Friday 29 January 2016

One Month Down, Thirty-Five To Go

I know that technically January does not end until Sunday night, but this is my last blog entry for this month. 

My plan to become totally debt free is underway and it will take three years to complete (hence the thirty-six months). 

I have said it before and it is still true that you dream for the future, plan for the mid-term, and work the now. So, I plan to work this plan, but life has thrown me a curve ball before and it will do so again. 

With that in mind I will work this plan and adjust my plan as things come at me. As always, I will adapt and change to meet and beat whatever challenges comes my way. 

As well, I will not be so blindly committed to a plan as to not take advantage of an opportunity which may cross my path. 

Having said all that, as it stands now . . . On month down, thirty-five to go to total debt freedom.

Thursday 28 January 2016


Okay, so for one thing, I am happy to report that my fridge does still work, it just needs to run when it is above freezing outside. 

It is a bit of a quirk, but what it means for me is that I need to watch the weather. When it is a warm day, run the fridge, when it is a below zero day, leave the freezer door open.  

Ah the things I have to do just to keep my frozen food frozen. Thanks to the warm weather we are having I was able to run the freezer and refreeze my food . . . yay.

As far as the financial planning goes, I was able to find a “high interest” savings account in the world of that stock trading account that I have access  to. 

It functions like an actual savings account with safe and secure principle and a modest interest rate. 

I may diversify down the road as with financial planning, if you are not making at least the inflation rate, you are losing money. 

For now, it will do and more specifically it is just right for the “Long Term Savings” which I will start using in May, once my Contingency Fund (Mid-Tern Savings) is topped up. 

All in all, things are looking up, so there is that. After all, for the last few nights I was actually able to lock my door without fear that it would be frozen shut by morning.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Meeting the Banker Again

Tonight, after work I meet the banker where I will rectify the situation concerning my RRSP and TFSA. They say that they have some ideas as to what products are best suited for me. We shall see what happens, and as always I will keep you posted. 

I am enjoying the few days of relative warmth, we should see a few days of above zero weather and that is a nice change. I will be trying to see if my fridge will work, as I do hope to refreeze my frozen dinners. 

I do look to the seasonal warmup with great anticipation, but I am doing fine with the weather that we have had as of late. I am not complaining, grumbling a bit, perhaps, but not complaining. 

Monday 25 January 2016

Debt Free Strategy

I have been thinking this weekend on the best and most strategic way to get debt free. 

I first thought that I would use an extension of my snowball method. That is, pay the truck off first (12 months) and then focus on the trailer (18 Months). 

Since I have decided that I will build up and maintain that contingency fund first (4 months) that pushes this whole plan to a total of 34 months. 

This timeframe got me thinking, since there is only three years (36 Months) left on the truck anyways, why not focus on the trailer and then on long term Savings after that, all while letting the truck loan run its course.

Here is a chart to compare the two options before me. These months include this month (January).

Option A Option B
Phase Name Months Phase Name Months
Congingency 4 Congingency 4
Truck 12 Trailer 24
Trailer 18 Savings ($12,000) 8
Savings ($4000.00) 2    
Total Months 36  Total Months 36

As you can see, Option B makes the most sense, and certainly so financially. It just goes to show that you don’t always have to pay debts off fast and early. In this case, letting the truck loan run its course makes the most sense.

Friday 22 January 2016

Squeaking Out of January

It is payday so that means that it is time to do my budget for payday. To put it succinctly, this month could have gone better, financially. It could have gone worse mind you, but it could have gone better. 

I will get out of January with my savings plan intact, and yes my credit cards are still maintained at a zero balance, but my persona overdraft has been cleaned out. 

The main culprit was my camping trips this month, I booked three of them. One was the impromptu one I took last weekend to Banff. Then I booked the spot for The Feb long weekend. Finally I had to book the May Long Weekend now in order to get any spot at all. 

I will be fine, I will get through this, and I will build up my overdraft again. The important thing to note is that I am in my own overdraft and not the bank’s. 

