Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Go for the Goals 2009 Edition

Well, I've finally decided on my 2009 financial goals. I may post another time about non-financial goals.

1. Pay down a minimum of $6,000 of debt in 2009.
That's about 1/3 of our total consumer type debt, which would mean that we'd be debt free in 3 years. I'd rather get rid of it faster but I'm being realistic given the economy, etc. This specifically does not include any kind of debt we may take on that's related to buying our land or anything to do with the structure of the house.

2. Have at least $1,000 in an emergency fund by the end of 2009.
I have a regular $12 per week transfer into my ING emergency fund. Fifty two weeks times $12 is $624 and I currently have some money in there. I just can't seem to get onto the site at the moment to check on the actual amount, but I'll try to remember to edit this later. (It's actually $98.40.) Anyway, I'll have to come up with some "extra" money to add to what I'm going to have if I want to hit $1,000 but I think it's doable. (Of course, I'm hoping we won't have a series of emergencies like we've had in the past.) And once we have $1,000 in there I'm not going to stop the weekly transfer. The plan is that it will just keep growing slowly.

3. Establish an account for "Set Asides" (otherwise known as a Freedom or Escrow Account).
I used to do this a number of years ago and I wish I'd never gotten away from it. Once I have the account in place I can just transfer the appropriate amount of money into it every payday. What goes into a Set Aside Account? Money for gifts, holidays, property tax, annual garbage fees, you name it. I used to set aside money for my car insurance and then purchase it for the year but my hubby just pays monthly (which is really a form of financing).

4. Get current and stay current with all the monthly bills.
I'm getting closer to being current on things (and some bills are never late) but there's still room for improvement right now.

So, there we are. Not too many goals. Not too unreachable. But I feel these are goals that will improve our day-to-day life and give us more security.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Couponers Make Others Look Cheap?!

I was idly reading the paper when this article caught my eye. The story (titled "Stand next to a penny-pinching, coupon-user and people think you're cheap, too, study finds") makes me angry and offends me on almost too many levels to count.

According to the authors of the University of Alberta study, not only are coupon-users so repellent that nobody wants to be caught using coupons, but their appearance of cheapness rubs off on the unfortunate people who just happen to be standing in line behind them!

The first thing that bugs me is that this study was done at the University bookstore. People were asked a series of questions about people who used coupons and the people immediately behind them in line at the bookstore cashier. Being called "frugal" isn't bad in my book (although it appears to be a negative in the researcher's vocabulary) but "tightwad" and "cheap"? Aren't all these people students? Forgive me if I seem unclear on the concept, but I was under the impression that students are perpetually short of money and are always on the lookout for ways to cut corners. These are the people denigrating their fellows for using "a coupon with little value" (a 50 cent coupon on the purchase of a $4 pen, according to the story)?

Then too, the placement of the story elicited a bit of a snort from me. It was just a few pages after a full-page article on how people had waited for the Boxing Day sales to buy their nearest and dearest's Xmas gifts! So it's not cheap to wait until December 26 to buy your mother an Xmas gift or to wait hours overnight in a lineup so you can buy a $200 digital camera for $50 off, but it's cheap to use a coupon.

Frankly every page between the two articles had ads reading things like "Save an instant 25% off our already low Boxing Day prices on everything in the store" or "One Day Only! December 26th Receive a $100 Gift Card with a 2 year [cellular] agreement" or "All up to 80% off (on furniture)". But coupon-users are perceived so negatively that "nobody" wants to use coupons. We'll just trample each other to get to the marked-down laptops, but that's not cheap.

And finally, the capper to the whole article was the close. If you happen to be one of the unfortunates who gets stuck behind one of those crazed couponers you won't be perceived as cheap if you happen to look like Jessica Alba. If you're just normally attractive you should probably escape out of the line as fast as possible to avoid the stigma! Give me a break!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hating the Snow

The snow has messed up pretty well everything. Our dinner worked out fairly well, although one set of family friends weren't able to make it through the snow. But it snowed far too much through the mountain passes for me to be able to go to the house. I did phone my neighbours though, and found that everything seems to be in one piece.

Then my Eldest Daughter and son-in-law took the girls and went up north to his folks for a few days. While we were eating Shabbat dinner last night we heard a huge crash. I went upstairs to check and found that the fibreglass and 2x4 cover over the deck had collapsed due to the weight of the snow. It's a huge mess and it bent the metal railing around the deck all out of shape, as well as doing some damage to the wall where it was attached.

As soon as Shabbat was over tonight I called and the kids are coming back home tomorrow, a couple of days early. Hubby shoveled over a foot of really wet snow off the shed that's attached to the house, just behind where the deck is. It has an almost flat roof and we were afraid it might collapse too, especially now that it's getting warmer and has been raining, saturating the snow to the max. In fact, some buildings have collapsed due to the snow so it's a totally valid fear.

Tomorrow we'll try to take apart the ruin of the cover, at least enough that we can get around on the deck and try to dump some of the snow off the deck and bring in a couple of items of furniture that were out there. I guess once the kids get home they'll call their insurance and start a claim. Sigh.

The side streets and lanes are a combination of slush, snow and ice and are practically impassable. Lots of people are getting stuck and some folks are just leaving their cars where they are! How dumb are they? It may not be fun, but if you get totally stuck the answer is to call a tow truck. You don't just leave your car in the lane and wait for it to melt some more!

I'm still thinking about goals for 2009. I've already managed to balance our budget, but I was looking at how long it will take us to eliminate our credit card debt at our current rate. Basically it will take us between 4 and 5 years, assuming that we keep the payments at this level and don't drop them as the minimum payment drops. That's not acceptable. We have to get out of debt faster. I would really like to be out of debt by the end of 2009 but I'm not sure if that's realistic. I won't be getting a raise this year and I actually worked fewer hours this year than last year. I can only hope that I'll be able to work more hours in 2009 so I can earn a little more money that way.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Almost Year End

I can't believe how fast the last little bit of 2008 is flying by. My final payday of the year is on Wednesday, which is also the day we're having the family over. The plan was to go to the house on the 25th and come back on the Sunday (giving us 4 days there). I'm not sure what's happening right now. My Hubby has some other obligations on a couple of those days and the weather has been incredibly bad, with whiteout conditions off and on along the freeway out in the Fraser Valley. There's also a lot of snow in the passes on the Hope-Princeton.

Possibly I'll go on the Greyhound, whether for 4 days or just for one or two. I'm still very concerned about how the place is holding up through the exceptionally cold winter we've been having. But how much will I be able to do if I go by myself and without a car? There's also very little chance of my getting the plumber in over the statutory holiday to check my pipes or clear our little blockage. I guess he might come if my pipes were actually frozen but I don't want that to be the case. It would be very serious and very costly.

Of course, a big part of the reason for going was also to look at this piece of land I'm interested in. I still don't know if it's possible to take our equity out of my daughter's house at this point in time so I don't know if the whole thing is feasable.

The other thing I should do over the next few days is to set some goals for 2009. I have some ideas floating around at the moment but I can't say I'm ready to list them. Once I've worked on them for a bit I'll post them.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow Update and Hanukkah

Well, we got the 25 centimetres of snow (10") they promised. The power is still on, the snow is still coming down (although it's supposed to stop sometime tonight) and the roads are a mess. The trucks are still having trouble keeping the main routes plowed and sanded or salted. Nothing has been done in the residential side streets. They might get to those tomorrow.

The next storm is supposed to hit Tuesday night or Wednesday and continue through Friday. When will this nightmare end?

The good news is that our water pipes seem to be fine. I got our cold water going last night about 1 am. I couldn't sleep and I was worrying about the pipes a bit, so I got up and washed the milchig (dairy) dishes with nice hot water. When I finished the cold still wasn't working. I folded a load of laundry and was going to head to bed when I heard dripping. The cold tap was dripping slightly but was still not running freely. I turned the hot water back on for maybe 20 seconds and the cold water suddenly started running. I had hoped that running the hot water for a while would do the trick (even though family members had told me it wouldn't work) and it did. The 2 lines run side by side through the wall so it was worth a try, right?

Tonight was the first candle of Hanukkah and we managed to find 2 of the hanukkiyot (Hanukkah menorahs) so we were able to light when it got dark. We didn't go downtown to the lighting of the huge menorah at the Art Gallery because it was really, really messy by then. I didn't make latkes tonight (we had regular pancakes at Dear Child's request) because we're going to do that when everybody comes over on Wednesday (when nobody has to work). DC did get 2 presents tonight, in addition to the candy her teacher gave out with instructions that it wasn't to be eaten until Hanukkah. I gave her a pink hoodie for her Webkinz pets and her older sister gave her a L'il Kinz (the Blue Triggerfish).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What if We're Snowed In?

It's a bit unlikely that we'll actually be snowed in, but we could lose our power and the cold water pipe leading to our sink seems to have frozen this afternoon. The pipe runs along the outside wall of the house for at least a short distance and is the only one affected at this point. Right now we have the cold tap turned on a little way and have opened the bottom cupboard doors in an attempt to get more warmth into there.

My son-in-law isn't home. He's been plowing and sanding ever since 7 am. However, he talked to Eldest Daughter on the phone and says there's really nothing else to do at this point. His hope is that the pressure of having the tap open might clear the line and I guess we're just hoping nothing has cracked inside the wall.

