Little Surprises

Earlier in the summer, I purchased a 4-month pass for my favourite fitness studio in the city, which is also the only “gym” that does kettlebell, TRX and barre classes (although I think Goodlife does TRX, but the boot camps cost extra).

I got pretty good use out of my pass (which even discounted, still worked out to about $100/mo), though of course with work travel, some weeks I couldn’t make it. Fortunately, I have the next couple weeks either free (vacation time) or all of my work is local so my days are a bit more open. So I booked a class at the studio nearly every day! My pass expires Oct. 5th, so I was going to get as much out of it as I could before then. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford the regular priced passes after that.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, all of the studio’s members received an email. Due to an out-of-the-blue and not at all sustainable rent increase, they were going to close… effective Monday morning. So.. that was it for my classes! 🙁

Mega sadness. Not just for my lost $ and the loss of my favourite classes, but also sadness for the owner, who is a very passionate and energetic entrepreneur and instructor. I can’t imagine how she’s feeling after such a blow.

But now I was at a loss… what to do? I mean, I can always run. That’s free! So is yoga at home. But I can never really get my ass kicked during a home workout. Either I take it too easy on myself, or I’m incredibly bored. Like, “when is this freakin’ video over so these people will shut up” kind of bored. Haha!

So a) I needed to find a way to do kettlebells at home, because I actually quite like those workouts, and no other gym around here does those classes.

and b) I needed to find a place that would kick my ass. One that was fun, but would leave me feeling totally wiped.

finally c) I refuse to join a meat-factory (aka Goodlife, Fit4Less or really the “classic” gym). There is too much to choose from, and no matter what you choose to do when you go… it feels like someone is judging your choice, or leering at you. No thanks. Been there, done that.

And of course, bonus criteria d) it’s close enough to walk, bike or drive to!

I began my search online for a fitness studio in or around Bedford. The only one that SEEMED like maybe it would fit all of the criteria, was a 5 minute drive away.

30 Minute Hit. A women’s only boxing/kickboxing gym.

Hmm.

Is that something I could do/that I would like? I didn’t know. But it checked all the boxes!

It promised to kick my ass, it isn’t a meat-factory, it’s close, and it has locations across Canada that any member can use! Great for me while travelling!

No kettlebells, but I solved that problem on my own (I went and negotiated for affordable – ergonomic! – kettlebells at the Fitness Depot on Akerley). Major win.

kettlebells

The boxing gym offers a free trial, during which one of the trainers leads you through the circuit, showing you all the moves at each station and trying to kill you encouraging you to give it 150% at each one. So I went to try it out. If I liked it, I’d see if it fit in my budget.

Yesterday, I made my way there for the trial. Extra bonus: it has an actual parking lot. That’s fantastic. No more struggling to find a meter downtown!

The trainer greeted me, got me to read and sign a waiver, showed me the check-in process and then we got going. I put on boxing gloves.

I don’t know why. But I’ve always secretly wanted to learn how to box. No idea why. Probably saw a movie when I was a kid that planted that seed. But I’ve never actually hit anyone. This was a totally novel experience! 😜 

So I was a little giddy when I put on the gloves.

We got started with jabs, then kicks, then crunches, then hooks, roundhouse kicks, more crunches, uppercuts, and then “knees-to-the-groin” (the first of a series of self-defense moves that followed). Then we got into self-defense for two stations. Kicks from the ground, then locking an assailant on top of you and alternating between kicking him/the bag in the kidneys and punching the crap out of him/the bag. Hahahahaha. I really enjoyed this one! The last station, you go into the middle of the room for 2 minutes with Bob, the rubber dummy. I tried my damnedest to knock that guy over, but no success this time. His platform did lift a couple inches though. 😉

(I gave Bob a hug afterward. He’s very supportive).

All in all, I had the most fun I’ve ever had during a workout. I was never bored, and I rarely glanced at the clock. I didn’t even make a fool of myself with my amateur boxing skills! I like that I kicked my own ass, felt the lactic acid burning with 15 seconds to go at each station, and smiled the entire time! The trainer, bless her, said “for a non-violent person, you seem to really enjoy punching the crap out of things!” 😂

I was probably imagining everyone who ever cut me off in traffic.

I knew before I even stepped off the floor to talk “terms and conditions” that this was my kind of gym. Today, I am sore in the best way. Muscles I have obviously never used before are calling out to me every time I stand up.

