Monday, February 28, 2011

Savvy saving tips from my Gramma

I read this article today from Chatelaine's Caroline Cakebread, the magazine's talented finance blogger, full of 'old-fashioned' advice with Nine Money Tips from Grandma.

My grandmother passed away last August, and while I miss her, I realized that she left me with some great frugal-living tips that shouldn’t be missed. Having been inspired by Cakebread's post, these are the some of the day-to-day saving lessons that my Gramma passed along to me:

Everything can be used again.
I keep all the milk bags that the 4L bags come in and I realized that this is a habit I picked up from my Gramma. Grocery stores now charge $0.15 for a plastic bag and while I proudly tote my eco-bags to the supermarket, I use these milk bags for my wet towels after swim practice or muddy shoes after an outdoor run in order to keep my gym bag clean. The best part? I store these milk bags in empty tissue boxes under the kitchen sink… just like my Gramma did. Frugal and fabulously tidy!

When you do make a purchase, look for quality over quantity.
My Mum is now wearing a beautiful gold watch that her mother received from her mother back in the 1950s. This antique is worth about a $1,000 and it must have cost my great-grandmother a pretty penny all those years ago. We can only imagine that Granny Annie must have saved for years to buy this piece of jewelry. But she obviously picked it for both its beauty and craftsmanship as over 60 years later, it’s still ticking (and stylish!).

Dresses are meant to be borrowed.
My sister and I would absolutely flip-out if either of us took another’s treasured garment without asking first. I’m scared to count the dresses that I have in my closet, but I know that my Gramma only ever had 2 as a young woman so she would borrow her sister’s dress to rotate into her wardrobe… and then she’d run to the bus stop before she’d get caught red-handed. If you only had 2 dresses in your closet, of course you’d treasure them both! Stories like these remind me that less really is more. Who cares if I wore that dress to work last Thursday? If it’s my favourite then I’m wearing it again! And if it's a special occassion? I'm stopping by my sister's closet before shopping at the boutiques.

Beauty is a DIY time.
Last spring I gave up my weekly manicure after my credit card bill peaked. I’m now a DIY mani-pedi girl and whenever I even think about complaining about what a sacrifice I am making, I remember that my Gramma used a beef broth gravy to paint her legs when pantyhose become scarce during World War II. She showed me that you don’t have to sacrifice fashion just because times are tough and money is tight, but you do have to be resourceful.
While I am blessed to wear pantyhose to work everyday without the fear of gravy streaks showing, I do save the old ones when they get tiny rips or pulls. The fabric can be stretched over plant pots outside in the spring too keep the aphids off your budding roses and of course, my Gramma taught me that trick too.

Your Golden Girl,


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gift giving on a budget: For a hostess, a soldier and a mommy

My Eye Candy is finally home from his business trip and we spent this afternoon running errands. While most of it was quite dull (pet store, Loblaws, cobblers), I did have a few fun little gifts to pick up. I love giving gifts. I like the thrill of the hunt to find the perfect token for someone who is special to me and I genuinely don't expect anything in return. I have fun spoiling my favourite family and friends.

I've read in some budget-minded books that generousity can lead to over-spending, but I believe that you can be thoughtful without breaking the bank. It just requires some creativity and bargain hunting! Each month, I put away $50 towards my Gift Fund. This is what I tap into for larger expenses (e.g. birthdays & Christmas) and it gives me the flexibility to pick-up the perfect present for someone even if their special day is months away.
Here's what I bought today using a mix of Fun Money & Gift Fund:

For the hostess with the mostess: I am attending a girls-night-in Oscar Party tonight, so I was looking for an unexpected but practical gift when I stumbled upon a beautiful diamond wine stopper from Kitchen Stuff Plus for $8. What girl can resist bling? A bottle of wine would just last one night, but a diamond wine stopper is forever.

