Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Stand up for yourself and your money

When I first moved to Vancouver, I took a job that paid me 15% less than my job in Victoria. It doesn’t seem like a ton, but when you’re making less than $50,000 that’s a huge amount. But I did it because 1) I wanted to move to Vancouver and establish myself with a very reputable organization, and 2) my boss promised me what amounted to a 12% raise after I passed my probation period.

I didn’t stay very long with the organization, but I learned some very important lessons that I still think about today:

1. Get everything in writing

I was young when I took this job, and I believed my boss when he told me that I would get a raise after my probation period ended. He was one of those managers who made a really good first impression, knew exactly what to say, and filled up the room with his energy. I was definitely the opposite of him, and remember timidly asking if we should put that into my formal offer letter. He quickly brushed me off and said that he’d get it done. He told me to trust him. So I did.

2. Nobody cares about your money more than you

Once my 3 month probation period passed and I didn’t notice a difference in my pay cheques, I brought it up with my boss. He assured me he would file the paperwork to make it happen.

The next time we got paid, I still hadn’t seen a change. So I inquired again, and he told me that it “wasn’t high on his priority list.” I thought, okay. No worries. This minor administrative task isn’t as important as other issues we were dealing with, but it was one of the reasons why I accepted the job. 12% may not seem like a big raise to him, but it was huge for me. And as the weeks went by, I got more and more disgruntled.

Related: If you don’t ask, you won’t get

Six weeks after I was supposed to have gotten the raise, I went into his office and asked about my raise again. It was rightfully mine, and I told him that. “Well aren’t you greedy,” he said, and dismissed me from his office.

I was in shock. I was mad, and I wasn’t going to take it. How dare he accuse me of being greedy when all I was asking for was what he promised me!

3. Fight for what’s right

Eventually I realized that he never intended on giving me that raise because he had never gotten it approved and didn’t have the authority to set my salary. But it was what was promised to me, so I kept fighting for it. Every week I would bring it up with him (always politely, never forceful), and each time he would make a comment about me being “bossy” or “aggressive” or his favourite, “greedy.”

Three months later, I finally got my raise. But it was only for 5% – not the 12% I was promised when I accepted the job. He said that it was all he could do for me, and I wasn’t going to be getting anything else. I nodded, thanked him for pushing my “raise” through, and promptly started looking for work elsewhere.

Related: How I landed my first job out of college

Two months after that, I left for a position that paid me a much better salary. But I often look back at that job and think about how much I learned in the 8 months I was there. I learned how to stand up for what I knew was right. I learned how to be assertive (not bossy or greedy), and I learned that the next time I negotiated something with an employer, to get everything promised to me in writing.

Have you ever had to stand up for yourself at work before?

2016 Annual Goals: Q1 Review

The first three months of 2016 have been stressful, but mostly good. No, they’ve been great, actually.

I don’t normally blog about the details of my personal life on this blog, but I cannot believe how much different my life looks now, than it did last spring. I’m in a relationship with someone I can see myself with, well, for a really long time … and our little laneway is really starting to feel like home. :)

I’m also starting to feel comfortable with the direction that my career is going. Usually I’m unhappy with some aspect of my career (not enough responsibilities, not getting paid enough, or fretting over not making enough freelance income), but my full-time job is enjoyable (I even got a raise this month!), and freelancing has been steady. And I do find it funny that since I decided to stop caring about how much money I’m bringing in, I’m set to earn more than I ever have before. 

Anyway, the main focus of this year is to feel strong both mentally and physically, and stay on top of my retirement contributions. I also want to create realistic budgets, and challenge myself to do more with the money that I make.


  • Stay debt-freeCHECK! I have not incurred any debt in the first quarter of this year.
  • Save at least 50% of my income. CHECK! This is a new goal I wanted to add as a target for the year, and for Q1 I’m averaging a savings rate of 65%.
  • Save at least $1,300/month into my RRSP/TFSA. CHECK! After my 3-month probation was over in February, I became eligible for employer contributions which increased my retirement savings to $775 bi-weekly, which means my total contributions come in at just under $1,700/month when you factor in the 26 pay periods.
  • Create realistic monthly budgets. CHECK! So far, so good. I haven’t stayed completely on budget, but I’ve been really diligent in tracking my monthly spending – and I think that’s more important. Everything feels a lot more organized this year, and that makes me happy.
  • Live one month with a bare-bones budget. PENDING. I haven’t decided when the best time to do this would be. There’s a month where RD will be gone for work, so I’m potentially considering that time frame. But it’s not really an accurate picture, because living one month with a bare-bones budget would require his buy-in and participation to make it real.
  • Spend less than $500 on clothing and shoes this yearCHECK! I’m on track so far, and haven’t purchased anything except for 2 pairs of TOMS. But, if I’m being really, really honest with myself, I’m not sure I’ll make this target.


