Mail Call

I picked up the mail today. It seems we are only getting it delivered every few days. I’m not ever expecting much to surprise me in the mail. Once in a while a package we order will show up. But we know of its arrival. Except a couple weeks back when the one day I didn’t check the mail, our community box got broken into. The gift we had ordered for our daughter’s birthday had been stolen.

That sucked. And it wasn’t possible to go out and replace the gift, because Quarantine and such. So our daughter went giftless for her 16th Birthday. Ugh. We were out $80 and felt awful.

Why couldn’t the thieves steal our bills and pay them? Do a good deed for the bad that they had done? Or something along those lines. I’m not getting a break financially from the Government or any of those bill collectors. I’m stuck paying my bills.

Our Hydro bill is up and so is our gas bill. We are running the dishwasher more often. Same with small appliances. And the heat is on more while everyone is home. Time for everything in the house to get shut down!!! No more lights. No more heat. No more Netflix.

Not going to happen. Perhaps we can limit our usage? Ugh. This adulthood and isolation stuff sucks more than ever after seeing those bills. I need to take my mind off these bills.

I wonder what’s in my Amazon wishlist?

Bingo!

19 years ago I needed some extra cash in order to pay for our upcoming wedding. Working part time at Colossus wasn’t making me enough money to start my new life. Since my wife and I didn’t want to do anything extravagant- starting that new life would cost us under $5000. But we still needed a bit of money.

So I got a job as a Bingo Caller. I worked Friday and Saturday nights for three months making some damn good money. And I was really good at the job. Spinning plastic balls every three seconds and calling out the numbers with my modulated tone made me a fan favorite. A favorite to the gamblers that were there every weekend.

I don’t gamble. It wasn’t because of being a bingo caller that I don’t gamble. I just never felt the rush. I’ve bought lotto tickets, tried casinos, and even did bingo on occasion. I’ve had some small winnings. ($50 in slots and $250 in luggage one time.) I don’t look down on anyone who enjoys gambling. It’s just not my thing.

But Bingo Players… they are a strange breed. The “Regulars” has numerous dabbers and rows of good luck troll dolls. 30-50 cards at a time. Their ability to scan these cards as quick as I called numbers- every 3 seconds. A game hardly lasted five minutes before someone yelled “Bingo”.

My job had me sitting on stage. The audience was silent as I spun the balls around to show the camera. After a brief moment, I called out the number shown. At which point, the gentle dabbing on the players’ cards went on. Like working in a library until someone yells “FIRE” “BINGO!” Then the crowds moans and groans. My name gets cursed.

Trust me, at the end of the night- people would literally come up to me and tell me how much they hated me for not calling their numbers. Some would come up and tell me how they loved coming in the nights I worked because of my pleasant demeanor. The place was so bipolar.

I hated that job, but after my wedding I didn’t need the money anymore. So one Friday night, two weeks after my wedding, I quit on the spot before my shift was to start. It was the most satisfying career move I ever did.

Throwing in the towel is sometimes gratifying. Quitting a toxic feeling job made me happy. Money isn’t always the answer. Job satisfaction is more important to me. I also emotionally grew from that job and learned my limitations.

What Does $1000 Look Like?

Recently I finished a set off doors for our home. I’m really happy with the results. But it got me thinking about how $1000 can look differently every time. With each and every purchase or experience being worthwhile.

I treated my wife to a night out on the town at a spa and hotel. We needed that time off. Wedgewood Hotel and Spa

We bought tickets to Queen for the five of us. Such an amazing show. Queen

We now have a back up generator for when the power goes out. Like it does every year… sometimes for days on end.

My son got a pair of Long Track Speed Skates. Chasing that Olympic Dream! Fastest Ice

We bought a couple of kayaks and accessories. Gotta stay in shape as we grow older. Kayak Adventure

That’s all from this year. In the past- a thousand dollars bought three iPad Minis, or a video game system and accessories, or tickets to Disneyland, even a new mattress…

Like they say, a thousand here and thousand there- pretty soon it adds up to real money.

