Tuesday, January 27, 2009

it happened

Yup. It happened. I went and turned 30.

If someone had told me when I was 20 that I would spend my 30th birthday doing chemistry homework and going for a 17.5km run, I would have punched that someone square in the face. Then I would have sat back down on the couch to my meal of smokey barbecue Doritos and peanut butter m&m's, and spent a good day trying to conquer the legend of Zelda on SNES. My how times have changed. I also renewed my drivers license (now you're not allowed to smile for those pictures either!), had brunch with my sister Pamela, and had a good talk with my sister Emily, calling all the way from London.

We had a great soiree on Saturday night, packing our apartment with party goers ranging from almost two, to almost 62. The almost two year old was a great help in showing us all the simple joy in blowing out birthday candles and playing with helium balloons. We had a great tea party spread including mini cheddar and green onion scones with roasted red pepper and cream cheese in the middle, little canapes with chickpea mash and sliced radishes on top, and mini veggie Jamaican patties. Several varieties of dainty tea sandwiches cut into little wedges (no crusts obviously - my good friend Kimmie took care of eating them. Waste not!): egg salad, cucumber, roasted miso glazed tofu with roasted red pepper and spinach, to name a few. We also made pizzas and cut them up into little squares to fit the theme.

And the food that other folks brought was pretty spectacular too, from potstickers to cream puffs to home made crackers and cheese to strange little marzipan pigs to mini cupcakes. Oh so good. And (save for a few of the pigs) there was practically nothing left at the end of it all.

I made pink lemonade/vodka/soda cocktails which I served from my teapot, and my friend Chris made an insanely good celebration cocktail with champagne, soda, and St. Germain. Paul used the left over St. Germain to whip up a few (several) rounds of tasty shooters which came out towards the end of the night (after the almost two year olds and almost 62 year olds had left). Best of all, those who had been threatening to bring copious amounts of Jagermeister respectfully left it at home. Maybe my counter threat of making them do shots of Robitussin were heeded.

Red wine was spilled on the carpet, glasses were broken (not the good ones - we kept those locked away), and I'm pretty sure a new romance may have been sparked. All in all a great party!

I got some great gifts, the very best being a list sent to me by my sister Emily of 30 favourite fond memories / things she admires / things she thinks make me kind of unique, and my SIL Camilla sent me 30 text messages over about 24 hours with her 30 favourite memories of us together. Just goes to show the best things in life are free. Adding another Le Creuset piece to my collection was pretty sweet too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

week three report

Okay, so you know when you're on a diet and you have a few drinks on a Saturday night and then all of a sudden that order of poutine seems like a great idea and you blow all of your careful calorie counting? A similar thing happened with the money diet this week.

Sunday morning I headed out for my long run, and having learned my lesson the week before, stopped to buy some gels. And Sunday night is treat night in our house, so obviously I had to buy some Ben and Jerry's. On Tuesday I dropped some cash on a new terra cotta pot for re-potting my ailing jade plant. It had better start getting healthy in it's new home! Little bits and pieces were spent through the week, I can't remember exactly on what, but I do know that come Friday I had only around $20 left in the weekly fund. I ditched out on work early on Friday to do some shopping for ingredients for the upcoming birthday festivities, and spent very nearly every penny of the remaining weekly money, the spend on anything monthly money, and (here is where the cheating begins . . . just one fry won't hurt, will it?) $30 I got from returning a text book. That worked out to quite the spread, but I'll save the details for another post.

The soiree was fabulous (again, another post) and good times were had by the many, many people who packed into our apartment. A handful of us headed downtown as the festivities were winding down, and I made an inebriated grab for that moolah (poutine, full order just for me) I got from selling my accessory pack last week. Meh. So there. I done cheated. On my 30th birthday party. Sue me.

The very good news is that a) a new week is beginning, and I'm not going to let a relatively minor slip up ruin the whole diet, and b) many of the very generous people who stopped by last night gifted me with bottles of wine and other assorted hooch. I don't think we'll have to buy a bottle for at least a month, maybe more. That'll really help me stay on track, and maybe tuck a little away into the slush fund.

Tomorrow I will be 30.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

is it worth it?

I've been planning all along to take a summer class this year in May/June to take advantage of the free tuition credits that are a part of my benefits package. But I've been feeling right burnt out about school and the thought of a condensed summer course is just horrific right now, so I did some more thinking about it. Here is what I came up with:

Yes, taking a summer course and getting that one last course out of the free tuition credits would save me around $500. It would also prevent me from teaching several courses on contract that would earn me potentially thousands (above and beyond my full time job). Hmm. Save $500, or earn thousands, pay off debt, save for school in fall when I have no full time job, pay for wedding, save for future.