It's really kind of odd. I mean, it's only been down to 17 or 19 Celsius (edit: That should be Fahrenheit, of course. 19 Celsius would be a warm spring day.) and our area of the house is always very warm when they have the heat on upstairs. It was also actually colder outside a few nights ago, with no problem. But I don't know. I'm sure son-in-law will have a look at it when he can. He's scheduled to work tomorrow but I don't think union rules allow him to work 15 or so hours and then work again with less than 12 hours off in between. I'm hoping he can look at it in the morning. It's also a bit warmer now and will probably warm up another few degrees because it has clouded over and begun to snow heavily. We're actually forecast to receive 15 to 25 centimetres tonight and tomorrow (up to 10" of snow). This is just not Vancouver weather.

I'm concerned about the house but my neighbour has always been good about checking on it for us and letting me know when there was a problem. I may give them a call tomorrow though. They were saying on tonight's news that the wind chill in some parts of the Okanagan will drop temperatures to around 40 below (which is 40 below no matter which temperature system you're using). That's cold. Really, really cold.

But what if it snowed so much that we were actually snowed in for a couple of days? This is one of the reasons for always having a supply of food on hand, as well as bottled water, lamps or candles, etc. We have a coleman stove but no propane at the moment. My Eldest Daughter and son-in-law have a propane BBQ that they could use (but I can't find the adaptor kit I bought several years ago to use a large tank of propane with our stove). Possibly they still have some of the small propane containers left over from camping this summer. We have 7 or 8 gallons of bottled water, about 2 dozen Shabbat candles (that burn for 2 to 3 hours), only a few tea lights and a couple of big pillar candles that would last for a few days.

As for food, we have some basics. There's brown rice, white beans, whole wheat pasta, a big bag of oatmeal, 3 boxes of dry cereal, a few tins of tuna, apples, sugar, tea and coffee. There are some other things on the shelf too (like a box of brownie mix and another of pie crust mix) and a bunch of stuff in the fridge and freezer like hash browns, french fries, Yves ground "meat" (a soy substitute), cheese, milk, butter, eggs, carrots and so on. So we'd have enough to eat if we were stuck for 2 or 3 days and, if there's actually small propane canisters upstairs, we'd be able to cook quite nicely.

We'd stay in our bedroom for the most part, pile all our blankets and quilts on the beds and dress warmly. We'd only venture out to go to the washroom, to cook and to take Dog for walks. It probably wouldn't be the most fun we've ever had but we'd get through it without huge problems. The big thing I learned from this is that I should buy some propane.

What about you? If your power went out for 2 or 3 days how would you manage? Would you freeze? Would you have water and food? Would you be able to cook? Are your cell phones charged?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Now You See Her, Now You Don't

Did I disappear into a snowdrift? Well, that’s one possibility. We’ve had a lot more snow, at least a couple of inches, and the city hasn’t quite come to a standstill yet but I’m waiting for the weekend when we’re supposed to get even more.

Really, I’ve just been kind of overwhelmed. I’m chronically sleep-deprived, very busy at work, spending most of my recent days driving in bad weather pretty much all day long (what with school, work, dental appointments, etc.) and I’ve been prioritizing sleeping over posting.

I haven’t totally forgotten about my finances over the past few days though.

I paid $114 on my MasterCard this past month and was charged $95.75 in interest, for a net drop in indebtedness of a whopping $18.25! At this rate, it would take about 27 years to pay off the whole card if I never charged anything more. In point of fact, I’m already charging about $415 for my fuel oil delivery but I paid down $415 the other day to allow for doing that, plus added a $13.19 snowflake (a couple of tiny cheques that finally caught up with me).

I had originally intended to pay $66 on December 10th. That was both payday and the due date of my bill. However, the financial situation was such that I wasn’t able to do that and the $114 payment I’d made late in November was the only one. Now I have until January 10th to make a payment but, once again, there is no minimum payment listed. I’ve already figured that I should be paying at least $180 per month. I get paid on both the 24th and January 7th so there are 2 pay periods where I could make a payment. I’d like to try to pay $90 each payday. I think that’s a little easier than trying to do the whole thing all at once. (And do you think I could pop the words, pay, payday or payment in there a few more times? I’d normally stop and edit but I want to go to bed instead.)

Anyway, I’ve taken care of the bounced cheque, paid some of the money back to my daughter (even though she said I didn’t have to do so this quickly) and arranged to pay the fuel bill. I also talked to the sales rep about the lavender plants (although I can’t claim credit there – he called me). Oh yes, and I finally did a load of laundry. No, that’s not financial, just one of those necessary details so life runs more smoothly.

I’m a little panicked that Hanukkah begins on Sunday. I still have a couple of gifts to buy and I’m responsible for both a roast chicken and latkes for our family party next Wednesday. We need to look for the holiday box (a Rubbermaid tub) on Sunday so we’ll have hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) to light that afternoon! And I guess I should buy some candles. But right now it's time for bed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let it Snow?

When people realize I'm in Canada they tend to think of ice and snow, igloos and snowmobiles, long cold winters. All that sort of thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here in Vancouver it snows a handful of times in a winter and maybe one or two of them stick around for more than 24 hours before getting totally washed away. Until a couple of days ago I hadn't even noticed any snow on the mountains (not good news for ski resort operators). If you want to have to dig your car out of a snowbank in order to go to work you have to go back east for that. Here on the Coast it usually just rains. A lot. Of course, that's why everything is so green and beautiful here in the spring and summer.

Yesterday was a bright, sunny day. Today, however, is our first snow. It's dark and nasty outside and there are big, wet flakes plopping down everywhere. If that's not bad enough, I think it's supposed to be windy too.

Because it snows so seldom here, people are absolutely clueless about how to drive in it and most people don't have winter tires. They just zoom around in their SUVs with all season tires, thinking that their vehicle can handle it. Unfortunately, it has more to do with the driver than the vehicle. The other folks creep around at a snail's pace, enraging the SUV drivers, who then speed and skid.

Since I spent about 7 years living in Calgary (where it really does snow and stick around) I know how to drive in it, but I'm in the minority. And I'm still going to get our winter tires put on this Sunday because we aren't going through the mountains to the house without both winter tires and chains (although we've never had to use the chains, they're always in the car).

What was the point of this post? I really just wanted to rant about the evil snow, even though it will probably turn to rain later, because then it's going to freeze tonight. Guess who isn't going to be walking to synagogue tomorrow?

We're going to have lamb stew in the crockpot and I'm planning to do a little catching up on my sleep. Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Small Town Friendliness

I've noticed a number of times that small town friendliness is still alive and well. Now, if we could just teach those skills to folks in the Big City.

I've posted the other day about my bad experience with my major bank. It's not just that they weren't helpful. The girl was rude. But that's an extreme example. Let's look at something a little more representative at the same bank.

I've had an account there for probably 10 years. Back then, they were great. The tellers recognized you when you came in, called you by name and so on. Eight years ago they merged with another major bank. Staff started to change, policies changed, some aspects of telephone banking didn't work the same, there were some new holds on deposits but nothing that would be a total deal-breaker.

Currently when I go in I'm often asked by the teller to swipe my debit card and enter my PIN or show photo ID before they will do anything for me. Doing something like making a deposit to my husband's or Eldest Daughter's accounts seems to be a Suspicious Activity. Everything costs. Two books of 25 cheques cost over $20 recently (when they used to be free).

When I go to a branch of this same bank in the Okanagan the tellers are friendly and never ask me for my PIN or photo ID. Even when I didn't have my passbook one day this summer and wanted a printout of my account activity all they did was swipe my card to get my account number. They call me by name, even though the tellers at my "home" branch no longer do.

And my credit union in the Okanagan prints me free books of cheques on the spot when I need them!

Today, I had another situation that really touched me. I know I'm running low on fuel oil and need a fill. The minimum delivery is 100 gallons and it cost in the $400 to $500 range when I've had fills in the past. I'm a little scared of running the tank dry because I wrecked a sensor in the furnace that way last year and had to spend $150 on servicing it.

So I called the fuel dealer today to find out how much a minimum fill will cost. The driver who delivers to me was the one who answered the phone. He told me the minimum charge currently is $415 and we talked for a couple of minutes about how I'm not going to be there until the 25th and about having my neighbour check the level to make sure I'm not about to run dry. I said I'd have to juggle things around to open up enough space on the credit card and he said that I don't need to worry about that. I've established a history with them and he's going to be in my area tomorrow. He asked if I want him to just deliver then and he would wait until I called back to put the charge through! I said sure and we left it at that. I should mention that I never gave him my address or an account number, just said my name and the name of the unincorporated town where the house is located at the beginning of the conversation! He knew who I was right away even though I only had two fills last year.

As for how I will pay for this, Hubby already transferred some money to me from his most recent pay and I get paid tomorrow. I have to pay down the card and keep checking until the space opens up on the card (probably a couple of days). Then I can call and have the fuel charged on the card. They were so nice they definitely go to the head of the line in terms of who I pay first!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

No, this isn't a post about the Vancouver Canucks (who used to use that redundant phrase in their ads)!

The thing about making money mistakes is that they aren't horrible if you learn from them. You make a mistake, you fix it and now you know better. Sooner or later you make another mistake but it's a different one. You fix it and now you know something else that you shouldn't do.

The problem comes when you make the same mistake over and over. I'm an intelligent person. I'm quite well-read. I understand a lot of basic financial concepts. I'm even quite capable of expounding on them in this blog. So, why do I make the same mistakes repeatedly?

Previously I was paying the bills with whatever money was left after all the automatic payments and buying all our food and gas. That meant a lot of bills weren't getting paid in a timely way. This past month or so I've started paying the bills first and then buying food and gas. As I already pointed out, that's been tough. But it's more real. If we're short on food and payday is several days away we really feel it. It's not like not paying my cell bill for a month.