When I got home, I opened up my budgeting spreadsheet to see if I could make it work, and it looks like I can, even during a slow work month. Also, now that the heat of summer is nearly gone, I can run again (I am not a hot-weather gal). I can do non-cardio resistance with the kettlebells at home, and then I can go to 30 Minute Hit and beat the s*** out of Bob. I can’t wait! 😄

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Europe Trip 2018 – Planning Stage 1

Skyscanner App – my fav for comparing/tracking flights!

As I’ve mentioned in a few posts already, Joe and I are planning a 3-week (I campaigned for 1 month, but he has confirmed 3 weeks is the max he can leave work) vacation to Europe in May 2018.

I love planning pretty much anything, so the planning responsibilities rest with me. Joe has made his wishes clear. So I’m planning the trip to fit both of our wants.

For him:

  • He wants to spend some time at a beach, or many beaches. The man loves sand.
  • He wants to try as much different coffee as possible.
  • He wants to AirBnB (which I’ve never done before).
  • His must-sees: Amsterdam, Bruges (Belgium) and Prague.

For me:

  • Amsterdam, Brussels, and Slovenia are cities/countries I want to see.
  • I am happy hostelling, and when you’re solo or with a friend the dorm rooms are usually the cheapest accommodation around. BUT since it’ll be Joe and I, we’d want a private room (rather than be separated into male and female dorms, or separated into two bunk beds! Hahaha). Alas, private hostel rooms are similar in price to an AirBnB, so AirBnB it is!
  • I don’t care about the beach, I’m all about lakes, mountains, amazing scenery, old cities, architecture, history, etc. But hey, I’ll take a beach too! 😛

So, seeing as how beaches aren’t too plentiful in the cities he listed (or it’ll be too cold in May for that), I added Croatia to the list. It’s just below Slovenia, with beautiful historic cities, and beaches galore. Win-win-win!

Therefore, the plan is:

Itinerary (subject to change :P)

  1. Halifax to Amsterdam (flight)
  2. Amsterdam to Brussels (train/bus) – with a day trip to, or overnight stay in, Bruges
  3. Brussels to Prague (cheap flight)
  4. Prague to Ljubljana, Slovenia (flight or train) – with a day trip by bus to Bled & Bohinj from Ljubljana
  5. Ljubljana to Dubrovnik, Croatia (cheap flight)
  6. Dubrovnik to Halifax (kicking and screaming flight)

Budget

About $8000 total, or $4000 each. That includes all flights, meals, accommodations, etc. The calculations done to get this number are extensive, but when all was said and done, this is pretty much exactly what I spent on 3 weeks in Europe last year. We’ll be hitting up cheaper countries, but with a lot more bus/train/air travel to get around, so it should be roughly the same.

Right now: we have $4000 saved

Ahem, and that would be MY $4000 hahahaha! But I’ll save Joe’s too, since he can’t right now. I know future Joe is good for it. Besides, if I depend on him to save his half, and he can’t, then I’ll have to go without him! Booooo. 😉

Accommodations

I’ve looked at AirBnBs in each city, and there are really good rates! Better than a private hostel room, sometimes! I like the idea of AirBnBs, because we can buy cheap, local food when we arrive (enough eggs, bread, cheese for each morning) and cook breakfast/relax in the mornings before venturing out. Joe is a sleeper-inner… so I don’t imagine our mornings will be very productive.

That being said, I’m ANTSY in the morning, even at home. No doubt I’ll be off exploring for a couple hours while he rests, and bringing home coffee to wave under his nose! Hahahaha

(I already do that at home, actually… works like a charm).

Flights

Since flights within Europe are relatively cheap and simple to book, I’m only going to look at booking the flights to and from Halifax for now. Right now the tickets (Halifax to Amsterdam and Dubrovnik to Halifax) per person are about $1400 total, and I know they’ll likely get cheaper if I just remain patient and wait another 2 months or so… Penny and I saw that happen last year. We got our tickets (Halifax -> Iceland -> Stockholm, then Copenhagen -> Halifax) for a total of $997 each, which we thought was AMAZING, and it STILL dropped about 200-300 each by mid-fall.

So, I may have to duct-tape my hands and freeze my credit card in a block of ice until then… I just gotta hold on two months!!! Torture. 😛

Handling Expenses

Speaking of credit cards, while Penny and I were travelling last May, she had a card that had no foreign exchange fees which she used for all of our train tickets, bus tickets and any other big expenses (so when I paid her back, overall we each got a good deal). I didn’t really think much of it at the time, as I wasn’t overly shocked by any of the amounts on my credit card statement. The fees can’t be that high? But as I researched for this trip, and remembered her card, I looked into credit cards with no annual fee and no foreign exchange (FX) transaction fees. Turns out there are only 2 in Canada!!! Geez.

