Kay the BF Minimalist: Open to Advice on Managing Inheritance


Many of you will recognize Kay the BF Minimalist – if not by her blog (The Barefoot Minimalist), now on hold, then by her friendly little avatar: f28ef47690999d7da9428d9ddd6c71bd Kay has not been writing much lately. She recently lost her mother and is not sure in what direction her blogging life will go from this point on. I’m grateful to Kay for allowing me to interview her about receiving an inheritance. Kay has said that she and her husband are open to financial advice as they move forward.

Describe the “money blueprint” that you grew up with, and the one that your husband grew up with. What messages about money, both spoken and unspoken, did each of you absorb from your parents?

Well, my dad was in the Air Force.  He came from a poor, inner city background, and the military was his way out.  The message from my parents was that you joined the military or you worked for the military as a civilian. The pay was good, the benefits were great, the security was excellent.  Out of 4 children, I’m the only one who didn’t go in the Army.  However, I did work as a civilian at the local Air Force Base.  So the message got through.  

For my hubby, his dad was a factory man.  He was a machinist and a tool maker.  For him, the message was to work in a factory.  The pay was good, the benefits were great …  well, you get the drift.  However, hubby never did work in a factory.  He became an HVAC guy.  His dad . . .  

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Olyvia working hard as a co-op student in the library.

For today’s post, I’m featuring a former student. Olyvia worked in the school library with me as a co-op student for 3 semesters before she graduated in 2013. She has now returned as a volunteer, and it’s wonderful to see her transition from a rebel teen to a mature young woman. Even as that teen though, Olyvia was a hard worker who loved books. After doing custodial work for three years, she has decided to pursue her love of books once more. She’ll be taking library studies at a community college this fall. 

Olyvia grew up with her brother and her single mom, who suffers from disabilities and has been unable to work. As a child, Olyvia pitched in by helping with household chores as soon as she was able to, and later, she contributed to her family financially. She left home to live on her own at the age of 17. 

Olyvia uses a “no-touch account” for her savings. It’s an account that is set up so that she can’t access it without her uncle – because as she said last week, “I can’t trust myself with it.” This was significant for me personally, since I had a hard time accepting that I needed a “no-touch” accountguarded by another person. Olyvia seemed to have no qualms about using this strategy. I wanted to find out why, and so I asked if I could interview her. I’m so glad she accepted. 

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Truth Without Judgment: Lose ALL The Pride


Positive vs. negative

Do people respond better to positive encouragement? Or to negative criticism? That’s a no-brainer, right? Of course we respond better to positive encouragement! And I don’t know about you, but when I self-talk, I often correct thought patterns going into pessimistic territory to bring them back to the path of affirmation:

  • “Why didn’t we get our financial act together earlier in our lives?!” gets shifted to, “Isn’t it great how we’ve been able to change our financial outlook so much even though we started late?”
  • “I blew the grocery budget!” becomes, “I never even used to know how much I spent on groceries. I’ve become so much more aware.”
  • “Some people are way more frugal that we are,” transitions to, “We are way more frugal than we used to be.”

Is there ever a time to go negative? I’m all for positive thinking, but I believe that in our efforts to

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*Image courtesy of Google Images


Books for Attawapiskat: Ready to Learn?


By the end of the day yesterday, even more packages had arrived than those featured above.

Yes, this is still a blog about one couple’s journey out of debt – mine and my husband’s. And I will get back to that topic soon. Just not today.

Thank you!

I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who has bought a book for the initiative that I wrote about last week. As you can see from the photo above, in just 1 week, we have received so many generous donations of books for the youth of Attawapiskat, a northern First Nations community in crisis. I personally have never been involved in something like this – that takes off through social networking. E-mails, Facebook, Twitter, blogs . . . They can certainly work their magic.

