Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Most Important Decision I’ll Ever Make

Well, this morning I was running out of my bedroom to get to work on time, and grabbed a pack of smokes from one of my cartons on the way. Both of them are lined up together at my door, so I don’t forget. All of a sudden, I thought “The fact that I smoke that many packs in a two week period is absolutely disgusting.”

See, before, at one pack at a time in my possession, it didn’t look too bad. $10 here, $10 there. That’s nothing, right?

I’ve been smoking for three years, since right after I turned 18. I have 25 cigarettes in each pack. Based on a pack a day, IN THE PAST THREE YEARS, I HAVE SMOKED 22725 CIGARETTES. That is seriously terrible. Even ONE does damage. Plus, have I ever mentioned that I was born with a heart defect that had to be corrected with surgery, and I still have a heart murmur? How I ever thought starting was a good idea is beyond me. I’m not even going to do the cost calculation right now, because I’ll probably get sick, or worse, burst into tears thinking about how much it has cost me.

When I started, everyone around me smoked, and that was my justification. My mom, my dad, my uncle, my step-dad, a bunch of my friends; all of them smoked. They couldn’t tell me to quit, because they’d be hypocrites. When Jay and I found each other, he smoked too, along with all three of his siblings and his parents.

Now, the dynamic has changed. My mom, dad, and step-dad have all quit (and stayed quit for once). My uncle still smokes, but not as much, and only outside. I don’t hang out with the friends that smoke anymore. Jay’s parents still smoke as much as ever, but that’s never in the house, so I can easily avoid it.

The straw that broke the camel’s back is when Jay quit two weeks ago. He was sick, so he decided to just stop until he got better. Then when the sickness was gone, he realized he felt better than he has in years- he started when he was 14 or so. He has almost lit up a couple of times since, but he always fought back and broke the cigarette at the last minute. I’m so proud of him. The bad news is now he won’t kiss me unless I brush my teeth, and he can smell the smoke on me clear across his house and it makes him sick. I’ve been on this fence for a while.

So, after these cartons are done, I’m quitting.

That leaves me with one last pack on my next payday, and I can use that weekend to detox. Other times when I tried to quit, it would be a random day when I ran out of cigarettes and was too lazy to go get more. The longest I’ve lasted was 2 weeks in university. Last year, I lasted two days. I’ve decided to take a different approach and allow myself to finish what I have, being mindful that I have a due date and that once the packs are gone, they’re gone for good and will never be replaced.

That being said, this is still an addiction. The habit of lighting a cigarette every hour is hard enough to break without the added stress of nicotine withdrawal clawing at your synapses (and trust me, I am a massive bitch when I’m withdrawing). Although I have every confidence in myself that my love of money (and not disgusting my boyfriend) will prevail in this, I very well may relapse. If I do, there’s no reason I wouldn’t be honest about it.

So, come April 6th, I’m seriously going to quit smoking. I don’t know if I will succeed this time, but I’m damn well going to try.

Now if you will excuse me, I need a smoke.

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Why Financial Security Is My Main Goal

Yes, I want to live better and get rid of my debt. I want to save for my retirement and be able to buy a home with at least a 50% down payment in a few years. I want to buy a car in cash and know I’m never paying interest on it.

But right now, my biggest goal is to be financially secure no matter happens.

I’m not sure how my job security situation is right now. The company is doing alright at the moment, but some internal factors are making me a bit nervous. Honestly, the situation could go either way. It’s all up in the air at the moment, and as I don’t have a diploma to back up my experience, I’m trying to prepare for the worst. It could be a year before it’s resolved, it could be six months. I really don’t know, and having no control over that scares me.

Right now, the company pays for my schooling. The company owns the cars we drive. Everything I have and everything I’ve ever earned is wrapped up in this company. As long as it’s around, there are opportunities for me. If this goes the other way, what would I do with $3000 in debt, no savings, and no diploma? I would be 100% screwed.

If the company survives (please god), I’d also have an opportunity to get a green card and assist with expansion in the US. Or I could stay here and work on development, while still doing A/R and making more money because of that. Who knows at this point? There are 50 different directions this could go.

The way I’ve planned this out, if I have a year, I could have $8,000 in the bank. Every extra month after that adds another $1000. If I need to, I can start over. I don’t think I’ll feel 100% safe until I have a large bank account and a designation, but for now $8,000 would be good enough. If nothing happens, I still have a head start on a future. That is priceless in itself.

