Saturday, June 26, 2010

Financial Fridays.

Sage says she pointed out to the hooman it's already Saturday, but the hooman is a slacker and procrastinator which is how she gets into financial messes in the first place. I said the post is late because I fell asleep while snuggling with her on my bed. She says I'm still a slacker.

The rest of this post is boring, personal, financial stuff. I just thought I should bribe my readers with a picture of the beautiful diva first. ;)

I am over $16,000 in debt. I'm also disabled.

Many would wonder how I got where I am. Partially it's that money has always burned a hole in my pocket and I've never been a saver. Partially it's that my bank, for whatever reason, gave me a credit card for $12,000. Yes, I did have a home business, but it didn't pull in more than $7,000 a year. Considering disability is on average $10,174 a year, they're obviously bug nut crazy. Home repairs, car repairs, Scout Bunny vet visits, all sorts of things put that credit card over the top. Two vacations to Buffalo, NY were certainly not responsible decisions either. So, over six years I dug myself a very nice deep hole.

I talked to some credit counsellors, but their bottom line is my car is worth too much to declare bankruptcy (The car my parents bought for me since my Sidekick was such a money suck) and my income per month isn't enough for a collateral loan. They all pretty much agreed, tell the credit companies to sit and spin. Gee, that doesn't seem very useful or responsible.

So, I started doing a little research here, a little research there. In the meantime, RBC keeps on taking money from my account, even though they're not allowed to. (It's a disability cheque. They're not supposed to touch it.) So I had to fight to get it back, and bounce cheques in the process. ($25 fee here, $20 fee there..) So the first step was opening a new bank account and transferring as much as I could over to Scotiabank. (They offered the cheapest options for what I wanted/needed.)

My monthly outgoing expenses look something like :

$32.60 to Enterprise Car Rental to pay off their "loss of use" from when I dodged the drunk and hit the parkade. Insurance paid for the rest, minus the $500 deductable. Sadly, the best I could offer them was 10 post-dated cheques. So, this debt lasts till February of next year.

$66.67 to Dell Canada. I don't even have that desktop anymore. It's the computer I sold a while back to make a payment on my CapitalOne card. (I'll save a rant about CapitalOne and their magical fees for another day.) This adventure in computer land taught me 'never again' about computers and credit. By the time it's paid off, the computer is probably broken past the purpose of repair or replaced. My laptop, which I won, is a Dell Inspiron 1525 - and after two years of use started falling apart, after three it's on its last legs. If it were on credit, I'd still be paying for it for another two years! I'm FINALLY done with this payment on the 16th of July. Woohoo.

$44'ish to Telus for Internet access. I have tried three times to ask them if I can downgrade my internet connection to 'lite.' I can't say I'd much like it, I'm a bandwidth diva, but at $10/mo difference in price I'd just have to learn to suck it up. Their phone system is beyond irritating and then their customer service idiots, er, I mean, representatives. Gah. I emailed them, nada. I wrote them a letter, nada. They're a phone company, you have to deal with them by phone! Grrr.

$43.27 to Fido. I signed up for Fido last December to save me money from Rogers. This would work well if they'd actually do what I ordered. I have tried to cancel my caller ID and voice mail several times. (I'm paying $8/mo for it..) When they set up the account I got some shpiel about how they had to add it to give me the $5/mo unlimited browsing but would remove it right away. Ah ha ha ha. I get 50 minutes of talk time a month. This, in theory, should do me fine since I loath phones to begin with, but no one seems to get that I don't want to talk for more than a minute to establish whatever the point of the conversation is. Did I have this problem when I was on Rogers and got 200+ minutes of talk time a month? Of course not, I used, on average, 30 minutes a month. Oh, but when I pay .35/minute over my limit, lets chat away. I'm starting to get very good at saying "This is costing me .35/minute." I will admit I haven't been as vigilant on following up on kicking Fido's butt in gear as I should have been.

I'm currently on credit with BC Hydro. (Electricity.) They kept claiming I was using $80/mo in electricity and jacked up my equalized payments each year after saying I was $200 over. I finally told them to switch me back to pay per month, AND OH LOOK, I suddenly had $600 in credit. Of course, I don't get cash back.. So I have heat, hot water and power for the foreseeable future no matter what I do.

I pay $368/mo in pad rental. (I'll touch on trailer ownership another day.) My property taxes are about $100/year because I live in the sticks. (Beautiful sticks, but it's 10 km/s to the nearest grocery store.)

My car insurance is $119/mo. Not much can be done with this, and it'll go up in November when I have to renew - due to my having a smashing good time in the rental car. Unfortunately, no bus service means I have to have a car.

I typically spend about $40/mo in gas dribbling around town, $20/trip if I go see a friends band play and whatever I spend at the bar for beverages. (Typically Sprite - and typically my very generous friend Chris pays.) I consider this my monthly entertainment costs. (Yes, between bands and internet, my entertainment is as much as my grocery/household supply bill *cough*)

This month I spent $106 on groceries and STUFF. That includes pharmacy off the shelf, cleaning supplies and beauty products. The latter is the new Pantene thin hair shampoo/conditioner that makes my head not look like 3/4 of my hair has fallen out in the last three years. (Stress? Chronic Pain? Naw, no effect.) Pantene is always sending me coupons and samples, so I'm pretty damn loyal to them. Good product, good company. (Er, I digress..)

