Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bad Scenario Game

I like to play something that I call the bad scenario game.  The idea is to imagine a scenario that you could plausibly find yourself in that would cause you some level of hardship and create a theoretical plan for how to deal with it.  For example:

Say tomorrow I lost my job.  What would I do in the short term (next couple of days), medium term (months) and long term.

Short Term
- Immediately go to the bank and return my monthly mortgage payment to it's normal amount (I currently pay and extra 10% each month to pay it off faster)
- Take stock of everything I have laying around in various savings accounts
- Collect my last pay check and make sure that it will cover two months worth of expenses (which is pretty easy when you live of 50% of your income)
- Contact my disability insurance company and let them know that I lost my job (which means in two months time I would be able to start collecting disability benefits to the tune of $3,535.50 a month gross)
- Update resume

Medium Term
- Begin Master's program as planned
- Use disability payments to save the amount that would be required to support me between the end of November 2014 (when my disability payments run out) and April 2015 (when I would be finished my Master's degree
- Look for work as a Teachers Assistant and/or Research Assistant with my University
- Depending on my success for finding a TA/RA role, scope out possible RN jobs in the community that I would be physically able to handle
- Build portfolio of skills that would increase employability, which would likely include becoming involved in a number of different research and teaching areas

Long Term
-Use Veteran's Affairs assistance and my priority hiring status to find a stable long term (physically undemanding) job
- Job search would likely extend beyond provincial borders, so I would prepare to transfer my qualifications from my current college to another one

The short and long of it is that there are a lot of things that I could do in the short and long term to recover from the crises.  Some of these steps I have taken in the past when facing job lose some are unique to my current situation.

The point of the Bad Scenario Game is not to freak you out at all the things that could possibly go wrong in your life time.  The point of the game is to prove to yourself that even when the worst happens (yes, bad things are going to happen in all of our lives) you have the capability of getting through it and being happy during the process.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Every one need superhero's . . . Even bloggers

No, I'm not talking about a guy in tights and a red cape, I am talking about an idol.  You know, the person either real or fictional who embodies a set of ideals that you wish to live up too.  That sort of hero.  I have recently found a financial superhero who embodies what I find to be the highest level of financial thinking and commitment to common sense principals.  His name is Mr. Money Mustache.

As you can see by the link above he runs his own blog, which a ran across a couple of months ago.  At first I was blown away by the fact that I had finally found a personal finance blog that wasn't all about getting out of debt. Instead it was about a philosophy of money that is shockingly close to my own.  I read the entire backlog of articles in a couple of months and would frequently find myself smiling and nodding to myself at what I was reading, it just made so much sense.  It's well researched, well written and funny to boot.

That said I believe that I can say with confidence that I am a Mustachian through and through, even when I didn't know it.  Reading about the MMM family I can look forward to what my life could very well look like in as little as 10 to 17 years.

I am a Mustachian, I am proud of it, and I am on the road to financial freedom!  (Hope to see you along the way.)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

It's not about the elastic

Meet my current hair elastic.  I say current because I tend to only have one on the go at a time.  I put it on in the morning, it keeps my hair out of my face all day, and then it sits on my bedside table while I sleep until it is time to wear it again.  As you may have noticed it looks a tad ragged.  About 2 months ago it popped while I was putting it in my hair, the elastic had snapped.  Not having a spare on me at the time I made do with it until I realized that I wasn't making do, it was working as well as it ever had. Two months later and the elastic has broken in 7 different spots.  Believe it or not, it still works.  But, as the title says, this post isn't about the elastic.

This post is about the attitude.  I'm not going to calculate the savings that result from using a worn out elastic.  Quite frankly I don't care.  What I care about is the impact of it, or lack there of.  Imagine for a moment that you lived on an island.  For every new thing that you created a square inch of the island would become desert, and forever unusable.  Every time you abandoned an item, be it from boredom or  breakage, it would perpetually take up one square inch of the island.  And since this thought experiment is my own little game, the garbage isn't sitting in your otherwise useless desert area, it's in your backyard.

