debt debs

Personal Debt Wrangler – Had my money head in the sand – but no more!


55 Reasons it’s Okay To Be 55

55I am 55 today.

Inspired by John at Frugal Rules here are 55 thoughts about turning 55.

  1. It’s a cool number.
  2. Freedom 55 was the super sweet early retirement age talked about when we were in our 30’s.
  3. Boy that 25 years went by real fast!
  4. I have one friend who is 55 who retired this year.
  5. My Dad worked until age 71, I can’t see working for another 16 years, myself.
  6. I never thought I’d be a grandmother at 55.
  7. But I’m delighted, I am!
  8. The body is starting to feel a little old.
  9. But the mind is still in my 30’s.
  10. Feel happy to still be able to enjoy doing lots.
  11. Even if some days, I feel it.
  12. I can still ride my bike.
  13. Even though I fell off it last year trying to run a yellow light.  #mybad
  14. Thinking about trying running again.
  15. If my knees and hip will cooperate.
  16. Maybe I need to think about swimming instead.
  17. It’s tough to go out in the winter though.
  18. I’m happy to have a fall birthday.
  19. Even though I don’t really make a big deal out of them.
  20. I’m happy to be a Libra.  It suits me.
  21. Even though I don’t follow astrology.
  22. I stopped reading my horoscope after finding out it was not encouraged by my faith.
  23. Didn’t really get a lot out of it anyways.
  24. I get more from the Holy Trinity.
  25. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be content.
  26. Though I still feel I’ve got lots more living to do.
  27. I would like to live with less stress.
  28. Good thing for shingles vaccine these days.
  29. And flu shots too.
  30. When I was a kid we aspired to have cable TV and no party line.
  31. Now we are back to having OTA TV again and rarely answer the phone.
  32. My University is still trying to hit me up for donations.
  33. Will they stop now that I’ve turned 55?  #doubtit
  34. Despite signing up to block our number from telemarketers, we still get a lot of calls.
  35. My husband can block them on the software for our Ooma.
  36. Ooma quality is not good enough for me to hold conference calls for work on it.
  37. But yet I can talk through my computer on Microsoft Lync to work colleagues around the world.
  38. I had my hair shorter for a bit.
  39. But it’s getting near my shoulders again now.
  40. It’s amazing how much growth you go through even in the short space of a year or two.
  41. And I’m not talking about my hair now.
  42. Sometimes you stagnate a bit, when you are going through a period of rejuvenation to prepare for regrowth.
  43. That usually happens around a life changing circumstance.
  44. Sometimes reading the thoughts on post secret is really insightful and you almost learn something about yourself with each one.
  45. All the time it is insightful.
  46. I’m so thankful for my husband and family.
  47. Even though I may not say it or show it in a big way.
  48. I wanted to be a veterinarian and then later a cop when I was a kid and a teenager.
  49. But I don’t think accountants are boring, after all.
  50. I still think the flat Tim Horton’s boxes are bunk.
  51. I wrote a letter to complain about them when they first came out.
  52. I don’t even think I got a free donut.
  53. I’ve managed to get through this list without talking a lot  about personal finance.
  54. I think that’s okay for today.
  55. It means I’m not letting my debt define me. :-D











debt-debsDebs’ Devotions #4

Favourite articles I’ve read recently a while ago:

Not smoking could save me over $5,000 a year — wish me luck ~ Quitting smoking is hard.  I don’t have first hand experience but I equate it with trying to lose weight and giving up your comfort food.  Financially speaking and healthwise, it’s a no brainer.

Why I Will Never Make Additional Mortgage Payments ~ okay it’s not a secret now that I like to consider other views that are contrary to my own.  It’s how I learn.  I’m a big fan of paying off a mortgage in 15 years after being burned by consumer debt and stretching our mortgage into 27 years but I have to agree these arguments are compelling.

Five Tips for Making Budgeting Fun for Creatives ~ I’m a colour geek (<– uh, ya, look left please) and Liz’s ideas are after my own heart!  Who’s says budgeting can’t be fun?

Debt Free at Last: Our Debt of £41K Has Been Paid Off! ~ Okay this post is recent and it’s such great news I had to share!  I’ve been following Hayley’s blog since I first started and she’s been a great inspiration to me.  Hayley leads by example and for those of us hurting from debt horror stories it helps to know we’ve got supporters cheering us on!

Thanks to other awesome bloggers for recently linking some of my posts:

Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet ~Weekend Reading: Market Meltdown Edition

Myles @ Myles Money ~ Smart Money # 4

Blogger Classifieds ~ How to Blog Carnival – Create a Blog That Makes Money

Financially Savvy Saturdays #59 pick of the week which is very appropriate as it was the year I was born

I’ve been guest posting or featured here since my last Debs’ Devotions:

Cash Cow Couple ~ Women Crush Wednesday

Canadian Budget Binder ~ To Take or Not to Take Early CPP

So I’m excited to tell you that yesterday, Erin’s guest post here was featured on Globe & Mail site, Carrick on money.  Isn’t that awesome?  It’s so wonderful to have your work profiled on a large site and I couldn’t be happier for her.  I’m also happy for me as my traffic hit it’s highest at 980 views (more than double my highest) yesterday (about 725 unique views)!  How’s that for a nice birthday present?!


7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt

I am very happy to have a guest post from one of my blogging friends, Erin from Journey to Saving.  I’ve mentioned before about how I worried about the impact that our financial bad habits have had on our kids.  Erin shares her story about this below.

financial-lessons-learnedI am no stranger to debt. While I have only personally experienced student loan debt, consumer debt came knocking on my family’s door decades ago, and nearly destroyed us.

Debs is very open in sharing her mistakes and experiences when it comes to debt and her own family, so that others can learn from her. It’s for that reason I only thought it fitting to share my own story here, with all of you, along with some of the lessons I’ve learned from my parents’ debt.

Debt is a common enemy of ours, and even though it brings dark and trying days, I’ve been able to get a few things out of it after starting on my own financial journey. After reading this post, I hope you’ll be able to as well.

The Beginning

It all started when I was 7. My dad had been laid off. I suddenly began hearing the word “No” much more often, accompanied by frustration at the predicament we found ourselves in.

My 7-year-old brain didn’t comprehend this as I can now, but I knew enough to be scared. What will this mean for us? I often wondered, especially after hearing my parents speak in hushed tones.

Bits and pieces made their way to my ears: losing home, can’t afford, might not recover, and can’t keep this up, were just a few phrases that clued me in to what was happening.

The real warning sign was that my lovely grandma was showing up at our house more often, always with food and household products in tow. It was as if we didn’t have to go grocery shopping anymore!

My childhood self was more than a little naive, thinking my grandma was stopping by just to spoil me with goodies. While that was part of the visit, something deeper was going on, as I saw her attempt to hand my mom cash several times. My mom usually refused.

Thankfully, my family recovered in about two years. My dad worked part-time until he found a full-time position, which put us in a better place. On top of that, my mom began to work full-time once I turned 13.

We went on our merry way, and I was none the wiser to the increasing pile of bills that would slowly bury us in several years.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

financial-lessons-learnedIt was only at Christmastime that I was told money might be a little tight, but my parents always managed to get me what I wanted most. I never truly knew just how bad of a state we were in, until my dad lost his job again, this time, while I was in college. This time, I knew what was going on, and I wanted to run.

My parents had never gotten their financial act together. They had never saved, and they still hadn’t paid off their debt. I was angry at them. Why hadn’t they learned from their mistakes the first time around? Was I the only one that remembered those times? I didn’t know how they let history repeat itself.

What’s worse, my mom became resentful toward my dad. Without his income, we were relying solely on her income, which was only half of what my dad made. I should say that my parents were never extremely high-earners, so while we kept a mostly frugal lifestyle, losing my dad’s income was a huge blow that we never recovered from for many reasons.

My parents have always been prideful and unwilling to take “handouts.” As such, my mom shouldered the burden of making ends meet by herself, even when I offered to help. Likewise, Debs is the primary breadwinner in her family, and I know it’s not easy at all. There are plenty of mom’s out there who are shouldering this burden, and doing an amazing job of it. While it can be a thankless job, your children will grow up to appreciate and respect you for it.

To say this was a difficult time would be an understatement. I can’t even begin to tell you all how happy I was when we finally got through it. There were times I doubted we would. I took mental notes through everything, because I knew I never wanted to go through that again.

I wanted to make sure I could safeguard myself against debt. Student loan debt had been different in my mind, so I sadly didn’t avoid that, but you can bet I won’t take on any consumer debt after what I’ve seen it do. For that reason, I’d like to impart to you the financial lessons I learned from watching my parents suffer with their debt.

