The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

HAHAHAHAHA…. just kidding. I don’t like this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas time. As in, December 24th and 25th.

What I don’t enjoy is Christmas music in November, spending money on gifts, exam season, the traffic, the crowds at the mall, having to wrap presents because I seriously suck at it… I could go on and on for hours.

I’m stressed as it is anyway with the impending move and school, let alone having to shop. I already know what I’m getting most people, so I’m hoping to emerge from the holidays relatively unscathed, only spending about $400. The worst part is the actual choice involved with shopping- I don’t want to waste money on something that someone doesn’t like.

I’ve already spent $225 and knocked 8 people off the list. I’ve bought for my brother, my sister, my step-dad, my aunt and uncle, their two boys, and my pseudo-nephew. Can I just say right now that all my pregnant friends are having boys and I want to buy girl stuff? It’s like in those Sims games when there’s too many guys in a neighbourhood and the game responds by shooting out girls to even the playing field.

All I have left is my mom, my grandfather, and Jay. Those are the hardest 3. My mom and my grandfather are the kind of people who buy whatever they decide they want or need. My mom I could get a gift card for Chapters and she’d be happy, so I’m good there.

My grandfather is a bit trickier. He’s a coin collector, and he has a contact at the Mint who he orders from exclusively. I knew last year I should get him a coin. Unfortunately, I had no idea what he had or what he had on order. I had to sneak a phone call to his contact and ask her to order something under $100 that he hadn’t bought yet- and even stop him from ordering it if necessary. It worked like a charm, but I’m on a stricter budget this year.  I’m thinking a DVD because he loves movies. Now it’s down to which one.

This year I told Jay we shouldn’t get each other anything so we could save, but I knew from the beginning that he didn’t listen to me (and he admitted to it). Maybe I’ll get him some pants that actually fit, or really nice work boots since he’s still working with boots that are 2 sizes too small. He’s working a LOT now so he hasn’t had time to go get a new pair. The only danger to that is that he could easily go buy some before Christmas. It’s either that or I’ll give up and get him a card for EB Games. I’d buy him an actual game, but he has banned me from picking his video games since the time we were looking together for a specific one and I suggested one with a similar premise because it was $30 cheaper. Apparently, quality reigns over value where that’s concerned. It’s his money, and he’s smart with it otherwise so I stay quiet.

How has your Christmas shopping gone so far? Have you started, or are you a 11th hour consumer?

Lest We Forget

This time of year, most people are gearing up for the holidays. For me, the beginning of November is a time for reflection and remembrance. I’d like to get off the well-beaten path of personal finance this week, and share with all of you why this is my most important month.

I’ve always known that my family has a military connection. Though my mom’s genealogy research, I know that I have had ancestors in the American Revolution, the Civil War (likely on both sides, though this research is ongoing), and World War II. My great-grandfather was in the Naval Air Force during World War II, initially flying supply planes, and by the end of the war he was one of the youngest base commanders in the Pacific theatre- he was 24 when the war ended in 1945. He died when I was 10, but my mom says he rarely talked about his experiences. Because of this, I’ve always had a more somber attitude to Rememberance Day than most people my age.

When I was 16, I went on a trip with my school to London, Belgium, and France. 3000 students from across Canada were going for the rededication of a WWI memorial. This memorial sits on what is now Canadian soil, and it commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Vimy Ridge was a battle that took place near the French town of Arras in April of 1917. The German army had taken position on the escarpment, which was a huge military advantage. The French tried to get it, and couldn’t. The British tried to get it, and couldn’t. Eventually, it was decided that the Canadian Corps would all band together for the first time in history to take the ridge. After months of planning on a scale rarely seen before, they began their assault on April 9th, 1917. Obviously, they won. There were 3598 Canadians killed in the assault.

When the news of the victory hit the streets of Paris, it’s said that a French General didn’t believe it and said “C’est impossible!” When he was told who was fighting, he said “Ah, les Canadiens! C’est possible.” In the 1930s, the monument was built and Vimy Ridge was given to the Canadian government as thanks for the sacrifice.

For the 90th anniversary, the students who attended  were given the name of a Canadian soldier who was killed that Easter Monday in April of 1917. We were to represent them during the ceremony, and because of this we were told to research them and find their stories. My soldier was a man named Edward J. McNaughton. He was a Canadian pipe-fitter living in Detroit who came back to Canada to enlist when the war began. He was in his 30s and married to a woman named Ena. This was all the information I found, beyond his death date- April 9th, 1917.

