Our Mini Family Vacation

This summer we had no true plans and truthfully I was looking forward to spending it just relaxing and taking it one day at a time. Only one wedding at the end of the summer to worry about so for the most part, doing what we want! Somehow every free second we had was consumed and I felt like we were more busy this summer then we have in the past few years that had involved some pretty extensive travel.

One plan we did make was to travel to our neighboring province for a weekend away with our family (my tripod plus the in-laws+ sister-in-law and beau). Destination? Airshow! My father-in-law is retired military and though my husband has no direct military connections, loves anything that flies. Our daughter is also pretty obsessed with airplanes so it was a great opportunity to get away.

Even though we were only three hours from home it felt like so much more. I personally haven’t been to this city since I was quite young and it was much nicer than I remember. We booked our hotel room on a discount site and shared the room with my sister-in-law saving big bucks. It was a newly renovated room with a view of the river behind out hotel, we chose this particular hotel because it included parking and a hot breakfast. Most other hotels had a $10+ charge per day to park and nothing for breakfast included which meant we would have needed to spend more money on food.

The only plan we had was to attend the actual airshow, everything else was up in the air and we sort of did what we wanted. We explored a bit and on the way home stopped at an old fort from the 1700′s, one of those places I’ve driven past a millions times in my life but never stopped in. I loved everything about our weekend. Kiddo’s schedule was totally off but she was a trooper and we all had an amazing time.

 

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When was the last time you got away??

Cost Cutting Ideas for When You’re Building a House

There is no doubt that the current housing market isn’t at its best, but with a few choice decisions you could still manage to get the most out of your money. In a difficult economy, finding a plot of land and starting from scratch can be the most exciting, and cheapest option. It’s worth remembering that if you build your own house it can be designed entirely by you.

  1. Buy a problem lot

A ‘problem lot’ is one that’s located on a hillside or any location where something is not ideal. These plots of land can come very cheap, and with the correct design and skilled workmen they can become some of the most beautiful homes one could hope to live in.

  1. Don’t overbuild

This will depend on the location of your potential home, but you could have to design your house in a way that won’t cause it to stand out too much from the rest of your neighbourhood. Don’t go overboard with your design ideas, because there is a fine line between a pretty house and an eyesore to the rest of your neighbours.

  1. Build whatever you can yourself

If you have the capabilities and free time to do any aspect of the building process yourself, then there’s no point in paying builders to do it for you. Builders can receive a handsome pay check, so you can save in labour costs by doing some DIY. Be careful to do proper research beforehand, however, as some DIY jobs are not as easy as you might think.

  1. Go green

The costs for energy saving appliances and renewable energy devices like solar panels may not be cheap, but it shouldn’t take long for them to pay for themselves. Having a house with a minimal carbon footprint can save you a significant amount on your energy bill every month. If you have a secure income, payday lenders like Wonga could cover costs for green appliances and installations.

  1. Don’t rush

Rushing what is such an important thing can have disastrous consequences, so be very careful not to make any decisions without thinking about them beforehand. If you treat your house like your own child when it’s being built, it should look fantastic when it’s finished. Make sure to not go with the first people you speak to about the project. Get a number of quotes from different construction companies to see what the price averages out at, and then work from there. The first quote you receive may seem like a good deal, but it’s likely that the others to ask for much less. Don’t just apply this to the actual building process, as mortgage quotes and renovation loans could be different at every bank.

  1. Find your own materials

Taking time to look for the ideal fitting to be installed into your house can be much cheaper if you find them all yourself, instead of letting the builders sort it for you. Spending an afternoon in kitchen showrooms is usually very beneficial and can save you a lot of money if deals are taken advantage of.

  1. Build during the off-season

Money can also be saved by choosing to build your house in the off-season, where builders are not as high in demand and therefore charge cheaper rates and have more time to spend on your project. Winter can be a good time to build, with roofs sometimes costing 10% less if built in the colder months.

  1. Stay organised

The most important point I can think of is to stay organised. By keeping on top of costs, the roles of the builders, timescales, etc. you can end up saving a lot of money. For example, knowing where work is happening on a specific day and preparing it for the builders can lead to more work getting done than otherwise would have. Keeping detailed records of what has been spent and what is left to spend can help prevent overspending, and a daily chat with whoever is in charge of the building can be used to ask important questions and resolve any issues.

