Is The Personal Finance Community Too Judgmental?

wpid-20140713_232643.jpgWhen one opens their lives up on the internet be it though engaging in social media, blogging  or uploading cute pictures of your kids on Instagram, like it or not, you are willingly opening your lives up to outside criticism. This is especially true of blogging and a huge reason why it requires a bit of thick skin. You are, without a doubt, going to get backlash from casual readers to fellow bloggers. Creating a variance in conversation is what I love about blogging though so I welcome it, life would be pretty boring if people agreed with everything I said and did. We grow as people through exploration and accepting changes.

Last week I published a post titled ”How much is too much for groceries”. If you read my blog regularly, or even know me personally, you know I was by no means trying to ”bash” anyone or have a ”holier than thou” attitude. I was, in all honesty, looking to do what bloggers do best, create conversation. As someone who only spends about $500 per month on food, $800+ seemed like a lot to me, I didn’t say it was as lot for everyone nor was I trying to imply you’re a bad person if you spend more than what I spend on food every month, I genuinely wanted to know how far off the mark I was with my readers for average money spent per month, that’s it.

When comments started coming in, with quite a few new people popping up (thank you for stopping by), I was a little surprised at the interpretation of my post and other people’s comments. There was more than one comment stating in various words that the personal finance community was in general too judgmental (of non-PFers I imagine) and one person even said they limit their engagement within the community because of said judgement. While I thank you for your comment I feel like I need to defend the online community I am apart of, again please feel free to disagree.

While there is an extreme variance in what you will find within this community, everything from the extreme savers, early retirees, people in debt, millionaires, struggling students and everything in between, my experience is that people who blog and engage in this community do so to learn. We learn through interactions, posts, comments, arguments, reading, getting opinions, you name it. Though there has been many posts I disagree with I never felt that post was written in a judgmental tone, I simply have a difference of opinion, difference in experience or all together may think it is outright wrong. That doesn’t mean they are judging me for being different.

Had I written the post and finished with ” You’re all idiots and suck as humans if your family of six can’t or isn’t willing to eat on $400 per month” then yeah, that’s a judgmental and bitchy thing to do but for the most part the personal finance community offers opinions and questions to be challenged. My mission with the post in question was accomplished. People clearly pointed out how easily their family sustains themselves on $200-250 per week for a multitude of reasons and for that I thank you for offering me insight, even if I likely will never be in your position, I thank you for enlightening me, it was all I wanted.

I’ve said this before but I didn’t know personal finance was a ”thing”. I started this blog blindly and am so thankful for the internet niche I have stumbled into. Thank you for your comments, your encouragement, your disagreements and your lack of judgement when I’ve put myself out there. Maybe I’m alone but no, if we’re generalizing, the personal finance community is not judgement unless you include the personal challenges it may provoke, for that there is no apology.

I Asked and Got a Raise!

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgA few weeks ago I inquired on Twitter how often one should expect a raise and at what percentage. The most common response being ”annually, and inflation rate”.

I have never had to ask for a raise. I’ve negotiated my starting rate or salary but never had to ask for one. It was always given to me at a rate which I thought was fair but since being back to work from maternity leave, going on 16 months, I haven’t received one. Though I assumed it was an oversight by my employer, I decided to wait until the end of the summer (when my raises usually are) to approach the subject. When September rolled around with no pay increase was reflected on my pay stub, I brought it up.

My boss and I have a very casual relationship where we tend to do our best chatting via text and email. I work exclusively with him for 16 hours a week but we never actually have time to speak ourselves. We’re both very busy and no time to chat. Rather than just corner him one day during his only five minute breather, I planted a seed via text with a ”hey, I’d like to chat with you in the next week or two about a potential raise”. This way he knew I needed time and what it would be about. Nothing worse than catching your boss off guard when you want to talk about money.

I respected the fact that he was busy and waited a week. When we didn’t have time, and after he didn’t bring it up, I reminded him during one of our other conversations about work simply saying when he had a minute I was going to email him a document to look over regarding my potential raise.

My husband’s cousin works in HR and was able to provide me with a very detailed, province and city specified payroll document outlining basically everything about my job broken down by everything from years experience to dental specialty. It was a mecca of information and statistics. Though I was getting a fair wage, there was room for improvement based on this new found information exposing my entire field of work, I was prepared. I handed over the document and wanted to see what he thought was fair before I came at him with my (potential) counter offer.

I was also prepared to discuss my job, the vital roles I fill and my effectiveness as an employee. Though I was pretty sure he was aware at how vital I was after working together over five years, I was prepared none-the-less should the discussion come to it.

I was pleasantly surprised this week to see a 5% raise reflected on my pay stub. In my case there was very little negotiation actually took place. Once he had this document it was really all he needed and 5% was more than fair.

A few people have asked what I plan on doing with the raise, 75% will be going directly towards debt, helping me meet my goals and the other 25% being added to kiddos monthly RESP (education savings), no lifestyle inflation for this family, not yet at least ;)

Debt Free Bucket List: European Travel

Now that I have disclosed my plan to pay off the rest of our debt, it’s officially time to start living in the future right? Ok, at least let me indulge in a fantasy or two from time-to-time?

My husband and I honeymooned in Europe five years ago and we have been pining to go back from the day we boarded the plane home. We loved Germany so much we actually considered how we could move there. Though I can’t wait to go back to Germany and explore the rest of the country as well as surrounding Austria and Switzerland, I think our next trip will likely be the United Kingdom.

It wasn’t that long ago that the UK was lower on the travel list but it’s slowly creeping up to the top. I think a lot of it has to do with me getting older and being more genuinely interested in history, and more specifically where I come from. I know my family roots start in England where my husband is Scottish blood through and through. My sister-in-law has their paternal family free traced back to the 7th century, crazy eh?

