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.

________________________________________________________________________

photo source

Photo Source

Paying More For Loyalty?

I’m guest posting today over at Canadian Budget Binder…head on over and check it out!

I have been faithfully going to my hairdresser for 10 years. What’s even crazier is that she has been involved in every major event in my life in these past 10 years; chopping my hair off after I’d grown it out for prom, doing my hair for university formals, being with me on my wedding day and was my first ‘outing’ post baby. I love her, she’s a fabulous person who I consider a friend, but she’s not cheap.

During our 10 year relationship, she’s managed to go from chair rental to buying her own salon and having many employees of her own. I’m proud of what she’s accomplished by her early thirties. With her company growth and normal ‘life inflation’, her prices have gone up significantly. They’re at the point now, especially with us cutting as many costs as possible, that I don’t know if I can continue to see her.

At what point does one stop paying more for a service because of loyalty?

I keep my hair fairly short, getting it cut every six to eight weeks. I don’t spend money on myself, ever, but I like getting my hair cut. I’ve been known to receive gift cards for myself and buy gifts for other people, but in all of my life’s insanity, and there’s been a lot lately, the one small ‘treat’ I allow myself is to see her every few weeks. For a few minutes, I forget my problems, and get prettied up for a few more weeks. Lately this has been pulling my heart strings when I realize what I have to pay.

She’s not outrageously expensive, probably just a little more than a regular cut by most standards, but I have the opportunity to see a friend who can cut my hair, decently, for cheap. She teaches at the local hairdressing school and cuts hair on the weekends. Friends of mine see her and she does good work but I somehow feel like I’m being unfaithful for even entertaining the idea of seeing someone else. Not to mention, I genuinely enjoy the total experience my hairdresser gives me, it’s about more than just getting my hair cut for me.

I have some reservations about seeing someone else because I’m so comfortable with her but my life’s priorities have changed and saving money is more important than getting a haircut by someone just because I like them.

What do you think? Do you pay more for a service because you like the person, knowing there are cheaper options out there with the same (or similar) result?

Photo Source

Taking Over Someone Else’s Finances?

My sister sucks at money management.  Like really terrible.

I don’t understand how one girl can spend $600 at a grocery store in one month, justify having $300 set aside for a CAMPING trip with friends (who needs $300 to camp?!), literally buy a new purse at least once a month (justify this because she ”only spends $50  a month on clothes at a local thrift store”). ALL while being $1000 in overdraft, a maxed out credit card, line of credit and student lines of credit to pay for. Oh, and while she loves her career she doesn’t make a whole lot of money. This is a situation where her career makes her truly happy, shes amazing at it and it’s rewarding so lack of money is worth it, if she can manage.

We all have our money issues and reasons why we ended up in the financial situations we have, I’m no saint. I try to explain to her that she won’t need $300 to go camping for two nights and suggest she, throw $200 on debt but no, she might need that money for camping??? She had enough smarts to take my advice a few years ago and suggest, when she got a raise, to increase her provincial loan payment and pay it off in two years; yet while in a time of financial hardship during a relationship fallout, instead of calling to temporarily lower her loan payments down to the minimum (a $100/month difference), she lived off credit to make up for temporary lost income…this made sense to her.

She does not understand that paying off a credit card with a line of credit isn’t actually paying anything off. She’s an educated person but continues to money, she justifies the weirdest things. I also encouraged her to pay closer attention to her credit score but she couldn’t be bothered.

I have budgeted her many times and she’s not upheld it. She’s at the point now of needing serious hand-slapping-help before she really ends up over her head, she’s very close. I love my sister and don’t want to see her suffer financially. She has proven to me that she has no financial maturity and I feel like, as the big sister, I need to step in and take over her finances for a while to get her back on track.

I’m going to talk to her this next week, but I’m thinking about taking control and putting her on a cash budget. I’m going to play a Gail Vaz-Oxlade role and take away all her debt and credit cards (and maybe even cure them in a jelly mold). We live close enough that, God forbid, there was an emergency and she needed to get to a bank, I could give them back (with discretion, of course).

I think once she learns that she can live on cash without dying from starvation she’ll be able to takeover her finances again but for the in-term she needs a good sisterly kick in the ass.

Has anyone ever done anything like this for friends/family? What was the outcome? Any advice?

Budgeting In Items For Work Usage

Hubby’s cell phone bill is an average of $115.00/month that we have to pay. Insane right? If we didn’t pay for the minutes that we do, the bill will get to well over $200.00 (and has many times). Hubby’s phone starts  ringing and beeping like crazy from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed at night because of his job. He talks to many people all day in different locations around the province for varying companies. Given that his phone is a necessity for his job, don’t ya think he should be comped for it? 

If he didn’t have the phone/email requirements that he does, his phone bill would be a much more respectable amount (under $50.00/month). This sort  of makes me crazy. There has been ‘talk’ in the past about him getting some compensation for work usage (90% of his cell phone time) but it never comes to fruition. Friends of ours, who are on their phones a whole lot less than hubby is, are comped which adds to my frustrations.