Author Bio:

James Randall is a finance expert specialising in property who spends his free time writing for some reputable websites and magazines

Why You Should Never Get Too Comfortable in a Job

wpid-img_20130830_100750.jpgFor the most part I really enjoy where I work. It’s a small office with very little room for drama, one person has the potential to throw everything off, thankfully there’s none of that to worry about. We’re a close group of people who all get along despite our varying backgrounds. The patients are great and I have been exposed to some pretty amazing learning opportunities at this office that I really don’t think I would have learned anywhere else.

In my line of work I feel it is important to find roots and build a rapport with both fellow employees and most importantly, the patients. After five years in the same office I think I have accomplished this. I am the only hygienist in this office and other than the random vacation day or my maternity leave, I’m the only face they see. People are comfortable with me and I have formed some pretty amazing relationships in my five years here, but for my professional well-being, I can’t allow myself, nor can you, to ever get too comfortable in a job.

I’m not suggesting you don’t look for a place of employment that you can potentially put some permanent roots down, become one of those employees who retires from the same place after 25+ years, but I am telling you to never stop looking for more, for better.

I started at this job as a maternity leave position where the lady decided not to return to work and instead become a stay at home mom. I was excited to find out I had a permanent position after thinking I would only have the one year maternity leave for job security. I think I was so excited to have a permanent position in a competitive field that I sort of let myself go a bit.

I never stopped being great at what I do. I’d like to think that I’m excellent at my job and that shows in both patient satisfaction and positive praise from my employers. What I did do was stop searching for more. I was so delusional about the fact that I had a job I could essentially keep forever, no more interviews, no more anxious first few days that for a few years I stopped aiming higher.

By getting too comfortable in a job I stopped searching what was out there, and God only knows the opportunities I’ve potentially missed. For the first few years a raise was just given to me, no questions asked (and I never once checked to see if they were even fair) then there were some shifts within the company and I haven’t received one since. I let my comfort in job security prevent me from even figuring out what I should be making as a wage. I’ve spent the last three years of my professional life living in a bubble. Wages have gone up 5% or more and I didn’t even care to notice. I was too busy being comfortable with the fact that I had a job. I’ve also stopped practicing some skills that, though I don’t currently need them would be an advantage at another job.

I remember landing this same job and negotiating my hourly rate. He offered one thing and kindly pointed out many reasons why I deserved more. Yes I was a new grad but had so many other interpersonal skills to offer I thought I deserved more. Right off the bat I got more and I think it’s time he and I have a chat again. I’m done with being comfortable. I’m confident in my skills and have come to realize just what’s out there for me, I need my employer to see the same!

How do you avoid getting too comfortable professionally and potentially missing opportunities?

Don’t Rush The Learning Process

When it comes to all things financial, I know very little. I write a personal finance blog but my knowledge of money is actually incredibly limited. There is so much to know! People study for years at post-secondary level trying to learn everything so needless to say my self-taught ‘learn from mistakes’ mode of learning has nothing on these people.

When my patients come in and are obviously struggling at home with their oral hygiene and need work on multiple things such as brushing, flossing or smoking cessation, I pick one to work on at a time. I’d rather them learn one task really well then half-ass two things at once, get overwhelmed and make no progress at improvement. Slow and steady is the best option, chances are if they’re my long-term patients I will have multiple opportunities to educate them so tackle on lesson per appointment gaining new info and skills each time, constantly building and improving.

My point is that right now our focus is learning the basics about money. We’re getting into a budget groove, and most importantly working on paying our debt off. Right now is not the time for us to overwhelm our lives with investment strategies, binary options or stock trading. We need to get really good at the basics, and not rush it, or we could run into troubles when the time comes to make more difficult monetary decisions which could put us back at the beginning if we’re not careful.

As our debts get paid down we’ll slowly educate ourselves on these topics but for now we need to work on refining our basics. When the time does come we’ll start slow just as this debt repayment process has been. We’ll do some homework and then seek out professional advice. We’ll take what we’ve learned with us and make well-educated decisions.

Why are Brits Unable to Maintain a Monthly Budget?

Source: Imagesource.com

Source: Imagesource.com

It is becoming increasingly difficult for homeowners to be able to save money on a regular basis. According to This is Money, Brits are able to save less money than the rest of Europe, especially in countries like Spain and Italy. So why do we find it more tricky to stash some cash away?

