Category Archives: Debt

Only Child on Christmas and other year-end expenses

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Ho-Ho – are we all running around malls etc. doing last-minute Christmas shopping? And maxing out the credit card?
Not me. While I enjoy choosing gifts for family and friends, I don’t like crowded stores and malls. I don’t like all the buying frenzy and overspending in today’s world. Despite online shopping, the in-person furor still occurs. And I cannot afford to spend a lot of money. When you have limited finances you have to watch it. For the past few years I’ve made sure that I paid cash – whether crisp bills (now plastic in Canada) and coins or debit for Christmas presentst. I don’t want to pay for Christmas in January and February. Those two months are dismal enough without throwing Christmas debt into the picture.
Back when I was growing up (the grey ages, of course), gift-giving was much simpler and had more meaning than in today’s overly-commercial world. Mom would be at the kitchen table wrapping my presents and Dad’s presents and I would be at the dining room table wrapping what I had bought for her and Dad. We were separated by a closed door. When Mom needed the scotch tape she would give warning and I would quickly cover the presents with wrapping paper. None of us spent a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot, but my parents, Mom especially, were good at budgeting. I remember hearing bits and pieces of their late night budgeting talks after I had gone to bed and they thought I was asleep.
Today I try to emulate Mom’s frugality and generosity. Back in the summer while on holidays I start buying small gifts and try to match the gift with the person. Some shopping is left until December, but except for the wine, I’m done.
Just as well. December also brings a lot of year end expenses – both business and personal. I have the invoices for the business ones but I’m still waiting for two mammoth utility bills – hydro and water/waste. It’s hard to budget when you have to gestimate costs.
And I probably will need new glasses this year as it’s been four years and I’m squinting as I write this. My eye exam is this week. Fortunately I have funds left over from my holiday savings as I didn’t use them all up (didn’t travel to one place I had planned to) and my son, bless him, gave me a Hudson’s Bay department store gift certificate for my birthday this month. So, these two source should cover ¾ or even more of my glasses cost at Hudson Bay’s optical department. I’ve been there to get – you guessed it – a gestimate of the cost.
There is always the worry of unexpected emergency costs with house and computers and I keep my toes crossed. Can’t type with crossed fingers.
Next week’s post I’ll talk about what this holiday season means to me and what it doesn’t mean.
What do you think about the current Christmas spending frenzy? And Boxing Day?

Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Christmas, Debt, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child scowls through life

Only Child wearing her gentler scowl.

Only Child wearing her gentler scowl.

The old Charlie Chaplin song Smile tells us to smile through all our grief (Smile, music: Charlie Chaplin, Lyrics: John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons) but I’m not buying it for me. A study at Wayne  State University (published in Psychological Science says those who smile can live up to 79 years – the wider the smile the longer the life.

Those of us who are glum can expect to live to 73 years, according to the same study.

Do you know where this study’s researchers got their information? By looking at photos of  230 Major League baseball player on 1952 baseball cards,  seeing if they scowl or grin (and how wide the grin) and then checking records to see at what age they died.

I thought these studies were supposed to use the actual people – not pictures and records of them. Maybe the baseball players smiled purposely for the photo. (That was considered in the study, but obviously not held to much importance). Maybe the players were having a good or bad day and smiled or scowled accordingly.

This isn’t enough research for me to change my scowls to smiles. I do occasionally smile but my main facial expression, the last year at least, is a big fat scowl. And it’s not all squinting at the sun or trying to read the print on my computer when my eyes are bummed out for the day. I scowl because of all the misery I have in my life – all the stuff I referred to in my last post (and earlier posts) as coming at me from outside, or as I put it “dealing with others’ shit coming at me”).

