Welcome! and Welcome Back!

This morning at 7:50, my phone rang. It was a 514 area code. I panicked a bit. I don’t often get calls from back east first thing in the morning. So I assumed it was important I answered. And I’m glad that I did.

On the end of the line was a lovely reporter  writing this story for the National Post and asking about this blog. It’s been a while since I’ve checked in here. Mostly because after 365 days of debt defying acts, I was ready to move on. That was a year and a half ago. I’m delighted it still resonates with those concerned with the debt load of Canadian families. I still share that concern.

I thought it worthwhile to provide a quick update on what’s happened since December 31, 2013.

1) I still have debt – less of it – but it’s still there.
2) I feel as though I own it now rather than the other way around.
3) I earn more income. It took time to make that happen but it’s happened.
4) I have more cash flow and a healthier bank balance.
5) I still only use my credit card for work. If I can’t make money using it, I don’t use it.
6) I’m a much better cook
7) My wardrobe is more eclectic as I curate most of my outfits from thrift stores.
8) I don’t really enjoy shopping anymore. And I don’t miss it either.
9) I rarely go out for meals. I enjoy cooking at home much more.
10) In June, I’ll re-sign my mortgage for about half the rate. I’ll delight in that and all the extra money will go straight to the debt.

So if this is your first visit as a result of the piece in the Financial Post,  thanks for stopping by. Please know that you can do it. One dollar at a time. One decision at a time. One commitment at a time.

If you have too much debt, you likely don’t have enough money. Not always the case, but more or less the norm. So forget about money and remember that what you do have, what we all have, is the same amount of time. So use your time wisely. Forget about convenience foods, drive-thrus, low interest cards, buy now pay later schemes, getting ahead or keeping up with the neighbours. Just stop.

Make a budget. Learn to cook again. Do it yourself. Re-use it. Repair it. Mend it. Buy it second-hand.

Plan your escape from the busy trap. A simple life is more meaningful and much cheaper. Seek out an experience rather than an expense. Experience adds value. Most expenses do not.

In this economy, and this society, we always talk about price, profit and return. Somewhere in that important equation was lost the importance of value and equilibrium. That’s what we need to seek. That’s what debt defying taught me and I’m the better for it.

Commit a debt defying act. It might be the most valuable thing you do. Plus, it won’t cost you a dime.

If you need to chat, comment on this blog or e-mail me at louise@mediability.bc.ca – I’ve been there and I’m happy to help if I can.

Thanks

There will be good days!

If you’re on this debt journey, you’ve faced some difficult days and some big worries. I know how you feel. Really, I do.

But today I write to tell you that your hard work and soul searching will pay off. Today was a good day. One of the best in fact. I can say with some confidence (the only certainty in life is uncertainty after all), that I made it through and I’m better for it and so will you be.

It’s so true that everything happens for a reason. I was a spender. Now I’m a saver. I’ve done more with less than I knew that I was capable of and now I have more. More sanity, more balance, more certainty, more confidence and more calm and for today at least, more money in my bank account.

Ironically, it’s not even about the money. It’s about owning up to the problem, seeing the tunnel, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, thinking it might be a freight train, but walking through all the same. Turns out, the other side is a warm spring sunny day in the Shuswap. The snow melts, the birds sing, the sun warms.

There are two sayings that have kept me going. First “If you’re going through hell, keep going” and second “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end”. Please. Keep. Going.

Speak up

I am following this story online today because it reminds me that I’m not alone. And neither are you. The conservative government commissioned an internal report to study the middle class as the Globe and Mail reports here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/middle-class-dreams-a-myth-in-troubled-economy-internal-government-report/article17056573/

In BC, it’s particularly difficult as 40% of us live pay cheque to pay cheque and our average non-mortgage debt is $40,000 each. Eeek!

