Monday, May 30, 2011

Gail's Rules and How I Break Them - Volume 1

Casper and I share the same Complexion 

Oh geez, I think I’m already in vacation mode and I don’t even leave for Las Vegas until Wednesday! I think I have officially found my nemesis – Summer! Yes, it’s true, my spending has gone a little whack-o and I’m right back to spending similarly to the way I used to in this past week. It’s a challenge to stay on track when you’re preparing for a holiday in a climate that is nothing like the one you live in aka the desert vs. cold and wet. I need things like sunscreen with SPF 80 in order for me to only get mild sunburn! Seriously, I am white as a ghost. See that image of me as a cartoon in my banner? There was no color alteration required, I’m practically Casper friendly ghost.

Now where did I eff up you ask? Well first there was the 2 lunch breaks out for a colleague who left our group. I organized both, but for some reason I thought it would be a little more inexpensive than it was. Clearly, I was mistaken. I’ve already mentioned the sunscreen and then there’s the insulation I got to put around my air conditioner and keep those FREAKING PIGEONS from making a nest AGAIN outside my window. I’ve got a whole YouTube video about how much I hate them. My other “back to the old habits” spending was on my bike – again.

Not the bike lights I bought, but who cares?
I know I am becoming a bit ridiculous with the whole bike thing. It turns out that spending on anything to do with transportation is unavoidable, and my recent spending was just stupid. I let the cashier at the local bike store convince me that it was a smart idea to spend $60 on lights for my bike. Yes, they are amazing, really bright, and the batteries last for a very long time. They also come on and off really easy so that I can avoid having them get stolen. I guess one of the reasons I bought them is because I wanted him to just shut up and ring in the freaking lights, but the other reason is my inability to say yes to buy something that is total garbage. I need the good quality things when it comes to my safety and well being, and I don’t think that anyone would argue that $60 lights are worth more than my safety. Either way, I think I easily spent double what I normally do in a week to the tune of about $240. This is considerably stupid since I’m gearing up to spend $1,000 in 3½ days in Las Vegas! What is sadder, I used to spend 4 times my current budget on stuff ($500)! Can you believe it!?

Admittedly, I am beyond excited to go to Vegas, and I think I should be. However, the real problem arises if I get too drunk and stupid and decide to transfer money out of my savings account and go over and above what I need to spend!  This leads me to my first of several entries on: “Gail’s Rules and How I Break Them.”

Gail’s Rule: Savings is for long-term SAVINGS
How I Broke it: Taking money from my savings for spending money in Vegas!

Watch this and LEARN something! I ♥ Gail!
Yeah, I’m sorry Gail; in this department, I have failed you pretty badly thus far. I was watching Gail’s show “Til Debt Do Us Part” and I saw this couple of artists fail miserably at everything especially their savings. They were living in a rented house which they spent so much money on crap to fill it with. They were in their 40s with no savings, no assets, and only one partner had a job. The woman in the relationship was probably one of the worst participants I have ever seen on that show. I remember quite vividly how Gail had finally managed to drive the message into their brains that they needed to get savings going so that they had something – anything – to retire with. They seemed to get their savings plan under way and the unemployed bum thought that it would be a wise idea to use the money for an effing vacation. This did not impress Gail in the slightest. She told them that savings accounts are for retirement saving. You’re supposed to be putting that 10% of your income into a long-term savings account like an RRSP and use any money over and above that to pay for your vacation and so on.

Now, I realize that I am still quite young and really only just getting started in this whole saving deal, so in my defence, I feel that I still have plenty of time to catch up on my savings, especially once I have all this debt paid off. Where I am failing here is that I have not put any of my savings into a tax free savings account or RRSP yet! I’m not even taking my own advice! I’m simply using my regular savings account when I should be using it for putting 5% in it for “stuff” and then putting 10% into a long-term savings goal. That’s the real way you get ahead folks.

