Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Realm of Possibilities

I work very part time at a computer lab twice a week. The cool thing about that is that when no one is here is that I am allowed to watch movies.  So while I am writing this post today, I am also watching a movie I have been dying to see.  I love this position, both the fun things I get to do here and the students that I serve.

My position isn't glamorous.   It pays a few cents above minimum wage.  The perks though make this job a lot of fun.  If I had tried to find a job in my field or the closest job to my house, I would never have taken this position.  It's not ideal financially.  However most days I would hardly call my work here, work.

It can not be a long term career plan but it bides my time while I wait to find the right position.

I've mentioned a few times that I am looking for work that provides a little better income.  In the course of discussing my situation with a variety of people from government employment agencies to friends and colleagues.  I found out about several different opportunities from business grants to courses I could take. I am following up on each one of them while applying to various jobs that look like they may fit.

I had a job interview in a total unrelated field, with a job title that's not exactly impressive.  I applied to the position on a whim because it was offering the salary and schedule flexibility I wanted.  I doubted it was a good match but I've not heard back from many of my applications so I figured what the hell?  I was pretty excited to learn in the course of the job interview that the woman whose hiring, does as a consultant what I would like to do, but don't know how to earn enough money to make a living doing it.

I've had two job interviews with her at this point, both of which went very well.  I am a bit over-qualified in so far as degrees required.  However the benefit for me would be, that in a few years, when this woman retires, I could much more easily start my own business doing similar sort of consulting work.  I would know exactly how to do it.  I can't imagine a better way to start my business.  So I am waiting to hear back from her.  I am not totally sure I will get the position.

The interview though got me motivated.  I literally applied to this great position on a whim with out knowing how well suited to the position I was or how much I could learn.  Everything has its advantages you just have to be flexible and willing to see it.  So if your busy job searching like me why not broaden your search and reach out to recruiters or consider starting that side business you've been wanting to start.  It may just pay off.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My minimalistic weekly budget = $0

I got pretty motivated finding my brand new bookshelf and then filling it two days later with about 21 free books gotten from craigslist.  I decided to try to dedicate this week to getting things for free.    I can barter.  I can take items from the curb. I can use craigslist.  Whatever I do this week, I cannot buy anything with cash aside from food.  This week will come to an end next Wednesday, at which time I will share my bookshelf and anything else I manage to find that's of use to me.

I find it motivational because when you make up your mind to sticking to budget, you'd be surprised how creative you can be to get what you would like.  I've done this before actually before I had my daughter I placed an ad asking for gently used children's clothing or furniture.  I offered to pick it up around their convenience and I ended up getting enough clothing and baby items that I really had to barely purchase anything for my daughter her first year of life.  I didn't use a sob story.  I offered them a service free pick up of items they don't need anymore. 

There are sometimes that when I apply to free ads that I offer cookies and that tends to make people offering free stuff very happy.  You give a little and you take a little and everyone benefits.

So hopefully this week goes well, but if not I still have my bookshelf to show off.  I have more storage in my apartment.  I have more books.  We'll see whatelse I manage to acquire this week and what I end up giving back.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When life throw your lemons make lemonade.

My on call job hasn't called me to work for them in a month.  My lack of work leaves me on a very little budget.  I have been dying to make a few upgrades to my home.  The very top of the list at present is : I wanted to get a few dressers, a couple armoires, and a couple of bookshelves.  We need the dressers for the bedrooms and the rest of the furniture is for our family room.

I wanted my living area to focus on books and games rather than the television.  We also didn't have enough bookshelves for our current number of books.  

I was so happy to see on Thursday night when I took out the trash, that one of my condo neighbors threw out a new looking IKEA billy bookshelf.  I knew what brand it was because I bought one a few years ago.  The bookshelf set out to the curb was small enough that I could carry it in my house by myself.  Yet tall enough my daughter can't reach two of the shelves.  It was already put together too, another plus in my book.

After de-snowing and cleaning our new bookshelf.  I started stocking it.  I think it looks better full. I really needed more books in order to fill both shelves.  I have been waiting to order a few books from my favorite online retailer.  I had promised myself when I had finished reading 3 of my perhaps 8 unread books I could place another order.  I had finished reading the minimum number of books weeks ago, but I kept hoping that Gorilla Marketing would make it to my favorite retailer who sells books way below retail value.  It finally made it.   I placed an order for a couple audiobooks, and 13 books.  My order totaled 52 dollars with shipping/tax which was a bargain in my opinion.  I doubt it will completely fill my bookshelf so I was so happy to see on craigslist someone offering up about 12 mystery novels that I have never read.

I emailed her and she replied.  I went to go get them on Sunday.  They completed my beautiful shelf of books/games and toys.  Thanks craigslist, my book donor, and the local bookshelf trasher you've made the day of this under-employed blogger.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Changes are a Foot

I had a baby two years ago and have been struggling since then with the work/life issues many mothers face.  It's a little more extreme for me because I don't have family near by and I also don't drive.
It's been hard to find meaningful work that fits within my family's schedule.  My partner does shift work that varies week to week.   I cannot depend on him for daycare or transportation.

