One run and two naps: how pregnancy has forced me to slow down

Remember that time I ran four kilometres and had to take two naps the following day?

True story.

On Friday evening, I was feeling pretty good and pitched to Toby that I’d like to go for a run following Alex’s bedtime.

He raised his eyebrows at me, but replied, “Sure, go ahead.”

I ran four kilometres. It was beautiful outside. Sure, my breathing was like that of Fatty McGee’s trying to get up the library steps, but  I was smiling.

Exercising sure felt great.

Fast forward to Saturday. By 9 a.m., I was back in bed for a 20-minute rest. I then could barely make it through the afternoon and napped again at 3 p.m. Simply put, the run kicked my ass.

I was supposed to join my sister for four kilometres of her training run on Sunday morning, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Running is my outlet. So when it was taken away from me during my 10 weeks of pregnancy sickness, I felt more like ‘myself’ when I got back into it again. This is especially true since I struggle with my mood levels during pregnancy. If I don’t get that outlet to be rid of my ‘yas yas’, I won’t know how to deal with my energy.

When re-evaluating, maybe I could join the College gym again and take it easy on the elliptical and bicycle. Or there’s always pre-natal yoga, but it’s a half-hour drive away. There’s also the library steps. “But I like the stairs!”

So many (non-running) options.

So – tell me – what did you do for exercise when you were pregnant?

 

Advertisements

The Plate

Since getting pregnant, the James couple has been in major survival mode.

With me being sick, my husband, Toby, has been left to deal with a lot of the household chores. From dinners to clean-up, he has really stepped up his game these past few months.

Like, a lot.

I’d be so tired, I’d leave my empty plates on the couch and crawl up the stairs to bed for the night.

Understandably, he’s worn out. Alex has been getting up at 5:30 a.m. each morning and Toby works from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday. He’s then been taking care of the house duties on weekends.

But our biggest struggle doesn’t have to do with this shift of household responsibilities. It has to do with my guilt over not contributing and being a lump on the couch. It’s my obsessive need to have fair game in all facets of life.

I blame my childhood.

Hear me out.

As one of four children, you immediately had to state your rights to property or at least eat as many cookies as possible before they were all consumed. Everyone had to have their turn while contributing to the house’s operations.  There’s now a rule in our current house that you’re allowed to consume only half the pieces of pizza, even if the other person hasn’t yet touched their half of the pie.

So this need for consistent balance has once again come into play throughout the pregnancy. By not contributing at least half of the time or effort, I feel like I’m failing.

Toby says the only time he’s frustrated is when I’m sulking about how I can’t help out. The sulking, it turns out, doesn’t help!

Now that I’m back in the game (at least physically. The emotional side? We’re not quite there yet), I’ve been able to help out again. I cleaned the house from top to bottom last weekend and even did all the laundry (where’s my gold star? Or my pizza?).

And, when I actually BROUGHT my plate up from the couch and to the kitchen counter last night, I started getting flack about it.

“Oh, wow.”

“What?” I asked.

“I’m just shocked. You brought your plate to the kitchen. Great job.”

“You know what you sound like right now?” I replied to Toby in a defensive state.

“What’s that?”

“A nagging wife. You sound like  a nagging wife!”

We laughed, and started to play the, “oh, you wanna go there, do ya?” game.

The next morning, when Toby had already left for work, I found this from his previous night’s snack:

The Plate James on Jessie

 

I fired him a photo of the evidence and, with his quick wit, replied that he wanted to help even out the score for me.

We’re back to a fair game.

Financial Fix

Picture this: it’s New Year’s Day morning and you swear you’re going to hit the gym five days a week. The motivation runs you hard for the month. You’re feeling good, your jeans fit again and you can’t stop talking about your workouts.

Suddenly, it’s February 28 and you find yourself lying on the couch, watching The Voice and slamming homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Okay, maybe that last part is just what I’m currently doing every night these days.

That same gym motivation can be compared to my financial focus. I did so, very well with my January finances. But, with any habit-forming challenge, the interest wanes and the accountability drops.

