A wee update and a call out for guest posts.

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Goodbye winter wheat!

I was over to the bank today at lunch to make my extra mortgage payment and to shuffle the rest of my bonus into my emergency fund. Thanks to everyone who posted their thoughts on what I should do with my bonus. If my bonus was a little bigger, I would have gotten my will done too. I think I will get it done in September, when things calm down and I have time to put some thought into it. 

I was flipping through this week’s Ontario Farmer and noticed that Cents of Country Girl was mentioned in an article. It took a lot of will power to keep from cutting the article out right then and there. I can only imagine the look on the old man’s face if he found his Ontario Farmer cut up before he got a chance to read it. My post about my Dad’s retirement and the likelihood of the farm being sold caught some attention. I haven’t had a chance yet to ask my Dad what he thought about the article in the Ontario Farmer. It might be just the opening I need to have the succession talk with him. 

Continuing with the good news, the wheat is off. It’s amazing how stressful harvesting a crop can be. Last week we waited for the neighbour’s new combine to arrive so we could get started at the wheat. When it finally arrived, they didn’t bring the header with it, but thankfully the header from the old combine fit. Sunday, we were all set and ready to go and the weather looked like it was going to turn. It’s always the way, when it’s our turn to harvest, the weather threatens. The real worry wasn’t that it was going to rain, with the heat and the humidity, we were more concerned about getting a big nasty thunderstorm that would flatten the wheat. The weather passed and we were able to get started on Sunday and finish up Monday. Whew, what a relief to get that done without incident. The other big worry this year, that we don’t normally have during the wheat harvest, was something catching on fire. We haven’t had rain in a month and everything is bone dry, so it would just take a spark to set a field on fire. There have been a few field fires around, so it added a little more stress to the harvest because we were all worried about starting a fire. Now that the wheat is harvested, a few days of nice, steady rain would be greatly appreciated. The soybeans are looking mighty thirsty. If the weather continues to be dry and hot, we might only get the wheat harvest. 

As you can likely tell, it’s been a busy week and it’s not looking like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. Work is really busy, so busy, I’m not going to be able to take any time off for the rest of the summer. Add a busy after-work schedule (baseball, volunteer committees, summer visiting and trying to find time to vacuum up the cat-hair dust bunnies), and I’m pretty much running every night. Tonight is actually the first night I’ve had my computer on in a week! I haven’t had much time to devote to blogging, but I’m hoping in two to three weeks things will settle down. Until then, if anyone would like to write a guest post, I’d love to get some for the next couple weeks. I’m not picky so you can write about almost whatever you like. Just let me know if you’re interested (send me an email: centsofacountrygirl@gmail.com), then send me your post with a little intro about yourself or your blog, and I’ll post it here. I can’t promise a great deal in return but I’ll definitely show you some link love a la twitter and you’ll have my thanks. It’s a big thanks too. 

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 10 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: , , | 34 Comments

Selling the farm: why I dread my Dad’s retirement.

This past weekend, I spent an afternoon at the farm, just sitting on the deck and catching up with the neighbours that pulled in for a visit. The deck is one of my favourite places in the world; from the deck, we look over farm fields as far as the eye can see and the local highway (perfect for keeping track of the neighbours). There’s nothing like sitting out on the deck swing and watching the world go by. I was looking over my Mum’s flowerbeds, the wheat field and the barn and it reminded me how strong of a connection I feel to farm.

It’s a bittersweet connection though, because at the moment, it seems unlikely that I’ll ever be likely to buy the farm. That thought eats away at me. I absolutely dread the day my parents say they’re selling the farm.

I suppose my first realization that I am ill-suited to take over the farm came when my Dad decided he didn’t want to milk cows anymore. I loved being out in the barn and helping with the chores, but there were a lot of things I just couldn’t do. I’m small, too small to reach up to the release for the milkers, too small to move the big feed cart, or not strong enough to do a lot of the tasks required around the farm. In addition to my physical inabilities, at the time, I was in my third year of university and approximately $28,000 in debt from my student loans. I would have to get that amount in loans again just to buy the milk quota. No loan officer in his or her right mind would have lent me the money – existing debt, no collateral, and I’m just a single gal.

The cows left gradually, the milking cows went first – auctioned off at the local sales barn. The bull went next, followed by the heifers and finally the last of the calves. I’ll never forget going into the barn after the last of the cows left. It was eerily quiet and seemed so empty. It took the entire family a long time to adjust to not having cows. We still thought we had to be home by 4:30 to milk cows if we were out to town or to the city. Getting rid of the cows did allow my parents to take a well-deserved, out of country vacation without worrying about getting someone to do chores.

