debt debs

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

baseball


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Curve Balls – When You Are Hit With Unexpected Financial Events

baseballSpring is here, B-B-Q’s have been lit up and summer’s just around the corner.  Kids are starting their summer activities, whether it be swimming, soccer, football or some form of baseball.  I’ve been thinking about the latter as I review the series of financial events that delivered us to this point in our season.  There were a number of ups and downs that I consider curve balls that we needed to ‘deal’ with and not lose our drive.  So it made sense for me to use baseball terms to relay to you how my winter – spring financial season went.

The Home Team

T-ballMy husband’s income is variable, based on the demand.  He is a real estate appraiser, so swings are inevitable based on the time of year and the market.  Normally, he does receive enough bread and butter engagements to meet a minimum – moderate level of income and that is what I base our debt repayment plans on.  The idea being that it should feel like we’re playing T-ball.  The figure I use for this is $2,400 per month, which gets paid in two installments, the 15th and last day of the month.  He gets paid one month in arrears, meaning he gets paid next month for the work he did this month.  Therefore I know now, what his income will be for June, as an example.

Basically, as part of the battery, all of his income and some of mine goes to debt.  Anything he makes above that budget amount is a bonus baby which we also apply to debt to help us meet our goals even sooner than our five year plan.   Usually, we are able to stick with this as I have all foreseen expenses budgeted (including car repairs, etc.).  However, I don’t move unspent budgeted money that may be needed later into a separate cash account.  Maybe I should, because it can get messy and feels like we have a dead arm, when all of a sudden we do have a big bill, but I’ve already skimmed off the money and applied to debt.

Opening Season

good-baseball-pitcherSo looking back to the beginning of the year, January was a tough month, because he had not one engagement last December – a strikeout.  So there was no money coming from him for January.  That was our first curve ball.  Debt repayment goal could not be met, or at least not fully.  I scrimped together $1,000 from some actual and anticipated expense savings whilst declaring a bean soup and scrambled eggs on toast menu plan would get us through the lean winter months.  That $1,000 payment felt like damage control.  As the umpire, I had to watch the game closely, even if hoping the home team could steal a base to regain control of the game.

Then I got small hit on a curve ball, when he told me he could give me $2,000 he was saving in his business account which was for an upcoming annual business insurance premium of $3,100 due soon.  We decided we could put the insurance on the credit card giving us one extra month to pay and gaining cash back points, and hopefully business would pick up and we’d be in for a bit of slow pitch now that the Christmas season was over.  He never could explain what happened in December.  Normally it does slow down, but it has never come to a shutout like it did for him in 2013.   He did, however, land a large contract for the city which we could count on down the road because it wouldn’t pay out for a few months.

Regular Season Begins

baseball-player-in-the-airWell that softball turned into hardball pretty quick when we saw that January was not looking very good either.  He ended $1,100 short from our minimum goal.  With two away and two down, I was starting to get kind of panicky.  I had slowed our debt repayment, but we were committed on a low rate cash transfer credit card that needs to be fully paid by August of this year.  We had put a $24,700 lump sum against our 2.89% mortgage debt last Sept, planning to pay the 0.99% credit card off at $2,250 for 11 months.  Yes, I know this is just swapping debt for debt, but was at a lower interest rate and with no transfer fee. It seemed like a good idea since we were planning to make prepayments of more than that amount monthly.  Of course, we had no foresight of the earnings slump that was to come.

We were window shopping for strike 3 near the end of February when it looked like his income for that month to be paid in March was going to fall $700 short from our @2,400 target.  Not only that, but now we had an over $5K Visa payment due in early March (remember the $3,100 insurance above) plus $2,700 of first installment of property taxes due in March.  Normally I put $450/month in my Emergency Fund each month to build up enough to cover property taxes.  Well, with robbing Peter to pay Paul, that didn’t happen, and things were getting very precarious, indeed!

The Losing Streak

empty-baseball-fieldAt this point we are $4,200 negative on budgeted earnings plus I needed to find an additional $1,100 to make up the insurance payment for which he had only $2K for ($3,100 – $2,000).

What did I do?  Bring in a pinch hitter? I scoured the internet looking for part-time job possibilities and while I was doing that I turned into a blogger.  Overnight.  Magically.  Just like that.

I had no knowledge of the term side hustle.  I didn’t think I had the stamina to work 2 shifts per week at Shoppers Drug Mart after a brain draining workday.  I also decided early on that making money at blogging would, for me, be undoubtedly very difficult.  And yet, I was incredibly stressed and needed somewhere to unload.  So a blogger I became.

