Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Future's So Bright

Suck it long, and suck it hard. 

I have officially hit three major milestones in my debt repayment process. The first was that I have just passed my 2 year anniversary for paying off my debt. It is really amazing to see how fast time flies by and I am really excited to have a long blog record of all my progress! The second major milestone that I have achieved is that I have officially paid off my third creditor – Student Loans. I would just like to give a big “SUCK IT HARD!” to student loans. Never in my life have I had to deal with a more inefficient system, so it feels amazing that I will no longer have to make a payment to them again!

My biggest accomplishment however, is that I have hit the $30,000 mark in only two years! Not only did I manage to hit that mark, I blew that son of a witch right out of the ball park. When I first did my projections, I should only have paid off around $22,000 of my debt at this point! Can you believe that I am now $8,000 ahead of schedule and if I can keep this momentum going, I can be debt free by April! That means that I will have officially paid off $37,810.51 in two and a half years! This is surpassing all my wildest expectations.

$30,000! Holy $hit!
Now I am on a brand new high.  I have set realistic goals for myself, and then went above and beyond what I ever imagined. On Wednesday, I made my very last payment of $2,519.10 to my Student Loan, and to top it all off, I paid off the $949 I racked up on my credit card from my shopping trip in Montreal and my trip back home to Saskatoon. Where this new person with all this money came from, I don’t know, but I do know that I have a lot to be proud of. Not only have I paid off so much debt in such a short time, I have been able to maintain a healthy savings account, take 4 trips home to Saskatoon, a trip to Las Vegas, a trip to Halifax, a weekend getaway to Montreal, I purchased a couple thousand dollars worth of clothing, bought presents, costumes, had parties, participated in book clubs, and so many other wonderful things that most people would have never thought I would be able to do while still staying on track.

I posted on Facebook how I had paid off $30,644.44 in two years and I have never seen more traffic and more “likes” about anything I have posted on my page ever! There are some people out there who don’t understand how that it is even possible that I have been this successful so far, and I am promising that from this point forward, I will try to share some practical tips each week (or more frequently) about what I do to stay on budget.

There are a few things that I should state that are fairly obvious ways to demonstrate why I have been so successful though:

  1. I have a great income for someone who just turned 30.
  2. I don’t have a car (or any of the associated expenses that come with owning one)
  3. I have a second job that also pays for my gym membership
  4. I have an amazing support network (seriously, I love my friends and family so much)
  5. My living expenses are inexpensive
  6. I gave up my consumer whore lifestyle
  7. My partner has helped me out every single step of the way

A few months ago, I wrote a blog entry where I questioned exactly what it was that I wanted to get out of this process and where should I start trying to get to financially and I was really stuck without any kind of clear indication where I will go next. Now, when I start to think about the what’s next part of my life, I keep thinking about where I can elevate my life with my partner. Getting rid of this debt means a lot more than just me getting less and less worried about the future, but it is opening my eyes to the kind of future that we could have together. I am learning so many valuable lessons and I hope to continue to share all these experiences with you so that you can find your way out of debt and move on to living a happier life without debt.

Thanks for coming back and tuning in to my blog! The journey on the path that I am on is going to be complete very soon, and I hope that you’ll continue to join me by spreading the word and converting my fellow consumer-debt carrying citizens.

Until next time. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Be Trippin'

I wrote this while I was on the plane a few weeks ago and completely forgot about it! I will be making more of an effort to write on here, especially since my readership is soaring! Anyway, enjoy! If you think of a topic that you want me to write about, leave me a comment below!

Another trip means another kick to the financial nutsack and yet, here I am going on another trip home at a random time of the year with no real reason. Well, I guess that isn’t entirely true since I was originally heading back to visit my family for a birthday celebration, but that has fallen through so now I get to go and be selfish for a change. I do look forward to meeting my new niece too! My family sure knows how to make cute babies! This will be the first time in over 10 months since I have visited my family and I am sure there are many of us who understand that when you live away from everyone, the costs can add up when you want to go back for a visit. Even if you only live a few hours away, there is so much to factor in especially the travel costs.

Arguably, the time with loved ones can’t be measured in money, but what do you do to prepare for a family visit while staying on budget? The purpose of this blog entry is to teach you some of the skills that I put into place when I am going for a visit while trying to stay on track.

We all know that when we are on vacation, we need to do things that we don’t do in our everyday life to really make it feel like a vacation. I’m talking about going out to restaurants more often, maybe seeing a show or two, and with my family, we do a lot of socializing, which usually involves a couple bottles of booze. All of this is important for me in order to really disconnect from the busy life that I have back home, but it can still be done sensibly.

My first point should be fairly obvious: make a budget for while you’re on vacation. In a normal week, I can get by on $140, and since I am going to another Canadian city (that isn’t in the North - have you seen their prices on groceries?!) I should be able to stay thrifty.  At the same time, as I mentioned, this isn’t going to be a typical week, so it’s important that I plan well in advance to have a bigger budget in order to have some fun!

