Wednesday, 29 June 2016

June: the middle of the year

June is ending. I am feeling a bit relaxed about it. It being the middle of the year and with good weather, brings happiness.
Even though the year started with a great blow, it gave me a lot of opportunities to try new things.
I tried making bodywash from bar soap. The DIY body wash not finished yet. The shower cleaner was a great success. I will never spend money on buying shower cleaners.

I got lazy in June and didn't write down  how the money was spent.
I know, it is not good.

Finally, this month, I called the bank to cancel the overdraft protection.Talking to the bank rep about cancelling the OD protection made me a little scared. The person told me in case I don't have enough money to pay for my bills, they will charge $45 fee and interest on top of that. I felt bad, but, still decided to stop that service. May be it is a big mistake. But, I am going to take a chance on it.

I still have to find out how much passive income I made this month.  That will be mentioned in one of the upcoming posts.

This weekend is going to be Canada day long weekend. Wish you all a great Canada day!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Learning about MBNA credit Card

I got the MBNA credit card application form in the mail. I used to get it mostly in my snail mail. Usually, I treat it as junk mail. Just tear the paper and throw it in the recycle bin.

Just recently, I opened it to see what the offer is. They are giving 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months. Really??? So, I want to know how it actually works.

You can enjoy zero interest for the transfers done on the first 90 days of accounting opening. After that, there will be regular interest charges, which is 19.99%. 
The promotional rate will change if you are late to do a minimum payment in any of the 12 months.

There is a minimum fee of $7.50 when you make the balance transfer. 

In the terms and conditions, they says clearly that to get approved, you have to be in good standing with your creditors. So, those who have bad credit cannot enjoy the benefit of zero interest by MBNA. 

Like many credit cards, there is no annual fee. My family uses only no annual fee credit cards. 

I didn't apply for the MBNA MasterCard, because, I do not carry a balance on my credit cards. I don't need a new credit card at present. 

I was considering it when we were experiencing the job loss though. But, we were able to manage without accumulating any credit card balances.

If you are in bad financial situation with good credit rating at present, then this is a credit card you must think of applying. 

I am not financially compensated by MBNA or any other financial institution for this article. Opinions are mine. Do your own research in getting a credit card.

Monday, 27 June 2016

How to improve your bank balance?

Our cultures around the world don't encourage to talk about personal finance openly. Money and your wealth has to be a real secret. 

Most of us can be caught on saying that, I don't have money. That goes with I don't have money to invest, to I don't have money to buy/do this or that. 

When we are living from pay check to pay check, it is difficult to see any money left over. 
The number one thing to improve bank balance is to spend less than what you earn.Yes, there is no other magic to increase your bank balance.

Think about ways to cut your spending on a regular basis. May be it is packing your lunch to work instead of buying every work day. Then once you cut whatever spending, writing it down. That will motivate you to make more changes in life. 
Is your hobby is good and help you make any income? If then, stick to it. If it is just out of control and the money going out is more, then have a hard look. Think of what is important to you. Can you get the same pleasure from your hobby by using less expensive materials? 

Another thing is to remove temptations of spending. I used to go to the mall for fun. Then if I saw a sale item or something that is pretty, i used to buy it and then regret it. So, now a days, I see an item, then give myself a cooling off time before buying. Most of the time, if I am just going to the mall for just fun, I will have only 5 bucks with me. My credit and debit cards will be stashed away at home. That way, I have no other choice than not buying it. 

The next thing to improve bank balance is to pay the bills in time. If you don't pay the credit cards in time, there will be a big interest charge on your purchases. Never ever use the cash checks provided by the credit card companies. 
To do that, you have to stick with the number one rule: spending less than you earn.
Make use of everything you already have. In short, reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. I recycle my yoghurt containers at least one time before throwing out. 

Always remember that financial Independence begins with one dollar saved. Remember, you have to invest your saved money to accumulate more money. 

Hope, the strategies mentioned in this article will help you to improve your bank balance

Friday, 24 June 2016

We survived a job loss

I can tell you that I have first hand experience surviving job loss in the family. 
My husband, the main income earner of the family lost his job in January 2016. The employer decided to lay off everybody and close doors suddenly.

