Monday, December 28, 2009

The Crack in the Ceiling

Well, if it isn't one thing, it's another.  We suddenly had a big, scary crack open up in the ceiling in our Dear Child's room on Shabbos.  My Eldest Daughter's kitchen is directly above and it turns out that water has been leaking from the sink under the base cabinets and I guess the floor is giving way.  Did I say scary?  Very, very scary. The fridge is right beside the cabinets in question and one of our first moves was to Move. The. Fridge.  Because, you know, it isn't heavy or anything.  Luckily a friend's non-Jewish boyfriend and his dad happened to come over and moved it for us.

The fridge is now in ED's living room, which isn't great but it's a lot better than having it in DC's bedroom!  If we hadn't moved it, that would have been a distinct possibility.  Considering that it would have landed at least partially on the bed I'm wondering if we should be bentching gomel!  (This is a short prayer said in shul thanking G-d for having been saved from a life-threatening situation.)  Dear Child was sleeping in there when the crack developed and I was also in there for part of the night because she had a bad dream and I snuggled her back to sleep.  Of course, I didn't see it then because it was dark but it was apparent first thing in the morning.

My son-in-law came back from his parents' place with the girls late Saturday night (the original plan had been to drive back today) and we've done a bunch of preparatory work.  DC's room has been emptied except for her dresser (far enough from the damaged area), one kitchen cabinet has been removed and the flooring pulled up.  Next, S-in-L plans to open up DC's ceiling to assess the damage from below and determine how far the problem goes.  Not that it really matters.  The next cabinet to come out is the sink cabinet and then there a couple of small ones and a large corner cupboard.  It only makes sense to take them all out because they'll never be able to match them.  That means they're going to be doing dishes in the bathroom for a while.

The lucky thing is that IKEA is apparently having a Kitchen Event starting January 4th.  (I'm not sure why they're doing that, as they just had one for the whole month of November, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.)  The kids can't even really afford to do an IKEA kitchen right now (plus new sink, faucet, counter, etc.) with the baby due in a few weeks but this is work that can't be put off in any way.

Once the floor and subfloor are repaired and we're sure everything is safe they can replace the cabinets.  Oh yes, and install his parents' gift to them -- a new dishwasher!  And we can fix the ceiling in DC's room.  Maybe we'll finally get around to replacing her light fixture with the one we bought ages ago.  I'm also seriously thinking about ripping up the nasty carpet in her room and putting in Dri-Core and a wood floor.  I mean, everything is out of there.  When else are we going to do it?  I still have some materials left over from when I did the living room, but I'd need some more at least.  It won't cost a fortune because I'm pretty sure the room is less than 100 square feet.  We'll see.  I do want to get the room back in order fairly soon though.  Right now she's sleeping with one or the other of us and her "stuff" is all over the living room and kitchen.

The really frustrating thing is that this is happening just after my daughter and S-in-L finished redoing their girls' bedroom because the roof had been leaking and there was water damage to the ceiling and wall.  It seems like there is always money to be spent somewhere (and big money at that!).  They can't really afford it much better than we can.  As for me, the only money I'll spend is on flooring if I decide to redo the floor.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday and the Very Bad Car Day

For some reason I thought I had posted about this, but I obviously didn't.  Sleep deprivation will do that to you, I guess.

We've been having problems on and off with the car, often at night or when it's very cold.  You insert the key in the ignition and...nothing.  Maybe a click, maybe an attempt at turning over, maybe not.  It didn't always happen after the car had been sitting for a long time.  Sometimes you could be in the midst of a series of brief stops and the car could work fine repeatedly and then just not work.  We figured it was one of 4 things:
1. a battery problem, including a dead cell
2. an alternator problem
3. the starter solenoid, or
4. an intermittent electrical system problem

We were trying to arrange to get it in somewhere to be looked at (and had actually booked an appointment for the middle of the day on Tuesday, which I just this second realized needs to be cancelled) but it died on us early Friday morning, parked on a major street a couple of blocks from home.