Your travel budget should be made at least 3-6 months in advance so that you can start squirreling away some money to spend on the flight, food, and fun. I realize that making a budget isn’t always simple to do when you’re on vacation, but a good strategy that I find works for me is to simply set a money limit. I like to give myself $500 for a week of vacation time. That will get me a few delicious meals, maybe a few cases of beer, and maybe even a couple shows here and there. There’s no shame being cheap on vacation, especially when you write a preachy financial blog about how thrifty you are, all over the Internet.

Once you know how much money you plan to spend, incorporate savings into your budget for the vacation and get crack-a-lackin’! If your trip is going to cost you $1,000, that’s only $250 per month over 4 months that you need to save. I did this by working some overtime at my one job, and getting a second job. This may be overkill for most of us, so maybe you can look for more ways to cut corners in your current budget. The main idea is that you should never have to go into debt to travel.

When you reach your destination, stick to your guns! Leave the credit card in the hotel safe, or wherever you’re staying. If you have a limit of only $100 per day, then make sure that’s all you bring with you! The best part about only carrying your cash budget for the travel day with you is that you cannot overspend. You also don’t have to worry about replacing your cards if you get pickpocked! This is a foolproof trick that I use in my daily life. Let me give you an example of what happens when I don’t do this.

On Saturday, I went to Montreal, and if you read this blog, you know that city is my financial nemesis. My credit card came along for the ride while I was out suit shopping for my friends Isha and Sam’s wedding. I’m the MC so I have to look seksi, but I don’t have to worry about upstaging them because they are one of the most ridiculously beautiful couples I know. Now, while was in Montreal, as per usual, I went overboard. If would have planned properly and only brought the cash I intended to spend, I wouldn’t have reached into my wallet and grabbed my enemy – my MasterCard. In the end, my intention to spend $200 on a suit, turned into a $560 shopping spree. Yes, I got myself the suit, but I also got 2 sweaters, a dress shirt, a t-shirt, and 3 pairs of pants…  and 5 pairs of socks. You see? If I didn’t have that stupid card with me, I would have had to stay on budget because the access to the credit has really become my problem. 

If you’re staying with friends or family, you have a real advantage to save a lot of money, but make sure that you repay the favour! Opt for a dinner at home where you cook it, grab a bottle of wine instead of going out to a pub. Isn’t the point of staying with friends and family to spend time with them? Why not teach some of the financial lessons that you learned by directly applying them while staying with them? Go do a shared grocery run and plan a meal together, rent a movie, play a board game, go for a walk, check out what kinds of free events are taking place while you’re in town. Be creative and have some affordable fun.  And remember, just because you are a guest in someone’s home doesn’t mean that you are entitled to eat whatever you want or use up all their expensive shampoos.

Now, I know that I have friends out there who are going to argue with me that the experiences are worth the debt, but I have to rebut with the question: How can you relax when you know that you are just piling on more stress with debt? Isn’t a vacation supposed to be about escaping? Doesn’t piling on more debt to travel seem like you’re simply reinforcing the locks in a debt prison? I have friends who have really done the travel thing the right way. They got to a point in their lives where they were saving for a down payment on a home, and came to the quick realization that they would be much happier with a trip around the world for a year and used those savings to get away. I would have gone with them if I had some kind of grip on my debt. Their trip was a real wake-up call for me when they left. I was the same age (ok maybe a couple years older) as them, but I had no savings to even be spoken of (which is arguably the same situation I am in right now). It really ignited the fire under my a$$ to get my debt together. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Golden Handcuffs

Every time that the seasons change, I feel like I need to make a change to some aspect of my life, and I’m not really sure why this is. Yesterday I was a huge sack of $hit towards my partner about stupid things that really don’t matter (at least not in the grand scheme of things) but the main focus of my discontent was money. OSAP (Student loans) still hasn’t come through for my partner due to an error on their part and it has left me covering the shortfall for my partner and I. Of course when the loan comes in, I will get all the money I’ve lent back again, but I really hate not being able to be aggressive with my debt payments. I also hate seeing him getting frustrated that he cannot contribute the way he wants to and struggling to find a job while I am able to have two jobs.

What’s important is that I am not holding back and helping my partner get all the things that he needs for school and keeping his tummy full of delicious foodstuffs. After all, this is a partnership and when you love someone (and are dating them) you shouldn’t leave them hanging and feeling stressed out about how they are going to eat dinner. He is loving his program and it seems to be going really well for him, it’s just $hitty that he needs a job. If you’ve ever been in school and looking for a job at the same time, you can sympathize with how much time it takes to find something and remain focused on your studies. Fortunately we both understand that this is temporary and it will be over before we know it. Additionally, he is being a very smart cookie and looking into getting a couple bursaries that will help him with his education.

Find me at Moksha Yoga Ottawa!
My job at the yoga studio is becoming so much more than just a receptionist at the front desk, I am now the man in charge of the very same volunteer program that I started doing almost 2 years ago. I really am enjoying being the manager of the program and working with the volunteers to keep the program organized and moving smoothly. You could say that it’s making me rethink what it is that I want to do with my career. If I didn’t have the golden handcuffs on me which come with being a public servant, and the ball and chain that is my debt, I think I would have taken a huge leap onto a completely different path by now. I fully acknowledge that I will not be in the jobs that I am now when I retire, so I have been thinking about a lot of questions about what the next chapter in my life will be.

