"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I am five days into a spending moratorium.

That's five whole days where I haven't spent a single penny!

I've been on a whirlwind spending spree since the spring and know from experience that the best way to stop a habit is going cold turkey. I do have to say that this is a wee bit more rigourous than I'd planned, but I'm pleased. I'm taking a mini-holiday this weekend and it's nice to know that restaurants and movies will be genuine splurges.

But I do feel a tad isolated. One of my colleagues and I often take breaks together, but I've been avoiding her this week. When we go on break, we usually end up getting coffee and/or a piece of clothing at Reitmans. Yes, I am able to resist peer pressure, but it's just easier to not have the temptation in the first place.

I'm also five days into the 'diet' and can tell that things are working since I'm seriously craving McDonald's (something that normally happens every, oh, five years or so, LOL!). I just hope I can still be 'good' this weekend, although I won't be a stick in the mud when I get invited to my favourite Toronto restaurants. :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Money Management Software

I've been looking for an intuitive and comprehensive, simple!, money management application that could give me a realistic portrait of my financial situation. I think I may have found my home in Cashbox (for OS X.4).

Much as I like the fancy-schmancy software with a million bells and whistles, I haven't had any success with them since I haven't demonstrated the dedication needed to make such software work for me. What I like about Cashbox is that I can manage money by account rather than by transaction category. So, I sat down and totaled up all my accounts, right down to my pig (spare change collector) and Canadian Tire money!

At the end of the day, I can simply hit reports to see how my global financial situation has changed, for better or worse. If I feel like being a bit fancier, I can even give my transactions labels to see how much I'm spending on rent, chocolate, health, beer, my nails, taxes, etc.

One thing I like is that I can enter transactions before they happen, so I can enter a paycheque and then immediately allocate money to my fixed expenses so I know how much I have left to 'play' with until the next paycheque.

The ultimate benefit is seeing my actual net worth rise and fall as I invest, save, spend, and rack up debt. It makes finding a penny very exciting!

Let's see how long I manage to make this software work for me. :-)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Using a frugal attitude to lose weight

I've been struggling for a couple of years to lose the lbs of fat I have left to lose without resorting to drastic measures (little changes are lasting changes). This was working great for me until this summer. I was exercising so much and paying enough attention to what I was eating to lose about an inch around the waist per season. I was monitoring inches, not lbs, since working out was really bulking me up. My biggest clue as to my progress was my wardrobe.

My surgery meant that I had to cut out my exercise, and I'll be limited for a long time. I've been watching what I eat enough to not start packing on the lbs, but I'm not losing and I don't feel like being stuck in my current situation. I'm unfortunately at the point where every single extra fat cell is concentrated in my tummy, which poses a health risk and also makes me look pregnant. I thought clothes would fit better after my surgery, but, no. I still find myself having to wear a tent, only this time to cover my tummy instead of my breasts!

One of my big battles with food is that I didn't have enough for a long time and had to eat what I had on hand or starve. Now, I find myself thinking "Why eat the oatmeal packet at my desk when I can afford to go downstairs and get a bagel/muffin/cup of fresh fruit/piece of cheese?" Food is now a symbol of my new relative financial freedom. I have to stop this habit of acquiescing to irrational desire for more appealing food options and to start once again to look at food as being fuel.

Enter my new frugal attitude. Every penny I spend on food is penny I'm not spending somewhere else, right? Don't I prefer to drop 50$ per month on clothes than on food? Well, starting next month, I'm putting myself on a strict 100$ per month food budget. I can eat aaaaaanything I want on that budget, but once I'm done, I have to eat the oatmeal/ramen/muffins in the back of the freezer/nothing until the first pay of the next month.

