Home Improvement

Today I painted the upstairs bathroom. It really needed a facelift and I'm sure I will love it when it is all put back together. I already had the paint from when I painted the main floor. Other costs were:

$78 cabinet
$40 another cabinet
$30 light fixture
$32 new towel rod
$9 switch plate cover
$14 towels
$37 shower curtain

$231 Total

This project was not budgeted for but I can take my next paycheque from my part-time job (payday is tomorrow) and cover these costs.

July's Goals - financial and otherwise

My goals for July are:

- pay off remaining MasterCard balance
- pay off mortgage using HELOC funds
- pay $800 toward HELOC (this will increase to approx. $1,200 commencing in August)
- not exceed the $250 I have allocated to groceries
- not exceed the $100 I have allocated to dining out

- start a "new car" fund and put $200 in each month
- start getting more daily exercise

- start going to bed earlier and getting more sleep

Bye Bye Emergency Fund

As I had been thinking of this for some time, a comment by "The Hoss" gave me the kick in the butt that I needed to take the money sitting in my emergency account and put it toward my credit card debt. So thanks, The Hoss, I made the transfer tonight and now only owe just over $304 on my MasterCard.

Having close to $1K in my emergency fund was giving me a small, false sense of security.

Mystery Shopping

I have now completed my first mystery shopping assignment. As I had to visit seven different sections of one large store, I split it up over two evenings. All in all, I probably spent about 2.5 hours doing the tasks, including travel time, and then filling out the forms. It isn't great money but I would have likely just been sitting at home surfing the web otherwise. It was an easy $70 in my pocket. Wonder how soon I'll get paid.

First Mystery Shopping Assignment

Thanks to learning about a reputable mystery shopping organization from "Give Me Back My Five Bucks" (http://www.krystalatwork.blogspot.com), I have just received my first mystery shopping assignment.

I have to interact with, and make purchases from, 7 different departments in one large store. I am a bit concerned about how to keep track of every sales associate's name in each dept as I cannot take notes and look conspicuous; I have to look like a regular customer. I think I will use my cell phone and call myself at home and leave messages about each transaction.

I will get paid $10 for each departmental review I provide so that will be $70 in total.

This is going to be interesting.

Debt Snowball

I was able to put $778 toward my consumer debt this month and I feel that this is sustainable as on ongoing figure to put toward the debt and that I may even be able to put another $450 or so into the snowball. This is due to the fact that I overspent the budget last month by $250 so started this month with $250 less than I should have. It is also due to my budget this month currently sitting at an overage of $78 but I have one more paycheque from my part time job to put toward this months' expenses and that cheque should be about $300, which is considerably more than my budget overage. Therefore, I will end the month with surplus funds which will go toward the consumer debt.

I'm not sure how clear that is outside my head. Essentially I am saying this:

$778 payments to debt in June 08
$250 money should have had to spend in June 08 but don't as over spent in May 08
$200 surplus from second paycheque from part time job to be received at end of June 08

$1,228* - total that should be available to pay debt in July and future months

* I may have to do a bit of re-adjusting the numbers as I did work extra part time hours in the month of June so my first June paycheque from my part time job was larger than usual.

The above only represents payments to my consumer debt. Once my HELOC is in place my consumer debt and my mortgage will all be combined in one large debt. I intend to continue to put the usual amount I've always paid for mortgage payments on it every month and any extra funds I find myself with will go toward paying off the HELOC.

Beacon Score

I am working with my bank on a HELOC so my lender had to pull a credit report on me. I asked him if he could share my Beacon Score and he told me it was 740. I've always had really good credit though over the last few years my CC and LOC were very close to their maximums, which could have lowered my score. I am quite pleased with a score of 740.

I've Exceeded My Clothing Budget

I have a job interview tomorrow and no shirt to wear with the suit I want to wear so stopped and picked one up after work today along with a necklace. It only came to $42 but that is $42 more than I have available in my clothing budget. I'm sure I can move some funds around within the budget to cover this off so not a real concern.

Small Changes can add up to Big Savings

I have had the full digital cable package with movie channels for as long as I can remember. And you know what? I almost never watch TV. There are a couple shows I watch on Slice, such as 'Til Debt Do Us Part and Jon and Kate Plus 8 or Little People on TLC and that is about it. I don't watch a single sitcom or continuing drama on network TV.