THE FEBRUARY DOWNFALL:

I stopped writing my down my daily expenses.

I talked less about my finances.

THE FEBRUARY WIN:

I’m reading a lot of financial literature these days, and it’s given me some great perspective on budgeting, saving for retirement and paying off debt.

I looked into a pension plan. The numbers scare me, but it’s the best way to save for retirement.

I only allowed myself $200 in spending money last month, and I ended up having to hit up my March drawer money by Feb. 25. I was mad at myself, but then I realized I only went $40 over budget.

We came UNDER our grocery budget for the month! ($580)

February’s Focus: Our Dog is Fat.

Meet Tux. Our dog.

He was the bait used for my husband’s wedding proposal and he’s been in our lives for nearly five years. He was our first baby and when he wasn’t cuddled between us in bed (so sad – for all parties), he would be on walking or swimming excursions. Why? Because we didn’t have a child, so he got our full attention.

Let’s photo montage his life:

2010: Spoiled.

2010: Spoiled.

2011: Super Spoiled.

2011: Super Spoiled.

2012: five days prior to baby's arrival. A little uncertain, but still spoiled.

2012: five days prior to baby’s arrival. A little uncertain, but still spoiled.

2014: Sad.

2014: Sad.

Many new parents will tell you: when the baby arrives, the dog doesn’t thrive.

Although we’ve continued to give Tux two walks a day, the time and distance that once went into those walks got cut short thanks to exhausted owners with poor excuses.

Since the fall, Tux – who has Grade 3 hip dysplasia – developed a weird skin rash. He was also gaining weight and was often anxious.

My wake-up call about Tux’s health came when we spent… wait for it…. ready? oh, Jebus….$600 on vet bills two weeks ago to find out what was wrong with him.

We got a thyroid test done and new x-rays on his hips. To be fair, it had been four years since his last x-ray, so this was a “let’s see how much out of the socket his hip bone currently is” check up (grammar slammars,  go crazy).

$600 later and the vet’s verdict? He’s fat.

His tests came back just fine and his hips are about the same. But, as the vet told me, Tux is overweight and needs to lose 12 lbs.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied to the vet while handing Tux mittfuls of bacon.

I looked at his file and he’s gained 15 lbs over a year and a half.

I’m actually astounded by this number, especially because he gets absolutely no treats at home and we do get him out every day (see? more excuses!).

The vet said before we consider any option for his hips, we need to get him down 12 lbs. This is good for his health and helps alleviate his hip pain.

And so….February’s Focus of The Month: Doggy Boot Camp.

For the next month, I’m going to work at getting Tux’s weight down. This includes at least an hour of walks each day and picking up any of the food our baby chucks on the floor rather than allowing Tux to get at it (okay, so I guess that counts as treats).

Like anyone who’s online and on a fitness kick, I’ve posted some “Before” pics:

The required: "stand in front of a wall" photo

The required: “stand in front of a wall” photo

Tuxedo

I’m a numbers loser, so I actually measured the dog.

I know, it’s just a sad house over here.

Hips: 28.5 inches

Largest part of his tummy: 33.5 inches

Weight: 85 lbs.

We’re actually already a week in and, guess what? No guess. Guess again. Guess again. Just guess. One more guess.

Tux is happier, has more energy and his anxiety has reduced.

Shocker.

I wanted to blog about this for a few reasons. I’m going to discover different ways to get our dog in shape, and it’s a preview for any couples considering getting a dog when they know they’ll be having kids in the near future. Here’s your potential future reality. I’ve faced a lot of post-baby dog guilt and Tux has been pushed to the side. It’s life, and I get that. But he didn’t ask for it.

We’re $600 poorer, but at least we got the wake-up call that our dog needs to lose the weight. I’ll check in on how we’re doing at sticking to our dog’s health plan.

*

How do you keep your dog in shape?

Do you want to share $600 with me?

 

 

 

How I did with my finances this month

This past month, I focused on two things: limiting my spending and limiting my spending.

It was tough. It was crazy. It was really good.

