debt debs

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


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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.

 

PART OF

brokeGIRLrich
travel-cheap


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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

travel-cheap

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.

travel-cheap

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.

travel-cheap

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 www.frugalwoods.com 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

debtdebs-Fergus


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Top Ten Reasons You Need to Manage Your Finances

Big big post for you here today folks.  It’s time for another Top Ten Reasons à la David Letterman style. This time I’ve brought my good blogger friends to back up my points.  You know, just so you don’t think I make this stuff up and all.

Last time I did the Top Ten I kinda screwed it up. I forget that Dave goes in reverse. What can I say? I was a Leno fan.

Speaking of the Tonight Show, who’s enjoying it with Fallon as the host? I love the opening music (don’t ask why, but if I turn the channel too late after watching the news and miss the opening music I’m bummed up.  Hey hey hey hey….Hey hey hey hey… Hey hey hey hey… hey hey hey hey)

It’s definitely different than Leno. I like the musical numbers he does.  Plus he does a good Vladimir Putin.  I miss headlines, and jaywalking though. Did anyone see it the other night when they had the zoo animals on?  No?  Okay well you’re in luck because I have it for you below.

At about 3 minutes in the trainer pretended the little albino alligator snapped at Jimmy and he ended up in the corner because he got so scared.   Then they brought the big mama albino alligator out and he looked like he was going to run out of the studio. Meanwhile his female guest, Rosario Dawson, was handling the little white baby like a pro.

You can view the video directly on YouTube by clicking here

Also see the follow-on video with Roxie the big big elephant here.  I’m a little reluctant to share these videos because I’m not a big fan of animals in captivity.  Share your thoughts in the comments, if you like.

Anyways, I digress, so back to the Top Ten.

Top Ten Reasons You Need to Manage Your Finances

goats-kids#10.  Your kids – Read this heartfelt story from Vanessa of the Cash Cow Couple who wrote at The Heavy Purse

The Surprising Consequences of Keeping Your Kids in the Dark about Your Finances

Vanessa explains how important it is to explain any ways you are managing money in an open and practical manner, focusing on the positive with your children.  You do not want to create fear in your child which can develop into unhealthy money and spending habits that take years to overcome.  As a mother, I wonder if I’ve made these mistakes, even if meaning well.  All I can do is look forward and help educate other parents about this as well.

Top Ninth Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

fast-food-not-frugal#9.  You may end up having to go on a cash diet – Grayson Bell at Frugal Rules is putting himself on one because he says he’s spending too much on fast food.

It is Time to go on a Cash Diet

There’s no shame if you have to go this route, it’s better than letting a problem perpetuate and maybe become an even harder habit to break.  I’ve decided I may need to put The Irishman on a cash grocery diet if the poker chips don’t work.  What is it with men and grocery stores?  Is it just mine?  OK, then, carry on.

Top Eighth Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

duck-bill#8.  You may be paying for stuff you don’t know about – Dee at Color Me Frugal found out the hard way when she was suddenly billed for something that apparently was in the contract but they weren’t aware.

Why It’s Important to Check in With Your Billers Regularly

At least through some whining negotiating she was able to cut her losses in half, but if she hadn’t checked her bill closely she would have been none the wiser for that time and going forward.  BTW, the duck named Bill totally agrees with me.

Top Seventh Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

Bread#7.  You’re paying for a lot more than the food you order when you eat out according to Karen at Suburban Finance.

Hidden Costs in Restaurants

She reminds us of the extra costs of sides and add-ons as well as the variability across geographies.  What get’s me the most is how these options are always presented in such a way as to make you think they are doing you a big favour, bringing you bread or asking if you like something extra, with no hint that there’s extra cost involved and they’re just trying to up-sell and increase they’re profit margin.  Good marketing for them… bad for you and your pocketbook!  Besides who wants to pay extra for bread that looks like worms?

Top Sixth Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

gas-prices#6.  You may be missing out on better opportunities if you don’t do the math and calculate your costs that support your income earning potential or even just your costs to support your family.  How many times have you driven across town to hit a sale but basically blew most of your savings on gas?  Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff discusses how this has impacted her in:

Opportunity Costs at Work

Now with the price of gas these days is through the roof.  I use GasBuddy.com to find the best prices in my vicinity.  $139.8/litre last reported 50 minutes ago at my favourite nearby station (which in US gas terms is $4.915/gal  using these handy dandy Bank of Canada daily currency converter and gas converter tools!)

Top Fifth Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

Germany#5. What if a great opportunity came along, something you always wanted to do but then you couldn’t because you didn’t have the financial means necessary to support the endeavor?  So like, let’s just say that Erin of Broke Millennial had this chance (she doesn’t) to move to Germany (she’s not) but didn’t have the funds to pay her way over until she could get reimbursed by her new employer?  Ya, that would suck ay?  Well Erin explores all things about why she should move to Germany in … drum roll…

Perhaps I Should Move to Germany?

Basically she proves that she would never be caught with her pants on the ground and not ready to move to Germany or anywhere if the right opportunity came up because she rocks managing her money!!   Besides, who wouldn’t want to move to Germany on a moment’s notice with cool looking architecture like this?

flickr-John-Morgan-manage-your-financesTop Fourth Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

#4.  If you manage your finances then you have extra money to buy important stuff like dividend paying stocks which is a nice form of passive income.  I don’t have any extra money these days so I just drool when I read posts like this from Dividend Mantra.

Recent Buy

So I just follow a long like I’m using play monopoly money so I can learn the ropes and look forward to the day when I have some extra cash and I can write a post call Recent Buy except I will call it Decent Recent Buy, because my name is Debt Debs and I have to get at least one D and some rhyme in there because that’s how I roll.

Top Third Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

Dollar-Store-shopping#3.  Wow, I can’t believe I’m already at #3.  For this one I need to say categorically you need to manage your finances so that you can shop at the dollar store.  Huh?  Yes, you need to shop at the dollar store for two reasons.  #1 you can get some okay things at the dollar store and there is no reason to go buy some overpriced thing when the dollar store version is just fine.  Girl Meets Debt knows about some of these things and also some that you should not buy at the dollar store.

