Wednesday, May 15, 2013
This picture was taken July 2011 on our trip to Costa Rica. We had rented a jeep and were aimlessly exploring and decided to stop for a burger on the side of the road. While we were eating at the picnic table I spotted something in the trees beside the Hamburger stand. There were three small monkeys foraging for lunch. I snuck up with my brand new Rebel T3i camera and started taking pictures. Hubby came over and we stood there for 20 minutes just observing them, one of the most memorable unplanned moments of the trip. I took over 1000 pictures that trip. I spent good money on that camera and have taken at least 1000 more pictures since. We only spent about $30 in souvenirs which tells you where our priorities lay - in the experience.
I love traveling. It is my thing. I am at my happiest visiting new cultures and experiencing new places. For ten years I was a travel agent for Thomas Cook Canada managing a travel agency. I left that business only because the business itself changed to where it became difficult to make a living. I still have an extreme love for travel.
We haven't traveled much since our trip to Costa Rica as spent most of the time concentrating on our downsize and move. Now all of that is done we are saving for the next big trip as I don't believe in taking vacations on credit.
I just received a large income tax refund of $1630 so $1480 of that has gone into the travel fund, and $150 has gone into the sealed pot for Christmas 2013. We are traveling by ferry and car to Oregon for a family wedding in September but will mostly be visiting with American family and will only be gone for five days. Funds for that trip have already been saved. This new money is the start of saving for our next International adventure. Where are we going? I prefer to leave that up in the air right now as have found that our money goes further when we take travel specials that only generally come up within three months of travel. This trip will either take place early December 2013 or Spring/Summer 2014 depending on how busy our business is and how much money we can save before the trip.
Possible options are Europe, South America, Central America or the Caribbean. My preference is to go to a country that neither of us have been.
I spent 13 hours yesterday working at our Provincial Election to put additional money into the travel fund and Christmas fund. It was an extremely long and tiring day but so worth it when I know what the end result will be.
What are you saving for?
Friday, May 10, 2013
|Pine Siskin on the left, Gold Finch on the right|
We have some new birds to the feeder lately joining the Pine Siskins, a pair of Gold Finches. They come by about every three or four days and one day they came as a pair so I know it is more than just one. Today little lady is probably back at the nest keeping the chicks happy.
Have a great weekend everyone!
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
I have tried to restrain myself this year, using only a gift certificate the kids got me for Christmas for flowers and seeds. I have enough pots but yesterday I nearly fell to temptation when purchasing birdseed over a very pretty pot of ornamental ivy. I was also drooling over the birdbaths.
How am I going to get around this? The ornamental ivy, well, I just need to get over it. The birdbath will go on my Garage Sale wishlist. I have a few other items I am looking out for this year like a new set of white dishes for my Mom and possibly some white twinkle lights in the backyard. Yes, I could go out and buy these things but there is no fun in that, only money out of pocket. Waiting to find exactly the right item at a garage sale is way more fun for me.
What is on your Garage Sale wishlist?
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
A shot of the Empress Hotel. They have afternoon tea here every day if you want to partake, something I have never done. A couple of years ago we stayed nearby in early December and really enjoyed how they decorate both the hotel and the harbor for Christmas.
At one time Victoria was on our radar for possible places to live, but due to the much higher price of real estate (about twice as much as further north on Vancouver Island) and congestion due to tourism in the summer we decided to cross it off our list. It is still a wonderful place to visit though.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Hubby has to fly away this weekend for business so I plan on travelling to her house and cooking her a nice meal for Mothers Day. Her gift (which she knows about already) is not more stuff. I found a great deal on Travelzoo for a wildlife viewing tour that the three of us will go on in early July for the day. It was 60% off per person and we get to spend the day on the Ocean together doing the tourist in your own back yard thing. If you enjoy travelling and haven't checked out Travelzoo you should do so as they email you both local deals and International ones (*this is not a paid review, I just discovered them and wanted to share).
We have had some glorious weather the past few days with pure sunshine and 26 degrees celcius. There have been walks on the beach, hot tub time, and I have finished reading two books this week on the backyard patio. When working I love the fact that I can take coffee breaks in the backyard and watch the birds for a few minutes before getting back to it. Our home has really become everything we envisioned it to be when we bought it - so happy we made the right choice.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
First, thank you to all the well wishers regarding paying off our mortgage. It doesn't mean our habits will be changing, just that we now can save to do a few things we love like travel more. I rarely talk about retirement savings so will just say this - we have substantial retirement savings tucked away after working over the years for companies who paid pensions. Instead of leaving the pensions with the companies that we left behind we manage our own pension investments. Our plan is never to rely on government funds like the Canada Pension Plan or Old Age Pension but rely on our own assets and investments therefore if they cut them we will be okay no matter what. After we made the leap this year to self employment we make less but our standard of living has gone up so much that it is far more likely we work later in life, not because we have to but because we want to. I realize everyone is not in the same fortunate position we are, and certainly don't want to dish out any advice in that regard so limit my sharing here to the things everyone has to deal with each month - like groceries, clothing and hair!
