Monday, January 30, 2012

Now it's Personal!

See, gobbledygook IS a word!
Can you believe that January is over and my mind still wants to write 2011 instead of 2012? Does this mean I’m afraid of the future? No. No it does not. So far this year has been going relatively well, and when I say relatively well, I mean ok, and when I say ok, I mean, it could be better. Yesterday I was having a conversation with my friend Andy about my budget and my future (I’m really amazed that Andy hasn’t asked me to shut up about the budget already – gold star for Andy) and I got to thinking about where am I planning to be at the end of all of this debt repayment gobbledygook. Sure, it’s wonderful that I will have no debt and I will have more freedom to come and go as I please, but what is the point to getting this debt paid off. I really have no desire to buy a house or a condo, I don’t want a car, and there aren’t any other major life-changing purchases that I have in mind. I don’t see myself as someone who fits the same norm as most people. Even friends that I would never expect to mutter the words “I’m moving to the suburbs” are actually planning on moving to the suburbs.

So many questions!
So the big question is, is there something wrong with being happy living in an apartment downtown with cheap rent and just stockpiling a wad of cash toward my retirement? Do I really need to buy into this idea of a house and family and 2.5 kids? How do you even go about raising half a child? The point is that I have started to hit a crossroads where I want to do something that really matters to me other than paying down this budget and trying to fit into some kind of mold that is expected of me. Yes, I have a great job and I am doing well, but is this really what I want to be getting myself into until I’m 65 67? Is there something more that I should be planning to save toward?

I realize that I am finishing off my 20’s and now I’m getting to the point where I am expected to “grow up” and get ready for the future, but I still have another 30+ years of work to do and I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I was really proud of all the things I have accomplished. My creative bone is itching to be used and my heart is yearning to help people who actually need it. I think the biggest challenge that I face is that I have a great salary and a stable(ish) job and I don’t want to do something stupid to mess this up for me, but at the same time, I crave risks, I love adventures, and I hate regrets.

So what am I going to do about this? Well I guess this is where I get back into the talk about setting goals. I want to set myself up so that if I choose, I can take a large chunk of my time to either go back to school, or search for another job, move to another city, open my own business, and really take control over my life. Big things always happen to me in February so I guess I’m just getting a little antsy over the idea of going through this month.

Actually, I guess this is a good time to bring up some exciting news! Starting near the end of the February, I am beginning a yoga teacher training course as part of the “Off the Mat and Into the World” program. The classes are only going to be once a week followed by charity classes every weekend as a way for me to “give back” to the community. If this program really has an impact on me, there are so many places that I can go to work with underprivileged people around the globe and I think that it could have a profound impact on my life. As an added bonus, this training could be the start of a series of courses I could take to make me into a certified yoga instructor and I could make some extra money on the side to help me get this debt paid down faster.

Anyway, I realize that this post is pretty personal and it isn't giving you, the reader, much to use toward your own personal debt repayment planning, but I always like to highlight the importance of looking at the big picture and starting to imagine where you plan to be in the next few years, decades or even in your retirement. With the right dream and the proper plan, your potential can truly be limitless so don’t lose sight of what really matters to you. Only you know what works you so don’t always worry about doing what everyone expects you to do and live your life free of regrets. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another Kick in the Pants

Gal-pal and BFF, Gail
When I went to the book store today to buy my book for the book club, I saw Gail’s book “Debt Free Forever” at the till and I instantly gushed to the teller about how that book had changed my life. Can you believe the progress that I have made? I’m really enjoying 2012 so far and I can only see things getting better! As of now I have less than $20,000 of debt left to pay off and it’s only been 1 year and 3 months since I started this process. That figure is truly mind-blowing for me being the guy who could have spent that kind of money in one year normally to become the guy who is giving financial advice at parties. Thank you so much Gail Vaz-Oxlade!

A nice kick in the pants!
This week has been full of great conversations and activities. On Wednesday I met with my friend ‘L’ for lunch which she graciously paid for. She and her husband were in a similar situation as I was with debt up to their eyeballs but they managed to find a way to get back on track and fix up their credit. Listening to her story was a great motivator for me to keep this up and to continue to look for ways that I can save. Not only do she and her husband manage to stay out of debt, on top of it all they raise two adorable children without trying to keep up with the Jones’. I feel like she is a great example of someone who figured out that you need to step back and really look at what it is that you need and try to live within your means. That lunch was certainly a nice kick in the pants.

I’m continuing on with my resolution to not drink for the month of January and it has definitely been a challenge. It’s so funny how people got used to me being that guy who always had a beer in his hand at a party and how they react to me as a result. I think that some people think that there may be something wrong with my health, but I’m here to tell you, there isn’t. The biggest motivation to quit drinking is to get myself back into shape, which it is definitely doing (hello flatter stomach). Secondly, I am getting to save a lot of money from my entertainment budget. I was at the bar on Friday and I spent only $12. That’s pretty ridiculous for me since usually a few beers will bring me up into the $30-$40 range. Since I am on the subject of being sober at the bar, I’d like to ask all the non-drinkers how they do it! Sure, I had a great time being with my friends and dancing to horrible remixes to horrible songs, but I couldn’t believe how much people make out – and with multiple people! It was really quite astonishing and disgusting.

Crayon Art - Cheap and Beautiful!
Speaking of entertainment, I want to share some great low-cost ideas with you that I have participated in recently. The first was a really great idea to make artwork using crayons and some canvas from the dollar store. My friend Eric hosted me and some friends to make some crayon art by melting crayons onto canvas and it turned out really well! The best part is that it was really inexpensive and a super fun idea. Search the internet for some how-to instructions and go to town! The next cheap as free activitiy is to get out and enjoy winter. Yes, I know that it’s colder than a witch’s tit out there, but when you strap on (lol) some skates and hit up the rink, you get to have some fun for free and enjoy winter at the same time. Yes, the winter can be $hitty sometimes, but as with all things, sometimes you just need to say “eff it” and make your bad situation into a good one.

