Monthly Archives: June 2012

Debt update for June 2012

I just got paid, and my money is already gone.

HOWEVER, that’s totally a good thing, because I currently owe under $1000!

+760.54  PAYCHEQUE

-435.40  CREDIT CARD 2 (PAID OFF!)

-56.57    TELUS

-24.95    CREDIT CARD 1 (MONTHLY BALANCE PAID IN FULL)

-90.34    (REPLENISHED OUR HOUSEHOLD FUND FOR PURCHASE)

-153.28 BALANCE TRANSFER CARD

My balance leftover on the low interest (1.99%) transfer card is $958.14. My debt on March 15th was $3415.97 split between two cards at 19.95% and 11.99% interest. That means I’ve paid off $2457.83 of credit card debt in 3 and a half months.

I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!!!

Now, paying that much to my debt left 0, zip, nada in my chequing account. But that’s okay. I’ve gotten pretty used to having no money whatsoever in preparation for this move. I’m also expecting to be paid back by my brother, who owes me $40, and I’m due for a Trillium Benefit/HST cheque from the government, which should be about $60. Both of those tiny windfalls will be deposited and immediately redirected to my debt. Every cent counts right now, because in July I’ll only be able to put about $437.50 towards debt, and in August that amount will have to be allocated to rent. In August, I’ll be lucky to put up $200 on debt. I’m still hoping to have all my debt paid off by the end of September, by whatever means possible (Cue me singing I Believe in Miracles).

This has been the best start to summer I’ve ever had. I’m really proud of myself for being so vigilant, and I’m looking forward to being able to tell all of you that I’m debt free!

This weekend I’m driving down to Niagara Falls with my mom, step-dad, brother and sister to see Death Cab for Cutie and The Tragically Hip tomorrow, which I’m so excited for! The Hip is Canadiana at its finest, and I grew up listening to them. Their songs remind me of a simpler time- it’s like listening to home. Don’t even get me started on Death Cab, either. I was obsessed with them in my senior year of high school. Hearing any song off Transatlanticism makes me feel like a teenager again.

On Sunday we’re going to do the Maid of the Mist boat ride under the falls, because none of us have ever done it before. You couldn’t pick a better weekend than Canada Day to be in the falls. Plus, my mom knows how hard I’m working to save for the move and become debt-free, so she offered to cover my weekend. That’s why I was able to pay so much down on debt this week. So, since I know she will read this as she found the blog earlier this week, thanks mom! I love you!

Just in case anyone is interested in hearing what I’ll be rocking out to tomorrow, here are my favourite songs from The Tragically Hip and Death Cab for Cutie.

Happy Canada Day, and to all my readers from elsewhere, have a great weekend!

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How’s your time budget?

This is a call for coffee and sleep. My synapses aren’t firing properly. My days are never-ending and full of suffering. I can’t feel my fingers because I’ve been typing so much.

Last night in economics my professor went on for an hour about random things that had nothing to do with our coursework (wasting my time), so in between rolling my eyes and pointedly glancing at the clock, I went through my coursework and figured out all my due dates in an attempt to schedule my assignments. I have no idea when I’ll be getting all of this done. I will probably have to just not sleep until August.

Operations I

  • Assignment due July 16th
  • Test 2 on July 16th
  • Final exam on July 30th

Management Info Systems

  • Mid-term exam, July 4th
  • Assignments due July 12th and 19th, and August 2nd and 9th
  • Major Assignment due July 26th
  • Final exam week of August 10th-17th (have to schedule to write)

Economics I

  • Case study due July 9th
  • Other assignment due July 9th
  • Case study, due date TBD
  • Test 2 on July 17th
  • Final exam August 7th

Just in the week following my move on July 15th, I have two tests and an assignment due. The tests are on consecutive days right after the move.

Thank god I’m so kick-ass at my job, because I’ve pretty much done all I can for the month of June- now I just sit back and watch the money roll in. For the most part, when I’m done with my calls or have no paperwork to do after 4:00 (accountants tend to leave early or refuse to take my calls late in the workday), my supervisor allows me to work on my coursework. As a result, I’m hoping that today I’ll be able to knock as many assignments off my list as possible to free up time later for studying.

So since we’re personal finance aficionados and we love budgets, I’m going to attempt to budget my time for a week.

This is how it looks:

There are 168 hours in a week.

Work: 40 hours

Sleep: 49 hours

Commute: 6.25 hours (half hour in the mornings, 45 minutes in the evenings, five days a week)

Class Time: 6 hours (two physical classes, three hours each)

Eating: 7 hours (about 20 minutes a meal, three meals a day, seven days)

Grooming: 7 hours (Half hour in the morning, half hour at night, though this is conservative; I like my winged eyeliner, don’t judge me!)

Isn’t it crazy how much time we spend doing the most basic things?

