Monday, 31 December 2012

Coupon/Savings Books

There are many different types of coupon or savings books available in for purchase. Depending on your location, they range in price and usually have discount coupons for venues, restaurants, and attractions in your area. The books are usually between $15-$40, depending on which one you buy, and have deals like buy one get one for products, services, and admission prices. I have never purchased one of these for myself, as we live in a smaller city that I haven't found has an appropriate one yet, but I'm wondering if people find this saves you a good deal of money or not?! Usually they are sold as a fundraiser, so at least you're supporting a local organization, but what value do you really get? Please share your thoughts if you've ever purchased one of these books. Do you use a good chunk of the coupons? Do you feel you get your money's worth? Or does it get forgotten about until the coupons are all expired anyways? We were recently back at my parents for Christmas, and My mom let me take a few of the coupons that she would not be using. Which brought me to thinking, what about if you were to buy a book like this and share it with a friend: each would use the coupons most applicable to them and you could split the cost. Good idea- what do you think?!

Happy Saving!
- C

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Lists lists lists!

Now I know I've said it before, but having a list truly is a smart thing to do when you're heading out shopping. And not just for groceries!

Although I am a gold personality type, lists are the money saver for anyone in this day and age, as well as during the holiday season. There are so many sales, gizmos, and gadgets that are strategically placed to catch your eye. Know who you need to buy for and have a good idea of either what you're buying them or of what you want to spend on them. That way, you won't be as likely to go over budget, or carry on buying for others that you've already bought for. Better yet, pay in cash, and only take the amount of money you want to spend. That way, you really are thinking about each and every purchase, and not wasting your money on impulse buys.

Also, watch that last 'home-stretch' before the till! All those cool little smaller priced items are out to get you, and they can really add up. They're usually great ideas for sticking stuffers, but unless you really still need them, keep your eyes on the prize (your item and the till!).

Happy Savings!
- C

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Check Your Receipts

Have you ever really looked at your grocery receipt? Or is it something you just toss into one of your bags and might need again if you need to return something? Well, you could be cheating yourself out of a few bucks here at there.

Most major grocery stores have policies to credit you if you were improperly charged for items. That is, if an item rings through for a different price than it has marked on the package or on the shelf, they will literally pay for it. For example, Safeway will return the full price of the item incorrectly charged for and give you the item for free. Superstore has a similar protocol, but will give you up to $10 back, or if it is worth more, $10 towards the total of that item. These are the two that I am familiar with, but I'm sure the other major stores would probably honour a similar policy. So not only should you be reading the fine print on the sale sign (limit 2, buy in groups of 4), but you should also be making sure the price is correct on your receipt. Who knows, a quick skim over your receipt could be saving you a couple bucks a month!

Happy Saving!
- C

Friday, 14 December 2012

Weekly Deals

When shopping, especially around the holiday season, check for any deals happening in the stores where you're purchasing goods. Sometimes the deals are for rewards points, or bonus gift cards back if you spend over a certain amount, or even free items (BOGO). But asking or reading up is sometimes the only way to know! If you think you've heard about a certain deal, ask!!! Even if you've missed it by a few days, sometimes, and only if you're pleasant about it, they may go our it anyways, or give you another deal. So it is worth inquiring, for sure.

Perhaps you can save a couple extra bucks while putting smiles on a few more faces this season 😄

Happy Savings!
- C

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

I Haven't Vanished!!

Wow, have I failed at keeping up with the blog these last few weeks!?! I feel like a chicken with my head cut off, and finally I was able to get it put back in place to resume the blogging. My apologies, hopefully you can forgive me!

As a justification, or rather even just an update, I have picked up a second job to help bring in a little more cash flow. Double money saver: you are increasing your income and you have no free time to spend your newfound dollars anyways! It is really great, and I'm loving the three ladies I work with. Small department, but super fun environment :)

So whether it be a paper route, a hobby that you sell your makings for a few bucks, or something completely different, a second job or income helps you to save. a little more each month, helping you reach those financial goals a little sooner.

Happy Saving!
- C

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pay In Advance

Quick tip today! Check with some of your regular services, as some small shops will offer a discount if you pay in advance. I dropped off some dry cleaning to be done today, and the little lady offers a 15% discount if you pay when you drop off, as opposed to when you pick up. Hello! That is great! Even just a few bucks, but still makes a difference!