That trip changed me in many ways. You can’t visit these places without being moved by what you have seen.  I’ve walked along the rocky shoreline of Dieppe, where 60% of the predominately Canadian Allied forces were massacred. I’ve walked Hill 52 in Belgium and marvelled at how possession of such a tiny piece of land could cause such bloodshed. I’ve drawn a Canadian flag in the sand at Juno Beach. I’ve walked through the cemeteries at Tyne Cot, Beny-sur-Mer and the Normandy American Memorial, trying to comprehend that each of the gravestones represents a man who lived, who loved, who had a story. And I’ve walked up the hill at Vimy Ridge, surrounded by classmates, remembering Private Edward J. McNaughton and the life he never got to finish. I still wish I knew more of his story.

Every November I remember the sacrifices that were made for my freedom. I remember people who died senselessly because of differences that didn’t warrant bloodshed. I remember innocent people massacred because of their religion. I remember because if we ever forget, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes once again.

So this November, even amongst the distractions of the American election/thanksgiving and getting revved up for Christmas, please take a few moments of silence on the 11th to remember those who died so we could live. Our generation has a duty to the past and the future. We need to remember how the terrible events of the past came to fruition. We need to learn to read the signs and figure out ways to stop war from happening before it comes to pass. And above all, we need to remember those who died for our freedom. If we do not acknowledge their sacrifice, they will have served for nothing. They will have died for nothing.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
May 3rd, 1915

Month From Hell

Well my friends, I really had a tough month this October. I’d actually say this may be one of the worst months of my life.

On the home front, I’m having to sublease and move out of my apartment. Things with M are NOT working out. I won’t go into detail for now, because I haven’t tied up the loose ends with it and nothing is finalized. However, I’m back to square one with nothing to show for it. At work, it has been hell. I realized early on that I can’t do both my new job and my old one. Both positions are suffering because there’s just too much to do in a day. I pointed this out numerous times, but the timeline for getting someone for my old job just keeps getting pushed back. There have also been a lot of issues that were hidden that I’m just finding now while taking over. Last I heard I wasn’t getting someone else until January. January! Now I’m seeing that there’s been movements to hire someone for AP and put me back in AR. So what was the point of training me for a month and a half if someone else ends up there anyway? I’m so confused as to how to handle this. I can’t prove myself anymore than I already have. I can’t do anything more than I’ve already been doing. There are not enough hours in a day to get this problem under control without some help. I feel like I’ve been set up to fail.

But I’ve asked for help. I’ve outlined my concerns. My problem is that I want to keep my work strong and I just can’t do that the way things are. It seems like no one is listening to me- I get a pat on the head and a “Nice try Meghan, just get it done”. I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this before I snap.

My only saving grace is Jay. These days I feel like he is the only person who supports me 100% with no arguments made. He never makes me feel like all of this is somehow my fault. He does everything he can to keep me on my feet without hesitation. Thank god for him.
ANYWAYS, enough about my problems. I just wanted to give an update and get some things off my chest. How is everyone else?


More Money, A Different Attitude

Gertie’s got some lifestyle inflation problems.

Remember how I got promoted, but I thought I’d have to wait until January to find out what my raise would look like?

I was told a few days ago that starting from my next paycheque, I’ll have a 17% raise in income. That’s before taxes, but it still REALLY helps me breathe easier. It comes out to around $150 extra every two weeks after taxes, which will raise my comfort level considerably. My budget has been going pretty well, but of course everything always costs more than you think it will initially. I’ve had to take care of various expenses such as getting my eyes checked, the dentist, getting new contacts next week, my last pair of jeans dying a hero’s death, buying a Swiffer because our mop and broom weren’t cutting it with the dog hair, etc. These little things eat up a lot of what I’d be putting towards savings. At least it isn’t just going onto the credit card (well, it is, because I get air miles, but it’s paid off in full monthly). Unfortunately lately I’ve been learning that putting off expenses just leads to a lot of money being spent all at once- ick. From now on I’m going to attempt to take care of these little things as soon as they come to my attention.

I’ve really noticed a change in my attitude towards money since I became debt-free. I’m waiting on a cheque from my insurance company for their share of my optometrist bill, and they’re really taking their sweet time about getting my $75.00 back to me. Although I’d like to have it ASAP, I’m not depending on that money to survive. When I was in debt, I would’ve been on the phone with them everyday complaining about how long it’s taking. Now I’m able to cover these expenses and it’s not breaking my bank. This is a huge milestone for me, and I’m loving every second of it.

All I care about right now is not paying interest, and getting all of my loose ends under control so I can start fresh again. I’ve been so busy at work lately because I’m straddling both sides of the accounting department until we have time to hire someone new. I’ve also started school again, and my social media class has been pretty interesting. My homework for this week? I had to make a blog. It was the easiest assignment I’ve ever done in my life.

