Thursday, January 31, 2008

End of the Month Figures for January 2008

Well it’s that time of the month where all the PF bloggers reveal their progress for the month. I am feeling pretty good about my numbers this month. At this time I don’t budget. Next month I will start tracking my finances but for now the only numbers you all get to see are my shrinking debt totals. J

So let’s start with last months figures:

Federal Student Loan 4153.79
Provincial Student Loan 1120.82
Savings 110.00

Now here are the new figures:

Federal Student Loan $4,107.91
Provincial Student Loan
Savings 110.00

Do you all see that? Check again, I’ll wait, lol. Yes that is right! I managed to pay off a grand of my debt last month. I am so proud of me!!

Next week I will be able to finally pay that sucker off. I can’t wait to call them up and let them know. Then I’ll be impatiently waiting to receive the “loan paid in full” letter in the mail.

This is not typical and I don’t expect to be able to keep up this type of progress. There is no way I can keep putting that type of money on my debt but this month I could and so I did. Yes there were probably a lot of pretty looking excuses I could have had for purchasing other “things” but I didn’t. I have self discipline now!

As for the savings number….. you don’t have to tell me. I already know how sad it is. Next month I’ll try and remember to beef it up a little but I’m just so tempted to pay debt instead. I know that this is bad and that I should really have my EFund in check but watching the numbers fall was so fun.

So 2008 is off to an amazing start!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dolly Iris and Credit Cards

Let me tell you something people...... credit cards can either work for you or against you. I personally believe that everyone should do their research and understand how credit cards work and what a big responsibility they are before getting one. Especially 19 yr old babies......

I learned this lesson the hard way. My sister told me how easy it was to get a credit card by applying online and even helped me do it on her computer. Two weeks later mine arrived in the mail. It was red and shiny and it had a $500 limit. I believe I was 19 at the time and thought it was such an accomplishment to have my first Visa.

At first I was great with it. I had a great paying job and limit was appropriate for my usage. I would purchase everything on my credit card and every payday I would just pay it off. I really had no idea how credit worked or how to take care of it but luckily I was doing just great. My credit card and I were like two peas in a pod.

Then I fell for a boy who was no good for me in many ways. I left my job and followed him to Alberta. We couldn't pay for thing when we first got there and he convinced me that if we could only put things on my card for a little bit he would find a job and pay me back right away. The blind fool that I was called the Visa company and asked if they could up my limit. They said "no problem" and offered me an additional $4500.

Wow! I thought this was incredible and I felt very proud of myself (eyes rolling now) but something in me was telling me to be cautious. So I agreed to up my limit by $2000 making it a total limit of $2500. I told the boy it was all they would offer.

Long story short Boy was a jerk and left me the majority of the debt I had. I'm taking took me for every penny and then some. I do still have some promisary notes from him but whats the use? The guys a bum and I would never see a dime.

For years I paid the minimum and just above because its all I could afford and I didnt understand why it wasn't even making a dent in my balance. It seemed like all my payments were eaten up. I was always borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and it was a very stressful way to live. Everywhere I went ... debt followed.

Finally one year I moved multiple times in a short time frame and had a lot of stress happening in my life.... yes even more stress. A lot of things slipped my mind. One day I went to the bank machine to discover all my money was gone... including money I had put in for my student loans. I ran into the bank scared and asked what was happening. All they could tell me was that somebody in the Yukon had drained all my accounts... or what little was in them. They couldnt tell me anymore until they did an investigation.

Well it didnt take long to find out my Visa company which was also my personal bank had claimed every red cent to my name. I cried and they gave me some of the NSF charges back from my student loan bouncing and helped me put through a payment to them without it being snatched up.

The collection company was horrific. The things that man said to me were horrible and quite inappropriate. I had been in collections before due to the famous boy and knew that this was unacceptable. I was so upset because I didnt want my credit to be hurt anymore than it already was so I tried to get a loan to get myself out of collections before it hit my credit report.

In the end I did get a loan..... at a whopping 36%. I nearly cried. I got three jobs and slept approximately 4 hours a day. I ended up with a 90 day late payment mark on my credit report and was no better off than before.