Happy Saving!
- C

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Ladies Night... IN!

So I spent tonight with my two closest and long time girlfriends, celebrating one of them's birthday. We had a ladies night, but instead of a night on the town, which add up in cost very quickly, we made dinner for her, we had fancy girly drinks, ate cake, played games, and had more painful laughs than could be counted. And it was the perfect night! Cheap, good company, and good times all around. However!! They did point out to me that they like to correct my spelling mistakes on the blog when they're checking it out! In my defense, I am a very good spelled, but on my iPhone or iPad, sometimes autocorrect likes to make me say the wrong word. Like a few posts ago, I was talking about the Monty's, when really I was trying to say monthly! Fail! But it all came with good comedy, so it was a funny thing to point out!

In the end, we saved way more money and had a way better visit than if we would have gone out. And besides, they wouldn't be able to laugh at me for dancing into the cabinets if we were out at a restaurant!! Try and switch up your date nights. Bust out the board games, dust off the Wii, and save yourself some cash by entertaining in your home.

Happy Saving!
- C

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Get Inked!

No, I'm not encouraging tattoos! I'm talking printer ink, people! These days there are so many options of places to get your printer cartridges refilled, you can save huge money here. Printer ink can be quite costly, and when you work out of your home, it adds up. To keep on top of things, last year I purchased a second set of cartridges to supplement the ones that came with the printer. I purchased them from the same guy I take to get them refilled. By having a backup set, I'm never 'hooped' when one runs out. I try to make sure the second set is always refilled so that I'm good to go. But how does this save you money?! Well actually, cartridges are not just a one time use item! You can get them refilled several times at a cheap rate before they "go bad" and will no longer take on the new ink and function properly. However, I would say I get at least 5-10 refills per cartridge, and a refill on those guys costs me about $11. To replace the cartridge and just toss it after one use, they're around $40 each in stores! Also, by reusing the cartridges a handful of times, you're reducing waste and saving our planet (every little bit counts). Even better still, make nice with the refill guys and they have lots of cartridges they'll sell to you for next to nothing once yours bites the dust. Double score!

So take a second to think about how much you should be saving by refilling your cartridges. That number might surprise you :). Check out some local refill stations, and keep that hard earned money in your wallet.

Happy Saving!
- C

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

November Grocery Follow up

I tried to buy everything all at once for a month's worth of meals for November. With the exception of some fresh fruit and veggies, and milk, I thought we'd done so good with one BIG trip. Also, I've got a girlfriend who can feed her family of 4 on $250 a month, including her diapers and wipes and needs of that sort. I've decided she is my hero!!! That is awesome! We thought we'd done so well, and we purchased our meat in a large quantity and froze it. Well, because we'd bought the big packs of meat, which are a way better deal than the small packs, our grocery funds were pretty slim after the big trip. Mind you, we had way more meat in the freezer than we were going to need for this Monty's planned meals. That being said, when we buy meats to replenish the freezer, we definitely need to budget a little more that month for groceries. As with any goal setting, you always have to re-evaluate to determine if your goals are in reach or not. So that is my diagnosis! Why? Because we ended up pulling out of other budgets to help buy more fresh food nearing the end of the month. On a good note, though, I think next month we won't spend as much, as we have so much meat still in the freezer! Also, meal planning for the whole month was awesome! We didn't even get though the 13 planned meals, as we had lots of leftovers and some impromptu meals. The one suggestion would be to figure out which ones you'll make in the first two weeks, and buy any produce for them then. And a second round of produce shopping at the start of week three for the next round of meals. Well, that would make more sense anyways! As long as you stick to your list!

Happy Saving!
- C

Friday, 23 November 2012

Gas Buddy

There really is an app for everything. So, why wouldn't there be apps for helping you save money?! A quick and easy app to use to help you save a couple bucks is the Gas Buddy app. Free on the App Store, this app will show you where the cheapest gas is in your area, either by using the GPS or typing in your location. It is maintained by users inputting the gas prices that they find around the city, so that you can get the info right at your fingertips. Also, if you sign up to become a member also, the more prices you input on a regular basis gets you entries into the draw for gas gift cards! So it could benefit even more by getting this app and then signing up!

So if where you get your gas doesn't matter to you, check it out! Sometimes it's a matter of going another block or two to save $0.03 per litre (which can totally add up over time!).

