Sunday, January 30, 2011

No Income? No Problem!

Rita MacNeil has won our hearts like food has won her stomach
I have made it through a month without any income (Whoohoo)! How great is that? I do have to admit though that reflecting back on this month; it has not been as easy as I would have thought. I have been sick twice which makes me believe that the stress of not having any cash did take its toll on me. Being sick does have its advantages though, you get to sit around watch Rita MacNeil Christmas specials and not spend anything! There were a few curveballs thrown at me that made things really no different than any other month. For starters, I had lots of social engagements that I was invited to (I know, I know - Mr. Popular is bragging again) which I felt extra obligated to attend because it was one of my friend’s last time here for over 8 months (because he’s travelling the world – that lucky ba$tard – read his blog here)! I always put friends and family first, so I don’t like to let something stupid like a lack of funds get in the way of having a good time!

Courtney Loves to get smashed
The second big curveball was the fact that I broke (or should I say – destroyed) the screen on my iPhone. It was more smashed than Courtney Love is every day. Those of you who have one of these things know that it is not so easy to operate without the screen and every time I did use it, I had glass shards penetrating my fingers.  This came with a hefty price tag to have it fixed ($100 – holy smokes) which left me with the temptation to use my upgrade and get a whole new phone – which would have meant having to use my credit to pay for it! Then there’s the whole buying a month’s worth of food and paying all the normal bills. How the heck did I make it through the month with all this financial temptation and so much free credit to remedy it – I’ll tell you, quit being so impatient – or just read the end as if this were a high school reading project.

Let’s start with the bills. Lucky for me, I have 3 roommates which makes my power and internet bills only ¼ of what I would normally have to pay. My hydro bill is less that $10 per month, which is pretty effing sweet. All my other bills are included in my incredibly cheap rent so that certainly helped me keep the budget down. The groceries part was really easy. I ate lots of leftovers and plenty of pasta, but this was mostly doable because I have a fantastic partner who stepped up to the (dinner) plate and kept my belly full of delicious and nutritious food! How many people with no money can say they ate salmon this month? I realize that not all of us have someone in out lives to buy us food, so here are some quick tips on keeping your food bill cheap:

  • rice, pasta, and bags of fruits and vegetables are dirt cheap - take advantage;
  • scan your flyer for deals – it was dollar days at my grocery store this month;
  •  leftovers can be gross, but they are less gross if you reheat them in the stove instead of the microwave – if you can add cheese to the leftovers, do it;
  •  cook things in bulk; lasagna, roasts, stir-frys, can make multiple meals and you can freeze portions for later (I don’t recommend cheese on a stir-fry);
  • potlucks enable you to make something for cheap and get to taste lots of delicious foods from other people – and if you host, you get to keep the leftovers;
  • dust off the crock pot - a great tool for making delicious and effortless dishes for cheap;
  • Did you know the internet has recipes on it now; even some that are specifically designed with cheap eats in mind? And you thought the internet was only for porn!

My iPhone had more cracks than Rita's butt
Now that the basics were taken care of, I was faced with the new dilemma of fixing my phucking iPhone. A little back story for you; I was taking care of my friend’s dog for a week and she was taking her time looking for a place to take her morning dump which made me have to rush off to work that morning. I had started to wear mittens so that picking up her dumps would be less gross. It turns out that my mittens make it more difficult to hold onto my phone, so it should come as no surprise to my readers that the phone slipped out of my mittened hand and landed face-down on the concrete as soon as I stepped out the door to go to work. Coincidentally, my friend who owns the dog broke her iPhone that same day after a snake almost bit her bum by the pool.  I was now faced with the problem of getting the screen fixed. Who knew that a piece of glass would cost $100 to fix!? I was extra tempted to get a new phone because I now have a $200 credit toward a new one, however I did a bit of research and my friend Miguel (happy birthday!) found a do-it-yourself fix-it kit online for $12.95! So much cheaper than $100! Gail would have been so proud and handed me the check for $5000 for sure! I used a YouTube video as a guide and fixed the screen all by myself (mind you, now my speaker doesn’t work, but this is a minor detail). This just goes to show that you should hold onto things and try to fix them until it’s absolutely necessary to replace them – just don’t become a hoarder and start keeping thousands of rats in your house – did you see that episode?! That was freaking d├ęgeulasse!