  • Make my body strong. ONGOING. I’ve been working out an average of 3-4x/week and have noticed massive improvements in my climbing ability. When I stopped climbing 4+ years ago, I was at the 5.11a-b level – well just a few months into climbing and we are at around the 5.10d and 5.11a level. It feels good. Now that field hockey season is over, I’m going to have come up with a new fitness activity for a few months. If it’s not running, I may go back to spin class or head to the gym and do a bit of elliptical and weight training. At least until hiking season. :)
  • Go on a multi-day hiking trip. PENDING. We’ve had discussions about where we’d like to go hiking, and we are both interested in doing a multi-day hike on the Sunshine Coast Trail. But, I’m not sure if/when we can swing this trip in 2016 (ideally I’d love to do 4-5 days) … so we might have to squeeze in a long weekend hike sometime in the summer.
  • Bring lunch to work most days. PASS. I’m trying really hard at this, and it’s a definite improvement from the past, but I could be doing better.
  • Stop going to coffee shops. CHECK! I stopped going to Starbucks once they announced their new star rewards program. We make coffee every morning at home with a french press (and even take it traveling with us to save even more money).
  • Eat less dairy. FAIL. I haven’t really tried to cut back. We eat a lot of cheese at home … although we have substituted butter and milk at home for vegan substitutes on a permanent basis.
  • Read 12 books. PASS. According to GoodReads, I’m 1 book behind schedule. :)
  • Bring more creativity to my life. PENDING. I’m looking into pottery classes, as well as taking on more cooking and baking. I’m also going to start experimenting with brewing my own kombucha and trying out new flavour combinations. Oh, and I’ve also gone back to editing in Photoshop. I wanted to stay away from pixels, but forgot how much fun it is to mess around in that program.


  • Rebrand GMBMFB. PENDING. I’m currently trying to figure out what exactly I want, but I can’t nail it down. This will require more thinking, because I don’t want to spend the money if I’m just going to want to change things again a year later.
  • Go to three marketing conferences/seminars this year. PENDING. I’ve signed up for one seminar already through work, and have expressed my interest in going to more. This goal will be attainable.

April 2016 Goals

April should be a relatively calm month for spending compared to March. RD’s birthday is next week, and I’ve already bought his present. It will not be reflected in my budget on this blog (since he reads here!), but I think I’ll still be able to make my savings target this month regardless.

There are a few added expenses this month. I’ve included an extra $150 into my Fitness budget so that I can buy new rock climbing shoes (mine are 7 years old and are getting pretty ratty), and I have $75 in Personal Care to get some face cream. Actually, it’s a bit of a gamble because I’m trying out a new product line. For those that care, I have been using Origins for the last 5 years or so, but Sephora doesn’t carry their eye cream anymore, so I’m switching up and trying Ole Henriksen. :)

The only social obligations I have booked in this month is a concert this week (David Francey – although I’m assuming nobody who reads here has ever heard of him!), and a dinner date with two girlfriends later this month. I had a great time on vacation last week, but my capacity for socializing has reached its peak for a while. :) We got home on Friday and spent the entire weekend decompressing and spending quiet time together. I think that’ll continue for a little while longer – at least for me, anyway.


April 2016 Goals:

  • Practice yoga – I was given a gift certificate to YYoga this month, so I’m going to start going on a somewhat regular basis. I’d like to practice yoga 2-3 times this month, with the goal of going once a week in May.
  • Run twice – While in Tofino, I ran pain-free three times (all beach running) and loved it. It gave me hope that I can run again, but will have to limit myself to easy chip trails (no cement if I can help it, or North Shore trail running anymore). There’s a short looped chip trail not far from our house, so I’d like to get out there and try.
  • Do my taxes and get organized for next year – This is a carry-over goal from last month. Life got hectic last month with so much work … and then we went on vacation … so I wasn’t able to find the time to do my taxes or get myself organized for this year.
  • Read more often – I’ve gotten into the habit of surfing the internet or watching Netflix if I have some downtime. But I started reading A Superior Man by Paul Yee (no relation) on vacation, and really want to read more about this specific subject (the Chinese-Canadian experience in the 19th century in British Columbia).
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