I have another update as well. Long-time readers might remember Jay, who I was dating earlier this year and broke up with in March. I’m really happy to be able to tell you guys that through some connections, Jay is now working full-time.  I’m so proud of him and I’m happy that he’s finally being given a chance to work- that’s all he’s ever asked for.

Jay’s been over at my place a lot since I moved because we’ve stayed extremely good friends over the past few months. I won’t pretend there aren’t still sparks; we still love each other and neither of us has had any desire to start up with someone new over the past 6 months. He has also stopped talking about how he needs to make more than his future wife, which was a concern for me. Right now we’re both trying to focus on our individual goals, and navigating a serious relationship would be a distraction at the moment. Maybe in a few months or a few years, when we’re established, we might get back together 100%. Or we might not. Who knows? That’s the beauty of being in your early 20s- you have the freedom to change your mind so easily.

How has everyone else been the past couple of weeks?

Moving Up in the World!

Last week (as I’m sure you’ve heard from my drunken twitter tirade Saturday night), my co-worker told me that he had given his two weeks notice to my manager. Although I wasn’t really surprised and I was happy for him, it was a little saddening. He has been here from the beginning of my stint in the finance department, and he helped me out quite a bit at the beginning when I had 1 week of training and next to nothing as far as customer relations experience, let alone accounting knowledge. It’s the end of an era, as they say.

Before I even had time to wonder who I’d end up working with, my manager called me into the board room. I’ve been offered the Accounts Payable position, starting from my co-worker’s departure. I’m ecstatic. I’ve pulled myself rung by rung up the ladder from sorting product, to production paperwork, to being responsible for our money coming in, and now finally to paying out our funds- all in less than 2 1/2 years. I was given the opportunities, but I would have never gotten this far if I wasn’t good at what I do and passionate about my job. Plus, I’m being given opportunities to get involved in HR and purchasing as well. I’m able to take a shot at a lot of things to see what I enjoy, and that’s one reason that I really appreciate working for family. They expect a lot out of me and I’m more than happy to deliver.

Now, I don’t know if there will be a change in compensation. If there is, it wouldn’t come into place until the beginning of January. This isn’t really new- for the first 2 months in Accounts Receivable I was still working on an hourly basis for minimum wage. I actually think it’s a good system; it gives me a month to get acclimated, and a month to start kicking ass and look good for my performance review.

I know that I could still do my current job effectively at the same time as the new one, and I’d love to keep doing that; however, the question comes up of who covers for me when I’m gone? Traditionally, A/R covers for A/P and vice versa. I’m also a little bummed that I got pulled off the inventory data inputting for this month, because there’s so much else I have to do regarding getting the Receivables taken care of, training for Payables, and starting school this week.

Unfortunately all of this means that, once again, I have to put the blog on the back burner. I wanted to have all of this situated by the beginning of September, but it’s really not my month for organization apparently. There’s so many exciting, crazy awesome things going on at the moment that in the interest of quality posts, I have to keep them down to one every week and a half or so.

I’m still reading, and I’m still rooting all of you on from the sidelines! Just give me a few more weeks to walk off these growing pains and I’ll be back in the game.

This Week’s Grocery Trip

Since I moved to Oshawa I’ve been shopping at the Superstore and No Frills. This morning I was running out of food, and I’m running out of money since I just paid my rent, power bill, and cable/internet/phone bill- I had some unexpected expenses throughout August. I had about $75 to last me until I get paid on Friday. I was a little worried so I decided to try out a grocery store one of my friends told me abou that was supposed to be cheaper.

Man, did I ever score compared to what I was paying before.

3x Schneiders Smoke Turkey Breast 125g (0.67 each) – $2.00

2x Lunchables Chicken Nuggets (0.50 each) – $1.00

2x 2L Coca Cola ($2.00 each) – $4.00

Dempster’s Enriched Bread – $1.77

Box of Apple Jacks 345g – $0.99

Parmesan cheese – $2.99

Schneider sausages – $0.99

2x Mac and cheese (0.50 each) – $1.00

Cinnabon bars – $0.99

3x Sidekicks (0.67 each) – $2.00

2x packages of Spaghettini (0.99 each) – $1.98

Hot dog buns – $1.59

Bananas – $0.92

Toilet paper – $0.99

Paper towels – $0.88

Chicken rings – $2.99

Chicken leg quarters – $2.30

With HST I only paid $30.14 to feed myself for another couple of weeks. I’ve definitely found my new grocery store!

How do you save on your grocery bill? Do you have a specific store you frequent for good prices, or do you coupon and stock up?