As for attitude and perception – I’ve tried the positive route. The beginning of this year I had high hopes 2014 would be much better. Except for some financial improvement, it’s not turning out that way. And the “financial improvement” may all literally go out the window  to replace a few new windows so the rain can’t come in and yet another major excavation outside to waterproof the basement wall because of the contractor Nigel Applewaite’s screw-up in 2011. I’m now booking contractors and window companies for estimates, but deep down I don’t think my finances will cover it all – even with some help from my ex-husband. I’m already carrying debt and am trying to pay it down.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be frightful – a mix of rain, ice pellets, snow and high winds – from the east and southeast – right where it can get into my basement when we have this concoction. To top it off I have a sore swollen gland – the tale end and/or a branch of the sinusitis I thought went away a couple of weeks ago.

And don’t tell me if I had smiled 24/7 I wouldn’t have this viral infection.

Back to the study. Look at the life ages predicted. Seventy-nine (for the big grinners) and 72.9 (actual) for us scowlers. Not much difference. But more to the point for me. Even at my age, 72.9 is far far away when you have to put up with all the crap coming at you on a daily basis.

It’s not as if I don’t do anything about it. I don’t bury my head in the sand (if Icould  find it under the snow and ice). I tackle my problems and try to resolve them and get rid of them for good.

But like a bad penny they won’t go away.

Oh, correction, the penny has gone away – from the Canadian monetary system at least. Maybe PM Stephen Harper had the right idea here.

Unfortunate that all the other bad pennies in life won’t stay away.

See story on this baseball players smile study at http://healthland.time.com/2010/03/25/grinning

and

 How smile intensity may offer clues about longevity | TIME.com http://healthland.time.com/2010/03/25/grinning-for-a-longer-life/#ixzz2wKIX3j5m

More stories can be found by Googling “smiling and longevity study”

Cheers. (or should that be “Scowls”)

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Debt, Leaky Basements, Life demands, Money, Only child, Rain, Smiling and Longevity, Snow, Weather, Winter Weather

Only Child looks (again) at seniors and happiness

Only Child in one of her happiness situations - the garden in summer

Only Child in one of her happiness situations – the garden in summer

Are today’s older adults happy? If so, what makes them happy, or not? The more I googled for information, the more widespread information I found. The one I heard on the radio earlier today (and it doesn’t seem to be online) is the one I’m going to talk about.

According to this one, older adults’ happiness is based on four areas – each one “worth” 25 per cent.  After considering the genetic factor for pre-disposition for happiness or unhappiness, the areas are: environment, debt-free, relationship, passionate about something.

According to that survey, I’m about 50 per cent happy in winter and 60 to 75 per cent from spring to fall. Here’s my breakdown (pun intended):

  1. Environment: This is the variable one. It’s practically 0 in winter because I hate winter – the snow, ice, cold, even the rain, but mostly because I can’t get outside and garden or attend outdoor events without freezing. In the summer it goes to 20 to 25 percent because of the outdoor/gardening factors. The fluctuating 5 per cent is if there are house repairs and the like.
  2. Debt- free: Not me. I live the proverbial “hand-to-mouth” no matter what I do. So far I’ve managed to pay regular bills – including credit cards as payment comes due (except for the line of credit one – it gets the minimum payment and a bit more when I can afford it), even some house repairs (for the biggies I’ve had some help from my ex-husband) and for some unexpected bills. I’ve told my son that my estate will have to pay off my line of credit debt after I’m gone,  but that’s what small life insurance payouts are for. Unless I win the lottery or my book(s) reach best-seller status or no. 3 below happens, that’s the way it is. So this category rates 0 per cent on this happiness scale.
  3. Relationship – also 0 per cent for obvious reasons. After a few years of online dating, in-person singles events, and yes, even the see who is available at groups sharing your interests, I’ve come up with less than slim pickings. This doesn’t mean I’m not interested; I’ve just given up wasting my time looking.
  4. Passionate about something in my life – definitely a full 25 per cent – with my writing, teaching writing, gardening, reading, and a few others, even watching favourite TV programs. I can get transformed out of my misery (albeit temporarily, especially if a telemarketer phones) when doing any of those things.

