Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Mr. Ford's idea of 'sacrificing'

Mr. Ford & I are in couple's therapy because he needs to be fixed.
Boy oh boy I don't run out of things to tell that poor therapist. On our next visit I'm going to talk about how he thinks we live like peasants whilst in reality we live quite well.

The talk of 'making sacrifices' & reducing our non-essential living expenses has really been kicked in to high gear recently.

The reasons are:
#1- We are going to Europe in January & although I have savings going in to a hypothetical 'travel fund' every month, it helps to have added security & ease of mind for us to cut down on our expenses now & not have to worry about our funds getting low around Christmas time.

#2- We need to move. Our house is completely livable but we are not the type to just sit still & live in it. We don't have kids (because SOME people won't get their wives pregnant) so why not put money in to a house to make it better?

Problem is when you've put so much money in to your house that it exceeds the general value of the neighbourhood & you run the risk of not making the money back when you sell.
This is where Mr. Ford & I are at. In just over a year & a half we've put 20 grand in to the house. Hopefully buyers will see that but maybe they won't look at it because it's out of the price range of the general buyer in this neighbourhood... worrisome.
This is why we need to move to a neighbourhood where there is a variety of classes & where houses have room to appreciate. Plus, it'd be kind of nice to upgrade. Not have quite a to do list & relax a little more.

In any case, Mr. Ford, upon reviewing the budget, had the opinion that we shouldn't move because he doesn't want to pay a higher mortgage & 'sacrifice more'. Ugh. Rest assured I am shaking my head while I type this. Shaking it so very hard...

He proceeded to criticise a budget that includes funds for 25 Jets games, 50/50 draws at each of those games, ONE gym membershiphis, a gazillion dollars worth of jarred sand (protein powders), soccer & hockey leagues, donations, entertainment, restaurants, clothes & gifts. WELL GEEZ I GUESS WE MUST BE LIVING ON THE VERGE OF POVERTY! *HEAD SHAKE, HEAD SHAKE*

He has said (and I quote) "What more is there for us to give up!?"

Thankfully, Mr. Ford has slept on this & has decided that I am right. Again. And we should move.
I like to remind him that he should not question my judgement, look who I picked...

As much as I criticise his spending habits (because it's so easy) I do try to do everything I can to keep the money that get shelled out on account of me to a minimum. But really, I don't have much in the name of bad spending habits.
I like the occasional bubble tea. Once in a while when Mr. Ford abandons me to play hockey I'll buy a $2.00 movie on PVR, Luibov eats my shoes & from time to time I'll replace a pair... seriously? That's it?

Yep, I guess you-know-who doesn't need to give up his protein powders & risk being even less beefy & I guess he should pay to exercise instead of taking the dog for a run... he must have some pretty strange thoughts going through his mind to know all of this but still feels that he has a leg to stand on when he says that he has no way of saving us some money.

Mr Ford is sneaky that way. I don't know where he got that quiet, sneaky gene as Mr. Ford senior is blind & you can here him rattling by from a mile away.

To illustrate how sneaky Mr. Ford's mind is, lets talk about his eating habits.

Mr Ford likes to have his 'own' food. Food that just he likes.
When we go shopping together I try to encourage him to compromise with me & get things that we both like & can have as shared meals. Sounds reasonable enough right? But lo & behold after we go on our family shopping trips to Walmart he'll sneak off to Food Fare & purchase another cart of things that just he likes.

This is how I feel about that:

But here's the kicker, he'll eat the kind we both like BEFORE moving on to his own choices,

An example: Yesterday I made us both salads for lunch. This morning I go to take the balsamic vinaigrette dressing to accompany the salad & poor boy tells me "Noooooo.... that's the kind I want!!!"


I return to the fridge to show him the other selection of dressings: mandarin orange, ranch, poppyseed, all of which he has bought for himself & I don't use. But that just wont do. He wants to first eat all of the dressing I like before he moves on to the other dressings without having to worry that I'll use any of them (while I parch from eating dry salad).
Its like the freaking hunger games! I know therapist would tell us that we could have just put a small amount of dressing in individual containers but THAT'S NOT THE POINT!

