5 Things I No Longer Buy

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

 

These are things I used to accumulate incessantly, I know this because they have been big decluttering targets.

Books and Magazines

Here is a horror story: I used to buy brand new text books back when I was in university, some of which I still have sitting around in our house right now.

It’s Halloween soon, so here is another one: I used to keep tons of old magazines for no reason other than thinking that I’d go back and re-read them. Some of them were from the year 2011.

Thankful the habit of buying books and magazines has been correcting for some time now. We no longer buy for ourselves, but we do still buy children’s books for our kids, as we’d like them to learn to read and enjoy stories without having to stare into the ever so addicting ipads and tv’s. Sadly the books have been losing so far, but that’s another topic entirely.

Candles and Oils

It always went like this: picking up the candle or the oil, smelling it, liking it, spending a minute imagining myself using it while curled up with a good cup of tea and a book, buying it, and, surprise surprise, forgetting about it.

Besides, curling up with a good up of tea and a book is probably not going to be possible for another 10 or so years. I’ve accepted the reality. I’ve moved on.

Clothes

I wrote about how I no longer get excited by my wardrobe in this My Wardrobe Stock Market Crash post. I have yet to dive into my closet and come up with a concrete plan for it (capsule wardrobe sounds likely though), but one thing is for sure: I no longer buy new clothes. In fact, I’ve been removing a few items here and there, some were given away to family, some were donated, and some were cut up as rags or simply discarded into the garbage. It feels SO GOOD to get some wiggle room in my drawers, the LAST THING I’d want now is to get new clothes to cramp them up again.

Hair Products

I have very limpy, or, if you want to be positive, silky hair. To change it, I’d buy hair products such as mousse, hair spray, texturizing gel, dry shampoo, and all kinds of other products that promised to give me big sexy voluminous Farrah Fawcett hair. And if you had to guess the result, you’d probably guess that they didn’t work too well, and you’d be right.

As I got older, I started realizing this: grass is always greener on the other side, there are tons of people desperate to have low-maintenance, no straightener necessary, wash and go and always smooth hair like mine.

Skin Care Products

Similar to hair products, I used to buy all kind of face products to make my skin look better. What I didn’t think of was that a clean diet with reduced stress did 100 times better than any expensive face cleanser or cream could. I’ve since simplified my skin care to a very bare and easy set: a cleanser, and a moisturizer. Done, and done. And to be honest, I think my skin has never looked and felt better.

Having written these 5 things down, one common theme I see is that I’ve gotten a lot better at accepting and appreciating what I already have. Did minimalism prompt this, or did me aging and getting more common sense lead me into minimalism? Oh well, it doesn’t matter, it’s all good.

Dear reader, what are some of the things you no longer buy?

Life Update: New Baby and Thoughts

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

The reason for my lack of blog posts, well, there are tons of reasons, but the main one is that I’ve been busy with a new baby – our second daughter was born in mid August, and let’s just say that going online to write blog posts had become priority #978492.

But I missed coming here and showing off sharing my progress and ideas, the process of writing up a post can be time consuming at times, but I always find myself feeling more motivated and positive afterwards.

So here are some updates and random thoughts.

 

Having Two Babies is Life Changing

Even though it has only been a couple of months, I can no longer remember my life before having 2 babies. Of course it could be the baby brain, I mean, how different can it be right??

Well, imagine all the feelings you have with one baby, now multiply them by 10. Somehow the 2 babies can get into a crying match. The amount of laundry had me stocking up multiple bottles of detergents, despite the promise I made to myself to no longer have back-up items. The length of time it takes to go out is so ridiculous that I actually try to avoid it.

On the flip side, the LOVE and JOY I feel from seeing my toddler hugging and kissing the tiny one, or seeing my husband proudly holding both girls in his arms, is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Life changed, forever.