First Nations issues: It’s time to learn

Our Board of Education has, for the past several years, made a real push to have First Nations issues taught. I’ve been very, very slow to respond – partly because I feel so inadequately educated in this area myself. A younger teacher approached me about this a few months ago, and she said that the thing to do is to just start teaching even very basic lessons – because most of us know very little. When I went through school, I never even heard about the residential school system – which was ongoing at the time. (The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.) And as I grew up in a family and a church that encouraged an awareness of social issues, the plight of First Nations people in my own country was somehow never on my radar. I knew there were problems, but they baffled me, and the unacknowledged, silent belief that I have to admit I carried was that the root of the problems must lie with the First Nations people themselves.

I responded to the advice my young colleague gave me by offering to give a brief presentation on the history of the residential school system to the class of any teacher in our school who was interested. As it turns out, last week, the same week our Books for Attawapiskat initiative was unfolding, I gave my first lesson. I had significant angst as I prepared it – given my own ignorance, and having to make decisions about the level of detail to go into, what to focus upon,  what to leave out – all while making it fit neatly into one self-contained period of 75 minutes. I was nervous about giving my first presentation, but it went well.

As I prepared for it, the most significant thing I learned was the concept of intergenerational trauma. If a person has grown up in an institution, separated from family and community, and has been forbidden to speak the language, engage in the spiritual practices, wear the clothes, eat the food, develop the skills of his/her heritage – if that person has grown up silenced and micro-managed, every expression of self squashed, every minute of the day and night scheduled – if that person has grown up within a culture of normalized abuse, physical, mental, emotional, and even sexual – and then that person at the age of 18 is sent out either to return home or to make it in the world at large – what chance does that person have to find his/her place? Anywhere? As a spouse, a parent, a worker, a community member or leader, how functional is that person going to be? Now multiply that person by tens of thousands of people over seven generations. “Get over it,” just doesn’t cut it, does it.

The wake-up can lead to new strength

In both personal terms and in terms of society at large, the wake-up moment can allow for powerful change. As a debt-blogger, I know how important it was for me to “wake up” to the self-sabotaging personal finance chaos that paved the way to my own experience of financial distress. I have friends who have had a wake-up to alcoholism, drug addiction, or to negative patterns of codependency in relationships. As we survey history, it’s common for us to respond with, “How could they have let THAT happen? Couldn’t they see what was going on?” And no doubt, future generations will look back at us and wonder the same thing. As societies, we have wake-up moments too. We humans are so adept in our strategies of denial, and it’s very hard to break through them. But when we do, paradigm shifts happen. I know. My husband and I  have paid off 60% of our total debt.

There. It will be back to our journey out of debt next time. Thanks again to everyone who has supported our school’s initiative to help a First Nations community in crisis. We can now receive packages until May 19, so it isn’t too late to buy a book for the youth of Attawapikat.

Attawapiskat: Buy a Book – Support the Youth’s Vision of a Library


We are out of our depth in knowing how to respond . . .

Attawapiskat is a First Nations community of about 2,000 people located in northern Ontario. Earlier this month, Canadians were shocked by a cluster of suicide attempts among the community’s youth: 11 attempts in a single day.

As our collective focus turns in bewilderment to the realities of communities like Attawapiskat, Canadians are learning ugly truths about our history and our present. Uncomfortable personal prejudices are being exposed – and challenged. And while so many of us – whether Canadian or not – want to DO something about it, we are out of our depth in knowing how to respond to such depressing tragedy.

But we’ve been given some clues on how to “change the narrative”

In a recent Ottawa Citizen article, Elizabeth Payne writes, “A group of youth from the community . . . have held summits in recent days and have vowed to change the narrative in Attawapiskat, helping youth and others to find more outlets and support to reduce depression and suicide attempts, and to put the community onto a more positive path.”

Among the things that the youth of Attawapiskat have identified as part their vision for this changed narrative? A library.

The students and staff of Ridgemont High School in Ottawa would like to help make that vision come true. Here is a list of books that has been created by an English teacher at the school, in consultation with a contact person in Attawapiskat as well as youth from outside of the community who know which books young people like to read. We will need to have books ready to ship by Friday May 13, so please consider buying one now:

Click here to buy a book for the youth of Attawapiskat. When young people in crisis ask for a library, it’s time to listen.