5 Things to Buy (and Avoid) at the Dollar Store

I’d like to add pens to her list of things to buy at the dollar store.  But what’s the #2 reason you need to shop at the dollar store?  You need to remember what it was like when you shopped at the dollar store to get your shopping fix because you didn’t have any money and spending just $10 on some dish cloths, some plastic hangers, a couple of cards and a candle was enough to make you realize, you didn’t need to shop anymore to feel good.  Stay humble…. and never be a collector of needless stuff again.

Top Second Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

standard-poodle#2.  If something is really important to you and you need money for it, it’s not fun when you don’t have the money for it.  Our beloved standard poodle passed away January 2013, and though I still grieve for him, I think I will soon be ready to get another Standard Poodle, this time from a rescue organization like SPIN or SPRO.  It just sucks that we don’t have the money in our budget because pets can be expensive.  But I bawled my eyes out yesterday when I read about LBee & the Money Tree having a really rough week losing her beloved dog, Murray.

For Murray

Her love for that pooch was so apparent in her words and the wonderful pictures she shared.  It reminded me how much we loved and miss Fergus, and know that one day, we will share our love again with a standard poodle rescue.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.  And if I had been a better money manager, it would be tomorrow that I would get another dog.

The #1 Top Reason You Need to Manage Your Finances

happy-piggybank-manage-your-finances#1.  And the #1 reason why you need to manage your finances is an oldie but goodie found on Rockstar Finance from Will at First Quarter Finance.  You may find out that you actually enjoy saving money!

How to Enjoy Saving Money!

Now there’s a novel concept, and one, I myself, can vouch for!  Go figure…

Images courtesy of morguefile except where noted
Monopoly Money / John Morgan / flickr
Dollarama / Michael_Swan / flickr

Happy #FinSavSat folks!  Enjoy your weekend!

Debt Discipline
Multitasking


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The New Multitasking – Fragmentasking

MultitaskingDoes the word multitasking make you feel energized and alive?

Not the first thing you think of?  It used to be such a cool word when it was the new black.  Kinda like twerking got popular this year (although that word wants to make be barf).  How about selfie?  It’s sorta cute in a narcissistic kind of way!

My form of multitasking is so fragmented, that I wanna coin a new term fragmentasking.  It basically means flipping around from this to that until the time allotted runs out or you go to bed.  Whichever comes first. Fragmentasking sounds like frugal and fraggles so I’m all over that.  Do you fangirls and bros think your tweeps can relate to that?

So on that topic, here’s what my fabulous and frugal days have me fragmentasking about lately, in no particular order, I give you…

THE FRAGMENTASKING LIST

UHF/VHF/FM/HDTV Compact Outdoor Antenna

Home Hardware: UHF/VHF/FM/HDTV Compact Outdoor Antenna – $134.99

Digiwave Digital TV Antenna ANT7286

WALMART: Digiwave Digital TV Antenna ANT7286 – $89.97

1.  Two weeks ago I let you know we were joining the cable cutting club even though, we actually starting discussing this back in March and I even reached out to fellow blogger Kay at Green Money Stream inquiring about what type of digital antenna they got.  The Irishman has been researching Walmart, The Source, Staples and Home Hardware but we still are antennaless, and alas not cableless … yet.  Enough already.  I still don’t know how I’m gonna watch THE LITTLE COUPLE yet (man I love that show! eeek… I forgot to watch it last night!!!  Oh, man, I guess I won’t miss it that much), so that’s on my fragmentasking list to research.

2.  I had a killer week last week – a project Go Live and there was a last minute glitch identified Tuesday that had to be addressed by Thursday so we could run all the batch jobs over the weekend.  Some configurations had to be updated that had not been detected during testing (grrr…) so three twelve hour days later all the work was completed.  I had to really ignore my fragmentasking during this time because I suck at it and apparently Stefanie from the Broke and Beautiful Life does too.  So I followed the advice I gave Stefanie and said “Hold all calls” (in my head, gee I’ve always wanted to say that), until the work was done.  A little bit of fallout this week that I’m dealing with, unrelated to the initial issue, but hey, that’s life my job.

3.  After a nice Father’s Day brunch at one of my daughter’s, The Irishman, my youngest and I actually spent Sunday afternoon working on stage 2 of garage cleanup.  It was easier with three of us doing it together and I was really pleased that my OCD daughter was able to put herself out there and brave the dirty disgusting garage.   We sorted through a bunch of stuff and The Irishman took a load of donations to Value Village.  Weather was great and we were tired and sore by 5 p.m.  A bunch of garbage got picked up today on trash day.  Good riddance!  Stage 3 fragmentask and possibly 4 will be needed, but they should get easier, now that we’ve cleared up a lot of room.  Not the funnest day to spend Father’s Day but he seemed pleased with the progress and I was a happy mama!  Here’s a before picture but you can’t see final until it’s all done!

garage-before-cleaning4.  So needless to say, with Father’s Day and garage cleaning, I haven’t made any progress yet on my stock portfolio tracking to get comfortable with making the big move to a self-managed retirement portfolio.   I’m very meticulous and very nervous so this will take me some time, but I’m committed to do this.  Is anyone else hearing about a stock market correction?  I keep hearing one is coming, but the quick glance at the daily emails I get, so far so good.

chip-system-grocery-saving5.  Another fragment on my plate is dealing with how to reduce our grocery bill which for us is $800/month but it includes pet food, paper products, toiletries – basically anything we buy at Costco, any grocery stores and Shopper’s Drug Mart.  I use MINT so it’s just easier to have all those stores go to our grocery budget line.   We’ve  been eating our pantry right now so that’s all we’ve done in the short term, but still need to delve in it more.  One idea I’ve had (since The Irishman seems to love going to grocery stores ug and we like to use credit cards to get the cash back rewards), is to use a copycat cash system.  I would get 30 poker chips and two baskets – one spent and unspent.  Every time one of us spends $20 of this grocery budget, we move a chip over to the spent basket.  This way there is a visual of how much money is left and we need to figure out how to make it last until the end of the month.

6.  On the topic of savings, Money Ahoy’s Derek is preaching to my choir when he said Turn Off Your Outside Lights at Night.  I don’t believe you need to leave the outside lights on when you go to bed or even later in the evening.  The Irishman likes to leave the back deck light on for security reasons but I think it’s redundant.  We had front yard lights on a few weeks ago when he left his truck unlocked and someone went in and stole his GPS.  Grrrr… laughs on them though because they didn’t take the charger and the dang thing never holds a charge anymore.