It is important to look at the victories and the positives in all this, and just keep moving forward.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Writing Dry Spell

For reasons that I can’t explain, I am in a bit of a dry spot when it comes to my writing. I just seem to have temporarily lost the gumption to sit down and write. I have a few projects to work on, I have ideas there to write, but to sit down and write them just seems pointless.

I will get over this, I will get on with it and write my ideas and sure enough finish book two. It just seems silly to be writing if nothing comes of the works that I have already written (enter literary agent and/or publisher).

Self-publishing is out as you need to fund it yourself and also promote it too, I simply can’t promote anything worth beans.  

This is just a bit of the winter doldrums as I simply loath the cold, I can take it, I can do it, but I don’t have to like it. 

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Well, That Sucked

Okay, I had intended to sit down and learn investing last night after work. I was too mentally drained from the busy day to be able to focus on that, so I pushed it off till morning. 

This morning I got up and took a stab at it . . . I was left frustrated and disappointed. It was a complicated interface and the only options open to me were: stocks, bonds and mutual funds. None of which I wanted to invest in at this moment. 

I tried to find something simple and safe, like a 30 Day GIC that I could just add a bit to as I rolled it over each month . . . nope. Even figuring out how to buy anything was not there, so even if I saw a bond that seemed not too hideous, I couldn’t do that.

I really have neither the patience nor the extra cash to play in the markets. I just want something simple and safe. With all returns so stupidly low, there is no point to really shop around when the rates are below 1%.

I have already sent an email to the bank stating that I want to reverse this and close these accounts. I still want the RRSP and the TFSA, but in a more (alleged) “High Interest” Savings Account style. 

For me, the RRSP is just something thrust on me that I see no purpose in. Perhaps if I had started years ago, it might interest me. Right now it is a trash can into which I have been guilted to throwing money into. Once it goes in, it ain’t yours anymore. Maybe when you turn 65 you can get a bit of it back, maybe.

I am looking to just save up cash until I decide to pay off loans. That’s it, keep the money safe until I can use it thanks.

Monday 18 January 2016

Stocks, Bonds, GIC’s, Oh MY!

Okay, so either I didn’t quite understand what the Banker was saying or he didn’t understand exactly what I wanted. What I ended up with was being turned loose on the money markets to play with my money. 

My RRSP and my TFSA are both “Market Investment Accounts.” What this means, is that I can do what I want with them. It is up to me to choose and invest my money in any one of a wide variety of investment vehicles. 

This is a far cry from the “Stuff it in a high interest savings account and forget about it” concept that I had when I opened these accounts . . . and this can of worms. 

I have a bit of time to figure out what to do with the Long Term Savings end of things. As far as the RRSP goes, I will look into some sort of GIC, bond or something else nice and safe for that bonus I received. I will have to look into something that I can put my planned $50.00 per paycheque into. 

All in all, this means more learning, reading and researching on stuff that I never had any inclination to learn about in the first place. Oh well, I’m in it now, so I might as well make the best of it. . . . Oops, I’m an investor.

Friday 15 January 2016

Wonderful Waterton Awaits!

For me it is a tad early to be thinking about the May Long Weekend, here in the middle of January, but that is exactly what I am doing.  

You see, Parks Canada has activated their online Campsite reservation system for the whole season and today Waterton Lakes Park is available for booking. It is a very beautiful park and I have only spent a day trip there, so a long weekend does sound nice. 

It is a very popular campground and the May Long Weekend is the busiest camping weekends of the season. So, if I want a spot down there, I will need to book today. So, Book the spot I did, right as soon as it was available . . . as in the second it was available. 

I will admit that it does my heart good to think of the warmer weather and dream of a time when I don’t have to wear layer after layer all day. The cold weather will pass, just a few months now, I can do this. 

I just look forward to my savings plan this year and the warm weather and know that things are looking up for me! Waterton Lakes will be a nice way to kick off summer!

Thursday 14 January 2016

Savings Accounts Setup

So I did have a nice chat with my neighbourhood banker last night. It was refreshing to sit in that office and not feel like Oliver asking for another bowl of gruel (AKA: a bank loan).

