Category Archives: Budget

Tips for Buying Shoes Online from a Serial Shoe Returner

As I have mentioned before, I am trying to build up a more polished and professional wardrobe.  In building up my wardrobe, I’ve started to shop online a lot more.  With online shopping, on top of a great sale, I’ve got the entire warehouse inventory at my finger tips, and I can usually find online promotion codes with a quick Google search.

Some of you may recall my post where I ordered 10 pairs of shoes online.  Well, I did it again :).  Below is my spreadsheet (click to enlarge) that I use to track my purchases and returns.  This time, I ordered 10 pairs (again!), and kept one pair, so far.  I am still awaiting my last pair of shoes to arrive (*fingers crossed*).

Why So Many Pairs of Shoes?

If I were to go into a store and find a pair of shoes, I usually try on about 3 or 4 pairs.  Out of those 3 or 4 pairs, there may or may not be a winner.  And as we know, with sales and clearance items, the inventory at each store changes so often, that maybe the person just before you walked away with your shoe soul mate.

So, the way I see it, instead of going to the store to try on the shoes, the shoes come to me, and I get a much better selection of styles and sizes.  Some styles are only offered online, or certain styles may not be carried in all stores.

I’m Picky

I used to not wear high heels because they hurt my feet, then I didn’t like flats because there usually wasn’t enough arch support.  What I didn’t realize until recently is that heels can be (somewhat) comfortable, and flats can be even more comfortable.  It all depends on your shoe and how it fits your feet.

After buying so many pairs of shoes that were just kinda “okay”, I think I’ve come up with a fairly good checklist of my “must haves” when buying a pair of shoes.

Frugirl’s “must have” for heels:

  • leather, suede, or a comfortable material which does not hurt my feet
  • heel height between 2″ – 3″
  • classic shape
  • cushion for balls of feet
  • must not slip off
  • $100 – $150 or less

Frugirl’s “must have” for flats:

  • leather, suede, or a comfortable material which does not hurt my feet
  • have a solid and cushioned sole
  • have good arch support
  • must not be a “boxy” shape (emphasizes my already wide feet)
  • no frills or bling at the toe
  • $100 – $125 or less

Some Tips

A lot of what I learned is through trial and error (as with most things in life).  And, sometimes, you don’t know how a good shoe is supposed to feel until you’ve tried one.  When you find that special shoe, it really is love! :)

In-Store pick-up

Two of the shoe retailers I recently bought from are Soft Moc and Aldo.  Both these retailers have a free shipping option where you can pick up the shoes at a store location.  I prefer to have my shoes shipped to the store locations, so that I can try them on, return the ones that don’t work out, and just bring home the ones that fit me for further evaluation.

You usually have to make a trip to the store to return some shoes anyway (they never all work out for me), so why not save yourself some work.  Trust me, lugging back eight pairs of shoes to return is definitely not cool.

Return Policy

Always, always be very familiar with the return policy of where you are shopping (online or elsewhere).  I suggest reading the return policy prior to every check-out, because you never know when a store decides to change their return policy.  I pay extra attention to the return policy of sale or clearance items.

I also like to check that the refund is made in the original form payment, as opposed to a store credit.  The store credit may not be a big deal if you shop at that retailer often, but I just like to have the cash in my hand, as soon as I return an item.

Most of the retailers I shop at allow in-store returns; however, if in-store returns are not possible, make sure you are clear on who pays for the return shipping.  If you are responsible for paying the return shipping, know the cost, and perhaps re-evaluate if this purchase is still worth it.

Test out your Shoes!

This might be a no-brainer, but always give your shoes a good test run before taking them outdoors.  Most return policies give you up to 30 days (sometimes 45 –  90 days for online purchases) to return.  And as we all probably found out the hard way, standing in a pair of cute heels for 5 minutes in the store, can be very different than wearing them all day.

Since my work place is carpeted, I like to bring my “test” shoes to work with me, and walk in them for a day or two.  Make sure you’re careful not to walk outside or get them dirty, or else you can’t return them.

Other Thoughts

One of my friends told me that my behavior (returning a lot of items) doesn’t really “jive” well with retailers, as they are losing money from my returns.  I don’t really agree with this, as I mentioned that if I were to buy this item in a store, I would have to try it on, as well.  The only difference is that I now have purchased the item first, and then tried it on.  In fact, my argument is that it probably requires equal or less effort/cost to ship an order from a warehouse and process the return, than to have the expenses of  running a storefront and paying for your employees (cashier, changeroom, etc.) for the same result – making the sale.

Readers, what are your experiences with online shopping and returning items?  What are your thoughts regarding my “serial returns”?

Cheers,

11 Comments

Filed under Budget, Fashion

Stuff I Bought (July & August 2012)

So, I’ve been spending bleeding money for the past two months and I have a lot to show for it.  This post was inspired by Mochi & Macaron’s monthly post of what she buys :) [check out what she bought in August!].

