Act 358

A gift is something that is new to you.

We scaled back on Christmas expenses quite a bit this year. My boys asked for a computer. I’d set aside a bit of money to make it happen. When I realized what I’d have to spend to get them what they needed, I realized I didn’t have enough set aside. I called a local computer repair shop to ask if they sold refurbished desktops. I found what I needed for the budget I had. One son got the tower and the cables and mouse, the other the monitor and keyboard. Together, they are assured productive hours of building complex worlds on their favourite game called Minecraft. They are happy. And I made it through the first Christmas ever without putting a major expense on credit. Phew.

I’m relieved. And happy they are happy. Also, a bit frazzled and tired. Grateful for the season. And ready for my long winter’s nap.

Merry Christmas. Your support of this space has added much happiness and meaning to my 2013. Thank you. Sweet dreams.

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Act 342

It’s okay to say “I can’t afford it”.

This has always been a challenge for me. Rather than admit I’m short on money, I have at my disposal a litany of lines to get out of the uncomfortable admission that I don’t have the money. I’m busy. I’m sick. I’m working. I’m tired. I have other plans. I have to be home with the boys. Even after almost a year of this public exposure of my financial follies, I still have trouble saying the words “I can’t afford it”.

What happens when you say “I can’t afford it” is that people will offer it up for free, will offer to lend you money, will offer to pay for you or might not invite you back. That’s not what I want. I want to be able to afford what I want and by accepting the generosity of others, I’m admitting that I can’t afford it. You can certainly see the viciousness of this circle, can you not?

I’ve made excuses to get out of evenings out, lunches with colleagues, weekends away, sports registration and school fundraisers for the kids.

There’s no shame in not being able to afford something. In fact, it’s pretty reckless to do other wise. If anything, there is honour is being able to afford what you have. So why the stigma. Maybe it’s just me. But somehow, I doubt it.

Economics tells us we have unlimited wants and limited means. That’s just the way life is. How it’s come to be a shameful thing to not be able to afford something is a riddle to me. One I may not figure out anytime soon. But I will try. And I will admit, at least once in awhile, that there are some things I cannot afford, and I’m okay with that. And if I admit it to you, please don’t make excuses, or apologize and share your equally heart breaking story about the time you couldn’t justify the purchase you just made. Just acknowledge it. Maybe even admire it.

As consumers, we are preyed upon at every moment of every day to buy things we don’t need. I don’t know how much longer we can afford to ignore this omnipresent influence of gigantic corporations and ginourmous financial institutions.

Just think of it this way, every time you say out loud “I can’t afford it”, and put your credit card away, you’re denying a wall street banker another dollar. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face as you say it, I don’t know what will.

Act 339

Plan your shopping trip ahead of time.

I did this with my lovely neighbour. Last week we decided to plan a shopping trip together to pick up some much needed items. A foam mattress for my spare room, some kids clothes at Value Village. And a stop at the wholesale club for some kitchen items. It was great. I had a budget and a list, a timeline and good company. Most everything I bought was on sale or only available at those particular places. Plus, it was great fun.

You have to shop in life. That’s just the way it is. But the way you shop often determines how much you spend. If you browse and hang out at the mall, you’ll be tempted. We avoided that scene. Mostly had the stores to ourselves (everyone else must have been at that mall) and got what needed doing done.

Act 95

Pay a little more, a little sooner.

It’s all about momentum. Once you start seeing results, start paying a little more a little sooner on your debt. It adds up. And use whatever windfall you come across (even a very small rebate from your credit union or a tax refund) to put towards it to and focus on one goal at a time. If you see progress, you’ll want more of it.

Act 13

Shop small.

I love grocery shopping. It’s like a fun game for me. Recently I’ve challenged myself to only use the little carts which forces me to only buy a few items at a time. I try to avoid the middle aisles and stick to the outside ones instead (bread, dairy, meat, fruit and veg only).

Some would argue that it’s better to meal plan and shop for a week or more at a time but I find the shop small strategy is easier on my cash flow and keeps my budget in check.

And since I love to grocery shop anyway, I’m happy to visit more than once a week.

Act 03

Get an oil change

Sometimes ignoring a small maintenance issue can lead to big (and expensive) problems. And while you’re at it, check your tire pressure, windshield washer and consider a quick car wash. Taking care of an existing asset is a form of saving money too.

I went to the Great Canadian Oil Change drive-thru service in Salmon Arm. Twenty minutes and fifty dollars later, my ride is good as new(ish).

Act 01

Draft a personal budget

I drafted a personal budget for 2013. An honest one. Nothing fancy. Just a list of my revenue and my expenses so I can see where the money comes in and where the money goes out. I also did the same for my small business. Now I have a more realistic sense of exactly what lies ahead.

as seen on pinterest

as seen on pinterest

Gail Vaz Oxlade of  the television series Till Debt Do Us Part has great resources on her site Debt-Free Forever. Her budget work sheet and get out of debt worksheets were particularly helpful for me.