So, I applied and got approved for one of them, the Rogers Platinum Mastercard (I know, Rogers has a bank?? Surprised me too). This card still charges a 2.5% FX transaction fee like most other cards, BUT gives you 4% cash-back on all purchases in foreign currency. So you essentially are rebated that 2.5%, plus get another 1.5% in cash-back. It also gives you 1.5% or 1.75% (can’t remember) cash-back on any purchases in CAD. It does show an annual fee, but the first year is always waived and then subsequent years may be waived if you put pre-authorized payments on the card. Overall, it’s a sweet deal and has received some glowing reviews. I don’t plan on using it at home for day-to-day purchases, as I’m wary of Rogers Bank, but I’ll keep it for Europe and use it to book accommodations beforehand (in whatever the local currency is, if possible), within-Europe flights, food, etc. That will be extra convenient since all trip expenses (except the two big flights) will be on ONE totally separate card, and I can view/add up everything on one statement.

Another benefit of a card that rewards you for purchases made in the local currency while abroad – is that some places can/will add any old exchange fee onto your purchase if you ask them to charge your card in your home currency. So if you have a card that rewards you for charging purchases in the local currency, you have all the more reason to ask that they charge the card in their currency. You avoid potential scams in that regard, and you get some cash back. Bonus!

But why wouldn’t I put the major flights on this card? Well, because this card is essentially free and has great cash-back incentives, it can’t really afford to also offer you travel insurance, cancellation insurance or basically any travel perks whatsoever. If anything were to happen, and you need to access travel insurance/make a claim, you have to have bought the tickets with the credit card that has the insurance benefits associated with it.

So, I’ll be using the most insurance-laden card for the flights (right now that’s the CU card that I’m still waiting for, though I no longer really want, but it actually has amazing travel benefits… so… we’ll see), and any other travel-related expenses (especially in foreign currency) will be on the Rogers card.

Sigh. My whole adult life, I’ve only ever had one credit card at a time. Now I feel like a crazy person, applying for different cards for each facet of my life. Heavens to Betsy. Here’s hoping it actually does help me stay more organized!

General Excitement Level

Currently: Moderately High, peaking in the hours I’m home alone perusing AirBnBs and obsessing over flight prices.

Lingering stressor: what to do about the CATS?!?

Are you in the planning stages of a major trip? What parts of planning do you stress over or dread? What aspects of planning a trip do you looooove? 

There’s Always the Mattress

I decided to cut ties with RBC last year, on ethical grounds, after being a customer with them for over 10 years. I switched pretty effortlessly to PC Financial, opening up chequing, savings, and TFSA accounts, as well as getting a credit card with them.

All was well!

Then PCF announced that the debit portion of the business was being taken over/taken back by CIBC, under the new name “Simplii Financial” and the credit card would remain under PCF. Essentially splitting my business between two different companies. I am also not a fan of the new name “Simplii”. It sounds idiotic, and looks illiterate. Maybe it will be great! But there is not much information on it right now. If I’m patient (which I’m not), and wait until November to see what it’s all about, perhaps it will be exactly the same as my PCF chequing/savings now. Perhaps it won’t.

So, admittedly on impulse, as soon as this information was sent out to PCF clients (which also includes Joe), I went in search of a replacement that met both ethical and affordability standards. I soon found myself signing up with our nearby credit union, which is somewhat affordable, but as Joe has started calling it… “clunky”.

Everything. Takes. So. Long!!

For me, that’s unacceptable. I deposited my first cheque into my CU account about 9 business days ago… and it’s still being held. Mercy.

I applied for a credit card with them… which was not at all a user-friendly process, and took forever, and they didn’t even understand which card I wanted, even though it’s right there on their website. *insert major eye-roll here* Once we got that sorted, it’s still going to be another 7-10 days for it to arrive. Probably around the same time my funds are released into my account…

So… even though it will probably cause my credit score to take a hit… I’m already searching for a replacement bank for my replacement bank!

We’ve looked at the EQ bank website (didn’t like the ‘no debit card’ idea), I’ve checked out what BMO has to offer, found myself perusing ol’ RBC again (I know. I KNOW!), but I think we’ve finally settled on Tangerine. Even though their parent bank is Scotiabank, which is not innocent in its investment choices… unfortunately, they just have what I want.

Sanity trumps idealism, I suppose.