There are very few people who know this, but there is a very good chance that I will be moving within the next year or two. With my partner being back in school, he may need to move to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver (all great options) to do the next part of his schooling for a couple years and I need to start planning how I am going to get there with him (if this all ends up happening). It’s a big change that I know I can handle, but all that really runs through my mind is the “how the heck am I going to be able to afford this” question. Of course I think about other things as well, mainly missing friends, and the auxiliary annoyances of packing, and all that other craziness, but for me, it all comes back to the money. There is nothing I would hate more than to be right back in this debt situation again, but I guess that would be lucky for you all since I would still have to keep this blog running and the good news for me is that I am building a reference guide to remind myself to stay the heck out of this situation!

Certainly I have proven that I know how to make a budget and my skill set has been expanded to new limits, so now I need to think about what I can do to get myself setup for a job that I will love in another city where competition is fierce and rent is high. Obviously I seem to have found my “what’s next” for when my debt is paid off – I need to start saving for some kind a big change. I can say that I am happy with the way that things are going overall, but at the same time, I get these feelings that I am becoming stagnant and need to do something to shake things up in my life. Again, this really isn’t the case, but it’s just how I feel. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Radio Star

 LISTEN TO THE WHOLE INTERVIEW HERE - fast forward to 70:00 to hear me and Gail!

Look out Radio! John is on the rise!
There was so much build-up to my big interview with my idol, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, and yet, somehow I feel like it didn’t live up to all the hype that I had envisioned in my mind (us celebrities can be so fickle). Don’t get me wrong, I think that it went well for the most part, but there were moments where I felt that I was a bit inaudible and maybe mumbly. This is completely contradictory to all the feedback that I got from everyone though. 

Bon Iver with a Kittay!! 
What really annoyed me is that the caller before me wasted so much of my airtime and I felt that I had a lot to say in my interview (which I waited THREE months to do and missed a Bon Iver concert for) that really got cut off. I could hear him rambling on and on and then when I finally got on the show, I wasn’t able to really share the big picture of what I had been doing to get the debt paid off. When I got on the air finally, I really wanted to make a joke about how that guy took forever to shut up and how if I were the bank teller, I wouldn’t want to serve him either (if you’ve heard the interview, you’ll get the joke) but I kept composed and got to talk my financial hero!

While I was on the call, all I could think about was making sure that I stayed positive and not become another one of those people who looks back on their financial situation and become as depressing as a puppy with face cancer. My heart really was racing whenever Gail said anything, especially my name. I swear that throughout the months leading up to the call I had had several Gail-themed dreams (yes we were fully clothed, get your minds out of the gutter people, jeez) to prepare me for the moment when I would actually talk to her. Not only did I take the dreams as a sign that I would be ok on the call, my Grandma had won a CAR that same morning, so I really felt like the stars were all aligned for this to be a great day for an interview.

In the end, I did manage to get about 5 minutes worth of time with Gail, which if you look at her schedule, you can appreciate is a pretty big deal. I guess part of me was hoping that she would want to talk to me for longer for whatever reason, but the reality is that I am yet another one of the many success stories that are the product of Gail. When it was all finished, it felt like I was only on the phone for about 2 seconds, but I remember getting a huge Gail hug (swoon) and a mission from Gail which was to continue to “SPREAD THE WORD” which I will continue to do here on this blog. 

Much love for this lady!
Gail left me feeling rejuvenated and reaffirmed that what I am doing here really is worthwhile. Ever since the interview, I have been approached by many different people who have been sharing debt stories, debating some of the things that I have written, and engaging in conversations about debt – which is exactly what I set out to achieve. After I got off the phone with Gail, someone called in and asked how to be so open about debt. The reality is that putting up the first blog post was nerveracking as heck, but once it was out there, it became easier and easier. Once I showed everyone that I can practice what I preach, they started to really respect the struggle that I have been facing with the debt repayment.

I don’t recommend that everyone go out there and share exact details about what kinds of debt they carry and how much, but I do want to say that, if you share your situation with people, they will be more likely to respect you and where you’re coming from. This goes the other way too; if someone tells you they can’t go out partying with you because they can’t afford it, don’t be an a$$hole and guilt trip them, or pay for all their drinks and expect them to pay you back!

All in all, the majority of the people who listened to the interview thought that I did an amazing job. I’ve been told I really do have a face for radio, and that Gail and I sounded like old friends shooting the financial $hit over the interview. I swear I will get my coffee date or class of wine in with Gail one day when I am in Toronto. I’m starting to think that the only way for that meeting to happen will be to make myself into some kind of Canadian celebrity, which believe me, I’m working on!

In case you get to read this Gail, I really do want to say thank you for taking the time to talk to your obsessed fan, and making me feel like a million dollars. Depite how my ramblings in this post may sound, this was truly a positive experience, which I will never forget.

One last thing, I think that most of the people who listened might not have known that I had 3 months to prepare my answers to the questions that Gail had given me in advance.  Yes, there was a LOT of improvisation in the interview, which I feel is evident from the number of times that I said “absolutely”, but as my bit of redemption for those moments where I don’t think I got my point across, I’m attaching the complete answer section from what I sent to Gail for your reading pleasure.



