Running for Retirement

Thomas Hawk / Free Photos

Lately, I’ve had lots of discussions about retirement with my boss. He’s getting to the age where retirement is too far away for him and his wife, and many of his peers are starting to retire. We’ve talked about how he’s planned for his retirement, how he has forecasted his cash flow for 10, 20 and 30 years from now, the company retirement plan vs other pension plans, as well as the doom and gloom reports and articles outlining how my generation isn’t saving enough to cover our retirement expenses.

I hate hearing my boss talk about retirement, because frankly, I’m not ready for him to retire yet. The man is really good at his job and has years of experience behind him, so there’s not much he hasn’t come against. Being only three years into the job, I feel like now I’m only starting to get a handle on the profession of environmental planning. If my boss were to retire tomorrow, I would ask if him to leave his brain, so I could experiment on a way to extract all his knowledge.

In our retirement discussions, we often talk about the timing of retirement, whether it’s better to retire early or late. The timing of your retirement has a huge impact on how much you need to save, if I were to retire at 50, it almost goes without saying that I would need to save up way more than if I continued working until 65. It only takes a casual glance around the pf world to find people promoting early retirement, for lots of different reasons: to spend time with family, travel, follow a passion, and even simply just not work anymore. I’m not sold on early retirement though. I really enjoy working – albeit I’ve only been working full time for three years, I’ve always been a worker. I like having something to do, I’m not the kind of person to sit around, I like being busy, being occupied and having tasks to complete. Thankfully, my job is the type of job that has a fair bit of variety, so I’m not likely to get bored. Sure, early retirement gives you more time for traveling, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to travel even if I retire at 60. Hell, my grandma went to Alaska when she was 75.

While money is an important consideration for determining age at retirement, I think something that also has to be considered is health. I want to be a healthy senior. I want to be able to work until 60 without being sidelined by health issues. I want to still be able to travel if I retire at 65. With that in mind, I’ve started running and I’m pledging to get my arse back in the gym at lunch. It’s too easy to just sit at my desk or on the couch and be sedentary. I have to invest in my health now, before it’s too late, just like I have to invest financially for my future now. Maybe I should toss a dollar in a jar for every kilometer I run, and look at my gym membership and cost of yoga classes as an investment instead of an expense.

Do you consider your health when planning for your retirement? How do you invest in your health. Also, anyone have any suggestions for my running playlist – I’m open to anything.

Categories: Goals, Personal | Tags: , | 15 Comments

How the lockdown is going.

You may recall that back in June, I challenged myself to have a No-Spend July. I felt that I had been spending a little more than was necessary, so instead of hiding my debit cards I thought I would do a little test of will power. Now that it’s August (ohmygod, where has the summer gone?!), it seems like a good time to evaluate how I’ve done. Here were the rules I gave myself and how I did:

  • No jeans, shoes, scarves, tops, sweaters, jackets, skirts, dresses from hence forth. The only clothing item I’m allowed to buy until the end of July are socks. PASS – I did buy some new underwear, but I didn’t buy anything else (even socks), so I’m going to give myself a pass on this.
  • No home decor items shall be bought. Only necessary home items allowed: lightbulbs, batteries, etc. FAIL – while I did buy some lightbulbs and batteries, I also bought a deckbox (I couldn’t handle earwigs in my deckchair cushions) and a solid oak tv armoire. I really wasn’t expecting to buy an armoire, but some elderly neighbours are moving and offered me their beautiful solid oak armoire for $250. It was hand made by a local mennonite and is in amazing shape, so I just couldn’t say no. Now, I just have to decide whether I’m going to use it in my office as a bookshelf or put in living room and use it as a storage pantry. (Now that I’ve gone on and on about this armoire, I feel as though I should post a picture. I will as soon as I get where I want it!)
  • I will allow myself to print 15 photos for two frames that I have recently purchased. PASS – I didn’t actually get this done. Heh.
  • No makeup. I have more than enough make up. – PASS. No new makeup. I didn’t even step foot into a pharmacy!
  • Exception: sunscreen and bug spray. I allow myself to buy in bulk if necessary. PASS.   Had to restock on my sunscreen. I should have enough to get me through the rest of the summer.
  • Gifts are exempt. This shouldn’t be too bad though, no upcoming July birthdays, just a couple bridal showers. PASS – I actually didn’t buy any gifts. The bridal showers I was planning on attending were cancelled.
  • No DVDs/games. I really really want Season 2 of Justified, but I will restrain myself. PASS – but I do have a bunch of DVDs for my Christmas wish list.

