Getting Back on Track – Round 2

Yesterday I talked about getting back on track with my money and my health. Today, I’m going to go into a bit more detail about my meal plan.

I’ve mentioned before that meal planning is not my favourite activity – I’m actually pretty bad at it. That said, I’m also sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time. So for one week (starting at dinner today, April 5th, till Saturday, April 11th) I’ll be following a healthy meal plan comprised of recipes I already love, and new ones I haven’t tried yet.

In terms of keeping things healthy, I don’t want to start out too crazy. Counting calories has always left me confused and/or hungry (maybe I was confused because I was so hungry?) and having to measure out everything exactly takes the ease and time-saving aspect out of meal planning for me. So here are the guidelines I plan to use in order to stay on track:

1. Every breakfast will be accompanied by a piece fruit, and every lunch and dinner will have a side salad (that contains at least 3 veggies).

2. Snacking is not to be feared. I’m probably going to get hungry at weird times this week. I know I overeat, and that my portion sizes are out of control, so moving to reasonable-size meals is going to make me feel hungry, a lot! Instead of running to the food court and grabbing a cookie I’m going to make sure I have healthy snacks on hand.

3. Drink lots of water! I’m aiming for one glass of water every 1.5 hours. I know I don’t hydrate enough, and drinking lots of water will hopefully help with point #2.

4. Keep the plan visible and look at it every day. It’s easy to slip up and go meet a friend for dinner or “forget” your lunch in the fridge. Keep the plan visible and at the front of your mind so you remember what you’re looking for.

Do you follow a healthy meal plan? What kind of results have you seen?

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Getting Back On Track

Alright, I’ve been slacking lately.

I haven’t really been tracking my spending, or staying on top of blogging, or making it to the gym. I haven’t dug myself into a hole by any means, but it’s turning into a very slippery slope. So I’ve decided today that this week will be the week I turn it around.

I’m making some quarter-year goals to get myself back on track:

1. Once a month, I’m doing a no-spending week. This means that I’m buying my groceries on a Sunday and then putting my credit cards away until the next Sunday. No nights out, no timmies breakfast when I’m late for work, and no buying lunches. My first no-spend week will be starting on Sunday, April 5th.

2. I’m making a gym schedule, and sticking to it. I know I do best with the gym when I bring my gear with me and go straight after work, so I’m going to look up class schedules and write down when I plan to go each week and what I’ll be doing when I’m there. I’m also going to start putting feelers out for “gym buddies” to help me get on track.

3. I’m going to make more of an effort to keep my house clean. After doing a deep clean for a landlord inspection last week I realized how much more relaxed I feel when my house is organized and under control. Instead of doing one massive cleaning every once in a while, I’m going to start sending aside an hour each weekend to do some basic upkeep and organizing.

Now these goals aren’t all about money, but they’re definitely effected by money. Making all my meals at home is a financially responsible decision, but also good for my health, ditto with making a gym schedule. Staying organized and making sure I can actually find the things I own also means I’m less likely to double-purchase or impulse purchase something I don’t need.

What goals do you set to stay on track?

Paycheck Management

First off – apologies for the bit of a hiatus. Things got kind of crazy with life and the new job for a while, but I’m back!

So let’s talk about payday. I get paid in two installments, one on the 1st of every month, and one on the 15th. Each pay date has a different set of bills associated with it. To make sure everything is getting paid (in full and on time) I make sure I know which paycheck has to cover which bill.

Paycheck 1

Paycheck 1 covers all of my living expenses (rent, internet, utilities, and phone around $800). Once these costs have been cleared off, I look at how much I have left over and divide it up. I have an automatic withdrawal set up for my RRSP for each payday, and half my gym membership payment will also come out of this pay. If I’ve used my credit card a bit more that month, I might make a payment to my card, and the rest of the money goes into my savings account. I always leave myself a cash float in my account of around $400.

Paycheck 2

Like paycheck 1, I have an automatic RRSP withdrawal and gym membership that come out of this pay. Once that is done, I pay off anything outstanding on my credit cards and put the rest directly into savings. Easy!

Organizing your paychecks takes the stress out. Think about how you’re paid and organize your expenses accordingly. Knowing what you need to pay when (I use a calendar on my desktop) makes it easy to keep organized and on top of your bills without stressing about making your paycheck last.

How do you organize your funds?

The 1, 5, 10 and 20 Year Plan

You’ve probably heard before that when it comes to investing and saving, time is on your side.

That’s very true. Time means that you’re collecting compound interest, and that you need to save less per month to achieve the same result.

Sometimes it can feel like you just aren’t putting enough into your RRSP or TFSA. A lot of 20-somethings get caught up in this feeling of “I can only contribute $100…what’s the point?”. This is where I use my 1, 5, 10 and 20 year outlook to put things in perspective.

How does this work? I take a look at how the book value* of my money adds up over those time periods. Let’s say, for example, I contribute $200/month to my RRSP, here’s my outlook:

1 years (12 months): $2400
5 years (60 months): $12,000
10 years (120 months): $24,000
20 years (240 months): $48,000
BONUS! If I retire at age 65 (40 years and 480 months from now): $96,000

*Book Value is the value of the security or assets you hold in your account. This is the amount that you’ve contributed + any dividends you have been paid out.

Now remember, this doesn’t include compounding interest, or take into account the performance of the portfolio’s I hold in my TFSA, so this amount would likely be higher in the end.

Now, let’s make a comparison using the 20 year plan. By saving $200 a month, I could have $48,000 in 20 years. To hit that same amount of money in 5 years, I would need to save $800/month. And to save it in 2 years, I would need $2,000/month.