I was hoping to get my #pfworkout on at least twice a week and I won’t let myself justify missing that, so there’s another two hours gone.

Workout: 2 hours

All the basics add up to 157.25 hours. That’s before hanging out with friends, doing homework, working on my third online course, or anything else!

I only have 10 hours and 45 minutes of extra discretionary time in a week.

That is insane. With this workload on top of moving, I’ll be cutting wherever I can to make ends meet (sound familiar?).

That doesn’t leave all that much time for blogging, so I might be a bit MIA for a little while. I’ll be spending tonight working on some pre-scheduled posts if possible, and I will definitely be posting my payments every second Friday. I’m hoping to never go more than three days without a post- we’ll see how it goes! I have 3 or 4 ideas for posts that will fit anywhere I’d need them, so I might just be okay until my “vacation” starts in the middle of August.

How does your time get budgeted?

Jumping on the bandwagon of 20 things about me

This is me, circa 1994. Even then I had a pretty good idea that duck ponchos weren’t in style.

This week I’ve seen a few blogs such as Making Sense of Cents and Budget & the Beach posting 20 random things about themselves, and since I lack anything more interesting to say today I figured I’d jump in on that as well.

1. Pregnancy jokes aside, I actually enjoy eating candy cane ice cream with dill pickles. Seriously.

2. Speaking of ice cream, my great-grandfather invented heavenly hash.

3. My favourite movie changes all the time, but it usually fluctuates between Gone With the Wind, Dazed and Confused, and Pulp Fiction.

4. I played volleyball and lacrosse in middle school, but I hated sports in high school.

5. I used to play guitar, but I only knew about 20 chords.

6. I went on a trip when I was 16 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. We travelled through London, Belgium, and France.

7. Last autumn my dad married his long-time girlfriend, who lives in Cuba. I’ve never met her, or her three daughters.

8. I was a second mom to my brother and sister until I moved away at 18.

9. I love Sidney Crosby with a passion. Yum.

10. I’m friends with all of my exes, no matter what.

11. I went to bible camp for two weeks every summer for 9 years.

12. I love Drake, he’s my favourite artist right now.

13. I have 500 books, easily, that I won’t throw out or give away no matter what. It makes moving quite interesting.

14. I’ve never been one to buy a lot of clothes, because I always plan to wait until I lose some weight- which I never do.

15. I saw Justin Bieber live in 2009, and it literally took a song and a half before we realized it was a guy singing. We went for a festival, and he just happened to be performing- this was way before he got really famous though. I believe Akon was the headliner that night.

16. I get up and start my days so quickly because if I’m given the chance, I’ll sit at home and watch netflix all day long. If I don’t keep going, I lose ALL motivation.

17. I’ve never played beer pong and I turn down every opportunity to do so. I know I’d lose terribly, and I don’t know if I still have the alcohol tolerance to handle a total annihilation.

18. Even though I love my job, I hate my accounting classes. They’re so dry. I much prefer learning any other sector of business.

19. I love mirrors. If there’s a mirror, a window, or anything reflective near me, I stare at myself. I’m probably a border-line narcissist.

20. I actually don’t really like the city I’m moving to next month, but apartments in my town are scarce and the ones that exist are beyond our budget.

Do I have anything in common with anyone?

How to get and keep a good credit score

Even though I still owe about $1500 on my credit cards, when I checked Equifax in May I had a 737 score. That has inevitably dropped a bit because I applied for another credit card (to be explained tomorrow, it’s only for a balance transfer, don’t stone me), but that should give you an idea of what my credit looks like.

Considering I had a high debt-to-credit ratio when my information was reported, and that I won’t have 2 full years of credit history until September, that is pretty damn good.

Many in the personal finance world are adamant that you shouldn’t worry about your credit score. Since no one wants to be in debt, there’s no reason to care right?

I understand their points, but I disagree to an extent. I agree that no one should maintain a good score just to be able to rack up consumer debt easily, like car loans and credit cards; after having to cut down on so much just to pay my debts and STILL not being done, I never want this experience again. However, good credit helps in numerous areas of life.

For example, people with good credit scores get better mortgage rates. In the greater Toronto area, the housing market is solid for now. The average home in my neighborhood costs $400 000, and I’m half an hour east of the city. You’d need a down-payment of $80 000 to even get considered for a mortgage in my area; very few people can cough up that kind of money, let alone a higher down payment. A good credit score can save a buyer thousands in interest over the years. Good credit can also drop the amount needed as deposits for services, allow you to rent an apartment (my credit is probably the number one factor in why M and I were accepted for our place), and even be the tipping point on a decision to hire you. If you are interviewing for a job in the financial industry and it’s a choice between you and someone with identical credentials and a better credit score, the other person is likely to be hired.

I haven’t done much right with my finances, but keeping my credit score high is something I’m proud of. Here’s how I did it.