The main reason is the cost of living, which has risen substantially over the years. This makes life very difficult indeed – even for the thriftiest among us. With the price of commodities and utilities on the rise, it has made things very difficult especially for the lower and middle class who have to put in hours of work in the office to earn for their families. This has a direct relation to health and family life. For example, a recent study showed that those Brits who worked longer hours, smoked more cigarettes. It then comes as no surprise that people have to find additional sources of income to supplement their family income and try to lead better lives.

With incomes being limited and liabilities on the rise, all possible alternatives are explored by individuals. This includes rescheduling card payments, trying to refinance their mortgages, applying for short-term loans from private companies and banks, and asking family and friends to help with debt. Applying for short-term loans in financial emergencies seems to be especially on the rise, especially amongst the younger generation, with 30% of 18-24 year olds applying for small loans, according to wonga.com’s statistics. This is a solution for some who are able to meet repayments, but what about the bigger picture?

Living within our means through a monthly budget    

For those who fall short of money and have difficulty in meeting their household monthly expenses, it is a very stressful situation. This is especially if it leaves you in the red going into next month. The best way to overcome this is to plan and adopt a monthly budget.

First, you must determine what has to be paid and on what you can cut back on costs that are not necessities. There are certain areas where expenses must be paid like rent or mortgage repayments, utility bills, insurance premiums, vehicle expenses etc. Areas where you can explore the possibility of trimming costs are entertainment, groceries – which include wine and drink, dining out, mobile and Internet expenses etc. Any area which is not a necessity can be considered as a good option to try to economise. The easiest way to keep track of all your expenses is by maintaining a record through receipts of purchases through the month and totalling them up which would show your total expenditure for the month.

Making adjustments need not mean that drastic changes are to be made as this might affect the family, especially the children, who will find your cost-cutting effects outings and other means of entertainment. You could make changes in your own personal spending habits too, like if you are in the habit of dropping in for a coffee daily, get in to the habit of having them at home as it will save on costs. You can buy things in bulk at the supermarket and keep it at home, which would definitely fall cheaper than a cafe or pub.

Impulsive buying!

Do not give into an urge of impulsive buying as this can set you back considerably as most of the things bought on a whim tend to be non-essentials and expensive. There is no such thing as “I must have that!” Also, inculcate the same habits in your kids and help them to differentiate between what is actually necessary and what can be done without. Always consider your budget before you decide to buy something which has been recommended by a friend or acquaintance as on most occasions it amounts to wasteful spending.

Always remember that cash is the best and avoid the temptation to go on a spending spree with credit cards. As tempting as it might be, remember plastic money carries with it high interest rates which can be well done without, especially when you have a family to take care of. The greater the use of plastic, the more likely you are of spiralling into debt, which is the last thing anyone would want to be in. Also learn to save for a rainy day (where possible) as you never really know when a sudden financial emergency might occur.

Balancing the budget is not impossible if you learn to trim unnecessary expenses wherever possible. All it takes is a bit of foresight and planning, so good luck with saving for your future.

Author Bio: The writer has an interest in matters related to finance and takes time out from her regular day job to offer financial advice through blogs and newspaper articles.    

Beating The Need to Spend: Anniversary Edition

wedding.jpgToday is our fifth wedding anniversary. I have no idea where five years went but it’s gone. It’s been quite a journey from newlyweds to homeowners to now wrangling our toddler to sleep in her own bed and explaining to her why she can’t hold the moon tonight.

We’ve always been very practical people. It was quickly outlined in our first year of dating. For my 18th birthday my (then boyfriend) bought me a gold chain bracelet. Though it was beautiful, I didn’t know if, when, or how to tell him he should have saved his money or if he insisted, bought something a little more practical. I was not then, nor am I now, a jewelry person. It took a little courage but I finally found the courage to tell my sweet and sensitive boyfriend that though I appreciate the thought, he really didn’t need to waste his money on me, especially lavish gold chains. I was nervous he’d be insulted but instead it was sheer relief. For a 17 year old boy I think when we formally announced our relationship he expected money to fly out of his pocket, I assured him it wouldn’t.

As the years and milestones went on so did our against-the-grain, frugal celebrations. Forget five-star Valentine’s day celebrations, I think (the day) is stupid and we go out of our way to be as unromantic as possible (which has since turned into a bit of an unexpected tradition) of getting the grossest cheapest fast food (think McD’s) to eat at home, in PJ’s. Our first Christmas in our home we decided to forgo gifts and buy something for our new home instead. One of my most favorite gifts ever was my dishwasher. You get the point.