If this though experiment were true how quickly would you throw things away?  How quick would you be to buy or make new things?  Could you avoid running out of space?  The reality is that we are on an island.  An island in the middle of space, with no where else to go.  The exchange isn't one for one, when it comes to the making of new things or the disposal of old.  There is, however, and exchange.

This post isn't about elastics or hairpins.  It's not about toasters or chairs or supersonic jets.  It's about the utilization of resources, and the disposal of things no longer wanted.  This is about our island, and keeping it a place where we all want to live.

Friday, 21 June 2013

No Food Waste - Tons of Portuguese Custard

I have simply the absence of food waste to announce!  I love when that happens.  Granted my shelves are looking a tad bare, but since I always shop on Saturday morning I only need supper and snack food in the house.  (Which I have, so life is good.)

The food waste challenge that I'll be facing for the next week is doing something with all the perishable food my house mate will be leaving.  There's not much (as far as I can see) but she frequently uses ingredients that I don't typically use so I'm thinking that I'll be googeling at least a couple recipes this week.  On the bright side she is leaving a (large) bowl of Portuguese Custard, which is a truly fantastic dish.  Maybe not one of the healthiest dishes from her fine country, but certainly one of the tastiest.

So for the first time in 3 months I'll have my house to myself.  Having a room mate as been great, though I do admit it is also nice not to have to worry about accommodating another person.  If I weren't in the process of becoming a foster parent I would certainly consider having a room mate again.  Here are the pro's and con's that I've run into:

-The money is good, what can I say it's nice to have someone hand you $400 every month
-Good company, it's nice to occasionally sit at the table and talk to someone over super.
-Boraden's your horizon's, my room mate introduced me to a culture I've never really experienced before and was able to tell me a lot about being a Master's student.

-You have to be thinking about the other person as well, no more leaving dirty dishes out when you feel tired and cleaning them the next day because they clutter up the kitchen.
-Freezer and fridge space are at a premium.
-Up goes your internet and electricity usage, yes this is covered by the rent money, still it's a tad annoying to watch your numbers spike.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

What % of your money should be spent on clothes?

I recently read an article on GMBMFB and subsequently the original article on Money After Graduation.  Both of them are about how much you should spend on clothes.  They used the rule of thumb that 5% of your income, or less, should go towards clothing.  I, of course, had the sudden urge to calculate two things.  First, how much I spend on clothes a month and how much 5% of my net income is.  The answers are 0.28% and $179.50 respectively.  Wow.  Apparently I am once again an outlier.  I'd say that was strange, but, well, it's not really that surprising.

I took a bit of time to think about the numbers.  Is 0.28% good enough to keep me appropriately dressed?  I have to say that, for the moment it is.  Most of the clothes that I own (probably around two thirds) never gets worn, not because I don't like them, simply because I only wear one outfit a day and wash my clothes every week, so the clothes on the top of the pile are always the same.  I own two very fancy sets of clothes, one for summer and one for winter.  (Though they only get worn every 4 years or so.)  I have a solid set of runners that will hopefully last another couple years, as well as two replacement sets (left over from my cross-country days where I could wear out one per season.)  And while yes, most of my socks do have holes that is personal preference.  If I kept replacing the ones with holes I would have to try and avoid putting holes in them.  Which would mean no more skipping and sliding around on my wood floors.  I'd prefer to slip and slide.  As for the $179.50 per month, I would honestly be really hard pressed to try and spend that much money on clothes every month.  Truly, there is nothing that I want out there.  I don't want to get rid of the stuff that I already have or need to store even more clothes.