I pay my credit card bills twice a month and pay more than the minimum.

I get paid biweekly, and I have just never mastered doing a monthly budget; it gets complicated. I prefer to work my finances on a two week basis. What I do with every bill over $30 is split it in half, and pay out to them twice. I pay my bills as soon as possible after I receive funds. Since they are paid every two weeks, I never incur late fees and I never get red flags on my report. Even with my phone bill, where I don’t know the exact amount of what I’ll owe until the middle of the month, I estimate. Also, with my credit cards, I have never paid minimums. Even when I was maxed out, I’d always put at least $300 from each pay towards my debt. It was partially because I was lying to myself (“see, I’m paying it off!”), and partially because I knew I just wouldn’t remember the due date. However, it has really helped with keeping my score high. There aren’t ever any lates on my report.

I limit my inquiries.

I have a friend who applies for lots of credit cards just to get the rewards they offer, and then never uses them beyond the initial gum purchase needed to activate it. I can’t do that. That’s not only for the obvious reason (recovering credit addict, no way), but because numerous inquiries wreak havoc on your report. When you apply for a lot of credit in one sitting, loan and credit companies assume you’re scrambling for money and need credit to dig yourself out. Hey, it happens, and they’re right to be cautious of that. I don’t ask for credit very often, but in the past month I have two inquiries; one from a bank about a credit card to transfer my balance and save some interest, and one from the realty company I’ll soon be renting from. That’s the most I’ve ever had on my report in one month. I actually have only applied for new credit every 9 months or so. Apparently that looks good.

I pull my credit report and look through it as much as possible.

I’m anal about my credit. It’s my baby. Seriously, ask my mom. I brag so much about my score that she knows my credit history by heart. So when  I get a  chance to check my history, I do it. At least every six months I send away for my report. I stare lovingly at all the R1s for a few minutes, and then start picking meticulously through every single word and number to make sure there’s nothing that I didn’t initiate. My mom was a victim of identity theft before I was born when someone got a hold of her SIN number; that’s all it took. Plus, once your identity is stolen, apparently it’s a special kind of hell trying to get people to believe that you didn’t mortgage a house in Nigeria using goats as collateral. Because of that, I check EVERYTHING with a metaphorical fine tooth comb. I haven’t had any issues as of yet, thank god. However, always look; if you catch erroneous entries early you can isolate the damage.

CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

The above is obviously just how I handle myself, but it has worked really well for me so far.

Does anyone else do things differently, or have some extra tips?

First full day of summer, baby!

I plan on spending a lot of time here this summer.

Although my summers have changed drastically since I graduated high school in 2009, I still get excited every time temperatures creep above 25 (Celsius in good old Canadia). Up here in Toronto, summer is coming in like a lion- yesterday it felt like 109 Fahrenheit with the humidity. That’s why I find it hilarious when people think Canada’s always cold; our summers are just as harsh as in the US.

Either way, summer has always been a magical time for me, whether there’s three months of vacation or not. Every year I plan to have the BEST SUMMER EVER, and this year will be no different. My friend over at Budget & the Beach posted some questions that she is asking herself this week to prepare for summer, and I thought they were really thought-provoking. They originally appeared on Mind Body Green.

How has the start of summer made you thirsty for your greatest happiness?

I love warm weather. Come on, I live in Canada- when we hear stories about schools shutting down in some states because of three inches of snow, we laugh hysterically. 14 Fahrenheit to me is slightly chilly. When the sun comes out and I can finally wear a tank top without a sweater, something in me lights up. I actually want to get up and do things- you won’t catch me exercising much in the winter, but in the summer I’ll go on a 6 mile bike ride and not bat an eyelash. Instead of holing myself up in my house, the warmth and sunlight gets me out and moving.
What new steps are you taking that are really important to you?

I’m taking the steps to be a lot more organized and work more efficiently, which gives me more time to do things for myself. Even if I don’t get everything accomplished that I had hoped, lately I have forced myself to take at least one hour a day to just exist and do whatever I want. I’m also trying to be a lot healthier, because if I take care of my body it will take care of me.
What are you nurturing that really matters to you?

Lately I’m nurturing my self-esteem in numerous ways. I often don’t really like myself for various reasons, so I’ve been attempting to eat healthier, dress well, treat myself to (cheap) haircuts, and take care of my appearance. I’m also taking the time to really try to excel at anything I do, because that helps my self-esteem as well.
What are you doing to stay creative? 

