Thursday, February 17, 2011


I had a request this morning to write a blog about our budgeting process.

I have been wanting to write a blog about this for a while, because this is a pretty major part of my life right now, and is something that Dave and I are really focusing on.  That being said, we haven't really been doing this very long, and so I am worried that if I write this and then majorly screw up, you will all make fun of me.  But I think it is an important topic, so I am going to talk about it anyways.

There are three major components to our money situation, they are:
1) Banks
2) Jars
3) Debt Repayment

This post will revolve around these.  If you are interested in only one area, you can just check out that section - because I know this will be long!


Individually, Dave and I have both had individual accounts with the Bank of Montreal for the majority of our lives.  I first got mine before we took our trip across Canada as a family, which was the summer between grade 4 and 5 for me.  So, I have had mine for a long time.  I am not exactly sure when Dave had gotten his, but he has also had his for a long time.

And individually we had never reached our cap on transaction limits, and being students, we never had to pay fees to have our accounts, so we had had pretty positive relationship with them.

When we got married, we chose to each keep our own individual chequing and savings account, and get a joint chequing and savings account.  We functioned primarily from the joint chequing account.

Which worked great until October or November of last year when we got charged about $40 because we had used too many transactions.  So, of course - we were upset and Dave called BMO, and asked them to take the fee away, or reduce it or whatever, and they refused to.  And then Dave said that we would take our business elsewhere - and they told him to go ahead and do that.

Needless to say, we were not impressed, so started looking for somewhere to move our money where we wouldn't have to pay fees and would get more than a 0.00003 (or something like that) interest rate.

Well, soon after we discovered ING.  I have always enjoyed their commercials, and found out that my sister and brother-in-law had an ING account and so asked them about it, and my brother-in-law told me how much he liked it.  We were pretty cash poor at the time, and didn't have the money to open an account and make it worthwhile (if you put $100 in, they will give you $25 extra! yippee!), so we didn't end up opening one until last month. 

I am really enjoying ING so far.  There are no brick and mortar banks in the area (they have 'cafes' in some larger cities), but there is 24/7 phone access, and you can chat with them online or email them.  We set up our savings account, and have since opened a chequing account.  We are waiting on our bank cards, but are pretty excited to get them soon.  You can use the bank cards for free at any ATM within their network, which is actually quite a few!

This has been a major switch for us.  ING has no fees, and although our savings doesn't have very much interest, it is 1.5% which is a lot more than at BMO.  Once we open other accounts with them, we will be earning a lot more interest as well.


We use jars to budget our money.  You see, we tried to just use our debit cards and track that way.  But it is a lot easier to pull your wallet out and swipe than drive home, grab the money from the jar, and go back out.  You only do it if you really need it.  That helps.  It also helps us save money.

We have a jar for every single thing in our budget.  Now, some are grouped.  Our jars are as follows:
  • Fuel
  • Auto Maintenance
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • House & Personal
  • Food & Dining
  • Pharmacy
  • Rent
  • Health Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Home Insurance
  • Sponsor Child
  • Weight Watchers
  • YMCA
  • Phone
  • Credit Card Payment
  • Tuition Payment
  • Savings (for our emergency fund)
Literally when we get paid, we then take most of the money out of our account in bills and coin and distribute it in the appropriate jars.  Although many people only use this system for their variable accounts, I find using it for all of our accounts makes it so that we never take money that should be used for something else (or if we do it makes us feel bad and we record it).  But it means that almost all of my bedroom shelves are filled with jars.  If we have automatic withdrawal on something we put the money in the appropriate account the day before.  
Don't worry - I have never had a line like this at the bank - but mostly I send Dave anyways.

You need to understand that this system means a lot of trips to the bank, but that I hear that it works really well, and I hope it continues to work for us.

I am scared to death of debt.  I was reading an article today that said that the average Canadian family carries $100,000 of debt.  I feel like debt is very limiting to people.  It makes us slaves to our creditors.  I believe that God frequently addresses the issues with debt in the Bible, and I honestly think that he speaks out against it.  And even if you don't believe in God, I believe that as long as we are in debt, we are working to get ourselves out of it, which really means we aren't working by our own freewill.  So, if you want to be free - don't be in debt.  

I understand that living without debt is hard in today's society.  But I believe it has to happen.

I also understand that Dave and I are lucky - neither of us have student loan debt.  So the debt that we carry right now is not very high.  But it is crucial to me that we pay it off.

