Friday, March 21, 2014


I've had some posts lined up in my brain: one on San Francisco, one on making cheese, another one for Pi Day. They are rattling around somewhere in the spiderwebby attic of my cerebral cortex.

But instead, I am going to write about money, honey.

Yeah. I've been thinking about it non-stop lately. In good ways! In grown-up, empowering ways. It has always been a fascinating topic for me, as opposed to a taboo, awkward, private one. I'm turning 30 this year, and money is on the agenda of my 'sit down and thinkaboutit' horizon.

(If this topic is not interesting to you, I would skip this post.)

Here is a brief look at my history with money (inspiration here):

  • My parents taught us to be smart and careful with our money, since they didn't have much when they were kids.
  • When I was little, my Dad saved all my birthday / Christmas/ Chinese New Year money from relatives into my parents' bank account. He would write out each incoming transaction on a crumpled paper ledger entitled 'Joann's Savings Account'. As a child, I watched my "money" grow to $2000 (collected over like a decade), and fell in love with savings through osmosis.
  • I have had a job, part-time or otherwise, since I was 14. In grade 9, I would work two evening shifts during the school week, and once on the weekend. When I worked at the GAP, we would be scheduled for "flow night" once a season (new summer products, etc.), where we would work from 7pm to 3am putting out new merchandise. My dad always drove me everywhere (<3 thanks pop.)
  • I have been: a pizza franchise employee, a clothes horse employee, a Starbucks employee, a bartender (?! for a month before they fired me), an after school care leader at community centres, a summer camp instructor, a drama camp instructor, a voice/acting mentor for kids, and a tutor.
  • When deciding how much I could spend as a teenager, I would just look at my savings, eyeball the last two digits and decide I could afford that amount (i.e. $2567 means $67 to spend).
  • In my early twenties, my best friend and I had a "$10k Party" (and by party, I mean we went out for dinner) when we both reached our financial savings goal around the same time as each other.
  • Confession: he and I never tipped when we were in high school, and my boyfriend at the time told us that we were embarrassing and we needed to start tipping our servers. 
  • I always tip now, even if service is shitty (I don't know why.)
  • I was lucky that my parents set up a CST education fund when I was a a kid, and also had scholarships from my highschool and UBC to fully finance my BFA. Later, I paid for my Bachelor of Education from my work savings. I've never taken out a student loan.
  • I will be getting my Masters of Counselling (fingers crossed) in the next years, and will pay the $20k pricetag, as well.
  • I have always paid off my credit card bill in full each month, since attaining one. Once, I forgot the due date by a few days, and was mortified when they charged me interest (it was like... $5). 
  • I am working part-time right now, and taking a class, so incoming money is less than it has been since I started my teaching career.
  • I have never set up a real budget for myself, and this year is the time to start.

Would I categorize myself as a spender or a saver? The latter, definitely. It's just so ingrained. So it's funny to me that a compulsive saver such as myself has never entertained the idea of a budget, 'til now. B and I have grand, sexy plans to sit down with our finances this Monday, and have a good long think about things. Like, how much of our take home pay will go towards RRSPs and retirement? How much into a rainy day fund, in case we fall on hard times? How much for things like shoes and gourmet chocolate? 

Because. Well. We may very well differ on these opinions. So here's another list.

- I will fork over $$$ for food. Food festivals, 5-course menus, expensive groceries. Whatever.
- I hardly ever--or it pains me a little when I--pay for drinks at restaurants. Desserts, too.
- I will indulge in getting a pedicure once a month (when I'm living in a city), because I love reading trashy magazines in silence, and having me time.
- I do not pay for manicures because it chips so easily, AND I can't read trashy magazines while     someone works on my hands.
- I will spend a couple hundred dollars on leather shoes I love.
- I no longer buy random, cheap clothing from stores just because it is on sale.
- I pay for $50 haircuts, only because I cut my hair once a year.
- I wouldn't spend money to dye my hair, or upkeep it that way.
- I/we will shell out a lot to sustain our desire to eat organically, ethically
- I wanted to hurl when we were in Juneau over christmas break, and was charged $11 for one single red pepper.
- I will spend money on travel, without raising an eyebrow, because it sustains me.
- I would never pay for a business class ticket, and will always choose the option that is most        economical, even if it means a kind of nutty wake-up time.
- I pay for art: theatre tickets, books, prints to hang.
- I am scared to think about buying a couch, fridges, canoes, land, houses, cars or anything grown up like that.

The reality, at the end of the day, is that it is time to turn some of my theoretical ideas of money, into concrete ones with my partner. Marriage will do that for you. I was reading one of the billion blog posts I peruse on any given day, and had a stark realization that legally, all of B's $, and all of my $, is now just a big pile of BJ $ (haa), anyway you slice it. 

When we move away from this wonderful territory this summer, we are leaving behind employment + low rent, and heading into the unknown. Being imminently unemployed, with a higher housing market will probably make any couple wizen up, team up. I have imposed a personal budget for myself for the next few months, and it feels surprisingly good. It feels nice to have boundaries, to have purpose.

So as Team Beejay talks credit union vs. big bank, and whether fresh flowers (her) or dry cleaning (him) will fall into the joint budget, I want to ask you brave ones.....

a) what is one interesting factoid from your history with money?
b) what is something you have no problem spending money on?
c) what is something you would never spend money on?


