Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My ING TFSA has Successfully Transferred to TD

I'm really excited about the TFSA the Canadian government has introduced. What a great incentive for people to save or invest their money tax free!

When it opened, I dumped $5000 into a high interest savings account with ING. Then after a few months, I realized that TD offered a whole lot more services, and I withdrew my full amount of TFSA from ING and would like to invest it in some index funds.

Even though I could invest in a TFSA Streetwise Mutual Fund with ING, I know that the 1% management fee is a little excessive for an index fund, when I can buy it for less from a TD Waterhouse account.

Wish me luck!

Experiment #2: No Shampoo - FAIL

Last week, I endeavored to embark on a journey to a shampoo-less way of living. This week (actually on the past weekend), I surrender to defeat. I cannot give up my shampoo-ing ways. At least, not right now.

I know the first few weeks were going to be tough, and I really thought I could tough it out. But I couldn't. I like the fluffy feel of hair that I have only known to be achievable with shampoo. I swear, I was nuzzling my hair after I gave it a good wash.

However, I have decided to take some baby steps to improving my interactions with shampoo chemicals. I will carefully look at the label before I buy, and will only buy shampoo and conditioner without harsh chemicals. I may or maybe be able to wash my hair every other day (and tie it up on the off days) depending on how my hair cut tomorrow turns out.

Oh yes, I am getting a hair cut tomorrow. I feel it is time for a change. I'm feeling the bob with front layers longer than the back. Will consult with my stylist tomorrow to make sure that it will be minimal maintenance and suitable for my hair type. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Set Backs on my No Shampoo Experiment

Considering that my hair is very oily, and I was used to shampoo-ing it every day with normal harsh shampoo, such as Herbal Essences. This experiment was not going to be an easy feat. It will be a huge shock to my hair, as it adjusts.

I have been washing my hair every day (not sure if that's a good idea, but I do need to look somewhat presentable for work during this adjustment period) with either just water or an apple cider vinegar rinse, and brushing my hair out with the boar bristle brush (love that!). Anyhow, my hair was just too oily yesterday, and went to pick up a gentle shampoo that I saw while searching for my boar bristle brush.

I made sure to massage and scrub my hair vigorously and use only a minimal amount in the shower this morning. (Boy, did I miss shampoo!) I don't plan on using any shampoo tomorrow, or the day after. Just water and maybe the apple cider vinegar rinse.

I also took a look at the organic aisle at Loblaw's. Kiss My Face's products looked promising, and I loved the smell. So, maybe I can tweek my experiment to using shampoo once every 3 days or so, until I ween off of it completely.

I will also be postponing my haircut scheduled for next week until a month later so that my hair can settle into this new routine. With my longer hair, at least I have the option to tie it up in a pony tail :) or leave it in a hat for weekends!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Experiment #2: No Shampoo

This is going to be a next greasy 6 weeks for my hair, but I will persevere and experiment with washing my hair without shampoo.

Over the past few months, I have been reading up on how to better care for my hair. In summary, my research has shown me that the shampoo that I use is "cleaning" my hair by stripping it of everything. Even all the essential oils. So then, my scalp thinks it's too dry, and produces more oils. Over time, my scalp is used to this cycle of being stripped bare, and then over producing oils to compensate.

My mission is to eventually be able to use more eco-friendly and hair friendly products in my hair. I think this will help my hair be more healthy (more shiny, less breakage and more manageable). It's a win-win situation. The most difficult part will be training my hair to accept this new regime.

A little background: I have fine oily hair, and I've been washing my hair everyday for as long as I can remember. My hair is straight, shoulder length, and I do not use any products (aside from shampoo and conditioner), nor do I blow dry it.

The last time I washed my hair was this past Saturday morning. I have started experimenting with an apple cider vinegar rinse from Fabulously Broke (sorry, I couldn't find her post on her trials!) and I have gone out and bought a 100% boar bristle brush which feels great every time I brush my hair.

