debt debs

Personal Debt Wrangler – Had my money head in the sand – but no more!


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Canada Day – Be Mindful and Be Brave

Canada-Day-Long-WeekendCanada Day isn’t until Tuesday July 1st, but basically this is the CANADA DAY long weekend, with many people extending their weekend if possible.

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends.

I am very fortunate to be able to go to my Dad’s cottage for the weekend, meet up with extended family and kick back and relax.

In the spirit of winding down and reflecting, I’m not going to inundate you with lots of frugal tips or financial updates, even though it is the end of the month.

In fact, what I was going to write about will just make this post entirely too long, and I want to vary it up a bit after Brian so aptly pointed out that I rock write a long post!

I’ll save that for another time and just share a few personal tidbits with you.

Be Mindful

Natalie @ Debt and the Girl wrote about The Dangers of Black and White Thinking which I found quite interesting because I’ve always been a black and white girl.  I always labeled every situation as either bad or good, without even realizing I’m doing it.  Shades of grey has never come naturally for me.  I don’t know why, and I’m incredibly interested in human psychology, so would love to understand it a bit more.  Some discussion in the comments about whether this way of thinking comes from life’s experiences or not.  I don’t know and I’ll probably never find out, but it is quite fascinating.

But what I want to say about that is, you can change the way you think by being mindful as Budget Bloggess discusses in Distracted from Spending: Summer Weekends.  I wouldn’t have really had believed before, but I’m halfway through my second reading of The Power of Now and now understand this phenomenon better and practice it in my everyday life.

It makes it easy to log-off from work at the end of the day, knowing that the pile of work will still be there tomorrow and all I can do is prioritize and continue doing my best.   It makes it easy to make a fast decision to stop working for a bit because my grandson has dropped in unexpectedly and I won’t trade those interactions for anything.  It makes it easy to not bear guilt about what I may not be able to do for a family member or friend but feel joy when I can.  Life can be short, so we have to approach it in an inspired and mindful YOLO fashion, but not a reckless and irresponsible way.

If you want more writings that touch on this topic, check out:

How Being Humble Helps Us to LIve a Happier Life from Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt

The Power of Mindfulness from Stefanie, Staff Writer @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

… and While Being Mindful … Be Brave

Yesterday I was babysitting my grandson for the evening while his folks attended a wedding rehearsal and dinner.  In the true spirit of mindfulness, I was savoring every moment.  We played on the floor with his toys, turned on Disney channel for a few minutes (don’t tell Mom), I fed him (or tried to feed him, he wasn’t hungry as he had a late lunch and was breastfed by his Mom just before she left), took him for his bath and brushed his teeth.  By that time my husband had arrived to lend a helping hand so we did jolly jumper time, then stories, some bottled breastmilk (which he drank half of surprisingly, we haven’t had much luck with that  before) and bed.  He ‘fake’ cried for a bit doing his usual rocking and banging his foot on the mattress (I was watching closely on the monitor) and eventually went off to do-do land.

I was in such a state of joy and yet it was typically a very sad day for me.   Nine years ago yesterday, my Mum passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, alone at home from heart failure.  My father found her, when he returned home from a day at the cottage with my husband and brothers-in-law.  He found her in her bed with her tea cup partially drunk and her crossword puzzle and pen still in her hand.   My parents had been at our house the evening prior and we had a wonderful impromptu dinner, my children were all in attendance (which in itself was unusual given the age they were and all their comings and going), one of my sisters/BIL and a niece and a nephew.  Another sister/BIL had spent a similarly meaningful evening with her the night before.   Looking back, those experiences seem like they were a foreshadowing of what was to come.

I found something really fascinating yesterday, while I was feeding my grandson.  He became mesmerized with my ring on my hand which is a diamond solitaire ring belonging to my Mum.  He was pushing it around my finger, over and over again for a very long time considering he is an eight month old.  It felt like Mum was there with us in the room, just the three of us.  I became even more mindful at that moment.  It was pure peace and happiness.

I can’t remember if this little episode happened before or after the ring pushing incident, but here he is, after spitting out most of what I put in his mouth, but entirely fascinated by his Nama singing Brave to him*.

*Click here to view directly on YouTube

A Few Callouts

I would like to thank MrCBB @ Canadian Budget Binder for linking to my recent Top Ten in his Friday post – Should The Brick honour this customers claim on her extended warranty? : PF Weekly Grab a brew #78

I am very humbled to be nominated by Josh Rodriguez for the CNA Finance Personal Finance MVP Award! over at CNA Finance.  I’m in very highly esteemed company with David Carlson from Young Adult Money and Laurie from The Frugal Farmer.  Big congratulations to Will Lipovsky at First Quarter Finance for winning the first award!!  You can vote by leaving a comment in the post or send an email to CNAFinanceHelp@gmail.com!

We’re minding my grandson again tomorrow and then out of internet range for a few days.  Good weekend and good finances all!
Debt Debs out.