There you have it. I did manage to keep my non-necessity spending to a minimum, but I did have a two big slips with the deck box and armoire. The deck box was a result of a ear-wig driven freak out – but at least I found a deck box on sale. I know that next time, if I have a freakout, I will have to basically hide my car keys and wallet, otherwise I will end up going out to buy a solution immediately, when I really I could have waited for an even better deal at the end of the season (or at least waited another week for all the earwigs to die off).

As for the armoire, it was a deal that came up last week and I couldn’t say no. I have a weakness for solid wood furniture and when I think I’m getting a really good deal. If there’s one thing I learned this past month, it’s that I have a hard time saying no to what I perceive as deals. I think in the future, I should make a better attempt to think about deals and maybe ‘sleep on them’ instead of making snap decisions.

Despite a couple of slip ups, I think I did ok. I’d like to continue my shopping lock down into August. I think I can stick with pretty well the same rules, but I am giving myself an exception to get a print made of my great-grandfather’s farm auction poster for my office. It’s a great piece of family history that was recently discovered, so I’m going to get a print made so I can include it in my family-history themed office (ah, I’m such a genealogy nerd).

I’m curious, what have you learn about yourself through attempting careful and controlled spending?  

Categories: Goals, Monthly Summary, Personal, Shopping, Spending | Tags: | 7 Comments

A midsummer bonus: spending vs. saving.

I got a really great surprise with my last paycheque – a midyear bonus! Who-hoo!! What a fantastic way to start July, huh? I love that I work for a company that is willing to share profits with its employees throughout the year. Immediately after receiving the bonus, I’ve been mulling over what to do with my bonus. Here’s just some of things that came to mind:

  • Put some into my emergency fund (EF)
  • Make an extra mortgage payment
  • Buy a deck box
  • Buy new tires for my car
  • Use the money for my upcoming deck expansion
  • Use the money to get a will done

Unfortunately, my bonus isn’t big enough to let me do everything on my list. I would like my bonus to go as far as possible, so I’m going to try to do as much as possible with it. I have already set some money aside for my deck project, so there’s really no need to spend my bonus on that. I also ended up buying a deck box this weekend, when I found one on sale ($99) at Canadian Tire. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be on a shopping ban – but a horde of earwigs tried to move into the cushions for the deck chairs and it was frightening and gross. It was so bad, my Dad offered to buy me a deck box. My new deck box will hopefully keep my cushions earwig free.

That leaves: putting money into my EF, making an extra mortgage payment, buy new tires, or a get will. I’m leaning towards splitting the bonus in half and putting $500 into my EF and $498 against my mortgage. I’d love to get my EF to my goal of $10,000 and an extra $500 would put me closer to that goal. I figure I can wait on getting new summer tires for my car until maybe the fall and hopefully get some good ones on sale. As for the will, I know I should get one drawn up soon – right now I’m hoping it will happen in September. Being able to pay down some of my mortgage debt and get closer to a saving goal is really tempting.

What do you think I should do? When you get a bonus or some extra cash do you tend to put it into savings or spend it?


Categories: Goals, Spending, Work | Tags: , , | 35 Comments

Ending the slump.

Lately, I feel like I’m in a bit of a slump. I’m struggling to find the right balance between spending and saving, budget properly and keep up with it, get things done around the house, plan for upcoming renos, work on my goals, and find the time to do things that I enjoy. There’s many an evening this month, when I’ve gotten home late from work and not had the motivation to get anything done, whether it’s laundry or blogging. It catches up to me by the weekend though, and then I feel like I have so much to do and not enough time to get things done before the weekend is over. That only ramps up the stress factor, which doesn’t much help in getting anything done. I’m getting frustrated with myself because seemingly nothing is getting done and as summer gets closer, I know my schedule is going to get busier.