So, there was no notice period. No warnings. No severance pay. 

At first, it was shock.  You know,Then there was anger, regret. frustration... So many emotions to deal with. Then, we were ready to fight the situation: 

First thing first: We have to deal with living expenses. I have the job, but the income is like minimum wage. DH applied for EI. Since he was applying for the first time, he has to wait for two weeks. those two weeks, he will not get any money. 

 We accepted the extreme frugal lifestyle: Buying frozen veggies, a lot of beans, lentils and cooking from scratch, we were able to survive those months.  

We negotiated with the cable company to reduce bills.  Tried to cook before and after the peak time to save on electricity. Our dishwasher and cloth dryer were quiet. There was a self imposed ban on buying anything other than food and medicines. 
Stopped all automatic RRSP savings.  

Since we were very keen in paying off the credit cards when the bills come, there was no much worries about that. 

The mortgage was also had to be renewed in April. We got worried about that. With no job for DH, how can get approved ? 
I asked several people about it. One 
Real Estate agent told me that if we are going to agree to the terms of our present company, no need to provide proof of income. That turned out to be true. We chose reduced monthly payments. 

We used to visit our daughter every other week. We had to stop that, because driving 2 hours to reach her place was another expense. It was a big hard sacrifice for both of us. 

We also took the overdraft protection from the bank. It was $4 per month from RBC. That way the bank will pay the bills,even though your account doesn't have enough money.  But, they will charge about 20%  interest till you have money in the account. 

DH learned a lot about current resume styles. There were free resume writing and other job search related workshops. 

While doing the job search we came to know that there are many government funded education programs, which are available only for new immigrants. Project Management Certificate is one among them. They are called bridging programs. It is not offered to us, citizens. 

There are some education programs for EI recipients, but those were not going to help him in his field. 

Keeping a positive attitude is a must to find a new job. But, sometimes, it can be hard.  DH was scheduled for an interview, then the day before he got a call saying the position is already filled. You can imagine the disappointment.

He realized, good paying jobs are scarce in Toronto in software field. Age is a factor in getting a job. 

Anyway, the happy ending is he found a job. He don't have to do long commute. The pay is way less than his previous job. I am very happy to say that I can afford to see my daughter every other week! 

Since we were living extreme frugal life while DH was on job search, we know how to live happily with what we have.  

Monday, 20 June 2016

Canadian dividend ETF CDZ

I was thinking of investing in some ETF, which can pay monthly dividend. The quest brought the name CDZ. While I do not know why it is named with those particular letters, I came to know the dividends are paid monthly.

My search on Google led me to this article on Canadian Couch Potato , dated way back to 2010. The biggest change happened to CDZ is the ownership change from Claymore to iShares. In 2012, BlackRock bought Claymore investments. But, there was no name change to this one. 
BlackRock website says it all: S&P/TSX Candain dividend aristocrat etf. The main holding sectors  are Financial, energy and industrial.

The top holdings are Russel Metals inc, Corus Entertainment Inc, Northern Apartment Real Estate Inc, Gibson energy etc. None of them are included in any of my other investments either. 

MER is 0.66% and Management fee is 0.6%.

When I checked the list of all holdings, i can see all of the Canadian big banks are included by CDZ.  It also holds Bell, Tellus and Shaw communications. In that way, I guess, there are no problems for the dividends. 

Google also gave me the 52 weeks high price: $26.10. I can see it is trading just a bit below that price at present. 

I am going to watch this one along with another ETF from iShares: XDV. I can see that both are having big banks. So, if i am going to have both, I  will have some overlapping. Both are paying monthly dividends.  
Will you be investing in both? Or you will go with one? Love to see your thoughts.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Frugal Food :Chickpeas

Chickpeas are good for everybody. They have protein and fiber. Less expensive than meat for sure. 

Oh and gluten free with less calories!!! 
So, it is a healthy choice as well as frugal food. 

I like to buy the dry chickpeas, not the canned ones. The dried ones need to be soaked for about 6 hours before cooking. Canned ones are easy, yet you have more packing to throw out and more preservative to think about. So, to make life simple, I like to have dry one. The local Costco used to carry it. 