Maybe you’re like me. Somewhere between wondering about and feeling disappointed that your financial objectives and expectation are way out of whack. I’m not suggesting I know how to fix it (obviously I don’t), I merely continue to point out that banks sell debt that we buy. The government boasts about the strength of our banking system while scolding us for buying the debt from which they profit. Consumer spending (and consumer debt) saved us from a much worst outcome in 2008. Meanwhile, we’re still in debt and the big banks are still reaping astronomical profits. Something is definitely out of whack. And if we don’t speak up, nothing will happen. If we do, at least we’ll have a chance of affecting some sort of change.

Please write your MP or your MLA outlining your concerns about your economy and your livelyhood wether in general or specifically to your situation. Or write a letter to the editor of your local paper, or start a blog, just do something. Because you are not alone and the louder we are, the more likely they are to hear us.

Volunteer!

So many of us think we have to spend money to go out. Not so.

What’s more, when you go out and have to spend money to do so, you’re not assured of  a great outing. You might not get the service your expect or the quality you’d hoped for. I can think of many evenings at the pub or restaurant where my expectations were too high for the money I spent.

However, if you volunteer for a community event, you can be most assured of a great experience. You are most always welcomed with open arms and well taken care of. Plus, the experience is more meaningful because you’ve done some good. Even if it’s hard work.

I spent my Saturday volunteering at the local public art gallery for a lunch event. Such fun. Great company, great cause, great food, great fun. Only cost me time, not a dime.

If your community has a volunteer bureau (ours doesn’t but needs one in case anybody reading this can change that), sign up and help out. Feels good to do good.

Ask your kids to help

Hi there

It’s been too long. I had grand plans of reblogging everything I blogged about but decided that’s boring. Not that much fun for me and probably not that much fun for you. All the posts from 001 to 365 are here for you if you want to read them.

Instead, I’ll just pitch a debt defying act to you from time to time for your thoughts and consideration. I will say this year is going much better than last. Seems I have a handle on it. Even if it’s still a grave situation in which we find ourselves. Slaves to the debt economy.

Anyway, that aside, one tactic I use is to enlist my kids’ help. They each have a main job and it helps us to keep on top of chores. A tidier house seems a happier one in our case as it is quite tiny.

Have a great week!

Week 4 – Recap

Week 4 Recap
Almost to the end of January. Once you’ve done something for 30 days, your brain starts to believe you really are changing your habits. Keep up the good work.

Act 22
Cut to the bone.
Chicken that is. Cheaper to buy a whole one and learn how to cut it properly. Plus, it’s home-made chicken soup waiting to happen. 

Pizza dough is play dough you can eat.
You can buy a hot pizza for $15
You can buy a frozen pizza for $7.50
You can make your own for half again. 

Act 24
Follow @‏GailVazOxlade on Twitter
or follow her on facebook or follow her site. just follow her. she will inspire you to stand up for yourself and take control of your money and your debt.

Act 25
Make every minute count
Plan your errands well. You can save time and money by doing so. Then do them (instead of just putting them on the list)

Find new ways to use old things
Pinterest is a great source for ideas and there are plenty of things around the house that can serve more than one purpose

Act 27
Have a picnic.
I easily saved $1,000 by bringing food along and avoiding expensive stops at restaurants and convenience stores. Plus, it’s more fun.

Act 28
Don’t burn the candle at both ends.
Still guilty of this I’m afraid. But I’ll keep trying. 

Have a great week!

Week 3 – Recap

Three weeks into 2014. This is about the time we start to give up on our resolutions. Be brave. Keep going. It’s already working. Promise yourself you’ll try for at least the month of January. Ironically, today is said to be Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year – so prop yourself up and resist the temptation to give in. Don’t let Blue Monday get to you.

Act 15 – Laches Pas!
Posted on January 16, 2013
Don’t give up. Ever. 

Act 16 – Find the “i” in Gratitude
Posted on January 17, 2013
When things go your way, take time to find some gratitude. It makes life sweater

Act 17 – Talk to the moms
Posted on January 18, 2013
The moms, or whatever you consider your circle, are great resources for tips and ideas. Reach out. People want to help. 

