Friday, October 29, 2010

Competing financial goals: How to manage them?

I have a number of financial goals.  I would love to save a lot of money to invest, my goal is actually around 6,000 a year, which is roughly 10% of my family's income.  I want to pay down my mortgage to the tune of 5-10 grand a year.  I still want to live well, eat well and take luxurious vacations.  So how can I manage all these goals effectively, especially when I am a working mother who works part time and has daycare expenses & educational savings plan to create?

It's a problem that I am grappling with currently.  Its a matter of prioritizing and also wise spending.  I found it funny this past year, when I went on a cruise, one of my supervisors inquired how much one costs and she told me she dreams of taking one.  The thing is that she makes a lot more money than I do.  I spend maybe 200 dollars a year on my hair (if that).  My hair is relatively easy to style, so I find schools do as good as a job as hair stylists. I don't drive, so I spend 70 dollars a month on transportation.  I don't have a cellphone or cellphone plan.  I really don't have that many people to call.  I do rent movies every month.  I do spend money every month at Dollarama.  I buy my clothes and books in batches at clearance sales.

If I contrast with my supervisor, honestly I have no idea what my supervisor's budget looks like. She always has her hair done, she drive a nice SUV, she's got a fancy cellphone.  I know she goes to bars in her spare time and eats out with friends regularly.  If she lived like I did and cut the expenses I know about, then indeed she could take the cruise and save some money in the meantime.  The thing is that maybe the cruise is down on her list of important items.

My personal opinion is that you should look at your budget and prioritize.  Personally I cut down expenses everywhere so I could have a nice home and be able to vacation where I want throughout the year.  She may want to look nice and drive a nice car more than say take the cruise.  This is where personal choice comes into play.

So what I would like you to do is think about 10 specific items you want in your life and then prioritize how important they are to you.  I'm listing my goals and then ordering them in importance.  I will spend the next week talking about each goal and how to get it as inexpensively/practically as possible.

4.) Invest 6,000 a year
2.) Paid off mortgage
3.) Trip to Europe
9.) Alaskan cruise
5.) Digital SLR camera
7.) 500 wardrobe upgrade
6.) New cordless phone set
8.) A day at the spa
1.) Furniture upgrades in my home 1000.
10.) Personal assistant

These are subject to change and certain long term goals are difficult to rank in importance but essentially I should be spending my money on things that I value.  What are your 10 financial priorities?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Establishing a way to reach a goal within your means

I finally found a job that I like doing in the fall.  There are certain downsides of it, it pays less than I expected by about 4 dollars an hour.  Additionally, its a risky job.  I don't care to clarify why it's risky, because I have decided to not discuss current employment issues on my blog posts but basically I could get sick or be injured on the job more easily than many other employment options. The rewards though of finally getting to use my skills and finally working in a supportive and healthy work environment compensate for the downsides of my work.

I've decided to stick this job out mostly because I do like it and I am sure if I found a less risky job I probably would not like it as much.  The pay issue does bother me but I do have other things that I am planning to do to try to improve the situation.  I have a small business I plan to start operating in the next year.  I decided to not quit my second job for the foreseeable future.  It pays even less but isn't really risky and I enjoy the time I spend there. 
So what opportunities do I have at my current situation?

I have free meals at my main job (nice cause I never have to pack a lunch or leave for coffee).
I have the opportunity to train in areas interesting to me at my main job.
I have the opportunity to develop my own programming at my main job.
I have a second job that's letting me create my business plan and presentations.
I also have access to high quality computers at my second job.
I am able to have subsidized daycare (available to all parents if you look hard enough anyways, in my province)
I have good public transportation so I don't use a car or pay for gas.
I live in a major city and know how to get free activities for fun things to do.
I live in a province with the cheapest tuition so I can go back to school if need be at some point.
I can get to all my work locations easily with the metro.
I have provincially provided health care.

I have this plan melted together.  I am able use the jobs where I am at to continue getting ahead which means I owe them my loyalties.  I wish I had a work sponsored retirement program or tuition reimbursement.  I wish I earned a little more or could work more regularly at my primary job. That would make my life a little cooler at the moment.  But when I look at all I do have, in reality I am pretty lucky.  I have a plan.  I will get ahead eventually and for now I am coasting along.

How can you make your situation work for you?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Developing a game plan to reach your personal and financial goals

I've spent a lot of time in the last ten years trying to figure out who I am, who I want to be and how I can get where I want to be, with the resources that I have at my disposal.  Its funny because small steps have inched me closer and closer to reaching my ultimate goal.  

My goals have changed along the way.  I've wanted to do a lot of things basically but essentially everything I wanted to do had a central theme.  I wanted to help troubled youth....something that I was back in my early adolescence.  I don't only want to work with youth though, I also want to impact policy either through research or advocacy.  In addition to these career goals I also want to be paid well enough that I can retire a wealthy woman one day.

