Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am banning myself...

...from the "Extra Foods" store near our house.  Somehow every single time I go in that store I spend money I didn't intend to.  It's probably because it's where I run in quickly for a few things, and I almost always have 3 kids in tow, and it almost always seems to be close to meal times where the kids are whiny and cranky and I will give just about anything to keep them quiet.  Today the damage was workbooks for the kids and two cat toys, the other day it was bubbles and some clothes.  The other grocery store in town is only slightly further away, and their prices are slightly higher, but there are no temptation items there, just food.  And as a bonus they give the kids a free cookie which usually dissuades any other begging.
Last week Nick and I watched the documentary, "No Impact Man" on Netflix, and I've got to say, it really got me thinking!

As much as we *say* that we care about the environment and treading lightly on the earth, we're not doing a very good job of living that.  We get complacent and buy packaged snacks, we buy chemical laden beauty products, we got lazy over the winter and stopped composting - all of these things add up!

The thing is, being eco-friendly is also very frugal.  Pre-packaged convenience food and fast foods are all heavily packaged, not very healthy, and EXPENSIVE.  Leaving lights on, water running, and turning up the heat/air conditioning adds up in cost.  Driving too much racks up the cost of gas pretty quickly with the price these days.  And buying used rather than new is almost always cheaper.  So if it saves money - why aren't we all doing it?  Of course the trade-off to it being cheaper, is that it takes more TIME, something that we're all on short supply of these days.

I've really been struggling with things that take more time these days.  With the goals I've set for work I am spending around 6 hours every day working, add that to the fact that I am the primary caregiver for 3 kids, I prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every day, and I am solely responsible for meal planning, shopping, and laundry.... and yeah, time is in VERY short supply.  But something that I need to reconcile with myself is that it's not always about the money.  In this case, the positives far outweigh any negatives in terms of time spent.

With back-to-school here I think our first and biggest challenge is going to be resisting buying packaged snacks and making everything at home and using reusable containers.  The best part about making everything yourself is that you end up with ingredients with lots of possibilities!  Less packaging, more cupboard space, and more creativity.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Spending totals for August 21 to 27, 2011

Pretty good week overall!  Although I have to say it was really forced upon us as there was no money to use!

August 21/11
$75.00 Chair bought from friend
$36.41 Fuel - car

August 22/11
$87.30Life insurance $87.30
+$39.20 Gymboree store return
+ $18.88 Costco store return

August 23/11
No spend!

August 24/11
$517.60 Car payment
$7.99 Netflix

August 25/11
$211.83 Car/home insurance
$25.95 Canadian Living magazine subscription
$6.59 Nick - lunch bought at work

August 26/11
$111.97 No Frill's
$70.23 Fuel - van

August 27/11
No spend!

Total spending for the week (including debt repayment): $1092.79

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Grocery Shopping: The "I'm finally getting it together!" edition

I am super proud to report that this was a good week!  I had a fun and frugal day with the kids yesterday.  I spent the morning working while Nick took the kids for a bike ride.  We then had lunch and headed out for the afternoon - I was a bit scared because I'm trying to get the kids to give up naps in an attempt to get them to sleep better at night.  We went to the next town, had some fun at the playground, then walked along the gorgeous river pathway to the library.  I've never been to this library before and it was awesome!  The kids section is so well laid out with bins of books organized with pictures so the kids could easily select their own, and sections devoted to transportation, dinosaurs, and just about any category you could think of..  They loved it!
We then walked back to the car and headed out to do our shopping.  The kids were a bit rowdy at the grocery store, but we got everything on our list and I managed to get them to stop asking for things ever 2 seconds... it was a good day!

Here's the loot!

No Frill's

No Name soda crackers $2.29
President's Choice coffee $13.99
Real Fruit gummies $1.00 (treat for the boys back to school snacks)
No Name canned fruit cocktail x2 $2.00
No Name pear halves $1.00
No Name penne $1.00
President's Choice butter chicken sauce $3.79
Courtis tahini $6.49 (this should last a good 6 months for making homemade hummus)
Corn flakes x2 $2.00
Gold fish x2 $4.00

Firecracker popsicles $3.49

2% milk $4.53 (+$0.31 deposit)
Table cream $3.34 (+$0.11 deposit)
Whipping cream $2.99 (+$0.11 deposit) (for making homemade scones)
No name old cheddar cheese $7.99
Astro balkan style yogurt $2.49 (to make homemade naan, also going to use as a starter to make our own yogurt)
Cheese strings $2.00
Silani havarti cheese slices $2.00
Babybel cheese $4.37 (less $1.00 coupon)

Frozen raw shrimp x2 $6.00
Ham Shank $7.19
Whole chicken $6.02
Pork back ribs $9.72

No name sourdough english muffins x2 $2.00

Dole coleslaw $1.50 (works out better than buying the ingredients individually since we won't use a whole cabbage)
Celery $1.97
Asparagus $2.72
Green onions $0.49
Strawberries $2.00
D'anjou pears $3.85
Green peppers (4 ct) $1.99
Yellow onions $1.99
Garlic $0.88
Nectarines $2.79

Subtotal: $121.59
GST: $0.22
Less Superbucks $9.62 (Canadians - stay tuned, I'm going to post about why you should get be using PC)
Grand Total: $111.97


Bananas $1.69
Jazz apples $6.49
Romaine lettuce $3.99
Cucumbers $3.49
Watermelon $5.99
Tomatoes $4.99

Baby dill pickles $6.89
Canola oil $6.49

Kitty litter $7.99
Flowers $9.99
Roses $17.99

Subtotal: $75.99
GST: $1.80
Grand Total: $77.79

Costco was actually FREE though because we are executive members and received our rewards cheque this week which was $102.64.  I still have $24.85 to use the next time we are at Costco.