One day last I did the math and realized I was paying approximately $10 a day in interest for all my loans. I nearly fell over. That meant that everyday I woke up on this planet I was shelling out $10 a day to nothing... just throwing it away. This was a real wake up call.

I got serious about debt. My new super fabulous boyfriend was very supportive and knew I had a big load on my shoulders. I opened up completely about my debt and showed him all my paperwork. He helped me by setting up Excel spreed sheets for my debts. I loved being able to plug extra payment numbers in here and there and watch the way it shed away the months and years of debt doom. This was the big realization for me.

Last year I managed to pay off that ridiculous loan and hopefully built some good credit doing so. This year I plan to become debt free by paying off my student loans. One should be paid off next week. *does happy dance

Now I have no credit cards and I'm fine with it. After all my debt is paid off I will apply for another one to start building credit again. I'm pretty sure my credit has been improving but even if I get a secured credit card I'm okay with that. This time I'm fully educated about credit cards lol. Hey, you have to laugh about these things... cant cry forever about it.

The moral of the story is if you don't have the money to pay off your credit card don't use it. The other moral is bad boys equals no good ANYTHING.

Monday, January 28, 2008

MSP - Are you paying too much?

I remember a few years ago when mass bills were sent out to everyone stating we were all going to be paying for MSP. In fact the bills stated we were all in arrears for the past few months and owed approximately $250 a piece.

Boooooooooo !

So always being the investigator and fighter I found this to be outrageous. First of all how could I be in arrears for something that I know I was paying for and how could it be so much?

Instead of blindly paying it as many people close to me did I called them up.

"I haven't been to see a doctor in months and I know that if you don't have a BC care card you are only charged $50 for a visit, and here you are charging me $64 a month. I also notice I'm in arrears and am threatening to be sent to collections for something I didnt know I was being billed for, I thought medical services were free in BC."

MSP Guy: " Well do you have a problem paying the outstanding amount ma'am?"

"Um yes, I cant afford to shell out almost $300 on the spot"

MSP Guy: "Let me give your our site address and you should read up on Premium Assistance"

I did. Saved myself all that dough too! Then I showed all my friends and family.

Last week a friend of mine told me she thought she might be in collections with MSP right now. I couldnt believe it as I'm pretty sure I've told her about this before, but despite that I took the time to look it up again and send the links to her. Now I will do the same for my readers.

The current premiums for MSP are:

$54 for one person
$96 for a family of two
$108 for a family of three or more

Now depending on your net income from last years taxes you may qualify for what is called Premium Assistance.

The current adjusted net income thresholds are:
$20,000 - 100 percent subsidy
$22,000 - 80 percent subsidy
$24,000 - 60 percent subsidy
$26,000 - 40 percent subsidy
$28,000 - 20 percent subsidy

There is also something called Temporary Premium Assistance that you can apply for during an unexpected financial hardship where you can receive 100% subsidy for a limited time.

I am very shocked to the amount of people who don't know about this. I have a lot of people in my life that could use this information and I've tried to pass it on to those who are interested in listening. Maybe this information does not pertain to you but it may to somebody in your life, so please pass it on.

You can find the information here and the forms to get you started here.

Hopefully this info will help somebody out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Steal of a Deal

Yesterday while running some errands with a friend I spotted a little book store in the mall. I was immediately drawn to the discount table outside. I looked over the variety of books scanning for anything to do with personal finance and there it was...

"Millionaire Women Next Door" by Thomas J Stanley for only 99cents!!

I took a quick look inside and realized all the book prices were extremely low. I asked the shop keeper where the finance section was and he said they didn't really have one and to check in the business area. I checked and didn't really see anything. The majority of the books were about retirement savings for Americans and so forth.

So I purchased the book but have yet to begin reading it. I'm curious to read about the common traits these women possess. Learning about finances on your own can be difficult but after awhile you will see patterns and common strategies for handling your money.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Big Thank You!!!

I hard started a post earlier today named "A Missed Opportunity", but now since arriving home and checking my inbox I can forget that mess. I am so friggin happy right now I could scream and do a jig because a friend is about to do me a great service.

