A Money Coach in Canada

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For a time as a kid, our family had barely middle class income. Oh, we never went without shoes or anything, but things were tight.

During those difficult few years, there were a sprinkling of glorious moments when something so wonderful happened it felt like a miracle. One occurred when I was in grade 2. I’d just learned how to tell time and I wanted a watch for Christmas. Desperately. But I didn’t expect one, that’s for sure.

On Christmas Eve (we followed the northern European tradition of opening presents Christmas Eve), there was a special box for me. It was an unforgettable moment, unwrapping that gift. Not only did that box contain a watch, but it had six different coloured straps which could be interchanged, and three different casings which could be interchanged. The permutations and combinations were infinite to my 7 year old mind. Not only did I receive a beautiful watch, I received an infinite number of watches!

And I wore a new one every week for that year, and I bet the year after that, and the year after that.

Anyway, that’s one of my most magical, glorious moments of Christmas that I can recall.

How ’bout you? Did you have any particularly thrilling gift-moments that you can recall?

Opening my first (and so far only) macbook is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. (David, remember me asking you if buying future macbooks was as thrilling? or if it was only the first purchase that was so amazing?). I got home at about 4pm and I stayed up til nearly 3am – unheard of for me – enthralled.

That was in 2005, when iPods were starting to take off, but Mac users were still the outsiders — the cool, truly geeky outsiders who inhabited design firms making beautiful things. I wasn’t one of them, but dammit, I now had the same computer! And a money coach with a mac was cooler than a money coach with a pc, non?

Yes, it’s been a love affair, undiminished by my iPod touch, then my iPhone and most recently my iPad. My macbook is my first and true one.

But it’s been hard used: across the country and back, hauled through -40C regularly, dropped a few times, and rarely turned off over the past 5 years.

And now, routinely, this:

Spinning Beach Ball Of Death

My macbook’s had its day and it’s time to buy a new one.

For the past month, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Apple Rumour site which advises:

Product MacBook
Recommendation: Don’t Buy – Updates soon
Last Release May 18, 2010
Days Since Update 212 (Avg = 195)

But I need one sooner rather than later. I can’t imagine that Apple will release anything new in January – who would buy that soon after Christmas? – and February seems unlikely as well. All I know is that they will release OS X Lion in the summer.

If I buy a macbook now, I can still upgrade to Lion from Snow Leopard when it’s released, right? And it’s a fairly easy process?

ps – and have you bought more than one mac? Was it as thrilling after the initial purchase?

This is a guest blog by a coworker with a lively online persona … but not from my lips or typing shall his/her identity be revealed. I did manage to coax out this guest post on the all-too-common habit of eating out too much for our budgets to handle. Northerners or readers in remote places will particularly relate, I suspect!

Lunch for Wednesday

Having a single income, owning a home with constant repairs needed, and living in the North where the cost of living is at an all time high makes a person consider setting up an IV system instead of paying for real food. Add to this the temptation of working downtown where there are at least half a dozen establishments with friendly staff waiting to take $20 and hand you a quick answer to the question “what’s for lunch?” and I’ve found myself looking at an empty bank account wondering what happened more than once.

One solution to this is to stop eating. A BETTER solution to this is stop impulse eating. When I moved out of my parent’s place at age 17, some of the advise my mom gave me was “always lock your door”, “cook big meals that can be frozen”, and “learn to budget”. The last two I’ve really taken to heart recently. Every pay day, I sit down and think of what I want to eat for the next two weeks until my next pay cheque. On my last shopping trip, I got everything I needed for breakfasts and lunches for 2 weeks for about $45, and everything I need for suppers for $50, including snacks and desserts. That is every meal I will need for 2 weeks for under $100.

When shopping for food, people tend to do it all in one place, which is understandable, but tends to lead you to do all of your shopping at higher end grocery stores where the meat and produce is fresher and readily available. Unfortunately this also means that the frozen and boxed items are more expensive. Frozen foods, preserves and dry goods are made to the same factory specifications, which from a freshness standpoint makes it a moot point as to where you actually pick them up. A can of soup is a can of soup. My tendancy now is to pick up all of my dry/frozen goods at a grocery store down town, which is the cheapest in YK, and then pick up my fruits/veggies and meats at a store closer to my house.

Another way I save on my food bill is to make a big meal every weekend and freeze the majority of it in single serving containers. If I make a soup or stew on the weekend in my slow cooker (which is a marvelous invention might I add), that will do me for a week or so. Now, the same soup for lunch every single day tends to get quite dull, which is why I make something different every weekend and stockpile my frozen meals. Lasagana here, stew there, pulled pork every once in a while, and I’m happy.

We as Canadians tend to waste a lot of food. One reason being that we buy too much of it, and we buy it on an impulse. When I got home from the store, I used to have to clear out some space before I was able to put any of it away, and a lot of the new items I was putting in the fridge was the same stuff I had just tossed out because I didn’t use it the last time. Just because it sounds like a good idea in the grocery isle, doesn’t mean that you will use it. I’ve also taken to looking at my grocery cart a lot instead of what’s on the shelves, either planning meals in my head and making sure I only get what I need, or just trying to aviod the “oh shiny” reaction to a new flavour of chocolate coated something-or-other that may catch my eye. When it comes to treating myself, I could justify pretty much anything, so long as there was carmel filling involved somehow. Now, it’s 1-2 treats tops per pay period.

All in all, this has made for a much smaller food bill, and a much healthier diet. No more coming home from the store feeling like I accomplished something, then realizing that I spent $100 or so on treats, and only have enough real food for maybe 4 meals. Who knew that taking my mom’s advise would work out so well :).

-Luggy Deadnick

Readers: I eat out for lunch maybe once/week, tops. That’s partly due to the fact that I can walk home – in -30C, mind you – every day for lunch. How often do you buy lunch, and what do you attribute it to?

’cause the VP of Afghanistan travels with….

“Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money “a significant amount” that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, “was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)”

Full article on the New York Times

Personally, I usually carry about $20 for domestic travel, maybe $100 international.   I suddenly feel inadequate.

I did it! I bought nothing today!

There was a teensy bit of cheating: I had pre-booked (long before I remembered what today was, honest) a coffee date and the other person bought my latte. Also, my cleaning person was scheduled today anyways. But I didn’t swipe my card through any machines today, nor did I fork over any cash. My wallet stayed tucked away all day long.
Readers: have you ever gone a day, deliberately, without spending money? Krystal, I know you have. And Esme, I think you do quite regularly right? Big Cajun Man, ever tried?

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