I previously mentioned that I started a new job in June, and my new work place’s dress code is more business casual than the jeans I wore on a daily basis.  For the first month, I was alternating between 2 pencil skirts, and 1 pair of dress pants*.  I had a pair of white linen cropped pants which I wore on “casual” Fridays, but I felt it was too “casual” to wear between Monday – Thursday.  I needed an updated and more sophisticated wardrobe.

Anyway, there were just so many great deals in July and August for things that were on my “list” that I just went a little bonkers and bought  A LOT.  Keep reading below for an inventory! :)

Fashion/Clothes

Clarks Flats – $70 (on sale)

I’ve been searching for the perfect pair of basic, comfortable, black flats, since, well, FOREVER.  I love Clark’s shoes, even though a lot of their styles are a little “cloggish” to me, they also carry sleeker styles, which are really comfortable and quite affordable for amount of wear.  I would have preferred the flats without the bow, but these were just so comfortable, that I couldn’t walk away (no pun intended).

Clarks Brown Sandal – $70 (on sale)

I had a pair of beloved brown wedges from Clarks which I sadly left behind in a hotel last summer.  I called the hotel several times to ask them to send it back to me, but I never did receive it :(.  I don’t have many pairs of sandals (summers are short in Canada), but I prefer a brown strapped sandal over a black strapped sandal.  I stand at a towering 5’3″, and I find the brown sandal helps to lengthen my legs, as opposed to a black sandal which truncates my leg.

Payless Black Pumps – $25

The last time I bought a pair of shoes from Payless was in university, and I remember them not being very comfortable or of good quality, so I’ve stayed away.  Then, I was in Payless with my mom looking for a pair of running shoes (she wanted a specific pair my sister got there), and noticed their “Comfort Plus Basic” line.  These shoes were the exact classic, almond toed, 2.5″ basic black pump that I have been searching for!  I’ve been wearing them all week at work, and can attest that they are indeed a great work shoe at an awesome bargain!

Ann Taylor Patent Leather Skinny Belts $46USD (on sale)

I love leather skinny belts!  I experimented with a cheap H&M neon skinny belt, and I’ve been wearing it so much that it’s all frayed now.  So, when I saw an Ann Taylor patent neon yellow skinny on sale, I couldn’t resist!  Then, I saw the patent black leather on sale, and I couldn’t resist that either…

J Crew Minnie Wool Pants – $118 USD

I’ve been hearing so many rave reviews about the Minnies [thanks, Mochi!] that I had to try them out on my recent trip to the USA.  I walk about 2.5km to and from work every day, and I do it in flats, so I really wanted some nice tapered work pants, that wouldn’t drag on the ground in flats.  There were almost the perfect pair of work pants – they fit me very well, had belt loops (seriously, why make pants without belt loops?), and had a bit of stretch.  My only qualm is that I wish the wool was lined!!

Leopard Print Infinity Scarf $20

I’ve been searching for the perfect leopard print scarf, and I even bought one in Hong Kong, only to be unsatisfied.  So this one is really perfect.  The material is soft, and the print is perfect.

Gap Coral Jeans $30 (on sale)

I am completed in love with Duchess Kate’s wardrobe and I loved her coral jeans.  I had a pair of cobalt blue Gap jean leggings from February (but then I botched them in the washing machine – doh!), so when I came across these coral ones, I knew it was fate :).  These jeans are super comfy and bring some much needed colour in my boring vanilla wardrobe.

Talulu Navy Shorts $35 (on sale)

I don’t usually shop at Aritzia [how teenagers afford it is beyond me], but these shorts caught my eye and my co-worker talked me into it.  I’m glad I got them because these shorts are so comfy and chic.  I’ve worn them almost everyday since I got them!

Ralph Lauren Aviators $120 (on sale)

I’ve been craving a pair of aviators since last summer.  I love the lassez-faire, yet glamorous look to them, and I love that most of them come with polarized lens.  These pair of Ralphs are made for women, so they aren’t as overwhelmingly large as some unisex aviators were on my smaller framed face.

Beauty

Urban Decay Naked Palette – $60

I’ve been eyeing the Naked palette since it first came out, and haven’t been able to bite the bullet.  In fact, I bought several other palettes which were “dupes” (i.e., Sephora moonbaked, QUO smokey eye palettes, NYC, etc) for the Naked, but not quite.  So, I used a $25 gift card and scooped up the original Naked palette.  And as I paid for it, the SA mentioned that she’s seen me in the Shoppers Drugmart before petting looking at the palette…

Cover FX Concealer – $24

I have been having such a hard time with breakouts this summer.  I’ve heard great things about Cover FX, and I wanted to try their concealer.  I love it!  It’s got great coverage and I only use a tiny dot for my blemishes and under eyes.

Cover FX Blotting Powder – $22

I’ve been using the MAC blotting powder religiously for the past 4 years, but lately, I’ve been finding the powder falls apart as soon as I hit pan, and I wasted so much make-up that way.  *sigh*  I gave Cover FX a try, as I have been quite satisfied with their products and their price points are comparable to MAC.   So far, I really like this powder – I use it with the concealer and it’s awesome.