As I previously outlined, I set aside $300 spending money for myself.

Here’s a pretty pie chart to showcase how I spent my money in January:

James on Jessie Spending Pie Chart

My misc. items include paying for tickets to a show we’re going to this month. It also includes a night’s worth of babysitter fees as well as spending $4.81 on electrical outlet covers.

I figured my food spending habits would be higher, so I was impressed with the numbers. I only spent $60 on food this month.

Gifts were higher this month as it included four birthdays, which included materials for a party.

So where’d I end up with the $300? I still have $11 in my wallet. Although I’m pretty sure a fly just escaped it.

Here’s a recap of how the month went down:

THE GOOD

1. I educated myself. I learned a lot this month about finances as I added a number of financial blogs to my blog reader (I use the Feedly app). I also read through Personal Finance for Dummies.  I learned about emotional spending as well as researched ways to decrease our grocery bills. This is also the first month in a while in which we’ve actually stayed within our grocery budget. New favourite blogs: Money Saving MomClub Thrifty and The Simple Dollar.

2. I set myself up not to fail. This month, I adopted the budgeting approach from You Need a Budget. I got myself to use spending money from money earned two months ago so that I can better plan my spending. It allowed me to know how much money I have for the month, rather than living paycheque to paycheque and waiting for money to come in.

3. I talked about finances. I used to avoid any financial talks with my husband. Instead, I’d quietly try to work out my inability to follow a budget and hope it’d work out. This month? Toby heard about nothing but finances. Nearly every night I spoke about my successes, my struggles and my pride in taking control of my money. It was nice to bounce ideas off him and check in with good reports.

4. I had MONEY left in my account! So here’s the big one: I only used my debit card for grocery store purchases and cash for everything else. As a result, my online banking records look like a clean, crisp linen rather than a dirty, mashed up tablecloth thrown into a closet. This approach left me with several hundred dollars in my account. Imagine that. I didn’t overspend and, as a result, had money leftover. Shocker.

5. I know I can do it. I didn’t struggle with limiting my spending money this month. Rather, I struggled with the idea that I knew I had to limit my spending. I often worried about reverting back to my ‘old ways’ (as if it was so long ago), and the effort would be entirely erased. But, with $11 still in my wallet, I learned I can actually go through with it.

THE BAD

1. One word: withdrawal. At about one week into this program, I went through some fugly spending withdrawal. I continued to think about the things I wanted to buy. By the time the end of the month arrived, I reviewed the things I thought I would have purchased with my spending money and came away with NONE of those items. But, I gotta say, I enjoyed my time away from stores and constantly dealing with buyer’s remorse.

2. Taking it out on others. In constantly talking with my husband about my finances, I often chatted with him about our family finances and whether we are on track. It was good in that it forced us to better communicate about money. The bad part was when I started to project that financial stress on him. After grilling him one afternoon about our grocery money, I suddenly came to a realization: this was about me and my spending. His spending habits are much healthier. I swallowed my pride and apologized for projecting that stress onto him. I then ate four chocolate chip cookies.

3. Guilt. Knowing that I have the ability to track my spending, I’ve dealt with a lot of guilt this past month. Guilt about messing up my spending in the past and guilt about not being further ahead in my future financial goals.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. Stop Making Excuses about your spending. There’s a real big difference between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’. As soon as I eliminated the excuses, I felt in control.

2. Check Your Online Banking. Checking in often to track spending and looking ahead at future purchases makes everyone feel better.

3. Write it down. I loved sitting down each night before bed and scribbling down that day’s purchases onto a notepad. Better yet, I loved it when I got to write, “No Spend Day”.

4. Make it a habit. Apparently it takes three months to build a habit. So I’ve still got more practice time to hammer out before I can write my financial book.

5. Don’t write a financial book.

NEXT STEPS:

1. Cancel Bell Television Subscription for good. Monthly savings: $75

2. Research other banking opportunities. It looks like PC Financial provides the best option with a no-fee chequing and savings accounts. Monthly savings: Approximately $30/month

3. Continue to track my spending. This month, I’m down to only $200 spending money, based on my extra income earned. I’m already down $5.35 after getting an Egg McMuffin and coffee following a late night out Saturday night. Don’t judge me.

