Our Weekend of Unplanned Spending and Adjusting Our Budget

Though I was tempted by the 5kg jar, I couldn't justify the $40 price tag.

Though I was tempted by the 5kg jar, I couldn’t justify the $40 price tag.

This weekend was a little tough on the ‘ol budget and it was totally my own fault. Had I been more diligent about adjusting our budget, knowing this weekend was approaching, we would have been fine but if I’m being honest, I just didn’t get around to it and before I knew it, the weekend was here.

Budget Bust #1: Wedding Shower

Friends of ours are getting married in August and they had a combined wedding shower this weekend. I knew it was coming up, but just let the time get away from me and forgot to adjust our budget to accommodate a gift for them (Note: Our budget works well for us but it’s still very much a work in progress. I’m constantly thinking of little things to adjust, like accommodating one-off things like wedding shower gifts). Anyway when walking though the mall a few weeks ago we saw something on sale we thought they’d like and luckily when hubby went back they still had some and it was still on sale. Score. Budget bust gift cost: $ 46.00

I, however, didn’t realize until the night before that I was responsible to bring a salad to accompany the BBQ menu, needless to say these items were not purchased with our weekly grocery shop so I needed to go back to the store for supplies. I looked though what I had most of and realized other than broccoli I had everything to make broccoli salad. Luckily broccoli was on sale this past week so when kiddo and I couldn’t sleep past 6:30am Saturday, we headed out for an adventure. With broccoli in hand we pulled off a lovely broccoli salad only busting out budget by an additional $5.00.

Budget Bust #2: Costco

About twice a year we do a Costco run with the in-laws. I’ve already discussed my Costco shopping strategies in the past and though some disagree that tagging along with friends and family to use their membership is wrong, I can’t justify paying when we only go twice a year. And so, in our semi-annual trip, we load up on certain things. I knew this shopping trip was coming up, we discussed going this weekend a few weeks ago, but again, forgot to add it to the budget so now have to re-arrange some funds to make it happen.

I was very happy with our shopping trip though. We didn’t buy anything that we didn’t need or wasn’t on the list. The only unplanned purchase was a set of new pillows that we genuinely needed but didn’t plan on buying from there. They were on for a great price ($16.99 down from $29.99 for two) so we couldn’t pass it up. We scored a lot of great deals this trip. For $167.00 we got a ton of stuff, mostly food. One of the best deals was Goldfish crackers since our little one likes to snack on them. When they’re on sale at the grocery store (the only time I buy them) we pay $2.50/180gm. Today we got 1.62kg (1620 gm) for $9.99. In case you don’t want to do the math, that’s the same thing for less than half ($9.99 vs in-store for $22.50). She has enough crackers to last the rest of the year I think! We also scored a ton of fresh berries that we will eat then freeze for cheap, $2.00 for 2 lbs of strawberries.

Though this weekend was a bit more expensive than we planned, it showed us flaws within our budget and areas to fix. We’re not perfect and continue to improve our finances, as long as we recognize the difference between a want and need when we spend money, and adjust the budget accordingly for the future, I’m ok with it.

How do you deal with unplanned purchases? 

Our $100 Birthday Party Bash!

Marias Birthday1Yesterday was kiddo’s first birthday. On Saturday we had a birthday party for her with all our friends and family. When it comes to hosting 20+ people it’s easy to allow the costs to add up. I was a little taken aback when I started discussing my plans with other friends to find out they were spending on average of $1,000 for their little one’s first birthday party, and these were the ones who were paying attention at all! Some just buy what they want when they want…

I love my child but no way would I spend $1,000 for a first birthday party. Especially when the highlight of her day is a cupcake mom made and the box her toy came in.

Decide on a Theme

When planning an event, I find having a theme sometimes makes things easier. It gives your party a focus and you’re able to streamline your plans. We decided on an owl theme since the first thing kiddo really started to recognize, and get excited about, was two owl paintings on her wall. It seemed appropriate and fun!

Plan a Menu

Having a June birthday means BBQ!! This was a great money-saving opportunity too. For about $60 we bought enough food to feed over 25 people, with leftovers.

Our menu included:

  • Burgers
  • All-natural chicken hotdogs
  • Broccoli salad
  • Taco salad
  • Apples and caramel fruit dip
  • Chips and pop
  • Cupcake supplies
  • Buns, additional condiments

Even though it was a torrential downpour, hubby faced the weather for our little one’s party and cooked food for us all! True love.

Limit the Decorations

I bought everything at the dollar store, a party supply haven! I spent less than $20 and got:

  • Table cloth
  • Napkins
  • Balloons and streamers
  • Paper lanterns to make owls
  • Ribbon
  • Cupcake stand
  • Odd craft supplies

We decided providing a meal and treats enough and didn’t do a ”favor” for our guests. As kiddo gets older we may look into party favors for the other children, but she was the only child present so it didn’t seem like a good use of money this time.

DIY

I made her invites on PicMonkey (I’m pretty proud of how they turned out too!) and had them printed at Staples for less than $10. Honestly, we didn’t even need an invite but I wanted the memory more than anything.