I have really noticed lately that I am becoming more positive with my outlook on life. When I get asked how I am doing, I don’t even flinch when I say that I am truly doing well and I think that my healthy financials are living proof of this. Looking back, I always sort of had an understanding of how money works and I don’t recall being taught specifically how savings, RRSPs, loans, credit cards, and all what all that other financial jargon meant, but I took some initiative and got myself informed about finances. Now I know that there are some of you out there who are pledging to get your debt paid down this year, so if you are struggling, take the time to get informed because the resources are plentiful. My methods are not going to work for everyone, but there is a way to go about this if you just commit to working hard at getting on track. Trust in yourself and there is no limit to what you can do in this world. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Short and Sweet

Today has been incredibly productive. I cleaned my room like a mad man, hung some pictures, did 5 loads of laundry, and it’s not even supper time yet! These days are great because you feel good about accomplishing lots of tasks and the whole time you barely need to spend any money (except for the $4 per load for laundry – seriously).

All in all, this week has passed really well. I am still loving language training and not having to deal with any work situations. My stress levels are at a new low because I have been able to relax, do lots of yoga, and finally get caught up on my chores. 

The other added element that is making this time away from work feel so fruitful is that I have given up drinking alcohol for the entire month of January since I returned from my holidays. The savings alone are phenomenal! Instead of buying 2 beers at the bar, I was able to buy a new broom which I needed so badly. Not only that, I was able to go out to a couple restaurants with friends and spend under $20 (including tip) for my meals. It makes me happy to know that I can still have fun with my friends on a very limited budget AND without drinking.

All this 'no drinking' stuff is getting me set up for the big day that I completely pay off my credit card and have a party to celebrate! I have a bottle of vodka that I have been waiting to drink for that exact moment. The bottle was one of the last things that I had bought on my credit card before the big debt repayment process, so I thought it would be fitting to make myself wait to drink it until I have my credit card completely paid off! Not only will that celebration be about paying off that card, but also to celebrate my halfway mark accomplishment.

I’ll try give you guys a better entry later this week with more details about how I’ve been getting on this month!

Damn this process feels good! What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lost and Found

Whoo! Saskatoon!
My past 2 weeks of vacation in Saskatoon were phenomenal. Finally I think I can say that I was able to almost completely remove myself from thinking about work and really taking some much deserved time for myself. While I was away, I think I ate (with the exception of Christmas dinners) all of my meals in restaurants and the bills averaged out to around $50 per meal (adding in the booze and everything else). What really blew me away was the generosity of my family and friends during the holiday season. I think that almost all of my meals were paid for, in fact I went to one restaurant 4 times and only paid once after insisting on covering the bill for my friends. In the end I spent on average what I normally would in a week on expenses. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got home and had over ¾ of my paycheck still in my bank account AND today was payday which is always an added bonus.

When I was back in Saskatoon, I got to be reminded of the way that I used to spend every day. It really woke me up again and lit a new fire under my a$$ to get back in financial shape. Not only does it serve as a reminder of how I used to spend, it gives me something to look forward to when I am debt free. It’s not going to be hard to get by once I have no debt to pay for and I’m really looking forward to being liberal with my money again.  It’s incredible how much simply removing yourself from temptation can affect your spending. Being back here in my apartment typing this entry I can’t help but feel incredibly optimistic about my upcoming year. In a month from now I will have completely paid off my MasterCard and that feels incredible. Not only that, my other debt balances have each dropped by more than $1,000.

I love me some Gail time!
This month will be just what I need to get me back on track again. As of now, I am on full-time French training (yes I am procrastinating on my “devoirs”) so I am back into a manageable routine. Believe me, routines are the best thing for staying on a budget because it reduces the amount of surprise expenses such as meals with colleagues and I don’t have to always worry about bringing a lunch. Now I am able to leave school for lunch at the same time every day and the school is really close to where I work which means that I can eat all of my meals at home and catch a few minutes of Gail time! Today I got to eat delicious leftover lasagna and tomorrow I am going to make myself a scrumptious sandwich. What makes me even happier is that I finally have some time to go to yoga classes again. I’m telling you, all this wonderful routine time has definitely got my gears going toward having a schedule like this in the future. If I can manage to get my French levels for work and not have to do anymore after work classes, I am going to be so very happy.

Now for some random, but exciting news! While I was away, I received a package from Canada Post with a letter attached that reads as follows:

Dear Customer:

The enclosed item containing your identification was found loose in the mail stream. It may not have been intended for the mail, but merely dropped in a street mail box without a wrapper or postage.

As a courtesy, Canada Post Corporation is returning this item to you free of charge.

Found! So amazing!
The attached item was my lost wallet! How lovely is that? Thank you to the person who took the time to drop my wallet off for me. I never imagined that I would see this thing again since it has been several months since someone stole it from me. The best part is that the person who took my wallet only took the cash and my MasterCard, leaving me with all of my ID cards so I can rest a little better knowing that someone isn’t out there trying to steal my identity. The $hitty part is that my wallet is a little, well, disgusting and looks like it has been run over by a car. But that’s not what the focus is on here, it’s the fact that someone, somewhere decided to be kind and return something to its rightful owner, me. I feel great starting a new year with a feeling of hope in my fellow man and I can’t wait to yet another fantastic learning experience.

Happy New Year everyone!