Sunday, 15 January 2017

Weekly Column: Have an emergency plan

Have an emergency plan

Anyone that depends on the oil patch or agriculture for their livelihood knows that during certain times of year payday just doesn’t come. An overly wet, drawn out spring break up or a disastrous harvest can leave many area residents scrambling to make their payments.

When you are self-employed, an emergency plan is a must because you aren’t eligible for unemployment. But even if you are an employee with a seemingly secure job, saving an emergency fund is an essential part of anyone’s budget. Having a line of credit with the bank does not count as an emergency fund. If you dip into your line of credit you must have the funds to pay it off before interest sets in or you’ve only managed to create a real emergency by using it. The interest may be lower than a credit card, but incurring more debt because you didn’t save is no plan at all.

What is a real emergency?

Needing winter tires in October does not constitute an emergency, and shouldn’t drain the reserves of money you have set aside for the unforeseen. The same goes for that warm vacation or the larger screen TV. Experts recommend keeping 3-6 months worth of your necessary expenses saved for calamities like illness, job loss or any event that prevents you from having an income for an extended amount of time. Seeing what has happened with the price of oil, many people can say from experience that having a year’s worth of expenses saved is a better idea.

Regular car maintenance like tires is a predictable expense. If you have a vehicle you must anticipate that it will cost you money and save accordingly. Saving for emergencies has to happen in addition to saving for regular expenses that happen in life. Yes, shingling your house will be a major expense but if you are on year 30 of a 25-year shingle it is time to start thinking about how you will pay to redo your roof.

Don’t be emergency prone

In other words, be proactive. Have a look around your house, yard and family to identify what is coming down the pipe. Is your eldest planning on college? Youngest needing braces? Maple tree touching a power line? No one is saying it’s easy to save for all of these possibilities plus the depressing prospect of losing your job, but it does take the lustre off another trip to the mall, doesn’t it? Before you spend unnecessarily on “wants”, have a realistic look at your “needs”. While expenses like mortgage, power and water are obvious in the budget, make sure that you are also saving for the less common (but no less expensive) eventualities that should not be paid for out of emergency funds.

This column is such a drag

It can be hard to squirrel away money and not touch it. Over time, people relax and begin to look at their emergency funds as spendable cash. But doesn’t it make more sense to hide that money on yourself and begin a different savings account—one that can be touched—for all the things you would like to purchase?

It’s not that you will never get to eat out again in your life. With careful saving, watching for sales and a lot of patience, hopefully you can find a balance between delaying gratification and getting your financial ducks in a row. Yes, planning for a stable future will likely mean some sacrifices now. It is a lot easier to eliminate some discretionary spending before an emergency strikes than to try to save money in a scenario of restricted income. Put off painting your house. Make do with the mismatched appliances and last year’s winter coat. Get some emergency funds in place before you spend on things that can wait.

If you’ve honestly looked at all the money you spend in a month and can find nowhere else to make cuts, pat yourself on the back and keep searching for ways to make a little extra. Divert any extra money to one of two places—paying down your debt with the highest interest rate and saving for the unforeseen.

If you regularly spend your entire paycheck without contributing to emergency savings (and don’t have any money set aside for a real crisis) please sit down with pen and paper and determine how much money you would need to pull yourself through an unexpected job loss, illness or accident.

Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean you wish for it to happen. If you are very, very lucky you may never use that emergency fund. But having it and not needing it is sure preferable to needing it and not having a penny set aside to back you up in hard times.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sweet Sunday






We took the new camera out for a spin yesterday. By the time we had fed and bedded down the animals with extra straw (cold snap coming on) and hauled some wood, our faces were too cold so we only made it to the end of our lane before turning back. You can see how gray and dismal it can be in winter, but I do love the frost. It doesn't show up as beautifully white in these pictures although I'm sure there's some way of tinkering with them that would fix that.



My 6 year old will soon be 7 and he's been invited to a couple birthday parties of late. He was picked up by his little friend's dad and went with them to a movie a few days ago. Today he was off with a different family for laser tag and a romp at an indoor playground.

It is so very, very nice to see the little guy making friends and excited to go have an adventure without mom and little brother along. O howled to hear that he wouldn't be going, and I confess that a part of me howled to see him being driven out of the yard today. It suddenly feels too fast, this growing up thing. A couple years ago he had some health problems and wouldn't leave my side. We were lost without each other then and now what am I to do?