After talking things over I did setup two different accounts, one is a RRSP and the other is a TFSA. The RRSP is for retirement and the TFSA is my Long-Term Savings account.

The RRSP and TFSA accounts are with the investment arm of the bank. As I understand it there are a few different options available to me in each account. So I may mix it up a bit and put a bulk amount in a monthly GIC and another amount in a High Interest Savings Account or Mutual Fund. 

I was concerned with regards to the TFSA, as we have all heard about the $5000.00 or $10,000.00 cap on it. I thought, what was the point of that, as I want to save more money than that. Well, what that refers to (as I understand it) is that since the inception of this program each person can put a maximum amount of the $5000.00 or $10,000.00 (whatever the actual cap is) into it. So, for me that means the cap is up around $50,000.00 . . . I’m good with that. 

The TFSA is a Tax Free Savings Account, but what does that mean and how does it work? Well, in a nutshell you don’t get a tax break for putting money into it, like you do with an RRSP. What you do get a tax break on is any money that the money in it makes. So that $50.00 you make over ten years on your $50,000.00 is tax free, woo hoo. 

I am not expecting to make much on this, as the rates are down near 0.75%, but at least the money is safe and it is out of my hands. Taking care of the principle as I save up to pay bills off is what is important for me.
It will apparently take a few days to get this setup, so by Friday or perhaps Monday I should receive a notice that the accounts are setup. Then I will be able to begin my foray into the world of investing, albeit conservatively and with baby steps.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

RRSP Day For Me

Today, or rather this evening, is the day that I will setup my RRSP. Technically I already have an RRSP but that one has only a few dollars in it and is not one that I can access readily. 

It is one of those where I need to make an appointment with a banker in order to put money into it or withdraw. Since I can’t even do anything with it with a bank teller, I will close that one this evening, as it is practically useless.

Not having access to my money is not acceptable as I am in control of my finances. I want the ability to easily top up that account as easily as I transfer money into my savings; I refuse the automatic savings crap. 

The odd thing to understand about RRSP’s is it is like handing your money to a large bully. You give it to them for safe keeping, asking nicely to have some back if you need it. Even then they will harass and beat you up if you don’t give your money that you “borrowed” from them back.  Once you put money into an RRSP, that money no longer becomes yours, yet still is; a strange dichotomy to be sure.

Anywhose, tonight I will set up two investment accounts, one is my RRSP investment account and the other is a plain old Investment Account. One is for retirement (baring the Zombie Apocalypse) and the other will become my Long Term Savings Account. 

I will ask about a TFSA, or Tax Free Savings Account, when I am there tonight. If there is some maximum cap that I can put in there then that is useless for me. My goal is to save up more than $5000.00 or $10,000.00 in there so I can save up and pay off the truck then trailer loans all at once. 

While I am not ready to put money into My Long-Term Savings Account yet, I will open it with $100.00. I will add to it once my Mid-Term Savings Account is funded up to its target of $6000.00 (Expected March 22). 

The RRSP I will open up with the unexpected year-end bonus that I got from my boss. I will continue to put $50.00 a payday into it all year long.  If there is some screw up with the federal government and the actually allow me to have a Tax Refund this year then I will dump that in there too.

Again, this is a bit of a fun time for me, and not to gloat but it is nice to be able to consider what to do with what is technically “extra money.”

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Goals Focus You

It is funny how much having a goal that you are working towards helps to focus you; then again it may just be me. I guess I am just a goal oriented person, or at least I am now. 

I don’t mind the cold that much anymore, I do know how to handle it. It is interesting that we humans can suffer and put up with a great deal, but we seek meaning in everything. 

If we are suffering and going through hardships, we want to know that there is a reason behind it . . . that we are suffering for a reason. I am not claiming to be a martyr or anything like that. 

It is just that I at least have a reason why I am freezing, not only this winter but upcoming winters as well. I am freezing my butt off for freedom, you may chuckle at that, but it is the truth, at least for me.

I still may meet that special lady and we may settle down on a nice piece of land somewhere. It is true that that may happen soon (*stifles laughter*) but for now, I am working towards owning nothing to anyone.

