The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things.

“The Walrus and the Carpenter” has always been on my list of favourite poems. It’s appropriate too, since I want to have a little sit-down with my readers, friends, family, and the strangers who have meandered onto my blog and who have stuck around to read this far.

I’m going to be taking an indefinite hiatus from blogging. Whether or not this is a temporary decision, and I come crawling back after a couple of weeks, remains to be seen. Since I knew I had a decision to make, I invited some fantastic writers to help me out by guest posting while I hummed and hawed over my choice. But the choice is made, and I am bittersweetly excited.

Why quit? As many bloggers know, writing a blog is a time consuming affair, and a pure labour of love. Don’t listen to any of the crap out there that says you can monetize your blog into a passive income goldmine. There are a few amazing writers who have done it, but not without years (and I do mean years) of carefully pruning their blogs, improving their craft, and redesigning again and again and again. They spend hours hunched over a computer screen, laboriously learning CSS and HTML, while pouring their heart out to strangers and offering their lives up for judgement.

You’ll notice I didn’t actually answer the question. I have fully enjoyed every aspect of the above mentioned paragraph, even the frustrating moments. The points that I wished to illustrate about blogging are a) commitment of time, and b) privacy.

Over the past 6 months, my life has gotten really good. Like, really really good. A lot of it is thanks to this here blog-eroo. Here are some of the amazing things that have happened:

  • I paid off my car in full.  After 14 months, I paid back the entirety of $14,998, plus the accumulated interest that was incurred during the borrowing period. Essentially, I paid off a $16,000 loan, all while living on my own and with no support.
  • I’m in the best shape of my life. Last Sunday I ran 16k, and I was tired, but I could’ve kept going and easily have finished the equivalent of a half marathon. I have lost 5lbs (in a healthy, natural way) since the beginning of January. You can even see the faint outline of a six pack. I am starting to get ripped, baby!
  • I’m living in the largest apartment I’ve ever been in. I have a great unobstructed East-facing view, gorgeous furniture, and fantastic nearby amenities.
  • I have a well-paying job, with a very nice boss and coworkers who all treat me extremely well. My job description is evolving to give me more duties and responsibility. I am eager for the challenge.
  • I have decided that I’m ready to go back to school to become a teacher. I have to take one full English credit to do so, and I’ve already gotten a jump start on the coursework because I’m so excited for the February 1st start date. I am enjoying the material immensely. Since job prospects for teachers in Canada are presently abyssmal, I am looking at travelling internationally to get the experience, potentially Korea, Australia, or New Zealand. Or, I could potentially teach up in the Arctic Circle for a year, which would be incredible experience. This is several years down the road, but I am positive that going into the educational field is the right decision for me.
  • In February, I will be getting on a plane for the first time since grade 8, and I’ll be going to sunny Florida for 5 days. This is my Christmas present from my bf…we’ll be swimming with dolphins (I hope) and visiting the Harry Potter theme park. I am more excited than a cat with a laser pointer.
  • I have developed some really awesome, long-lasting friendships with incredible people.

The only problem with now having this incredible life is that I need more hours in the day. In addition, my blog has been very personal. But, as much as I love comments and the encouragement that is sometimes offered up, I’m excited to make my decisions in the future and only telling a select group of people. There’s a big wide world out there, and I’m ready to start consulting my quiet inner voice of intuition, which all too often gets drowned out by my own blah blah blahing.

Okay, pretentious metaphor time.  As a runner and an athlete, I enjoy training with others, but on the day of the race, I prefer to put in my headphones and run alone, setting my own pace and competing against my own personal bests. At heart, I am and always have been a solitary creature. This blog, and the insanity of my life leading up to this moment, have felt like a sometimes painful training process. But in so many ways, I have finally arrived at the start of the race, armed with new knowledge and muscles built from some tough learning experiences. Even though I still have so much to learn, and a marathon’s worth of work to do, I will happily be running this race in obscurity.

Just reading back on this you’d think I was issuing a press release about the Pope giving up Catholicism, instead of one relatively unknown blogger bidding her readership adieu. But I wanted to thoroughly explain my decision, as opposed to plastering “Money Rabbit is no more!” across the header.

I will never, ever stop writing. I will also be continuing my lifelong love of personal finance, and I’ll definitely still be commenting and interacting with other bloggers. And I’m still here, even if I’m not blogging. I’ll be keeping the site up and running in case anyone wants to comment on old posts or get in touch.

To my subscribers, I’d love it if you could keep me on, since I may crawl back in a month or two. I’ve also asked Frenchie if he’d be interested in writing a guest post, since he has a sophisticated Bay Street view of finance which dwarfs my musings on mutual funds. I think a post like that will definitely be worth reading (whaddaya think I am, biased?!)

If you’re looking for some other blogs, I can wholehearted endorse the following, depending on what you’re after.  There are more listed on my blogroll, but these are by far my favourite:  Give Me Back My Five Bucks, Financial Uproar, Cents of a Country Girl, The Asian Pear, When Life Gives You Lemons, Two Degrees of Unemployment and Blonde on a Budget.

Of course, you can still find me on Twitter. I may eventually change my name, but I’ll still be haunting the Twitterverse.

Well…that’s it.

Money Rabbit, out.

Here's looking at you, kid.

