Budget

Country Girl on the Debt Free Living Podcast

I’ve been podcasted! If you’re itchin’ to put a voice to Country Girl, head on over to JW’s Debt Free Living Podcast to hear me talk about my experience with debt.

A couple weeks ago, Jon contacted me about doing an interview for his great series on living debt free. I agreed, and before too long, we were chatting about how I become debt free and how it’s affected my life. Jon is a great interviewer, so I highly recommend that you go check out his podcast series. He’s done some great interviews, with people who much more coherent than me, so be sure to have a listen sometime.

It was a fun interview and a first for me. I’ve never done an interview about being debt free or my blog, so I was a little nervous – mostly because I didn’t want to end up sounding like a total knob. I tried to keep my country drawl to a minimum, but I guess we’ll see how much came through.

Have you ever been interviewed about personal finance or your blog? What was your experience?  

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Categories: About Me, Budget | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

CPCF12, here I come!

A little while ago, I decided that I would attend the Canadian Personal Finance Conference, coming up in September. I’m looking forward to the conference which will surely have some great personal finance speakers and of course, the opportunity to meet some fellow bloggers. I promise, I won’t show up in rubber boots. Well, maybe I won’t show up in rubber boots – no promises if it’s raining.

After I plunked down my cash money for early registration, I drew up a quick plan for costing out a trip to the big smoke. The first thing I had to think about was how to get to Toronto. I could drive, but I really hate driving in Toronto. I’m not used to city driving: tight streets, lots of cars, pedestrians everywhere and cyclists, so driving and especially in downtown Toronto is something I want to avoid. That pretty much leaves catching a train. I have enough Via Rail Preference points (think Air Miles but for trains) to get me to Toronto and back, so I’ll be able to get to Toronto for free!

Next is accommodations – my criteria are pretty simple: near the conference and train station (must be able to walk) and not too expensive. I’m not picky when it comes to hotels, I just want something close and that isn’t infested with bedbugs. From a quick search of the google, it looks like there’s a couple of hotels in the area, so I’m going to aim for about $150/night, although anything less would be awesome.

A girl’s gotta eat, but yay for conference-food! Breakfast and lunch on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday are provided, so that leaves supper Saturday and lunch Sunday. I imagine I’ll be able to keep a food budget of under $40.

Shopping: Nope, not going to do it. Besides, it totally sucks hauling stuff back on a train.

So what’s the total cost for attending CPFC12?

  • Conference Registration $50
  • Train $0
  • Hotel ($150 x 2 nights) $300
  • Food $40
  • Fun $40 (what can I say, I’m a cheap date)

That’s $430 for the weekend. Not too bad, really. Are you going to CPFC12? What do you expect it will cost you? 

Categories: Budget, Review, Spending | Tags: | 8 Comments

May meet June.

May was expensive. Very expensive. I’m actually a little ashamed of myself and I’m more than a little embarrassed to put these numbers up. I suppose though, as a pf blogger constantly spouting off about being frugal and responsible, I must own up to my own slips. At least this month I had a bit of overtime, so that helps soften the blow a bit. Here’s the scary numbers:

The big numbers on my budget come from buying a new computer (a Mac – which I’m quickly getting used to and falling in love with) and gifts (soo many wedding/baby showers). Unfortunately, I under estimated how much my new shiny computer would cost – specifically the software – so I was over budget there. I was able to get a bit of discount through the Apple Education program, so that saved me a bit of cash.

In terms of overspending…heh, can you tell I like to eat? I know exactly what happened with my grocery budget – I went shopping when I was hungry. D’oh. It’s just really convenient to hit the grocery store before I head home for supper, which of course when I’m at my hungriest. In June, I’m going to try and shop in my pantry and freezer as much as possible. I’m looking forward to cheaper, fresher veggies and fruits too.

I also overspent in the personal care category. Darn my weird, angry skin. I ran out of everything and ended up restocking on my face cream, buying a bb cream, getting sunscreen and bug spray. I should be set for a little while in terms of lotions and creams.

