How We Ended Up Over $300,000 In Debt

Source

Source: Noahpinion

I should start from the beginning. When we were both in first year university we, like many students, were offered a credit card. A really pretty one with a picture of our campus on it. It was great, personalized just for us, sign us up! And so it began…

Her Story:

I wanted to go to university, actually it wasn’t an option, I was going to university, I just didn’t have any money to pay for it. Or maybe I should say there was money at one point that was left in an estate that didn’t get executed properly, leaving us to scramble to pay for said education very last minute. When the time came for post secondary every single penny went on some form of credit, be it line of credit, student loan or credit cards. I had a part time job but not enough to pay for anything more than my books. By the end of my undergraduate degree I managed to rack up $32,000 in student debt and probably $2,000 in consumer/credit card debt. By the age of 21, I had $34,000 debt.

What’s even worse is that, although no education is wasted, my degree wasn’t going to get me much beyond a minimum wage job, the only option I had n my mind was to further my education. Back to school I went and although I have  a great career now, and zero regret, by the end of my second degree I managed to add another $20,000 in student loans, another $10,000 in lines of credit and about $13,000 on…credit cards…Yup. I put over $10,000 on credit cards to pay off tuition and books that my loans and LOC’s wouldn’t cover. My program was over $13,000 per year, not including books and other incidentals and maintaining a part time job while in this program was not optional. I couldn’t do both and focusing on my (overpriced) education was priority. By the end of my second degree, before my life had started, I now had $77,000 in debt.

His Story:

His story is a lot less scary. Hubby went to university, then college, racking up a total of about $12,500 total in line of credit and student loan debt. He had a credit card maxed at $2,000, not a huge deal. Then he went and married me and my $77,000 deficit bank account, he must really love me!

Our Story:

To top off my $13,000 in ‘school credit card’ debt, his $2,000 credit card, together we also owe another approximate $5,000 in various credit that we can’t really account for, overspending if you will. We have a vehicle loan together, outstanding at approximately $29,000 and a mortgage currently outstanding at about $233,000. We both have good careers and are now working on getting this debt paid off.

Join us on this long journey to freedom and no longer worrying about money!

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?

Curb Watching and Ways to Get Free Stuff

This is a guest post from the infamous (and very mysterious) Mr. CBB. He is one of the nicest and most helpful bloggers out there. I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me and this little ‘ol blog of mine. 

One way to get free stuff is what I like to call “curb watching” and I’ve scored some great items that have saved us money in our budget. Have you ever been in your car driving and randomly see items placed at the edge of the road with a “Free” sign? Well, homeowners are telling you it’s ok to take this item home if you want it.  Some Canadian cities may have a by-law so you should always proceed with caution if it doesn’t say free. When you do see the lucky words “free” and you need it, get it while you can, free is free and these items can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. They don’t normally last long as people snatch up these items in an instant.

I don’t go out looking in my vehicle as that would be wasting gas to me although there is a bloke who travels our area in his truck once a week to gather what he can. I suppose if you are picking up electronics and antiques or items you can potentially sell it’s a big business and worth the time and gas money for some. It’s no different than storage wars it’s just you don’t have to pay for it. This is also a great way to save items from going to the dump whilst helping the environment.




You may also find after a homeowner has a garage sale that they may put what doesn’t sell “free” on the curb or on recycle day is another great time. Some home designers or even home stagers find free or cheap furniture at vintage shops, reuse/recycle shops and you guessed free online or the curbside. They may use what they can find to repurpose for a design project they are working on. What better way can you think of especially if they can get it for nothing out of pocket. We also tend to see computer monitors, base machines (computers), printers etc on the side of the road. Sometimes refurbishing items like computers if you are tech savvy and donating them to people in need for education purposes will help them in many ways they would have never dreamed possible. Books, clothes, paper, pencils, pens etc can be donated to churches, family groups, overseas, babysitting clubs etc rather than tossed in the garbage.

We also have friends who participate in their city-wide household recycle day program. We like to get rid of items we no longer use or haven’t used over the course of 6 months to a year. De-cluttering is not a bad idea especially if it is crowding your space. Sometimes less is more and less to clean up and keep organized. The program will give you specific times to put it on the curb with a free sign and then you sit back, relax and someone who fancies your stuff will pick it up at no cost to them or you. If you are in the mood to score some great “new to me” type deals head out to see what you can score for free.

Tips for Scoring “Free Stuff”

  1. Always keep your eyes open when you are driving, be aware of your surroundings looking for free signs.
  2. Go for walks on recycle day in your neighborhood or after Garage Sales.
  3. Check online Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook or Freecycle for free stuff.
  4. After someone moves house they may put lots for free on the curb so watch who’s moving in and out of your area.
  5. Don’t be shy to poke your head in a garbage bin in the park, camp ground, beach or scour the ground, ditches or recycle bins for beer cans or bottles all worth $$$$ If you live in a Student City watch when the students move in and out as they normally don’t like to take what they brought home or buy while in school.
  6. Your friends and family might have something they no longer need and want to donate it or get rid of it. Don’t be shy to ask or say that you might be interested in it.

What have we found? This is only a few of the items….

    • Sears Craftsman Lawnmower that ranges in cost around $350 and all it needed was a cleaning and a new filter under $10 (waving to neighbor as I mow the lawn now with his supposed “junk mower” chuckling… ha!
    • Lawn Roller which would have run me around $100 to buy in perfect condition
    • Patio Stones to hold our rain barrel in the back yard
    • $16 @ Ikea  outside Garbage Can for Dog Poop in perfect condition
    • Lots of clothes on freecycle that I can use to get dirty in (get your minds out of the gutter, I meant gardening and working around the house)
    • Free Vacuum on Freecycle all it needed was a $12 filter works perfect
    • Canarm Fan remote and controller $35.99 @ Costco

If you see something on the curb and you are in doubt don’t be afraid to get out and ask the homeowner. Most likely if it is on the curb than it is for free but just to be safe if there is no sign, I’d ask. The last thing you need is Aunt Thelma running out the house with her broom stick chasing you down the street for trying to make off with her weed eater.

What have you gotten free from the curbside, online or from friends or family?

Note from Catherine: Here in HRM (the municipality I live in), twice a year on non-garbage collecting days, we have a ‘Curbside Giveaway’ where residents put stuff at their curbside and people drive around picking up what they want! My sister-in-laws best friend furnished her entire first apartment this way! We also have a few regulars who drive around the neighborhood looking for people throwing out any metal containing items to recycle as scrap metal. It’s a lot of work for little return but kudos to them! Thanks again Mr.CBB for being my very first guest post, it was a great one!

Author BioCanadian Budget Binder is a blog about a Young Canadian Couple’s Journey to Debt Freedom written by Mr.CBB who moved to Canada from the UK. You can Follow Mr.CBB on Twitter and Facebook.

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!