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This Guest Post comes compliments of Cents of a Country Girl.  I absolutely adore this gal’s blog … so many personal finance blogs are about the struggles with living in expensive cities (Toronto, Vancouver, New York, etc.)  This blog provides a unique and refreshing rural perspective of personal finance.  Country Girl provided me with a list of possible topics to write on, and considering that snow has finally blanketed Ontario, she wrote this excellent post.  Enjoy!

Country Girl is a 27 year old with a deep connection to her rural roots. She works full time as an environmental planner, works on the family farm and blogs on occasion too. When she’s not cutting wood or going for crop tours, she muses about personal finance, being a new homeowner and living out beyond where the blacktop ends on her blog. You can get a hold of Country Girl at centsofacountrygirl@gmail.com

I live in a part of Ontario where winter is a force to be reckoned with. From November to March, a combination of wind and lake-effect snow make for squalls, white-out conditions, lots of sleet and slush, and snow drifts big enough to bury a Buick in. A consequence of the local climate is winter road closures; the major highway in this area, and the one that I drive every day, is the most often closed highway in Ontario (due to weather conditions) and considered one of the most dangerous roads in Canada, again due to the winter weather.

Looking back at my public school days, road closures equalled snow days from school. I would get up, turn on my radio and listen for the school and bus report – hoping to hear: ‘All country buses have been cancelled today’. I remember having 14 snow days in the month of January alone, one year. Now of course, I look at snow days a little differently. I have a job and responsibilities. If I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid. Missing 14 days of work because of snow doesn’t appeal to me like missing 14 days of school did. However, there’s a little more to think about than just a missed day at work when considering the cost associated with snow days. Let me present some of the costs (via a list of pros and cons) associated with taking and not taking a snow day. For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to put numbers to the cost, because most of these costs will vary between individuals.

Here’s the scenario: Your alarm goes off. Lying in bed, after listening to the tail-end of a whatever counts as a pop song these days, you hear the DJ mention that the roads are snow-covered, with drifted sections. The weather report that follows calls for snow squalls, high winds and 10-15 cm of the white stuff. Hauling yourself out of bed, you look out the window. It’s windy and already snowing and there’s a good coating of snow on your car out in the driveway. From your window, in between breaks in the snow and wind, you can see that the road is totally snow covered. While you’re eating your breakfast, you quickly check the road conditions on the internet and find out the road you take to work is closed.

What do you do?

Decide not to go into work.

Cons

    • Lose a day’s worth of pay.
    • Use a sick or vacation day and lose that time. Of course, sick and vacation days are a finite and highly valuable resource.
    • Will have to pay for electricity being used at home during peak hours, when you’d normally be at work.

Pro

    • Work from home. Still get paid and get to lounge around in PJs all day.
    • Save on gasoline


Decide to go into work (by driving on closed road or taking an alternative route)

Cons

    • Pay for gasoline to get to work
    • $150 ticket for driving on a closed road. You can get this ticket even if you just cross a closed road. Oh, and don’t forget, many insurance policies become void when you drive on a closed road.
    • Cost of a tow if you put your vehicle in the ditch or get stuck in a drift. You might get lucky and someone with a 4 wheel drive truck and chain might come along, or maybe the nearest farmer will pull you out with his tractor. Then again, maybe the farmer will say it’s too dangerous for him to out on the road. If you have CAA (or something similar) you won’t have to pay out of pocket, but you might be waiting a while for a tow truck to come, especially if you’re on that closed road.
    • How hard did you hit the ditch/snow bank? Hopefully you didn’t damage your vehicle much – remember that your insurance policy may be void on a closed road.
    • Get in an accident. When you’re driving in a white-out or when the road is snow covered and drifting, it can be hard to see other vehicles coming, vehicles in front and behind you, and even if you’re in your own lane. Remember, it’s not very often that accidents are cheap.
      • What happens if the accident was serious? Think about the cost associated with being stuck in the hospital, major vehicle repairs or replacement, or getting sued.
      • What happens if the accident was really serious? Funerals aren’t cheap either.

Pro

    • You make it to work. You get to enthrall your coworkers with your tale of white-knuckle driving. Earn a day’s worth of pay.
    • Avoid paying for peak electricity at home.

At first glance, it may seem like I’m dramatizing and exaggerating what might happen if you venture out in a snowstorm. I will concede that all the cons may not happen every time you hit the road in bad weather, but they are definitely in the cards. No matter how good your snow tires are, or how experienced a driver you are, you aren’t in control of the weather, the road or the other drivers out there. Unless it’s absolutely life or death, what’s the benefit of not taking a snow day? People seem to get it in their minds that they have to get to work/home/hockey practice or where ever, no matter how bad the weather is. It’s that thinking that gets people into trouble. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you the number of people we’ve pulled out of the ditch in snowstorms who ‘just had to get some smokes’ (If you must know, the number was 6 last year). Last year, a man was killed on a closed road, just a kilometer from my house. He got his truck stuck in a snow drift on his way to work and got out to check his truck when he was hit by another vehicle from behind. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve gotten antsy to get somewhere, but then I remember: I really don’t want to total my car, I really don’t want to get stuck in a ditch, I really don’t want to end up hurt or worse, dead. I will always recommend that you take the snow day, because there’s no reason to die getting to work.

