Would You Turn Down More Money For Happiness?

1185031_10100224600880779_692606125_nLast week I was quasi offered a job I had to turn down. The job was at my dream location, more money, great staff and highly recommended by a classmate of mine.

But I still turned it down.

If you’re not familiar I’m a dental hygienist and would love to work at this particular office but not under the proposed conditions. They were looking for someone to work three, twelve-hour shifts, 8am-8pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (actual hours probably 7:45-8:15). If I wasn’t married with a young child I probably wouldn’t think twice but I’m at a point in my life where I have to consider so much more than money and professional satisfaction. Twelve hour shifts means I basically wouldn’t see my daughter three days a week. It also means my husband is solo after work dealing with a busy two-year-old to play, cook dinner, bathe and bed. Impossible? No. Seriously inconvenient? Yes. It’s much easier to have two people than one. These hours would also mean little to no time for me to get stuff done those days and more stress the days leading up to them knowing they’re approaching.

I can already predict the added stress it would put on the relationship with my husband (both as my husband and expectations as a father). Long story short, it’s not conducive for my life.

I potentially walked away from an additional (net increase) of about $650 more per month, working one less day per week than I currently am with two ”open” days to fill-in, potentially increasing my income even further (if I wasn’t already dead tired). Am I nuts?

I know myself enough to know I would resent the job and wouldn’t last a long time. Physically, a twelve-hour shift in dentistry is very difficult, combined with lingering postnatal carpal tunnel pain, I’d be a miserable, sore, cranky mess by Wednesday night. Not the mom or wife my child or husband needs.

I make it seem like an easy decision on ‘paper’ but it wasn’t. I was incredible tempted to suck it up and deal with the difficulties if it meant I would be able to put more money towards our debt. This was a moment I had to realize losing myself in a job just to pay debt off faster wasn’t going to do favors for anyone. I’m bummed  I won’t be working at this particular office but so glad I have a job I love that I can wait on until the perfect opportunity presents itself or it may have caused me to make an irrational decision.

Have you ever turned down more money for your overall happiness?

How I’m Able to Put $2,000+ Towards Debt Every Month And Still Have a Life

ID-100128308 (1)After many months of thinking about doing them, I started my debt repayment posts in January 2014. I calculated that I would need to put a minimum of $2,068 per month towards our non-mortgage debt if we wanted to be debt free in 50 months. Four months into tracking and we’re not too far off our goal. February had a few setbacks and we were short by about $500, not a huge amount to make up at the end of the day. I’ve received a few comments and emails about how we’re able to reach our goals every month.

Our Careers

To start, both my husband and I have good, stable jobs, with a lot of room to grow. We’re both young in our professional careers and my husband especially has a lot of potential in terms of professional growth. In the last two years alone he’s gone up by $5.00/hour with potential on the near horizon for even more raises. Having reliable income is the main source of our monthly payments. There is no way I could even fathom making these sorts of payments if I wasn’t in a good-paying career.

While I took on more debt to get my job (through further education) I have no regret about it. While I went into more debt I entered the job force and immediately had many job prospects and a life-long career. If you’re in debt and don’t have a good stable job, get one. I understand this sounds easier than it actually is, but do everything in your power to make it happen. Speak to career counselors, look into post secondary options, exhaust every option.

Budget Our Extra Debt Payments 

We ”spend” every single penny we make each month. I’ve set up our budget in such a way that even extra debt payments are established as a ”bill”. If I just let the money sit in our account until the end of the month to roll over it would be absorbed or spent somehow. Because my pay varies (I’m paid hourly) our budget is based upon the least I would make on average if it’s more than my estimated minimum (I sometimes work an extra day or don’t take a lunch break), our very fluid budget is adjusted to account for an extra debt payment ”bill”. Working one extra day per month along gives us an extra $200 to play with on average (less daycare etc). The change in my income alone and living on a budget that is a low estimate helps a lot in making our $2,000+ goal every month.

Because we’re both paid bi-weekly I don’t budget the two ”extra” pays every year we get allowing us to put some of this money towards our debt as well.