Joe said, “you can make up for it by donating to causes that fight against what the bank invests in”. I suppose he’s right. Yep, I put that in writing. Joe is right! 😀

What I like about Tangerine:

  1. No fees for unlimited transactions
  2. Lower Interac® e-Transfer fee than both of my current banks
  3. The nearest ABM is very convenient to our apartment
  4. First book of cheques is free (for those times when you need a void one, or when you forget that your RMT doesn’t accept debit :P)
  5. Competitive interest rates
  6. Multiple different investment, financing and savings products (aka opportunities to keep banking with them as our income, needs and family expand)
  7. Great customer service (any time I’ve called to ask questions, I’m pretty sure I’ve spoken to the exact same dude, who is very helpful)
  8. Lastly… beautiful branding and an intuitive website! That matters to me. It’s not the most important thing, but if the app/website is an eyesore or slow or hard to use… (*cough* CU *cough*), I’m not going to trust it, or want to use it, and I’m going to get frustrated.

What I don’t like about them: owned by Scotiabank. :/

I’ll wait until I get things sorted with the CU though before making the leap. Of course, I’ve already submitted all of my payroll changes to work. ERGH. So I have to undo that mess. I’m just trying to decide if I keep my CU account open until I open a Tangerine account and then update my info then? Or update it now to my old bank info, then close CU account, THEN update payroll again to new Tangerine info.

Oh my lordie. What a pain in the arse.

Of course, I’m also still waiting on my CU credit card to arrive… which I suppose I’ll cancel without bothering to activate it and hopefully avoid paying the annual fee (only $35 anyway). The Tangerine credit card is free, with cash-back rewards and purchase protection. Simple. I like that.

So that’s it. That’s where I’m at. A member at 2 (soon to be 3) banking institutions, one of which is slow as molasses, one of which will soon have a stupid name, and one of which is great but as of November will only provide credit cards. So annoying.

On the bright side, being in credit card limbo means debit only for personal expenses which means… very few personal expenses. So I’m saving money, while trying to decide where is best to keep my money.

And as Joe pointed out today, if I’m just not satisfied with any of the banks, “there’s always the mattress”. Haha. So true. Hopefully it won’t get that bad!

Cheap Meals: Potato-Leek Soup (Helloooo September!)

Our groceries this week came to a total of $106.35. I cashed in 100,000 PC points and only paid $6.35. That is just pure magic.

But then I asked Joe to go pick up a bag of potatoes and a bag of onions so I could make soup. Hahaha! It was a chilly evening and I needed soup, what can I say.

Joe helped cut up potatoes, which is the part I hate most.

His reaction to soup: *head an inch from bowl, nodding* “Issgood. Mmm. Yep. Issgood.”

So I guess it was good.

Pureed soup never photographs well… 😂

Here’s the recipe/cost break-down (works out to ~$2.25 per serving):

  • 2 lb yellow taters ($1.80)
  • 3 small onions ($1)
  • 1 whole leek ($4)
  • 1 box mushroom broth ($1.99) – would’ve used veggie broth, but used what we had.
  • 4 cloves garlic ($0.25)
  • Parsley (neg.)
  • Pepper (neg.)
  • Salt (neg.)
  • Smoked paprika (neg.)
  • A *bloop* of milk (neg.)

I made it up as I went, and it happened to work out! So here’s what I did:

  1. Cubed the potatoes, then roasted at 350F with oil, salt and smoked paprika.
  2. Diced, then sauteed the onions and leeks in a large, deep pan.
  3. Minced the garlic, then added to pan. Left to cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Covered onions, leeks and garlic with the whole box of broth. Brought to boil.
  5. Once potatoes were browned, added those to pot with veggies and broth.
  6. Stirred to mix everything, then scooped out half of mixture into blender with ladle.
  7. Leaving a gap between blender and lid for heat to escape, pureed mixture until smooth.
  8. Poured puree back into pot and mixed everything together. Added a bloop of whole milk (maybe 1/4 cup? Who knows).
  9. Added salt, pepper and parsley to taste.
  10. Done!
  11. (Bonus step) Cool down for an hour or so with the pot lid off, then portion into containers and store without lids in fridge overnight. Use next day or cover and freeze.

Also, pssst, this would be amazing with bacon.

Just sayin’. 😉

Ex-purrrrr-nses

That’s right, cats ain’t cheap!

I mean, they’re pretty cheap.

In terms of day-to-day cat maintenance, they’re pretty easy.

Cat litter, cat food, occasional weed cat-nip. That’s pretty much it.

We COULD go crazy on cat toys, get harnesses to take them outside (yeah right), feed them treats throughout the day, and spoil them with scratch-posts and other whats-its.