7 Financial Lessons Learned from My Parents’ Debt

  1. Save, budget, and track spending. Keep an emergency fund. Please. It kills me to know my parents would have been fine had they actually taken the time to save money. Because they didn’t have anything to fall back on, any unexpected expenses would go straight on the credit cards. It was a vicious cycle they were unable to break out of. My parents also thought they had a good hold on things, but I guarantee that a budget or spending sheet would have opened their eyes.
  2. Communicate. According to my parents, there was a bit of miscommunication going on. My dad believed that they were paying the cards off in full every month, when in reality, they were paying the minimums. This was because my mom balanced the checkbook and paid all the bills. I know Debs has mentioned a few times that she didn’t realize how bad things were because her husband was doing the same. Even though I handle all of our finances, I always keep my boyfriend in the loop. Your other half needs to be included.
  3. Perseverance pays off. I want to inject a little happiness into this post! I’m glad to say that my parents fought the battle and won, in their own way. They are still in debt, but they were able to retire and move to a place that is much more affordable. They purchased their house outright and no longer worry about a mortgage. With the sale of their old house, they were able to put a large chunk toward their consumer debt, and they now have a good buffer in their bank account should they need it.
  4. There’s more to life than possessions. Having a little less than my peers made me realize early on that there’s simply more to life than having the newest gadgets, prettiest clothes, trendiest accessories, etc. My parents never purchased name-brand anything, and they always shopped frugally. They’re both deal-finders. I got a hand-me-down car (from my grandma to my mom, then to me) and only replaced it once it was unreliable to drive. Even though it was a funky teal color, I didn’t have to pay for it, and that made it valuable.
  5. Experiences matter. I’m an only child, and many of my memories growing up involve my parents. None of these memories revolve around things, though. Yes, I can remember the gifts they’ve given me over the years, but what matters most to me now is spending time with them. No one lives forever. So the next time you feel pressured into buying something for your children, remember that prioritizing experiences is the way to go. They will thank you for it some day. Remember to enjoy the little things life has to offer.
  6. Keeping up with the Joneses? Nah. I never got the sense that my parents were trying to keep up with anyone, even though there were plenty of people around us that were clearly questioning our priorities. They were never phased by it. Sure, it’s a little sad to see people from college “living the life,” (or so they want us to believe?), but I’m happy where I am. I have a great boyfriend, two adorable cats, and supportive friends and family.
  7. Don’t give up hope. This has to be the most important lesson I’ve learned. My parents went through a lot in a short span of time, twice. Yet, they’re still together. They pulled through. And I turned out fine. Looking at my student loan balance can make me feel hopeless at times, but I know I’ll reach a $0 balance someday. Being in debt has taught me things I never would have discovered about myself, and for that, I am thankful.


financial-lessons-learnedI want to close this out by saying that things could have been much, much worse. Compared to some people, my family had it easy. I am very grateful that my grandma was there to help us through everything, because I’m not sure we would have survived without her generosity.

Don’t let debt take away from you any more than it already has. I know it can be soul-sucking, and that the journey is a long one, but you’ll make it through if you choose to fight. And I know you want to, otherwise you wouldn’t be here!

What are some of the lessons that debt has taught you? Did you grow up around debt? How has it affected you?

erinmauthorpicErin M. is a full-time personal finance freelance blogger and virtual assistant. She’s passionate about helping other millennials get started on their financial journey. She blogs about frugality, being happy with less, and tackling student loan debt on Journey to Saving.





Spotlight on Adversity

spotlight-on-adversityA new visitor left a comment on my blog last week so I returned the favour and visited her blog. I found out she was a new blogger figuring out her way in paying down 10’s of thousands of debt. Way less than me, but still enough that she said it would take her four years, on her income, to pay it off.

I browsed a few posts and in her most recent one she described, with very great excitement, her new strategy.  It involved cashing in $16K of her 401K investments and using a portion of it to pay down debt and about $6K for two vacations. Say what?

Her justification was that it would reduce interest costs by a thousand or two, and reduce debt repayment by two years. She was clearly very enthused having figured out this was a great thing to do, and only due to that I had some reservation about bursting her bubble. But in good conscience I could not leave a flippant comment or even skulk away and leave without commenting.

adversity-from-happy-placeI spent considerable time outlining in about 5 points why this was not a good thing, including showing her the formula in excel (she was also an excel geek) that would give her the future value of her $16K. I empathized that maybe this was news she didn’t want to hear.   I also coached that I was coming from a good place with my advice having been to the school of hard knocks myself.

She acknowledged in her reply comment that she would think about it. (Yay!)  A day or so later she wrote a post acknowledging my comment, indicating she reviewed my blog and thought long and hard about it and decided that we have different stories and my advice did not apply to her. She indicated that she was not a spender (there were some warning signs in her blog posts that indicated otherwise) and was from a cultural background that you worked until you dropped dead, so living for today was her priority. Full stop.

I acknowledged her post, and praised her for giving it careful consideration and also for the proactive steps she was taking to address their financial situation. However, I also reiterated that my advice was still the same, and added that if she decided to go ahead, please be sure to put the interest saved aside and apply it towards the debt, otherwise her scheme would be completely without financial validity and robbing her future for lifestyle inflation for today (although I didn’t say in those words, it was implied).

Fast forward a day and I went back to see her response to my comment and the blog was no longer there. I found out on twitter that others had commented after me and supported my position.   I gather the comments were all written respectfully and in as best a way of possible to point out the issues with her tactics. (I didn’t see them, but this is what I have gathered from some feedback after the fact).

So this brings me to my point on this post. Where do we draw the line in offering advice in the personal finance (PF) blogging world?

We Write, Therefore, We Ask For It

Why do we blog about PF if not to share our stories or get advice? OK, there may be some commercial motives for some as well, but let’s put that aside. We choose to blog about PF because we are any or all of the following:

  1. Passionate about it
  2. Have some experience
  3. Want to help others on PF topics
  4. Want to get advice for ourselves
  5. Want to get support for our situation / journey


In my case, all of the above apply. But I have to realize that not all are in this same mindset. In fact, I would say that said blogger was only interested in item #5, and when the support did not come in the way she expected, she bailed.

Does this mean that we should decipher the motives of each PF blogger and then decide how we will comment? H3LL NO!

First of all, you can have your perceptions about why they blog, but how do you really know unless they have stated explicitly or they have been blogging for awhile and you have been reading similarly?  This may be a circumstance where you decide to hold back. I’ve done it, even though I didn’t agree, but should I?

If someone opens up their personal finance situation on a blog, they need to be in it for options 4 and 5 above, in my opinion. Or at least be ready to agree to disagree and not take another person’s point of view personally. If you are telling your story but just looking for placating people to agree with every move you make you are not really helping yourself.  You are creating an environment where your tunnel vision may become entrenched.  Most importantly, you are not creating a place where people can discuss and share ideas openly and not fear of offending.  If you can’t stand the heat, then your actions speak louder than your words.

When Is Support Not Enough?

same-language-adversityThere are plenty of “rah rah, you go!” type comments in the PF community and I get that. I’m happy to get them myself when I’ve had a rough month financially. Particularly if you are a debt blogger, these journeys are tough. All of your money is not going towards FI. It feels like you’re still trying to get to the starting line. Knowing when to give a blogger a jeer up only and when to offer some alternative idea they may not have considered, requires some astute perception.

Praise where praise is due is totally warranted. Posts filled with comment streams of this can appear to be a little self serving. Meh, call me jaded but a little too much of that turns me off. I like a nice balance of thought provoking comments, questions, commenters responding to other comments etc. We are a community that speaks the same language, so we should be comfortable in communicating openly in a thoughtful and always respectful manner.

I’m always learning.  I don’t have all the answers (far from it!). But I may have an opinion and it could even be changed as I learn more about the topic. Therefore, I welcome and even solicit advice in my blog posts. I’ll also ask for this in comments to other blogger posts. I get it. I’ve made mistakes and may be unwittingly making more. That’s another reason why I’m here. To get better at this stuff.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Sure, spending less than you earn, pay yourself first, pay off credit cards every month are all basic concepts and learned quickly, but what about the tricky stuff?

Just the other day I left a comment on a post that got me thinking about a tactic I deployed to extend mortgage amortization period and now I’m wondering if it was a good move.   I’m also still navigating the waters of investments in my retirement portfolio and rely on many great dividend bloggers to learn (and BTW thanks for answering my dumb questions!).

If I write a post on something I am doing and you don’t agree with me, please tell me.  As I said, my motives for blogging are all five listed above. I think I would have a hard time finding others who are not welcome to dissenting opinions in a respectful manner. We’re not looking for disparaging and hateful remarks the likes of bigger media sites. Those comments are really not helpful and just point out the lack of self confidence in people in this world, but that’s another topic. In personal finance blogs, there is no point in putting our ideas, tactics, strategies, concerns and questions out there if we are not ready to at least listen.

What If Someone Is Not Ready?

People don’t just wake up one day and decide to be a PF blogger. They usually will have been reading blogs for a period of time, some longer than others. Often they have a story to tell, some experience on the topic, or it could be that they’re just sick and tired of worrying about their finances. They’ve hit rock bottom on their financial situation and are ready to climb out.