Tonight I called the cable company and had the movie channels removed from my line-up. This will see a savings of $160/year. I know this does not seem like a lot but these small changes do add up over time.

Grocery Update

I went for groceries yesterday and spent:

$13.96 Safeway
$5.14 produce stand
$33.49 Costco

Although it totalled a little more than I had planned to spend, the items from Costco and Safeway are going to last quite some time and not just this current week.

I intend to make a concerted effort to use up some of the food in my pantry and freezer in the next couple weeks and would then only need to pick up fresh produce and dairy each week.

Trying to find the "right" amount for groceries each month.

I struggle each month with knowing how much to budget for groceries. I don't have a good sense for whether I am budgeting too much. Take this month for instance. June has four weeks and I budgeted $250 for the month, which strikes me as being too much. However, the first two weeks of the month have looked like this when it comes to groceries:

Week 1
$10.22 - produce stand
$38.71 - Safeway

Week 2
$17.93 - produce stand
$60.54 - Safeway (this included household cleaners)

I also have a "misc" food category in my budget to allow for things like snacks I pick up outside of regular grocery shopping trips. I really starting to think that I need to cut this category out. I put aside $50/month for this and wonder if I really should be. I'm already over in that category for the month of June. I think it would be better for my budget and for my waistline if I cut this category out and allowed less snacking.

On top of this I have a category for Costco, which has $50 per month in it. I'm not really sure why I have this as it's own category. I need to give this some thought and determine whether or not it should be eliminated.

I also wonder if things like household cleaning supplies need to be taken out of the grocery budget line and put into their own category. I do have a "household items" category and the rice cooker I just bought on sale falls in this category.

This week begins week 3 and I intend to spend approx. $40 on groceries as there are not that many things I need to pick up. I do need fresh fruits and veggies and some lunch fixings for taking with me to the office. I have enough food on hand to make dinners.

My Journey Out of Debt

I started this blog to track my journey out of consumer debt.

I'm not struggling with money at all and have no trouble paying the bills and having money left over for a few luxuries but I still am striving to curb my spending on frivolous things and to stick to a budget allowing me to pay off my LOC sooner. I'm using
http://www.youneedabudget.com for my monthly budget and really like this software. It helps you to stop living paycheque to paycheque and to start living today on last month's money (money I earn this month of June is for living on in August as July's money was already earned in May).

Though I have been thinking about making serious efforts to pay off my $19,000 LOC and my MasterCard for a number of months now, I have not really been making any great progress. I have been paying well more than the minimum payments due but could be contributing a lot more.

A week or so ago something clicked and now I am determined to get rid of this debt.

I left a job almost three months ago and received a 2 month pay out similar to severance but I resigned and left on my own accord whereas severance is usually for being let go. This was a nice chunk of change (although after taxes was much less than I had anticipated it would be) and I immediately used $1,000 of it to pay off a "small" CC balance and used another $1,200 to purchase new bedroom furniture. Other than that, the remaining money had just been sitting in my chequing account. Why I held onto it for so long I don't know. I guess I felt like it was security for me.

A little over a week ago I used $2,500 of this pay out and put it onto my MasterCard. I put my last two cheques from my part time job directly onto the MC, which were $400 and $250, respectively. Two more cheques from my part time job should see this card paid off and that will feel great. I will continue to use my MC for most everything as I collect Air Miles with it but it will be paid in full every month.

I was recently faced with the option of applying for a HELOC large enough to pay out my mortgage and have about $50,000 remaining for home improvements (intend to finish my basement) and perhaps for buying a car in a couple years, etc. I mulled that over for some time and decided I did not want to have a HELOC that large as the interest on it would fluctuate with prime whereas if I just renew my mortgage in October when it is up, it will be at a fixed rate of approx 5.1% for the next five years. I felt this was a better way to go. So I applied for a HELOC but for much less than what I was originally thinking of.

Once I get my HELOC in place I intend to transfer the $18K from the existing LOC at prime +1.75% as the HELOC will be at prime -0.51% for the first 12 months and at prime thereafter.

My bank has a promotion on right now where if you get a HELOC in June you will receive a voucher for Totem Building Supply (similar to Home Depot) for 10% off a single purchase up to $20,000 as well as a $50 Totem CG. Since I am planning to have my cousin's husband renovate my basement, this 10% discount will come in very handy when we go to purchase all the building supplies.

I think I've rambled enough for a first post. Thanks to anyone who took the time to read.