“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
A good financial plan would ideally have some immediate, short-term, and long-term goals. For a recovering spendaholic like myself, immediate is going day-to-day with not blowing any money on shopping. Short-term is making sure all my debt payments are made early each and every month, and long-term is getting out of all my consumer debt.
However behind the goals, there’s an over-arching “why” that keeps them all in motion. I think everyone has a why. For some, being out of the red and owing nothing to no one is enough of a why to keep them going. There’s also many like my mom, who’s why is to make sure she will never be vulnerable if there should ever be a downturn in her small business, her family life, or the economy.
My why may be a bit more whimsy, and admittedly not centered on responsibility. Simply put, I don’t want to live in one place and have one “life” there. I don’t want a house, I don’t want the kids, I don’t want the 9 to 5. I don’t want the car or the lawn or the cottage or the pool or the garage. I have zero negative feelings towards those who do (to be clear, I believe being a loving parent is bar none the most important job in the world), I’ve just had 31 years to get to know myself, and I realize it’s simply not for me.
You know how they say it gets worse before it gets better? Seems like “they” can often be right. However there’s good news in that adage – it does eventually get better.
I have sadly gone backwards since my last roundup. I had a tax reassessment and the result wasn’t pretty. I don’t want to make an issue out of it because I am truly grateful that I live in a safe place with a high quality of life, but I think I’m allowed to say it can really sting when your employer takes the wrong tax amount and you get a very unwelcome letter from the CRA in the mail. What a punch to the gut.
So here’s my new round up:
Growing up, we didn’t have Black Friday here in Canada. It just wouldn’t make sense; our Thanksgiving is in October. However I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon happen in the past 5 years or so; along with all other symbols of unabashed capitalism (like Wal-Mart and Costco), Black Friday has trickled its way north of the border.
In the past, we would don our lumberjack shirts, sit next to our pet moose and swig maple syrup while watching the Black Friday stampedes that were going on in the US. Ok, perhaps everything but the moose – the point I’m trying to make is that this sales apocalypse was once uniquely American; ergo, non-Canadian. We had Boxing Day and that was that. So I find it bizarre that we don’t even have a major holiday preceding Black Friday but we’ve taken it on and made it our own.
I put in a lot of effort to make sure my pup is well-behaved, and I’m always looking for ways to stimulate and train the little guy so he’s mentally occupied and happy. Now that he has the basic commands down I want to teach him some more advanced tricks, so I’ve been reading a lot of great books on dog behavior and training. The most persistent message in every book is rewarding good behavior, and never punishing the pup when he doesn’t get it right. Every few paragraphs, I’m reminded to give my little furball lots of praise for his efforts and recognize all the hard work he’s putting in. Mistakes should be corrected, but effort should never go unnoticed, as he shouldn’t ever have negative associations with the positive end goal in mind. It all makes perfect sense to me.
Although there’s a big difference between a poodle and a person (however, there’s a lot more similarities than meets the eye!) all the reward and praise talk got me thinking about the goals I’m working towards and how hard on myself I can be. No, I can’t go give myself a treat every time I refrain from spending (although I wouldn’t mind a cheese-based rewards system!) but I can be really hard on myself for my failures and have completely overlooked the positive behaviours I’m already exhibiting. It’s no surprise that I’ve had many failed shopping bans in the past and have made negative associations with my ability to move from Spender to Saver.
There’s a funny thing about being told you can’t do something. It generally means that even if there was no prior desire to do aforementioned banned thing, you really want to do said thing now. Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what I can and can’t do! Except, uh, being told no/stop/don’t in many scenarios is perfectly valid and should be abided by. Especially when the person saying it is yourself, the thing in question is spending, and the reason is because it’s for your own good.
Since starting my shopping ban on October 24th, I want to spend ALL THE MONEY. Even with the woeful spending I had to do with my last minute move (for the moving truck, key deposits, mail forwarding, buying pizza and beer for the friends who helped) I still have a desire to spend some dough on fun stuff instead of lying low and licking my wounds.
Here is where many a “how not to shop” article or blog post would proceed with a point form list including the following: don’t step foot in the mall, don’t go on your favourite shopping site, block retailers from your email list, etc. To be honest, I feel like every one of these lists looks identical, leaving me both uninspired and unequipped to handle the very strong pangs of temptation. Yes, the basics should be mastered, but these are grade school building blocks and I’m trying to wrap my head around calculus.
My Shopping Ban was going great….for a whole 3 days. No, I haven’t pulled my credit cards out of the freezer and thawed the ice block they’re in (yes, I do that) and gone on off on a shopping spree followed by an impromptu flight to Vegas (yes, I’ve *unfortunately* done that) but I have had unexpected – yet necessary – expenses I couldn’t have ever predicted. In less than a week, my landlords told me they’re selling the place, scrambled to find a new one, and moved out 4 days later. It’s as bad as it sounds.
I won’t get into the whole kit and caboodle of the saga with my landlords and their pushy real estate agent; I get a headache at the thought of it and I trust you will too. However I will note this little birdie brushed up on her tenant rights real quick and gave them a list of serious grievances I could report (from no Notice of Leave, to not giving me 60 days, to never giving us 24-hour notice before entering into my apartment for showings) so we worked out a little deal. If I move out by November 1st (this was October 28th, mind you) not only would I not need to pay for November – which is a given anyways – but they’ll give me my last month’s rent back. Seeing Toronto rents (including mine) are bonkers and 2 months’ worth of rent is a pretty penny, I got to packing!