I want this so bad! My computer is 9 years old!
Now, how do you go about spending your savings. Well, here’s the simple solution. Make sure that you always put 10% of what you earn after taxes into some kind of long-term savings solution. Then, take another 5% of your earnings and put that into a regular savings account that you can access whenever you want. If you want to stay focused on your savings and stay on budget, figure out something that you want. For me, it’s a new computer. As mentioned earlier, I prefer quality, so I’m planning to buy a MacBook (it just seems right for a blogger like me who is always on the go) for about $1,500. Now, at this point in my life, 5% is about $75 of my earnings every 2 weeks. I will need to save up for 40 weeks in order to buy a new computer. Now, if I want to get the MacBook sooner, I can double my savings and put 10% into long-term savings and 10% into regular savings and have enough money to buy a new computer in 20 weeks (or 10 paychecks). Pretty straightforward right? No? Maybe it’s time to go back to grade 4 math…

That’s all for today kids! Tune in next week friends for tales of my trip to Las Vegas! Let’s hope I don’t come back here further in debt. Oh boy…

John

Monday, May 23, 2011

Check Out My Tools!


For this post, I am making a promise to myself – again. This entry is going to be a short one; nothing too long and hard with hidden sexual innuendos in it; more tight and to the point. When I started this website, the plan was to have all sorts of helpful tools for you guys to help you achieve the awesome success that I intend to achieve. Alas, the tabs have remained empty without anything in them – until now! Yes that’s right folks; now you too can go from Spendy Spenderson to Savey Saverson! Check out the latest and greatest addition to my blog – my handy dandy “Amazing Tools!” section. There’s also the wonderful “About John” section, and soon to be updated “Fun For Cheap!” and “Cheap Eats” section. I have a recipe for Dirty Whore Sangria to share, and it’s just as wonderful as it sounds.

See! I told you I would keep it short and to the point! Mind you, I have a lot of stuff written in other parts of the blog, but that doesn’t count you guys. I swear sometimes you guys are on my case too much.

Enjoy!

Thanks for all the love and support!  

John

P.S. I have many friends in the blogging community so I though I would add another tab so that you can follow along with the awesome things that they all do too!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hold on to Your Butts…

Going off the rails!

There’s a storm a-brewing and it’s headed right for me. Many debt distractions are making their way to throw me off the rails of this crazy train. Although I am doing incredibly well with my debt repayment I am going to be encountering some may-jah changes to my regular schedule. The key over the next few weeks will be to focus, focus, and focus. What in the world is all this excitement John? What, oh what, could be your kryptonite? How is it possible that the latest and greatest debt detonator could ever face such perils that he will be taken so far off course from his debt repayments? Now that you’re on the edge of your seats with excitement, I encourage you to sit back, relax, and read along as to what variables are going to attack my spending. Oh boy, it looks like I may need to redo my budget again.

Do you remember a little while ago, back in March when I told y’all that I got a permanent job? The great news about all this is that I have benefits coming my way starting at the end of June. I’m talking about the whole shebang; dental, optical, rectal, you name it, I got it. Where the challenge begins is that now I have to pay things like death insurance, medical insurance, union dues, pension, and all that wonderful stuff that I’ll probably be stuck with paying until I’m 65. Yes, you heard it here first kids, I don’t think my generation is going to get that “freedom 55” ticket that our parents are getting. With added (but wonderfully exciting) expenses such as these, my gross pay is going down. Only by about $100 mind you, and since I got a raise anyway, the effects of this should all be minor.

