Act 365

Keep Calm and Carry On

I know for some this is a trivial saying but for me, it’s an anthem for overcoming adversity in difficult times. The history of the campaign inspires me to be better in my work as a designer and publisher and in my life as a mom, wife, daughter and friend.

I’ve been thinking about this post for many months. Had grand plans to thank you as readers for your support and kindness with some sort of dazzling visual doodad. But then something happened.

You see, at about 2:30 this afternoon, my husband phoned to say he’d driven himself to the local emergency room after a crash on the ski hill. He was quickly admitted and put on a spinal board with a neck collar.

In the emergency room we talked about the mundane. The dinner plans, the boys day, how to get the truck home, what time the pharmacies close on New Year’s Eve. We didn’t panic. We sat quietly and waited together. The hospital staff were amazing. The news is good. A “smushed” vertebrae (the actual term the doctor used) in the T area of the spine. No spinal cord injury. He’ll be very sore, off work for a few days and managing the injury with pain medication. A bit higher or lower and it would have meant surgery and possibly worse. That I can’t think about now.

What I can think about is that a year ago today, when I stood on my front porch and decided that on December 31 of 2013 I would find myself in a better position than on December 31 of 2012, I had no idea that it would have so little to do with money and debt given the dodging of today’s bullet.

So my new year’s resolution for 2014 is to Keep Calm & Carry on. Our lives aren’t only judged by our accomplishments, they are judged by our failures and our misfortunes too. How you deal with all of them defines you. I wish you the fortitude to stay calm and the courage to carry on.

So like the story of Keep Calm & Carry On itself, this blog has been my “very simple and warm hearted message to inspire confidence in others during difficult times”.

Thank you for everything and the happiest of new years. Your kindness and support will far outlive my debt. For that, I am eternally grateful.


PS – I will carry on. I plan to revisit previous posts and send updates about how well it worked (or didn’t work) from time to time. I’ll hope you’ll keep following and stay in touch. We’ve still got plenty of work to do.


Act 350

Poverty does not equal stupidity

Many things have shocked and surprised me this year. Just 15 days away from a year of debt defying acts, I am resolute in my conviction that money is not fair, nor it is always very smart. Look around, it’s not a meritocracy, it’s a gong show.

We’ve never had more wealth yet  personal debt is higher than ever.

Despite years of perfecting the so called just in time inventory model that sees kiwis from New Zealand, and grapes from Chile available year round at our local grocery stores, we still manage to send kids to school hungry.

Despite rock bottom interest rates (which the banks loath), we still see record bank profits (and I do mean record). The Royal Bank recent quarterly earning would have paid for all the damage done in the Alberta flood almost twice over.

Income inequality is getting worse. Why? Because the scales have tipped so far in favour of the rich, those of us who aren’t rich are, well, poor. There isn’t much middle ground left.

Consider this, every time you use your bargain basement credit card, you contribute to a system that sees premium credit card holders benefit from privileges you could only dream off; valet parking, room  upgrades, first class seats. You pay for that.

Consider this, every time you pay your medical service premiums in BC (the only province to still have such a system), you help bankroll one of the largest companies in the US (Hewlett Packard) whose Canadian subsidiary collects under the guise of BC Revenue Services.

Consider this, every time you shop at Walmart, you  support the largest private employer and one of the most profitable companies in the world. Yet most of their US employees live below the poverty line and are subsidized by State welfare systems. You help make that happen.

I bet you didn’t even know that. How could you? It’s so far buried in free market, invisible hand capitalist propaganda, you’d need a team of lawyers and accountants to really know which way is up. The only reason I know this is because I’ve spent way too much time staying up past my bed time writing about debt. But I did learn a thing or two along the way.

But my overriding sentiment this pre-Christmas week is that people treat you differently when you don’t have money. Like you’re stupid and you don’t know better. Poverty is a circumstance, not a state of mind. Big difference.

When I couldn’t afford a dental procedure, I was referred to a low income option. I don’t need special treatment. Dentist need to offer affordable care. Like saying I can’t afford a diamond so the government sets up a low income diamond purchasing program to protect the diamond merchants profit margins. Total BS.

When I found a mistake on my credit report, I was told that it my responsibility to have it fixed. Wrong. Not my mistake. Not my responsibility. But my loss of a stellar credit rating.

When I was charged mortgage insurance on a mortgage that no longer existed, I was told the staff was misinformed. Again, not my mistake. Not my responsibility. But my expense.

I might be poor but I’m not  stupid. And neither are you. If you have been treated unfairly, disrespected, dismissed or ignored, please stand up. Make a call, send an e-mail, write a letter, tweet, facebook. Demand that your concerns be addressed. Because when you do, you stand up for the rest of us. And there is safety in numbers. There are more of us than there are of them. And only the really stupid among us would ignore this.

There are some very wealthy people who are smart (and kind) enough to know this. And I bet it keeps them up at night. It’s a travesty. It’s our depression, our stagflation, our OPEC crisis, all rolled into one giant gong show. And we must find our way past it the smartest way we know how.

Act 346

Give food.

Tonight the CP Holiday Train pulled into town to help raise funds for the local food bank. It’s always a big draw. We do love trains. Especially the shiny, brightly lit ones with Santa on board.

I’ll try and leave my corporate cynicism at the door as to the reason CP goes to this expense. On some level, CP must understand that people enjoy exchanging something ordinary (food and money) for something extraordinary (Santa on a train with a band and lights that can be seen from outer space). So on that front, it’s successful.

The real message is about giving. And we probably don’t need such an extravagant display to give. But judging by the crowd, it certainly helps.

I’ll try and set aside my concern that food banks are a very serious symptom of what’s wrong with our society and our economy, but I’ll set that aside too.

Bottom line, there are people who need food who haven’t enough. There are people who know this and volunteer to fill that need. So give what you can.

Ironically, debt is a product of wealth. If I have debt it’s because I have wealth. If I lived in poverty, I wouldn’t have debt. I also wouldn’t have what I needed to feed my family. All things considered, I’m lucky. So if I can give a few dollars or some pasta and beans, I will. We all should.

And maybe, just maybe, Santa will give us the wherewithal to understand and address the root causes of income inequality and poverty so that one day soon, we no longer have a need for food banks at all.


Act 292

Take turns

Yes, I know. This is one of those things you learn in kindergarten but it still applies to us as adults.

As the end of the year approaches, both my husband and I have some very big projects to finish up and some fairly ambitious financial targets to hit. So our weekend time is becoming ever more scarce. Our compromise was for each of us to work one day and keep one day to be with the kids and deal with the house. He worked Saturday, while I had my pyjama day. I worked today while he hung out with the boys and did fun boy stuff including grocery shopping (which our kids do oddly enjoy). Worked out well.

There’s no “i” in debt, or team for that matter – so find an approach that makes the best of the time and the team that you have.

Act 161

Stop and Plan

It’s important to stop, take stock and plan. Summer’s nearly here which means we’re nearly half way through the year. So it’s important to just stop and check in on your plan. In my case, the plan was about stopping a runaway train. And I’ve done that. But debt is still a useless employee – eating up important resources and not contributing anything to the team. So it’s about keeping momentum. and living with less.

But it’s also about the plan. And stopping for a bit to check in on it – rewrite the parts that aren’t working and recognizing the parts that are.

That’s what I’ll focus on the next few days so the second half of the year builds on the momentum of the first.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. We all have to think like The Little Engine that Could.

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.