October 26, 2011

Was Alberta Bound

by Robyn

A few weeks ago a recieved a facebook message from my tattoo artist in Toronto letting me know that he would be at the Alberta Bound Tattoo and Arts Festival in Calgary. If I wanted to come, he would save a spot for me.

After checking my overall finances and the balance of my tattoo fund, it only took me about a week to decide. I was going. It would cost me about the same to fly to Calgary as it would to get to Toronto, except there was a good likelihood I would get to see the mountains.

I booked my flight to depart the evening of October 13th, and I flew back home at the end of the weekend on October 16th.   I stayed in the HI Calgary City Center, located 2 blocks east of City Hall. Perfectly located for getting around the city.

This was my first time staying in Calgary. I normally drive right through or stop over at the airport enroute to somewhere. Usually when I visit a city, I push myself to the limits. I try to see as much as possible, to the point that near the end of the day, I’m totally burnt out.

I avoided that this time around. I slept in until at least 10am every day and I was back at the hostel no later than 7pm. Then I would relax and watch tv. I spent a day shopping. I checked out the Millenium Skate Park. Took a drive into the mountains. Got tattooed.

I was sad to be leaving and I wish I had had more time in the city. I wish even more that I could have spent more time in the mountains. But alas, I will have to save that for another time. 

When I arrived home, for the last time I passed through what will become the old Winnipeg International Airport terminal. At the end of the month, the terminal will be closed, and in all likelyhood, demolished shortly after. Following it’s closure, the long awaited, $585 million new Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport will open. It’s exciting. The next time I fly will likely be in February to attend a wedding for a family friend in Ottawa.

August 30, 2011

Extreme couponing is an extreme waste

by Robyn

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve watched Extreme Couponing a few times on TLC. I can’t help myself. I am drawn to nearly every form of your stereotypical bad tv. Wedding shows, design shows, having abnormal quantities of babies shows, weird jobs, hoarding,  addictions, you name it, I probably watch it. I don’t follow these shows regularly but if I can’t find anything else to watch, it’s almost a given I’ll end up watching the newest episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive, or Intervention or what have you.

When is comes to watching Extreme Couponing, I can’t help but be in total awe and disbelief. What these people are able to achieve is without a doubt, impressive. Although these people clearly have compulsion issues (see image below), at least they are channeling these urges into something positive. I guess? Sort of?

Seeing the insane stock piles amassed by these individuals just leaves me stunned. Does any single family household really need hundreds of tooth brushes? Or boxes of deodorant, body lotion, soap, etc? Who needs 40 bottles of relish? 100 cans of soup? 50 bags of chocolate chips?

Beyond bursting at the seams, how much of these massive collection will still be good 5 years?

On a cleaning kick last night I started going through my fridge and pantry, throwing out everything that’s expired. I moved into my apartment in February of 2008, so anything in my apartment, food wise, is no more than 4 years old. Until recently I never knew how quickly, even canned goods went bad.

This is a short list of what I threw out:
butter (I didn’t even know butter could go bad)
4 cans of soup (2 years expired)
3 bottles of salad dressing (1 unopened)
an almost-full bottle of corn syrup
hot sauce
plum sauce
molasses
lime juice
bbq sauce
baking powder

What on earth are these extreme couponers doing hoarding these ridiculous quantities of food products? Is your family of four really going to eat ALL of that food before it expires. Not likely, unless you are going to eat a bowl of soup with instant mr. noodle on the side every day for a year. For a kick of flavour, add some relish? You’ve got 40 bottles. Why not have a bag of chocolate chips for dessert? And just throw your toothbrush away after using it. You’ve got another 1000 to last you for the next 3 years.

I get it, these people “buy” these items in mass quantity because they can. The high. The thrill. The rush they must get knowing their walking out of a store, legally, with hundreds of dollars worth of product that they didn’t pay a cent for. But seriously? Why are you spending 40 hours a week searching for coupon deals so you can stock up on food that will likely expire before you can consume all of it?

I’m feeling pretty bummed knowing that I just threw out probably $50 worth of expired food. I don’t have the patience to coupon. Plus it’s a lot harder to coupon to the extreme in Canada because our stores don’t “double up” deals like they do in the states. I will admit since watching this show I have learned some really important things that I can apply to my personal spending habits. Such as, as good of a deal as it may be, don’t stock up on unnecessary quantities of items that have an expiry date. And a LOT of things have expiry dates. Even if it’s free, it always makes me sad knowing something is going to waste.