BCAA came and jumped it and my son-in-law got it home while I took everyone to work and school in the van instead.  Then it stopped again at the house and couldn't be restarted.  BCAA had to come back to take it to a shop to be worked on.  The dealership that I'd made the appointment with was too far away but they took it to another place that was quite close.  Interestingly, they didn't tow it but showed up with a flatbed truck and loaded it onto there.

The small shop it went to replaced the battery and some clamps that attach the battery to the car.  It turns out that the battery was oozing sulphuric acid and the positive terminal was corroded through.  The final bill was $238, less than a third of what it would have been for a new alternator.  That's something to be thankful for at least.

Of course, all of this took most of the day and caused endless stress on the shortest Shabbos of the year.  We did get it back before Shabbos, but we were cutting it pretty fine.   I never got to Safeway since I didn't have a vehicle and that meant we were out of a couple of things we really needed.  Milk, for instance.

I can hear someone saying, "But you drove the van".  Well, yes.  But my son-in-law needed that back when preschool let out at 11:30 am.  That's when he took his 2 girls and drove them to Hope.  His folks live up north and met him there because they're taking the girls for 10 days or so.  So I didn't have a vehicle and my Hubby had to borrow the van from work to pick me up so we could play musical cars when the thing was finally ready.

In all of this mess Dear Child ended up not going to school for the last day before winter break, mostly because I had no way to know if I would be able to pick her up!  However, I had to go to her school anyway in the morning because I had all the notes for all the teachers and all the gifts for them for Hanukkah/winter break and they had to be given to them that day.  Then Dear Child hung out with her big sister, who had a dentist appointment at the mall while I worked and waited for the saga of the car to unfold.

It was a horrible day and I was very tempted to take the car and have it crushed into a large paperweight but I resisted the temptation and am now able to drive again.  This makes over $2,800 in repairs these past few months, $2,000 a year ago and 3 pairs of rear tires (roughly $600) in the past 8 or 10 months (due to the bent axle).  Actually, the final pair of tires (winter ones) are supposed to be bought tomorrow so we can put the other winter tires on too.  Then we'll be able to drive to the house at some point during winter break.  We hope.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spending My Hanukkah Money

I got $100 for Hanukkah this year; $50 in cash and a $50 Chapters card.  After Shabbos was over I went out to Chapters and spent it all!  Well, technically, I have about $9 left because I bought Thank You cards for my Hubby and I don't think that should come out of my present money!

What did I get for all that money?  Mostly I spent $42 on a book that I've been wanting to buy for about 30 years!  It's a book by John Seymour titled The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It and it has pretty much everything you might ever want to know how to do in it.  Want to plan a 1 acre or 5 acre farm?  Want to keep bees?  Make mead?  Set up a cowshed or dairy?  Make wine?  Spin wool?  Thatch a roof?  It's all in this heavily illustrated book.

I read it years and years ago and it's been in the back of my mind ever since we started talking about our retirement plans.  It was the single best purchase I could have made with my gift card!  I also bought a paperback and the latest copy of The English Garden magazine, which I buy every time I see a new issue.  Because I spent $50 I was able to buy a lovely soft off-white blanket for myself for $25.  My Eldest Daughter got this same blanket in dark grey earlier and I fell in love with it immediately.  It just feels so warm and soft, perfect for sitting on the sofa and reading a book.

I got my Starbucks card from Bankrupt Betty at Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy in the mail Thursday or Friday so I stopped for a decaf white mocha once I paid for my books.  (The Chapters I went to has a Starbucks at one end.)  Mmm, mmm good!  Thanks!

So ends Hanukkah this year....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Little Math

I mentioned paying down money on my credit card in two ways in my last post.  I haven't yet started making the direct payments I listed as a goal but here's an update on the regular monthly payments I'm already making.  I (aim to) pay $90 every 2 weeks and last month I was charged $87.36 in interest.  So I lowered my credit card debt by a total of $92.64 last month.  The previous month I only made one of the 2 payments because I was juggling a lot of other bills and was trying to get current on everything.  I paid $88.19 in interest and therefore my $90 in payments lowered my debt by a whopping $1.81 that month. So I was charged $0.83 less in interest this month than in November.

