. What is something funny that has happened to you recently?
4. What is your favourite meal to make?  This soup! Pretty much every weekend I make a batch for the following week's lunches.
5. Why did you choose the profession you are in? I enjoyed business classes in high school, and loved sports (the organization side more than as an athlete). One day during one of the presentations from Universities about what programs they have to offer I heard "Sport Management" - I was sold!  Only about 1/4 of my classmates are still working in sport, and I'm happy to count myself as one of them.
6. If you were given $5000 and had to spend it on tangible items in the next 24 hours what would you do?  This is a tough one - I'd have to say a Macbook....I've never had a Mac, but I love, love, love my iPad2.  My Gateway laptop is about 2 years old, so still a couple left in her.
7. What are you currently reading? The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks -- good so far!
8. What was your favourite subject in school, why? I really enjoyed music.  I played clarinet from grade 5 to OAC and most of my friends were in music as well, so it was great to be in the same classes.
9. What is one thing you hope happens to you in the next 5 years? That's easy, to meet a great guy. It seems to be my hope at the beginning of every year.  I've only been in love once and I'm very much a relationship girl, not a date-whomever girl!
10. What is your biggest pet peeve about the opposite sex?  Lack of communication/mind games.  If I like a guy I will tell him....not beat around the bush.  If you like or dislike me, just say so....
11. Tell me a joke you know.  What do you do with a dead Chemist?.......Barium

Friday, February 17, 2012

Europe Trip 2012

It seems like my vacation to Kenya just ended and already I'm in planning mode for the next trip!

As a lover of all things Olympics, I placed my order, about a year ago with the company selling London 2012 tickets and came out with a pair of tickets for the Canoe/Kayak finals, and Closing Ceremonies - I was hoping for Openings, but I'll take what I can get!  In total I paid $841.00 US (includes $35 shipping to Canada). 

And this week, I was approved for the time off from work to plan this trip!  The dates are: August 10 - 26

Yesterday I emptied by Aeroplan account and used 60,000 miles for the flight to London and back from Venice (I'll explain why Venice later).  By using miles, all I had to pay for were the taxes.  I'm flying US carriers on both ends of the flight, and found that instead of flying Air Canada I saved about $300 in taxes.  In total the taxes on Ottawa - London and Venice - Ottawa were $117.81!! Just for fun I pulled up Expedia and US Airways and checked what the price would have been for the exact same flights with the same layovers and the total was a shocking $3,964.68 -- completely worth using miles for the flights.

The second flight I booked last night was from London to Prague on August 13th. Since that's the day after the end of the Olympics I guessed that air travel would be quite high leaving the city that day, so I'd better book my flight right away.  My flight is with British Airways (from Heathrow) for $161.13.

I've fine-tuned the list of cities I'd like to visit and here's what I'm thinking - 3 nights in each:
Zagreb (still contemplating over this one)

Since flying out of Eastern Europe would have meant I needed another 15,000 miles (which I didn't have), I looked at ending the trip close to either Italy, Austria, or Germany -- If my last city is Zagreb, I'll take an overnight train to Venice in time for my 11:30am flight back home.  Still working out those details.

I'm going to work on my budget over the weekend and get a better sense of cost of accommodations -- stay tuned for that post on Monday!

It may not be sunny, but I'll definitely enjoy this long Family Day weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feeling great this month!

I'm feeling really great about my finances this month!

Yesterday was pay day, and here's what I was able to funnel towards long-term savings and planned spending:
- Pension - $166.66
- RRSP - $40.00
- Car Maintenance Fund - $40.00
- Travel Fund - $270.00
- Emergency Fund - $75.00
- Extra Mortgage Payment Fund - $72.00

I have my envelopes all set for the week, a stocked freezer, and still just under a 1/2 tank of gas!  Tomorrow is Friday and it's a long weekend....can't get any better than that.

How is your week turning out??

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Week 2: Update

Two weeks into the month of February, here's how my No Spend Challenge is going:

Here is my personal spending for the week:

Wednesday, February 8: NO SPEND

Thursday, February 9:
Calabogie Ski Resort - $15.89

Friday, February 10:
Loblaws - $22.05
Bulk Barn - $15.12

Saturday February 11:
Walmart - $56.45

Sunday, February 12: NO SPEND

Monday, February 13: NO SPEND

Tuesday, February 14: NO SPEND
Colleague - +$8.00 (from Calabogie snacks)

I wasn't 100% this week, that's for sure. I spent money on Friday, knowing that I wouldn't have very much time to run errands and get groceries over the weekend.  I also spent a bit of money on water, hot chocolate, and snacks at the ski resort last week while I was away for work.  