Call me brazen, but if the latter applies, I’m pretty sure those people, like me, are open to constructive criticism. We are not looking for support just so that we can repeat the same dumb mistakes we’ve made in the past.  We acknowledge that there may be times we are too close to the situation to see it.  All feedback will be considered and although we may not agree, or decide the situation does not match our priorities, we can accept this and move on.

stonewall-adversityIf every opinion is contrary to ours, we may feel outnumbered or dare I say – ganged up on.  This alone is very telling, and should provide all the more reason to question our motives.  The support will remain, as we find our way, or I certainly hope so.

If someone is writing a debt blog but not responsive to differing opinions, then I can only think that they have not hit their rock bottom yet.  As readers, we may suspect this, but then should we couch our comments accordingly?  I say ‘no’. We lose our credibility if we do not state our views.

The Need to Speak Your Truth

Now my views may be more in favour of MMM badassity principles or Frugalwoods extremes and yours may be like Fruclassity or even not that frugal at all.  That’s quite alright. Our goals may be different.

This is where we need to appreciate our differences, but it doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. It’s all from the point of view of that person.

Don’t write a blog unless you are willing to allow dissenting views from yours.   Be open to views that are all dissenting.  You might learn something … or at least help others who have stumbled across your blog.  We all make mistakes, and if we weren’t wanting to help, we wouldn’t be reading in the first place.

What is your philosophy on adversity on the internet? 

Part of

Friday Jet Fuel #15 ~click to join in too!


To Take or Not To Take Early CPP

take-CPP-earlyHey y’all I’m excited to be featured on two sites yesterday and today.

First @ Cash Cow Couple, Vanessa featured questions and answers from a bunch of talented and accomplished women in Woman Crush Wednesday (follow hashtag #WCW) and I was delighted to be part of it.   This is a one stop shop for some fantastic career advice and you don’t want to miss this!

Did you know Mr. Canadian Budget Binder has a newborn? While they’re adjusting to their new (lack of) sleep schedule due to bundle of joy baby CBB, he’s been featuring some great guest posts on his site.  Today I will go through our decision making process on whether The Irishman should apply for his Canada Pension Plan early, as in now.

Canada Pension Plan Dilemma

My husband just turned 62 and we’ve been in a quandary about whether he should take his Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) early (before 65) with penalty or not. We’re both still working and plan to be for the next 4 years while we pay off  a whack of debt.  Because of penalties introduced in 2012, the amount you receive if you take early CPP is less than before this legislation was introduced.  Let me try to walk through the peculiarities of our situation and how we reached our final decision.

Continue reading … at Canadian Budget Binder.


Debtity-do-da! – Debt Repayment Plans


We’re #1!!

Our debt repayment is now listed in Money Smart Guides Debt Payoff All Stars and we show as in #2 position, but I will advise Jon Dulin after this post to move us into #1 spot, baby!  Yep, we’ve paid $160K in 2.5 years!! :-D  Go check out his list and if you’re on a debt repayment journey you may want to add your numbers to the list.  Nothing like misery loves company, I always say!

So let’s take a look at the numbers since I’m actually on time with my update to our Debt Repayment Plans.


click to enlarge

I’m very happy with the consistent progress.  $48.6K paid so far this year – on track to pay my target of $60K and there’s a good chance we will exceed this.  Whether we meet the stretch target of $65K is looking like a possibility, but I don’t want to count my chickens as there’s a few unknowns which I’ll get to in a bit.

Debt Repayment Plans ~ Progress by Type of Debtdebt-repayment-plan

  • Timewise we are 41.3% through our debt repayment journey targeted to end May 18, 2018.  Our debt is 40.7% paid.  So technically we are 0.6% behind but so close!
  • This means our debt remaining is 59.3%, so we are below 60% remaining of our original total debt at 2.5 years into our debt repayment plan.
  • At right is the % paid to date by type of debt.


Our Trusted e-fund

Steady eddy is fine by me, especially with how the year started out. This brings me to our forecast for September. Not sure if it’s because of back-to-school or what, but The Irishman’s income for October will be below our minimum goal of $2,400 / month.  He’s only made $2,200 in September to be paid in October.  He’s been quite busy the last few days so hoping it’s just a temporary blip. Of course, this is why I’m building up my emergency cash fund again.

Plan is to get it to $15,000, because technically it’s not only our emergency fund but also our property taxes fund which are approximately $5,800 and have to be paid in two installments in March and June.

Anyways, I increased it by $2K in September, on top of paying off $5.6K of debt above, so ya, hash-tag winning!!

Plan is to do the same in October but that’s not looking so promising.  We have $1,200 bill for The Irishman’s professional fees and with only minimum income, it’s going to be difficult.  Meh, I’m not going to get worked up about it.  It could be worse.

debs-devotions - MediumDebs’ Devotions #3

Thanks so much to the following blogs for linking my recent posts:  Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet and Travis @ Enemy of Debt featured my post Credit or Cash?  Pick Your Poison in their weekly round-ups.  Travis is a big fan of cash, as are many of my blogger friends.  However, I also have many blogger friends that endorse credit, like me, mainly for the rewards points but also for easier expense tracking.

In retrospect, I wish I had conducted a poll on that post, but better late than never, I have one for you here folks.  Just for your info, I did a quick tally based on the comments left on that post.  If anyone mentioned that they use cash or debit, even partially (except for really small amounts of cash) I put them on the CASH side, and all others who use Credit and were big on paying of monthly (a must!) and getting rewards I put on the CREDIT side.  Totals came to 20 for CREDIT and 22 for CASH.  So that’s a 48% / 52% split.  Let’s see how the poll comes out.  Even if you already commented last time, please vote in the poll again.  Merci.

Last time I did a poll, I didn’t get a lot of responses, but that was in my early blogging days.  I kind of like polls, to be perfectly honest, so hopefully I can do more on here as inspiration strikes me.

Some favourite posts that resonated with me or were helpful to me:

Stop Dehumanizing The Poor, Homeless from Sam @ Frugaling.  I get overwhelmed when I think about the suffering in the world.  But then I think, I’m no good to anyone, if I let this feeling overtake my emotions.  I do what I can, and I pray.  Please take a look at Sam’s insightful post.

10 Bare Necessity Blogging Tips from Steve @ Kapitalust.  Still learning myself and I like to help others, so I want to share this with fellow blogger readers.  Go check out Steve’s Fluff Piece also for some fantastic photos he took.  So beautiful!

You Don’t Know Jack (and Neither do I) from Laurie @ The Frugal Farmer.  Full of inspiration, Laurie tells us like it is. Incidentally, Laurie was the winner of the Plutus Award at FINCON for Best Green/Sustainability PF blog , worthy of mentioning, just sayin’.

Can I Retire Today? Yes, but I Won’t from Jean @ Nearly Retired.  Jean is finding her way to retirement, like me, so I find lots to think about in her posts and including her FREE Retirement Readiness Assessment which was very helpful.

Scheduling a Side Hustle from B @ Banishing Loans.  She works and full-time job, a part-time job and runs a blog.  Seriously, that is a lot of work and I’m always looking for tips on how to up my game so I can achieve this.  Not only that, but B has opened a second blog Miss on the Money.  Go check out her first official post there.

Society Makes It OK To Te Broke from Kim @ Eyes on the Dollar.  Kim has a perfect everyday example of how some people live, but maybe don’t need to.  Not saying all financial hardship is easy to solve, but with some effort, I would think that situations like this could be turned around.

BATB TV: Tips to Save Money from Tonya @ Budget and the Beach.  Oh how I laughed and laughed.  Seriously, who needs Cable TV when you’ve got great content right here on your lap!

Filed Under Life as We Know It

Monkey-Butt-DepartsOK, that’s a wrap.  I’m doing Brian’s 31 days of Writing this month and I’m not gonna lie, it ain’t easy.  I was doing okay until last night and fell asleep on my daughters couch as she was putting Monkey Butt to bed.  He’s gone for ten days so I’ll just have to come and stare at this picture taken last night just before supper.

Tweedledum-TweedledeeThis means we’ve got our two grand-dogs for the next 10 days or what I’ve dubbed “10 Days of Misery”.  LOL  We love dogs but these two are seriously high maintenance.  The wiener (let’s call her Tweedledee) has a back problem and has to be carried up and down stairs and has been diagnosed with renal (kidney) issues after a recent sickness.  The black rescue (Tweedledum) cannot be trusted with free reign of the house as he marks his territory.  One whines for food (and she’s off most stuff except special kidney food and green peppers) and the other whines for us to throw his toy.   They are pretty cute so all errant behaviours are quickly forgiven. Nama thinks they may have a bath and hair clipping in their near future if she get’s around to it.    October is our dog sitting month.  Next week we have the neighbour’s dog for a few days and we have another neighbour’s dog for 2+ weeks after the grand-dogs go home!  Go big or go home, so they say!