Now, the biggest challenge – social engagements. I don’t like to ask for handouts and there’s nothing I hate more than owing money to friends or family – especially to pay for me to go out and get shmammered. This is where I feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends in my life. My friends picked up the tab on many of my meals and hosted me to a plethora of events. Dana made delicious brunch, Nicole surprised me with a sushi platter and 3 bottles of wine, Gigi threw great parties, Caitlin spoiled me with sweets, Kate lent me some CDs to give me my music fix, and everyone helped me get through a stressful month by doing things that are dirt cheap. I won’t lie, there were times when I wanted to look for my credit card and go for some retail therapy but thanks to wonderful friends who enjoy the simple things in life – like a great conversation, going for a skate, playing a board game, this month was a lot easier to get through. If you’re in the same boat as me and you’re drowning in debt, let your friends know that you’re going to have to cut back on expenses and you’d be surprised how wonderful and supportive people can be to get you back in the black and out of the red!

Well, that’s it for this entry. I hope that January has treated you as well as it has I, and remember, if you’re every struggling with debt repayment – you’re not alone!



P.S. Did you notice that I was able to say penetrating in a blog entry without making a sex joke? I have so much restraint!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shop til You Drop - Your Debt that is!

This gives a whole new meaning to "A Buck or Two"
Rule number one when you’re trying to pay down $40,000 debt is to save every freaking cent that you have to pay off your debt! I’ve talked about saving before, but this is different than the whole savings account mumbo-jumbo. I’m talking shopping; I’m talking about that great “deal” you got on a new pair of shoes. Before I started this debt-destroying process I was the kind of shopper who just walked into a store, saw something I liked and didn’t think about the price tag. I was more concerned if it was dry-clean only over the price tag. The only time that this approach to shopping is acceptable is when you’re in a dollar store because unless you’re a complete idiot, you should know that everything is a dollar. However, you’re not an idiot if it’s one of the stupid places that says “a buck or two” and then they have those stupid items that are $5 or more. I hate to break it to you a$$holes, but if I wanted to spend more than a buck or two on something then I’d go to a normal store that doesn’t smell like butt-scented candles.

I digress. Some of us were lucky to have parents that involved us in the smart shopping process. My mom used to drag me and my siblings off to the grocery every time we did our monthly drive to “the big city”. My mom taught me many great things about saving while shopping. Number one, brand names don’t mean $hit when it comes to items such as baking supplies, milk, vegetables, bread, meat, toilet paper, paper towels, and so on. There are some brands that we know are great, but we only bought those things when they went on sale – and trust me, after working for almost 5 (very long) years in a grocery store, everything goes on sale.  Use the flyers that you get as a guide for what you buy for the week. If you see tomatoes are on sale, look for a recipe that uses fresh tomatoes and enjoy a delicious meal at home for cheap! This isn’t rocket appliances people!

Now redeemable at Wal-Mart
The second great tip I got from Mom was coupon collecting. You see a coupon for 25 cents off soup and you say, who the eff cares – right? But why should you be that sucker that pays more than everyone else? My favourite part of the shopping trip was when we would watch the cashier ring in $400 worth of groceries (to last 2 weeks) and then the coupons would get scanned and that balance would drop faster than Whitney Houston’s career after she was introduced to crack. We really saved a lot of money! Now coupons are a wonderful thing, but you need to be wise about this. Buying something you don’t really need just because you have a coupon shows that you are completely missing the point.  You save even more money when you don’t buy anything at all.

Bulk isn’t always good when it comes to your waistline, but bulk is a great thing when it gets you some savings.  Buying things in large quantities gets you more bang for your buck – most of the time. If you’re mathematically challenged, I suggest you bring a calculator and actually do the math on the cost ratio for the large quantity versus the small quantity. If you’re worried about looking stupid for carrying around a calculator, don’t be. The real stupid people are the ones who are over spending. Here’s a little tip, next time you’re out shopping at the grocery store, look at the price of large eggs versus medium eggs – the large ones are cheaper every time.

When you buy something, it should live up to your expectations. If it doesn't, take it back or call the 1-800 numbers that you see on the package of the product. I've called and bit¢hed about bad products and the companies send me tons of coupons for free stuff. This doesn't just work for food items. Apple has exchanged my iPod and headphones on numerous occasions. The key is to get in there before your warranty is over. My grandma once kept the receipt for a mattress she bought that had a 30 year guarantee. A week before the mattress was 30 years old, a spring shot out of it and she got a replacement (brand new) mattress for free! Sure makes you think about throwing away that receipt now, doesn't it?