* I have it on my tablet and play it for him, along with Happy and Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid).

P.S.  Man I still can’t write a short post!

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My-Dad


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Father’s Frugal Finances

The best example I have had for being frugal has come from my father. In fact, we often thought he was downright miserly.  Somehow, it might have backfired, given our current financial situation. There may have been some moments that I thought he was just too cheap for his own good. Maybe this stuck with me and I swung the pendulum too far the other way. In retrospect, he really has set a good example and one which I wish I had heeded a long time ago.

powdered-milk-frugalChildhood Currency

As a child I remember asking him how much money he made. Both of my parents scoffed and said “Oh, we don’t talk about that.” They realized I would blab to all my friends, even if I didn’t realize if it was a good wage or not, it certainly would seem enormous to me. They didn’t get the blabbing part wrong. Look at me now – a blogger!

But my impression was that we were a little poorer than my friend’s families. Not by a lot, and probably not at all, but hearing frugal talk in the household, drinking powdered milk (yucch, I hated that stuff) are things that may have lead me to this conclusion. My mother didn’t work until my youngest sister turned five, and then she took a part-time job in a retail store.  In general, I grew up feeling like money was not to be wasted, in case you really needed it someday.

Teenage Turns

Imagine my surprise when my parents started taking some winter vacations on their own when we got a little older but were left in the care of our aunt. A cruise, a trip to Florida…. well, well, things must be looking up in the Finance department.  It was probably more like miserly intervention.  My Mum had probably had enough and started threatening and there was probably a few “I deserves” on her part thrown in there too!

Florida-Disney-WorldNext thing I know, they bought a house in Florida. Wow! I didn’t see that coming. Of course it was mortgaged, and it meant seven of us loaded into a sedan for a three day 27 hour drive door to door. Disney World, Busch Gardens, the beach, Tarpon Springs… here we come!   We did this for three Christmases in a row.   We had to save up our own money for any extra spending. Truth be told, I think there was a bit of Jonesying there on the part of my mother when they bought the house, and she convinced him it was an investment. I was even allowed to have a friend fly down to Florida and meet us there.  I wasn’t complaining.

Sixteen years of age and a new driver, I managed to convince my Dad to let me have his car to go to the drive-in with my boyfriend. Looking back, he was pretty accommodating, though I didn’t see it as a big deal at the time. What I did see as a big deal was the scratch I put down the side when I parked too close to the speaker and scraped it a good long streak. I was so terrified of his reaction that I did not sleep a wink all night. I heard him up getting the tea and his breakfast and figured I need to get this over with. I told him what happened and immediately started bawling. He didn’t say a word but went over to look at the car in the driveway from the living room window. Eventually he spoke, asked questions, maybe appeared a little annoyed, but nothing like I expected, and nothing that I can recall now almost 40 years later. I don’t recall if he asked me to pay for repair or if he even had it repaired. All I remember now is my fear and his reaction being not nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. Even though he was frugal, it appears money wasn’t always front and foremost in his thoughts.

frugal-studentTenant, Tuition and Transportation

I went to university but paid my way, tuition and accommodations.  There was never any discussion of money set aside for me for this. For the most part, I managed quite well, being in a Coop program, so I had good employment work terms between every semester of school.

We had an older used second family vehicle, even though my Mum didn’t drive. It was there for when I was at home for my work terms so I could drive to my job. I was allowed to take it the six hour drive to university for the first weekend of every term so I could take all my stuff, but I had to bring it back the very next weekend and return by bus to university. I often wondered why they didn’t let me keep the car with me at school all term, because it just sat in the driveway at home. It was sort of an unspoken frugality that was practiced.

I could walk to university from the various places I rented during my school terms which were at maximum about 2 miles. I didn’t need a car. I only needed a car to get my stuff down there and back each term (my Coop placements were all in my hometown).  Having a car at university was a want. He probably knew I would get lazy, start driving to school, drive all my friends, spend lots of money on gas, possibly get into an accident… . No, needs they could support. Wants would not be supported.

Even though I would have to buy a one-way bus ticket to get back to school after delivering the car back home (bus tickets weren’t that cheap either), and even though we got rear-ended once on the way home (not our fault, but my friend was driving), this was the standard that was expected all through-out my university years. I was envious of some friends who had cars. I would struggle home with my groceries stuffed in my knapsack and two arms breaking as I tried to carry everything the half a mile to my accommodations.   I think I tried renegotiating the terms once or twice, but for the most part it was accepted by me as a no go, for what-ever reasons, and even if it did not make sense to me.  Laying down the ground work for no lifestyle inflation had begun.

ToyotaGraduation Gifts

My last semester, I already had a full time job lined up for after graduation. I think the second vehicle might have died by this point, but that wasn’t needed as a way to get home that term. I was given a relocation allowance by my employer, whereby I could rent a van to bring all my stuff home, including some furniture that I had managed to leave there for the full four years.