7.  I tried been trying to keep up with my blog reading and it’s not that easy.  Wave your hand if you also have that problem.  I can get caught up one day and then fall right back behind the next.  I’m a little anal and hate to miss a cool post so I pretty much scan them all or at a minimum read the title and see if it ‘speaks to me’.  That, coupled with finding new blogs to read and going back to read replies to comments I’ve left leaves me in a big taskfragging heap and we’ll just leave it at that.  :-D

8.  In my blog blitz catchup earlier this week I came across The Addiction of Momentary Pleasure and Seeking the Peak from Trent @ The Simple Dollar and I’ve been giving it some thought as I soak in the tub (fragmentasking at it’s best!).   I guess it’s really all about the law of diminishing returns and finding that sweet spot where pleasure is maximized and more doesn’t lead to minimize it.  Confused?  Go read Trent’s post.  It’s kinda cool.

9.   Speaking of momentary pleasures, for a fleeting moment I got to dream about my future after reading Mr. CBB’s Can you picture yourself living the retired life?  It doesn’t mean I’ll be fragmentasking any less, but on my own terms, you betcha!

The Addiction of Momentary Pleasure and Seeking the Peak – See more at: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-addiction-of-momentary-pleasure-and-seeking-the-peak/#sthash.KiE86Cf7.dpuf
The Addiction of Momentary Pleasure and Seeking the Peak – See more at: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/the-addiction-of-momentary-pleasure-and-seeking-the-peak/#sthash.KiE86Cf7.dpuf

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Prakairoj / Business Man And Post Memo Around Body
Salvatore Vuono / Casino Chips

My-Dad


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Father’s Frugal Finances

The best example I have had for being frugal has come from my father. In fact, we often thought he was downright miserly.  Somehow, it might have backfired, given our current financial situation. There may have been some moments that I thought he was just too cheap for his own good. Maybe this stuck with me and I swung the pendulum too far the other way. In retrospect, he really has set a good example and one which I wish I had heeded a long time ago.

powdered-milk-frugalChildhood Currency

As a child I remember asking him how much money he made. Both of my parents scoffed and said “Oh, we don’t talk about that.” They realized I would blab to all my friends, even if I didn’t realize if it was a good wage or not, it certainly would seem enormous to me. They didn’t get the blabbing part wrong. Look at me now – a blogger!

But my impression was that we were a little poorer than my friend’s families. Not by a lot, and probably not at all, but hearing frugal talk in the household, drinking powdered milk (yucch, I hated that stuff) are things that may have lead me to this conclusion. My mother didn’t work until my youngest sister turned five, and then she took a part-time job in a retail store.  In general, I grew up feeling like money was not to be wasted, in case you really needed it someday.

Teenage Turns

Imagine my surprise when my parents started taking some winter vacations on their own when we got a little older but were left in the care of our aunt. A cruise, a trip to Florida…. well, well, things must be looking up in the Finance department.  It was probably more like miserly intervention.  My Mum had probably had enough and started threatening and there was probably a few “I deserves” on her part thrown in there too!

Florida-Disney-WorldNext thing I know, they bought a house in Florida. Wow! I didn’t see that coming. Of course it was mortgaged, and it meant seven of us loaded into a sedan for a three day 27 hour drive door to door. Disney World, Busch Gardens, the beach, Tarpon Springs… here we come!   We did this for three Christmases in a row.   We had to save up our own money for any extra spending. Truth be told, I think there was a bit of Jonesying there on the part of my mother when they bought the house, and she convinced him it was an investment. I was even allowed to have a friend fly down to Florida and meet us there.  I wasn’t complaining.

Sixteen years of age and a new driver, I managed to convince my Dad to let me have his car to go to the drive-in with my boyfriend. Looking back, he was pretty accommodating, though I didn’t see it as a big deal at the time. What I did see as a big deal was the scratch I put down the side when I parked too close to the speaker and scraped it a good long streak. I was so terrified of his reaction that I did not sleep a wink all night. I heard him up getting the tea and his breakfast and figured I need to get this over with. I told him what happened and immediately started bawling. He didn’t say a word but went over to look at the car in the driveway from the living room window. Eventually he spoke, asked questions, maybe appeared a little annoyed, but nothing like I expected, and nothing that I can recall now almost 40 years later. I don’t recall if he asked me to pay for repair or if he even had it repaired. All I remember now is my fear and his reaction being not nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. Even though he was frugal, it appears money wasn’t always front and foremost in his thoughts.

frugal-studentTenant, Tuition and Transportation

I went to university but paid my way, tuition and accommodations.  There was never any discussion of money set aside for me for this. For the most part, I managed quite well, being in a Coop program, so I had good employment work terms between every semester of school.

We had an older used second family vehicle, even though my Mum didn’t drive. It was there for when I was at home for my work terms so I could drive to my job. I was allowed to take it the six hour drive to university for the first weekend of every term so I could take all my stuff, but I had to bring it back the very next weekend and return by bus to university. I often wondered why they didn’t let me keep the car with me at school all term, because it just sat in the driveway at home. It was sort of an unspoken frugality that was practiced.

I could walk to university from the various places I rented during my school terms which were at maximum about 2 miles. I didn’t need a car. I only needed a car to get my stuff down there and back each term (my Coop placements were all in my hometown).  Having a car at university was a want. He probably knew I would get lazy, start driving to school, drive all my friends, spend lots of money on gas, possibly get into an accident… . No, needs they could support. Wants would not be supported.

Even though I would have to buy a one-way bus ticket to get back to school after delivering the car back home (bus tickets weren’t that cheap either), and even though we got rear-ended once on the way home (not our fault, but my friend was driving), this was the standard that was expected all through-out my university years. I was envious of some friends who had cars. I would struggle home with my groceries stuffed in my knapsack and two arms breaking as I tried to carry everything the half a mile to my accommodations.   I think I tried renegotiating the terms once or twice, but for the most part it was accepted by me as a no go, for what-ever reasons, and even if it did not make sense to me.  Laying down the ground work for no lifestyle inflation had begun.

ToyotaGraduation Gifts

My last semester, I already had a full time job lined up for after graduation. I think the second vehicle might have died by this point, but that wasn’t needed as a way to get home that term. I was given a relocation allowance by my employer, whereby I could rent a van to bring all my stuff home, including some furniture that I had managed to leave there for the full four years.