I’m starting to feel broke. Maybe it’s time to slow down on the spending. The kids need a post secondary education. A thousand bucks might buy a couple of textbooks.

Work vs Vacation

I make the most of my vacations. My days off are full of fun times and experiences. I came back to work after ten days off this past vacation to find an abundance of emails.

That was probably the hardest part of coming back to work. I enjoy the job itself, but there is often excessive emails that I need to sift through to find what I need to do my job.

Coming back to work and I’m already thinking towards my next vacation. Planning ahead is tough when you’re not sure how much you could spend.

I’d like to try and not go into debt to enjoy some time away from home. Pinching pennies and returning empty bottles for refunds may be how I pay for our next bit of fun. Back to working in order to afford my vacations I guess. Like a vicious circle.

Wealthy Ego

Is it at a certain age or a level of income that people begin to feel comfortable financially? I feel like there are times that I’m chasing a dream- just not my dream. Is there a point where being financially secure is equal to the lifestyle I want? Or will I keep dreaming bigger and grander?

For the most part- I love where I am in life. Sure, I could lose a few credit card bills and have more money in my savings set aside. Will that day ever come? I dunno.

Have I hit rock bottom before? You betcha. But it was my rock bottom. A place I didn’t like and got out from it. I hope to never lower the expectations of myself again.

Do I have an ego? Maybe a bit. I’d like to think it’s more a sense of pride. Proud of my family and friends as well. They look like their lives are doing well.

But shhhhhh, we don’t ever discuss wages. We can talk about drugs, alcohol, sex, racism, politics or religion. But how much money we make? Nope, that information stays locked up in a box. Instead people show off their toys, adventures, and purchases to the world. We all know the cost of a new car or tv because of “The Price is Right.” Going into debt overspending isn’t smart though.

Finding a healthy wealth balance is tough. I want to make enough money that I forget that it’s payday and that my bills are covered. Maybe a little extra for a nice vacation.

What are your goals?

Bonus Money

Today my bank account was bigger than it’s been in quite some time. All because I received my work bonus!

I was excited to see it until I looked at my paystub statement and realized that nearly HALF disappeared in taxes. Ouch. No wonder they call it Gross Income. It’s gross to see how much I should’ve had. But money is money and I knew exactly what to do with my bonus this year.

I paid some bills.

With a few clicks of the mouse button, all that “extra” cash was gone. In part I am relieved. The washing machine that I threw on my credit card is paid off. As well as our trip to Disneyland from last October. I also set aside money for our property taxes this year instead of cashing out my shares. This last one is a game changer for me. It means that my shares will remain untouched for longer.

Financial freedom is getting closer. Our mortgage renewal is due in the next few months. Only 20 years left until that’s done. And only a couple years left on my car payments as well.

As they say, “Everything’s coming up Milhouse!” Or they don’t say that. Whatever. Things are starting to look up. Bye bye money…

Trust and Kindness

Trust is something that you can’t come by easily. But to have a complete stranger trust you is even more scarce. Especially when it comes to money. My story here is a simple one, but made my heart smile nonetheless.

Yesterday as I was driving home from the school with my kids, I stopped at a person selling flowers on the side of the road. She has set up in the same location for a couple of years now selling flowers out the back of her van. We often drive past without thinking twice. Yesterday I finally decided to stop and surprise my wife with a bouquet of flowers.

As I was talking to the lady, I realized I had no cash on me. So I asked if she takes debit or credit cards. Since I’ve worked conventions- many people set up a Square account to be able to make such transactions, which seems to be the trend nowadays. Unfortunately, this lady did not have a card reader. I was ready to thank her for her time…

Immediately she asked me which bouquet I wanted and told me to pay her back another time. Even with my repeated objections, she insisted. I chose a lovely full arrangement of flowers. The flowers looked great when put them on our table at home.

But it gets better.

My daughter this morning texted me that she put $20 in my wallet to cover the cost of the flowers. I was not expecting that from her. It seems that kindness can rub off on people. Seems like our parenting skills are paying off.