Would you consider joining the Debt All Stars List?  Did you vote in the Cash versus Credit poll?  Have you ever dog-sit before? 

Part of

Friday Jet Fuel #14


Credit or Cash? Pick Your Poison

credit-or-cashI’ve been thinking about how I spend and pay for my purchases recently.  Ignoring out past financial history, today, I don’t have a problem with credit cards.  We pay ours off monthly and can always be sure this will happen because:

  1. We budget and track our spending
  2. We set up the payment for the due date as soon as the bill is sent electronically
  3. We monitor our cash flow, so I ensure I will have the funds in our account when the payment is made.  I will not go into overdraft, nor will I go below my $2K threshold I must maintain to avoid $9.95 of bank fees.
  4. If, for some reason, our spending is more than usual due to an unplanned emergency spend (examples: broken appliance (we always fix first if possible), car repair), I will transfer money from our Emergency fund/Property Tax account which is sitting at $9K currently with plans to grow to $15K.

I like to use our credit cards due to the cash back we carry on both cards.  One is Visa and one is AMEX (for Costco, though this is now changing and we will have to pick a new Costco card by the end of the year – either Mastercard or Personal Capital).  Currently I have cash rewards accrued on our Visa that will be paid in November as follows:

4.00% cash back – gas & groceries $170.26
2.00% cash back – recurring bills & pharmacy $60.79
1.00% cash back – everything else $161.34
Total cash back reward earned to date $392.39

This is based on stuff I need! I’m getting more than $400 because I lived my life!  Granted, the card carries an annual fee of $99 + $30 for a second card, but we are still ahead more than $265 right now and probably $300 by November.

Some PF reads lately have acknowledged that credit cards have been a problem for them in the past, they’ve tried them again, and still they remain a problem so they have sworn off them.   Travis @ Enemy of Debt says Credit Cards Are Officially NOT For Me and I totally respect that.  If you’re struggling with what to do in this regard, I really recommend you read his views. There’s no right or wrong answer, but there’s a right or wrong answer for you.  [Tweet “There’s no right or wrong answer, but there’s a right or wrong answer for you. #creditcards “]

Brian @ Debt Discipline has just paid off his 109K of debt and blames their families credit card usage for putting them in that position.  Well it actually is due to overspending, but in truth, I agree with Brian.  If credit was not so easy to obtain, families wouldn’t find themselves leveraging the convenience for ‘stuff’ they deem as important or necessary.  They want to get some savings behind them for a few months before they decide if they will try to use credit cards again.  In his words “A credit card is a tool for a consumer, just like a hammer is for a carpenter, when used wisely can be very effective, when used unwisely can cause major damage.”

I was reading on Myles Money the warnings about credit cards to teenagers and students in his post Credit Virgins.  It’s definitely a slippery slope and fair warning needs to be given to those that haven’t been taught to pay them off monthly.  This is something I learned from my parents, never to carry a balance.  I was actually surprised to learn that some people thought it was the only way to build up a credit rating, to keep a balance on your credit card.  There’s a lot of misinformation out there.

So while I know the dos and don’ts of responsible credit use, it’s really spending that I have always had the problem with.  So I’ve been thinking about if using cash would  help me to spend less rather than using credit?  For me, I don’t think it makes any difference.

I realize that credit or cash (or debit)  has no bearing on how much I spend.   Having cash in my hand or wallet and handing it over, does not make me think twice about buying something anymore than handing my credit card over.  It’s like cash is just paper and it has no more relevance to me than that piece of plastic. They are both important, but one is not more important than the other.  I would reluctantly hand either over if I didn’t think what I was buying was (a) necessary (b) reasonably priced (c) in line with our spending goals.    So this reinforces my strategy to use credit wisely.  Then, I can use the once a year* cash back to pay for more of what is necessary, reasonably priced and in line with our spending goals.

What side of the coin are you on – credit or cash/debit?  If you use credit card rewards, what is your preference for type or rewards?  Does paying with cash or debit help you to spend less than with credit?

*Note:  Some cash back cards pay out more frequently.

Part of Friday Jet Fuel #13 and



Frugal FinCon Fiesta Update & Blogger Awards

debt-debsdebs’ devotions #2

Well I may have been a little to ambitious in my Six Month Blogiversary post (you know, the one with a poem disguised as rap song), when I launched my WEEKLY edition of Debs Devotions.  For a personal finance (PF) blogger who only publishes twice a week, that may have been a little lofty to call it WEEKLY.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll do it biweekly, every three weeks (that would be strange but definitely in the realm of possibility), or monthly – sue me.

So since it feels like a long time and I have a lot of updates, lemme start.

Frugal FinCon Fiesta (FFF)

Well that was really fun and exceeded my expectations.  A bunch of us PF bloggers who were fairly new and focusing on our debt journey joined in a blog party to entertain each other while all our blogmates were boozing it up networking and learning at FinCon 2014.  Well I could say that a libation or five were enjoyed while we virtually partied on blogs and google hangouts but I’ll stick with what goes on in the internet, stays on the internet – ain’t that the truth?!  :-D

I’d like to thank the following Fantastic Frugal FinCon Fiesta-ers for participating with their Ask Me Anything posts: Femme Frugality, pftwins, The Daily Whisk, Cottage Retreatist, Frankly Frugal Finance, Two Kids and a Budget, Downstairs and in Debt, Frugalwoods, Shoeaholic No More, Indebted and in Debt, Debt Discipline, Millennial on a Budget, Busted Budget, Nearly Retired, Messy Money, The Single Dollar, House of Tre, The Spunky Banker, The Intentional Penny, Sunburnt Saver.

I really enjoyed reading all of your Q&A’s and answers and getting to know the person behind the PF blog more.  The sense of community is quite welcome.  It’s like you can talk to other PF bloggers about your deep dark secrets about your financial history and mistakes but you feel less comfortable talking to your friends and family about this topic which can be sensitive.  I want to break that mold and am doing this in a gradual manner starting with family and friends.  I need to be careful to protect my anonymity (for career purposes) and have no link between my blog and career which makes things quite tricky, since I’m basically just a blabbermouth at heart!

I will say that the support from PF bloggers is awesome, when you are on a debt journey, because you meet people with common goals.  You may not have others with the same issues in your circle of friends (they may but you just don’t know about it) and that’s why it feels lonely.    If you do know someone in person, then that’s a bonus way to get support.  Maybe you do know someone, but they are not treating their finances with respect and that frustrates you, so you really don’t have as much common ground as you should.

So as a PF blogger, I’d have to say it was well worth the $2.28 I paid to inLinkz for a monthly subscription to their linky tool. I put that cost in my Entertainment budget line, because at this point that’s what this blog is – purely for my entertainment!  :-)  I’m still trying to reach the broader community of people struggling with debt.  I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but more on that when I get a chance to start to implement them.

In the meantime, I’ve made $20.58 on Google Adsense revenue in three months and a big fat $0.oo on affiliate advertising.  Not sure what I’m doing wrong here, but when I figure it out, I’ll be sure to write a post on it.  I noticed that there’s a lot of generic posts on this topic but no specific posts on the how tos and I find navigating this area a little complex.

Thanks so much to No More Waffles, Budget Blonde, Freedom 35, Money Propeller for promoting our FFF!  Really appreciate it blogging buddies!

Also thanks to Young Adult Money for including my Reasons I’m Happy I’m Not Going to FinCon in his weekly roundup.   The plan is to definitely go to FinCon next year.  I don’t know where it is yet, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and I’ve got the WILL.

Versatile Blogger and Liebster Awards

I’ve been graciously nominated by other fellow bloggers (that rock!) for the above awards.

Autumn @ Barefoot Budgeter , Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt , Kassandra @ More Than Just Money and Tre @ House of Tre for the Versatile Blogger Award and Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet for the Liebster Award.

versatile-blogger-award-trophyVersatile Blogger Award

The rules are different so I’ll take each one in turn.  For the Versatile Blogger Award:

  •  Tell 7 things about yourself (this is easy, even though I blabbed a lot about myself in Q&A at FFF and in this blog, I’m such an open book I can still think of more)
  • Nominate 15 bloggers (whoa, this is going to be hard because most of my blogging buddies have already been nominated, plus 15 is a big number (!), let me try!)

So here’s my list of 7, some frivolous and some deep:

  1. I love broccoli and zucchini.
  2. I was sexually molested as a child.  I may write about this some day but hard to tie into personal finance.
  3. A movie that  left a big impression on me was Sophie’s choice with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline.  How could a mother choose between her two children in that awful situation?
  4. I hate making a salad.  Washing lettuce sucks.
  5. I had a cyst removed from my right eye as a kid, which left a scar.   I got what I think is a deep rooted pimple on my left eyebrow the other day but I wondered if it was another cyst.  I think it’s a pimple because it hurts when I touch it.
  6. I played touch football one summer.  I wasn’t that good.
  7. I used to love playing Lexulous (on line form of scrabble), but then I started blogging and have no time for this anymore.