I dug-out our Emergency Fund.  I know JMoney says No Touchy! but we were dealing with a job loss of sorts (hey, where did all the fans go?).  That is what your E-fund is for.  Unforeseen events that you have no control over.  Okay, broken washing machines and vehicles kind of are too, I’ll give you that.  But hypothetically we are supposed to have a separate maintenance/stuff breaks fund to deal with that.   Some of us do not, but choose to keep our E-fund nice and high to cover that as well.   [Future post coming during the championships about how I plan to increase my Emergency Fund and why.]

Regular Season Ends

Batter-upThen we hit two home runs in a row.  The first was a due to a change-up with a family member and it was an out-of-the-park HR.  My husband is a licensed realtor and acted as agent for my sis and BIL to buy a new home and sell their existing home.  He had not intended on charging them any commission and in turn, return to them the fee he received from the purchase of their new home.  They insisted that we keep his earned commission from the purchase and in return for not taking a commission on the sale of their home they wanted to take us on a cruise (which we gratefully declined).

So that $4,000 yacker saved our home game and I started to relax a bit. Our second inside-the-park home run was that my husband’s March income exceeded our target by $1,600.  This was because of the completion of the large contract that he had been working on for a couple of months.  The regular small housing jobs were coming in, but at a rate lower than last year.  It was hard to say if business would increase to the same levels as before.  I might need to revisit my @2,400 / month projection if this continues.

I still kept blogging, as I soon realized I still had a lot to learn and I also had a story to tell as part of the Hot Stove League.   Maybe, just maybe, I could help others and maybe, just maybe, I could develop my blog into a retirement side hustle of my own.

Post Season

slide-into-baseAs we enter the seventh-inning stretch I see that I need to examine my slugging averages more closely because although the actual income has finally caught up with planned income, my Emergency fund is still $2,100 lower than it should be.  I can account for $1,100 of that being the passed ball shortfall in the insurance premium that I had not budgeted for plus $450 of missing tax savings that I did not fund one month when I was doing a suicide squeeze.

If I can continue to play ball, the plan is to pay $2K per month to the low rate credit card to have it knocked out of the park before the interest rate goes up ($6K – 3 more payments to go).  I’m not sure if I will deploy this strategy again, as it certainly has been a nail-biter.  I may just decide to become a patient hitter and just pay any excess towards debt as it comes so I don’t stress myself out so much.

Now I’ve got some good news about breaking balls and some bad news bears to share as we head into the wild-card playoff.  What d’ya want first?  Okay, the bad news it is – as in a grouch Uncle Charlie of My Three Sons curve ball when I received something in the mail yesterday.  I saw the word Justice on the envelope thinking it was a call to Jury Duty as I quickly tore it open only to find a RED LIGHT CAMERA SYSTEM OFFENCE NOTICE for my car which I was not driving on a particular day in a certain area to the tune of $325.  Ya, sucks the big ball$.

So that somebody, who shall remain nameless, worked his a$$ off this month (as luck would have it) and will bring in ticket sales of $3,200 next month which is $800 greater than minimum plan.  So two things we learned here folks – housing market is moving again in Canada and don’t run red lights when you’re debt wrangling or playing a perfect inning.

To mop up this post, I must confess that I knew little about baseball.  Just like me, you can learn how to manage your finances better too!  You just need to get in the game, define your level playing field and don’t stop short when things don’t go your way and you’re down and outHome plate will still be there, even if you need to round the bases a few times.  It’s practice and green lights that will get you the Commissioner’s Trophy and make you a champion of the series in your world.
Home-Game-Baseball

Images courtesy of flickr.com
Baseball glove / Andrei Niemimäki
T-ball / Chris Harrison
Baseball pitcher / Ralph Arveson
First base / Jonathon Assink
Baseball field / JACoxwell
Baseball batter / Eric Ward
Slide into base / Sherri Abendroth
Home field / Sherri B

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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

This post is another as part of the Financially Savvy Saturdays blog hop.

Click on the logo above and join in!

Tweet Hashtag #FinSavSat

Gail Vaz-Oxlade


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What does a B-day, a D-day and bloody cold St. Patrick’s Day have in common?

I felt like a hot mess when I wrote my last post.    I was jumping around to different shiny bright objects that entered my purview that day.  Trying to decide how I could increase our income and not getting anywhere.  I’m sure it’s a story many of us have been through.

For me, it just  became more critical the last weeks and months, because The Irishman’s income is variable and when I say variable, I mean to the point of going south, lately.  Now who wouldn’t want to go south during this record breaking cold St. Patrick’s Day?

Me, that’s who.

Well I’m sure most would immediately understand because I’m punching pennies and squeezing nickles.  I say punch a penny rather than pinch it because technically we’ve punched our pennies into oblivion here in Canada because we don’t use them anymore.  Note to self:  Need to figure out what to do with those brown things in that jar on my dresser.