This plan can also be used in reverse to see how much you should have in your account at different milestones to meet your goals. Say I want a $500,000 Book Value by the time I retire, and I plan to retire in 40 years, I would need to be saving ~$1,041.67/month.

40 years ($1,041.67/480 months): $500,000
20 years ($1,041.67/240 months): $250,000
10 years ($1,041.67/120 months): $125,000
5 years ($1,041.67/60 months): $62,500
1 year ($1,041.67/12 months): $12,500

So remember, even if you’re saving $50 or $100 a month, put what you can in your savings account instead. When it comes to saving, every little bit counts.

5 Ways to Fight off FOMO

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is one of my friend Jules favourite phrases, it’s also one of the biggest enemies to your budget.

It can be hard to save when you’re missing out on lunch with coworkers, drinks after work, ski trips and hockey games, and it’s often tempting to say “Well, just this once…”.

So how can you fight off FOMO?

1. Skip the bar and have wine night at your place. The markup on bar drinks is pretty ridiculous. Think about it, is a glass of $15 wine costing you $8.50 really a good deal? So offer up your place for the next after-work drink meet up. Bonus: You won’t have to stumble very far after your 3rd (ok…6th) glass!

2. Buy tickets for the small game. It can be super tempting to buy expensive tickets for the big game (I’m guilty of paying $350 for two tickets to the Flames/Canucks game on Valentines day), but tickets for teams that aren’t playing as well are often much less expensive. You’ll still get an entertaining game, just for a lower price.

3. Sign up for GroupOns, or another discount site. Yes, the emails can get annoying, but you can get great deals on restaurant meals, drinks, and other events. I recently purchased tickets for two to a Chocolate and Wine Tasting at a local hot spot for $20 total (regular price well over $100), and lately there seem to be a lot of concert tickets going up. You can still have fun, just take a moment to scan the deals.

4. Have a stay-cation. Now, living in Calgary, Alberta, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, I’m a bit spoiled. I can have a stay-cation while visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world (and some places, like the nordic ski trails in Canmore, or hiking in K-Country, cost nothing but the gas money to get there). No matter where you live, check out tripadvisor.com or your local visitor centre and see what fun things you can get up to close to home.

5. Watch for discount nights. Cineplex movie theatres do cheap tickets on Tuesdays, many bars do 1/2 price wine and food specials on Thursdays, and some places will participate in festivals with discounted, set menus. There’s lots of opportunity to get cost if you get to know your area and what offers they have going.

What’s your favourite way to have fun while spending smarter?

How to Rock Your First Week of Work

I started a new job this week, in a position with a software company that is a bit of a departure from my previous experience. This will be my first time in my professional life working in a larger (over 100) person company, and my first time since University working with a team of more than 1 or 2 people. Add in learning a whole new software and a whole new way of doing things, and I’m in for a pretty steep learning curve.

So how do I plan to rock my first week of work?

By being quiet.

I normally come in guns blazing, full of past experiences and big ideas. I’m outgoing and can talk for hours, jumping in and pushing ahead. Sure, I can put on an impressive show, even convince a few people that I know what I’m doing, but I never really learn much. This week, based on some excellent advice from a friend and mentor, I’m doing the opposite. I’m focusing on my training, asking questions when appropriate, and avoiding the phrase “When I worked at X company, we did…”

What’s my planned outcome?

I want to be an observer. I want to see how things tick before I throw myself into the fray. I want to learn more than just what’s on the surface and impress with my knowledge further down the line by avoiding the dreaded “rookie mistakes”. More than anything, I want to be really great at my new job.

Roommates – Splitting Expenses

Living with roommates is a great way to cut down on your living expenses. You can pay less in rent, share utilities, internet costs, and other household expenses. However, talking money can be tough.

Where to Start

Sharing your home involves more than just splitting rent. Get started by writing out all of your regular monthly house-related expenses. Something like this:

Rent – $1900.00
Utilities – ~$300
Internet – $70

The easiest way to split these expenses is to do everything evenly. If you live with three people, split everything in thirds. Don’t get into conversations about “Well, I don’t use the internet as much as this person does…”. Unless there is a significant discrepancy in the bedroom situation (for example, 1 person has their own bathroom) it’s always best to try to keep everyone on equal footing.

Variable Expenses

Maintaining your home (even rentals) involves purchasing a lot of products. Toilet paper, cleaning supplies, dish soap, are all things you’re going to have to purchase and share with your roommates. I’ve found the easiest way to manage this is to work in a rotation. Using the example of 3 people, you each take turns buying a supply when it runs out.

Now, for this to work, you can’t be picky about the brand your roommates are purchasing. I love this option because it gives everyone the opportunity to determine what works best for their own budget when it’s their turn to buy.

You’re All in it Together

You all share responsibility for you home. If you’re renting, this means that if you choose to put up pictures in the living room, you’re all splitting the amount coming out of the damage deposit. Have a discussion with your roommates before you move in about how costs will be split, who is putting what in their name, and how bills will be paid each month.

Communication is the key here, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you want to see a bill because the utility costs seem high that month, or you’re running out of dish soap really fast.

Remember, your landlord isn’t responsible for mediating roommate disputes, so if you have any discrepancy’s it will be up to you to figure them.

Additional Tips

1. If you’re renting, make sure everyone is on the lease. If only one name is on the lease, that person is on the hook for everyone’s costs. If your landlord won’t make separate leases, make sure everyone is included on and signs the main lease.

2. Draw up a roommate agreement outlining expectations for paying bills and other expenses. Do this together, and have everyone sign it and agree to it. This isn’t a legally binding document, but it does ensure that everyone is aware of expectations up front.