In January I'll be charged less interest than I was this month and so on.  So, when I say that I'll pay down $1,080 in regular credit card payments, that means just one of my $90 payments each month will reduce my debt by that amount.  My other payment each month goes mostly towards interest at this point but a couple of dollars of that are going towards reducing the debt too and that amount is rising by close to a dollar per month.  I'm definitely no math whiz and won't even take a crack at figuring out what the interest charge will be a month from now (and therefore the difference between the $90 paid and the interest charged), but lets ballpark the difference at $3.50.  Then, in February, it would be around $4.50, in March around $5.50 and so on up to $14.50 in December of next year.  It will be more than that because of the way compounding works, but I'm trying to keep it simple.  Add all those small amounts together and I get $113 extra in debt reduction over what I budgeted for in my goals!

It gets even better.  I overlooked the fact that I pay every 2 weeks, not twice a month.  That means there are 2 extra payments per year or another $180 that I'll be automatically paying down that I didn't even think about when I first wrote out my goals!  That's almost another $300 I'll pay down without even doing anything different.  And, when I start making those extra payments of $50 every two weeks, that will bring down my balance even faster, meaning even smaller interest charges every month than I had figured on!  I love to see compound interest working in my favour for a change.  And what I had originally dismissed from my calculations as an almost immaterial amount will snowflake gradually into a serious amount of money by the end of next year!

Of course, all this is contingent on making the payments as planned and not charging anything new (or paying it off within the month, which would have a minimal effect on the interest charged).  But just running these numbers, rough as they are, makes me feel so good!  I really can make significant progress in reducing my debt!  I'm going to get out of debt as soon as possible and buy my little piece of land (and then pay it off before we hit retirement age).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Goals for 2010

Okay, so here are my financial goals for 2010, with a few goals for our rural house and my fitness thrown in.  There are a lot more goals here than last year but many of them should be relatively easy to carry out.  For instance, I already wrote and sent in all the post-dated cheques for that $1,500 of debt and the $1,080 in regular credit card payments will happen if I just pay $90 every 2 weeks.  In fact it will be more than that but I don't know exactly how much more.  Last month I paid just over $88 in interest, so there's about an extra $2 that I'm paying down, plus the interest I'm charged goes down every month as my balance declines.

Just before I start listing goals I wanted to share that I logged onto my credit card website the other day to see if my most recent payment had posted and if the statement was available.  It wasn't, but I got a shock when I looked at my available credit.  I guess starting to pay $90 every 2 weeks has had an effect.  My credit limit has just been increased by $3,000!  You keep hearing about the opposite happening these days.  People are complaining that their credit limit has been cut or that their interest rates have increased.  Well, not only has my credit limit increased, but I've noticed over the past several months that my interest rate actually declined at least twice!

Financial Goals

  1. Pay down $1,300 directly in credit card debt. Pay down $1,500 in other debt. Pay down $1,080 in regular credit card payments. Total: $3,880. Round up to $3,900. 
  2. Open a TFSA and put $1,300 into it.
  3. Put a minimum of $520 into the Emergency Fund.
  4. Put a minimum of $520 into my RRSP.
  5. Keep putting money into my set aside accounts, rural credit union account, etc.
  6. Keep current on all my bills.
  7. Come up with $3,000 for Dear Child’s dental surgery.
  8. Pay off both Home Depot payment plans on time.

Rural House Goals
  1. Plan out and create a garden in the front of the house (south west side of driveway area). 
  2. Plant lavender border. 
  3. Go to house 2x per month in summer. 
  4. Finish new floor in master bedroom.

Physical Goals

  1.  Get weight down to 120.
  2. Walk for at least a half hour per day (or use elliptical for same length of time).

Okay, so there are my goals.  How about yours?


Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah started Friday night, which meant that we had to light Hanukkah candles before Shabbos candles.  That's always pretty tough when Shabbos comes in so early and we get to do it again next Shabbos because that's the beginning of the last day of Hanukkah.