So total grocery outlay for the week, just $111.97.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Food Waste and Meal Planning

I'm feeling very organized and on the ball today!  Could have something to do with the fact that I actually had a night off last night, and none of my kids woke up during the night (which is nothing short of a miracle around here).

We failed miserably with the food waste this week.  No pictures as I just tossed stuff throughout the week as I found it, but we had some fresh parsley and cilantro, some small amounts of leftovers, a bag of bagels that I pulled out of the freezer that just didn't taste quite right, and some strawberries that went bad WAY too quickly.

This will be a MUCH better week I'm sure.

Our meal plan this week is pretty basic.  I'm mainly working with what's on hand with the addition of some fresh produce and dairy.  Tonight's meal is a bit more elaborate since Nick and I are doing at-home date night.

Butter chicken
Curried chickpeas
Beef vindaloo
Basmati rice

Salmon croquettes
Lemon pepper rice

Parmesan chicken
Buttered penne
Green salad

Chow mein

Red beans & rice
Cucumber salad

Penne w/ vodka sauce and shrimp
Caesar salad

Vegetable soup
Cheese paninis

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Live Like No One Else

I made the stark realization last night that I am not living the life that I want to.  I feel like a workaholic lately, taking time away from family, myself, and my home to plug away and earn more money - all so that we can repay past mistakes.  And those past mistakes?  Not even anything that was remotely worth the sacrifices we are having to make now.

While I could make myself miserable over this, I'm not going to.  We spent the money, we used the credit, now we've got to do the time.  It makes me more resolute in my resolve to get out of this mess though.  No more sneaking in magazines to the grocery cart, giving into the temptation to buy convenience foods, or purchase clothing or toys we don't need.  Those are not the things that matter to me.

If I look at what I really value it is time with my friends and family, the ability to have guests over, getting out into nature, and travelling.  Sadly I think early in our marriage Nick and I didn't really have the time and money to do what we really loved doing (travel), so we tried to fill that void with stuff.  You don't even realize you're doing it until it's too late, and no matter how much stuff you have that void just gets bigger and bigger.

I have some pretty big dreams for my family - I want to go back to school to become a midwife, I want Nick to have the freedom to quit his job and find what he is passionate about, I want to be able to take my children on vacations and visit our family in England (whom we haven't seen in 6 years!).  Most of all, I just want freedom from these chains of debt that are holding us down.

I'm moving forward with a new resolve.  The debt is temporary, but the changes we make to our lifestyle now are going to have a lasting impact for years to come.  There is no going back, only forward.

As Dave Ramsey says, "If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else."

Food for Thought Today

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Budget August 26th to September 8th

Traditionally I have always budgeted around Nick's pay cheques as he earns more money and this makes the most sense.  I have decided, however, to start looking at our money in a bit of a different way. I sat down and divided our money into sections - Nick's cheques will cover all of our regular expenses (so essentially we live off of only his income), my cheques will cover all of the debt repayment (so the more I earn the faster we can pay it off!), and the Universal Child Care benefit we receive from the government will be used for expenses for the kids (like school fees, activities, clothing, and toys).  It's still the same money, I'm just looking at it in a different light.

I kept our grocery budget low for this budget term so that I can focus on using up what's in the cupboards and freezer.


Nick's pay cheque $2460.00 (This is an estimate, Nick's raise kicks in this pay cheque so it may be higher)
My pay cheque $1200.00 (I was hoping it would be higher, but there were some problems with the remote system last night and I couldn't get as much work done as I had planned on)


Debt repayment

$260.00 Money owed to mom
$50.00 PC M/C Payment
$33.96 Personal Tax Instalment
$56.00 Corporate Tax Instalment

Total: $399.96


$161.34 Cell phones
$300 Electricity & gas
$2.72 Phone & internet (there was an error on last month's bill, hence why it's so low this month)

Total: $464.06

$1305 Mortgage

Total: $1305.00


$66.00 Gabe's preschool fees
$57.50 Tristan's school fees (one time yearly fee)
$155.00 Tristan's scout fees (one time yearly fee)

Total: $278.50


$35 Bank fees
$100 Sump pump (to flush our tankless hot water heater - this will be a one time cost that will save us lots of money in paying a serviceman to come out and do it for us)

Total: $135.00

Life (discretionary categories):

$80 Spending money
$350 Fuel
$300 Groceries
$40 Entertainment
$125 Misc.

Total: $895.00

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When you're a SAHM, but not really...

I came to the realization today that I need to redefine my "title".  I tend to refer to myself as a stay at home mom, but that's not really true.

I started working from home back in April.  At the time the work flow was much different than it is now, and I only worked approximately 10-15 hours per week.  The work was very manageable, I still had a good balance of time with the kids, time with Nick, time for housework and personal pursuits, and work.  Things are very, very different now.  Work is piling up and I am taking full advantage of that fact and trying to earn as much money as possible.  My actual quotas for my job are very low, but being handed the opportunity to earn as much money as I can, I am going to jump right into that with both feet!

My work week now varies anywhere from 30-36 hours per week, which just about adds up to working 2 full time jobs if you consider that I am also the only caregiver for the kids from 6:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Friday.  Life is busy!

Now how I define and label myself might not seem to matter to most people, but it does to me.  I've had a difficult time transitioning from the "old" stay at home mom role, to the "new" work at home mom role.  In the past I could run errands, go on play dates, do crafts and generally make a mess and have fun while the kids were awake, and then run around and do the tidying, cleaning, and cooking while they napped and after bedtime.  This just isn't the case any more, and I constantly feel pulled in a million different directions.  I am also questioning what the best use of my time is in that particular moment - should I be doing laundry?  making play dough with the kids?  prepping dinner?  sneaking away for a moment to get work done?