1.  Where you were:

As a frequent viewer of your show Til Debt Do Us Part, I would sit on my butt watching people who had completely derailed their finances and I would say to myself "these people are insane. How could someone my age have accumulated so much debt in so little time?" I thought, "I will never let my finances get that bad," but the reality was that I had let it get out of control. It wasn't until I actually looked at my bills and added them up that I realized at 28 years old, with no car, no home, no kids, not so much as a pet hamster, that I was almost $40,000 in debt!

I was so shocked that I had let it get so bad. I definitely remember shedding a few tears that I had lost control. I had really bought into the world of credit and consumerism.  I felt depressed and trapped because of my financial situation and I really didn't know what I was going to do to get out of debt.

I had tried to do a consolidation loan and my bank told me that my credit was so bad I would need someone to co-sign the loan with me. Since I'm also a bit stubborn, I didn't want to drag someone else into my mess. So, I decided that I would need to figure out a way to do this on my own.

After my brief little pity party, it hit me, I had all the tools right in front of my nose, I just had to get off my butt and do something about it. I figured if Gail has a TV show, she must have some kind of book about how to apply her debt repayment plan, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find your book "Debt Free Forever".

2.  What you did:

The first thing I did was read your book and did my financial analysis. That's when I found out I was overspending by $1,100 every month. Some of the worst offenders were Restaurants: $400, Booze: $175, Clothes: $160, and a whopping $314 in interest costs! Of course I had been putting nothing into savings and these figures made it pretty clear where I needed to trim the fat to get my debt paid down.

The next step was figuring out which of my debts were the most expensive (based on their interest rates) and develop a repayment strategy. I had a credit card, line of credit, student line of credit, and a student loan. My credit card was sitting at almost $15,000 and had an interest rate of 19.99 percent, so I knew that I would have to pay that one off first. Using your advice, I called the credit card company and they agreed to lower the interest rate to 12.90 percent (with an annual fee of $25). That instantly saved me a fortune in interest charges.

To get the total I would put toward my debt, I used the percentages you recommend in your book and tweaked them to suit my lifestyle. I put 15% of my income immediately into savings to have money in case of emergencies and to keep me from being tempted to reach for my credit card.

Not having to rely on a car saved me a ton of money. I only needed less than 1% to go to transportation because I live within walking distance of work. 

I learned that having roommates really pays off because my housing costs are only 18.5%.

And since I spent so much money on clothing in the past, I had no need to buy anymore stuff and was able to cut my "Life" category to only 20.5% of my income!

That left me with 45% of my earnings to put toward debt repayment.

I know that this seems a bit crazy to only have 20.5% of my income for the life category, but I needed the debt repayment number to be high in order to get all of my debt paid off in less than 3 years. This still gave me $130 per week to live on, which after a bit of practice, it became quite reasonable.

I started my debt repayment by paying off the credit card. I snowballed the majority of my debt repayment amount toward paying it off while I made only the minimum payments on all the rest of the debt. This was really effective, but it was tough to kind of "neglect" the smaller debts because I am from the generation that wants everything happen "right now"! So paying off a lower debt, gets you a bit of that instant gratification that we want. However I stuck to my guns and within 16 months I got the credit card debt completely eliminated and threw a "Screw You Credit Card Party"!  the last thing I had bought on my Credit Card was a bottle of expensive vodka, which I didn't allow myself to open until I got all my credit card debt paid off. It was really fun to get everyone together to celebrate my achievements along the way.

The funny thing about the credit card company as well was, when I finished paying off the card, I called them to lower the credit limit to $5,000 because I didn't want to ever get $15,000 of debt back on that card again. The agent that I spoke to told me that she had a flag on my file to offer me a new limit of $20,000 on my credit card, and I told her about how I just paid off a lot of debt and how I did it, and she told me I was smart to lower the limit and congratulated me on getting it all paid off! 

3.  Where you are now:

Today I am ahead of schedule in my debt repayment and I only have about $13,000 to go! My credit card is still at zero and I've completely paid off and closed my line of credit. Now I am chipping away at my Student Loan and my Student Line of Credit. Since the interest rates are low and I only have 2 debtors to pay, I am paying these off really fast!

This year has been phenomenal and now I feel completely in control of my not only my finances, but my life as well. I have a restored sense of optimism and I know that I will be able to take care of myself and my loved ones for the rest of my life.

I really have to thank you from the bottom of my heart Gail. I was in such a bad place and you really helped me get back on track. Lord knows where I would be right now if it weren't for you. You have changed my life, and have become my hero and inspiration. For you to be talking to me on your radio show makes me feel like a million dollars and this is truly a dream come true.

4.  One tip you have for listeners:

The best advice I can give listeners is to be open and honest about your financial situation.

I went a little bit crazy with my disclosure and started a blog to tell EVERYBODY about where I was with my debt. I shared how much I owed, down to the last penny, and my readers knew exactly how bad the situation I had put myself in was.

When I told people I was almost $40,000 in debt, some people were pretty surprised, but my friends who also paid for school on their own were able to relate to me. Going to school is certainly good debt, but after you've been living like a poor student for 4 years, you want to indulge in a few things like a trip or something to celebrate.  And that sort of lifestyle continues like a chain reaction. Once everyone knew about my debt, they were understanding when I would say no to things or if I decided I wasn't drinking with them because I needed to get rid of this debt. In fact, they all started saving money because I wasn't the spending monster that I used to be!