I did need a vehicle though to get to work, and decided I wanted to buy my own brand new car. I planned to live at home for my first year to save up to buy nicer furniture and prepare to move out on my own.   I had my eyes on a Toyota Tercel and went shopping for it with my Dad earlier in the semester, so he could help me to negotiate. They asked for a $100 deposit, which my Dad put down on his credit card. (I don’t think I even had a credit card then). I fully expected to pay it back, once I started working full-time, because money always ran a little short by the time I got to the end of each school term.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up my new car in May, and Dad said I did not need to pay him back the $100. It was a graduation present. A very generous graduation present, I felt. $100 from my Dad felt like $10,000 at the time.  Maybe it was a little bit of foreshadowing to how he is today.

downpayment-for-homeHome Homage

Fast forward, and after a couple of years of apartment rental, it’s time to purchase a home.  Dad lent me some additional money for my down payment.   He set an interest rate that was lower than what I would pay but better than he could get in short term interest bearing investments, so it was a win-win!  I actually didn’t even pay this money back until I was married a few years.  He wasn’t asking for it but I didn’t want to be indebted to him any longer, especially now that I was a mother and with many family responsibilities. Since he was money savvy, he saw an opportunity to help his daughter out and himself, all at the same time.

frugal-sandwichBread and Butter

He continued to be quite thrifty, was good at repairs etc. so it wasn’t usual for him to bring in any experts. He cheaped out on house painting, leaving it to my Mum to do.  When she said eventually, that was it, she was doing no more painting, she was too old for this, he had to address.  He asked Huey, Duey and Louie aka my husband and my two BILS to help him paint the living and dining room and hallway one weekend, instead of hiring painters.  My Mum didn’t want to be around so asked me to take her out for the day which I obliged.  So by mid afternoon, the guys were getting hungry.  “Do you have anything to eat, Grandad?”  Oh, sure, he said and made them bread and butter sandwiches*.  They still laugh about Grandad’s cooking prowess to this day.  Not only was he frugal on getting the painting done, but he didn’t even have to score for a pizza!

man-on-phoneBrains or Braun

Years later, Dad took ill suddenly and was diagnosed with a brain tumor on his pituitary gland.  After surgery, he needed hormone replacement therapy, and getting exactly the right dosage is always a matter of trial and error.

At one point, he had so much estrogen in him he was calling us to talk on the phone regularly, crying in front of us and shopping up a storm!  I kid you not!  He went shopping for a sports car with my husband once (didn’t buy one, thankfully)!  He bought new windows for their house and my mother was in her glory!  We said to him “Who are you and what have you done with our father?”

Since he was under close supervision in those early days, the doctors immediately spotted the overdose and cut it back, a little too far, and he went back to his miserly self but worse!  Let me tell ya, those hormones play a big part in this I have witnessed!

Single but Satisfied

Life changes in an instant, and he lost my Mum unexpectedly 9 years ago.  7 years her senior, we never expected things to turn out this way.

He is 89 years old, lives in a rented apartment, still drives and comes to dinner most Saturday nights, bringing a bottle of wine for every meal.  He’s still frugal, but he’s no longer cheap and has become quite  generous.  He complains about how much his stock broker is making off him, but still has quite a bit invested in the market even at his age.

He knows we have cut back and are living frugally, which pleases him, I think.  But I could never tell him the extent of our debt, because I don’t want to disappoint him.

I must say that, as much as I miss my Mum (she was always the life of the party), it has been good to get to know my Dad even better in her absence.  I often think about their situation, since The Irishman and I have the exact same age difference.

In retrospect, I think my Dad has the right amount of frugality and I think that at the end of the day, I do too!

My-DadHAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all you Dads out there!

Just remember ~

Time is money, but money also takes time!

 

 

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
milk – imagerymajestic
Disney – David Castillo Dominici
student walking – Ambro
Toyota – tiverylucky
helping hand home – jannoon028
bread and butter – rakratchada torsap
man on phone – stockimages
My Dad – Simon Howden

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The Thrifty Issue


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Family Matters – How Does Your Family Treat Money and Debt?

How Do Your Family Members Treat Money and DebtI wrote recently about some key contributors to our debt journey, acknowledging that my worst fear was the impact it was having on the ability of my adult children to manage their finances responsibly and proactively.

The Early Days after Debt Acknowledgement

My oldest is the most frugal of all of them, and has been quite capable of managing her finances well, (mostly) without my help.  In fact when we first acknowledged our debt crisis, I was quite overwhelmed and anxious.  I found it anxiety provoking to even log into our bank accounts or credit card statements on line!  Can you believe that?  She gave me some sage advice suggesting that I just start with one of them, and log in every day, until the anxiousness subsided.

Later I added logging in to see my credit card balances to my routine, and soon I was creating budgets on excel and living and breathing our financial numbers until I was bleary-eyed.   The new found financial good habits, for me, had begun.

More than a year later, after that initial shock, I had built up routines and coping strategies and I began to talk more openly about our finances with all of our children.

Good Personal Finance Habits

Even though I knew my oldest was probably in the best position, I still wanted to satisfy my curiosity urgent need to know exactly how they were managing things.  Were there any things they were not doing or neglecting that, after twelve months of debt wrangling, I might be able to offer advice on.

She assured me that they had all of the following in place:

  • An emergency fund of cash equal to about 3 months of expenses.  We discussed the merits of having up to six months of expenses.
  • Fully topped up TFSA’s (Tax Free Savings Accounts), for both her and her husband.  This equated to about 40K at the time, more than enough to be considered the additional component of their emergency fund.
  • Regular contributions to their RRSP’s to obtain the maximum company match.

I also knew that she had good frugal habits in place such as:

  • Managing household expenses by minimizing hydro use (her husband always jokes that he walks around in the dark half the time).
  • Selling unwanted stuff on Kijiji to make a few extra dollars from household clutter.