Why Marijuana Should Be Legalized (From a Fiscal Perspective)

Note: This isn’t something that I want to turn into a hardcore debate. It’s just a discussion.

This stuff does not actually happen when you hang out with drug dealers.

I’ll begin this post by coming straight out into the open- I’ll admit to having smoked some pot in my late teenage years. I don’t use it anymore, and it’s the only drug beyond nicotine and alcohol I have ever touched. I don’t go to the marijuana marches, and I don’t own any bongs. I was also never arrested, I never trafficked, I never became dependent, and I was never “scared straight” by my parents. Therefore, on a personal level, I am not biased towards or against legalization. My experience with pot use was neither good nor bad- to me, it was just an experience. This will be a controversial topic, but the liberal Canadian in me just does not understand what the big deal is- and the accountant in me doesn’t understand why world governments are not taking advantage of all the sweet, sweet tax money legalization would bring in. I’m just looking at the numbers.

Let’s start by stating that in North America, the War on Drugs is not working. That’s just a fact. As of 2011 in the United States, 42.4% of people had tried marijuana at least once; in Canada, that number is 44.5%. That’s just the people who actually told the truth in the survey.

Now, just a quick side note before I’m blasted for advocating giving drugs to children: I’m not saying the government should let every single person have unlimited access to marijuana. I definitely agree that there should be an age floor for any type of drug, considering anything in excess for a growing teenager is  bad for the body. However, I remember that when I was 18 years old, before I hit the magical age of 19 where you’re all of a sudden responsible enough to drink or buy cigarettes in Ontario, it was cheaper and easier for me to buy ganja than it was to buy liquor or cigarettes. I’m talking exponentially easier. You would pick up the phone and within minutes, you’re making awkward small talk with some random dealer (because they always think they’re your friend, but they’re not your friend). Mere minutes after that, you’re on your way to the munchies.

This wouldn’t happen as often if marijuana was legalized, regulated, and taxed. Government regulation is not perfect, but with alcohol it cut down drastically on bootleg drinking. When was the last time you drank anything that came out of a still? Never, I’ll bet. Nowadays you need I.D. when you go to the LCBO or the Target or the corner store or wherever you can buy alcohol where you live. With marijuana, regulation would cut down ease of access for teenagers; it wouldn’t be as simple as calling any random friend.

Let’s get to cost-cutting, which is a big deal to Americans especially right now. According to the FBI, 45.6% of all drug sale/possession arrests in the United States consist of marijuana possession. That is an insane amount. What police department wouldn’t love to cut their costs by 45.6%? That’s not to mention the amount of people in prison just for marijuana possession, and how much that costs per person. In 2010, 51% of American inmates sentenced were found guilty on drug charges. It costs $44000 in the US to house an inmate for 1 year. With the number above, the government would spend $4, 288, 768, 000 to keep those drug offenders in prison for a year. That’s written correctly.  Four billion dollars. Divide that by 45.6%, the amount of possession charges grouped in there, and the government is spending $1, 955, 678, 208 a year to house people who were only caught with marijuana on their person. That’s not trafficking, or other drugs… that’s the cost of possession, on it’s own. That’s a nice little slice of the deficit there, isn’t it America?

In 1998 the Canadian government guessed that the drug trade was worth up to $10 billion annually. THAT IS AN INSANE AMOUNT OF MONEY TO BE PASSING UP. Assuming a 13% tax on $10 billion, our government could be making $1.3 billion a year from the tax revenue alone.

So my question is this… we have the United States with $17 trillion in debt and Canada with $590 billion owing. It has never been proven that there are any real serious health problems caused by marijuana (and in fact, it helps people with critical illnesses). Most people, clearly, have done it anyway, and those who do it on a regular basis clearly don’t care about the law. Deterrence hasn’t worked since the War on Drugs began in the first place. The governments have billions in potential revenue and billions in cost cuts at their disposal. So why on earth is no one advocating legalization?

The only immediate problem with legalization I can see that makes any sense is the fact that law enforcement officials have no way to quantify the amount of THC that is acceptable in a body while driving, nor do they have the ability to test for that acceptable amount by the roadside. And there’s also the fact that the governments did way too good of a job blaming the drug for all of life’s ills, and it would take a very long time to convince the public that smoking pot doesn’t actually give you reefer madness.

I think that eventually, common sense will prevail and marijuana will be legalized. I’m tentatively guessing twenty years.

What’s everyone’s opinion on this? From a pure economic standpoint, ignoring everything else, does legalization make sense to you?

