As of Dec 1st: No Student Debt!

It’s very strange to say, but my student loans are… GONE!

The last automatic payment of $200 came out of my account Nov 30th, and the very same day, I added a lump payment of $600 to finish it off. Like an innocent little jab, followed by a knock-out right hook.

Ok, so the boxing is also going well. ๐Ÿ˜‚

I can’t believe I did it! I made a plan after we moved in June, to get my loans to $0 by the end of the year and I achieved that goal a month early!

It’s crazy to think that if I had just left my monthly automatic payments at $75 instead of increasing them to $200, and if I hadn’t made any lump payments at all, that debt would have stuck around for another 4-5 years!! Yowza.

So I’m pretty happy. It’s a great Christmas present to myself. Now I get an extra $200 each month to put toward other things! Like savings! And paying my Dad back!

Or, paying off Christmas??

Doing my best to keep Christmas affordable this year without feeling like a cheap scummy scumbag. We’ll see how that goes! ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ˜œ

In the meantime, I’m enjoying being debt-free this December.

Rejoice! ๐ŸŽ‰

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Europe Trip 2018 – Planning Stage 2!

Last week was a big one. Many deep breaths were taken.

While it’s pretty fun and exciting to actually book flights and reservations, it’s also nerve-racking to a) confirm something at a price that’s ever fluctuating, like stock prices, and b) actually spend the money you’ve been saving, even though you’ve been saving it for this exact purpose… go figure.

So by the time I pressed the “Confirm Payment” button on our major flights to and from our European destinations, I had taken many deep breaths, tired out my calculator fingers, paced the apartment for a few days, asked my Mom “is that a good price?”, warned Joe “I’m gonna do it tonight” several nights in a row, and if I was a smoker I would have burned through a pack every hour…

It was exhilarating. Our flights are booked. We leave for Brussels next May, and fly out of Croatia a few weeks later.

So what of that giant gap of time?

Well… if you give a mouse a cookie (boarding passes to Europe), it’s going to want a class of milk (a place to sleep once there).

So I spent a couple days after the flights were booked checking out AirBnBs for each city we’re travelling to.

Of course, I booked all of them within days, excitedly showing Joe all of the photos.

Then I booked a rental car in Zagreb.

Then I used my Aeroplan miles to book a flight from Prague to Ljubljana.

I KNOW.

But you know what? We have the money.

I had $6550 saved last week. And I have $2775 left after booking our flights (inc. the one between Prague and Ljubljana, for which I only paid the tax) and all 6 AirBnBs!

I was really impressed with the AirBnB prices and locations, and hopefully we’ll be impressed with what we actually get! Overall, the average cost per night is about $86 for the two of us, or about $43 per person! That’s about the same price I paid for hostel beds last year! I’m very happy with that.

The rental car will be paid upon arrival, but I was happy with that price too! I think it’s โ‚ฌ215 for 4 days (though we’ll likely return after 3), and all of the insurances are included. We’ll just have to pay gas and tolls. We’re picking it up in Zagreb, going down the coast for a few days, then coming back up to Zagreb to return the car the day before our flight home, which is out of Zagreb.

We’re very excited. It hardly seems real so far, and I’m still adding to the savings pot (about $1500 left to my trip savings goal of $8000), but having all of that already taken care of, and knowing I can pay for it now instead of paying interest on it for 6 months, is a major relief! Phew!!

Now for learning some key phrases in a few languages, and figuring out the must-sees… ๐Ÿ˜Š One of my favourite parts of travelling!

Closing In On Loan #2

For the past few months, since the summer spending was quelled, I’ve managed to put $2279.50 on my last student loan. That’s $1879.50 more than my automatic $200 monthly payments. Significant progress!

The loan is now down to $1675.00, and I plan to have it at $0 by the end of this month! That’s crazy exciting. It would only be possible by keeping my personal spending to a minimum, and taking extra work to boost my hours… so I’ll be travelling a great deal this month (three times!) to the prairies – BRRRRR!!!!! That also serves to help keep my own spending down since I won’t have time for anything but work! ๐Ÿ˜„

I’m doubly glad to be rid of this student loan… let’s see… 49 months (~4 years!) ahead of schedule, since it means I can start paying my Dad back waaaaayyyyy sooner than expected, and I can also contribute more to my/our trip savings each month as well.

All of this basically means that I’ve been keeping my own fun to a minimum, spending time at home with the boys on my days off, with my credit cards safely tucked away in my wallet. That’s ok with me though. It’s self-induced house arrest, and it’s not so bad. Netflix, cat snuggles, snacks, and endless hours of crunching numbers to make sure my goal is attainable/practical. My idea of a good time! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Joe: “You have a good day?
Me: “Yeah!”
Joe: “What did you do?”
Me: “Spreadsheets. Math.”
Joe: “Sounds about right.”

๐Ÿ˜†โค๏ธ

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How could you not want to hang with these bros? โค๏ธ

Re-evaluating Internet โ€œNeedsโ€

Do we even need 120 Mbps?

What IS 120 Mbps?

Like, what speed do I need just to watch Netflix?

Turns out, 120 Mbps is really fast, and Netflix only requires like… 10-20 Mbps.

Our internet bill snuck up by $3 again on us, and was costing us $96 each month for 120 Mbps, which we never even questioned. When I called and complained about the sneaky increase, they said โ€œit was mentioned on your bill, the month before the increase.โ€ 

Who even reads the bill?! As long as the amount is the same in the statement email I get, I donโ€™t need to log into my account and open the bill. So how would I know about the increase? 

They didnโ€™t see it that way.

So we switched to a discount provider, and reduced our internet speed to around 20 Mbps. Now weโ€™ll pay $55 per month instead of $96, and we notice absolutely no change in our internet experience (including Netflix). 

There was a significant activation cost and the cost of the equipment (~$150 total), but we didnโ€™t have to make an appointment and arrange to be home during a large window of time so someone could plug something in. Everything was mailed to us, I set it up and got connected within about 5 mins. Pretty slick. 

As Dad would say โ€œgiddy-up!โ€

Due to the up-front costs, the switch wonโ€™t actually save us any money for a few months, but after that it will save us about $500 each year! 

If all that you use the internet for is emailing (aka repeatedly unsubscribing from newsletters), Googling weird medical symptoms (๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿป) just to learn that youโ€™re probably dying, and Netflix binging of Forensic Files, you should definitely be looking into what speed youโ€™re paying for, and searching out discount providers. I wish Iโ€™d known sooner!

Now I can Google symptoms, delete annoying emails, and learn that there is no such thing as a perfect murder… all for about $40 less per month. Bliss! ๐Ÿ˜‚

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! ๐Ÿ™

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! ๐Ÿ˜œย 

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(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!” ๐Ÿ˜‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜„

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! ๐Ÿ˜›

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜›

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! ๐Ÿ˜€

What I like about Tangerine:

  1. No fees for unlimited transactions
  2. Lower Interacยฎ 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… ๐Ÿ˜‚

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’. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 fraudย 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.

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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!

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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?