 

A New House Rule: One In, Two Out

When I first started decluttering, I would mull over an item for days and weeks, often times deciding not to get rid of something because of the value I still see in it. As time went on though, and more items discarded or donated, the process has become way faster and easier. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve missed anything I’ve given away so far.

In fact, I enjoy decluttering so much, that we’ve now established a new house rule: one in, two out. Any time any non-consumable item gets brought into the house, two must go. We now have a new McDonald’s Happy Meal toy? Great, let’s find 2 things to get rid of. (This one actually made us realize that the toy was actually not that well liked by daughter, instead of keeping it like we’d normally do, we just donated it and essentially avoided having to find 2 things.)  We got a few new toys from some friends, as per the rule, I dug into our linen closet and managed to find some place mats to donate.

This new rule has made us even more conscious of our habits: instead of mindlessly bringing in things, we are now forced to evaluate whether they are valuable enough to replace twice the amount of items from our existing possessions.

And plus, treasure garbage hunting is fun.

 

Messy House is OK

All of the decluttering we’ve done cannot stop our toddler from making a mess of her toys, and us leaving extra burp clothes, blankets, and pillows around the house. I’m not even going to talk about the unwashed dishes, phone and laptop chargers and cables, newly arrived (and some older ones of course) bills and flyers, and the always-full laundry baskets.

But it’s OK. Having a messy house is OK. Our home does not have to look like the ones we see on Pinterest or Instagram. Our home is comfy, it is lived in, our babies enjoy it, we enjoy it, and that’s all that matters.

 

What I’m Watching

Being on maternity leave means I get to stay home a lot. Sleep deprivation and constant feeding sessions are two excuses I give myself to just sit back, relax, and thoroughly enjoy watching Netflix and whatever else I’m into at the moment.

Some of my recent Netflix favourites are: Marvel’s Luke Cage, Frequency (why did I have to discover this show so early? I now have to wait for new episodes every week!)

I watched all 3 of the US presidential debates and find them just as entertaining as the SNL episodes that followed.

I cannot stop watching decluttering / how to be more minimal / how to create a capsule wardrobe kind of videos on Youtube. I don’t watch them for tips or anything, I just like seeing other people going through the same process as I do and identifying with them from afar.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching TV / going on Youtube. However, the other day I came across this article, and feel that perhaps I should cut back on this to focus on other things.

 

Dear reader, do you also have a guilty pleasure that you indulge in? How do you make sure that you’re not indulging too much?

June 2016 Money Reality

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

It’s July 1, so if you’re in Canada, hope you’re having a great Canada Day!

June is now over. Since I wrote a June 2016 Money Plans post before, I now feel obligated to do a follow up post to see how June’s plans worked out.

It didn’t work out well at all. It was awful. 

June was a very long month, and a financially disastrous one, with a $4300 extra spending in additional expenses.

Looking back at each of the predicted June items:

All of June: work situation requires additional commuting. Cost: $50 $25  I overestimated the amount of commuting I had to do, which was a good thing. 

Early-June: daughter’s play date with a friend’s little one. Cost: $15-40  $0 The play date did not happen due to scheduling issues.  

Mid-June: need to pay the 2nd installment of our dog’s vet bill. Cost: $340 Paid!

Mid-June: Father’s day, need to get gifts. Cost: $100 $70. Came close to my original estimate.

Mid-June: Father’s day dinner for my dear hubby. Cost: $80 $60.50 Very close to my original estimate again.

Late-June: a few staycation days allocated to work on some career stuff. Cost: $0 Yes!

The grand total of additional expenses: $610 $495.50 

In the same post, I joked that June was going to be a relatively uneventful and boring month. I now wish that was true.

Onto the un-predicted expenses:

We ended up taking our dog back to the Vet 3 more times (ending with various other tests and medication), then to a specialist for further examination, which led to an expensive MRI and even more medication. The total extra costs: $3500

We hosted a family BBQ dinner and had to buy extra, I estimate that the total cost is around $100.