The interesting thing that I noticed in both articles was the fact that "clothes expenditures should be 5% of your overall spending" and "clothes expenditures should be 5% of your overall income" were used interchangeably.  This infers, of course, that you spend everything that you earn.  I would hope that this is not the case.  I have always lived on roughly half of my income, even when earning a pittance as a student.  Thus my spending has always been 50% of my income, meaning that 5% of my overall spending and 5% of my overall income are very different.  I hope that they are very different for you as well.

So we come back to the question; what percentage of your money should be spent on clothes?  My answer is, what ever percentage you need to spend.  If your house just burnt down obviously you're going to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe (especially if you work at a job that has a certain dress code.)  On the other hand if you have a perfectly serviceable wardrobe at your disposal you have no need to add to it.

At the end of the day you can do one of two things with your money.  Spend it (occasionally required and may admittedly be a source of some pleasure) or save it.  Savings give you two things, options and freedom.  Options could be as simple as being able to go see family on a whim or as complicated as giving you the time you need to go back to school after a job loss.  Every dollar you have in the bank gives you the option to chose what direction you're going to head, especially when life throws you a curve ball.  Freedom is what happens when you have enough in the bank to allow you not to worry where the next dollar is coming from, you already know.  True you may choose to keep working, but you are free to do it by your own rules, not somebody else's.

Some argue that the purchase of something, or the wearing of certain luxurious clothes bring them happiness.  I would argue back that the happiness that they feel in such instances pales beside the happiness one feels with experiences such as spending time with loved ones, marvelling at what natures has to offer, overcoming personal challenges, and giving back to the world more than you take.  As such I honestly wonder why someone would chose to spend dollars of the fleeting happiness of a purchase when they could save those dollars thus giving them the freedom to search out and enjoy the happiness that comes with experiences that are, more often than not, free.

Monday, 17 June 2013

June Mid Month Check-Up

Isn't it crazy how time flies when the sun shining?

Bills/Savings Paid

Mortgage - Successfully doubled-up
Retirement/Emergency Savings - On Track
Housing Taxes/Insurance – Taxes were paid last week, and I only had to pull $30 from my slush fund to cover the difference.  Insurance is on Track
Travel - On Track
Health Insurance - Spent
Bus Pass - Spent
Car Savings – So close to my goal I can taste it.  

Bills waiting to be paid

Cell Phone/Internet - Bills have not yet arrived, but I have a bit extra hanging around in this category just in case. 
Financial Planning - $16.44 My monthly payments for this come out on a strange day.  
Utilities – $221.82 set aside, I finally saw the summer drop in energy consumption, and lets just say I’m hoping for a nice warm fall. 


House Maintenance - Savings are up to $1,520.21. I’ve been spending around $50 a month on small projects around the house.   
Big Ticket Items - $366.59 in savings. 
Train - $89 still there.  Almost two sets of round trip tickets. 
Other Transportation - $90.70 set aside, mostly because people have been offering rides or lending me their car when I’m out past the time that busses run.  
Food - $195.10 left.  I’m using my generous surplus to stock-up on frozen supper; which will make life easier when I start my masters. 
Miscellaneous - $13.59 left.  Finally got my hair cut and refilled my wallet. 
Entertainment - $12.44.  I’ll probably spend part of this saying good-bye to my housemate. 
Social/Sports - $35, I’d need to actually have spare time to spend this.  
Clothes - $60
Gifts - $38.40.  Almost done my brother’s wedding present! 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Clothesline Sentiment

One of the primary complaints that I've heard against clotheslines is that they take time.  It takes time to  drag the wet clothes outside, and then hang them up.  It takes time while you wait for them to dry and then it takes time to take them down again.  I'll admit that this was one of my primary concerns when I decided to build my line was that it would take up too much of my time to use it.  I can happily say though that my clothes line doesn't take time, in fact it gives me time.