If it’s so minor John, why even mention it? I’m getting to that part you guys, geez Louise! Because I worked for 7 years through various contracts with my current employer, I am now able to purchase back all that time that I put in. In other words, I can buy back all that pensionable time in order for me to get out of the workforce sooner, much much sooner. I have calculated how much time I can purchase and it works out to be about 723 working days or the equivalent of 3 years! These years come with a price tag of about $4,000-5,000 (or so I estimate) in order for me to purchase them back. Now I’m no fool, I am all over buying this time back, and it’s cheaper to do so now rather than when you’re making more money in the future. The added bonus is that I can retire 3 years earlier when I’m approaching retirement. Now with buybacks, you can opt to have this amount slowly paid for through deductions from your paychecks, and that’s what I’m going to do. The pickle that I’m in is that my gross pay is going to go down while I’m doing this, and those of you who have been reading along in the blog know that I am not one to run away from paying off debt anymore. I think the best approach will be to find out what the interest rate is on this repayment and then squeeze it in accordingly to my debt repayment process.

My kick-a$$ new helmet!!
There’s so much more to this storm of spending other than this new buyback option. Like a fool, I assumed that I was getting about $600 back in income tax from the Government. However, like Mom always said, when you assume, you make and A$$ out of U and ME (get it? – yes I know it’s a lame joke). Anyway, with this assumption in mind, I’ve been a little more liberal in my spending – not crazy, but a little bit of my alter ego, Spendy Spenderson came out. The things I did buy were justifiable though. Finally, after years of bike riding, I caved and bought myself a helmet (on sale!). My luck has certainly been pushed on this, so I think it was a smart move. My helmet is pretty freaking bad-a$$ too, if you saw it you’d agree. It has little skulls on it which totally means that I am hardcore. While getting my helmet though, I decided to get some new handlebar tape, and that set me back another 25 bones. Add to that my 3-year anniversary with my partner and the $120 meal I bought for us which I thought my refund would cover as well. Needless to say, my Government windfall never came through. In fact I owe them $79.40. All the more reason I should be putting my money into a tax-free savings account. So that little curve ball is nothing to sneeze at, but either way, it did throw off my game a little bit, however I think my “crazy” purchases were totally worth it.

Big change is coming its way for my schedule. I’m not going to lie, having a boring and routine schedule has really made it easy for me to stay on track with my spending. Every day I get to come home and prepare myself a fresh home cooked meal. I recommend this to everyone – not just for your budget, but for your health. Did you know that I can almost see my abs through my former beer belly? Talk about exciting; now I’ll even have a washboard to do my laundry for cheap! The curveball is that I’m going back to school. Yes, I’m going back to school yet again. It’s not university or college though, it’s French language training. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I’ll be spending 3 hours after work learning how to parler en Fran├žais. This is an incredible gift from my employer to spruce up my language competency; however it does throw off my schedule. After work, I usually enjoy an hour and a half of hot yoga and then I come home for dinner around 7:30. Now, I’m going to be doing French until 7:00, yoga until 9:00 and dinner around 9:30. I don’t think this is really sustainable, so I’m going to see if I can bring dinner to my French classes. I really hate making lunches in advance. I find that nothing ever tastes the same when it’s been sitting in a bag for 24 hours until the next time you eat it. I gets all soggy and tastes like plastic wrap, and then there’s that mess of lugging along those dirty containers – ew. I guess this will challenge me to go the distance on how I spend my food budget and we’ll see if I can resist the temptation to buy takeout.

Worst Place to go when you're in debt!!
Alright, now here comes the doozie - Vegas. Yes, in a mere 3 weeks I will be living it large and in charge in Las Vegas. I think that at this point, if I were on one of Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s shows she would slap me across the back of my head.  Why the H-E-double hockey sticks are I going to Vegas when I’m trying to pay down $38,000 worth of debt? Well, it’s for my brother’s stag party and I am in his wedding party, so I do feel obligated to go and I do have a bit of a game plan. Have you been watching my savings account climb ever higher? Have you also noticed that I have now paid of $5,000 on my credit card?! I’m so excited about that I could pee myself. I have made an executive decision to reward myself by taking $1,000 from my savings for spending to Vegas to cover me for the 3 days that I’m there. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable for me to live on $1,000 for 3 days in Vegas. The real question is how much of the rest of my savings I can hold onto to pay for my trip to his Wedding in August!