Last night during a random job search I clicked on the wrong newspaper link and saw a title that caught my interest:

TV financial guru in town to offer guidance

Oh yes everyone! Gail Vaz-Oxlade is coming to my town in two days!!!! The first thought to come into my mind was "no f*@king way" "omg" and of course "I have to go to this". So I tried to register online but it wasn't working. Then first thing in the morning I called and was told it was booked full and there was no wait list for canceled reservations. Oh and did I mention its a free seminar? With one of my all time personal finance idols??

I didn't sleep all night I was so excited and then it was killed with this news. How did I not know that she was coming? Ugh I am so upset about this!! Then I think well hell I'm not giving up.

I went to her site and saw she had already made a post about not whining to her if you didn't reserve in time. LoL. Well I would have reserved if only I had known...geez. Anyways I decided to post it on my F.acebook status. It read: ____ is sooooooooo upset she can't get into the Gail Vaz-Oxlade seminar.... if you aren't going PLEASE give me your reservations!!!!

So right away I got some empathetic responses from people who also had wanted to go but weren't able to secure a reservation in time. I was upset and over the evening of doing some bargain grocery and pet stuff shopping. My boyfriend could see I was upset and asked if I thought there would be a scalper there he could buy tickets from.....awwwwwwwwwwww. For a free seminar.... probably not but I enjoyed the sentiment.

I came home and had dinner and decided I had better get on a list of questions for the class tomorrow and came upstairs to grab my notebook. I decided to check cra.kbook.... um I mean F.acebook and there it was....... dun dun dun...

good thing you posted that! i have a reso but i can't go now so its all yours if you like.

wtf?!?!omg!!!!!!!!!!!!! I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!! Wooohoooo!!! I am freaking out!!!!!!

I am so happy right now I cant even put it into words. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!

See people? You got to put it out there! I would like to thank my friend for offering her reservation to me and say thank you to myself for being resourceful.

Friday, January 18, 2008

GST Cheques Are Here

Woohoo! Checked the PO Box the other night and there they were! Our GST cheques. This gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside of excitement because I had forgot they would be coming soon. I am happy to have the added "bonus" right now with so much going on around me. I need a few days to think about where this money would be most beneficial right now. Here's my options:

1) Put it into my major suffering EFund
With a big financial do or die coming up in two months I worry about not having adequate savings in case of an emergency (hence the term EFund).

2) Use it towards paying off the last of my provincial loan next month
I owe approximately $425 left on my provincial loan and would love to get this paid off as soon as possible to give myself a boost. I will still be able to pay the loan off next month with or without this extra money.

3) Buy myself some long overdue essentials (clothes and pretty girl things)
Since I've been paying debt off so aggressively I've been skimping in areas such as keeping up the wardrobe. I have worn out a lot of my clothing and I'm in desperate need of a lot of things. I have ONE winter jacket, thats still only semi-warm. I have no nice jeans or dress pants. I have no sweaters and most of my nicer shirts are too summery. I also started wearing orthotics this year and they only fit in one pair of really trashed sneaks which I've been wearing religiously. This needs to stop!!!

Now its not a lot by any means but anywhere I use it will be beneficial to me so thats why I was so happy to see it. I'll let you know what happens to it....

How to obtain a FREE credit report

A lot of people are familiar with words like credit reports and have heard names such as TransUnion in conversation but how many actually check to make sure their's is accurate?

It is important to check your credit reports with all three credit bureaus at least once a year. These reports are free and are available within a few weeks after sending in some basic forms and photocopies of your ID. It is important to check all three very careful to make sure all of your personal and financial information has been recorded accurately. You should also be checking for unauthorized activity to avoid being a victim of identity fraud.

As I've said before I'm still in the early stages of financial wisdom so I did a little research online to expand my brain a little bit.

Requesting your credit reports takes little effort at all. You will need to visit a few sites I will list below and print out some requests forms. Mail these in with some photocopied identification and then just play the waiting game (approximately 3 weeks).

**Note - You can obtain your credit report for free, but your score you will have to pay for if you choose to. When you pay to learn your credit score you will also get a copy of your report online usually for free. I think I will just request mine and check it for accuracy first.

