Posts tagged ‘saving’

May 4, 2012

April Roundup – Ok, I overspent a little…

by Robyn

As predicted in my March roundup, I wasn’t able to keep my expenses below $1500 for this month. I did however, cross a few things off my shopping list, some of which cost me nothing. I’ll start by breaking down my expenses for the month.

Rent: $547.00
Food & Dining: $314.44
Bills & Utilities:170.90
Auto & Transport: $157.00
Financial: $100.00
Personal Care: $80.64
Taxes: $65.11
Travel: $61.00
Entertainment: $59.00
Gifts & Donations: $44.86
Health & Fitness: $44.75
Shopping: $24.73

At month end, I spent $1669.44, over budget by $169.44.

My food and dining expenses were really high this month. My restaurant expenses ($100.04 this month) were just below what I spent last month ($110.07). Not a big improvement, but by no means a failure. I only bought dinner at work 5 times this month compared to 8 times last month. Groceries were more than double what I spent last month, but I stocked up on quite a few things, like a $50 purchase at the Dutch Meat Market. This should help me keep my food expenses down for May.

I spent significantly less on personal care this past month, but that’s more of a stroke of luck. I had two electrolysis sessions where the machine started to malfunction. As a result, I had those two 30 minute sessions for free.

My entertainment expenses were about double compare to last month, but I got up to a lot more this month as well. I went to the Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the art gallery, as well as went to 3 concerts. It pays to know people in the music “scene” since I got into most of the concerts for free or at a discounted price. I purchased a few cd’s which bumped up my expenses.

One expense I excluded from my expense log was my flight to Vancouver at the end of June. That set me back $536.86 for a RT flight. I was choked about the cost but at the end of the month I got my income tax back and they did a reassessment for a refund of $505.67. Less the $65.11 I thought I’d owed, I only really have to pay $96.30 for my flight. I also purchased my travel insurance for $61.00.

As for the no spend challenge, this month I was successful. I completed the month with 10 no spend days. I think what made this month easier was that I’ve been concentrating on cooking at home more. In doing so, I’ve planned out my meals further in advance so I can stock up more on my grocery shopping days.

When putting this post together, I encountered an issue with my much-loved Lemon app, which I use to categorize my spending in detail. It’s ability to do basic math pretty much stopped working. I don’t know if entries aren’t linking properly or what, but I found that several month end category totals were wrong, and I had totals for categories with no actually transactions associated with them. After a rather frustrating morning, and testing of about half a dozen free apps, I’ve settled on and painstakingly transferred my expenses over to uSpend. I hoping I don’t encounter any major issues with app. I’ve never purchased an app before and if this app has any major flaws I may be forced to do just that. I’m really wary about purchasing apps because most don’t give you the option to test them out first and I don’t want to spend $5 on something I’ll never use.

Have you ever loved an app for a few months only to have it stop working?

February 29, 2012

Why I love my iPhone

by Robyn

I’ve had a personal cell phone for 9 years, and in that 9 years, only once have I paid for my phone. That was for my last contracted phone. I grudgingly paid the $100 for an LG Rumor because I didn’t like any of the free phones they offered. I’ve been putting off getting a new phone for over a year. My contract expired in February 2011 and I refused to sign another 2 year contract knowing that I might have to buy out of it if I travelled before my contract was up.

After a lot of research and “justification,” I’ve finally given in and purchased an iphone. Knowing that, fingers crossed, I’ll be travelling in just over a year, I opted not to sign into a new contract and paid full price for an 8G White iPhone 4.

So how have I justified spending $630 on a cell phone? Almost $100 more than what I pay in rent? An iPhone is clearly more than just a phone. It can do so much more that what my LG Razor could ever do for me. Here are some of my favourite apps that I use on a daily basis.

MyFitnessPal: I love this app and I use it everyday, multiple times a day. I want to be healthier and this app is helping me do that. I can track what I eat, how many calories I’m consuming, how many calories I’m burning, and whether or not I’m getting my recommended daily vitamins and nutrients. Without this app, I would never have known that I don’t get nearly the amount of daily iron I should be. With the help of this app I’ve been able to adjust my eating habits to lower my calorie intake and I’ve started taking vitamin suppliments so that I get all my daily nutrients.

Spendings: I’ve actively used the MyFinancialTracker feature of RBC since it was first introduced a few years ago, and this app is another excellent way for me to track my spending. It’s simple and easy to use. I track everything I spend my money on from groceries, trips to the salon, drinks with friends, even what I spend on postage. The disadvantage to RBC’s MyFinancialTracker is that it only tracks debit/credit purchases. With this app I can track all of my income/expenses, regardless of the form of payment.