Talk with your employer about snow days, even if they don’t happen very often. Thankfully, my boss understands how crappy the weather be sometimes, so it’s not a big deal if I can’t get to work. It’s worth having a discussion with your boss about snow day options, like working from home using remote access or using sick days. Some companies even have a certain number of snow days that employees can take. If you have to take a day without pay, grab yourself some hot chocolate, turn on some terrible daytime tv, and don’t worry about not getting into the office that day. It’s better to safely at home enjoying a snow day, then risking your life and possibly someone else’s out on the roads.

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MR here.  I invited Uproar to do a Guest Post on my blog because, beneath his rough exterior and sex jokes, he has a heart of gold and a very clever mind. Although I definitely wouldn’t take his one-liners to heart, his financial advice is incredibly solid and definitely deserves a receptive audience. Financial Uproar is one of my favourite blogs out there. So with that little intro … enjoy!

Nelson Smith is the blogger behind Financial Uproar, which he’s pretty sure is the best blog in the entire world. He smells vaguely like lilacs, and his hair is really quite soft, because he enjoys the little things. He also recently just learned to tie his shoes. You can also follow him on the Twitter, where you will be undoubtedly disappointed.

For many young adults, investing is a world scarier than that time I accidentally stumbled upon an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. (I refuse to believe that show isn’t a practical joke played by TLC, and we’re all the patsies. But I digress.) There are so many questions, most of which I’m assuming are about investing. What exactly should you invest in? Should you invest in stocks? Or bonds?

The world of investing can be a very complicated place, filled with all sorts of words and abbreviations. It’s time to cut through all the fancy pants terms and products and get down to what’s important – building a portfolio that will outperform 80% of your peers while using at least 80% less effort. It’ll leave you more time to do whatever it is the kids do these days. Ecstasy or something.

On second thought, don’t do ecstasy.

Okay, here’s what you need to do. You need to find the cheapest index funds, and buy them. In Canada, that means buying E-Series funds from Toronto Dominion Bank.

You can either set up the process with TD representatives over the phone, or do it online through a TD Waterhouse brokerage account. They can’t be bought from any other company, so don’t even try. It’ll take an hour or so to set up an account, but it’s time well spent.

Why TD E-Series funds? It’s simple. They are the lowest cost mutual funds in Canada. Say the average fund in Canada charges a 2% management fee. The average fee on an E-Series fund is 0.30%. If you have $10,000 invested, you’ll save $170 per year in fees. Fees are bad, they’ll eat away at your returns. Avoid them at all costs.

Secondly, these funds don’t even try to beat the indexes. All they do is try to match the performance of the TSX, the Dow, the S&P 500, or whatever other index, by replicating those indexes as closely as they can. Remember the high fees charged by regular mutual funds? Because of these large fees, they’re practically guaranteed not to beat the index. If the fund and the index both return 8%, but it costs you 2% in fees, you’re getting (I’m gonna try this without a calculator) a 6% net return on the fund. Meanwhile, the TD E-Series fund would return 7.7%. (8% – 0.3%)

Okay, enough about fees. You’re probably bored, and I don’t blame you. So what should you invest in?

I’m going to make a big assumption with the following model portfolios. I’m going to assume you’re an investor in your 20s or early 30s, one without many other investments. I’m also going to assume you have a half decent tolerance for risk too, since Money Rabbit does not care for wusses. (Which is probably why I can’t get a date with her.)

Diversification is important when you invest. Since Canada is filled with all sorts of resource companies, these companies will dominate the Canadian portion of your portfolio. This is why you want to own companies from all over the world. So, using TD’s E-Series funds, I’d build most of you the following portfolio:

33% – Canadian Index

33% – U.S. Index

33% – International Index

That’s it. Split your investment into thirds, buy the Canadian, American and international indexes, and call it a day. That’s how simple your investments can be.

If you’re a little scared about investing fully in the stock market, add some bonds in there.

25% – Canadian Bonds

25% – Canadian Index

25% – U.S. Index

25% – International Index

That’s how simple investing can be. Just because the market is complicated, it doesn’t mean your investments have to be.

Look at all the extra time I just gave you. You can totally use some of it to go to dinner with me. I’ll pretend to be a gentleman long enough to convince you to sleep with me.

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I pulled an investing 180.

Since I wanted to use the majority of my bonus to go into my RRSP, I booked an appointment on Thursday to speak with my financial advisor at TD Bank.  Before my appointment, I sat down to really think about my investing goals and the current market conditions.

Disclaimer: this is my opinion, do not base your investments upon what I’m about to say. Do research and be informed. I am NOT suggesting or recommending courses of action for your investments.

Truthfully, I think we’re heading for another dip in the economy. I think we’re in the calm before the storm. The European economies have been collapsing like houses of cards, and with a globalized financial system, we ought to be feeling the effects. Way more than we currently are.  Unemployment, particularly in the 20-30 range, is double the national average. As Mrs. Lovett said to Sweeney Todd, “Times is hard, sir. Times is hard.”

My RRSP was invested in the TD Dividend Growth Fund. 40% of that fund is in the financial sector. I bought into the fund during 2008, when it was at its lowest point, and I averaged a 12% total annual return on it (from 2009-2011 alone, I made a generous 10% return, after the 2% MER). However, within the past few months it hasn’t budged, and has even gone down in value. I’m not a fickle investor … I don’t mind the buy and hold strategy when it works. But since my spider senses are tingling, I’m listening to my gut. So on Thursday, I switched funds.