I am one step closer to meet my updated life plan.  My life plan is to work with and improve the life's of at risk youth (through research and policy advocacy).  I also want to be a wealthy woman one day.  I have other endeavors I would like to do like write a book or two but I do not see them as being my career. 

I recently started a position working with youth.  The job is pretty ideal for me and it offers the possibility for advancement.  It also offers the possibility to do some of my own programming there and participate in research projects.  It is not full time and I am pretty confident that I can get my little consulting business off the ground while I am working there.  My new position covers my living costs.  My second job (which I had prior to starting my new position) is in a computer lab helping students with homework.  I rarely have to do much aside from opening the center and closing it.  So I spend my ample free time, perfecting my business content, eventually I plan to complete a web page.  My second job doesn't really pay me much money but the quiet time in front of computers is really nice.  I am making up for the lack of compensation with my business content getting completed and organized.  There are also interesting networking and learning opportunities there.  So I plan to stay there a while even though it is minimum wage.  I think it is helping me reach some goals.

There are people who would hate my new position (the hours, violence, emotional related work and pathogen exposure make it not a job for everyone) and my second very low paying part time job is well very low paying.  These two positions are ideal for me with my current goals.  I see a lot of possibilities working with these two different organizations.  I am not earning much but living frugally I am able to invest up to my goal, which is maxing out my tax free savings account each year.  It's my retirement vehicle of choice.  I am young enough that if I manage to max it out every year then I should be able to retire a rich lady.  I am also able to spend plenty of quality time with my family with my working hours.

Your game plan can change.  I could decide if my business takes off, that the part time work I do at the computer lab is no longer worth my time.  I honestly thought I would have already quit but I really like that time to myself.  I could get offered a better position at some other organization and switch companies if it seemed like a better fit for me.  I could realize that my business idea is not really ideal and modify it.  The thing is that by making a plan I am getting somewhere.  I am working at a career position I am excited to go to everyday that does pay me well per hour.  My second job is paying me to set up my business and it is also time I can use to do other hobbies.  I am excited by the possibilities for my future.    

So my question is what is your career goal and how are you going to get there?  

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting a good deal on a cruise

I have been bombarded with questions about cruises since I posted that I went on a cruise.  People want to know how much it costs, how much I really paid, and whether it was worth it. My response is that it depends but I will break down how to get a good deal on a cruise.

When you book a cruise the price of the cruise is as important as the cost to travel to the port of debarkation.  You have to travel to the port.  If we'd gone with a port that was further away from home our cruise would have been more expensive.  We drove 8 hours to get to our port and camped with my sister overnight.

When buying your ticket you should consider doing a last minute cruise especially in this economy. The price per person was pretty good but we bought our tickets just weeks before we were set to sail.  This also means we may have lost the opportunity had someone gotten our tickets before us. If you find a good cruise know that a couple hundred dollars in taxes is going to be added on per person.  It's related to port charges from what I can tell.  So if the post says the cruise is 700 dollars, it is more likely 950-1100 with the taxes.  Plan your travel budget accordingly. 

Additionally from what I gather, the cruise lines make their money from extras while on the cruise such as the casino, extra dinners, soda, excursions. They hit everyone up for money.  If you have trouble saying no, avoid the "free educational seminars".  You can stick to the free food on the ship, the free activities and not pay for any excursions and still have a good time.  Its what my husband and I chose to do. 

We spent some money on board in the gift shops, on a modest amount of alcohol, I put 10 dollars into the casino, and we payed for transport in Boston.   The only regret is that we probably should have paid for an excursion in St. Johns, NB.  It was dull and industrial.  The rest of the cities we were fine on foot with a baby.

We paid roughly 2600 dollars for our cruise (including gas and gifts).  It was more than worth in my opinion.  I saw plenty of shows, relaxed, had delicious food (carnival is apparently renown for their food), and got to see 5 cities I never saw before.  I loved that I could get back on the boat for lunch and exit again if I wanted.

I do have a couple of critiques.  I thought they hit us up too much for more money. The staff were very fiscally focused, the seminar on weight loss was focused on selling their spa services.  The seminar on Chinese medicine was only to sell their herbs.  I did not like how they managed the casino and if I ever go again I will not use their casino.  When I wanted to stop playing (after I was 4 dollars ahead) I could not stop.  You had to have played for a very long time in order to withdraw your money (or was it that you had to have a lot of money in your bank?).  Anyways I felt that was dishonest and I was very happy it was only 10 dollars that I put in.  Imagine had I put 50 or 100 dollars in and could not withdraw it as I wished.  They.  They didn't really offer anything for my daughter even though she is only a couple months under two and very used to daycare. The one kid dance I saw, they would not let her in because it was for 4- 6 year olds.  The thing that was frustrating, is that there were only like 12 kids on the boat in total so how her dancing with the 5 4-6 year olds was a problem when we were present is beyond me.  Instead she danced with drunk adults which I cannot think was an improvement but again we were present and her safety was never in jeopardy.