That said, I do make good food choices, nutrition-wise, I just tend to be excessive about volume, so in addition to the above budget, I want to go back to a habit I had when I was poor. I'd buy the cheapest healthy thing I could that would give me a huge volume of food with little calories. Tonight, for example, I had half of a spaghetti squash (about one quarter the calories of the same amount of pasta) topped with a homemade kidney bean tomato sauce and then sprinkled with a bit of parmesan cheese. It's absolutely stuffing, but very cheap and comes in at only 200-300 calories (depending on the sauce and the amount of cheese) vs 1000+ calories for the same quantity of pasta!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ICICI Bank Canada

CICI is a virtual bank with a similar set up to ING Direct, but which has several advantages over the latter:

-A better interest rate on your savings (4.5%);
-Friendlier and more helpful customer service;
-Better ethics (eg. no poaching of clients).

My financial adviser confirmed that ICICI offers the best interest rate for a savings account (ING offers 3.5% to 3.75% only!).

I find it easier to transfer money between my ICICI and regular bank accounts than I did when I was with ING. The online interface for ICICI just seems friendlier.

If anyone is interested, I'll send them a referral. If my referrals sign up, we each get 20 bucks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Attention to Detail

Through an absurd confluence of events, I wound up driving past the Wal-mart tonight so I ducked in to pick up more file folders. As is typical at Wal-mart, the shelves were disorganized, so I didn't trust that the price below the folders was their price. Using the barcode, I determined that the letter and legal sizes had been reversed and that I should be paying 2.97$ per package. At the cash, I was charged 3.12$ per package which was odd seeing as the other price was 3.47$. A clerk went back to the papetrie section with me to see what I'd used to come up with the 2.97$ price. As it turns out, I wasn't nuts (this time); the tag did say 2.97$, but the barcode was coming up 3.12$. I was sent back to the cash and there the clerk called up a manager who gave her some instructions that boiled down to my paying 2.97$ for one pack and getting the other one free!

I was tired and the traffic jam and detour that followed the Wal-mart visit negated any savings, but I like that my vigilance saved me from being scammed .30$ by Wal-mart and actually cost them. :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This could be a first...

I went to top up the groceries yesterday (went just 3 bucks over my new weekly limit, not bad!) and found two things on sale: tortillas and non-fried refried PC brand pinto beans. I actually thought to a) pick up both items even though they weren't on my list and b) combine them with some getting-old Colby in the fridge to make mini bean and cheese burritos! Sixteen of them. They'll be wonderful for my lunches. I just made up the packets, wrapped them up, and stuck them in the freezer.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This Week's Finds

Earlier this week, a colleague and I were taking a walk and she asked if I'd mind ducking into a nearby comptoir familial (a step below thrift stores). Inside, I found:

The colours match my kitchen, so I plan to leave this out on the counter and put onions in it.

This will look nice in my bathroom and actually fills a need--I was looking for something into which to put my toothbrush, toothpaste, and other items.

The big one was 4$, the little one 2$.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Coffee update

Last week, I started to make extra coffee and to bring it to work in a heat-retaining flask (stainless steel). It requires so little effort; I just put extra in the coffeemaker the night before, mix up my coffee in the morning, and then separate it into my mug and my flask after running hot water in the flask. Two hours later, my coffee's still hot.

This is definitely a forehead slapping revelation. Doh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shoe Bonanza!

I went off to a nearby mall tonight to scope out flats, ideally two pairs, one in brown, the other in black. I walked into Sears, where I rarely buy anything but undergarments, and what do I see, right there, by the front door? The perfect shoes, available in both brown and black, and for 30% off (27$) per pair!!! The closest thing Payless had were vinyl and cost 40$! But I did score at Payless. I had eyed a pair of sandals at the beginning of the summer, but wasn't willing to pay 40$ for them. Tonight, I scored their last pair, which just happened to be in my size... for 10$. My shoe budget was 100$ and I came in at 15$ less than that, woohoo!

Next on my list are an ankle-length woolen winter coat (not expecting to score on that end because deals are to be had in the spring, but I can't wait) and knee-high leather winter boots. We're talking about a real chunk of change here, but my overtime cheque for this month should cover most of this expense.

I love being solvent, being able to afford life's necessities and wants, and being able to sleep at night after a whirlwind shopping spree like tonight's.

At Last!