O needed a special day with Gramma, seeing he couldn't go to the party. Of course, it had to be without mom along too. So I happily spent the day writing, writing and writing. An entire day flew by and I didn't do housework beyond outside chores and hauling wood. I am finding more time to write, finding more time and fewer distractions. It's what I want and need. Today was bittersweet, but mostly sweet, as I had a few hours to myself and my kids had their own adventures without me.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Weekly Column: Have a Reason Why

I am indebted to bloggy friend Frugal Desperado for the original post that sparked the idea for this column. Moreover, I'm always indebted to my favorite bloggers that take time to write about their frugal adventures and also to all those that comment here. Thank you for reading and commenting!

Have a reason why

In your circle of family and friends, you can probably think of a few individuals that always seem prepared for an emergency. They don’t live a flashy life but, instead, quietly put aside money for retirement, family vacations, education and unforeseen events. Although these conversations rarely happen, if you were to ask those folks why they feel it is important to save their money you might get a variety of answers.

Many people would simply reply that it is how they were raised—living within their means and saving for a rainy day is second nature to them. Others feel that they must be self-reliant because there is no one to bail them out if they get into trouble.  Most realize that government pensions won’t be enough to live on and so are planning for their own comfortable retirement without being a burden to their children. Many want to leave their kids a legacy that will help them have a stable future. A good portion of this financially prepared crowd would say “all of the above”.

At the same time, you may know some people that do not yet have their financial wish list in place, but they are working on it. This group has come to realize that incomes can fluctuate and it’s important to control spending in order to accommodate those fluctuations.

If questioned as to why they set aside money for tomorrow rather than just living “in the moment” and spending everything they make, this group may have many of the same answers as the group discussed above. But you might also hear reasons like they need to pay off student or consumer debt in order to buy a home, they want to travel and live worry free. Perhaps they want an income property or to put their money to work for them through investments. Like their more financially stable counterparts, this group of people has a goal in mind and actively pursues it through controlling spending, paying off debt and, when possible, saving their money.

If you look hard enough, among us there is also a group of people that feels it is impossible to control their financial situation. There may be a variety of reasons for this sad outlook. Perhaps an individual is in a relationship where one spouse controls and mismanages the money. Many people were ill-prepared for the downturn in the economy and feel powerless to correct their state of affairs. Divorce, death, lawsuits, foreclosures or countless other calamities can understandably sour your viewpoint.
Even though the future may look bleak, it is still useful for people who feel buried by their finances to have reasons why they want to get things under control. Is it so your kids can have a better life? Or so that you will not have to feel worried and stressed as more bills pile up? So that you aren’t always on the brink of disaster? So that a small crisis like a flat tire doesn’t create a domino effect of overextending credit, interest charges and inability to pay for daily essentials?

For this latter group, the question is not only why—why try to get back on your feet, get in control, overcome these financial hurdles—but also how. How can you eventually count yourself among those who are consistently paying down debt and making progress towards goals like home ownership, a good credit rating, some money in the bank? Where on earth will you start?

For those who are completely overwhelmed by their financial problems, there are organizations that can help. Go to the Credit Counselling Canada website to find a credit counselor near you. Yes, it will be stressful to lay out your paperwork and truly confront your situation, but not doing so causes even more stress and ensures the trouble will follow you long into the future.

There are other community resources at your disposal. AlbertaWorks and CanSask have offices in Lloydminster to help residents with job searches, training and assistance. 3A Academy helps people improve workplace and job seeking skills. The Lloydminster Learning Council provides a number of affordable programs for the public. And don’t forget the local library as one of any community’s most important sources of information.

For those who want to reach financial stability, having a goal is the first step. Keep your goal in mind as you make a plan to achieve it. Reach out to reputable, non-profit community organizations for help. Be honest about your situation and get the referrals and resources you need. Once you have been pointed in the right direction, use your “reason why” to stay motivated. Accumulating debt can happen fast, paying it off is going to take time, hard work and commitment. Think of a good reason to get started.



Tuesday, 3 January 2017

On the Homefront

We are slowly adjusting to "real life" after the haze of Christmas holidays. I really crave my routine when it is upset by things like holidays and vacations. Although the rest and visiting is great, I can't help but allow my diet and exercise to eventually slide. I did much better this year than most. Through it all I managed most evenings to do at least 10 minutes on the elliptical trainer to combat the bloat. At many of the potluck and family meals I was able to fill my plate half full with vegetables. It really did help prevent my feeling lousy and gaining a bunch of weight (3 lbs at last check).