Hard to know if people have been nominated before or not unless they display a button on their blog or you do a search.  I’m going to pick ones that I don’t think have been nominated.  If you have or choose not to participate, no biggie.  Also, I’ve noticed sometimes people just link to the blog instead of a particular blog post.  I’ve linked to the latest blog post so that the recipient gets a ping back:

  1. Everybody Loves Your Money – I’ve just discovered recently that is an Australian blog, so thought that was worth pointing out.
  2. Debt Camel – very useful debt advice here from the UK.  I’m not sure if she will consider doing a Versatile Blogger type post, but I’m hoping she can put a debt worthy spin on the topic if she chooses to.
  3. Budget Loving Military Wife  – currently posted in UK and shares awesome travel, frugal living, offers and debt repayment posts.
  4. Islands of Investing – Jason’s also from Australia and I think he likes doing these sort of posts, because he’s not on Twitter.  Don’t ask me what the correlation is, but it’s just a gut feel.
  5. Frugal Fringe – I nominated Noonan for Best-Kept Secret Personal Finance Blog for the Plutus awards but he didn’t make it to the five finalists.  Noonan also doesn’t have twitter but even still I tweet his posts as he writes good stuff.
  6. Debt Discipline – okay I’m cheating here because Brian already did a Versatile Blogger post and I’m linking to it here.  I just wanted to include him because he was a finalist in the Best-Kept Secret Personal Finance Blog and now gets to put that special badge on his blog!  Also he was in an awesome podcast recently – see below.  Edited to add:  Brian’s family is now debt free
  7. Couple Money – Elle’s a pro and has been at this for a while.  She started podcasting this week.  Go check out Brian’s interview.  Elle will you do a post on 7 random facts about your pregnancy and parenting?
  8. Millennial on a Budget – is a noobie blogger whom I just discovered during FFF, trying to find balance and a “rich” life.  I say Amen to that!
  9. The Intentional Penny – is also a blogger I met through FFF.  She’s almost halfway through he $40K of debt and a really new blogger.  Go check her out and give her a warm welcome to the PF blogging community!
  10. Debt Free Guys – These guys have the Money Masters Series which is cool, but since I like to know a bit more about the personal side of bloggers, I’m hoping they will share, like 3.5 points each.
  11. Eat Laugh Purr  - when I searched for the word versatile on this blog, I got a lot of recipes, so #1 I don’t think she’s done VB award and #2 if you need some great recipes go here.
  12. Makin the Bacon - is a new-to-me site, so I’m just gonna have to check her out and you should too!
  13. Busy Mom Budgets - is a SAHM whose making her budget work for their family!  I’m new to her blog but I’m trying to stay on top of SAHM’s in case my daughter decides at some point to stay home too!  She’s due to go back from maternity leave in November.
  14. Retired Not Tired – is a retired grandmother who I like to check out and see what she’s up to.  She likes to do the meme type posts, so I’m hoping she will graciously accept in the Versatile Blogger Award and tell me 7 random things about retirement that I can look forward to.
  15. This spots for you! – If you’re a blogger I read or don’t read and have not been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award, please comment and this spot is yours for the first blogger who responds!

Liebster Award

liebster3For the Liebster Award, here are Dan’s questions:

(1) Why did you start blogging? Has it turned out to be what you expected?

I started blogging for stress relief about our personal finance situation and for entertainment.  It’s turned out to be a lot better than expected.  There are some drawbacks due to time commitment, but since it’s partially for entertainment and support I try to look at the overall picture.  I used to blog many years ago and my old blog is still there but it’s a bit of a mess (headers from previous free theme template are now taken down, probably a lot of broken links).  My husband used to complain that I spent too much time blogging so I quit.  I didn’t have a focus for that blog like I do for this on personal finance.  It was purely for entertainment and personal support.  The Irishman doesn’t complain about this blog though. ;-)

(2) What has been your favorite blog post you have written so far?

I already put in my FFF post my favourite blog post was the one about my two mother figures and how important there were in my life.  They are both now deceased, so I will pick my second favourite post which is the one about my Dad, who is still here, called Father’s Frugal Finances.  I seem to have a thing about phonetically worded things especially around the letter ‘F’.  One that generated a lot of  traffic because it was featured on Rockstar Finance  was also really fun to make.  That was a good one too.  I guess I need to start a favourite posts page.

(3) How did you decide on the name of your blog?

Well it’s so true that I have this thing about phonetics, so I guess it just came easily.  It was also important to me that I have a brand established, in case there were other Debs in the blogging world.  My name is Deborah, I go by Deb or Deborah and sometimes Debs which is a British pet name which my Mum sometimes referred to me as.  I’m actually in the process of trying to change my nickname from Deb to Debs because I like it that much and prefer to be unique.  It can be done because when I started working full-time I gradually got people calling me Deborah instead of Debbie, which was my childhood name and I wasn’t too fussed on it, so I wanted to leave it in the past.

(4) Sum up your life in 6 words or less.

I started with ~ Happy to live, laugh and love.

Then found that too boring (even if true) and came up with  ~ The world spins, so do I.

My final version which combines both sentiments ~ My world rocks and spins.

(5) Earliest money memory? (If you would like to share)

Why, yes, I would like to share, even if not a happy one.  I remember crying and being in a hospital or a clinic and I seem to feel like my parents were leaving me there.  I don’t know if it was for my cyst surgery (suspect not) or if it was when I was climbing at the grocery store and fell and bonked my head and developed a big bump.  From then on I was known as Debbie Down because I used to climb a lot and my parents continually were saying “Debbie, get down” which eventually became “Debbie, down!”


Oh dear, this post is entirely too long!  Sorry about that.  Maybe I need to go to posting more than twice per week.  According to PTMoney’s World of Personal Finance Bloggers, you have to blog at least three times a week to get put on the map.

I’d like to thank Anne at Money Propeller for this post which was invaluable for this post Ctrl + K and I are Good Friends. You should check it out for faster keyboarding skills.  There’s also one on excel.

Now that FinCon is over, now can I go have my nap? ;-)





Travel Cheap: Went to Paris, Skipped The Louvre

Today I’m super chumped to welcome Mrs. Frugalwoods to talk about a combination of two of her three favourite topics!  A lot of my travel has been on an expense account, so while not extravagant it’s not inexpensive either (plus there’s too much work involved – hi ho!).  The Irishman and I want to get back to doing some travel either annually or bi-annually, when we are financially independent.  We’ll be looking for ways to stretch our travel dollar, so I’m just lapping up the ideas and I rate the Frugalwoods as frugal travel extreme!  Mrs.  Frugalwoods ?….

We went to Paris and didn’t go to the Louvre. Yep, it’s another edition of Travel Cheap with Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods. I’ve talked about our courageous palates and willingness to travel at unusual times  in the past. Today, I’m thrilled to be here on Debt Debs sharing my cheapo sightseeing tips. Many thanks to Debs for taking a chance on me since this is my first ever guest post. Woo hoo! Hope it’s going OK so far; what do you think, guys?

Use Your Feet

Walking a city is equal parts frugal and the best way to truly experience the local culture. A decent map, a willingness to get lost, shoes (optional), and a sack-o-food are all key to personalized walkabouts. While I’ve shared previously that guide book restaurant suggestions miss the mark nearly every time, the walking tours are totes¹ fabulous! I recommend Rick Steves’ tours in particular. If I were a normal person, and not a frugal weirdo, I’d suggest you buy his guide books. But let’s be honest, you’re probably a frugal weirdo too and wouldn’t anyway. So, go ahead. Check it out from the library and photocopy the pages you need. We both know you’re going to.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I have wandered into the most interesting neighborhoods on foot and been fascinated by poking around true local haunts. Haven’t been arrested for trespassing yet, so we must be doing it right. Public transit is fantastic for far-flung destinations, but short rides around a city can really add up. Best to walk if at all possible.

If you’re an intrepid cyclist with a helmet in your suitcase, many cities offer bike rentals. As long as you’re able to safely navigate foreign traffic lanes and avoid offending locals with your spandex bike shorts, this is an excellent option as well.

Would you enjoy a brief anecdote about why walking is so great? Here you go: In Krakow, Poland we discovered the Krakus Mound. Contrary to what you’re thinking at this moment, I am not making this up. There does, in fact, exist a Krak Mound in Krakow and Mr. FW and I trekked around it.

The abandoned fort in Krakow, beyond which we viewed Krakus Mound

We had our photocopied map and a rough approximation of our location. We ambled through an entirely residential district for a few miles (lots of nice Polish homes and people staring at us: yes, hello, we’re just sort of walking through your neighborhood.) We came upon an abandoned medieval fort/castle/stronghold? in an open field and  tromped around for awhile. We then crested a peak in the field and beheld the Krakus Mound! Fortunately our guidebook offered a bit of insight–it’s a tumulus whose origins and original usages are unknown. But the book went on to note, in so many words, that not a lot of people bother to walk over here. Fabulously beautiful and, you guessed it, free!!