Make More Money

There’s no way around it. We needed to make more money. My main source of additional income is my online income through this blog and freelance writing, for this I am eternally grateful. My husband also writes online and makes a little bit himself. I also have the option of working more at my current job. When I went back from maternity leave, I started working a four day work week to give a little more work/life balance. The beauty of this being that I have one day per week I can work if we need me to either at my office or as a fill-in. I like that I have this ”card in my pocket” if I need to.

While we could be debt free even faster by me working five days per week it’s not something either one of us is interested in right now. I’d rather balance my life and work on debt than have a stressed out life just to be debt free faster. Paying off debt is a very personal journey. You have to figure out what you need to do and make it happen. For us it was making the most of our monthly budget and supplementing it in any way possible. Accept that you’ll have good months and bad months. Moving in the right direction is the most important thing!

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Picture adapted from one found here

Financial Support for Seniors

The below benefits are for UK residence however other countries provide similar services and this is a guide to show what type of financial assistance is available to seniors.

If you are a senior heading into, or already in, your retirement years, managing money on a fixed income can be extremely difficult. You may find that you need to curb your spending or at least track where your money is going a little better. Even if you have never maintained a household budget in the past, now is the time to start one and stick to it.

However, even after setting a workable budget, you may find it difficult to make ends meet. This is why the government has created several programs designed to help seniors pay for certain expenses. Below is a great list put together by low income loans assistance which outlines some popular benefits you may be eligible for.

State Pension

If you have reached State Pension age and have made contributions to the National Insurance fund, you may be eligible to receive weekly State Pension payments. The amount of your payment will depend on how many years you worked and how much you contributed to the National Insurance fund. You can receive as must as £113.10 per week depending on your specific situation.

Pension Credit

If you are of State Pension age and are no longer working on a full-time basis, you may be eligible to receive Pension Credit payments through the government. This payment is designed to make sure seniors have a weekly income of at least £145.40 if they are single and £222.05 if they are married. If you make under this amount, the government will pay you the additional amount to bring your weekly income up to this level. In addition, you can receive a saving credit of up to £18.06 if you are single and £22.89 if you are married. These payments are made directly to your current bank account and are not taxable.

Help With Utility Bills

If you are a low-income earner, you may also be eligible to receive special discounts and assistance with some of your home utility bills. Below is a look at several discounts and payments you may be eligible for.

  • Winter Fuel Payment. This program will provide you with a special payment of £100 to £300 to help offset the cost of keeping your home warm during the winter months. This payment is typically sent out each year in November or December.
  • Cold Weather. The Cold Weather program is designed to provide resident with additional financial support to help pay for the heating bill during extremely cold weather conditions. Any time the weather in a specific area falls below 7°C for a period of seven days or more, the resident will receive a special check for £25 to help with their utility bills.
  • Warm Home Discount.  This program gives low-income earners a £140 discount on their current fuel bill. This helps to reduce these costs during the winter months.
  • Free TV License. If you are over 75-years old, you can receive your home TV license absolutely free of charge. Those people who are currently living in a residential facility or are blind can receive a discount on these services.

Housing

If you are having trouble maintaining your home and paying your rent, you should check to see if you qualify for the Housing Benefit. This benefit will cover some, or all, of your monthly rental payments. The amount that will be covered under this benefit depending on your income, family size and type of home you are renting. In addition, depending on your income, you may also qualify for Council Tax Support. This will reduce the amount of council tax you owe. Each council offer different discounts and has different eligibility requirements, so it is best to check with them directly.

These great benefits may be just what you needed to get control of your finances. Receiving some additional income, or a reduction in some of your standard household expenses, can help to put more money in your pocket. This can make managing your finances and maintaining a budget easier to do.

I Don’t Make Mistakes. I Make Learning Opportunities.

mariaI came across this quote the other day and immediately related to it (it also reminded me of Wendy’s post about letting go of debt guilt<< Read it, one of my favorite posts ever).

So much about the financial journey that we’re on is mental. We could sit around and sulk about the situation we’re in, sort of like we did for three years before getting real about it, or we could seize this learning opportunity and change our lives a full 180 degrees.