I am now in the TD Canadian Bond Fund.  It has a relatively low MER (1%), and even between 2007 and 2008, it gained 1.8%. Though the fund is bonds, it’s cashable. It is much lower risk than my Dividend Growth and given the economic instability, I feel much better putting my money in that fund, especially since I may have to draw upon this money to fund my education (to go to Teacher’s College). I have approximately $8100 invested in this fund.

I also set up my first ever “fun money investing account.”  It’s the closest I’ll ever get to gambling. After seeing skyrocketing returns on the precious metal fund (albeit it is the most volatile fund I’ve ever seen), I have put $100 into the fund, and will be contributing $25 biweekly. I have no purpose for the money. It’s simply a fun money, risk-taking account. Right now, the fund is down. Buy low, sell high. Precious metals are almost a bet against the economy; when the economy tanks, people put their money into precious metals as a safety.

Just for kicks, my advisor looked at my RRSP GIC to give me an update on its returns (I bought it in June 2007, it will mature in the June of this year).  It has dropped in value by 50% since I’ve bought it and hasn’t recovered.  Thank GOD it’s a GIC and my principal is protected!  Whew!

I feel more excited and confident about moving forward. I was no longer feeling secure with such a strong foothold in the financial sector, especially with my belief that a market correction is in the works. If I’m right, I’m going to feel like a million bucks.  If I’m wrong … well, better luck next time.  Only time will tell.

(P.S.  Two updates – I broke my coffee rule since my clinic instructor asked if I wanted to grab a coffee with her after our 16k run on Sunday.  Couldn’t say no. I also am moving forward on my volunteering goal…on the 22nd, I will be leading ten preteens in a visual arts activity for a local youth group organized by my cousin. If it goes well, and I’m hoping it will, I have some bigger ideas for youth sustainability projects and running groups!)

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I’m going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks, so I’ve asked some great writers to step in and help me out. First up is Mother Miser. Although I’ve never been a bridesmaid, I’ve always wondered how a bridesmaid could possibly afford the hoops she has to jump through just to stand up there, holding a bouquet of flowers.

Mother Miser is a part-time freelance writer who became intimate with frugal living in her mid-twenties. Now a mother in her thirties, she understands, more than ever, the importance of planning and prioritizing time and money. She blogs about raising a family on a budget without compromising a good quality of life. She can be reached at mothermiser@gmail.com


A year and a half ago one of my best friends got engaged. She called me practically screaming into the phone and her excitement was contagious. So, imagine how flattered I was when she asked me to be a part of her wedding. Images of days spent browsing in stores for the perfect dress, preparing favours with a glass of wine in hand and relaxing at a spa while a professional rubbed, scrubbed and polished our feet for the big day paraded through my mind. Of course all of this did happen, but less ideally than I had pictured it in my dewy-eyed euphoria of being asked to be a bridesmaid.

After the first weekend of endless pavement-pounding in hopes of finding a dress, hunting for shoes with an appropriate heel and a purse with just the right hint of gold, my enthusiasm flew out the window. My feet hurt, my head was throbbing and I was starving! Imagine my disgruntled disposition when it dawned on me that I would be repeating the exercise over the course of many weekends in the next year.

Worst than the time spent shopping was the money spent shopping (imagine that).

While being part of a wedding party has its perks, it can create a sizeable dent in your wallet. It was hard on my finances and even caused some disagreements with my partner as he was forced to forego previously-budgeted items in lieu of the wedding expenditures. For one, the bride insisted that all of her closest friends celebrate her upcoming nuptials in New York City. This translated into the high cost of flights, hotels, restaurants, drinks (bottle service no less), and a limousine. The fun weekend cost me so much more than I could comfortably afford. But I went through with it in the name of friendship.

As though that girlie weekend was not costly enough, the groom decided he was having his bachelor party in Las Vegas – c’mon now!!! It cost each person who attended this five day debauchery approximately $1,500. Considering some of the bride and groom’s friends were couples, they are hit with twice the expense! Add this extravagance to the cost of food and decorations for the bridal shower, the cost of the dress (and alterations), shoes, plus hair and makeup. The financial reality makes me want to cry.

Cost breakdown as a bridesmaid

Bachelorette in NYC: $800

Bridal shower: $200

Shower gift: $50

Wedding gift: $100

Bridesmaid dress: $350

Alterations: $75

Shoes: $100

Purse: $20

Hair: $100

Makeup: $65

TOTAL: $1860

The absolute worst are the couples who are so consumed by their wedding that they become oblivious to how their choices affect their friends and family who are supporting them. I have friends (thank the higher powers I was not part of this cortège) who not only had bachelor and bachelorette parties, they also had a combined stag and doe party, an engagement party and a bridal shower. We spent five weekends attending functions to celebrate their union before even attending the actual wedding!

Next time you are asked to be a part of a wedding be sure to think long and hard before agreeing to such a responsibility. Acting as a groomsmen or a bridesmaid can become very financially draining. In all honesty, I feel that it is entirely acceptable to admit that you cannot afford the whole circus surrounding weddings. Of course, don’t call it a ‘circus’ in front of the bride or groom.

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I just went out and bought an extra large double double and a cheese croissant. I am nursing it as I write this and it tastes like nostalgia sprinkled with heaven. More specifically, it tastes of finality, like drinking and gorging on New Years Eve before a health kick, or my eating my Last Meal (I’m not overdramatic at all).