While I say these criticisms.  I really loved the trip.  I had a great time.  I will travel with carnival again.  I would recommend cruising to almost anyone.  The only person who its probably not good for is someone with out financial restraint.  It could have easily cost us 5,000 had we taken the excursions we wanted to take, got a spa treatment and each gambled a little.  You have to have a budget and try to stick to it on these adventures.  Its not hard to do if you stick to free activities and don't let the sales men talk you into over-spending.

So Carnival gets a B + from me.  Pleasant staff, great food, great activities and shows.  It was worth the expense in my mind.  Now just to save up to be able to do the same thing next year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm Back from my Cruise

I loved the cruise, the activities, the food was amazing, and I saw 5 cities that I have not seen before.  It was a really great experience.  I cannot say enough positive things about Carnival.  However I think I will leave my critique for a little later, there are a few things that I found annoying, but I would spend the money again on a similar vacation without hesitation.  So here are some photos to let you see some of what we saw.  Yes that handsome man is my husband and that little girl, well she's mine too.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Setting a financial goal

I graduated from University in 2005 and from graduate school in 2009.  I paid off my undergraduate debt when I finished graduate school.  Pretty amazing!  How did I do it?  I get this question a lot when people find out that I have no student loan remaining.

Well I set a financial goal....mainly to graduate college with a manageable debt load.  When I decided to go to graduation school I set my sights on the full scholarship programs rather than finding programs that would set me further in debt.  The ideal degree wouldn't have been paid for....I would have gone like 100,000 in debt, so I modified things.  Now in a way this was not ideal.  I do not have the certification that I really wish I had to be able to be a licensed therapist.  However I am pretty well trained in research with a well respected degree from an ivy league equivalent institution and I have no debt.  I am able to get better jobs with my degree.  I am more respected when I go and do the presentations that I do.  It was a great move for me.

My steps

1.) Create a goal

This is self-explanatory just write it down.  My old goal was to get through school with as little debt as possible.

2.)Sacrifice to get there

If your goal is to go to Europe debt free well then cut an expense and work a little over time or get a second job to save for it.  If you cut one expensive and gain a little extra income, and if you put all that into an account for your goal, you'll get to your goal in no time flat.

My goal to go school with little debt required that I make good grades, not party, apply for every scholarship I could find, I worked 1-2 jobs the whole time I was in university, I wore crappy clothes, I did not vacation with friends.  I led by many people's standards, a boring college existence.  Yet I had a fabulous time.  I found the free campus activities so fun I ended up working for them....getting paid for my leisure time is not too shabby.  I have no regrets about those years at all.  I had to look where I was willing to cut, and basically in university I cut everything.  I made my goal.

3.) Always spent less than you earn...always.

This is with the exception of emergencies and major life events....which hopefully you have saved enough for that you still don't have to go into debt.  I am spending a little more now than I earned but I budgeted for this period in my life, when I am raising a toddler and not ready to work full time yet.  I live off my part-time (and unemployed income) a little bit of savings.  I minimize my withdraws though.


4.) When you reach your goal make a new one.

I have now graduated school, payed off all my debts, started investing in stocks, had a baby, bought my first home, and paid cash for the holiday of my dreams.  It's been an amazing decade.  I have new goals now.  I would like to maximize my tax free saving account every year.  I would also love to pay off my mortgage.



What are your financial goals and how are you going to reach them?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Joys of Reading

I have been thoroughly enjoying reading lately.  My daughter is getting to an age where I can walk her to the park and let her play with others in the sandbox.  If other kids she likes are there I can easily read, seated at the end of the sandbox.  Its something new for me.  I get to take time simply to read for pleasure.  Its new because I am finally done with school.  I am finally done with having an infant needing every waking second of time, granted toddlers still need you every few minutes, but I have time just to read and soak up the wisdom other people have found.

I just finished Eat, Pray, Love this morning before I left home.  I have to say I loved this book.  I plan on keeping it.  I am also reading how I write by Janet Evanovich.  I love love love this book. In addition to writing on this blog, I am also writing my first novel.  All her advice on writing and publishing was excellent.  I was really surprised to read that her first three novels she considered crap.  She didn't sell them.  The audacity she must have and to keep writing, after writing three crappy books.  Well I am really glad she stuck to it.  I love her novels.

Now how do I manage to read vivaciously but fiscally responsibly? I have a lovely public library downtown in my city.  I find getting there and back challenging though.  The libraries closest to my home have a very poor English language selection.  I find it so challenging to get the books I wish to read. I simply buy books rather than rent.  It's not the very cheapest avenue.  I could take the metro to the library downtown.  I just find it much easier to buy them. I buy my books online (often the damaged versions) for pennies on the dollar.  I keep the books I love and give away the books to my friends and family that I think they will love.  I have a pile of presents right now....books I either read but won't read again or books that I could not get into.   I also trade books with friends.  Eat, Pray, Love was given by a friend of mine who hated it.  I don't know how you could hate this book.  I agree with her though and I won't read a book I dislike.  Its so much better to trade.