I am slow to get a budget done. My mind is full of ideas and happy intentions but I feel like there won't actually be time to do any fancy spreadsheets or write a great post about it. Basically, the plan is pay off the camper by end of summer.

When the camper is paid off, the monthly over payments will be applied to the new truck until it is paid off. Then, the mortgage. Being mortgage free would mean we can relax and Husband doesn't have to travel far and wide working. We could afford for him to have a lower paying, local job and be home every night and do normal things like coach hockey and ball and get groceries for me ;) I could work, too, and with a double income (though probably still lower than what he makes now) we could still live comfortably and save for a decent if not adventurous retirement. These are all the plans that are rolling around in my mind. But first, the camper.

Husband has a company and I pay him out of the company account. I try to maintain the company account balance at a certain amount which includes several months worth of company expenses (money for taxes, insurances, truck payments) plus several months pay for him personally. Of course, if he is off work for any amount of time the money very quickly depletes and we revert to what I call a bare-bones budget. After years and years of doing this I don't lose sleep (as often) and I have learned to have faith that we will always get by one way or the other. I recognize that not everyone is so lucky and I can empathize with the stress they must be under. While it might sound good to have "several months" saved up, it is my goal to have a year's worth of money saved, both for ourselves and the company. An accessible way for us to save, personally, is to consistently move money into our Tax-Free Savings Accounts (a financial goal from last year was to get Husband set up with a TFSA, which I did).

Because the company is taxed at a much lower rate than we are personally, it makes more sense to leave as much money as possible in the company account and invest it from there (corporate investment account). One of my financial goals last year was to set up a corporate investment account that I could move money into when it felt safe to do so. I am very proud to say that I managed two such payments of a decent size last year.

So to clarify what all of this means, I pay Husband as little as possible because as soon as that money comes to him personally he is taxed on it at a rate of 30-35% (guessing). As long as it is in the company account, I can access it if need be but pay lower taxes (possibly around 13%? I'm hopeless with numbers). So rather than paying him lots and letting it sit in our savings account, more money is left untouched in the company account. When it rises above my magic number, I skim that off into the investment account.

Investing money from the company account into the corporate investment account rather than into our own savings and TFSA, RRSPs etc means we save on company taxes and aren't taxed personally at the higher rate. But out of our own personal money we are still contributing to Registered Education Savings Plans for our kids, each of us has RRSPs, plus our own investment portfolios (another goal was having Husband set up with personal investments in 2016. I'm starting to feel like I did pretty good last year!).

So, back to the camper.

My challenge is to hone my household budget down as strictly as possible so that I can still make a number of sizable over payments on our camper without paying Husband more out of the company account (and paying more in tax).

Since I already pay us fairly closely to what our expenses are, there won't be a pile of wiggle room but that is the challenge. Saving on groceries and reducing our discretionary spending, cutting the satellite dish come spring, doing some side jobs personally, all of this will contribute towards our goal of paying the camper off ASAP. Because of the interest. And because I am uncomfortable having more than one loan (besides our mortgage) at a time.

It is important for me to note that from the monthly amount I pay Husband I also need to save for birthdays, Christmas, 2 small vacations, skating and/or hockey as J has declared he wants to try hockey next year. I drive an 8 year old truck which will need replacing eventually. We have property taxes and home insurance due in the spring. Basically, there are a lot of things to save for. Even just writing this out has convinced me to make time to do up a proper budget to keep it all straight.

I do find this all a bit overwhelming. Without steady work we would go from possibly paying something off to, instead, being relieved that we are even able to make regular payments while paying the interest, saving less, and doing without the extras. And that could easily happen. BUT. And this is a huge BUT. Having the singular goal of paying that camper off by the fall of 2017 gives me the incentive to save more. Resist temptation. Eschew splurging on non-essentials. Get creative about making money on the side. Trade. Barter. Borrow.

I think I will leave you now and go sit down with a very sharp pencil and start combing through statements. I am sure that I can find ways to cut our spending and reach our new 2017 goals. I plan to do this by:

1) Menu-planning to save on groceries
2) Reduce fees and service charges if possible
3) Make more money on the side (future post on this subject!)
4) Have No Spending Days Weeks Months
5) Use cash back air miles and PC points to have at least one month's free groceries (put that month's grocery money towards camper)
6) Get very creative planning our family vacations to minimize spending while maximizing fun
7) Purge and sell unnecessary and unwanted belongings
8) Use cash and gift cards that we have on hand
9) Make it do or do without!