It gives me time to be outside.  Time to enjoy the summer breeze and the sun.  I'll stand barefoot on my warm patio as I put up my clothes and listen to the sounds of the birds and to the other humans that live around me.  I have the time to admire my garden, despite the fact that there a couple a weeds amid my lettuce and squash.  I can be proud of the fact that I built the clothesline with my own hands and that it actually works.  It gives me time to slow down and enjoy the world that I'm living in.  To be thankful for what I have, a strong body, a passionate mind and an unconquerable soul.  It give me time to think of what ever I want to because there is nothing else that I need to think about.  It gives me time to simply be.

Simple.  All the poetics that I could think about now, sitting in my backyard with my garden, my clothesline and my too long grass have nothing on that simple world.  Simple.  All the apps and the gadgets in the world can't give a person the sense of peace they can find when they go for a simpler life, a slower life.  Don't get me wrong, I work with technology for a living and I think it's great.  But nothing beats slowing down, and taking it all in.

I must keep searching for this simple life, it seems to have all I need.  I hope you find it too.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Unfortunate Tomato and the Fortuitous Leak

I hope you'll forgive me for my lack of food waste photo.  The only casualty this week was a quarter of a little tomato that I had been saving for a nachos meal and which was unceremoniously dumped without even a photo for posterity.  I knew I was gambling with the poor vegetable's (or is it a fruit?) longevity when I decided to save it for a meal later in the week.  I lost the bet and the poor thing is now happily decomposing in my green bin.

Poor thing was leaking right by the handle.  
Since it would be downright rude of me to leave you completely photo-less (for an entire week no less!) may I introduce you to the water shut-off valve for my house's exterior water supply.  It has faithfully served my house for the last 23 years with seemingly no attention, let alone recognition.  As such it gave up the ghost this spring when I tried to turn it on and sprung a leak.  At this point I became very grateful for two things.  First the world wide web which gave me a good idea what was wrong with my shut-off valve.  (Seriously pop "leaky shut-off valve" into a search engine and you'll get about 110,000 hits.)  The second is the fact that I have an absolutely wonderful and handy Grandfather who was willing to stop by my house one afternoon and help me out.  As a result I now know how to fix a leaky shut-off valve for less than it would cost for a plumber to pull into my driveway.

In the true spirit of that old parable "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever" the true value of having handy relatives is not that they will stop by your house to fix your problems, but that they will teach you to fix the problems yourself.  In a society where we chose to specialize in what we learn we frequently don't take advantage of the knowledge that the previous generation can pass along to us.  However, if you want to grow you independence and keep some money in you pocket I strongly suggest that you start learning.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Third Option

I love being a nurse, but of course with any profession there are the parts of it that are unpleasant.  I'm not even talking about the blood, gore and other bodily fluids, those don't bother me in the least.  (Actually I'm right up there with most nurses in that I can talk excitedly with other nurses, over lunch, on subjects that make most non-nurses retch.)  What I hate about being a nurse is having to chose between two equally bad options with out having a third option.  The proverbial rock and hard place scenario.

Do we not treat the patient or give them a medication that might do as much harm as good?  How do we respect a patients autonomy and watch them die from a treatable disease?  There is no easy answer. I know that all nurses have faced this type of scenario, as have many other professions who work with the sick and the vulnerable.  I'm sure that all of us have at one time or another wished that we could change the rules of the game, slipped in an ace, or conjured a third option from thin air.

I've started my PRIDE training in order to become a foster parent and have spent some time thinking about the similar situations that Children's aid social workers are faced with.  Should they split up a sibling group or try and keep them together even though that might mean losing a foster family who can't take the demands and leave?  Do you leave a child in a neglectful situation or do you bring them into care knowing that they will end up being baby sat in a motel room for weeks because there is no one who will take them?

Sitting in class listening to a similarly hard scenario that had recently occurred, and then in the days after all I could think of was "there should have been a third option."  There should have been a third option because we live in a country with abundant wealth.  There should have been a third option because I believe that I live in a country full of warm and caring people.  When it comes to kids who need protection there should always be a third option.