For my homesick cousin who is serving in Afghanistan: He is sending us amazingly detailed letters weekly about his time on the base and in return, family & friends are sending him snail mail full of all sorts of goodies. But I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the quantity of homemade cookies and cakes he's receiving. Since I know staying in shape is a priority to him, I picked him up some Oh Yeah protein power bars ($40 GNC)... and a Biggest Loser 'Boot Camp' work-out DVD as a joke ($5 on clearance at Chapters Indigo). I plan to wrap it in Star Wars paper that I found at Dollarama... because you know, may the force be with him. (That is a quote from Star Wars right!?!)

For the new second-time Mommy: a colleague who is more than just a co-worker to me gave birth to a beautiful boy last Wednesday. While I already went in on the office pool towards a Baby's R Us gift-certificate, I put together a TLC bag of surprises that are just for her: Kings & Queens bubble bath & body milk (Queen Isabella's cinnamon orange is divine) with a loofah and a 'leave me alone' face mask. I used my Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Points towards this purchase so it only cost me $2.89! Hey... it's the thought that counts! And I really do hope she is able to enjoy some mommy-needs-to-relax-time soon.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have the Oscars to get ready for!
* Rosie*

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekly spending recap: February 22nd - 26th

Ladies & Gents, I present my first weekly spending recap. As part of my 4 week rolling budget, I have allocated $120 / week to groceries & households plus $80 of fun & frivilous spending cash. I'm trying to live frugally these days and save my Fun Money for my upcoming trip to Las Vegas.

Sunday, February 20th:
- $37 on groceries
- $20 to my Eye Candy towards the purchase of a bottle of wine & Scotch.

We had had my cousins over for dinner the night before and he picked up the booze. My contribution is somewhat minimal as
Kumala, favourite cabernet sauvignon, is only $11 at the SAQ and ahem, only one person in our relationship drinks the Scotch. Sidenote: I am bitter about this purchase as I was a complete klutz when I took the groceries out of the car and my wine fell out of the bag and onto the concrete garage floor. It never stood a chance.
- did a strength training class + run at the YMCA which is part of my regular monthly expenses

Monday, February 21st
- $2.50 for a swim at the
LaSalle Aquadome.
For this relatively cheap indulgence, I got a solid 1 hour work-out at 7:00 am and the opportunity to practice underwater martial arts as I fought against a 60 year-old lane hog who despite his size, had one fierce flip turn.

Tuesday, February 22nd
- no spend day!

- did my spinning class at UNI which I pre-paid for in December

Wednesday, February 23rd
- no spend day!

I was on a business trip to Toronto, so all my expenses were covered. My flight was late so Miss Fergie had to spend the night at the vet and I'm going to talk to my boss as I think this deserves to be covered too.

Thursday, February 24th
- no spend day!

Friday, February 25th
- $8.50 at SuperVideo.

I was home with a nasty cold and needed some entertainment. I spent the day sick as a dog, snuggling Fergie on the couch, and watching Lady & the Tramp plus 101 Dalmatians. Good times! After watching all that puppy love romance, I made myself a delicious & spicy spaghetti squash for dinner endorsed by my favouite Paleo Girls.
- $75 to register for the Ottawa Half-Marathon (planned for in my monthly budget)
- $65 for my year-long Saturday subscription to the Monteal Gazette (I have enough $ in my monthly budget to cover this and it saves me in the long run! Check out yesterday's post: Subscribing to Savings for more details.)