I also made a few of the decorations which was cheaper than buying anything pre-made.

It’s easy to get carried away with planning events, especially ones for kids when emotions get involved but I want to instill the importance of forming memories with family and friends more than how much mommy and daddy spent on a party!

How do you save when planning/hosting parties?

Virtual Banking Isn’t For Me

Hubby and I recently switched banks in an effort to save money on bank fees. We didn’t leave our former bank on bad terms, we were just looking to free up a little room in our monthly budget so we switched to a no-fee bank.This change hasn’t been without a few bumps in the road but yesterday was my breaking point.

It’s 2013 and I still get my paycheque in physical cheque form. I’m not kidding. I think I’m the last person in the world who gets paid this way. I went to university for six years to get this education you’d think my employer would offer direct deposit but the fact is that there are less than ten employees and direct deposit is very expensive. Our office manager can take care of it all. Though it can be a bit of a scramble to get paid on time when the boss is on vacation, they’re pretty good at making sure we have it on time, often paying is early if needed.

Needless to say, having holds on deposits for us is not an option. We can’t afford to deposit my income and have it held for five days while the cheque clears. It would totally screw up our budget and bill paying system. When I brought these points up to our current bank they basically said there’s nothing they can do other than offering us an immediate access to funds upwards of $200. Sorry this isn’t going to work. I called to complain yesterday and asked to speak to the supervisor. She basically said her hands were tied, there was nothing they could do to help us.

If I had an actual branch to deal with would be more options for us in terms of immediate access to funds; or with teller services, having certain cheques cleared.

I respect that new customers at banks may have a short initiation period of sorts but c’ommon! I mean charge my $2000 or something if I have an NSF, I don’t care what you feel you may need to do to cover your asses I just want immediate access to my money. If we had a bad history I get that, but we don’t.

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed the amenities of a traditional banking system until I didn’t have them. Though I rarely use the teller services, I like having the option when issues arise. I like figuring problems out face-to-face and building relationships with the people who hold my money. I miss being able to call the bank to ask Betty/Bob/Ben a question. I miss the people.

And so, next week hubby and I have an appointment with the bank that holds our mortgage and RESP to see what we can work out in terms of opening new accounts with them. Based on the conversation I already had with them it sounds promising.

I’m looking forward to sitting down and getting to know people again. Put faces to names and trust the people who hold our money.

What sort of accounts/banking system do you use?

Do You Really Need Dental Insurance?

 

As a dental hygienist I have quite a good understanding of dental insurance, based on the dental fees and codes I use every day at work. Now I realize I’m in Canada and insurance in Canada vs. the US is different (medical anyway) but my main point can probably be generalized no matter where you live. If you’ve ever looked at the breakdown of your healthcare insurance premiums, the dental insurance portion is usually substantially more than your medical portion (again, in Canada). I know for instance my sister-in-law has the option of paying something menial like $30.00 bi-weekly for medical, only or $100.00 bi-weekly for medical+dental. This is a pretty huge difference. I realize all plans are different but in general, dental is more than medical, maybe not by this much but by some percentage.

Having insurance is a very comforting thing for people. Dental insurance in particular because there is a notion that dentistry is outrageously expensive. Why I won’t argue it is expensive, for some people, they end paying more for insurance than they will EVER use in a lifetime of dentistry.

Who Needs Dental Insurance?

Before explaining why one may not need dental insurance, I will explain who probably will need it. Dentistry has changed substantially over the last 40-50 years. The focus has shifted 180 from restorative to preventative. It use to be that you only went to the dentist if you had a problem, they dealt with that one problem and you were on your merry way. This is still the way for a major portion of the world, but in North America, most of Europe and parts of Middle East, the focus is on prevention, especially starting at an early age. With all this in mind, if you’re over the age of 40 or so, it stands to reason that you grew up in the ‘older model’ of dentistry regardless of where in the world you are from.

From this I will make some assumptions. You probably:

  1. Don’t have the best memories of childhood dentistry
  2. Have some form of restorative work done in your mouth (fillings/crowns/root canals)
  3. Have, over the past 40 years had to maintain your restorative work (repairing fillings, fixed broken or cracked teeth/fillings, replaced bridges/crowns etc).

If this is the case, you should probably keep your insurance. If this is not the case, you’re a minority.

Source: Turner Pediatric Dentistry

Who Doesn’t Need Dental Insurance?

I’m happy to say I am 100% dental-restoration free. I have no fillings of any sort. Luck?, No. The fact is, is that I grew up in a city with a fluoridated water supply, started seeing the hygienist for bi-annual cleanings at a very young age, brush and floss regularly and had dental sealants applied when I was a child. I am thankful to say this is a more common trend among children these days. Not that early childhood caries (baby bottle decay) isn’t still a rampant global problem (dental caries is the number one bacterial infection in the world) but there are more cavity-free children and adults in the world because of advances in dentistry, regular fluoride usage, overall knowledge and prevention.