I'm not sure what the right answer is, but I think I need to make myself a schedule that reflects the fact the fact that I now have 2 jobs.  I need to find that magic balance (if it exists), where I can get work done, while at the same time still focusing on what really matters (family), and not letting the rest of life fall into chaos (organization, cleaning, finances).

Nobody ever said being a mom was easy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Goal Update and Planning Session

So let's just say that we're off to a poor start with the goals.  Here's where we're at:

Commit to all cash for discretionary categories
Not so good... started off well, but then when I realized that I had planned a bit too lightly for the grocery category I kind of gave up and it all blew up in smoke.  I've had a look at our budget and come up with more realistic numbers for next go around.  And I am going to leave my debit card AT HOME, so I don't have it for back up.

Commit to earning $1200 per pay cheque
Nailed this one.  My pay cheque should actually be more like $1320.  I'm going to work towards earning $1500 per cheque - this will mean working approximately 5-6 hours, 6 days per week, but if we want to get this debt paid off AND have a realistic budget, I've got to make more money.

Do not use credit cards!
Failed at this one since I blew the budget and we had a surprise that a government benefit we were expecting was not coming at all.  Going to attack this one with a vengeance this next budget!

The longer term goals of having $10,000 paid off and $1,000 in the bank obviously aren't really measurable until closer to the end of December.  I have high hopes though!


I've decided apart from the longer term goals I want to come up with some smaller goals to focus on to help bring our spending more in line with what our priorities are.  So in the next little while I want to work on:

- Come up with a system to organize coupons and research some easy options for finding coupons.  This cannot take me a lot of time because I have set high targets for work that I need to achieve, and working earns more money than couponing.  If it's quick and easy then it's something I can do while the kids are awake.

- Continue to work at organizing the papers and files.  So far the system I've set up has been great!  Now I just need to get through the backlog.

- Do not buy any clothes / toys for the kids!  I'm setting this as my goal through September and I'll revisit our needs in October.

- Work at thinning out the pantry / freezer.  Plan meals around what we have on hand.  I've already started this by making a list of pantry items that I need to incorporate into recipes.

I'm going to print all of these goals out and tape them around the house so I keep myself on track!

Spending totals for August 14 to 20, 2011

Well this week sure was the week that went off the rails!  I've decided to do a new thing with my spending totals which is red flagging the items that were off budget.  I'm sure that you'll notice a pattern this week that I am terrible about buying clothes for my kids.  Somehow I am better at not buying at all than I am at restraining myself once I start, so until at least the end of September I am buying the kids absolutely NOTHING.  I really need to separate "want" from "need".

So to make matters worse, I found out that the $267 benefit payment I was expecting from the government was not coming because we haven't filed last years taxes, so I had to pull money off our line of credit.  Ugh, not good, not good.

I'll be back tomorrow with some pretty lofty goals going forward.  I've really got to push myself or we're just going to be at a stand still forever.  I have got to get my spending in line with my priorities!  Now I'd better post this quickly and get back to work.... I've got some money to make!

August 14/11
$136.79 Town Utilities
$296.92 Gas/electricity
$50 Amex payment
$305 Personal line of credit payment
$71.34 Van - fuel
$112.96 Extra Foods (Cat food/litter $31.26, Groceries $8.48, Batteries $8.49, Toiletries $3.99, Kids clothes $31.50, magazines $27.27, coloured pencils $1.31
$123.37 Once Upon a Child
$122.41 Gap/Old Navy order

August 15/11
$217.36 Property taxes
$33.96 Personal tax installment
$59.24 Taxes/duty on delivery package

August 16/11
$45.75 Car- fuel

August 17/11
$32.32 Dentist (had 2 fillings done, this was the amount not covered by benefits, didn't plan for this one!)

August 18/11
$42.60, 3 outfits for Brighton (ebay)
$342.00 Costco ($130.12 clothes)
$36.96 Wal-Mart

August 19/11
$8.93 Dollar store (treats for the kids) - Tristan had immunizations in the morning and I took them for some treats because they were good.  I'm okay with the purchase, but I should have planned ahead for it and I didn't
$6.30 Dollar store - yes, I went back.  Brighton cut her finger badly in the afternoon and I realized I had no first aid supplies.
$82.36 Wal-Mart - diapers, soothers, and a birthday card and chocolate bar for my sister
$28.34 Dairy Queen - ice cream cake for my sister

August 20/11
No spend!

Total spending for the week (including debt repayment): $2154.91 (ouch!)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grocery Shopping: The "lack of self control" edition

I need to get my act together!  Major over spending this week, coupled with the fact that a payment I thought was coming from the government is, in fact, not.  Not a good week.  The good news is that we're pretty well stocked up so I think I can make a really good go of doing minimal shopping for the next 2 weeks.

Here's the damage...