I thought I had solved my working issue a few months ago when I took an on call job.  My on call work which went well in the fall, hasn't called me in a month.  I'm starting to get frustrating and I am again looking for work.  I'm not quitting but something has to accompany it.  I cannot live off the limited and unpredictable income it provides.

There's a long list of what would make it easier to get a job, in my sector, in my city.   So I am putting together a plan of action.

A couple of days ago I went to office that provides free french classes for new immigrants.  I asked about the french classes, and I found out about the french classes which I will probably do part time in the spring, along with a few other courses that I can take through them that could help me get a better job.  I spoke about my issues with a friend, who explained to me an internships program that I could do, to start a business.   I've been looking at job ads and found one clinic that is offering 3 full time positions.   It's a little far for me and not in my area of interest.  I'm also not looking for full time work mostly because its hard to accommodate it with my partner's ever-changing work schedule.  However this job fits really well with my training, and since there are three jobs, for people with relatively specific training, something tells me if I wanted one of the positions I could have it.  So I decided that I am going to apply and see how flexible the scheduling could be and how well it will pay.  I found a couple of other part-time jobs that I am applying to this week.  I also pulled rank and contacted a director of a government agency, an agency who I would love to work for, that is making me jump through paperwork hoops that will take 6 months to possibly get on their on call list.  Its super annoying because after 6 months and 100 dollars to process the paperwork they require as a formality, they may not hire me. If her contact at work, works out I may be able to get a very ideal on call job and reduce the time frame of the paperwork required to get the position.  I am hopeful that I hear back this week about it.  I am going to go see an employment counselor this week.  Lastly I am applying to go back to school, it's my back up plan. So between the employment counselor, the internship program, several job applications, my contacts, and my upcoming french classes I think something should work out.  If all else fails, I will go back to school full time in the Fall for a two year program that will lend itself to more career opportunities.

I have a serious game plan.  What about you?  Is there anything you need to change to improve your financial situation?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ask and You Shall Recieve - Negiotation at its best!

Negotiating is a really important skill to living a good life. 

If you learn to negotiate with others you end up getting what you want in exchange for what you can offer.

You shouldn't just ask for something and not offer anything unless your really desperate.

I am going to give you a few examples of how I use these principles:

1.) A while ago I went to a spa and wanted to have a treatment done repeatedly.  The thing was it cost like 200 dollars per treatment and I didn't have the money for it.  The place was nearby my work, which had a pretty flexible schedule at the time.  I offered to come in at the last minute if she had a no show.  So she agreed and we settled on a price of 75 dollars per treatment.   Now she only called me twice but to me it was worth  it.  I offered to fill a spot where she'd have not had any customers, and in return I got a significant discount.

2.) I recently got someone to cover an upcoming shift for me at work, but then the appointment that I had, got rescheduled.  I wanted to work my regular shift but to get my hours back, so I offered my colleague first dibs on my upcoming shifts.  In return I also got offered first dibs on her shifts.  This worked out better than I had anticipated because not only did I get my shift back at work but I will also be able to get an extra one.

3.) I need toddler items for my daughter and I have a friend who needs girls clothes so I exchange my daughters gently used clothes for her gently used toddler items.  We both save money here and waste less.

So when you are going to ask for a discount the next time think about what you are offering the salesmen.  When you want an upgrade what can you give the hostess?  When you want an extra shift at work who can you barter with to get one?  What sort of items do you have easy access to that are valuable to others?

What's your best negotiation story?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Great inexpensive gift options.

Have you ever been broke and needed to send a gift to someone?  My favorite way to send gifts to someone when I can't afford to send flowers or use amazon is to send books with bookcloseouts.  Now book close outs is a canadian company but they process orders with the American dollar.  They provide very reasonable shipping costs within canada as well as to the US.  I love their 99 cent sales.  They are having one right now on calendars, including really nice page a day calendars.  If you wanted to send a gift to someone to let them know you were thinking about them, bookcloseouts may be the best (also most inexpensive way).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Netflix for Canadians

I am a movie fanatic. I like all genres of film except for horror.  I am not very interested in seeing movies in the theaters anymore.  If I go I have to hire a sitter, in addition to paying for the seat for me and my partner.  He always orders popcorn which ads another 5 dollars to the bill.  A night out easily costs us 60 bucks. It's too expensive to go out to the movies and honestly I prefer the experience at home.  The question is with all the options which one is best for my family.

I tried zip.ca which sends you DVDs by mail.  While I liked the service I wasn't totally satisfied.  Sometimes I just want to watch a comedy other times a documentary and you have no choice which item you get off your list, when they send you DVDs.  It wouldn't be so bad if Canada Post wasn't as slow as they are.  I was waiting a long time for my DVDs to come by mail.  So this means sometimes I would get a movie I didn't care to watch, return it and wait 1.5 weeks to get a new DVD to watch.  Its convinent but a little long for taste.