I will keep updating on how this experiment is going and any feed back would be greatly appreciated. I think I'm going to be using the rinse every day for the first week or two, so that my scalp can recognize it as the new shampoo. Then go to every other day, and maybe every third day. We'll see!

I hope this gets better by the 4th week since I have a wedding to attend with BF. I'm also trying to convince BF to try out my experiment on his hair. He was very intrigued when I told him that from my reading, he might have to only wash his hair once a week, since it's so short.

The savings on shampoo, will be minimal (I usually buy shampoo when it's on sale for $1.49 a bottle), but I think the long term benefits will far outway any amount of money. I may also buy a very gentle, natural shampoo for days when I might need it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rich Bride Poor Bride

This is my first time watching this show on TLC, and I was not impressed with this couple. The bride was way to bitchy and whiny. The groom should have run away if he knew what was good for him. Now, onto the finances.

Budget: $35,000
Actual spent (bride & groom): $42,000
Over Budget (bride & groom) : $7,000
Flowers & Dress (parents' gifts): $8000

Total Wedding Cost: $50,000

Wowzers! That is a lot of dough!

I thought to myself, if instead of blowing all that money for one night, the couple had taken the $50,000 and invested at an annual return rate of 10% for 40 years, they would end up with $2,262,962. That's a pretty sweet retirement!

Realistically speaking, there must be some middle ground between $50,000 and nothing, and that middle ground may be different for all of us. But the above example of putting your wedding costs towards a retirement savings plan just goes to show you, the extreme of how you can take things, and very different outcomes.

I remember one night when my sister and my girl friend went out for dinner, we were on the topic of weddings and their outrageous cost. One of my good friends from high school had just got married, and my friend's brother was soon to be tying the knot. We were all appalled at how money was being spent on one day! Being the nerds that we were, we actually crunched the numbers.

Call us a bunch of cheap, and unromantic single girls, but we ranted about all the crazy wedding stories we knew, and at the moment, we all didn't even want to get married just to avoid all this craziness. Two things we all wanted to avoid that usually comes with a wedding: becoming Bridezilla and family politics.

Since when did a wedding become a day where Bridezilla gets to exploit her status of leaving singledom? Brides can make outrageous demands, and they all must be met, it seems. No matter how impossible, no matter how much time it took, no matter how much money needed to be spent.

Even though the wedding is costing the bride and groom a load of money, don't forget about the money that the brides maids and grooms men are shelling out, too. Bridal shower, brides maid dresses, bachelor / bachelorette parties, gifts, etc., are all costing somebody something.

Sometimes, it's not all about the bride. Sometimes, it's about the family. I was appalled, again, at the crazy amount of family politics involved. Having to be careful not to step on anyone's toes, to try to make sure everyone is somewhat happy.

Having never planned a wedding, or ever been married, I have to say that these factor do not make a wedding seem very appealing at all.

I want to get married one day. To someone I love, whom I respect, whom I admire and someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. And I want to share that moment with my friends and family. But, I know I don't want to do it in the form of a big wedding, or maybe not any wedding.

I don't want to start out our new life together pondering over flowers, or napkin colours, or name tags. I don't want to start out arguing and trying to please too-opinionated family members, or other family politics. And I don't want to start our new life together up to our eyeballs in debt.

I want to start out by taking our time, and planning our life together. Know that our lives are rich, because we are blessed with each other and the people whom we love. And just enjoying the simple things everyday, together.

Having said that, it would be nice to look like a princess for day. So I decided I would consider hiring a photographer for a few hours to shoot some pictures of my honey and I, where I could look like a bride. Rented bridal dress, with professional hair and make up in a beautiful park.

What are you thoughts on wedding costs?? How much did your wedding cost you?? And did you think it was worth it??

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paris, Je t'aime

This summer, BF and I took a vacation to explore the wonders of Oslo, Paris and the little town off Omaha Beach in Normandy. We spent two weeks, alternating between sight seeing, basking in the sun, and just soaking in the European culture (aka drinking coffee's and people watching).