I have a financial adviser and a Plan. Provided I stick to it (won't be hard as it requires few concessions, with the toughest being that I stick with the civil service for another 17 years), I'll have it all--the trip to Egypt and Tanzania, the Manitoba homestead, and retirement at the ripe old age of 45 years. One thing that was made clear is that I need to move up and my salary between 39 and 45 is going to be very determinative in whether I can afford full or partial (ie. working part-time) retirement.

Provided I don't get married and/or have kids, of course, which would screw up said Plan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

iPod yay!!!

I've been tracking iPods on eBay for a few days as well as researching their cost until I had a firm idea of what a good, less than store value, price was for a brand new unit of each model type. The prize I was looking for was an 80GB classic model, for a maximum of 250$ plus less than 20$ shipping. US or CDN $ didn't matter since the exchange rate is so small, but the item had to be in Canada.

I bid on a few, but gave up when bidding went over 250$. I then started to eye the 30GB models, but they climbed over 150$ to reach store prices and I wanted better than store prices!

Today, I caught a brand new listing--new 80GB iPod for 250$, using Buy It Now, plus 16$ for shipping, located in Toronto.

All my research told me that my hard work had scored me an awesome deal, so I didn't hesitate!

The point of the story is that it pays to know the price range for a coveted item so as to recognize a real deal and not miss it.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Calculating Net Worth

Well, I'm just about done with my homework in preparation with the meeting with the financial adviser and I just have the net worth calculations to make. Every net worth calculator I find is infuriatingly imprecise. What, praytell, constitutes 'household items' that could be considered assets?! I don't have any expensive jewellery or art or antiques, but I do have jewellery, art, and antiques. What about electronics? Can my second-hand furniture in resaleable condition be considered assets? How do I calculate the value of the items? Also, how do my pension deductions fit into this calculation?

The only thing I can answer for sure for this question is that my net worth is positive. Beyond that....

This guy is either going to love me (coming in organized) or hate me (coming in fairly clueless).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Coming home from work this evening, I was approached by two men in well cut, sombre suits. They were holding Bibles and very intent on my 'accepting Jesus Christ as my savior.'

I understand that proselytism is a very important aspect of certain Christian sects. I can even accept that they won't take no for an answer because they genuinely believe my soul is in peril. I see some people who immediately brush off this proselytizers, and quite rudely. I, however, have no idea how to handle this sort of situation. I generally say something along the lines of "I know you need to do this, but I'm not looking to change faiths. Please move on." This tends to work in a scenario such as the one I encountered this afternoon.

Then there are cases like I had at my old house, where very persistent Jehovah's Witnesses kept on knocking. Three times, I opened the door to them and politely told them that I was not interested in changing my faith. The fourth time, I had enough and told them flat out "I'm a Witch and while I'm sure Christ was a very nice man, I have no need for him to save me." Horrified, they scurried off... only to return two weeks later!!! I pretended to not be home that day and once they left, I put a protection and banishment spell around my property! That worked, but I find it a tad extreme!

How do I balance my belief that it is the right of certain Christians to proselytize (even if I am personally against this practise) with my belief that I have a right to have my no taken as an answer? At which point does asserting my own religious beliefs stomp on that of others and become intolerance? Is it possible to be too tolerant?

My problem, I think, is that while there are certain beliefs which are absolutes and the only valid ones for me, I have no doubt of the validity of conflicting beliefs for others. So, I have a hard time understanding someone who doesn't get that I find their beliefs valid, have no desire to change mine, and cannot see things the same way.

If any of that makes any sense at all....

When Is It Okay to Spend Money on Frivolities?

I've wanted an iPod for years to use at work and at the gym. Even though a cheaper MP3 player would do the job, I want an iPod. It's completely irrational, but that's what I want because I'm such a fan of Apple. Yesterday, I put a bid on eBay for a brand new 80GB video iPod with a maximum bid of 100$. Checking prices for such an item, I doubt I'll get it for 100$, but we'll see.

This post isn't about the iPod, however. It's about spending money for frivolous things. When is it okay to do so? I have a hard time grasping that concept. People I've questioned on this topic tend to be polarized--some say that it's never okay and money shouldn't be wasted, the others say that I should do with my money as I please.