Home

IKEA Statement Full Length Mirror – $80

I haven’t had a (non-warped) full-length mirror, and I think that I will need one in order to work on my style.  I also think that large statement mirrors not only add a perception of more space in a room, but also just looks so elegant.

Used Wooden Dresser – $25

I haven’t owned a real dresser, ever.  I really needed a dresser  (my closet is pretty small), and I wanted to put my “vanity area” on the top surface of my dresser.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I decided to use a used dresser as my project – I will need to sand down the dresser and paint it.  The dresser above is a similar dresser – I couldn’t find my camera to snap a pic.

Used Antique Mirror – $25

I saw a beautiful antique mirror as I was browsing for my dresser on Kijiji, so I picked it up, as well.  The mirror I got is a similar shape, but has been painted a mint green, so I will have a little project to strip the paint, sand it down, and repaint.

IKEA Step Stools (2) – $30

I saw these little guys and thought one would make a great little night stand – I asked BF to cut a piece of wood to fit in the bottom for a shelf.  The second step stool, I was use as a purse holder, since I tend to just drop by bag on the floor when I get home.

Shark Clothes Steamer – $65 (on sale)

I hate ironing.  And it was on sale for half price.  Fate, I tell you.

Shark Steam Mop – $50 (my half – on sale)

My new apartment has all hardwood floors, and as beautiful as it looks, it was tough to keep clean.  Not to mention  both my sister and I hate mopping.  This little guy is AMAZING, and it was also half off.  Done.

Miscellaneous hooks, filing, storage –  $100 (guestimate)

I bought a bunch of stuff to help organize my closet, including an extra rail to increase closet space, some velour hangers, purse holders and some hooks.

Gifts

Ray Ban Aviators $190 (on sale)Not only was a very generous to myself this month, I was also generous to others :). BF was going to do his MBA, and I’ve wanted to get him a pair of nice polarized sunglasses for the longest time [we’ve been quasi sharing my old banged up polarized pair for the past few years].  He wore them as soon as we got outdoors, and kept exclaiming how everything was so clear!  Adorable :)

GPS – $180 ($60 is my portion – on sale)

It was my dad’s birthday in August, and my sisters and I pitched in to get him a GPS.  Even though, my dad kept saying he didn’t need one, and listed out a gazillion reasons why he didn’t need one, he secretly wanted one.  So, we got him one that also speaks Cantonese (quite common), and he can use all over North America.  He loved it.

In conclusion

Total spent on “just stuff”, as Gail would say: $1,264 + taxes = $1,401.

Whew!  Even though this is a lot of money, it’s not so bad now that I have it written out.

Please note:  I assumed $1USD = $1CND, as the Canadian Dollar is basically at parity.  Items which I didn’t add a 13% tax are USD items and my used items.

Sooo… what did you buy in August and July?  I’d love to hear about your purchases :)

Cheers,

17 Comments

Filed under Budget, Fashion, PF Confession

Moving Expenses and a Blog Update

Thank you for your kind comments regarding my last whining post. You guys really know how make a girl feel better! :)

I’m pretty late to posting my budget recap for July, but I can assure you it’s nothing to call home about.  In fact, my net worth decreased by 1%  last month!  :(  Despite having 2 pay cheques, it wasn’t enough to offset my first & last months rent, moving expenses, spending, and the not-so-great economy.

I’m always so disappointed when I don’t see an increase in my net worth, I think the last time this happened was following my 2-week family trip to Hong Kong.   It is what it is, and here’s to a more positive (get it?) August!

Moving Expenses (so far…)

I confess that I did this move in the most unorganized fashion.  Since my new place was a 15 minute walk to (new) work as opposed to my previous 1 hour + commute on the subway and bus, I wanted to move ASAP.  However, I also didn’t really make time to pack and sort through my junk crap things properly.   (And through this process, I realized that I have a lot of junk crap things. )

My entire move spanned 3 weekends.  Ugh.

The first weekend, BF and I move my furniture in the moving van and packed a few boxes of “essentials” for the week.  I thought that the remainder of my things could be moved the following week – I was wrong.  Instead of sorting/tossing and then packing my things, I was putting my junk into whatever boxes would fit them and then moving it.  This took forever and is terribly inefficient.  Please don’t do what I did – take the time to sort through your stuff before moving!

Minimalist: Fail!

I was surprised at how much stuff I accumulated over the years – and here I was calling myself an aspiring minimalist.  Pfffft!!  BF was so patient helping me move all three weekends – He is a keeper! :) I was even fed up with myself moving all my stuff!

Funny thing is I remember last year explaining to BF what a minimalist was…

The New Place

I LOVE living downtown.  Despite the fact I just tripled my rent, it’s completely different living downtown than in the boonies.  I can walk everywhere, and there is so much to see and do.  It’s also really nice not living in a basement – I can see daylight!