Mistake #1: Too Much Credit, Too Early

By the time I was in third year of my undergraduate degree, I had access to almost 50k in credit between my lines of credit for school and credit cards. 50k when I was making like $11.00/hr at my part-time job. This is insane to me right now but I didn’t know any different. This was also during a time in Canada where credit limits were increased without consent. I’d look at my statement one month and by the next month my limit was increased by 2k. While credit cards companies are no longer allowed to do this, you must request increase yourself and go through credit check, I’ve learned that I should have called as asked them to lower it back down to original level. I also would not have signed up for every credit card offer that came my way! Credit card companies loved me.

Going for forward we will only have one to two modest credit limit cards (maybe a total of 5-6k) so temptation isn’t there. I will teach my daughter about doing research on your first credit card and the importance of managing it responsibly because, after all, opening and maintaining your first credit card helps your credit report!

Mistake #2: No Savings

I’ve been working since the age of 15, I’ve never really saved. I thought about it a lot but I never did anything about it. It seems so stupid but I just didn’t know how. I’d save a few hundred for some trips, paid for our wedding in cash by settling a bill as soon as it came in, but I have come a long way. I’ve learned my lesson and we have some savings now, even while in debt, especially while in debt, since we can’t afford to owe anyone else money if there was an emergency!

Going forward I know how to save and it starts with just doing it! Anything to start, then make more concrete goals. I know exactly how much money we need each month to meet our goals . When our debt is paid off we will have a nice chunk of money to allocate to retirement. We have also already started a savings for our kiddo. Again, while we’re paying our debt off we start small but as our debt decreases we will be able to bump it up a little. We’ll also teach her the importance of saving when the time comes for her to start earning money. Save some money as soon as you make it and have any opportunity to spend it!

Mistake #3: Thinking If You Can’t Give 100%, Don’t Try at All

The biggest reason I was overwhelmed with our debt at the beginning was that I was totally overwhelmed with ever how to start. I thought, if I can’t pay it all off immediately, or at the very least in increments of thousands of dollars per month why bother? Just two months ago I made an additional payment of $44 and change because I could, and it felt good.

It took me about a solid year of educating myself, reading blogs and other resources like Gail Vaz Oxalade’s books (a lovely Christmas gift from hubby) but I finally know, what we need to do to make our debt disappear and the knowledge alone is enough fuel to keep me going. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to debt.

I beat myself up sometimes for approaching 30 and just now figuring out what I need to do, like I wasted five years of my life, but i guess it’s not all wasted if I had a great learning opportunity.

How to Find Insurance for Your Vehicle

When it comes to insurance for your vehicle, you want to make sure you have enough coverage if you are involved in an accident. However, you don’t want to go broke paying for the auto insurance. One of the best ways to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck is to comparison shop, which means getting price quotes for auto insurance from various companies. This simple process allows you to find insurance policy that fits your specific needs and budget.

Determine the Amount of Coverage Needed

Before you can find the right auto insurance, you will need to determine how much coverage you actually need. This will vary depending on your current situation and your state’s requirements. Once you are armed with this information, you can then figure out the amount of coverage needed. Keep in mind that the more coverage you have, the more your insurance premium will be. However, the more coverage you have the less you usually have to pay out-of-pocket if an accident occurs.

Check your Current Policy

Check your current insurance policy and take notes on the amount of coverage you have and how much you are paying. This will help you figure out the amount of your yearly and monthly insurance costs. This will give you a figure that you can use when trying to find a better deal.

Review your Driving Record

Taking a look at your driving record will give you the insight on what incidents could cause your insurance premium to rise. If you cannot remember when you got that speeding ticket, simply contact your local department of motor vehicles. If the points against your license or the ticket are set to disappear from your record, consider waiting to find a new insurance policy. People with a good driving record typically pay less for insurance than those with a poor driving history.

Get Multiply Price Quotes

Now it is time to begin shopping for auto insurance. This process is rather simple and can usually be accomplished online or over the phone. Armed with the information collected above, simply visit the websites of various insurance companies who you may be interesting in doing business with and fill out their free price quote form. It can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to fill out the information so leave yourself enough time to complete the task. Once you have their price quote, either write down or print out the monthly and yearly premium quote and go on to the next company. Continue this until you have obtained a few quotes from various insurance companies.

Once you have the quote price for auto insurance, you can decide what coverage and price works best for your needs.