I find when buying books online you have to buy in bulk to make up for the shipping costs. So I generally buy 10-40 books at a time and pay around 50 dollars total including shipping for my collection.  Its well worth it to me.  I get many treasures this way.My latest order which has yet to arrive includes several gifts for friends and relatives..along with books I will probably pass on to them.  I think it works better for me.  Its still inexpensive.  I get months of enjoyment out of single shipments.  Secondly it allows me to be generous with my friends.

Do you use the public library system?  Do you have a good system for purchasing books inexpensively?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preparing for my Cruise....Jewels gallore

So I am leaving shortly for my cruise and preparing everything before I leave town.  Today I went to our local dollar store after buying a hot little number for our black tie event on the boat.  I figured I needed a few things to dress up my dress.  My daughter has ruined my collection of gold necklaces. I am waiting until she gets older to repair them or buy anything fancy.  Always the practical woman I wanted something that says I got money, something that I could wear places other than on the boat, something that would look nice with my practical little black dress, and something that costs under 10 dollars.  So I bought my first pearl necklace.  Well it's actually glass but I can't tell the difference.  I got it for a dollar.  I snapped a goofy picture of myself wearing it.  When I try it on with my outlet designer dress I will snap that photo and post it too sometime this week.

Now personally I am not a woman that is wowed by real jewels, there are some women out there that want everything to be real but I'd rather put my money elsewhere like in investments, into friendships, or self development.  But if you like real pearls...I won't judge you.


What do you think of my pearl necklace?  Does it look real to you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Delegating affordably

I always like to make my life easier.  I am after all a mother, a writer, a blogger, a wife, a mentor, a volunteer, a conference planner and a fund-raiser.  I wear a lot of hats and so finding a way to pass down tasks is real joy.  Particularly when you help someone else, by giving them experience or helping them learn. 

If you delegate well, you also help the other person that you regularly delegate too.  You could merely help them financially of course.  However the other way to help someone is to help them gain experience and mentor them while teaching them to do what you do.

I have met many women who are really down on taking student volunteers.  They require attention, and do a crappy job I was told repeatedly in graduate school.  I also had many successful student volunteers.  I would count anyone who stayed in my office and helped me get work done as being a successful volunteer.  If they came in twice or if they came in for a year I had a good experience.  I didn't overly train my volunteers though and I tried to offer them as much as they were offering me.

I was offering them clinical experience or research experience and in addition a letter of recommendation when requested.  They offered me countless hours of data entry and worksheet creation.  I think in order to get volunteers or even low paid staff, you have to offer them something.  You also should not start out providing 20 hours of training because you never do know who will stay and who will leave.  Volunteers are getting their feet wet.  Treat it (and them for that matter) like a win win and everyone wins.  Treat your volunteer like crap and they will most likely leave as quickly as possible.  I think a lot of those people who dislike volunteers or work study kids treat their volunteers like peons.

I don't have a lot to offer volunteers at the moment.  I am working from home, no longer for my university.  I don't have the same mind numbing data entry to hand off.  A letter from me, is not as valuable as it was when I was a graduate student.  So I don't take on volunteers at least not now.  When I need to delegate, I use services like fiverr, an online website that connects people who need little jobs done to people who do little jobs for 5 dollars.  You'd be surprised what people are willing to do for 5 dollars.  Secondly, if I meet someone who does something I need done regularly (dry cleaners, baby sitters, bakers) I inquire about their rates.  I have found people who'd trade services with me.  When they are reasonable, it tends to work out well.

When you find people who can do what you can't or would prefer to not do, then you have more time to focus on what you need to do.  I would really like to find a personal assistant one of these days. I can't afford that for now, but I certainly can afford fiverr's rates.

Do you know a secret to delegating affordably?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Part Time Jobs : the way to financial independence.

I've got a lot of hobbies and a lot of ambitions.   I end up finding that it is easier to do all my hobbies and work at my ambitions if I work two jobs.  I manage my schedule better with the stress and the curiosity of two part time jobs, than simply working one full time job.  If I can find a dream job that probably won't be the case anymore.  However when I work mostly to pay the bills it makes more sense to work two jobs....better yet to work two jobs that allow me to learn skills related to my interests or work one job that I find relaxing and one job that challenges me.  Financially it could make more sense to work at a job where you work over-time.  I am a mom who manages a household.  I guess I am not really interested/able to work more than 30 hours a week right now.

I've managed a comedy show, worked in a cafe, ran errands and worked a computer lab as second jobs. They were all relaxing social positions.  I would have probably done some of them for free, in fact the comedy show I managed after attending shows regularly.