The other thing my blog does is show where my progress is at and it holds me accountable to my friends and family.  People were skeptical at first, but now that I am doing it, I have inspired other people to change their financial situation and that feels incredible.

Monday, September 10, 2012

John on the Radio - TONIGHT!!

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, host of the TV shows Til Debt Do Us Part, and Prince$$ is mentioned a lot in my blog. She has been my Financial Guru and it’s her tools that I applied to get me out of the red. Last September, Gail “tweeted” about my blog which I had no idea about since I didn’t use Twitter! My friend Inez tweeted back to Gail that she should have me on her show, and now I have been asked to be a featured guest in her “success stories” portion of her radio show.

All this happens tonight on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010 at 10:25 EST tonight! You can listen to the whole thing live by clicking here ( and then clicking on the Red Square that says “Listen Live”. You might want to test this out beforehand to make sure you don't need to install flash or something like that.

Don’t worry if you miss it, the whole thing will be recorded and posted (commercial free) by tomorrow morning.

Thanks for the support!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Dirty Thirty

The Dirty 30s have arrived
The end of this week marks the end of my 20s and quite honestly, I am pretty freaking excited! My 20s have been everything I wanted and more, so I can only be optimistic about my 30s. What makes this even better is that I get to start my 30s on the right foot. I finally have some kind of financial plan and I am not going to stay in debt any longer than I need to.  $hit, I guess this means that I am finally becoming a grown-up! Mind you, someone told me yesterday that they thought I was only 24 at most, so that made me feel pretty good about myself! And I do still get id'd when I'm wearing a hat. My secret, drink a lot of water, moisturize, do yoga, and be a boy.

Monkey Butt
For the big 30th Birthday party I really want to keep costs down, but still have some fun. If you know me well, you know that I started losing my hair when I was only 21, so now I have this giant monkey-butt sticking out of the back of my head. Hence, my decision to have long and luxurious blue hair for my party, was an easy one. That's right, I'm talking about a wig party! Celebrities do this every single day, so why can't my friends and I have a little wig-out of our own? Part of keeping the costs down is to make sure that no-one is having to buy anything more than a wig (or even better, reuse a wig from an old Halloween costume).  This is a wigs-only event! I'm going to make sure that I have some wig-themed activities like pin-the-wig-on-the-donkey. It's going to be fun, affordable, and altogether pretty bad-a$$. I'll make sure to post a picture of my sexy new locks post-party!
In other news, I have been a little taxed financially with helping to cover for my partner who is without a job and heading into school. He's going to be paying me back when his student loan money comes in, which is great, but not having the money to throw at my debt as much as I had wanted to this month has been bizarre - especially since I got an extra paycheck this month!

I really have gotten used to paying off my debt as quickly as possible, so when I don't drop at least $1,000 on my debt each month, I panic a little. This is also a pretty exciting thing too though. My partner and I are starting to behave more like a financial unit. The reality is that his debt becomes my debt, but we do like to keep our finances separate. It seems silly to worry about the money, especially since I am ahead of schedule by 3 months, but I really really want to impress Gail when I am on her radio show in a couple of weeks!
Wig Party!

Speaking of being on Gail's show, I have been booked for an entire half hour, but I think that the reality is that I will only be on her show for about 5 minutes. I think that they want to make sure that I am on the line for when she wants to talk to me and then let me go early if I am boring the heck out of her. There are also those occasions when someone will call into Gail's show when she asks a question like: how much should we give for a wedding gift, or what is the minimum you should tip at a restaurant, then someone will call in on a tangent about something that has nothing to do with what the question is and all about kissing Gail's butt.  I have appreciate hearing all the financial success stories on her show (which is the category I'm going to fall into), but some of the guests have been a bit depressing. It's funny how much some of them still dwell on their past mistakes even though they are debt free and leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else!

Now I'm not advocating forgetting the past, and I do believe that we should learn from our mistakes, but once something difficult has been conquered, we should celebrate it, not dwell on it. Sometimes you just have to let go (which is easier said than done) in order to get ahead. Remember that you have more control of your life than you want to believe sometimes. More often than not, we choose if we want to be in debt, how much we want to stay in debt, and more importantly, we choose how the debt makes us feel and how we feel about the debt. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Move in the Right Direction

My new crack
I have been a little bit too addicted to Bejeweled lately. Yes, that's right, I am talking about the game that came out in 2001. Remember, I had the same computer for 9 years, so I am not one to keep up with the times when it comes to technology. I do find it to be a bit of a waste of money to constantly be upgrading my computer or software, and yes I know that you can replace one or two parts here and there to improve what the computer can do, but for someone whose main uses for a computer are to write a blog, check facebook, and watch videos, I really don't need much more. Mind you, Bejeweled is saying that I need a new sound card - oh god...

Besides Bejeweled, there has been a lot of change happening lately; and more so outside of my little world. Many of my friends and family are making huge changes in their lives and the new budget-conscious John is trying with all my might to want to scream - how can you afford to do this?! I think that everyone is going to come out on top in the end, but I think about when I was in debt and how $hitty it has been afterward to try and climb my way out of it that I want to do everything in my power to try and help them make these big leaps without spraining a financial ankle.