But these are two old men we’re talking about. They’re low-maintenance. All they want is their raw chicken, belly-rubs and that thing you’re holding right now (phone, book, human food, a pen…).

The outdoors, with all its birds and bugs, intrigues them but they can’t be trusted with that freedom. And we haven’t found treats that meet our newly-acquired ethical standards. We watched a pet food documentary, and now we feed them like they are Princes Graham and Harley.

That being said, their new raw diet isn’t actually more expensive than their old, evil, full-of-possible-poison-and-definite-carbohydrates, diet. The large bags of dry food were about $60, and we’d go through one each month. Now we buy one bag of 10 chicken patties every 10 days or so for $20. So, same-same.

There was an expensive learning curve/investment when we first switched though. We needed to buy taurine to mix in with the thawed patties, and we tried a couple different patties (turkey, beef, pork, etc) that they turned up their noses at before we had success with plain chicken. But now we know what they like and the cost has evened out.

We also had an expensive incident this summer, wherein Harley faked a UTI and it cost us $150.

He started peeing in the tub one day.

Then he did it a couple more times that week.

We’d hear this loud echo-ing wizz from one end of the apartment, and then the sound of his little de-clawed paws wiping on the shower curtain.

The last time it happened (the day before I took him to the vet), I heard him get in the tub, and when I pulled back the shower curtain, I found him sitting on his bum. He looked up at me, as calm as could be, and then a yellow puddle seeped out from underneath his soggy ass. Of course, now I had to bathe him, because there’s no way I’m having a little animal trouncing around my apartment with pee all over himself.

Have you ever tried to bathe a cat?

Cats don’t get bathed. They get water-tortured.

Paws flung sideways, pissed-off yowls could be heard three towns over, cute little eyes became windows to his forsaken soul.

He was not happy.

Anyway, while he licked himself obsessively, trying to get his drowned-rat look back to its fluffy norm, I Googled “why is my cat peeing in the tub?”

Turns out, he might have a UTI.

So I booked an appointment at the closest vet, which is conveniently 500 metres up the road. They got us in the next morning, with the instructions “don’t let him pee before the appointment.”

Oh, sure.

Joe had to work, so I got the car ready, got the carrier from the closet (immediately, both cats on edge), got all of my stuff together and then shoved Harley into the carrier and locked it before his little teeth could try to jam the lock. Sneaky bastard.

I had kept him out of the bathroom all morning so he couldn’t use the litter-box, so I was fairly certain he’d pee in the carrier on the way there (a 30 second drive). I lined the back seat with garbage bags, just in case.

He behaved though. We made it that tense 30 seconds (him yowling and snarling from the back) and pulled in at the vet. I carried him in and they got us in a room right away so I could let him out.

The vet came in, got all his info and tested a bunch of other cat-related things. I felt like a mom at the doctor. Whenever she said things like, “gosh, he’s 11? He’s so bright-eyed and curious!” I felt a weird sense of pride. As if I had absolutely anything to do with that at all.

Finally, she took him into another room to get a urine sample. For some reason I imagined her just pushing on his belly until he peed in a cup. I don’t know why I thought a cat would also need to pee in a cup. So when she came in and said that he had been totally cool with the needle, but he didn’t like the smell of alcohol, I was so confused.

“You used a needle?”

“Oh yeah, we just drew out a bit of urine for the sample.”

Huh.

At that point, I should have realized that the poor dude wasn’t empty. He still needed to go.

Finally, she came back and said that his urine test was normal, and everything looks fine. Perhaps he’s just stressed with all the changes (we had just moved, he had different kitty litter, we had just switched to raw food, etc etc etc), and needed some anti-anxiety meds.

ANTI-ANXIETY MEDS.

I asked her if getting him high on cat-nip would help. She said it might.

I decided to try that first. He hasn’t peed in the tub (or anywhere besides the litter box) ever since. Herbal remedies for the win! Ha!

Anyway, of course the trip couldn’t end without a $150 vet bill for the check-up and the critical diagnosis of 100% normal, healthy urine.

I got him (forcefully) back in his carrier, whispering accusations of fraud sweet nothings at him as I lugged it to the car.

We had almost made it home.

I was pulling into our driveway.

I hit the teensiest non-bump, and his carrier tipped over.

“REEOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRRRR!”

And the smell of cat piss emanated from within.

So close.

IMG_3377

But how can you be mad at this?

The moral of the story is:

Emergency funds are good for those times when your cat pretends to have a serious medical issue, when really he’s just “stressed” and acting like a dick, but you have to pay a professional to find out he’s faking it.

One Loan Down, One to Go!