He does the same thing with cereal. As we don't have a car, when we shop for non-perishables, we stock up. I'll buy 2 bags of the honey glazed puffs & he'll buy four bags of choco-crisps.
A couple of weeks later, what should he be doing but enjoying my last bowl of honey puffs before he open the first bag of choco-crisps & gets to eat them all himself without 'fear' of me wanting any.
Same goes for salsas. And when we bought a batch of 20 burfies (milk cakes) from the Indian food restaurant, as soon as I made the mistake of telling him my favourites where the rose ones & I didn't much care for the carrot ones, he breathed a sigh of relief & gobbled up all the rose ones, leaving the carrot flavour in the fridge to eat at his leisure. I feel like I have to compete with my husband over who gets to eat.

The only think that's safe from him is the artisan olives. He hates olives.

Conclusion: Mike (yet again) comes to his senses & acknowledges that I am right about our choices as homeowners without ever actually admitting that I am right (what a travesty...)
Also, everything I like in our house is getting doused in olive juice when he's at hockey tonight.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Saying lyrics out loud in a monotone voice

Lyrics are severely under appreciated these days.

I feel as if we are too buy inventing catchy beats to spend much time fine-tuning the messages we are relaying in the songs. Lyricists are the poets of our generation. One day our great-great-great-great grandkids are going to be reading about the things we've said & done. They will study our government, family structures, religions & arts.I have a feeling our descendants are going to think we are idiots.

Thankfully, there are exceptions. For example, in modern day music we have the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Our Lady Peace, Bright Eyes, Iron & Wine, The Midway State, Jason Mraz, Ben Folds Five & even (sadly) Mr 'pimpin all over the world' himself, Ludacris. In my opinion, the above listed artists are pretty fabulous lyricisits (I said in my opinion! Please don't start a shit-storm on my Facebook because I have one, or tell me to 'get my facts straight' because Our Lady Peace isn't 'technically' modern day music).

With the good come the bad, because we also have Britney Spears, the Black Eyed Peas & Mariah Carey. Sigh.

You think you like an artist? Turn the music down, stop tapping your foot & say the lyrics out loud in a monotone voice (with no melody). I dare you.

To help you discover who sucks, here are some of my personal favorites. Lyrics, that I'll admit to catching myself singing & praising, until I did the out-loud-monotone test:

- And maybe it goes on & on & on & on, when me & you party together. I wish this night would last forever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever

This sounds like your one really weird friend that gets sobby when he's drunk. "Dude, I love partying with you. You're so great. Lets kiss".

-Your are my cinema, I could watch you forever. Action, thriller, I could watch you forever.

Ummm, OK? Is he referring to a girl? Why does he think she's an object. Also, is he stalking her?

-Your stare was holdin, ripped jeans, skin was showin'. Hot night, wind was blowin,. Where you think you're going baby?

This one kills me because it's such a cute beat & I'd love to support upcoming Canadian artists but COME ON! What did each one of those phrases have to do with one another? Its like she was making lyrics out of a random selection of word magnets on a fridge. Do yourself a favour & listen to a lyrically relevant version of this:

-Areumdawo sarangseureowo. Keurae neo hey keurae baro neo hey

Yeah, that... I am still amazed that this song is so popular in Canada & the US. We don't seem to take very well to foreign songs (or at least not as well as the rest of the world).
Comically enough (based on what the music video represents), if you look up the translation on the lyrics, the song is about finding a quality woman who knows how to enjoy life. 'A girl who covers herself but is more sexy that a girl who bares it all' for a guy who 'has bulging ideas rather than muscles'.

Any really bad lyrics that should be on here?

Monday, 10 June 2013

My cat is trying to kill me

This is Bob:

I don't know what the eff I've done to Bob for him to despise me so, evidently we do not have a good rapport.

As you may remember, Bob came to live with us after he was found in a Barbeque in the North End. I've owned a male orange tabby before so I know that they are 'special'. I don't know if the word 'special' really says enough.

When he came to live with us he was a teeny-tiny knobby kneed scratch machine. We went out & made sure we got all of the things he would need; litter box, litter, food, dishes, toys, a collar, cat weed...
When he was 8 months old, we took him to get tattooed & sterilized like the responsible people that we are. This is when we found out Bob had a crippling fear of the outside world. Bob just about shit his hairy pants when we took him down the flight of stairs & to the front door. We realized he needed to be crated. Once crated, he clawed & bit & made a general fuss up until he broke several nails & pulled out several baby teeth (and made the box crate have the general appearance of a nursery school bathroom after old Johnny booger-picker had another nose bleed incident).