But wait there’s more!

I returned today to pay the flower lady the $20 for the bouquet (which is a good deal for the amount of flowers btw). She was smiling and thanked me for the payment. Before we walked away, she handed my son a large yellow daisy.

Just because.

Kindness is contagious. This stranger trusted me. I could have chosen to not pay her back. But the guilt would have eaten at me every time I drove past her. Because I’m not that type of person- I could never have done that.

Instead, I will have a smile in my heart when I see the back of her van propped open and buckets of flowers placed around her feet.

More Than Just Making Dinner

Last night our middle daughter helped me to make dinner. She peeled and cut the potatoes while I prepped the schnitzel. During that time we did more than just prepare dinner. We talked.

She had questions about credit cards, loans, mortgages, interest rates, RRSP’s, and taxes. Interesting topics for a girl about to turn 14. But ones that I tried to explain over dinner prep.

It made me realize that money is a topic that isn’t taught as well as it should be. Even I don’t always think clearly about my spending.

Sometimes I spend frivolously. Other times I save pennies. But the hunt for big payouts and wads of cash are long since behind me. I work because I enjoy my job and it pays very well. Our mortgage is being paid down and one day we should be debt-free.

Explaining to our daughter that some debt is “good debt” was important. Telling her to save up and buy products without going into debt is also important. Having to explain taxes, sucked, but is important as well.

I hope that our daughter understands a bit more about finances now. As well, she made good mashed potatoes for dinner.

I Wish I Was a Sellout 

The idea that people work hard to become successful isn’t something new. What I find frustrating is people who call them “sellouts” when they do become successful. 


I have zero chance of becoming a “sellout”. I work hard at my job, but that’s so I can pay my bills. I enjoy my blog posts, but I don’t think I could make money off of them.  Mostly because I’m not trying to sell anything through my writing. My posts are mostly for me- like a diary of sorts.


Occasionally I add in a link or a reference to a company or show that I like. I’m not expecting kickbacks or money. But I wouldn’t say no… you gotta start somewhere. Maybe I can get promoted by Swiffer? I may have to change the title of my blog post though. 

Swiffer presents: Cleaning It Up As I Go.

It’s doable.

What is the Balance of My Time?

Time is precious.  My time is extremely valuable to me and especially to those I care about. My children, my wife, and my friends all get a piece of my time. Work also gets some of that time. But have I achieved a balance?


I have 168 hours a week to offer up.

Work gets 48 hours a week of my time. Two full days out of the seven.

8 hours is devoted to driving to and from work as well for the week.

56 hours is spent sleeping. Maybe more. Maybe.

That leaves 56 hours for my friends and family. That is exactly 1/3 of my time. That time is extremely valuable to me. In fact, I cannot think of a price to put on it. I would gladly give up my job or sleep before I give up the time I have for those I care about.

At the end of every week, my family comes first.  At the end of every workday, I walk away proud of what I did that day. At the end of every sleep, I am ready to do it all again each and every day. 

I feel I have created a healthy work/life balance.

Six

It happened suddenly and without warning. It wasn't until I looked at my salary that it actually hit me. After all is said and done, I somehow make six figures a year. No, it's not a brag in this day and age either. It's just an observation really. A fact I never tried to accomplish.

I am far from educated so that never got me very far. Life has always been a push or even a struggle to get up that hill into adulthood. Pinching pennies, spending long hours working, having a plan, sticking to a budget. All of it with goals in mind. Not all of the goals involved money.

I never sought money as a reason to work. Of course money is noice and affords me the lifestyle I want to live. But working for money? Not my thing. I have been enjoying work because of the challenges it presents me. Jobs lose their luster and thrill after a while but my current job has so many avenues available to me, I really don't know where I may end up.

So, I set my goals. Next year? Travel as much as possible. The year after? Put money into upgrading the home. The year after that? Help our oldest with post secondary education. The year after that? More travel. The work I get paid to do helps promote my plans. Sixth year? Seems like it will hit me fast.