I’ve had enough with not getting anything done. Time for a turn around. First, I think I need to figure out why I’m not motivated and why I’m so frustrated about it. My lack of motivation and ambition seems to stem from a couple things:

  • Being busy at work. I typically work an 8 hour day, but I’ve done a couple 15 hour days this month already. I’ve been working through a lot of my lunch hours too. After a long, busy day at work, I’m usually more keen to put my feet up and vegetate than to clean or do much of anything else.
  • Leaving everything until the weekend. I usually spend most of either Saturday or Sunday cleaning, which doesn’t leave much time to get anything else done, especially if something else comes up and something always comes up (usually Dad wanting help with something up on the farm).
  • The weather. Dull, grey and cold. It’s very tempting just to curl up in a blanket and a big cup of tea and try to keep warm.
  • My own unrealistic expectations. I can do a lot of things, but I can’t do everything. I need to be a bit more forgiving with myself and a better judge of what’s important to get done and what’s not.

I figure my next step is to look at the causes of my slump and decide how I can address them so they don’t eat away at my motivation and ambition. I have to keep my problems in mind though (like balancing spending and saving) so I don’t get carried away trying to think up innovative ways to move large, cold air masses away from southern Ontario.

Here’s what I’m going to try:

  • Stop working through lunch. Work will continue to be busy, but I think it will help break up the day if I actually do something other than work at lunch. I’m going to get back into the habit of going to the gym at lunch and on my off-gym days, use that time to run errands or go for a walk.
  • Make smaller to-do lists. For some reason, when I write a to do list, I seem to include everything I want to do for the next month and a half. I’d probably get more done (or at least feel better about what I do accomplish) if I write shorter, more realistic to do lists.
    • Associated with my to-do lists, I’m going to start writing my to-do lists on my ipad, instead of scraps of paper which I inevitably lose or forget at work. I might try and schedule my to-do list in my calendar as well.
  • Allow for some down time every night. An hour before bed to watch tv, read a book, play a video game, or whatever my wee heart desires.
  • Use a notebook to keep track of my spending, then update my budget first chance I get. I downloaded Dropbox, so I will be able to access my budget spreadsheet at work and home and keep everything synced. This way, I hopefully won’t behind on keeping track of my budget.
  • Start make use of automatic savings. Don’t worry, I typically write myself a cheque, but I think going to automatic savings would help reassure me that I am saving and cut down on the to-do list.
  • Try getting myself into a routine. A bit of cleaning throughout the week, an hour to sit down and blog, another to sit down and do my volunteer work. My thinking is a routine might help in taking care of some of the more menial tasks on the to-do list.

Hopefully, this will help me climb out of my rut. Do you ever feel like you’ve got way too much on the go or unmotivated? Got any tips for me?

Categories: Goals, Personal | Tags: , , | 17 Comments

Hold your horses, it’s prioritizing time.

The marvellous weather this past weekend inspired me to get outside and start my spring clean up of the yard. As I didn’t move into my house until October, I really didn’t get a lot of yard work done before winter hit. All that was accomplished last year was ripping out the play set (which was given to my cousin for his kids) and removing the horseshoe pits, so I have a fair bit of work to take care of this spring. A fair bit may be a bit of an understatement, actually. My outdoor to-do list is long and gets longer the more I think about it.

If I win the $50 lotto max on Friday, I wouldn’t bother trying to decide which things on my to do list are going to get done this year. Seeing as I don’t intend on buying a lottery ticket chances of winning are pretty slim, so I guess I’m going to have to figure out which tasks are a priority and which can wait. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far being a new homeowner is being patient about tackling house or property related projects. I want everything to be finished now: the deck, the landscaping, the basement, everything. Prioritizing the to do list is still a struggle, because there is so much to do and I want it all to be done. It’s really tempting to try and get everything done right away, even though I realize I might not have the cash or time to get all the projects done. To help myself overcome my impatience, or at least try and cope with it, and restrain myself from blowing every cent I have on yard improvements, I’ve divvied up my outdoor to do list into 3 categories:

  • Priority tasks: the projects that have to get done this year. These things can’t wait or be put off because not getting them done will mean bad things will happen to my house/yard.
  • If funds/time allow tasks: this category is for the tasks that I would like to get done, but if I don’t have the time or cash, it’s not the end of the world.
  • Hold your horses, these tasks can wait: these projects are really just a ‘want’ and can wait a year or two.

Here’s my categorized, prioritized to-do table, with guestimated costs.