So here are the three companies you want to get in touch with if you are a Canadian:

1) TransUnion :

Consumer Relations Centre
P.O. Box 338 LCD 1
Hamilton, Ontario L8L 7W2
Tel. (toll-free): 1-866-525-0262
Fax: (905) 527-0401

**look carefully on the left hand side for the link

National Consumer Relations
P.O. box 190, Station Jean-Talon,
Montreal, Quebec H1S 2Z2
Tel. (toll-free): 1-800-465-7166
Fax: (514) 355-8502

3)Northern Credit Bureaus:
**here are the two form links you will need

336 Rideau boulevard
Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec J9X 1P2
Fax (toll-free): 1-800-646-5876

So here's more than a helping hand to get you started. I will be printing these forms out this week and sending them so that I can my FREE report, lol. Let's keep our fingers crossed for no unpleasant surprises!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Facing Fears

I have a lot of fears that I want to overcome in my life. One big fear that I believe hinders me a lot from progressing is my fear of:


Yes, it's true. Its one of my biggest fears of all time. I am in my mid twenties and have driven probably a total of three times (in parking lots) at a speed not surpassing 10km/hr.
Why do I have this fear?

I have no idea. I was in an accident that could have cost me my life when I was in my late teenage years where I was pulled out of a burning vehicle but my fear existed before this. I am pretty sure a lot of my fear stems from my parents. In general they made me fear a lot of things for petty reasons. This is one trait I will NOT pass on to my children when I have them.

Two years ago I bit the bullet and took the learners test and passed! It has since expired. Now there are a few reasons for this:

1) My fear of driving.
2) Lessons are damn expensive!! ($1000)
3) The length of time it takes to get your license and the many steps in my province.
4) Other drivers (road raging freaks)

Last year my youngest sibling surpassed me and got his driving license. This made me realize its really time to get over this fear.

I have a lot of really good reasons for wanting my license.

1) It hinders me from jobs I am interested in because of requirements or location
2) Freedom from crappy transit services in my area
3) I want to be a good driver before having children
4) I'm tired of standing in the cold or walking through the rain and sleet that is common weather here.
5) I usually drink the least and would be a great DD when we go out.
6) It will give me more independence and control over my time

Now I realize that there are a lot of costs in having a vehicle which is why I wouldn't purchase one without a "car emergency fund". Another thing I would not do is purchase a new vehicle. I have witnessed three people in my life purchase new vehicles and I really do not think in my personal opinion its wise but meh... its not my money depreciating. I will also carpool and use alternate travel options when its suitable for environmental reasons.

I have put this off for years because of both fear and finances. With my highest priority being becoming debt free its really a struggle. I think this is something I will need to pursue a little more slowly. I think I should retest for my learners license and then start putting a little aside for proper lessons. Baby steps..... I like them.

Overall its a catch 22 situation. On one side costs money to start driving and to keep driving. On the other side it could lead me to making a lot more money. I really have lost out on a lot of opportunities because of it and as a market seller I need to be able to transport my goods with less hassle and dependence on others.

Like I said before ... its inevitable and so I'll take the route of baby steps... starting with retesting for my learners license.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Making Smart Decisions

Well today I'm feeling pretty darn good!!!

Firstly I made my second extra payment on my provincial student loan this month. You hear that? No minimum payments here y'all. I have an automatic payment for this loan that comes out monthly. Its a regular payment of $50 that comes out of my account the last day of every month. I've always had the same amount because I found no matter what my situation was I could scrape together this payment, even though at times it was hard for me. Looking at my Excel I may be able to pay this loan off entirely by the end of February. That would leave me with only one debt left...........WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!

Today I also started weighing my options. Funds are tight right now... I mean really tight. I received an email from the woman who is teaching the Ear Coning class asking if I would be available later this month to take the class. These classes only happen 2-3 times a year. The class is $200 + gst for one day but I really have wanted to do this for awhile and have put aside half the money I need for it already. I thought about it for a few days and almost decided to request the next class later in the year, but then I changed my mind.

