Act 149

Bottled water and bagged ice are for those who like to pay twice

Maybe this just makes me cheap. But really, bottled water, bagged ice? We all pay for water. And we’re very fortunate to have it. Lots of clean affordable water. Most of us have freezers too. And those handy dandy little ice trays? Yup, I bet you’ve got a few of those.

Heading out for a weekend with cooler in tow? Throw a tupperware container of water in the freezer and there you go. Ice ice baby.

Keep a water bottle with you. Fill it up as you go. We really are so fortunate to have access to clean water. It astounds me how we’re willing to pay for our water twice – once as taxpayers and again as customers. Silly.

When I went to Africa, I saw people walk miles from nowhere just to get water. And we ship water from around the world to giant grocery stores where we can buy it for what we think is cheap cheap cheap. Or, worst (and I’ve done this too), pay a premium because it comes from France or Italy – even worse. That use of resources alone could pay for the infrastructure others need to meet the basic requirements of a healthy community. WTH is the matter with us sometimes. Having one of those days, I guess.

The amount of money that’s made on ice and water, I’m surprised they aren’t selling steam. If you can make that much money on the liquid and solid version, they why not gas?    Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Because it is.

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Act 148

Don’t panic.

I awoke a bit panicked today – not sure why – probably because the end of the month approaches – which is always a bit nerve wracking for a business owner with no business line of credit. If the invoices issued at the beginning of the month aren’t paid by the end of the month – it can make paying the end of the month bills a bit of high wire act. And I’ve never been one for heights.

None the less, a quick check of the account tells me it’s going to be okay – not great – but okay – and then, as if fate itself intervened to re-assure me I saw a great story on Twitter about a young woman who paid off $ 30,000 of debt in two years. I read her story, tweeted her my congrats and even thanked the journalist who wrote the story for sharing a good news debt narrative for a change. And I felt better. And less panicky.

Debt can be isolating. Most of us have it. Yet few of us talk about it. Doesn’t make much sense. Certainly doesn’t make it any easier – until you read stories like those of this blogger who remind us that we’re all on our own journey – and we must find our way. And when someone else finds their way, we can all learn from it.

Just because something is awkward to talk about doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about. In fact, it’s a guaranteed sign that it’s crying out for conversation. So don’t panic. But do talk and do listen. We’ve got a lot to learn from one another.

Act 147

Re-invest and/or re-fund when/if you happen to get one.

I was reimbursed for the expense of some dental work for my son. It was quick and painless (wish I could say that about the actual dental work).

Anyway, rather than cash it and put it back in my weekly budget, I’ll keep it and put it in my teenie tiny RRSP. Compound interest kills you when you’re in debt – but it can work for you when you save. So I’ll save a bit to help counter the balance. $250 now dollars can be $1,000 later dollars. So I’ll keep those ones for later. Unless we have another emergency visit to the dentist.

Don’t forget to floss. It saves money too.

Act 146

Buy only inconvenient food

You know, like flour and butter and eggs and oil and veg and fruit and milk and cheese – the ingredients you need to make your own meal.

Just for fun, I took a few pics of some convenience foods whose price points defy logic – except for their convenience factor.

Naan bread. 2 pieces. $3.09. I could make you a dozen pieces for less than $3.09.
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Shake and bake. Like two pieces of old dried bread zapped into crumbs with a bit of spice. $2.99 – would you pay $2.99 for two pieces of old bread?

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I hope not.

Most of what sells at grocery stores is convenience, not ingredients. To get the best value for your food budget, buy what’s inconvenient and keep the money spent on packaging, marketing, shipping and display instead.

I have cut my grocery bill in half. And my pantry is better stocked than it’s ever been. And that’s money I can use to pay down my existing debt while being sure not to accumulate any more by spending more than I need on food that’s convenient, not cost effective.

Debt’s not convenient either – but convenience foods makes it worse. So go for inconvenience whenever you can.

Act 145

Make a Sunday Sundae

It would seem that a sundae was invented to cover ice cream up so it didn’t appear to be ice cream so you could eat it on Sunday (which was prohibited by law).

Now, thank heavens, we can eat ice cream on any day of the week but the price of the indulgence can be prohibitive. A Peanut Buster Parfait at DQ will run you about $6. You can pick up syrup at the store – but it’s prohibitive too. So we make our own.

Pick up a few bananas (still the budget friendliest fruit at the store), some ice cream (watch for sales – seems almost always one brand is on special). Chocolate sauce is 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and some cream melted over hot water. Strawberry sauce is simple to make as well. If you’ve got strawberries and sugar, you’re good to go. Add some sprinkles or just have it in a cone – whatever suits your fancy – and have a Sunday sundae party.

It’s a sweet ending (or beginning) to another week.

cones

Act 144

Play a board game (well, except maybe this one…)

I checked out a few garage sales today with my next door neighbour buddy. We had so much fun. I found a few vintage pieces for my kitchen collection, some wooden checkers, a couple of vintage board games, some dice and a great old work bench.