Priority tasks

If funds/time allow tasks

Hold your horses, these tasks can wait

  • Tree cutting – there’s a couple trees around the property that are too close to the house or dying. My Dad I can cut these down ourselves and then use the wood for firewood (FREE)
  • Paint the deck/house. If I don’t paint the deck/house this year, moisture will get into the wood and rot it. That would be bad. ($300)
  • Buy a lawn mower. Would love not to, but the neighbours might not appreciate the hayfield next door. ($500)
  • Clean up the junk around the edge of the yard – includes cement blocks, rusty tire rims, garbage and other junk. ($15-20 for a trip to the dump).
  • Replace flashing on the roof. ($150)
  • Plant trees for living fence along the road. ($50/tree x 6 = $300)
  • Remove and replace front part of the deck. The stairs are too steep and I hate the railing in front of the picture window (I hate it SO much!). ($400)
  • Paint the lawn chairs. They’re functional, just not pretty. ($30)
  • Edge and replant gardens ($150)
  • Remove stumps. I can burn a few of them out, but some will have to be ground out. Not a huge deal though, so this can wait.
  • Finish the half-finished pergola on the back patio. For now, it might be a nice hammock site.
  • Move the woodpile lean-to. It’s not going to kill me to walk an extra 50 feet.

As you can see, getting my priority list done will cost me $970. Thankfully, I don’t have any major or super expensive repairs to do outside, like replacing the roof. Given that, I may be able to swing one project from the ‘If funds/time allow tasks’ category, but we’ll have to see. Seeing just how much my priority tasks will cost though is helping to calm the burning desire to get every single project done this summer. As well, I don’t think I want to spend every spare moment this summer working on something, I need to be able to take some time to enjoy the place too.

How do you cope with to-do lists, or prioritize your tasks? Do you have any big projects planned for the summer?

Categories: Goals, Housing, Spending | Tags: , , , | 9 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.


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:


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?


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

The Results of the New-To-Me Challenge

Back in July when I bought my house, I decided to try a new-to-me challenge and furnish my place with as much used furniture as I could get my cheap hands on. I gave myself this challenge because a) I’m cheap and b) I caught myself lusting after ridiculously expensive furniture that I was seeing in home decor magazines. I mean, $2000 for a coffee table? That’s insane. Why on earth would a miniature table have to cost that much. The best I can figure is that the coffee table was made from the last Entwife or something like that.

It would have been really easy to drop $10,000, or more, furnishing my house because I had very little furniture prior to buying my house. I donated most of my student furniture to Value Village when I moved back home after I finished school, so aside from a tv and a dresser, I had no furniture. All the sudden I had two bedrooms, an office, a living room and a kitchen that all needed furnished. Initially, I obsessed over how I was going to style my house, since I would be starting from scratch with my furniture. I wanted classic and cool items, like a leather reclining couch, sleek coffee tables, an elegant hardwood table for the kitchen, and everything to match and look like it came straight out of a magazine. It didn’t help that a family member (close to my age) was constantly buying brand new pieces of furniture for her new house and then calling me over to show them off. Oh, and she often forgot to take the price tags off, of course.

One night, I added up the cost of all the furniture I had found that I liked in one magazine. The total was horrifying. It was far more than I was willing to spend and it was just for a couple pieces. After I got over the sticker-shock, I started to wonder why I was lusting over such expensive furniture; after all, it’s just furniture. Sure, it would be cool if all the pieces matched, but I figure people aren’t going to avoid visiting me because my sofa isn’t brand new or Italian leather. With this in mind, I started my search for used furniture. Here’s what I managed to find:

Living room

  • A couch, grabbed off the side of the road
  • A love seat, donated to me by my aunt’s neighbours
  • 2 glass coffee tables, given to me by my aunt
  • A bookshelf, from my parents
  • A blanket box, kept from when my grandmother moved out of her house


  • A round table and two chair, scored from the end of a driveway.


  • A desk. It’s actually a table from my great grandmother’s house. It’s wood and heavy as hell, but in pretty good shape for being over 80 years old.
  • Two desk chairs. One I took from home, the other I got from my aunt and reupholstered.
  • Two bookshelves. One from my aunt’s old place, the other I found under the stairs here.
  • Filing cabinet. Was going to the dump from where my mom works, but we saved it.


  • 2 single beds and frames. One is from my uncle’s, the other was left here by the previous owner (don’t worry, I steamed cleaned that mattress to within an inch of its life).
  • Dresser, nightstand and headboard from my grandmother’s old house.
  • A dresser from my other grandmother’s house that my parents had stashed away in a grain bin of all places.