Debt Hangover

The last couple of weeks I was so relieved to not have any debt, that I completely forgot that I was supposed to be controlling my spending.

Don’t worry. I didn’t get back into debt. I did, however, get lazy, spent too much on eating out, and didn’t save much.

I really think I should give myself a bit of a break from the PF save craze. Not stop completely, obviously- that would be going backward. However, I’ve been limiting myself to essentials since March. I have highlights grown down to my ears and ratty old clothes that need to be replaced. I also need new contact lenses, work shoes, to pay my step-dad back for my share of my mom’s birthday present, and to fix my phone screen- it has been shattered since April, and I’m starting to be able to shake shards loose. Basically, I need to shake off this hangover left from my debt and realize that IT’S OKAY TO SPEND MONEY AS LONG AS I HAVE IT. I’ll continue to make good choices, but I realized I was starting to hyperfocus on my net worth, which is never healthy.

That being said, I will still post- just not quite as often, because there’s less to say. For 2 years my life was all wrapped up into the fact that I had this consumer debt on my back. I guess I need to figure out who I am without the debt before I can move on from it!

So, I’ll post here maybe once a week, I’m still on twitter, and I’m also contributing over at Chic Darling as their book reviewer. I’m hoping to be back going strong once I’ve had a little vacation time.

Sayonara for now!

Sacrificing Cash For Location

…by how many crack deals you’ll see.

Since I’ve moved, I’m not really as shy about sharing where I live anymore. In fact, I’m actually pretty excited to announce that I now live in Oshawa, Ontario.

Oshawa is a city of about 150 000 and is pretty much as far east in the GTA as you’re going to get, situated between my hometown of Whitby and Clarington on the other side. If anyone remembers Jann Arden’s gaff a few months ago, Oshawa is the city she called “the middle of nowhere”. The economy is mainly supported by the GM plant in the south end of town, but they keep closing auto lines and laying people off. The city has the highest teen pregnancy rate, violent crime rate, and prostitution rate in Durham Region. The poverty rate in the south end is through the roof and in the areas surrounding downtown it’s almost guaranteed that there is a drug dealer on every street. It’s also home to Durham College (my school) and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in the Northern part of the city, which is a lot nicer and nicknamed “Poshawa”.

I was born in Stouffville (north of Toronto), but my parents moved to Whitby when I was 2. I spent 19 years in Whitby, if you count the year I lived in Waterloo going home every couple of weekends. Frankly, growing up in Whitby caused me to become a sheltered little brat. When I went into Oshawa, it was only to go to their mall because ours sucked. When I started driving, I’d lock my doors every time I drove through the city. So when M and I started our apartment search in May, we were skeptical of the dirty Shwa. When M got nowhere finding an apartment in my hometown and suggested we at least look east, it took a little convincing. However, now that I’ve been in Oshawa a couple of weeks, I have to admit that I love it. The cost of living is a bit cheaper, we picked a quiet area with a lot of seniors, and the rent is dirt cheap at $875 a month. The same apartment in Whitby would cost around $1200, just because of the location. As a plus, there have been no problems since I moved in (beyond coming home to see 9 cruisers, K9 and SWAT sitting outside my building, but that’s a hilarious story for another time).

Anyone from the GTA reading this is most likely laughing at me, but it’s true. I’m really proud to live here. There are some great people here, even if the city is a bit rough around the edges. Honestly, in certain lighting, I’d almost call Oshawa beautiful.

This pleasant surprise really made me think about the sacrifices people make for location. As far as Toronto is concerned, people try to stay out of Scarborough if possible while looking for a home. Depending on the area, you’re spending an extra $200 to $500 a month to live elsewhere in the city. Toronto is an extreme example as there’s been an increase in gang related violence in the past couple of months, but I’ve noticed that many people pass up housing opportunities based on an area’s reputation- even if the area really isn’t that bad. At the same time, others really don’t care where they live as long as they get the best price. I’m somewhere in the middle; I’m willing to move into a slightly less desirable area to cut my rent expense. At the same time I’m willing to spend enough money to not end up living at Jane and Finch. It’s a fine balance between being a miser and being too paranoid, and I think I mastered it the first time out on my own.

So out of curiosity, now I’m asking you: do you insist on spending more money to be in a better neighbourhood, or are you happier when your rent is as low as possible?

Back in Black, Baby!

My debts are paid, 2 months ahead of schedule, and I couldn’t be happier today. I actually sprouted some tears.

Thank you all for the support. This is such an amazing community that I’m glad to be a part of.

I’ll be back tomorrow to start blogging about how awesome being debt-free feels; I can’t even describe it right now. It’s too overwhelming.

Bigger and better things await!