Pay Day 15 (the one after the extended break)

Total applied to LOC:                              $1200

LOC Balance as of today:                   $6799.99

Applied to Emergency Fund:                   $1000 – I’m mentioning this because the fund was depleted, past $0, in the last few weeks. Cars, ugh.

Ok, deep breath and reset. Here. We. Go.

Making steady progress with the $1200 payment to the loan, refurbished emergency fund and still with some $$ in the bank. Feeling a little more stable than I have in a couple of weeks.

That instability was unsettling – I hadn’t felt that since before I started this journey. At Christmas this year, I mentioned to my partner-in-crime how great it felt to a) have a great Christmas and b) have paid it all in cash. This was not how I had done Christmas before, and man does it ever feel good to give when you have something to give.

However, just like the 20 degree weather 2 weeks ago (oh my – the bare white skin that was exposed by the ever-so eager Canadian!), against the -10 weather and snow squall today (WHERE are my mittens?!), the $2600 car repair bill in the last 2 weeks was a sharp reminder that I’m not yet out of the woods and am perilously close to losing all that I have gained in the last year.

This appears to be a theme for me at the moment. Last November I attempted my 3rd full marathon…attempted and failed. It was devastating, a true-setback in my mental well-being and confidence in what my body could achieved. I had put the training in, felt great (and a little emotional) on the morning of the race, the weather was perfect, the course a net down-hill – this should have been a PR in the making.

Alas, it was not to be. I’ll leave out the details, but in short my stomach could not stomach the race. After the first aid team circled me asking if I was ok, and I faked a very optimistic ‘YEP!’, I hit the next aid station and called it quits. Cried in the pick-up van on the way back to the finish line. Cried when I saw my boyfriend…and then cried when I saw my parents who had come to surprise me at the finish line of what should have/could have been a PR. That sucked.

After licking my wounds for a few days, making grandiose suggestions of ‘never again!’, I couldn’t resist the pull of my running shoes. There they sat, looking at me like forgotten puppies. They had done nothing wrong, I had done nothing wrong. That day was just not my day. And so, I re-set. And am still re-setting. Content(ish) to go back to half-marathon distance training and races. It works in my schedule, my commute, my family life. And still achieves my goals of being fit, healthy and achieving personal targets.

And so, just like the training, my debt repayment hit a blip. Delayed my end-date, moved my target, and made me re-think the goal. Which, as it turns out, is still the goal. This is good news, and so all I have to do is re-set the training/debt-repayment to make the goal. So easy!! (hahahahahaha!)

As always, the reminder is to tell your money where to go, and then make sure it goes there.  

Left foot, right foot, repeat until you hit the goal.

 

 

 

 

Pay Day ep. 13 – hustlin’ and strugglin’

Here’s what I know about me: no matter what the distance I’m running, the final 3 km are the worst. It’s true for a 10km run, and a 42.2 km run. Because I know this about myself, I’ve worked on strategies to overcome the negative thinking that tends to rear it’s ugly head at this point in a run.

I tell myself ‘just go 100 steps with your left foot, and then you can rest’, and then of course at 100 steps I tell myself ‘well you did that, try 100 with your right foot, then walk’.

I negotiate running 10 telephone poles, then walking 1.

I myself offer treats (fuel!) at the next km mark.

Inevitably, I get to the end. My mental game has become stronger over the years, and the more I talk to other runners the more I realize that a) I’m not the only one who feels this way and b) they have strategies I can use too.

When I hit ‘transfer’ on last weeks payment, I was overjoyed to see the LOC balance under $3k. And then I realized, it’s the dreaded ‘3k’.

So here’s where I need to engage some jedi-mind tricks to get myself to the end of this particular debt. Because right behind it is another one I have to tackle, so stopping now isn’t an option.

So I’m asking you – what’s your strategy to stay motivated when you’re so close to the goal, but it feels so far away?

So far I’ve come up with:

  1. Focus on the fact that it’s just 2(ish) paycheques to go until it’s done
  2. Get a side hustle – shopping for an audi just got me $80!
  3. ….yep, it’s a little on strategies right now. So…help?