Saturday, February 26th
- $42 on groceries
- $23 on Fernando's cat food

I now have $50 left-over from my Fun Money that is going towards a new envelope, appropriately named Vegas Baby. From the remaining groceries/household contribution, my $20 is going toward our Mad Money fund. If this keeps up, I’ll have little jackpot saved up before the vacation starts… and isn’t that the way it should be?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Subscribing to savings

I'm taking a Benylin (extra-strength) day as I am no longer fighting a nasty cold - it won. While I prefer to moan & groan on my couch, my puppy Miss Fergie really does not care about ailments and expects her walk rain or shine, congestion or not! On our stroll this morning I stopped by the Couche Tard to pick up The Montreal Gazette.
This is something that I do every Saturday morning as it's my ritual to brew my coffee, stroll with Fergie and pick up the paper to enjoy in my pajamas back in the condo for 30 minutes of a blissfully quiet read. At $2.52 an issue, it's hardly an exuberant cost. But then I started thinking... I subscribe to my favourite magazines because it drastically reduces the cost and it turns out, the same holds true for The Gazette.
In one Google search, I discovered a promotion for the Saturday issue at $5.49 a month... that's 49% of the stand price! While I'll take the hit of $66 on my credit card this month, I'll save $64 by the end of the year. Since I've been reading The Gazette every weekend for 3 months now, I know that this is something that I will enjoy and is worth the savings in the long-run... so long live the printed press!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wired, but now saving on my wireless!

I came home from work this afternoon as I managed to get a nasty cold after yesterday's day-trip to Toronto. I now I have a fear of flying... not of heights, but of germs! It seems like every flight I take, I end up sick no matter how well I hydrate or sanitize. But that's another topic.

Unfortunately, my Benylin has left me wired and unable to sleep so I took the opportunity to review my wireless plan. On average, I've been spending $110 each month to support my bedazzled iPhone (yes, I love it mostly for it's glam pink crystal case) and this is a pretty hefty chunk of change. Especially since my role in marketing doesn't include a cell phone. While I expense long-distance charges associated with work, I realized that I am paying for a premium plan that accomodates my worklife... without receiving any compensation. Not any more!
Since I was stuffed up & conjested on the couch, I had all the time in the world to build wireless packages with ROGERS ONLINE and then call in to their customer-service centers when the online packages got way too confusing.

After 1 Excell spreadsheet, 5 online comparisons, 4 customer service reps later, and 46 minutes on the phone, I've slashed my bill by 43%! I was not using my 1GB of data access a month and didn't mind if my evenings started at 8 pm. By sticking to my "sugar tastes better than vinegar" strategy for dealing with the reps and planning ahead of time that I wanted in my package under $70, I was able to get exactly what I was looking for. I've saved myself $48 a month... or $600 a year!

(I want to post my spreadsheet, but I can't figure out how... maybe once my Eye Candy gets home to show me how! It's an impressive chart.)

Meanwhile, call me!

* Rosie *

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bright lights, long nights, glitz & glam

I've revisted my 4wk rolling budget this evening as I have a few more big and exciting expenses coming up. In addition to the recently added car payments, my Eye Candy and I are headed to Las Vegas in May for a 5 day adventure with my cousins. And as a graduation gift, I'm treating my sister too. After 6 years of studying, she more than deserves some time off to play and there is no better place to do that than Sin City. I'm already shaking glitter off my clothes!

One of my financial goals is to never go on a vacation that I can't pay for - my last holiday got me into trouble in the first place, and I never want to do that again. I have $1425 saved up in my vacation account and with clever online shopping, this will be enough to pay for both my sis and me. I haven't officially booked yet as I'm waiting for my other cousin to get back from the beaches of Cuba to get his ok with all the plans - I just hope the deals that I found will last a few more days.

So all that being said, my new favourite word is "free". My Eye Candy asked me what I wanted to do today and I said exactly that. We spent the morning working out at the YMCA (I pay a monthly membership, so it was not free but at least I'm maximizing my $50 cost) and a fun afternoon walking around Old Port with our puppy. Our only expense was $5 for parking. And this evening, I've just done something that made the 13 year-old-girl-in-me squeal... I visited the Montreal library online site and reserved the chick lit books that were next on my list. While I love Chapters Indigo, they are no longer getting my money. I'll be able to pick up my books next weekend for the cost of nothing. Fabulously convenient and free! This will save me $25 a month.