Unfortunately, the air conditioning has been out of commission for the last 3 weeks.  The first week (mid July) was awful, as it was almost 40C and super humid in the city.  BF and I would take 3 showers a day just to keep cool (morning, after work, and before bed).  Also, since we sleep with the windows wide open and there are no screens on the window, the mosquitoes have been having a buffet on me every night.  Every. Night.

The AC should be fixed this week, and I CANNOT WAIT.

In order to keep cool, we try to avoid using the stove (I’ve been making a lot of salads), turning on the lights, and even using the computer (can you believe it?).

Housing: Left to Buy/Do

My sister and I are taking advantage of this long weekend to do some painting. We will be painting most of the living area and also both our bedrooms.  This is my first time painting and I am a bit nervous and excited!  I can’t wait to share my final product.  (I was going to share “before” pictures but I had my camera packed away).

I really want my bedroom to be a tranquil and cozy place to relax and rejuvenate.  I don’t want to clutter it with too much stuff (ie., bookshelf, desk, etc).  We have a “library” area in our common space and I want to utilize that as temporary desk/office space instead of having that take up space in my bedroom.

In my bedroom, I want to have my bed/sleeping area, my closet/clothing storage, and a vanity area.  I love the bold statement of a floor length mirror, and also functionality of getting dressed in my room (as opposed to the bathroom).  I’ve always thought a vanity area was so chic and grown up – not to mention I’ll need a place to apply the 20 shades of lipstick I’ve acquired over the summer! ;)

Since I don’t own a dresser, I’ve been using these shelving cubes ever since my university days, and I think it’s time I take the plunge and buy a real dresser.  I’ve been eying the IKEA dressers since they are so easy, but the frugal part of me wants to look for a used one.

I put together a rough budget of the things I still need to finish up my room.

Blog Update

Even though I really enjoy writing about personal finance and money is something that is usually on my mind, I’ve been wanting to expand my blog to explore other things I am passionate about.  Two major topics which come to mind is beauty/fashion and even some DIY decor projects.

I mentioned I switched jobs a few months ago, and the dress code at my new job is more business casual.  My previous work place was very casual, and it was perfectly acceptable (and normal) to wear jeans everyday.  It’s pretty exciting for me to dress more “grown up”, and I am excited to try to put to use all the lessons and inspirations I’ve drawn from the stylish ladies in the fashion blogging community (and do it on a budget!).  So, I was thinking of sharing some of my outfits on this blog as well.

I’m not sure if I will be be able to maintain a regular posting schedule, as I will be taking 2 courses, maintaining a long distance relationship, and get back into swimming/exercising, but I will see how it goes!  Thank you for sticking around and sharing this journey with me! :)

That’s about it for now!  Thanks so much for checking back!

Readers, how is your summer going?  Would you be interested in reading about my attempts at personal style blogging, DIY home decor or other topics?

Cheers,

14 Comments

Filed under Budget, Personal

Moving Downtown & Apartment Budgets

(Image via)

Background

I briefly mentioned in previous posts that I will be moving out of my basement apartment soon.  I am really excited!  I have been living in my current basement apartment for almost 4 years, and I have really enjoyed my time here.  My landlord and landlady are really kind and caring people who have treated me like a grand daughter, and I am very grateful.

In the 4 years living in my apartment, I have been able to save a lot of money and have been able to build up my networth, while also allowing myself to indulge in some travel and the occasional shopping.  I have a lot of space which I share with a roommate and it’s a nice, quiet and safe neighborhood.

Why I’m Making the Move

The main reason I am moving downtown is purely for fun – I’ve always wanted to live downtown downtown.  Where I can walk everywhere and just soak in the city.  I know it doesn’t really make financial sense – in terms of saving money on housing/rent – but it’s something I want to do when I am still young.

To be able to make this move a little more wallet friendly, my sister and I will be sharing a 2 bedroom apartment.  This way, we can both live in a great location and share the burden of rent.  I’ve given up my car (again!), and I’m going to walk or bike to as many places as possible to save on transit costs.  My sister is an awesome cook and I foresee lots of cooking together and spending time together :)

Another reason I wanted to move downtown was to have a bit of change in my life.  With BF moving to Boston for his MBA, I wanted to do something a little exciting for myself, as well, and this is a little treat for me.

Let’s talk Numbers

The PF blogger in be is both excited and nervous about this part.  So, I put together a preliminary budget comparing my budgets for my current basement apartment and my new downtown apartment.

I took my average annual spending from 2010 and 2011 (that’s why I love tracking my expenses – real raw data!!), and broke them down to monthly averages.  Then, I took my best guess at what my anticipated expenses would be when I moved downtown.

Much of my savings will be in giving up my car.  The bold red font are discretionary items that may need to be tweaked as needed.  All in all  – it’s not too bad, although I’d love to have my annual expenses be around $20,000 total, and I still want to be saving at 50% of my take-home pay.

Readers, have you lived downtown before?  What are some frugal tips you’d like to share about living fabulously and frugally downtown?