In terms of moving forward into June, I’m looking to minimize the extra spending. Starting the month off with a big ole property tax payment will hopefully help to keep me on the straight and narrow. Other upcoming expenses for June include my best-friend-in-the-whole-damn-world’s birthday, a new pair of running shoes (I figure if I’m going to start running, I’d best start with a decent pair of shoes), and eating out. I’m planning on taking my friend out for supper as well as my cousin’s longtime girlfriend – she’s preggers and I think it would be nice to treat her to a nice lunch.

That’s how June is shaping up. How did May turn out for you? Anything exciting coming up in June?

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Budget, Monthly Summary | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

May Budget

My last post (Mayday! It’s May) should give you a pretty good clue as to what this month’s budget is going to look like. May has already started off as an expensive month, so my goal is to really curtail all my extra spending and hopefully bring down some of my utility costs as well. The big expense in May is my new Mac. I actually ordered it on April 29 and it arrived here three days later. I couldn’t believe how fast it came – hardly gets out here that fast. I am pretty excited to have a new computer, but I really haven’t had much time to play around with it. I’m totally new to Macs, so I’m still working on learning how to run the thing. If anyone has any tips or good apps (especially offline blogging ones), I’d love to hear them. I do love my new ‘puter though. It’s just so darn pretty!

I almost had an even more expensive start to the month when a school bus in front of me hit the gravel shoulder and threw a big stone back at my windshield. Thankfully the windshield didn’t crack, but there was about a quarter sized stone chip. Not a great way to start a work day. I cursed school buses and my terrible luck the entire way to work. At lunch, I raced to the local Speedy Autoglass to get the chip looked at, because I figured it would be cheaper to get a chip fixed than replace the entire windshield when it cracked. The guys at the shop were super helpful and called up my insurance company to check whether or not I had any glass/windshield coverage. Thankfully, because the chip was smaller than a dollar coin, it was covered under my comprehensive insurance and the insurance company was willing to not even consider it a claim. Whew. The repair was only about $140, which isn’t really all that much, but I was still pretty happy to not have to pay it.

Anywho, onto the budget. Here’s what I’ve got planned:

Pretty darn expensive month ‘eh? I’m hoping though, that with warmer weather and much more sunlight during the day that my hydro bills will go down significantly. I’ve got the heat turned off in almost every room, so that should help. There’s not a lot of extra spending in this budget – I’m going to do my best to keep it all at a minimum – I’m picturing lots of nights in this month. I should be able to at least get some spring cleaning done that way!

How’s May looking for you? Had any big expenses come up lately? 

Categories: Budget | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Mayday! It’s May

May is going to be expensive. I was flipping through my planner and was looking at all the events I have to go to and seeing the dollar signs. I feel like there is something I have to go to every weekend in May. Here’s a breakdown of what all these events and extra May expenses I have to look forward to so far:

  • New Computer – I bought a Mac laptop. My old Dell is getting moody and I can’t trust it anymore, so I bit the bullet and shelled out the $1,800 for a Mac (eep – but at least I was able to use my sister’s discount). It seems like such a lot of money for a computer; my friend pointed out I could buy 5 or 6 PCs for the price of a Mac. My thinking with buying an expensive Mac though is that I’m buying quality and that it will hopefully last longer and run with fewer problems than my previous PCs. COST $1,800
  • Wedding Shower Gifts x 3. Three showers for three different gals getting married. I don’t even particularly like these girls, but I’ve known their parents for a long time and like the family, so I’ll suck it up and get them a gift (gotta love small towns, sometimes). I feel really conflicted about giving shower gifts – especially after I see registries that are full of (expensive) home decor items and random stuff. Does the soon to be married couple really need an $80 dollar candle holder decoration-thing? I have no problem buying things that serve a purpose like casserole dishes, pots, pans, but I don’t see why I should dole out my hard earned cash just to help someone fill their house with stuff. I wish I could set up a registry for myself, I’d have all manner of useful things on it: shovels, wheelbarrow, tupperware and a stand-mixer, just to name a few. COST 50 x3 = $150
  • Baby Showers. I’ve been invited to two baby showers for the same couple. I don’t think I should be obligated to buy a gift for both events, so I’m not going to. I’ll buy a gift for the family shower, and then for the friends shower my sister and I are going to make a ‘Daddy Diaper Emergency Kit’, which should cost less than $15 to put together. COST $55
  • Mother’s Day – I’m taking my Mom for high tea for Mother’s Day. Truth be told, I’m absolutely stoked to get some devonshire cream out of it. As well, my sisters and I usually go in together and get Mom a gift certificate for the local plant nursery. COST $75
  • Slo-pitch fees. COST $50
  • Stag & Doe tickets x 4. There is a Stag & Doe every single weekend in May. Again, I am being a ‘good member of the small town community’ and buying tickets to these Stag & Does. I’ll volunteer to be DD, so I can get out of buying drink tickets, which suits me because I’m not a big drinker anymore anyways. COST $5×4 =$20