Taking calls from home is an excellent job for me, but I'm going to put the Ear Coning first. Why? There are a lot of start up costs in taking calls from home.
1) You pay for your training.
2) Criminal record Check
3) Upgrading my computer
4) Purchasing equipment
5) Voip set up

Now there are other costs that are escaping my mind right now but there's also this factor.. a lot of businesses that I want to work for now have wait lists. So I think my best bet for this job is to start putting money aside, keep applying for wait listed jobs and then when one comes up I'll be better prepared. Since this takes so much start up costs and time I'm not sure I want to put all my eggs in this basket right now. I may still be able to write off some office space though as I will still be doing other things from home such as my jewelry.

So with this in mind I do need to start bring in some viable income soon. Soon meaning the next 2-3 months. Now this doesn't mean I've given up hope on working from home for my income. I will still pursue all avenues I listed last week, but at a building pace. I just feel that I would rather be putting my extra funds towards my first goal right now - becoming debt free - than investing this particular job opportunity.

This means finding work outside the home. I don't predict it will be a problem as long as I find a low stress, fun job. The last few years I was put through the ringer by employers and my health suffered dramatically so this is a little scary for me. I think I will pursue something more part time and that will leave me the space to keep up with my at home gigs.

Choosing between the Ear Coning Class and upgrading my computer for the Call Taking Job was a hard decision at first but then when I put my goals into the equation it became rather simple.
The only thing I need to be in a hurry for is paying off my debt lol.

2008 is starting off great with two extra payments already made on the provincial student loan. I'm already drooling thinking of the "paid in full" letter that will be coming my way soon. Who ever thought paying debt would be so stimulating?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friendly Frustrations

Do you ever want to take one of your close friends by the shoulders and just shake them really hard? Maybe in your case its a family member or coworker. You know the type of person I'm referring to... the financially jaded people with bad attitudes.
Since I started blogging and reading other PF blogs I have learned a lot of information. It is something I am becoming very passionate about. I find myself reading more books and articles online about money. I find now my passion is turning into a little bit of quick frustrations towards my close family and friends.
I see HUGE mistakes all around me. I also unbecoming behavior such as laziness, stubbornness, and just plain hopeless. I want so badly to bring them back from the dark side and show them how much they could progress if they just changed some common habits they have.
A lot of people in my circle think that I am crazy committed to paying off my debt. I mean how could you not be? I don't listen anymore when I hear excuses. I just don't understand how people are so willing to be content in a lifetime of paycheck to paycheck living and debt repayment. What about retiring people?!?!?!
When I was a young girl I remember a youth speaker coming to my church and advising us to start saving in an RRSP account immediately at the age of 15. He told us the more we invested now that the less we'd have to invest overall to get the same if not better results. Here I am a decade later and I still haven't done it... why? I feel overwhelmed by it.
People don't like to stare their financial demons in the face. Its emotionally and mentally depressing when you have money issues, but by letting them build we are not doing ourselves any favors.
If I cant bare to hear other peoples excuses I should stop making them up for myself. Its time for me to jump in there and have a sit down and learn a little more about RRSP's. I fear what I do not understand so here I go on the path of enlightenment and retirement bliss.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Year has Past

Tonight after reading some older posts on my old blog I found some stats for my debt at the beginning of January 2007. There were as follows.....

For the beginning of January the stats were as:
Federal Student Loan 4741.24
Provincial Student Loan 3049.61
CitiFinancial Loan 471.67
Savings 17.00

These numbers are from just after a year of aggressive debt paying. The year of 2007 was a very hard year for me financially. I ended two jobs, had health issues and went through tenancy court with my previous landlord. For a few months I didn't attempt extra payments but always kept my finances on the top of my list of priorities. I recently started making payments again.

Here was the tally from January 1st 2008:

Federal Student Loan 4153.79
Provincial Student Loan 1120.82
CitiFinancial Loan 0.00
Savings 110.00

Now it may not seem like a lot but I'm not upset by any means. I think I made a great effort to keep the ball rolling through hard times. I did build up the savings at some point but I had to use to it during ... well an emergency. Paying off the Citi loan was huge for me. It had an interest rate at a whopping 36%!!!!!!!!!! Oh geez it makes me ill just thinking about it.

I remember when I decided to get really serious, I mean SERIOUS about debt. It was when I started breaking it down into how much interest I was paying a day. I believe it was 2 or 3 dollars per student loan and then a few dollars on the Citi loan. So I was like "oh hell no". So this meant everyone morning when I woke up without even getting a chance to open my eyes I'm already paying like $8 in debt. Wow! Wake up call.... ring ring... hello... girl you better pick this wake up call up and get it together.

