It’s a Three Pay Month

Whoa, it just dawned on me today that April is a three pay month for me.

WOO HOO!

I’m usually pretty good at knowing which months this happens in, however I totally forgot this time around. They happen about every 6 months or so for me as I’m paid every two weeks by my employer. Very very cool. Couple that with my income tax return this month, and I am a happy camper. This means that I’ll be able to pay a little bit more on the loan, or save a bit more in my car savings, most excellent.

Don’t you love it when you’re surprised by extra money coming in?

Enjoying the High Numbers

For the last two weeks I’ve  been enjoying checking out my bank balance and seeing all sorts of money in there. That’s because I haven’t yet divvied up my income tax refund. It’s been a busy few weeks at work and I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it. Half of it is going towards my loan, and the other half to my savings account for the car payoff next year. And this past Friday was pay day, so the number’s even higher than before! Yowza. It’s always fun to see the numbers go up into 4 digits, especially when it used to be only in the 2-digits. ;-)

Sadly this week I fear it’s time to start dividing up the money, so I’ll be a little sad to see the amount decrease, but it’s gotta be done.

Spending Money for Travel – Part Deux

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how I could trade my Delta SkyMiles for Air Canada Aeroplan miles, but that it would cost me over US$200 to do so. I waffled on whether to do it, but in the end I decided to post the trade request. Since the trade would expire a month after I posted it, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I posted the trade. 20,000 Delta SkyMiles for 20,000 Aeroplan miles.

Wouldn’t you know it, this week the trade went through! Good thing it was this week to, as the Canadian dollar is almost at par with the US one, so the US$220 fee ended up costing me CDN$227 and change. Yeah!

I’m excited about this trade because it means that I’m more than halfway to a ticket to Europe, which is cool since I’m hoping to go there next year. OR, I’ve got a ticket to the West Coast, which is another option, although since I was just there in February I’ll probably hold on to them to use for Europe. Woo!

And as far as finding the $227 to pay for the trade, I’ve got $100 saved up in my Toonie fund, and I’ll take $100 from my income tax refund to finance the other portion. The rest will come from my next paycheque (this Friday), so it’s all covered.

Sure, I won’t use the Aeroplan points for a while, so some of you might be thinking why didn’t I wait, but in the end with something like a trade, I couldn’t be sure if anyone would accept the trade when I needed them. If it was a matter of relying on the airline to let me trade them, then sure, I would have waited. But since I had to find someone to trade with me, I thought it was better to do it as soon as I could, that way I’d have the points when I needed them.

Everything in the world costs $4

It’s true! I went grocery shopping this week and a lot of the items I picked up cost $4:

  • cereal
  • cheese
  • milk

It was strange to see all those multiples of 4 getting rung up at the cash register. Went to the pharmacy, and found the same thing:

  • a pack of soap, $4
  • vitamin supplement on sale, $4
  • 2 toothbrushes on sale, $4

Have you ever noticed things like this in your shopping travels?

How I saved $6 today

Count up the change folks, I saved a whopping $6.30 today.

How did I do that? By mailing in my tennis club membership application instead of using the online sign up form. Their online signup is a new thing for them, and since they’re a community-based tennis club, they pass along the 4.5% charge the credit card companies charge them to the members. And that’s fine, normally I wouldn’t mind paying the extra $6.30 for the convenience. However since I know that they only just opened membership for the new season this week, I’m not concerned about not getting in (they cap membership to ensure everyone gets a shot at playing on the courts every day.)Save mondy

Before you get all up in my face about the fact that I signed up for a tennis club, and you think that means I’ve got money to burn right now, let me stop you right now. My tennis club is a community-based one that rents courts from the city. Sure, we’ve got a club house, but that’s because the club is over 100 years old, so they had time to save up their pennies to build it. <smile> And considering I live in Toronto, where normally a tennis club membership would run me several hundred dollars per year PLUS an initiation fee that could run me in the thousands, this club is great. The grand total for essentially 6 months of playing time on reserved courts is $140. Yep, that’s it, $140. They even provide us with tennis balls so I don’t even have to buy any of those to play. Woo ha.