Leading up to Las Vegas, these are the other fabulous ways that I am going to free-up my fun money for fun on the Strip. I'm still going to put $80 a week into my wallet, but I'm hoping to cut back on the frivilous and instead, use the remaining cash for my vacation.

1. Brown bag lunches - I'll be bringing my lunch everyday to work. While I usually do this 3-4 times a week anyways, I can still kick it up a notch and save at least $15 a week. Plus, my lunch is in a super cute black Elle insulated tote bag so no trees will be hurt in the process.
2. Improve my liquidity - About 2x a week, I stop at Liquid Nutrition after working-out in the mornings to grab a protein-fruit smoothie (Nuts About You is my favourite and it's the exact same calorie count as what I burn so I pretty much break-even). However, moving forward, I'm going to make my smoothie chez moi the night before, freeze it, and let it defrost while I exercise. This should save me $10 a week. *Disclaimer: My Eye Candy has just informed me that a defrosted smoothie will taste awful as the whey protein powder will break down. I'll try this tomorrow and if it is doesn't work, then I'll find a new breakfast solution.
3. Dinners out on the town - will be made from our Mad Money. Each week, my Eye Candy and I put grocery money into an envelope ($120 each) and anything that is what we call our Mad Money and we can spend it on whatever we like. Because I do enjoy eating out with friends, I want to keep doing so, but only if there is Mad Money sitting in the envelope.
4. BYOW - is my new favourite abbreviation. This stems from the point above, but I'm finding the best BYOW restaurants in Montreal and making my reservations there. La Prunelle is already my favourite and I can't wait to find more. *Disclaimer, should my Eye Candy insist on buying a bottle and offering me a glass, then I can't turn down that generous gesture. His money = his purchase.
5. The latte factor - this one will hurt as I already drink so few coffees at work unless it's to socialize or get an emergency caffeine buzz. But it still costs me about $10 a week. I do now resolve to make my beddazzled diamond thermos my new BFF and after my morning coffee chez moi, I'll only sip herbal teas throughout the day as I can pick up a package of sachets with my groceries and boiled water is, well, free.
6. Forty days of only window shopping - And this will be the hardest of all, which is why I am being realistic with the timeline. After all, I do live in Canada and the weather changes dramatically - I might genuinely need new clothes! But for the most part, I do need new clothes. So I will not to make a clothing, shoe, or accessory purchase until April 1st. Instead, I will spend the next 40 days planning the most fabulous outfits to wear in Las Vegas that come from Boutique Rosie. This will free up at least $300 for me to put in the vacation account. My clothes don't entirely come out of my fun money, but it will still let my bank account breathe.
7. Subscriptions only - In addition to making the library my new best friend for books, I will avoid the stands of glossy magazines at the grocery check-out. After all, I have 6 subscriptions and receive an infinite amount through work. I don't need anymore... no matter how transformational I think the content will be.
I was hoping to add 3 more tips to this list just to make it a Ten Commandments for Fun Money, but I couldn't think of anymore. If there are other ideas, please share.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy e-reading!

I've decided to put my enjoyment of shopping to work! I've applied to a few mystery shopping sites and I'm hoping to get picked. The extra income would be a plus ... even if it's just gift certificates to try out new products or services. Below is one of the entry reviews that I used - I figure I might as well share since I am applauding Chapters Indigo. In fact, I think I'm going to email into their corporate contact us page. Happy e-reading!

I would like to applaud Chapters Indigo for their excellent customer service last Thursday evening (February 17th) in their downtown Montreal location. I purchased online a KOBO e-reader for my boyfriend as a birthday present last November. He absolutely loves it and it's his new best friend for all his business travels. Unfortunately, Wednesday night he went to turn it on the screen ink was running across the page making his e-book unreadable.

I called KOBO to explain the damage (we swear it wasn't dropped!) and they told me to go in-store to exchange it at any Chapters store location. I went after work and the first sales associate was willing to exchange it for me as she said “Chapters Indigo 100% supports their KOBO sales”. However, when she went to complete the transaction, she realized that my purchase was made over 2-weeks ago and as a result, it was their corporate policy that all customers have to deal directly with KOBO for an exchange.