Why Renting While in Debt is a Good Idea

The other night I was out for a solo evening walk (a very unusual feeling, I didn’t realize how out of touch I am with myself. I walk all the time but always with my daughter or friend, it’s been a long time since I got out alone). Anyway, on my walk I walked past a new apartment building close to our home that was advertising rental unit available. I couldn’t help but reminisce about our apartment rental days and how nice of a spot this particular building was. I also couldn’t stop myself from dreaming about selling our home and renting again. Yup, I said it. At this stage in our lives, sometimes I would rather sell our home and become renters again than be homeowners.

There is a lot I love about being a homeowner, but home-ownership isn’t always what it’s made out to be, especially if becoming debt free is a big goal.

Increased Bills

When we were renting we had very limited utilities. In utilities alone, we have an increase of about $250 per month with homeownership. We also now have stuff like property tax and general home maintenance to pay for. I figure being a homeowner costs us about $500 more per month than renting, even if we were to get a larger apartment than we had given that we now have a child and need for more space.

Maintenance

General home maintenance is time consuming and expensive. Some of it, like gardening, is enjoyable for me, but it still consumes my time that I could gladly fill with other stuff. I miss the days of being able to call the landlord and getting them to fix whatever the problem was. I can see how condos may be appealing. I certainly don’t want to spend the required money for our new front door and new bathroom taps, but we don’t have choice since we’ve decided to make this our home we need to pay the price.

Extra Money Designation

Logic would say if you’re trying to get out of debt, any extra money, such as a tax return or in my case freelance income, should go towards said debt, but when you’re a homeowner sometimes you just can’t. This week one of the taps in our bathroom broke and we need to now replace it. An expense we didn’t want to have to spend. I’ve already mentioned our tax return will likely be going towards a heat pump as well. This is extra money that, had we been renting would have been able to go towards debt no questions asked.

Like I said, I love being a homeowner for the most part, but if it was feasible I would sell our home and rent again until we’re debt free and saved a large (20%+) downpayment for our next home. This is a pipe dream for many reasons but it’s another reminder where I wish we hadn’t rushed into homeownership so hastily sometimes. Live and learn.

Do you rent or own? What do you love or hate about it?

 

Defining My Job, What I Love and Hate About It.

I get a lot of ”I can’t imagine doing your job” from patients at work. If you’re new here or have forgotten, I’m a dental hygienist. This week is National Dental Hygienists Week here in Canada so I thought I’d start by clarifying a lot of misnomer about my job.

1) My the daily goal in my job is prevention. Truthfully there is no other healthcare job whose main goal is 100% preventative measures. Yes, I do treat disease as well but ideally I treat then prevent further disease. If I do my job, and you listen to me, ideally you don’t need further restorative measures.

2) I am not a dentist. Or a dental assistant. I am a hygienist and my responsibility is, mainly, the structural support tissues in your mouth (gums, bone). I diagnose, treat and prevent all forms of periodontal related diseases. If you think about your tooth as a house, and your gums and bone as the foundation, my goal is to maintain the foundation. What good is a perfect tooth if the foundation is rotten? It’s like having a million dollar house on a ten dollar foundation, how good is that?

3) Don’t bother apologizing to me for not brushing after your lunch, when you see people who have been addicted to crack cocaine or haven’t seen a dentist in 15+ years, a little apple and sandwich isn’t going to bother me any. I am 100% desensitized to anything you define as ”disgusting”.

4) I genuinely want to help you but I need you to listen to me. If you wash your hands and they bleed, you’d freak out so why is it OK if your gums bleed with routine brushing? I want to help you get healthy but don’t get annoyed with me when I explain brushing twice per day and flossing, combined with routine dental appointments is the only way to do that.

I really do love my job. Most people who seek out private dentistry appreciate what you do. I love helping people and getting to know individuals and entire families. When I was on maternity leave, there were moments I couldn’t wait to get back to work to see how so-and-so was doing. I genuinely care about my patients. I love that I am autonomous and, if I wanted to, could be 100% self employed, opening my own clinic, something I may consider in the future but for now I enjoy being an employee and now worrying about all the stuff owners worry and stress about.