It has been a long time since I could say that, and I look forward to the time when I can say that again. With that in mind, these nights don’t seem all that cold, in fact they’re getting that much warmer each day.

Monday 11 January 2016

I Got a Plan . . . For Now

Okay, after much humming and hawing, I have (officially) decided to go forward with my aggressive savings plan. What I am going to do is put aside in savings the money that I had been spending on Credit Card Debt Elimination. 

So, what that means is that each month I will be putting into savings $1500.00. Sure, this means that by the end of the year I will have 18,000.00 in savings, but not really.  

I plan to first build up my mid-term savings to my goal of $6000.00 and leave it there. Then I plan to put my savings money into (an alleged) high interest savings account. As in, the kind that takes a day or two to get money out of it: an investment account. 

It is the money in this account that I will use to pay first my Truck off and then my trailer. This means that I may take a month or two longer than my target of December of next year to pay the truck off, but in doing it this way I will keep my contingency fund intact, and make a couple of bucks in interest.

My idea is to utilize and leverage the mortgage payment structure of Wanda’s loan to my advantage. I am not going to crank up those payments anytime soon; in fact I don’t plan to do that at all. What I will do is pay the small payments that I am doing now and then pay the loans off all at once, first one then the other. 

This way I will have access to that money in case I get laid off, or perhaps a steal of a deal on a piece of land or property comes along. Only at a time of my choosing will I pay off one of the loans early. If for any reason that I can’t pay a loan off early, oh well, I have a pile of cash in savings and the loan will run its course to its predetermined end date.

As far as my personal overdraft is concerned, well, I will trickle save that back up. I am currently half way into it and it looks like I will be there for a few months yet. That is okay, as this is my own overdraft and not the bank’s overdraft. Don’t worry, I am still above zero in the account, at least as far as the bank is concerned.  

I could just put off my savings plan for a month and take care of my own overdraft nicely, but that won’t do. More importantly it will set an unsettling precedent, that this savings plan is voluntary.  I plan to keep this forced savings plan up for as long as possible, at least until the truck and then trailer is paid off, an estimated three years. 

As far as my trip down to the coast this summer goes, I will overfund my savings account in order to pay for it. I hope to have enough saved up by then and, if not, into my mid-term savings I will dip. After which I will trickle save it back up again. What I will not do is pause or dip into my long-term savings (investment) account; that is set aside for my next goal of total debt freedom. 

I also plan to put aside $50.00 a payday and whatever I get from my tax return into my RRSP and build that up along the way. It is nice to be on this side of the financial ledger, and looking at savings and investments and RRSP’s (oh my). 

This is a bold plan, I know, but it is one that I know that I can do. I scrimped and saved to pay those damn credit cards off, so I know that I can pay this amount each month. The difference is that I will be paying myself, buying my own freedom. In essence, I am redeeming myself from my indentured servitude.

Just having this goal does make bearing the cold nights that much easier, knowing that one day, I will own my home. Before too long I will be totally free to do what I want, when I want, where I want, and always be home . . . wherever I roam.

Friday 8 January 2016

Lots of Frozen Nights in my Future

So, I did a bit of preliminary research on my next wintering over options (for next winter) and the outlook is not good. Sure there are some options and in a strictly logical sense what I should do is clear. We humans are rarely so “Vulcan” in our decision making. 

I confirmed that in my area there are one, maybe two campgrounds that operate year round and have monthly rates. The most likely one is outside of the city and directly diagonally across the city from me. 

The first problem with this option is that it would mean a long commute for me, so more gas. The other problem is that this option will cost between $750.00 - $850.00 per month, plus electricity.

Conversely I could rent a room, not far from work for about $450.00 per month. Even if you factor in $50.00 for a storage fee for Wanda, that is still $500.00 and I am toasty warm all winter, with internet, running water, a toilet, shower, and everything.

Still, there is that nagging voice which still tells me that moving out of Wanda, until total debt freedom is some sort of capitulation. Even plugging in somewhere kinda feels like cheating, in a way. 