I did need a vehicle though to get to work, and decided I wanted to buy my own brand new car. I planned to live at home for my first year to save up to buy nicer furniture and prepare to move out on my own.   I had my eyes on a Toyota Tercel and went shopping for it with my Dad earlier in the semester, so he could help me to negotiate. They asked for a $100 deposit, which my Dad put down on his credit card. (I don’t think I even had a credit card then). I fully expected to pay it back, once I started working full-time, because money always ran a little short by the time I got to the end of each school term.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up my new car in May, and Dad said I did not need to pay him back the $100. It was a graduation present. A very generous graduation present, I felt. $100 from my Dad felt like $10,000 at the time.  Maybe it was a little bit of foreshadowing to how he is today.

downpayment-for-homeHome Homage

Fast forward, and after a couple of years of apartment rental, it’s time to purchase a home.  Dad lent me some additional money for my down payment.   He set an interest rate that was lower than what I would pay but better than he could get in short term interest bearing investments, so it was a win-win!  I actually didn’t even pay this money back until I was married a few years.  He wasn’t asking for it but I didn’t want to be indebted to him any longer, especially now that I was a mother and with many family responsibilities. Since he was money savvy, he saw an opportunity to help his daughter out and himself, all at the same time.

sandwichBread and Butter

He continued to be quite thrifty, was good at repairs etc. so it wasn’t usual for him to bring in any experts. He cheaped out on house painting, leaving it to my Mum to do.  When she said eventually, that was it, she was doing no more painting, she was too old for this, he had to address.  He asked Huey, Duey and Louie aka my husband and my two BILS to help him paint the living and dining room and hallway one weekend, instead of hiring painters.  My Mum didn’t want to be around so asked me to take her out for the day which I obliged.  So by mid afternoon, the guys were getting hungry.  “Do you have anything to eat, Grandad?”  Oh, sure, he said and made them bread and butter sandwiches*.  They still laugh about Grandad’s cooking prowess to this day.  Not only was he frugal on getting the painting done, but he didn’t even have to score for a pizza!

man-on-phoneBrains or Braun

Years later, Dad took ill suddenly and was diagnosed with a brain tumor on his pituitary gland.  After surgery, he needed hormone replacement therapy, and getting exactly the right dosage is always a matter of trial and error.

At one point, he had so much estrogen in him he was calling us to talk on the phone regularly, crying in front of us and shopping up a storm!  I kid you not!  He went shopping for a sports car with my husband once (didn’t buy one, thankfully)!  He bought new windows for their house and my mother was in her glory!  We said to him “Who are you and what have you done with our father?”

Since he was under close supervision in those early days, the doctors immediately spotted the overdose and cut it back, a little too far, and he went back to his miserly self but worse!  Let me tell ya, those hormones play a big part in this I have witnessed!

Single but Satisfied

Life changes in an instant, and he lost my Mum unexpectedly 9 years ago.  7 years her senior, we never expected things to turn out this way.

He is 89 years old, lives in a rented apartment, still drives and comes to dinner most Saturday nights, bringing a bottle of wine for every meal.  He’s still frugal, but he’s no longer cheap and has become quite  generous.  He complains about how much his stock broker is making off him, but still has quite a bit invested in the market even at his age.

He knows we have cut back and are living frugally, which pleases him, I think.  But I could never tell him the extent of our debt, because I don’t want to disappoint him.

I must say that, as much as I miss my Mum (she was always the life of the party), it has been good to get to know my Dad even better in her absence.  I often think about their situation, since The Irishman and I have the exact same age difference.

In retrospect, I think my Dad has the right amount of frugality and I think that at the end of the day, I do too!

* You must go visit Liquid Independence’s Toast Sandwich Recipe.  Who knew that there really was such a thing as bread and butter sandwiches? I guess, Dad did.  Pass the cheese, please.  😉

My-DadHAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all you Dads out there!

Just remember ~

Time is money, but money also takes time!

 

 

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
milk – imagerymajestic
Disney – David Castillo Dominici
student walking – Ambro
Toyota – tiverylucky
helping hand home – jannoon028
bread and butter – rakratchada torsap
man on phone – stockimages
My Dad – Simon Howden

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The Thrifty Issue
How-does-your-family-treat-debt


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Family Matters – How Does Your Family Treat Money and Debt?

How Do Your Family Membes Treat Money and DebtI wrote recently about some key contributors to our debt journey, acknowledging that my worst fear was the impact it was having on the ability of my adult children to manage their finances responsibly and proactively.

The Early Days after Debt Acknowledgement

My oldest is the most frugal of all of them, and has been quite capable of managing her finances well, (mostly) without my help.  In fact when we first acknowledged our debt crisis, I was quite overwhelmed and anxious.  I found it anxiety provoking to even log into our bank accounts or credit card statements on line!  Can you believe that?  She gave me some sage advice suggesting that I just start with one of them, and log in every day, until the anxiousness subsided.

