Routine

I’ve had a really hard time putting these thoughts on paper this time around, and I finally think I know why. This budget stuff has now become routine for us and well, it sure is boring to talk about your routine.

And, that’s why amazing vacation photos, decorated homes, and new cars fill our social media accounts every single day. We want to seem like we live the life unordinary. But, are we seeing the full picture behind these Snap chat filtered images? Do we see that Nancy’s account is in overdraft every week? Does John tell you that he paid for that vacation by using his almost maxed out line of credit?

No. Because we live our fantasy lives out by piling on the debt and then we pretend it isn’t there. Just like we pretend that we don’t poop. We all do it, it’s just not talked about very much.

The word debt is treated like one of those other nasty four letter words. Shut, Fork or the worst one of all, diet.

It shouldn’t be.

We need to talk about our money goals and be open with our friends and family. It’s easy to get in over your head when you’re trying to fit in with a crowd or when you try to portray a lifestyle that isn’t yours. Your budget spread sheet isn’t going to generate too many likes on your Facebook account, but, it’s open and honest and you may be surprised at how many people reach out with like-minded thinking but were too afraid to come forward.

I’m so happy we found Meghan. She works so hard to destigmatize money matters and debt. She’s open, honest and a wonderful tool to help you reach your money goals.

With Meghan’s help, we are on track to become completely consumer debt free by early next year. Car loans will quickly follow and the mortgage way faster than we ever dreamed. Our children are set up with an education savings plan, we have an emergency fund in place and we are saving for our retirements. I may not be buying the latest Coach purse or the kids don’t have every single new toy that comes out, but, that’s ok. Our ordinary life is ok.

You won’t hear from me for a while but thanks for tuning in the last few weeks and I promise, I’ll write an update as we meet goals. And please, let me know when you reach your goals too! I promise, I’ll give them a like.


Back to School

My kids are creatures of habit and they thrive on routine. Well, admittedly, they must take after their mother, because I need routine and structure too. I love back to school. I consider it my New Year and may consider adopting party hats and noise makers to celebrate. So, with only a few more weeks until the kids hit the books my thoughts have turned to back to school shopping…on a budget!

Every year, I hit the stores and just buy what I think the kids will need. I don’t take inventory of what they already have or what I think they’ll need. I’m doing things a little differently this year.

My first priority is going to be a good backpack. The Pokemon and Elsa bags lasted such a short period of time before zippers were broken and I had to resort to sending my son to school with a Metro bag. I am going to splurge on their backpacks and also make sure that they have good back support. Those bags get heavy!

Shoes. Ugh. Between, indoor, outdoor, daycare, rain boots and winter boots I rack up points at the Shoe Company like nobody’s business. The kids put a lot of miles on those little feet. I’m going to keep with the good shoes for indoor and outdoor and probably buy a cheaper slide on pair for daycare since they’re only there an hour a day for after school care.

Supplies. Instead of buying what I think they’ll need, I’m going to wait for the teacher list. I remember one year buying a pencil case but then having to go out and buy another one due to the specifications of the teacher. Who knew there were pencil case specifications in the first grade?

Clothes are where I’m having my dilemma. Every year I insist on buying my son jeans, and he doesn’t wear them because he claims that he can’t run fast in jeans. He also says that they hurt his…well…I’ll let you fill in the blanks. So, I’m going to get him athletic pants and maybe a pair of khakis for days where he has to dress nice.

Do you go for the name brands that they love though and buy less or do you hit up a chain store and save money?

On one hand, I know that if I buy the brand, he’ll get more wear out of the item but on the other, I can probably save a ton of cash by going generic. The other thing that bugs me is the image of the school lost and found at the end of the school year. The clothes that were in that pile! Unbelievable. I don’t think they’ll take better care of the item because it’s brand name, judging by what was in the lost and found so do I want to take that chance of them losing expensive Under Armour sweatshirts? Do I just tie them on to the kids with duct tape in the morning? GPS? On the clothing of course, not the kids.

Finally, do I take the kids with me to shop so they can pick out their own stuff? It would save meltdowns in the morning of them having to wear things that they don’t like. However, shopping with the kids may result in a bigger mom-sized meltdown.

And really, nobody wants to see that.


Jazz Hands

On occasion, my husband has been known to tickle the ivories. No, pervert, get those thoughts out of your head. He’s a pianist. That doesn’t sound any better. He plays the piano. There, he plays the piano. On his birthday he was the proud recipient of a 71 key, electric piano. He loves that thing. It’s mobile, so he can take it to his jam sessions with his buddies. It makes all kinds of noises and lights up like a space ship. It does everything but the dishes. What this new-fangled toy also did was relegate his century old upright to something that collected dust and took up room, a lot of room. What to do?

