Saturday, 21 July 2012

My free iPhone!

How did I get a free iPhone, you ask? Let me tell you the story!

I'm not someone who carries a phone around with me all day. I'm not connected to the world very well, in a technical way. I don' text, I rarely turn my phone on and I insist that participants in my programs, kids included, shut off their phones when they are in my groups or come in for counselling. I won't even let my kids have their phones on when we meet for family dinners. I tell them to text their contacts to say that they are shutting off for an hour for the sanity of their momma. Thankfully, they comply and for an hour, we can have peace from calls, beeps, buzzes and texts! I personally don't see the need to be "plugged in" 24/7  and don't ever plan to be but am fine that others are.

So how did I, Justice, with the old phone that in the last 2 months I used a total of 6 minutes of air time decide on an iPhone to replace the old phone when my contract was up?  Well, the guy at the other end of my call told me the benefits and I got hooked!

Here's the good news:

  • phone is free, totally free, no rebate to send in, no gimmick, no hidden cost applied to a future bill.

  • phone was sent out 20 minutes after our call ended and will arrive at my home in the next day or so.

  • my plan has been reconfigured and discounted to a place that I felt comfortable at and my provider gets to keep me as a customer. They took off $25 a month for 3 years just to keep me happy.

  • it's pretty and has cool graphics that my old phone, a Samsung slide did not have.

  • if I ever, ever choose to text (never gonna happen), it has an impressive screen size and a bigger keypad than my old phone.

  • the battery life is more than twice as long as my old phone, handy as I will have this phone on a lot starting August 1st as I will now be "on call" for my job. I doubt I will get many calls after hours but at least for that one that does come thru, I can help out a family without a wait.

The bad news:

  • my plan has gone up by $25 from what it was. My old plan was obsolete and had been greatly discounted because I never used it. So I knew an increase was coming. This is actually less than I budgeted for because of the nice guy I got who offered a discount. See above!

  • Kent is pouting. His plan just came up a few months ago but at that time, the iPhone was not part of the free promotion. He has a great phone, bigger than this one but he's still pouting! I offered to give him this one and I'll take his but he declined. The teasing has been relentless but I'm sure in time, he'll get over it! He is proud that I negotiated such a great new plan for us.

So here's the numbers. We just cancelled our daily newspaper delivery, saving us $28 a month. Our car insurance renewal came in the mail this week. Our policy has dropped down by $42 a month. The cell phone company also dropped Kent's plan by another $5 because of how my plan works, so he needed one less feature. So now his new plan is cheaper than his old plan. We're saving $75 a month with these items but with the new cost of my plan, a $25 hike, we're now saving just $50 a month. We'll put that amount into our travel account, giving us an extra $600 dollars a year towards our holidays, an amount previously not accounted for in our budget. Bonus!

Our cell phone plan together, with all the features, unlimited this, unlimited that and the data plans, costs us together less than $100 a month. All my colleagues told  me this week that their single plans, with most of the features my plan has but not all, cost more than $100 a month, so we're ahead of the game in this department.

So that's the story of my free iPhone. It pays to be a loyal customer and it pays to "suggest" to the cell phone company that you've shopped around for the best plan out there and then ask them what they are willing to do to keep you as a customer. Took a hour or so out of my own time but worth the effort!

Now to call our cable/internet provider and renegotiate our plan with them.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Our Financial Life

I love reading blog responses to questions like this so I thought I'd give this one a shot:

1. What is your income?

Our total income varies as Kent does receive commission on top of his base salary as well as his lead salary. Mine is stable and does not change, except for when a raise comes thru. We've lived a very, very frugal existence and for the most part, lived on either one complete salary or one complete salary and a partial salary from my years at home then Kent's years at home so the kids always had a parent at home. Now we are both working full time and find ourselves in a very weird spot with an annual income, together, in the 6 figure range. I won't go beyond that but we cherish it, as it could change at anytime given the tight economy. We still live as if we're frugally tight but have allowed ourselves some expenditures this year that we've never been able to have in the past.

2. What are your (fixed) monthly expenses?
  • mortgage
  • utilities (they vary but are in a range that we budget for)
  • car lease for Kent
  • car payment for me
  • gas for both
  • insurance: car, house, life
  • roof payment on our Home Depot card (interest free - almost done)
3. What would happen if you died tomorrow?

We used to have it all layed out but now that we are double income without little kids, it is time to do a new plan. Kent knows my wishes and I know his but in terms of finances, we both have life insurance and we both have good jobs that would carry the bills on one salary, so we'd be okay in that respect.

4. Where could you get $500 in an emergency?

Our savings account. If that was totally depleted, we could access our line of credit (low interest), then our credit card.

5. What would you do if you got fired from your job?

I'd cry as I was given this job to expand it beyond the original format. I started at 15 hours a week and now work fulltime. It had one program 3 times a year and it now has 6 programs offered year round. And more as we are expanding once again!

However, I am marketable and would likely have no issue finding another job. We do operate a charity as well on the side as volunteers, so my first plan would be to find funds so I could just work there. I would also take some time for me, which is something I miss right now because I am so busy with this position. Love it, love it, love it but my personal time is stretched.