I have been told by people in my life that I’m over-saving, and that I shouldn’t be working this hard at getting my net worth up. Since I’ve started this journey, I’m told all the time by friends that I should go have fun just this once. It’s always “Come party in Toronto Meghan, you make more than any of us do and we can afford it! Just this once, drop some money!” Well to me, spending just this once on something I really don’t need might mean not being able to pay my phone bill in six months. I am not willing to take that chance. Before I was buying cheap cartons of smokes each pack had me almost in tears, because I know it’s terrible for my financial health, but it’s the one spending habit that is too hard to stop so far. I need to feel secure before I can start spending comfortably again, and I won’t feel secure until I have a fully funded emergency fund. To me, that’s a year of the minimum I need to survive- that adds up to just over $16000. That includes rent if I needed to move out, food, phone bills, and an adequate amount for everything else.

I may sound a little nuts, but I don’t ever want to be unable to support myself if something happens.

What is your main reason for taking control of your finances? Kids, security, desire for wealth?

 

The Importance of Pet Insurance- Yes, Seriously

My family is big on dogs. Seriously. Not one of us has a cat. When we go to work, there are three dogs with us all day, every day. They all sit around my grandfather’s desk and he’ll lazily toss them treats while he’s on the phone. They get to lick our plates after we’re finished our steak. Sometimes in the summer, they’ll get doggie ice cream. They wear Toronto Maple Leafs sweaters and AC/DC t-shirts. They even have cakes for their birthdays. I wish I was kidding. It’s mostly an excuse to eat cake, but still. My relatives are THOSE people.

This is my mom’s bulldog, Gertie.

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Most people I’ve talked to don’t understand getting pet insurance. Sure, they need to go to the vet, but for Gertie, it would be about $750 a year in premiums. Who spends $750 a year on medical costs for their animals?

Well, with Gertie, that would have been a great deal.

My mom has had her for a year. In that time, she’s had a couple ear infections, her folds around her face have been infected, she needs special food because of her digestive system; all of the issues are related to her breed. It has been pretty interesting to see how many problems one dog can have. All the costs associated with that still would’ve been less than insurance premiums. Then she had an accident a couple months ago.

See, the other two dogs that we have are pretty small compared to Gertie, so she thinks she’s small too. So when the other two jumped off my back porch, she followed suit. She ripped a muscle in her back leg due to the impact, and she needed surgery to fix it. Surgery to the tune of over $2000. Then add in the painkillers, other medicine, follow-up appointments, and even us putting a fence on the porch this summer so she won’t do it again, and that is one expensive dog.

Obviously they don’t regret it because they love her, but you can bet my mom is kicking herself for not getting insurance for her.

So, a word to the wise; when you get an animal, treat it like a car, and insure it’s health! Research the breed and make sure you know what health problems they’re susceptible to, because let’s face it; many of us are suckers for our animals, and you don’t want to go into debt/deplete your emergency fund because Fluffy broke a leg.

I know it seems frivolous, but it could save you a huge chunk of cash.

First Pay Day!

Today is the first pay day of my debt reduction scheme, and I’ve already been paid- which means my bank account is already almost depleted.

My payments are as follows:

Credit Card #1: $248.00 (I bought something on iTunes yesterday and added the balance to the payment)

Credit Card #2: $75.00

Cell Phone: $61.00

My bank doesn’t let me transfer money to savings the same day, but my account has been set up to transfer $200 into my savings tomorrow, making my balance $600.

One of my co-workers can get me 2 cartons of cigarettes for $70, which cuts my spending for those in half. Once that transaction is done, I’ll have $145 left to last me two weeks. Honestly, as long as I make sure I have lunch every day for work, I can’t see myself spending much of it. I still have about $46 left on my Petro gift card if I want a magazine or some snacks for whatever reason, and I need new jeans but have a gift card to Bluenotes that hasn’t been used. Whatever is left at the end of my pay period will be split in half and each half will be allocated either to credit card #1 or my savings. No stone is left unturned.

I know that I have to look at getting my passport renewed and get contacts, so I might take the half left over going towards savings and put that into a different account for these items. I might decide for simplicity’s sake to leave it in my main savings account and take it out as I need it- who knows. I’m still figuring it out.

For this weekend, I’m going to see The Hunger Games, but I’m taking my sister as a favour to my mom. She’s giving us some of her movie coupons so Jay and I can just enjoy the movie and not worry about what we’re spending (no popcorn, and we’ll smuggle candy in from Petro if necessary). Other than that, Jay’s sister recently moved back to Ontario from Nova Scotia, so we’ll likely spend some time with her when I’m not doing homework. It should be pretty low-key, which sounds AMAZING after the week I’ve had.

Balances After Payments:

Credit Card #1: $202.34

Credit Card #2: $2898.62

Total Debt: $3100.96

Savings: $600.00

Total Net Worth (excluding chequing account)- March 21st, 2012: $-2500.96

Next time I get paid, I can pay off credit card #1 and apply the rest to credit card #2. Then, the real fun begins!

Happy Friday!

I Love Finding Money

You know that awesome feeling you get when you slip on your winter jacket in November, put your hand in your pocket, and find a $20 bill? I had the equivalent yesterday.

