Friday, December 24, 2010

December Debt

I'm sitting at the Calgary airport waiting for my connecting flight on Christmas eve for the next 2 hours so I figured this was an opportune time to write me a blog posting. Yes, I am writing this entire post on my iPhone so please keep all your snotty comments about bad grammar and boring entries to yourselves! Christmas is a great time to get into more debt, but sometimes if we're lucky we get to receive some sweet-a$$ Christmas cash! In my last post I mentioned how I've been able to keep my costs to a minimum by doing a $25 gift card exchange which upon reflecting seems like a pretty stupid idea. Mainly because there is no love or thought going into the gift and I'm just going to end up with basically the same thing I gave. 

I hate to say it, but by cutting out the shopping, it just doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Odd isn't it? I'm starting to believe the consumer whore side of me may have finally won me over! However once I look back at the amazing month I've had, I'm sort of proud of how well I did getting so much debt paid off and how much money I've saved on half my usual salary - in 2 months!! I'm not going to sugarcoat it though; Gail, I've let you down this month. 

I've definitely gone over my budget each and every single week, but it was with good intention. I went to many holiday parties and birthday celebrations, but I did pay all my bills (less on my MasterCard than I had hoped) and I managed to only spend $150 on presents this year (which is a really big deal for me). Not to mention I have yet to touch my savings and that feels as good as sunlight feels to a cat warming its a$$ by the window. 

So now it's time for me to strategize; I'm about to go without 2 weeks worth of pay while on vacation, and I'm not going to get my next paycheck until February. The good news is that I've already paid my rent for January, but I've only got $900 to live on until Februscary. I'm expected to go half on Santa's happy funtime elixir (aka alcohol) and pay $100 for a hotel room in small town Alberta (that's the cost for two nights - jealous?) for a wedding this New Years, and I'm on vacation for 12 days which usually translates into eating out every day (not that kind of eating out - get your mind out of the gutter) which really drains the bank account in a hurry. Holy moley guacamole, what am I going to do? 

Well, here's my plan: I'm going to learn to live with less this Christmas, cut back on the booze, and steal all the leftovers from every Christmas/holiday dinner I attend. I may end up looking like a fat butterball at the end of this vacation, but dammit I will leave my savings alone for as long as is humanly possible. I mean, why go two steps forward and one step back? Who the fox am I, Paula Abdul? 

Merry Christmas loyal readers. I hope that this post finds you in good spirits over the holiday season. 

Love always, 


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Be a Chriftich (Thrifty Christmas B!tch)

Santa Claus is Coming!! 

The holidays are definitely the most challenging part of my financial journey. I just want to go out and buy all sorts of presents - for myself! Not only is there that societal pressure to buy gifts for your family and friends, there are also those unheard of charities that only seem to show up at the holidays. 

“Hey John, can you spare $5.00 for this family of refugees from Utah whose parents have bum cancer and a 7 year-old who is a recovering crack addict with 3 dogs that need hip replacement surgery after slipping in the ice on their way to the family’s great-step-aunt-who-just-moved-from-Clevland’s funeral for her cat Mittens?” 

Add in the fact that for some reason many of my friends are having birthdays and holiday parties every other day this month and I’ve got all those extra expenses of bringing snacks and cookies, and buying tacky Christmas sweaters. It seems my money is just asking for me to pull it out and slap it down on the counter for some greasy cashier’s hand to grab it and play with it. Christmastime is certainly proving to be a challenge.

I’ve been depriving myself of all my wants for a couple months now and it has been so freaking challenging; however my will power is unwavering. For example, I saw a great t-shirt that would be a great gift for my partner, but it was $40! Back in the old days, I wouldn’t blink an eyelid at $40! I’ve spent $90 on a t-shirt; heck I’ve spent $300 or more on my partner on multiple occasions! And then that’s when I remember that my stupid spending is what got me into this fiasco of a clustertruck of a situation that is $40,000 of debt. So what, oh what can I do to stay on my crazy $100 of spending per week budget? I only have $40 per month set aside for gifts, so it’s looking like shopping is completely isn’t happening and prostituting myself around the neighbourhood for extra cash is out of the question – those ladies down on Dalhousie are just way to sexy to compete with! Then I got an idea! An awful idea! THE CHRIFTICH GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA! "I know just what to do!" The Criftich Laughed in his throat. And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat. Oh $hit, wrong story; but seriously, I did get an idea.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but presents really don’t mean $hit in the grand scheme of things. Sure I love to give presents, but I really don’t care much if I’m not receiving them. One thing that I learned when I moved far away from my family is that (sorry this is where I get sappy, cheesy, and/or cliché so feel free to stop reading, I won’t blame you) the time you spend together is what you remember. I can’t tell you all the Christmas presents that I received, but I can tell you about all the great times I have had during the holidays. There was one year that my Grandma gave my cousin this ridiculous dancing chicken and by the end of the night we were all hammered and used the video camera to record a video of it with this little scarecrow thing looking like they were having sex while we’re all pissing our pants laughing. It was pretty hilarious, and you can watch it here! Another hilarious Christmas time memory was last year when my roommate (as well as everyone else) had one too many glasses of eggnog and starting dancing all over the apartment by herself and THAT video is here

See, gifts don’t mean anything; it’s the memories that are what really count.

So how do you get out of buying gifts for everyone? Do what my family does; have a Secret Santa gift exchange and only buy 1 present instead of dozens. We do Secret Santa for the whole crew, including parents, grandparents, partners, etc AND WE SET A SPENDING LIMIT! In the beginning we didn’t really do this and it turned into more of a pi$$ing contest to see who could buy the best gift (and then I started blowing away the competition with my cheap and thoughtful gifts). That’s why now; we take out the shopping and each buy a $25 gift card - so simple. I did all my Christmas shopping on my way home from work and it only took 5 stinkin’ finkin’ minutes.

Another great way to save money is to host a Christmas Party potluck and have all the guests bring something to snack on. That way the costs are cheap for all and you all get to have a great time hanging out together. Scrap the gifts for friends, and instead give them some good times together! If you really need to get them something, think about making something cheap like a scarf, or a scrapbook of photos, or even some Christmas baking (my friend Caitlin has a ton of great ideas here). The point is, being cheap at the holidays is the new cool thing to do – because I said so!! Keep your spending in queue and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank in the New Year. The banks will effing hate you for not using your credit, and that my friends, is the true meaning of Thriftmas!

Happy holidays!