So as you can clearly see, there is a storm a-brewing which will push my limits to crazy new levels. Will I survive the storm? Will I burn out from French and cave in to take out? Can any man only live on $1,000 for 3 days in Vegas? Stay tuned until next time kids on the next episode of John’s Fight for Financial Freedom!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Mother of All Days

If you’re able to read this, odds are that you are a human being and you have a mother. This may come as a surprise to some of you but, I too, have a mother. It’s true; I am a human being and not just some internet wunderkind blog-writing machine. The year was 1982 when I arrived in this world with a mission to become the incredible blogging wizard that I am today, little did I know that it would be due to the fact that I had managed to accumulate nearly $40,000 worth of debt at the tender age of 28. Did you know that my Mom is actually a writer as well? The big difference though is that she writes plays and novels and I write a sassy blog on the internets for nerds to read. Check out her first novel The Preacher. If you want a copy, let me know and I’ll hook you up!

My mom's first published book!
In case you forgot or haven’t got the hint from all the mom references, today is Mother’s Day (call your mom!), so what better day to talk about my Mom and how she has helped me over the past 28 ½ years! My Mom has always been a great teacher when it comes to money. I grew up in a small town with my Mom and Dad and 4 siblings. It was a busy house with lots of mouths to feed and a frenzy of activity happening all the time. To this day I don’t know how they managed to keep us all fed, pay the bills, and cover all of our school trips and other activities while on a single income. I had a great childhood, but I certainly remember the days when we really were scraping by and eating lots of macaroni and cheese (or sometimes macaroni and bread crumbs). What was most important is that we never went to bed hungry and we always had a roof over our heads. My parents also have a great sense of humour, which made life back home all the more fun for 5 children. Growing up with little really taught me a lot and I can go on for days with stories about how we scraped by, but the point is that you can still have a great life with little cash and a good budget.

I guess one of the most memorable ways that my mom helped save money was with our garden. Every year we would plant rows of delicious vegetables and the savings were incredible. Yes we all really hated weeding the garden. I think that of all the stupid chores that my mom would make us do weeding was one of the worst. The garden wasn’t always a source of frustration (because sometimes you just wanted to dump a gallon of herbicide on the thing and watch them all go!), my Mom would make things fun and loved to do silly things like plant a petunia in the onion patch just so that she could sing that stupid song that went along with it. The amazing thing about the garden was the amount of delicious vegetables that you could get from it and how inexpensive it is. There is nothing like grabbing a fresh carrot out of the ground and tasting how freaking yummy it is! We didn’t just benefit from our garden either, my mom voluntold us to go and pick apples at neighbor’s yards but the pay-off was totally worth it! At the end of the year Mom would make apple juice, pickles, and other preserves and have delicious food to eat for the entire winter. It was amazing. You don’t realize how much work goes into it and how awesome it was until you grow up and leave home! If you’re one of those lucky people who have a yard, you should consider starting a garden. It’s really easy and the rewards are fantastic!

My Mom is not like other Moms – she does not like shopping. I think my mom would rather weed the garden than have to spend more than 30 minutes in a mall. Yes, my mom is a country girl through and through. She liked to get into the store and get out of there as soon as possible. She and I were quite the team when we would go grocery shopping. The important lessons that she taught me were to read the flyers to see what the best deals were. She showed me how certain brands would go on sale and the sales would rotate every week. We almost never paid full price for anything. If the name brand stuff wasn’t on sale, we would buy the store brand. I learned quickly that when you’re cooking things from scratch anyway, it didn’t matter if you used name brand baking ingredients because the no-name stuff produced the same result anyway. We also never went shopping without a grocery list. When you’re trying to feed a family of seven, you always need to plan ahead for what you need and you have to assess what you already have so that you don’t run out of the staples like milk, eggs, flour, butter, and so on. I remember that we used to buy 5-6 4-litre jugs of milk every time that we went into the city for groceries. It was nuts!