April Grocery Budget
$425 - Actual Spent was $435.87
Includes all over the counter medications, personal grooming items, soaps, cleaners and household items for two adults who eat at home 99% of the time.
Previous months overage $53.16 plus this month's overage $10.87= $64.03 year to date overage
Coupons used - Zero!
This was a very odd month grocery-wise. I was away from home ten nights, seven in Alberta emptying out that home for sale and three at my Mothers helping her fix up her home for sale. Our Alberta expenses and groceries all were paid for by furniture sold so I have not included them in this month's budget. We ate out a good bit more than I wanted to this month but with all that was going on we could have done much worse. We did splurge on eating out on Friday night to celebrate the end of our mortgage - but not worth mentioning the restaurant as the food was not good and I would not bother to go there again. Once again, food that is prepared with love at home often tastes far better than those meals eaten out with rare exception. For the first month in years I used zero coupons - likely due to the fact that I was away so much. When home I cook from scratch and usually those items are not ones I can use coupons for. I did a shop for some easy to prepare convenience foods for hubby while I was at Mom's so those cost a little more as he is a great cook but prefers to only cook full meals for others, not just for himself.
This week there was a great dollar days sale where I bought bread, frozen veggies, 3 lbs onions, strawberries and yogurt. The grocery stores have these sales as loss leaders, but they certainly don't make any extra money off me. It was at one of the more expensive grocery stores and every item in my basket was $1.
I still have a half full freezer: a turkey which I hope to cook this month, a ham, 2kg of frozen chicken breast, ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon, and a little fish. I need to find a good sale on pork, beef, and fish this month. Now that things are settling down a little I hope to play catch-up on the grocery budget this month to reduce the overage from the last two.
Annual budget $250 - Left in Budget $208.53.
This month spent $18.65. Remainder of hair budget for rest of year is $189.88
I had a haircut earlier this week, way overdue as a result of a busy month. I still have one color in the cupboard to use in the next two weeks. Likely there will be no hair expenses in May as my next haircut is scheduled for the first week of June.
Annual Budget $200 - $187.25 left
This month I purchased a Bianca Nygard(high end Canadian designer) red blazer for $5 to go with a dress already in the closet that will work perfectly for the wedding we are attending in September. The same day I also found a nice Spring purse and Liz Claiborne T-shirt. Total spent this month - all at the thrift store - was $15.15.
Remainder of hair budget for rest of year is $172.10.
This year a goal of mine is to have Christmas saved for well in advance. We always pay cash so no post-Christmas hangover but with self-employment December is one of our quietest months for work so if we save up over the year things will be much easier on us. We joined SFT's Life After Mortgage sealed pot challenge and have been feeding it extra bits of money every week, this week an additional $10 went into the pot. I also have $40 in amazon.ca gift certificates saved up so far (after using up balance of them for a new laptop battery in February) for use at Christmas as well from Swagbucks (click here if you want to join Swagbucks). Unlike most of those who joined the challenge, I will be breaking into mine at the end of June to count it up and do a bank deposit and then will continue saving until the first week of December when the challenge ends.
Have a great week everyone!
Saturday, April 27, 2013
|Sunset in Comox (credit given to hubby and his iphone)|
We still have bills, as everyone does, but we now have a bit more breathing room to do the things we want to.
How did we do it?
Hard work and living below our means. We never tried to keep up with the Joneses even when we could have. We quietly chipped away at the mortgage debt on our secured line of credit at it at every opportunity, while at the same time refusing to add any more debt to the pile. We ate in rather than eating out. We always bought used cars just a couple of years old versus new or leasing and paid for them in cash. We take good care of our things so they last. We cooked from scratch, used coupons, shopped garage sales and thrift stores. We discuss finances as a couple on a weekly basis. We pay off our credit card bills in full every month and primarily used them for point programs so don't end up paying interest. We never pay retail, always looking for a sale. We manage our own investments. We plan purchases, do the research, avoid impulse buys and save up for wanted items.
It wasn't easy but now comes the payoff - a future of not paying another cent in interest to anyone. If you dream of paying off your debts or mortgage the time is now to start planning how to do that so it can happen to you to.
Time to Celebrate!
Friday, April 26, 2013
My mother is not a hoarder but someone who through good intentions ends up with endless clutter clogging her space. She saves things for friends she rarely sees, and keeps buying containers to get better organized but those containers are only adding to the clutter. I fully believe in recycling but having nineteen separate spots for recycling is not the way to do it. What comes into her house tends to stay there.
After three days of painting, cleaning carpets and purging the work has only just begun. In order to prep it for sale we "hid" lots of things to be dealt with later. Anything that she was interested in giving away I hauled away as she will not deal with it and it will only remain in the house for us to deal with later. I brought a few things back that she wants to sell, with the understanding that if I can't sell it within 30 days it I am giving them away.
Stressful for both of us but necessary as she has begun to have some health issues and we need to get her moved to within a short distance of where we live so I can help her more. She gets possession of her new condo mid May so I plan on going once per week for a purging/packing session. I keep trying to remind her this move is likely her last regular home as it was purchased with the intent she lives there until eventually in 15-20 years she goes into a senior facility.