When I explained that I had been directed in-store, she called the manager (Mel W) who re-iterated the same policy. I expressed my frustration at having taken the time to call KOBO, come into the store, wait in line, be given a new model , fill in the exchange forms and then told I couldn’t have it. The manager called KOBO herself in my presence and was making arrangements to ship the e-reader back to them. However, this would take 15 business days for them to repair the damage and I’d be out of pocket the cost of shipping! I asked the store manager to ask KOBO if they were directing consumers to store for an exchange and sure enough, they were! She explained to the agent that this was against corporate policy in a head-office agreement between Chapters Indigo and KOBO. Once she hung up the phone, she took the initiative to exchange my KOBO e-reader for a new one even though it was “against” policy as she had witnessed first-hand that I was directed into store and as a result, she made an exception to their rule.

So often employees hide behind “corporate policies” that leave customers frustrated. But this store manager made an executive decision that left me leaving the store completely satisfied. I spend about $600 a year at Chapters Indigo and I’m a fan-favourite of their easy online shopping and in-store locations. I’m glad to see that they do “100%” stand behind their KOBOs and it was not just a marketing campaign to drive sales – they actually deliver on top-notch customer service too.

It pays to shop around!

When I moved in with my Eye Candy last year, I knew that my ride around town was a BMW - bus, metro or walking. When I was living downtown, this arrangement was fine! After all, I was in walking distance to not one, but two WINNERS stores!

But for the last few months, the commute to work or anything in the downtown core has taken its toll on me as a trip to work involves a bus ride (20 minutes) plus a metro ride (15 minutes)... and while that's not too long in the grand scheme of things, the Montreal's transit system is difficult to predict and there have been many evenings where I've been left stranded on the platform or waiting in snowbanks (another good reason to wear boots with the fur) for a bus to arrive. For the most part, my Eye Candy is wonderful as he drives me to the metro in the mornings and picks me up at night. But since I can't drive standard and learning it proved to be more difficult than I anticipated (those damn hills and stop signs), I've been left to rely upon the BMW. As he's travelling more & more for work and our puppy Fergie has become increasingly demanding, the need for a car was justified as the BMW was no longer practical.

Last week, we took a look a budgets and decided we could each spend up $350
a month on car payments. Our goal is to own it as quickly as possible and to minimize interest payments. This week's trip to car dealerships has shown me that it pays to shop around!

We settled last night on a MAZDA CX7. Please keep in mind that this is a couple car! While I'm sure he would prefer something more macho and rugged, I'd also prefer something girlie & cuter... but we are incredibly excited with our new chic cross-over wheels. And we're even more excited about the price!

We were able to trade in his current Volkswagon Jetta - and while it was appraised at 75% the value of similar cars sold on private sales, we do not have the hassle of selling and do not have to pay taxes as the full value is applied against our car. MAZDA was not going to give us the same amount as FORD, after some negotiations, they agreed to make-up the difference on the MSRP. Being the young one of this relationship came in handy as we received a $500 reduction in price since I'm a university graduate from within the last 5 years.

As we reviewed payment options, I felt all my year 1 Intro to Finance knowledge flooding back. "A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow!" Repeat. "A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow!"

I am able to put down $2500 towards to the car and my first instinct was to do so. We were intrigued buy MAZDA's 1.9% financing options over 60 months (the same as VOLKSWAGON, but much lower than FORD's 3.9%). But the icing on the cake was the 0% financing for 48 months. The 48-month payment comes in at $712 (at our maximum budget) vs $607 for 60 months. While our purse strings will be tighter for the next few years, we are not paying an interest and there was no reason to put down another $2500. This money is better off being invested where I can make a return. We go for our financing meeting on Monday night at the dealership and since we chose an in-stock model, it looks like we can have our car within the week!