We lit and gave Dear Child a present: new hat, scarf & mittens set.  She got candy gelt and real gelt.  This year we're doing the $1 the first night, $2 the second night (and so on) thing.  It adds up to $36 per child at the end and the girls are all very excited by the money.  I have DC's present for the end of Hanukkah but, other than pencils with pictures of dreidles on them and a Hanukkah lotto game that everybody will be able to play, we aren't giving her presents this year.  She's hardly deprived however.  She went to a Hanukkah party with my Eldest Daughter and the girls after Shabbos and came home with earrings, nail stickers, candy, a wallet and a Barbie doll!  Tomorrow night is our family party and she'll be getting a gift from her grandparents and each of her siblings.

Tomorrow is a very busy day.  We're going to a Hanukkah party in the morning and then I'll be making lots and lots and lots of latkes in preparation for our party.  It may sound crazy to also go to a party in the morning but, as Eldest Daughter pointed out, if they play hard there for an hour or so we can bring them home and two of them will nap for sure, with DC also possibly napping (though she doesn't normally).  We know there will be bouncy castles (along with crafts, face painting, etc.), so it's a good plan.

In addition to latkes with sour cream or applesauce we're having salmon, cole slaw, raw veggies, a fruit plate and jelly doughnuts.  Amazing as it may seem, the fruit plate is necessary because there are a few people who don't like doughnuts!  I personally can't imagine not liking them but to each their own.  You have a piece of canteloupe; I'll happily eat your jelly doughnut.

To all of you who celebrate Hanukkah, may you have a wonderful holiday filled with light and family and fun times.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Won't Wait Thursday?

Yeah, that's not so great with the alliteration but I didn't really accomplish that much yesterday.  I ended up going out unexpectedly in the evening and then fell asleep in front of the computer after I got home.

It was payday yesterday so I have money to pay some bills.  I've paid my cell bill in full (and it wasn't due until December 24th)!  I also paid CapitalOne and Home Depot the amounts I'm putting towards them every pay period.  I went to the bank and took out $144 in Loonies as Hanukkah gelt to give the girls!  My purse is now a deadly weapon because it's so darn heavy.  I've bought a present for my son's roomie (the name I drew in our gift exchange) and told my Hubby what to buy the person whose name he got.

I went to the deli and got food for Shabbos and put $20 worth of gas into the car.  I've been buying gas at PetroCan and using their points card (and gave Hubby a secondary points card a month or two ago, along with instructions to only buy gas there).  We've got almost enough points (assuming they haven't raised it again) to buy a gas card that gives us $0.05 off our next 200 litres of gas.  Prior to this I used Shell in order to get Air Miles but getting cash off gas purchases has become a higher priority.

I also logged onto ING and set up my credit union account as a linked external account and wrote the void cheque I have to send in to complete the process.  Once they have that in their possession my automatic transfers of $10 per week into the Emergency Fund will restart.  And then I wrote a series of post-dated cheques for another (non-credit card) debt we have.  We'd run through the previous series of cheques and I had had to order cheques from the credit union in order to be able to write these.

I'm pretty darn proud of myself!  I think I accomplished a lot today both in getting prepared for Hanukkah (which starts tomorrow night!) and in working towards financial goals.  I'll try to finish getting my 2010 goals into shape to be posted after Shabbos or on Sunday (even though Sunday is when we're having our family party).

I'll get out of debt and be able to buy my land yet!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Preparing to Create Goals

When I was looking back at my goals for 2009 the other day I wondered why I hadn't succeeded with them.  I've been thinking about that quite a bit ever since and I came up with a couple of thoughts.