Later I added logging in to see my credit card balances to my routine, and soon I was creating budgets on excel and living and breathing our financial numbers until I was bleary-eyed.   The new found financial good habits, for me, had begun.

More than a year later, after that initial shock, I had built up routines and coping strategies and I began to talk more openly about our finances with all of our children.

Good Personal Finance Habits

Even though I knew my oldest was probably in the best position, I still wanted to satisfy my curiosity urgent need to know exactly how they were managing things.  Were there any things they were not doing or neglecting that, after twelve months of debt wrangling, I might be able to offer advice on.

She assured me that they had all of the following in place:

  • An emergency fund of cash equal to about 3 months of expenses.  We discussed the merits of having up to six months of expenses.
  • Fully topped up TFSA’s (Tax Free Savings Accounts), for both her and her husband.  This equated to about 40K at the time, more than enough to be considered the additional component of their emergency fund.
  • Regular contributions to their RRSP’s to obtain the maximum company match.

I also knew that she had good frugal habits in place such as:

  • Managing household expenses by minimizing hydro use (her husband always jokes that he walks around in the dark half the time).
  • Selling unwanted stuff on Kijiji to make a few extra dollars from household clutter.

More recently, they just moved into a new home, and I helped them do a few different sensitivity analyses for the mortgage repayment.  I use the following Canadian Mortgage Calculator (from Vertex42 – can also be used for US, see note below (*).  We created the following worksheets by making copies of the master and tweaking the variables:

  • To illustrate the impact on total interest paid and final payment date of switching to accelerated bi-weekly payments from monthly mortgage payments.  With accelerated bi-weekly, you pay half of your budgeted monthly mortgage amount exactly every two weeks on the same day of the week, thereby fitting in 26 payments a year,  instead of 24 if you just paid it twice per month, or 12 if only once per month.  Your payments are less if you pay biweekly, but the biggest savings comes from taking your monthly payment and dividing by 2 and paying that every two weeks having the equivalent of 13 months of payments (26/2) instead of 12.
  • We also wanted to see the impact of making prepayments, both annual of $3,000 plus an extra bi-weekly payment of $50.  These prepayments come right off the principal.  (Note:  You need to check the terms of your mortgage with respect to prepayments.  There is often maximum annual amounts.  Some can be made at any time and as often as you want throughoutt the year, some can only be done once per year at or near anniversary date).

canadian-mortgage-calculator_options

* The compound period for a Canadian mortgage is semi-annual, but this calculator can also be used for US mortgage calculations by changing the compound period to monthly – the main difference between a US and Canadian mortgage.

  • They are planning to following the final option in the chart.  If they can save make an extra $50 payment every two weeks and save to make a $3K payment every year, they will reduce their mortgage term to just over 16 years.

My son lives farther away and seems to be pretty savvy.  I’m pretty sure he’s paying off his credit cards each month.  I think his student debt is fully paid.  I believe he is also saving for a down payment for a house.  Other than that, I don’t know much else.

I offered him help to prepare any budget spreadsheets answer any questions he may have in order to ensure his financial house is in order.  He hasn’t taken me up on it yet, probably because when we see him we don’t really have time to spend on this.  But he knows I’m ready any time, even if we do it on a web session.   I can always send him the spreadsheets to fill out, but something tells me that it’s easier more valuable if Mum is there to ask the savvy questions and keep it interactive!

  • One of the drawbacks though, is that if Mum does all the work, they may be less likely to keep it up or track their spending going forward etc.

I wrote on Worth-it-Wednesday, how about how my #3 surprised me about paying off her student loans.  She was on my list to work with next, because I really wasn’t sure how she was doing, what with a recent humanitarian trip to Haiti which she paid for herself (she’s a nurse).   I think maturity is helping here because I see her being more frugal like her older sister and brother.  I think she now has a sense of how good it feels to be debt free (well, since last weekend   😉  ) and she seemed pretty, pretty happy about it!  Bazinga!

Bad Personal Finance Habits

I’m not really sure where to start with #4 so I’ll just dive in.  She doesn’t have a lot of income because she is on disability due to here severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and social anxiety.   Her OCD is the germaphobic / cleanliness type so she’s always buying new products to keep her body and her bathroom clean.  She also discards (or gives to me or my husband digs it out of the garbage) shampoo or makeup that she feels has sat around too long and has become contaminated.  She goes through toilet paper and paper towels like there’s no tomorrow (note to self:  buy shares in Scott paper).  Plus, I think she tends to try to soothe herself and her symptoms by shopping on-line.  The UPS truck is often stopping at our house and makes me feel annoyed.

She used to pay us $300 / month for room and board, which was okay because it covered her expenses.  Lately she renegotiated her payment because she felt she was paying too much and said she wanted to save her money.  I wasn’t too keen but it was becoming a bit of a bone of contention and I gave up the battle out of resignation, I guess.  She had calculated how much she consumes in hydro, paper products, water etc. and thought that $190 was sufficient.  Only I have yet to see any of that money for two months now.