Ketchup $4.97

Neutrogena eye make up remover $8.37
Hair elastics $4.00
Crest fluoride rinse $6.96
Electric toothbrush $7.46
Cotton cosmetic pads x2 $3.68

Subtotal: $35.44
Tax: $1.52
Grand total: $36.96


There's a little stow away trying to steal some strawberries

Bananas (3 lbs) $1.69
Strawberries (2 lbs) $2.99
Happy Planet extreme purple smoothie (2 bottles) $6.89 (+$0.26 deposit)
Clementines (5 lbs) $6.99
Raspberries (2 pints) $2.99
Blueberries (3 lbs) $7.99
Gala apples (6 lbs) $7.49
Watermelon $5.99

McGavin's bread (3 loaves) $5.99
Stonehedge bread (3 loaves) $5.79
Chocolate chunk cookies $7.99

4L 2% Milk $4.69 (+$0.31 deposit)
Mini babybel cheese (22 pieces) $11.39
Eggs (3 dozen) $9.99

Breakfast sausages (2kg) $9.99
Frozen chicken breasts (4kg) $29.99
Lean ground beef  (4 kg) $13.46
Chicken drumsticks (24 pieces) $12.81
Cheese tortellini (3 pkgs) $11.99

Annie's mac & cheese (12 boxes) $11.99
Dole fruit salad (20 count) $7.04
Sun-rype juice boxes (40 count) $9.99 (+ $5.20 deposit)

Pepperoni pizza (3) $9.99


Carter's fleece sleepers x4 $35.96 (I will be returning 2 of these)
CK jeggings $24.99
Long sleeve t-shirt $9.99
Dalia sweater coat $25.99
CK knit skinny pant $26.99

Subtotal: $335.80
Tax: $6.20
Grand total: $342.00

So out of that total there was $130.12 spent on clothing which was completely unplanned, which means I am going to have to cut clothing out of the budget entirely for the next couple of pay cheques to catch up.  Some of this was unplanned stocking up since they had some good sales/store coupons at Costco on things we normally buy, so I'm hoping to be able to stick to a $300 budget for groceries next pay day.  Going forward though I am going to do a realistic $450 budget for 2 weeks of food.  That will give us some wiggle room for stocking up, and if we spend less than that we can just throw the excess onto debt, but at least I won't feel like we're too short.

I'm feeling like a bit of budgeting failure right now, but I'm trying to remind myself that part of this whole journey is knowing where we spend our money, what we spend it on, and looking for ways to improve.  We've just got to start from where we're at!

Food Waste & Meal Planning

Running a day behind... it was my sister's birthday yesterday and we went over to her house to celebrate which involved a chaotic day of trying to organize everyone while I attempted to get work done, and then much shuffling of kids to grandparents.  We had fun though!

No food waste picture this week, but we did throw out a couple of slices of salami that went green, and some blueberries.  I need to get better at baking with the blueberries when I first buy them so that they don't go off before we have a chance to use them.


Baked beans
Cut up veggies

Sunday (my family is coming over for late lunch, so we'll eat the leftovers for dinner):
Buttermilk fried chicken
Potato salad (My mom is bringing)
Green salad with ranch dressing
Chocolate cake

Souvlaki pork chops
Grilled peppers
Naan w/ tzatziki

Pancakes / toast
Roasted tomatoes

Apricot lime glazed chicken breasts
Cilantro lime rice

Spaghetti and meatballs
Focaccia bread
Caesar salad

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blogging Schedule

In another attempt to gain more control over the chaos in my life, I'm organizing my blog as well!  Here is my weekly schedule of posts so you know what to expect.

Monday: Goal update and planning
Tuesday: Random
Wednesday: Budgeting (bi-weekly)
Thursday: Random
Friday: Food waste / Meal Planning
Saturday: Grocery shopping
Sunday: Weekly spend totals

Please leave me a comment if there is anything you'd like me to include!

Getting organized

I have come to realize that our biggest downfall financially is how disorganized we are.  I open mail and it ends up in some random pile or drawer, never to be found again.  This is extremely frustrating when you know that there is a bill that needs to be paid, but you can't for the life of you remember where it is (like our corporate provincial tax bill, now where did I put that again?)

I'm slowly trying to go through drawers, shred what I don't need to keep, recycle what I can, and file what's important.  It's going slowly, but it feels good to get organized.  Once that's all done I can sort through the filing cabinet itself and get rid of old papers and come up with a system that's really going to work for us.

After all of this work, the important part is to make sure we don't get ourselves back into the same situation!  I'm going to come up with a filing system where I can put unopened mail/mail that needs to be sorted, bills that need to be paid, an action folder of papers that need to be dealt with, and a folder of papers that need to be filed.  Then I need to set a date each week to sort through all of the files and put things where they belong.  Hopefully this will help with the paper clutter.  I also need to create some files on my computer to store the e-bills that we receive.

Ironically while sorting through papers I found this book I bought last year....perhaps I should have read it when I bought it.  That's my goal for the next couple of weeks is to read through it and create an action plan.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sometimes learning to change is hard...

As much as I've changed my ways, some things still stay the same.  I often look to buying something as a way to solve problems, as if a new purchase is magically going to change the cause of conflict.

Take our meal time dilemma with the kids, for instance.  Every meal, the kids fight over what colour plate they want.  I randomly pick out a plate from the cupboard and one of the boys will shout "I want the green one!" and then all of the sudden the other boy wants the green one, probably for the sole reason that they can't have it.  Then the argument is repeated with the cup that they get.  And this happens EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL.

Now it would seem that there would be a simple solution for this - just ask the darn kids what colour they want, right?  Of course that's not where my mind goes.  My mind thinks, "I should let the kids go and pick out a special plate set!  Then they'll be excited about it every single meal and they won't fight any more!"  Thinking I'm quite brilliant I call Nick to say, "Hey!  I got a great idea!"

It must be hard to be Nick some days and be the voice of reason to my insanity.  He just sighs and says, "Why can't we just use the plates we have and get them to pick a colour?  You don't need to buy new dishes."  After much poising my ineffective arguments to him, I'm forced to agree with him.  We don't need new dishes.