I've made my choice.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

week two report

Week two wasn't quite as thrifty as week one was, and I didn't manage to bank anything into the slush fund, but I'd still call it a success. I managed to get all the way to Thursday without cracking into the weekly $60, and being that Thursday was the hump day of what was turning into a pretty meh week, I felt like a couple of Thursday night bruskis, so picked up a six pack on my way home. I also went out and got the ingredients for my $10 lunch date on Friday, which also included some pilfering from our fridge since I blew $9.11 on specialty cheese for our gourmet grilled sandwiches (they were gooood). A few bucks on dish soap, and renting two DVD's (for the price of one thanks to the awesome coupon pack we got as a Christmas gift from my parents) saw me with $30 remaining on Saturday evening. Paul and I agreed to pool our resources and get some gourmet dinner ingredients and a nice bottle of wine. We made an incredible home made basil linguine (I freaking love my new pasta rollers, also a Christmas gift) with a simple but incredible tomato basil sauce, and had a young but great bottle of Portuguese wine ($40). We did not budget for the bottle of white wine necessary for the pasta sauce, so I cracked into the $100 spend on anything monthly money for the first time, but that bottle will last us a while for sauces and risottos and the like.

This coming week will be a challenge since I've got a birthday coming up. I figure the remainder of that monthly $$ will go towards hooch and ingredients for the little soiree we're throwing on the weekend. This week I also sold an accessory pack I had for my mixer that I never use for $100. I'm contemplating throwing that money on the birthday pile too. I know it's breaking the rules, but I figure if ever there was a time for rule breaking, it should be on a girl's 30th birthday. We'll see.

I did also teach a big course last Sunday, and after I had paid a second instructor and paid off my out of pocket expenses for that and a future course, I had $300 in my pocket. I am paying 5.2% interest on my line of credit, and earning 3% on my tax free savings account, so I figured that the split should be 2/3 debt repayment, 1/3 savings. I paid off $200 on the line of credit, and banked $100 in the savings account. That is going to be my strategy with extra money coming in. Lastly, I paid off what I hope will be my last big Mastercard bill. Now that I'm using it only for gas, groceries, and business expenses (which get paid off right away) the monthly bill should be significantly less than what it has been. I do face some expenses shortly though, having to renew my class 4 drivers license next week, and there is the matter of purchasing a wedding dress, which needs to be taken care of by mid February.

Okay, I can't put the long run off any further. Off I go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the list book

I was doing some tidying in my home office this week, and found an old notebook shoved into the back of a drawer. I couldn't remember what was in it or why I'd stashed it away at all. It is a pillow book (inspired by the 1996 movie of the same name) where I (and some of my friends of the time) wrote all kinds of lists. I got a good laugh reading through most of them. This one in particular (dated 1998):

Luke, Dad, and Mister's list of words or expressions that should be drinks:

-A Good Shag

-Lady of the Night (aka the Pink Prostitute)

-Headboard Handlebars

-Monica Lewinsky

-Fart Putty (shooter)

-Assfucker (very expensive drink)

-Sweaty Thighs (has salted rim)

-Sweatshop Factory

-Son of a Bitch

-Robert Miles

Luke, Dad, and Mister were all nicknames. I'll let you guess which one I was. The only drink we ever actually made was the Pink Prostitute. It went something like this:

1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 tsp grenadine
Shaken over ice

I'll put the challenge out there to invent (and make me) the rest of them for my birthday. After all, my 30th is just around the corner. I'm particularly intrigued by Headboard Handlebars.

Friday, January 09, 2009

week one report

The $60 money week goes Sunday - Saturday. It's Friday morning and I still have $40 in my wallet, and I haven't dipped into the monthly fun money either. I spent $20 at the Canucks game on Sunday (tix were a Christmas/birthday gift from my brother to my sister and I) on beer and snacks. Today I'm going to pick up some UBC Farm eggs that are back on sale in the SUB (just in time!), and Saturday night we're going over to my parents for dinner to teach my mom to use the pizza stone and peel we gave her for Christmas, so free meal for us. Of the $30ish I'll still have on Saturday, we may spend a bit on some hooch to enjoy after dinner with the parents, but then we'll have some wine there and I've got to get up early on Sunday anyways, so we may not.

On Tuesday I bumped into neighbour and fellow oenophile Liminal Me (who learned that you should look before you lip off the person honking at you, they may just be offering you a ride home ;) !!) who had read about my spending plan and asked if that $60 per week includes wine. Yup. But don't think I'll be lowering myself to drinking plonk. If I want to drink something really nice on the weekend I'll just have to be more careful about where that $60 goes during the week. Paul is also trying out the spending plan, so collectively we have $120 per week. We can combine forces and do pretty well, me thinks. We've also been exploring some less expensive (under $20) wines from the old world, and there are some gems for sure.