FullSizeRender

I can’t believe I didn’t write a post about this already! I totally meant to, back in JULY when I got this letter!!! Oy.

It actually happened around 3am.

I’d had a good couple months of work that brought in some extra dough. I’d made several  lump payments between $500-$1000 on my federal student loan and then one night in late June, I was staring down my finances and thought “I have enough to pay my loan balance right now. Why am I waiting, just to pay more interest on it at the end of the month?” So I sent the payment right then. All of my bills for that month were paid already. So… why not?

I crawled into bed (probably about an hour before Joe’s alarm was set to go off), he rolled over and I whispered, giddily “I just paid off my student loan!”

He snorted, and mumbled something about me being a furnace, and then went back to sleep.

It was so beautiful.

So now all I have is my provincial (interest-free!) student loan!

What a time to be alive, eh?

Clean Slate

I’ll be honest, I did not think about money very much this summer. I was too busy having the time of my life!

I spent more money than I probably should have, but fortunately spent on experiences, moreso than things.

June to August was extremely busy work-wise, with a great deal of travelling in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. I took as much advantage of this as I could: visiting Banff, Waterton Lakes National Park, the Badlands, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and Prince Albert National Park. I did a lot of exploring, and really the costs were only the extra gas, as park entries for the most part were free for Canada 150.

I fell in love with Waterton, and will return any time I get the chance. I also loved the Dinosaur park, with its drastically different climate and scenery. Prince Albert National Park was wonderful once I left the busy town of Waskesiu and rented a canoe for a solo sunset paddle… however, I wound up spending any extra money I made that day in holiday overtime pay… by repairing a water-logged phone I dropped in Waskesiu Lake…


#worthit

(More on that another time)…

In my own neck of the woods, I took opportunities to visit Mount Carleton Provincial Park (the loons! The LOONS! ❤️), Gully Lake Wilderness Reserve, the Gaff Point Trail, the Bluff Wilderness Trail (Pot Lake Loop), and during my first-ever week of paid vacation… I took off for a 3-day backpacking trip to Cape Chignecto.


Also, more on that another time.

Some of those things (esp. Cape Chignecto) definitely had costs associated with them, like gas, meals/snacks, rental cars, bear spray… but it was totally worth it for the quality time I spent doing exactly what I love (safely)!

Joe spent his summer working. And working. And working some more. He spent far too many nights alone. But y’know, the bedroom is just too warm anyway. I’ll be home more in the winter when I’m really needed. 😂

I did manage to get the poor guy outside a few times. We went to Burntcoat Head to nap on big red rocks and walk in the mud as the tide went out at sunset. I dragged him away from the apartment when we both had a coincidental afternoon free, and we went to Crystal Crescent beach (not the nude part 😜). He immediately ditched a whole big burden of stress when he laid on his towel and started meditatively squeezing the sand in his fists. He wound up with a sunburn… but I mean, it was Aug 25th. He needed some colour. Hahaha!

#poorJoe


So, overall, it might have been the best summer ever! But of course, that means I was definitely not obsessing over my finances. Especially considering that there were also vet bills ($), weddings and baby showers and bachelorette parties to attend ($$), and some new furniture purchases after moving ($$$). I still have a couple more camping/hiking excursions planned for fall, (and a warmer sleeping bag to invest in), but most of the costs for these trips have already been paid in advance.

Thus, I’m buckling down and commencing Operation Clean Slate!

What it means:

  1. Opening a second low-fee CUA credit card for personal expenses/bills only, and using my old (free) PCF credit card for work expenses only.
  2. Starting September with a $0 balance on both credit cards (using some savings to do so).
  3. Limiting myself to $250/mo on the CUA card, not including pre-authorized bill payments.
  4. Using PC points earned on old PCF card for groceries (going back to our goal of very cheap/free groceries!)
  5. Closing PC Financial chequing and savings, and completely switching over to CUA.

Motivation/Rationale:

  • Recent changes to PCF triggered the switch to CUA, and I’m pretty happy about it. I really just couldn’t get over the fact that with PCF, my bank will soon be called “Simplii”. I’m sorry, it just sounds stupid! I prefer my bank to at least try to sound literate…
  • Having work and personal expenses on one credit card is extremely confusing and really… leads me to overspend. When I see a balance of $3000+ on my card, mainly due to hotels/car rentals/gas/etc…. what’s another $5 for a latte?! Keeping them separate will help me keep track of what I’m actually spending/wasting money on and keep my spending reigned in.
  • Starting September with a $0 balance (even if it temporarily steals from my savings) on my old card will feel so wonderful! That way I know there are no lingering personal expenses on it.
  • Using my savings to do the above will be a temporary loss. Since all the bills will have been paid by Sept 1, I will be able to transfer all of my September paycheques and reimbursement cheques directly to savings. I’ll have paid it back (and added to it) within only a couple weeks.
  • Keeping better tabs on my personal expenses will help me stick to my updated budget and swiftly dedicate a huge chunk of each paycheque to my savings, knowing I won’t need it to cover a too-high credit card bill.
  • Creating an updated budget allowed me to see that I can dedicate $200 each month, instead of $75, to paying my remaining student loan, and at least $500 (likely $1500 as work picks up) each month to savings.
  • And because… I just love starting projects in September, don’t you?? 🤓

Were you as enamoured by Summer ’17 as I was? What did you do to take advantage of it? What was your biggest adventure? 

Did you read any good books? I loved The Glass Castle, and currently reading Fall On Your Knees, which I’m really enjoying. 

Moving Day Approaches!

It has been an insanely busy month.

Joe seems to be working 23 hours a day at the cafe, which only gets busier as the temperature rises.

I spent almost all of May travelling for work (Newfoundland, Toronto, New Brunswick, and tomorrow I leave for 5 days in Saskatchewan) and devoting all of my free time to a) running b) packing and c) thinking about packing…

With so few days off for Joe, and almost 0 days off together, packing to move has been pretty overwhelming! At the end of the day, all we can really do is look around the room at all the boxes, hug, and think about how good it’ll feel to be in the new place.

Yesterday, while I was stressing about all the work left to do, Joe said: “hey, won’t it be nice to have a balcony?”

It was a quick reminder that it will be worth it, and soon (9 days, in fact) we’ll be looking BACK at right now, just glad it’s all over!

But for now, I’ve got to somehow mash the rest of our belongings into hundreds of boxes.

How have we been doing with the spending?

I think we were I was a little less strict with spending in the past month. We definitely ate out (burgers, pizza) a couple times and once my income tax cheque was cashed and I no longer had to think about that, I felt a little more free to spend my disposable income on things I wanted.

I rewarded myself for 6 weeks of running/fitness classes with some new workout duds and a thicker yoga mat from Lolë.

I upgraded my phone, finally, which didn’t actually cost anything since I got a trade-in credit for my old one, but my plan is a little pricier. However, I negotiated the plan (played my loyalty card) and got $5 knocked off the monthly bill, which is nice. 🙂

Lastly, I plan on spending $300 at the end of the month for a 4-month pass to the group fitness studio I currently go to (and love). I bought a discounted 1-month pass at the end of April, which is expiring soon, and I’ve gone religiously 4-5 times per week. Even though we’ll be living further away from it soon, Joe will need the car less, so I’ll steal it to go to classes downtown. 😛 As long as I’m attending the classes, it’s worth it. It’s also a business owned/run by a female entrepreneur, so I’m more than happy to support it!

Joe, on the other hand, has had to tighten his purse-strings quite a bit after dropping some dough on new kitchen equipment for the cafe. He was doing so well paying down his credit card and credit line, and for a little while he was bummed that he was back to not being able to spend any money again. But I reminded him that he was in that exact same position in October/November, completely maxxed out in every way, and it only took him until April to get it to a reasonable level again. And as the cafe gets busier, that means more $$$, which means he should be able to pay it down even faster this time.

For now though, he’s working like crazy trying to a) make that money back and b) spend less on labour/wages. I get about an hour’s worth of conversation from him every day before he falls asleep (at 8pm). 😛

There are times when I’ve been frustrated that he’s working during our brief time together (on his one day off for the week), and voiced that frustration, but I do understand what he has to do. It helps that I grew up in this exact situation! Dad owned a small business and his finances were constantly up and down. He worked as late and as much as he could. Mom provided the steady paycheque as a schoolteacher, which gave Dad the comfort in knowing that at least the bills, food, essentials were taken care of without him selling anything at all. There were months where he didn’t sell a single thing, and months where he came home every night smiling with good news!

Now I find myself living the same life!! At least I’m familiar with it. 😛

So that’s been May! Working our butts off and trying to pack everything we own before the 31st.

See you on the other side!

 

 

Checkin’ Out the New Neighbourhood!

With me travelling for work a lot this month, and Joe working 6 days a week and getting the café ready for summer (helloooo, espresso affogato!), we’ve been packing as much into our days off as possible. Mostly chores, and café-related errands, but also exciting things, like that time we signed a new lease! 🙂

Last week, we decided that we should explore what will be our new neighbourhood starting in June. So on Joe’s birthday, we checked out Dewolfe’s Park in Bedford, which has an awesome boardwalk, playground and great views of the Bedford Basin and Halifax Harbour. We’re pretty pumped that this will be close by. We currently live just up the street from the Halifax waterfront.