Some days I'm still really struggling with this need vs. want thing.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spending totals for August 7 to 13, 2011

Not a bad week around here.  Pretty quiet and mellow.  Only thing out of the ordinary was that we went to McDonald's with friends on Thursday - I'm glad we don't do that very often, it's so expensive and my kids don't even eat half of their food.

August 7/11
$29.72 dress & tights for Brighton

August 8/11
$129.16 Wal-Mart
$1.05 McDonald's (iced coffee)

August 9/11
$15.81 postage
$1.25 slurpee (treat for Tristan after summer camp)

August 10/11
No Spend - yay!

August 11/11
McDonald's $18.34
Tim Horton's $3 (paid to friend for coffee & muffin)

August 12/11
PC M/C Payment $400 (to cover realtor's gift card, gas, and payment)
PC M/C (2) Payment $50
Mosaik M/C Payment $100
TD Line of Credit Payment $100
Orange Blossom Massage Therapy $61.75 (this will be reimbursed by our benefits)
Dental office $20.14 (the amount not covered by benefits, not bad for a family of 5!)
Bank fees $40.49 (finally got around to closing an old bank account, that was overdrawn because of bank fees, so annoying)
No Frill's $55.95
Sobey's $54.10
Costco $213.82  (I ended up finding Brighton's birthday present, and also bought all three of the kids Halloween costumes, so I'll have to adjust the budget a bit since I hadn't planned on buying them yet.)

August 13/11
$4.13 T-shirt for Brighton

Total spending for the week (including debt repayment): $1298.71

Grocery Shopping: The 3 Store Edition

What a long day today (yesterday?) was!  This post is late because 1) I went to 3 different grocery stores and STILL couldn't get everything on my list, 2) I spent 3 hours in the dentist's office, and 3)I'm PMS'ing and just in a downright back mood.  And now it's almost 1:00am and I'm finally writing it.

No pictures of groceries, although I can share with you my overstuffed fridge and admit to you that I feel a little bit like a food hoarder.  Nothing brings me more calm than a fridge full of food, I get anxious when we try to stretch too far with the food budget.

I have decided that $300 for two weeks is just not realistic for our family.  My kids eat too much, we eat entirely at home, and food is important to me.  So I'm bumping it up to $400 every two weeks, and once we're out of overdraft might even increase it again.... I'll revisit that when the time comes.  I still want to accomplish our goals by the new year.

I can't bring myself to individualize everything, so here's the breakdown of stores:

Sobey's (mostly produce): $54.10
Costco (more produce, and meat): $114.33
No Frill's (dairy and pantry items): $55.95
Total: $224.38

And since I am really not on the ball this week, here's the meal plan (my very crock pot happy meal plan):

Steak (MIL is coming for dinner and bringing with her)
Herb roasted potatoes
Grilled asparagus
Spring mix salad w/ mustard vinaigrette
Sauteed shrimp cocktail

Chicken parmesan

Russian salad

Lemon chicken
Fried rice
Asian cucumber mint salad

Sweet & sour chicken w/ mango lettuce wraps

Bobby's goulash
No-Knead bread

I'm trying something new and also planning for adult lunches/snacks.  I haven't been eating during the day and I really should be!  So here's my plan for those (in addition to leftovers)
Whole wheat nann w/ hummus and tzatziki
Asian chowder
Sesame noodles

And I've got lots of baking and treats in store this week as well.  Should be a quiet week spent mainly at home.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Financial Goals

I just spent a ridiculous amount of time drawing up a rough budget up until the end of the year, and creating a spreadsheet that will track our credit balances, interest rates, and payments to keep a running total of the outstanding balance.  This is going to help SO much.  I'm a very visual person, so the easier it is for me to see at a glance where we are, the easier it is for me to stay on track.

All of that time spent was important, because I wanted to set some goals for us to finish off 2011 strong, and it's impossible to set realistic goals without some semblance of a plan in place.  I know I get discouraged and give up if I'm not even close to obtaining the goals I've set.

So here are my goals:
- Commit to all cash for discretionary categories (spending money, groceries, entertainment, clothing/gifts, and misc) - we are mostly there, but I sometimes slip up if don't get cash right after we get paid

- Keep an accurate record of all money spent - this is going to be my biggest challenge I think

- Commit to earning $1200 per pay cheque - I work from home and get paid per contract, it's sometimes hard to stay motivated to keep going, but I'm going to do it!

- Pay down $10,000 of debt by January 1, 2011 - not including our mortgage

- Have a $1,000 balance in our bank account by January 1, 2011 - it's currently at the bottom of our $2,500 overdraft

- Do NOT use credit cards! - the exception to this is we use one of our Mastercards for gas, I pay $400 towards it bi-weekly, our gas expense is always under $350.

I think we can definitely obtain all of our goals!  We're motivated and we're committed, we just have to stay focused!  I'll try to check in on these regularly to let you all know how we're doing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Budget August 12-25

We do our budget every 2 weeks.  Nick gets paid on a bi-weekly basis, I get paid on the 15th and 30th of every month.  Since Nick makes way more than I do it just makes sense to budget when we gets paid.

Here's the breakdown.

MONEY COMING IN:  $4159.02

Nick's pay cheque $2158.14 - It will likely be more than this, he just got a small raise, but I'm not sure how much it will be after tax
UPDATE:  Nick's pay cheque is actually $2473.80, so hurray for more money towards overdraft!  His raise isn't showing up yet though, the increase is because he's reached the max contribution for CPP and EI for the year.
My pay cheque $1075.00 - rough estimate, I don't have a pay stub yet
UPDATE: My cheque is actually $1117.67, I'm loving that I actually underestimated our pay this budget!
Government Child Tax Benefit $267.55
Universal Child Care Benefit $300.00 thank-you Government of Canada!