The piano held a lot of sentimental memories for him but really it wasn’t worth anything else. It was getting expensive to tune and needed to be done all the time. There are free pianos posted all over Kijiji for those willing to move them. We knew from experience how expensive it was to hire someone to move it and we weren’t willing to let someone hurt themselves trying to move the damn thing or destroy my house in the process.

And so, we took a sledge hammer and beat the shit out of it. Sparks flew, wires ricocheted, it was tremendously noisy and oh so satisfying seeing the piano blown to smithereens. And yes, my husband may have shed a tear or two and raised a glass to the damn thing when it was all over.

The piano destruction had me thinking a lot about perceived value. What makes something valuable and who decides if it’s valuable or not?

Besides being a musician, my husband also collects comic books (Nerd *cough*). I asked him, why he was hanging on to them and he said that he was hoping the value would go up. But, who decides what they’re worth? A Comic Book Guru sitting in Nepal? The same goes for something like Beanie Babies? Who decided that they should be worth money? Are they still something that people collect? All of a sudden are they worthless because someone decided they weren’t valuable anymore?

I have a hard time wrapping my head around collections and the inherent value in stuff. I remember when I was getting married, I got in an argument with my future mother in law over china. Yeah, those fancy dishes that sit in a cabinet and do nothing. She thought I should be registering for them. I absolutely refused. They’re just things to me and useless things at that. I don’t get emotionally attached and I don’t associate my worth to what I have stored in a china cabinet. Memories, adventures, travelling and experience are what hold value to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s wrong to value objects. You do you, and I’ll do me. It’s what makes life interesting. We all walk to the beat of our own drum. Or in this case, piano riff.

What makes something valuable to you?   


Husky Lasers

Here we are. Back from holidays and I think I need to detox. I’m bloated from eating too much salt and my wallet is thin from all the exercise it got last week. If you’re going on holidays, double your budget. Now. Just do it.

We flew into Ottawa for a week to visit family and to have some time to relax and have some fun with kids while they’re on summer holidays.

We were initially set to depart on Sunday but our flight was cancelled due to crew problems. Of course, I caused a big stink and ended up with vouchers for food and flights and a very embarrassed husband.

We arrived finally mid-day on Monday and decided to hit the Bayshore shopping centre since it was on our way to our destination and I thought it may be a good source for an affordable lunch. My jaw dropped at our $45 bill for food court fare. We looked around for a while to see if we could find any back to school deals. I ended up with a discount Jo-Jo Bow for my daughter and a visor for my son that he absolutely had to have and my husband got a new hat. Gulp. That was another $90 down the drain.

A road trip to Trenton on Tuesday cost us over $100 in gas and of course about $40 in car treats. The car treat expense was well worth it though. If the kid’s mouths were full, they were quieter.

Wednesday resulted in more visiting and a surprise date night that we weren’t going to give up. Movie tickets set us back another $40.

Thursday. My parents wanted to take the children for some grandparent time so I dragged my older petulant child, otherwise known as my husband into the city for some much needed clothes shopping. My husband hates to shop. He wears t-shirts that come out of a bag and jeans. He doesn’t feel the need to expand on his wardrobe. However, his pants had seen better days and those Hanes t-shirts he was wearing had the disgusting deodorant armpit rings so I put my foot down and dragged him to the outlet stores. I got mad and left him in a store once. A sales associate called him husky and another told him that her grandpa had the same pair of shoes that he picked out. He ended up with some things which I was happy about, but then he put his foot down and demanded a beer after his ordeal. I didn’t dare tell him it wasn’t in the budget.

Friday had us playing laser tag. My daughter is too little to wear the laser pack so I wore the target and let little kids shoot me while she yelled “pew pew”. $50 for a 15 minute game.

Since we were so obviously and painfully over our weekly allowance budget I had to get creative in my accounting. We have an account set aside for kid’s expenses. The few items we bought for the kids came out of that account. My husband’s clothes came out of our slush fund and the remaining vacation overture expenses came out of our fun account. We didn’t go crazy and yet the dollars spent added up so quickly. We didn’t add to any debt which is a win and I think I made good choices on which accounts paid for what items, but it’s easy to rob Peter to pay for Paul. Meaning, it’s easy to drain one account and find yourself in a deficit later when those funds were supposed to pay for a future expense. I wonder what Meghan would say about my week? Would she approve? Would you have handled it differently?

We have another week of vacation planned for August and I’m going to start socking away as much as I can in anticipation for the added expense. And Ikea. There’s always room in the budget for Ikea.    