More recently, they just moved into a new home, and I helped them do a few different sensitivity analyses for the mortgage repayment.  I use the following Canadian Mortgage Calculator (from Vertex42 – can also be used for US, see note below (*).  We created the following worksheets by making copies of the master and tweaking the variables:

  • To illustrate the impact on total interest paid and final payment date of switching to accelerated bi-weekly payments from monthly mortgage payments.  With accelerated bi-weekly, you pay half of your budgeted monthly mortgage amount exactly every two weeks on the same day of the week, thereby fitting in 26 payments a year,  instead of 24 if you just paid it twice per month, or 12 if only once per month.  Your payments are less if you pay biweekly, but the biggest savings comes from taking your monthly payment and dividing by 2 and paying that every two weeks having the equivalent of 13 months of payments (26/2) instead of 12.
  • We also wanted to see the impact of making prepayments, both annual of $3,000 plus an extra bi-weekly payment of $50.  These prepayments come right off the principal.  (Note:  You need to check the terms of your mortgage with respect to prepayments.  There is often maximum annual amounts.  Some can be made at any time and as often as you want throughoutt the year, some can only be done once per year at or near anniversary date).

canadian-mortgage-calculator_options

  • The compound period for a Canadian mortgage is semi-annual, but this calculator can also be used for US mortgage calculations by changing the compound period to monthly – the main difference between a US and Canadian mortgage.
  • They are planning to following the final option in the chart.  If they can save make an extra $50 payment every two weeks and save to make a $3K payment every year, they will reduce their mortgage term to just over 16 years.

My son lives farther away and seems to be pretty savvy.  I’m pretty sure he’s paying off his credit cards each month.  I think his student debt is fully paid.  I believe he is also saving for a down payment for a house.  Other than that, I don’t know much else.

I offered him help to prepare any budget spreadsheets answer any questions he may have in order to ensure his financial house is in order.  He hasn’t taken me up on it yet, probably because when we see him we don’t really have time to spend on this.  But he knows I’m ready any time, even if we do it on a web session.   I can always send him the spreadsheets to fill out, but something tells me that it’s easier more valuable if Mum is there to ask the savvy questions and keep it interactive!

  • One of the drawbacks though, is that if Mum does all the work, they may be less likely to keep it up or track their spending going forward etc.

I wrote on Worth-it-Wednesday, how about how my #3 surprised me about paying off her student loans.  She was on my list to work with next, because I really wasn’t sure how she was doing, what with a recent humanitarian trip to Haiti which she paid for herself (she’s a nurse).   I think maturity is helping here because I see her being more frugal like her older sister and brother.  I think she now has a sense of how good it feels to be debt free (well, since last weekend   ;)  ) and she seemed pretty, pretty happy about it!  Bazinga!

Bad Personal Finance Habits

I’m not really sure where to start with #4 so I’ll just dive in.  She doesn’t have a lot of income because she is on disability due to here severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and social anxiety.   Her OCD is the germaphobic / cleanliness type so she’s always buying new products to keep her body and her bathroom clean.  She also discards (or gives to me or my husband digs it out of the garbage) shampoo or makeup that she feels has sat around too long and has become contaminated.  She goes through toilet paper and paper towels like there’s no tomorrow (note to self:  buy shares in Scott paper).  Plus, I think she tends to try to soothe herself and her symptoms by shopping on-line.  The UPS truck is often stopping at our house and makes me feel annoyed.

She used to pay us $300 / month for room and board, which was okay because it covered her expenses.  Lately she renegotiated her payment because she felt she was paying too much and said she wanted to save her money.  I wasn’t too keen but it was becoming a bit of a bone of contention and I gave up the battle out of resignation, I guess.  She had calculated how much she consumes in hydro, paper products, water etc. and thought that $190 was sufficient.  Only I have yet to see any of that money for two months now.

Am I frustrated?  Damn right I am.  Is she taking advantage of us?  Maybe.  Am I going to do something about it?  I will, I’m just too tired to fight with her about it right now.  We’ve been going through this for seven years.  Her symptoms became visible to us at age 14, but really severe at 17 and she’s 24 now.  She acknowledges that she had OCD symptoms since about 5 years of age (touching compulsions, scrupulosity, bad thoughts).

It has been really bad.  Think worst case.  Ya, it happened.  Every parents nightmare.   Well I guess worse case would be if she wasn’t here anymore.  She tried twice.  So I always have to remind myself that as bad as it is, it could always be worse.

Anyways, I just wanna OCD break right now, so I choose not to deal with it.  Probably a bad move on my part.  I think dealing with her OCD has also played a factor in our debt load.   Many trips to hospital, parking, eating out, buying things she needed, shopping to try to feel better, taking trips to get away from it all.  When it gets really bad, your spending becomes an afterthought.

We still have bottles of bug killer in our hall closet that my husband bought last summer when she insisted there were bugs in her room, even though we couldn’t find any evidence of them.   (Ya, I’m frustrated too because he never took them back after she didn’t use them and used something else instead to kill the invisible bugs so now $30 – $40 of chemical bug killer still sitting in my front hall closet).

I’m not looking for sympathy.  But there you have it.  Another excerpt on my personal debt story.  I count my blessings …  still.

I was going to also talk about my sister and how they are treating their debt and spending but this post is entirely too long so I’ll keep that for another time.

Plus this post is getting to be a bit of a downer and I don’t like being a Debbie Downer (even though Debbie Down was my nickname as a kid), so let me end on a positive note and with a joke.

Positive note:

I was initially inspired to write this post by John at Frugal Rules when he wrote Why Financial Literacy is so Important to Me.   He says it’s his responsibility to teach them to be wise about their financial decision making and I couldn’t agree more!

This pair of ducks were coming to our pool in spring for about 10 years - this year they didn't return

This pair of ducks were coming to our pool in spring for about 10 years – this year they didn’t return

An oldie but goodie:

A duck walks into a bar and asks, “Got any gwapes?”

The bartender, confused, tells the duck no. The duck thanks him and leaves.

The next day, the duck returns and asks, “Got any gwapes?”

Again, the bartender tells him, “No — the bar does not serve grapes, has never served grapes and, furthermore, will never serve grapes.” The duck thanks him and leaves.

The next day, the duck returns, but before he can say anything, the bartender yells, “Listen, duck! This is a bar! We do not serve grapes! If you ask for grapes again, I will nail your stupid duck beak to the bar!”

2 bunches of grapes by Grant CochraneThe duck is silent for a moment, and then asks, “Got any nails?”

Confused, the bartender says no.

“Good!” says the duck. “Got any gwapes?”

 

“2 Bunches Of Grapes” by Grant Cochrane from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Wedding


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Mother Money Moments

I always become a bit melancholy around Mother’s Day.  There’s a lot of strong emotion around mothers, whether you have one (or not), whether you are one (or not) and basically just all of the personal experiences we have related to the phenomenon of motherhood.