Coffee, more specifically Tim Hortons and Second Cup coffee, is my Achilles heel. About three to four times a week, I’ll go on a fifteen minute walk to the Second Cup, about 1.2km away from my office. I’ll get a medium flavoured coffee ($2.05, or $1.85 if I bring my travel mug). I can justify it because it gives me a mental break out of the office, and on average costs a meagre $2. Nothing, right?

Except sometimes I get a cookie if I’m hungry. Or about once a month, I’ll go to Starbucks instead and wind up getting a hot chocolate and lemon poppyseed loaf ($6.50).

Using my debt and credit card alone, over the past 12 months I have spent $200 on coffee shops. Unfortunately, this only represents what must be less than half of my expenditures, since Mint doesn’t always classify the purchases correctly, and I often use cash. So let’s just say, conservatively, that I spend $500 a year on coffee shops. That would almost cover the entire cost of one course through Athabasca.

They just finished construction on a Tim Hortons that's a four minute walk from my house. Curse you, Timmy's!!!!

This has been one money leeching habit that I have been reluctant to eliminate. In the fall, when money was super tight, I bought a $7 container of instant coffee to keep at the office, which lasted me for about 3.5 weeks. I’m not that fussy, so I didn’t mind. But I missed the smell of the coffee shop, the experience of getting a lovely fresh cup of coffee, and the inherent mental break from the office. Caffeine also provides relief from my crippling migraines and barometric pressure headaches. This past week, I was able to accurately predict each and every snowfall within hours, purely through my headaches (side note: lamest superpower ever. I’m like Jubilee in the X-Men…completely useless).

I have done a solid job of eliminating unnecessary expenses.  I pack my lunch to go to work. I don’t have cable. My gym membership has been stripped down to the bare bones, so I only pay $18 biweekly (I forgo towel service and the use of other clubs, saving me $7/biweekly). My biggest expense in December was gas for my car, since I travelled home and halfway to Montreal. I also paid $100 for a New Years return trip to Montreal (Frenchie was kind enough to cover 75% of the costs. I am such a lucky girl.)

So is a sacrifice of my coffee really going to make a difference in the long term? Well, yes. Not a huge difference, but over the course of a year/lifetime, it’ll add up. But more importantly, what I need right now is a mental acknowledgement that I am trying to achieve a goal (my education), which will require some sacrifices.

Am I kicking the habit to the curb permanently? Probably not. But from now until the end of January, I will no longer be buying coffee or any kind of hot beverage (unless it’s from the grocery store). The one concession that I will allow is a post-skating indulgence, no more than $2. I’m planning on attending several free skating events in January, and it’s always so lovely to unwind with a hot beverage.

I know. First world problems.  Look at me, such a martyr, giving up on buying coffee for a month. But believe me, this will be a challenge for me. I have leaned on coffee trips as a crutch in the past. A small luxury in a sea of frugality. It’s my cheat.  More than anything, this will be an exercise in mental mindset.

Mmmm, double double. I am going to miss you SO much.

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My 2012 Goals are at the bottom of the page and colour coded by category, but here is a quick recap of my 2011 goals and what I accomplished.

2011 Goals - How I Did

2011 Financial Goals

  • Pay off remainder of car loan by December 31st 2011, remaining sum of $10,593 (DONE – September 30, 2011)
  • Invest a minimum of $2000 into my RRSP (DONE – Christmas Bonus invested, $2000)
  • Build an emergency fund of $10,000 (FAIL – I used my emergency fund and stocks to pay off my car. Current emergency fund: $1650)
  • Bring in an additional $5000 through freelancing and writing. UPDATED:  Bring in an additional $40,000 through freelancing. (FAIL – I based this number upon commission that I would be earning as a realtor on the side. As I changed my focus and no longer want to be in sales, I have earned closer to $1500ish through side writing. I would like to double this number in 2012).
  • Save up enough money to travel to Kilimanjaro in 2012 ($4000) and enough for a trip to Europe ($2000)  (FAIL - current travel fund is $830, but I will be travelling with the boyfriend to Florida in February)
  • Get my networth up to $35,000 (FAIL – current networth is around $20,000)

2011 Personal Goals

  • Run 500km total by December 31st, 2011. (FAIL – but it was close. I’d guestimate I’ve run approximately 300+ kms in 2011)
  • Get my full G license (DONE – March 9, 2011)
  • Meditate on a daily basis (FAIL)
  • Travel somewhere warm and tropical by December 31st 2011 (preferably Costa Rica). (FAIL – but it was close. Going to Florida in February!)
  • Run a 5km race (DONE – May 15, 2011)
  • Run a 10km race (FAILbut training for the half instead)
  • Complete a Spartan Race (FAIL – but I will be doing this in 2012 with a group of people)
  • Complete a triathlon (DONE – August 27, 2011)
  • Go to the gym four times per week (3 times working out, 1 class minimum) (DONE – though not at the beginning.  It took awhile, but I am definitely achieving this now)
  • Write a minimum of 3 posts per week on Money Rabbit (DONE – I’ve written 138 posts)
  • Finish a novel (FAIL – but I have great ideas for 2012)
  • Learn how to do a free-standing hand stand (FAIL – NEXT YEAR!)