Am I frustrated?  Damn right I am.  Is she taking advantage of us?  Maybe.  Am I going to do something about it?  I will, I’m just too tired to fight with her about it right now.  We’ve been going through this for seven years.  Her symptoms became visible to us at age 14, but really severe at 17 and she’s 24 now.  She acknowledges that she had OCD symptoms since about 5 years of age (touching compulsions, scrupulosity, bad thoughts).

It has been really bad.  Think worst case.  Ya, it happened.  Every parents nightmare.   Well I guess worse case would be if she wasn’t here anymore.  She tried twice.  So I always have to remind myself that as bad as it is, it could always be worse.

Anyways, I just wanna OCD break right now, so I choose not to deal with it.  Probably a bad move on my part.  I think dealing with her OCD has also played a factor in our debt load.   Many trips to hospital, parking, eating out, buying things she needed, shopping to try to feel better, taking trips to get away from it all.  When it gets really bad, your spending becomes an afterthought.

We still have bottles of bug killer in our hall closet that my husband bought last summer when she insisted there were bugs in her room, even though we couldn’t find any evidence of them.   (Ya, I’m frustrated too because he never took them back after she didn’t use them and used something else instead to kill the invisible bugs so now $30 – $40 of chemical bug killer still sitting in my front hall closet).

I’m not looking for sympathy.  But there you have it.  Another excerpt on my personal debt story.  I count my blessings …  still.

I was going to also talk about my sister and how they are treating their debt and spending but this post is entirely too long so I’ll keep that for another time.

Plus this post is getting to be a bit of a downer and I don’t like being a Debbie Downer (even though Debbie Down was my nickname as a kid), so let me end on a positive note and with a joke.

Positive note:

I was initially inspired to write this post by John at Frugal Rules when he wrote Why Financial Literacy is so Important to Me.   He says it’s his responsibility to teach them to be wise about their financial decision making and I couldn’t agree more!

This pair of ducks were coming to our pool in spring for about 10 years - this year they didn't return

This pair of ducks were coming to our pool in spring for about 10 years – this year they didn’t return

An oldie but goodie:

A duck walks into a bar and asks, “Got any gwapes?”

The bartender, confused, tells the duck no. The duck thanks him and leaves.

The next day, the duck returns and asks, “Got any gwapes?”

Again, the bartender tells him, “No — the bar does not serve grapes, has never served grapes and, furthermore, will never serve grapes.” The duck thanks him and leaves.

The next day, the duck returns, but before he can say anything, the bartender yells, “Listen, duck! This is a bar! We do not serve grapes! If you ask for grapes again, I will nail your stupid duck beak to the bar!”

2 bunches of grapes by Grant CochraneThe duck is silent for a moment, and then asks, “Got any nails?”

Confused, the bartender says no.

“Good!” says the duck. “Got any gwapes?”

 

“2 Bunches Of Grapes” by Grant Cochrane from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net


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Worth it Wednesday ~ Dear Debt Letter

debt debs ransom-note-

Debt sent me a ransom note … I’m so ignoring him

Worth-it-Wednesday is here a little early because Melanie at deardebt.com enticed me to write my debt breakup letter.  It is such a great idea but as I started to write, I found Debt was sitting on my shoulder watching every word I typed.  In usual fashion he decided to chime in.  Go on over and check out what I and he had to say.  He’s a gnarly little fellow.  So here is me, writing my taking back my life letter, and this is how it went … Dear Debt …

In other news….Nutcracker by artur84 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

DD#3_targetsMy #3 daughter gave me the best Mum’s day present on Sunday when she told me her student debt from her Masters degree was all paid off!   About a year ago we sat down and did a Gail Vaz-Oxlade analysis on her expenses to see if it fit into Gail’s guidelines for Housing – Transportation – Life – Debt – Savings of 35% – 15% – 25% – 15% – 10%.    Now, she did have more than could be paid off in a year but she received a very sizable income tax refund so was able to completely extinguish it this weekend.  I was so happy!! 

I didn’t know how serious she was taking it from when we last talked about it and I don’t like to nag.  Well, more honestly, I was probably afraid of being disappointed, so in usual fashion I buried my head in the sand.  (Hey, it’s her debt, not mine!  … even though I did feel partly responsible for not setting a better example on how to handle money.)  She used to be a bit spendy and she likes to travel.  Plus, her once famous quote “I’ll always be in debt” used to make me cringe, so I figured she was going to be a hard nut to crack.

Look the nut is cracked open into a heart shape ... ahhhh!

Look the nut is cracked open into a heart shape … ahhhh!