On the flip side, the life changes that my friends and family are doing are also really inspiring. We do need to take some risks if we want to get to where we are living as our most optimal selves. I have always believed that you cannot get ahead in life without taking chances. You know that saying that says you miss 100% of the shots that you don't take, well it really is true. I am proud of my friends and family who have decided to either change careers, go back to school, move, get married, have a baby, and all that other great stuff that makes life so exciting!

Maybe I should have written this post a few months ago, because this advice would have come in handy before all the crazy changes took place.  Before making a major life change, make a plan. Figure out what it is going to cost you, how much you can afford, and what you will have to do in the future to keep everything moving in the right direction. Speak to your bank and see what your options are with them and if they can't give you good advice or better yet, good interest rates, you should think about taking your business elsewhere. It doesn't matter how long you have been with a bank since nowadays we are nothing more than an account number and a bank balance. Gone are the times when you would go and visit Flo, or Doris, the portly, but semi-casually put together lady who knew your name behind the counter. Sure the banks want your business, but remember, you're the client, and you're the one shopping around for the best deal, so just because your bank offers a loan, who's to say it's the best loan. Get out there and do your homework and you'll be just fine!

It's coming to Canada Baby!
On a personal note, I have officially started my new job as a Junior Economist! No more being the office bit₵h for me! Now yes, I know that I am a psychology major with another diploma in advanced web design, but that doesn't mean I don't know a thing or two about analysing data. This job is (hopefully) going to open a few more doors for me to help me reach my full potential. And if that doesn't work, I could always just become famous after my appearance one month from now on Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Radio show!

I finally sent in my answers to Gail's questions so that she can guide me through the interview. I'm not going to be saying everything verbatim, but really, anyone who is a loyal reader of my show should have a pretty good sense of what it is that I am saying. Just typing about this is giving me some butterflies! I cannot believe that I will be talking to my hero (or heroine? but that just sounds wrong for some reason)! And if that appearance on Gail's show doesn't garner me some recognition, I can always go on Big Brother Canada!  

Made $110 in 3 days on this bad boy!
This long weekend I was really able to tackle the things that I have been putting off (in some cases for years). I finally sat down and made a list of all the things that I wanted to get done and I was able to cross off a huge chunk of them. I sold a few things on Kijiji, cleaned out some cupboards to give things away to charity, and finally put up a graffiti print that has been sitting on my floor for the past 3 years! Thank you to Jess for coming to the rescue and then helping me drink 6 litres of sangria! Putting things down on paper is a great way to get all the things that you have to do off of your mind and make them a reality. Give it a try and you will love the results.

In other news, can you believe that I am already more than 65% paid off in my debt? How great is that? I never cease to amaze myself! That's all for now! Sorry for the absence, but Summer seems to have gotten the better of me!



Sunday, July 15, 2012

Looking Back

Don't be a sucker!
I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I will finally get a chance to speak to the one and only Gail Vaz-Oxlade on September 10th! It still feels a bit surreal to me. My last post had the highest readership of all time and in the past month I have gotten well over 1000 views on my blog which means that a lot of people are reading what I have to say and are watching my progress.

Even better are all the in-person conversations I am beginning to have with friends and strangers about how to get their finances on track. The yoga studio has really brought me into the spotlight to a whole new audience. It is so important to have a dialogue going about debt. Once others realize that they are not alone in paying down their debt, they can begin to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dire the situation may seem. Even though I am doing very well in my repayment, I still learn so much from the people I talk to about how I can cut corners and stay on track. Sometimes I need reminders that what I have accomplished is really quite incredible.

When I began this process, I really had no idea where it was going to take me. Part of me was scared that I would fail and stay stuck in the hole that I had dug, another part of me was excited to take control of something that had completely derailed me. When my friends had left for a trip around the world using the savings they had, I realized that my spending was awful and my savings were nonexistent because they were both making the same salary as I, but they had so much more to show for it. I needed to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't as good with money as I had always believed. More importantly, I needed to see that I had become everything that banks and retailers wanted - a sucker.

Do you remember that when I started this process I was paying $314.06 PER MONTH on interest payments? Now that figure has been reduced to under $40 , which is still $hitty, but it's a massive improvement. Can you see now why paying things off rapidly is so important? Think about all the money that you could be saving if you can pay off your debt in under 3 years. The banks take enough from you in fees, so why let them take your money in interest as well? What is the point in having savings at less than 2% if you are going to pay interest at 19.98%? There are so few things that you actually need to pay for on your credit card, and using your own money is so much more rewarding.

If you take control, kill the debt and build your savings, the banks will start paying you! You could be the one collecting $314.06 in interest per month, and you SHOULD be in that situation eventually. Few of us want to work for the rest of our lives, so we need to plan ahead and be realistic with where we see ourselves in the future. We are expected to live longer and longer, so we need to have savings that last longer and longer as well. Pension plans are great, but they won't keep you living at the high standards that you may be accustomed to, so start now, try to live with less, and you will gain so much more happiness for the rest of your life. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Close Encounters of the GAIL kind

Gail, soon to be hosting "yours truly"
 Welcome back my loyal readers! This weekend I started my first shift at my new second job as a receptionist at the yoga studio. That's right, I'm finally on the payroll! Now if only I could find some time to do yoga... The best thing about having a second job is that now I have some kind of backup plan in case my job goes south. These times are certainly uncertain for so many people, so I want to make sure that I have a plan in place to keep the bills paid around here!