Putting gas and groceries after the bills is a good thing. It's designed to teach us to be more careful and to show us in a practical way that living beyond our means hurts. The problem is that there is a certain minimum amount we do have to spend on these items on an ongoing basis. It's not practical to just run out of gas 3 days before payday because I can't get Dear Child to and from school and myself to and from work in that case. (School would be about 2 hours walk each way, work is over an hour along basically the same route and if I could pay for transit I might as well be putting gas in the car because it would cost more for transit than for gas.) It's also not reasonable (or ethical) to totally run out of food with a small child in the house. So, I spent more money than I had in order to take care of these needs.

I realized at some point that I wasn't going to stretch until I got my next cheque and started trying to do something about it. First, I asked Hubby for money but he didn't have any. Then I transferred money from ING, from my already depleted emergency fund but that doesn't happen instantly. So, I kept checking and, sure enough, the other day the biggest outstanding cheque had come in and I'd exceeded my overdraft limit. My Eldest Daughter graciously offered to temporarily cover it but we had to wait until the end of the day to get her paycheque.

When we went to the bank and transferred money the cheque had already been bounced and I'd been charged $42.50. I talked to the bank about not returning the cheque but they told me it was too late and, besides, they'd already had this discussion with me before and they weren't interested. I pulled out the "I'll move all my investments out of here" threat and they basically said I shouldn't let the door hit me on the way out. Okay, they weren't quite that rude but the girl said she was "sorry [I] felt that way, goodbye". And she smirked.

So, I won't be transferring RRSPs from Sun Life to TD. Instead, I'm going to go sometime next week to check out a local credit union that offers totally free chequing. This was something I was interested in doing anyway because, between Hubby and myself, we're paying over $40 per month in bank service charges. That's just ridiculous. In fact, it's like bouncing a cheque every month!

As for my RRSPs, I'm not sure if I can actually move the GIC I just set up a couple of months ago. It may have to sit there for the full 2 year term, but I transfer $10 per week into a money market fund that earns almost no interest. It collects there until I have the minimum required for another GIC, at which time I get one, etc. That $10 per week can go somewhere else. I just have to figure out where. And I probably will wait to move that until the end of December, simply so I don't have to deal with getting more than one receipt for my income tax for this year.

Anyway I'm mad. I'm mad at myself. I'm mad that the money from ING didn't arrive in time, even though I know it doesn't happen like snapping your fingers. But most of all, I'm mad that the girl was rude to me. I don't think she believed me that I was going to move my money and that's why she was smirking at me. She figured I was just like the boy who cried wolf and that I'd stay and they could continue to charge me and charge me and charge me. But I'm going to move my account and when I move the RRSPs I'm going to make it clear that this is why I'm doing it.

Yes, I have to realize that I'm ultimately responsible for my finances. No, they don't necessarily have to reverse the charges for me. But they have a responsibility to be polite about it. If they can't be polite they don't deserve my business.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December Goals

As I sit here thinking about goals (particularly financial goals) for the month of December, I'm at a bit of a loss. I've paid off the IKEA card and the next amount on the Home Depot card doesn't come due until mid-January. Paying off a credit card totally is exciting and motivating and I'm kind of depressed that I won't be doing something like that again this month.

I already have the money for Home Depot safely socked away in ING but I want to keep it there, earning interest, until after January 1st. It's not making a lot of money, of course. I think it earned me a whole .88 last month, but that's a heck of a lot better than paying interest! And I'm happy to collect that interest to put towards paying the next amount due for Home Depot in early February. That one is the killer, about $1,400 for the hardwood floor I put down in my living room. I don't have anything in there for it right now but I don't actually anticipate having a chunk of money to put towards it until early January. I think I'll have about half then and will have to come up with the other half just before it comes due.

In a worst case scenario I would take the $400 of vacation pay I have also sitting in ING and apply that to it temporarily along with whatever money I could glean from anywhere, but I actually think it's going to work out okay (although I might be juggling money for a few days, given when paydays etc. fall out). But that's not a December goal and I don't think it's realistic to try to put even a small amount into ING towards it this month. I expect to use my "spare cash" this month to pay down my MasterCard far enough to be able to charge it back up with a fill of fuel oil for the house.

That's going to be a lot of money but there's nothing I can do about it. I get the minimum delivery they make and it has to be paid in full when I order it. I can't just let it go because I'll damage my house in 2 ways. First, my pipes will freeze and second, I'll clog the little sensor in the furnace again if I run the tank dry. That'll set me back another $150 for the service call. I don't even want to think about what the plumbing bill would be. No, it's better to pay for a fill that I expect will last me through the rest of the winter.

I need to spend some money on Hanukkah (probably in the neighbourhood of $100) and I expect to charge a small charitable donation for someone I know online whose son is receiving incredibly expensive antibody therapy. (You think you have financial problems? Try coming up with $125,000 in just over a week in order to save your child's life!) Any way I look at it, I'm going to be putting a couple of charges on the MasterCard so I can't say I won't use it again this month.

I'd like to work on eliminating my dependence on overdraft but, again, that's not realistic this month when I have to come up with a lot of money all at once.

Okay, enough thinking out loud. Here are my goals for December:

1. Find out the exact cost, including taxes, for a minimum fill of fuel oil and pay down the MasterCard by at least that amount of money, in addition to the $66 I've already planned to pay on December 10th.

2. Pay my Bell bill during December to keep it current.

3. Make 2 payments on the water bill this month.

4. Talk to TD about moving my locked-in RRSP to them when the GIC I have with Sun Life matures this month. Make sure the TD rate is still better than the rate I'd get if I rolled it over at Sun Life, then take action.

Those aren't earth-shattering goals but I want to have ones I can actually achieve. Getting and staying current on bills is a Good Thing. So is paying down even a small amount on the MasterCard. They may be baby steps but they're taking me in the right direction.

As for the RRSP, I could just let it go. It will roll over automatically and there's no effort on my part. But I think I can get 4% at TD (maybe a half percentage point better than where it is) and I'd get more of my retirement savings under one roof. I think it's worth looking into.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Looking Back at November's Goals

I can hardly believe that it's already December and 2008 is almost over. But I did make some financial goals in November. Let's look back and see how I did. My goals were:

1. Not to charge anything during the month.
2. To pay off IKEA.
3. To start paying down my MasterCard.

I'm proud to say I achieved all of my goals! I didn't charge anything on either my MasterCard or the IKEA card during the month (the 2 cards that are in my name). I paid off the total balance owing on my IKEA card and I made a payment of $114 on my MasterCard.

I also worked on catching up on some of my other bills. But all of this bill-paying was tough. We didn't have very much money for food or gas as a result. It's lucky the price of gas has been tumbling for some time, so that we didn't have to spend as much to drive to work and school. And, of course, we didn't go to the house at all during the month.

The food issue was really the hardest. We used up pretty much everything that was in the fridge and the cupboards, including some choices that were not too popular with Dear Child, but we made it. Unfortunately, we're still short of money for another week or two so we're still slogging away.

I have another Safeway card and I'm going to go shopping tonight after work, but that's only another $100. The good thing is that today is the first Tuesday in the month, the day when you save 10% on your grocery bill at Safeway.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saving Money on Hair

I've done 2 things this weekend that save me money on hair care costs, both mine and Dog's.

First of all, let's talk about Dog. He's a miniature poodle, which means he has people type hair rather than fur and needs to have it cut every so often. Usually that means regular trips to a grooming place for a bath and a haircut. That sets me back $53, since I haven't yet convinced Dog to get a job. Ideally (from the groomer's perspective perhaps?) he should be groomed every couple of months. That means his hair care alone would cost $318 per year!

No human in this house spends that much annually on hair care so I get around it by a) letting him go longer than 2 months between haircuts, b) doing it myself for the most part and c) only getting him groomed professionally about once per year. Okay, sometimes twice. But I'm moving toward just doing it annually as I improve with my canine clipping skills. Perhaps, eventually, I might become enough of an expert that he won't have to go to the pro at all.

Then there's my hair, which I cover with either a snood or a sheitel (a wig). Underneath my head covering my hair grows until it gets to be down the middle of my back. I have quite fine hair and it's not terribly thick, so I just put it in a ponytail and wrap it under the nylon stocking cap that goes under my sheitel. It's really not noticeable. When it gets really long I go to a hairdresser who cuts my hair at her home and have it all cut off in a pixy cut. I've saved 2 lots of hair from this over the past 8 years or so and am growing it out again now.

When I get it cut again I think I'll finally have enough hair to have a wig custom-made with my own hair! In the meantime, I do wear a human hair wig but the hair in it didn't originate on this continent. The problem with that is that the hair is coarser than my own and has been rigorously straightened. For the most part it stays straight, even when I wash it or I'm caught in a downpour, but the occasional strand suddenly gets a mind of it's own and kinks up.

Let's face it. Hair that's been bleached, dyed, straightened and styled just doesn't feel and move quite like my own. A sheitel from my own hair will be a very special treasure but I'm planning to move one step closer in the meantime.

The sheitels I've bought over the past 25 years have ranged from synthetic to mixtures to pure human hair but they've generally been at the lower end of the price scale, say from $50 to $200. For my birthday my big kids got together and got me a credit at the best place to go for a quality human hair wig in Vancouver. They put $600 in but I'll still need to add some more to that, so I'm waiting for our financial situation to calm down a bit so I'll be able to come up with a couple of hundred dollars of my own.