MONEY GOING OUT:  $3603.87

Debt repayment
Personal Line of Credit $305
BMO Line of Credit $500
TD Line of Credit $100
Personal tax installment $33.96
Mosaik Mastercard $100
PC Mastercard $50 (this is repaying the gift card for our realtor)
PC Mastercard (2) $50
American Express $50
Hyundai loan $517.60

Total: $1706.56

Town utilities (water, sewer, garbage) $136.79
Enmax (electricity, gas) $295.92

Total: $432.71

Life insurance $87.30
Car/home insurance $211.83

Total: $299.13

Life (Discretionary categories)
Groceries $300
Entertainment $40
Misc. $100
Gifts $100 - not budgeting anything for clothing this time, going to buy Brighton's birthday gift and an ice cream cake for my sister
Slush spending $60 ($20 for me, $40 for Nick)

Total: $600.00

I am totally open to questions/criticism.  This is far from perfect, but I'm just trying to come up with something that works for us.

Letting go of vices...

Nick and I have come a VERY long way in how we spend our money.  We've mostly given up Starbucks, eating out, magazines, books, video games, for the most part we're not really fancy people any more.  The area I really struggle with are the kids clothes.  For as far as I've come, I still have a hard time finding the balance between buying quality, but not spending too much, and not overbuying.  It's hard when it's something that you need, but you don't necessarily need exactly what you want.

I was working away on the budget and had planned on placing a $300 order for Hanna Andersson after pay day, and then I looked at it.  I put 10 things in my cart and my total was $286.  And I was like, "What the heck am I thinking?"  Sure the prices look okay as individual pieces, but then being in Canada I have to tack on $24.50 shipping, and $38.00 in duty.  And these weren't even full outfits, there were matching pieces I was planning on buying when the next sale came.

And so, I gave my head a shake, and focused on our goals.  I want to be out of overdraft by the end of September.  That is NOT going to happen if I don't buckle down and start saving more than I spend.

So as much as I want to order, I'm going to be a grown up and say I don't need to.  It's a vice, and it's holding me back from the future that I want.

Sometimes, being a grown up isn't much fun.

This is what it's all about...

I love the sweet little moments that happen throughout the day where you realize the big picture.  It's not about money, it's about taking the time to slow down and enjoy the time you have without always rushing along.
It's a reminder to me of why we need to stay the course and get out of debt.  Debt-free to me means freedom... the freedom to have more time with family, the time goes by too quickly.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sometimes it's hard...

... to know what is the best decision (this goes back to the whole 'you can't predict the future' thing).  Our housing situation is something that we have struggled with for quite some time.  I'll give you a bit of background here.

We originally lived in the city, a housing boom started after we built our first house, and looking at what we could sell our house for relative to what we had paid, it looked like a great opportunity to sell and buy a bigger home.  Of course ALL of the houses in the city had gone up in price along with ours, so we started looking at the outlying areas where we could still snag a deal.

We ended up in a town about a half hour outside of the city limits.  We found a builder that would let us design our own floor plans and do all custom finishes for a reasonable price, and we jumped at the chance.  We thought we were super lucky to be building a completely custom home at such a young age, and were quite smug at how smart we were at real estate.

Fast forward to building, and it ended up being a nightmare.  There was mistake upon mistake, we were constantly fighting with the builder to make things right, and the cost kept rising.  We still ended up getting the house for a relative deal at the time, but it ended up being $60,000 more than we originally thought, eating into the profit we had planned on making off the sale of our old house.  The whole process was horrible and stressful. At least, we thought, we ended up with our dream home in the end.

Unfortunately, our vision for our dream neighbourhood was not to come along with our dream home.  Sales on lots boomed when they were first released, but then dwindled as prices rose.  After the recession hit, building came to a stand still and the second phase of our development is a barren wasteland of dirt and weeds.  All of the houses that are here are beautiful, but the lack of building obviously raises some red flags and the future of the development is questionable at best.  It feels like it will take a miracle for them to be able to finish the neighbourhood that we were originally sold on.

And so after much debate, we listed our house for sale this spring.  We knew our area wasn't desirable, but we listed for what we thought was low enough that we could generate some interest.  Unfortunately not.  For five months we have had it on the market, not one offer.  We have had showings, but no real interest in buying.  We have flip flopped on what to do - do we just stay here and wait for the market to pick back up and pray that the development pulls through?  Or do we bail out now while we still can?

The big issue for us is selling means walking away with nothing.  We would need to rent, and in the city we would pay the same amount in rent that we currently pay for our mortgages and taxes.  If we rent we won't live in a house as nice as what we have, we won't have the freedom to make it our own, and we would likely have a difficult time finding a landlord that is keen to rent with a family with 3 kids and 3 cats.

So where does that leave us?  All things factored in we've decided to stay put.  We don't know what the future will hold, but in the end at least we have a beautiful, clean home in a safe neighbourhood to raise our kids.  Sure it would be nice to be back in the city, closer to Nick's office and more amenities.  But we could actually be saving money out here.  There are no malls, there are very limited shopping options.  Our community provides free access to the public pool and skating rinks on Sunday afternoons.  We have a Parent Link Centre in town that is a free drop-in place to take your kids to play with toys, do crafts, and have coffee with other parents.  Our town puts on great parades twice a year and fun, free community activities.

So though it's tempting to walk away and, at least mentally, get a fresh start and a clean slate from past mistakes and bad purchases.  Maybe staying here will be a good reminder of the past and will help spur us on to not repeat our mistakes.  We have to buckle down, work hard, and we'll get through this.

