Cash Flow

It feels funny to be writing this at 34 years of age. Long ago, I thought that by 34 I would have my life “together.” Our family would be financially stable, with money to spend on small luxuries, vacations and home improvement.

But here we are, still struggling. Not near the poverty line, but certainly not able to afford the luxuries we dreamed of. Like many 30-somethings, we’re working on paying off a student loan. We’re WAY ahead than we used to be, but not quite there yet. Luckily, we’ve managed to stay consumer debt-free (phew!)

I had heard of the TV show “Til Debt Do Us Part,” but recently discovered the comprehensive blog and website run by the show’s host, Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I decided our family would try the “cash budget” – when you use cash to pay for variable expenses (all of our fixed expenses still get paid online or by credit card).

We use envelopes, as I find the jar method takes up a lot of space on the counter :) We have separate envelopes for our allocated weekly budget (the numbers are spit out by the program, based on your income and fixed expenses). If we run out of cash, we just don’t spend anymore. However, we’ve been cheating occasionally by borrowing money from “entertainment” if our “transportation” envelope is empty. That just forces me to go back and re-evaluate the budget, as it needs constant tweaking. You will often overestimate certain expenses, and underestimate others.

We’re almost 6 weeks in, and this budget has been a game changer. We’re much more careful in our spending, and I no longer make last-minute grocery shops on the way home from work (when I’m hungry, and more apt to throw expensive/yummy food in my cart). We try to drive less to cut down on gas costs, and we’re finding innovative ways to purchase the things we need. Later this week, I’ll share all of our tips for living on a tight budget.

Go check out the website and the budget, and tell me - have you put the credit cards away? Do you live on cash?

National Ice Cream Day!

July 20th was National Ice Cream day, and the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum celebrated appropriately with the Ice Cream Festival!

We arrived early, and thank goodness, because the parking lot was jammed by the time we left at 11:30 am. As museum members, we got to bypass the HUGE lineup, and headed inside to see the cows and horses. My daughters were worried about all the noise the animals were making, so we made our way over to a demonstration of ice cream making with an old manual ice cream maker. Nearby the girls could play with hoola hoops and make giant bubbles.

Of course, the highlight of the day was free ice cream, which the girls gobbled up (and I do have to comment that normally our family tries to avoid Nestle products for these reasons, but I made an exception in the interest of toddler meltdowns). There were also ice cream sandwiches being made in the kitchen, and the girls enjoyed watching the bees working away in the beehive.

Ice Cream Festival

A visit to the Canadian Agriculture museum never disappoints, and you definitely want to add this event to you calendar for next summer!

I said “no” and the world didn’t end

I’m a Yes Person. How awesome are we? Ask us anything – anything at all – and we will most likely say Yes.

Can you give me a lift to my appointment?  YES!

Are you free to babysit my dog? YES!

Do you have $20 to donate to my charity? YES!

We need extra volunteers in the classroom – can you do it? YES!

Never mind that the appointment is across town. Never mind that I have my own dog and two young children to take care of. Never mind that I’ve already donated hundreds of dollars to other charities this year. And never mind that I work three jobs and just don’t have the hours to volunteer in the classroom. The answer is always – YES!

But here’s the problem with Yes People. We say YES so often that we actually end up saying NO. But we say NO by cancelling at the last minute, forgetting appointments and social dates, or doing a half-assed job. The “no” doesn’t come from an authentic place of self-knowledge and plain old common sense; it comes from a place of fear – fear of failure, fear that people will be disappointed in me, and fear that I will never be good enough.

And I’ve realized that by being a YES person, I also miss out on a lot of opportunities to give back in meaningful ways, because I tell myself I just don’t have the time. For example, I’ve never donated blood. Can you believe it? Something so simple, and yet I give myself permission to be “too busy” for this life-saving gesture that takes very little time to do.

The lesson I’m teaching my kids when I say YES all the time is simple:

I don’t have boundaries. I can’t recognize when I’ve stretched myself so thin that I’ll soon snap like a rubber band.

It’s time for a NO revolution. Or – maybe a more conscious and mindful use of the word YES. Because although YES can be generous, loving and kind, NO deserves a whole lotta respect.

Have you practiced saying NO lately?