Yikes. May is looking like it’s going to be an expensive month. Seeing those costs sure makes me hope that nothing else comes up, like something breaking on my car. I suppose though, that’s why we save, right? One must be able to deal with the extra costs when they come up. Still, I’d be really happy if I didn’t incur any other costs this May. I’m going to write down these extra costs in my purple book of spending and hopefully seeing them every time I go to spend money will remind me to be as frugal a possible this month to try and balance out all this spending. I have no idea if it’ll work, but I’m going to give it a shot.

How do you deal with extra costs like buying gifts or unexpected costs? My bestie and I were discussing shower gifts and she feels obligated to buy three gifts for the three showers for her future sister in law (not to mention a wedding gift) – I think that’s insane. I believe in one shower gift, one wedding gift. I don’t think it’s rude not to bring a gift to each shower, what do you guys think? Am I the only one who hates the feeling of obligation to buy shower gifts?

Categories: Budget, Unavoidable Costs | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

March Recap

So long March! What a crazy month – between the up and down weather and way work suddenly went from being slow to holy-smokes-everyone-wants-something-now busy, March really seemed to fly by. I think I did alright with my budget this month, I hit the red in some areas of my budget, but overall, I’m happy that I managed to save approximately half of my income for the month. You gotta love those 3 paycheque months. I’m hoping as the weather gets warmer, my hydro bill will slip down even further, which should help me save even more. Here’s my March budget summary:

image

I did have some expenses this month that I wasn’t counting on, mainly an hour-long massage (it’s labelled chiropractic on the budget) and a visit to the vet. Totally unrelated I assure you. I ended up getting a massage because I was getting more headaches than normal and my neck and shoulders were really stiff. The massage was great and really helped me loosen up, which helped the headaches. Money well spent as far as I’m concerned. As well, I took my cat to another vet for a second opinion on her wonky eye. The other vet was very nice and they gave me a good deal on the visit. This vet suspects my cat may have Horner’s Syndrome – so she’s going to order in the drops that test/treat it. Fingers crossed it works and my cat’s wonky eye will finally be cured.

I totally failed on my no shopping goal for March. I caved and bought a pair of boots from the Gap, a creme egg McFlurry for my officemate and myself, a diffuser (my house smells like liliacs now – yay!), and clothes pins. I had some wooden clothes pins but after the third time I picked my sheets up off the lawn, I decided it was time to invest in some sturdier plastics pins.

As for April, I’m not going to say I’m not going to shop (say that ten times fast) because that is precisely what I’m going to do tomorrow. My Mom asked me if I wanted to make a trip to the city with her, which inevitably means a trip to Costco, Home Sense, a mall, pretty much the works. I would like to get a few more things for the house, like some new sheets, a lamp for the office, and new pillows. All in all, I’m going to give myself a shopping budget of $200. My other big spend item this month will be the lawyer’s fees for drawing up a will. I’ve put this off long enough, time to bite the bullet and get it done. I’m figuring about $400 should cover it. The other thing I want to do in April is find some old fashion square nails for my trunk and leather straps for the handles. I’m thinking a trip out to the Mennonites is in order.