I have a confession to make though - I did charge a $50 restaurant gift card to give to our realtor today.  I know she put money and effort into this sale and I feel awful that she's walking away with nothing.  I will, however, pay back the money to the card on Friday when it's pay day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grocery Shopping: The unprepared and frazzled edition

I'm just on a roll with being unprepared and disorganized today, ugh.  It started out when I went to take the boys to summer camp, only to realize that I had locked my keys in the van over the weekend - brilliant.  Thankfully my very patient and wonderful husband drove home from work to unlock it (at the expense of an hour round trip).

Then I went to drop the boys off at camp only to realize that I hadn't remembered to register Gabe for the week, only Tristan.  I registered Gabe for a week in July and meant to register him for this week if his first week went well.  Turns out it was a good thing he wasn't registered because he pitched an absolute fit and decided that there was absolutely no way he was leaving my side today.

Then off we went to go grocery shopping.  We were down to no milk, cream, yogurt, or cheese in the house and down to only oranges for fruit - not going to fly around here.  So I get to Wal-Mart and realized that I'd forgotten my list, and my reusable bags.  I despise Wal-Mart with a burning passion, but it was a necessary evil today.  Wal-Mart is the only store for 45 minutes that sells the soothers Brighton likes, and apparently the replacement soothers I bought on Saturday were completely unacceptable (a $7.35 mistake).  I realize I could have just bought soothers at Wal-Mart and done the grocery shopping somewhere else, but I hate getting my kids in and out of the car more than I hate Wal-Mart.

So here is the grocery shopping for the week.  I'm hoping that this will last until the end of the week and I haven't forgotten anything that's critical to our meal plan.  We'll make it work.

I'm breaking everything down for you to see where all the money went.  Keep in mind if you do not live in Canada and specially Southern Alberta that groceries in Canada can be drastically more expensive than in the U.S.  I do need to start using coupons - this is something I need to start hunting out.  I'm sure that for the yogurt and the soothers I probably could have saved a few bucks using coupons.

So here is the breakdown:

Watermelon $3.97
Gala apples (1.575 kg) $4.41
Bosc Pears (.98 kg) $2.74
2 Mangoes $1.44
Bananas (1.935kg) $3.29
Tomatoes $1.97
Blueberries $2.97

2 cans pink salmon $2.94
Ritz cracker sandwiches $2.47 - total impulse buy, I hate shopping with kids :(
Paprika $2.00
Chili powder $2.52
Curry powder $2.28
2 cans tomato soup $1.44

Silk Chocolate Almond Milk $3.97
Activia vanilla yogurt $5.17
Cracker barrel old cheddar $8.97
Cracker barrel marble $8.97
Crush yogurt $4.77
4L milk $4.37 (+ $0.31 deposits)
Vanilla coffee creamer $2.00
Astro vanilla yogurt $3.07
Astro blueberry yogurt $3.07
Coffee cream $3.47

NON-GROCERY (taxable):
2 packages soothers $10.94
Melatonin $14.97
Mattress cover $5.00
Sunscreen $9.97

Subtotal: $126.95
Tax: $2.21
Grand total: $129.16

Considering I was hoping this trip would be under $100 it was a fail.  I  bought a lot of yogurt though so we should be good for the next couple of weeks - and if I had just bought another 2 tubs rather than buying packages I could have shaved $4 off the total (more if I'd found coupons).  I will definitely plan better next trip!

And in my stressed out state I also bought an iced coffee at Mc D's - hey, at $1.05 it was much cheaper than Starbucks.  Little victories!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Yep, I shouted that title.  And in case you didn't hear me the first time - NEVER borrow money from family.  It always seems like a good solution at the time, it's pretty convenient, and your family loves you right?  Of course they want to help you out!
Except that if you borrow it from your mother-in-law that is less than stellar with money, she may not record amounts correctly, and she may or may not record when you pay her money back, and she may or may not calculate what you owe incorrectly by TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
And then when you go to confront her about it she may cry and tell you that you're picking on her, and hang up on you.
Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything like that.
Thankfully it has been smoothed over.  We have also requested in future that she NEVER gives us money, gift, loan or otherwise.
Now I will say that my MIL is a very generous person and she truly has the best intentions, she's just bad with money (the apple probably didn't fall from the tree around here).  She buys our children clothes, paid for Tristan's preschool last year, enrolls them in activities, and gives us a generous amount of money for birthdays and Christmas.  But along with all of that is a spontaneous dose of good old fashioned guilt tripping.
I am now vowing for a policy in our family that no cash shall ever transfer hands, EVER.

Spending Totals for August 3-6/11

This will be a regular fixture on the blog which I hope to update every Saturday.  For this week I'm just going to post from the start of the blog to now because, well, I didn't keep track before then (I know, I know.... you wonder how we got into this mess, eh?)

August 3/11: NO SPEND!  WOOT!
August 4/11:  $8.17 Groceries (basically just fruit, we went to visit a friend out of town and were running low on fruit at home)
August 5/11: NO SPEND!
August 6/11: Took the kids to the amusement park (free, we were given passes for Christmas), but we bought ice cream there ($13.75) and Brighton lost her soother so we stopped to buy a pack ($7.35).  And I didn't plan ahead and had no cash, so I had to use the no-name ATM and it cost me fees (1.75) Not proud of today's purchases - for one, half the ice cream went in the garbage so we could have bought half as much.  Note to self - in future by the least amount possible knowing you can always buy more.  And also, Brighton screamed all the way home even though we bought soothers, so much for that plan.  And of course not having cash on hand was a complete oversight.

