Give Me Back My Five Bucks - a quest for financial independence

Recent Posts

Are you getting a holiday bonus?

Do you get a year-end bonus from work around the holidays? I haven’t worked for a company that has given out annual bonuses for a while, but now I am, I’m faced with the problem of how I’m going to spend the money. A good problem to have. :) And while I’m tempted to spend it on a new laptop or a trip somewhere tropical, I know this small windfall will give me the opportunity to achieve a few financial goals I’ve been putting off.

Here are a couple smart ways I’ve spent my annual bonus in the past:

Pay off something

Do you have a small balance on your credit card, an outstanding medical bill, or are you six months away from making your final car payment? Using your bonus to pay off your bills will help lower your debt obligation – giving you more breathing room each month. When I was paying off my student loans, I would throw any extra money I had towards that debt, and was able to eliminate it a lot faster than I had originally anticipated.

Improve your home

This is a big one for me now that I’m a homeowner. I’m finding there’s always something that needs to be done, and often times I put it off until the last minute. But things that are barely working will break down eventually, and using the bonus money to get them fixed now will save me money in the future. I know that not only will these improvements make me happier hanging out at home, but it will likely also increase the value of my home in the process.

Start a side business

If you’ve been saving money to start a new business, or if you want to take your existing business to the next level, using your bonus is a great opportunity to invest your money into your future. I have definitely spent bonus money on improving my websites, office equipment, and buying hosting. And I have a couple of friends who have received bonuses and invested that money that into a real, legitimate side business. One used the money to buy supplies and launch a store on Etsy.com, where she makes anywhere from $300-500 in extra income each month. And the other friend was able to buy additional baking equipment, which allowed her to offer more items to her clients.

Buy insurance

Set the money aside for the next time your home or car insurance comes up for renewal. That way you won’t be scrambling to find the money when the time comes. I used to get a small bonus every year from one of the companies I worked for, and felt pretty triumphant when it came to renew my car insurance, and could pay for the entire year in cash. Small win, I know. But back then, it was a major accomplishment. :)

Pay for a financial advisor

A financial advisor will be able to help you develop a personal plan of attack, and provide the peace of mind knowing that you are working with a sound investment strategy – and that you are on your way to achieving all your financial goals. Look for a fee-for-service advisor – unlike other financial advisors who might charge a percentage of your income or by trade, a fee-for-service advisor charges a flat fee or an hourly rate for providing specific services.

This year, I’m leaning towards getting a plumber in to fix my sink, and then putting half into my TFSA, and the other half onto my mortgage.

If you are getting an annual bonus this year, what will you spend it on?

Oh, hello December!

I’m still here! It has been a crazy few weeks. It’s already December and I’ve realized this blog has been neglected for a month. And for that, I’m sorry. :( Work was starting to get insanely busy at the end of October, and all of sudden, I found myself working those 65 hour/weeks I was trying to avoid. But that’s how it goes sometimes. And now that it looks like everything has calmed down a bit, I can get back on track with managing the rest of my life. :)

Here are a few updates about what’s happening these days:

Finances

The two stocks I’ve invested in are up 46% and 21% from this time last year, so I’m pretty happy about that. My only issue (and it’s a big one), I don’t exactly have an exit strategy. I’ve been doing a bit of reading online, so that will be my my financial focus for the rest of the year.

I’m continuing to invest $600/month into my TD Canada Trust e-series funds. I rebalanced my portfolio back in the beginning of November, and will be looking to increase my contribution rate next year.

Work

I’ve been at this job since March, and have enjoyed my time here. The job offers 3 weeks of holidays, but there’s flexibility in that I can bank extra hours for more time off. That is extremely useful because BF gets 4 weeks of holidays each year, and next year he’ll have 5 weeks.

I think I’m contributing what I can, but I know I could be doing more. The department is getting restructured, and we are bringing in an additional resource which should help balance the workload. That also means I can focus on projects that play into my strengths, instead of getting bogged down with other tasks.

There’s a lot of potential here for marketing to grow, and I think there’s the proper people in management to realize that. I’ve worked for companies before that wouldn’t allow for new ideas to be explored, which hurts both the company and its employees.

Health

My foot has been feeling a lot better, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably can’t run long distance and play field hockey at the same time. When I just focus on one activity, my foot seems to hold up fairly well. That’s really disappointing to hear. So if that’s the case, I’ll continue to play field hockey for the next couple of years, and only stick to running during the summer months.

Personal

For the first time in my life, I’ll be splitting up my time at Christmas. For 32 years, my family has pretty much the same routine from December 24-25-26, and I’m the first one that will be breaking it. :| This year, I’ll be spending Christmas Eve with BF’s family (they’re doing a Xmas murder mystery party!), and taking the ferry home in the afternoon Christmas Day. It’ll be weird not to wake up and have breakfast and open presents with the family, but at the same time, I’m excited to create my own holiday tradition as well.

Anyway, that’s the update on life over here. I’ve got a lot of things I want to write about, so stay tuned. :)

October 2014 Goals: Recap

As you can tell, I stopped posting my weekly spending recaps. I started doing them just as a reminder for myself, and since you guys seem pretty divided about them, I thought I’d just stop posting them altogether. :)

This was a decent month. I went over a little on my budget due to an oil change I forgot I needed to have done, but overall I’m pretty happy considering it was a really social and event-filled month. I went to TheatreSports twice, saw a VIFF movie, two concerts, a couple dinners out with friends, and a Halloween party. Not to mention buying two birthday presents this month (noted in the ‘Miscellaneous’ category).