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Joe lookin’ like some kinda rock star.

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This month I’ve also been back aboard the running train. I started slow and easy at the start of April, and it’s felt so good thus far that I’ve just kept going! I made a cute little tracker to log my kms this month, and I’m now past the 50K mark. It’s been pretty motivating to fill in, so I took some time while in Cape Breton this week for work, to make up a new and improved tracker for May. Voila!!

I’ll start hills and increase my Sunday runs in May, and by the end I should hit 10km. Truth be told, I could probably go out and do 10km right now, but I’ve made the “too much, too soon” mistake in the past and just created problems for myself, so I’m making sure to ease into it. This isn’t a running blog, but running makes me feel like more of a whole person (more productive, happier, better rested, etc.), and it gives me time to mull over ideas that prompt me to write! It’s also time spent not spending money. 😉

I’ve even convinced Joe to come on a couple runs with me, which is quality time together, and time to talk about the things I write about here (goals, plans, etc).

It also means more blurry, terrible, tired selfies for you to enjoy. 😛

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After a very chilly, windy evening run!

Today we went exploring a little more in our new neighbourhood. A friend told me there was a swimming hole nearby, which we did manage to find (it’s beautiful!!!) and we also found some great trails! I’m getting so excited to live here!

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They even made steps into the lake. How thoughtful!

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I think Joe secretly loves selfies, he just pretends he hates them. 

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Might as well be in our backyard, it’s so close! Whoopee!

 

At first, I was a little afraid we’d be really isolated in our new place. At first glance, it’s not really close to anything, and it’s not exactly in a pretty location, between two highways. But when we went exploring a bit, we discovered all sorts of benefits to living there! Where we are now, we do have Point Pleasant Park, but it’s about 2km away (3-4km away to get to the actual water/beaches), and it’s not great for swimming since it’s Atlantic Ocean water. Brrrrr. As it is, I’d have to walk about 30 mins, or run for 15 mins to get to the good walking trails. These trails and the lake are about a 5 minute walk from our building, and hidden away from tourists and really anyone who doesn’t live in the area.

Bonus: the trail ends at a Tim Horton’s! I mean, have the stars aligned or what!?

Just kidding Joe! You know where I get my java! 😉

 

April Updates

Almost every day, we experience something in our current apartment that we won’t miss, and it triggers one or both of us to sing “we gotta get ouuutta this plaaace.” Sometimes we laugh about it (watching students fight the awful wind tunnels all around our building, as we watch from above)… sometimes we grit our teeth (construction noise).

So it was really exciting today when we got a casual form of confirmation (basically a handshake and a verbal ‘yes’) that we have a new apartment, starting June 1st-ish. It’ll be about $300 less per month for a bit more space, 2 minutes from Joe’s work, and out of the downtown with all its g** d*** construction!!! It also has a balcony and a dishwasher, and there’s laundry on every floor. What luxury!

It’s been a pretty exciting day and pretty darn exciting month. The apartment news is only the latest in a series of high-five moments.

Others include:

I got a raise! Nothing astronomical mind you, but a raise nonetheless, along with positive feedback from my manager. That’s always nice!

After a tough blow re: income tax (which really wasn’t that bad, and it’ll be completely possible to pay on time), I was super pleased to log into my student loan account today and see that after my last monthly payment, my federal loan is now down below $3000!!! It started at 14K only four years ago, including about a year without repayment (income was too low). In the last 3 months alone, I’ve managed to put an extra $650 on it, in addition to my regular monthly payments.

Goals for my student loan in May are:

1) Get it to $2500 by May 1st, and

2) Get it to $1500 by mid-May!!

At the rate I’m going, I should have it totally gone by the end of June at the latest. That’s so exciting!! Then I will have NO interest-accruing debts left. Only my interest-free provincial student loan (~$4500) and the 18K I owe my Dad (which he is so excited to get… it’ll be retirement fun money). 🙂

Joe also got some promising news regarding a car trade-in, so we’ll be doing some car shopping next week on his bday! He’s very excited about the possibility of lower monthly payments; about $200 less per month in gas (since we’ll live so close to his work); and a huge portion of his car loan disappearing.

Big things are happening! The year of sacrifice doesn’t seem that awful so far… in fact… I think life is about to improve drastically. 😉

Fingers crossed!