Thursday, December 30, 2010

What to do with Gift Money?

What do you do with money you’ve received as a gift?  I always hate the idea of it being mixed in with everything else and just being part of my everyday spending.  Somehow that doesn’t seem right to me.

When  our parents give us money as a gift, they tell us to use it where we need it most.  But what if where we need it most is making a payment on a credit card?  That doesn’t seem right to me either.  Someone else shouldn’t have to put their money towards the hole I dug all by myself.

Sometimes when we receive money, it’s towards a specific thing.  Last year we asked all the grandparents to help us pay for the activities the kids wanted to do when we travelled to Drumheller.  Shawn and I paid for gas and tenting, and we paid for all the attractions and mementos the kids wanted with money that was given to them at Christmas.  We’ve also been given money and told “ I know you’ve been wanting to paint that room ( or buy that light fixture,or whatever project) so here is some money to help you out with that”.

This year, the kids were given money from grandparents, and we’ll use that towards paying for an activity.  Then we can tell the giver that “ we used to money you gave them to pay for swimming lessons” and that person knows what we used it for.  I like being able to share with them what we used the gift for.

Sometimes, when I don’t have a good idea for the money yet, I just put it in our savings and think about what would be good to use it on.  This year at Christmas, Shawn and I received a sum that was large to us and totally surprised and astounded us.  So We have the happy job of deciding what to do with it.  We decided that we would use some of it to get us to our $1000 which we are saving first following the Dave Ramsey plan.  We were getting pretty close, and finally getting there is a great gift.  Some of it will be put aside to re-paint our house in the spring.  This was another job we knew we needed to do but weren’t sure we’d get enough saved.  Not having to worry about that is a great gift, and I will do a few extras that I might not have been able to if we were scraping together just enough.  I can’t wait to get rid of the hideous yellow glass 70’s light fixtures on the front of our house, and now thanks to the Christmas gift, I will do that when we re-paint.  After that, I think there are still a few dollars left, and they will set in our savings account, marked so they don’t get mixed in, to await a special project.

What do you do when you receive money as a gift?  Do you make sure you use it on something special, set it aside?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking forward to the New Year

Okay, I haven’t been writing in a while.  I took a bit of a hiatus because our family had a lot going on. We’ve been sick with a cold, busy with commitments, and of course, it was Christmas.  But now I am looking forward to the new year, and have lots of post ideas rattling around in my brain.

I am looking forward to starting the new year off on the right foot budget-wise.  We made it through Christmas in good shape, but it’s time to get back to planning where to spend our money.  We were fortunate to receive some money as Christmas gifts, both for us and the kids, and it’s fun deciding what to do with it.

We have some fun things to look forward to this year….mainly Baby #4!  This is the main reason I’ve been sick lately and now that we’ve surprised our families, the secret is out.  We need to figure out what to do about bedroom arrangements, for one thing, but there are lots of other changes ahead.

I used lots of neat gift ideas this season, and I’ll still share them, in case you want to use them for upcoming birthdays, or store them away for later.

I had a great Christmas, but I am ready for things to get back to normal around here, and to do come clearing out.  This weekend Shawn has extra days off, and I am looking forward to the family time.  I hope you and your families had a great Christmas too!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life Insurance

Today we had a meeting with a representative from FaithLife Financial.  Looking into insurance has been one of those things we knew we should do, but never got around to.  And, I admit for me, Life Insurance hasn’t really been something I considered part of our financial health plan. But it is! 

At first, it was hard for us to think about spending that extra each month, when we are trying to pay down debts, but really, neither of us wants to leave the other with all that debt alone!  Plus, our advisor gave us some good advice.  Ditch the mortgage insurance through the bank.  You pay the same thing the whole term, but you have declining coverage ( as you pay off your mortgage).  And, once you need it ( your spouse is injured or dies) THEN they put an application through.  So you may not qualify, after you need it!  You’ll pay that premium for years, and could still not be eligible.  Instead, he recommended having enough life insurance to cover your mortgage.

So we sat down, and came up with how much coverage we need.  And let me tell you, it’s waaaaaaaay more than I might have guessed.  To cover the mortgage, and replace Shawn’s potential lost income long enough to get on my feet, as well as cover a funeral added up to a lot.  We covered both of us for that amount, so that if something happens to me, Shawn will also be okay left to take care of all the kids without my contributions to our family. 

Then we discussed insuring our kids.  No one wants to imagine that eventuality, but IF something happens, I do not want to worry about how I will pay for a funeral.  We added a bit more coverage, too.  If Shawn wanted to take time off to grieve, I’d like to have the freedom to make that choice. 