Without the cows, we still have 150 acres, plus equipment. Land around these parts is expensive and many farmers sell the farm and then use the proceeds from the sale to fund their retirement. My Dad is no exception. With land prices around $10,000/acre – selling the farm can make a substantial contribution to a retirement fund. I would love to be able to hand my Dad 1.5 million dollars and buy the farm when he wants to retire, but I don’t have that kind of money and I can’t handle that kind of debt (if someone would even loan me that much). I also don’t expect my Dad to just hand me the farm – he’s worked hard his entire life and I think he’s entitled to profit from it. I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want the farm to stay in the family, I want the farm for myself, but I want my Dad to be able to retire comfortably and I’d only want the farm if I could buy it at a fair price. Buying the farm is absolutely out of my reach, short of winning the lottery.

I feel like being unable to buy the farm is/will be my biggest financial failure. It hasn’t happened yet, but every year that passes is a year closer to Dad deciding to retire. Maybe my situation will change, perhaps I’ll find a partner willing to buy into the farm with me, maybe I will the lottery, but for now, it looks like the farm is out of my reach.

Categories: About Me, Family, Farming, Personal | Tags: , , , | 11 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

20 Random Facts About Me

Erika over at Shopping to Saving posted a list of 20 random facts about her, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon. Being an anonymous blogger, I find I usually try to keep the personal details to a minimum, but what the hell, it’s Saturday and I feel like sharing.

  1. I’m convinced I’m short. I’m 5’5 but everyone else in my family (save grandma) is over 5’8 tall. My family loves to tease me about being the short one.
  2. I hate gravy. I will never put gravy on anything, no matter how dry the meat might be.
  3. I hate feet. I will flip out if someone puts a bare foot in my personal space, especially near my face. I cringe when someone puts a foot on my part of the recliner. I think it comes from when I volunteered at a nursing home and did a lot of pedicures and saw some nasty, nasty feet.
  4. Despite my hatred of feet, I’ve done the Sour-Toe Cocktail. It had a hang nail and was purple and wrinkly.

    A Sour Toe Cocktail – that black/purple thing is a human toe.

  5. I love helicopters and helicopter pilots. A friend once called me a helicopter-whore and I didn’t deny it.
  6. I use udder cream as a hand moisturizer because it’s seriously the best stuff EVER.
  7. I’m stubbornly independent. I want to do everything by myself (or at least try to). My Mom tells me my favourite phrase as a toddler was ‘by myself!’. It usually works out ok, but after I spend a week hobbled after moving a solid wood desk up a flight up stairs by myself, I curse my sense of independence.
  8. I almost went to university for optometry. When saw all the dead/dying trees on campus, I changed my mind and ended up enrolling in biology instead.
  9. The only thing I’m addicted to is tea. I drink at least four cups a day.
  10. I prefer listening over talking, most of the time.
  11. I have no problem with being filthy and dirty. I suppose it comes from a childhood of doing chores and ending up, usually, with manure all over myself.
  12. My sister and I have been asked if we’re twins, multiple times – she’s six years younger than I am! I like to think that I look young for my age, rather than she looks old for hers.
  13. I’ve worn glasses since I was in Grade 3. Yay for being ridiculously near-sighted.
  14. I really love learning. I wish I could be a professional student and just go to school for the rest of my life. Any sponsors out there?
  15. My least favourite chore is cutting the grass. I love it when my Dad brings his big mower down and cuts the grass for me.
  16. I can crack my collarbone. It’s pretty disgusting because bone moves in addition to making a big crack.
  17. I lived on mountain in the Yukon, in a tent, for 2.5 months and loved every minute of it.
  18. I bite my nails. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but if I’m stressed/nervous or wearing something that rough edges catch on, I’ll bite my nails.
  19. I call my cat about 12 different names: Tayla, Tay-tay, munchie, mook, mo-mo, mookie, munch-munch, nermal, and on and on.
  20. Give me a bag of dill pickle chips and I will be instantly happy.

Got a random factoid about yourself to share?

Categories: About Me, Personal | Tags: , | 13 Comments

Going in lockdown mode.

I am going on a shopping ban.

credit: beautyfash.com

Y’see, for the last couple of months it seems I have been unable to control my spending. It’s not that I’m replacing my wardrobe every month or anything like that, it’s just that I seem to do doing lots of little shopping trips here and there and it’s adding up. Looking back over my receipts, it’s pretty easy to pick out a pattern: every time I go to the city, I end up going shopping and buying either clothes or stuff for my house.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been to the city much more than usual in the last couple months. It’s just so tempting and easy to go visit the mall or big box stores and buy something that I can’t get locally. Just last week I was in Toronto for a workshop and my coworker and I decided to visit Ikea – and guess who comes out with a cart full of stuff and $200 less in my bank account. Yeah, this girl. Not one of my shining moments, that’s for sure.

