Sunday, April 22, 2012

There's Been a Murder!

Savings Murdered!
Everyone, it is with a heavy heart that I have share this tragic news here on my blog. There has been a murder, yes, it's true, my savings account has been murdered. It happened Friday night around 8:00 pm and it was a slow and agonizing process, that caught me completely off guard. I sat down at my computer just like any other day and began planning an upcoming trip to Montreal for my 4 year anniversary. I searched for hours for the best deals on car rentals, hotels, and things to do in "the most European city in North America" and the next thing I knew, like water oozing out of a freshly cut watermelon, my savings were depleted and my bank account laid lifeless and cold out there in cyberspace.  I went into my trip planning with the intention to keep things as cheap as I could, but then I remembered that my partner and I have been together for 4 freaking years and this is something to truly celebrate, so I caved and stabbed my savings right in the heart! It looks like Montreal officially brings out my alter ego - Spendy Spenderson.  

Without giving away all the details here on my blog (I'm trying to keep things a little bit of a surprise) I really did a pretty good job on keeping the costs down for the car rental and that's about it. I picked a hotel that has a location that cannot be beat, but I am getting what I'm paying for which is what I think should be the point when spoiling someone you love (which is not something I get to do as often as I used to). The good thing about the hotel though is that I have a friend who used to work for that hotel chain (Derek) who pulled a few strings for me and got me the hook-up! In addition to that, I found a show to take my partner to that will knock his socks off and that will guarantee me kisses for weeks! I cannot help but feel a little guilty devastating my savings account, but at the same time I'm kind of proud to say that I am not having to rely on credit to bail me out and pay for everything again like I would have done in the past and then told myself some lie that I would pay it back as soon as I got my next paycheck (bull$hit).  Lately I really have been starting to get a taste of what financial freedom is all about - the freedom to make choices that won't leave you broke and scrambling to pay the bills!

I don't know how often everyone looks at my saving statistics when they read my blog, but  I do try pretty hard to keep putting 10-15% of my income into savings every paycheck. The main thinking behind this is not that I am trying to save for anything in particular at the moment, but I really want to be able to have money to spend on emergency trips home or when I have a burning desire to spend on myself or others, I don't have to pull out the credit card and smack it down on the counter with a 12.9% interest charge every time. Admittedly, this recent dipping into my savings has also made me a little bit annoyed at myself for taking away from my ultimate goal of hitting $5,000 in savings by November. I am not the kind of guy who can completely neglect my goals so when I do things that are counterproductive, the frustration begins to mount (and usually from behind).

Looks like Greece will have to wait!
There are going to be other things that will hinder that in the future as well. I have planned to take 2 more trips to Saskatchewan this year and my sisters are coming to visit me in May and June. Not only that, there is a chance that I may have to come up with an extra $200 per month to cover rent this summer which is essentially how much money I am putting away into my savings account every month. Now I have also been making some wise decisions such as turning down a vacation to Greece and a trip to Halifax, but I still really would love to go and do both of those things. These types of situations motivate me even more to get on track with getting my debt paid off and having a vacation fund as well as a fund for a purchasing a home and increasing my net worth.

Now the big challenge is going to be trying to get that savings number boosted back up for October when I will be planning my next trip back to Saskatchewan! I think it's going to be possible since after May, I will have only 2 debts left to pay! I think I am proving a lot of people wrong and I can get my debt under control while still making sure to enjoy myself and live a full and happy life!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Shopping Shocker!

I didn't buy a single thing I am wearing!
It sure is nice to get four days in a row off work - paid no less! Now before you all leap across your computer screens and strangle me for being one of those fortunate people who gets this Monday off, stop and reflect about how you all benefit from my time off by getting to read this wonderful blog post! The past 4 days have been relatively spend-free which is largely in part of the generous sharing of delicious food (and booze) by friends and family. Thank you Derek for the delicious chicken and veggies that you made on Friday, and thank you Kim and Tim for the decadent feast yesterday (and leftover chocolate pie today) - it sure is a treat for a man on a budget!