Monday, 2 January 2017

Weekly Column: Enjoy a Christmas Potluck

I am so over Christmas that I actually hate to post yet another Christmas-related column. However, thinking of the cost of food is something that we should be doing year round. I hope 2017 is off to a great start!

Enjoy a Christmas potluck

Ah, the season of over-indulgence! Christmas is a time of excess, where most of us splurge on a few extras to make the holiday special. Whether it’s decadent cream cheese dips and desserts, fancy cheeses and a nice bottle of wine, or the hostess gift that you can’t resist, those little extras can add up to a lot of money and stress before the season ends.

Even those who do their shopping early and stick to a plan can see things get out of hand when it comes to entertaining and attending all the obligatory Christmas parties and celebrations. If you haven’t factored the cost of these events into your Christmas budget, you should. A few cab rides, extra drinks and spur of the moment gift exchanges can quickly sink your budget.

It’s hard to say no at Christmas time. How do you allow your financial constraints to deprive your children of the joyful experiences of Christmas gatherings and traditions? Perhaps you can still host or attend these events but, by adjusting your expectations, make them more affordable for all involved. With careful planning, you can make just as great an impression without spending as much money.

Divide the work and cost

Be considerate. Don’t wait for your host or hostess to admit that they are struggling to put on the usual holiday feast. If a friend or family member has had a decrease in work over the last few years, assume that an offer to bring a dish or beverage to the meal will be well received. As the host, be gracious. Allow your guests to share in the work and expense of the gathering. Not only will you have more time to visit, it’s an opportunity to sample some new delicious food and swap recipes. Of course, if you suspect your guests are struggling as much or more than you are, you might gently refuse their offer or assign them a less costly item to bring.

Budget for meals, too

If you’re getting through the holidays on credit, you must factor the cost of what you are eating into your budget. Even if your prime rib days are long behind you, you can still enjoy wonderful food without going into credit card debt. Watch for in-store deals on turkeys and hams—in fact, watch the grocery flyers for all kinds of deals at this time of year. You might save substantially by shopping at a few different stores if you have the time.

The meat you serve is generally the most expensive dish in any meal. These prices are taken from 3 different local grocery flyers this week: $19.99/lb for a half rack of lamb. Compare that to leg of lamb for $7.99/lb and see how you can save just by altering your cut of meat.

Fresh Atlantic salmon will cost around $14/lb while a spiral sliced honey ham or good old ground beef are both $3.99/lb.

For just a bit more ($5/lb) you can impress your guests with an eye of round beef roast, but at 77cents/lb you really can’t beat the utility turkey. It’s no wonder turkey has long been the centerpiece of the holiday meal!

The point is not to advocate for one meat selection over another, but rather to point out how tweaking your choices at every meal can add up to a big savings in the end.

Delicious and affordable potluck ideas

If you are taking part in a potluck, don’t sweat it that you have to contribute the fanciest, most expensive dish there. Sometimes a simple offering is the biggest hit, particularly for the kids and picky eaters in the group. Consult with your hosts and offer to bring garlic bread or fresh buns, a big pot of whipped potatoes or a casserole.

 Pasta salad or coleslaw, fried rice or some homemade baked beans are a treat and not expensive to make. Crackers often go on special and can be served with some meat, cheese and pickles as a tasty appetizer, and don’t forget that a simple cake with icing is a crowd pleaser for dessert. Let good company and conversation be the star of your gathering and stop fussing about who brought the most extravagant food.

The reason for it all


If you think the quality of your holiday season depends on the fancy food you serve or the gifts you give, you’re wrong. Invite someone that might not be getting a Christmas meal this year. Remember the food bank and call men's and women's shelters to see what is needed. Stretch your dollars while also concentrating on the people you want to spend time with. Enjoy the small gestures of the season without worrying about how you will pay for it.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Weekly Column: Live a Simple Life

Once again, these columns get posted here a few weeks behind their publication in the local paper. I hope everyone reading has enjoyed a wonderful holiday and has a safe New Year!