Live and learn, right?  This is why I'm tracking all of this.  So grand total for the past 4 days - $31.02.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Food Waste & Meal Planning

I have been a long time reader of The Frugal Girl and I love her Food Waste Friday.  Food waste can creep up on you quickly and eat up a large amount of your grocery cash flow if you're not careful, especially when you have young kids.  I swear some days my kids refuse to eat what's in the fridge just because they can.  If you want a more in-dept read about food waste you should check out Jonathan Bloom over at Wasted Food.

Surprisingly this week we have zero food waste, assuming that we use up a few things today.  I have some sugar snap peas that are about to go off (I actually didn't even buy these, they were given to me by my mom).  And there is about 1/4 can of pineapple tidbits that need to be used up, I might make pizza bagels for lunch to use those up.

Now to the fun stuff - meal planning!  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  Some weeks I feel inspired, others I've got nothing.  I'm trying to keep groceries to an absolute minimum this week so 90% of what's in the plan we have in the fridge/cupboards.  I usually meal plan from Friday to Thursday because I like having fresh food in the fridge for the weekend when we're all at home together.

Tortellini Soup
Fried Boccocinni
Caesar Salad
Garlic pull-apart bread

Green Salad

I have a memorial service to attend out of town, so Nick is home alone with the kids.  He'll probably do hot dogs or throw a frozen pizza in the oven.

Thai Chili Chicken Legs
Vermecelli Salad

Cheese Buns
Cucumber Salad

Pork Chops
Mashed Potatoes

Salmon Croquettes
Sweet Potatoes
Spinach Salad

I will try to post some pictures and recipes throughout the week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You can't change the past....

...and it's a damn shame that we can't predict the future.  So what does that leave us with?  For me, it leaves me with the hope that past trials and challenges have given me the tools to face whatever lies ahead. 

After the big scary total was added up last night Nick and I began a familiar conversation which always starts with, "But where did it all come from?  Really?  Where?!?!"  The fact is that there isn't one single answer to that.  It came from big things (a hot tub, a 60" LCD tv, a house we couldn't really afford), it came from little things (magazines, impulse purchases at the check out, Starbucks), and it came from overbuying (too many clothes, too many books, too many toys, too many kitchen gadgets, too many groceries.)

The good news is - we don't spend like that any more.  The bad news is - we still have to pay it all back.  It's hard sometimes to look back to the people we were in the past.  While I was on maternity leave with Tristan I used to go to Starbucks daily (sometimes twice a day).  I would meet friends at the mall to wander around and inevitably I would drop $50 a time on things we didn't need.  I would take Tristan to indoor playgrounds that would cost us $15 by the time we paid for the entrance fee and snacks.

Now our days are more likely to be spent packing our own snacks and heading to the park, or making home made play dough and playing on the deck.  And honestly, I prefer it.  I don't spend my days waiting in lines at the mall, or driving in traffic to get somewhere.  If only I knew then but I know now.  But I guess that's the secret to life, you learn as you go.

"Courage is the quality it takes to look at yourself with candor, your
adversaries with kindness, and your setbacks with serenity"

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coming Clean

This is hard!  Publicly declaring our debt to the masses feels a bit like walking down my street naked - but in the interests of full disclosure, here you go -everything we owe with interest rates.

Personal Line of Credit (10.5%) 14,961.72
Mosaik Mastercard (10.9%) $10,083.17
American Express (18.9%) $965.36
PC Mastercard (19.9%) $2103.26
PC Mastercard (2) (19.9%) $1011.90
BMO Line of Credit(5%)  $24,571.03
TD Line of Credit (4%) $21,765.26
Hyundai Entourage loan (0%) $22,774.40
Family loans (0%) $5,000
Personal taxes $320.01
Federal Taxes (Corporate) $700.00 (approx.)
Provincial Taxes (Corporate) $400 (appox.)
Overdraft $2275.24
Mortgage $386,274.40

We still haven't done our 2010 taxes (yep, been burying my head in the sand on this one) - we will owe though as Nick had 6 months of self employment income.  I'm scared!)

And the grand total is.....

Excuse me while I go puke.

Edit: Annnnnd.... it just got worse.  I forgot that we also owe my mother in law an additional $17,283 (most of this is debt incurred by Nick prior to us getting married.  Much of it student debt).

So that brings the new total to $124,214.52.  Guess I'd better buy a lotto ticket.  Oh wait - that's not in the budget!

Swimming through debt

Hi and welcome to my blog!  My name is Sam (well, Samantha, but who has time for all those syllables?).  I am the mother of three young children (Tristan who is 5, Gabriel who is 3, and Brighton who is almost 2), and wife to my wonderful husband of five years, Nick.  I am a stay-at-home / work-from-home mom living through the chaos of young children, trying to balance having a life with dealing with the reality of finances.

Like so many people these days, my family is swimming through a sea of debt.  I refuse to say drowning - drowning is giving up, and we are far from that!  Our journey into debt is the same as many others.  We spent too much, saved too little, faced job loss and a tanking economy, and now we are working our way to the other side - FREEDOM!

"Debt is the slavery of the free"
- Publilius Syrus

What can you expect?
The intention of this blog to expose the reality of living through debt.  We are going for full transparency of our debt load, our budget, our challenges and triumphs, and life in general.  I am not going to sugar coat or make things look better or worse than they are.  I know that we are not the only ones going through these financially difficult times, but I sure know that it feels that way sometimes!  I will share our meal plans, receipts, spending plans - full disclosure here!

I am not a financial expert by a long shot (that's why we're in this mess in the first place!), nor am I a professional writer.  I'm just another mom, trying to make it in this crazy world.

I hope that you'll share a comment to say "hi" and let me know what you'd like to see on the blog!  Thanks for stopping by.