Until then I need to take good care of the sheitel I'm wearing currently. That means wearing a stocking cap under it to keep oil from my own hair off the wig, and washing it on some kind of regular basis. Again, this is something people often leave to a professional but it's easy to do. Here's how.

Fill the bathroom sink with warm water and add about as much shampoo as you would use to wash your hair. Agitate the water so the shampoo froths up a bit on the surface. Lay the wig in the water and let it sit for at least a couple of minutes. Then squeeze the shampoo laden water through the wig gently for a couple of minutes. Don't rub it or you'll end up with a tangled mess. The water will get dirty and there may be a tiny amount of dye released as well.

Drain the sink, fill it again with clear water and rinse the wig until all the shampoo is out. If necessary, drain and fill the sink again or hold the wig under the tap. Don't rub or twist but gently squeeze out the water when you're done.

Take a bath towel, lay the sheitel on it at one end and roll it up. Press on the towel a bit, then undo and set the wig to dry. If you have a wig "head", that's the best place for it. Otherwise try to find something to drape it over. When it's about half dry comb it out gently, removing all the snarls. Then let it finish drying.

If you want to curl it, you can use heated rollers or a curling iron or blow dryer. You can also straighten it with a straightener. Note that all of these are for use only with 100% human hair wigs. Using heat on a synthetic wig may melt it!

My sheitel is currently draped over a vase. It's been blown dry and combed out and looks pretty good as is. It looks even better when I get Eldest Daughter to use her straightener on it but that takes quite a while. It didn't cost any more than to wash my own hair, took only a little longer to dry and comb out and will look great on me tomorrow.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Baruch Dayan HaEmet*

(Posted Motzai Shabbos)
* The title of this post means "Blessed is (G-d) the true Judge" and is the phrase Orthodox Jews say upon hearing of a death.

This post is a notable departure from my usual posts but the events in Mumbai, India have affected me greatly.

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivki Holzberg, Chabad emissaries to Mumbai, have been brutally murdered along with other American and Israeli Jews in their Chabad House (a building which housed their home, a synagogue, community centre and drug prevention programs).

Miraculously, their 2 year old son escaped from the building during the seige with his Hindu nanny and has been reunited with both sets of grandparents who flew to India from their homes in Brooklyn and Afula.

Terror acts like this always seem cruel and senseless, particularly when you consider that this young couple has spent the past 5 years serving 3 free meals per day for up to 50 people at a time, preparing all their food from scratch because there was no kosher food available to buy.

I didn't post the other day during the crisis because I was checking for news updates online and saying Tehillim [reading Psalms]. My heart just goes out to that little boy whose birthday will forever be tied to the tragic deaths of his parents (he turned 2 in the middle of the crisis).

Global financial meltdowns, terror activities increasing, retail workers being crushed by Black Friday shoppers. Has our world gone (totally) insane?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Goodbye Landline Hello Savings

I finally talked to Hubby about the landline, which costs us about $50 per month. Other than my in laws, pretty well the only people who call us on the landline are telemarketers of one sort or other. You know the usual nonsense. You've won a vacation to Costa Rica, you have a reduction in interest available on your credit card, you're invited to join Direct Buy or you've been selected to go on a free cruise if you just come listen to our timeshare pitch.

Everybody else knows to call on our cell phones.

So, as of today, we no longer have a landline. The one aspect that otherwise would have bothered us, that in an emergency 911 doesn't always identify your location on a cell phone, doesn't really apply to us. We share a house with Eldest Daughter and her family and they have a landline. So we're covered that way. And saving $50 per month is nothing to sneeze at.

Hello, Goodbye or Wednesday Payday

Well, my paycheque hit my bank account this morning and it's gone now, or will be by the end of the month. I guess that's what happens when you're way into overdraft, to the tune of almost half your paycheque. I'm not happy about that, but I'm getting caught up on all my bills first and then I'm going to gradually get to the point where I don't have to go into overdraft before the next payday rolls around.

Really, if you think about it, my situation is uncomfortably close to that of people who get sucked into payday loans. I was fortunate enough to qualify for overdraft protection, which costs me 21%. They don't, and as a result, they end up paying around 300% interest. I can't even wrap my head around interest that high. Frankly, 21% sounds bad enough even though it works out to between 5 and 6 cents per $100 per day. For example, in October I paid $1.39 in overdraft interest and that was a month when I was in overdraft for a long time.

In the best spirit of Won't Wait Wednesday I plunged right into paying bills. I paid my Bell bill, the water bill and the $114 I needed to pay on my MasterCard. That doesn't leave me much to buy groceries with because there are other pre-authorized charges that will come out between now and the first few days of the month but I'm going to get Hubby to give me $100 to buy another Safeway card when he gets paid on Friday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby Step

Well, my UCCB cheque finally showed up today but I was stuck in the house with all 3 girls because today was a Professional Development day at Dear Child's school. Why was I stuck? Well, I had no car and no car seats. My son-in-law drove his van to work with 2 of the car seats and my hubby took our car with the remaining one. I really didn't mind that much because he hardly ever has it any more since he started riding his bike to work. Besides, I'll have to have the van tomorrow so I can ferry DC to and from school, plus pick up my Dear Granddaughter at school in the middle of the day. Days like that I pretty much spend my time buckling and unbuckling car seats containing small children.

The only reason I would have wanted a vehicle today would have been to drive to the credit union and I ended up doing that after work this evening. I put the whole $100 cheque into VanCity, which will forward it to my own credit union. I needed about $65 for the electric bill and just under $10 for the service charge at the end of the month and it was simpler to deposit this cheque than to deposit the $56 one that came on Friday plus a cheque from my own (deep in overdraft) bank account. There won't be an electric bill in December but I'll still have to pay the service charge on the account and that will use up another $10.

Now, my only concern is whether the transfer into my own credit union account will be complete by Thursday, when the electric bill comes out....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hunkering Down

Right now I feel like I'm just hunkering down, being really quiet until payday rolls around again next Wednesday.

If I hadn't publicly stated that I wasn't going to use my MasterCard this month I might be tempted to put $20 worth of gas and $20 or $30 worth of groceries on the card, even though it would be dangerous. Right now I'm so close to my limit that just the accrued interest could tip me overlimit if I don't make an appropriate payment next week so charging anything more would be a very poor choice.

I'm close to my overdraft limit on my regular bank account and I have to transfer money into my credit union account for a payment that will come out Thursday so I'm not spending any money at the moment. To make things just that little bit tighter, my monthly UCCB cheque for $100 hasn't arrived yet. I'm hoping it will show up tomorrow.

But, in the meantime, I'm figuring out what we have for dinner for the next couple of nights. I think Monday will be fried eggs and hash browns. Tuesday we can have lemon pepper linguine with butter and the last of the mozzarella cheese. As for breakfast, we have a couple of packets of oatmeal, a box of frozen waffles, plenty of cold cereal and enough of my morning protein drink to last us until payday. There are apples, a few cookies (2 types), a couple of granola bars and some flavoured applesauce for snacks, with challah and 2 types of cream cheese for sandwiches.

So why do I feel so deprived? We're not starving; we just don't have all our preferred junk foods around at the moment. I'll be able to go shopping Wednesday night (although I probably should make sure I eat something before I go or I might buy out the store!). It's just very interesting to see how I'm reacting.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday on Thursday

I didn't do anything about Won't Wait Wednesday yesterday because I was working. Normally I'm home with the little girls then and I work in the evening but my son-in-law's folks have been here for a few days and his mother watched the girls Monday and Wednesday. That meant I got to work 2 full days instead of 2 half ones, for a net gain of 6 hours! Sweet.

I worked all day today too, but my brain clicked on and I realized there were some things I needed to take care of. I got a couple of bills online over the past few days so I checked them out. The important one was my MasterCard.

I'm within about $50 of my limit, which is not a good scenario. That's even with the $81.36 dental reimbursement I put towards the card earlier because my interest charge was bigger than that payment!

The good news is that I only made a small donation to charity on the MasterCard in October. I don't feel badly about that because it was for a tribute card I sent to someone back east who'd had a heart attack. This month I haven't charged anything.

I don't have a minimum payment due but it would be a huge mistake to fail to make a payment because the interest alone will push me overlimit. So the absolute minimum I have to pay next Wednesday is the amount of the interest that was charged last month plus the amount I charged, about $114. But ideally, I want to pay the 3% that is the normal minimum payment demanded on a card, about $180. I'll have some extra pay for these hours I worked this week but not that much, especially once the deductions come off. We'll just have to see.

I also have an electric bill that is due to come out of my credit union account automatically next week (for the house) and I need to put money in now to cover that because it takes a few days when I deposit in a different credit union's ATM. I got the smaller of my 2 government cheques, the BC Benefit one, today but it's for $56 and they're taking out about $64, so I have to deposit other money too so there will be enough for that and the service charges.

If I can, I'll do it tomorrow but Fridays just keep getting shorter until mid-December and I have things to get for Shabbat, plus my regular passbook to update. I work until almost 2 pm, pick up Dear Child from school at 2, run my errands, dash home to make sure the food will all be ready by candlelighting at 4:06 pm!

I expect to be asleep right after dinner tomorrow night! After all, I can't watch TV or be on the computer on Shabbat. I usually read but when I'm tired that just puts me right to sleep.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Better To See You With

Today Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks asked her readers whether she should get LASIK eye surgery. That got me thinking about my own eyes and my feelings on the subject of eye surgery, including the financial impact of it.