I tried blockbuster which I still like quite a lot.  Blockbuster has a movies pass for their favourites selection and its pretty good.  They've got films I consider new releases in their favourites section and I can pick amoung thousands of movies.  Secondly if you have a SPC card you can get popcorn with every rental.  I think thats a bargain for 10 dollars. 

The thing is that in the winter I don't want to walk to the local blockbuster so when Netflix was offering a free trial I was curious.  I waited for the snow and signed up.  Thus far I love it.  I can watch movies no matter where I go and I can always pick up where I left off.  I will probably alternate between blockbuster and netflix.  Blockbuster definitely has a better selection for canadians than netflix right now, but netflix is a lot more convinent.

What do you think about netflix, blockbuster and zip.ca?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Learning to Live without

I know a couple of people who want something different for their lives.  I imagine if you are reading this blog you'd like to live a good life and simultaneously improve your financial situation.  It's a goal that I have and for the most part, its the point of this blog.  I mean living inexpensively is great but I am also mindful of the fact that you never know how long you've got.  So I plan to live forever (investment wise) but live like I might die tomorrow (take time for myself & my family everyday).

Getting back to some of the people I know who want something different for their lives, in all of their cases they want something different to fall into their laps.  The chance of something like the lottery happening is pretty much non-existent. They have a better chance of dying on the road while driving to purchase the lottery ticket, than they do of winning on that lottery ticket.  There are other things that could happen hypothetically, a large inheritance for example or marrying a happy rich person....but again that happening is slim to none.   So the better thing to try is to make small steps to reach your goals and start today.  If you really believe in playing the lottery (don't let me stop you), but just don't put all your eggs in that basket.

If you have financial goals, the easiest thing to do is to learn to live without something.  If you go out to eat three times a week you could go out to eat twice a week a pocket the difference.  If you love coffee and go to starbucks, well make a gourmet coffee at home.  You could buy a timer so that you wake up to fresh roasted coffee and in a few months it would have paid for itself.  Starbucks is ridiculously priced, then again I am a rooibos kinda girl, so maybe I don't know what I am talking about in so far as coffee.  In any event, I still maintain that cutting one regular purchase, can give you a ton of money for your savings and investing goals.  This is something that really became apparent when I took my maternity leave.

While I went to graduate school I was working in a research medical clinic for around 35 hours a week plus I had classes and volunteer stuff I was doing.   Ultimately I found little time to cook, so I ate out a lot.  I don't eat out expensively, my typical lunch was 4 dollars and a typical dinner for me is around 12.  However the food court I went to for lunch was next to a clothing store I liked.  I only shopped in the clearance section so I did not spend a lot per item, but it all adds up, I approximate my expenses on that sort of stuff to be around 450 dollars a month.  Which maybe that is not a lot to you.  However that is like an ipod a month, or a large investment for me.  So even though I took a steep pay cut while out on mat leave, I actually was ahead financially because I had so few expenses.  I also stopped going to movies and comedy clubs.  It reminded me that maybe when I work I should work part time to be able to cook for my family and clean the house.  I don't think we're financially behind with that arrangement.  I learned to live without weekly trips to winners and eating out, which I maintained after returning to work.  Now that I started working at a new job that pays a living wage again, hopefully this means that now I should be ahead financially.

What about you?  What could you try to cut from your expenses to start reaching your financial goals?

Old Navy Sale 25% off clearance

I got an email this morning stating that Old Navy.ca is having a sale with 25% off their clearance merchandise if you use the code ONEXTRA25. Shipping is free if you spend 50 dollars.  At christmas time I had quite the bargain and got 3 sweaters and 4 pairs of pants for 50 bucks using their 5 dollar sale.  I don't really need clothing at the moment as a result, but if I did you better bet that I would use this sale to stock up on what I need through out the year.

My shopping spree

I have been stressed out lately...really stressed out.  My daughter's had the gastro and the breastfeeding which we had cut down on, is now on again at full force.  I have a sick close relative who's hopefully to be released today from the hospital, but we now know they are terminal.  Lastly I dislocated my shoulder again and was in emergency myself at the beginning of the week.  I had to call off work several times this week dealing with what is an over-whelming amount of stress for a young family like mine.

So today I went shopping.  I had a few items to get and I wanted a little time alone from my suddenly very needy toddler.  So I left her with her dad and off I went to our local dollar store.  The dollar store here is called Dollarama and its amazing the stuff you can find there.  I've heard the dollar tree it making it's way into Canada and I think atleast in Montreal they won't do too well. I do not recall the dollar tree offering anything as good as dollarama. 

I spent 20 dollars....got a big back worth of loot (gloves and hats) and relaxed.  You see, you can spend money to relax and not break the bank.