I would love to take a (budget friendly) family vacation to the UK exploring all that the Kingdom has to offer and walk the lands our ancestors once did.

Given that I’m on the east coast of Canada and in close proximity to a major international airport, getting to the UK is quite easy and not that expensive (it was cheaper for us to fly to Germany than it was to fly across our own country). We’d likely fly into London and given that my brother-in-law is from N. Ireland and already has a UK driver’s licence, we’d look for a cheap car hire in London for him to chauffer us around! Growing up in the UK and travelling within it quite extensively makes him a great, free, tour guide and I can’t see us going without him!

I would likely spend at least two weeks travelling mostly between England and Scotland but if my brother-in-law was in fact with us, we couldn’t not go to Ireland and N. Ireland for him to see some friends and family, and to show us where he grew up. This is something he and my sister-in-law just completed earlier this year but I can’t see either one of them declining the offer to go again in a few years.

I love the idea of renting cottages for us to stay in as we travel. Given the size of our party (upwards of seven to eight people) I assume this is likely the most economical option. I also like the idea of not travelling with much of an itinerary and see where the roads take us. Only keeping a loose list of places we hope to hit.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say my recent obsession with reading the Outlander series didn’t reinvigorate my desires too. Just trying to keep it real. Again, this hypothetical and probably far-fetched trip won’t happen until we pay our debt off but it’s nice to dream in the meantime.

Any tips for travel in the UK on a budget? Must see places??

How to Turn a Business Vision into Reality: 3 Ways of Generating Income

While the fortunes of the global economy may be beginning to decline, there remains ample opportunity for individuals who wish to establish themselves in business. When you consider recent growth and the fact that governments throughout the world are striving to empower entrepreneurship as a way of kick-starting their economies, there has arguably never been a better time to start a business. This will require a certain degree of strategy and capital, however, as even relatively low cost ideas can encounter issues and quickly drain your existing funds.

Funding your Business: 3 Methods of Generating Start-up Income

When it comes to funding your business, there are a number of options to keep in mind. With this in mind, let’s consider the following options: -

  • Save your Disposable Income: There is a key distinction between product and service driven businesses, as the latter typically can typically be established with a smaller amount of disposable income. This means that it may be possible to fund your business using accrued savings, as long as they have been accumulated responsibly and maximized through the use of high yield savings accounts. To achieve this, simply strive to create a frugal monthly budget that enables you to cut recurring costs and commit the majority of your disposable income into a high interest bank account.
  • Generate Capital by Selling Unwanted Items: If your business plan requires additional funding, you may be better served by entering the growing thrift market and selling unwanted items. Whether you do this through popular e-commerce websites such as eBay or reputable pawn broker outlets such as H & T Pawnbrokers, the main aim should always be to identify the value of individual items before maximizing this though resale. This requires considerable time and patience, while you must also build a wealth of knowledge and an unyielding willingness to negotiate with others.
  • Consider the Benefits of Peer to Peer Lending: The contemporary alternative to traditional banking, peer to peer lending is now one of the primary methods used of funding new business ventures. In the U.S. it is currently estimated that only 25% of business start-ups are funded through bank loans, for example, as entrepreneurs have been deterred from using traditional methods in the wake of the Great recession. Peer to peer lending affords aspiring business owners access to a diverse range of benefactors and funding options, while it also enables them to create flexible deals and retain control of their destiny.


Can We Pay Off $70,000 in 36 Months?

I was playing around with my trusty calculator last night to see where our debt stood. As of this month we owe a bit over $80,000 ($80,400). While this number seems impossibly large can we please remember that just two years ago our debt was closer to $109,000 (highest non-mortgage debt close to 116k). Since starting this blog, we’ve paid off $29,000 in principle debt, most of which was paid down in the last 15 months since my return to work full-time after my year long maternity leave.

While $29,000 is a decent accomplishment for 24 months by anyone’s standards, I’d like to attempt to kill $70,000 (of the remaining $80,000) in 36 months.

Why not worry about the other $10,000?…

The last debt that we’ll be paying off is my nationally issued student loan. A loan I currently make interest-only payments on and a loan which I can claim the interest paid as a tax deduction. Once the other $70,000 is paid off it will only take about five more months to pay this 10k loan off and again, all interest paid is a tax deduction where all other debt is not.

My Plan:

  • Pay off 0% interest loan first: $13,064 to be paid off in 12 months= $1088/month while making minimum required payments on all other debts. Total monthly debt total required: $2,064.
  • Come October 2015, 0% loan will be paid off and in following 24 months pay off remaining debt which includes student lines of credit and vehicle. I choose to pay the balance of the vehicle next for a few reasons. One, I like the idea of the vehicle being paid off in case something happens to it. Two, our auto insurance will likely decrease with paid off vehicle and three, it’s the largest single debt payment per month with a large portion going towards principle allowing us to pay it down quickly by snowballing out previous debt payments.
  • From Nov 2015- June 2016 (kiddo’s 4th bday!) pay off vehicle balance of what will be $13,200 (payment required $1,650/month)
  • From July 2016- Dec 2016 pay off two of three student lines of credit. Balance between the two will be about $9,800 (payment required $1735/month)
  • From December 2016-November 2017 (final payment the 1st of the month) pay off remaining $23,000 student line of credit (payment required $2,010/month).
  • December 2017 debt remaining (national student loan): 10,376 which will only take 5-6 months to pay off.

I have to be honest this is my ”life happens” plan. I’m fairly confident we should be able to do this. The evening out of some months being great and others not so great should make this plan possible. Though I am hopeful we can be done earler than projected, I have to remember that it takes $2,000 extra just to knock off one month of this plan so realistically this is the plan that we’ll execute within a month or two. Here’s hoping we can make this all possible!