Maternity leave in Norway: a blessing

In this blog I want to write mostly about my personal finance journey but also about personal finance issues related to living to Norway. One of them is maternity leave.  But I can’t really call this an issue, it’s rather a blessing!

 

 

First you should know that family and parenting are values that stand really high in the norwegian society. Coming from another country makes this quite visible to me. Kids are really highly prioritized and cared about in Norway. There is one day during the year where this is strikingly obvious to me: National Day. On the Norwegian national day (May, 17th) kids parade the street. In Oslo you will see a massive children parade: each school bring all their kids to the parade, they walk down the streets and up to the castle, singing and laughing. While in France, our national day parade (July, 14th) consists of military troops walking the streets… To me the way norwegians celebrate national day really symbolizes how their society is: kids are in focus.

The way maternity leave is organised here is pretty much a demonstration of this too. Here is what a norwegian mother is entitled to when having a baby:

-  maternity leave with 100% salary during 46-47 weeks (~11 months) or 80% salary during 56 weeks (~1 year)
- 10 weeks of the above are reserved for the father (paternity leave), the father can also choose to extend his paternity leave by “borrowing” some more weeks from the mother’s leave.
- after matermity leave, you return to your position without any question. Your position is guaranteed!

In addition Norway has a national standard of five weeks of vacation and even an extra government grant should one of the parents decide to stay at home with the child from age 1 to 2 on top of this very generous maternity leave.
Another good thing is that in Norway being a stay at home mum is a choice. No woman is forced to stay at home to take care of their kids because they can’t get into day-care or because they can’t both work and take care of their kids, day-care coverage is very high and combined with the the standard 37,5 hour workweek it allows you to be a mom with a career.

I didn’t know about this until after I moved to Norway but now I really feel good about the fact that if I ever have a baby I will be able to take care of it myself and still keep my career if I wish to do so.

I am curious to learn about how maternity leave is in your country? What do you think of the Norwegian model?

 

 

Women’s Money Week round up

Today is the last day of Women’s Money Week 2012, which I was very grateful to take part in. Since the week is near its end, I thought I would list some favourites, there were tons of posts under WMW2012, those are only a few of the ones I liked:

- Marissa at Thirthy Six Months tells us How to look like a business owner. As you know I have a little issue and found several of her tips were very useful to me even if I am not really a business owner.
- Christina at Northern Cheapstake is a saver by nature. She married a spender and gives us her tips about how to deal with the situation when savers meet spenders.
- No More Spending writes about her passion: getting debt free. I love the list of actions she took to work towards debt freedom. If you look at it, it’s very simple, understandable and doable, you just have to do it!
- Kelly at Kellyology gives us 5 Steps for women to overcome their fear of money.
- I found out me and Gail are real list chicks. I love the feeling when you scratch something from your goal list as mentioned in her Setting Goals post. I also have a list book like her and bring it everywhere so I never forget my goals.

I found Women’s Money Week was a great initiative and loved their giant Ultimate List of Women Money Bloggers, now I have tons of reading to do!

 

Do you have go-to-hell money?

I recently read about Donna Dubinsky and her career at Apple Inc in the 80′s. I love reading about successful female leaders and find those stories very inspirational, from those who made it to billionaire status starting with a $5000 personal investment to those who made a more traditional but still impressive career like Dubinsky, they are all role models to me.

In the article, she referred to a very nice piece of advice she had received from one of her Harvard Business School professors. He had told students that the first thing to do after graduating was to start pulling together their “go-to-hell money”. Dubinsky took that to mean that as an employee you should never put yourself in a situation from which you could not walk away. As a fresh graduate you need to store savings and build a safety net that will empower you and make you able to walk away from work anytime you want.

How much money is enough all depends on your situation and financial obligations but for me I would say enough to get me covered for three months. I know I can find a new job within three months in the current optimistic economic situation in Norway. Note that the go-to-hell fund should be additional to your emergency fund because hey you want to have enough money to sustain yourself and your family for a few months and still be able to pay for reparations if your car break down!

Now does that mean you should you run away anytime a situation arises at work? No, not at all. But building a go-to-hell fund empowers you in a way that has far more repercussions than the ability to walk away from a situation. Your career and work decisions at many levels will be made on all but your financial dependency to your employer and that is power and freedom.

 

This post is a contribution to today’s topic at women’s money week “Money in Your 20′s/30′s/40′s/50′s/Retirement”. For more post about the subject please visit the round up here

Relationships and money: Mine, Yours and Ours, why it works for us

I won’t hide that I had to learn couple finances the hard way. For some reason I have attracted spenders, seriously big spenders, guys who spend like there is no tomorrow and end every month spending more than they earn. In those situations my more sensible spending compensated for their spending going overboard. And since I have always been the one earning less, I often ended without a penny while they would have had most of the fun spending tons on themselves. I don’t even want to think about how much I could have saved all those years if I had been less financially naive and chosen the mine, yours and ours approach earlier…
After those experiences I swore to myself I would never ever again put my own private financial security at risk and promised myself to work towards securing my financial independence.

With my current boyfriend I knew I wanted to avoid all my former mistakes:
- not building my own private savings
- not sharing all expenses 50/50
- not planning financial goals together
- not talking about finances

Why do I need my own savings?
Well I might sound pessimistic and I know that we all go into a serious relationship thinking that it will be a never ending happy story. But the truth is that life doesn’t always turn out that way. Couples separate or divorce, you can be hit by a car, you can get fired… Feeling that I would need financial help from my boyfriend or any relative in those situations just doesn’t feel good. I want to feel financially independent and I want to know I can tackle financial challenges by myself. 

Why do we share expenses 50/50?
I feel this is more my choice than my boyfriend’s, he earns more and doesn’t feel good about sharing expenses equally with someone earning much less. But I have insisted on it and prefers it this way. We have one joint account where we contribute equally and where all our bills are automated. In addition we have a joint account for groceries, we also contribute equally to this one, we have one debit card each on this account and we pay with it when we buy groceries. Our mobile phone bills, student loans, credit card debt and discretionary spending are paid for separately from our respective private accounts.
Being the one who earns less, I really have to watch my budget to be able contribute to those accounts each month and pay my own private bills in addition, which is good discipline for a former shopaholic like me. Besides I am now in a situation where I am the saver and my boyfriend is more a spender. I think that sharing 50/50 and leaving what is left of my money in my private account is far less stressful than joining all the money and trying to control my other half’s spender tendencies. I feel better about it and we don’t have money fights.

Why do we plan financial goals together?
In any serious relationship, you will some day want to make plans together. And most plans involve money. You need to discuss the financial aspects together and be sure you agree on them and behave accordingly. If you dream of taking a year off and travel around the world then you need to discuss how you will get there and make a financial plan both of you will agree to follow.  Same thing if what you plan on is buying a new fridge or going back to school.
My boyfriend and I still need to work on the long term planning. We have different goals and priorities and need to find a comprise or a common plan that will please both, but we are getting there.

Why talk about finances?
Well just because we track our expenses and pay our bills on time doesn’t mean that our finances are doing good. We currently have weekly financial meetings where we review all aspects. We check if we are on track, we review our spending and our bills, we plan on bigger expenses if needed. More importantly those weekly meetings reminds us of  the fact that we are a team and they motivate us to work on our goals together.

What works for us might not work for you, but for me this is the most peaceful couple finance situation I have ever had and I would never go back to my old ways. I feel safe because my hard earned cash is mine, and I feel good because we are also building assets that are ours together.

 

This post is a modest contribution to today’s topic at Women’s Money Week: “Relationships and money”.

Frugal tip: How to repair broken eyeshadows

This frugal tip is a condensed version of a blog post written byLille Fru d’Argent, a talented norwegian make up artist based in London. She kindly allowed me to translate her post and use her pictures

 

Every girl has experienced the frustration of seeing an eyeshadow break into pieces. Usually I would buy a new one or just stop using the shade, but thanks to this tip I will have fun fixing it next time!

To fix a broken eyeshadow, you wil need the following:
- paper towels
- a spatula or any flat tool
- rubbing alcohol

First break the eyeshadow into even more pieces.

Next add a few drops of rubber alcohol. Continue crushing the eyeshadow while adding the alcohol and until the eyeshadow turns into a thick paste.

 

Be careful not to use too much alcohol, just a few drops. If you add too much your eyeshadow will turn too compact and it will crack when it dries.

 

Smooth the paste and put a paper towel over it. Press the eyeshadow with a flat surface, a big coin can do.

 

Let it dry for a little while.

 

And here they are, as new!

Lille Fru D’Argent mentioned this tip has been already shown in many makeup blogs but I am not familiar to makeup blogs so for me it was new and very frugal. :-)

You can read the original post in norwegian here.

 

 

Are my young looks keeping me from getting the career I want?

I read this post by Financial Samurai yesterday and it made me think about my own situation. I am 34 but I get easily mistaken for being under 20 or even younger. A good proof of that is that I have never ever got to buy wine (age limit 18) without showing my ID at the cashier desk. I could tell so many anecdotes, like once when I went out with the girls and forgot to bring my ID. We went to a club (age limit 25) and I hoped the guy at the door would let me in like everybody else without asking to check my ID. Of course it didn’t happen. He stopped me and asked for my ID. I argued I was 31 at that time and way over the age limit but he just rolled his eyes saying “yeah right I hear that all the time” and he denied me entry to the place… Such things are a bit humiliating I must say. Also I get hit on a lot by kiddos, which just grosses me out as I am so not the cougar type.

I am at a stage of my career where I would like to get a leadership position but I feel like my young looks are stopping me from getting there. I am tiny (5ft1inch/1,55m) and thin, which makes you automatically look younger. In addition I am cute, I don’t mean cute like pretty but cute like a kitten or a baby lamb. I have big brown eyes and looong eyelashes (people often mention I have “bambi eyes”) and cute curly hair. That makes me look even younger. A third thing is that I am a happy person and I smile and laugh a lot, I guess if I was a sour angry bitch I would look older, but I am not!

I applied for a leadership position for a while ago and was very happy to make it to an interview. I think that means my CV looked interesting for my prospective employer. I did a good job at the interview but they didn’t call me in for the second interview round. After a couple of weeks I called the person who interviewed me and asked her if she could give me some feedback about my performance at the interview. She mentioned that my lack of leadership experience was my weakest point but she also mentioned I looked “cute and mild” saying it like it was not a good thing… My lack of leadership experience is something they could see already by reading my CV so I can’t help thinking that the real reason I didn’t make it to the second interview are my young looks…

I watch my looks and never wear pink, florals or anything that younger gals tipically would wear. I think my style is classic and elegant with a little dash of preppy but it doesn’t seem to help. This is really annoying and I don’t know how to deal with it. I have more than 10 years experience, I have an MSc and soon an Executive Master of Management on top of that but I really feel like my young looks are stopping me from getting the career I want.

I would be very grateful to get comments or advice from you readers because I really don’t know how to deal with that. But oh please don’t give me the ”you’ll be grateful when you’re older”. I am older and I am not grateful. *Sigh*

My top referrers

I have been sick with a flu for a few days so I am sorry for the lack of update.

Now on to my top referrers. My blog has only been up for just about 6 weeks and my site stats show just about a hundred views a day so I have nothing impressive to brag about really. I also checked my alexa rank just for fun and it says 1,227,898… The funny thing about the alexa rank is that it states the following:
Myyearwithoutwastingmoney.com is ranked #1,227,898 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. This site is relatively popular among users in the city of Saskatoon (where it is ranked #631). While the site is ranked #317,084 in the US, where we estimate that 30% of its visitors are located, it is also popular in Canada, where it is ranked #60,888.

My blog from Oslo being popular in Saskatoon is entirely thanks to my top referrer ShoppingDetox. I love Shopping Detox! Annabelle writes in such a funny and interesting way about personal finance, she has a lot of self irony and I love the frenchyness of her blog. In addition she manages to write good posts with beautiful pictures every single day, I am impressed! Annabelle was so nice and linked to my blog twice which explains the traffic from Saskatoon, thank you Annabelle!
My second top referrer is My Half Dozen Daily, also a canadian blog. It is owned by Carla, a SAHM with 4 kids and a whole lot of hobbies and occupations. I feel so little when I look at her beautiful sewn creations, I am so bad at sewing I can’t even sew a button! I love that Carla’s blog is a nice mix of things I am interested in from frugality to scrapbooking, persnal finance and healthy cooking. I think that it is the fact that I joined Carla’s february challenge that I got so much traffic coming from Carla’s blog. Thank you Carla, and by the way sorry for being lousy at updating but having been sick this weekend I haven’t been able to do what I planned for the challenge…
My third top referrer is No More Spending, a UK blog about a family working on being totally debt free (including mortgage free) by 2020 and moving abroad. Check out their impressive plan and progress here. They have included me in their blogroll and I get a lot of traffic from there since their blog is highly ranked.

I also want to thank all the other bloggers who have included me in their blogroll and commented on my blog – thank you that warms a newbie’s heart!

 

Nespresso capsules are never cheap

I have a Nespresso machine, which is totally not a frugal way of making coffee by the way but for now that’s what I have.

The other day I went to the Nespresso store to buy some capsules, here in Norway it costs around NOK 35 – 40 (US$ 6-7) for a pack of 10 capsules.

I queued at the shop for a while and got to notice they had 3-packs of capsules in baskets everywhere in the shop.

When it finally got to be my turn I asked the lady at the cashier desk about them:

Me: How much do I save by buying the three pack?
Nespresso lady: You save 0.80 NOK (US$ 0.12)
Me: What?! you said 0.80?
Nespresso lady: Yes, 0.80.
Me: Hahahaha (sorry, I know it’s not the lady’s fault but I couldn’t help it)

It’s so ridiculous! They have those 3-packs lying all around the shop giving you the impression that you will save money by buying them and all you save is peanuts?! I was so annoyed at them I nearly felt like not buying anything and walk away. I felt fooled.

Do you always check how much you save by buying food in bulk or bigger packs? Ever felt fooled?

 

Microsaving

The nordic bank Nordea has launched a new product I think is genius! It is called microsaving (MikroSpar in norwegian). Basically every time you use your credit card or debit card, a predetermined savings amount will be deposited to your savings account.
Microsaving applies to purchases made with any card associated with your bank account at Nordea.
As for the savings, they can go to one of your own or even another person’s account in Nordea, such as for example your children or grandchildren’s account for example.

One can choose between two options:
- a fixed amount (minimum US$ 1), ie the same amount will be deducted each time you shop with your card.
- a rounded amount (minimum US$ 0,5), ie it rounds up the purchase price to the nearest 10 ( for example US$16 will round up to US$20 so that US$4 will go to your savings account)
You can choose to limit the savings by setting a maximum number of savings transactions per day or a maximum savings amount per day.
For the savings transaction to happen the purchase amount must be greater than the savings amount. You can also pause the savings whenever you want.

You can both create, modify and terminate the microsaving just by accessing your bank account online. And last but not least, the whole thing is for free! The bank doesn’t charge anything for it!

The whole idea back this concept is that those micro-amounts are money you would have spent carelessly anyway and that the amounts are so low you won’t even notice.

Does your bank offer this service too? What do you think about it?

PS: I have no commercial affiliation with Nordea and I am not receiving anything for writing this post. 

Update on the february challenge week 3

Sorry all for the late update!

Here is how I am doing on Carla‘s challenge so far:

- decluttering: My week 3 challenge was to organize and purge my scrapbooking supply. I was so not looking forward to do that because I knew how time-consuming it was going to be. You know all those beads, ribbons, stickers, cards, … Everything was in big boxes but inside the boxes, it was just a total mess… It took me a couple of hours but it is now all organised in smaller boxes and I love it. I will now definitely use my supply much more and I am looking forward to it! Can you imagine I have not been scrapbooking for nearly two years because my stuff was such a mess? ;-) Thank you Carla for initiating this challenge! I am so happy my scrapbooking supply is now useable! And by the way I have enough to last me for.. eh.. a couple of years maybe?…
Oh and by the way I have removed much more than 1 item a day, I am up at 45 items removed right now! The only problem is some of it has to be listed and sold on finn.no (Norway’s craigslist) and right now it is all gathered in a corner in our guest room and it looks annoyingly messy…

- low/no spend: I am proud of myself there too. :-) You remember how shocked I was at my january phone bill? I was charged US$ 94 in additionnal fees in january because I used my mobile much more than my fixed price contract allows me to. Well I just received my phone bill for the last 30 days and it states that I am only charged US$ 7 in addition to my fixed fee. That is progress! I also haven’t been spending much: a little bag of cookies from a french bakery $8, dinner with my colleagues (veggie burger + 1 glass of wine) $37, one latte + a scone: $12, that’s all the frivolous spending so far and I feel good about it because it is wayyyyyy less than what I used to spend before!

Now on to week 4! I hope you are all doing well on the challenge :-)

PS: Sorry for the lack of before/after pictures in this post!