2012 Goals

  1. Have a total of $5000 in my emergency fund
  2. Save $10,000 for my education
  3. Take additional courses needed to get into Teacher’s College
  4. Get accepted into Teacher’s College
  5. Put $1000 into my RRSP
  6. Earn $5000 in side/freelancing income
  7. Buy a better commuting bicycle
  8. Run 1000km in 2012
  9. Be able to do a free-standing handstand
  10. Learn Parkour
  11. Complete my 30k Around the Bay in under 3.5 hours
  12. Complete the Half Ironman Triathlon in under 7 hours
  13. Complete a Spartan Race
  14. Work out at the gym 3 times per week on average
  15. Perfect my overhand beach volleyball serve
  16. Take dance classes (jazz, hip hop, or bellydance)
  17. Write a minimum of 10 chapters of a novel
  18. Read 3 books per month
  19. Begin a consistent meditation practice, at least 3 times per week.
  20. Seek out opportunities for volunteer work, specifically with education and with low-income demographics.
  21. Create a new community initiative (sustainability project, gardening, youth sports, etc.)
  22. Set up a long-term life strategy to incorporate more travel, more projects, more writing, more exercise, and more awesome.

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Before I sit down and plot out my 2012 goals, I figured it’d be helpful to go over my 2011 year; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As I write this, I am sitting on a VIA train, speeding off to Montreal. Our original plans were to drive, but after reading reports of freezing rain, we made the decision last night to take the train instead. I will never again attempt to drive through a storm like the one on Christmas. So I am happily writing and taking advantage of the free wi-fi, and Frenchie’s reading a book beside me.

2011 was, for me, a year of upheaval. It has also been a year that has taught me to be grateful, to savour every moment, and to be forgiving to myself and others.

Cute sentiment, but I definitely need some changes.

Professional

At the beginning of 2011, I finally summoned up some courage and asked my bosses for a raise, a very necessary one. Although I did get the raise, the process I had to go through to get it was horrible.

In March, I was headhunted through a resume I had stuck up on Monster in January, and interviewed for an assistant position at a start up brokerage in Liberty Village, a very trendy neighbourhood. I was promised $45,000 salary. My new boss would train me and get me ready to do sales on my own. Everything would be great and lovely and…hang on.

Explosion!

Boss turned out to be a crazy lady. Miserable, and now on the couch of my friends’ home, I quit my job without anything lined up.

Fortunately, that same week I interviewed for my current position and was hired on the spot. I was extremely lucky, and only had 8 days between the two jobs.  I’ve been there ever since, on a salary combining a bonus and base, totaling $42,000 (though with my Christmas bonus, this was rounded out to $45,000). I’ve been here ever since and have enjoyed it. I am very grateful that I am even working, as many of my friends have been laid off, and many people in my generation are experiencing unemployment.

I also began working as a freelance writer in June, taking on projects through a friend of my aunt and uncle’s. About once or twice a month, I get a project to write a resume and cover letter based on questionnaires and previous resumes. I enjoy the work immensely, and it has allowed me to hone my writing skills.  I’m sincerely hoping to build more sidework like this in 2012, through tutoring and writing. I currently get paid $25/hr.

Locational

I had been living in a cute, basement bachelor apartment in February 2010.  I loved that little place.  I had a garden just outside my door, and everything I needed in the immediate area.

So when my new Liberty Village boss suggested buying a tiny 381sqft condo, and showed me how it’d be almost as inexpensive as renting, I decided to go for it.

The condo wound up being a bust. My new boss’s clients wound up buying the condo, and offered to rent it to me.  But after they increased the rent 5 days before I was set to move in, and 5 days before I had to move out of my apartment, I had to bail on the deal.

I now have a large, one bedroom apartment on the tenth floor of a high rise. It’s fairly cookie cutter, but it’s very spacious (maybe 800sqft?), has an indoor pool, and I finally feel like I have space to breathe. In the spring, summer and fall, I have access to the incredibly scenic trail that runs straight past my house into the downtown core, only taking 45 minutes or so. I love that bike ride.

Which leads me to…

Physical

Holy moley!  I’m an athlete!

In May, I participated in the Goodlife annual race through downtown Toronto.  I trained for the 5k race. I won’t bore you by reiterating the details, but the thrill of racing and doing it in 27 minutes gave me the biggest natural high that I’ve ever felt.

So I signed up for the Give it a Tri Triathlon. I did it in under an hour, although it was incredibly difficult and I was more tired than I’ve ever felt. But I was hooked.

Since my athletic eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, I decided the next logical step would be signing up for a Half Ironman. I’m not having a quarter-life crisis at all. No, siree.

Since then, I have been running weekly in a Half Marathon clinic, and I acquired the world’s best running buddy.  I can now easily run 15k. I am signed up to do the 30k Around the Bay race in Hamilton at the end of March. My body has changed, and I’m considerably less squishy.

I’m planning on having a giant eagle tattooed in henna across my back for the Half Ironman. I want to look like the warrior goddess that I feel like inside.

If you’re interested in following my physical transformation, and the occasional vlog, you can do so at Rabbit on the Run.

L’amour

I am dating an awesome guy who I want to introduce to my Nana. Enough said.

Financial

This section is pretty short, because my next post will be discussing in further detail how well I fared with my financial goals, and where I’m planning on going from here.

At the beginning of 2011, I had close to $11,000 left of my car loan. I paid that sucker off in full in September.

I increased my salary from $30,000 to $45,000.