Cheers,

18 Comments

Filed under Budget, Finance

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

February 2012 Networth and Goal Recap

February Expenses

Over budget – Epic FAIL

  • Groceries  – I’ve been cooking a lot and have even had a few friends over, instead of going out to eat.
  • Clothing – I bought a pair of winter boots, 2 pairs of shoes during the MySpringShoes sale, and also a pair of skinny jeans – that (finally!) fit!
  • Entertainment – I bought an extra pair of movie tickets from my sister at a discount for use in March/April
  • Transportation – I forgot to budget in for an oil change and buying washer fluid ~$60.
  • Toiletres/Grooming - This was a bad month.  I got a haircut, serum and succumbed to the Revlon sale at Rexall and Shoppers Drugmart.
  • Gifts – BF and I split gifts for weddings 25/75.  But we decided this the day of, and so it wasn’t in my original budget.  I also got a few baby books for my friend who is expecting!  (You guys should really check the Baby Owner Manual).
  • Travel – Plane tickets for a spontaneous trip to Boston with BF in March.
  • Career – Forgot about the sitting fee for my professional licensing exam.

I think my only saving grace (can I still say that when I am >$700 over budget?) is that I stayed within my eating out budget! :)

February Net Worth

Because this month’s budget had been shot to hell, and I also gifted my parents with bus tickets to NYC, I will only be able to contribute $305 – instead of $750 – towards my TFSA.

I hope that I budget better for March!

February Goal Recap

  • Update my resume – check!  I’ve completed the first draft and am asking my friends to look over it. 
  • Prepare to file my income taxescheck! I’ve completed a first draft (by hand) of my income taxes this year.  I’m expecting a refund of ~$1,600.
  • Re-balance my Portfolio – pass. I’ve figured out my current asset allocation, but I want to move my RRSP money out of my current ING and my Manulife account to save on fees.  I am working on the allocation of those funds to my e-series funds.
  • Make my shopping list- pass.  I made a list, but I haven’t published it, yet.  It’s long.
  • No buying make-up - EPIC FAIL!!  I was really good up until the last week.  Rexall’s sale on Revlon products just got me really good.  The good news is, that I have enough lip glosses and lip butters to last me until next year.
  • Walk for 30 minutes, 3 days a week – fail! I started doing this with a co-worker during our lunch.  But when the weather got cold, or work got busy, I flaked out.
  • Get my credit report - check!  I got my free Equifax credit report and I paid $9.95 for my credit score.  Score is coming up! :)

On-going Goals Recap

  • Pack my lunch everyday – check!
  • Eat more fruitspass… I’ve been having smoothies in the morning, and packing an orange with me for lunch, until this week.
  • Exercise 3 times a week - fail! 
  • Get off the computer by 10pm – fail!  I got off the computer by 10pm, but then, I’d check my iPod.
  • Finish a book – fail!  I’m almost halfway through Jean Chretian’s autobiography.  I’m really enjoying it and hope to finish next month.
  • $0 Budget – check!  I tallied up both my expenses and savings and figured out how much I could allocate to my TFSA.

I think I have too many goals.  I must prioritize which ones are most important and have 3 monthly goals, and 3 ongoing goals. Seeing all those red fails are getting me down and discouraged.

Whew.  That was tough.  Readers, how has your February?

Cheers,

14 Comments

Filed under Budget, Finance

January 2012 Networth and Goal Recap

January Expenses

Overbudget

  • RentI bought a new IKEA bookshelf and now it is the base of my new kitchen counter.  I love it. I’ve decided to group my home improvement costs under my rent category since it’s part of my housing.
  • Groceries  – I’ve been cooking a lot and have also stocked up my pantry and freezer.  I think this is ok, since I’ve been able to stay under budget for eating out! :)
  • Cellphone – I went over my 100 text messages for the month of December.  I’m not sure if I need to include more text messages in my monthly plan, but will re-evaluate this based on next month or two.
  • Clothing – I went out and bought 4 new bras from Victoria Secrets and I think it’s worth it.  Last year, I bought a really good bra and I wore it to pieces.  It’s all stretched out since I wore it pretty much every day, last year.  I figured I need a few more bras for rotation.

    I also bought an awesome new-to-me winter jacket off Kijiji.  I’ve been looking for a warm and nice winter jacket for 2 years now, and I got this one at a great price.

  • Toiletries and Grooming – I still had a weakness for Revlon lipsticks.  But I have since uninstalled the Shoppers Drugmart app from my iPod so that should help!

    I also bought my holy grail night moisturizer since it was 20% off, and I also bought the Marcelle BB cream (loveit!).

  • Electronics – I bought a copy of Microsoft Office 2010.  My company has a special rate for employees.
  • Gifts – It was BF’s birthday this month and I got him a single cup coffeemaker.  BF is a huge coffee lover and my instant coffee just wasn’t cutting it for him.  He love his new toys, so it is totally worth it!