From now on, I’m going to be more selective when buying items to stock my fridge and pantry. I’ll ask myself  “If I buy this will I use 10% of the product before it goes bad and I have to throw it out?” If the answer is yes, I’ll spend the money to drive out to my parents place to “borrow” some from them. Or I’ll be a little less anti-social and introduce myself to my neighbours to borrow a cup of _______.

Since the debut of this series, these “extreme couponers” have been getting quite a bit of media coverage . You can find a few amusing, and kind of ironic news stories here and here.

August 10, 2011

Surpassing a savings milestone

by Robyn

As soon as my 2006 Pontiac G6 was paid off in mid-May (2 weeks earlier than I expected) I concentrated putting my extra cash into my “RTW TRIP” savings account.

My savings account, an RBC High Interest eSavings account was first opened in March 2010. My starting balance was $4103.49. Apparently I’m really good at pulling money out of thin air, because I don’t know where this money came from. The account number associated with the deposit transfer doesn’t actually match any of my existing bank account numbers. Weird?!

My goal, at the time was to save $10,000 by Christmas, quit my job and travel the world. However, at the time I was already $2300 in debt, with an upcoming 10-day trip 2 months down the line, and I desperately wanted to purchase a new car. My Nissan, to say the least, was a “piece.” Random things would literally fall off of my beloved first car.

In May 2010, I started a new job and went on my 10-day trip to New Jersey. Over the course of the summer and fall, I paid off $2600 worth of debt, and put $2168.06 into a separate savings account for a down payment on a new car.

To say the least, my goal of saving $10,000 by Christmas didn’t happen. By December of 2010, I had saved an additional total of $745.89 towards my big trip.

But with my new car miraculously being paid off in the time frame that it was, I have been able to focus my attention back to saving, rather than paying off debt. Between my two jobs and just being cheap in general, I’ve been able to put away minimum, $500 a month.

Yesterday, I surpassed $7500 in my savings account.

At the present time, I have no official savings goal, other than to save. At first I thought that $10,000 was reasonable. But since I’ve been able to save $2500 in an exceptionally short amount of time, I know I’ll be able to far exceed that amount by this time next year.

I’m taking the summer off from excessive saving (and working). Instead I’ll be enjoying life, taking advantage of summers free festivals, my boyfriends pool, and escaping to the family cottage. I need the practice for when I’m on the road.

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June 29, 2011

Meeting people on the road

by Robyn

I love talking to travellers, like-minded individuals, who I can really connect with. None of my friends can really connect with that aspect of who I am, nor  do they share similar travel passions to the degree that I do. Several of my friends have never travelled. Or if they have, it’s one of two extremes.

They’re either the luxury travel type staying at all-inclusive or nice hotels. Not the type who are even willing to stay in a hostel, let alone camp. Or they are the polar opposite. Friends who have been in various bands for years and travelled all over the country on tour, living in a van. Too bad everyone I know who’s done the latter has pretty much retired from living that life. My current boyfriend is paying his way out of debt from having lived that life in his early 20’s.

While I was in Toronto I met a really adorable couple at my hostel over breakfast. We made the usual casual travel chat “where are you from?” “where are you travelling?” etc, etc.

On my way out of the hostel that day, I left them, (Charlie and Mark), my phone number and email address, and told them to hit me up if and when they came through Winnipeg. I would give them a place to shower and if necessary, somewhere warm to crash for the night.

I was pleasantly surprised to open up my email on Monday evening to see an email from Charlie letting me know they were going to be arriving in the city on Tuesday and were hoping I could lend my shower. So of course I said yes, and email them back immediately.

They were at my place last night for about 3 hours. They showered and we chatted about our travelling experiences, and shared movies from our hard drives. I’ve been unable or for the most part, unwilling (aka: scared) to live and travel the way I want to, so it’s always gives me a little boost to talk to people who are currently on the road.

Charlie and Mark, I envy them. Charlie herself has lived, worked and travelled all over the world. Originally from England, she’s lived and worked in France, Denmark, Greece, Australia and Canada. She’s travelled to South East Asia and has done the coast to coast Canada tour thing once already. And now she and her fiance are doing it again.

When I met them, they had just landed in Toronto and were looking to purchase a van with which to travel the country. They have since purchased a van, converted into their home and have travelled from Toronto to the far east coast, then back across Canada en route to Vancouver to cherry pick for the summer. Then they are going down the west coast where Mark is meeting family in Las Vegas while Charlie will be joining up with two other travellers and continuing south for the Burning Man festival.