6. How will you live in retirement?

Frugally but not here. We'd move back to the coast and live in a very small community. But come back here to visit often.

7. What could you sell to make extra cash if needed?

Clothes, extra furniture stored in our basement, baby blankets I make, charge for a couple of births, add up all the receipts I need to submit between my work and the charity I volunteer for!

8. Does your spending align with your values?

Yes. We do not believe in "keeping up with the Jones" and prefer to sock away every extra dollar and only buy what we truly need, hopefully on sale or second hand.

9. What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money?

They were raised the same way we live and have all done an incredible job of spending wisely. All still thrift shop and all have chosen lifestyles that are conscious of making good financial choices. I love that they all still get excited about a sale or hunting down a treasure at a thrift store!

10. What steps can you take today to improve your financial situation?

Do a better job of setting an amount each month to put into our various savings accounts. Right now, it's kind of whatever looks ok, but there is no real plan.

We need to relook at our insurance as well and bump it up a bit.

And we definitely have to do a better job of saving for retirement. Our RRSP's are not filling very quickly but that is by choice not because we can't. We only have 15 or so years to retire so that needs to become a priority. Soon, soon!

So how are you doing financially?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sunday Night Chit Chat!

Reading? Grief Unseen: Healing Pregnancy Loss through the Arts by Laura Seftel.

Watching? Just watched Oprah's interview with David Copperfield. I want to live on his island. Perfect paradise!

Listening to? The shower running & the rain falling.

Baking/Cooking? Made Lemon Raspberry Scones tonight. Pictures below.

Happy that you accomplished this week? Bought 8 photo storage boxes from Michael's (regular price of $4.99 each, on sale for $2.00 each), cancelled our newspaper subscription (savings of $28 a month), got my summer student settled into her position at work, helped Kennedi with her summer school work (exam tomorrow & 2.5 weeks of school work & exams left), paid the bills, power cleaned the house & did a ton of writing.

Looking forward to next week? Starting yoga tomorrow after a two week break. More writing. Only one meeting this week. A dinner date with an old friend.


What goal is your top priority right now?  Getting healthier ~ I meet with my family doctor for a referral to the specialist who can do my surgery. Finally moving forward & taking control of my journey thru this new path in our lives.

Lemon Raspberry Scones:

My new favorite thing in my life right now!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday Night Chit Chat!

Reading ... Quentin's by Maeve Binchy. Purchased from our local thrift store, in perfect condition, for .10 cents. A bargain, considering the original price was $24.95.

Watching ... a show my husband was watching, but now he's soundly sleeping & the TV is still "talking".


Listening to ... the rain has started again & the wind is whipping up. We had a lovely warm evening, with no wind & sunny skies, after 4 days of wind & rain. It was a nice break but now it's back!

Cooking/Baking ... nothing at the moment. Made a huge salad today with organic greens, feta cheese, almonds, cranberries & dressing. Out for dinner with 2 dear friends. Not sure what my crew had but I enjoyed this "once a year tradition" with spinach dip with cheese as an appetiser (free!), broccoli/cheese soup, then a main course of Lemon Shrimp Pasta, which I had to bring home because by then, I was way too cold!

Happy you accomplished ... organised our receipts for reimbursement, did 2 loads of laundry, washed the floors, unpacked from our trip, shopped then wrapped 2 gifts for dinner tonight, wrote a column for the newspaper, did a session of yoga & meditated with Kent.

Looking forward to next week ... my last 2 classes to teach then a long break until September! We end this time with parties to wish everyone well on their continued journey.

Thankful for today ... that Kent & I were at odds for a bit but got back on track. Sometimes, we're just not on the same page but I love this time in our life where it takes just a few minutes or the right word to bring us back. When we were much younger, it would take forever to get here but now, we've got it nailed down to an efficient science!

Best buy over the last month? We found an amazing tea pot but the price was uncomfortable for our budget at the moment at $54.95. However, the very next day, we were at a thrift store. I was down one aisle, Kent down another & suddenly he called me over to where he was. And there on the shelf was the same tea pot. We were thrilled to see it was in perfect condition, with the packing tissues still inside, which means no one even used it. Best part? It was $1. Yes, $1. Grabbed it, paid & ran!! Love it. :)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


We had the most amazing holiday. We're safe, rested, well & eager to tackle life again. Fit, tanned & healthy. Loving life again. With energy & a renewed appreciation for feeling good!

These really helped!

And long walks along the sea or in deep forests were very therapeutic!

Can't wait to go back. Working on plan to go sooner, rather than later!!

And how was your last 2 weeks?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Finally ~ a diagnosis!

I fired my family doctor.