Some may call us cheap but we’re not doing these things for extreme financial reasons. We’re just uber practical people who would rather spend money on things other than $6.49 anniversary cards that are pretty but will end up in a drawer or garbage next week. Society can sometimes make us feel bad for the choices we make, like we’re bad people for not dropping a bunch of cash on a lavish night out celebrating but we’ve resisted the urge to spend money to please other (non-important) people’s standards thus far.

We are who we are and that’s why I love him. Not to say he doesn’t surprise me with the occasional special treat like flowers or cookie delivery to work its infrequent and usually accompanies something I really need, like new laundry basket.

The fifth wedding anniversary ”gift” is wood. Though an engraved cutting board, beautiful jewelry box or custom coasters would be great gifts for someone, I think we’ll take the bundle of wood in our back yard and burn it ;)

 

 

 

How To Deal With Rejection

On Monday my husband picked me up from work with surprise ice cream in hand (before we picked the kid up so I could actually eat it, bonus points). It had been a particularly long day where nothing was going right, including getting confirmation that I didn’t get the job I had interviewed for two weeks ago.

I’m not totally surprised though. It was a bit of a long-shot and I was surprised to be in the final two contenders. The office manager explained that everyone loved me, that it had nothing to do with me, my skills or anything else except the girl I was competing with had one skill set I haven’t practiced since it was taught to me, what would have been seven years ago now. A skill I could re-learn very quickly but when it came down to it, we were equals she just had a slight advantage being given the opportunity to work in this particular area before. The office manager also explained that they enjoyed me enough to tell me that as soon as next position becomes available, the job is mine and she won’t even post it publicly if I’m still interested come the time (at this office I’m not holding my breath that it will be any time soon given they just filled their vacancies with what will likely be long-term employees).

When faced with rejection it’s easy to just put your head down and micro-analyze what when wrong without looking for solutions. Instead, we need to accept it wasn’t meant to be and move forward. Every opportunity in life grants you a learning opportunity you just need to find it. Rejection can be prime time to make a learning opportunity. This applies to everything from breakups to job loss. Figure out why it didn’t work out and if it is necessary to improve for next time.

I didn’t get the job but that doesn’t mean I’m just done. I need to learn something from this experience. I’m still in a job I like though isn’t ideal. For me I need to make the most of my current situation, but how?

  • First, applying for this job has re-opened my eyes to the job market a bit. I’m approaching my boss about a raise. I’m overdue and deserve it, I have a plan, one I will likely share come the time.
  • Second, I’m going to look at what I was missing and improve myself to make myself more competitive for the future. They were looking for someone who held a skill I haven’t practiced in seven years. I’m also going to approach my boss about re-teaching me this skill since I work in an office that preforms this skill-set but the dentist does it all where normally, in 2014, it’s something hygienist does at least partially. If he doesn’t want to give up this aspect of his practice, he’s been doing things this way for 28 years so I don’t know he will, I will approach a specialty office about possibly giving me a training day, for free. I’d be looking to tag along for a day, working for free all I want is to learn some stuff.
  • Thirdly, if I’m going to be sticking around this office for a while longer I need to make my situation as good as I can. I’m going to again chat with my boss about changing a few things and ordering me some new items. Though this is normally no big deal I’m looking to spend a few thousand dollars so I’ll need his approval.

The hardest part for me will be nailing down some time to actually talk to him. It’s impossible. I’m going to start with a warning remark about how I need some of his time and try to find a few minutes in the next week to make it happen and hope he works with me to find the time…

Rejection sucks but I’ll be in a better situation next time if I take the time to learn from it, and so will you.

How do you deal with rejection?

Budget Bedroom Update #1: Using Vinyl Wall Art

We’ve officially been living in our house for over four years. I have no idea where the time went but we just got around to painting our master bedroom earlier this year. Part of the reason being I couldn’t make my mind up about the color but we made a decision and haven’t regretted it once. After the paint was up and new duvet cover was on the bed, we sort of stalled…and stalled…and stalled. It took me four years to decide on paint color so figuring out how we were going to finish the room, on budget, was a challenge. One I’m up for I just needed time to figure it all out.