There are a few downsides to working in such a private sector though. Though I am paid competitively there is quite a range nationally for my position, we’re all regulated under the same national body (with individual provincial regulating bodies) but the job I do here on the east coast would net more over $10/hour more on the west coast. I also don’t get any benefits of any kind. If we didn’t get anything through my husbands work, the best health insurance available to us would cost us a few hundred dollars per month, an expense we’d rather not have to pay right now (my husband’s job covers 50% of health premiums which is a huge help!).

There are many more positives than negatives and all the negatives are very much fixable. What do you love or hate about your job?

How Not to Spend Your Money Like a Jerk

As Lee Scratch Perry would say, “Money Come and Money Go.” But that doesn’t mean you should throw your hard-earned cash around like confetti without a care about how it affects you financially. Sure, you might have enough in assets to fill briefcases full of hundred-dollar bills, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about showcasing it. With that said, here’s how to start saving like a mature adult. 

Stop Boozing and Losing

Believe it or not (OK, it’s not really that unbelievable), men spend twice as much money on alcohol as women do. Whether it’s hanging out at the sports bar watching your favorite team or buying drinks for everyone at the club because you’re tipsy enough to believe you’re a millionaire, alcohol burns holes in your pockets about as fast as it does your throat when you’re downing those tequila shots. If you’re not ready to get on the wagon, consider cutting the costs of drinking by doing it at home. You act like a jerk when you’re drunk in public, anyway.

Have an Education Plan

For most students, college is a huge investment. Many Americans will probably be stuck paying off student loans well after graduating. A big part of the costs of college can be not having a solid plan. Both students and parents feel the financial burdens that come with most 4 year institutions. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for college. Part of that plan is considering all of your options. Online classes are one of them. For those going back to school for a nursing degree or criminal justice, there are many affordable online options that give students the flexibility they need to take classes while working.  It’s also important to have a plan when it comes to paying off student loans. Loan interest has a nasty habit of adding up over the years if you’re not careful.

Stop Keeping Up With the Joneses

Your neighbor gets a brand new car, so you do, too. Your neighbor has a 60-inch flat screen HDTV, so you buy a bigger one. Your neighbor has the latest smartphone on the market, so you buy the same one. Are you starting to see the trend here? Not only are you living your life trying to impress your neighbor, but you’re spending needless amounts of money you could be investing or saving instead. If you really find yourself unable to control the urge to outshine your neighbor, check out this guide that describes how you can stop keeping up with the Joneses.

Stop Looking for Love Online

Sure, it’s worked for plenty of people, but searching for the love of your life on a computer can turn into quite the expense. Online dating services like eHarmony, Match, and ChristianMingle charge monthly or annual fees to browse through the portal of potential partners. That said, don’t just go cheap and use Craigslist to find love just because it’s free. That can result in even more trouble beyond your bank account. Instead, try dating the old fashioned way by talking to women or men at the grocery store, at your church, or at the local gym. Just don’t be a jerk!

Stop Making Stupid Investments

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Today’s translation: stop throwing your money into the market without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. If you want to stop making stupid investments and start making smart ones, consider putting your money toward high-quality growth stocks, bonds, and bank-loan funds. You’ll want to stay away from long-term treasury bonds, overvalued stocks, and commodities. Also make sure you watch your money closely by using a reliable app like MarketMinder.

Stop Driving a Gas-Guzzling Truck

Men love their cars and trucks, but there’s no need to drive one that sucks as much money out of your bank account as it does oil out of the environment (before it’s refined, of course). The Nissan Frontier 4WD and Toyota Tacoma 4WD are some of the worst culprits on the road, both having a combined fuel economy of 17 MPG. But don’t worry Nissan and Toyota fans, you’re not as bad as the single bros who enjoy riding in a spacious Hummer H3 that guzzles a combined 16 MPG. Quit being a jerk and get yourself a hybrid; they’re available in all makes and models.

Stop Visiting the Drive-Thru More Than Your Fridge

Fast food restaurants serve about 50 million Americans daily, with 44 percent of the country eating at one at least once per week. If you want to quit being a jerk and treat your body with some respect, start going grocery shopping and cooking meals instead of settling on a nightly dose of burgers and fries. Considering fast food restaurants take in an annual revenue of about $110 billion, you’re sure to save a buck or two by ditching the so-called greasy goodness and filling your fridge with healthy alternatives.

