Monthly Archives: May 2012

Florence, Italy

My sisters and I spent the last three days exploring the beautiful city of Florence. It is the home of many of the great Renaissance artists, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, to name a few. But one does by have to be an arts major to appreciate the beauty of Florence. It’s a city that is best experienced through walking it’s streets, consuming its delicious cuisine, and people watching.

We spent my first evening at a little Italian restaurant. As the waiter was pouring wine, one of the girls didn’t drink and said no thanks. Our waiter was so shocked, he took a step aback. But wine is part of the meal! It is part of life! It is good for the body and it makes people happy!

She couldn’t refuse his plea, and agreed to just a bit of wine. 🙂

The next day, I decided to take in the art at the Ufizi gallery of Renaissance art. Unfortunately, I know nothing of art history, and after my 15th Mary and Baby Jesus, I was a little bored. I may have taken a short nap, while resting in one of the chairs in the gallery… What surprised me about the art gallery, was that I found the depiction of nudity of women in many of the Renaissance works was really beautiful. Such a contrast to what I associate with nudity.

After the art gallery, we went to a little pizzeria which was just so delicious! The chefs even made our pizzas in heart shapes!

We spent the afternoon sauntering through the royal gardens, which was one of my favorite parts of Florence. The garden is huge and it was not so meticulously groomed that it looked like it tried too hard, but was still beautiful. I may have taken a few naps just lying on the grass, listening to the trickling of the water fountain, and enjoying the sweet floral scents.

This beautiful sunset across the river was a beautiful way to remember my time in Florence.

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Filed under Travel

Italy

I am writing this post from my iPod and have no idea how the formatting will turn out, so please excuse me if this turns out wonky.

Having spent the last 48 hours in Italy, I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable.

I started off my trip in Rome. I learned my first lesson at the airport currency exchange – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The exchange rate was 1.413 euros to 1 CND. I debated converting $100 or $200 to get me started and get better rates in town.

At the rate above, I would get about 140 euros. So when I heard 180 from the lady, I thought that I must have done some crazy wrong math. Turns out she said 108, which includes a 19.70% commission and an additional flat rate. Ouch.

I will try not to dwell on that thought much. I just felt that I should have known better and asked her to write out the numbers to clarify.

But onto Rome.

Rome felt like a city that has been somehow dropped and merged into the landscape of another era. I walk along the windy streets and there are huge stone walls. I imagine these walls must have served to protect the city during times of war in Rome’s great past. And now I get to stand outside of it! It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Lesson learned.

I just arrived in Florence and am off to explore the city. It’s funny all the things that remind you of home when you are halfway across the world. For instance, I ordered a Big Mac and didn’t have to speak a word of Italian.

Don’t worry, I won’t be eating many big macs with the amazing food in Italy. It was just re closest and cheapest restaurant in the train station where I had just missed my train! 😉

I leave you with a post of a view from my hostel. I just love the architecture!!

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Entertaining the Thought of a Rental Property

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A lot of PF bloggers out there either already own rental property, or are looking to invest in a rental property.  Owning a rental property has been something that I’ve always considered.

Background

Back about 5 years ago, when I was still a student, I befriended my land lady, and she advised me to own real estate as soon as I was able to afford it.  She also offered to share her experience and help me out with getting started.

A month after I started my full-time job, we got together for dinner and I raided her brain on what I needed to know to get into the rental market.  I walked away from our conversation excited and scared stiff.  At that moment, I really wasn’t ready to take the risk that came with owning a rental property and the real estate market.

But I also came away with it knowing that in order to make anything happen, I needed to save money.

My PF Journey So Far

Shortly after my meeting with my land lady, I started to think more about where I wanted to be financially.  Even if I couldn’t get into the real estate market, I wanted to figure out my finances.

I paid off my student loans, and started to read PF blogs.  I learned about investing and what an RRSP and TFSA were and maxed out my company match every single year. I learned to track my expenses (using this awesome tool!) and started my own PF blog to share my journey and keep me on track to financial freedom.

Why I am Thinking About a Rental Property

I’ve spoke with quite a few individuals who currently own rental property. I asked them about how they do it, what they look for, and I’ve had pretty positive feedback.   These are individuals who do their research and take a calculated risk when they think it’s worth it. It seems very do-able.

As you know from my monthly budget recaps, I spend very little money on rent, every month.  Especially for living near the city!  I try to have a bit of fun, but also funnel extra money into my investment and savings.  It took me  a while to get comfortable with buying RRSP, and TFSA for my investment portfolio.  I was so scared that I would lose all my money!

With a rental property, I’d approach it the same way.  Similar to how I approached my investment portfolio, I want to do my research first, so I can make a decision that is within my risk tolerance and comfort level.

What are your thoughts on investing in rental property real estate?  Do you have any experience owning any rental property?

Cheers,

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Filed under Finance, Goals

Link Love: Powered by Some Changes

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Hello, everyone. 