If you are like many people I see every day in my chair, you come to the dentist every 6 months for a ‘cleaning’ and may need the odd restoration done (small cavity), but in general, the need for major restorative work in younger populations is decreasing. Based on general dental fees in Canada let’s look at what you’re paying for (all very approximate prices):

Bi-Annual Cleaning:

  • Scaling (the ‘scrapping’): $70.00-$120.00 depending on time/amount of deposit present.
  • Polishing: $20.00
  • X-rays once/year: $15.00-$30.00
  • Fluoride Treatment: $12.00
  • Check-up with dentist: $50.00

Total: $217 (based on $120 for scaling) and since usually you only ‘need’ a check-up, assuming everything is fine, every 12 months, as well as x-rays, your second bi-annual appointment will only cost $152.00. An annual total of $369.00. That’s less than $31.00/month. I can’t say I know anyone who pays less than $31.00/month in dental insurance premiums. Even if you break a tooth and need a filling every 5 years of $250.00 (healthy cost assumption) or God forbid, a Crown once in your lifetime of $1,000…still much less than most dental insurance premiums.

Setting aside $50.00 a month in your budget to pay for dentistry in CASH is probably cheaper than paying for your dental insurance portions.

My job as a hygienist is to do my damnedest to prevent you from ever seeing the dentist outside of regular check-ups. If I do my job, and you work with me by keeping up with your home care, following my instructions, you shouldn’t need to see a dentist unless an emergency happens. I realize every case/patient/mouth is different but I wanted to give everyone something to mull over and offer insight that may not have been thought of before.

Did you know, in Canada you can claim dental fees paid as an income tax deduction?

We’re Switching To Cash! (Our ‘A-Ha’ Moment Weekend)

This weekend hubby and I decided, together, that we’re switching to a cash budget.

I’ve always taken care of our family’s finances. Not that hubby didn’t know what was going on, but he didn’t really know. For example, he knew we paid the mortgage sometime around the end of the month and knew the amount, but because he’s never really sat down with me all looked at the nitty-gritty of our budget, he couldn’t really appreciate the frustrations I was having with balancing the budget. We have more than enough money coming in every four weeks but I was struggling, mostly due to the fact that like 75% of our bills are due within 10 days of each other. I needed his insight to help me figure some of this stuff out.Two heads are always better than one.

He trusted me to manage the money and quite frankly, he didn’t have any desire to manage our budget. He works as a project manager by day, managing million dollar projects for a living, he didn’t want to have to come home and then deal with more budgeting. At first I didn’t mind but as things got tighter (me being on mat leave) I started struggling.

We previously had it set up separating all bills from variable living expenses (food, gas, our cat, entertainment, prescriptions etc) so basically if there was money in the chequing account we could spend it. He’d see the amount and know that’s what we had for the week (gas, groceries, cat all included). This only works so well.

If one party in a relationship doesn’t understand why we only have ‘x’ dollars this week because of ‘x’bills being due, it’s easy for frustration and resentment to start.

Questions start, even if done in a loving way; What did I do to only leave us with this amount of money? Why does it seem like I’m nickle-and-dimeing every purchase?

Because both parties weren’t 100% on the same page, it was difficult to make things work. I was feeling guilty about managing money a certain way, especially when I had to constantly say ‘no’ at a purchase.  I found it easier to say ‘yes’ and scramble to make the money up at the end of the month some magical way. This only works for so long.

When I realized permanently changing our mortgage billing date by a few days would help in the way that our paycheques fall, I called and changed it, even though we had to pay the adjusted interest amount to account for those days. When I tried to explain to hubby why I had to make the change he wasn’t understanding at first, all he knew was that we had enough money coming in every month and didn’t think there should be any issue. It was in this discussion that my hubby finally realized I may be in over my head managing it alone.

Yes I may be university educated 2x over; Yes I write a PF blog and read everything to do with money all.the.time; Yes I stay home on my birthday to watch a DVR full of ‘Till Debt Do Us Part’ but No, I couldn’t make our budget work the way I knew it could work…alone.

He sat down with me on Friday night after a monster work week and together, for 4 hours, we managed our budget, week-by-week for the next 3 months. I haven’t felt this relaxed about money in a LONG time.

I don’t think money is evil. I think ignorance around monetary issues and not addressing them can cause people to be evil though. I’m so glad I don’t have to think about money for the next while and when I do I know hubby will be there with me to fix any bumps in the road.

After we got the budget worked out and balanced, he made a to-do list, included on it was for me to buy/make/whatever a money envelope/jar because according to him, we were now on a strict cash budget (music to my ears)! Did I mention we also figured out and budgeted for a pretty kick-ass CASH CHRISTMAS?! I have so much relief knowing where the money is coming from and how we’re paying for stuff and when.

2012 isn’t over yet but has been a monumental year for hubby and I in terms of growth as a couple.  We’ve been together since high school, spending our lives growing up together. I’m so proud the we’re able to acknowledge that we’re not perfect and address areas we know need help. Reminds me how much I love him.

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photo source

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