Just like long distance running, it’s a work in progress.

Before I go, the numbers:

Total applied to LOC:        $2350

Current LOC Balance:       $2929.90 -UNDER $3K TO GO! But, oh! 3k, so I’m not done yet?

Progress on LOC to date:  $11,678 – holy cow that’s a lot of money, if only I had spent it wisely 😉

Car Loan:                               $15,662.64 -This morning’s thought: I should transfer the loan balance to my LOC so that I can pay this off faster and more easily through direct account transfers each pay day. Thoughts?

 

Productivity and Planning

I keep reading posts about slowing down, being more purposeful, living with meaning while working incrementally towards your life goals. The A-type personality I possess immediately launches into anxiety mode because I’m not slow enough, in most moments feel I have little purpose, am trying to multi-task several life goals, and am taking baby steps towards multiple goals.

However, my personality also lends well to looking for solutions and implementing them. I thought I’d share a few I’m working on , and ask you to do the same.

Getting up at 5:45am – Ok there’s not fancy link to a fancy program for this one. I once read some where (it might have been on www.blondeonabudget.com) that getting up and doing one thing you love before you start your day will help you feel and be successful. My love is running, and so I’ve pushed myself to be on the treadmill 4/5 mornings by 6:00am (ish). While this has certainly helped in my actual running (evidence in actual PB – personal bests- during races), I can’t tell you how much calmer and focused I am at work because of it. I’m not worried about whether my run will get side-tracked because of a work emergency; I can comfortably take time to have a conversation with a colleague without looking at my watch all the time, trying to readjust my daily schedule; I can cook meals at home in the evening. Which brings us to…

Meal Planning – I’m new to having more than just me to worry about for meals, have moved into a home where red meat and potatoes are king and queen, and have control issues. I took to planning the meals, but found that we were still eating out 2-3 times as week. Apart from the cost (hundreds!!) it wasn’t helping my running and digestion. 2 weeks ago I made a goal of going a week without restaurants, posted a menu for review (Kids and pasta – what’s the obsession?!)  and grocery shopped accordingly. 7 days, no complaints, no restaurant bill, and more balanced meals. The meal plan is posted on a white board in the kitchen , which leads to impromptu ‘changes’ according to the kids,….and now neighbours who think we have ice cream for dinner. We’re going for week 3 🙂

The Self Journal  – I’ve been using this daily planner for about 8 weeks. It’s undated and set for 13 weeks of planning, allowing for a shorter time frame on specific goals I do love the daily scheduling it pushes you to do in advance – nightly 5 minute planning sessions is all it takes to identify how my day is going to flow, what top 3 things I need to get done in order to move forward on my goals, and a daily reminder of the overall goal I’ve identified for myself. Along with morning and evening prompts to identify what you are grateful for (coffee shows up an awful lot on mine!).

I’m slow to the ‘wins and lessons’ section, and know that I’m not using the planner to its fullest yet, so I suspect I’ll be buying another one and will be able to use it to greater effectiveness the second time around.

Mint – I’ve connected all of my bank accounts, credit cards and loans to Mint. Mint allows you to set monthly budgets for yourself and then tracks your spending according to those budgets. While that’s been helpful, I’ve found it more useful in two key areas:

  1. Tracking unexpected bank fees, including credit card interest charged. This one feature alone led to the move of my PC Master Card amount to my line of credit, saving a whopping $XXXX per month in interest payments
  2. Provides reports on spending trends and habits. Coffee is the downfall, and when I first connected all of my accounts threw a $345 expense over 3 months at Tim Horton’s in my face. That ended my auto-reload account with Tim’s.

Mint allows me to stop logging into each account (although there are just two, really) and doing a detailed search and analysis for items I need to correct and adjust. The app takes just a few seconds to update all my accounts, and then it takes me no more than 2 minutes to check if I’m on target or if there is something I need to fix.