  1. Great po$t. Recommend reading while listening to ACDC's song that goes ~what do you do for money, honey? what do you do for kicks?~

    Part of me (the culturally prescribed male identity part) wants to write "I didn't say dry cleaning! What about the nun-chucks and stainless BBQ budget!" Well now I guess I have written that. But the fact is this: truth is out there. I really do want someone to iron and press my clothes. Well, at least my 'nice-clothes-that-I've-slowly-realized-look-better-on-me-than-jeans-and-hoodies-now-that-I'm-almost-35'.
    Factoid: I'm anti-caplitalist and it has made it very hard for me to appreciate the accumulation of cash.
    No Problem: spending money on food. When I moved out and first started buying my own meals, I made a deal with myself that I could spend as much as I wanted at the grocery store because at least I wasn't eating out.
    Would Never: spend money getting things fixed when I can fix it myself.

  2. a. I lived in "volunteer poverty" as a hippie in the 60's and learned that I could survive on very little cash. I even had fun because I was in a culture of other people doing the same but that was a particular time and place and I was young. I do value the comfort, in my old age, that money affords....for sure. I see lots of older very poor people on the streets of Victoria and wish it could be otherwise for doesn't look fun. My parents were savers is the only reason I have any money at all now, because I didn't plan ahead for myself. So I am very grateful to them. For lots of things, but for that too. But living on a very thin shoestring for a few years made me realize that if I suddenly lost everything I'd probably survive somehow, so it took away that fear.

    b. I don't have trouble spending money on my daughter.

    c. I can't be sure there's anything I'd "never" spend money on....absolutes sort of don't exist; or as soon as I think they do I'm confronted with the exception to the rule. Maybe a Harper campaign contribution....that would pretty much be a never.

  3. i would never spend money on makeup!!! or high heels. or booze (unless it was for someone else). pedicures :p

    i remember when mom and dad would give us $1 per month in allowance when we were pre-teens, and one time we got caught using it to buy candy from the vending machines at chinese school and they flipped out on us.

    food is something i will never skimp on, especially healthy organic local foods that i love (expensive almond buttter!). and travel.

    as a confession i feel bad about not making very much income as an adult and being able to give my parents money...yet. but i know they support me in what i'm doing.

    this post will be interesting when you guys pop some little BJ's out and see if your priorities/luxury allowances change....

  4. well this winter. i spent about $200 on chocolates at gifts for people and ate half of it, my cousin bought me a bunch of chocolate. anyway, i broke out in the worst cystic acne ever and spent over $600 on skincare to heal my face as quick as possible. As im getting older I'm paying more attention to a better skincare routine, AFTER the horrible chocolate face zit beard debacle. And i will pay more for good skin care products.

    i did put a big chunk of money into a personal trainer but now that i am around, or like 10 lbs from my goal weight, i have eased up. But I did have a roommate/ex-bf when I put down a big chunk of money every month towards it, so that helped...

    Travel and food and arts and fine leather shoes I will pay. I won't pay for a nice purse, my mom always gets me purses from hk, ive never coveted fine designer bags. Actually im a really horrible saver and i'm only really starting to think about how much i spend now, within the last 2 years. I really do fling my money around, my mom is really good at saving points and getting cards and getting travel points, so she's teaching me how to do that lol.

  5. Good for you and B . Seems you are grow up to think about this issue , and face the true life and your domesticity. But you always know how to save money, me and dad never worried about this.

    But in our age, we need to learn how to use money now, I always encourage dad have a long travel with me, will see.

  6. a) what is one interesting factoid from your history with money?

    I think I learned a lot about money earning my 'allowance' as a kid when I spent my summers at our family's summer house in rural Poland... During chanterelle (a mushroom) and blueberry season, I would go out with my grandma or by myself into the woods, wearing big rainboots and a yellow raincoat and carrying a plastic bucket. I would fill the pail with as many mushrooms or blueberries (minus the ones I ate) before lugging my loot home. Then I would pour the mushrooms out on our white patio table and clean the ends - with the blueberries you didn't have to do anything. Afterwards, I would put the pails on my bike handles and walk my bike to the local buyer a few kilometres away. She would weigh my haul and pay me by weight. While I never saved any of the money and often used it to by ice-cream for the walk home, it taught me how hard you have to work for a dollar, or in this case a zlotych.

    b) what is something you have no problem spending money on?

    Travel and good food - often in conjunction.
    Race fees because running local races helps me stay motivated to keep working out.
    Experiences, like going to the theatre, taking sailing lessons, etc.

    c) what is something you would never spend money on?

    Cable because it ends up being just a time suck and I get all my news and entertainment online.
    I am much more reluctant to pay for possessions because I have moved so much in the past several years (Toronto-London, England-Toronto-Vancouver-Toronto-Vancouver-etc.) that it seems hard to justify having "stuff" when I don't know where my "home" is.

  7. a) what is one interesting factoid from your history with money?

    I'm terrible at saving…
    EDUCATION around money was almost never a priority; instead, it was lectured in the typical Asian way of telling us, children, what to do rather than how to do it. I've grown up in a household where money was always the root of any family discussion or argument. You would think that would have made me blossom into a green paper hoarder. Unfortunately, having frugal parents turned me into a frivolous spender, resentfully spending every dollar I earned on what I thought I was deprived of. This, and amoung other idiotic adolescent choices and emotional coping mechanisms, were the reasons I have, as they say in the Chinese culture, "holes between my fingers."

    b) what is something you have no problem spending money on?

    Good dining experiences (doesn't mean it has to be expensive)
    Good cooking ingredients
    Opportunities to spend quality time with friends and family (typically centered around food)
    Travel (which typically coincides with a food sourcing adventure - and when I say food sourcing, I mean sourcing food for my belly)

    c) what is something you would never spend money on?

    Full price on most materialistic items (clothing, accessories, home decor, kitchen appliances - you name it)
    Anything that I THNK I can DIY myself - even it takes me a decade to get 'er done
    Manis/Pedis - hardly EVER