Interestingly enough, I can relate a number of my stories surrounding motherhood to personal finance.  Revealing these facets helps to explain, in part, why I am where I am today in my debt journey.

Excuse me, while I go and grab a box of kleenex.

My Second Mum

Hip Auntie - I'm Blondie on the far right

Hip Auntie – I’m Blondie on the far right

She wasn’t really my second Mum, but it sure felt like it.  You see, I was blessed with not only my own mother, but a wonderful relationship with my aunt.   She was a only a couple of years younger than my Mum, but she acted like our hip Auntie and spoiled us like a generous grandmother.  As she never married or had children of her own, we received all the benefit and love that her mothering instincts desired, and then some.

I paid my way through university, as I had the benefit of coop work terms every four months throughout my 5 year degree.  However, usually near the end of the school term, cash was getting low for me and my aunt would always seek out in our weekly phone calls the state of my bank account.  She was very generous to send a cheque for several hundred dollars to tide me over until I started my next coop work term.  No repayment was expected.  I was always very thankful for this cash relief as I was trying to finish up my exams and did not want to be distracted by my growling tummy.

Fast forward well past graduation, past my first apartment which I furnished after living at home for a year and saving, on to buying my first home.  For some reason the elderly couple I bought from wanted to leave the microwave, which I didn’t need, but took anyways – it was a little bigger than the one I had in my apartment.  I offered the one from my apartment to my aunt, and to this day I do not understand why or what got into me to suggest what I said next.

I said that she could pay me $50 (or some such amount) for the microwave, as she didn’t have one and wanted to get one.  Well this did not sit well with her, and she became rather withdrawn.  Initially, I did not clue into my faux pas.  I thought it was actually a pretty good deal (in those days) – it was still fairly new and nice and compact for her condo.  Well her sullenness lasted for days until we had a heart-to-heart and she explained how hurt she was after all she did for me when I was in university.  Many years had passed since that time, and I had let my busy, selfish, determined self get in the way of seeing the big picture.  She had always been so generous and kind to us, and I let that blind me so that it never entered my purview when I made that stupid, ridiculous request.  I cried a lot and told her how sorry I was.  Of course, we made up instantly, but I have always harboured great guilt over that incident.  I loved her dearly, and still miss her like crazy, even though she’s been gone for 15 years.

Suddenly, I’m a Mother

Mothers-Money-MomentsIn my late twenties, after a series of some quite long and some shorter relationships, I met a man through a mutual friend.  It was a blind date, which I openly confess I only went on because I suspected he might have some single friends.  He was a widower with three young children, and I felt assured that he would not meet my criteria, which included having my own children.  Well, you know what they say, you find love in all the unsuspected places.

The great part about our relationship, from the beginning, was that he was looking for a wife, not a mother for his kids.  They had been managing on their own as a family for 3 years.  I was able to slide in with no expectations put on me, which, in all honestly, made me want to assume my new role as Mum, which I did.

Within a year, we had a fourth child.  Life was busy but fun.  We worked hard and played hard. I loved buying things for my kids, taking them to movies or out for a meal.  We had holidays in Florida 3 summers in a row! Life was grand and I loved it and my family!!

Christmas was so exciting – I learned all the tricks of the trade from my aunt.  I would plan out our Christmas purchases of toys and clothes, often buying one more thing right up to Christmas eve.  Of course, then I had to buy 3 more things,  always making sure the appearance and spending was balanced amongst all four kids.  I wouldn’t change a thing about those early years!

Life Takes a Turn -> Impact on the Maternal Breadwinner

In the mid-nineties my husband was laid off from his job after a series of Corporate restructurings.  Even though we had some indication the cuts were continuing, it still comes as a bit of a shock.  Even, when employed, my salary was always higher than his, but it did not mean anything to me.  I always felt we fed from the communal trough.

He decided to pursue a different career path, working for himself instead of seeking another full-time position.  I won’t go into the details and ups and downs of this avenue, but I know it has had a significant effect on my psyche, having been the primary breadwinner of the family for the last 20 years.

I was always a high achiever, high performer, but with the added stress to keep my position, salary and benefits for the sake of the family,  I felt an overwhelming burden.  I was no longer a loving wife and a fun mother.  I was providing for my family, and I had better not screw anything up.  I would work long hours, to ensure my position was always secure.

The stress and pressure could always be relieved by “I deserve” purchases while out shopping, holidays with the family or get-a-ways on our own.  Since I was bearing, what felt to me, this great burden, I left The Irishman to manage things more on the homefront, including managing the finances.  I worked with a computer and numbers all day, why would I want and why should I do this in my badly needed decompression time?

Mum Goes on a Trip with Nana but Ignores the $igns

Life goes on.  The children start to become teenagers and we try to roll with the punches.  My dear aunt passes away from cancer at age 64.  YOLO ensues.  Money is used as a de-stressor.   We have enough on our plate.

I decide to take my youngest on a trip to Ireland with my Mum, for her 14 birthday.  Exciting times!  We are so looking forward to seeing family and I’m ecstatic to show her around the Ireland I’ve come to know and love.   I go to pick up the rental car at the airport and my credit card is declined.  I manage to contact my husband who calls the bank, something about a lost payment or other.

Mum Misses Nana and Auntie, so YOLO Continues

Youngest daughter develops severe OCD.  Life continues to be stressful.  We don’t spend willy nilly, but we don’t hold back either.

Mothers-Money-Moments

Mum ~ Taken in Ireland
What a glorious time we had

Mum passes away suddenly almost a year from when we left on our trip to Ireland.  Life becomes almost unbearable.  So thankful that we did that trip together.  Wonderful memories.  YOLO continues.

Mum Quits Making Excuses and Gets on the Bandwagon

I wouldn’t have done it, if I didn’t have to, but after a series of ‘signs’ that I chose to ignore, I finally got the big sign that I could no longer hide from.  I can’t even remember what it was, probably another credit card decline.  It’s not important now.  Mum has to either face the music and commit to supporting her husband and family to get out of this mess or have herself committed.  I chose door #1.

Mum is Now a Grandma

Nama is the New Black

Nama = Na + Ma from Nana (my Mum) and Grandma (my MIL)

So after two years of frugal living and debt repayment, I’ve learned a lot.

About myself.