London was a favorite of ours, but let me tell you, it is hard to find a deal there! Everything is expensive. So, we carefully selected the sites we wanted to pay for and then enjoyed the rest of the city en plein air (that just means outside, but I really wanted to sound fancy ). We discovered that we could criss-cross the river Thames on foot via several of its multitude of bridges. This was a perfect method for seeing the city without paying for a ferry boat, bus tour, or a ride in the London Eye ferris wheel. We really are the worst consumers. Using our feet! The nerve.

Basically, Avoid Cars

Don’t take a cab unless you absolutely have no other option. They are, in general, exceedingly expensive and it’s difficult to know if they’re taking you on the most efficient route. You might end up overpaying for a meandering drive.

Renting a car might make sense if you’re headed to a more rural or remote locale, but don’t even think about it in a city center. The cost of parking, gas, insurance…. don’t get me started. On the other hand, if you road trip to your destination–like Root of Good did this past summer–you can save serious dough on transport!

Check out distances ahead of time and determine your walking comfort level. Knowing in advance how far you’re going will help avoid surprise foot blisters/situations* necessitating an unplanned cab ride.

*In Zagreb, I was wearing boots that I’d, uh, glued together following an unfortunate de-soleing incident earlier in the trip and my glue system began to break down. I took on a lot of icy water and, not wanting to cut our evening short, kept walking around. My foot grew increasingly numb and I eventually realized I couldn’t feel it. We hightailed it (still on foot) back to our hotel where Mr. FW (in a gallant gesture) carried me into a warm bathtub. Assuring him I could thaw on my own, he went on a quest for our dinner and returned with super tasty & cheap kebabs and a bottle of Bezalkoholno Kool Beer. In case you’re wondering, Bezalkoholno means “non-alcoholic” in Croatian. And let me tell you, it was not good non-alcoholic beer either. Consider yourself warned and travel armed with a phrase book.

Pursue Outdoor Pleasures


Our front-row view of the Eiffel Tour as we munched our grocery store picnic

Hiking, biking, walking, picnics! Some of our fondest memories are of free, outdoor journeys. In Kauai, we hiked the Na’Pali coast to a waterfall that we swam under. One of the greatest experiences of our lives–and totally free of charge. In Paris, we simply had to see the Eiffel Tower. But, in lieu of paying something like 10 euros a piece to go up in said Tower, we packed a resplendent sack-o-food, complete with wine, and had a dinner picnic on the lawn facing the Tower. We got to drink wine, not pay a ton of money, and not wait in line an hour for the privilege. Don’t assume you have to pay in order to experience the riches a city boasts!

Free Days!

Scope out discount days at museums and sights ahead of time. Many offer a free day or hours at some point during the week. If you’re a student or veteran, investigate discount opportunities! Also, consider if the admission price is really worth it—I’ve passed on a lot of museums I felt were just too expensive. Know what you enjoy and don’t mindlessly go to every “must-see.” Conversely, some things are pretty reasonable and definitely worth seeing.

Bletchley Park vs. Art Museum #101

Unsurprisingly, Mr. FW and I tend to seek out the more unusual sights in a given city. While I love me some art, I’ve probably been to a hundred art museums. We seriously did not go to the Louvre in Paris. I’d been before (on a college backpacking extravaganza) and while it’s an incredible art museum, it’s just an art museum. Controversial! I know! We instead took a day trip to Versailles outside of Paris. I’m what you might categorize as mildly obsessed with castles and ridiculous displays of royal grandeur, so this was a must and, it wasn’t actually that expensive.

In London, we skipped the Tower of London (while a castle, it’s not an exciting one in my opinion) and other run of the mill sites. Where would some frugal weirdos go instead? Why to Bletchley Park of course! All of the computer geeks reading this just went “oooOOOOoohhh” and everyone else went “say what?” Being in the latter category myself, my sweet software-programming Mr. FW led the charge on this sojourn.


A working reconstruction of an early-model computer called Colossus, which was built at Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park  was the headquarters of the Allied code-breaking efforts in WWII where new technologies in cryptography and computing were pioneered. I must say, it was fascinating and I even sat through the hour-long lecture on the origins of computing. Seeing as I don’t understand the current world of computing, that was love. Also, we were sitting in the front row (thank you, Mr. FW) and I couldn’t extract myself without crawling over four elderly English couples (who, by the way, were the only other visitors there).

In Nowa Huta, Poland, Mr. FW and I walked several miles (through a forest at one point) to a steel factory in order to gaze upon its classic Soviet architecture. Common for tourists? Definitely not based on the fact that we saw zero other people who weren’t steel factory workers. But, Nowa Huta was a planned Soviet city and we learned a lot just by walking around. It was a cheap train ride from Krakow and a priceless history lesson. Best part? The whole thing was free (well, except for the train ride).

We are all about going to places that are nearly impossible to replicate or visit anywhere else in the world. Hence, an art museum in London that boasts Italian Renaissance paintings? Not my cup-o-tea.

Churches: They Are Free

This is a universal maxim, except in a few rare cases (looking at you, St. Paul’s Cathedral* in London). Cathedrals of epic proportion and endless grandeur are free to tour. Bonus is that they often contain rare and priceless works of art. Remember all those art museums we skipped? Getting art-ed up for free now! The Sagrada Família in Barcelona stands out in my mind since it is still under construction. The ability to witness the craftsmanship that goes into these sacred buildings was, for me, awe-inspiring.


St. Elizabeth’s Church (aka “The Blue Church”) in Bratislava, Slovakia

An incredible aspect of many European cities is that there are ancient cathedrals and churches everywhere you go! Mr. FW and I would often duck into a relatively unassuming cathedral just to warm up and collect our thoughts for a moment and, almost without fail, be blown away by the art, tapestries (I have a thing for tapestries), and statuary!

*Mr. FW and I really are consummate cheapskates. We attended a church service at St. Paul’s in order to tour it for free. We were deeply respectful and enjoyed the service. But, we also got to see the church for free.

Be Fearless

I leave you with this parting missive: Don’t limit yourself to things within your traditional comfort zone. Be open to new experiences, cuisines, people, and languages. Get a phrase book, learn a few key words, divest yourself of the tourist-tromped paths and above all, observe and do as the locals do. When all else fails, remember that someone else has probably gone before you and been even more of a frugal weirdo (that would be me).

What are your favorite sites and your best frugal sightseeing tips?

FrugalwoodsMrs. Frugalwoods blogs at about her journey towards financial independence and a rural homestead, which she hopes to reach in three years at the ripe ol’ age of 33. Until then, she documents adventures in frugal city living in Cambridge, MA with her husband, Mr. Frugalwoods, and their greyhound, Frugal Hound. She is a very serious financial writer and certainly is not humorous at all.


Thank you Mrs. Frugalwoods for sharing how you really enjoy your travels, and especially when it’s quite reasonable.  I totally agree about the artwork in the churches.  I had the pleasure to attend mass last year at Notre Dame cathedral and then spent hours afterwards seeing everything (and I gave in the collection basket! ;-) ).  Of course I like to stop and talk to people with dogs when I’m traveling too, and I see Frugal Hound is conspicuously absent in this travel post.  Did I mention I’m starting a dog sitting business?

¹Editor’s Note: I add to look up the use of the word ‘totes’ in this context:  From the Urban Dictionary:  “A shorter more convenient form of the word: totally. This word is most commonly used by teenage girls.”  I’m totes cool with that.

Part of Friday Jet Fuel #12

Frugal FinCon Fiesta


Frugal FinCon Fiesta – Ask me Anything

Frugal FinCon FiestaToday I welcome you to the start of a three day blog hop party while many in the Personal Finance Community are lollygagging at FinCon.  Those of us poor frugal folks who have opted not to go to New Orleans are not in our right minds decided we had better things to do like mind the store, keep you entertained, have a nap and maybe work a bit to make some money.  This debt repayment and financial independence we want so badly is not going to happen on its own you know!

So for the next 3 days I will entertain any questions you may have by answering in this post.  Please put your questions in the comments and I will update the post with my responses and indicate in a reply comment when it is answered.

Any non-blogger readers are encouraged to ask a question or just say hello.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a personal finance related question.

More details on the Frugal FinCon Fiesta rules follow below.
Just to kick things off, I’ll start with a few random facts about me, except there are a couple (2) that are not true.  Try to guess which ones:
  1. I’m a CPA, CMA and I love numbers and can’t for the life of me figure out why I had my head in the sand all those years.
  2. I hate doing income taxes though (so don’t ask me any questions on that – j/k).
  3. I hate big fish.
  4. I’ve been married twice.
  5. I have a tattoo

I’m also going to augment this with a Versatile Blogger and Liebster nominations I received recently.  JUST finished working 2 12-13 hour days and I’m beat so this will occur sometime over the next three days.