4. Eat Fewer Egg McMuffins.

All in all, it was a really good month. I obsessively thought about money, but I loved having a different approach to how and why I thought about it. I still have a long way to go but I really do feel like I’m heading on a path that will instill good habits and a healthy bank account.

Lastly, thanks for all your support and insight over this past month! It’s really hard to talk about money, but it’s nice to know that everyone has dealt with their struggles and the shared stories taught me a lot about how to find ways to have a better relationship with my dollah bills.  I’ll continue to check in about my financial focus.

So what do I have lined up for February’s Focus? It was initially to organize my house and myself, but I’ve already changed those plans. This month’s focus includes 12 pounds, bad hips and snowballs. Man, that’s random. I’ll blog about it this week and share this month’s focus with you!

 

True story…

True story: I can’t find my passport.

True story: when searching through old purse #3 for said passport, I found $15 in change.

True story: I squealed with glee.

True story: I miss Target. Like, a lot.

True story: I think about my money all the time. Like, a lot. But in a good, healthy way. Not in a I-just-ate-a-bigmac-and-now-have-sad-feelings kind of way.

True story: how can I purchase new running shoes for $7? My feet hurt. Like, a lot.
image

True story: I now have $120 left for the month.

True. Story.  Boo-ya.

True Story: I never found that passport. A new one costs $120.

Five ways to save money at home

In my quest to crunch my spending habits this month, I’ve been trying to find ways to save a penny nickel in all facets. Honestly, in about six days’ time, you’ll likely be finding me scouring the yellow bins looking for beer bottles to recycle/drink from. If you see me doing this in town, it wouldn’t hurt to stop and throw a quarter my way a la John Candy.

Source: https://i0.wp.com/www.screeninsults.com/images/uncle-buck-mole.JPG

“Here’s a quarter…”

ANNNNYWAY, I’ve had to think about some ways to save in the spending department, so I took to the internet and conversations with friends to discover how to save some coin and turn those ideas into lifelong habits:

1. Make my own eye make-up remover. A Facebook friend posted the article, 31 Household Products you’ll never to have to buy again. Because I need to purchase eye make-up remover this month, I snagged the homemade eye make-up remover idea and made it myself. It’s one tsp. coconut oil mixed with 1/2 tsp no tears baby wash and water. Verdict? Not bad. I already had both items in stock, making it a cheap purchase for me. It’s not as good as the store bought stuff, but it does the job. Cost: $0.

2. Only buy meat if it’s less than $3/lb. When I last met with my book club, we talked about my quest for financial success. One book clubber says her family’s rule is to only purchase meat when it’s priced less than $3/lb. I’d always look for meat deals in the flyer, but this tip gave me context about what actually makes a good deal. It’s near impossible to get chicken at this price, but it’s a good guideline for other meats. Another tip is to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our meal plans.

3. Watch free-programming television. We still has the old-fashioned television tower hovering alongside the house. We recently hooked it up and we get about 8 free English channels, most of which are in high definition. They’re all Canadian stations, including CBC, CTV and OMNI. It gives me a television fix AND we’ll be saving $60/month in our Bell television bills. If you don’t have the tower then you can purchase rabbit ears at stores such as The Source. This is free for all Canadians, but the channel availability depends on your location.

4. Remove myself from e-temptations. I used to be on this Lulu Lovers Facebook page in which people sell their used Lululemon clothing items. As soon as someone posts a good find (i.e. size six scuba hoodie for $60), the group members would jump on the sale like the hyenas on Scar in the Lion King. I would constantly be checking this group to see if there are any good finds, even though I’d never make a purchase. But the constant access to potentially finding a ‘good deal’, I feel, led to my desire to want to spend money in other ways. I recently took a deep breath and deleted myself from the Lulu group. I also unsubscribed to email notifications for shops so I’m not tempted to make instantaneous purchases. By eliminating the e-temptations, I’m not allowing the internet to make me want to spend. Next step: eliminate my Pinterest account. Feck.