Right now I’m shopping for a new pair of tennis shoes because I want to play a little more seriously this year (read: more than once every week or so), and while they’re still in good shape, they’re low-end shoes that were starting to make my feet a little sore after about an hour of playing time. (Note: a good pair of tennis shoes will run you over $100, with super high-end ones costing over $200). So this year I’m going to shop around at a few shops and see if I can find a pair that I like that won’t cost me more than $100, give or take $1o. I think I might even search online too, as I know there are a few US-based tennis sites that have good deals, but I’d have to be able to try on the shoe here in town in order to know which one would be good for me. But at any rate it’s nice to have the option to do that.

So there you have it, how I saved $6.30 today. Did you save any money today? How?

Update: It turns out I’ll actually be saving $13.30, as they’re also charging $7 worth of tax if I use the online credit card payment. Boo yah.

It’s Tax Time Again

Tax timeAs you can see, I’ve had to pull out the good old calculator this week in order to do my income taxes. Okay, I don’t actually use the calculator as I do my taxes online, but you know what I mean. It’s time to see if I owe the government any money, or if they owe me a refund. I suspect I’m getting a refund as I changed jobs last year, which means that I would have over-paid on a few of the various taxes they withdraw automatically from my paycheque, so my fingers are crossed.

[A while later…] Yippie! I AM getting a refund! YES! Always nice to get the cash out of the government instead of the other way around. Naturally I cannot have fun with this refund, but instead will dump half into my RRSP (retirement) savings and the other half into my savings fund (which will eventually be used to pay off my car next year). Woo ha, the joys of being a responsible adult. haha.

Spending Money for Travel

TravelOne, two, three…ten thousand, fifteen thousand, sixty thousand.

What am I counting? I’m counting up my airline miles. I was admiring all of my airline miles in a few different affinity accounts while logged in to my Points.comaccount and discovered something interesting and annoying.

(Points.com, for those of you who don’t know, is a site where you can exchange points in various affinity programs that normally wouldn’t let you exchange points. For example, I can exchange points from a gas station program into an airline’s program and vice versa. Not every program is a member of Points.com, but there’s a pretty good list of ones that are.)

I’ve got over 20,000 points in Delta’s SkyMiles that I earned when it was Northwest Airlines, and living in Canada it would be quite hard for me to use the points as I don’t fly to the States all that often. While SkyMiles is a member of Points.com, annoyingly they don’t allow swaps out of the program, so I can’t actually use the points other than to fly on Delta. *sigh*

BUT, Points.com has a new program where you can trade points rather than swap (trade usually costs money, while swapping doesn’t). This would allow me to swap out my SkyMiles into something that I would use, like Air Canada’s Aeroplan points. My basic question to you is this: do I spend the money to trade out the SkyMiles?

Here’s the more detailed question:

  • Trading out 15,000 SkyMiles would net me 5,000 Aeroplan points and cost me US$140.
  • Buying 7,000 SkyMiles to top up to 30,000 would cost me about US $200, THEN I could trade 30,000 SkyMiles for 15,000 Aeroplan points for US$220.

Option 1 would cost me US$140, while Option 2 would cost me almost US$500. Considering the Canadian dollar is almost at par right now with the US dollar, it’s not as bad a cost as it would have been last year. But do I do it? I’m quite tempted to do so because I will never use those SkyMiles to fly Delta, but transferring them over to Aeroplan would mean I could use them, either to fly or to exchange into a gift card or something.

What do you think? Should I go for it? If yes, which option should I choose?