So there you have it. But the survey/study organizers forgot one big factor here, especially for us older folks – good health. Sure, some of that is genetic and maybe some could come under “environment.” But I think health should be a factor on its own, changing the happiness factors to 20 per cent each.

Comments anyone? What makes you happy or unhappy?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Debt, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Happiness, Health, Health Seniors, Hereditary, Money, Only child, Passion, Seniors, Seniors and Happiness, Sharon A. Crawford, Zoomers

Only Child sums up year end

Only Child optimistic about 2012

The cupboards, fridge, freezer and root cellar are full but my bank accounts are almost bare. True there are a couple of Christmas cheques to deposit but it has been a very rough month. One client messed up on paying me for work done last month and I’m still waiting for the cheque. And the expenses kept rolling in. I’ve had to reach back to my childhood when my mother ruled as queen of the family budget to try and find some tips on getting through this month and into 2012. What I’ve learned is that’s it is only part “hereditary” but a lot of what I’m doing comes from ideas picked up over the years plus using my own skills. A good dose of persistence doesn’t hurt. However, I also found that sometimes yelling out there (read “God “or “Universe” or whatever) for “help” does get positive results. The surprise is, not what I anticipated, but maybe better.

Throughout the month I’ve found myself repeating a version of my mother’s budget process – except unlike her I don’t have a partner to consult. It’s only “me, myself, and I” – the trio of one. So, late at night (several nights) I was still up, calculating and re-calculating “income/cash on hand and expenses.” The situation changed frequently with a mess up in my gas bill (twice), two other utility bills arrived (I expected the water but not the hydro until the beginning of January). My business insurance was due January 1 (which means pay by December 31). My glasses payment was due and it looked like what I’d saved for that would have to pay other bills. The list went on and on. I put on my dual consumer/business hat and got to work on the phone, the Internet and e-mail. It turns out the glasses payment is next month – if I’d have known my statement date vis-a-vis the date of purchase, I could have figured that out myself. Some Internet research and a phone call got my business insurance placed on a credit card (payment not due til the end of January). Then I received an unexpected Christmas cheque; a new client (to start work in January), and notice of a settlement, possibly for late January.

I still haven’t received the delinquent client’s cheque and I still have a credit card payment (small amount) due later this week. But I’ve learned several somethings. Keeping a positive, but no-nonsense attitude. and following those through with positive action to rectify the situation(s) helps. It doesn’t help to just sit and moan. Sure we have a right to complain but we have to take the complaint a step beyond wailing.

Which brings me to another lesson learned and a blessing…my family and friends (well, some of them). They listened to my whining and gave helpful sympathetic responses. None of them told me to pull up my socks and do something. Perhaps the most surprising response was from my friend Carol who told me she had to admire me for all my persistence and consumer action (my paraphrasing). I was speechless, but managed a “thank you.”

Maybe I learned something here from my mother. And perhaps I have another career. Consumer advocate?  I do have insights about myself to take into 2012 – persistence and staying positive. Comments anyone?

Hope 2012 is better for all of us. Remember the old saying about making lemonade out of lemons.

Cheers and Happy New Year

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Budget and budgeting, Consumer action, Debt, finances, Only child, Persistence, Self employed and cash flow, Sharon Crawford

Only child takes another whack at trust

Only child contemplates water and trust - from main floor

I must have hit a common issue with last week’s post on water and trust – going by all the hits. And thanks to all who read my posting.

The water-trust saga continues. Lots more water did get in on the Saturday and I am so grateful for the help I had from my friends next door. Tanya mopped up while I was at a workshop I had to be at – my East End Writers’ Group was sponsoring it. I took over the mopping up with towels and mats when I returned…and continued with towel changes every hour or so until 1 a.m. when I finally went to bed.  It took until late Sunday until all  had completely dried on the leaky side. Total estimated water in my basement room equals at least eight pails full. The suggestion for protection from my masonry guy obviously didn’t work. He has another temporary fix – if he gets here today to do it – he’s postponed the day/time twice already. We have more rain coming tomorrow and Thursday and still the ground is frozen and the big fix can’t be done – the big excavation on that far side of the house and sealant put on that wall all the way down to the bottom. And of course, I will go deeper in debt to pay for this.