More laterz..

Thursday Night Update:

Oy, after working another long day, I’m finally starting to make my rounds to all Frugal Fiesta FinConers!  Crazy times, I wasn’t prepared for what a week it’s been!  Summer is over, that’s for sure!

OK so answers on my questions so far:

The last two are the untrue statements.  Hubster hates tats and he’s my first and last husband!  LOL  Yes I’m afraid of big fish as in swimming with them (a shark or whale I could handle!)

Q: Kirsten asked ‘What is with the pictures you have on your blog – the dragonfly background/header?’
A: Well I put my blog together on the fly.  I liked the colours that I picked in the YOLO theme and went looking for a personal pic to throw on there.  The background boat cover that the dragonfly was resting on matched the font colours of the theme so I went with it.  I spent a lot of that summer 2013 when I took the photo looking at those dragonflies and contemplating the meaning of life.  I was thinking ‘I wonder if those dragonflies have worries?’  I added the seagull thinking about how freeing it will be to fly  when we are debt free.  Just recently, I added the cheeky chipmunk and talented hummingbird treading water as she feeds herself.  Sometimes it debt repayment feels that way, but I remind myself that there’s beauty to see along the journey.

Q: Brian asked ‘As a CPA and CMA do you let your clients know the state of your own finances/ or have you ever been asked?’
A: I’m not working in the public with clients per se but working in private industry.  I don’t let on about the state of my finances except for two close work friends.  This is one of the reasons I feel it is important to blog anonymously.  I have told a few close friends and my sisters and father know but that’s about it.

Q: Miss Millennial asked ‘What book have you read that’s left the biggest impression on you?’
A: I can’t think of one book that has knocked my socks off.  I guess I don’t read enough!  I love and have read all the Maeve Binchy books.  I liked James Herriot All Things Wise and Wonderful.  Peig:  The Autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Islands.  I’m not into chick books at all.  They’re all the same.

Q:  Miss Millennial also asked:  ‘How transparent are you?’
A:  I’m pretty much a blabber mouth.  What you read here is the true me.

Q: Kayla said ‘If you could change one thing that’ve you done/had happen to you in your life, what would it be and why?’
A: The thing I regret that was in my control was hurting my Aunt’s feelings.  The thing I would change if I could was losing my Mum in 2005.  I still think she was too young at 73 when she died suddenly from heart failure and I miss her a lot.

Q:  Brandy asked ‘Do you blog in the bathroom??’
A:  I’ve been known to read a post or comments on my tablet in there.  ;-)

Q: Even Steven asked ‘What would make you go to FINCON next year? Other than it being free and right next door.”
A: Saving enough money from side income or underspending in my budget and getting travel expenses as low as possible on points.


Friday Morning Update:

Q: Jean asks ‘Of all the blog posts you’ve published, which is your personal favorite?’
A: I guess that is still Mother Money Moments because (1) it’s about my role as a mother and which is so important to me as I believe God intervened in my life to bring me into my marriage and family (2) it explains part of the reason for our debt story and (3) it’s references the two women who were so important in my life and who I love and miss very much.


Friday Evening Update:

Oh what a day to end a crazy week!   Worked 45 hours in 4 days!!!!  Okay,  time to answer some questions, visit some blogs and maybe have a libation or two.   Who’s in for that?  Really pleased by the number of participants in #FrugalFinConFiesta.  I only wish I had more time until now to visit more and tweet #FrugalFinConFiesta.  It’s not too late to join in!  Tweet to me if you have any questions or problems, but so far everyone seems to have figured it all out nicely with no assistance required from moi!  YOU GUYS ROCK!   On to questions!

Q: May asks ‘What has been the biggest “surprise” for you about blogging?’
A: I think the biggest surprise is how easy is is to form relationships from behind a computer screen.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I once managed a geographically dispersed team for over a year without ever meeting any of them face-to-face and we had great relationships!  But even so, I guess the idea is you get out of it what you put into it, but also uniting over a common goal or interest is the glue that sticks people together.  I’m also surprised how much I like writing and how much effort it takes to run a blog!  Great question, May!

Q: Brooke asks ‘So what’s the first thing you are going to do when you get out of debt? And if you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go??’
A: Well Brooke, I consider how we are living now as a practice run for how we are going to live frugally in retirement.  As soon as we are out of debt, I figure we have another year that I need to work to save up money for home renovations.   Then I will quit my job if I’m still in it, or at least, move into my retirement career.  Whether that’s part-time work, contract work, freelance writing, volunteering or combination of these things remains to be seen, but I can’t wait!

For a vacation anywhere in the world I would go to Bora Bora and stay in the water huts.  That would be my dream!!!


Bora Bora Water Huts

Q: Kipp asks ‘How do you plan to celebrate when you have completed paying off all our your debts?’
A: Wow, you know I haven’t even allowed myself to think about that, Kipp.  I guess I’m afraid to jinx myself!  So now that you’ve asked, I’m going to Bora Bora!  ha ha LOL  I think I will take a driving holiday across Canada.  I’ve never been to Western Canada except to touch down at Vancouver airport on route to Hong Kong.  I really want to see the Rockies and I want to do it with The Irishman and before we get too old.

Canadian Rockies

Q: Mrs. FW asks ‘What’s your #1 piece of advice to people who are preparing to have kids (like me!)?’
A: My advice is about stuff you don’t know yet or are still to learn.  Trust your gut.  When we don’t know about stuff we tend to ask the experts (doctors, nurses, lactation consultants etc.) and we trust that they know what they are talking about.  The problem is even these experts have their biases and there can be some duds in amongst the experts as well.   So this goes to say, you need to take the advice that you need (because it suits your goals) and throw out the rest.  And don’t be judgmental about it.  Everyone is different and you need to do what works for you.  Now that I’ve said that, pick what you need from the following additional advice.  You’ve probably heard that as kid’s age you have to pick your battles.   I could actually write a book on the teenage years.  We had some rough times.  At one point, we had to take all of the stuff, save for a mattress on the floor out of our daughters bedroom as she was sneaking out at night and going to clubs at 16 years of age.   A sage piece of advice, is that if you are going through some rebellious times – they need you to be parents not friends and when the going gets rough stick at it and be comforted that they mostly come out like you at the end of those years.  Of course watching those shows like Intervention when you are a parent of teenagers scares the crap out of you because you never know how far it can go.  Also, kids need one on one attention, not to always be parented as a brood.  This is one thing I learned as a parent of four kids.  I think it is easier with only 2, but something to remember if you have three or more.   My Mrs. FW, I clearly have a lot to say on this topic!

Q: Tonya asks ‘if you could go to sleep and wake up anywhere in the world you wanted to tomorrow morning, where would it be?’
A: Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry, Ireland.  I love it there.  Slea Head, Dunquin, Blasket Islands, where the River runs over the road.

Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula, Kerry, Ireland

Q: Cecilia asks a long or double-barrelled one (it’s allowed!) ‘How much do you think you need in the bank before you can retire? I know you’ve said you’re going to keep working longer than you’d hoped due to debt repayment etc — I’m wondering how long you think it will be before you’ve made up all the ground you think you need to.’
A:  It will be 3 years 8 months until we are debt free and then I need to work for about a year after that to pay for house renovations.  I’m thinking that we (as a couple) need minimum $1.2 million, shooting for $1.4 million and $1.5 million would be dandy.

Q: Amanda asks for some personal advice ‘My fiance is about to start a great new job, but will start out as a temporary on-call employee. When he becomes full time (which is likely to happen within a year) he will automatically be getting a pension. My question is, should he be contributing to an RRSP in the meantime, or should we use that money to build a wedding/house/emergency fund instead?’
A: My opinions only, Amanda.  I would put a wedding fund as separate and last.  Not saying you shouldn’t save for it, but it should be as well as, not instead of.  You should fund an emergency fund to about $5K (and make sure it’s invested but accessible, or perhaps helping you to avoid bank fees by keeping a minimum amount in your accounts.)  You don’t want to put it in an RRSP to withdraw later unless it is for a first home purchase.  I’m not up on the rules, but I think you can withdraw for that as long as you pay it back within 15 years or something.  Sorry, you’re going to have to research this.  Is it a defined benefit or defined contribution pension?   They are becoming rare these days, but still exist.   You assume he will be working for this company forever which is a big assumption, so putting into an RRSP would still be okay to supplement this.  Don’t forget there’s also TFSA’s which can be used for emergency funds or wedding saving funds!

Q: Tre asks ‘Where would you most like to travel?’
A: I think I’ve answered this kind of above regarding Bora Bora, drive across Western Canada, and more travel in Ireland.  I’d like to go to Grand Canyon and Colorado and Arizona some day too!  I’m not really picky, but I only like big cities in small doses.