Now, I used to to sock it overnight on Saturday, and cook on Sunday. (Do you know the power rate is lower on weekends here in Toronto?).

I use my trusty pressure cooker to cook these. Once they are really cooked, I make hummus, or add curry powder to create a curry.

Hummus is really easy. I will use about 2 cups of cooked chickpeas. Add about a teaspoon of Realemon. Add a clove or two of garlic and a small piece of ginger. There is a Mediterranean thing called Tahini. If I have it, I will add a teaspoon of that. Then blend everything in the blender with a bit of olive oil. Add salt to taste. Here we have our guilt free low calorie dip for veggies or chips: I use it on my pita as a spread instead of Mayonnaise. 

Cooked chickpeas can be added to salads. It can be  made as curry to serve on rice. 
Oh, you can make chickpea soup, with this recipe
If you like to see it on pinterest, here is my Chickpea Recipe board

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Keeping summer expenses down

Summer is usually short in Canada. Good weekends are happy times. That makes people go out and spend more.

I am not an exception. summer time we usually tend to spend on impulse. Usually impulse spending are on  water or ice-cream. It can be on sandals, summer clothes....the list can go on. Not to mention the spending on driving.

This year, I am planning to spend my weekends on parks. I usually carry water with us. But, still I tend to indulge the occasional ice-cream. So, this year, I am not keeping this cold sweet treat at home.  That will reduce my sugar intake.

The good thing about reducing the sugar intake is consuming less calories. That can improve my chances of changing the weight and there by helping me to keep the current wardrobe. Remember, changing in size means new set of work clothes and more expenses.

Walking as much as possible is also on the list of summer activities. I am also on the look out for opportunities to reduce the number of things I own. Summer is the best time to donate used items to thrift stores.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, A Disease Called Debt and Femme Frugality*

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Nose blowing issues.

We all get it at least one time in an year: the irritating runny-nose accompanied with allergies or common cold. The Kleenex company seems to have the answer to that issue. Their advertisements are targeting the nose blowing issue.

The problem with Kleenex is one piece of paper is too thin to have good nose blowing. I prefer to have minimum two pieces for one blowing. Otherwise I will end up with more gross on my hand.

Many frugal friends love to use handkerchiefs for the job. They argue that the handkerchiefs are washable and can be used several times.  There are kerchiefs available in variety of colours and can be found with beautiful embroidery. With each use , they become softer.

My trouble is washing a snot soaked kerchief. I tried that before. It is not a pleasant thing to do wash it with hands. Washing the handkerchief alone in the washer an option. But, do you really want to run the washer for just for kerchief? Washing up the snot with other clothes feels gross to me.

To keep the expenses down, I would like to go the kerchief option. But, I like to have the comfort of disposable paper. So, I guess, I can cut some old cotton t-shirts in squares for just the runny nose. They are soft on the nose. Since I used them before( to the max as t-shirts),  I would like to throw them out. Or just use the washroom to do a good nose blowing, then wash hands and face and finish with wiping a re-usable handkerchief.

At home DH gets sick more often than I do. He goes hard on his nose to rub off the skin. It is pathetic to see his red traumatized nose. He love my disposable t-shirt hanky to use at home. If he has to be in public, he will take the tissue paper.  He prefer to use toilet paper to wipe the nose instead of tissue paper. (But, you know, he don't like to hold a roll of TP in public.)

Since I don't get sick that often, I am going to continue having the hanky in the handbag, along with few (may be 10 pieces) folded tissues in a ziplock bag.  A small bottle of store brand hand sanitizer is also a great idea not to spread our germs.

So how do you tackle your nose blowing issues?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Using up Costco chicken to save money

Many of Costco customers are fans of the rotisserie chicken at Costco. Even though Canadians pay more for it than U.S people, it is still a bargain.

We, the family of two, do not need that much meat for one meal. There will be a lot of leftovers.

so, we created a plan for it. First day, we eat it fresh. Then the rest of the meat will be taken from bones. The bones will be used to make stock. We put the bones along with some veggies in a pot and boil for long time. We put carrots, onions, celery etc. or will use the vegetable peels. Adding fresh, dry or frozen herbs along with some garlic cloves will give more flavours. Once all the vegetables are really cooked, sieve it and keep the broth.