I will post a monthly tally on the first of each month at where I am with debt and savings.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Working from Home

This year it is my goal to work from home. I understand that a lot of people want to work from home but cant seem to generate enough income to live off of. I'm hoping that I will be able to be successful at this using a few different avenues. I have come up with 4 ways to earn money out of my home this year.

1) Taking calls from home.
I have experience working in call centers. Depending on the company you work for its not that bad of work. Working from home means I would be free from busy call center distractions and it would allow me more control. I have started building a resume online with one company and slowly gathering the supplies I need for this to be successful.

2) Ear Coning.
Over the last few years I have been interested in a process called Ear Coning. During the last few months I got in touch with a Holistic Healing Center that preforms ear coning. They hold a class 2-3 times a year and I'm on the wait list for the next class. Once I receive the certificate I will be purchasing a table and some other equipment so I can start building clients. This is something I can do from my home or in the home of the client.

3) Handcrafted Jewelry
I feel I am a pretty creative person. Two summers ago I took some of my work to a Farmers Market and tested how it sold. I did pretty well for my first time with limited pieces to offer. Last year I purchased a membership to the local market and hope to be a drop in vendor there this summer and into the beginning of fall when the cruise ships come to the harbour. The jewelry is handcrafted here in my home and will be sold possibly online this year. I have a purchased website already under my company name.

4) Child Minding
Being in my mid twenties a lot of people around me now have small children and are always looking for someone to mind them. I set up an online forum on a popular site to set parents up with sitters. I used to be a nanny when I was right out of school and I liked it quite a lot. I ended up doing a lot of volunteer with children and almost decided to become an elementary school teacher. So this is something I could do to make some quick cash here and there.

So here are 4 great ways to make some money. Will it be enough? I hope so. I am willing to put the effort in to try and make it work. Thats the hardest part. Being disciplined enough and find sources of income that will sustain my living habits. This will be a great test for me. I need to have some type of income coming in before the first week of March... wish me luck and determination people!!!!


Why is it so hard to make resolutions? Obviously I need to put procrastination on the list. So let me now sit down and make different resolutions for the much needed areas in my life.

Financial Resolutions for 2008

1) Become debt free
2) Make a living wage from working from home
3) Open an RRSP
4) Contribute more regularly to my emergency savings fund.

Personal Resolutions for 2008

1) Take a language class. (due to my in laws speaking another language)
2) Get over my fear of driving and take my learners test
3) Take an ear coning class to make more money from home
4) Attend at least 5 farmers markets in the spring to sell my handmade jewelry
5) Stress less!!!!!!
6) Update my wardrobe
7) JUST DO IT!! no more procrastination

So as I sit here I think "wow" I just popped these all out in a matter of 5 minutes. I'm guessing I've been wanting to change some things for awhile. So here it is. My makeshift list of resolutions.

What are your resolutions?

Friday, January 4, 2008

A New Year deserves a New Look

Last year I made an attempt to switch over to a new site. My readers didn't like it so much so I continued at the old blog for another year. This year I've decided to make the leap as there was too much personal information on the blog and I decided I would feel more comfortable this way.

I am a twenty something who has struggled to pay off debt for the last 4 years. 2 years ago I decided to get serious and drop that debt. At that point I was in the range of 17000-18000 in debt. Ouch!! Now I am at a happy $5000. I say happy as its been a long but persistent struggle. During this time I have experienced a lot of personal and job related problems but managed to keep my eye on the ball.

I have started thinking hard about my resolutions for this year. Better late than never, right? This blog will include a lot of my thoughts about my financial situation as well as some of my personal struggles and how I work my way through them. Last year I learned a lot of useful information that could help others. At least my setbacks will become useful to those around me in the event they experience something similar.

Keep in mind I do not claim to be a financial whiz by any means. I'm more in a state of learning as I go along slowly but surely. I am open to comments and perspectives of others as long as they are constructive. With all of this said I hope to be blogging regularly and hope that you will read along with me.

Cheers to my readers,

Dolly Iris