5. Re-use existing hardware in your home. Our home was built in 1979 and we inherited the same ugly, gold doorknobs. During our recent laundry room mini-makeover, I was dying to switch up the hardware. Instead, I purchased Rustoleum oil-rubbed spray paint in bronze. I took off the knobs, sprayed ’em up and gave the ugly pieces a quick makeover by spending just $10.

Ugh.

 

Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze

You can also take this same approach with bathroom hardware (which I also did) and kitchen cabinets handles and knobs. Find ways to renew your home’s ugly features by finding inexpensive ways to refresh the style. Obviously the best answer is to not spend any money at all, but it gives me house pride while not breaking the bank.

 

*

Question: What are some ways you save money for your home?

 

Sunday Happenings

I love Sunday mornings.

Each week, I get Alex ready for Church and although he shrieks for the majority of the mass (holy shart, my nerves are shot after that hour), it’s a Sunday morning tradition I’ve grown to love.

We then get home and Alex goes to bed. That’s when I get an HOUR to myself before Toby comes home from hockey with a Tim Horton’s coffee in hand for me.

Again. I love Sunday mornings.

That is, until this past Sunday morning. When we got home from Church, I saw there was a message on our phone.

It was Toby.

“Hi. I’m at the hospital. I’m pretty sure I broke my wrist. I forgot my phone at home. So I’ll call you and let you know what happens.” Click.

Okay…so who is going to bring me my Tim’s coffee?

I brought Alex to my sister’s place and headed over to the hospital where we waited for more than four hours to get confirmation that, yes, he did break his radius.

Broken Wrist

He’ll get a better idea about the next steps when he meets with the specialist this week. Until then, no baby handling, cooking, dog walking for him.

On a financial note, I can see how family emergencies can quickly eat up drawer money. When waiting at the hospital, I headed out and picked up lunch for us: $16.76. Then I picked up my hair product at the drugstore when also picking up Advil. Another $12.

Here’s my challenge for the week: Don’t be tempted to pick up an easy dinner meal because life is busy. I don’t want to spend the cash. To make this happen, I’ll need to do some prep for dinners ahead of time and plan on easy, quick meals.

*

Question: How do you respond to family emergencies?

Do all one-year-olds shriek at Church?

 

*

 

Spending Withdrawal

Financial Proverbs:

“A penny saved is a penny earned.” – Anonymous 

“It’s not what you make; it’s what you keep.” – Anonymous

“F#$k, this is hard.” – Cathy James, 2014

You’ll be proud of me. Following last week’s post on how I’ll monitor my spending money, I had five “No Spend” days. FIVE! The proof is in my pudding tracking:

Insert Back Pat.

Insert Back Pat.

Heck, that now leaves me with $4.76/day!

Then the weekend approached. I became agitated and started to make a mental list of the things I said I wanted to buy this month: eye make-up remover, conditioner, etc. Then I looked at this week’s newspaper flyers. There’s a retro sun clock on sale and I’ve been looking for one of these FOREVER. I’m pretty sure it’s a need. I also need to purchase a new window covering for our powder room. I’m quite sure that’s a need – at least for my neighbour’s sake.

As my mental spending list grew longer, my mind raced about making these purchases a reality. I had to keep reminding myself about how I only have $100 left for the month. On Friday night, I looked at my husband with one eye twitching, and declared, “I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing spending withdrawal.”

I then mentally declared I needed wine. But we’re all out. And I don’t want to spend the money.

More eye twitching.

I now understand why most New Year’s Resolutions go down the crapper at this point. We’re motivated for a week as we make those bold declarations of intended change. But we quickly realize our commitments require dedication, compromise and likely some tears. And probably little wine.

F#$k, this is hard.

As I go through the weekend, I have to keep myself busy and away from spending opportunities. Otherwise, I’ll eat up that remaining money at only 11 days in.

Continued eye twitching…

*

Question: How do you keep your spending temptations at bay?

Can I come over and drink your wine?

