Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Date night!

Over the past few months (well, year), my Eye Candy and I have frequently said we should have a “date night” and go over our finances together. But something always seemed to get in the way… perhaps opening a bottle of wine and opening up your bank accounts is not the right mix! 

None the less, we had a quiet Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago and we actually took the time to review our financial status as a couple. It was an incredibly eye opening experience.  I’ve been managing my 4-week rolling budgets for 18 months, but now that my Eye Candy and I are a dynamic duo it made sense to get a better idea of our real cost of living and to set goals as a couple. Plus, instead of just complaining about paying the usual bills, it was exciting to envisioning our future life together and to create a game plan on how to make it all happen. 

How sweet it is to be loved by you.

Using MoneySense’s printable guides, we figured out our individual net worth (worksheet 3), our spending & savings (worksheet 4) and our goals (worksheets 5 & 6). From here, we talked openly about the minimum we both need to have in the bank each month to cover our fixed expenses (like the mortgage, taxes, car payments) and where our variable spending goes (groceries, entertainment, gym, weekend trips).

While we’re both diligent about spending our money conservatively and we live below our means, there is always room for improvement. By taking the time to look at each other’s spending habits we were able to offer a fresh perspective. For instance, I’m spending about a $50 a month on gifts and my Eye Candy is still paying bank fees so there clearly are more ways we can put money back into our wallets.

And saving money is exactly what we want as we have so many plans! Not all of our goals are perfectly in sync as my Eye Candy is saving up for a top notch cycling bike while maintaining a professional wardrobe is my guilty pleasure; but we did set 3 that I am excited about. The best part? We are working together to ensure we have lump sum amounts ready to invest or spend. 

Over the next 6 to 18 months, this is why we are stashing cash:
  1. To host a wedding as fabulous as we are! The date is set for 07.27.2013 and my Eye Candy & I have agreed on how much we are going to save & then spend on our Big Day. 
  2. To purchase an urban & chic condo in the Atwater Market here in Montreal. We’ve crunched the numbers and we’re confident that we can afford a love nest in our favourite neighbourhood.  
  3. To continue to vacation like rockstars. We love getting away and exploring new cities so the most stressful decision is where should we go next?
If you and your Prince Charming have not had the chance to review your finances together, then I strongly recommend it. I love being a financially-savvy and independent young women, but I love sharing my dreams with my Eye Candy more and making plans to achieve them together is when the magic happens.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Financial Fess Up: Mazda Spinelli is driving me crazy

For those of you who’ve been sweet enough to follow my blog, you’ve already heard about my love/hate relationship with Mazda Spinelli here in MontrĂ©al.

First, there was the “up” of purchasing my first car. Then there was the frustration of the missing $500 rebate due to an error in the paperwork that Mazda Spinelli filed. And then there was the satisfaction of finally getting down to business by taking a vacation day to re-register the car in my name. But here comes my confession: its one year after we’ve purchased our lovely CX7 and I’m still waiting on the $500 rebate.

Seriously. Mazda Spinelli has no concept of customer service.

The $500 rebate was agreed to as part of our contract since I was a student less than 5 years ago. Then, Mazda Canada couldn’t give me the $500 rebate as the dealership hadn’t registered the car to me. Mazda Spinelli had made a mistake and only registered it to my Eye Candy. We cleared that mess up in August, but one month passed and I realized that we still hadn’t gotten the rebate. So yet again, I was on the phone with my sales rep, let’s call him Jeremiah because that really is his name, and apparently, my transcript was lost! Mazda Spinelli had lost the second transcript that I gave them!

Within minutes of hanging up the phone from Jeremiah, I sent over a third transcript (representing the third $15 I’d spent to request this form my university) and I was promised personalized attention to sort this matter out. Come November, no word from Jeremiah and he was no longer responding to my voicemails. I sent several emails to him with no reply and then escalated the matter to the dealership manager who we will call Dracon because that is his name. Again, I was promised personalized attention to resolve this matter and yet, more time has passed by and the $500 is still owed to me.