Talking to these two was invigorating. I am so excited to put more money into savings so that one day I’ll get on the road and pursue my dreams of long-term travel. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’ll befriend an amazing travel companion, but if not, I’ll be just fine on my own. For the present time I can revel in the fact that I have new travel friends and connections in far off places.

May 30, 2011

I never win anything

by Robyn

It true. Very rarely do I win things. Or when I win things, it’s usually not anything that I really, really, wanted. It’s more along the lines of I entered to win it because, well, I like free stuff. Free is always better than having to dish out the cash for something.

A few weeks ago, while bored at work (which is quite often), I entered a variety of online contests for free travel stuff. I kept my fingers cross that I would get a call or an email informing me that I’d won an all expenses paid trip somewhere. Anywhere for that matter!

I didn’t quite get a free trip, but I did win a copy of the new book “the lost girls” by the gals from lostgirlsworld.com. I quick email reply with my mailing address, and a week later I got a crisp new copy of this 500+ page gem from Harper Collins.

Only today am I finally getting a chance to start reading. I’m looking forward to the 500 page read as it will not only push me to save more money for future travels, but it will help me reach my goal of reading over 10,000 pages in 2011.

May 19, 2011

Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6, like a G6

by Robyn

Ok, yes, I’m lame. The title is lame, but I am extremely excited. With 2 weeks remaining until the end of May, I have achieved my goal of having my car paid off before the end of the month. I puchased my 2006 Pontiac G6 just days before Halloween to the tune of $13604.64, and now, less than 7 months later, I am debt free. I’m still blown away at how quickly I was able to pay everything off. Here is a rough break-down of how I did it:

Personal Savings: $2168.06

Donation made by my parents: $2000

Sale of previous car: $3300

Income Tax cheque: $1600

MPI Cheque: $471.00

GST Cheque: $95.25

Total: $9634.31

13604.64 – 9634.31 = $3970.33

I was laid off from my summer resort job on November 15th. I then applied for unemployment insurance while I worked part-time at the pizza place I have been working at for several years. I was collecting unemployment insurance cheques from December until approximately the 2nd week of February after I started my current job. 90%, if not more of my income from my unemployment insurance went directly towards paying off my car. The money I was earning from my hourly wage and tips at my part-time job went towards my rent, groceries, etc, etc.

When my umployment cheques stopped in early February, all pay cheques from my part-time serving job went directly towards paying off my car. On average, I was putting between $500 – $700 a month towards paying off my car. One month I managed to deposit just over $900.

In total, I only paid $279.64 in interest, bring the total cost of my car to $13884.28.

May 18, 2011

Model Mishaps

by Robyn

I always get a giggle when I notice something is just a little out of place. Above it a snap shot of part of the 3D model of what the new Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport will look like once completed.

You can see that it’s rather animated with cars and people milling about. Except for the dead person lying beside the grey car. (center frame, you see it?) I thought it was amusing. If only there was a way to get a pool of blood to complete the picture.

Winnipeg. Murder Capital of Canada!!! Well not really. Sadly we lost that title two years ago. But it’s still funny. At least a little….

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May 16, 2011

Toronto Breakdown

by Robyn

I’m home from my little jaunt in Toronto. Feeling fantastic considering having just had 80% of my back tattooed less than 3 days ago. I am feeling far better than expected, with my back feeling slightly stiff and not the least bit swollen or tender to the touch.

Here is a general breakdown of my trip costs. It’s not penny for penny, but thats just because I’m really lazy and I hate keeping track on paper of every dollar I spend. I’m better off with just a general average that I can calculate in my head.

RT Flight Winnipeg – Toronto: $378.00

The Only Backpacker Inn Hostel (1 night): $24.00

JacoB22 Bed & Breakfast (2 nights): $124.30

Seven Crowns Tattoo: $800 + $100 tip

Friday’s Lunch (soup-to-go + snack): $5.00

Friday’s Dinner (PizzaPizza): $5.50

Saturday’s Lunch (Sushi @ Ho Su Bistro on Queen): $12.00

Ice Cream & pop Saturday night: $6.00

TTC Fares/tokens (have one token remaining): $15.50

Give or take a few dollars, my total came to $1470.30 total spent for a RT flight to Toronto, with a 3 night stay in the city, steps away from public transportation and downtown and a $900 tattoo I now have permanently etched onto my body. That’s fantastic, considering the $900 spent on the tattoo came in under budget by $100 and the “tattoo money” has been sitting in my bank account well for over a year, so it doesn’t feel like an expense at all.