I haven’t blogged in a while and WordPress.com has changed their dashboard!  Does anyone know how do I copy an existing post?  I loved that feature!!!

There have been a few changes in my life, and I am really excited to share with you the great news!

  • I’m going to be spending my next three weeks in Europe
  • I will be starting a new job when I get back from my trip
  • I will starting my housing search and moving into the city (finally!)

As you know, I’ve been feeling very uncertain about my future lately.  And I haven’t got it all figured out.  Far from it, in fact.  But I think I needed a bit of a change, and I think this is a great start.  I’m really excited.

I hope to only take a carry on with my on this trip, and hope to post something up before I leave showing you guys what I plan to bring.   I’m not the lightest packer in the world, but I like to travel and focus on enjoying my destination. 

There have a been so many great blog posts out there, I’m not really sure where to begin!

A new blog I discovered is Elle and Ish written by Janelle!  Check her out, she is a 20-something who owns her own condominium, has an adorable puppy, and does really amazing nail art!

How is everyone doing?  Are there any changes in your life you’d like to share?

Cheers,

Fru-girl

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Confession: At a Crossroad

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I have been pretty fortunate for most of my life.  I grew up in a loving family with great parents.  I studied hard in high school, and had the opportunity to attend  great Engineering school.  I landed my first job out of school with a great company doing something I was interested in and making a decent income. I started reading PF blogs and learned about how to plan for my future.

I feel like I’ve done everything right but…

Four Years Later…

I’m not sure exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, and it’s kind of scary.  Like, really scary.

How do people figure out what they want to do for the rest of their life.  It’s so intimidating.  It’s such a long time…

Some questions I ask myself:

  • Do I want to stay working in this field?
  • Do I want to go back to school?
  • What do I want to accomplish in life?
  • How can I be happy?

I know those are big questions.  I also realize is that I won’t figure out the answers to those questions sitting on my couch, doing the same thing I’ve been doing, and expect a different outcome.

What I’ve Learned

I think it is a iterative process figuring out the “life” thing, and what I tell myself is that instead of figuring it all out at once, I need to take a first step in another direction to see what it’s like.

It’s not much but it’s a start.

What are your life goals and how did you figure out what they are?  Do you have any tips for me to figure out my goals/life?

Cheers,

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Filed under Personal

The Race to the Alter

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As I approach 30, it seems that everyone around me is getting hitched, popping out kids, or both (not necessarily in that order). It seems that every time I go home on a weekend, my parents ask if there are wedding plans for BF and I.  Then, I get lectured about my age (I just turned 28) and why BF and I aren’t “serious” about our relationship.  I think my mom nearly had a heart attack when I told her that BF was younger than me (gasp!).

My Thoughts on Marriage

Marriage is not the be all and end all for me.  About 4 years ago, I had a heart to heart with myself about my future and whether marriage was in the cards for me.

I was single at the time.  I had just broken it off with a guy I had been dating briefly, and the only other serious relationship I had was with my high school sweetheart (we dated for 4.5 years) which ended 2 years prior.

In the 2 years I was single, I was meeting guys, and dating, but things just didn’t feel right with anyone.  Dating takes work and effort, and I was tired of putting in all this effort just to get a man.  What gives?

Then I started to think that it is entirely possible, I won’t find anyone I’d want to spend the rest of my life with.  As those of us who are dating after college may agree – the pool of eligible partners shrinks significantly.

So I really started thinking about the things that I’d want in my life.  I want to be independent and support myself.  I want to own a home and be able to enjoy my life.  I want a dog, and maybe kids.  Truly, I didn’t really need a man for that (although, one might come in handy, sometimes, depending on the man).  If I really wanted kids, I could adopt one when I was financially secure and established in my career.

 A Partner

I didn’t need someone to take care of me, it was clear that I could do that on my own.  But I wanted a partner – someone who is truly my better half.  Someone to spend my life with and share my dreams with.  Someone whom I loved and loved me back.  Someone whom I respected and respected me.  Someone who had similar values and whom I could talk to about anything.

But I hadn’t found this someone in 2 years.  It was entirely possible that I may never find them, and I came to terms with that.  So, I started to plan out my life without a guy in mind and realized that I can be truly happy and fulfilled, all on my own.

Besides, being in my male dominated office, I see the guys around me refer to their wives in such a demeaning manner – it’s really quite depressing.  I’d much rather be alone than be spoken to in the manner I had witnessed.

I Wasn’t Afraid

I knew some girls who dreaded being single. They stayed with their boyfriends even when he treated them like sh*t.  I’ve had girl friends who were belittled and talked down to by their boyfriends in front of me, and when I asked them why they put up with it, they responded that they didn’t want to be alone.