I’m frustrated with myself for letting this go on for so long. Today, I left a voicemail message with Dracon at Mazda Spinelli and then called Mazda Canada to make a formal complaint. I spoke with a great customer service rep who is looking my situation and is supposed to call me back within the next couple of days with hopefully a resolution.
Even Miss Fergie agrees - as much as we love the CX7,
dealing with Mazda Spinelli is no walk in the park.
At this point, I’m beginning to think my only option is to pursue a complaint with the Canadian Better Business Bureau. While $500 on the purchase of our CX7 is not a huge percentage of the total value, $500 is still $500! I received better post-purchase customer service from my dry cleaner.

I continue to enjoy zooming around town in my CX7 but I really wish I had never stepped foot into Mazda Spinelli.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

A definite work perk

After spending 5 days in Cancun I am pleased to report that my skin is no longer a shade of pasty softest ivory… but simply soft ivory. While a trip down south for our National Sales Meeting is definitely a work perk, it wasn’t all sun and fun. In fact, I didn’t see the beach until 4:30 pm on Day 2 as my first 36 hours in Mexico were spent fine tuning and rehearsing my presentation. But by Day 3, once my team’s show went off without a hitch and we received rave reviews, I felt the stress of the past several weeks of loooooooong-ish work hours disappear. 

And what better place to celebrate than in Mexico?

Once our meetings wrapped up, I got to take some time out to read on the beach, splash in the waves, and sip sangria by the pool. Our hotel was a 5-star resort full of lush gardens and manicured ponds that made for a perfect setting for our group who was mixing business with pleasure.

Even though this was a work trip, there are always a few hidden costs that pulled at my purse strings. My Eye Candy was also away for his sales meeting so we spent $120 on doggy care for Miss Fergie. I also spent $18 on magazines for my in-flight entertainment (note: bridal magazines are more expensive than my usual literature, and this will be an upcoming blog entry as I’m just getting my feet wet with the extravaganzas of wedding planning). And I gave in and forked over $45 for an epic night to party at Coco Bongo.  

For those of you who have not experienced Coco Bongo, it is like all of Las Vegas crammed into one club and since they pump oxygen into the crowd, you constantly feel the rush of dancing alongside spectacular animations. I spent most of the night hiding from a creepy Beetle Juice impersonator and while I’d like to say he was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen, I have to confess that this was my second time to Coco Bongo so really – he was just the creepiest person I’ve seen since my last time there. And somewhat less creepy was Antonio Banderas who picked the same night as me to grace Coco Bongo with our VIP presence.

A few of my work friends opted not to leave Thursday night and extended their stay over the weekend.  This was a very tempting idea, but the financially fabulous me had to crunch the numbers first. For 3 more nights in Cancun, I would have spent:
  • + $60 on care for Miss Fergie
  • + $50 to change my flight on WestJet
  • + $10 taxi to change hotels
  • + $300 on hotel accommodations assuming double occupancy
  • + $30 on a taxi from my new hotel to the airport as the work shuttle would not be supplied
… all for a grand total of $450. Definitely not “free”! I decided to skip the extra days in Cancun and keep my $450 locked-up in my Vacation Fund. The plan is to go later this winter to Cuba with my sister and our Eye Candies and then, work will be the most distant thought from my mind.

 Is traveling a work perk for you too?


Sand and sea are no match for Essie!
(Read more about my Tour de Finance nails here.)

Poolside for some R&R
View from my room
Lush hotel lobby

My dream water feature

A fuzzy iPhone photo of Antonio party'ing at Coco Bongo.
You'll have to take my word for it that it really is him!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

ESSIE’s new nailpolish collection is a small splurge worth investing in

When I started my quest to become financially fabulous almost 18-months ago, the first thing that I removed from my monthly expenditures was pedicures and manicures. Every three weeks I was paying $80 to refill my gels and every 8 weeks, I was paying another $65 to beautify my toes. No wonder my credit card was charged to the max! In the last year, I’ve only visited the nail salon once as I’ve perfected DIY’ing my nails at home.

Tomorrow I will be leaving for Cancun, Mexico for our National Sales Meeting (la chance!) and fortunately for me, ESSIE is launching a perfect spring-time nailpolish collection and I was given a sneak peak at the shade wardrobe. 

Her new collection, Naviagate Her, is financially savvy so it’s no wonder that I could not resist the pastels and pearl finishes. Essie Weingarten, brand founder of Essie, put together this collection for every woman on a mission and for all the ladies who in both fashion and finance, are willing to strike out and try something new. Who doesn’t love that attitude?