So, where does trust come in? I think it is really learning to trust in yourself and a few close family and friends who have proven they can be trusted. All the “putting it out there” and praying for help in the world doesn’t seem to work – at least for me. You have to be more proactive and make it happen – or in my case, not happen, or at least try. How you do this is up to you – each individual situation is different – based on who you are, what life has shoved at you, etc. For me it is accepting that I will need that excavation done and going into more debt. Also taking another look at my budget. I am big on budgeting, thanks to my late mother’s legacy.As I write in my memoir:

Late at night, long after my parents think I’m off in the land of nod, they discuss the family finances. Their loud whispers seep under closed hallway and bedroom doors.

“But we can’t afford that,” Mom says.

“We need . . .” Dad’s voice seems to hit the hallway door.

I throw off my bedcovers, sit up and strain to listen. I never get a clear idea about their plan until it happens or my parents discuss the revised version at the dinner table the next day.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Mom did better than I, but then she had funds on hand. But I will prune and delete where I can.

I am pruning and prioritizing in other areas of my life – work, included, so that there isn’t too much overwhelm and I can focus on the most important problem. If people don’t like it that I can’t get to them and their requests and other stuff immediately, too bad. I have also started buying lottery tickets again. I know some of you are thinking “big wishful thinking.” However, I  can afford one $3. ticket a week and no, I don’t expect to win big time. Don’t want to – just enough to get out of debt. But I’m not counting on it. I’m just trying to do something about my situation or should that be situations?

Speaking of which, I better make sure I have dry towels lined up along the rec room walls overnight. And stay put for the next few days so I can mop up. And perhaps take comfort in that I am not alone – a heck of a lot of people had water come in their basements, mostly (my ex husband had water come down his fireplace chimney – scary stuff) last Saturday. The insurance companies have a name for this (and for tornadoes, hurricanes, earth-quakes, etc.) – they call these Acts of God. I am not making this up. Check your residential insurance policies.

So, the bottom line right now is – trust down and water up. Let’s hope that can be reversed.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Debt, Floods, Gratitude, Insurance, Life learning, Only child, Prayer, Trust, Water

Only Child and the freezer saga

Only Child waiting for freezer

Every Sunday morning I would wake up to Mom yelling “get out,” not to me but to the roast beef stuck in her tiny fridge-top freezer.  This childhood ritual turned into adult realty a couple of weekends ago, when my very old upright freezer decided it had enough. As it sputtered to its end, I had to stuff its contents into the freezer at the top of my fridge and in a Styrofoam cooler. As I also had some of my neighbour/friend’s food in the freezer I had to let her know – this on a Sunday,  not a.m. but 10.30 p.m.

Although the timing was bad (same time as I had that whopping house insurance premium due), the whole situation played out in a serendipitous manner.

The freezer of unknown age (I inherited it from the previous house owners 12 years ago when I moved into this house and the freezer was old then) had been making weird noises off and on for the last few months. On the Saturday, the handyman I hire occasionally to do house repairs and painting, helped me clean out the huge chunks of ice that had accumulated. When  he turned the freezer back on it made what he referred to as “a noise it makes when it is dying.” He adjusted the big coil in the back, turned the freezer back on and it appeared to be working. I turned the temperature up and moved some of the food back in. By Sunday evening the freezer was lowering its temperature with water appearing on the shelves – when the door was closed. That did it. I went into panic mode. But it was a good thing it had just been cleaned out.