And speaking of bills, I managed to rack up a hefty credit card bill this month (close to $900) so that I could get out and spend during my staycation. Good thing I have another source of income to help me get this debt paid off a little quicker! Sorry, I'm kind of being a bit of a tease now! I know that most of you are tuning in to hear about my fantastic news! 

Today, I almost peed my pants with excitement! Not only did Gail tweet back to me about getting the author of the book I was reading on her radio show this week, I got an email from her office after I wrote a little email to Gail Vaz-Oxlade about my "story" and what I have been doing to get my debt paid off.  It went a little something like this (yes I did a little bit of copy/paste from my blog):

From: John
Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 11:11 PM 
Subject: John's Bio

Hello Gail!

My friend Inez sent you a tweet that I should be on your show and then you asked for me to send you my biography, so here it is!

My name is John; I'm 29 years old and I currently live in Ottawa with my partner Rob. In October, 2010 I began to tackle my debt and have been blogging about it ever since. Your book; Debt Free Forever has
been my debt repayment bible and I always sing your praises. I had tried budgeting in the past and had zero results. It got to the point that I had stopped opening my bills, especially my credit card bill. I was receiving letters from Student Loans almost every month to tell me that I missed a payment (it's only $107.99 a month)! I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. At 28 years of age, I came to the harsh realization that I was almost $40,000 in debt!

How the did I get nearly $40,000 in debt? Here’s how: In 2002, I decided to go back to school and take a course on web design. My choice to go to school came with a hefty price tag of $14,000 for a 1 year course. Out of school a year later, I worked my butt off and got my debt from school paid down from $14,000 to $8,500. I was really on track to becoming debt free. Web design didn't make me any money, so I decided to go to school without any financial assistance. Thanks to my (former) amazing credit history, I had been approved for 3 credit cards, an American Express, and Ikea Credit Card, and a MasterCard. I was always paying off my balances in full for the Amex and the MC, but I forgot about the balance on my Ikea card and got taken to collections over $300! I was so mad since I had never received a bill from Ikea. I quickly cancelled my Amex after that and stuck to one card – my MasterCard. When I first got the card, I started off with a limit of $1,500. In the end, that limit was at $15,700!! The interest rate on this card was a disgusting 19.5%! And to top it off, I fell for their stupid “balance insurance” scheme which made my balance climb higher and higher! I had that idiot insurance for years. Combine that with last minute emergency flights home and using my credit card for crap and restaurants, my current owing on my MasterCard is a disgusting $14,581.45 in credit card debt!!

As with most students, I built up more debt when I went back to school. I was living in an apartment I couldn’t afford on my own; eating at restaurants like I had been debt free forever; and flying home whenever I felt like it without any paid vacation and paid for nothing with my own money. Over my time as a student, I hit $4,991.57 (out of $5000) on my regular line of credit (10.5% interest), took out another $9,174.74 (out of $10,000) on my student line of credit (4.5% interest), and after paying down all the interest on my previous student loan it remained at $8,445.36. Add it all up and we’re talking $37,193.12 of debt!

I really didn't know what to do until I found your shows and your amazing book. I set out to pay everything off in 3 years on an income of less than $50,000 per year, and I have been doing it very successfully. As of today, I have paid a whopping $23,593.84 (or 62.4%). That's all been done in a matter of 19 months! Now I only have $14,216.67 to go!

You truly have been an inspiration for me Gail. Not only have you been helping me get my debt under control, this process is having a domino effect on my friends' lives as well. They too are inadvertently saving money because I have the power to say no to expensive nights out and am able to come up with cheap sources of entertainment with the same or higher level of enjoyment that we had before.

If there is any way that I could be on one of your shows to share my story or even if you wanted me to write a guest post on your blog, I would be beyond excited! I recently found out that you tweeted about me and I was ecstatic (it was the post with the Gail heads).

If you want to know more about me and how I got to where I am, my bio on my website is here:

And here are some posts that give you a taste of how I am getting my debt paid off:

My new Roommate, Gail:
Going Anal over my Analysis:

I hope you like it Gail! Sorry for the long email, I don't know where you find the time!


To which Gail's assistant Tracy responded today:

Hi John...I am Gail Vaz-Oxlade's Admin Assistant and we would like to book you on her radio show "News1010" to share your story.  Are you available on September 10th at 10:25pm EST for an on air interview?

Administrative & Marketing Assistant to Gail Vaz-Oxlade


And obviously I said (with a BCC to Inez):

Hi Tracy!

I would be honored to be on the show. Do you guys need me to be there in person or would I call in? I would be willing to do either. How long is the interview? 

This is such a cool opportunity, I can't wait to chat with Gail. 

Thank you


Then Tracy swiftly responded:

Hi John...the interview would be about 30 minutes with commercial breaks in between.  We would call you at a specified number (landline preferred, or cell phone if that is all you have) around 10:20pm EST so please send me your numbers.