Mom and Me!
I don’t remember my Mom ever talking about using her credit card, but I do remember that we had a line of credit. She taught me that the interest rates were much lower and when I needed to borrow money, Mom would use her line of credit and then outline the amount of money that I would have to give her in order to pay more than the minimum payment and get the debt paid off quickly. I was always the best with money in the family so I paid off a $3,000 loan with my mom in a matter of months. I think that actually boosted her credit rating thanks to me – you’re welcome Mom! Now my Mom is the co-signer for the Student-Line-of-Credit that I have, and I am definitely grateful for that since my interest rate on that is actually lower than the federal government’s student loan program. She’s saving me tons of money on interest!  

Creativity is a wonderful weapon when it comes to enjoying your life and living on the cheap. There is nothing that my Mom couldn’t think up that wouldn’t entertain the heck out of us! My mom used to make play-dough out of flour, salt, and water with a few pinches of food colouring – fun for hours! We even had oomalik which was just corn starch and water. If you haven’t tried this yet, you really should – it’s tons of fun! She sacrificed having her own fancy yard and instead filled half of our backyard with sand so that we could dig it up and make dinosaur trails or build sandcastles with the neighbourhood kids. Our yard quickly became the best place for kids to come play and have a blast because my Mom would rather us have a fun place to play rather than a pristine lawn. My Mom did all sorts of creative cost-saving things like sew our Halloween costumes. I remember one year a friend of mine didn’t have a costume so she literally took a couple garbage bags and shredded them up to make him into the “swamp thing.” It really is amazing all the great things she would do with her creative mind to save money.

Mom - just hanging out in the clouds! 
So my message to you all is this, instead of looking to your Mom (or Dad) to pay for things for you, look for advice from you Mother. Usually the women of the house are the ones balancing the books at the end of the month, so when you talk to your mom, see if she has some ideas to help support your journey to financial freedom without it being monetary. Thank you Mom for all the love and support over the years and for reminding me that a creative mind can achieve anything – as long as you’re a little patient along the way!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

John

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Insert Clever Title Here

Spam-tastic!

After 25 lengthy blog entries It gets harder and harder to come up with ideas about what to write for you guys!  I hope that I am still keeping your interest up since I feel like the quality of some of my blog posts has been as comparable as Spam is to real ham (aka, not comparable). I do have some ideas still, but they take some extra effort on my part to actually go out and do some kind of activity to come back and report it in a hilarious and financially informative way. I guess since I have a few thousand hits now and I’ve been read in more than 20 countries (I’m looking at you Peru) it means that some of you are interested, or maybe looking for ways to steal my identity by hacking my computer (I'm looking at you China)…

Anyway, here we are in the month of May and I am beyond pleased with my results and efforts to kick my debt in the ball sack thus far, but I can see the real difference that making the minimum payment versus paying off my bills more aggressively. The numbers are speaking for themselves. My MasterCard is finally getting to a point where I am beginning to see the light and it’s finally under $10,000. When I started out in October of last year, my balance was a fracking $14,581.45. The last reaction I had when I mentioned that figure left the person shocked and I believe that they had to pick their jaw up off the floor. Although I was more than happy to report  to her that I had paid off a whopping $4,600 in the past 7 months and a total of 18.84% of my debt.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is coming for you Prince$$!
When I update all my financial figures on the left hand side of my blog, I do get financially aroused that all the amounts owing are going down and that my savings is climbing ever higher (as my roommate would say – WHOO!). But there is a clear difference between the amount the amount that I pay aggressively versus the amounts that I am only making the minimum payment on. Look at my regular line of credit for example. My starting balance was $4,991.57 (out of $5,000) and now it’s only down $851.76 in 7 months thanks to minimum payments. Since my interest rate is sitting at a disgusting 10.5%, it will take me 45 months to pay off a measly $5,000. Millionaires probably spend $5000 on toilet paper and high quality prophylactics and here I am, being a dum bass for the next 45 months paying off my stoo-pid debt. When I hear that people “only” have $10,000 of debt, it’s terribly sad that I actually think “I wish”. I hope that those of you who “only” have $10,000 of debt and just making minimum payments are finally getting a clue from watching my numbers drop that your minuscule payment process just doesn’t make a lick of sense. Also keep in mind that I haven’t even touched that line of credit for spending since October so if you’re only making minimum payments AND using your credit still, you should probably watch your back because Gail will come after you. Of course once my credit card debt is gone, my eyes will be on that mother-trucker-regular-line-of-credit so it better go out and by some Depends because it’s going $hit a brick when I get through with it!