One girl I knew told me that if she had dated a guy for a few years, she’d just marry him because she thought it was a waste of time if she didn’t.  She was 21/22 years old at that time.  Being a friend, I offered my thoughts that wouldn’t it be better to know while dating whether that person is the right person for us while we’re dating.  That’s what dating is for!  Besides we are so young, and we have our whole life ahead of us.  Obviously, we differed in opinions.

Then I met BF

Shortly after my heart-to-heart moment with myself, I started dating BF.  BF and I knew one another from school and had traveled together during exchange.  I thought he was a really nice, if not flaky guy (sorry, BF!!  But he was always late when we traveled together.)  But since I wasn’t worried about finding Mr. Right, anymore, I had a lot of fun getting to know BF and we eventually became an item.

Now, as we enter into a new chapter in our lives – BF is going away to complete his MBA at a top-notch school in the USA – I am so glad that we are doing this together.  🙂  I know the time apart will be tough, but our relationship is strong, and I hope to build upon it and make it even stronger. And one day, when we are both ready, we can tie the knot – but it won’t be a race for us to the alter.  I guess, it will be like taking the scenic route.

What are your thoughts of a partner in life, or marriage?

PS.  Check out Krystal’s thoughts on marriage and wedding.   Very thought provoking.

Cheers,

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Filed under Personal

April 2012 Networth and Goal Recap

April Expenses

Over budget – $5.20 😉

  • Groceries  – I think that I need to increase this to $125 a month since I also used $20 from my PC credit card to pay for groceries.
  • Cellphone – I went WAAAAY over my 100 text messages, so I increased my monthly plan to include 250 messages for $36 a month after fees and taxes.
  • Medical – I stocked up on my contact lens.  After medical reimbursement and the manufacturer’s rebate, I will be paying $85 out of pocket for 2 years supply.

I am really happy about how this month turned out.  I was even able to take BF out to a nice dinner out on the town, and my family out for a Korean food – while not blowing my budget.

I haven’t shown it, but I’ve saved 67% of my income this month, and I can’t wait to throw more money into my TFSA.

April Net Worth

Since I missed March’s recap, I’m really pleased with squeaking out with a 4% increase in net worth from February.  As my net worth increases, I know it will get harder to increase the net worth percentage increase, but I will keep trying.  I am so excited to see my net worth inch closer and closer to 6 figures!

I am also expecting a $2,400 tax refund – which will mostly go towards paying for my annual car insurance… but money is money! 🙂

March/April Goal Recap

  • Pitch for Screening MissRepresentationfail!  My colleague and I talked to my manager about it, but haven’t followed through with a business case/proposal.  I focused on studying for my professional licensing exam and job searching, instead.
  • Finalize my resume – check!  I’ve completely revamped my resume – twice.  I’ve gotten great feedback from friends and colleagues and I am so pleased with the final product.  I even went in for an interview! 🙂
  • Study for Professional License Exam – check!  I’ve written the test and need to wait for the results.  I feel pretty good about the test and am so glad that it’s over.

On-going Goals Recap

  • Pack my lunch everyday (including fruits)- check!
  • Get off the computer by 9:30 – 10:00pm – fail!  I’d get off the computer by 10pm, but then, I’d check my iPod.
  • Finish a book – pass  I finished Jean Chretian’s autobiography.  It’s the first politician’s biography that I have finished, and I really enjoyed.  What a character! 🙂

I like the 3 goals.  It’s much easier to keep track of.  Time to think of May goals! 🙂

Readers, how has your April?

Cheers,

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Filed under Budget, Finance

Budgeting is Therapeutic

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Being the Type A that I am, I like being in control of all aspects of my life (or at least, feeling like I am in control, anyway).

Of course, it’s impossible to be in control of all aspects of my life. When things start to spiral out of control, and I get stressed out, I find that working on my budget and calculating my net worth is therapeutic.  For instance, this month has been a bit of a roller coaster for me – both emotionally and mentally.  I was unhappy at work, I was starting my job searching and interviewing, I wasn’t sure about where BF was going for his MBA and our future together, and I wasn’t sure where I was going in life.

But one of the things I can be in complete control of is my spending on variable expenses.  It’s now second nature for me to make a purchase and then enter the expense right away in my expense tracker, then do a bi-monthly and monthly tally, followed by a net worth calculation.

It gives me a sense of triumph to budget $300 for eating out, and then come in at $301 at the end of the month – even with a special $200 dinner for BF and an unplanned treat out for my family.  I feel a sense of pride as I tally up my net worth – being sooooo close to reaching a net worth of $90,000 I can almost taste it – and knowing that I can reach a six figure net worth before the end of the year.

And you know what I started working on next?  BF’s budget for his 9 months of school, and figuring out how much money he needs to save in the next few months.  BF said it was okay for me to share it with you all, and get some feedback from you.  Stay tuned!

Do you find budgeting or being in control therapeutic?  What do you do when your world is spinning out of control?

Cheers,

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Filed under Finance, Personal