Quit being a jerk and spending your money on unnecessary items. Your mind, body, and someone in your life will thank you. 

Sometimes You Need To Spend Money To Save Money: Heat Pump Edition

It’s true, sometimes you need to spend a little money to save even more money. This is a situation we’re currently faced with. We’ve decided that we’re going to start saving for a heat pump for our house. A ductless unit that will hopefully be installed before end of July when it starts getting really hot here (August is usually brutal). My husband works in a sector of the engineering industry that deals with these types of units a lot (though usually on a commercial level). He knows pretty much everything about them. We didn’t think we’d bother installing one in this house, remembering that we bought this house expecting to be here 5-7 years when in reality it will be closer to 10 years (another 4-5 years likely).

We’ve decided to install one for a few reasons. The biggest reason being money. I figure with one installed we will save at least 40% off our power/heat bill every year. We have electric heat and currently spend about $3,000 per year for electricity. Gross eh? The heat pump will cool our house in the summer and warm it in the winter in a significantly more energy-efficient manner than our current set up.

As explained by Wikipedia: Heat pumps are designed to move thermal energy opposite to the direction of spontaneous heat flow by absorbing heat from a cold space and release it to a warmer one, and vice-versa. 

My husbands grandfather installed a unit almost identical to the one we’re looking at a few years ago, had a similar electric heating situation and saw a decrease of about 50% off his electric bill every year since.

Because of where my husband works he can buy these units at cost and knows certified installers. We figure worst case, it will cost us about $2,000 to purchase and install the unit (this includes having a licensed tech to install and electrician to wire it). A $2,000 upfront cost and an immediate savings of about $1,200-$1,500 per year, EVERY year. The unit pays for itself in less than two years. Seems to be a bit of a no brainer right? Also, when we go to sell our house I know it will be an added feature. I’d certainly be more inclined to buy a house with a heat pump than one without, wouldn’t you?

This is where we plan on designating a big chunk of our tax return. It wasn’t a big return to begin with but enough that it gets the savings started. I’m hoping we’ll have enough saved by July. In the summer when it’s really hot at night we sometimes go to hubby’s grandfathers house to sleep because our home is too stifling hot (we don’t have an A/C unit) I’m already picturing a cool oasis in our basement :)

We’re still in the planning stages and honestly haven’t even had someone out to check our house out but hubby doesn’t foresee any issues so I’m excited!

Do you have a heat pump? Do you think this is money well spent?

Working On Paying Off Our Vehicle

I am very close (less than $500) from paying off my first student loan! The starting balance was about $5,000 and now I’m about a month away from paying it off! I’ve discussed before that the order in which we will be paying our debt off is a bit non-traditional. I’m working on the small student loan first simply because it annoys me, next we will be working on the vehicle loan.

Our car loan is one of the largest non-mortgage loans we have and the highest interest rate too. There are a few online calculators, like the IMB car loans calculator, that I play around with to see how much interest I pay for various terms. If we don’t pay the loan off earlier than its end date, we end up paying something like $8,000 in interest! Needless to say we’d love to have it gone earlier so we can focus on our other debts.

There are advantages to paying off our vehicle loan too. I hate to go against the PF grain here, but if something happened to our vehicle in the next few years, while we’re paying our debt off, that was not covered by insurance for some reason, we would need to get a car loan. There is no way we could afford to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle at this point in our lives. Driving a paid-off would give us some extra ”insurance” in case this happens. Our plan is, of course, to pay the vehicle off, for nothing to happen to it, and continue on with our debt repayment journey.

Once all of our non-mortgage debt is paid off we will likely need a second vehicle (truthfully we need one now but resisting the temptation). Our plan with our current vehicle was always to drive it until it basically dies on us but we’re also not ruling out the option of using it to help with a downpayment on a new vehicle either, a vehicle we would either pay in cash or, if there was a 0% interest rate financing option we may put a large downpayment and, gasp, take out another loan (again, only if it was interest-free).

I’m excited to have my small student loan paid off and start making a dent in our car loan and seeing it decrease even more every month, even better, paying it off 18 months before it’s expected pay-off date!