The first thought is not original in the least.  I think about this every time it happens, then develop amnesia until the next time I end up majorly off track with my goals.  I forgot about them.  On the face of it, that sounds pretty darn dumb doesn't it?  I forgot that I planned to pay down 1/3 of my total indebtedness?  I forgot to keep current with my bills?  But it happens to me all the time.  I set a goal.  Sometimes I even plan out how to get to the goal.  I start off well.  Then I forget.  It's like falling asleep, waking up and not being able to recall the dream you just had.  Over the years I've come to realize that this zoning out or forgetting is a form of resistance.  What I haven't figured out is why I have such strong resistance to so many types of positive changes (because I'm not just talking about financial issues here).  And why do I forget instead of just rebelling?  Is it a way to be passive-aggressive with myself?

My second thought was more practical.  I need a way (or ways) to help me stay focused on the goal so that I will work toward it and continue to do so until I achieve it.  What will kep me headed in the right direction?  Accountability strikes me as a likely possibility.  Really?  Knowing I'd have to admit failure here on the blog didn't help me keep up with my goals this year, did it?  So maybe I have to be accountable on a more regular basis, like monthly or weekly, or even twice a week.  If I know that every Sunday and Wednesday I have to address how I'm doing maybe I'll actually stay on task.  Setting monthly goals is also an idea, but monthly goals that relate to the overall ones directly instead of additional random goals.

In the end, what got me fired up enough to write this post was going online and looking up a property I had considered earlier this year.  It was smaller than I wanted but in the right price range and I might have done something about it if I'd been able to easily access the money we have tied up in my Eldest Daughter's house.  I didn't because they weren't in a position to refinance and take out that chunk of equity now that my daughter will be going off on maternity leave in the New Year.  In fact, they won't be able to do that until she goes back to work at the end of her year-long leave.  They can't make the ratios while she's only getting 57% of her usual salary.  So I know that my dream is kind of on hold for a year.  And this property isn't on the market currently.  I don't think it sold; I think it was just taken off because there wasn't enough interest in it.

Anyway, I'm using it as a bit of a focal point.  I looked up what the mortgage on it would be and then got serious about figuring out how to pay down some of our debt because I also need to come up with another $4,000 to $5,000 over what I can eventually access.  I looked at how fast I could just put it aside versus paying down debt and then saving, versus doing both at once.  Once I pay off my credit card debt I can take that money and add it to the mortgage payments.  Basically, it looks like I can do this in 18 months to 3 years and then pay off a 25 year mortgage in 5 years.  In the end, I've decided that doing both at once provides me with psychological benefits so that's what I'm planning to do.

Now, I realize I don't have this piece of land and that it may not be available once I reach the point where I'm ready to move on it.  But there have been a few pieces of land in that same price range over the past year so I'm willing to trust that there will be another one if this particular property isn't available.  At least, once I pay down debt and save up that money I'll be prepared to jump on something when it comes up.  Otherwise, the best deal in the world could come around and I wouldn't be in a position to accept it.

I'm still working on refining my goals a bit.  I'll put them up soon, along with how I'm planning to keep myself accountable.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Check Out Mrs. Money's Giveaway!

Okay, one of these years when I have something I can give away I'd like have my own contest.  In the meantime, I just found out about the one Mrs. Money is having over on the Ultimate Money Blog!  You can enter but this is one I really want to win!  She makes her own lavender soap.  How great is that?  One of these days I'd like to make soap with my lavender (as well as tea, cookies, bath bombs and herbes du Provence).  For now I'd like to be able to try hers and the dish cloths look really good too.

Go check the contest out!  And thanks to Mrs. Accountability for letting me know about it.

Working Up to Setting More Goals

Okay, how can I create a list of goals for 2010 when I haven't dealt with the whole issue of my goals for 2009 yet?  You see, I made a very short goal list for 2009 and Haven't. Completed. A. Single. One.  Of course, it's only the beginning of December and I did clue into this back in October.  I even came up with a bit of a plan then.  I started implementing that but then I never quite finished.

So I feel like the preliminary step is to work the plan that pertains to the current goals before I write up some fancy list of things I'd like to do next year.  Make sense?

Let's see.  Where am I?  My basic steps to take were:

1. Set aside $106 for Home Depot every payday until the beginning of January when the first lump sum comes due.
2. Start depositing $5/week into my ING Emergency Fund.
3. Set up a set aside account and put $10/week into it.
4. Get current on my bills and pay my grown daughter back the $100 she lent me.