How was your March? What’cha got planned for April?

Categories: Budget, Monthly Summary, Review | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

January Recap

Goodbye January. I am absolutely ready to welcome in February and see what prediction the local groundhog makes for the rest of winter. I am hoping to hear ‘an early spring’ prediction, even with the mild winter we’ve had so far. Spring means I can get started on my outside projects.

Here’s my spending for last month.

JanResults.jpg

Ugh. I hate those red boxes. My biggest budget upsets were:

    • My cat. She had to get her rabies booster and check up. Unfortunately only the large animal vet was in and his billing rate is more than the small animal vet. Then of course, two days after that vet visit, the cat hurled up a roundworm. Thankfully, I have a vet tech for a sister, so she was able to score some dewormer at cost for me. It still all added up to more than I initially thought it would this month.
    • Hydro. I used more electricity in December (on account of being home during the day more) and then there’s that delivery charge….consarnit all…
    • Shopping and Home Decor: I did a bit of shopping, picking up house stuff. It’s a bunch of little items that seemed to add up, like a new light cover for the fan and door knobs. I also bought paint and art supplies for some DIY projects I have in the works. I should have all that type of spending out of my system for February.

Here’s what my February budget looks like:

image

It’s going to be an expensive month – 3 mortgage payments and property taxes. Technically the taxes aren’t due until March 1, but I’ve stuck them in this budget because I’m going to pay them this month (today, actually). Also, I’ve got to take my car in for servicing. I think they are some rocks jammed in under the motor mounts from when they resurfaced the road I live on. It makes the car vibrate when you’ve got the brake pressed in the reverse gear. It’s kinda weird, and really annoying, so I’m hoping to get that sorted out this month. I’ve also upped my budget amount for hydro (grr), so I’m hoping I’ll do a better job of guestimating my bill.

February Goals

  • Get all the measurements for the basement/kitchen/stairs reno and start a couple design options.
  • Get all the canvas off the inside/outside of my trunk
  • Complete the February photo challenge
  • Make a spring cleaning list for the inside and the outside of my place
  • Don’t buy: clothes, home decor stuff, or any extras (one exclusion: foundation, because I’m going to run out)
  • Calculate my net worth.

Wish me luck! How was January for you? What are your plans for February?

countrygirl

Categories: Budget, Goals, Monthly Summary | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Mid-month check in

I was feeling really confident when I made my budget this month. I was going to keep everything in check and even though my budget was tight, I figured I’d be able to stick to it. Well, I cracked open my hydro bill today and it pretty well blew away my budget. Last month’s bill: $219 and change. Argh. I absolute despise that bill. Of course, I only used just over $100 in electricity, and the rest of the bill is debt-retirement and delivery charges – and that’s the part of the bill that makes me see red. Those debt-retirement and delivery charges make me damn near irate. Some day I’m not seeing red, I’ll write a post about it.

So how does the budget look so far?