He does gain gas mileage for work out of city which ends up working out to more than we pay for gas (we make money when he goes away from mileage vs reimbursement for gas dollars spent).

For me to work, I (legally) have to pay an annual licensing fee to maintain registration with my provincial regulating body (which gives me my malpractice insurance and registration with the national regulating body). This sets me back $625.00/year. Although it’s income tax deductible I still hate that I have to pay it, in my mind, it should be an expense my employer pays on my behalf, I’m sure he probably benefits from the tax break more than I but it’s not something he does, this goes for most of my classmates too.

Who has their job compensate part(s) of their monthly budget items? Am I alone in thinking we shouldn’t be paying for these things?

How We Eat On $300.00 a Month: My Meal Planning Guide

I’m surprised by how many comments and e-mails I’ve received about how, and what, I eat for $300.00 a month. I’ve always loved cooking and finding recipes that can make inexpensive foods taste great so I will start posting some budget friendly recipes for anyone who is interested.  For now I will give an example of our meal plan/grocery trip.

I don’t worry about breakfast or lunch too much. We eat basic cereal or toast/bacon for breakfast and usually a sandwich/yogurt/fruit for lunch, I only worry about dinners.

Organization

I use a list very similar to this meal planner made by Life in Yellow (which you can download for free! so head on over to her site!)

I make my plans up on Sunday and shop Tuesday bringing my trusty planner along with me.

If I have meat in the freezer I will usually try and cook around that first. I had some pork loin chops left this week so one meal will include pork. Once I look through the freezer, I go to the weekly sales and see what meat is on sale. This week boneless/skinless chicken was on sale, as was oven roast so this will act as our starting point for meals. I always have ‘side staples’ on hand and buy as we run out  (long grain rice, potatoes, salad ingredients and frozen corn or broccoli). I only buy what I need for the week so if I’m out of rice but don’t include rice as a side for any of my dinners I won’t waste the $4.00 buying it this week if I’m not eating it until next. I don’t like to have money tied up in food.

In terms of chicken specifically, hubby and I share a chicken breast when cooking. I don’t know about where you live, but the size of the chicken breasts(and almost all meat for that matter) at our grocer are more than twice the recommended portion size for meat so 90% of the time I cut it it half. The exception being if we BBQ the breast then we tend to have our ‘own’ although we never finish them and the meat usually ends up in a salad for a lunch next day.

I plan meals and after looking through the cupboards and my recipe book, I only write down what we need (down to every tiny spice), if it’s not on my list I have it at home.

Meal 1: Sweet and Sour Pork Chops (with rice)

Need: 1 can of pineapple tidbits, cornstarch, 1 can of chicken stock 

Meal 2: Spicy Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (with fries)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, 2 buns, fries 

Meal 3: Grilled chicken salad (with garlic bread)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, salad kit, loaf of french bread

Meal 4: Dinner out with family-separate budget from grocery funds.

Meal 5: Greek Chicken Wraps (with my roasted potato)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, tortilla wraps, garlic/sea salt spice grinder

Meal 6: Chicken Divan (with rice)

Need: 2 Chicken breasts, broccoli 

Meal 7: Slow Cooker Roast  (with corn and mashed potato)

Need: Roast, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, bag of frozen corn.

Next I make my list adding the other necessities I need like milk. I also try and estimate the prices so I have a general idea before I go what I expect to spend at each store (I shop multiple stores chasing sales), so my grocery list will look like this:

Store #1:

-1 package B/S chicken (~$10.00)

-Milk ($3.50)

-Cereal ($2.50)

-Bread ($2.50)

-Salad Kit ($2.00)

-Tortilla Wraps ($2.00)

-Buns ($2.00)

-1 box of Kraft Dinner (Canadian staple, I love it!) (.65)

Total: appox $23.00

Store #2:

-3lb Oven Roast ($6.00)

-2 cans of soup ($2.50)

-pineapple ($1.50)

-Box of cornstarch ($3.00)

-French Bread ($1.50)

– Bag of frozen broccoli and corn ($2.00/each)

-Spice grinder($4.00)

-Fries ($3.00)

-Nutella (my weakness so only buy on sale) ($3.00)

-Chips ($2.50)

Total: approx $31.00

Store #3:

-Diet pop ($5.00+bottle depo $1.20)

-5lb bag of apple ($4.00)

-Bananas ($2.00)

-2x Granola bars ($2.00/box)

-Yogurt {This week a local grocer had a huge overstock of yogurt and was selling it for 0.25cents/4pack, Score!}

-Eggos ($2.00)

-Eggs ($2.00)

-Bacon ($4.00)

-Ketchup ($3.00)

Total: approx $22.00

Weekly Total: $83.00

Not included in my grocery money is cat food and cleaning supplies/toilet paper. We budget for the cat food separately and I started setting aside a few dollars each week for toilet paper and cleaning supplies since they’re so sporadic.