The shredded meat can be added to make a soup. I like to cook potatoes with some spices. Then add some shredded meat to it. That can be one meal. Sometimes I make stir- fried rice with vegetables and add shredded meat to it. I noticed that the chiken from Costco is saltier than other places. So, I prefer to reduce salt in my shredded meat meals.

I found some really cool ideas here.  Who doesn't like the Alfredo sauce from Costco? So make some pasta dishes with that and the rotisserie chicken.
Do you have any other ideas for Costco  rotisserie chicken?

Friday, 10 June 2016

How to survive high gocery price

Now a days, we can feel the price hike on groceries, especially when buying fruits and vegetables. The media is saying it loud, but not suggesting anything to help us.

Our grocery shopping is done by my husband. What he does is buy the veggies and fruits from No Frills or Food Basics. His strategy is to look for items costs $0.99 per pound. There are not many things in that price range anymore. Anyway, our meal planning is based on what he brings home.

We also buy the frozen veggies. Recently I happened to see some blogs suggesting cooking with garbage. You can bake the vegetable peels, according to this one.

There is another idea : to make vegetable stock from the peels. I wash the vegetables carefully before peeling. Then keep the peels and ends pf carrots, zucchini,etc in the freezer. I have a container just for that. When that is full, I boil it on stove top or in a slow cooker. Then sieve and use the broth for soups or to cook rice.

If there is left over steamed veggies, keep them in the freezer to make soup later.

We can try to grow our own vegetables, at least when the weather is warmer. Anybody can try growing celery from scrap. It will not give you much, yet it can give a at least few stems to add in a salad or soup.

In the city, to plant vegetables, we need to buy the soil and fertilizer. Water is not free either. So, using up every part of the vegetables we paid for it is a must.

If I get any fresh produce for a bargain, I buy more. Then a lot of it will go to freezer. Sometimes, we get 10 lb bag of carrots  in the fall cheap. Then we peel them and cut them to keep in the freezer for cooking later. Same goes with leafy veggies, tomatoes, beetroots etc. That way, we can reduce the food waste.

Do you have any other suggestions to survive high veggie prices? Please share them to me.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Pay yourself first

David Chilton said in his book, "The Wealthy Barber", to pay yourself first. What that means in the life of us, the working class people, is to save a portion of money from each pay check before paying our bills.

I was recently reading his second book, "The Wealthy Barber Returns". He still sticking to this idea. 

To pay ourselves first, we have to set up a savings account. I will say we can start a TFSA for this purpose.

Put may be $100 each month in this account. When it turns like $500 0r $1000, see your options. May be buy an ETF or place in a GIC at least. Some banks have high interest GIC for the TFSA . My motto is to invest one dollar at a time to get riches. 

Once that $100 is deducted from the bank account, we have to figure out our spending with rest of the money. To keep that in money invested, we must have strong control over ourselves. Can you do that????

To me, if I buy a GIC, I will not touch it. Buying a share or ETF also does the same to me. 

Once you need to log into the account and transfer the money to the checking account can help you not to spend it on that Kate Spade handbag. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Monday is boring!

Most people are very reluctant to start off Monday. It is the beginning of the next work week. Another long week, if you really hate your job. Is there anything can be done to make it better?

May be trying to find the positive things about the job will be a better beginning. The work is providing the income needed to live the day to day life. So, that is one plus thing: thank god there is work to do.

In my case I don't have a problem with going to work. It is just the blog: Most of the Mondays, I cannot find something to write on the blog. The vinegar story is already told. The dividends earned for last month is already discussed. Now what?

Can I call it writers block? That will be funny: Don't you think so? You and me know my writing is not great. It is just typing some things on a blank page.

I am not anxiously looking for how many +1 the post got on the Google, or the likes on the Facebook. Never mind the Twitter. Those are the platforms help me to find ideas from Financially Independent and frugal people.