* Image courtesy of Vijetha Vijayan

My Stubborn Money-Management Flaw (With a Silver Lining)


My Achilles’ heal in financial management: discretionary money

Do you ever get sick and tired of your own flaws? When it comes to money management, I am so tired of having to confess my very poor record with my discretionary fund. DH and I decided in 2012 that we would each get an “allowance”, to cover needs that involve personal taste and a broad price range – like clothing and shampoo – and also to cover wants like gifts, gym memberships, snowboarding, blog expenses, and meals or snacks out. When I tell you what we each get for our allowance, you’re going to be surprised at how much it is. So I’m a bit hesitant, but here we go: $600. Each.

Maybe you’re not so surprised. Maybe you’re thinking, Well, if I add up the meals I eat out and the odd coffee and muffin that I pick up on my way home from work – and if I add to that gifts, clothes, books, hygiene products, my gym membership, and my get-away weekends,  I go way over $600 per month. Likely though, you’re more frugal than that, and you’re thinking, How can 

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The TabooTopics of Periods and Personal Finances


My colleague’s cramps & an invitation to speak about a hush-hush topic 

Yesterday afternoon, just before leaving the high school where I work, I stopped and chatted with a young teacher. “Well, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment, so I’d better go,” she said after a couple of minutes. I told her that I hoped she was alright. “Yeah . . .” she said with some uncustomary reserve. And then she continued in a quieter voice, “I’m fine. I just get really bad cramps every month.”

I dashed for a pencil and a small piece of paper. I was all over this. “I used to get . . .

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Your Child’s Experience of Financial Power


DD3 . . . long before she wanted a nose piercing.

  • DD3 = Dear 3rd daughter
  • DH = Dear Husband

When children become teenagers . . .

That’s my youngest up there – DD3 – when she was still a pre-schooler. At the time that photo was taken, I could not imagine her as a seventeen-year-old wanting a nose piercing. But that’s what happens, all you people with cute little children. They grow up! And the teen years can be . . . special.

Mr. Money Beagle wrote a post this past week on what his children have taught him about finances.  His son and daughter, aged 6 and 4, are saving up for Lego and a Disney trip (That girl dreams big!) respectively, and they’re already showing signs of financial wisdom. As I read his post, I thought about my youngest and her decision to get a nose piercing, and I found . . .

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March Update: Temptation to Put Savings Against Debt


Mould developing on our stucco finish? Yikes! Motivations to save . . . 

DH = Dear Husband

Recap & our numbers

It’s the first Saturday of a new month – time for an update. To recap the whole story, DH and I have been on a journey out of debt since June of 2012 when our total debts added up to $257,000:

  • $21,000 in consumer debt
  • $81,000 debt for DH’s home business
  • $155,000 for our mortgage

We’d paid off the last of our consumer debt by the end of 2012. We paid off the last of our business debt in June of 2015. Following the steps outlined in Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, we started a two-pronged approach once we were debt-free except for the mortgage:

  1. We increased our savings, with an initial goal of building up a big emergency fund to see us through 3-6 months of loss of income.
  2. We started to pay down the mortgage as aggressively as possible.

Our mortgage now sits at $112,308.

Our emergency fund is 91% full. (DH does not want me to share dollar amounts when it comes to our assets.)

What if . . . ?

The next big milestone we’ll reach in our debt-reduction is to break the six-figure barrier. It will be a sweet moment when we go below $100,000. And here’s the temptation: we could do it now – by putting most of our emergency fund savings against the mortgage.

My history with savings

Saving has always been a challenge for me. In my discretionary account, I have set several savings goals for myself, but I have not achieved one of them. If I have any amount of money in my pocket, my purse, or my bank account, my compulsion is to spend it – despite the best of intentions. It has been this way since I was a teenager who spent all of her allowance – well before month’s end. “There’s a hole in your pocket,” a friend told me when I was a university student. “Money won’t stay in it.”

The big step forward I’ve made in terms of savings has been that since June of 2012, DH and I have not once used debt to pay for anything. Whether it was a new roof, a big vet bill, or home renovations, we have saved up for each big expense and paid for it outright. That is not something we EVER did before we started tackling our debts. But even now that I’m on track in many ways, when there is no specific goal – when I’m saving just to save “because it’s a good thing to do,” I don’t follow through. 