Act 18 – When life gives you stale bread, make yummy croutons
Posted on 
January 19, 2013
I kid you not, I saved at least $100 last year by taking stale bread and making my own croutons. It’s easy. You’ll never look at a box of croutons at the grocery store the same way again. Ever. 

Act 19 – Go with the flow
Posted on January 20, 2013
Not everyone will share your determination and, dare I say it, obsession with your debt defying acts. Go with the flow. Your debt is an issue, yes. But it’s not the only issue, not by far. 

Act 20 – Live small
Posted on January 20, 2013
We’re obsessed with big, are we not. Small is cheaper. Smaller houses, smaller cars. Just smaller. You might find you’re spending big mortgage dollars on a house full of rooms you rarely use. Something to think about. 

Act 21 – Go ahead. Ask.
Posted on January 22, 2013
Leverage your business relationships. Reciprocity is important in business and as the owner operator of a household, you are a defacto business owner. So if you need a little something extra from the people you do business with, go ahead, ask. Won’t hurt. 

 

Week 2 Recap

Hi there,

Hope the first week back to the routine went well and you’re still resolved to change your relationship with money. Here’s a recap of week two.

Act 08

Bundle Up!
A reminder to keep an eye on your heating bill. And it wouldn’t kill ya to keep a blanket or extra sweater handy around the house. Home heating is a big expense. Especially this winter. You can stay warm and not burn your budget while you’re at it. Turn the heat down when you’re away from home or overnight when you’re cozy in your blankets.

Act 09

Take a nap
This is more about staying rested. If a nap work for you, then go for it They say napping can reduce stress levels and improve decision making. I’m a fan.

Act 10

Don’t panic.
I get those moments too. It’s perfectly normal. But get over it because it certainly doesn’t help. Breathe. You can get through this.

Act 11

Say no.
This is a tough one. But it gets easier to say no. And sometimes, the truth is, no just needs saying.


Act 12

Share well with others.
We don’t all need a lawnmower and a snow blower. As neighbours and communities we can share and we should.


Act 13

Shop small.
This is as much about where you shop as how much you shop for. I’m a fan of the quick shop. A few things only. And nothing that wasn’t on the list. I have cut my grocery budget in half. Really, I have.


Act 14

Put it in writing.
If you’re dealing with formal “stuff” make sure you put it in writing either as a written note in a file or a follow up e-mail or a formal letter. The written word still matters.

Week 1 Recap

Hi again

Happy New Year. Here’s a recap with links of week one of my debt defying acts. Think of it as last year in fast foward mode. Hope you enjoy. I plan to recap a week at a time.

Act 01Draft a personal budget

Not a big deal. Just a tally of what you earn and what you spend. Back of the napkin sorta stuff. It’ll help. It’s a start.

Act 02 Make an appointment with your banker

Your branch manager should know who you are. Introduce yourself. Make an appointment. Make it clear you’re just asking for a meeting (not a loan) so they don’t pull a credit report unnecessarily.

Act 03 Get an oil change

This is more about maintaining what you have. Don’t neglect your assets. Small steps can save on big expenses.

Act 04 Get a Part Time Job

If you can find the time, it’s worth a try. Wether it’s a few shifts serving at a community fundraiser or a part time contract. Saving is one thing, but making more money has to be part of the equation too.

Act 05 Go Play Outside

This is more about how you use your time. Rather than head to the mall or go to the movies, just play outside with your kids. Grab a crazy carpet and go sledding or build a fort or go for a walk. Whatever it takes, you can do it for free.

Act 06 Pay Attention

Do some research. You might be surprised what really happens in the banking and insurance industries. At least I was. Watching Inside Job was important for me.

Act 07 Go for Lunch at the Grocery Store

It’s important to get out of the office. That doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive lunch. Your grocery store is a great start. A banana, some milk, a bun. Mix and match. Sometimes I can buy a week’s worth of lunch for the price of one sit down meal at my favourite cafe.

Have a great week. Talk again soon!