I moved my phone from the bedroom– My phone has so much capability and functionality, the least of which is the alarm function. I was using it as my bedside alarm, but this led to late night Facebookery, Twitter watching and email gazing. Doesn’t take much to agree that this is not the desired sleeping environment, and let’s not go into other bedroom activities. So, I dug out the old-fashioned bed side alarm from the basement, dusted it off, and moved the phone downstairs at night. I’m sleeping better and feel less anxiety and urge to read emails first thing in the morning. It’s been a good move!

 

I’m always looking for more ways to get my time back – efficiency and productivity allow me to relax where I should, take in the sunshine now that spring has finally arrived, and enjoy the time I have with family and friends.

Tell me, what are you doing to make the most of your day? What’s the best tip you have for productivity and efficiency?

The cost of racing

Whoever said running is a cheap sport was right…and clearly didn’t race. Running requires running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt. Racing is a whole other level of investment.

After running up a pretty high race tab in 2015, which including a trip to Paris (both France and Ontario!), I decided that this year my races should be more local and, hopefully, more affordable.

This past weekend I was in Hamilton for my 3rd Around the Bay 30km race. When I got home, I emptied out my wallet and realized how many receipts I had. For fun (whoopee!) I added up the costs:

Entry Fee     $70  (this is the early bird rate; I registered just days after racing last year)

Hotel             $105 (same hotel as last year, both because of the rate and because of the awesome service they provide to runners including free breakfast, run route poster, and post-run snacks and water at the hotel)

Travel           $75 (4 hour drive each way, yay for diesel!)

Meals           $60 (beer and wings after the race, don’t even try to tell me I didn’t earn it)

Total =          $310 (wowza!)

Whoa. I just paid $10.33 per km to run with over 6000 people for 30km. Nuts, right?

To date, I’ve registered for 5 races this year and have already run 2 of them. A typical year will see me run 10 races. If we did simple math:

10 races x $310 = $3100

It’s a small used car!

Not all of my races will require hotels and significant travel, and some will require one (travel) and not the other (hotel). But if this is meant to be my ‘cheap’ year of racing, I have got to get the average cost down.

On the upside , all receipts were for cash expenses. Other than the race entry, paid by credit card in the hey-days of 2015 nonchalance, everything from the weekend was paid directly out of a chequing account.

Even with the goal to rid my life of debt, I can’t rid my life of racing. I love it, it makes me happy, and gives me a sense of accomplishment. And that’s worth delaying debt-free life buy a couple of months.

What’s your hobby costing you? Did you cut back on doing what you love in order to reach a financial goal? Am I being too stubborn?

Extra time, but no extra money!

One of things that I have a love-hate relationship is the energy I have during a taper week. I sleep like a log, my body starts to recover and feel great, and I have an increasing amount of energy that has no purpose….yet.

That extra energy means that I turn to other outlets. To-do list items  that I put aside in previous weeks, where mileage was climbing, now start to get addressed. Truth be told, I’d rather be running, but instead I’ve been working on the to-do list which I’ve purposely made to be full of cost-free activities:

  • meal prep and build up some slow-cooker freezer meals after that are now depleted
  • de-clutter the spare bedroom
  • take said clutter to the Goodwill
  • put in some extra hours at work to afford some down-time after the race
  • spend time with family members, just sitting , talking and laughing
  • spring clean the t.v. room
  • take down the Christmas lights on the tree outside…that were there before the house was purchased…13 years ago!
  • take down the Christmas lights on the outside of the house (stop judging me!)
  • Catch up on my blog reading

Today is also my last day of having a glass of wine with dinner. Having the next few days without will help me rest, hydrate and mentally prepare for the distance on Sunday. 

The happy side effect of both my extra energy for to-do items and going out the door. It’s not purposeful, but I’ll take the win.
 

 

Pay day!

I’ve never been so excited to have a pay day. Last week I spent more time that I should have planning and thinking about where my money was headed on Friday. Every dime, every dollar, had a ticket to a pre-determined destination.

If you remember, I’ve back-tracked to baby step #1 and am working on building the $1000 emergency fund. With this pay cheque, that emergency fund is now up to…drum roll…

$649.51!