Notice that I didn't spend any money on gas this week....I filled my tank on Sunday, Feb. 5th and I only down to just under 1/2 tank at this point.  Will try to make this tank last an entire two weeks!   

Tomorrow I will be booking my flights to Europe in August, so stay tuned for that post!

How often do you need to fill your gas tank?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Love Day!

Wishing you a very happy Valentines Day filled with love!!

On my agenda this Valentines Day: work, gym, yummy dinner, movie, call my sister to wish her a Happy 26th Birthday!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Taxes Filed!

Within the first couple of hours of the CRA opening the Netfile process again this year I'm filed away!

For the past couple of years I've filed my taxes on my own using Turbo Tax....this year I thought that since my refund was more complex than in previous years that I'd need to use a professional, but I got along just find on my own.

I even used Turbo Tax via Great Canadian Rebates and earned myself $1.80 in the process.  Small steps!

I claimed approximately $7,000 in moving/home selling expenses since I moved 400km from Toronto to Ottawa for work, and need to carry over another $2,000 approximately to 2012, I will be getting a hefty return.

$3,583 to be exact! (My average return is about $500-600, this is a one-off because of the deductions)

So, how will I be spending this chunk of change:
Starting balance: $3,583
RRSP - Regular Contribution: $2,275
RRSP - HBP: $500
Emergency Fund: $408
Travel Fund: $400

My regular RRSP contribution slacked off between April 2011 and January 2012, so I'm throwing a good chunk in that account to start building it back up.  With this repayment into my RRSPs under the Home Buyers Plan (I withdrew about $22,000 in February 2011) I'll have repaid my 1/15th for 2012.

If you're anticipating a refund, how are you planning on spending it?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Staff Getaway

Yesterday morning I my colleagues and I arrived at Calabogie, a ski/golf resort about an hour West of Ottawa for off-site meetings, planning for the next fiscal year, and a bit of team building.

Yesterday our team broke off in the afternoon and skied, snowboarded, or snowshoed.  It was fantastic getting out for some fresh air out of the office.  I did end up spending a bit of money on water and snacks on the ski hill.

Will be back next week for regular updates!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February Week 1 Update

One week into my February Challenge, I've accomplished my goal for week 1 perfectly.

Here is my personal spending for the week:

Wednesday, February 1: NO SPEND

Thursday, February 2: NO SPEND

Friday, February 3: NO SPEND

Saturday February 4:
LCBO - $1.80 (I had a $10 gift card to cover the rest)
Walmart - $33.83
Loblaws - $26.89
Food Basics - $9.96
(All three grocery stores are within 2 blocks of each other....while it looks like a lot, I don't have to drive all over the city to hit all three)

Sunday, February 5:
Esso - $40.01

Monday, February 6: NO SPEND

Tuesday, February 7: NO SPEND

If I continue to knock this challenge out of the park, I will have 21 No Spend days in February!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birthday Trip - 2012

Since I'll be turning the big 3-0 this year, I wanted to do something special for my birthday.  This birthday happens to fall during the same time the Olympics in London.  Since I worked on the Olympics here in Vancouver, I thought it would be a perfect tie-into my birthday celebrations!

So, way back in May, 2011 I paid $841 (US) for two tickets to the Canoe/Kayak final day of competition and 2 tickets to the Closing Ceremonies.  A LOT of money, I know for 4 tickets!  I figure that once I split with a friend, $420 (US) doesn't sound as bad, for the chance to experience the Games.

This time around, I'll be on my own for accommodations/food/transport and having travelled to London before, I know how expensive it is!  I'm also not a fan of paying to travel to a city I've already been to.  So, I looked at a map of Europe and decided I needed to add a couple of locations.

Here's what I'm thinking:
Option 1: London, Brussels, Luxembourg, Barcelona
Option 2: London, Zagreb, Budapest, Prague

I am only 300 Aeroplan miles (about a $60 payout) away from being able to fly for free to Europe, paying only the taxes.  As far as flights go, the taxes are about $370 for Option 1 and $270 for Option 2 if I fly home from Frankfurt.

Before I get too carried away, today I'll speak to my boss about getting the time off -- it's definitely not guaranteed since I work in Sport and I know that I'll have media releases that need to be issued during this time, but I'm prepared to have them drafted in advance so that they'd only be missing a few facts gathered during the Games.  Wish me luck!! 

Once I know for sure that I'm able to get the 2 weeks off, I will post my budget and savings plan!

So many cities, so little time (oh, and money!)