I bought a Cervélo bicycle, and enrolled in a ton of athletic events, each ranging from $50 to $220.

The cost of paying off my car has been a complete depletion of my emergency fund. As of January 1st, it’ll be sitting at $1645.  I will continue to contribute $150 biweekly, in lieu of car payments.

In November, I made the mistake of brushing up against a car’s bumper in an overcrowded parking lot. Unfortunately, I had to claim it as an “at fault” accident and get insurance involved. The other driver was reasonable at first, then increased her demands. Which means if I do keep my car, I will be looking at a huge premium increase when my policy renews at the end of July.

Which is why I started really analyzing why I need a car. Especially after my incident on Christmas, I don’t want to own a vehicle anymore, not in a city like Toronto where it is almost criminally expensive to be a driver. Taking the TTC to work today reaffirmed to me that owning a car is not all it’s cracked up to be. It only took me an additional 15 minutes to make it to the office.

Zee Blog

This year, my blog was featured in the National Post, and two articles about me (the real me, with my full name and everything) appeared in the Globe and Mail. Though no major newspapers have come knocking at my door recently, I have done some giveaways and promotions, which has meant that I broke even on the costs of operating this blog.

I’m proud of Money Rabbit. But I’m not perfect (shocker). I write about everything in my life, including the stuff I’m not proud of. I’ve talked about my achievements, but I’ve also confessed my mistakes, faults, and wrongdoings. This can sometimes be quite scary, since I know I’ll face harsh judgment from people who don’t even know me personally, and sometimes even from the people who do know me personally. Though it is easy to criticize my choices and errors, at the end of the day, the main goal I’m trying to accomplish is personal development. As I stumble towards improving my character, it is thrilling and terrifying to share every step.

What I learned

  • I am a warrior goddess, and a triathlete.
  • I’m not the big city girl that I thought.  I am already looking forward to moving to a smaller town.
  • Debt must be destroyed. Use whatever resources you can to eliminate it. Paying off my car in full should have been done at my earliest possible opportunity. But it’s done now, and that’s what matters.
  • My family is immensely important to me. My mom is my closest confidante. My family are there to offer support and encouragement when needed, and I am happy to provide it in return.
  • Life’s too short to put up with partners who don’t treat you right.
  • Life’s too short to feel trapped in your career. If you’re unhappy, start planning IMMEDIATELY how to get where you want to go.
  • I need to change careers.
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This is more of a personal post … I’ll be writing about my goals, and financial finagling that I’ll have to do in the new year to make my back to school a reality.

The past week has been a complete blur, with some truly amazing moments, and some really scary ones.

Let’s start with the really amazing ones.

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of doing a 9k trail run with a group of six ultrarunner men. These men eat marathons for breakfast. They have run (and won) Boston, Badwater, Leadville, and all the runs that make you want to crawl into fetal position. The Salomon store at Don Mills was hosting a Solstice run, with their elite athlete Ryan Barrett running the trails literally from dusk til dawn. Sarah, my running partner, wanted to join in for the first loop, and I was definitely up for the challenge. Unfortunately, Sarah was delayed and we had to set out without her.  With a headlamp strapped firmly to my forehead, I ran misty trails alongside ultrarunning champions, chatting about my upcoming Ironman, and they shared some memorable moments from their own overnight races. It was incredible and surreal. I was invited to do more loops, but I simply didn’t have it in me.  Next time, gentlemen.

On Friday, I went Christmas shopping in Campbellford Ontario.  At the town’s only coffeehouse, I asked for directions to a store, and three locals chimed in with their own version of how to get there, most ending with “you can’t miss it.”  In a town with a population that can’t be more than ten thousand, “you can’t miss it” is a consistent theme. I spent approximately $100 on gifts, which was a lot more than what I was planning on spending, but everyone loved their presents and it was worth it.

On Saturday, Christmas Eve, I helped my mom prepare for Christmas Day by cleaning. With six cats and a dog, it involved a helluva lot of vacuuming. That night, we were invited to the neighbour’s farm for goodies and drinks. This is one of those sad moments; our neighbour’s lost their daughter this year when she was hit and killed as she was walking. She would have been 17.  Even worse, she left behind a twin brother. Sadness still radiated from each of the surviving family members.

Christmas Day was lovely. Mom and Dad gifted me with a humidifier (yippee! I desperately needed one!) as well as groceries and items I detest buying but always need, like Kleenex boxes. After a fabulous afternoon and Christmas dinner with my dad’s side of the family and maternal grandparents, I climbed in my car and hit the road for Montreal.

Here is where it gets really scary. My car doesn’t have snow tires, because they’re frankly too expensive. I can’t justify forking out several hundred dollars for tires that will only be used for four months, in addition to the cost of having them installed.

When I set out, the snow was falling steadily, and the roads were awful. However, I was assured that once I got to the 401, it would be raining.  Which it was, until around Kingston, which is less than halfway from my house to Quebec. The snow started up again, and it was out for blood. From Kingston to Brockville, I was travelling approximately 50km/hr, tops. I had the four way flashers on as cars with snow tires raced past me.  Big rig truck drivers booked it past me, missing my car by what must have been only a few feet.

