Monthly Archives

January 2012

My First Month of Living Alone (Again)

January 30, 2012

I have a confession to make. In December, when I was looking at apartments and saving for a deposit and my first month’s rent, I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I could save enough for January 1st, or for February’s rent, and I definitely didn’t think I’d have any extra money to put on my credit card debt.

I couldn’t stop worrying about what I’d be moving away from. For six months before, I had been putting an average of approx. $1,666 per month on my debt. Fearing that I’d only be able to pay the minimums, once I was forking out for rent and utilities, I almost didn’t want to move. I knew I wanted my own space again but I was paralyzed with the fear that I would once again move, go on a spending rampage to fill my home, and wind up with more debt.

If you’re new to my blog, you may not know that that’s exactly how I racked up my credit cards. In 2008, I went through a breakup that quite literally broke me. I moved out on my own for the first time and made myself feel better by buying all new furniture, accents, etc. for my home. Despite then having a beautiful home to entertain in, I went out and partied. A lot. Then I took a trip to Toronto and Montreal, moved to Toronto for a few months, and finally came back home completely maxed out.

Rather than spinning my broken record (you know, the one that talks about how being maxed out changed me), I’ll just say this: instead of being scared to move out, I should have recognized how different I am now compared to that girl. I don’t party every weekend, I never visit shopping malls, and I even avoid Amazon (which used to be my biggest addiction).

This isn’t to say that I don’t have a list of things I’d love to buy. I know I want a mirror hanging in my front hallway, a cream-coloured rug and new coffee tables in my living room, and artwork for every room in the apartment. But I don’t need it. Wiping out my credit card is much more important than buying a new surface to put my laptop on.

Because of this attitude, I’ve survived my first month. My cash budget has stopped me from swiping my credit card and from having any more fun than I can afford to have. And it has also helped me put just over $400 on my credit card debt; that’s on top of the $532 I make in other loan payments. What a great start to 2012!

How was January for you?

Why I Love to (and Will Always) Buy Books

January 27, 2012

Earlier this week, Melissa wrote a great post about defining the grey area between needs and wants. As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to write something similar. I think the fact that my first reaction to her post was wanting to write a post of my own is proof that this is where personal finance gets really personal.

My passion for reading goes way, way back.  Thanks to Mom for reading to Baby Cait, I was reading on my own at the age of 3. At age 5, I catalogued all of my books and loaned them out to the kids in my cul-de-sac. (Seriously. I still have some of the books. I wrote “Cait – Book #” on the inside cover, so I could keep track of who borrowed what.) Since then, my passion for buying, reading and giving books has grown to become one of my favourite hobbies.

When other kids were going to dance classes or playing on sports teams, I was reading. And I couldn’t be more thankful that my family was willing to support this hobby. I have vivid memories of my aunt taking me to bookstores and libraries on the weekends, and me coming home with stacks of new stories. Sweet Valley Twin books almost weren’t worth purchasing, because I would finish them in just a few hours. Nancy Drew and I were inseparable. R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series was another favourite of mine. And don’t even get me started on how much I loved The Babysitter’s Club. I enjoyed classic children’s novels, as well, and one of my favourite books to this day is The Giver. (I just gave a new copy of it to Baby Bro for Christmas, because I want someone else to enjoy it as much as I did.)

While I can’t say that I am a collector of good books, I love the feeling I get when I stand in front of my bookshelf. Like I’m just a short reach away from diving deep into a new world. And it’s up to me if I want that new world to be happy, sad or dramatic, or if I want to read classic words written by authors so brilliant you cannot help but fantasize where they were sitting when they were writing them.

Building a library has always come easy for me. I remember constantly re-organizing my books as a child, switching between putting them in order of the colours of a rainbow to, finally the more grownup version, the author’s last names. Today, I have books I’ve read only once, more that I’ve read a few times, and a stack I haven’t had the chance to turn a single page of. And, believe it or not, I still have my entire collection of Sweet Valley books!

Now that I’ve romanticized my love of books for you, it’s time to move onto what this post is really about. Is my book buying habit a need or a want? Welcome to my grey area. I know that reading is a hobby and, therefore, buying books is a want. But when a hobby brings you joy, I think it’s worth every penny.

One of my best friends always says, “you only live once, and the money’s not going with you.” While I wouldn’t take that as advice to go out and blow your budget, it’s true that you will only get a certain number of years to enjoy the money you make. Building my library makes me happy. Sharing my books with friends makes me happy. And you’d better believe I’ll be sharing this hobby with my future children.

Do you have a want that you consider a need?

Living on Cash: The First Update

January 19, 2012

The first two weeks of my cash diet are officially over and quite a few of you have commented, tweeted, and emailed me to ask how it’s been going. For anyone who’s ever considered switching to cash, there’s really only one thing I can say: if you’re disciplined, it is amazing for your budget!

On Day 1, I was excited at the thought of what living on cash could do for my finances. But by Day 3, I was panicking. I had written a list of errands I had to do and calculated what each should cost me. I bought all my groceries, picked up some beer and dry cider, then headed to the pharmacy to get a month of birth control. For the last 6 months, my pills have cost me $9.51 per pack. At the counter, I pulled out a $10 bill, before the pharmacist could spit out, “that’ll be $27.13.”

$27.13!? I don’t have $27.13! Why is it $27.13? Um, it’s the beginning of a new year, dumb dumb. Time to pay your premiums again. And I did, in fact, have $40 cash in my wallet, so it was no problem paying for them. But, after doing all of my other errands (and treating myself to some alcohol), I only had $40 left for the next 4 days.

But then that hit me. $40 for 4 days is a lot of money! Especially when you injure yourself and can’t do anything. (Not that I was working towards that…) On Wednesday, when I could barely put any weight on my foot, I ordered pizza for dinner. Best $20 I spent that week. And I made it last me for 3 meals. With that, I finished my first week and had about $20 cash leftover.

Week 2 started by going for drinks with friends. (Yes, I hobbled downtown for a night out.) Then I grocery shopped on the weekend and have basically sat around ever since. Much less exciting than Week 1 but I’ve had homework, side work, etc. to do. In the end, out of my first $220 challenge, I had just over $20 left. It’s all gone now though, because I put it on my credit card debt this morning. That’s on top of the $215 I’ve already put on it this month!

Tomorrow, I get to pull out another $220 and start all over again. Unfortunately, even though I should have about $250 leftover to put towards my credit card debt, $100 or so of that needs to go to the CRA. And I’ll be able to start driving again in the next few days… but I do still have that gas card! So the second round of this cash diet should be pretty easy.