I bought Dave Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book for his birthday.  He hasn't read it yet, because if you don't know yet - my husband is a pretty slow reader and so he is still working through Paris 1919.  If you are a history buff like my husband, you might like it.  I wouldn't know.  I wouldn't touch those kind of books with a 50 foot pole.  Gross.  I like fiction books like the ones written by Jodi Piccoult and John Grisham,
If you're crazy and want to know what this book looks like in order to buy it - here it is.
But anyways, since Dave hasn't read the Total Money Makeover yet, I decided that I should.  So I am in the middle of reading it.  I like Dave Ramsey's ideas though.  If you are concerned about your financial future, pick up the book and read it. Even if you don't plan on making changes, he is great at showing you what the reality will be (like if you have a $110,000 mortgage at 7%, it will cost you $280,000 if you choose a 30 year payment plan, and only about $190,000 over a 15 year plan - all for only an extra $250 a month).  He has a lot of insight and a great plan.  He walks you through baby steps (don't be confused into thinking that the baby steps take only a couple days, this is long-term commitment, people!) to help you get out of debt and be rich!!!!! 

This is the good book.

The first step in Dave's plan is to save $1000 buckaroo's.  Which seems like a lot, but this money is gong to act like your buffer when you don't use credit cards anymore.  So you can no longer say "I NEED this credit card in case an emergency comes up".  Now you saw "I have this money in savings I can use in case of emergency!".  This is the step Dave and I are on.  At the same time, we are kind of cheating and paying back some debts just because of when they are due and wanting to pay them.  But this is our primary focus.

Dave Ramsey also has other books, he does a class type thing called Financial Peace University, and he has a radio show.  You can find out more about him here.

You also need to know that I have recreated forms from Dave's book that help us track our money better.  Those, along with the other ones that I made up make up 27 pages of forms we fill out to track our money every month.  If you want to see those, I can send them to you - but they are very beneficial 

Maybe when I reach the next steps I will talk about them too, but I think this post is long enough already.  Have any questions about how we deal with our money?  Ask me!

Also - I need your opinion - whats the best way to go to school without getting into too much debt.  I'm looking at going for my masters next year, and I can't figure out the cheapest way to do it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

McDonald's hotcakes, carnations, and hamburger helper

So I had been asked to explain my husband's facebook status.  If you aren't facebook friends with him, this is what it says:

Botched my first Valentine's Day as a married man! 10 points!
And I know he sounds excited and happy about it, but really he is not.  I need to give a little background to the story though, so bare with me until I get to the part about yesterday.

Dave and I are on this big get out of debt, save money kick.  And really, we have very very little debt - but we are budgeting our money every month, and will hopefully be paying down lots, etc.  And it has been going pretty well actually .  But then this Saturday we found out we needed to replace part of our exhaust system and it was going to cost us $300 to fix.  So that night I told Dave not to get me anything for Valentine's Day because I didn't feel we had the money.  Note: I forgot to clarify that that didn't mean I didn't want anything to happen on Valentine's Day. 

The other thing that happened this weekend was that we went to Saint John on Sunday to drive my sister back and pick my parents up from the airport.  So at 12:30 on Sunday night/Monday morning we were at the airport picking my parents up.  And yet I had to work at 8:30 on Monday morning and so we were on the road to Moncton by 7am.  Dave wanted to stop and get a coffee and some breakfast, which was fine - so he stopped at the McDonald's on the way out of my parents town. He asked if I wanted anything but it was too early and I said I wasn't hungry at the time. 

So then Dave drove to Moncton while I slept in the passenger seat (really I slept when I could, the roads were bad and I kept waking up thining we were going to die).  I was hoping that we would get to Moncton in enough time to stop to get me something to eat (although to be fair, I never vocalized this thought - but Dave knows that I am a breakfast eater and I don't remember the last time I didn't eat breakfast).  But since the car had to go into the shop that day, and Dave had to borrow his sister's car in order to make that happen, Dave texted his sister (for all you safety nuts, I actually texted her saying what he asked me to say) and said he would meet her in 6 minutes.  This definitely did not leave enough time for me to stop and get my McDonald's kids meal hot cakes, hashbrown, and apple juice breakfast.
yumm... except without the coffee.  I hate coffee.  Blech.
But, I didn't want to say anything so I went on my way to work without breakfast.  Shortly after, I texted Dave and said "I am hungry".  And Dave replied a while later with "Do you want me to get you something for breakfast?", and I said "well, you don't have time" (translate: YES - GET YOUR BUTT OVER HERE WITH SOMETHING).   But Dave didn't even check my response until he was at work.

So, I started my valentine's day off hungry.