When deciding to make October a Super Frugal month, I had some stern, honest words with myself about some unsavoury and deceptive habits I had been indulging in. To recap, it’s been a costly year so far as most of my closest friends and relatives have decided to get married and/or have babies in 2016. It’s almost as if the new year hit and all of sudden my mailbox clogged up with wedding shower, engagement party, baby shower and wedding invitations, all with a few lines at the bottom stating exactly where they would like me to spend my money on their new life decision (I am inherently against registries, and on a larger level, the expectation of someone spending money on you just because you made a certain life choice – that doesn’t involve them – but I’ll save my thoughts for another post).
Perhaps due to my aforementioned disdain for registries/mandatory gift-giving occasions or maybe just because it presented many spending opportunities, I found myself sneaking in little “gifts” for myself whenever I had to go to the mall or an online shopping site to buy a gift for someone else. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal and time and again it’s proven to be both a blessing and a curse. I either don’t buy the cookies or eat the entire box the minute it enters the house (same goes for all carbs – I don’t discriminate against anything that once was dough). Some people are “moderators” who gradually decrease consuming their addiction until they dwindle down to nothing. This simply doesn’t work for me – I either am cold turkey or full speed ahead. Couple that personality trait with the underlying resentment of being expected to buy something for a prescribed gift-giving occasion and I rolled head-first off the wagon. My wallet was already open and I was knee-deep in “treat yo’ self” mode – it was a recipe for disaster.
After making the decision to turn my back on my spendy lifestyle a year ago, I knew the first step to climbing out of my tens of thousands of dollars of debt was to be cognizant of everything I owe and to whom I owe it to. One of my very first posts on this blog was The Round Up, a summary of all my debts as of December 30th, 2015. I grabbed all my statements and faced the music; I worked it out, wrote it down, and posted it up for all the world to see.
I must admit I still feel embarrassed and extremely guilty when I see my current debt figures. Sure, some of those numbers came from paying for my education, some came from seeing the world and some came from a medical bill that occurred while I was out of country. However if I’m going to be honest with myself and everyone else, I need to admit that most of that debt comes from making bad decisions, spending without regard for my financial future and straight-up overindulgence. It’s still a punch to my now-frugal gut to look at those numbers and know I racked them up to that extreme living what my mom used to refer to as my “dolce vita.”
To keep myself motivated on my debt repayment plan I’m going to make The Round Up a series where I regularly post my progress every month. I thought a great place to begin is to state exactly where I am right now. Below are the balances on my debts, as of today:
- Visa: $2,085 (19.99%)
- Line of Credit 1: $12,000 (8.80%)
- Line of Credit 2: $13,924 (9%)
- Line of Credit 3: $10,100 (9%)
Total Commercial Debt: $38,109
- Loan from a family member: $20,000
Grand Debt Total: $58,109
With that out of the way, enough bellyaching, Frugal Desperado – time to go upwards and onwards!
Compared to my first The Round Up post, my debt is down by $5,161. I am choosing to feel good about this. I know that I could’ve/should’ve paid off more than this and I would have if I didn’t have some lapses of self-discipline and willpower. I’m going to stay upbeat and remind myself this is the first time in 10 years my debt has gone down as opposed to up from one year to another. It may only be a little win, but it’s a win, and I’m going to use it as fuel to go into turbo drive for next year – starting from today.
Today is the mid-way point of my super-frugal October, and I kicked it off by going to the bank and making a $1000 dollar payment to a line of credit. Gosh darn it, it felt great!
I had to accumulate the funds over the course of two regular paycheques (I get paid bi-weekly) and waited for some side hustle money trickle in over the month to get to my solid $1000. It felt so good looking at my bank account over this past month and seeing it grow as opposed to deplete. The old me in my pre-FD days had never left hundreds of dollars and eventually a grand just sitting in her bank account, accruing – after rent and bills and credit card minimums, it would’ve been blown on nights out, oodles of fancy restaurant food and pretty dresses until it hit a big fat ZERO, and then do it all again next pay day. I am much happier now on this side of the fence 🙂
So how was October so far? Well, I came down with a pricey bronchitis that still has not gone away. I hate whining about the cost of getting sick because I am incredibly grateful for Canada’s universal healthcare; I know it’s a blessing that seeing my doctor didn’t cost me a dime. However the roughly $60 I spent on over-the-counter and herbal meds hurt the pocket, especially when I’m trying to be super frugal this month!
I tried my best to avoid the costs I knew could rack up when dealing with a cold/flu/bronchitis from hell. When I first started to get sick I tried every natural remedy I could find in the fridge/pantry first – apple cider vinegar, garlic, cayenne pepper, turmeric, you name it! – and then finally succumbed to buying vitamin c tablets, oil of oregano and a homeopathic mix that had been recommended to me. When I got full-fledged, help-me-God level sick I was away on a week-long work conference and went through 2 entire boxes (!) of Tylenol cold and flu and several lozenge boxes in an effort to keep my symptoms suppressed during the sessions and not just be a super-distracting, loud, hacking ball of phlegm (sorry). However in good news, I rocked two exams last weekend for my work course that were pre-paid earlier in the year (my apologies for aforementioned hacking to everyone else in the exam room) so no extra money to shell out there.
How is everyone’s October coming along so far?
It’s the first weekend of October, and I’m a sucker for fresh starts. I know it’s all semantics, but I’m going to work with my extra boost of internal motivation here and make October my most frugal month yet.
As I sit here trying to flesh out how to make this my most frugal month, I’ve come face to face with some nasty habits that have cropped up this year that I’ve hid from others and to a certain extent, from myself. I’ll elaborate. I can write down “no takeout” or “zero entertainment budget” for October, but I already do that; I haven’t been out socially to a place that required purchasing food/beverages with friends since July, I bring each and every breakfast and lunch to work, and cook at home every night. So where on earth is my money going?