January Networth

Despite going over budget in several categories, I was still able to meet all my saving goals, and I had $550 left over.  I transferred that into my TFSA, right away.  And I am so happy with my 5% increase in my networth :)

January Goal Recap

  • Apply for Professional License Registrationcheck!  And they cashed my cheque.
  • Convert my TD RSP into an e-series fundcheck!  I sent in my conversion request form.  I keep waiting for it to show up in my TD account.
  • Install kitchen island – check!  Well, technically BF did it while I made dinner. :)

On-going Goals Recap

  • Pack my lunch everyday – check!
  • Eat more fruits – pass… I’ve been having smoothies in the morning, and packing an orange with me for lunch, but I’m not sure I did this everyday.
  • Exercise 3 times a week - fail! 
  • Get off the computer by 10pm – fail!  I did this a few times, but I really need to do better.
  • Finish a book – check!  I’ve finished 3 books so far :), including The Wealthy Barber Returns.
  • $0 Budget – check!  I tallied up both my expenses and savings and I had $550 left over which I put into my TFSA.

Whew.  That was tough.  Readers, how has your January?  

Cheers,

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2012 Annual Budget

Ever since I started to track my expenses, I really see value in budgeting based on an annal basis.  I also enjoy looking back and seeing a snapshot of where my money goes.  By looking at my expenses on an annual basis, I can also more clearly see the impacts of non-monthly expenses – such as car insurance.

I find that by working backwards from an annual budget to a monthly budgets works pretty well for me.  The exception would be for one-off items, such as car insurance, car repairs, hair cuts, or stocking up on moisturizers/make-up (during annual sales).

I also find that looking at my spending in the previous year (2011), really helps me gauge how much I need to budget for the following year (2012), or figure out what expenses I can trim down.

2011 Actual Expenses vs 2012 Annual Budget

Expenses

Rent
I’m likely going to stay at the same place for another year so I’ve budgeted the same rent ($345) and also included a $800 budget for some “renovations”.  I’ve lived here for 3 years so far, and I really like it.  It’s close to work, and relatively close to public transportation.

I’m not uber close to a subway line (about a 20 minute walk away), and not super close to downtown.  I also live in a basement apartment and share it with a room mate.

Of course, my apartment is not perfect – far from it.  I’ve got spotty walls where the previous tenant ripped tape off the wall, 2′ of counter space in my kitchen :(, and my vinyl tiled floors are scraped and cracked.  But I’ve got a really big closet – which almost balances out ;).

I use the term “renovations” in a very loose way (i.e., moving around furniture counts, right?).  Since I do not own this place, I want to make changes that will make my apartment more functional and beautify it at the same time without spending a lot of money.  Ideally, I’d also like to take the changes with me.

I’ve given myself a “reno” budget of $800 to make this happen, and I have already spent some of it in 2011.

Groceries
I like to eat lots of fresh veggies and one of my new year goals is to eat more fruits.  My favourite place to shop is the Asian grocery store.  Everything is well priced – although quality is inconsistent.

I’ve been keeping my pantry well stocked, and also batch cooking items that can be frozen for last-minute meals.  I have cut out almost all heavily processed foods from my diet (except Campbell’s mushroom cream soup and Restaurante frozen mushroom pizza).  I am also cooking dried beans, and make most of my meals from scratch. Not only does this save me money, I’ve also trimmed my waistline with little exercise in 2011.

Transportation
My car insurance has been paid up to May 2012.  I’m not sure what will happen after that.  Likely, I will give back the family car to my parents and it will be passed down to my little sister when she starts her full-time job.

I would like to go car-free after that.  I don’t want to buy a car at the moment.  It costs waaaay too much to drive in Ontario, and I live close enough to the city that I shouldn’t have to.

Telephone
My 1-year contract with Rogers expires in July 2012. If I can get a better plan, I will likely stay with them and re-new for another year.

I just got a new phone since my >3 year old Nokia died, so this one should last me at least another 3 years.

Entertainment/Recreation
I will likely play 2 – 3 seasons of volleyball.

I really enjoy playing beach volleyball in the summers and getting together with friends on a weekend to play.  It’s not exactly the best workout for me, but when I get a few hours in, I feel really good.  And it’s super fun!! :)

I’m also using my Entertainment Book for cheap(er) movie tickets and attractions.

Medical
Since my benefits cover 80% of my costs, and includes all prescription medicines and some massage therapy – I don’t have to pay much out-of-pocket.  My daily prescription medicines are topical potions lotions for my acne, and I try to use up my massage therapy benefits.

I will also not be doing another facial for a long time.  They are too expensive and are truly an indulgence.

Eating Out
I am going to try really, really hard to stick to this budget.

Growing up, my family rarely went out for dinner.  I feel so guilty when I see how much I spend on eating out.

It is nice to go out and eat with friends once in a while, but it is an indulgence and should be treated as such.  This should be easier as BF is no longer living downtown.  It was way too easy to meet up with friends for brunch/lunch/dinner/drinks/etc., and I am so easily tempted.

Bank Fee’s
I don’t want to pay any bank fee’s for checking or credit cards.

However, this would have to exclude the commission fee’s to process buying stocks for my TFSA.