Most importantly, I want to help my children be good money managers.  I feel I’ve let them down in this regard.  But it’s been said before that guilt is a wasted emotion.  One of my favourite PF blogs has given me the fortitude to face it.

If you are at all touched by this post, you should go check this out too ~ Mea Culpa @ The Pursuit of Riches.

I have forgiven my husband.  Now it’s time to forgive myself.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, Aunties, Mother-in-laws, Soon-to-be-Mums, Wanna-be-Mums and Chrysanthemums!

Sure hope I didn’t leave any one out! :D

Don’t forget #FinSavSat blog hop party.  I’m co-hosting this week.  Just slide on down to previous post and add your link!

debt debs

This post is another as part of the Financially Savvy Saturdays blog hop.

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My New Enlightenment Since Acknowledging our Debt Crisis

ImageChef.com-debt-crisisMy Come to Jesus Moment was in March 2012 (aka D-Day).  I hesitate to use that phrase, because I am quite spiritual and don’t like to use the Lord’s name in vain.  However, Brett Nelson, a contributor at Forbes wrote:

CTJMs, we understand, are all about focus, clarity, intention and gravity—in other words, the very stuff that, if consistently mustered, would wipe CTJMs from the schedule.

He suggests ways to avoid CTJM’s including establishing milestones, embracing conflict, defining priorities and avoiding surprises.  Well that is really is what good personal finance management is all about, minus the embracing conflict thingy.

But wait!  When I think about how we got here, part of it was because we did not embrace conflict.  We avoided it like the plague.  We placated ourselves with shopping trips, one up-ing each other with purchases (well he bought that, so now I’m going to buy this) and saying “I deserve” when we were tired or stressed or just plain frustrated with life.

Laurie from The Frugal Farmer wrote on Debt Roundup What Do You Really Deserve?  I identified so much with that post.   All I wanted was peace, freedom and security but I was looking in all the wrong places.

I defended my spending habits as stress relief from a busy lifestyle that I had created by not prioritizing. I absconded from my role as joint financial steward justifying it in my mind that I was the higher income earner and worked long hours, so that was the ‘least he could do’.  I looked for peace a few too many times at the bottom of a bottle, weary after a long day or fretting about other family stresses.

So now what have I done to (help to) turn things around?

  • I don’t do things that are in conflict with our goals ~ this includes unplanned spending, shirking responsibilities in managing our finances.  I’ve even started grocery shopping (for deals) and cooking a little more which is crazy (for me).
  • I speak up, instead of burying my head in the sand, if I think things are going astray.  Better to have these small difficult conversations straight away, that are actually quite insignificant compared to the ones we had around D-Day.
  • I practice living in the moment – from “The Power of Now” by Eckhardt Tolle.  This helps keep me from getting down about our debt situation and worries about family members.
  • I try to set an example and communicate within our household about ideas we could do to save money and not waste.  It appears I am the most frugal person in the house now, turning off lights, conserving gas etc. It used to be The Irishman.  Go figure.
  • I’m discussing my new frugal philosophy and sharing tips and tricks, budget and amortization spreadsheets and cool posts with my adult children.  I could bear great guilt about how I have not set a good example for them but I know guilt is a wasted emotion.  Instead I am trying to help them as much as I can with the new smarter ‘me’ and an excel file for any situation up my sleeve!
  • I’m a cheap date LOL.  Visiting my grandson on a weeknight, is now Nama’s favourite night out.  Otherwise it’s history channel or just being side-by-side, both on our computers.  A beer on Friday night, unless we splurge on a champagne Friday which means bubbly in the bathtub.

So I think Jesus is helping me, and smiling, when I say my new frugal enlightenment instances are affectionately called “Come to Nama” moments.
Photobucket.com:  tailz2006

This post is another as part of the Financially Savvy Saturdays blog hop.

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Worth it Wednesday

Worth-It-WednesdayThis will be the first in a series of Wednesday posts if I can get my act together.  I want to write straight from the heart, even if my posts may be strange and quirky.  I pinky swear that they will still be personal finance related, with emphasis on the personal.

Where’s My MOJO?

Ya, so just over a month in and I haven’t found my groove yet to say that I’m comfortable with this blogging thing.  Lots to learn and lots to think about.  Here’s my random thoughts on this topic:

  1. I’m devouring reading lots of blogs which helps me to decide how I want to define my blog content.  Why reinvent the wheel?  You all have lots of great stuff that I can’t begin to replace, nor do I want to.  (aka I need all that info, baby, if I’m gonna learn how to get things right, one freakin’ payment at a time)  Smiling at you here, Shannon @ Financially Blonde as an excellent example of many!
  2. Researching and then writing about financial topics that I’m not familiar with takes time.  But if it’s something I need to know more about, it’s a good way to assimilate the information in my head.  Hoping it will help someone else to get through what can be rather dry topics, I want to try to put a fun spin on them (otherwise I may never get through them, LOL).
  3. I want to have some personal content in some of my posts too.  By that, I don’t just mean financial vomiting of my numbers (although I must confess I love reading those posts from y’all), but also some relationship,  psychological, spiritual and emotional divulsion.  Here’s hoping I can put it all out there.  Be gentle or smack me, your call.
  4. Oh.my.blog, I almost forgot about it when I got totally distracted reading all the PF blogs I could find.  I read and commented, and commented and read (that’s always fun, write a random comment and then read the post to see how relevant your comment was…. kidding… totally kidding.  I signed up for everyone’s posts and comments and now I can’t find my inbox.  Has anyone seen it?  No, I’m serious now… I can’t keep up with the emails and for an detail oriented perfectionist, this is rather disturbing.  I think, I’m about two weeks from Sunday before I can dig out.  I may have to blow up my inbox, which means I’ll probably start to cry.  Please pass the tissues.
  5. OK, so what’s the secret to commenting – leaving comments, follow-up comments, reading comments, the whole shebang?  I like to read all the comments, and I love to see the responses to my comments.  However, my email does not return the affection.  So I’m thinking of doing the following:  leaving the post open as a tab and then checking later if my comment has been responded to.   Tell me how I can manage this so I don’t die Strategies gratefully appreciated.
  6. I got busy with social media, well mostly Twitter, since Facebook is a bust (as everyone reports).  Plus I can’t invite all my FB friends because I blog incognito (like my new sunglasses :cool: ?)  I’ve started also some Pinterest boards, namely Frugal Living, Investing Tips, Personal Finance Blogs, Favourite Blog Posts I’ve Read, Side Income Ideas and Blogging Tips.  This is how I’m going to organize myself, because as I said, my email is dying a quick death… plus I like pictures.
  7. So what started out as an a’tude of I’ll blog when I feel like it, and was 2-3 times per week, has dwindled to a paltry once on Saturday (sounds like my sex life used to be, don’t ask how it is now).  I wanted to blog adhoc – it suited my personality, but when Dr. Phil found me crying in the corner and asked me “How’s that working for ya?”  I had to admit that I need to find a balancing act (or join the carnival).  So, Wed and Sat it is folks!  For now… until I change it….. with no warning…  ha!