But I guess Mum’s persuasion and some new found frugalness on her part was just what was needed to crack that nut open.  She thanked me because she said I helped her to see it was possible to eliminate her debt.   🙂   I guess I can really move on from my guilt trip now.  Heeee …

Image Credits from FreeDigitalPhotos.net:
Nutcracker by artur84
Walnuts In Love by Aleksa D

 


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Mother Money Moments

I always become a bit melancholy around Mother’s Day.  There’s a lot of strong emotion around mothers, whether you have one (or not), whether you are one (or not) and basically just all of the personal experiences we have related to the phenomenon of motherhood.

Interestingly enough, I can relate a number of my stories surrounding motherhood to personal finance.  Revealing these facets helps to explain, in part, why I am where I am today in my debt journey.

Excuse me, while I go and grab a box of kleenex.

My Second Mum

Hip Auntie - I'm Blondie on the far right

Hip Auntie – I’m Blondie on the far right

She wasn’t really my second Mum, but it sure felt like it.  You see, I was blessed with not only my own mother, but a wonderful relationship with my aunt.   She was a only a couple of years younger than my Mum, but she acted like our hip Auntie and spoiled us like a generous grandmother.  As she never married or had children of her own, we received all the benefit and love that her mothering instincts desired, and then some.

I paid my way through university, as I had the benefit of coop work terms every four months throughout my 5 year degree.  However, usually near the end of the school term, cash was getting low for me and my aunt would always seek out in our weekly phone calls the state of my bank account.  She was very generous to send a cheque for several hundred dollars to tide me over until I started my next coop work term.  No repayment was expected.  I was always very thankful for this cash relief as I was trying to finish up my exams and did not want to be distracted by my growling tummy.

Fast forward well past graduation, past my first apartment which I furnished after living at home for a year and saving, on to buying my first home.  For some reason the elderly couple I bought from wanted to leave the microwave, which I didn’t need, but took anyways – it was a little bigger than the one I had in my apartment.  I offered the one from my apartment to my aunt, and to this day I do not understand why or what got into me to suggest what I said next.

I said that she could pay me $50 (or some such amount) for the microwave, as she didn’t have one and wanted to get one.  Well this did not sit well with her, and she became rather withdrawn.  Initially, I did not clue into my faux pas.  I thought it was actually a pretty good deal (in those days) – it was still fairly new and nice and compact for her condo.  Well her sullenness lasted for days until we had a heart-to-heart and she explained how hurt she was after all she did for me when I was in university.  Many years had passed since that time, and I had let my busy, selfish, determined self get in the way of seeing the big picture.  She had always been so generous and kind to us, and I let that blind me so that it never entered my purview when I made that stupid, ridiculous request.  I cried a lot and told her how sorry I was.  Of course, we made up instantly, but I have always harboured great guilt over that incident.  I loved her dearly, and still miss her like crazy, even though she’s been gone for 15 years.

Suddenly, I’m a Mother

WeddingIn my late twenties, after a series of some quite long and some shorter relationships, I met a man through a mutual friend.  It was a blind date, which I openly confess I only went on because I suspected he might have some single friends.  He was a widower with three young children, and I felt assured that he would not meet my criteria, which included having my own children.  Well, you know what they say, you find love in all the unsuspected places.

The great part about our relationship, from the beginning, was that he was looking for a wife, not a mother for his kids.  They had been managing on their own as a family for 3 years.  I was able to slide in with no expectations put on me, which, in all honestly, made me want to assume my new role as Mum, which I did.

Within a year, we had a fourth child.  Life was busy but fun.  We worked hard and played hard. I loved buying things for my kids, taking them to movies or out for a meal.  We had holidays in Florida 3 summers in a row! Life was grand and I loved it and my family!!

Christmas was so exciting – I learned all the tricks of the trade from my aunt.  I would plan out our Christmas purchases of toys and clothes, often buying one more thing right up to Christmas eve.  Of course, then I had to buy 3 more things,  always making sure the appearance and spending was balanced amongst all four kids.  I wouldn’t change a thing about those early years!

Life Takes a Turn -> Impact on the Maternal Breadwinner

In the mid-nineties my husband was laid off from his job after a series of Corporate restructurings.  Even though we had some indication the cuts were continuing, it still comes as a bit of a shock.  Even, when employed, my salary was always higher than his, but it did not mean anything to me.  I always felt we fed from the communal trough.

He decided to pursue a different career path, working for himself instead of seeking another full-time position.  I won’t go into the details and ups and downs of this avenue, but I know it has had a significant effect on my psyche, having been the primary breadwinner of the family for the last 20 years.

I was always a high achiever, high performer, but with the added stress to keep my position, salary and benefits for the sake of the family,  I felt an overwhelming burden.  I was no longer a loving wife and a fun mother.  I was providing for my family, and I had better not screw anything up.  I would work long hours, to ensure my position was always secure.

The stress and pressure could always be relieved by “I deserve” purchases while out shopping, holidays with the family or get-a-ways on our own.  Since I was bearing, what felt to me, this great burden, I left The Irishman to manage things more on the homefront, including managing the finances.  I worked with a computer and numbers all day, why would I want and why should I do this in my badly needed decompression time?

