April to August Monthly Reports – Some Progress

Hullo, it has been a while! I hope you have had a great holiday season!

The main reason I haven’t been updating is because I haven’t been making much progress. At least compared to before. Also, the Canadian dollar is still freefalling so I don’t know how to keep track of my progress anymore. Do I keep updating the conversion rate? In which case, my balance will keep increasing and not really decreasing. Or do I continue using the rate I had been using the past few months before I stopped updating? But if I do that then my balances would not be truly reflective of how much I have to pay…

I really didn’t/don’t know what to do. However, instead of letting decision paralysis continue to prevent me from posting, I have just now decided that I am going to use a 1.30 USD-CAD rate for April to August and then a 1.35 USD-CAD rate for September to December.

SLIGHT DETOUR

Also, today the program I was using to track my finances basically erased all my entries from the end of July onwards. Well, technically it wasn’t the program’s fault, but the fault of my cloud sync provider. But the main thing is that I do not have any transaction data from July onwards. So I am going to have to redo my financial tracking for those months. The hard part will be redoing the cash transactions as I can barely remember the transactions I did in December, much less going 5 months back…Sigh.

I really hope this is not indicative of how my financial situation will be in 2016.

Thankfully, I had a separate file where I was storing my balances at the end of every month so I can post my end-of-month balances here so you can see the little progress I made.

BACK ON-TOPIC

To sum up what you are about to see though:

INCOME

I did not get money owed from overdue client. I stopped working for them in April. But I only just found out a couple weeks ago that even the part payment I was promised at the end of this year is not possible. They have no money. So I am writing off that $50K+ of income. I did end up taking that other longer contract with another client, a very low-paying one, starting in June. Let’s just say my take-home income for half a year at this job is less than half of $50K. But it had income consistency to the end of Jan 2016.

As of today (this post actually being written Jan2016, though “published” Dec2015), I am planning to proper dive back into independent consulting full-time by the end of February. I will also apply to a few full-time positions then and if I get a really good job offer somewhere I will take it.

Basically, as seems to be my status quo in my life, my future is uncertain and I am not sure where my income will be coming from, if any, in a couple months. But I do know that I am a hustler and I will try my best to make it work somehow. And maybe other people will be able to pick up some tips from me.

As an example, although I haven’t been earning much, I did still manage to pay off something.

EXPENSES

I won’t go into detail about my expenses the past few months. Basically, I had a good summer. I went out and socialized quite a bit. Dated and had fun. I also moved downtown in summer as planned and then at the end of September I decided to stay where I am as I have a decent deal ($900 rent for a shared 2Bed/2Bath condo) and it was much more convenient with getting to and from work (bike share + public transportation). Will explain more in a future post.

Winter seems to have finally arrived in Toronto and just like that my socializing has significantly decreased. Hopefully, this break will continue for a little while for my wallet.

LIABILITIES

Please note that I converted my 2013 USD balance to the $1.30 rate. The new balance gives me a mild heart attack every time I look at it…

April 2015

In April, in an effort to reduce my interest payments, I took advantage of a 0.99% interest rate offer I got from MBNA to transfer over most of my OSAP balance ($13,500 CAD). This was when I thought I would at least get back $10K from overdue client. This special 0.99% rate is supposed to go til around May 2016.

NAME JULY 31, 2013 APRIL 30, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $13,635 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $38 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($125,840 CAD)
$77,571 USD
($100,843 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $4,109 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $171,225 CAD $118,625 CAD

The Canadian dollar part actually went up by $8 and the US dollar amount went down by only $413.

May 2015

NAME JULY 31, 2013 MAY 31, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $13,966 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $651 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($125,840 CAD)
$77,296 USD
($100,485 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $3,895 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $171,225 CAD $118,997 CAD

I traveled a bit in May – twice for work and once for fun, all three times to the US. So there were some extra expenses in May. Also, I had a massive amount I had to give to the government for taxes and HST payments I collected. So my debt went up that month :(.

June 2015

In June I tried to make up for the previous month, although I had more expenses in June because that is when I moved out of my parents’ home and into a downtown condo share. Rent of $900/mth, including utilities and internet, begins here. This was also the month where I started to work full-time hours for a client (VERY low-paying but consistent hours).