HoursTracker: I work 2 jobs, one of them being a serving job, where technically I get paid down to the minute, so every minute counts. I’ve always kept my weekly timecard but usually just looked at what is deposited into my account and figured “that looks about right.” I’ve only been using this app for a month and noticed on my last paycheck I was shorted almost 10 hours in pay. That’s just shy of $100 that they neglected to pay me. When you work in an industry where you work random hours and split shifts, tracking your hours is a must. This app allows me to track the hours that I work, my breaks, make notes on shifts and it tells me how much money I have earned after every shift. At the end of every week, I email my hours to myself so that I always have a quick reference of my weekly earnings.

P Tracker Lite: This little app is pretty self explainatory. It’s a period tracker. I haven’t been on the pill in a few years, therefor am not as regular as I used to to be. Or at least I don’t have a pill pack to tell me if I’m regular or not. This App allows me to track my period, how long it lasts, when I’m fertile (not that I care – no babies for me), and it’ll predict my next period. Other features include the ability to track symptoms, moods, weight, and best of all, you can set the App up to be password protected.

UrbanSpoon: I can’t help but love this App. It was an amazing tool to have on my recent trip to Ottawa. You can find reviews and pictures for almost any and every restaurant in any given city. It use it constantly to find new places to eat in my own hometown and to find affordable, new places to eat when I’m on vacation.

Rage Comics: This App is a great way for some good laughs and an excellent way to kill some time. The comics that people create from real life are so funny, and there are always new comics.

Some of my other favourite Apps include Twitter, instagram, facebook, DataMan & Shazam. I’m becoming a bit of a phone addict but how can I not? It’s everything, phone, texting, camera, music, social networking, all wrapped into a $630 piece of awesomeness, and when I’m travelling, I’ll just drop my phone plan. Unlike every other phone I’ve ever had, it won’t become a paper weight.

November 4, 2011

Hashing out my SNAP contract

by Robyn

At the beginning of the week I went into SNAP fitness and spoke to the manager about the contract I signed. He told me that the pre-paid amount for the 6 month contract was based off the “month-to-month” rate. So “technically” it gives you a free month, but not really. I told him the way they sell their memberships is deceptive and misleading. Looking at the membership rate breakdown that they use as a tool to sell membership plans to people I clearly pointed out to him that it was disceptive, misleading and in some ways, false advertising as it fails to state that the pre-paid amount is based off the month-to-month rate. He didn’t really offer me anything. He just said that those were the rates as determined by corporate.

I knew I wasn’t really going to be able to get much out of him, but it was worth a try. In the end I opted for a full refund on my initial $285.29 pre-paid membership and resigned on a 6-month contract, where I’ll pay monthly at the rate of $35.96. Instead of being locked into a 7-month contract, I’m only locked into 6 months and free to end my membership in May 2012.

I’m a little less bitter now and really just happy to get on with it and start working out on a regular basis. I need to tighten up my jiggly thighs and work on getting rid of my little gut.

In other news I made a quick visit to the bank today to deposit $2769.67 worth of Canada Savings Bonds that had matured. I’ll be contacting my bank branch next week to arrange an appointment to speak to someone to decide on how to reinvest that money.

I also took out $200USD ($208.36CAD). I’m heading down to Grand Forks, ND tomorrow to spend the day shopping for some new clothes. Excited to get out of the city for a day. I haven’t been to Grand Forks for over a year.

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.

Tags: , ,
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 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.

April 25, 2011

8 Unique Ways to Save

by Robyn

1.Grocery Shop Frequently – especially when looking for fresh produce. Some people (like my boyfriend) get grossed out by it, but buy fruits and veggies off the sale rack. The last 2 weeks I’ve picked up a 1lb box of strawberries for 50% off. I went through them, picked out the odd one that was mushy and froze the rest to make smoothies. If you pick up veggies, use what you bought that day to make dinner that night.

2.Join Group Buying Websites – such as groupon.com, or teambuy.ca. These websites are free to join and are great places for deals over a vast array of products and services. Although I haven’t used it that much, for the times that I have it’s been for a great savings. I paid $25 for $50 worth of prime cuts of beef, pork and poultry. I ended up getting so much food I had to store half of it at my parents house. Other great deals to look out for are restaurant deals. That way you can still dine out from time to time without breaking the bank.