10-Oct-Recap

 Over Budget:

  • Utilities – I didn’t think I’d be turning on the heat this early in the year, but I did. And I paid for it. :)
  • Car & Transportation – I did a lot of driving this month, and it also included an oil change and a new air filter.

Net Worth Change: + $1,463 (1.44%)

Even though the stock market was up and down this month (mostly down), I still managed to post a small gain. This was due to contributions to my TFSA, RRSP, and my mortgage payments.

October 2014 Goals:

  • Sign up for education info sessions. CHECK! I signed up for two sessions. The first one is in 2 weeks, and the next one is 2 weeks after that. I’m excited to learn more. It feels empowering being able to take control of my future and improve myself.
  • Rebalance my Retirement Portfolio. CHECK! I didn’t have to move around too much money, but it was good to take a look at what my investments have been doing over the past year. Sometimes I feel like my contributions aren’t adding up as quickly as I want them to, but I need to remember that I won’t need this money for another 25-30 years. :)
  • Pull my credit report. CHECK! Everything looks normal to me.
  • Declutter my house. PASS. I cleaned up, but definitely didn’t declutter. Typical.

Looking at surgery

New runners: Brooks Adrenaline!Earlier this year, I mentioned how I wanted to put big travel plans on hold because I could have upcoming medical expenses that could cost me thousands. Well, now that I know a little bit more about the cost, I can share with you. :)

You probably know I’ve been having foot problems for over a year. After finding a passion for distance running last year, I injured myself in August of last year. Since then, I’ve stopped and started training programs a couple of times due to this nagging injury. Well, a few weeks ago I finally went to see a podiatrist, got x-rays, and today I went in and discussed the options available to me.

Basically, I need to get bunion surgery at some point. The bones in my big toe are drifting farther away from my foot, and surgery is the only answer to permanently fixing my problem. Otherwise it’s only going to get worse.

It will cost a total of $6,000 for both feet through the podiatrist (each foot has to be done separately), plus a recovery time of 4-5 weeks for each surgery. 2 weeks in a cast (1 week at home), and then 2-3 weeks of recovery/no exercise until I can start moving again. The cost of the surgery doesn’t worry me as much as the actual recovery, but $6,000 is still quite a lot of money.

So the only other option I have is to get a referral from my doctor to see an orthopedic surgeon. The same procedure done by an orthopedic surgeon should be covered under medical. But the problem is, it’s hard to get into see a surgeon, and the wait time could be extremely long (versus just a month or two with the podiatrist). I’ve booked an appointment to see my doctor in order to get that orthopedic surgeon referral, so fingers crossed! :)

In the meantime, I’m getting custom orthotics made by the podiatrist (covered under my extended health insurance). It won’t solve my problem, and my feet will still hurt, but it will help a little bit. And my bones will stop moving as fast as they have been.

Has anyone done this surgery before? I’d love to hear about cost and recovery time!

It’s time to go back to school

It was my birthday earlier this week, and have spent a lot of time reflecting on what I’ve done so far in life. When I was younger, I always thought I’d be married with kids, and have a beautiful house as well as a flourishing career by the time I was 30. Well, I don’t have any of these things, but life isn’t so bad. :)

I don’t have a house, but I do have a townhouse. Buying my own home was a goal I’ve had for many years, and paying for it myself makes it extra special. It took me 6 years to save for that down payment, but when I finally had those house keys in my hand… it was definitely worth it. As for owning a house? That’s a dream I’m going to have to let go for a long time if I want to stay in the Vancouver area. I’m not willing to live any further out in the suburbs than I already am, and in fact my next move (whenever that is) will likely be closer into the heart of Vancouver.

I’m thankful that I still look young enough to get ID’d buying lottery tickets and alcohol. And while my field hockey skills are definitely fading, every year (when I’m not injured), I’m able to run faster and longer distances. I’m also healthier than I’ve been in years, and have successfully transitioned to a vegetarian diet, which I’m happy about.

I’ve had some pretty great relationships even though I’m not married. Some ended poorly, yes, that’s true. But some ended well, and I got to explore the world, learn about myself, and figure out exactly what I want. Which leads me to today, where I’ve been dating a great guy and we just celebrated one year together. :)

As for my career, that’s a funny one. I used to think I was doing really well for myself. I was confident in my full-time job, and I was working hard at my side projects. But then, life happened. I started focusing on buildng stronger relationships with my friends and loved ones. And then all of a sudden, I didn’t have time to work 80 hours a week anymore. Or rather, I didn’t want to.

And now, I feel like my career has stalled a bit. Sure, I still believe I’m employable. I have well-rounded skills, and even in a tough job market, I’m always able to find work with good companies. But I’m not growing, and I’m beginning to realize that in order to be happy in my career, I need to continue to learn and develop my skills. I’m not satisfied where I am, and education will help me take the next step in my career.

One of my goals for 2014 was to start looking into management programs, and I think I’ve narrowed my choices down to two programs at two different universities. Both are part-time (one is completely online, and one is evenings and weekends), and both will give me a business management certificate.

To be honest, the major reason why I haven’t aggressively pursued further education until now is the cost. I’m not willing to take out student loans, and I’ve had so many other life goals I wanted to achieve before I put my money into myself. But now’s the time, and thankfully it looks like my employer is willing to entertain the idea of helping me with some of the cost.

I’ve signed up to attend information sessions for both of these programs, and have emailed briefly with the coordinators. There are significant differences to these programs – the major one being the length of time required. One is 6 courses, and the other is 14. I’m leaning towards the longer one, but can’t say for sure until I learn more about them at the info sessions.
My goal is to be taking classes as early as January (more realistically, the spring/summer), and by this time next year, I’ll be well on my way to bettering myself and my future.31 was a fun year, but I think 32 is going to be pretty great as well. :)