Work goals? Learn as much as possible whenever possible. Share my knowledge with others. Help others achieve their goals. Make a difference in how the work environment feels. None of that sounds too lofty. Nor does it feel like a corporate ladder to climb. I figure if something interests me, I'll work towards it.

Debt Shouldn’t be Embarrassing.

On my drive home from work tonight I was listening to SiriusXM Insight and they were talking about student loan debt.  I caught the last 30 minutes of the program, but the stories all shared a similar tone.  Debt is embarrassing and really hard to get out of. Which holds true for the majority of us who have debt.

I never took out student loans.  But I also never *really* attended post secondary school.  I had started, but was in a car accident a couple of months in and fell behind.  That’s my excuse that I tell people. The real reason is that I couldn’t afford to go to school.  My parents hadn’t set aside savings for me, and I didn’t see the need to go into debt.  Quickly in the first semester I realized that the instructors wanted us to buy their $200 books and then regurgitate their thoughts back at them in order to get a diploma or degree. I wasn’t ready to conform to society at that point.


So I left post secondary school to work and have fun.  But being a gas station jockey didn’t bring in enough money to live and have fun. I wanted to see friends and party whenever possible.  So I did the next logical step.  No- I didn’t become a drug dealer. I got a VISA card.  I even wrote about debt a while back in Monday Money. Accumulating debt isn’t fun.  Maybe for a brief moment as you enjoy a new toy or experience.  But paying it off years later sucks.


My wife and I have debt. Some of it I consider “good debt” like the mortgage on our home. Some is “necessary debt” like needing to replace the roof on the house. Most debt isn’t good.  We could have done without a new piano ten years ago.  Even though we took out a loan for it, it was paid in full only two years later.  We tend to buy a new vehicle every few years. We would take out a loan for 5-8 years but pay it off in 3. But we carry credit card debt from time to time.  And that sucks. Compound interest sucks.

But why can’t we talk about debt with our friends?  Why can’t I tell people about the times that I’ve felt overwhelmed?  Is it pride?  Is it a fear that I’ll be found out?  Is it that I fear that I’d appear to be a disappointment to my children and family? I don’t know.  Debt sucks.  I don’t care if I die in debt.  It’s not a goal mind you, but if it happens, oh well- I’d be dead.


As I write this up in my bedroom, my daughter is playing on the piano downstairs.  She is playing near perfection a song I’ve never known her to play.  And I love it. A song I recognize as “Take That Look Off Your Face” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It resonates through our home.  It pulls from my memory all of the wonderful things I have done and bought over the years. If the cosmos had aligned properly, she’d be playing “Memories” instead.

So I stand corrected, sometimes going into debt is good for you.  I bought an Andrew Lloyd Webber CD as a young adult. We bought the piano years ago. And now, I am typing this post on a cellphone (that I wanted because I love technology) I’m completely in love with everything about this moment.  All of this accumulation of my feelings isn’t embarrassing debt.  

So why should we be embarrassed?

Train Garden


Back in the summer of 2008, a year after we had moved into our home, we decided (mostly with my influence) to build a trainset in our garden instead of a pond. We cut down some trees and built up the ground to lay the tracks. It was a lot of time and a lot of fun.  The kids were happy to help out in building it and watching it run.  Plus at ages 2,4 & 6 playing in dirt is always the best.


Over the years, many changes have occurred to the train garden.  Some of it was just trial and error as I figured out how to make it look good and continue to run. Some were just for fun.  I’ve reconfigured the loops twice, built new bridges, placed bricks under the tracks to keep it level and even added in a small tunnel.  We have had issues with moles, birds and even a snake trying to make a home out of the garden. 


But the biggest hurdle is that I haven’t figured out how to keep the engines running smoothly. The tracks are outside all year and the electrical connection drops in various parts.  This has caused excessive wear on the motors on both of my engines.  I’ve had to replace the motors a few times now.  My next option is to buy a battery pack- like the type used for RC cars. And of course a remote control to help run them. A remote that can eventually be used to control every aspect of the railroad.  From lights to sounds to even lining switches. That way I can use the power source that I currently have to add some lighting to buildings or other structures. I love scale models of scenery shots. They’re so much fun to set up.