I have terrible eyesight and have worn glasses since I was 7 years old. Back then my mother took me to the one and only movie theatre in town to see Mary Poppins and I was very excited. I kept asking what time it was and my mother eventually got tired of telling me. So she said, "You can tell time, look at the clock yourself." I couldn't see any clock so my mother told me it was down front by the curtain. I said, "Do you mean that circle with the green neon around it?" I had a wonderful time at the movie. My mother sat there the whole time thinking, "My baby's blind. My baby's blind."

Well, I wasn't blind but I was fairly nearsighted so I got a pair of blue plastic glasses, the kind that tilt up at the upper corners like cat's eyes. The difference was dramatic. I walked into the house and said, "There's a pattern on the kitchen drapes". It was an openwork yellow and orange material (this was the 60s after all), with a faint overlay of gold leaves and I'd never noticed the leaves. I could also now see the board at school, which was a Good Thing.

As I grew I kept needing stronger glasses but I always hated the teasing, so I tried contacts a few times in my teens and early 20s, even though I have a certain amount of astigmatism. I couldn't afford the special lenses for that but got fairly adequate correction with hard contacts, gas permeables and, finally, soft contacts.

I really didn't like contacts any better than glasses. They were uncomfortable (like having a constant eyelash in your eye), sometimes got out of place or sucked onto my eye or gave me terribly dry, sandy eyes. If I wore them for too long I would even get scratches on my cornea and not be able to open my eyes for a day or 2.

I was never happy with my vision or the methods of correcting it and, among other dreams, I wanted to be a pilot when I was in high school.

I seriously considered RK (radial keratotomy) when it first came out because, in order to be a pilot, you had to have uncorrected vision no worse than 20/40 (whereas my uncorrected is roughly 20/400).

I eventually gave up on the aviation dream because it was totally unrealistic for the time. My eyesight was not within limits, I was under the minimum height of 5' 7" and I was female (at a time when having 2 heads would have been only slightly more unusual than being a female pilot).

I still dreamed of not having to wear glasses or contacts but I was too scared by the thought that something might go wrong either immediately or in 20 years if I had the surgery.

Now they know it's basically okay, they've improved on it dramatically with LASIK etc. and most of the side effects are considered to be relatively minor (dry eyes, halos around lights, poorer night vision).

So a couple of years ago I asked my regular opthamalogist about it and was told I was too late! You see, I'm at the point where I now wear progressive lenses. If I had the surgery I'd probably be able to drive and walk around without glasses but I couldn't work on the computer (uh, my JOB) or read (my obsession) without wearing glasses.

We didn't even get into the other considerations. Within the past few years I discovered I have a condition with a number of names that was first described as Anterior Basement Membrame Dystrophy to me, so that's how I think of it. (One of the more colourful names is Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy.) It causes corneal erosions, areas where bits of the membrane peel away and some of the fun features are dry eyes, intermittently blurry or double vision, halos around lights and sometimes pain.

I notice that those happen to be remarkably similar to the most common side effects of LASIK and other eye surgeries, so I have to wonder if I'd have a harder time than the average person (if it didn't disqualify me for the surgery in the first place). If I really wanted to pursue it, my first step would be to go to my other opthamalogist, the one who is a corneal specialist and ask him.

But I don't think it would be a great solution for me from a financial point of view. I'm sure I could afford the surgery. Everybody has some kind of LASIK deal and painless payment plan (although the idea of going to the cheapest guy around to have him operate on my eyes freaks me out). It would probably cost about twice what I pay for glasses currently but then you're free, right?

Well, not in my case. I'd still need bifocals for work, so I could read the computer screen and my hard copy data at the same time. I'd need those right away on top of the surgery and I'd continue to need new glasses every few years.

Bottom line. I'm going to pass on eye surgery.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sticker Shock

I stopped at Safeway on my way home tonight for a few items that we were out of and looked at the protein drink I have every morning for breakfast. I had only tomorrow's serving left at home and I was considering buying one or two at Safeway rather than driving out of my way to Superstore. As I've noted previously, Safeway has always been about $1.10 more expensive per bottle but the last time I bought them at Superstore I noticed that their price had risen to only about 50 cents cheaper.

The last time I bought the drink at Safeway I paid $4.99 for the large bottle (2 servings for me), while the single serving bottle was $2.99. Tonight they are $6.99 for the large one and $4.99 for the small size!

Yes, that's right. The small one now costs what the large one cost a few days ago! So I bought the other items I needed at Safeway, then headed to Superstore after all. I had about 15 minutes before they closed but I made it and was through the cashier just before 11 pm. And their price for the large bottle? $4.48 each. I took 4, enough for 8 breakfasts, and I'm planning to go back for more when I get paid again in a week's time.

The lesson here is that you always, always need to pay attention in the store. If it's an item you buy regularly you might tend to just buy it on autopilot. Don't. Keep on top of the price increases. Maybe the store that wasn't such a good buy is now better than this one for certain items. Maybe it's time to find a substitute product. Maybe it goes on sale every 6 weeks or so and you can load up on it then. Just keep looking for the most cost-effective solutions that work for you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Smell a Rat

Hubby took the car in and asked the dealership to put the belt back on. They hoisted the car up and then came to get Hubby, wanting him to see what they found.

A rat. A dead rat.

The mechanic said that it probably crawled up into the engine at night when the car was warm and caused the belt to come off when it tried to escape when the car was started again.

They said they usually charge about $50 to replace a belt like this, but did it for free given the $2,000 we recently dropped there. How kind of them.

And speaking of rats and things that smell, the dental lab tried to tell my husband today that his plate came in like that. They said, or inferred, that he'd broken it off himself! I don't think so!! If they don't fix it, we're prepared to sue them. This is just ridiculous. Somebody there did something to it and they're trying to cover their rear ends. Not going to work.

On the up side, Hubby picked up his repaired bike today and rode it home. Kudos to him for being able to get "back into the saddle" and ride through rush hour traffic.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shevy, Rationalizing

Okay, you remember when I said I wasn't going to charge anything this month? You know, what I really meant to say was that I wasn't going to charge anything on either of my credit cards (MasterCard and IKEA). I wasn't establishing this as a goal for my hubby to refrain from charging, mostly because he has at least one automatic charge to his Visa card that happens monthly.

But we actually charged our new bathroom on his Home Depot card this evening. You see, it's like this. I may have mentioned that we've been waiting for our bathroom reno since about the fifth of forever. Some of it is to be paid for and done by us; some by Eldest Daughter, our son-in-law and his dad.

It got started once, when we first moved in very early this year but got hung up and has been on hold for something like 9 or 10 months. This has left us with a barely usable washroom and required us to go upstairs for baths and showers. Let's just say it has been inconvenient for everybody.

This weekend Home Depot had one of their occasional "do not pay for a year" events ending tonight, so we went and bought a new bathtub, tub surround, toilet and vanity top (which includes the sink). All of that cost $538 and isn't due until January 2010 (with no interest so long as we pay by the due date). Months ago we already bought new tub and sink faucets, a light fixture and a vent, as well as floor tile, thinset, grout and Ditra. My son-in-law and his dad have bought cement board, drywall and insulation and will do all the work at the same time as they install the new laundry room on the opposite side of our bathroom wall. Well, I'm doing the bathroom floor but they're doing the rest.

I'm not thrilled that either of us charged anything but the reality is that the bathroom isn't getting done otherwise and we are really, really ready to have a functional bathroom! And this wasn't a spur of the moment decision. We've been waiting for one of these year-long events and just didn't know when it would happen.

Remember I mentioned a new car problem last night? The problem is pretty simple. The brand new power steering belt has come off! It's in perfect condition, so Hubby will take it in along with the car tomorrow and get the dealership to fix it for free.

On a totally different topic, Hubby and I went out to the Giants game tonight and watched the Giants beat Portland 5 to 2! We haven't been out on any kind of date night for ages and the best part of this was that the evening was totally free. He was given the tickets, we parked on the street several blocks from the Coliseum and didn't buy anything there (although he looked at hats and jerseys). It was a lot of fun!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Could We Stop the Bad News, Please?

Posted Motzai Shabbos [after Shabbat].

So, Hubby went to pick up his repaired partial plate on Friday. The repaired part seemed okay but one third of the plate, including a tooth, had been cut off! Hello? Why would you take an undamaged part and slice it off?

Of course, "nobody" knows who did it and the guy in charge wasn't there. Hubby will have to go back to talk to him on Monday. He'll have to have new impressions now and either have the entire plate redone or just that part done and reattached to the main part of it (if they can do that). But we are absolutely not willing to pay a penny towards it. It's their fault; they need to deal with it.

And my hubby says there seems to be some problem with the power steering on the newly repaired car! Does the nightmare ever end? I know, gam zu le tova [this too will be for good]. Please just tell me how.

I keep trying so hard to keep things going in the right direction and it just keeps getting tougher and tougher. I'm still not feeling great. We all just stayed home today and tried to catch up on sleep and get better, rather than walk an hour and 20 minutes to shul. I'm not aching any more, Baruch Hashem [Thank G-d], but I'm still coughing really badly and that's not good news with my history of asthma and pneumonia. Things tend to settle in my chest and just stay there.

It's shaping up to be a very busy day tomorrow, so I'm posting this before midnight and trying to get some rest.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Every time I turn around there's good news and bad news, bad news and good news.

The bad news: Hubby's partial plate kept breaking and the cost to replace it turned out to be over $600, NONE of which would be covered under his extended medical because he's only had it for 3 years and they only pay out for that every 5 years.

The good news: He found a place that can supposedly repair it (recommended by someone who has had it done). It'll be ready tomorrow and will cost $45.

The bad news: Dear Child was sick yesterday with a fever and missed school.