Mum Goes on a Trip with Nana but Ignores the $igns

Life goes on.  The children start to become teenagers and we try to roll with the punches.  My dear aunt passes away from cancer at age 64.  YOLO ensues.  Money is used as a de-stressor.   We have enough on our plate.

I decide to take my youngest on a trip to Ireland with my Mum, for her 14 birthday.  Exciting times!  We are so looking forward to seeing family and I’m ecstatic to show her around the Ireland I’ve come to know and love.   I go to pick up the rental car at the airport and my credit card is declined.  I manage to contact my husband who calls the bank, something about a lost payment or other.

Mum Misses Nana and Auntie, so YOLO Continues

Youngest daughter develops severe OCD.  Life continues to be stressful.  We don’t spend willy nilly, but we don’t hold back either.

Mum ~ Taken in Ireland What a glorious time we had

Mum ~ Taken in Ireland
What a glorious time we had

Mum passes away suddenly almost a year from when we left on our trip to Ireland.  Life becomes almost unbearable.  So thankful that we did that trip together.  Wonderful memories.  YOLO continues.

Mum Quits Making Excuses and Gets on the Bandwagon

I wouldn’t have done it, if I didn’t have to, but after a series of ‘signs’ that I chose to ignore, I finally got the big sign that I could no longer hide from.  I can’t even remember what it was, probably another credit card decline.  It’s not important now.  Mum has to either face the music and commit to supporting her husband and family to get out of this mess or have herself committed.  I chose door #1.

Mum is Now a Grandma

Nama is the New Black

Nama = Na + Ma from Nana (my Mum) and Grandma (my MIL)

So after two years of frugal living and debt repayment, I’ve learned a lot.

About myself.

Most importantly, I want to help my children be good money managers.  I feel I’ve let them down in this regard.  But it’s been said before that guilt is a wasted emotion.  One of my favourite PF blogs has given me the fortitude to face it.

If you are at all touched by this post, you should go check this out too ~ Mea Culpa @ The Pursuit of Riches.

I have forgiven my husband.  Now it’s time to forgive myself.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers, Aunties, Mother-in-laws, Soon-to-be-Mums, Wanna-be-Mums and Chrysanthemums!

Sure hope I didn’t leave any one out! 😀

Don’t forget #FinSavSat blog hop party.  I’m co-hosting this week.  Just slide on down to previous post and add your link!

debt debs

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My New Enlightenment Since Acknowledging our Debt Crisis

ImageChef.comMy Come to Jesus Moment was in March 2012 (aka D-Day).  I hesitate to use that phrase, because I am quite spiritual and don’t like to use the Lord’s name in vain.  However, Brett Nelson, a contributor at Forbes wrote:

CTJMs, we understand, are all about focus, clarity, intention and gravity—in other words, the very stuff that, if consistently mustered, would wipe CTJMs from the schedule.

He suggests ways to avoid CTJM’s including establishing milestones, embracing conflict, defining priorities and avoiding surprises.  Well that is really is what good personal finance management is all about, minus the embracing conflict thingy.

But wait!  When I think about how we got here, part of it was because we did not embrace conflict.  We avoided it like the plague.  We placated ourselves with shopping trips, one up-ing each other with purchases (well he bought that, so now I’m going to buy this) and saying “I deserve” when we were tired or stressed or just plain frustrated with life.

Laurie from The Frugal Farmer wrote on Debt Roundup What Do You Really Deserve?  I identified so much with that post.   All I wanted was peace, freedom and security but I was looking in all the wrong places.

I defended my spending habits as stress relief from a busy lifestyle that I had created by not prioritizing. I absconded from my role as joint financial steward justifying it in my mind that I was the higher income earner and worked long hours, so that was the ‘least he could do’.  I looked for peace a few too many times at the bottom of a bottle, weary after a long day or fretting about other family stresses.

So now what have I done to (help to) turn things around?

  • I don’t do things that are in conflict with our goals ~ this includes unplanned spending, shirking responsibilities in managing our finances.  I’ve even started grocery shopping (for deals) and cooking a little more which is crazy (for me).
  • I speak up, instead of burying my head in the sand, if I think things are going astray.  Better to have these small difficult conversations straight away, that are actually quite insignificant compared to the ones we had around D-Day.
  • I practice living in the moment – from “The Power of Now” by Eckhardt Tolle.  This helps keep me from getting down about our debt situation and worries about family members.
  • I try to set an example and communicate within our household about ideas we could do to save money and not waste.  It appears I am the most frugal person in the house now, turning off lights, conserving gas etc. It used to be The Irishman.  Go figure.
  • I’m discussing my new frugal philosophy and sharing tips and tricks, budget and amortization spreadsheets and cool posts with my adult children.  I could bear great guilt about how I have not set a good example for them but I know guilt is a wasted emotion.  Instead I am trying to help them as much as I can with the new smarter ‘me’ and an excel file for any situation up my sleeve!
  • I’m a cheap date LOL.  Visiting my grandson on a weeknight, is now Nama’s favourite night out.  Otherwise it’s history channel or just being side-by-side, both on our computers.  A beer on Friday night, unless we splurge on a champagne Friday which means bubbly in the bathtub.