Next day I went to the local independent appliance store, picked out a smaller chest freezer and arranged for its delivery and for their delivery people to remove the old freezer to the curb where a scrap dealer (whom they would call) would pick it up. They charged for delivery of the new freezer but waived the cost of moving the old. I let them know it was a big upright freezer in the basement but the stairway up to the side door was open.

Monday they didn’t arrive until 7.20 p.m. No problem getting in the new freezer and setting it up. But they balked at removing the old one. I went into “you have to- this is the deal mode”) . They called the store owner – they talked to him; I talked to him and the deal was back on. A third fellow arrived to help the other two. It was a struggle, including waiting for the freezer to stop dripping water from the inside. They removed the door and attached it to the dolly. But they couldn’t seem to get it up the stairs – no wonder – they were trying to do so with the freezer standing upright. Of course, it hit the stairwell ceiling in one spot. They refused to move it out but said, “we can move it to another room.” I went into yelling and crying mode. It worked – they resumed the removal – this time putting the freezer on its side. They got it out the door and to the curb. I refrained from any nasty comments and just said, “thank you.” Half an hour later I heard noises outside. The scrap dealer was removing the stove. I opened the front door, stood on my veranda and shouted, “Thank you.”

Now with the small chest freezer (and there is room for all my food and then some) in my laundry room I can see space. I can feel that a big burden has been removed and the whole area has opened up. I can feel energy returning and I am motivated to do some more clearing and cleaning in the laundry room and the adjoining cold cellar.

So, you can see how what could have been bad luck turned into a good thing and worked itself out. The only downside is the cost end – thanks to the house insurance premium due I had to put the much lower-costing freezer on a credit card. But I intend to pay it off when it comes due in a month’s time.

As for my Mom and her freezer/fridge situation, she did eventually purchase a bigger fridge/freezer – and had to have the overhead cupboards sawed smaller. Not too long after that she sold the house and had to leave the freezer behind. Not her new stove – that came with her to the apartment, but that’s another story.

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Filed under Debt, Karma, Only child, Serendipity, Synchronicities

Only child revisits being alone

Only child in front of house

Besides the emotional end, being alone also has its practical repercussions as I keep finding out when money gets tight and the house (or stuff in it) literally starts falling apart. This goes way beyond just being an only child. Not having a life partner factors in a helluva lot here – maybe even more so than the only child situation. Add to that the “senior factor” (although at the lower age end here), and you have a recipe for stress, stress, anger and some resentment.

My late mother used to have a saying, “You can’t win nohow.” Although it comes across as negative, I’m beginning to  think she had a point. Consider my personal “crap list” for this month: house insurance premium due and way higher than last year coupled with s-l-o-w cash flow (common with the self-employed). Technically I have enough cash coming in to pay the bill but will it arrive before the due date? The other biggie is over the weekend my very old upright freezer (inherited from the previous house owners) took a turn for the worse. It probably wouldn’t make it through the winter so I’ve got a new one on order due here today. I’m not even going into the worries about getting the big old freezer out of my basement and out the door. But let’s just say it’s got me jumpy. And my credit card is getting a workout.

So here’s where the practical part of being alone comes in. A life partner could help with the expenses (not to mention the work around the house) and here comes the emotional – provide some support if only being someone to talk it over with. I’m not saying that having a life partner guarantees this support, but not having one guarantees the opposite.

Before you all think I’m into a “poor me pity party,” not exactly. Some of my friends are in similar boats – one had her computer die and is having trouble affording a new one. and she needs a computer to make a living.  Others are (like me) going deeper into debt. And you know – there are more older women in these types of situations than men. (However, I do know one older man in this type of situation).

What’s the solution? I don’t know. It is probably different for each of us. Me, I’m just very stubborn and determined. Yes, I get angry and resentful, but sometimes that fuels me to continue on. And here’s where being an only child comes in -it helps me strive towards independence, although not completely. Friends do help as does my son. And I take any help I can get.

How do others who are alone cope?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only child writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Debt, Family, Insurance, Only child, Self employed and cash flow