2 Birthday gifts and some other work events costed some extra, which added up to about $200.

TOTAL ADDITIONAL EXPENSES: $4300

 

We also didn’t do TOO well with our offsets:

1. Costco Ban: We did continue this ban for June. Ya! Savings: $300

2. Meal Planning:  Meh, it was an OK result. I wouldn’t say that we failed, but I definitely could have pushed for more pantry items when it came to cooking. Our grocery bill came to be around the same as May’s (once we excluded the BBQ dinner).  Savings: 0

3. Reduce Eating Out: Again, an OK result. We did ended up only going out to eat dinner ONCE during June, but we did make multiple coffee and snack runs through-out the month, and of course they added up. I’d say our Eating Out expense was about $20 lower than previous months. Savings: $20

4. Insurance Shopping: Hubby did a quick quote with a company and ened up with a slightly better rate than what we were paying using the same terms. We might have to do more shopping on this. Savings: $0 (for now)

5. Delay turning on AC: I’m so glad that I had this item written down, because there were a few times when I almost gave in, and having it written down somehow detered me.  Saving: $80 (will be verified by comparing to a month when we actually do have it on.)

So we potential saved $480 $400

 

The conclusion is that we ended up with a VERY expensive June. However, this chaotic month was somehow a tiny bit more manageable due the planning that we did when writing the June 2016 Money Plans post.

So I think I might have to continue doing this type of post in the future.

 

Dear reader, did you have a good June? 

 

 

RESP Goal Reached

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The wonderful and trusty GoodBudget told me this today. Hooray indeed!

2016 is the 3rd RESP contribution year for our daughter. Even though the limit is only $2500 per year (in order to be eligible for the government grant), between this and RRSP / TFSA contributions, we still had to diligently track and contribute and make sure that we didn’t forget about it.

I even took a few minutes to call our bank about our RESP account. I learned a couple of things from the phone call, hopefully they will be useful to readers who are in similar situations. Our account is with TD, but I would think others should be more or less the same:

 

1. We’re using the same RESP account as last year’s, do we need to do any paper work to receive this year’s government grant?

Aside from the initial setup where you’d have to provide all of necessary documents and signatures to open the RESP account, no, there is no further work required in future years. You can continue to contribute to the same RESP account for the child.

 

2. When should I expect the grant to arrive?

TD collects the client information at the end of every month and submits them to the government. The government then takes ~4 weeks to process. All in all, expect to see the grant in 1-2 months of time.

 

3. Will the grant automatically go into some fund? If so, which one?

Yes, it will automatically buy the original fund that the RESP was opened with. For us, the original RESP account was opened using one of TD’mutual funds, even though we later on converted the account to an e-series account, the grant will still purchase the original mutual fund. However, the rep was able to change the setting and update the grant (and any future ones) to go to the e-series product that we wanted instead.

 

4. Can we contribute to the same account for our 2nd baby?

Nope, each child has to have his/her own RESP account. Once the 2nd baby is born, open a new RESP account and start contributing there. However, since both RESP accounts are “Family Accounts”, they can be shared in the sense that we can choose to spend any % of the whole RESP bucket on either of the child down the road.

 

Dear reader, do you also make regular contributions to your child’s education fund? 

My TFSA Cheat Sheet

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

Today I’d like to write a little bit about TFSA.  Not that I’m an expert in it, in fact, I’m pretty sure there are lots of things I still don’t know.

The thing is, every so often I go on Google and look for certain information about TFSA, and then find myself going “Oh yeah, I remember looking this up a few months ago, why did I search for it again?!”

So I’m going to try to use this post to summary all I know about TFSA, perhaps even come back and update it once in a while. Hopefully once I have a complete enough post, I can just come back HERE to check for things.

 

What is TFSA?

TFSA stands for Tax Free Savings Account. Even though there is the word “Savings” in it, it does not mean that the only thing you’re allowed to do is have them as Savings. You can invest them using GIC’s, Mutual Funds, Index Funds, or even individual stocks. The key words are TAX FREE, any gain you make is yours, 100%.