Still my Monday feels like lethargic. Guess, this will also pass. I think, there is not much to think of a Monday. To make it better, I am going to say, there is still a work place to go. There are still people coming to get dental treatments. So, there is more opportunities to watch people and especially the mouth.

Oh and I still have to think of what to write for the week.  Now, I feel Monday provided me with some challenges. Challenges to tame the boredom and the blogging block.  By thinking of creating Monday interesting, time is going fast....

What you will be doing when you are bored?

Friday, 3 June 2016

May Dividend update

May has just ended. It is time to check how much I made with in terms of dividend. 
A total of 33.96 in TFSA and 18.79 in RRSP. Then glad to see $140 in the non registered account. Yeah... good for me. 
There is not enough to DRIP for any of the stocks. So, just holding on while waiting to put more in to TFSA or RRSP. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Fun with jam making

Jam is one of the ingredient for my milk smoothie. I used to get a big bottle of ED Smith strawberry jam/spread from Costco. To me the price was right: until recently. Till my hubby lost his job, to be exact.
This small family was living with much less. Jam was a luxury. Then in this mild winter, I found cranberries at Real Canadian Superstore( think, in February). Can you imagine that? The price was like $0.99 for a bag of 1 pound. I got two. Hbubby was wondering what I was up to till he saw the cranberry sauce in the fridge. It lasted for about two months.

He got a new job now. We can indulge in a few luxuries like take outs.  Wow!!! don't I feel richer? 

But I really got hooked with Mr.Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme. So, I really want to reduce my impulse spendings. If something is priced not to my likings, I have to think of alternatives. 

So, when the big bottle of jam is over $6 at Costco, I started thinking of alternatives. I can have frozen strawberries in my smoothie. Then why not jam from frozen strawberries???

That is what I tried. Wrote the recipe while making it.

Frozen Strawberry, Banana and Orange Jam

3 cups frozen whole strawberries
1.25 cups of sugar
2 over ripened bananas
2 oranges
1teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

I put the strawberries in the microwave for about 2 minutes to defrost. Then put them on stove top on low heat. When they started to get soften, added the mashed bananas and chopped oranges.(no orange skin or pips). 
When it started boiling, added sugar, all the while stirring constantly.  I got the strong banana smell. That is why I added the lemon juice and vanilla essence. 
I was stirring it very often to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. When it was like thickened, I stitch off the stove. Poured in the sterilized jar. It is a pint I assume. 
By sterilized jar, what I meant is washed the bottles in the dishwasher ( I run the full cycle including drying). 

Modifications in mind

Adding more oranges in the future or reducing banana to just one. Have to try with just one cup or less sugar.  Will try to add a grated piece of ginger. Why not add one apple too?

Buy fruits when they are cheap and freeze them.

Good to know

2.5 kg of frozen strawberries costs about $12. 
The cyprus oranges were so sour that it was impossible to eat them. So freeze those ones, if they make it home again.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Can you wait ?

I read that spraying a little bit of soapy water on dirty dishes make the cleaning easy. There goes a light bulb on my frugal brain!!!!
Think of combining dish soap with water. What it really does is stretching the dish washing liquid, right? 
By spraying it on the dishes, I can make it last longer instead of pumping it on the scrubbing sponge.  Haha... great idea. 
Now, all I want is a spray bottle. Immediately I thought about buying one from the Dollar shop. Then as usual I put it on my shopping list. 
Then by the weekend , after being to several places to buy all the groceries and other urgent things, hubby  was tired. So, the dollar shop was postponed to another day. Then at home, I decided to purge some of the things to create room. 
There they are: one spray bottle with little bit of Windex and another one of finished fabric softener. 
The fabric softener bottle has a cute pink colour. I cleaned it out to use as my dish soap sprayer.  It works perfectly!!!!
Used up the windex to clean the mirrors and and the glass ceramic stove top. Now, that one is available for my frugal shower cleaner.

We always heard about waiting before making a big purchase and using what you have. It turned out even small purchases can wait for a couple of hours. May be we can find creative ideas within that time. I am happy that I am not putting two  plastic bottles out for the world to deal with and the few bucks being still in my purse.