I chose two shades in fun pink hues that are a great way to represent my upcoming beach escape from the dreary Montreal winter. For my nails, I’m wearing a pretty peach A Crewed Interest and on my toes, Tour de Finance, a flirty fuschia.

The colour pay-out is exactly what I’ve come to expect from ESSIE – salon sophisticated and rich-looking. As an avid runner, I have embarrassing deep blue bruises on my toenails, but in one swipe, ESSIE covered those right up. Now my feet feel athletic and pampered! Experience has taught me that a top coat is the key to a successful at home DIY manicure or pedicure so I’m expecting my ESSIE indulged nails to last well beyond my upcoming 5-days of sand and sun.  

ESSIE’s Navigate Her collection is available right now at salons and professional beauty trade stores, but it will be hitting shelves of mass retailers like Shoppers Drug Mart and Wal-Mart at the end of March for about $9. If you’re looking for a hue to reflect the financially fabulously you and a small way to splurge on yourself, then I cannot recommend this collection enough. Shouldn’t your nailpolish colours always reflect your personal mantras?


A collection made for fashionistas and personal finance bloggers. 
My beach ready choices: A Crewed Interest & Tour de Finance.

Upon posting this, my Eye Candy's reaction was, "Dear, you are definitely not a hand model." None the less, I am all peachy keen for this shade.

I have a theory that women wear the colour they want others to view them like on their fingernails. And on their toes, they reveal their inner divas. In which case, I am definitely a vibrant Tour de Finance!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All good things must come to an end

I’ve been a saver for as long as I can remember and while I love watching my cash grow, my saving sprees tend to be goal oriented. As a child, I would save up my Dad’s spare change for book purchases, or as a teen I diligently put away baby-sitting money for tuition fees, and as a summer intern, I’d stash away my salaries for European travels during my semesters abroad.  

It comes as no surprise then that I’m in love with ING. Their motto of “save your money” speaks to my soul in the same way that Madonna’s music does. In addition to switching from CIBC to ING's THRIVE chequing account and a having Registered Investment Savings Plan with them, I have several savings accounts that receive automatic deposits with each pay cheque.  My favourite part of their savings accounts is that I can give each account a cute nickname and establish a goal for the account. ING then sets up a bar graph to show me how I’m doing and their CEO, Peter R. Aceto even e-mails me to congratulate me when I’ve reached my goal. 

At the moment, I have 5 savings accounts: one for a cash down payment on our next home, another for vacations, one for Fergie & Fernando should they need unexpected vet care, another for Christmas gifts, and finally an emergency stash that also covers out of pocket medical bills like my glasses or enormous bulk purchases of Reactin from Costco.

This morning I went to set-up another 2 savings accounts: one for our wedding in summer 2013 and the other for a king size bed. The only problem? A giant error messaged appeared announcing that ING limits the amount of savings accounts you can have. Darn! While I appreciate the other accounts that ING offers, they don’t suit my savings needs and I really love having one account per goal.  

In one Error message, ING broke up with me.
It's almost as bad as doing it via text message!

What’s a girl to do? I’m considering taking out the cash each month and stashing it into two giant piggy banks, but this seems unpractical. 

My love affair with ING savings accounts has reached its peak, and I’m going to have to look elsewhere for my savings options. I feel like I’m about to cheat on  my favourite bank, but then again, ING is the one who is ending our relationship out of the blue. 


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Resto review: Cayo Coco

Fun money well spent for a taste of Cuba
Restaurant Cayo Coco
7671 rue Saint-Hubert
Montreal, QC
Mojitos - the frugal way to escape Montreal's winter.
photo source

Last night I went out for dinner to celebrate the 30 & Flirty birthday of a dear friend and we were joined by our respective Eye Candies. Since she is a beach-loving girl who lives for sunshine and sand (and there is not much of that around Montreal this days), I wanted to bring her to a Cuban restaurant. There is not a lot of choice in Montreal for Caribbean food, but UrbanSpoon did not lead my astray when it recommended Restaurant Cayo Coco in VillerRay. 