But in this situation it’s a bit complicated.  Since the awakening on D-day 2 years ago, we’ve made progress. [Read all about it here, folks!]  The budget lady has awakened and she is on a mission.  She wants to keep up the pace, stay on plan,  not lose the mojo.  So I started to panic a bit when I dragged out from was discussing with the Irishman his forecasted income for the next month (he gets paid one month in arrears).  January was pitiful, February was slow and March, better, but not where I had forecasted for my cash flow planning.   This is when I launched into must-find-more-income-fast-mode.

Even thoughts of a part time job for me are going through my head.  Although this has not been ruled out yet, I’m wondering how I could manage this with a busy stressful full-time job.  Plus I started this blog so that I could manage my anxiety about said reduced income.  Decisions… decisions.

Oh, even more decisions have been thrown in the mix.  My wonderful younger sister, whom I had over for her Birthday dinner yesterday, and more importantly who I consider a great friend, has asked me and the Irishman to come on a cruise with her and her husband to the Bahamas in May.  YAY! Right?  Oh it gets better, ….they have offered to pay for us.   STFD!!  Well what am I waiting for, you say?!!!!

I may be cray-cray.. or deliriously depressed … or both.  But I don’t wanna be.  But since I am having a hard time making a decision, maybe I am depressed?  I need an intervention.  A decision intervention.

What are my reasons for not being deliriously ecstatic about this opportunity to provide some fun in my mundane so-called life?

  1. The biggest factor is not my money problems, but their money problems.  She has health problems and has recently lost her job.  Consequently they have have sold their home and downsized to a nice country home.  She’s living YOLO (you only live once – I had to google that when I saw it in another blog, in case you’re new to PFB’s).  She’s very upbeat and joyful and I don’t want to be her Debbie Downer.  (Even though my nickname as a kid was Debbie Down – I kid you not!  I used to climb up cupboards all the time and my parents dropped the word ‘get’ in between Debbie and down)  In fact, the reason that they want to pay for us is because the Irishman sold their house for them, saving them all the commissions.  But why do I get all worried about their financial situation when I have enough of my own to sort out?  I wish I could let it go.  Is it because I think they are not concerned enough and they should be?  It really makes me want to hide under a rock, a fraggle rock, but still a rock.
  2. OK, even if I decided to graciously and happily accept this wonderful gift from them (we would go inside cabin, no excursions, smuggle on booze and try to be cheap cheap like little birdies), there still will be additional attracted costs – The drive to NY, one or two overnight stays, wine with dinner (who am I kidding that we would not drink every night?), cute baby clothes from Bahamas for the grandchild, maybe a trinket or two for my kids.
  3. Then we’ve got the lost income from the Irishman for the week that we travel.  Sure it’s only a week, but with lost time to make up for… where’s my rock?

OK, now that you’re looking up the number for the mental health crisis line, I should let you know that we have mental health issues in my family so we don’t joke about that.  Actually we do, otherwise how the hell would we get through things?  ha ha laughter really is the best medicine. {snort}

So what are the reasons that I’m even considering this at all?

  1. It’s on my bucket list.  The Irishman and I have had two cruises (little did know that we couldn’t afford it!, but I need to stay on topic now) but what really is on my bucket list is to do one with them.  They’ve never been on one and we asked them before we were smarter but they were busy with younger kids and hockey and expensive hockey and it just wasn’t on their radar. I think now with the health crisis they are thinking differently.  I’d hate to not do this and miss an opportunity I can’t get back.
  2. The Irishman has been working hard, even if there’s not always something to show for it.  He had two days vacation for all of last year.  What is one week in the grand scheme of things?  Plus, if things stay being slow, then he may not miss much plus we have a bigger problem than I thought. eek

They have been asking for a couple of weeks and need to make a decision this week.  I told her to ask our aunt and uncle from Ireland instead (we had often thought of going on a cruise with them, they’re a lot of fun).  She said what a great idea, then we could all go!!!  LOL  Truth be told, if she could get them to come, that would clinch the deal for me.  Since we lost our Mum 10 years ago  and our other aunt 15 years ago this past Sat, they are the closest family on Mum’s side and I miss them all terribly.  Last time we saw them was when Mum died.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade

My sis with Gail Vaz-Oxlade

 

Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Autographed book from Gail Vaz-Oxlade

And to wrap this post up in a bow (this feels like 6 degrees of separation), last year I got my sis Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s book, Money Rules for her birthday.  She got the chance to go see her last week and Gail autographed her book.  Gail you’ve got it wrong.  She’s the good sister.