So I think Jesus is helping me, and smiling, when I say my new frugal enlightenment instances are affectionately called “Come to Nama” moments.
Photobucket.com:  tailz2006

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Frugal Fraggles, Rocks and Poodles

03 Aug 2008 097Is anyone wondering what this strange picture is that I have as my avatar?

I am, so I interviewed myself to find out what’s up with that.

Ya, what is it?

This is a Fraggle.  It was lovingly hand painted with gel pens in a pseudo tattoo on my arm by my niece.  We have a book at the cottage which the kids used as a reference to create their own hand drawn tattoos.  I highly recommended this activity for kids.  Shannon Ryan @ The Heavy Purse has lots of great ideas on  how to raise financially literate children.  This qualifies as a frugal activity for your kids.  We bought the gel pens at Costco in a multitude of colours and they lasted for more than two summers.

Oh, but what’s a Fraggle?

Fraggles are the muppets characters in a series from Jim Henson called Fraggle Rock.

I think my tattoo is a variation on the character called Wembley in this very appropriate video for a PF blog of Wembley’s 30 minute work week!

*To view this video on YouTube Click here

Why did you choose this image for your avatar?

I wanted something fun.  Plus I think it looks like he is running away screaming from his debt, dontcha think?

I can identify.  So we instantly bonded.

Plus I wanted to hide under a rock when I first acknowledged out debt situation.

Fraggle sounds a lot like frugal.  I’m in love.

While we’re on the topic, do you have any other rock connections?

Painted RockI painted rocks one summer.  I found smooth and unique and oddly shaped rocks and painted them.  Some with loons and ducks on them.  Some with words and sayings and poems.  I found a new canvas for my acrylic paints.  It was fun!  And mighty cheap entertainment.  At left is a cardinal painted on a tiny rock.

BrokeGirlRich wrote about her trip to the big ball of twine in Darwin, Minnesota and included a video and song from Weird Al Yankovic.  (It’s quite hilarious … you should watch it!)   In it he talked about Poodle Dog Rock which appears to be somewhere in Nevada.  I couldn’t put a picture on this post, as I couldn’t find one available under Creative Commons License, so I’ve just linked a beautiful night photo of it.   Here’s another big rock that looks like a dog.  Upon further inspection, both photos look more like a mini poodle rocks.  My  penchant is for Standard Poodles… yup, the big big poodles.  Here are some beautiful poodles up on a big rock mountain.   Karen says they’re yodelling.  I think they are singing the song mentioning Poodle Dogs.

Flickr: Karen

Flickr: Karen

There's Elvis-O-Rama, the Tupperware Museum,
The Boll Weevil Monument, and Cranberry World,
The Shuffleboard Hall Of Fame, Poodle Dog Rock,
And The Mecca of Albino Squirrels
We've been to ghost towns, theme parks, wax museums,
And a place where you can drive through the middle of a tree
We've seen alligator farms and tarantula ranches,
But there's still one thing we gotta see ....
Flickr: Karen

Flickr: Karen

Some other cute photos of poodles and rocks that I have no license to include in this post, so I’ll just provide the links:

OK clearly I could go on and on with STANDARD poodle picture links to poodles and rocks.  Either I’m off my rock(er) or I just love standard poodles that much.  You be the judge.

flickr:  Erica Frank

flickr: Erica Frank

Speaking about rocks, I’m heading up to Sudbury, Ontario for Easter.  Anyone that knows the city will acknowledge it is built on one big pile of rocks.  Along the same lines as the giant ball of twine, Sudbury has a giant nickel.  I wonder if the nickel will be next to become extinct, now that the penny is gone.

Gros Morne NFLDOf course, the place in Canada, that’s known as THE ROCK is the island province of NEWFOUNDLAND.   Here’s a photo from Rocky Harbour near Gros Morne National Park.

Last point on the subject of ROCKS, have you ever listened to the works of Carl Reiner interviewing Mel Brooks as the 2000 year old man?  At about 5 minutes in, they talk about the first language being the ROCK language.  I won’t say more but let you listen to it.  I find this very entertaining.  Before that, about 4 minutes, they talk about the jobs that were existing 2000 years ago, among those being hitting a tree with a piece of wood, looking in the sky and watching each other.  Tough work if you can get it.   Enjoy!!

*To view this video on YouTube Click here

So that’s all I have to say on rocks and frugal fraggles and frisky poodles.  Have a rockin‘ Easter weekend!

brokeGIRLrich

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