Making it All Automatic

One of the things my FA (financial advisor) wants to do for me is to set up my finances so that I’m able to spend whatever money’s left in my chequing account guilt-free. He’s already set up quite a bit for me so far, so that with each paycheque:

  • my loan payment is withdrawn automatically
  • my savings amount is withdrawn automatically

He would love to set up my rent and other bills to come out automatically, however because it’s not a mortgage but a rent payment, he can’t quite do that. (much to his chagrin–it’s kind of funny to see how frustrated he gets at this.) To assuage this need of his I’m thinking of setting up a separate account for my rent and bills, so that I can shuttle money over to it, and then have the payments come out automatically. That way I can still spend whatever’s left in my chequing account guilt-free.

Slowly but surely my finances are coming together. I know it’s only been 6 weeks since I met with the FA and set all of this up, but it’s quite exciting to see everything come together, you know?

How to Save when Winterizing Your Car

As we begin our descent into the deep freeze we call winter here in Canada, thoughts are starting to turn to the need for winter tires on our cars. Some provinces like Quebec have legislated the use of winter tires on all registered vehicles, while the rest haven’t. This is a debate that most Canadians will engage in at some point: do I get winter tires for my car? And then secondarily, when do I put them on my car?

Since I got a new car earlier this year, I was having that debate myself over the summer. I figured that since I’ve got 17″ sport/performance tires on the car, it would be a good idea to get winter tires. All-season performance tires are notorious for not being the best in the snow & ice & cold of winter. Plus I don’t actually like the brand of OEM tires my car has anyways, so I am all for getting different tires on there.Car

The hunt began for me in August, especially once I learned about my new job: it’s in a snow belt, and traditionally gets lots more snow than I’m used to getting these days. I quickly learned that winter tires are called winter tires and not just snow tires. Because in the winter the temperature goes down, and there’s both ice AND snow, winter tires are specially made to handle those three situations (to varying degrees.) Depending on your location, you may want a tire that handles better in snow & ice, or ones that handle dry, cold roads better. I’m actually going to need a tire that handles all three pretty well, so I had some work to do.

My new car model has a car “club” in my area, since it’s one of those sporty little cars that enthusiasts like to modify. (I have a Mazda 3 GT, and am a member of the Toronto Mazda 3 forum, not the club though–I don’t go to the meetings n’ things they have, although it sounds like a good group of people to hang out with!) On the forum, there’s all sorts of good discussions on all sorts of good topics. One interesting and smart aspect of the forum is the Sponsors section, where various auto-related businesses have applied and become sponsors of the forum (they might even be sponsors of the group, I’m not too sure about that.) One of them was having a group buy on winter tires, and was offering discounts based on the number of people who purchased. I investigated all the options he was presenting, spoke to the gentleman a few times, and then made a decision. I’m getting a great pair of Swedish winter tires PLUS steel rims for $720 + tax. How great is that? I was actually expecting to have to spend over $1000 on the rims and tires, so anything less than that is wonderful.

Next up is the windshield wipers; time to replace them anyways as they’re getting old, but also to get ones that will work better in the winter time. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for sales so that I can save some money on those too. Because of the size of the blades, each one ends up costing about $20 or so. I know some of you will say I could just buy the blades and slide them onto the wiper thingies, but that’s just a little too DIY for me. I will just buy whole new blades and be done with it.

What are you doing to winterize your car? Are you able to save any money while doing it?

When Temptation Is Right In Your Face

It’s happened to all of us: you pass right in front of a store just when your wallet is empty, and you’ve exhausted that week/month’s budget. There is that THING, the THING that you want, that you thinkyou need.

But you must resist temptation. RESIST, I say!

I am now faced with this type of temptation every night as I drive home from work. My route takes me right-past-the, wait for it, Danier Leather Factory Outlet. I have long since had a weakness for leather-based goods, be it a coat, a jacket, gloves, wallet, or purse, it doesn’t matter. And Danier always has some really nice things. I see the sign blinking at me as I drive past in the evening: “All jackets $99, Purses 50% off”…off and on, off and on.

Thankfully the store is on the opposite side of the street from the direction I’m travelling, and with all the rush hour traffic, there’s just no way I could turn left into their parking lot. But I continue to drive on past, not even looking at the store as I go by….every-single-bloody-day.