The good news: She was able to go back today.

The bad news: Now I'm sick -- cold and achy all over.

The good news: We went to parent-teacher conferences and heard lots of good things about DC.

The bad news: She had her hearing tested at school today and now needs to go to the doctor for further investigation as one side was problematic.

The good news: I mailed that cheque last night.

The bad news: Being sick obviously makes me susceptible to overspend on food for Shabbat. I spent about $60! I just hurt so much that I didn't care and bought yummy but expensive stuff.

The good news: At least I spent cash and never even considered using the credit card.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It Won't Wait Wednesday Returns

I got kind of out of the habit of taking care of outstanding tasks during all the recent religious holidays, but I'm back into it today with a vengeance!

First, I updated my passbook at the bank on the way to work this morning. My paycheque was in there and it was about $110 more than my average pay because of the extra hours I worked the other week. Of course, it would have looked much more impressive in there if I hadn't been almost $300 into overdraft.

So, then I started paying bills.

IKEA is HISTORY! Totally paid off!

I paid one month on my water bill and one month (last month) on my cell bill. I only just got a notification about my cell bill the other day and realized that I hadn't had one last month. So, I paid it now and will try to pay the rest in 2 weeks.

I've also finally written the cheque for the plumber. I have stamps. I just need to find an envelope so I can mail it tonight.

All of that puts me back about $50 into overdraft (at least it would if the cheque I just wrote were to go through today) so I've also initiated a transfer of $100 from my ING vacation pay account back into my chequing. This was money I should have transfered last month to cover the 2 vacation days I took during Sukkot. And I'll have my 2 government cheques totalling $156 coming between the 20th and the end of the month. At least one of them and probably both will come before my next payday (2 weeks from today).

I still have about $20 on the Safeway card I got at the beginning of the month and I'll ask Hubby for $100 for another one when he gets paid at the end of the week, but I'm not sure he'll be able to. After all, he has to pay at least that much for the repair to his bike and we're going to have to pay for a new partial plate for him after all. Glue just isn't holding it. I'm not sure if any of that will be covered by his extended medical. We'll see.

Anyway, when all's said and done, I should have about $200 to last me for 2 weeks. Plus I could go back into overdraft but I'm trying not to. I still haven't used the credit card and I'm planning not to use it at all this month. I'd like to pay another $100 on my MasterCard on the 26th but I don't think I'll be able to because I have to pay about $90 on my cell bill.

We're not doing tremendously well, but we're hanging in there and trying not to go any further into debt. If things like this bike accident and the car repair would stop happening we'd be fine!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This famous poem was written in May 1915 and has been learned by countless schoolchildren, myself included. More than the ubiquitous red poppies that everyone seems to wear at this time of year, this is what I think of when I think of Remembrance Day.

I picture McRae writing this on a piece of paper on his comrade's back during a lull in the fighting as he tried to deal with the death of one of his friends and it makes the ultimate sacrifice made by so many through the years more personal, more real.

May we all merit to live in a time when all our soldiers everywhere will come home safely.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sometimes People Just Don't Get It

I just read 7 Surefire Ways to Stay Poor by Liz Pulliam Weston and, with all due respect, Liz just doesn't get it.

She starts strong, talking about a friend who drives a clunker but pays a hefty car payment. When she asks about it, she finds out that the friend's previous car needed $2,000 in repairs (been there, done that) and she couldn't afford it. Because she had bad credit, a dealership set her up with a used car at an astronomical interest rate. The payments were just barely affordable. But the point is, they were affordable and there was no way she could pay $2,000 up front. Her friend did what she had to do.

Liz is right. It's not a great solution. And it may cause further problems for her friend if paying this big car payment means she can't take care of routine maintenance or put money away in an emergency fund or pay down her credit cards (which were maxed).

But, if you're poor, you do what you have to do. If you think she shouldn't have taken the car loan then come up with a better solution that is actually feasible, given your friend's circumstances.

I've dealt with this situation twice. The first time (before I remarried) I sold the car for scrap and started taking the bus to work. Then we had a bus strike. Two wonderful co-workers drove way out of their way to pick me up in the mornings during the strike and I walked home (an hour walk) at night. This time, my hubby got an advance on commissions and increased his credit limit. But, if we couldn't have done those things or gotten a loan (either from the bank or a family member) we too would have had to trade the car for a used one.

I'm unimpressed by much of the rest of her, well, I can't even call it advice. For example, Liz notes that one of the ways the poor stay poor is by overspending on the big items (rent, mortgage, car payment) rather than on the little ones (too many visits to Starbucks). Her advice, such as it is? Just don't spend more than 30% on shelter or 10% on a car.

If you're poor or if you suddenly become poor (by job loss or divorce) that may be difficult to impossible to do. Moving isn't cheap, even if you do it yourself with a friend's truck. There are still deposits and all sorts of connection fees (gas, electric, phone) to pay. You may not be able to sell your own place or break your lease. You may not be able to move out of an expensive city because of custody agreements for your kids.

Yes, there may be some ways to economize while you wait for a buyer or the anniversary date on your lease. If you have any extra rooms you could try to rent them out to students. If you aren't upside down on your car you could try to sell it privately and then buy a decent used one. If the situation is new to you, there are probably a lot of little expenses you could cut out. But if you've been poor for any length of time you've probably done all that and hearing all the same suggestions over and over is liable to get on your last nerve.

When she talks about credit cards she says to just stop using credit if you can't pay your bill in full. Then pay far more than the minimum until you wipe out the debt. What about when you're a few days from payday and there's no milk or bread in the house, and no gas in the car you must drive in order to keep your job? Do you say "Mustn't use the credit cards?" or do you just charge the minimum amount that will feed your kids and get you to work until payday?

How do you pay more than the minimum payment when you can't even afford the minimum?

Liz talks about the danger of considering only the monthly payment in determining affordability and warns against using payday lenders or rent-to-own places. Now, payday lenders are a huge, huge problem. I hate that they can charge something like 300% interest and would like to see them legislated out of existence. But I know someone who uses them to cash her BC Benefit and UCCB cheques. I think they charge something like $3 per cheque but this person uses them because she doesn't have a drivers licence or any other acceptable photo ID and therefore can't open a bank account.

And, many years ago, I went the rent-to-own route for a VCR so I could play videos for my kids. It wasn't too much monthly and we got a ton of use out of it. Yes, I did pay almost 3 times what the VCR would have cost to buy outright but I was a single parent with 3 small kids and no credit rating. In fact, it actually helped me to establish a credit rating. But don't buy a 42" flat screen on a rent-to-own plan or a big dining room set!

Now, I'm not saying that Liz doesn't make some good points. If you're broke, tracking your money is vital. You shouldn't get yourself in over your head on anything, whether it's too much house, an expensive car, rooms full of furniture (don't pay until 2010), or whatever. Don't confuse wants with needs. Don't cash out your retirement fund when you leave a company.

She just needs to realize that some of her suggestions were unrealistic for a poor person to implement.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Unscheduled Rant

This is for the guy (or gal) driving a van north on Knight Street this morning in the rain.

You know when you hit your brakes hard and you heard a little thump on the back of your van? That was my husband's face smashing into your back window! Maybe after you parked your vehicle at your destination you noticed a little dirty mark on your back bumper. That was from my hubby's bike. The front fork has to be replaced and it's going to cost about $100.

Was that a spot of blood on the back window that the rain didn't quite wash away? That would be from where his face was cut open above and below his eye. You mean you didn't notice his face in your rear view window? Maybe you don't use your mirrors much. I'm sure if you had noticed you wouldn't have driven off and left the scene. In case you're not aware, that's a criminal offense. If my husband hadn't been in pain and shock perhaps he could have gotten your plate number and you can bet the police would have been at your door.

Lucky for you both that he was able to stay upright and get out of the travelled portion with his non-functional bike without being hit by anybody else.

In case nobody noticed, I'm upset. Listen, accidents happen, especially in the rain and Baruch Hashem [Thank G-d] my husband is going to be fine. The point is that drivers in general (and this person specifically) have to pay better attention. Pay attention so you don't have to stomp on your brakes. Pay attention so you know what vehicles, bikes and pedestrians are around you. Pay attention so you'll know if you hit someone!

I left work to take my husband to Emergency and the bike to be repaired. They checked him out and sewed him up with stitches that have to be removed in 5 days. The longer of the 2 cuts is 2 to 3" long and right under his eye. The other one is above his eyebrow. Baruch Hashem, his eye itself is fine. He's badly shaken up and his chest is sore but they don't think he cracked any ribs, not that there's much in the way of treatment for that anyway. They basically just gave him some Tylenol 3 and told him to go home and rest.

While Hubby was waiting in Emergency he felt something rough in his mouth and took his partial plate out. The front tooth fell out of the plate. Yippee. So, when he was done there we went to the dentist. The choices were to replace the entire plate for about $500 or glue the tooth back in. We voted for glue.

Anyway, thanks to my readers for letting me vent. I'm going to bed now because tomorrow is the first early Shabbos of the year. We light candles at 4:23 pm and I've done nothing today in preparation. I work tomorrow until I go to pick up my Dear Child at 2 pm so there's not a ton of time. Luckily I've planned to make a vegetarian lasagne for Friday night, which only takes about 20 minutes of prep and another 20 minutes in the oven.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November Financial Goals

Back on October 26th I wrote that my financial goals for November are:

1. Not to charge anything during the month.
2. To pay off IKEA.
3. To start paying down my MasterCard.

It's 5 days into the month and I've already put money towards MasterCard and have made plans to pay off the IKEA bill a week from today. That feels good. I'd like to put another $100 toward the MasterCard by the end of the month but I'm not 100% sure I'll be able to, what with the other things I need to do.