So I am becoming the third option.  I can't be the third option all of the time, or even most of the time.  But, by becoming a foster parent I will be the third option some of the time.  Mahatma Gandhi once said "You must be the change that you wish to see in the world."  Maybe, just maybe in being the third option myself I will help to create more third options.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Apparent Oddity

It would appear, ladies and gentlemen, that I am an oddity.  While I wait for various members of my family to stop their fit of giggles at that somewhat obvious statement I should explain to the rest of the world that I know I am odd in a number of different ways.

-By the age of 13 I had already decided to put an end to war, child poverty and the waiting list of children open for adoption (not necessarily in that order) all in time for my early retirement.

-I'd rather read that do almost anything else.

-I'll gleefully dive into the strangest experiments, in the kitchen, in wood working, gardening, homesteading and home repair, which for me are an endless source of entertainment.

-If you gave me a million dollars I'd probably end up giving most of it away (or sticking it in investments and giving away the interest)

-Oh and if you told me that I should wear more respectable clothes I'd probably collapse with laughter and then go on my merry way.

I know I'm odd, yet the other day some one's remark as to my normal routine threw me off guard.  I was at the bank to deposit my bi-weekly tutoring check and when the teller asked if I wanted to cash it or deposit it I told her to deposit it to my checking account.  She then made the comment that she noticed that I never cashed my checks, and that that was odd.  Thrown off by the fact that she both remembered me and my banking habits as well as the fact that this was an apparently an odd thing to do I answered along the lines of.  "Well I don't really spend cash."  To which she sagely nodded and said "You're right, it's easier to spend with a debit card."  Slightly confused as to why she thought I would spend the check that I had deposited I thanked her, wished her a good day and left.

Is it the norm to immediately cash and spend all money that comes into one's possession?  I hadn't though so, but maybe she's right, maybe I am the odd one of the bunch.  The truth is the reason I tutor for money is to help pay off my mortgage sooner, so the checks I get go directly into the savings account earmarked for mortgage payments.  (Currently saving up for the third of four $15,200 payments that I plan on making on the anniversary of my mortgage.)  Otherwise I'd be tutoring for free.

Have a question?  I'd love to hear it!

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Waste-less week and the inconvenient root vegetable

I've done it again, yet another waste-less week (hence no pretty picture).  Once a month or so I like to eat my fridge bare and restock.  So things are looking pretty spartan in my fridge.  This cycle greatly reduces the chances of me accumulating ingredients in my fridge that get forgotten about.

Unfortunately I currently have a inconvenient root vegetable, namely parsley root, sitting in my vegetable drawer.  Originally it was bought for an experimental recipe that ended up being no good, leaving me with a bunch of leftover parsley root that need to be used up.  Unfortunately I know of no recipes that contain parsley root.

On the other hand I do know how to use Google.  So it looks like I'm in for some Parsley Root Soup this weekend, I hope it turns out better than my last kitchen experiment.  (Usually I average one successful experiment for every three tried, so I'm giving this one 50/50 odds.)

On the subject to soup . . . I've become rather fond of soups since going (casual) vegetarian.  There are so many out there, and there are loads of ways to slip some plant based protein in.  Some of my current favourites are:

-Pea soup (split peas provide the protein)
-Lentil soup (lentils are the protein, though you could throw these into any vegetable based soup with out changing the flavour much)
-Squash soup (no protein in the soup, but goes well with cheese and crackers)
-Salmon Chowder (a little rich so I don't make this too often, but it's a great way to fill up fast)
-Tomato soup with lentils (lentils for protein, though I still haven't found a good from scratch recipe)

I'm itching to learn how to make mushroom soup from scratch, maybe I'll have time in the next couple weeks.  Might not even have to add an extra protein source because most mushroom soups have milk as a base.  So many recipes, so little time . . .