So there ya have it, an example of my weekly spending on food. Some weeks are more expensive when I run out of all ”basic” cooking stuff (always at the same time) but that’s usually only once every few weeks for stock ups. I try and keep my weekly spending between $65.00-$85.00.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Canadian Budget Binder but if you’re not, check out his weekly grocery store challenge to see how other bloggers stick to their budgets!

How Losing $1500 in Monthly Income Changed Us For The Better

I’m currently on maternity leave. In Canada, through the Employment Insurance program (EI), you’re entitled to maternity and parental leave for a combined 52 weeks at the rate of 55% of your gross income to a maximum of $457.00/week. Some employers then give you top-up bringing you to 75-100% of your income, so for some, being on mat leave has little to no financial change. Not so much for us.

I work as a Dental Hygienist for a family practice. The dentist doesn’t provide top-up, one of the downsides of private industry. There are only a few employees and he needs to pay someone to fill my position while I’m off.

On EI I’m receiving $838.00 every two weeks. Pre-baby my net bi-weekly income was around $1500-1600 every 2 weeks (I’m paid hourly so it varies a little depending on my patients). That’s about $1500 a month in lost income. My question is, how the eff did we ever have money problems?

I’m so mad at myself when I think about how much money we were wasting rather than getting serious about our debt. It took us having a baby to really get serious about our budget and paying debt off. We always paid the minimum requirements but when I think about, what I now know we’re capable of, it sickens me.

Where The Money Was Going

  • Groceries. In all honesty we were probably spending $500/month in groceries throwing anything and everything in the cart when we went…for two people! Now we spend about $300/month and don’t want for much, we’re just much better at planning.
  • Bank Fees. We were spending between $30-50/month on bank fees. Since switching to PC we pay nothing. It’s great and we’re super happy with them.
  • Eating out. This was huge…between hubby and I we were probably spending $300/month in lunch and dinners out. Mostly lunches when we, again, didn’t plan and would end up eating out at work. I’ve always cooked most all our dinners, we’d usually just have one dinner out-usually pizza or something when I didn’t feel like cooking Friday night after an exhausting week of work and long commutes. Now we budget for one meal out per week and we’ve been pretty good about sticking with it.
  • Hobbies/Life/House. We have never been big shoppers/spenders on ourselves for clothes  and alike but I’d go to Michaels/Home Depot and drop some cash for my newest craft or DIY project. Hubby and I both love tinkering with house stuff and playing with tools. Not that I would consider this money wasted per se, we just cut it out entirely when I went off work.

How We’re Managing

  • Given our huge debt load, losing the $1500/month was really hurting us. Our minimum monthly debt payments alone were about $1500. A huge help was hubby getting a very generous and much needed raise, it was great timing.
  • Starting the DMP and getting serious about budgeting and honestly, growing up when it comes to our spending habits. We now think about every dollar we spend. We were never really crazy racking up credit cards or spending beyond our means we just didn’t allocate the funds properly or responsibly.
  • Paying interest-only for my student loans. Of my debt, most of it is in the form of student lines of credit which offer no relief should you lose your job/mat leave etc. For government issued student loans, in Canada at least, you can apply for interest relief where the government makes payments on your behalf for a period of time, I didn’t qualify for this because I made too much money last year and they don’t take current financial situation (me being on mat leave) into consideration. I am however making interest only payments for the current time saving me about $180/month.

When I Go Back To Work

I will be working four instead of five days a week so I can be home with baby an extra day. I’d love to say me being home would save us money with the cost of childcare but it won’t. Daycare shouldn’t cost us more than $30-35/day and after taxes I bring home just over $160.00/day. Not to mention we simply couldn’t live off hubby’s income alone. I love my job and am excited to get back to seeing my patients but I also hate the idea of her being in daycare, without me. We’re hoping hubby can work from home one day/week so she really only needs daycare three days/week. Finding part-time care is a challenge though…

On top of the childcare expense we need to start buying bus passes for me which set us back about $80.00/month we only have the one vehicle and can’t justify the money for a second one when it would only be for me to drive to and from work which would cost probably $200/month in gas and another $200/month to park the stupid thing for the 8 hours I’m at work, no thanks. Public transportation is fine for me.

I do struggle slightly with giving up my one day/week. I desperately want to be home with baby girl. My mom worked so much when we were kids I hardly saw her and I knew when I had a family I would be home more and involved in her life more. A huge reason behind my career choice is that dentistry is usually a M-F, 9-5 type of job, important when it comes to family life. When I think about the extra debt I could pay off with me working that day though it kills me a little. In the end though I think she’ll only be young once and our parental influence is probably most important now. Once she’s in school full time and not care so much about her parents maybe I’ll go back 5 days…we’ll see!

When I started my mat leave and realized just how tough things were going to be we were panicked but in the end it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to us. It was the kick in the ass we really needed!