 

What is the maximum amount of TFSA I can contribute as of 2016?

Assuming that you were already 18 or over when TFSA was first introduced in 2009, the limits are:

Year Contribution Room Notes
2009 5,000 Jan 1, 2009 was when TFSA came into effect.
2010 5,000 Cumulative Total: 10,000.
2011 5,000 Cumulative Total: 15,000.
2012 5,000 Cumulative Total: 20,000.
2013 5,500 Cumulative Total: 25,500. Increased to 5,500 to account for inflation.
2014 5,500 Cumulative Total: 31,000
2015 10,000 Cumulative Total: 41,000. Federal government increased limit to 10,000 and removed indexation for inflation.
2016 5,500 Cumulative Total: 46,500. New Liberal government restored the old 5,500+indexation rules back.
Total 46,500

 

What if I didn’t contribute for certain years?

No problem, any contribution room not filled up get carried over from year to year, so save your Xmas cash gifts and pay yourself back whenever you can.

 

Can I have multiple TFSA accounts?

Yes. You can have one with Tangerine with 10,000 invested with their Balanced Growth Investment Fund. Another one with TD with one of their GICs or Mutual Funds. Another one with a brokerage like Questrade where you bought stocks and bonds. As long as the TOTAL sum across all of the financial institutions do not exceed your maximum contribution room, you’re good.

 

What if I withdraw from my TFSA?

This one can be tricky, but the only thing to remember here is: anything you withdraw during the year will be added back in the FOLLOWING year, NOT in the current year. Think of it as: you’re stuck with whatever room you have from Jan 1 to Dec 31, but as soon as the clock strikes 12 at year end, the contribution room gets RECALCULATED, and any withdrawals you made in the previous year are then added back at that point.

 

What if I have too much to contribute?

I wish! If you do find yourself asking this question, be careful, once you’ve exceeded your maximum contribution room, the government will start charging you with a penalty of 1% per month. I believe there are ways to try to waive such penalties by filling out certain forms, but to avoid the trouble, simply keep track of your contributions, once maxed, wait until Jan 1 of next year or put them toward your RRSP, RESP (if you have kids), or a non-registered account in the mean time.

 

What do I do if my TFSA grows beyond 46,500? Say 100,000?

First of all, is your last name Buffett?? Again, I wish that was a question I had for myself. Do not worry, that 100,000 is entirely yours and there is no need to reduce it down to 46,500. In fact, if you were to withdraw 50,000 of that 100,000, this 50,000 will be added back as contribution room for next year. Lucky you! However, this also means that if you lost money, you cannot claim additional contribution room.

Can I open a Joint TFSA account with my spouse?

Nope. You each get to open your own TFSA accounts. But if you’re already tracking one person’s account, there isn’t much additional work in tracking two, right?

 

Should I contribute to my TFSA, or to my RRSP? Or Both?

Ah, this question has been asked million times before. I too find myself asking this from time to time. Here is a quick answer: if you’re in a high tax bracket, go with RRSP first so that you can get a nice tax refund next year. If you’re just starting out, go with TFSA. If you think you’re somewhere in the middle, do both.

 

And here is the official CRA page about TFSA, check it out, and happy TFSA’ing!

 

Dear reader, do you also find yourself asking questions about a particular saving vehicles from time to time?  Or are you all maxed out and have moved onto taxable accounts already?

Time for More Decluttering

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

My mom was over earlier this week to help me babysit my 2 year old. At some point she made this comment to me: “Can you reorganize your guest bedroom a little? Move object x over and place object y there instead. Or better yet, can you move object x out of the room? Why do you have so much stuff in your house? Every single room is filled up to the BRIM. They’re all too FULL.”