I currently work two jobs and I've decided to use my income from my second job, which is only a few hours a week, to invest for my retirement.  It adds up to about 200 dollars a month.  My other job (my new job) is going to be used to pay my bills & expenses. If I earn over 1,000 dollars a month I will put the amount over 1000 (that's the amount I need to live) in a donation or savings account.

I think having the two jobs keeps my finances in perspective and sets me up with a budget one to live off of and one to save/donate.

Have you ever worked a second job?

We're taking a cruise!!!




All bets are off.  My partner, daughter and I are finally taking a vacation.  It is the first week long vacation that my partner and I have taken together.  We've been in school.  We had a baby.  We bought a condo.  We weren't finally positioned to take a trip without debt until now.  We elected to take a cruise on the Alantic ocean.  I am pretty excited.  I will get to cities that I haven't seen before.  Now we will be staying in cramped quarters.  We took the smallest room available with fold up beds, on a postively reviewed boat.  We read through hundreds of cruise reviews before making a final decision.  I've heard horror stories about cruises before and I didn't want that to be our experience so the reviews on Travelocity were important.

We made it even more affordable by chosing a Docking city that a relative lives in, the very famous NYC.  I will get to visit her a couple of days, she'll borrow our car (which means we won't pay parking), in addition she'll drop us off and pick us up from the dock.  So we won't pay parking, hotel or taxi fees. Our 7 day cruise was listed at 650 a person (since meals are included and reviewed as quite good) I figure this was a good price.  Once you include our daughter, travel insurance, & taxes the price actually came to around 2000 US.  Which is prior to the cost of gratuities and tour fees for the cities that we will see.  We figure it will be another 500 dollars if we chose frugal but good tours.  So 2500 is not really a cheap vacation but all considering it should be a great experience.  I am convinced it is a good way to travel with a baby.  She's half price on this boat (yes on some boats kids are free, but those boats traveling out of NYC at our time frame weren't very positively reviewed).  So we finally took the plunge.  I am pretty excited.  I think it will be money well spent.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Buying Stocks on Sale

In Canada we have this wonderful program called the Tax Free Savings Account.  We can contribute up to 5,000 dollars a year to this program and the interest, dividends, and reinvestments earned within that account are tax free.  We can use it for short term or long term savings goals.  It has been around for two years.  The first year I put it in a savings account and it serves as my emergency fund.  Its earned about 60 dollars in the last two years thanks to our low interest rates.  I am waiting for the interest rates to increase so that my emergency fund generates something.  The second year, I have been using it to invest in stocks for the very first time in my life.  I have a very limited number of mutual funds.  However because of the economy I was not interested in continuing to invest in Index funds.  The funds I invested in, in 1999, haven't grown since 1999  in fact they are 500 dollars than the purchase value.  I am not sure I will make more money than my mutual funds but lets face it, I cannot do much worse.

So I bought my first Canadian stocks, all of the stocks I purchased are dividend paying stocks, two are oil based and one is media based.  I have not really made money yet on my purchases. I jumped in slowly...buying roughly 2000 worth of stocks thus far on three different companies.  I used a free purchase promotion to buy them so I incurred no broker fees.  Spending 2,000 on stocks is a lot of money for me.  I would rather look at what happens and spend the last three thousand wisely.  I decided to wait for a good deal to spend the rest.  I have three companies and a couple of ETFs that I am considering purchasing.  I will probably only purchase two.  However I am going to approach my stock purchases, like I approach my shopping habits and wait for a good deal.

Today the stocks are down.  I am really curious if the stocks will be down through out september and October, maybe this a downward trend that can encourage me to finally jump in?  I hope so.  If any of my stocks....sink to their yearly lows during this time, those are the stock that I am going to purchase.  I am trying to remove all emotions from my stock purchases.  Its hard though.  I am a big fan of my money.  I want it to work for me, so that I can retire early and put my daughter through college one day.  In this market you have to pay attention, and spend wisely.  So thats my game plan to buy stocks on sale this october after a sizable dip.

What do you invest in and how do you decide when to buy in?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Took a Blogging Break

Last year, I tried an experiment and blogged everyday for basically a year.  I had several misinterpretations of my blog and changed my mind about the nature of my blog along the way.  I deleted my primary blog and took a long break from blogging.  I have been enjoying my hiatus and now I am wondering how I was working and writing on my blog everyday.  I won't be blogging everyday.  I won't be trying to make money blogging either...which was something i was trying to do with my former blog.