What we would like you to do is answer the following 4 questions and send them back to me.  Gail will prep for your interview from these questions:

1.  Where you were:

2.  What you did:

3.  Where you are now:

4.  One tip you have for listeners:

Thanks and we look forward to having you on the show.


I haven't responded yet, but holy guacamole! I cannot believe that I will ACTUALLY be talking to Gail. I had my doubts in the beginning that maybe she would find my story a bit "too much of the same thing" but it turns out that I had nothing to worry about. This isn't an actually meeting with Gail, but it's pretty darn sweet at the same time.

Also, how does one get to be Gail's admin assistant?! I want that job! Maybe she needs an Ottawa admin or a fabulous gay sidekick. It seems to be standard for almost every other reality TV show that I see!  Part of me wants to ask Tracy if she's planning to take any maternity leave or something in the future...

Ok, that's enough of me being crazy and sounding like a squealy girl at a Beiber concert!

AH! So Happy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'd Love to Stay and Party, but I Gotta go to Work


Looks like the party is over and I need to snap back to reality (oops there goes gravity). Today marks the end of my week of holidays with my sister and her boyfriend and we did so many incredible things while they were in town. We spent a day at the spa, went to Montreal, went zip-lining, went to a water park, and ate some delectable dishes that were fit for a king.  I was on such a high from having them come visit; it was a sensory overload of really fun times. I took this week as an opportunity to treat myself and truly enjoy my holidays here in my home city, but at the same time, I completely neglected my budget for the week (I guess that's what my savings are for). But you know what, sometimes you just need to spoil yourself and the ones that you love with an incredible week! Thank you so much for taking the time off just to see me M&Z!

I wish I would have had this booklet. 
My sister and her boyfriend left only a few hours ago, so now I am at that place where the reality of work is sinking back in and I am reading all the mail that I have been avoiding for the past week. My income tax letter finally arrived and apparently I owe the government another $500 on top of what I already paid, so that comes as a bit of a blow since I was expecting to get back about $500 from the government. I wish they had some sort of tax program that would give me some money back for helping lower the national consumer debt with this handy blog!

Anyway, I am going to review my claim again and see if I truly did make an error because I certainly don't think that I did. Yes, everyone, you can reassess the assessment that was made by the government, and I mean c'mon, how many people do you know out there who are as obsessed with their money and debt as I am? It seems like every year they assess me and every year is the same story, I make too much, and I owe them more money! Well, add that to the list of bills I guess! Wait until I get my TSFA off the ground government! I'll show you who owes taxes!

This seems like the appropriate time to announce some changes and exciting things that have been happening in my life. First of all, I am officially leaving the job that is driving me to the brink of a mental breakdown and into something different. I haven't really figured out what that something different will be yet, but I know that it will be a change. I love change. Those of you who are just joining my blog now might be wondering how I can be so confident that I will get to do something different so easily. I have been acting in a position for the past year, and that year is officially coming to a close which means that I can go back to my old job and continuing to strive in something that I am good at. Between you and I though, I am really desperately seeking to do something where I use my brain a little more and let my creativity run wild! In my current job, I do a lot of administrative work, and while I am good at it, I am not passionate about it. I hear a lot of ramblings and ranting that in this economy, I should just be grateful for the job that I have. But I already know that. The struggle that I face every day (which I am sure most of you can relate to) is that I want to be getting paid to do something that I love. My current job is not something that I love.

My hope is that by going back to where I was, I could have more chances to really shine and prove that I am capable of doing something so much bigger that what I am doing right now. I really don't feel as though I am living up to my potential. This blog is a great outlet for me to scratch my creative bone but I can't help but imagine me doing something much more fabulous with my life.

Which brings me to my other new job! In July, I am starting to work part-time at the yoga studio that I volunteer at in exchange for free yoga and another salary. This money is going all go right into my savings account to prepare me for a great big celebration when all of this debt repayment is finished or maybe just to get my debt paid down even sooner. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter everyday and I know that I will have that financial freedom sooner than I can say "Gail Vaz-Oxlade".

And speaking of my idol, financial guru: Gail Vaz-Oxlade, look who sent a tweet about me on her Twitter page WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY back in September:

Best Tweet of my Life!

I only noticed this recently when I saw a spike in readership due to hits from Twitter! Needless to say, I have now officially joined the Twitterverse and following Gail!  She and I have been nonchalantly tagging each other in our tweets. My lovely friend Inez has sent Gail a tweet to tell her about my progress and now Gail is saying that I should send her my story so I could be appearing as a guest on her show! I don't quite know what show exactly (I assume it's her radio show) since she has a bazillion of them! Where does this lovely lady find the time to do so many things? Girlfriend takes moonlighting to a whole new level!

I don't think you need to read my blog to tell that I am incredibly excited at the possibility of interacting with Gail in real life! Her book and shows have really turned my life around and I cannot wait to have the opportunity to finally say thank you! So right now, I need to write to Gail and tell her about me so she can judge whether or not I should be a guest on her show. Check back in soon and I will gush all the juicy details! I'm so freaking excited! Wish me luck!!!