And so went my day.  Dave works everyday until 6:00, and so I couldn't wait to get home and get something to eat.  I patiently waited until 6:00.  And then I continued to patiently wait until 6:20 when I finally heard from him.  He was on Mountain Road.  If you know Moncton, and you know where Dave works, you will understand that when he said he was on Mountain, I assumed he meant on Mountain near to where I work.  Not on the other side of Moncton on Mountain.  But, he was dropping a coworker at his house.  So, I went outside to wait for Dave.  And I waited, and I waited, and nine minutes later I called back and asked him if he had died.

He had not died, luckily.  But he was still on Mountain Road.

And let me tell you a sleepy, tired, hungry, frustrated Amy does not make a happy Amy.  To his credit, when Dave picked me up at the school, he thrust a bouquet of carnations and daisy's at me and said "happy valentine's day".  Well, as much as I appreciated the gesture, let me tell you that my romantic feelings did not spew forth at that moment.  No, all my negative ones did.

I ranted and I babbled and I cried.  And then Dave dropped me off at the shop, I went in and got my car, and then picked him up at residence where my sister-in-law lives, and then I ranted and I babbled and I cried some more.  And then we got home and Dave asked me what we were going to have for supper.  And then I ranted and I babbled and I cried some more.

And then I gave in and made hamburger helper.

After some more ranting, babbling, and crying, we went to bed - at 8:30.  We talked for a little bit, and then I read and he fell directly to sleep.

So there you have it.  My valentine's day consisted of hunger, carnations, waiting around, and hamburger helper.

But see there is this thing that I have had to learn about Dave.  And I still haven't really caught on.  In statistics you have an independent variable and a dependent variable - and you really can't have research without it.  Well I'll tell you something - I am definitely the dependent variable, and Dave is definitely the independent variable.  Which supposedly makes us a good pair.  But it also makes things challenging.

You see Dave grew up in a very loving family.  But almost all of his family members have outgoing personalities, and they are all extremely independent.

I also grew up in a very loving family.  My family could probably be described as introvert/outgoing.  Sure, we can get really loud and hyper around each other, but I think that in some ways, we have smaller personalities.  And we are all very dependent on each other.

For example, birthdays in my household are a BIG deal.  We do a lot for everyone's birthday.  Growing up, our entire extended family would get together for everyone's birthday.  Dave's family didn't do that.  Sure, they celebrate your birthday, but it wasn't as big of a deal as it is in my family.

And so we celebrate differently.  Dave is independent, when he wants something he saves up for it and buys it.  He doesn't care as much about holidays, and he does what he wants when he wants to do it.

I am dependent, and I continually hint at what I want, because generally I am not willing to use my money on what I want.  I care a lot about holidays.  I go all out.  A birthday deserves a special breakfast, special lunch, special supper, gifts, a surprise, a party, and anything else that can be thought of!
I just thought I should break up the text with a picture.  So I chose this birthday comic!

So, this is what happens - Dave gets upset with me for putting too much time and energy into something, and I get upset with Dave for not putting enough time and energy into things.

I guess this comes with newly married territory, but boy does it take a lot of getting used to!

We have designated this Sunday as our make-up Valentine's Day so I will let you know if things improve the second time around!

Note: I understand that this will NEVER be my valentine's day.  I didn't marry a Romeo, or a Mr. Darcy, or a Westley, but I did marry my David, and no matter how anti-romantic or annoying he is, I love him to bits and pieces and wouldn't have chose anyone else.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A blogging slackface...

...that is what I am, a blogging slackface.

You can ask my sister.  She can attest to that.

You see, I keep thinking of things to blog about.  I have had numerous occasions where my husband has put his foot in his mouth: "I love your bum, it's nice and jiggly", or "I can't roll you over, you are too heavy".

And I have had some good cooking experiences and some bad cooking experiences.  But, I have just been putting it off.  I like blogging, though, so I thought I would write a new post today.

First, I shall start with the bad one (I will try to upload photos when I get my camera hooked up to my computer).

#1 - The Pannycake incident

A couple of Sunday nights ago I decided that we should have pancakes for supper.  I was tired and hungry, and didn't feel like cooking a lot.  But I also decided that I should try a new pancake recipe. I perused the web, focusing primarily on my two favourite food blogs: PW and 

And finally, I found one!  PW had a recipe for the Perfect PancakesPerfect Pancakes, I thought, how can I screw these up?  I have cooked much more challenging things, and these will be the best pancakes I have ever tasted! 