Ups, Downs and a Freakin' Mountain

Tomorrow, I’m running in the Matterhorn event. As part of a team, we need to run up Mount Baldy twelve times to make the equivalent distance of the real Matterhorn.

Practice was tough. You had to work really hard to control your breathing early on in the climb or you struggled more on your way to the top. Once you reached the summit, and had a chance to catch your breath, the way down seemed like a walk in the park compared to your recent struggle.

When we met with Meghan to discuss our budgeting goals, I mentioned to her that beefing up our emergency fund was really important to me, she probably thinks I’m all kinds of practical but the truth is that I have an ulterior motive.

I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease about a year ago. Something weird and rare called ITP. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, in case you’re one of those Science-y people. It’s a platelet disorder which prevents me from clotting like normal people. Depending on my platelet level, I could have serious bleeds from cutting myself, or could be at risk for internal bleeding in the event of a fall or car accident. I’m not allowed to take things like Aspirin, Advil, drink tonic water or alcohol but For the most part, the disorder doesn’t affect my day to day life and most people don’t even know about it and my husband loves that he always has a designated driver.

But, one day, I may not be fine. If my platelet levels drop too low, I will need to undergo treatment to bump them back up. It could result in hospital stays and loss of work.

Which brings me back to the mountain and our budget. See how I did that?

By controlling our spending now, budgeting and preparing our emergency fund we may miss out on a few things now but our struggle won’t be as fierce in the event that I need to be off work for a while. Or, if heaven forbid my husband or kids get sick. A set back like that could be catastrophic to our finances and credit if we don’t face the fact that stuff happens and life can sometimes kick you in the seat of the pants.

By preparing ourselves for an emergency, we can concentrate on what needs to be done at the time, rather than worry about trying to make ends meet. The descent won’t be a walk in the park, but it’ll be better than rolling back down, arms thrashing and hoping to hell that you gain your footing along the way.

And tomorrow? I’m going to climb that stupid mountain and when I get to the top, I’m going to take a minute to enjoy the view and the moment and try my hardest not to pass out.      

Explosions + Sh*t

Here we are rounding the plate of week 2 on a budget and I took the day off to prepare and pack for an epic weekend of camping. To be honest with you, my idea of camping is more like staying at the Holiday Inn, but I'm trying to be a good sport about the whole thing. Until the bugs start biting and then I'll start whining. 

 

This week was a challenge to get through because of all of the camping expenses and supplies that I had to purchase. We had paid for the camp site through a special "fun money" account that we had so it didn't come out of our weekly allowance but I didn't want to dip into that any more than necessary. I worked hard to see if I could use our weekly allowance not only for our regular living but also for our camping expenses.

I had a few speed bumps along the way but I made out like a rock star with a few tricks. 

I paid very close attention to my weekly grocery shopping trip and spread out the groceries I did purchase by making larger meals at night and then packing leftovers for our lunches. This cut down on expensive lunch meats and extra produce that I usually purchase. We topped up vehicles from last week so that our gas bill wasn't huge.

 

In anticipation of purchasing beer for the weekend, an added expense that we don't normally buy, we collected all of our empties and made a trip over to some family member's houses and collected their empties too. With a little bit of work, we managed to cut our beer store trip down to $8.95. 

 

I was getting cocky at this point and was super proud of how much money we had left over for the week. I was quickly brought back to reality though when a foul odor hit me in the face when I got home from work on Tuesday. Through tepid investigation, I found it. A large deposit on the basement floor that resembled something from the black lagoon and spread about 6 miles in diameter. I also found a very sheepish looking Basset Hound. Sigh. I was a little worried about this turn of events and decided to call the vet all the while worried about what this would do to my weekly allowance. I explained the situation over the phone to the vet and since we had already been for a regular check up in the spring they didn't need to see him again for an assessment. All I had to do was collect a sample for testing to rule out any parasites. I was pleasantly surprised at my $36 bill and our prescription for some Pepto Bismol.

 

Yes! I had $250 left for my camping supplies. I was going to make it! Until someone suggested that we all purchase a few fireworks to bring out to celebrate Canada's birthday. I started to sweat. Fireworks? They weren't in my budget. But, if I didn't buy any I was going to look like the fun police on Spring Break. I looked at all angles of this problem and finally found a solution. I bought a modest kit of fireworks and planned to use the Points on my PC card to make up for the difference in cost! Perfect. Until I got up to the cash at the Superstore and discovered that the points system was offline and I wasn't able to redeem. Nooooo!! I had to whip out my debit card to make up for the $22 I was short in cash. 

 

Now, anyone else would say, $22 off, that's amazing. Good job! Not me. I obsessed about this $22 until I remembered that we had $20 and change left over from the prior week's budget. I grabbed that cash and deposited right back into my account.