My life has totally changed in the interim, well not so much changed but my perspective.  I think before I was using an exorbitant about of time planning for my future and my families future.  I was also working at job where I was very unhappy.  I stopped working there and I stopped planning and worrying about the future.  I got two new part time jobs that are much more enjoyable.  They don't really pay the bills at the moment (and I am terribly over qualified)...but I saved up this nest egg and I am covering the difference with my savings at the moment.  I've been enjoying my life while not blogging.  I have been playing a bit more with my daughter, whose really enjoyable at her age. I got up to date on Dexter, True blood, Scoundrels and I've seen an exorbitant number of movies.  Movies and good TV shows are something that I really enjoy.  I stopped updating my CV and stopped networking.  I have been taking french classes.  I have just been taking a relaxing break from working a serious job.  I am pretty happy about taking the break.  I needed it.

I am still dabbling in my career options, and I have two upcoming possibilities, but I am trying to also just accept where I am at right now.  I think things will happen when they happen and if they don't I will live on less.  It's a nice place to be at.  These changes coincides with the purchase of my first home.  I really love my new house. So that's where I am at in my life right now....happy with a low income.

As for saving money.....or well living frugally.  Its become a necessity.  I am trying to live off of a salary of about 30 dollars a day...give or take 20 bucks.  So I am not really rolling in the dough.  However I  have this beautiful Husband who works full time and covers much of our living costs.  So I have to cover some of my food, my clothing, my shoes, and a few hundred in our mortgage payments.  We bought this house knowing that I may not be able to work (depending on childcare).....so if we lived on the basic minimums we could afford this house on his salary alone. Its something that I do recommend being able to live off one salary and using the other for extravagant things, saving, and investing.  It does mean living on less, in a smaller home and we are.  It also means we don't panic at this period of under-employment.

One of the coolest things I discovered with my low income is the access Montreal card.  I get free entry to the Jardin Botanique with that and use the metro to get there.  It costs nothing for an entire day of enjoyment.  The access Montreal actually give you free/reduced entry to a lot of things in Montreal.  It's not great for people who aren't from here but if you are......definitely pick one up.  I am still doing plenty of fun things inexpensively.  I will have to attach some photos and update you guys a couple times a week.

Do stay tuned.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Feel like I am waiting for something

I just started my new french class. I paid 250 dollars for seven weeks of courses and I do believe it will take my mid-intermediary level french to the next level, as long as I take initive and work a bit at home.  The course is located at the YMCA.   I am a big supporter of the YMCA.  The ones in Montreal are amazing.  The quality of everything they offer is surprisingly good.  I cannot comment on all YMCAs, but I have been pleasantly surprised by ours.

While I was sitting in my class though, after explaining who I was and why I was taking this french course to all the students, I realized that my life sort of feels still right now.  I feel like my life has slowed down so much since college.  Graduate school was pretty slow rolling and for the most part isolating.  I got my degree but I feel no different, and worse yet, not particularly better qualified for most jobs in my domain.  It feels like I am over qualified for so many positions and yet under certified for so many others.  I am dying to find a job that keeps me busy, social, allows to contribute to world, yet also brings in enough revenue that I can live well.


I am not complaining.  I am happy with my life.  I just feel so ready to start my career.  Hopefully this course is the final investment to give me a boost.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Spending Spree

My home is not finished yet.  It feels like having a child makes everything take 3-4 times as long to complete.  Its really frustrating.

However my home is finally coming together after some wisely spent dollars.

I've been spending a lot of money lately on my decorations, the upgrades, the multi-purpose furniture we need in our small but functional space.  I think the expenses have been well spent.  My home is finally starting to feel organized and so much like home.

Its my theory that you shouldn't cheap out on everything.  In fact I am sort of wondering why it took until now to buy things like nice blinds and paint.  I've cheaped out on everything until now, to the point that I have a little money to finally get some reasonable curtains and furniture.

I definitely spending more money than I am earning for perhaps the first time in my life.  It kinda hurts but its sort of invigorating too to spend the money that I saved up to make my home a home.   I thoroughly believe that you should totally spend some money on things you value you just save money on things that aren't that important to you.


Where do you spend your money?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A world of choices

It amazes me the number of choices that I make everyday.

I decide what time I get up, if I shower, where I work, if I have hobbies, if make friends, if I help others, or if I ignore others.  You decide if you make purchases too, and if you do decide to make a purchase today you decide where to go and how much to spend.  I have a lot of choices in Montreal for where to shop and related to that, I have a lot of choice over how much I spend on what I elect to purchase.


The idea that everything is a decision, is empowering to me.  You could decide to not shower or to not go back work.  It may not be the best decision but you can make it. You can even decide to like something or not to like something that you decide to do.

You can read this text and decide that I am interesting or you can read this text and look for errors in my writing or fault in my logic.  Its really up to you.

What did you chose to do, to buy, to eat, and to like today?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Air Filters

I worked for a while for a researcher who figured out that "run of the mill" air pollution can cause crazy things like heart disease, cancer, allergies, stroke, and lung disease.  Imagine that car exhaust and CO2 can cause you to get very ill or worse yet, die just by sitting in your own home.  Its enough to worry me.  If you want to read more about it look here.