Sage costs me about $10 of that a month. She loves the locally made pellet that costs me about $20 for a bag that lasts her six months. (It went faster when I still had Scout the pellet hoover.) She uses wood stove pellets as litter ($4/bag at Rona. 40lb bags last a while.) The rest is whatever local produce is on sale in a given week. I'm hoping I can dig a chunk of my debt out *before* she gets to senior bunny years when vet care will be a regular occurrence.

So, right now, I break about even each month *before* credit card payments. I have three cards, one with CapitalOne, one with RBC, and one with CanadianTire. The *only* one that isn't in little itty pieces is the CT card. That's purely because I use it for my gas, etc (and pay it immediately on getting home) and then use the points for my car's maintenance. I still owe money elsewhere. My dentist for one is being remarkably patient.

I have no cable. ($40/mo so I can watch CBC? Are you kidding me??) I have no landline. No A/C. And my Dad buys me lunch four days out of eight. (Thank you, Daddy. For some reason my parents believe I'd starve without it. NO idea why.)

Dad is looking to retire. I'll probably hang tough until he does so, then sell my trailer and go back to renting. Taking care of a yard and garden is beyond my physical limitations and taking care of a home is beyond my financial. Yes, technically rent is just paying someone else to worry about maintenance and all the fun of ownership with a pad for their efforts, but after seven years of home ownership, I'm very happy to go back to the nightmare that is renting. :D Actually, I've been pretty lucky with apartments and landlords in the past. Some nightmare roommates, but then my roommates would probably say the same. ;)

Once I sell the trailer, I can pay off my credit card debt, stick the remainder in trust (maybe - if not it goes to my parents. Otherwise disability will just claim it.. and I'll be off disability long enough to require me to go through the "fun" that is reapplication.)and probably live even keel.

That's the dream, anyway.

The first step, was reading the financial blogs. The second step was learning to write EVERYTHING down. Every penny incoming, every penny outgoing. The latter has been really hard. Today I had an eye-doctor appointment an hour and a half drive from home and I was quite hungry. I debated for quite a while food, and really, I should have gone to the grocery store, bought some rice and veggies and stored them at my brother's but this didn't occur to me. Instead I bought a Teen Burger at the food court. Not the wisest decision, but I'm learning. I already pack green tea with me wherever I go, I should be able to learn to pack emergency rice and dried veggies, right? (This is south-wet BC, EVERYONE owns a rice cooker.)

The next step is to identify and cut out the fluffy stuff. My friend Wonda has already been amazing. We meet at arenas to watch her kids play whatever, or go sit in a park, or something that is cost neutral. She even buys me green tea and muffins. This will probably mean not filming/seeing my friends bands play anymore until I get all sorted out, but I'm hoping to stick it out for now. I was also really hoping to get to Warped Tour this year, but I guess I'll be a mature adult instead.

My laptop (the one I won) is dying a very rapid death. The screen is already toast. It'd be $187 to fix, and I thought that worthwhile, BUT, then the touchpad started to go. I've already replaced memory and hard drive. It's at the point of not worth the cost to keep repairing. I'll keep it till it dies and go back to the PoS laptop that my friend Darin can pick me up some memory for dirt cheap.

I'm turning 35 in September and I still don't want to be a responsible adult. Can't I make Sage do it for me instead?


  1. You live in New York.. You need all the money you can get your hands on! And law school.. Oh that's ambitious and wonderful. :)

    I had a bunny friend who was an ADA in New York, specializing in animal abuse cases.

    I have managed to keep MOST of my record keeping, but I have a stack of reciepts to add in / sort out.

    Sage seems to think I should just give them to her for recycling :)

  2. I have to admit, normally I avoid like the plague any non-bun posts on the bunny blogs I follow, but this one I read clean through. Maybe because it rang some bells! Well, I can't claim to be in your exact situation, but I can relate to it on some points (RBC!!! Gah!) and moreover I feel I encounter this story quite often. Frankly, I think our generation (I use the term loosely) has greatly suffered from the reduction in "Home Economics" studies in our public schools. I remember learning how to sew a gym bag... but what about financial management and planning? What about personal tax preparation? Meal planning on a budget? Well, I went to an arts HS, maybe they thought we'd just intuit this stuff... but I do think it's a widespread phenomenon. Anyway, my point here isn't just to commiserate but also to encourage: you've made mistakes, sure, but you've come to understand them as mistakes and with some tenacity you will improve your situation! I don't want to sound cheesy, but you *can* do it. Good luck.

    P.S. I don't live in BC, but in the interest of resource sharing, what's this fantastic local pellet you speak of?

  3. Oops. I ended up lecturing a Canadian on her own blog about Canada. *cough* You may proceed to make fun of me!

    The pellets I get her highness are the Co-Ops home made timothy pellets. They're ridiculous cheap for a huge bag. :)

    I had Consumer Education and Business Education in high school - same thing for both, but an extra credit when I was short one for graduating. They taught us about stocks, they taught us about buying cars, they even taught us how to write cheques, but budgeting? Anything like that? Not a thing.

    It was probably considered a parental responsibility - but I, like most teens, knew more than my parents and why would I listen to THEM anyway?