I usually try and justify my mini-shopping sprees by telling myself

  • ‘It’s ok, I don’t come to the city that often’ – when really, I usually end up in a city at least once a month.
  •  ‘It’s ok, I’m not buying much’ – but a little here and there tends to add up really quickly.
  • ‘I need x, y, z’ – I’ve lived without x, y, z so far and can seemingly function without it.

I feel like I’m regressing – although, it’s not at a point where I’m spending more than I’m earning, it’s just I’m not saving as much as I would like to. I’ve got a deck renovation and a major overhaul of the basement coming up and I want those to happen sooner rather than later. The only way that can happen is if I buckle down and save. I think rather than just going with a blanket shopping ban, I’m going to set myself some rules and exceptions:

  • 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.
  • No home decor items shall be bought. Only necessary home items allowed: lightbulbs, batteries, etc.
  • I will allow myself to print 15 photos for two frames that I have recently purchased.
  • No makeup. I have more than enough make up.
  • Exception: sunscreen and bug spray. I allow myself to buy in bulk if necessary.
  • Gifts are exempt. This shouldn’t be too bad though, no upcoming July birthdays, just a couple bridal showers.
  • No DVDs/games. I really really want Season 2 of Justified, but I will restrain myself.

Those are my rules. Pretty strick, but I’m going to try my damnest to keep my wallet closed. Anyone else out there on a shopping ban, or has done one recently? Any tips, thoughts, or words of encouragement?

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Shopping, Spending | Tags: , | 7 Comments

The Value of Time

On my way home from work today, I noticed the corner gas station seemed awfully busy. Busy enough that cars were lined out into the street, which is pretty unusual in a small town with 8 gas stations. Why so busy? I’m going to guess that the $1.08/litre price might have had something to do with it. One more gas station was priced similarly, while the other 6 gas stations were priced around $1.18/litre.  I glanced at my fuel gauge (half-full) and then looked over at the unmoving line, backing further up into the street. By the time the stoplight changed, I decided it wasn’t worth my time to get in line and wait for the cheaper gas.

What is my time worth? How do I judge when something is worth it and when something isn’t? With the cheap gas, I figured I would be waiting at least half an hour to get to a pump, I’d be idling my car, I still had half a tank of fuel, and I would be late for a steak supper at my parents. Those costs, at least in my mind, were greater than the prospective savings on cheap gas, so I decided not to wait in line.

I could simply quantify the value of my time using my salary rate or charge rate. It’s easy and it’s based on an hourly time frame. My boss has often remarked to me that this is how he determines what is worth his time and what isn’t. For example, he lives close to the border with the States, and for him, it isn’t worth his time to go over the border for cheaper groceries and gas. He would rather save time but spend a little more to buy gas and groceries in Ontario. His decision though (according to him) is based solely on his charge time.

For me though, the value of time can’t simply be quantified. There’s a strong qualitative component to the value of my time – my desire to get to my parents and have a steak dinner influenced my decision not to wait for cheap gas, just as an example. I would say that the situation influences the value of time: am I already waiting, do I have to go somewhere, am I going out of my way, how badly do I need or want something, even what’s the weather doing can influence how much value I put on my time.

The value of my time is a moving target, highly variable, but something I can calculate almost instantaneously (without even a calculator!) in most situations. What influences the value you put on time?  

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Unavoidable Costs | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

When being cheap doesn’t pay off.

I’m usually the first one to admit that I can be cheap and for the most part, it doesn’t really bother me. There are times though, being cheap hasn’t paid off or wasn’t a good idea. One example in particular comes to mind; back in my university days, my roommate and I decided we would walk home from a party at a friend’s house instead of paying for a cab. Nevermind it was a 5 km walk at 2 AM down Bank Street in Ottawa.

It was a long, dark walk. For the most part, once we got out of the downtown area, it was a pretty quiet walk. We had just crossed over the canal, when someone stumbled out of a dark entranceway onto the sidewalk and started walking towards us. As we came closer, we could see the person was a man, wearing a skirt over a pair of tight-tight-tight jeans, no shirt, and a ball gag around his neck (at first I thought it was a clown nose, being a simple farm girl). When he saw us he started to shout he had ‘been very bad’ and ‘needed spanked. Hard’. My roommate and I hurried across the street, keeping an eye on the strange fellow to make sure he kept going the opposite direction of us. We laughed off our extremely creepy experience and took heart in the fact we were nearly home. I cannot express our surprise (and horror) when we saw the same man walking towards us again. I still cannot figure out how he got ahead of us. This time, we ran. We ran the rest the rest of the way home.