When we were living in our apartment I was excited to make our first place feel like home, which was tough living within the constraints of the apartment. We couldn’t paint and were very limited as to what we could hang on the wall basically anything beyond a thumb tack wasn’t allowed. Using vinyl as a decoration is something I first came across on Pinterest. Living in an apartment, this was a perfect solution, vinyl goes up fast and comes down just as easy. I may have gone a little vinyl wall art crazy.

I decided to try a little wall art fun again in our bedroom with a vinyl wall quote on a small wall near our door.

wpid-20140808_145445.jpgI really like the quote and see it everyday when we wake up. So, very, true. I’d be nothing without my husband and daughter beside me in everything I do!

You can order vinyl wall art from many, many sites (check out thequotesworld.com for examples). I personally am a fan of vinyl wall quotes but you can get basically anything you can dream up. My daughter told me the chrysanthemum flower was bbeeaauuutttiiifffuuullll!

Other quotes I really liked were:

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We still have a few more things to put up on the wall, a-la-DIY no doubt, but it’s slowly coming along!

Have you ever decorated with vinyl? Did you like it?

 

Getting Married? The Past, Present and Future of Your Household Budget

Getting married is one of the biggest milestones we accomplish in life. We take vows with a person whom we intend to stay with for the rest of our lives. Marriage is a pretty big commitment that requires a lot of patience, honesty and respect. The same could be said for how marital finances should be handled.

Past

In terms of marital finances, the past refers to being open and honest about your financial situation with your spouse before you actually get married. This will eliminate any future arguments and allow them to be on the same page about where you stand. If you acquired debts before the relationship started, let them know how and why they were accumulated. Some debts, such as a student loan or mortgage, are pretty self-explanatory, but if you bring unsecured debt such as credit cards, let them know how and why you’re carrying the debt…….

{Continue reading this post over at Mint.com where I’m featured!}

What Motivates You to HOW You Spend Your Money?

The other day my aunt posted a thing on Facebook about why someone who had a perfectly function kitchen would need a kitchen makeover. The lady detailed how, though her kitchen may be outdated, it was in good shape and totally functional. She had storage, a fridge to store her family’s healthy food in and clean running water (in not just the kitchen but multiple rooms in the house for which she is so grateful for). It was a public plea to stop asking if you can help her update her kitchen because quite frankly she doesn’t care for your opinion. It works fine, provides for her family and she would rather not go into debt to restore the kitchen to 2014 standards.

First off, good for you lady, you’re so right. Secondly I want to thank you for making me think not just about my kitchen but for opening my mind to thinking in a much broader sense. The motivation behind why we choose to spend our money the way we do.

If we lived alone and never had anyone over, would we sink a bunch of money into a perfectly clean and functional space just to satisfy ourselves? I wouldn’t.

I don’t care what the TV shows and magazines will try to convince you about how the room is just for you, there is no freaking way I’d be dropping 20k+ into a room that NO ONE but me and my immediate family will see. A beautiful kitchen won’t make me any better of a cook just like owning a treadmill doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed to use it and be in great shape. Gadgets (and that’s what a fancy kitchen is) are just things.

In keeping with the kitchen example, we just re-did the kitchen in my husband’s grandfathers cottage. By re-do I mean replace the handmade 20+ year old cabinets with used cabinets that my husband and I ripped out of our house and gave to him. When the work was done the family sat back and admired how good it looked. We were pleased with ourselves for doing such a good job and the cottage now looks great.

Why was this perfectly functional kitchen ok for the cottage, going as far as looking great, but not ok for my own home?

My guess? Other people’s standards.

We re-did the kitchen in our home because simply put, we thought it was ugly. Truthfully it wasn’t that bad. It was 100% functional, we just didn’t like it. As soon as we could, it was ripped out and replaced and guess what? We couldn’t wait to open the front doors of our house and show every single person who wanted to see. I also admit that I loved having the cabinet installers parked in our driveway, it allowed the neighbors to know that we were having work done to our house (and let them speculate what could be going on). Kinda makes me sick to think I admittedly dropped thousands of dollars to please others more than myself.

I’d like to think I’m a conscious consumer but maybe I’m not as aware as I thought. I’ll certainly question why I’m buying certain products a little more. Do I really want that sweater or do I only want it because so-and-so has it. Makes ya think…

What motivates you in how you spend your money?