One more pay cheque and I’ll be there. AND I’ll be able to start attacking the consumer debt. And then the snowball will really begin 🙂

The balance I need to is both achieving the savings and debt-repayment goals while continuing regular life. I can’t put a pause button on birthday presents, medical appointments, new running shoes. Even if that means the repayment is not as aggressive as I would like. Right?

Am I allowed new running shoes, a $150 expense, if the goal is to repay debt? Running makes me happy, and that’s important right? It’s not as hardcore as Dave Ramsey followers appear to be, but the goal isn’t worth if I’m not happy. Right?

RIGHT?

When to adjust the plan

In a recent conversation with my massage therapist, who also happens to be a Boston qualifier, we were chatting about training plans. Here’s a surprise: she doesn’t have one. Yep, BQ and no plan. That being said, she has a general idea on the distance she wants to cover in a week, but is flexible on how much she gets done each day based on how she feels. She also runs 6-7 days per week. From her perspective, she just doesn’t feel balanced or prepared for a day if she doesn’t run. So her rest day might be a 5k run only.

Cut to me: No BQ, and a definite plan. I run 4 days per week and strength train 1. I take a definite 2 days of rest, because that’s what I believe I needed. I have a training plan that is strategically designed to increase speed, strength and distance over a 14 week period in preparation for a 30km race next month. I’m no Boston qualifier, and likely won’t ever be. Boston isn’t my plan, isn’t my goal. But running faster is.

This week, I thought I’d try to take a note out of my RMT’s book and decided to add a 3km run to just one of my rest days. Easy, right? Tops 18 minutes and would start my day by doing what I love. This one little more pushed my weekly mileage into the 60KM+ mark, and that’s a significant move for me.

How is this related to personal finance? Because sometimes you can have a plan, be ticking along just fine, and on track for your goals. And then you meet someone who is doing just a little bit more and achieving WAY more.

You realize that if you took just one little step more per week you could also achieve way more, way faster.

Not unrelated: I recently dumped my relationship with Tim Hortons auto-reload prepaid card because a 3 month review showed that I spent $340 at Tim Hortons!! WHAT?!! That’s an extra $28 dollars per week that I am now putting towards the almighty emergency fund.

Yay me!

Do you have an ‘extra step’ that you take to get closer to your goal? Share it with me! If it improves my running time or savings balance, I’m in!

How a 2-hour run clarifies the mind

If you haven’t noticed yet, I run. Right now, I’m training for a 30km race in April which means long weekend runs. I was lucky with the weather during my latest long run, managed to swindle a ride to my start point to ensure that I had the wind at my back, and ran 22km home in sunshine and increasingly warm temperatures.

Just before my long run, I had opened the Mint app on my phone to double check my cash flow situation. It’s becoming a daily habit, partly because I’m obsessed with moving forward and partly to see whether I’ve been dinged for charges I didn’t expect. Yesterday, I got hit with a $131 finance charge for the stupid Mastercard debt. $131!! That’s like TWO race entry fees! OUCH. That made me mad and frustrated. I was dollars away from that balance hitting $6k purely because I was carrying a balance and paying the ridiculous interest rate.

I started the run, frustrated at myself for letting that balance grow, for getting hit by another finance charge, and not having control over the situation. I thought about it for over an hour while listening to podcasts (I listen to Budget and Cents, Dave Ramsey, M.O.N.E.Y., Tim Ferris. Pretty much anything that will inspire me to think, learn and perhaps act a little differently.) And then I hit a wall…but not the runners wall. The wall of OBVIOUSNESS.

Here’s the thing, my line of credit has a 3.7% interest rate. My credit card has a 19.99% interest rate. I have $12k of room in my line of credit. And $5,900 of credit card debt.

HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS?

Another hour later (an hour of lamenting my lack of vision) I got home. Before I even untied my shoes, I transferred the Mastercard balance to my line of credit.

Did I pay the Mastercard off? NO. But I did save myself a little bit of interest payment for the next 30 days, while I work on building that emergency fund.

What’s your opinion on short-term moves to save cash while you work on a bigger goal? Have you done that? Did it work out for you?