I started reading about air quality while working for him.  It turns out air quality inside is worse than air quality outside.  You spend a lot of time inside and the comforting thing is that you can actually do something about your indoor air quality.  You can leave your windows open and you can use quality air filters.  These two small steps will go a long way.

Personally I use rabbit air filters.  I got a good deal on my air filter around christmas.  However I came across this advertisement for one at Future shop and it should be just as good Link.

Cheap girl wants to live a long and healthy life and part of living a long and health life is spending money to prevent poor health (on nutrition, housing and air quality).  You don't have to spend a ton of money on these things, but a little will go a long way.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Vuze

I really enjoy films.  I was using zip.ca.  However I got annoyed while waiting for the movies to arrive.  There were a lot of times where i wanted to watch a movie and one wasn't available.  Especially after I downgraded my membership.  The last month I subscribed I think i received a total of 4 movies.  It was not enough to justify the monthly expense.  


Occasionally I download movies and music for entertainment.  I know some people disapprove of doing it.  I do buy a lot of movies too.  I'm not opposed to paying for movies...but I have not found a service that I think it is what I am looking for in so far as convenience  So there's my excuse. I'm not going to debate the morals of illegal downloads. 


If you have downloaded movies you may see the disadvantages to doing so.  You expose your computer to potential viruses.  You also cannot play the movies that you download with the codac directly on your computer....nor can you easily burn them.  You either have to purchase software to modify it or you can try to use the free versions to do this, but I find the free versions take way too much time.  I  have purchased licences the last two years.  I tried one called ConvertXtoDVD.  It does a good job converting movies onto a DVD format.  However you cannot play it. 


I downloaded a software program called Vuze  for a little less money and I've been very happy with it thus far.  It allows to search for movies, burn DVDs if you want to, and watch the movies on your computer.  I very rarely burn DVDs now that I can watch the movies on my computer.  Its a lot cheaper than what I was doing before and its a better program (at least for my purposes).




If you download movies, what software and search programs do you use?









Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Investing

I've been wanting to invest for a while now.

Its been on the back of mind for a while.  However with the market in the present state, my interest is probably in stocks that supply high dividends in addition to be likely to increase in value.  If it continues providing dividends then I will make enough money even if the market keeps going up and down.  If it ever goes very high up then my stock prices should too.

Its my game plan anyways.  I bought my first stocks, canadian oil trusts.  I put it into my Canadian based tax free account, a cooler AND MORE FLEXIBLE version of a Roth IRA.

I would like to invest a little more money.  However I'm going to wait to see if there is a downturn in the market between now and October.  Cheap Girl loves a good sale.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gym Membership

I would like to join a gym.  I am just not sure at the moment that I have enough time to work out.  I should probably find the time.  It would be healthier.  Instead I work out by walking 10,000 steps everyday and playing on the floor with my daughter.  Its not ideal but with my family it is all that I have time for at the moment.

If I got serious about finding a gym these would be my tips to getting a membership, if you want a deal.

Firstly, I would look through the news papers and see what deals are presently being advertised.


Secondly I would call or visit the gyms that I was considering and ask if they were running any specials for memberships.


Thirdly I would look at the local YMCA and see if the prices are competitive.


Lastly I would evaluate the prices, the services offered, and the distance from my home or work in order to find the best deal. 


Do you belong to a gym and do you actually use the service?

July: Its time to stock up

Its the start of all the side walk sales in my area.  Its the time to stock up on summer and winter items.  Everything is on sale.  I bought a gorgeous ring for 40 dollars.  I bought my first set of dishes I ever purchased (set for 8), a nice glass butter case, a fold up rolling bag for grocery shopping on the metro, and stainless steal cooking supplies.  I purchased that all for 110 dollars quebec taxes included.  These items will go nicely in my new condo.

If you have been waiting to upgrade something in your home or to improve your wardrobe.  Its the time.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review of zip.ca

I joined zip.ca last friday and since then I got three movies in the mail.  I watched all three and mailed them back.  I then signaled to the website that I had sent back the DVDs and they have since sent me three new DVDs. I have not gotten them yet but then again they have not gotten my DVDs back yet either.  The first three were low on my priority list of things that I want to watch. I really liked one, Burn After Reading, it was not at all what I expected and a bit ridiculous but entertaining.  I really hated another, Thank You For Not Smoking, one of my girlfriends saw it in the theater and liked it, but oh man I just could not get into it.  I also watched Nanny McPhee which was cute.  These were all low priority for me, I probably would have never rented them at a normal movie store but then I would  have never saw burn after reading which I really liked. While my first set included low priority movies this set include titles that I am pretty excited to recieve. I like the mix.  I like seeing movies I would have never watched along with movies you are excited about. It gives you something to talk about with others.