Just outside of Brockville, the car that I had been following began to swerve.  Since I had been using the car as a guide for where the road even was, my hands jerked out of reflex.  As the car in front of me corrected itself, I began fishtailing wildly, swerving through snow and ice with the wheels spinning madly. Suddenly, I saw headlights. How…? What…? Oh. My. God. I am facing oncoming traffic on the highway. Luckily, there were few cars behind me and they still had a ways to go before they reached me, so I sidled the car up against the concrete barrier, as my hands shook uncontrollably.

In another stroke of luck, an OPP officer had been about one minute behind me, and without wasting a moment, he threw on his lights and came to my assistance. This wonderful officer made sure that I was okay, and assessed my car (no damage or collision). He asked if I wanted him to turn my car around for me. I gratefully accepted. So, he got me to sit in the driver’s seat of his cruiser as he did a three point turn in the middle of the highway. From his seat, I watched how poorly my wheels gripped the snow. It was horrifying.

He advised me to go to Brockville and get a hotel, it wasn’t worth it to keep going.  Out of sheer stubbornness, I decided to try to make it to Montreal.  15 minutes later, I panicked and called in the cavalry.  The snow kept falling, it was pitch black and isolated, and I was going at 40km/hr. I drove for another hour and a half before pulling off at the Morrisburg On Route service station, desperate for a bathroom and a coffee. I then waited to be rescued by my boyfriend and his dad, who insisted I complete the trip with them instead of staying the night at a hotel.

Ah, my knights in shining snow tires.

I only had to wait about half an hour before they arrived. We left my car in the parking lot, transferred my luggage and presents to their Volvo (outfitted in top of the line snow tires) and had a safe trip to Montreal. I was exhausted, scared, and aghast at how the outcome could have been drastically different.

In the end, I had a wonderful vacation with my boyfriend and his family. Exciting news: this Canada Goose is flying south in February.  My bf’s present to me is a five day trip to Florida, to visit his brother, go to the beach, and hit up the Harry Potter theme park. I am SO thrilled!

On Boxing Day evening, we held hands and skated in the Old Ports of Montreal, trying to synchronize our strides as the speakers blared Viennese waltz in the background. It was a fantastic double date with our Australian friends, who have adapted to Canadian winters even better than I have.

Hard to believe that 24 hours earlier, I had been in the pits of Hell.

I’m back at work tomorrow, and since it’s going to be a complete write-off, I’ll be looking into correspondence courses which will help me with a second teachable. I’m going to call my alma mater’s registrar office, and they’ll help me make sure that I get the courses that I need. I’ll also research other one to two year degrees from colleges in fields such as journalism, publishing, etc.

It’s a LOT of work. But it’ll be worth it in the end, of that I am certain.

What were some of your highlights to the holidays?  Ever had a scary winter driving experience?

La Belle Province ... Montreal, Je T'aime!

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Before I start this post, I’d like to be selfish and direct your attention to two things.  First, I have posted some pictures of my exercise progress on Rabbit on the Run. Even though I’m not putting nearly as much effort into my second blog as I had anticipated, advertising my progress is going to help push me over my plateau. Second, I officially have close to 1,100 comments on this blog.  The blog is just over one year old now.  How cool is that?

I’ve been doing that thing I do again. You know, where I make a decision and get really obsessed over it.

Yesterday, I called up teacher’s colleges, the office of the registrar, and career counsellors. I learned that I am one full credit short from having a second teachable in English, and one and a half credits shy of being able to teach history. I already missed OISE’s deadline of December 1st. I still have time to apply to Queen’s for 2012-13. What frightens me is the thought waiting until next year to apply to OISE and York, then getting rejected anyways. I’d then have to leave Toronto to go to school elsewhere, leaving behind my boyfriend and the life I’ve built here in exchange for a temporary 1 year residence in another city. It’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible either.

But something I realized is that I’m not ready yet to leave Toronto. I’ve spent so much time and effort into setting up an “adult” life here. I’m not yet ready to abandon all of that for the impoverished student life just yet. Job prospects for teachers are absolutely brutal. After I go to school, I’ll be looking at a minimum of 4 years of supplying before I can land a contract, if I’m lucky. So before I take the plunge with college, I want to enjoy what I’ve worked hard to achieve. I need to make sure that I’m making the right decision, while keeping an eye carefully trained on the future.

Going back to school is a big decision, and I don’t want to go through the hassle and expense of getting taking correspondence and going to teacher’s college only to change careers again in five years. So I’m going to look into ALL my options. I’m going to look into Masters programs. I’m also going to look into colleges which specialize in post-grad certificates and degrees.

I’m really glad that I have had these three years out of school in order to get a taste of the real world. I now understand how I function in the workplace and which skills I should hone. Before I worked full time, I would have thought that I would be a business shark type. In the real world, I am a hard worker, but because many of my passions and interests lie outside of the office, I am content with 9 to 5.  This allows me to write my blog, train for a Half Ironman, and spend time with friends and family. If I were able to find a career that allows me to work on initiatives that I care about (sustainability projects, education, fitness for low-income communities, creative arts ventures) then I will definitely be transcending those 9 to 5 boundaries and doing so gladly.

I’m hoping that in the new year, I can start some projects in my community with kids or adults to improve the neighbourhood. I’m thinking fitness, sustainability or arts oriented programming. But before I go too crazy again, I’m going to have to get everything down on paper. There are many goals I have floating around in my head, I just need to see them laid out. My timing is perfect. I hate the term “New Years Resolutions,” but that’s essentially what they are.

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