Tag Archives: Budgeting

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 on living barely above the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities

I received a shock on Sunday when I was interviewed for a survey at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. For one question, “What is your income level?” the lowest category started at $40,000. I just looked at the guy and asked, “Could you repeat that?” My reply? “Below the lowest category.”

I almost had to laugh when he asked how much I was spending that day at Harbourfront. Should have said “nothing, because I can’t afford to.” Instead I said “I don’t know.”

This is the way it is for those of us who live barely above the poverty level. In case you are interested, the poverty level for a single person on his or her own in Toronto is just under $19,000 annually.  Sometimes my monthly income from all sources is below or at the level that some of my friends have to pay monthly for renting a two-bedroom apartment. So, despite all the crap with the house, I am grateful that I do live in a house and have no mortgage.

I’m reminded of my parents and the everlasting budget, no doubt instigated by my practical-minded mother. In my memoir I write:

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 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

We didn’t live beyond our means but we were never in debt. Not so with me. My only ongoing debt is that line of credit but I try not to get into it if I can help it. All other credit purchases I pay off in full when due.

What irks me is those unexpected expenses coupled with client work expected to arrive and it doesn’t because it is not ready for editing or evaluating.

That’s what happened this month. I budgeted to pay for those  two new window blinds, long needed. (The kitchen one fell on me last summer and the bedroom one was falling apart bit by bit for years). I ordered the service at the annual Home Show and Sears gave me 10 per cent off. This month I did receive a couple of extra payments including the final fee from a client whose worked I finished late in June. There should have been enough for the regular expenses and to pay Sears for the blinds.

However, I had to buy a dehumidifier, pay my lawyer for updating my will (he does give me a discount because I’m an old childhood friend), and the city water and waste bill usually coming in August arrived this month. (Is this a permanent schedule change that the city officials forgot to tell us?) When I totalled all that up, guess what? It’s about the same amount as I owe Sears for the blinds. So without the new work and its deposit payment, I have to hit the few and dwindling RRSPs – again this year – to pay my Sears bill on time.

The race is on which will go first – me or the RRSPs. No bets on this end and at this point I’m not sure I care.

My garden and writing are my salvation – the former for many things including a food source and the latter to help earn a living and to write about the highs and lows of living poor and also writing fiction – sometimes with ideas from my life, often creating disturbing stories.

Maybe you have to live hard in order to write good stories. My mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, fall 2012) attests to this. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC505OMPiVNy27zCFfND_8WA    which has videos of me being interviewed about my book and one (three minutes long) where I read from one of the short stories, “The Body in the Trunk.”  A disclaimer here. No, I have never transported a body in a trunk or any other way for that matter. After all, I don’t drive and can’t afford a car.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Budget and budgeting, finances, Gardening, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on time and money dilemma

Only Child will no longer sit on time like this teddy bear

Only Child will no longer sit on time like this teddy bear

Time or the lack of enough is worrying me. This time (pun intended) it is connected to money. Already I’m juggling editing one client’s work with trying to finish the rewrite of my novel which my publisher wants to see and doing PR (including workshop related prep) for my first published book, Beyond the Tripping Point. Two more ongoing clients’ work are due to arrive for editing the beginning of February. So far, I think I can manage the time with all of this (and it is all work I enjoy doing). However, I have another repeat client needing another book edited. The catch here is the book is very long; the timeline is very short, and the client has a budget. The money part? I may need this potential client’s money to pay bills next month.

Such is the dilemma of freelancers who work on contract. Add in my situation (which some others have too) – what I call “only person,” I have to factor in personal and house stuff which beyond the odd snow shovelling job, I can’t afford to pay someone else to do. I do try to limit how much I do, but still I am up late doing bits and pieces of housework that needs doing before morning.

Then there are people who want free writing and editing advice and take up my phone and email time. Right now I deal with this on a priority basis – if it doesn’t look like it might lead to work or it’s beyond a reasonable follow-up to work already done, I reply when I can squeeze it in. This may sound harsh, but to borrow a phrase, “business is business.” Or as someone once said, “I’m not running a charity.”

Which brings me to the prospective client with the large book and my time constraints (which this person knows about – right now the situation is at a “maybe”). I will have to expand my parameters – money- and time-wise and if it doesn’t work with this person, then so be it. I will need to hope that the other editing prospects delayed because the rewriting of the manuscript is taking longer than expected (and I understand that from personal experience) will come my way sometime later in February. I will manage on what I have even if it means yet another hit on the decreasing RRSPs. I am my late mother’s child after all. Mom didn’t work (it was the 1950s and early to mid-1960s) until my dad was in the last stages of brain cancer – and after he died her arthritis kicked in and forced her to quit working. Mom was very good at budgeting and making do with what she had.

One more year until I can collect the Old Age Pension – I received my application yesterday and that will get filled out and sent in this week.

Next year I hope to cut back on the editing, even though I like doing it, and focus more on writing and writing workshops and readings, as well as other PR.

To paraphrase my mother’s making do with what she had, I am good at making do with what I don’t have.

And as I’ve mentioned promoting my book Beyond the Tripping Point, below is  a link to a three-minute video of me reading an excerpt from one of its short stories, “The Body in the Trunk” when I appeared on the Liquid Lunch Show on http://www.thatchannel.com

Book is available in print and e-copy at both http://www.amazon.com and http://www.amazon.ca as well as other venues.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgOKYgBfAwY&feature=youtu.be

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Filed under Anxiety, Balance, Beyond the Tripping Point, Budget and budgeting, Decision Making, Life learning, Mom and Dad, Old Age pensions, Prioritizing, Self employed and cash flow, Sharon A. Crawford