Good thing I’ve had a pension plan to invest in all of these years! I’m going to have a decent retirement income – not because of my own wisdom, but because of dumb luck. I had absolutely no appreciation for the Teachers’ Pension Plan when I started out in my career, financial head deeply stuck in the sand. It did not motivate my job choice. Nevertheless, with no say in the matter, I’ve been investing in it steadily all these years, and it will serve us well.

Why we’re following through with savings now

We’ve made great progress in our plan to save up an emergency fund for 2 reasons. And now we’ve got a third reason too:

  1. The concept of “emergency” isn’t vague for us. We know what “loss of income” is like. For six years, DH was underemployed/unemployed after the high-tech bust a decade and a half ago. He’s been running a successful home business for six years now, but there are no guarantees. Injury, illness, a shift in the industry . . . It’s not inconceivable that he might suffer a second “loss of income.” We really are motivated to have a 6-months buffer in case that happens.
  2. We have some big ticket item expenses on the horizon. Our van is 17 years old – and it looks it. We have enormous respect for that ’99 Dodge Caravan, and we’ll drive it until it breathes its last. Hopefully, it’s got another 17 years to go, but more likely, it will give out any day now. We plan not go into debt to replace it when that time comes, so even when our emergency fund is at 100%, we’ll have a motivation to keep on saving. Our furnace and A/C are turning 18 years old this year. They’ll need to be replaced soon too.
  3. Our house was built in 1998, and most of the houses on our street as well as an adjacent street were built within a year or two before or after it. The builder offered the option of a stucco finish on the outside, and we, like many others, chose it. About 5 years ago, some home owners started to notice a growing mould on the stucco finish. Apparently, the builder took the quick-and-easy route when it came to preparing for it, and the mould is a result. As far as I know, two owners have refinished their stucco. I know that one of them paid about $60,000 for it – and that was for a house that is smaller than ours. Ugh! Someone has sent around a flyer stirring up the idea of a lawsuit against the builder. Who knows what we’re in for? Whatever it is, we want to be ready for it.

Blessing in disguise?

Sometimes, we’re able to recognize a blessing in disguise, and I’m seeing one here. Our impending but not-yet-urgent needs to replace vehicle, furnace, A/C, and possibly stucco finish (YIKES!) are keeping us on our toes. And I in particular am in need of this kind of motivation to follow through on that very basic of financial fitness practices: saving.

Do you find it challenge to follow through with savings? What makes you more likely to follow through? Your comments are welcome.

I hope you’ll read my post at Fruclassity this week. It’s about the fact that there are generally character flaws beneath the rubble of bad finances. I’ve unearthed one of my own: the avoidance of confrontation.


Changing Seasons of Debt Reduction: Episodes of The Unpredictable

  • DD3 = Dear third daughter
  • DH = Dear Husband

Dogs understand

Dogs definitely understand certain words: walk, ball, treat, milk bone, breakfast, lunch, supper, ball, park, Granny, Mommy, Daddy, tricks, car, kitty cat, doggy, squirrel . . . Our dog Rocky gets so worked up when we say any of these words to him. His tail wags, and he starts to spin around or bark in excitement, sometimes even whimpering with the agony of anticipation. That was the case Tuesday when I got home from work and asked him if he wanted to go for a walk “with the BALL?” He could hardly stand the wait as I put on my boots and looked for the ball and thrower.

Spring vs. winter

Spring time means different things to different individuals, and to Rocky, it means we get out the BALL again! There were still patches of icy snow here and there Tuesday afternoon, but it had been melting back steadily, and large expanses of grass were proof that spring was winning over winter in the battle of the seasons. Rocky ran in a state of sheer joy as he chased the ball over and over again. And I soaked it in too. There is nothing like spring for a winter-weary soul.

A few hours afterwards, it was time to meet up with DD3 on her way home from her work shift at a nearby grocery store. “Do you want to go for a WALK?” Tail wagging, all eager to go, Rocky endured another period of waiting before I finally opened the door. I don’t know which one of us was more shocked to see what had happened to our spring landscape . . .

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