What’s in a Blog Name?

Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday.  Dude is 450 years old!  Check out what his twitter would be or was not to be.  His tweets sound old though.  I sound a lot younger than I am.  I digre$$.

So one of those nights when I was voraciously eating blogs, I came across a post late, late one night that got me panicked.  Can’t find the post now … I guess that’s one of the tricks of the trade I haven’t learned yet.

debt debs held for ransom
Anyhoo, I used to blog under the wordpress free domain site.  Well this post talked about people who buy up domain names so that if I later wanted to have my own domain name debtdebs.com instead of debtdebs@wordpress.com, I might not be able to.  Something about people buying domain names and holding for ransom.  Internet domain piracy!

Well, I had hummed and hawed about paying $18 to buy the domain name (which later turned out to be $26 for some reason), but I whipped out my credit card right quick at 3 a.m. while my husband slept soundly beside me.  He was none the wiser.  Not that it mattered, because I’m the watcher of the money pots these days.

I’ve been thinking about writing this sort of post for awhile but Addison @ Cashville Skyline inspired me to get ‘er done with Have You Conducted a Productivity Audit?  You should go check out her spreadsheet analyzing her day.  I got all warm and goopy feeling when I saw it.

Any words of wisdom say ye?

debt debs


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Frugal Fraggles, Rocks and Poodles

03 Aug 2008 097Is anyone wondering what this strange picture is that I have as my avatar?

I am, so I interviewed myself to find out what’s up with that.

Ya, what is it?

This is a Fraggle.  It was lovingly hand painted with gel pens in a pseudo tattoo on my arm by my niece.  We have a book at the cottage which the kids used as a reference to create their own hand drawn tattoos.  I highly recommended this activity for kids.  Shannon Ryan @ The Heavy Purse has lots of great ideas on  how to raise financially literate children.  This qualifies as a frugal activity for your kids.  We bought the gel pens at Costco in a multitude of colours and they lasted for more than two summers.

Oh, but what’s a Fraggle?

Fraggles are the muppets characters in a series from Jim Henson called Fraggle Rock.

I think my tattoo is a variation on the character called Wembley in this very appropriate video for a PF blog of Wembley’s 30 minute work week!

*To view this video on YouTube Click here

Why did you choose this image for your avatar?

I wanted something fun.  Plus I think it looks like he is running away screaming from his debt, dontcha think?

I can identify.  So we instantly bonded.

Plus I wanted to hide under a rock when I first acknowledged out debt situation.

Fraggle sounds a lot like frugal.  I’m in love.

While we’re on the topic, do you have any other rock connections?

Painted RockI painted rocks one summer.  I found smooth and unique and oddly shaped rocks and painted them.  Some with loons and ducks on them.  Some with words and sayings and poems.  I found a new canvas for my acrylic paints.  It was fun!  And mighty cheap entertainment.  At left is a cardinal painted on a tiny rock.

BrokeGirlRich wrote about her trip to the big ball of twine in Darwin, Minnesota and included a video and song from Weird Al Yankovic.  (It’s quite hilarious … you should watch it!)   In it he talked about Poodle Dog Rock which appears to be somewhere in Nevada.  I couldn’t put a picture on this post, as I couldn’t find one available under Creative Commons License, so I’ve just linked a beautiful night photo of it.   Here’s another big rock that looks like a dog.  Upon further inspection, both photos look more like a mini poodle rocks.  My  penchant is for Standard Poodles… yup, the big big poodles.  Here are some beautiful poodles up on a big rock mountain.   Karen says they’re yodelling.  I think they are singing the song mentioning Poodle Dogs.

Flickr: Karen

Flickr: Karen

There's Elvis-O-Rama, the Tupperware Museum,
The Boll Weevil Monument, and Cranberry World,
The Shuffleboard Hall Of Fame, Poodle Dog Rock,
And The Mecca of Albino Squirrels
We've been to ghost towns, theme parks, wax museums,
And a place where you can drive through the middle of a tree
We've seen alligator farms and tarantula ranches,
But there's still one thing we gotta see ....
Flickr: Karen

Flickr: Karen

Some other cute photos of poodles and rocks that I have no license to include in this post, so I’ll just provide the links:

OK clearly I could go on and on with STANDARD poodle picture links to poodles and rocks.  Either I’m off my rock(er) or I just love standard poodles that much.  You be the judge.

flickr:  Erica Frank

flickr: Erica Frank

Speaking about rocks, I’m heading up to Sudbury, Ontario for Easter.  Anyone that knows the city will acknowledge it is built on one big pile of rocks.  Along the same lines as the giant ball of twine, Sudbury has a giant nickel.  I wonder if the nickel will be next to become extinct, now that the penny is gone.

Gros Morne NFLDOf course, the place in Canada, that’s known as THE ROCK is the island province of NEWFOUNDLAND.   Here’s a photo from Rocky Harbour near Gros Morne National Park.

Last point on the subject of ROCKS, have you ever listened to the works of Carl Reiner interviewing Mel Brooks as the 2000 year old man?  At about 5 minutes in, they talk about the first language being the ROCK language.  I won’t say more but let you listen to it.  I find this very entertaining.  Before that, about 4 minutes, they talk about the jobs that were existing 2000 years ago, among those being hitting a tree with a piece of wood, looking in the sky and watching each other.  Tough work if you can get it.   Enjoy!!

*To view this video on YouTube Click here

So that’s all I have to say on rocks and frugal fraggles and frisky poodles.  Have a rockin‘ Easter weekend!

brokeGIRLrich

This post is another as part of the Financially Savvy Saturdays blog hop.

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