I found the first vintage board game at a  community garage sale for the SPCA. It’s called  Stock Ticker – and I bought it not to play it but to be sure no one else would – eek. Here’s a picture of the game description – disturbing – but hilarious all the same.

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So I’ll stick to Yahtzee and spare my children the lessons of stock ticker – that is, unless I preface it by making them watch Inside Job first so they can understand the real power of the games that grown ups play.

Act 143

Go Downtown

Petula Clark was onto something. Things will be great when you’re downtown. My take? There’s a couple reasons for this.

1) Local merchants who live where you live
2) Community events organized for fun not for profit
3) Being outside rather than being in an artificially controlled climate

Tonight we participated in a community bike ride. Free, fun and a great sense of community, not to mention a bit of needed exercise.

So maybe I’ll see you there. Forget all your troubles (including your debt) and go downtown.

Act 142

Make a campfire.

Reconnect to nature. Make a campfire from nothing. Yesterday’s newspaper, a few twigs, a few leaves, a few branches. Next thing you know, it’s happened. A warm fire and whispy flames to enjoy.

Debt defying is like a campfire. You start small. Don’t try and start too big, you’ll only extinguish your efforts. And like a campfire, your debt needs your constant attention or your efforts will be for nothing.

So I won’t delay – other than to say this – as I have some flames to attend to.

PS – if you’re feeling particularly stressed, try this trick too – write your worries on a piece of paper and feed them to the fire – they too will burn away and tomorrow you will feel better.

Act 141

If Team Debt has no captain, how can we beat this all star line up?

I read the remarks made by Superintendent Julie Dickson of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada (OSFI) to the 2013 Bloomberg Canada Economic Summit on May 21. True enough, it doesn’t say much for my social life, but nevertheless, it made for an interesting read.

Interesting because I searched a few words to get the gist of her comments. Not surprisingly, the winner was – you guessed it – bank (33), followed by interest (15), financial (14), rates (13), market (10), mortgage (8), risk and real estate (4) with insurance (2) and profit (1) rounding out my random count.

What dismayed me was that other than the word household (2), which I guess is what us ordinary people are called in those circles, there was zero (0) mention of the words family or families, Canadians, people, home or even money – never mind health or well-being of any of the above.

Maybe we need a Superintendent of Working Canadian Families, someone to present our case and our cause at summits to business leaders in the financial sector who rely on our debt to earn their living. Just maybe.

Canada has a well-funded Bank of Canada, a well-funded Canadian Bankers Association, a well-funded Canadian Real Estate Association, a well-funded well, you get the idea… Macleans reports  the top 10 lobby groups on Parliament Hill here. You won’t find the words ordinary, working or family in that list either.

Towards the end of Ms. Dickson’s remarks, she states: “Low growth affects employment rates and the standard of living. The crisis demonstrated the importance of the safety and soundness of banks…”

I might argue that those sentences should be revised to read instead, “the importance of the safety and soundness of banks is of greater concern than the employment rates and standard of living among ordinary Canadians – hence, there is no growth – and that is the crisis.”

It’s all in how you say a thing it seems, and nobody’s saying anything on our behalf, at least not officially anyway.

If anyone out there is brave enough to make the speech, I’ll help to write it because we’ve got alot of make-up games on the schedule ahead.

Play ball!

Act 140

The word mortgage is made up of two latin words – Mort – which means death and gage which means pledge – a mortgage is a death pledge. Yikes.

So get this – here’s a quote from a study about the JAK Bank in Sweden which does not charge compound interest and yes, still makes money. Believe it. And start asking why we aren’t asking more about the perils of compound interest on our economic and social well being.

Compound interest rates have a huge impact on our lives, socially, economically,and environmentally.Yet this issue is seldom discussed let alone analyzed.The sheer mathematical facts reveal what the compounding of interest over short intervals does to governments,small businesses,and households for the benefit ofglobal banks.In ordinary circumstances,a debt at 3% compound interest will double in 24 years;at 6% will double in 12 years;and at 12% will double in 6 years.Thus with a variable rate interest on a 25-year mortgage, homeowners frequently pay three to four times the sum they borrowed in the first place.Ifpayments are missed,penalty charges, default fees, and interest charged on interest can escalate costs higher still. 

The Latin origin ofthe word“mortgage”–“grip of death”– spells out the dangers that the debt treadmill involves.The more people owe creditors,the more they have to work to pay it off. Forty years ago,mortgages were mainly paid by one wage-earner.Now it takes two earners to keep pace with thetreadmill.

I don’t know, I think I’m ready to move to Sweden or advocate for a bank or credit union that will also liberate me, my neighbours, my friends, my family and my community by moving to fee based and interest free lending. You with me?

Need more? Read on here.