3.Avoid Malls and Thrift Shop Instead– Sometimes you really need to clothes shop, especially if your a girl. Aside from a few sample items I picked up off the sale racks at the mall a few months ago for cheap cheap cheap, I always buy my clothes second hand. I take pride in being able to say that out of any outfit I can put together, each piece likely cost me less than $10-20. I think it would be safe to say that at least 75% of my wardrobe is either a thrift find or was bought on sale. Bottom line, never pay full price for your clothes, because it’s going to be out of style in 6 months anyways. Buy it off the sale rack, or better yet, when thrift shopping, wait until they have 50% sale days like Value Village does in Canada. It’s like a sale on top of a sale. If you can, sign up to be on email lists so you know when stores have promotions and sales coming up.

4. Hide your Clothes – this one may seem weird but it works. After wearing the same few outfits day in and day out, you start to get bored and want to shop for some new outfits. Or at least I do. So hide some pieces for a few months, then trade them up for different outfits down the road. I was living with my boyfriend on weekends over this past summer while I was working at a remote resort the rest of the time. Gradually a good portion of my clothes made it’s way over to his house and never came home with me when I moved back to the city. Now, months later, I’ve finally brought that clothes back to my house and it’s like I have a whole new wardrobe to work with. I haven’t worn these clothes in forever. My desire to shop, for the time being at least, is gone. In my opinion, that’s money in the bank.

5.Stash your Plastic Bags – jackets and purses are usually full of little pockets that never really get used. Take some of your plastic bags, smoothe them out, fold them up and tuck them away into those pockets. Now every time your in line at the grocery store and they ask you if you need a bag, you can say “nope, I’ve got my own.”  This will save you the 2 cents they would have charged you for a plastic bag, and might even make you money because sometimes store will give you a rebate when you bring your own bags. And you don’t have to spend money either now on reusable cloth bags.

6.The Dollar Store is Your Friend – you can buy so many things at the dollar store for a fraction of the price that you will pay at a grocery store. Toothpaste and toothbrushes for example. $1 each at the dollar store, compared to $3+ at the grocery store for the same thing. I bought a lot of my kitchen utensils from the dollar store when I moved out on my own and over three years later, I don’t think anything has broken or been replaced yet.

7.Make it a Game Night – this is something my friends and I did all winter and had a blast. It was never really a money issue, but we did it more just because we were getting bored of the weekly bar scene. We played a lot of board games and would usually switch it up with a different game each week. If you or friends don’t have a lot of board games, go out and buy some or  play card games. Avoid buying board games brand new, as the prices for board games are insane, ranging from $25 to over $100. Rather keep an eye out for finds at local thrift stores and garage sales. You can usually pick them up for a fraction of the retail sale price, and sometimes you can find some really cool classic, vintage, or just plain weird games. Always make sure to peek inside the box to ensure the instructions and all the playing pieces are there.

8.Swap your cash for foreign currency – living a 3 hour drive from the US/Canadian Border, I encounter American currency from time to time, either from serving or through friends and co-workers. Since American and Canadian currency is pretty much on par with one another, I always swap out my Canadian funds with American when the opportunity arises. That way I’m never going to spend that $5 or $20 and I can put it towards future savings, or avoid paying high exchange rates when I make a trip down south.

April 21, 2011

A little goes a long way

by Robyn

As documented in my last few posts, in the last week and a half I have made a few trips to the bank to deposit my tip money that has been gradually accumulating in my tip jars since  late November, early December of last year. Without even trying to save (I was just stashing my tips because I didn’t want to carry large quantities of cash on me) I now have the grand total of my savings.

Dollar bills stuffed into my Coca-Cola mug = $740.00

Loose change collected in my coin jar = $386.00 (not including the remaining change that cannot be rolled)

In total I managed to save $1126.00 in tips from serving WITHOUT EVEN TRYING!

In that last 30 days, without depositing any additional money that I have earned from pay cheques, I have been able to deposit $1221.25 into my travel savings account (I got a GST cheque for $95.25 that I deposited last week).

How does that even happen? Over $1000!!!

Having not realized that I had this much money just sitting my bedroom waiting to be counted and banked is such a weight lifted off me. The loose change that I just deposited is enough to cover the cost of my round trip ticket to Toronto in the next few weeks. A cost I was rather upset about because I had never originally planned to pay out of pocket for, instead I was going to use credit card loyalty points. From saving my tips last year (my tip jar then having been dubbed the tattoo fund), the cost of my tattoo is already covered. The only expenditures now that I have to concern myself  with is setting a realistic budget for food and accommodations while in the city.

Next week will mark less than 3 weeks until I’m in Toronto so it’ll be the perfect time to start making phone calls to find out where I’ll be staying.

Tags: ,