Monday, February 6, 2012

30-Day Price Guarantee!

Last month I blogged about the fact that I still had a few items on my furniture 'to buy' list.  This included a dresser and a sofabed - I purchased from Leons just about two weeks ago.

I'd never shopped at Leons before, but thus far I'm 100% satisfied!!  I must have ordered a popular sofabed, because it only just arrived to the store for delivery over the weekend, but as far as their 30-day price guarantee, I am a happy shopper.

What I'd originally paid:
Sofabed: $799.00
Dresser: $399.00
Total: $1,353.74 including taxes

I've been keeping my eye on the Leons website to see by chance if between the purchase date and 30 days thereafter prices went down on either items, and to my surprise they did on both!  I called the store, gave them my phone number, confirmed my credit card number, and voila, $169.50 refunded to my credit card!

Just goes to show you that it never hurts to spend 5 minutes checking out potential price adjustments! Now, what to do with an extra $169.50.....?  Stay tuned next week for a travel update!

Note: Leons did not pay me in any way for this post, I'm just a happy customer!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Free Ottawa - Winter Fun

Now that I'm finally into the condo, have unpacked every box/suitcase, and I'm settled in nicely, I am no longer filling my evenings and weekends with organizing, furniture assembly, or massive cleans.

This is my first winter in Ottawa and I'm definitely going to take advantage of some free activities and attractions (I may need to invest in some equipment to start) around the city this winter.  Over the past week I've done some recon on what's available and here's what I've come up with!
  • Gatineau Park - Ottawa libraries will loan patrons day passes (7 day loan period) to use at Gatineau Park for cross country skiing - value of $14.  I've been looking into getting a used pair of cross country skis. 
  • Skating on the Rideau Canal or Rink of Dreams - Just need to borrow skates from a friend or purchase used.
  • Winterlude - This year's annual festival begins today and this weekend I'm taking in the ice carving competition.
  • Dows Gallery - outdoor space on the Canal where youth express themselves through art.
  • Bedzzz Annual Bed Race - Speaks for itself....a race on beds!  Teams outfit their colourful and decorated beds and race through a course on the canal (Feb. 4th).  Funds raised through team entrance fees goes to The Kiwanis Club.
  • Self Guided Maple Tour - Fulton's Sugar Bush offers free self guided tours, in addition to their fee-based activities such as sleigh rides and the pancake house.
  • Rideau Hall - Residence and grounds tours and skating (reservations required) are free! 

What is your favourite free winter activity?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Net Worth Update

With so many changes in the past 6 months (new job in a new city, new condo, car purchase) I figured it was high time to have a look at my net worth.

Net Worth$27,350

I did my first Net Worth update in April last year and came out with approximately $22, increase of almost $5,000.  I know that number could have been higher - since I reported that net worth I've had some big ticket payments - legal fees/commission from the condo sale ~$6,000 and moving/legal fees/warranty for the new job and condo in Ottawa ~$3,000.

I will do another Net Worth Update part way through the year and again at the end of 2012 and I hope to see that number climb to: $38,000 by the end of December 2012.

How often do you check your net worth?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Goals and Budget

With a new month upon us (January flew by so quickly) and the first entire month with a new budget in the condo, I thought I'd share my February budget and goals with you:

INCOME - After Tax/CPP/EI deductions, but before RRSP/Pension contribution
Full Time Regular$2,810.24$2,810.24
FIXED MONTHLY EXPENSES - Under contract/obligations
Mortgage + Taxes$857.02$857.02
Condo Fees$75.00$75.00
Insurance (Car/House)$103.97$103.97
Hot Water Tank Rental$50.79$50.79
PLANNED SPENDING - Bills that get paid non-monthly/Anticipated Bills
Car Maintenance/Licensing$40.00$40.00
Extra Mortgage +Tax Payments$72.00$72.00
VARIABLE SPENDING - Bills that are variable each month
Natural Gas$58.00$58.00

SAVINGS - Long Term and Short Term
Emergency Fund$75.00$75.00
Travel Fund$250.00$250.00
Gas - Car$200.00$200.00

The budget will get re-jigged into the spring when I get a better sense of what my utility bills will look like.  Until then, those are the numbers I'm working with!

This month I will pledge to:
- Go to the gym at least 2x/week
- Not spend a penny Monday - Friday
- Bring my lunch every day to work
- Plan weekly meals in advance
- Discuss with my boss vacation time over the summer
- Look into oil change/new tire for the spring
- Meet up with at least 1 old friend/acquaintance in Ottawa
- Look into volunteer opportunities

It's a good thing February is a short month!!