And here's what I've done:

1. Done.  Except that I had originally intended on putting the money into ING and then transferring it just before the due date.  In the end I've been paying Home Depot that money every payday.  Now I don't have to remember to transfer the money out of ING a few days before I want to make the payment.  The outstanding amount will just be gone by the time I need it to be gone.
2. Haven't done it yet because I haven't had even $5/week to spare up until now.  In December I plan to start this up again, starting with my next payday (this coming Wednesday).
3. Haven't done it for the same reason as above.  Instead of a set aside account I think I'm going to try just depositing it to my rural credit union account, since that's where all my rural bills come out of and because I really never touch that account except for that purpose.
4.  I think I've gotten current on all the major bills and paid my daughter back $60.  Yes, I still owe her $40.

Next, I'll take care of #2 and #3 on Wednesday.  And I'll be paying my daughter $40.  After that I can start thinking about what to do next year.  One thing, though.  I need some way to keep myself accountable or I'll get 3/4 of the way through the year again without achieving any of my goals.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Miscellaneous Day Here at the Blog

Wow, has it really been over a week since I posted?  I've been commenting here and there on other people's blogs but I keep falling asleep about the time I usually start writing my own posts.  I also had a flareup of a chronic back problem on Tuesday.  I ended up taking a T3 around 11 pm, which meant there was definitely no blogging that night!  I'm the sort of person that, if drowsiness is a possible side effect of a drug, I'll be out cold.  It was still acting up in the morning, so I took 2 Advil at that point.  Luckily, it's better now.

I do have a variety of things to mention.  First of all, another one of my comments was featured in this week's Monday Mailbag on The Simple Dollar!

I've won a Starbucks card from Betty at Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy and I'm thrilled about that!  I can already taste my decaf white chocolate mocha with extra whip!

And I commented on Give Me Back My Five Bucks that Krystal should do one of her December Goals (to come up with her goals for 2010) as one of her famous challenges since all of us PF bloggers are probably planning a similar post sometime between now and New Years.  She said it was a great idea and that the post would go up soon but the post that appeared was her 2010 goals!  Now she's off to Vegas and I'm not sure if she's planning to do a challenge post or if I should do one.  I certainly can't post my goals for next year yet because I'm still working on them.

The next little while is going to be very busy.  I have lots of evenings coming up with parties or other events I need to attend.  I don't normally go out much in the evenings, unless I have to go back to the office or occasionally to attend a class for an hour or so, once a week.  And, a couple of times when I'm not going out, I'll be babysitting my granddaughters because Eldest Daughter also has parties to go to.

We have to seriously think about whether we're going to go to the house during winter break but we have to co-ordinate dates with ED, S-in-L and the girls too.  They'll be away or off part of the time but there are also days when people have to work.  Plus, going is contingent on getting 2 new winter tires because winter tires (and carrying chains) is mandatory through the Hope-Princeton all winter.  I'm still not quite sure how all the money is working out.  We did get the fuel oil delivered yesterday and I paid them via telephone banking this morning, once I'd confirmed the exact amount.  So, that's a relief.  I've also called and left a message for my next-door neighbour, asking him to check to make sure the furnace is going on.  If we had already run dry the reset button has to be hit in order to get the furnace running again.  And it would probably also mean another clogged sensor (with the gunk from the bottom of the tank) and another furnace servicing.  I really hope it's okay but I'm trying to focus on the fact that we have a year's supply of fuel oil now.  If we have to service the furnace I'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Actually, in the last couple of days I've started to worry about the car again.  It's been making a kind of groaning noise when you back out of a parking spot and it's progressed to sometimes making a noise as you start or stop.  It sort of sounds like a transmission issue and I'm so not dying to have to drop more money on the car at this point.  I'm still pretty touchy about the $2,600 or so we've spent over the past couple of months.  Son-in-Law will probably take it in to the place he goes to one of the days that he drives it next week.

Too tired to write any more now.  Goodnight!