This is restaurant is low key and as it turned out, my 8 p.m. reservations were not necessary as other than a few bar hoppers, we were the only diners in the place. What a shame! Montreal does not know what it's missing yet. 

The vibe at Cayo Coco is fun, laid back and mojitos are mandatory. Even my Eye Candy who had vowed not to have a single drink until he runs the Montreal Hypothermic Half-Marathon next month was persuaded. The restaurant owner/manager/bartender practically salsa'ed mojitos into our hands! It turns out that my friend & I knew him as Hector used to be the be the barista in our coffee bar at work. It makes me happy to see someone pursuing their own business - especially in the difficult restaurant industry. 

For a $15 table d'hote, we each had 2 mojitos, shared tapas for the table, and a main dish. The tapas were basic - grilled shrimps, toast with garlic, and fried yuca, but they set the beach-mood and went well with our mojitos. For the main, we had the choice of grilled chicken, pork or the fresh fish catch of the day and our table opted for the chicken and pork. Our mains were delicious, flavourful, and served hot right from the kitchen. Each meat was accompanied by a bed of brown rice, plantain, yuca, and a side salad.

For $82 total with tax plus tip, dinner out for 4 of us was one-week of Fun Money well spent! I would recommend Restaurant Cayo Coco to any friends looking for a fun restaurant off the beaten path. The best part? At Cayo Coco you don't have to fight the usual Saturday night crowds so you can dine and get some R&R  - you can't much closer to a beach holiday than that!


Friday, January 6, 2012

Pantry love: Rocco's low cal brownie edition

Perhaps you’re like me and its day 6 of the New Year where-by you’ve resolved to be healthier and live below your means … but you’re already finding it difficult to resist temptation. In an effort to indulge my chocolate craving in a low-cal way while avoiding the grocery store, I mixed up a batch of Rocco’s Low-Cal Brownies.

I take no credit for the deliciousness of this recipe as celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito is the gorgeous man who created this dessert and shared with the world via Dr. Oz & ABC Good Morning America.

That being said, the point of this activity was to use ingredients already in my pantry so if you want a 100-cal brownie, follow Rocco’s suggestions. The ingredients in (brackets) are the ones that I had on hand… because seriously, what is Truvia?


  • Nonstick cooking spray (I used Coconut Oil as I have a fear of using anything that comes from an aerosol on something that I will eat.)
  • 1½ cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder (1/2 tablespoon of ground coffee beans)
  • ¾ cup egg substitute (3 eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons low-calorie sugar-free chocolate syrup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 24 packets (84 g) Truvia or 8 tablespoons granulated Splenda (6 tablespoons of Granulated Fructose… but I think sugar would work if you’re not obsessing over the 100-cal thing)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray an 8×8-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray or in my case, smother with the coconut oil.
  3. Combine the beans, cocoa powder, espresso powder (coffee grinds), and egg substitute (eggs). Rocco suggests a food processor, but I don’t have one so I just used my basic hand mixer and it works well. Opt for a deep bowl for mixing to keep those beans from flying all over your kitchen. (Been there, done that.)
  4. Making those beans disappear is the key to this recipe’s success so keep blending/mixing/processing the mixture until it is pure chocolate smoothness – about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chocolate syrup (finally – you’re using it for its intended purpose), sour cream, melted butter, Truvia (sugar, splenda or granulated fructose) and mix until everything is combined – about 1 minute.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared dish, and smooth the top.
  7. Book for 30 minutes, turning the dish halfway through the baking time. A toothpick inserted into the centre will come out with soft batter clinging to it.
  8. Let the brownies cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 12 squares and serve on the pretty snowflake plate that you received in last year’s family Secret Santa exchange.
  9. Et viola: delicious low-cal (ish) chocolate brownies to enjoy without breaking any New Year’s Resolutions.

I bet you never thought black beans would be the best secret ingredient ever for brownies.

Dear Rocco, thank you for bringing low-cal sweetness into my New Year
photo source
My pantry-found ingredients
Mmm... don't be fooled. Cocoa + beans is a delicious combo
The secret is to mix, mix, and mix some mor
Sorry Miss Fergie, no licking the bowl for you!
It's just not right on so many levels. 

Bonus points if you also have a high-heel diamond cake server