Our next biggest hurdle is money for my project.  It would seem that whenever a bit of extra fun is wanted, something more serious rears its ugly head.  Unfortunately this time it appears that our washing machine has decided to leak from who-knows-where.  I’ve tried to take it apart to find the source of the leak, but to no avail.  Looks like a new washer is about to be purchased in a couple of days.  


Or we can just enjoy stinky, dirty clothes and have a cool trainset for the summer.  I’ll let my wife decide.  I know my choice. 

Woo-woo!

Mo’ Money

“I don’t know what they want from me.  It’s like the more money we come across the more problems we see.”

Thank you late 90’s for such a classic song lyric.

I don’t think I have those problems.  Simply because the mo’ money I come across, the quicker it disappears from my bank account.  Since I am aware that this happens- it’s not creating mo’ problems. But then the song wouldn’t sound as good if those were the lyrics.


Pretty sure if my wife and I liquidated all of our physical assets we would have plenty of money to spend… on buying stuff to replenish what we sold.  The fact that money doesn’t really exist anyways is a strange concept.  Money is just numbers used to add value to a product or service.  

Perhaps one day the term “money” will disappear.  Along with banks and corruption.  But I doubt it would happen in my lifetime unless Tyler Durden became a real person.


The first rule of Fight Club is You do not talk about Fight Club.  Even 18 years later, should that rule still apply?

This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.

The Yearly Pilgrimage 

It’s upon us.  The US Thanksgiving followed by Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

The sales ideology has slowly spread into Canada.  More and more stores are offering deals on many things from clothing to electronics in order to compete with our southern cousins.  It really is the first (or last) big push to drive sales before Christmas.  Door crashers and limited time offers for this weekend only.

I admit to being involved in this as well.  However, the one or two items I researched or desired did not truly grab hold of my attention, let alone my money.  Simply because of two things that I decided to process prior to tomorrow taking hold.

  1. Do I really need it?
  2. Is it worth going into debt for it?

After answering both those questions with a NO, it occurred to me that the hype was pulling me in too much.  I don’t need stuff to make me or my family happy.  If we don’t get something that isn’t a necessity we will survive just fine. Even if an item is a good deal, does putting it on credit or dipping into my over draft really going to save me any more money?


I’m not telling you how to spend or save your money.  If you’re like me and have a family, sometimes the pressure of supplying a fantastic Christmas or birthday can stress you out.  But it’s not all about how much you spend or how much you receive.  It’s about sharing joy. Joy that can come from a simple hand made item and a hug.  Joy that you see in the eyes of the ones whom you love.  Joy is what you make it out to be.

So remember if you partake in Black Friday deals, you are helping to boost the economy.  You are probably also saving money on those electionics and toys.  And whomever is on the receiving end of the gifts will probably be grateful in some way.  Just do your best to remain calm and kind to everyone else out there this weekend.  

Monday Money

Saving money is tough.  My work offers shares to the employees.  I take advantage of this and use it as a savings/emergency fund.  It’s a great way for me to pay off lump sums towards bills or entertainment.  However, I do wish that I could just leave it alone and let it accumulate for my family’s future.

So how does one save money and pay down debt at the same time?


There are many at my work that use the funds from our shares/stocks and move it around into other stock.  My knowledge of those markets is poor to say the least.  My other fear is that I’ll take a few thousand dollars and lose it all on a gamble.  Since I don’t play lotteries or go to the casino, gambling isn’t in my nature.  So quick gains like that won’t happen for me.  Even though I listen regularly to the Financial News, they say hindsight is 20/20.  So how do I get my money to make me money?

I really despise having credit cards.  There is no set interest rate. I’ve had cards at 12%, 18%, even as high as 28%.  So for every $100 of accumulated debt I would be paying back $128 if I can’t pay off the entire balance for a year. This is the rut that most people fall into.  You pay only part of it down, but the interest goes on top of the accumulated interest and debt.  Making your debt grow.  At first it starts off small, but then it can get overwhelming.