Q: Waffles (I’m allowed to call him that, we’re very close!) asks ‘who is your favourite Belgian? I mean: how do you keep up with all your favourite blogs? You seem to be everywhere! Tell us your secret!’
A: Well it’s a toss up between you and my boss, Waffles, ’cause you both treat me right!  But since he’s retiring soon and will be mostly out of my life, you are in a good position for top contender! ;-)  LOL  Thank you for the compliment, I try to visit as many blogs as possible but I always feel I’m lagging behind.  There’s really no secret but lots of work.  I think I’m going to have to develop a system or strategy though to not drive myself wonky.  I’m thinking something like, visit all commenters to my blog + 5 other blogs daily.  DC @ Young Adult Money wrote a good post on this recently.

Q: Kirsten snuck in ‘Did you read debt-journey blogs before you started blogging? Which ones?’
A: I wrote about the first blogs I read on my interview at Brian’s place Debt Discipline.  Sadly, two of them are not blogging anymore.   There are two blogs I’ve read from start to finish which I mentioned on this early post (and one of them was after it had shut down! #craycray).

Q: Tennille says ‘Once your out of debt what is the first thing your gonna do?’
A: Save up for house renovations and then sell and downsize our home! ;-)

Q: Kara asks ‘What’s your cocktail of choice? If you don’t drink, what is your favorite dessert?’
A: White wine, pinot grigio, riesling or savignon blanc is my favorite libation, but as far as a mixed drink goes – I love a bloody caesar or a gin and tonic in summer!

This one looks interesting!

Q: Femme asks ‘If the husband didn’t hate tattoos, would you get one? And what of and where?’
A: Good question!  I have fleetingly thought I would like to get one, but I’m not totally enamoured with the idea.  I would get a shamrock and a trinity symbol interwined or something if possible, probably on my front hip… and a big fat happy face on my butt!  :-)

Q: Kate asks ‘What is the perfect time for you to write a blog? Or do you have any specific time?’
A: I’m more a morning person so that is better for me.  Unfortunately sometimes I am scrambling at night and that leaves me a little stressed.  I’m bushed in the evening.

Saturday Night Update ~ It’s a wrap folks!:

Merry-Go-RoundHad a great day at the fair with my grandson!  Saw the parade, he loved the marching bands but the trucks blowing their horns made him cry because they were too loud.  Loved going on the Merry-Go-Round and saw some big horses for realz!  Fairs are expensive and I spent $10 on admission and $6 for a poutine but I don’t do this much and getting to spend all that quality time with family was worth it!

Looks like Plutus awards have come and gone.  Congrats to all contenders and winners.  Pleased for some of my favourite blogs that won or were nominated.  You know who you are!

Thanks to all who participated in Frugal FinCon Fiesta!  I hope you enjoyed asking questions and learning more from our fellow Personal Finance blogging community.  I think it’s great that we all share such a passion for this topic and are wanting to help spread the word about intentional living.  You don’t have to live your life as if you are wealthy to be rich.

[Tweet “You don’t have to live your life as if you are wealthy to be rich.”]

Here’s my last question:

Q: Kate from Downstairs and In Debt asks ‘what do you think is the one thing worth going into debt for? (if anything).’
A: I think your education and a home are worth going into debt for, as long as you have a plan to pay them off in a timely manner.  Also, when starting out, maybe a car, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a new vehicle, although I’ve done plenty of that in the past, but I like to think I’m a bit $marter now!

Thanks again, everyone!  Y’all rock in my books!!



  • Photo credit Flickr: Dani_vr
Now go visit some of these fabulous bloggers who are linking up to this Frugal FinConFiesta party!

If you are a PF blogger and want to participate click on the blue “Add your link” button above.  If you want to display all of the participating blogs on your post please refer to the second part of this post for more details on how to do this.

Part of Friday Jet Fuel #11 and



Debt Do Run Run

The above was from 1963, I was four years old and The Irishman was eleven.  We just celebrated his 62nd on 9/11 this week.  Yes, fate has linked his birthday to that tragic day never to be forgotten.

So excited about our debt repayment process, I alluded that August was looking good and I’ve had a sneak peak at September and so far so good!  Our debt dropped $6.4K in August (and $3.6K so far in September – not shown).  I’m just shy of my timeline – I should be at 40% paid off towards our debt repayment date of May 18, 2018 but I’m at 39.3%.  I’m hoping I may be ahead of schedule for my September update.  We’ll see.


click to enlarge

Buoyed with this consistent and solid performance, I’ve added a new debt repayment date counter in my sidebar.  It says I am three years to debt repayment, but it’s actually 3 years 8 months.  My stretch target is 3 years 3 months.  I did some calculations yesterday and a got a glimpse that maybe it was down to 3 years 5 months but immediately figured I made a mistake.  I’ll leave a little more time pass and recalculate again.  I don’t want to jinx us, and we still have to get through that dreaded winter where income may fall short again.

This time of year is generally better for us cash flow wise.  The additional payroll deductions that hit in the first part of the year are long gone.  To prepare for winter/spring lower income, I’m boosting up my e-fund/property taxes fund to $15K.  I’m currently at almost $9K.
Now for some exciting news!

Frugal FinCon Fiesta Party

So while I’m running away all my debt, and don’t make enough on my blog to cover my costs plus many other good reasons (check it out if you want a laugh), I’ve conspired with some of my fellow bloggers to do something fun while the rest of you are lollygagging* away in New Orleans.  Before I tell you what’s in it for the rest of us, let me tell you a bit more about FINCON.

  • It’s a conference for financial media – bloggers, journalists and freelance writers, financial advisors and coaches, podcasters and brand marketing experts.
  • There are workshops and speakers on beginner, intermediate and advanced topics to help communicators write better content, broadcast their message to larger audiences, learn to work with new media platforms.
  • It runs from Thu Sep 18 – Sat Sep 20 this year, 2014.
  • There’s a $99 virtual pass where you get lifetime access to all the keynotes and breakout sessions including videos, slides and MP3’s.
  • It costs $499 for the conference fee.  There were other passes available for advanced sessions etc. but they are now sold out.  Hot stuff!
  • You can’t bring your spouse into the sessions / parties unless they are a registered attendee (Guess they’re taking a nap!)
  • There are FinCon mobile apps at the iPhone store or the Google Play Store (Android).
  • The tweet tag is #FinCon14.
  • For more information visit the

*I needed to check the meaning of lollygag to make sure I was using it in the right context.



    1. To idle about; goof off: He has the summer free for play, swimming, berry picking, and general lallygagging/ when my nephew and his companion lollygagged back to my house (1862+)
    2. To kiss and caress; dally; make out, neck, trade spit (1868+)

I think maybe I am, he he, but no worries.  But I just wanna say that if there is any of item #2 above going on, can you at least wait for next year when I can go?

Okay, on to the details about the Frugal FinCon Fiesta Party.

  • It will run Sep 18 – 20 to coincide with FINCON and allow people time to visit other blogs (after all, most of us are working during the day, or taking a nap ;-) )
  • It will be an open linky party using the inlinkz tool.  You do not have to get an account. I have provided the code to insert into your blog post.**  This will display links with pictures to all of the other partyers on your post.  Here is an example from #FinSavSat.  If you do not have a self-hosted blog but use, it will show up as little frog like in this post (from when I used to be on but will take you to the linked blogs.***
  • The purpose is to entertain questions from your readers like J. Money did in Ask J. Money Anything Day and Crystal did in Ask Crystal Anything Days.  Answer the questions in the blog post (like live blogging over a 3 day period, as time permits, of course).  Indicate in the comments when the question has been answered in the post.  If you choose to get the party started by posting some teaser questions and answers about random facts about yourself, then by all means go ahead.  This can be a great way to spawn future blog posts, if the answer is quite complex.
  • I also would like you to encourage non-blogger readers to say ‘hi’, even if they don’t ask a question at this party.
  • Let’s do some banter in the comments as well, not the usual commenter comments and blogger responds.  Let’s mix it up and comment to other’s comments for some $hits and giggles.
  • It will be super hot if you put a picture in the header of your post which you can select for the inlinkz. (or it will give you the option to choose other photos on your blog).  There are tons of great shots if you search on “Fiesta” in to give your post some pizazz!
  • I reserve the right to take down any spammy links or otherwise party-poopers who are not participating in the party with the spirit in which it was intended.
  • TWEET #FrugalFINCONFiesta and HAVE FUN!

** Write your introduction to your post and then click on this link to get the code to be inserted in the text (html view) at the end of your party post.  get the InLinkz code Note:  You will not see it in preview mode.  It needs to be posted live to show up.  If you prefer to test, edit an old post.

Link your own post up to the party by clicking on the little blue box that says “Add your link” at the bottom.

*** Special instructions on how to set this up on is linked here from inlinkz. (non self-hosted blogs)

So what do you have to say about the ‘hotness’ of my debt repayment?  Are you in for the Frugal FinCon Fiesta (Hotness) Party?  Any non-bloggers wanna give me a wink?  ;-)

This post is part of Friday Jet Fuel #10 and