The life we have given to Bob, we feel, is a good one.

He has food (meaty selections not seafood. That's his preference), water, a dad who is literally obsessed with him & can't keep his primitive attention span directed on anything if there is a cat in the room to be cuddled with...
We don't let Bob go outside un-haltered as he would leave the yard & get hit by a car. Bob doesn't lack for space though. He was gracefully crated once again when we moved from a 550 sq. foot apartment to a 1600 sq foot home with a basement. He scurried in to a corner & shit cat bricks for a week.
We then brought him home a cat companion. After standing over the tiny kitten, hissing & looking as much like Hitler as a dumb orange cat can look, he accepted Chevy as his BFF.

In return, you might say that Bob has a role that he must fill for us.
He must have his ears cleaned. If he refuses to have his ears cleaned with dignity he must be wrapped up in a strait jacket bath towel to have them cleaned.

Bob must not jump on the table or the counters. Bob 'doesn't yet understand' this rule.
He must not gain any more weight by eating the other cat's food as well as his own.

If Bob could talk, I am sure he would talk with an air of arrogance & entitlement. That is his personality. I don't know how a professional sink clogger can look so smug with himself:

It is because of this personality flaw, and the growing evidence against him, that I realized Bob is trying to do away with me. He believes that I am an inconvenience in his life & he would rather I not be around.

He has tried to claim my life in the following ways:

-Walks under-foot at unpredictable times to force me to fall & hit my head.

-Tries to sniff the inside of the oven rendering me to almost have a heart attack & drop my 350 degree heat Banana chocolate chip bread on my bare feet.

-Slithers through legs while owner carrying a full load of laundry up the stairs causing owner to fall & injure lef previously compromised by the 'falling on ice/fragile evolution' incident.

-Rolls fat lard belly over owner's mouth attempting to benefit from owner's body heat while owner is sleeping/suffocating on the couch.

-and most recently, this:

Taking up a whole stair on the already compromised basement staircase. In the dark. At night.

When these tactics only resulted in my injuries & not in my death, Bob resorted to researching hitmen. After scouring the phone book, he needed to make a call.

'Oh rats!' he thought, 'We don't have a landline'. Asshole cat devised a scheme to steal an iPhone to place his call.

When the hitman didn't speak cat & hung up, Bob resorted to the next best thing: Craigslist. But oh, wait, he doesn't know the password for the Mac. Foiled again!

The good guys always win in the end.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

How to get what you want: Budget

I'm not a very talented person. I'm not particularly good at any sports. I have cooking disasters. My crocheting is uneven, I can't paint.
What I can do is fiscally manage my household. This might not seem like a huge skill but considering just two years ago 150 000 Canadians filed for Bankruptcy & considering the typical 'borrower' owes $114,000.00 I'd say we've got something big on our hands.

I haven't reached all of my financial goals in life, but I think I am on my way. I think I am on my way because of discipline, hard work, sacrifices, time management, determination & money management skills. That's the long & short of it. No magical formula & no overnight success.

By far the strangest thing I've learned in the last five years (when I started to become financially responsible) is to not save to much.
This goes against everything that everyone has ever told me which is to save, save save.
Being a young couple with a mortgage throws that theory in the crapper. Thousands of dollars in the bank doesn't buy you a shorter mortgage. It doesn't buy you investments, equity & life experience. That's why I agree that you should have some savings or a 'spare' or 'emergency' fund, but profit or money that isn't eaten up by existing expenses should be put towards principal payments, travel, renovations or other investments.

Without further ado, here is my monthly household budget:

Mortgage: $748.51   Principal Payments: $240.00   Jets tickets: $200.00   50/50: $20.00   Hydro: $150.00 Water bill: $30.00   Property taxes: $80.00   Fresh bins: $161.00   Food: $350.00   Animal maintenance: $30.00   Toiletries: $20.00   Meds: $28.00   Cell phones: $120.00   TV, internet & movies: $85.00   Make-up: $25.00   Bus pass/tickets: $100.00   Restaurants: $250.00   Cab fares: $25.00   Clothes: $50.00   Hair: $35.00   Gym: $45.00   House insurance: $110.00   Gifts: $30.00   Donations: $36.00   Sport leagues: $25.00   other entertainment: $100.00 = $3093.51

Hewwwph.Christ that makes me anxious just thinking about it.