That left me with just a tv stand to buy. Not too bad. Mind you, nothing matches so it makes for a very eclectic looking house, but I don’t mind. I’m actually pretty proud that I was able to get so much used furniture for nothing – I didn’t pay a cent for anything I listed above. My green, ivy patterned couch isn’t leather and it might make an interior decorator choke at the sight of it, but it’s comfy as hell. It’s probably the comfiest couch I’ve ever owned. I like to look at my mismatched furniture as a ode to my frugality. Sure, one day I’ll likely buy new furniture, but  that day comes along I’ll have the money saved up to buy quality pieces that I love.

I’m really glad to be able to say I’m not financing a living room set or killing my budget just so I can have matching furniture. Sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to have the perfect home right off the bat, but really, who cares. As long as there’s a place to sit your ass down, what does it matter?

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Do you have much in the way of used furniture? Am I the only one who feels pressured to have brand new furniture?

Categories: Goals, Housing | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

My 2012 Goals

Yesterday, I spent the morning thinking about what I want (or in some cases, have) to accomplish this year. I started scribbling down ideas on a handy scrap of paper, and once I got started I realized that there were four broad categories my goals fit into: home, life, work and finance. Once I got my goals all down on my scrap of paper, I picked out some of the important goals and decided make something pretty like Little Lamb over at Little Lamb Wants To Be Debt Free. My plan is to print a copy of this out on some nice paper and post it where I’ll see it everyday.


Financial Goals

  • Get my EF up to $10,000. This is really important now that I have a mortgage that must be paid.
  • Get a will. Also very important now that I have a lawyer that is hot not a crook and a house that is worth something.
  • Improve my investment knowledge. I don’t know as much about investing and investments as I think I should. This needs to change. Any suggestions for good books to check out?
  • Contribute $5000 to my RRSP.
  • Start dedicated ‘House Maintenance’ and ‘Car Maintenance’ funds. I want to be prepared for when my septic tanks dies (hopefully in 10 years or so).
  • Make 1 extra mortgage payment. I still have some renos to do, so making extra mortgage payments is hard when I could use that money to replace doors/windows, but I do want to make at least one extra payment.
  • Commit to budgeting. I did ok last year with my budgeting, but once I bought my house the budget kind of fell by the wayside. Now that things have settled down, I’m going to start counting every penny again.

Work Goals

  • Increase my billable hours. This is dependent on what work comes in, but I’m going to ask to be involved in more projects.
  • Improve my LinkedIn profile. I am not a huge fan on LinkedIn, but I see it’s usefulness for networking.

Home Goals

  • Paint my house. The exterior and deck of my house will need painting this year.
  • Refinish my trunk. My aunt gave me my grandmother’s railway trunk, but it needs some TLC. It’s amazing to think this trunk travelled from here out to the Prairies, then back again. I’d like to able to refinish it and make it useful again.
  • Install a new bedroom window. My bedroom window is cracked and needs to be replaced.
  • Drywall the basement. There are two walls in the basement that need new drywall.
  • Cut 2 cords of wood.
  • Get new exterior doors.
  • Figure out what do with the stairs. Right now, my stairs are not ideally located, my goal is to come up with a plan on where to move them to.

Life Goals

  • Read my bookshelves. I haven’t been reading as much as I would like. I four bookshelves and it’s my goal to read every book (except maybe the textbooks) I own. Any that I can’t make it through, I’ll set aside to donate to the library or sell to the local used bookshop.
  • Save and plan for a trip in 2013. Right now, I don’t know where I want to go, but I want to go somewhere.
  • Go to the gym 3x a week. I have a membership, might as well use it.
  • Take one class. In anything, I just have to learn something.
  • Start running. I think I can kill two birds with one stone if I run at the indoor track at the gym.
  • Write a book. I have been asked to write a book on a local landmark a few times. I really should buckle down and do it.
  • Learn to cook. I love to bake, but I find cooking difficult. I’m going to hunt up some good recipes and give it a shot.
  • Go out more. I am a total homebody (the four bookshelves was a hint, I suppose) and I really should get out more.
  • Be nice. It’s not that I think I’m mean, but I know that sometimes I can be judgemental and quick to a fault, so I’m going to make more of an effort to be kinder to people.
  • Blog twice per week.

Whew, it’s quite the list ‘eh? I have set myself up for some challenges, but I think, with constant reminders and dedication, I should be able to do most of these. What are your goals for 2012? Have any suggestions for me?

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Goals | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

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