It has been a long time since I was back here writing something for you all to read about so I think that I should start you off with a bit of a recap on what has been going on with me in the past couple weeks. Right after preaching to everyone about how I have weaknesses for buying certain things such as clothes, I went to Montreal to help my friend Andy find some new outfits to wear for work with the caveat that I would not be shopping for me. Well it had been a long time since I had been to Montreal so as soon as I got there, I was reminded of how much I love being in that city and how many good deals on clothes that they have so I broke down and spent! Needless to say that I was a little bit silly with my spending and I purchased more than a couple items. The good news is that I got some amazing deals and still managed to spend less than Andy did!

For $306.41, I managed to pick up quite the collection of clothes, including: 1 pair of sunglasses, a blazer, 3 pairs of pants, a t-shirt, a bow-tie, 3 dress shirts, and a sassy new hat! Not too shabby for that kind of coin. The key part is that I managed to buy what I actually really needed, which was some dress clothes for work and only one (beautiful) t-shirt. I was starting to get in desperate need of some new pants for work and play because I have somehow been able to slowly wear out the crotch in a couple pairs of my pants (feel free to draw your own conclusions here). Not only did I avoid buying a bunch of t-shirts that I didn't need, I left a lot of things behind that I liked, but didn't love.

Shockingly I didn't buy anything here either!
If you want to be a successful clothing shopper such as myself, here are some handy dandy tips. Start off in the stores that you know are usually more expensive and grab anything and everything that you love and try it on. When I was in the stores, I put on so many different outfits and you can ask Andy, sometimes it seemed a little ridiculous. Next, make a mental note of the items that make you feel fantastic, not just the ones that look good on you, but the ones that you really really really love on you. After that, look at the price tag. If the article is something you love and the price is incredible (like my $35 blazer), then buy all means (see what I did there) buy it! If it is out of your potential price range or budget for the day, then set it to the side and spend the rest of your day shopping in the cheaper stores looking for comparable items. If you really like the item and spend the rest of the day thinking about it, then you should probably go for it and buy it when you get back to that store. In the meantime, if you see something like a sassy hat for $75 and think, hmm, I love this hat, it looks really good on me, I love it, then spend the rest of the day trying on similar hats, you will probably find one that looks just as sassy and you will spend a fraction of the cost (in my case, $12.95 = huge savings).  

Now you might be asking, "what if you really love a bunch of things that you try on and then you're way out of budget." First of all, don't even think about your credit card! Step away for the money muncher and think about being debt free. Next, think about all the clothes you already have at home. Will the new item that you selected really fit into your current wardrobe? Will the pink grapefruit colour shirt really match your earthy toned outfits? If you need to buy more articles of clothing just to wear one article of clothing, it's probably not a good idea. Next start checking in to see if this article of clothing is too similar to something you already own. How many shades of blue t-shirts does one person need? Are you only buying this shirt because it's yellow or has a bird on it? Maybe it's time to put down the shirt and start actually looking at birds in nature instead of on shirts...

If you can stick to some of these basic principles, you can really save a lot of money and still look pretty darn fabulous. Remember that there is no shame in going to the sale rack either. Some of the stuff in the sale racks is total garbage, but sometimes there are incredible items that you'll find for delightful deals (like my half price classic black trench coat). Phew, ok, so that's how to shop like John, well, new and reformed John.

After my trip to Montreal, I have been diligent in paying down my debt. My regular line of credit is on track to be completely paid off by May which means that after that is gone, I will have nothing but "student debt". I think it's funny though that we call only the debt that has "student" in the title our student debt. I accumulated all of my debt while I was in school, so it's hard not to think of it all as student debt. I would like to believe that if I were never in school that I would have managed to get out of debt years ago. Mind you I might not be able to have the kind of job that I do without a degree, but my debt would be a lot less.

Sassy new hat!
One thing that I have really noticed is that after paying off my MasterCard, the rest of the debt seems to disappear much quicker. It's also really nice to not have to remember to pay 4 different creditors and be able to focus on only one 3 of them now. As soon as I get this line of credit paid off, I am going to close the account for good. I don't want any more temptation and I want to help out my credit by not having so much accessible potential debt as I do now.

Other than that, everything else is going well. I'm going to spend the rest of my day enjoying some time off and maybe reading my book club book. I might even head on down to a consignment shop and see about selling some of my old vintage clothes. I'm also overdue for a spring cleaning and getting rid of some of the crap that I have acquired over the years so maybe I'll get a start on that. Oh yeah, and then there's those freaking income taxes to do! Maybe my melancholy Monday could be pretty busy after all...

Thanks for continuing to read everyone!