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Time Management

Time management is somewhat of a sticky subject for me.  In some ways I'm a pro.  I never fell behind on a project at work and when teaching swim lessons I never felt pressured that my student's weren't going to pass because we hadn't hit all the subjects yet.  In those cases it was easy.  I prioritized, figured how much needed to be done in what amount of time and got things done as planned.

When it comes to personal time management on the other hand I'm not so good.  I went into last weekend with a 22 item to do list, some of which would take 2+ hours to complete.  Seven of the twenty-two went undone.

Obviously I wasn't idle.  That said, some of the important paperwork oriented house work got neglected, some of which has been successfully side stepped for over a month.  While I can work my tail off for a weekend I can still walk away feeling like I'm behind on my work.  As far as I can tell this is a combination of two things.

1) Difficulty prioritizing in the personal domain
2) Biting off more than I can chew

I guess the first one isn't too hard to figure out.  Who doesn't chose to work on the fun projects first?  What I need is a way to get the not so fun jobs to stay on the top of the list instead of perpetually sinking to the bottom of the list.  My strategy, which at this point is entirely untested, is to have 2 to do lists running.  One will be for things that keep the basics of my life running.  Paperwork, co-ordinating my Master's, finances, and basic house hold chores will fall into this category.  One of these items must be done every day.

The other to do list will hold most everything else.  House projects that are fun rather than necessary, my writing (both on this blog and fiction), baking, gardening, and crafts will all fall under this to do list.  My goal will to be to do a part of this list every other day.

As for the second problem that is always a bit more complex.  I detest being idle and any appreciable amount of down time will inevitably have me searching for a new commitment.  As it stands I can firmly say that for the moment I will take on no more new projects until my current projects are done.  That includes no new crafts until all three current crafts are done, no new around the house projects until the current five are done (unless they are necessary to keep the house standing), and no more students for tutoring.

On top of that I believe that it is time to let a couple of things reduce their prominence in my life.  Most notably I won't be taking any more students to tutor once my student lets off for the summer and won't be looking to pick back up with her in the fall.  This blog has shifted to, and will continue as, an every other day event.  (Not that I'll stop writing to you, it's fun and makes me work on an area of my life that would otherwise go neglected.  That said I am dropping it from a 8 hour a week commitment to 4 hours a week.)  Add to that I am looking forward to having my brother's wedding present done so that I don't have my crafts of a schedule.

I am looking for other areas in my life which can be cut back without too much suffering, especially once I start my Master's in September.  I have always been able to swallow what I have bitten off, though it has not always been without difficulty.  However, I am coming to realize (at my advanced age of 23) that if I want to accomplish a lot in the areas that are important to me I can not fill my time with a hundred different types of commitments.  At the same time, I need to have a healthy balance of work and recreation; science, literature, and art; hobbies; and the fun of being a handy woman.

Any advice for a novice at time management?

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Pay Day June 2013

So my monthly pay check is in for a total of $3,598.39

Housing 40% - $1,439.35
Mortgage - $646.62
House Maintenance - $315.00
Housing Taxes - $182.50
House Insurance - $72.00
Utilities – $223.23
Total – $1,439.35

Savings 10% - $359.83 – All going to my RRSP

Debt 10% - $359.83

Transportation 15% - $539.75
Bus Pass – $68.25
Train - $0
Other - $0
Car Savings – $471.50
Total - $539.75

Life 25% - $899.63
Emergency Savings - $240.10
Travel - $175
Food - $160
Cell – $30
Internet - $50
Health Insurance – $23.52
Clothes - $10
Gifts - $10
Misc - $20
Big Ticket Item - $100
Entertainment - $10
Social/Sports - $5
Financial Planning - $5
Slush – $55.01
Total - $899.63

On top of my regular paycheck in May I brought in $165 from tutoring and $400 from renting one of my rooms.  Property Taxes are due this month and I have $1,057.62 set aside from regular monthly savings.  I expect that the bill will be a tad more than that, but I have $264.70 in my Slush Fund, which should more than cover any difference.