Live a simple life

As Christmas approaches it’s easy to feel crushed by the noise, glitter and encroaching clutter of what should be the happiest time of year. Let’s face it, even at the best of times there’s a lot of pressure to have “the most” and Christmas is when our consumerist and materialistic demons really rear their ugly heads. There is pressure to feed everyone the finest meal, have the cleanest home, put up the most Christmas lights, be the most cheerful and, of course, have the most gifts under the tree.

Less is more

Parents, think back on your childhood and recall: was there a most treasured gift that you remember being truly excited about? Why do you think it stands out in your memory? Probably because it was something new and all your own that you had anticipated and waited for. How long do kids nowadays have to wait for anything? How is it possible to give our kids that same magical experience when their rooms are already overflowing with toys that they may or may not appreciate? Here is a hint—it’s not by indulging them, everyday of the year, with treats and “stuff” and creating an even greater expectation of what is special.

Simplify

Though likely too late to make any drastic changes this year, the busy weeks leading up to Christmas are a good time to consider what is working in your lifestyle and what is dragging you down. If the holidays present themselves as yet another example of your inability to make everyone happy, it’s a good indication that things have gone off the rails. But how to get things back on a more meaningful, intentional track?

Minimalism is a lifestyle that might, at first, scare the designer jeans off a person used to hunting for and buying new possessions. But don’t panic. Minimalism is different things to different people—but most agree that it is the unburdening oneself of excess and waste. Whether it is excess belongings, noise, distractions, or obligations, minimalism is meant to allow you to focus on what is left behind once those excesses are shed. For example, people, relationships, hobbies, travel, learning. A minimalist lifestyle is one that is sustainable, frugal, debt-free and natural (mnmlist.com).

Comparing apples to oranges

Let’s say you’ve taken a cut in pay over the last few years but you’re still kicking. You have maintained most of your old habits while making a few cutbacks to get by. No one knows what a struggle it is to maintain. The kids still have their designer labels and your Instagram account is still zinging with pictures of family trips and home d├ęcor and the tree buried in gifts this year. The debt is piling up or at least not receding, and there is no real plan how to stop the interest from burying you someday in the future. What’s worse, there is a sense of dissatisfaction that permeates the lifestyle. There is never enough time with your family because you can’t possibly make enough money to keep everything chugging along. You are exhausted, and it’s no wonder.

No one is saying you have to ditch your life and move into a tiny home. Adopting a more minimalist attitude could be as simple as purging your home of all the unwanted, unnecessary items that you have to clean and keep tidy to maintain your sanity. It means not buying anything to fill those empty spaces. Unburden yourself, also, from the interruptions of social media notifications that give a false sense of busyness and distract you from your face to face relationships. Don’t text during meals, family time and visits with friends. Allow your kids to be bored and entertain themselves. 

Imaginations are being stunted by the constant screen time offered to keep them under control. If activities 6 nights a week are exhausting the budget and family, commit only to the most vital extra-curricular activities and focus on quiet, simple time together instead. Notice what makes your family feel positive and content, and do more of those things.

Find your balance


It is one thing to choose a more minimalist lifestyle because it suits you, but quite another to have it thrust upon you by unforeseen circumstances like job loss. There is a silver-lining, though, when you consider that rejecting consumerism can also mean embracing a life where you invest yourself in meaningful relationships and experiences instead of trying to keep up with the neighbours. Once the preoccupation with having more and better things is behind you, you will find the time and clarity to explore what gives you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, outside of the consumer rat race. Here’s to a 2017 filled with a minimum of things and the maximum of joy.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2017: Bring It!

As usual, I have no wise words about the turning of the page into a new year. Nor any beautiful photos or inspiring message about Christmas. The season of giving. I fear we spend our time and money giving to people that don't need anything, and neglect those right under our noses who need so much.

There is never the time I want to give to this blog. With that in mind I am just going to get to the point. I had a quick read through last year's un-resolutions and thought that I would report on how we did. Lastly, I'd like to set my sights on where I'd like to see the next 365 or so days take us (until I once again sit here to reflect on what we did and didn't do).

2016

Record Keeping:

Without realizing it, I did manage to set up a decent (enough) system to keep Husband's bills etc straight. There were no major upsets when it came time to do taxes and our accountant has helped me set up interim payments so that we hopefully won't end up owing money at the end of the year. This is major, as unexpected debt is the last thing we want.