My budget for this trip was $1500. We sorted out our expenses for the trip, and I am happy announce that we are under budget! *applause*

I have to add that our trip was "subsidized," since BF was working in Europe at the time on a project, he flew me instead of him flying back to Toronto, so my flight was paid for. BF has also racked up a tonne of points because he travels a lot for work, and we were able to stay for 4 nights at Starwood hotels in the heart of Paris for free!

Here is a rough breakdown of our spending for the two weeks:

Hotels: $670.99
Sight Seeing: $192.70
Transportation: $361.75
Food: $1 165.67
Misc: $87.30
Gifts (mine only): $159.00
MY TOTAL: $1 398.21

BF and I rented a cottage on the beach for 7 days costing us $500. We also stayed one night at a hotel in Caen for $95, and there are some hotel fee's that we paid in addition to his points.

Sight Seeing:
We went to a Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, a tapestry museum in Bayeaux, and went up the Arc de Triomph in Paris. We also stopped by a carnival and went on some rides, and played some games.

A lot of the sight seeing we did was FREE, such as walking all over the city, hanging out on the Seinne River for picnics and reading, going to parks, going to Eiffel Tower - and admiring the lights from below instead of going up the tower, Notre Dame Cathedral is also free, and admiring the view of the city from the Church of Sacred Heart.

BF and I both love food. We did a fair bit of cooking at our cottage, but in Paris, we mostly went out to eat. We loved all the pastries they had for breakfast, and the deilicous coffee (BF preferred the espreesso's). However, we usually bought baguettes (bread sticks), cheese, ham, and of course, wine, with us on our days out in the park or on the river for lunch picnics and general snacking.

We did have one fancy seafood meal in Oslo. Delicious. $195. BF and I think it was worth it!

This mostly included the buses we took to get from the airport to the hotel, and vice versa. We also took the metro when we were in Paris a few times. We took the local bus in Normandy to get into the nearby cities a couple of times.

Aside: I LOVE the Paris subway and wish that someday (soon) Toronto can have something that is just as easy to use and efficient.

Misc: We took out about $700 in cash, and I tried to estimate where the spending went. I'm not sure what happened to this, but it could easily fall into the food category. Some of it went to washroom fee's (in Paris, you need to pay to use most of their public washroom facilties).

Gifts: I bought a bottle of Jo Malone perfume and Avene cleanser for myself. I also bought some gifts for my family.

Do you budget for what you are spending on your vacations? What do you spend the most on??

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Le Bibliotheque

When I was little, my dad would bring my sisters and to the neighborhood library couple weeks, depending on how many books we were each able to devour. As I've grown older, I've seem to lost touch with my local library.

Instead of borrowing books, I've been reading the books my sister had bought or buying my own books. Now, I don't mind paying $20 - $30 for a book which I really love, and will read again, and again. However, if I was only reading the book, once, then the cost does not seem justified.

The library system has evolved since my elementary and high school days. Now, everything can be done online. I can check the status of my loans out, put holds on items, renew items. I can also search the library databases, and request to have books transferred to a location which is closer to me. The library I go to even has free Wi-fi! It's also got a lot of study cubicles if you want a quiet place to concentrate.

As citizens, we pay a fair bit in taxes. It's nice to see my tax dollars at work, and even nicer to enjoy the services that are offered for "free" to everyone.

Because I work in the great city of Toronto, I can start a clean slate with a new Toronto Public Library card (goodbye late fine Brampton Library card of the past!). I have re-discovered the joy of heading to the library. Of reading books for free. I also find the deadline of a return date, also serves as an incentive to read my book faster.

On a side note, there seems to be a glitch in the system yesterday, and my books have all been renewed to November 3o instead of September 30 (the usual 3 week loan period). So, now I have almost 3 months to finish "The Warren Buffett Portfolio: Mastering the Power of the Focus Investment Strategy."

Wish me luck!