All in all, we were able to get wheels and remain financially fabulous as we took the time to evaluate our budgets, investigate interest rates & trade-in options, and decided ahead of time what we were looking for in our first couple car. Now I just need a new pair of driving shoes that will complement our CX7's black mica shade...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bedside financial reading that won't put you to sleep

I've had some private Facebook messages requesting me to share some tips & tricks on elminating debt. This means I have more readers than followers! While I started this blog because I'm looking to figure out my finances now that my debt is wiped clean, there are some must-reads that I would recommend for every girl looking to have more funds.

The Smart Cookies' Guide To Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed A Money Club, And Took Control Of Their Finances
Andrea Baxter

This came recommended by my BFF /fellow Sporty Spice. It gave me the motivat
ion to open my Visa and take control of my finances because I finally realized that I could have any life I wanted if I took the time to manage my money and think about my long-term goals. It is written from the perspectives of 5 ladies who all have interesting careers (PR, marketing, social work) and are at different stages in their relationships (single, divorced, engaged), but were charging up their debt in an effort to maintain an appearance or handing over their financial control to the men in their lives. Who can't relate to that? By sharing their financial situations with one another, the women found motivation to pay off debt and establish money-managing plans for their goals. The book includes budgeting techniques, tips on being a smart spender, and advice on how to make more "dough".

The advice on budgeting seems strict at first as it encourages compartmentalizing all upcoming expenses and paying in cash using "money envelopes". None the less, last July I had nothing to lose so I opened up my Excel, planned my first 4-wk rolling budget and started my envelopes: e.g. household purchases ($100/month); groceries ($120/week); and fun money ($80/week). Obviously the fun money was my favourite envelope! After taking the time to budget all my upcoming expenses and debt payments, I determined that I could afford $80/week for fun. I use the cash for anything I want - coffee at work, dinner out, a botte of wine, a fun nailpolish, or a little dress from Winners. The trick to the "fun money" is to establish an amount that you can afford and not to feel guilty about spending money it. After all, you're taking the time to make sure everything else is paid off so this is a small personal indulgence that lets you feel empowered about your shopping and not feeling deprived by your budget.

The Smart Cookies Guide is relatable and is an excellent first-step to becoming financially fabulous. It is also Oprah-approved as one of her favourite things. The bonus? The women are Canadian so all the financial tools that they share are practical for us Canadian chicks! The hard-cover edition is a bargain book at
Chapters right now for $6.99, so I'd classify this book as an amazing investment.

The Wealthy Barber Gold Edition
David Chilton

My Eye Candy gave me this book over two years ago, but it took some time for me to actually pick it up. After all, financial planning is not the most exciting topic, but I wish I hadn't waited so long. I think this should be mandatory reading for every student and the younger the better. It is now my favourite gradution gift for friends & family.

While it is slightly hokey-pokey at parts, David Chilton shares stories of his trip to see the Roy - the local wealthy barber who cuts your hair and if you're lucky, dispenses personal financial planning advice. The book is easy to read and the financial strategies are even easier to implement. It's common sense for financial planning and as I went through the chapters, I found myself taking action. I now take 10% off my gross income automatically off my paycheck and it directly goes into my RRSP. Since I started this 7 months ago, my RRSP value has doubled what it took me 3 years to save up! It is almost shameful to admit that! But the best part? I don't even notice the impact in my day-to-day life of putting away 10% into my RRSP, but I'm sure the fabulous 65 year old version of myself is already thanking me for maintaining her wonderful lifestyle.

Another tip that I put into action was the life-insurance. For $50 a month, I was putting away money into a huge life-insurance policy. Ummm... why? The truth is because when I started my job, I just kept signing forms and filling in options because I thought that was what every good first-time full-time worker does. But when I thought about it, at this point in my life, I don't need to spend money on life insurance. I am not married (yet... hint, hint), nor the sole bread-winner in my relationship, and I have no children. For now, I am better off taking the money and putting into another investment.