NAME JULY 31, 2013 JUNE 31, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $13,265 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $35 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($125,840 CAD)
$77,311 USD
($100,504 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $3,673 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $171,225 CAD $117,477 CAD

It was a tiny miracle that I was able to bring my debt down by $1520 CAD that month.

July 2015

In July, started to realize that overdue client would not be able to pay me all that was owed so ensured that I start putting away a little of my measly pay cheque to savings, instead of putting all dollars into my debt as I was tempted to do.

NAME JULY 31, 2013 JULY 31, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $12,974 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $15 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($125,840 CAD)
$77,097 USD
($100,227 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $3,450 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $171,225 CAD $116,666 CAD

My overall debt went down by just $811 in July.

August 2015

In August, I decided to stop making payments on my US$ loan by the end of that month. I had prepaid the minimums to June 2017. At the end of August the CAD$ was worth $0.76 USD. I was hoping that the Canadian dollar would rebound a bit. Even if it only went back to $0.81 USD by the end of 2016, I would only have lost an extra $1000 or so. Whereas if it did well and rebounded to anything over $0.82 I would be better off. So far, my bet seems to be going horribly wrong and it is looking like not only will I NOT get back the extra dollars lost from the exchange rate, but I will also end up quite a ways in the red. Yet another sign that I should never try gambling….

Anyways, without further ado, here is where things stood at the end of the month:

NAME JULY 31, 2013 AUGUST 31, 2015
Mastercard $6,123 CAD $12,794 CAD
Visa $8,653 CAD $122 CAD
B-school loan $96,800 USD
($125,840 CAD)
$75,988 USD
($98,756 CAD)
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan $20,931 CAD $3,226 CAD
Student Line of Credit (LOC) $9,678 CAD $0
TOTAL $171,225 CAD $114,898 CAD

I put all my extra money into the US$ loan because I wanted to reduce the principal by as much as I could, before it started collecting interest again. It was also quite satisfying to get my US dollar debt to below $100K CAD. That satisfaction was very short-lived though, since the Canadian dollar kept falling and also interest started to pile up on the amount owed….But for one brief period it was below that $100K. And I managed to make a whopping $1768 dent in my debt that month!

Stay tuned for my next update on my progress from September to the end of 2015.

A Lesson In Appreciation and Delayed Gratification

Hello again,

I hope your week started off well. Before the week was the weekend. And last weekend was good for me.

I finally made good on my goal to start volunteering this year. Because I think it is great to give back and it is important to me that I volunteer. I made some sandwiches to give out to the homeless and went around with a group to one of the parks the homeless in my city frequent. We handed out sandwiches, clothes and shoes. It is pretty much the ideal volunteer activity I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.

It’s not just the homeless who benefited from our volunteering effort though. I think we, the volunteers, benefited even more. Having long conversations with some of the homeless, finding out their life stories, made us realize how lucky we are. Made me better appreciate how lucky I am.

For one, I am not suffering from any mental illness or destructive addictions. And the other thing is that I have a very strong support system. I think that sometimes a big part of what prevents us non-homeless people from becoming homeless is that we actually have friends or family members we can count on for emotional support and often-times other support such as temporary shelter.

Emotional Support - Hugs

I am definitely planning to volunteer again with the group! It was an especially nice activity to do the day before Father’s Day here in Canada.

For Father’s Day my family came to hang out with me for the day. We walked around downtown for a bit but mostly it was all eight of us in my one bedroom condo. Wouldn’t have had it any other way though. It was an excellent day!

Speaking of fathers…I previously mentioned how much my spending habits have been influenced by my parents. And how a big reason for my desire to pay off my debt as quickly as possible is to help out my parents and my family. I know that in North American culture in particular it is a bit unusual to be planning my life around ensuring my parents’ future well-being. Because in this culture it sometimes seems like every man or woman for him/herself. So I know people are wondering why I want to financially help my parents in retirement and why I am not thinking about saving for only my retirement, like most North Americans.

Firstly, when compared to other cultures, my slightly more wide-reaching plan is just a fraction of what people in other cultures do. Secondly, I mentioned in an earlier post that my family immigrated to Canada eleven years ago. This means that I didn’t actually grow up in North America. So I have that excuse for my different way of thinking. However, truth be told, what is perhaps most influential to my way of thinking is my parents’ history, especially my father’s. My father’s life has been the ultimate example of putting one’s family first and delaying gratification. Delaying gratification is one of the key tenets I think to living a frugal lifestyle, something that’s necessary if you are me and are trying to pay off $151K of debt as quickly as possible.