Toiletries/Grooming
I have budgeted for 4 haircuts, an annual stock-up of toiletries (shampoo, facial cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, etc), and I gave myself $25 a month for make-up.

Clothing/Shoes
I am going to make a Shopping List of items that I want and hunt for them.

I will NOT settle for something that I kinda, sorta like.  New rule: if I don’t love it, I don’t buy it.

Electronics
I have been lusting after the Canon S95 for a while now, but haven’t bitten the bullet since I have a perfectly functioning Canon ELPH SD1100 IS.   They are coming out with the Canon S100, soon, and I am hoping to score the S95 for a good deal.  Or the Olympus XZ-1 is also a great candidate.

I love taking nice photographs, but right now, I don’t have the time or patience (mostly the latter) to learn how to use a DSLR.

Gifts
I’m not a huge gift giver, I prefer to take someone out for a great meal and chat.  I’m lazy that way:).

I think my friends and I are old enough to buy what we really want.  I’m also a really hard person to buy gifts for, and I hate to put my friends and family through that.

Travel
I would love to take a 2-3 week trip somewhere (far), go camping and visit a friend in Montreal.

Misc.
Stuff always comes up.

Savings

Emergency Fund
I have finally topped up my E-fund at a nice and pretty number -$10,000.  I love round numbers.

That should last me 6 – 10 months of living expenses.

Travel Fund
I keep putting money in here and it keeps disappearing! ;)

I had about $1,000 left over from 2011, so I think this should be enough.  Sometimes, I add a bit more to the fund, the closer I get to a trip.

General Savings
I’d like to keep this topped up at $15,000.

I don’t plan on going back to school right away, or buying a house.  But this money is there if I want to do something, or if a great opportunity came up.

RRSPs
I’d like to keep this maxed out in 2012.

I know my dad tells me to save some contribution room for the future when I make a higher salary, but I like to take advantage of the savings now and have my money grow.

TFSA
Last year, I didn’t contribute, so I need to make up for it this year.

I really wanted to invest in some dividend paying stocks and then never got around to doing my research.  So,this year, the least I need to do is to put half of it into the TD E-series fund and start making some money!

Other (Long Term) Savings
Since my E-fund and General Savings are mostly topped up, I will likely have some left over money to invest.

Monthly Budget

If I take out my travel costs, I am left with an average monthly budget of $1,285.33.

This brings my annual budget to $18,923.96.  I really want to hit this one on the nail and meet an ambitious 2012 net worth goal! :)

Coming up… 2012 Goals – including my networth goal.

Readers, do you like to budget on an annual basis and work back to monthly?  Or vice versa?

Cheers,

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2011 Annual Financial Recap

I really enjoy the power of knowing exactly where all my money goes.  And I really enjoy gathering data on my spending habits so that I can analyze them and make changes where necessary to keep improving.   If you don’t already track your spending, I highly recommend it.  And don’t worry if you fall off the band wagon a few times.  Just get right back into it.

Looking back on my 2010 recap post, I remember that I completely fell off my expense tracking band wagon the summer of 2010 and had to make “best guesses” based on credit card statements, debit transactions and cash.   But the ever so kind Fabulously Broke encouraged me to not keep at it, and sometimes, kind words from a stranger is all it takes to help you over those humps.

2011 vs 2010 Expenses

More $$$ in 2011

Transportation
I knew there would be a big increase here since I paid for all of the car insurance in my family ($3000/annually).  I figured it was my way of paying my parents for letting me use the car full-time.  I also paid for all the maintenance of the car, including some major repairs in September.

The family car will likely be passed down to my little sister when she graduates, so I’m hoping to be car-free after May 2012. 

Medical
I have written about my struggle with acne several times.

These facials for a last resort for me and more than $700 later, I learned that that’s not what my skin wanted (thank goodness!).  I do have my acne under control now, so all is well that ends well. :)

Toiletries/Grooming
I went a little crazy and bought many, many products, trying to heal my acne while also trying to cover it up.

Then, after my acne healed, I kinda let myself go and went out and bought all sorts of make-up after reading about them from some awesome enablers beauty bloggers.  I am happy to report that my make-up stash has since more than quadrupled in size.

I had 3 eye shadows, 1 eye liner, 2 blushes, 2 lipsticks and foundation at the beginning of the year, so I didn’t start with much. :)

Electronics
I got a lovely used net book.  Her name is Mini Mimi and she is lovely and I wrote most of my 2011 posts with her.

My cell phone also died.  My little Nokia started to turn off sporadically and refused to turn back on.  Then after a few hours/days, everything would be fine.  Then, after it would turn off again. Since my cell phone is my primary phone (no land line), I needed a replacement.

Enter my Nokia C3.  His name is C3P0 :) and I am quite happy with him.

Travel
I took two big trips this year – one was with my family for two weeks in Hong Kong, and the other was ten days on the Canadian east coast.  I really enjoyed them both and am thankful I had the opportunity to do so.

Less $$$ in 2011

Groceries
I didn’t do this on purpose.  In fact, I was really surprised since I have been cooking more at home.  This is probably because I batch grocery shop, instead of shopping for one meal only (I did that a lot when BF and I cooked together on weekends).