Safely home, my roommate and I swore we would never cheap out on a cab again.  Looking bad, cheaping out on probably a $20 cab ride was really dumb. My roommate and I put ourselves at risk just to save a little bit of cash that we both easily coud have afforded. It was just plain stupid.

Having said that, I’m all for saving where possible, but I believe there are some places and times where it’s best to spend a bit extra. Here’s a few examples:

  • Vehicles and repairs. I’m all for buying a quality used car. The key word there being ‘quality’. If you cheap out on a car, you’re likely going to end up spending more on frequent and costly repairs than if you’ve shelled out a little more.

Who-hoo! It’s cheap. We’ll try to forget Ford Pinto’s tend to catch fire when rear-ended.

  • Mattresses. Most people spend 7 hrs a day on their mattress – that’s a fair bit of time. That $200 mattress is going to feel like a concrete slab before too long.

They saved by buying a mattress filled with corn cobs.

  • Anything for your safety – fire alarms, smoke/CO detectors, child car seats, etc. Don’t buy the dollarstore fire alarms. Just don’t.

Please stop having children if you’re this cheap.

  • Tattoos. ‘Nough said.

Ronald McDonald playing football?

What would you never cheap out on? Got any cheaping-out and it didn’t work out   tales?

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: Spending | Tags: | 23 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

100th post: Made it!

It’s taken me over year to get here to 100 posts, but I did it. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that in writing, like in running, I’m not much of a sprinter. Looking back over the last year and a bit, I’m really glad I decided to start a blog and chronicle my thoughts and even an accomplishment or two. At first, I was really hesitant to start a blog and share my thoughts, but through my blog I’ve got a nice little timeline of the last year as well as gotten to know a bunch of other great pf bloggers who challenge the way I think and inspire me.

Now that I have written 100 posts, I feel like I should take a good look at this blog and see how I can improve it, as I think I’ll keep on writing for a while yet. I’ve toyed with the idea of going to a self-hosted blog, as I’d love to really be able to make the best blog I can. The only caveat I have is a little voice that tells me I don’t have the time to put the effort into making blogging a lucrative side-gig. It’s true too, I often feel like I’m short a day or two each week, between work and my evening activities, I’m not in front of my computer a great deal. Then again, it would be pretty sweet to have my own little domain that’s all Country Girl. I’d love to hear what you, my dear readers, think or if you have any experiences to share with going self-hosted.

I wanted my 100 post to be sort of special – which is why I’ve put off writing this post for a couple days, I couldn’t come up with anything that seemed special. I got to thinking today, it might be fun to try my hand at a list of 27 (as it is the 27th of May) random things I’ve learned, experienced or am thankful for. Here we go, in no particular order:

  1. I’m thankful for my health
  2. I’m thankful for my family
  3. I’m lucky to have the greatest best-friend-in-the-whole-damn-world.
  4. I learned that being debt-free is a great feeling.
  5. I re-learned how to braid hair – yay for long hair!
  6. I’m glad my cat’s eye isn’t weird and freaky looking anymore.
  7. I’m thankful for Dierks Bentley. Yum.
  8. I’m thankful I grew up on a farm.
  9. I’m glad I was able to get a job outside of the city.
  10. I love living by a big body of water.
  11. I love how quiet it is when the cottagers leave after a long week.
  12. I’m proud that I was able to buy my first house, by myself.
  13. I learned that the petty bitches in high school are still petty bitches.
  14. I’m learning to let the small stuff go.
  15. I’m happy to be Canadian.
  16. I hit four home-runs last year!
  17. I’m thankful for Cadbury Creme Eggs.
  18. I’m learning to enjoy the simple things.
  19. I started yoga and I love it.
  20. I’m glad my parents encouraged me to read when I was young.
  21. I’m getting better at keeping my temper in check.
  22. I’ve done the sour-toe cocktail.
  23. I’m glad I worked hard when I was a teenager and made a name for myself in the community.
  24. I’m glad I spent the money on high tea in Banff.
  25. I’m thankful I’ve got a great mentor.
  26. I’ve got more self confidence now than ever before – and it’s a great feeling.
  27. I’m thankful for the supportive, fun and inspiring pf community.

There ya’ have it. To all my readers, thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts with me. I’m looking forward to the next 100 posts, and maybe even a couple hundred more after that!

Have a good ‘un

Country Girl

Categories: About Me, Personal | Tags: , | 10 Comments

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