 

I made it and I didn't add to our debt or line of credit at all, like we would have a few weeks ago. It's a great feeling to know that the $500 I put on our line of credit today actually went to paying down the debt. 

 

And, with a little planning, I can watch the kid's happy faces when they see those fireworks, guilt free. 

 

Happy Canada Day! 

Week One ✅Complete

So, apparently debit cards aren’t a gateway to an endless pit of money and overdraft isn’t just another $3000 that you have in your account to spend. Imagine that!

Week 1 of living our new budget conscious lifestyle saw us on a cash only diet.

The cash would have to cover groceries, gas, field trips and our daughter’s birthday party. Could we make it to the end of the week without running out of money first?

We made our weekly withdraw on a Friday night. Meghan warned us that Friday may not be the best day to take out our cash because the weekend loomed ahead with much temptation. We heeded the warning and forged ahead though. We are a 9-5 family and the weekend is when I need to prepare for the week by grocery shopping and errand running. To avoid temptation I decided to picture Meghan sitting on my shoulder wearing devil horns and waving a pitch fork.  She’s pretty scary.

My husband and I divvied up the cash with much debate back and forth but we settled on our weekly allotments of cash without anyone losing an eye. So, I saw that as success.

I had been spending close to $250/week on groceries and so I planned for that amount at the grocery store. When I hit the checkout my jaw dropped. My bill was $150 including party supplies. How could that be?

We both topped off our tanks and spent half of what we normally did at the pump. What the heck?

We had time to relax at home over the weekend instead of running all of the earth like crazy people. What was happening?

I’ll tell you what happened.

We took some time and planned. I looked through my cupboards to check on what I did and didn’t have before grocery shopping and I made a meal plan for the week. We filled up our vehicles before the empty light flashed its manic warning at us and we stayed at home more since we didn’t have the cash to be throwing it around town like Vegas party girls. Best of all, my five year old declared that her birthday party was the best one that she had ever had.

On the following Friday we pooled the money we had left over from the week and were surprised that we still had $70 and all of our eyeballs. I also didn’t have any stab wounds from Meghan’s pitchfork.

We were in control and I liked it. Follow along and I’ll fill you in on the ups, downs and pleasant surprises of the budgeting process. Meghan’s created a monster.

The Colour Red

Red can be a smoking hot colour. A sexy dress, roses, killer heels. It’s not so great to see in your bank account every week and man, let me tell you, we were seeing red. A lot.

Where was our money going? We don’t live a lavish lifestyle full of margaritas and Mercedes. We live more of a “McLifestyle”. Fast, not very fancy, but comfortable.

My husband and I have good jobs and steady pay cheques, we save for our retirement and kid’s educations. We never miss payments. So why was our debt growing faster than Persian sales in Thunder Bay?

Enter Meghan.

Meghan’s first word to us was foreign and we needed google translate. Budget.

Budgeting! Of course. We weren’t budgeting. Why did we need to budget when we had money coming in every week? Well, it turns out this is why our debt was growing. Simply, we were spending more money than we were making.

But how could this be?

We had previously been working with a financial planner, but didn’t receive help directing us as to where our savings should be allocated and how much. And so, I guessed how much money should go into these accounts. I didn’t have a budget.

I grocery shopped at places like Walmart and used coupons and price matched. I bought stuff on sale. I didn’t have a budget.

We ate out but never at fancy restaurants. We went to movies and bought stuff for the kids that they needed, but we packed our lunches every day and didn’t buy take out coffee. I didn’t have a budget.

We were doing everything right, so it seemed, but we were growing debt because we didn’t have a budget.

We enlisted Meghan’s help and have come up with, you guessed it…a budget.

So, yeah. I thought this budgeting thing would suck, but you know what, with Meghan’s help it’s been easy and to top it all off, there’s been a ton of wonderful stuff that’s been happening since we took control over our money, but that’s for another post. In the meantime, my bank account is in the black and I’ve never been happier. 

Meet Erin!

Client Confidential.jpg

I want to introduce you to someone. She's a wife, mom, works full-time, trying to balance it all and has a great sense of humour. She's probably a lot like you. 

 

Meet Erin.

 

Erin is a client of mine that has offered to share her family's journey over the past few months. We started working together on her families $$ a few months ago and she's been documenting her experience. Now we are collaborating in unfiltered story-sharing. She talks successes, hard moments, devil-pitch-fork-shoulder-Meghan, climbing mountains... SO MANY THINGS. You're not going to want to miss out on a single post. There's even one where she calls me a sucker.

This blog series launches next Tuesday (August 7th) and we will be releasing new posts every Tuesday until we aren't :) 

Please join me in welcoming Erin to the blog