Delaying Gratification - Now Later

My father was the third child and most book-smart one of six kids in his family. The younger of two boys in the family. He was the only one of his siblings to pass his grade six achievement test and gain acceptance to a traditional high school in his home country, the country I also grew up in.

My home country’s school system is based off the British system. When you are 10 or 11 years old you have to take an exam to get into high school. If you fail to get a grade that wins you a spot in one of the traditional high schools you get to re-sit the exam the next year. If you are lucky and were born in the last three months of the year you get a third try. If you fail the test after your last allotted try you get sent to a technical high school which basically prepares you for a career in trades. When I was in high school, I remember an English exchange student once telling me that everyone in England is eventually placed in a traditional high school. In my home country the number of spots available at a traditional high school is far below the number of students who get decent grades in the exam. So only the cream of the crop get in. Needless to say, it is a very competitive process just to get into high school! And, essentially, your life path is determined when you are eleven years old.

As we all know (well, unless you live in Finland), getting in to high school is not the end of exam stress though. An easy way to understand the high school system in my home country is to think of the Harry Potter books (hopefully you know at least a little about them) and the various school exams Harry had to take. Here is a quick summary:

In grade 6, you take an exam to enter high school. High school goes from grades 7 to grade 11 (or 1st year to 5th year). After grade 11 you take another exam (the equivalent of the OWLs in the Harry Potter books). Your scores in the OWLs determine what kind of jobs you can get. You officially graduate high shool at the end of grade 11, as long as you pass a minimum number of subjects. However, if you want to attend university you must continue on to grades 12 and 13, also known as lower 6th and upper 6th. Once again, spots are limited. It is more competitive than the process of getting into high school. If you get in, thank the Gods. But then prepare again because in grade 13 you have to take the equivalent of the NEWTs in the HP books. Your scores for those exams determine whether or not you get into university and into the programs you want. If you do not do grades 12 and 13, university life is off the table and your only option is to enter the job force.

Back to my father…

His father got sick a couple years before he started high school. Shortly after my Dad started high school his father died. Before my grandfather got sick, the family was doing pretty well because my grandfather owned a successful small business. However, when my grandfather died that immediately made my grandmother a single mother of 6 kids. And life got rough after that point. Actually, life had started getting rough from before he died, since he had a lengthy illness before his death. My grandmother had had to sell the business from pretty early on. It might even have been before my grandfather died. And she was not educated beyond elementary school level so the multiple jobs she got to support the family were all low-paying.

By the time my father sat the equivalent of the OWL exams in grade 11, things were bleak financially. My father’s two older siblings had long since dropped out of school to help their mother by doing odd jobs. Pretty sure they didn’t make it past grade nine even. He had no one in his family who had ever finished high school, much less college. He wanted to attend university but didn’t realize he needed to sit the equivalent to Harry Potter’s NEWT exams. In any case, he also did not have the money to apply for the entrance fees for university, knew he could never afford tuition anyways and after getting decent grades in his OWLs had a job offer from a family friend offering him a job that paid decent wages. He decided to accept the job offer to make money to help out his family.

My father was sixteen when he graduated high school and started that job. He worked and moved up the ranks slightly, doing little certifications here and there to get better positions. He used his earnings to help his mother, his siblings and then later on his siblings’ first children. It was only when he was certain that his mother and his siblings were taken care of and his sisters had worked their way up to decent-paying jobs that he felt okay enough to leave his family to attend university in the UK. But it took many many years for that point to be reached. So many years that my father did not end up attending university until he was 28. He graduated with his Bachelor’s degree when he was 31. My exact age now. Many people would have given up on their dream to attend university. My father didn’t. And by doing so he showed me that whatever I put my mind to I also can accomplish!

I will never be as selfless in my actions for my family as my father was. However, I would like to at least somewhat take my family into consideration when I think of the future. In addition, whenever I think of all the things that I want for myself and realize sometimes how self-centred and/or selfish I am being I only have to think about what my father did for me to realize how good I have it in this world. If he could wait TWELVE YEARS to accomplish his goal of attending university then I can certainly wait a few years to start enjoying life more and can most definitely get by holding out for a few months to have whatever rare material thing it is that I desire.

If any of you reading this are fathers or serve as fathers, I hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day :).

Next post will be the monthly update on my debt reduction progress!