Budget Item Budgeted Amount Amount Spent Amount Remaining
Bank Fee  $                                   $                          $                                   
Business Services  $                                   $                          $                                   
Auto Insurance  $                     122.41  $           (122.41)  $                                   
Gas & Fuel  $                     225.00  $             (44.01)  $                       180.99
Service & Parts  $                        50.00  $                          $                          50.00
Home Decor  $                                   $             (50.79)  $                       (50.79)
Entertainment  $                        30.00  $                          $                          30.00
Coffee Shops  $                                   $                          $                                   
Fast Food  $                                   $                          $                                   
Snacks  $                                   $                          $                                   
Groceries  $                     150.00  $             (68.48)  $                          81.52
Restaurants  $                        45.00  $             (46.25)  $                          (1.25)
Gift  $                                   $                          $                                   
Dentist  $                                   $                          $                                   
Fitness Class  $                        90.00  $                          $                          90.00
Gym  $                        51.00  $             (50.29)  $                            0.71
Mortgage  $                     721.52  $           (360.76)
Books  $                                   $                          $                                   
Hobbies  $                                   $                          $                                   
Property Tax  $                     185.00  $                        
Travel Cost  $                                   $                          $                                   
Mobile Phone  $                        39.55  $             (40.45)  $                          (0.90)
Personal Care  $                        20.00  $                          $                          20.00
Home Insurance  $                        98.90  $             (98.90)
Pet Food & Supplies  $                        15.00  $             (21.03)  $                          (6.03)
Veterinary  $                     150.00  $           (180.08)  $                       (30.08)
Clothing  $                                   $                          $                                   
Electronics & Software  $                                   $                          $                                   
Shopping  $                        20.00  $             (18.08)  $                            1.92
Phone/Internet  $                        75.00  $                        
Hydro  $                     150.00  $           (219.51)  $                       (69.51)
Uncategorized  $                        20.00  $                          $                          20.00
Spending Subtotal  $                  2,258.38  $       (1,321.04)  

 

My big over-runs so far: hydro, vet bill (fun fact: it costs more for your cat to see the big animal vet, even if the small animal vet is off sick. Also, my cat somehow managed to get worms, which was super gross to discover), and home decor. I bought a storage cube-organizer-thing for my office and some other random house stuff like chalkboard paint, spray adhesive, bbq lighter for the woodstove, etc), which I never intended on buying at the beginning of the month.

I am ticked off with myself after looking at those numbers. I’m hoping to use my frustration as a motivator for the rest of the month though. I’m going to try and be super conscious about my electricity usage, and I might have to grab some CFLs and switch out some of my more often used lights. I think dialing back the baseboards and keeping the woodstove burning good and hot might help a bit too in cutting down the usage. As for any other spending, I’ll be very hesitant in pulling out the debit card. I want to be able to have a fair chunk of money left at the end of this month to put away into savings. Wish me luck.

How do you deal with budget frustrations? Has anything (like your cat barfing up a worm) caught you off guard this month?

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Budget | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Nictitating membranes are hard on my budget

January is going to be a bare-bones kind of month. After all the hoopla of Christmas, I’m feeling a bit spent out and that I need a break from my debit card. I have most of the things I need for my house now and lots of things to do, so I should be able to keep my extra spending to a minimum. That being said, I did go out for a fancy-ish lunch today with a coworker and one of our past summer students. It was a fantastic meal; I got the rainbow trout. It was pan fried to perfection. I am drooling just thinking about the big ole filet. I also got dessert (creme brulee) which is something I very rarely get, but definitely worth it. I picked up the student’s meal, so my bill came to $45 (with tip). That will be my only meal out this month, so I’m glad I got a good one in.

Here’s what my January budget looks like:

Budget Item Monthly Budgeted Amont
Bank Fee  $                              
Business Services  $                              
Auto Insurance  $                  122.41
Gas & Fuel  $                  225.00
Service & Parts  $                     50.00
Entertainment  $                     30.00
Coffee Shops  $                              
Fast Food  $                              
Snacks  $                              
Groceries  $                  150.00
Restaurants  $                     45.00
Gift  $                              
Dentist  $                              
Fitness Class  $                     90.00
Gym  $                     51.00
Mortgage  $                  721.52
Books  $                              
Hobbies  $                              
Property Tax  $                  185.00
Travel Cost  $                              
Mobile Phone  $                     39.55
Personal Care  $                     20.00
Home Insurance  $                     98.90
Pet Food & Supplies  $                     15.00
Veterinary  $                  150.00
Clothing  $                              
Electronics & Software  $                              
Shopping  $                     20.00
Phone/Internet  $                     75.00
Hydro  $                  150.00
Uncategorized  $                     20.00
Spending Subtotal

Pretty bare bones ‘eh? My entertainment budget will cover 2 movies: Sherlock Holmes (I paid for my ticket and my friends), and the Tintin movie. I also will be paying for my next bunch of yoga classes this month ($90), as well as a trip to the vet for my cat. She’s going in for her rabies shot, but she also has a wonky eye and the vet can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong, so she usually has to get a scraping or something done anytime I take her in. I swear I can’t get out of that clinic without my bank account getting $100 lighter. Anybody know why a cat’s nictitanting membrane (third eyelid) would be pinkish and halfway up over one eye for six+ months? Thankfully it doesn’t seem to bother her, but it’s definitely weird.