I got my first credit card in 1996 at age 20.  It had an $800 limit.  As soon as I got it in my possession, I used it.   I bought a brand new Nintendo 64 and a bass guitar.  I do not own either of those things anymore.  It took me years to pay off that debt.  But it started a cycle in my spending habits.  Rack up debt, freak out about not having money, get a windfall of some sort, pay off debt, plan on never doing it again, get a new card, rack up debt…  But why?

My wife and I try to teach our children abut saving money.  They have each earned money and saved for months/years to get something they really wanted, then start the savings process all over again.  But why can’t we follow our own advice?  I really don’t know.  Sometimes it’s just the convenience of pulling out a credit card to buy gas or groceries.  Other times it’s the sudden unexpected cost of a repair or incidental.  But rarely is it a spontaneous purchase of a luxury item.  We save up for those.

But if saving for a new iPhone or TV is easy to do, why can’t we live without that for an extra year or two and get our finances in control?  That seems to be the age old question.  The balance of want vs need.  The idea that life won’t really pass us by if we just wait a bit longer.

We’ll just keep trudging along, trying to gain a foothold in this crazy world, much like everyone else.

Fundraising Date Night

If you have children, then you understand the fact that there is always something to raise money towards.  Books for the school, new playground equipment, camps, or an arts program.  Outside of school, you are already spending money on scouts, hockey, dance, or in our case: speed skating and cheerleading- but they still require more money via fundraising.

Scary but true…


Last night, my wife and I attended a Pub Night fundraiser for the local high school.  It’s not the school that our children attend nor is it the one they will be attending, but it is a school that our friends have children attending.  They were fundraising for the musical theater department. I am always willing to support “The Arts” because that is often the best way for children to discover hidden talents.

The old adage of “It takes a village to raise a child” fits perfectly here.  I am a huge supporter of a good education.  Even if I didn’t have children, I’d still be ok with my tax dollars going towards education.  To me education isn’t just attending school, but rather learning skills and exploring talents.  

Last night’s fundraiser was also a great excuse for my wife and I to go on a dinner date.  Spending some one-on-one time with my wife lately has been fantastic.  We have finally been able to leave our children at home and come back to the house still standing.  It’s nice that they are growing more responsible these days, but it also means they aren’t our little babies anymore…

Regular Oil Changes.  Aka: “What else can we trick you into spending your money on?”

It seems that you can’t go anywhere without someone trying to take some of your hard earned dough.  I understand that businesses need to generate an income.  I understand that there are costs involved for putting on a show or an event and you need to charge an entry fee.  I understand taxes, levies, and interest rates.  I get it.  But it annoys me.  Some of the worst places that try and take my money are automotive shops.  


I go in for an oil change at $40.  That’s all I want to spend.  An oil change is all I need.  Just put the cheapest oil you can find in.  Put in vegetable oil for all I care.  I came here because I just don’t want to do the oil change myself anymore.  I don’t want to hear about transmission fluid levels or cleanliness.  Don’t tell me I need a new air filter because there’s some pixie dust and the wing off a fly stuck on it.  


Stop trying to use scare tactics by telling me that my brakes are at 10% less than they once were and that if I don’t look into getting new ones soon, my family will perish in a horrible accident as we careen off a cliff into the abyss.  Or that I should replace all the belts and hoses because they’re six months old already.  I never asked for a full inspection of my vehicle.  I asked for an oil change and my free newspaper while I wait.


Finally, don’t up-sell me on some fancy carwash that smears the dirt and barely cleans my windshield.  I have children who will do that for no charge.  Please stop trying to squeeze another dime out of my wallet.  

All I want is an oil change… and maybe an air freshener now since you’ve made me feel guilty for not succumbing to your sales tactics for the past twenty minutes.

See you in 3 months or 3000kms so we can do this dance all over again.