Paul and I have for the first time started talking more openly and frankly about our spending and saving plans, which is a good thing. The first conversation got pretty tense and ended in tears, but now the air has cleared and the cards are on the table and we're working towards a common goal. Our finances are very much separate, we have no joint account or anything at this point. I pay the bills, he sends me his share via email money transfer. I take care of the big once a month grocery shop of staples and household items, he takes care of the once a week produce and perishables. He spends slightly more on food than I do, but he eats waaaaaaay more (endurance athlete = 6000 calories a day). It has worked for us thus far. So I said that at the end of the week whatever money I had left over was going to go into a slush fund for clothing and gifts. We talked about instead splitting that money up. Half will go into a personal slush fund for whatever we deem it, and the other half will go into a joint slush fund for things like vacations and wine to cellar.

Like a food diet, when you're on a money diet your success depends somewhat on the support of those around you. If people help you cheat, it doesn't help in the long run. I was talking to a friend yesterday and setting up a time for a business meeting (watch out SAFE, watch out LIT, CPR First is coming to get you!!!) and he suggested that we go to one of our favourite Indian restaurants. I explained how I was on this money diet and the restaurant may be out of my price range, and he replied that he wasn't on a money diet, so he'd just pay. That's not the point. I don't want people around me to feel like they have to cough up just because I'm doing some belt tightening. So we agreed on a $10 date. We'll either spend a max of $10 each on ingredients and make a killer lunch together (my grilled sandwich maker may be called into action) or we'll combine our dough and go somewhere that we can eat for $20 or under. I'm rooting for option 1. Although I do have a coupon for the a fore mentioned Indian restaurant, so it may work out as a part of option 2.

Now to hit the books.

Oh, and the holiday fat is nearly gone. I stepped on the scale this morning and four of those five lbs have vanished. Horray!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

spending plan

I don't know if you're supposed to work out a savings plan before a spending plan, but I figure getting my spending under control will be the first step. Once spending is under control I should be able to figure out how much I have available for debt re-payment and savings, without feeling deprived or having to dip into savings or depend on credit card use because I've over extended myself.

The plan:

I'm going to continue using my credit card for gas and groceries (groceries do NOT include specialty foods or treats) because they are fairly constant and I can earn airmiles on those purchases. I always pay of my credit card in full each month, never every carrying a balance (even if it sometimes has meant dipping into that line of credit), and will continue to do so (without dipping).

I am going to give myself $60 cash each week for day to day spending including any specialty food items, treats, wine, coffee out, etc. I am also going to allocate $100 cash each month for 'fun money' which I can blow on anything . . . drinks out, contraban, what have you. When on a food diet I've always believed that planned indulgences help keep you on track the rest of the time, so I don't see why a money diet would be any different. This $100 that I don't have to be accountable for is my indulgence money. Any cash remaining at the end of the week or month I am going to stash away in a fund for clothing and gifts.

The point is not to feel deprived, but to have some control and awareness of my spending. I'll try this out for a while, and re-evaluate.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 - trimming the fat

The holidays are dunzo, and I trepidaciously stepped on the scale this morning to assess the damage. Miraculously, I appear to have only gained 5lbs. I'm not sure how that is possible with the copious eating and drinking I packed in, and the sorrowful lack of exercise due to snow and sickness, but there it is. Hopefully it'll go away quickly and my fitness will bounce back, cause that 1/2 marathon ain't getting any farther away.

But that is not the fat I speak of trimming. I am speaking of the money fat. I want to eliminate my consumer debt, increase my savings, and generally learn to manage my money in a more balanced manner. I am working my way through the Smart Cookies book, and I'll share my successes and slip-ups here so I am accountable to the blogosphere. Additionally, I'm thinking of trying to form a ladies money group so that, much like a weightwatchers weigh in, there will be a group to report to, be accountable to, and help each other along.

So now it begins . . .

My financial fears:

1. I do okay paycheque to paycheque (supplemented with the courses I teach on the side, otherwise I would not be able to make ends meet some of the time), but I don't have any reserve to deal with something unexpected, like a car repair.

2. My full time employment ends in just less than six months. I'm afraid I won't be able to earn enough or save enough to support myself and pay for school next year without going into the hole. I've also got to come up with money to pay for some of our wedding this summer.

3. I'm afraid I won't be able to save enough for Paul and I to buy a home down the road.

A money blunder I've made:

Paul and I moved in together effectively tripling what I was spending per month on housing, food, bills, etc. I had some savings which I blew through buying furniture for our apartment, and a down payment on a new car. I was not in any way living within my means, and quickly racked up around $3000 in credit card debt I couldn't seem to pay off. I swallowed my pride and went to my parents for a loan to pay off the card, and then promptly racked up nearly the same amount. I couldn't face telling them I'd done it again (and still haven't, so keep your mouths shut!) so I ended up taking out a line of credit at a drastically reduced interest rate (down to 5.2 from 18%) and transferring the debt there. I'm still chipping away at it, and truth be told I've dipped into it a few times to make tuition payments or even credit card payments, so the debt still sits at around $2500, PLUS the $3000 I plan on paying back to my mom eventually. Ugh.

The fact is, I spend more than I make. The extra work I do on the side is allowing me to break even and not accumulate more debt, but I'm not paying it off and I'm not saving. This changes now.