We also know that if something happens to both of us, the guardian of our children will be left with enough to care for our kids without worries.

Once we knew what all we needed to cover, we added up what the premiums will be.  And you know what? It wasn’t that much more than what we are paying for the mortgage insurance alone.  Once we cancel the bank’s mortgage insurance, and have the new insurance in place, we’ll only be spending a little bit more each month.

He also recommended that we meet with a mortgage broker to see if we can move our mortgage to save money, so we’ll be looking into that this week.  Next up after that? Wills.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Real Tree or Fake?

Real.  There, shortest post ever.

Just kidding, of course I have more to say about it!  Ok, I know everyone has a preference, and ours is a real tree.  I love the smell, and look of a real tree.  I plan on spending the money for a nice one every year.  We usually get a Balsam or Fraser Fir.  I know they cost more, but I just plan on spending what they cost.  I love the ideal “Christmas Tree” shape of them, and oh the heavenly smell when you walk by it!!!

I live in an area completely surrounded by pine trees and places I could just walk out and cut one down for free, but they aren’t the type of pines I like.  So every year, I pay for one again and again.  I don’t care how many artificial trees I could pay for over a lifetime of buying real trees.  I have never seen a single fake tree that looked real enough to fool me into liking it.

If you like the fake trees, you are probably making a better budgeting decision than me, but I’m happy wasting money on the trees every year.  Going to pick out the tree with the kids is one of my favourite Christmas moments every year.  Baden is always determined to find a big, heavy tree. “It has to be a 60 pounder mom!”.  I’m not sure just what that means to him, or why he thinks it needs to weigh 60 pounds, but each year, Shawn dutifully lifts each tree until he declares one of them to be “the” tree.  Colleena wanted it to be “as tall as Mommy” this year, and Lily? Well, she just didn’t care, all the trees made her say “ Priiitty!”  Then Shawn does all the hard work of hauling it home, cutting the base, putting it up and rotating it until everyone in the family is satisfied that it’s perfect.  Then we deck it out in lights and ornaments, drink egg nog and have wonderful family time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Throwing the Budget Out the Window…

This last few weeks, where we’ve all been sick, I have fallen behind on entering each purchase into our budget/ spreadsheet.  And you know what?  Trying to remember what that $30 at Wal-mart was for over a month ago is impossible for me.

So, I’m cutting myself some slack.  Yup, November is a write-off as far as tracking the spending goes.  I just gave up, decided not to feel bad about it and moved on to December instead.  But when I sat looking at the budget sheet, trying to decide how much to allocate to each category this month, I found I just didn’t care.  So, I’m cutting myself some more slack!!

I paid all the bills, and what’s left is left.  I picked up the Christmas presents we still needed to buy, and mailed the parcels.  I stocked up on groceries, and I’ll fill the gas tank.  I already know we are not going to get any money to the savings account this month, and that’s okay with me.  I’m going to just enjoy this holiday and not feel any guilt at all.  I’ve done everything I can to keep the gifts simple and inexpensive, and now I just want to watch the joy on my kids’ faces.

I’m still going to try and track what we spend this month, and I’ll get back on track for the next year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saving on Christmas: Wrapping Paper

I haven’t been writing much this week, since everyone in our house has been sick, but I have still been getting ready for Christmas.

I am a gift wrapping nerd.  I like perfect corners and fancy ribbons.  Every year I savour the task by wrapping everything at one sitting, drinking egg nog and listening to Christmas music.

Just a quick post today on one of the easy ways I simplified wrapping presents.  Years ago, I was watching this show where an organizer said that everyone has these drawers and boxes full of things to wrap presents.  Paper, ribbons, bows, bags….it all starts to take up a lot of space.  Plus, they charge a ridiculous amount of money for that thin paper!  His tip is one that I have followed since: wrap everything in one color paper.

You can buy “poster” rolls of paper, either white or brown, in craft areas or  at a business supply company.  They are dirt cheap.  Wrap all your presents in white paper and keep a couple different colors of ribbon around for different occasions.  Silver is pretty for weddings, anniversaries or Christmas.  Red and Green for Christmas, bright colors for birthdays, spring colors for Easter etc etc etc.

I have been doing this for a few years, and generally pick a theme and wrap most presents the same.  White paper with red ribbons looks like candy canes.  One year, I wrapped everything in the brown paper and used gold and silver pine cones as my “bows”.  It looked very old fashioned and pretty.

Then, as a bonus, when you are ready to ship your items, you have brown or white paper to wrap the parcel for shipping, and you still only have to have one roll of paper in the house!

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