Drawer Money: Three changes I will make with my spending money

Since January has been deemed, Financial Focus Month, I knew I had to figure out ways to better manage my spending.

When it comes to managing my cash flow, I am adopting three changes:

1. Re-configure how my invoices and spending cash are distributed. In the past, I’ve had an odd approach to when I’d invoice clients and when I got to use that money. Let’s say I invoice on Dec. 1 for my November work. I’d have to wait until that money was paid to me, even though I depended on it for that SAME month. As a result, I’d neither plan my spending and I’d often lose track of how I spent the money I hadn’t yet received.

I’ve changed that approach by pushing my spending money behind by one month. So if I invoice on Dec. 1 for November work, I watch that money roll in throughout December and that money then becomes January’s spending money. I now have a clear understanding of how much money I can expect to earn and spend a month ahead of time. To make this a reality, I’ve taken $300 from my savings to get a jump on the approach.

I thus now know the spending money I’ll have for February. Already, it’s made me both sickened with fear and empowered. I love feeling more organized, but I’m also freaking about how February will be a low-earning month and how I’ll manage that limited spending money.

2.  Drawer month. As in, you put a prescribed amount of money in your drawer (furniture, not scunders) and when the money is gone, the money is gone.

Source

It’s a concept my sister introduced to me, yes, seven years ago, and it’s also the approach Gail Vaz-Oxlade makes her clients follow in ‘Til Debt Do Us Part. I’ve watched the show for years (I love the tears!), but never adopted her financial approach.

She is some crazy. Crazy good.

Source: 983 Fly FM

I took out $300 for January’s spending money to see how I do with it and where it gets me.

Holy dollah bills, those dollah bills disappear quickly. It has forced me to plan how I’ll spend the money and ensure I have enough money later in the month for planned events/presents.  This brings me to my third financial change.

3. Track my Spending

Using a simple notepad and pen, I’m making a daily log of money spent.

Five days in, I’ve only had a one “No Spend” Day. Boo.

Here’s what I have already spent this month:

  • Birthday presents: $60 (I got some sweet deals. More on that below)
  • Drug store/lady purchase: $6.38
  • Les Miserables Tickets: $50 (we’re attending a performance next month and tickets are $25 each. Because I know February is already a low-income month, I decided to use my January money to pay for it).
  • Coffee/Tea Biscuit: $7 (I went to a coffee shop yesterday for two hours to get work done. I bought a fancy drink and I was hungry. When she ringed in $7, I was SO mad at myself for the ‘irresponsible’ purchase).
  • Tim’s Coffee/Tea: $3.19

Money already spent: $126.57

Tracked spending has forced me to look ahead later this month and plan for any upcoming expenditures.

I looked at the calendar and saw I’d be purchasing three birthday presents. Rather than leave it to the last minute and overspend as a result, I completed online shopping January 1, saved money on shipping and got some deals. Not only did I save money, I am better organized! Win.

I’ve nixed the idea to sign up for a boot camp three-month session, because I can see how it will eat up so much of that drawer money, and that bums me out. But it’s been a good lesson that just because I want to do or buy something, it doesn’t mean it’s feasible.

I have budgeted for a dinner out and the eye make-up remover and conditioner (another $75).

Five days in, I’ve committed to spending $200 of my $300. I don’t have any other big expenditures coming up, but with that, I can see how quickly this money disappears and that frivolous coffee purchases can slowly eat up that money.

I am constantly thinking about my money, but in a healthy, “how will I spend it?” kind of way, rather than a “I have no idea what’s in my bank account, but I’m pretty sure I can afford this bottle of wine” approach.

It’s good. But just hard. And I’m really nervous about what happens when/if I do run out of money the end of the month.

Articles of Interest:

Globe and Mail Article: Inspiring Debt-Reduction stories of 2013

My favourite financial blogger: Give my Back my Five Bucks

David Bach’s The Latte Factor

Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s latest project, My Money, My Choices (it looks interesting, but intense! I don’t I want to spend my book club meetings discussing budget sheets – although we did talk financial tips recently!)