My budget is suited to me & does NOT include credit card debt payments, car payments, car insurance, car repairs, gas/parking.

For those interested in creating a similar budget, here is my best advice:

-Know what you make.
Use information from your T4 or end of year pay cheque to get your pay info as accurate as possible. Alternatively you'd just have to snip 33-34% off your wage to calculate your net pay (minus charitable deductions, ecopasses, health plan etc). If you work off commissions or have fluctuating hours, use high & low pay cheques to make a median income

-Pay off debt first & foremost, but don't over-exert yourself.
Mr. Ford & I paid for our wedding & scrimped & pinched to do without new clothes, shoes & entertainment & it an extent. You need to expect that you will say yes to an old friend wanting to meet for dinner, to going out for a coffee with a coworker. Don't eliminate unnecessaries completely, just reduce them.

-Buy a house!
Now that I have one I curse all those years (2) of rent that went down the drain.
My mentality was that I wanted to save up for a big down payment so my monthly mortgage payments would be lower. Not a good idea. Not in this market anyway. In two years of just owning my house the government (not knowing any of the renovations & upgrades we'd done) increased it's market value $60,000.00. There'd be no way I could have saved 60 grand in two years. The sooner you buy a house the sooner you build equity.

-Contingency plans
And I don't mean just have 10 grand set aside sitting around waiting for your roof to collapse, that would go against my initial observation that money sitting around doesn't really help you. What I encourage is to have an escape plan in case your furnace DOES conk out. For me, that's removing money that I have allocated to travelling & renovations as these are two things that I want but could survive without. More on that later.

-Over budget & be pleasantly surprised
The goal is to get your consistent numbers (mortgage, gym fee, insurance) as close to the numbers on the bill as possible but when it comes to things like food, clothes & entertainment, this might not always be possible. Be more generous in your allocations to these reserves & be pleasantly surprised when you had more money coming in & staying in than expected.

-Consider payment plans
This was a point I mulled over for a while.
As an example, my Hydro bill changes drastically from winter to summer. When I made my budget I took the highest bill I had & the lowest & calculated the average to put down as my monthly Hydro funding.
This can tend to make me depressed in the dead of January when I've only reserved $150.00 & the bill is $200.00. Hydro has a plan for this where they charge you a flat monthly rate which they overbudget for, & you usually get some money back at the end of the year. City of Winnipeg Municipal taxes has a similar plan. The downside to these plans for me is that I don't see exactly what we are using that month & hence I can't correct it if there's a reason for a big inflation. I wouldn't have had the brilliant idea of turning the heat down to 18 degrees when nobody is home & forcing the cats to cuddle if I hadn't seen a mortifyingly high bill!

-Principal payments
Banks will allow you to pay a certain amount of interest free money on top of your mortgage payments each year. This is brilliant. The arrangement I have with my bank is to pay the minimum amount they will allow on my mortgage & then make principal payments of up to 20% the value of the mortgage every year.

-Have a plan for income tax season
Just as simple as that. Doesn't matter how you do it just make sure you never have to get caught paying. Pay attention to anything you pay for that can be written off as a business aid, make donations, RRSP, pay extra taxes, whatever!

-Revise, revise, revise
The more things change in your life, the more your budget should be altered, even if its just in a single category. That means whenever you get a new job, a new insurance plan, health plan, move etc, etc.

And finally...plan to do more than break even.
Without revealing to you what Mr. Ford & I make, I can tell you that all income tax & expenses considered, we SHOULD be winding up with an extra $1567.00 a month, give or take. That works out to almost $19,000.00 a year. Make it a goal to not spend every last cent on the things that you allow yourself in your monthly budget. Use your spare money to invest in a goal and/or something you want.
For us, that's $14,000.00 a year in renos & $5,000.00 for travelling (you should see how far I can make $5,000.00 go in a third world country).

I hope I don't sound psychotic. By the way, here's Lou, being herself: