Money matters

Birthday List Love Day 2: Personal Finance Books by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Confession: I am a personal finance geek and devour personal finance books for fun. I like Gail Vaz-Oxlade's books so much that she gets her own list.

Gail has a no-nonsense, practical approach to personal finances that appeals to me. Using terms like “money moron” or “downright dumb” to describe questionable money choices, she doesn't mince words and isn’t afraid of calling the reader’s bluff. I don’t take it personally.

I find her writing sobering and direct, but accessible with a clear path to solutions. Plus she's Canadian which means her books refer to Canadian laws and resources, a piece that's usually missing in books written by US authors.

Below are three books she's written that I've enjoyed over the past few months. The subject matter is the same, but each offers its own insights.


Money Rules: Rule Your Money, Or Your Money Will Rule You

Though the information is plentiful, this book was an easy read. The two hundred and sixty-one money rules offered range from the basic (#8 Everyone Needs an Emergency Fund) to the philosophical (#57 Learn From Your Mistakes), to the more obscure that might not be widely known (#63 Make Spousal RRSP Contributions by December). Everything is laid out in practical, bite-sized pieces that are easy take in. Some of the rules I already knew or was familiar with, but others made me go “Huh!” Some of them surprised D., my husband, and became fodder for financial discussion. Wide in its coverage of money matters, it's a useful resource.

Never Too Late: Take Control of Your Retirement and Your Future

With a focus on retirement this book includes information about RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans) and TFSAs (Tax Free Savings Accounts), among other things, that helped me better understand my options as I move forward. I am in my forties and retirement will come soon enough. The book brings a clear message that it really never is too late to start saving, and will guide the reader through some options to do so. So no excuses!

It’s Your Money: Becoming a Woman of Independent Means

This book is geared towards women, but in Gail's words, from her Money Rules book: “It's Your Money was written for women, but if you're a guy, it won't make your penis fall off.”

The first few sections cover basics like saving, credit identity, insurance, etc., and touch on the intangibles of money, as in how do you feel about it? But I found the last few sections most insightful: Adapt Your Plan as Your Life Changes and Just in Case. In these sections Gail walks us through different life scenarios such as partnering up, having children, losing a job, becoming disabled or caring for aging parents, and outlines how each one might impact our financial plan and choices. Some of the stats presented were eye-openers for me and prompted action, which is probably exactly what she hoped for when she included them.


Each of these books has helped deepen my personal finance journey in one way or another. They are well laid out, clear, and cover many of the facets involved in creating intentional finances, making them excellent resources for one's financial toolkit.


If you want a taste of Gail and her approach, you can check out this interview about her latest book called Money Talks (which I haven’t read yet, ergo is not on my list):


Did you miss Birthday List Love Day 1? Here it is. Stay tuned for Day 3...

January: A Month of Insights and Delights

It's been a quiet month. The type of month that seemed unassuming and ho-hum from the outside, but on the inside, unfolded into a series of insights and delights.

For my end of month recapitulating and your reading pleasure voici, an update of the mish-mashy kind. Settle in.


Discovering Beatrix Potter (or, Heed the Hunches)

Earlier this month, for no rhyme or reason, Beatrix Potter came to mind. I'd never read any of her stories nor did I know much about her other than she's a famed children's writer and illustrator.

Shortly after she popped into my head I stumbled upon a biography of hers at the library. Seeing this as a twist of synchronicity I picked it up. Since then I've slowly been delighting in getting to know both her and her tales, reading them for the first time, even gleaning a few insights along the way.

The moral of this story?

Sometimes the smallest weirdest hunches may lead to surprising and enjoyable discoveries. Heed them.


Spending With A Clear Conscience: A Satisfying Experience

Early last year I stated a desire for a new laptop.

I was hesitant to spend the money so I tried using my 10-year old Mac instead. No go. Then I tried using a combination of my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard. That didn't cut it either. As I tried to find a solution, I kept putting my pennies away until finally, I realized that I had enough put aside to treat myself with a clear conscience. So I did.

"So what?", you might say.

So satisfying.

I don't buy big ticket items often, I guess you could say I'm a bit of a penny-pincher that way. But this time I saved the money and spent it intentionally on a purchase that feels right.

So satisfying.


More Book-related Synchronicity (or, Continue Heeding the Hunches)

Though I read many non-fiction books, it's been a while since I've found one that captured me such as Soul Shifts, by Dr. Barbara De Angelis.

I used to own a plethora of books you could slot into the "self-help" or "spiritual" categories, but during these past several years I've purged my collection considerably. This month I stumbled upon this book during another one of my walk-through-the-aisles-at-the-library-and-see-what-calls-me expeditions (the same way I found the Beatrix Potter biography) and felt drawn to it, so I picked it up. Whoa!

It grabbed me from the very first few pages. I've already renewed it a few times, slowly taking in its words and insights, mulling them over, letting them percolate, putting them into practice.

The moral of this story?

Sometimes the smallest weirdest hunches may lead to reflection and revelation. Heed them.


History, Farming, Domesticity

I couldn't offer a mish-mash of January happenings without mentioning my quasi-obsession with farm-related historical documentaries. Yes, you read that right. Throughout the month I've been soaking in episode after episode of BBC's Tudor Monastery Farm and my latest obsession, Wartime Farm, in which the running of a WWII farm is reenacted close to Southampton, in the UK.

I am absolutely fascinated by the everyday lives of farmers throughout these different eras - fascinated! What did they eat? How did they live? How did they use and leverage the resources at hand to survive, or even thrive? I could go on.

I've been watching the documentaries via TV Ontario's website, but I believe they're also available on Youtube and I'm guessing, via BBC's website. You might also be able to find them on DVD at your local library. If you're into history, farming and/or domesticity across the ages, I highly recommend it. But be forewarned, you might get hooked.


10 Years Blogging

Finally, this past Monday marked 10 years of blogging. It passed without fanfare or grandiosity, but it was proudly acknowledged and even touted a little at the office.

I am very proud of this accomplishment. Ten years is a long time persisting, however imperfectly at times, and it's worth celebrating. I haven't figured out what I want to do about it here yet so I'm holding off. I trust the right idea will come along eventually. Stay tuned.

In the meantime if you're interested in reading my very first post you can find it on my very first blog called Urban Living Experiment (scroll to the bottom of the page). Without knowing what I was getting into, this post kicked off ten years of writing online - so far - and one tremendous journey of transformation. I am grateful.


Many quiet days, many insights, delights, and even a few quiet celebrations. Such was the nature of this January.

Here's to that.