I also haven't charged anything in the month of November but there's still plenty of month left, so I shouldn't get all proud of myself yet. Besides, until I paid that $83 and change I was so close to my limit that I didn't dare charge anything.

But I did encounter a situation where I might have otherwise been tempted to use my credit card. As you may have heard, Linens N Things is declaring bankruptcy and closing all their stores. I took my Eldest Daughter to IKEA to return something on Sunday and to get some missing parts for something else and we saw the massive signage at LNT (very close by) so we went to check it out.

Prices will probably drop further before people get really excited. Right now things are anywhere from 10% to 30% off, with only things like duvets at the 30% discount right now. I wanted three things and I got two of them. First, I was looking for a wedding present and I found something I liked at a decent price. Second, I needed a curtain rod for those living room curtains I charged a month or two ago. I found a nice, slim rod and some matching finials. The whole thing was 10% off and the finials were also already marked down $10! (Now I just need Hubby to get handy with a drill and put the rod up!)

What I didn't find were comforters in a pattern that will complement the sheets we bought previously at LNT. I was hoping for 2 full/double comforters and there were only a couple of twin size and a king. They have something that looks like a cross between a blanket and a duvet (but very, very thin) in the right colour and size but far too thin to be using instead of a duvet or comforter. Plus, I think they were regularly $79 each, with a 10% discount. The comforters were only $99 each regularly and much warmer and more useful. Of course, that's probably why they're all sold.

Anyway, I bought the items I needed and nothing else! Plus, I used my debit card for them so there's no worrying about how I'll pay for them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

She Works Hard for the Money

Well, I've been working extra hours for the past week and I wondered just how much that was going to turn into on my paycheque. I figure I've earned about an extra $180 over the hours I usually put in and that will probably end up being about $120 once all the deductions are taken off.

That's nice, but I really need more than that. We also finally got the re-imbursement for my visit to the dentist back in the middle of September. The first cheque went to our old address so it had to be re-issued and it's taken a while. Hubby transfered it to me today and I've now paid MasterCard $81.36. So, that's something at least.

What will I use the extra $120 for when I get it in a week from now? I'm sorely tempted to put it all towards IKEA, toss in another $20 or so and have that one fully paid off. The card is at a horrible interest rate (28%!!!) and I never intended to be carrying a balance on it. This is all because of the dumb mirror I took back and they wouldn't reverse my credit card but gave me a store credit instead. I still have almost $40 of the store credit left (after buying bookshelves for the country house) and I think that will turn into a Hanukkah present for one of my grown kids.

Eldest Daughter and I have been talking about Hanukkah and I think we're going to do a draw among all the grown kids, me and Hubby and each get one person to buy for. They feel like we have too much on our plates to be buying a nice gift each for the big ones, plus 8 gifts each for Dear Child and for each of our 3 granddaughters.

ED is also trying to convince me to just get one gift for each of the grandkids because with everybody else buying for them they'll still end up getting at least a gift a night. I'm thinking about it. I'm just not sure it's fair because I'm still giving DC a gift per night regardless (I've already bought 5 gifts, plus one night is always chocolate gelt and dreidels). I should note that I've always tried to keep the kid gifts small, $5 or so per night, but not junk. It's not like we're trying to make Hanukkah into another overly commercialized extravaganza like the other major religious holiday at the same time. But kids like having a little something to open every evening when they light the candles and to have something new to play with while they're lit. It just multiplies exponentially as you add children and grandchildren.

My hubby gave me a cheque the other day for $100 for a Safeway Gift Card from the school (which I wrote about before) and today was the day to use it. Safeway offers 10% off your bill the first Tuesday of every month and I hope to start planning my shopping around that! Today, with not much in the way of real planning I was spending $90 something, once all the sale prices were taken into consideration it was in the mid $70s. With the 10% discount, I paid about $66 at Safeway. (I also went to Superstore for the things that are cheaper there and bought $45, and about 1/3 of that was non-food items like garbage bags and light bulbs.)

I want November to be a really frugal month, one where I actually pay all the bills instead of juggling them. I don't know if that's totally realistic, but I'm hoping. Gas is down, which is good. I actually saw it advertised for 99.9 cents per litre last night, which made the price at the pump 96.4 cents and for 97.9 tonight (94.5 cents/litre at the pump)! It hasn't been under $1/litre for a very long time, and was actually up around $1.52/litre in the summer, so that's just fantastic.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Spring Ahead, Fall Back

This is pretty weird. I thought I posted this last night, but it was just sitting as a draft. Let's try this again. And now it posts but at the time I originally tried to post it (i.e. just after midnight Sunday, so very early Monday morning, even though now it's after midnight again and is now technically Tuesday). Okay, fine. It's actually appropriate how time-challenged this post is. [cue X Files or Twilight Zone music]

Early Sunday morning we turned the clocks back and got an extra hour of sleep. Apparently, that extra hour may be good for your health (always assuming you didn't just stay up later than normal).

But I tend to think of the useful phrase "spring ahead, fall back" as more than a way to remember which way to turn the clock. It pretty much describes my progress in financial matters.

I make some progress and then I crash and burn. Sometimes it's pretty clearly my own fault. I had a bill. I didn't pay it when I should have. I spent the money I could have used to pay the bill on something frivolous, like groceries or gas. The bill suddenly becomes important. I somehow pull together the money to pay it. If that happened once, it wouldn't be a big deal but it's not just once. I pretty much just rinse and repeat.

Other times, something comes at me out of left field, like the water pump and related car repair bills. I didn't do anything to make it malfunction. We even take the car in pretty regularly for the maintenance stuff like oil changes. But it happens and it needs to be taken care of immediately. Much drama. But again, the money appears from somewhere and disaster is averted.

What do I do then? I say Thank You to the Boss because, ultimately, He's responsible for getting the money to me. But I need to do more. I need to work harder on these things, so that they have less and less impact over time and so that eventually the first category won't happen. Unexpected issues will always continue to crop up however, so I also need to keep plugging away on an emergency fund.

Even if I have to dip into it every few months an emergency fund is important. Maybe "especially" if I have to keep dipping into it. When you don't have an emergency fund and something happens, you're in big trouble.

But the most frustrating part for me personally about the situation of taking "3 steps forward, 2 steps back" is that I keep feeeling like I'm in the middle of Groundhog Day or that X Files episode where the day keeps repeating endlessly.

I know I need to do something differently but everything I try comes out pretty much the same. When will I get it "right" so the replays will stop?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reading but Not Posting

I feel like a slacker! I've been working full-time all week and I've gotten so totally wrapped up in reading blogs the past couple of evenings that I haven't really come up for air. Trent recently answered a reader's question about reading challenging material and I've been sort of thinking about that in some little corner of my brain.

I was looking for something online and ended up going off on a tangent (ADD, moi?) and reading a lot of both blog posts and comments I would never have stumbled across otherwise. What I was reading about isn't important. But what I found, was. I learned a lot, not all of it pleasant. I found ignorant, biased people intent on forcing their viewpoint on the rest of society under a wide variety of banners. Of those, I think I found the intolerant liberals the most amusing. I mean, shouldn't "intolerant liberal" be an oxymoron? I learned a lot about a couple of groups of people, one of which I didn't really know existed.

I also found intelligent, caring people who have made tremendously different choices than I have in my life but who are very like me in a number of other ways. I found some people with excellent writing skills, people who have an ability with words that I will never have. I've seen how those skills can be used to support and encourage and I've seen how those skills can be used to condescend and isolate.

Much of what I've read has no connection to anything in my "real" life but it's true that reading things far different from your normal fare can shake things up. It's not that what I've read is causing me to question my beliefs and values. Rather I'm seeing more. More connections. More things I want to know more about.

But it's left me a little off-balance and feeling unprepared to write. My usual posts seem so banal, so trivial. My writing skills, skills I've been praised for at school and at work, seem sadly undeveloped.

My feelings of inadequacy are increased by the lack of progress in paying bills. I don't want to post on here and say that I'm still waiting to do x or y.

So, let me just close for today by telling you to go out and read. Look for things that are opposite to your usual inclinations. Read the comments. Follow links. Learn something new this weekend. It may shock you, enlighten you, anger you or amuse you but it will keep you growing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I'm looking forward to having my paycheque in the bank in the morning. The cheque itself won't be huge, but it won't be terrible (especially when you consider it's my 3rd one this month). I need to mail a cheque to the plumber and make payments on a couple of other things. I should also transfer $100 into my chequing account from my vacation pay account at ING because I took 2 days of vacation time that fall out during this pay period. Oops, and I have my other benefit cheque to deposit as well. I have a number of items that come out at either the end of the month or in the first week of the next month that have to be covered and that money will do that.

I also want my hubby to give me $100 from his month end cheque to put towards groceries. Dear Child's school sells Safeway gift cards and I want to buy one. I do a lot of our regular grocery shopping there anyway (it's directly on my way home from work) and for every $100 card you buy the school gets something like $8. Even if I only buy 2 or 3 cards per month I could potentially make a couple of hundred dollars for the school. That may not be a fortune for the school but it doesn't cost me a penny! Why wouldn't I do it?

What else do I need to pay? Well, I'm going to order DC's school pictures. The proofs came home yesterday and they're gorgeous. They're much better than most of the school pictures my grown kids had (well, with the exception of Eldest Daughter's grad pictures, but they cost a fortune). I don't know if the photographers are better or if it has something to do with digital technology, but I was really impressed.