I am not about to spend $1000.00 per month just for my comfort and still live in Wanda. $500.00 is about what I would be willing to spend, but still, moving out of Wanda, as hard as it is for anyone else to understand, just feels wrong. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do not enjoy shaking my water container up like a martini shaker every eight hours or so, just so some water will still flow out of it. The list of what I hate about winter is long and has been exhausted in this blog, yet still I will persevere. 

The really cold of winter will only last for two, perhaps three months, and then it will get steadily warmer. Soon I will be able to use my gray and black water tanks again and then eventually I will be able to use my fresh water tanks again. Things will get better and things will improve, in: temperature, living conditions and yes financially. 

I can get through this.

Thursday 7 January 2016

Cold Weather is Not Good For Writing

Each morning this week the same thing has happened:

1) My Alarm goes off
2) I peek out of my warm sleeping bag
3) Feel the sub-zero cold air on my face
4) Ponder writing in this cold temps.
5) Grumble/moan/whine
6) Turtle in
7) Snooze as I snuggle in my warm bag until I have to get up.

I know that I need to get up and get writing, for me as a writer, it is who I am. I also hate the cold and I have been spoiled with the balmy plus 20C temperatures in my house over the Christmas Break.

I will adjust and more than likely I will toddle back to the library this weekend to write. I find that writing at the library is good for more than just stealing power and heat. I find that while there, I get into an “office” mentality and focus on what I am there to do . . . write.

I know what you are thinking, just get a place to plug in over this winter, but I refuse to do that. I will stick it out this winter as I build up my savings towards that first goal of paying the truck off by this time next year. That would then put $541.91 back into my pocket each month and on a monthly cash flow basis, that is huge.

Next winter, say in October, I will look to find that place to park and plug in. This winter, I will tough it out and survive, as I always do. Yes I will adjust to what is happening to me and do what needs to be done.

I have decided that every long weekend this year I will go out to the campground as a break from the cold and what have you. In the warmer weather I will also enjoy the outdoors, but in winter, it is a break from the cold.

Next week, I hope to haul my carcass out of bed and write each morning next week, for now, I know that I will turtle in tomorrow morning . . . as I reeeeaaalllyy hate the cold.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Use Winter To Your Advantage

One of the challenges that I have when the real cold weather hits is that the effectiveness of my fridge drops off significantly. Usually this is not a problem, but when I am trying to get stuff frozen, it is.

While out in Banff I cooked up two large batches of food, one for my work lunches and one for my meals at home. I have food for two to three months . . . seriously they were big batches. 

The trouble is that I have to have this stuff frozen in order for it to keep, and with my freezer not working properly, this is an issue. My best guess as to why my freezer is not working lies in how it works and the environment in which it was intended to work. 

My fridge/freezer works by heating up (with electricity or propane) the coolant so that coolant can circulate around the fridge/freezer. As the coolant circulates, it moves the heat from the fridge part to the outside where it is warmer. This works well when the temperature outside is warmer, but when the outside is colder than the inside of this freezer, this cycle doesn’t work. 

My answer hit me when I was grumbling while shaking my five gallon water container. I need to shake that thing up like a martini in order to break up the ice that forms within it (something I need to do at least twice a day). I realized that the answer lay in doing what nobody would think of doing . . . leave the freezer door open.

Since the outside world and the inside of Wanda (when the furnace is not on) is definitely below zero, all I need to do is to let that cold get at my “soon to be frozen” food. So for the next few days I am experimenting with leaving that freezer door open when I am either sleeping or out. 

The other thing I did was to use the snow to cool down my too hot water. In the mornings I boil water to make my morning bowl of porridge and for my morning Bachelor’s Bath (I reeeeally miss my shower).

The water was too hot to pour over my head to wash my hair, so I put it in the snow for a few minutes . . . thank you -15C. 

These are but a few examples to get the point across that to use whatever situation and environmental conditions to your advantage, whenever possible. 

