A holiday challenge out of turn

Ok so my husband read my last post and really liked it. He casually asked me, like I tell most of my young clients, if I am willing to tone down my holiday preparations money wise and still keep the fun? I was unsure if I am willing to accept the challenge as I have always been a careful person who budgets for everything from buying a Gucci bag to the smallest item on my grocery list. I was not willing to tone down this year also because I have saved comfortably for the party and the gifts and the biggest reason; I have a new one waiting to arrive anytime and its celebration time! The inner Aries in me refused to give up on this challenge. So changing plans meant changing the following :

  • A new Christmas tree and decoration– I had planned to buy a brand new Christmas Tree with white snow flakes this year, as I got bored with old one and already chosen my decorations from ‘Home Sense’. The challenge meant that I shelve all these plans and still not feel bad about it. I rushed to my basement and stripped my old Christmas tree of all its old decorations. My next destination was taking a u-turn,into the dollar shop. I was pleasantly surprised to see the decoration items they had. Instead of picking my all time favorite red, green and white.I picked up all purple. I went overboard with even buying the wreaths from there. After my shopathon I apprehensively turned to the cash register and waited for the cashier to tell me the golden figure. “Its $22”, she said and voila! I won this one. My Christmas Tree looks more than perfect now with those purple decor’s hanging in there and I cant even tell its my old one.
  • Gifts from ‘The Bay’– I have always shopped from here. I know I know its expensive.But I budgeted for it. I just loved the moment when I handed over the white ‘The Bay’ bags and loved the shine in my friends eyes. I always thought that if I get them something less than that, it might look bad for my image or they may think I am in some kind of crunch whenI am not (I wish I knew earlier, I was soooo wrong).  Ok, so now I had to forget this. Instead I went to Ikea and bought some wooden picture frames $7 each and printed a  picture with a personalized message. I was a meeting a friend over for lunch as she will be away for the holidays so I had to give this gift before she left. After a banana loaf and coffee at the cozy Starbucks it was time for the gift. I slyly took out the gift and waited for her phone call.The call didn’t come the same evening. This morning I got a call from her and it looked she was emotional after reading my personalized message on the picture I framed for her.Her words “Best gift ever” and I knew she meant it as she has always spoken her mind. The AHA moment. I was all this while underestimating my relationships. I get the hint. I was wrong all this while.
  • Gifts for little ones– So, I thought of spending at least $50 on each kid, a total of four kids (one including mine). ‘Toysrus’ my one stop destination. Alas! I had to give it a miss. My Plan B,I had bought the jazziest gift bags from dollar shop and filled it with lots of goodies like chocolates, crayons, play doughs, star wars figurines, Cars2 toys etc etc etc. My grand total for a pack of 4, $36. What?????? I cant believe the bill. I bought 5 bags and gave one as an experiment to my 3 year old son and he cant get over the variety of things he found in the goodie bag. I must say my challenge was turning out to be pretty satisfying.
  • Crib and clothes for the new baby–  I do not know why but I wanted to buy $300 crib from Sears for the new one. But keeping the new challenge in mind I had to hem my aspirations for this one too. The old crib I had given away so I had less options and time even less. For the first time I browsed through sites like Kjiji and found the best deals. A new mother was giving a great deal on a brown almost new crib for just half of the price of the new one. She also had some great deals on baby clothes she had hardly used. I made up my mind, that I will be honest and even try buying those clothes (One thing I had never done). It felt awkward to go and pick it up as she might be thinking I cant afford a new one (she didn’t know I as under a challenge), but I still did pick it up. After the crib has sat in the nursery for almost 2 days, I really cant stop thinking about how my thoughts really did not let me explore any new and more economical options.I cold have saved even more! It does not matter, where I got the crib from, what matters is who will sleep in it! What a learning experience.
  • Gifts for me – I have always been a person who loved to give gifts it gave me a lot of satisfaction. So I still had few people who were good candidates for my gifts.It is tough to skip them. But for the first time I am going to not only skip gifts for them but I will expect gifts.