I am watching as many DVDs as possible to really test out how fast you get DVDs during my free period.  I may continue the membership but may not depending on how useful it is for my family.  Thus far I really like it and will likely continue the service perhaps not at the current number of DVDs out a time, but I will probably I keep it up.

The nice feature as a parent, is there is no travel time.  My daughter won't scream in a movie store, or tear down a movie display.  I won't have to entertain her or buy crap refreshments for her.  I can add movies to my list in my free time, at midnight if I want, which is also nice.  I won't have late fees but the incentive to get another will probably allow a quick return time for me. The price for three DVDs out at a time is 24.99 a month plus tax.  Its like a night at the movies in montreal only this is way easier.  Plus since my partner and I speak different languages and therefore perfer to watch our films in different languages we can watch them in whatever languages
we want for the most part.  I can request a lot of french films too which will be fun for our family.  Overall I like the service. I wish the unlimited DVDs were a little cheaper....say like 10 dollars a month similar to netflix and I would really be sold.  However, 25 dollars a month is not bad considering all that I do get out of this situation.

Have you tried netflix or zip.ca?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

ZIP.ca

I joined zip.ca recently, the canadian version of netflix.  I have one month free to evaluate the service. Everyone can get 2 weeks free but you have to have a code, which many are floating around the internet to get the month.  Thus far I have liked the experience.  I joined Friday, and they claim to have sent my DVDs out that day.  They say the DVDs should arrive by Thursday at the latest.  You cannot get your favorite DVDs right away with Zip.ca unfortunately, but you can get DVDs on your list as long as your list holds 20 or so titles.  They also recommend based on your movie ratings movies you may like.

I am trying to figure out what sort of relationship I want with my media mostly for once I move. Zip.ca is one option.  I pretty much hate commercials and this way my TV shows can be on DVD rather than cable.  Here I have cable but we don't pay for it and I sort of hate the free service we have now.  The cable guy got in a fight with out building manager a year ago and we've had free cable every since. 

I wish I could get Hulu here, and I may try to once I buy my new computer because I plan on buying a MAC and I have heard that MACs are not detected as easily with the software that hides your location but for now with my current computer, Hulu is not an option.

I am going to go through all the options for media resources in the next couple of months and let you know what is my frugal choice for watching and reading media.

What do you use for your media?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Getting a deal on dancing lessons

I love to dance and work out.  Yet if you ever look at the cost of dance instruction it is super expensive.  So how can you affordably take a dance class. Well there are a few ways.

One is to look into your local YMCA to see if they offer classes.  Mine does offer excellent dance classes from ballet to Cha cha cha, but I have a hard time getting there since I had a baby.  They also offer yoga and pilates for about 40 dollars a month in membership fees.

The second is to scan your local newspapers for free dance class trials.  I think you should always try before you buy.  If you live a big city you could try multiple places before deciding.

The third is to negotiate with friends.  I had a group of 15 girlfriends who all wanted to take a striptease dance class together, for a alternative night out.  I know what you thinking, you are such a weirdo taking that sort of class.  Actually I found it very empowering and there was no nudity whatsoever.  Its more a skill that you learn in a studio and take home to your partner, than something that you do in a club.  Well it was so much fun and it costs us 10 dollars each thanks to the fact we did it together.

Lastly you can barter, offer your skill at ____ for a private dance lesson on craigslist or in a professional bartering club.  You'll be ballroom ready in no time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finding a deal on baby stuff

I have a bouncing one year old who is a real joy in my life.  However when I found out I was pregnant I was not sure what I thought about the situation.  I was not trying to have kids yet.  I was not sure I would ever be able to have children.  So when she came along, I made the decision to love her right away.   Yet I had little money.  I was a full time student.  My husband was inbetween jobs.  We were tight.

I figured I had nine months to sort it out so I placed a couple ads on craigs list asking for other people's left overs.  I paid for one set and got another set of stuff for free within a couple of months.  I did not beg I did not whine or give any one any details I just let people know that I needed baby stuff.

I also got a 500 gift certificate from a relative to Toys R Us.  I only used it when there was a killer sale on what I needed.  I had a long list and I had 3 months or so after getting the card to collect stuff. I had already gotten great used kids stuff from craigs list but I stocked up on a new play pen, a breast pump, a baby bath and a couple of other items ridiculously cheaply.

I watched the ads and found a baby mattress for 35 dollars from a local sale and the crib I got for free from craigslist.  I had everything I needed when my daughter arrived and in fact I did not need to buy clothes for 6 months or so. 

Buying new baby stuff is a real waste especially when they are a couple of months old.  Babies poop on everything and they grow out of stuff quickly.  I know many a parent who buys everything new and it is totally unnecessary and infact pretty wasteful because you end up with clothes she never wore, toys she never liked, and extra clutter.

I give stuff away on craigslist all the time now.  If you are expecting or know someone who is, you could use these tips and save a bundle.