Sometimes it is best not to fight Mother Nature but to work with her and let her help you do what you need to get done.  I will keep you posted on how my “Natural Deep Freeze” experiment goes.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

The Rearing of Stubborn Pride

As I went through my day yesterday with those options bouncing around in my head, one voice kept nagging away at me. It almost felt like I was a Captain who was abandoning ship, mid-voyage (an odd yet accurate analogy). Each time I considered an action or direction which would get me out of Wanda and into some fixed address, that nagging voice taunted me.

“What? Are you saying you can’t do it?” 

“Have you lost your nerve?” 

“Is the weather and life on the road too tough for you?” 

And the worst of them all . . . 

“Giving up so soon?” 

It is true that my goal was to get rid of my credit card debt, and I have done that. Also I have taught myself to manage my finances better. I keep $1K in the account at all times and I keep my credit cards at a $0 balance, paying them off each payday. 

I have mastered my finances and my credit card debt, so why is this not enough for me? Why can’t I be satisfied with that and accept the other debt that I have as “Normal” and get a comfy place? 

I am still me, that’s why. 

When I achieve a goal, I set another one, a higher one and work towards it. As I sit here, I am still tempted and allured by the dream of owning my home and being free to travel where I like and live really cheaply. 

For me, it would allow me to pursue these various projects that are also bouncing around in my head. I could finally try my hand at the ones that I can’t do with a regular job, while saddled down with debt. 

I could: 

Find a small piece of land in the boonies and live there while I write. 
Work on various film sets, literally living on set (Who would notice one more trailer?)
Start a travel webseries.
The possibilities are endless . . .  

Yet, I still hate winter and don’t like the loneliness that this current lifestyle (or my interpretation of it) necessitates. I suppose my goal for this year is to find a way to compromise, perhaps finding a place to park Wanda and plug-in over winter would be a nice way to weather the winter, say Oct 1 to March 31.

Hmm . . . a campsite sponsor of this endeavour would be hot . . . (applications to sponsor me with a year-round campsite being accepted now).

This is an ever evolving process, but I will continue to save up what cash I can as I move forward. If nothing else, if I save as much as I can, I could pay my truck off this time next year . . . two years early. (that also is a tempting prospect).

Monday 4 January 2016

Happy New Year!

So, it is a new year and that means a new chance to do things better this year than I did last year! As I enter this year I am in a much better financial place than I was a year ago. 

My credit cards are paid off and I a maintaining a zero balance on them. I make sure to pay the remaining two cards off to zero each and every payday, so as to not rack up any interest (evil cackle). 

The question that still nags at me is, what now? What do I do now? I have a few options before me and I still have not decided exactly to do and what I should do. Here are a few options bouncing around in my head: 

1) Keep Going

This option says that I keep freezing my butt off in this trailer and get completely debt free as soon as possible. My best estimate is that would be three years out. 

What this means to me is three more winters plus this one, then more after that. This would continue to put a serious dent in my dating life as I would be still living in an RV and parking in parking lots and side streets all this time.

It would mean the path toward absolute freedom though, eventually being able to go where I want, when I want and live really cheaply. 

2) Buy a Condo

This option is to buy a small, two bedroom condo for 2K or under (they are out here) this way I can still get ahead financially and have a bit of financial security. 

This would mean more expenses and yes much longer before debt freedom. If I did this, in all likelihood I wouldn’t be able to consider selling the condo for at least five years. 

The upside is that I would not freeze this winter and have an asset. The downside is much more debt and taking much longer to pay off Wanda.
3) Wait Till The Crash, Then Buy a House

This option says save up my down payment in full (10K) by around say August and then look to buy a place. My gut tells me that the market is going to tank this year. 

What this means for me is that I may be able to squeak into a small, older house with a smidgen of land and a garage/workshop still in commuting distance. 

This is nice but still more debt and further towards debt freedom. Like the last option this will allow me to actually have some sort of a social/romantic life.

4) Rent a Room

This option is a bit of a compromise. This one says to stick it out till October and then get a room for the winter at least. This way I can still save up cash but not freeze my butt off. 

There are still much to consider, but for now I will stuff as much cash as I can aside as I figure out what to do. For no reason whatsoever, here are some choice shots from my Christmas Break in Banff.