Clothing/Shoes
Well, ideally this number would be closer to $0 since I was supposed to be on a shopping ban! :P

But, I did do a closet clean-out and I think I did a fairly good job only mostly buying items that would fill the voids in my closet.  I still bought some items because they were on sale, but much less impulse buying. :)

For 2012, I am putting together a shopping list of clothes that I want to buy.  Planned purchases only.

Bank fee’s
I had a month in July where I partially paid a credit card, but thought that I had paid it off entirely, and so I got dinged with interest fee’s.  I was really upset when this happened because I had been so good.

2012 will be the year of no bank fees.

Gifts
I guess I got cheaper! :)  And no weddings, also help!

Readers, do you enjoy analyzing where and how you spend your money?  

Coming up, my 2011 Goals recap & 2012 Goals!

Cheers,

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December 2011 Recap (finally!)

I am embarrassed that it has taken me this long to finally get my act together and put together my December and annual spending recap.

The holidays were waaaay too short, and I finally got to see family and friends – some of whom I haven’t seen in a while!  I spent a good week or two away from my computer (gasp!) and I didn’t even bring my netbook home with me (gasp!).  My other excuses are also that I had piles of projects in my room that just needed to be done, and I couldn’t stand the sight of them unfinished anymore.  A little peak at said projects…

My jewelry holder.  Thanks to the Amrita Singh sale and generous donations from friends ;), my jewelry collection no longer fit on the candle stick holder and chocolate box I used to store them in.  I was inspired to make my own cork board jewelry holder.

Anyway, enough with my excuses – onto my recaps! :)

Income: $5,649.70

Expenses: $2005.46

My December was a really awesome paycheck month!  Not only was it a 3 paycheck month, I also had a modest bonus to boot!   Money cannot buy happiness, but money can make me happy.

I was trying to be realistic for December, but I still came in $500 over budget.  See below for where my money went.

Clothing/Shoes

I caved and ordered a sweater and 2 t-shirts from Old Navy during their holiday sale.

I also bought a really nice that I’ve had my eye on for the past couple months.  It’s “The It” bag!!  It’s actually a camera bag, but I’m going to use it as a purse.  It was on sale over the holiday for 25% off, and I paid about $147 including all taxes and shipping.

I don’t have very many bags, and my last favourite bag kinda “died”, so I took the opportunity to get these darling bag.  She is SO pretty.  Review coming up!

Eating Out

I tried to be realistic, but I met up with so many friends over the holiday.

It was totally worth it, but this eating out budget must be tamed in 2012.

Entertainment

We spent new years at a friend’s place – it was potluck styled, so we still saved a lot more money than if we had gone out for dinner.

I realized now that the over spending was not due entirely to new year celebration.  I also bought $40 of books from Chapters: InStyle: The New Secrets of Style ($12.99), Jean Cretien: My Years as Prime Minister ($7.99), 10 Minute Relaxation for Mind & Body ($2), Get Positively Beautiful by Carmindy ($5.99) and The Wealther Barber Returns ($10).

Gifts

Meh :)

I’m not a huge gift giver, but there a few people who I really wanted to make them feel special.

Rent/Mortgage

I didn’t account for “reno” costs.  Most of this is storage containers for my growing stash of make-up (see below).  I also bought stuff to make my jewelry board, and returned any unused/extra stuff.

Toiletries/Grooming

I have a love-hate relationship with beauty blogs (more on this later).  But in short, I’m stocked up on make-up and brushes!!!  I may have also increased my lipstick collection ten fold within the span of 4 months – I used to only have 2!

Transportation

I drove around more during the holiday.  I also have been driving my car for work.

Please note that I do get reimbursed for mileage, but I choose to just include that as “income” instead of trying to figure out the work portion and the personal portion.

Travel

Ever since my Hong Kong trip, I’ve been lusting after my sister’s Hey’s luggage.  I love that it splits the storage space perfectly in half with a zippered lining. It is such an efficient use of space!  The 4-wheel drive also doesn’t hurt.

I was going to put the Heys luggage on my 2012 shopping list, but Costco had a special.  The 26″ luggage and 21.5″ carry-on came in a 2-peice set for only $99.99.  For reference, my sister has the 26″ luggage which she got for half price, and it still cost $150+tax.

I can’t wait to use it!

Wheeew! :)  That was a lot of explaining, but now I am ready to move onto the exciting part – my net worth update!

December 2011 Networth

I was really hoping for a big gain this month and I am really happy with my 5% gain. Yes, I am grinning from ear-to-ear as I type this.

Can you believe how close I was to ending off the year with $80,000 to my name?!  So close!

Summary

I am really proud of myself for tracking my expenses ALL year!!! *pats self on the back* *then high-fives herself*

Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but I LOVE analyzing my spending/saving data at the end of the year and then compare it to last year.  And this year, I collected good data, which makes it even more exciting :)

Stay tuned for my 2011 Spending recap!

Cheers,

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