My only problem is that I prefer one pose and hubby and ED prefer a different one. I really don't want to order a 2nd package to get 2 poses since the package I want costs about $32 (additional packages are half price). I suppose I could add 4 pictures of a 2nd pose for $16 ($8 really). That brings the total up to $40 but we have to give pics to the in-laws, DC's siblings and other family members, and we want to have a couple ourselves to display and to carry around in our wallets. I also really love the idea having a collection of pictures taken about the same time every year to capture how she changes and matures.

So, it's an expense, but it's one that I care about. This year was the first time that I didn't buy anything from the wrapping paper/chocolate fundraiser the school does every year. I love gift bags but I didn't let myself get tempted. By not spending at least $14 on a set of gift bags I have a little more money to get the pictures. Photos I can keep forever. Gift bags, not so much.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Busy Week & Some November Goals

School starts again tomorrow (for Dear Child) and I'm also going to be working full-time for the week, while my co-worker is off. My third payday of the month will be Wednesday and I plan to do a little catching up on paying bills. Then my payday 2 weeks after that will be an extra-large one, so I'll do a little more catching up.

I really want to get things back under control after our expensive car repair. Things have all been piling up for a while and now I finally feel that I can get us back on track. As I mentioned the other day, gas prices have been coming down somewhat and that, combined with not going to our rural home between now and Hanukkah (late December), will mean some reduction in our spending.

One of the ways things have been piling up is that we've been using our credit cards (we each have one major card, plus Home Depot and IKEA) far too much and for some troubling items. When the economic climate is tight and you find you're charging gas and groceries that should be a wake-up call. Last month I charged $230.95 in groceries (for the various holidays, including our family Rosh Hashana dinner) and $155.60 in gas for a trip to the house, which includes filling the tank on the way back (leaving 3/4 of a tank to drive on for the following week). We have no more holidays until December and no long car trips until then, so I don't expect to need to charge anything over the next while.

That's good, because putting half of the car repair on my hubby's card was very upsetting. My financial goals for November are:
1. Not to charge anything during the month.
2. To pay off IKEA.
3. To start paying down my MasterCard.

Microgoals Revisited

I put up a sidebar with my microgoals some time ago in an attempt to keep myself on track. So, how am I doing?

In some categories I'm getting some things done. In others, I'm seeing things sit there for an embarrassingly long period of time. (Notice that I haven't caught up on the classwork I missed the first couple of weeks of class? Or, how about the bill I still haven't paid?) But that's the point. I'm supposed to be embarrassed by things like that so I get off my tushy and actually do them! (My excuse is that there have been a lot of holiday days this past month or so, where we can't write or handle money, but that excuse won't fly any more.)

Other things aren't really moving forward, but that's because I have some kind of decision to make. I haven't opened the ING sub-account for the wine course because I'm looking at the new Tax Free Savings Account that is coming in at the beginning of January and wondering about the value of rolling all my subaccounts over into that.

Basically, the TFSA is an account that you can put $5,000 into per year and the interest is tax-free. The nifty thing about it is that you can withdraw the money at any time and for apparently any purpose without incurring a penalty! And, any money you take out this year gets added to your $5,000 contribution room for next year. For example, if you have the maximum in your TFSA for 2009 and you withdraw $2,000 of that in November 2009 you can turn around and put $7,000 in during 2010! You can also roll over any unused contribution room to a later year. So, if you put in $5,000 in 2009 and then had a bad year in 2010, where you couldn't contribute at all, you could put in up to $10,000 in 2011.

I need to get a little more information about how it works if you deposit monthly (instead of putting the maximum in at the beginning of the year) and take out money some months later. Can you continue with your monthly deposits this year or not? I think you can, so long as the money you deposit doesn't exceed $5,000 (including the initial deposit of the money that was later withdrawn) in that calendar year. But I still want to confirm that.

A lot of people have been talking about the TFSA as an additional type of retirement plan, but I don't see why I can't toss my emergency fund, my vacation pay and my other set-aside money into a TFSA and then just pull out the money as I need it. The only drawback would seem to be that I'd then have to keep track of just how much of the money belonged to which category. Right now, with sub-accounts, I just log on and can see how much I have in my emergency fund at a glance. I don't have to do math.

As I say, I'm still deciding.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gas Prices Still Too High

Gas prices have been coming down but they haven't dropped to the levels most people would expect, given the current price of crude oil.

Over the past year or so, gas prices rose about 50%, while the cost of a barrel of oil rose about 50%. Now, oil has dropped 50% and gas prices have only dropped by about 20%. Also, it seems just a little interesting that the price stayed high (around $1.50 per litre) through the summer when people are more likely to be taking car trips and only drops now that everybody is back to their normal commute.

And how about the way the price fluctuates depending on what time it is? Wednesday morning I saw gas advertised at $1.159. Later it was $1.139 and then $1.109. Well after dark I saw it advertised at $1.099. This morning it was $1.170 during the morning rush hour. This isn't an unusual pattern, at least in the Lower Mainland. You can't tell me that gas stations are reacting to the changing price for crude oil on an almost hourly basis. If they were truly that sensitive to the market, the price of gas would be back down below $1.00 per litre, down around $0.75 or so.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Now Return to Everyday Life

The holidays are over. Simchat Torah was great. We finished reading the last verses of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and start the annual cycle over again with Bereshit (Genesis). We danced with the Torah Scrolls and all the men took turns carrying one around while reciting from the prayer book. The really big partying took place last night, with a somewhat more subdued version taking place today in the shul proper.

In our shul (synagogue) the nighttime dancing always spills out into the street and the procession of Torahs and dancing, singing men wends its way from corner to corner until they make it back to where they started. Dear Child had a wonderful time, carried on her father's back. I stood just outside the shul, waving her stuffed Torah, as cars honked cheerfully at everybody.

But now life returns to normal. No more 2 day holidays in the middle of the week. In fact, no more holidays until Hanukkah, which will be late in December this year. In some ways this is good. It's hard to get much work done when you're only in the office for one or 2 days, then off again for a couple of days over and over. Meals can go back to being more simple. In our house we generally don't eat meat or drink wine except on the Sabbath and on festivals, so that will reduce our food expenses. My Dear Child will finally go back to school (next week) and learning can really commence seriously for the year.

But I have to say I'll miss the increased spiritual focus of the past few weeks. Yes, now that we start reading Torah from the beginning again, I'll begin again studying the parsha (portion) of the week with DC. This year she's starting to read and I think that will be exciting. I'll get back to doing my daily learning, Chitas (a portion daily from the Tanya, the Book of Psalms and the weekly portion with commentary). I've tried to keep up but the parsha part of it has suffered the most. Perhaps not surprisingly, I know the opening chapters of Bereshit (Genesis) the best. I'm always on my best behavior, the most motivated, etc. as we start the cycle. And there are no holidays for a while to break my concentration.

The other thing is that, with all these holidays on Wednesdays, I haven't had the opportunity to do my It Won't Wait Wednesday projects over the past month or so. And I've been way too busy to get around to a lot of the things that I've been meaning to do. I've got to get back to that.

And the exercise. What can I say about it? We walk a lot during the High Holy Days. Three weeks out of four we have a 2 day holiday when we have to walk to and from services at least once a day, sometimes twice. Plus the Sabbath keeps rolling around where we do the same. If you live close to your synagogue it's not too big a deal. But we walk an hour and 20 minutes each way! The exercise has probably been good for me, although I don't think I've lost any weight (the walking is counteracted by all the holiday food). But, boy, am I tired!

What happens next? I get up bright and early tomorrow morning and go to work for the whole day. I have to deposit my BC Benefit cheque into the bank and update my passbook, then do a bit of grocery shopping. Welcome back to my (everyday) miscellaneous life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Home Again

We're home again and I'm better able to post. For anyone who noticed the unusual brevity of the two previous posts, they were done on my beloved BlackBerry. I'm still working on becoming comfortable with typing lengthy posts because I'm not used to using the small, abbreviated keyboard. It's fine for short texts or cruising the web, but I'm used to a full QWERTY keyboard and to typing as I think.

The holiday has been great so far. Tomorrow night the two final festival days begin and Tuesday lunch is the last meal that we eat in the sukkah. In the meantime, we have an interesting time managing to eat, given that we didn't put up a sukkah here in Vancouver.

We ate a big meal before we left (the last of the brisket and some fried potatoes, yum!) but Dear Child and I wanted something when we got back to the city. So we put some stuff together and went out to a sukkah beside where I work. I'm switching vehicles with my son-in-law tomorrow so I can take all the girls to the Community Centre for lunch. It'll be my granddaughters' first meal in the sukkah this year so it'll be fun. Monday night we go to the rabbi's house and again for lunch on Tuesday. So, we're covered but it certainly eliminates snacking!

The trip was good for a variety of reasons. We had a nice time having our neighbours over for dinner in the sukkah and getting to spend a whole week at the house was great.

We had a guy in to service the furnace on Friday. It cost just under $150 but was well worth it. Our oil furnace is 40 years old and was working well when we first bought our place but we started having problems last winter after we ran out of oil. We were concerned that the furnace might be coming to the end of its life but it turned out that running out of oil had caused a deposit of crud on a microfilter and that seems to be what was causing it to not come on every couple of days. When it didn't come on by itself, we would just hit the reset button and it would start again but that's not very useful when it's the middle of winter and we're not there. Luckily, our neighbour was checking it out every couple of days but I don't want to rely on that or put that burden on him.

The other important thing I did on Friday was to go into town and pay my overdue property taxes!