Hubby and I are headed back on Sunday, just for the day, so hubby can help me perk up the exterior with power washing, some landscaping and possibly some painting depending on weather.
Have you had to downsize a parent? Probably one of the toughest things to have to deal with outside of parental health issues.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Yesterday I went back to the Little Thrift Store That Could (my favorite tiny thrift) and found these. I am a complete sucker for glass and silver - and Cobalt Blue is my absolute favorite. Cost? They were marked .55 cents each. Odd that they would sell them separate but for $1.10 for the set I wanted them. I got to the counter and was only charged 55 cents plus tax for a grand total of 59 cents for both as the cashier advised they should have been tagged a pair versus each. Score! I have not cleaned them up at all - obviously the salt shaker needs a bit of work. They are marked with a Patent Number from the U.K. on the bottom.
The little birds absolutely love the bird feeder condo - this one is playing king of the castle (or lookout for neighbors cat). The original boy bird that found the feeder has become so territorial he spends his days chasing off the others - except for the girl birds. He also has become very tame and used to us. Hubby walked up the the feeder the other night and he didn't move. Hubby put out his hand and actually touched the bird as he seems very unconcerned about us, THE FEEDERS. Perhaps he is a little off in the head. We are preparing to increase our bird food budget as this is now one of our major sources of entertainment.
This is a bad picture of three of the Snowbird pilots who are training here currently in Comox for two weeks. I was out on the lawn talking to the neighbors and nine in perfect V formation flew overhead but the camera was in the house unfortunately. We are very happy they train here. A bit of noise during the day but such a pleasure to watch. For those who don't live in Canada these pilots show up for every major Canadian event like the Olympics, Visits from Presidents and Prime Ministers from other Countries and even when the Royals visit. They also attend most Airshows in North America - definitely a Canadian Treasure.
Tommorrow I am off for a three day work bee at Mom's to help her prep her 1969 senior mobile home for sale as it goes on the market on Thursday. It needs a lot of help, mostly cleaning and de-cluttering. My Mom loves clutter, likely why I became a minimalist. Have a great week everyone!
Thursday, April 18, 2013
|Goose Spit Regional Park, Comox BC|
1. Sell things. In January we sold a set of speakers that belonged to a theater surround sound system that died for $25. We bought a new surround sound system with gifted Christmas money. We watch tons of movies (recorded free on the pvr off tv) so having a surround sound system is important to us.
2. In March I sold at my first flea market. $82 was raised from items I had purchased for resale (only about $10 total was spent on purchasing those items) and a few left-overs that should not have made the move with us. I had a really great time and am definitely doing this again-hopefully a couple of times per year as I really enjoy thrifting and garage saling.
3. We save change specifically for our travel fund. Who says change doesn't add up - $182!! Our banks do not yet have change counting machines so I had to roll it up the old fashioned way with free coin roll papers that I had asked for the last time I was at the bank. Canada recently quit making the penny as a cost saving measure for our Government so future coin rolling sessions shall take less time. I fully support that decision as it cost far more to produce the penny than it was worth.
4. $1865 was raised last week in selling furniture and household items from our Alberta home that has sold. We had taken our very best items to our downsized Vancouver Island home last year so these were mostly items of little value. This paid for our entire trip plus the rest has gone into a home improvement fund to pay for projects to make our Island pad better. We brought back only what would fit in the car and only things that would save us money down the road like a really nice set of towels from our Master Bedroom and a pancake grill that was better than anything we had back here that I had originally left for family get-togethers.
5. I have just been hired to work the day of our British Columbia Election. I get $215 for an approximate 12 hour day (including breaks) and $35 for 3 hours of training next weekend. We have tossed around the idea of me getting a part-time job on the side but unless I could only work 1 day a week it likely wouldn't work with our schedule. These type of temporary jobs fit nicely into our life so if I can pick up any more of them I shall. This money is earmarked for 1/2 into the Sealed Pot Christmas fund and 1/2 into our travel fund.
6. Income Tax Refund. We have just filed our income tax and we both qualify for large income tax refunds this year due to being taxed at higher incomes then quitting our jobs part way through the year. Hubby's will likely go to household improvements as we are half-way through installing a hot-tub (purchased floor model on sale for a discount of $500 off) and a garden shed. Mine shall go to the travel fund and some into the Sealed Pot Christmas Fund.
For some, the purchase of a hot-tub would not be within reach and never should be talked about on a frugality blog - but this is one of those "occasional sips of champagne" moments. We have always wanted one and have decided to spend the money for it as now have the year-round climate to enjoy it. We originally were looking at homes between 2200 and 2500 sq foot. When we ended up buying a home of 1700 sq foot with no basement, only crawlspace for storage, we saved over $100,000 on purchase price and will save more year after year in property taxes, utilities and insurance. A decision was then made to spend some money on upgrades to make our small Island pad our dream-home. This is a financial decision we have made as everyone makes different choices, and although not frugal, one that will make us happy.
How do you find money to do the things you want to do but that don't fit within your regular household budget?