Not counting the cost of the tattoo, my long weekend in the city cost me less than $600. One evening was spent in a hostel 6 bed mixed dorm and included a full, hot, waffle breakfast with fresh fruit and coffee in the morning. The following two nights I was in a fantastic B&B, and an upgraded room from what I had originally booked, with a private balcony, ensuite and continental breakfast in the morning.

Aside from the time spent at the tattoo shop, I spent the remainder of my weekend perched in bed watching tv. I had general plans to wander the city a bit on Saturday afternoon but only lasted about 4 hours before getting bored and coming home for a nap. My weekend probably would have been much more exciting had it not been overcast and raining, but what can you do? I would have been nice to venture out to High Park (I’ve never been and would have liked to have seen the cherry blossoms) but I figured I would pass due to the threat of rain and lack of decent lighting for any good pictures.

I’ll admit, when I should have been out and about, doing more, I acted like quite a bit of a hermit this weekend. Keeping to myself when I should have been meeting up with friends and acquaintances in Toronto. But sometimes it better to take a vacation from everything, even people you haven’y seen in over  year. With the 70+ hour work week I had leading up this trip, I think my loner weekend was worth it for the rest and relaxation. Plus, the bed was really comfortable.

 

May 13, 2011

Six and a half hours

by Robyn

I worked over 70 hours last week. I was a nervous wreck and spent all of my free time either eating or sleeping. My rest and nourishment was vital with my upcoming trip to Toronto. This trip, this appointment, so long in the making, I had to make sure that I was in the best of health upon my arrival. Being sick would mean losing hundreds of dollars.

Thankfully, luck was on my side this week.  After leaving work early yesterday, my girlfriend dropped me off at the airport and I boarded my Westjet flight. I got to Toronto without incident and checked into my hostel shortly after.

This morning I was a ball of nerves, but Matt gave me little time to let it get to me. Within 20 minutes of arrival at the shop, we started on my tattoo.

The first 2/3rds, starting from the bottom up were manageable. My upper shoulders were absolutely horrible, I spent that vast majority of my time concentrating on my breathing to take away from the pain. It took just over 4 hours to get this first piece completed.

For phase two, we mapped out the images and I held my breath. I was pretty rough by this point, so everything hurt. Again, I concentrated a lot on my breathing and noting where the tips of Matt’s fingers where so that I could anticipate the spot he would go to next. Although Matt congratulated me at the end of our marathon session for not jumping off the table, there were a few times where I wanted to.

This is just the start of a piece that will take countless hours and years to complete. I have one more full session of outlines and finishing details. We opted out of doing some of the detailed texturing on the lower pieces due to my growing discomfort as well as Matt’s time contraints.

At the end of the day, I was in the shop from 10:30 until 5:30, being tattooed for approximately 6.5 hours of that time. I’m happy to report that I came in $200 under budget for what I had predicted that the tattoo was going to cost. So that’s extra money that I can put back into the bank for future travel or tattoo sessions.

Today I kept my meal costs to less than $10.00 for the whole day. That’s including my delicious waffle with fresh fruit, whip cream, maple syrup and hot coffee this morning at my hostel, The Only Backpackers Inn. I had a simple lunch of chicken noodle soup while at the shop, and then pizza this evening on the ecclectic Church St.

I’ve been making plans to get together with a friend tomorrow afternoon. Trying to keeps things as relaxing and low stress as possible. Sushi perhaps? or a movie.

I’ll give a general breakdown of how much I spent on this trip when I get home at the end of the weekend. I also got my MPI rebate in the mail the other day. So once I take a look at my upcoming bills and incoming paycheques, we’ll see if I’ll reach my goal of being debt free by the end of May.

April 30, 2011

Income Tax Return

by Robyn

I received my income tax return in the mail the other day. It was $1000 less than what I was expecting. I’m upset but I am very very close to having my car paid off in full, so I really couldn’t be happier. I have $1201.51 remaining to be paid off on my Pontiac G6 that I bought in Nov 2010.

I have been letting my last few pay cheques sit in my bank account until my credit card statements come in the mail in a few days. Once I pay those off the remaining will go towards my car. It will be tight but I’m still predicting that I have the car paid off by the end of May, then I can put everything towards savings for my big trip.