This month I plan to get a good start on a couple of my goals, the big one beinChairg the refinishing of my trunk. I am kind of on a refinishing kick right now. My aunt gave me an old desk chair. It was a little beat up, but actually a damn comfy chair. A bit of spray paint and some new fabric (from the scrap bin at Walmart, so three yards cost me $10), and I have a greatly improved office chair. I even have enough fabric left over to do my other office chair (it’s fire engine red). This success has inspired me to start on the trunk. I will save all the gory details (there are sharp implements involved) for another post though.

Any big items in your January budget? Do you have any refinishing or restoration projects on go?

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Budget | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

What a tornado taught me about finances

The past week was a bit of a curveball, as those who follow me on Twitter know (don’t follow me? Well, you can find me on twitter here). Last week I had a week of unintended vacation all thanks to a tornado that ripped through the town where I work. The tornado hit Sunday around 4 pm and basically came up from the lake and through town like a freight train.

From: Wikipedia.

As soon as I heard about the tornado, I grabbed my phone and called my office-mate to make sure she was ok. Thankfully, the storm rolled south of her place, which is just north of town. Before too long, pictures of the damage started to appear on Facebook, Twitter and the local TV station. It hardly looked like the same town – it really looked like a bomb hit. Century old buildings destroyed, trees blown into match sticks, cars smashed, glass and debris everywhere. My whole family was glued to the tv as we watched more and more pictures of the destruction of the pretty little town. Amazingly, for all the destruction, there was only one fatality. Had the tornado happened during the work week or on a Saturday, it could have been much worse.

Once I saw the pictures of the centre of town, I started to worry – was my office still standing? Did I still have a place of employment? I tried calling my boss but couldn’t get through, so I flipped on the local radio station and waited for an update. Monday morning came around and the entire town was still without power, the road into town was closed, so I knew it wasn’t likely that I would be getting into work, if the office was even still standing. Monday afternoon, I got an email from my boss that the office was still standing and in good shape, but had no electricity or gas and was in the no-go zone.

A full week later, the office finally got power back and we were able to go in. The full week off work gave me some time to reflect on natural disasters and finances. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Emergency Funds are the most important savings a person can have. Most of the time, people say that EFs are important in case you get laid off. They’re also important if you can’t get to work or don’t have a workplace to go to.
  • If you own it – insure it. After a tornado, it doesn’t take long to realize that most of our possessions are just stuff, but you do need a roof over your head and a vehicle (at least around here). Content or renters insurance is a good thing to have too for the more expensive contents of your home.
  • Spend the money on assembling a good emergency kit. Get a rubbermaid container and put in food (non perishable obviously), water, flashlights and batteries, matches, first aid kit, any special required items like prescription drugs, a crank or battery operated radio, blankets, toiletries and hand sanitizer, some basic tools and duct tape.
  • Have an emergency stash of cash. All five banks in town were heavily damaged by the tornado and ATMs and those plastic cards don’t work when the power is out. A good place to keep your emergency stash o’ cash is in your emergency kit.
  • Keep an up to date list of account numbers and financial obligations (mortgage or car loans, etc.,) as well as contact numbers associated with those accounts. You might want to put this in your emergency kit too.

Thankfully, I was able to keep the financial impact of being off work minimal by using up some of my sick time. It’s not ideal, but I still have a couple days left, so I should be ok for the rest of the year. Have you ever experienced a natural disaster? What advice do you have?

(By the way, my adventures in buying a house series will continue next week)

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Budget, Unavoidable Costs | 4 Comments

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