I do have some handful challenges to meet but I have overcome the biggest ones. The money I planned to spend on the above is still sitting pretty in my savings account. Apart from having saved even more money, what I realized was what we lack in our lives, we often fulfill it by spending money on it that is even more bubble reputed. The challenge has become priceless for me.I am more self assured and confident. I am not worrying about my image, I am getting more real.Extra money never hurt anyone.I am certainly loving it !

Tra ! la! la! la! la! la! la!

How to last your paycheque?

So, If you are reading this,that means you are already thinking about your finances.By finances I mean, you have already asked yourself questions like “Where is my money going?”;”Will I always live with this crunch?”. You better be serious as you never would come to know that when the mercury will rise and your financial status will start affecting your feeling of well-being. As a banker I have seen this happening to many singles and couples earning on both the extreme. The trap is easy-If you see $$$, you will spend it.I am not here to talk about the big dollar amounts, registered and non-registered RRSP accounts and ROI etc with those jargon rattling your mind.I believe in keeping it simple.Read on..

1. Get real -Yes, this tough but you know what is tougher? Its seeing your money disappear. Jot down all your expenses account;from Tim Horton Java cup to Walmart trips.Add every expense.It is like going on a guilt trip because you know you have over spent and somehow you just don’t want to look at it.That is OK, be nice to yourself.

2.Thats what I make– This is no guess work.You should know your after tax pay advice.And now start afresh. Just pick a pay week fresh and take that as your starting point.

3.Credit is not your money– Most people think that they have x $$$ to spend as credit.There are no free lunches.Keep Credit card only for booking travel tickets.

4.Grocery– Go with a list always and make way for one or two surprise purchases too.Not many of you must be knowing but companies pay a premium to retailers for keeping a certain product at a customers eye level.Always make sure you check the top and bottom most products as well,they are as good.Also, if you are fond of buying cosmetics and can’t control, just go for free samples that is available at most of the counters.
5.Piggy bank-Yes, and a transparent one. Any spare change that you get like pennies,cents,a dollar etc,straight away put in the transparent piggy bank.You will be surprised how that comes in handy.One of my clients saved $40 worth of coffee a week by digging in her piggy bank.Always carry that with you in car,it’s a handy purse for paying parking and coffee.Never forget to take a small portion from your paycheck, like $40-$30 biweekly for your ‘on the go’ expenses.
6.‘God only knows’ account– GOK account is just like a savings account where you put away a small fraction of your pay cheque and never look at that.I started putting $20 every pay cheque since 4 years now and ‘God only knows’ how much that account has.I have never taken out money from that account so I am sure it is helping me somewhere.
7. RRSP or TFSA – It is simple, if your company matches your RRSP contribution then start putting away some money,you can start away with as low as$50 every paycheque.If your company doesn’t match then you can open a tax free savings account, where you can put the same money away and you won’t be taxed on that particular amount. The whole idea of putting money away in RRSP or TFSA or GOK account is that, if you don’t see that money you will not miss it. Also, if your company believes in benefits then its always a good idea to exhaust all those benefits ,it’s like free money gone unnoticed.Some of the company offers discounts on some stores, tuition fees reimbursements, eco -pass for transits etc.Always rely on your HR website and before you go shopping do a little recce.This goes a long way.
8. Spoil yourself- Tight budgeting is like going on crash dieting,if you hold it too close to your heart,they may not work.So, set a time for yourself, that every 2 months or so you will spend a particular amount on yourself (say $200 if you earn from $30000 to $ 35000 for eg yearly).
9.Be At It – money will never grow on trees so you have to be at the job of visiting and revisiting your bank account every three days. Until you hit that jackpot, your only jackpot is your ‘paycheque’.
With these little things you are sure to see a positive amount howsoever little at the end of your paycheque and believe me,many people I know have saved upwards of$800 monthly by just staying mindful even at a meager salary of$20000 yearly. It’s worth a good try.
                                   Till then stay smart, stay true to your finances and stay that way!Image