How to make me puke.
Ok, so enough about me preaching about how to get it together and on to the part where I pass along some valuable words wisdom to my loyal readers; last weekend I got really drunk and woke up on my toilet at 6:30 am wondering why the bathroom lights were so bright, but that has nothing to do with my point about saving – well not really. Sunday was my book club meeting and I was in charge of making delicious home made buns to bring as part of the whole pot-luck idea. I’ll tell you now, the buns were never made. Yes, it’s true, I actually laid in bed most of the afternoon cursing red-wine, Jack Daniels, and sour puss for leaving me with a wicked hangover and a great story for my blog. Instead of making buns which would have cost me at most $3.00 to make 2 dozen, I went to the store and had to buy some pita chips and hummus. The chips and dip went over well and probably mixed better with the delicious food that the others brought, but I ended up spending $10 and felt like a d-bag for neglecting my budget. Yes, my budget consumes my life in every single spending aspect. The part that I stopped to think about though was how much I still managed to save and what a great thing a book club can be for saving you money. Here are some things about book clubs that I have found to be most budget-friendly:

  1. Books are Cheap Entertainment
It is no secret that when you get wrapped up in a book, you can spend hours exercising your brain and not spend a penny doing this. It’s even cheaper if you borrow the book from a friend or your local library. Did you know that you can even rent movies from the library? How wonderful! Okay, I’m a nerd, get over yourself!

  1. You get to Hang out with Friends In a Spend-Free Environment
These days, I like to do anything that keeps me far from a cash register, so going to a friend’s place instead of the mall where all those annoying teenagers are is always a good thing. Not only do you not have to spend any money, but you get hours of entertainment from your friend’s cat running back and forth across the floor because you’re taking about the book instead of giving it snuggles and attention.

  1. Fill your Potbelly with Pot Luck
Man do I love potlucks. I get to eat delicious food for incredibly cheap, make dishes that impress that cost me next to nothing, and leave the place with a full stomach. There were brownies with freaking PEP mints in them! If my mouth could orgasm, it would have then.

  1. Buying Books in Bulk Saves You Money
The number one expense for a book club, the freaking book of course! Now here’s where having a group can pay off. If you order online all together, you can save money on shipping. Or if you go down to your local book store and order a stack of books, sometimes they will give you a discount. If you want your book club to save even more money, consider reading more classics. You can find old editions everywhere and you can probably find it in your grandparents’ library or something. Just get creative and look for ways that you can still get your book, but save some money in the process. Why pay full price for anything when you don’t have to?

Alright, that’s enough ranting for one week. I think overall this entry will make you all happy in some way. I did a little preachy stuff at the beginning, threw in a little saving idea at the end, and even hit you up with a bit of humour, vulgarity and even said the word orgasm for the first time in a blog entry (make that 2 times). My levels of restraint never cease to amaze me. Until next time ladies and gentlemen!

John

P.S. Did you know that you can share this wisdom with friends? Look at the little icons below. Any publicity is good publicity if it gets me one step closer to meeting Gail Vaz-Oxlade!