I did well through out the winter keeping track of household spending, doing menu-plans and reporting on the blog. That exercise alone helped us save hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the year. Going through statements and reducing fees, cancelling satellite subscription, reducing our cell bill, the list goes on. If you haven't done so, commit an afternoon to reducing fees. Research a more affordable (but reputable with good coverage) home insurance plan. One phone call saved me something like $700 last year. If you have been thinking about making changes, take the time to do it.

I also wanted to do better with pictures for the blog. In fact, I want to do better with pictures of my kids' life. Once these cell phones go obsolete, and they will, my kids will not have a record of their childhoods. Not only that, but the grandparents in Newfoundland get very few pictures and I want to do better. Luckily, Santa found a barely used camera that I had been wanting. Now to learn how to use it properly!

2016 saw some purchases that I had not anticipated. One was a new truck for Husband's work (very much needed) and the other was a new camper (very much not needed). It is always a push/pull between my viewpoint and Husband's as far as goals and saving. In the meantime we sold our old camper and the new one will be used in Husband's line of work so it will eventually start paying for itself. We compromised on the layout of the RV and found one that was under the budget I had insisted upon. So it was something I was comfortable doing although I would have chosen to save and pay cash (we financed it but have a plan to pay it off very early!).

As a result of these purchases coupled with a real scare when a company took months to pay us for a large invoice, I got extra serious and motivated about our budget. It surprised me to look back on last year's goals and not see anything financial. But increased blogging, the near miss of not being paid, then getting a regular column in the local paper really brought about my increased interest and determination in the budget department.

2016 was a year where I tried many new homesteading activities. We had pigs, meat birds, were given rabbits, had our first lambs and continued to garden. I have had no time to sew. It was exhausting and fulfilling. I recognize how hard it is to do all of the travel and play that my Husband would like when we have so much work at home. It was also very overwhelming with him gone for months at a time. There won't be pigs this coming year but I feel that meat birds are a necessity.



The wonderful opportunity to read a novel in progress for a bloggy friend also inspired me to make writing more of a priority. It was always my goal in life. Having a weekly column has allowed me to schedule in writing time. While harder for me to get around to blogging, it has motivated me to insist on some quiet to write. In this sense I have made much better use of my evenings (at least while Husband is away) and I have been reading another friend's novel lately. When that is done I hope to WILL return to my own writing as a priority. It is important to me to encourage and help this friend but I also realize that if I don't put myself first my own plans will once again go by the wayside.

2017--You are Mine, All Mine!

No, not really. But for the first time in years I can feel myself becoming part of the conversation again. I have written at length about my interests and personal goals (heck, that's the point of this blog). But many people, women in particular, will understand the subtle ways that our own identity can be sucked into work/responsibility/caring for others/meeting expectations without having time to reevaluate what we really want. I am almost 40 and it is time to be a complete person again.

I want to emphasize that it is no one's fault but my own that I continually put others first over the years. I have had many opportunities to do things where I have chickened out or felt that I shouldn't. I am not griping about my wonderful life. Many of my homesteading "slow" living goals are what consistently take away from the time I might instead spend writing/exercising etc. The trouble has been for me to find balance and not feel guilty for wanting a little time to myself. But making time to practice writing, exercise, apply face moisturizer, dress with some semblance of care...none of these things are selfish. None of these things require much more than better organization, some boundaries, and the ability to say "no". This is "my time".

I have been providing childcare for a friend on a part time basis. It is a win-win since my little O loves to have playmates come over a few times a week. The kids are sweet and it keeps me motivated to get everything done before and after they are here. In the fall my little O will go to kindergarten every day and I (if we can afford it) plan not to do childcare and, instead, keep those whole days to myself so I can write. To create. To work with my brother at the farm. To be a helpful part of this community. Probably the year after I will rejoin the workforce, so this year, 2017, is a year that I want to focus on writing and personal development.

With that in mind, I have registered for an online writing course starting in January. I am beyond excited and nervous about the class. This brings me to another goal, which is SCHEDULING. With a little boy in skating lessons and my part time childcare job and my weekly column, plus my commitment to this blog, homemade food, daily exercise and my animals and firewood etc, keeping a tight schedule will be essential. I may not find the time to report our spending on this blog. I may not return to entering every expenditure in spreadsheets like I did so faithfully last year. But my commitment to a frugal, practical lifestyle remains just as strong. My commitment to my family is stronger than ever. And 2017 will be the year, barring any unforeseen disasters, where I can focus on myself as well as my posse. I am so ready for it!