Obviously this blog helps. I’m a little rusty with my writing (I’m an accounting clerk, gimme a break), so I’ve been taking the chance to hone my skills back up seriously. I also had a CRAZY idea for a novel yesterday, and I’ve been tinkering with the details of that in my head. I might write it all out just for practice, because even with all my accounting plans,  I’ve always known I want to be a writer. Really, I’ve always known that. With every career change I thought about when I was a kid, I planned to write about it.  I’d say “I’m going to be a vet- and then write a book about being a vet!”, or “I’m going to be the lead in Riverdance- and then write a book about being the lead in Riverdance!” I kid you not, I did that.
What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about my upcoming move, picking my classes for next semester in July, spending time with my friends this summer- I’m excited about a lot, to be honest.
Where are you growing?

I’m growing intellectually and emotionally. With every day that goes by, I feel like a better me.
What 3 things are you fired up to do this summer?

I’m fired up to finally move, see The Tragically Hip and Death Cab for Cutie in concert on June 30th, and have new experiences with my loved ones.
What role does imagination have in your life?

Imagination is all I have, and it’s what gets me through. I dream about what I can accomplish, and I know I can do as much as I put my mind to doing.

Those are really great questions, and they’ve made me even more excited to start the season off right!

Tonight I’ll be doing one thing, and one thing only- sitting on my porch with a good book, watching the sun set on the beginning of another glorious summer, brimming with opportunities to seize.

I hope everyone’s having a wonderful day!

I’m now on Twitter!

I completely forgot on my last post, but in case anyone is interested, Financial Confessions of a Former Brat is now on twitter.

If you’re so inclined, go log in and follow @FCFBBlog.

Hope everyone’s hump day was as painless as possible!

The organization continues…

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m a bit of a slob. I’m always losing things, which causes my stress to skyrocket. Things are eaten by my purse, my suitcases, my desk, and my bedroom because until recently I have never, EVER put anything back. I’ve always been very relaxed about where things go, but lately I’ve been realizing that “controlled chaos” isn’t gonna fly for much longer.

So when I found a free minute at work, I got to work on the ultimate symbol of my affinity to sloth.

Behold, Meghan’s purse.

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My once beautiful Tommy Hilfiger handbag is now a bastion of unneeded baggage- the place that projects go to die, if you will. I cart it with me all day, every day. At its worst it weighed 10 pounds. Also, my purses were never, ever emptied. When I get tired of the clutter, I switch the essentials over to a new purse. I also have a vintage Coach, a current Coach, a Nine West, various small clubbing purses and one brown handbag I got for $3 at Payless.

Before, I didn’t care how much stuff I carted. When all of my purses were filled to the brim with random odds and ends, I rejoiced. I would just run out and buy another bag!

Now my time is worth money. When I have to spend 10 minutes digging for my iPhone in my purse, that’s a problem. In a lifestyle where every minute is accounted for, I have no time for scavenger hunts caused by disorganization. Besides, I’m uncluttering my finances as we speak; why not unclutter the rest of my life as well? Let’s not forget that purses look much sleeker when they aren’t bulging at the seams.

Altogether, I find that I look a lot better and have higher self esteem when I’m projecting an image of being put together. When I’m not physically organized, I’m not looking my best.

I dumped everything out and did an inventory of everything I had crammed into a space too small for any computer larger than a netbook. If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, Hermione’s expanding beaded handbag comes to mind.

I found:

  • 4 pens
  • Headphones
  • 2 iPhone chargers
  • Brush
  • Comb
  • Wallet
  • Nicorette gum and patches
  • Money Sense and Cosmopolitan
  • A gift certificate to a pub that my grandfather gave me 3 months ago
  • Tons of papers including credit card statements, pay stubs, to do lists, subscription offers, and mail that was never sent
  • A notebook
  • Cheque book
  • Kobo e-reader

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This is my baby. I carry it everywhere. It holds up to 1000 books. It’s a bibliophile’s wet dream.

Out of the depths of organizational hell also came my makeup bag. So I inventoried the contents of that too, just for kicks.

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  • 5 lipglosses
  • 2 mascaras
  • 1 liquid eyeliner
  • 1 pencil eyeliner (not shown)
  • 1 perfume stick (Clinique Happy, love)
  • 1 concealer
  • 6 eyeshadows, all in various shades of pink and brown
  • Eyeshadow brush
  • Blotting papers
  • 1 compact which is actually from Russia, and is probably one of the coolest things I own.

SERIOUSLY? I carry that much stuff every day for basically no reason? WHY ON EARTH DO I DO THAT?

I can’t put the papers left over where they belong until I get home, but it’s all now in a folder and I’ll be going over it all tonight. After some toiling, my purse looks much better. I believe that if my friends from high school could see this, they would agree that I’m no longer worthy of the nickname “Bag Lady”.

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This year I have realized that I have to run my life like a machine. Everything in its place, everything with a purpose and everything contributing to a goal. Anything that hinders my goals gets tossed. Otherwise, the machine breaks down and it’s a costly mistake. The analogy is true whether I apply it to my career, my health, or my finances.

Does anyone else have a similar outlook?