Katy Perry ruined tons of perfectly good cotton candy

One of the bazillion great things that I have learned from my BFF Gail is that saving means saving. Let’s say you’ve been eyeing up a big ticket item like a new cotton candy maker. All of a sudden you get a flyer in the mail that says your cotton candy maker is now 25% off, reducing the price by $25! Before you go around bragging to all your pets about how much you saved stop to think about what you’re saying. When you say you’ve saved $25, why not actually take that $25 and put it in your savings account – you know, actually save it? If you can do this, your savings account is going to grow like gangbusters. Happy smart shopping everyone!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Scraping by on My Savings

Holy crap it’s the New Year and what a way to start things off. First a little housekeeping: my New Year’s Reso-fokking-lution.  I’m not usually one to break their New Year’s Resolutions, so I’m hoping that this resolution will be no different. What the fudge is my resolution you ask; to blog one a week (on average)! That means that you can look forward to a $hit-ton of blog entries this year. This is good for all of you to keep your resolution to read my blog at least once a week.  Since I’m such a kick-a$$ kind of guy, I like to make multiple resolutions. My second goal is to have my credit card completely paid off. You might not think that’s much of anything, but in case you’re not following along, my current credit card balance is $12,733.27! Frack! Ok, maybe I shouldn’t start the year off lying to my loyal readers; I’ve actually got multiple resolutions so that I have something to write about and so that just in case I eff one of them up, I can still said that I did my NYR.

Greece is the word!!
This will be a challenging year for my credit card though. 2011 seems to be the year of everyone I know travelling the entire globe and asking me to join them – what a bunch of a$$holes, right? I’ve been asked to go to a wedding in the Dominican, a stag party in Vegas, my brother’s wedding in Saskatoon, a trip to Italy with my sister in September, meet up with friends in Greece (it’s Greece lightning), and then another trip to Saskatoon for Christmas - it’s going to be an insanely tempting year, especially 2 trips to Saskatoon, in case you didn’t know, it’s the Paris of the Prairies, which isn’t much of a stretch if you’ve been to Winnipeg or Edmonton, or dare I say Regina (the city that smells like it sounds). When I think about all the debt that I’ve accumulated I realize that if I didn’t have this kind of debt, I would easily be able to go on all of these trips! I’m dropping over half my income on my debt! How nutso is that? This year is going to challenge me financially like no year ever has.

January has set the tone for my year. I’ve started off the year with NO INCOME! That’s right, the last check I got was before Christmas. I have been living on $400 in my bank account since the beginning of the year to last me until February when I get paid next. I pi$$ed away a lot of money when I was back in Saskatoon, but that was mainly because I was drunk most of the time so my judgment was definitely off. The good news is that I’m not making $14 an hour anymore so the cheque I do get is going to be a big one! The bad news is that I’m going to have to dip into my savings. But holy $hit, I actually have savings! Gail has taught me well, and I was able to get enough saved up to help me survive quite comfortably this month and pay ALL of my bills, including my rent. I love Gail! She is just the greatest.

Alright, let me explain how I’m making it through the month without touching my credit.  Remember a few blog entries ago when I was getting all preachy about an emergency fund? Well, it turns out that emergency funds actually help you out during times of financial struggle. Who knew? By putting a minimum of 10% of my income into my savings account for the past couple months; I was able to come up with $1,139.73 – a huge improvement from my usual $100 in my savings account.  Rule number one from Gail is to learn to literally scrape by when you have nothing; NO eating out, NO unnecessary spending, and NO funny business! The next thing to do is only make your minimum payments on your bills. I know this goes against everything that I b*tch to you guys about, but it’s what you have to do to keep a roof in your belly and food over your head. If you don’t have enough money to pay your creditors and bill collector-molesters off, call them, and call them before your payment is due. Explain your situation to someone who can actually help you (this is the point where you may have to say, “let me speak to your supervisor”). You may still have to incur interest, but you can save yourself from pesky late fees and so on, which will certainly save you money. If you don’t think it’s worth the trouble, consider this: if you don’t make your payments, you will start to damage your credit history. When you get the idea in your head that, “oh well, my cell phone bill is only $40, who cares if I miss a payment,” you’re sadly mistaken. Think about it; what looks worse to creditors, being unable to make a $400 payment, or not having enough cash to pay a measly $40?

There are other great things that can help you survive the month. Host a potluck with your friends for example, this way you only have to make a $10 meal and get to eat a ton of great homemade food (and if you’re even luckier, there will be leftovers too). Dig up those old DVDs you bought and re-watch an old favorite with some friends and a bowl of popcorn. Go tobogganing, skating, or do anything else that doesn’t cost you a penny. You can make a freaking sweet sled with a piece of waxed cardboard. The number one thing to do is take care of yourself and make sure that you’re still having fun. Sometimes life deals you a handful of $hit, but the jokes on life when you take that $hit and throw it right back in its face.

Thanks for reading!