He is lovely & caring but wasn't taking my concerns seriously. Six weeks of pneumonia is crazy & having to endure test after test after test & then have meds given to me that I'm either allergic to or they didn't work has been so frustrating. Got in to see a new doctor, a naturopath & she had a diagnosis within two hours of sitting & talking with me. And it all makes sense & scary at the same time. But it will be a bit of a journey to recover. I'm glad we leave for holidays on the weekend so I can just concentrate on getting better. I have to teach a class on Thursday night & then Saturday morning & then I'm done for 3 weeks. The diagnosis so far (she thinks there is more but that will come after my June appointment) is Adrenal Gland Disease. Right now, she's trying to determine if it's simply AGD Fatigue or AGD Failure. First is ok, fixable & liveable but life changes to accomodate. Second can be fatal if not treated but we started treatment right away yesterday, so very hopeful. Completely answers why I have pain throughout my body, total exhaustion (driving to my centre is literally a 2.5 minute ride but I'm exhausted when I pull into my parking lot), always dizzy, low, low, low blood pressure, easy bruising, constant nausea & no appetite, even though I've gained lots of weight. Some I clearly needed, as I have been a recovering anorexic all my life but still, the last few pounds have been totally fat! I went to the store the other day to pick up 3 items. Standing in line, my legs started to shake & I had to sit for a minute before I could get up to pay. She describes it like my body is attacking itself & trying to "shut down" which is exactly what it feels like. I felt such relief in knowing there is a reason that this pneumonia has been so stubborn & that all these things are not in my head. I was really starting to think it was. Now we can hopefully get things back on track so I can get back to life!

That's my update. An answer, now treatment & hopefully a good recovery so I can finish up the things I love to do. :)

Monday, 14 May 2012

New Mortgage Payment

We renewed our mortgage on Friday & at the same time, increased our payments again. We started at $200 a week about 5 years ago, increased that to $225 a week about 3 years ago, then uppped it again to $250 a week last year when Kent went back to the corporate world. On Friday, we increased the payments again to $275 a week, starting next week. Still comfortable for our budget & decreased the time left on our mortgage from 8 years, 6 months to 7 years, 4 months. We're now paying mostly principle, with a bit of interest in there. Love seeing the numbers decreasing each week. Currently, we owe just a bit over $96,000. By this time next year, we'll owe just under $84,000.

Our plan is to finish the renovations, put it on the market, build our new house out in the country & become completely mortgage free in the process. We can do this because we bought our land 12 years ago. At that time, land was just starting to increase in value. The acreage was listed for $65,000 but we paid an even $40,000. Now it's worth almost $300,000 & is on the rise. As we only need to pay for the services & the construction of the new house, the equity in our home & our savings will cover the costs, as long as we don't crazy with size & upgrades. It's going to be a fine line as we do want to build a good sized home & we'll want certain features, like granite counters & wood floors, as well as energy efficiency. Keeping our budget realistic & giving ourselves some "wiggle room" for the extras we may decide in the end we just have to have will be the key.

Not sure exactly when we'll build. Life keeps getting in the way. For now, we keep loving this house & fixing it up along the way.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Living in Canada has so many benefits but one thing that is a great bonus for us is not having to worry about paying for health care for basic medical services. We are proactive in our own health care & also take advantage of annual check ups & the services offered by the primcary care health networks (nutrition, workshops, over the phone consults, etc.). Over the years, we've also accessed alternative care, including massage, chiropractic service & of course, midwifery. Some of these have partial fees covered by our provincial gov't & some, like midwifery, were out of pocket costs for us but are now fully covered, so our gov't is getting smarter in where the health dollars should go. But there are still a few things that aren't covered. Some extended health care plans offered by companies often make up the difference. However, for those of us who work in the non-profit sector (me) or for those who work for small companies (Kent), extended benefits may not be offered (me) or are limited to a dollar amount per year (Kent). We are 1/4 of the way thru the year & so far, we've used about 1/3 of our total dollar amount given to us each year with dental work & recent prescriptions for my pneumonia.

I've decided it's time to say goodbye to our family doctor. Nice guy, super funny, very cute but seriously, he's changing as he's older. I've been with him since I was 16 & he had just opened his practice, he's now Kent's doctor & our kids. But he isn't as open to alternative therapies as he used to be. And I really need someone who is. Found a naturopath to go to & my first appointment is next Tuesday morning. I'm so excited to see someone who believes in treating not just the symptoms but the root cause of the condition.

But here's the tough part. We have to pay out of pocket. Her fee is $160 for the initial 1.5 appointment. After that, it is $115 for a 45 minute to 1 hour follow up or $65 for a 30 minute each time. This is reasonable, compared to the first clinic I was referred to. Not a true naturopath but alternative medicine. Thankfully, they had a wait list of 6 months to get in. The fee for that doctor is $350 for the initial 1 hour appoinment & $125 for every 30 minute follow up session. I kept looking & on the recommendation of many others, called this one & love her already!. Definitely on the same wave as me. I'm pretty sure that I'll have a series of appointments based on my current health issues but feel that if we can get to the bottom of how I am feeling, then I'll get back on track again.

Just looking at how often she will likely see me over the next few months, the total will be about $850 by the time we're done. I've decided to look at this new expense we hadn't counted on for this year as an "investment" in my health. It may mean cutting back somewhere or not meeting one of my goals for a faster paydown of a debt but worth the individualized care in the end.

Happy to have found an alternative & looking forward to finally getting my body & my energy back!!