If I win this iPod (or any other iPod I might end up bidding on), it'll be paid for in cash, and this after I've spent my money on necessities like rent and contributions to my emergency fund. I have no debt except my .9% car loan, well padded emergency and recurring expenses funds, a full pantry, and I make regular contributions to various charities (in addition to volunteering). Does that make it 'okay' to 'waste' or 'spend' my money on an iPod when an other brand of MP3 player at half the cost would be suitable?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

150$ later...

There's food in the house again! LOL

I focussed on sales and items I'm short on. Anything else, I'll wait for further sales. IGA had its rare 2 for 1 sale on laundry detergent (this time La parisienne) so I bought two even though I'd bought some (for 2$ off) a month ago. The max number of free containers was four, but I only do a load or two of laundry per week so one freebie was sufficient for me to get to the next sale.

I bought a few things at Zellers but find the prices too close to IGA for the most part to bother doing that again since the lineups at the cash there are ludicrous (maybe even worse than Walmart). I did stock up on white cheddar Kraft dinner (my treat of treats) since it was on sale for 99 cents per box at IGA... but 49 cents at Zellers. The six boxes I bought (customer max) will last me a year.

I had 5 1$ off coupons for General Mills, which includes Betty Crocker, Green Giant, Nature Valley, Old El Paso, and more, but I was not able to find anything worth spending the coupons on! I'll wait till the granola bars or taco kits go on sale and use the coupons then. Cereal isn't something I buy often and won't buy just because I have a coupon.

I was happy to have a 2$ off coupon for two Swiffer refills since I needed both dry and wet cloths. I don't rely on Swiffer (not too frugal or ecological) but I'm still not allowed to vacuum or mop (ie. carry a heavy bucket of water), so Swiffer is a godssend! Brita filters were also discounted at Zellers, and at a most opportune time.

Best bargain of the day: red peppers for 69 cents per lb!!!

I stopped counting my savings at 30$!!!

Free Stuff for Canadians

"I found a New Site Called Canadian Free Stuff. They are very Canadian , with only Canadians in mind. Talk about being Patriotic. And Best of all. - FREE - They have a very large directory showing you where to get everything free. From Baby samples to pet samples, Not only do they have freebies, but also list all the coupons for Canada to be found online,

They also have a very busy Message Board where participating members share in on the fun with freebie hunting, and entering in Contests found across line.

Upon Entering The Forum - You will find that they also give away a free gift to all those that reach the rank of “Smart Beaver”.

So if your Canadian and wouldn’t mind getting some free stuff delivered into your mailbox, this wonderful place to hang your hat.

If you have a Blog, You can also enter into their Contest for $50.00 Amazon.com Gift Certificate."

Credit Report, Pantry List, eBay clothes

This morning, I went to equifax.ca to get a copy of a report called 'Score Power.' It's your credit report with a breakdown and analysis of your FICO score. I'm happy to report that my score has gone up almost 100 points in less than a year! The analysis has helped me make the decision about whether or not to close one of my accounts. I'll take the report with me when I go meet with the financial adviser since there are parts of it I don't understand. I think that the 25$ cost was worthwhile to know that a) I'm on top of things, b) no one has usurped my identity, and c) my financial health is definitely improving.

Moving on...

I finished my list of pantry staples and used it to plan my (badly needed) shopping trip this afternoon. I can't believe I never thought to do this before!!! Making my list was SO easy! I was also surprised to discover that I have a much better idea of what a 'good' price is for the items that I regularly use. Examining the grocery fliers, I've decided to stick with IGA for this trip, although Loblaws has a good deal on Yves TVP. I'm just not sure it'd be worth going all the way out there, though. Before I go to IGA this afternoon, I'll stop in at the Zellers next door and price items on my list there and get anything that's cheaper.

My huge lot of clothes purchased on eBay arrived today and I am thrilled!!! Everything is as described, in great condition, and perfectly my size. WOOHOO!