4 thoughts went through my mind:

  • Only  a mom can talk to you like this without you feeling guilty, ashamed, or offended.
  • I hope one day I can criticize my daughter without her feeling anything negative toward me too.
  • Not true, not EVERY room is filled up to the brim. Only, like, 4 of them.
  • Our efforts in decluttering and simplifying was small tiny, so tiny that it’s not making any difference (although I myself do see the difference).

 

Fine. OK. Time to step up our decluttering game.

Last week we used up a whole pack of zip-loc vacuum bags and had most of our winter coats, jackets, and sweaters packed away. Our closets are now a lot roomier, clothes hanging in them also seem to be breathing better. To improve things further, I’ll try to consolidate further and see if more dresser space can be emptied out.

I’ve also been reorganizing our kitchen pantries by grouping similar functioned items together and threw out expired items. Rarely used items are now put away in rarely reached shelves. Said goodbye to tupperwares without lids.

My donation box is full. Time to give it away.

A family member is moving to a new place next month and need some things for their place. I CAN’T WAIT to give them some of our spares, like that Ikea floor lamp that is so gorgeous but so under used, or that coffee table that we used to use but not anymore.

Laundry room always seem full because we also use it as a storage room. For the next few weeks, laundry time will include going through the items in the storage and see what can be donated / discarded.

 

Would these be enough? I have my doubts.

But there is some progress. I think.

Hopefully my mom agrees. I guess we’ll see, her brutal honesty will tell me soon enough.

 

Dear reader, do you have any additional tips to declutter and simplify? I’d love to hear and apply them.

Unplugged from the Matrix

 

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(Photo credit: Pinterest)

Unplugged from the matrix, is exactly how I feel on some days.

The old world I lived in was very “dressed-up”: everything needed to be shiny and new, and I mean EVERYTHING, from social media, to the house, to the face, to the body, and oh definitely to the feet. The fancier we thought we were getting, the more money we wasted, but the more we thought we had achieved.

But we were actually being enslaved by the financial matrix. We just didn’t know that we were.

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

I enjoyed the Matrix movies very much back then, I knew they were sending some kind of message, but I was too awestruck by the kung fu and the special effects, that they just never sank in.

The thing with good books and good movies is that you can always go back and re-read or re-watch, and get a whole new take on it.

I was writing an email to a friend, and the phrase “unplugged from the matrix” just naturally came out as I typed, and this is without me even re-watching the trilogy again. I guess I subconsciously got the message somehow? (I then subsequently went and watched the first movie. 17 years later, guess what, it’s as amazing as I remembered.)

So back to what I was saying: old world was shiny, does it mean the new world is grim and gloomy? Far from it. The new world is real, down-to-earth, substantial. The new world is freeing: as I no longer need to please other people’s eyes by keeping up with appearances. (OK I still put on makeup and dress decently, just so you don’t think I look homeless.) The new world is simple: pleasure comes from the most trivial things, like receiving a $5 wihdraw fee waived for me, as detailed in this post. The new world is different: when I hear the word Tiffany’s, I no longer think Audrey Hepburn and the jewelry, I think of the fact that they just had a bad quarter, and then I go and verify that their stock price has indeed been falling.

* my head promptly cues Aladdin and Princess Jasmine’s ‘A Whole New World’ *  Come on guys, it’s a great song, you got to agree with me on this one. And doesn’t the new trailer with Emma Watson look fantastic?!

Alright, back to the unplugging.

I really wish more people around us are unplugged. While I was honest with the friend I was emailing with, I frankly have been treading very lightly with others. I feel that some of them simply will not understand, or might even judge us if they knew. I’m just glad that I have this blog to go to, and to have readers like you to share ideas and stories with.

Sharing another quote from the movie that I found to be memorable:

Cypher: All I do is what he tells me to do. If I had to choose between that and the Matrix, I’d choose the Matrix.

Trinity: The Matrix isn’t real.

Cypher: I disagree, Trinity. I think that the Matrix can be more real than this world.

 

Dear reader, is there a movie that you relate your personal finance views with?  And do you also have the problem of randomly hearing Disney songs in your head?