I plan to reread The Wealthy Barber in the next month as there were parts that initially went over my head about investing simply because I was so concerned about paying off my debt that the timing was not right to implement. And like Smart Cookies, this book is Canadian based. So if you've not read The Wealthy Barber yet, let me know when your birthday is coming up.

Bitches on a Budget
Rosalyn Hoffman

I ordered this book online after seeing it in-store and decided it would be a witty read. Hoffman did not disappoint! It is the chick lit of personal finance. While the Canadian economy did not have the same recession crisis as our USA neighbours, saving money is always in style. There are tips for being a smart shopper like when to splurge on the items based on the seasons and retailers to keep on your shopping circuit (sidenote: I am so excited that
Target is coming to Canada soon as this seems to be the mecca of every recessionista) and I found the tips to be new and relevant... not just the same old "skip your coffee for $3 a day and you'll have a $1000 at the end of the year". (While I respect the latte-factor tip, I genuinely enjoy my $1.25 Tim Horton's tea as it's a chance to "network" with my colleagues and escape my cubicle life for at least 10 minutes a day.)

Bitches on a Budget also gives ideas on how to maintain your wonderful lifestyle no matter what your budget - how to decorate your nest, what to order when you go out for a night on the town that's healthy & thrify, how to pamper your pooch without giving her a wardrobe more impressive than your own, and encouragement to get fit while keeping your bank account in shape. All in all, it is a fun-yet-frivilous-but-financially-fabulous read. I encourage every girl to unleash her inner bitch on a budget!

I am currently reading
Does This Make My Asets Look Fat? A Woman's Guide to Finding Financial Empowerment and Success by Susan Hirshman which is all about finding the right mix of investments in your portfolio. It's on my beside table right now so expect a review soon... and my adventure in buying some assets.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do you have it in red?

At the start of 2010, I made a New Year's Resolution to become financially fabulous. I promised myself that I would start reading the business sections of the newspaper daily and I'd log-on to the Globe & Mail's investors pages more often than my Facebook account. It had been three years since I had graduated with a business degree and after kick-starting my career in marketing, I felt like I had little to show for it... Some cash saved up here & there and a super cute apartment, but overall, when it came to talking dollars and cents I felt like I had no sense.

My 2010 resolution never made it past January 1st and by July 1st, I was floundering. I had just moved in with my boyfriend, was finishing my diploma in PR, and was about to jet-set off to Spain for three weeks, when I opened my Visa bill and realized that I had managed to charge my way to $7500 in debts in six short months.

So much for being financially fabulous. There is a chapter in Confessions of a Shopaholic when Becky Bloomwood wishes her credit card bill would be mistakenly swapped with a little old lady who buys nothing by cat food, they would pay each other's bills without noticing and go on their merry way. I also shared that fantasy. And I could justify all of my charges - course tuition, air fare, unexpected storage fees, one too many trips to Winners, weekend trips away, two government refund checks that had not yet arrived... but overall, it didn't matter. I was mad at myself, incredibly embarrassed, and most importantly, in the red.

While 2010 was definitely not my year of being financially fabulous, I did a few things right. I read every (free) book I could get my hands on to learn debt-management techniques. I took out a personal line of credit to pay off my VISA, created rolling
Smart Cookies 4-week budgets, paid for everything in cash separated according to envelopes in my wallet, started an RRSP and navigated a maze of customer service lines until I received my tax refunds.

And this past week, I made my last payment on my line of credit. I'm now back in the black. Moving forward, I only want my wine to be red.

But now what? With all the reading that I've done, I've learned all the tricks in the book to get of debt, but I'm still clueless when it comes to managing my money. And I feel like a lot of young women are just like me, but don't talk about it. I'm hoping to change that - I'm not expecting to become a money guru, but I will blog my way to financially fabulousness.