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I was so excited to have pancakes, I heated up my griddle, and started pouring things into my mixing bowl.  I thought I did it perfectly.  But instead of looking like Pioneer Woman's batter:
Pioneer Woman's batter - her picture, not mine - please don't sue me.
it kind of looked like this:
Again, not my picture - I don't know whose picture this is - please don't sue me. I had to fix the exhaust in my car, I have zero  monies for you to sue me.
This picture doesn't even do it justice though.  It was just awful and lumpy and expanded and risen, and everything you don't want in pancake batter (I took a picture of how awful it was, I will try to update it later).

But, since I didn't have anything else to have for supper, I plopped that batter/dough stuff onto the griddle and hoped for the best. Well, it was far from Perfect Pancakes, and it was far from the best pancakes.  To be honest, I would have been better using a mix.  My dear husband pretended to like one, but as soon as I said I wasn't going to dare stuffing another one of those gross things in my mouth, I think I heard a sigh of relief from him. 

They turned out kind of like biscuit, pancake, thick, needs 2 cups of maple syrup to taste remotely good type things.  And maple syrup is expensive, y'all.

I will also try to update a picture of those gross pannycakes later.

I think the issue with it was that there should only be 3 tsp of baking powder in the recipe, BUT I might just be deflecting because of my embarassment at failing at making pancakes.

#2 - The Cookies
So this weekend I decided we should make some valentine cookies.  I was also going to make whoopie pies, bread, and all sorts of other delectable treats - but the cookies are the only ones that ended up taking place.  Maybe I will talk about my dissapointed with the other things later, but for now it is COOKIE TIME!

Dave reluctantly helped me make these cookies.  Dave doesn't have a very large sweet tooth.  He complains when things are too rich and he didn't want me to get him any candy or chocolate to put in his stocking at Christmas (I thought this was very selfish, and so I filled his stocking with candy anyways - because we both know that I get to eat half of his candy and if he doesn't get any candy at all I lose out!).  I think the man is ludicrous.  But anyways, he ended up helping me make these cookies.  Surprise, surprise it is another PW recipe.  I chose this one because it looked simple, I had all the ingredients at my parents house (where we were), and I like chocolate AND Valentine's Day.

Again - not the cookies I made.  These are PW's.  I made the same kind of cookies.  Stop threatening to sue me for stealing her pictures!  All credit goes to her!

I don't have any pictures of the ones I made, and I didn't adjust the recipe at all, so I will make this long story short.  They turned out fantastically!  Even hubby likes them.  We decided last night (2 days after making them) that they are not too hard, not too soft, and not too sweet, but not too not sweet.  They were a hit!  I didn't decorate them as nicely as PW did (I actually didn't decorate them at all) but they were great!  If you want a quick, yummy, cookie to make - try these ones!

#3 - Friday night supper

Thanks to my wonderful parents, I got Friday off!  Hubby wasn't scheduled to work Friday (only Saturday), so when he got off work on Thursday night (at 10:00!), we made the trip down to Saint John to my parents house.  We ended up arriving at about midnight.  Friday morning I woke up to help get my sister off to school (although she did a great job doing everything herself), and then I got to sleep in.  But since I had all day to do pretty much nothing, I decided that I would at least make a good supper.  I told my husband that he could choose between taco salad (one of my absolute favourite meals) or a new recipe I had found on Annie's Eats

He chose the new recipe, of course. So, I made a quick trip to the grocery store and then set out to make Crispy Baked Chicken with Teriyaki sauce.  Let me preface with the fact that I don't normally like home crispy baked chicken.  It doesn't seem legit to me.  To be honest, chicken is really only crispy in my mind when it is deep fried (but that kind of makes me feel sick).  But I made it anyways.  Because I am cheap, poor, and I don't drink, I didn't use the alcohol that it called for in the teriyaki sauce.  I substituted the sake for rice vinegar, and the mirin for apple juice, and I added some orange zest to the sauce as well, and then I took a whiff of my concoction and almost threw up.  Literally, it smelled kind of like vomit.  I persisted and finished making the recipe, and outfitted the table with lots of other prepackaged sauces to dip the meat in (plum, sweet and sour, etc).

When we sat down to eat, I forwarned my dinner guests (husband and younger sister) about my worries about what I had done to the sauce, and told them to approach with caution - but my younger sister (who is a picky eater) was courageous and tried it and said "this is actually really good Amy".  And then my husband tried it and agreed, and so finally I built up the courage and tried it myself and they were right!  It was phenomenal.  My husband even took the leftovers to work the next day and told me to keep making it!

(He also told me the crispy part of the chicken tasted like shake and bake, which I think was a compliment).

Anyways - those are my adventures for today.  I plan on cooking something for Valentine's day Supper tonight, so if I work up the energy I will take some photos and post them for you!

Have a great valentine's day - I hope you get lots of loving! (in a completely PG appropriate way of course)