For Christmas, I usually get a lot of gift cards along with clothes, books and some jewelry. The cards always end up thrown in the black hole that is my purse, forgotten until I clean it out.

Well, yesterday I was on my way over to Jay’s when I stopped at the gas station for some smokes. As I pulled out my debit card cringing that I’d be spending another $8.50 from my sparse chequing account, I noticed that there was a red card poking out from behind my Sephora Beauty Insider card (more on that obsession in a later post). I pulled it out, and lo and behold it was a $100 Petro Canada gift card. I had completely forgotten about it for 2 years. And what a coincidence, I was at a Petro! I almost did a jig in the parking lot. Since I buy nothing but cigarettes during the week, my balance is safe until I get paid again.

I was looking through my wallet later and found a whole bunch of other gift cards that I’m pretty sure were never used. I have a Tim Horton’s card, a Bluenotes card, a Swiss Chalet card- how the hell did I never use these? It’s currency at places I go regularly! Once I finish kicking myself, I’ll be going out this weekend and splurging guilt-free; after checking the balances of course.

I love these small victories.

My First Weekend of Barely Spending

On Friday, I had the day off because my siblings are on March Break. All day I had two teenagers, three dogs, and a very sick boyfriend to keep track of. As a result, I didn’t spend any money. Saturday, I bought cigarettes and lunch, totaling about $21.

Today I’m at the doctors office, waiting in a cesspool of germs for my boyfriend to get checked, because I’m pretty sure Jay has strep throat. No spending yet, but the Starbucks across the parking lot is looking very tempting.

Ugh, not the best weekend I’ve ever had- but compared to the past where I was known to drop $250 in a weekend, I’m not doing too bad!

How was everyone else’s weekend?

The Girl Behind the Curtain

At this point, anyone who has been reading along knows a lot about my finances, but not much about me. On the personal side, I’m pretty average. I have a younger brother and a younger sister, and my parents are divorced. Both have remarried in the past couple of years. I live with my grandfather, because my mother and I have a MUCH better relationship when I don’t live with her. I rarely have spare time, but when I do I read, exercise (not as much as I should), play around with Excel, and hang out with friends. Up until a couple of months ago I went out to clubs and bars a lot, but I don’t have time for it anymore (not to mention I can’t afford it). I’ve been with my boyfriend Jay for 10 months on and off. In April we’ll be celebrating a year together.

WORK AND COLLEGE

I haven’t exactly been secretive about what I make every month (some quick math should give you an idea), and many people I know ask me why I don’t make more, since the industry average for my job is approximately $34,000. My salary doesn’t even reach the bottom of the industry pay scale.

There are two very good reasons for this.

  1. My company is pretty small.

Okay, so why don’t I leave and try my luck elsewhere?

Well, I can’t. Not just because it’s my family’s company, but because of my second reason for not being paid what I should be.

2.   I’m not technically qualified to do what I’m doing.

When I left high school, I wanted to be a history teacher. I went to WLU for an Honours History program. For a number of reasons (the school was overcrowded, the classes were not what I expected, I became extremely depressed, and I preferred taking shots over doing my assignments), I left after the first year and moved home to live with my dad. I spent the next month trying to find a job but wasn’t hired anywhere, no matter what I tried. Eventually, my mom called me and offered me a job. I began working in the warehouse for minimum wage. A few months later, I was trained to work in finance for a few weeks, because our A/R person had a family emergency to attend to. That employee never ended up coming back, so the job was mine.

I was only trained for A/R for a week. Literally. After that, I was on my own. My supervisor helped a lot at first, but I needed to adapt very quickly to succeed. I knew that if I didn’t do my job properly I’d be exiled back to the warehouse and they’d hire someone new. So I worked my ass off to prove myself, and I still do. A couple months into the promotion, I got bumped to salary with a small raise. A year later, I have had the highest raise percentage for two years running. I also started classes for an Accounting diploma. As of April, I’ll have 10 of the 35 credits I need to complete. After I finish, I’ll hopefully be able to bridge into the third year of a Bachelor of Commerce university degree, which I need to be admitted into the CGA program. My hope is that after I’m completely finished my education (with a conservative end date of 8 years from now), I’ll be able to become a controller and rake in some serious cash. It’ll be a long hard road, but I’m totally willing to do it if it means I’m secure in my future.

For now I’m okay with my salary, considering my company pays for my schooling. However, it’s not enough for me to live independently at this point- rent in my town is insanely expensive compared to the next city east. Maybe once my debt is gone and I feel comfortable with my savings, I can find a friend who isn’t crazy and/or broke to move out with and start up on my own. As it is, I have consistently gotten raises as I become more skilled and am able to take on more responsibility, so I really hope that continues- at least until I finish my diploma and can negotiate a little more.

Has anyone else gotten an education while working full-time? How long did it take?