Happy Saving!
- C

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Get Paid for Your Opinion

It's not always beneficial to share your strong opinions with people you don't know. In this case, it is, and it will make you some extra money, too! Head to the web and check out some survey or opinion sites and find out how you can get paid for sharing your opinion. I usually fill out online surveys, given they have come from a reliable and valid source, but I recently discovered a Canadian site that pays you to share your opinions. It's not much, usually between $0.50-$2.00 per survey, but they add up! And they don't pay out your earning until you've reached $50, and then they send you a somewhat hefty cheque. For sharing your thoughts on things from products to bank services. It's that simple :)

Give it a try! Are there other ones perhaps you've heard of that you'd like to pass on?!

Happy Saving!
- C

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Do Your Homework

When heading out to make a big purchase, are you the type to go buy right away or do you do some research? It is no surprise that impulse buys will cost you more than well-thought out investments, but you will also more likely than not end up spending more money than you need to if you're not doing your consumer homework! Go online, shop around, and one I've learned lately, ask about promotions!!! You never know what kind of deals may be currently available or coming up in the next few days/weeks. If you don't need the item that day, perhaps you can save a couple bones by waiting it out until a big sale.

The second benefit to wait it out or do some more research is that you may decide that you really, in fact, do not need that item! Novelty a huge influencing factor to impulse buys, and if you wait it out you could be saving yourself that awful buyers remorse.

So! How many of you research your big purchases, and how many head out and think "today I'll buy a flat screen tv!"? Perhaps this may now make you stop and at least think it over before you throw away your hard-earned dollars.

Happy Saving!
- C

Monday, 12 November 2012

Free Kindle Reads

Usually I am the one to share cool websites and Internet finds with my mom. However, she's upped her game and started to beat me to it! First one: Jesse the Jack Russell Terrier. It's a YouTube video series that has nothing to do with saving money, but it's pretty cute, funny, and impressive! Check him out.

The money saver that my mom recommended to me recently was a website to correspond with the Kindle. Now, I don't have a Kindle, but I do have an iPad and an Amazon account. Solution: download the Kindle app to my iPad. Step to, check out This website has daily deals including discounts and free ebooks. There are different featured books each day, and they are usually only available that same day. They download straight to my library on my iPad and are there for me when I'm ready. My biggest issue now is getting through them all!

Any other websites that you guys have heard of to get free ebook downloads?

Happy Saving!
- C

Saturday, 10 November 2012

More Post Halloween Savings!

I started two new jobs this week; yes, two! Trying to amp up the savings account, and this seemed like a good way to do it. It allows the flexibility to keep up my private consulting and still make some extra dough. ANYWAYS! So I got a job a Superstore Optical as a part time clerk. It's a lot of fun so far and a very cool challenge. Today during my shift, my trainer and I were watching people come through the grocery tills. Everybody had huge piles and carts full of Halloween decor, costumes, and accessories. We thought that they must be really discounted! Following about 30 minutes of watching these huge hauls check out, we had to go scope it out. What did we find, you ask?! Everything- and I mean everything to do with Halloween decorations was on for $0.05!!!! FIVE CENTS! We couldn't stop laughing, and then even picked out a few things we would purchase once we were off shift.

Awesome way to save on decoration; buy post season! Why not stock up on stuff after the fact, and then you have all new things the next year! Genius! Then you get new stuff and next year avoid spending the high cost of the novelty items when the season or holiday is approaching. Yippie!

Happy Saving!
- C

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

DIY - Haircuts!

As I have recently mentioned, I love my hairdresser! She is unreal and was the greatest suggestion of a hairdresser ever :). Matt also goes to her, as does my sister-in-law, our best friends (him and her - she was the initial referral), and a few more of friends that we've suggested along the way. However, despite our love for our kick ass hair dresser, Matt has decided that we can just cut his hair ourselves! Now this is a feat I will never attempt (obviously different hair situations!) but it is a smart move to save a few bucks. As his hair grows extremely fast, he usually gets a haircut every 6 weeks. So it adds up quickly!

Tonight was our first night we cut his hair. Success! We used the clippers and a #5 on the top and a #3 and a #2 on the sides and back. Now, it's not as fabulous as our hairdresser does, but it was free! We'll take it!

Would you be willing to sacrifice your hairdresser, if you don't have long, luscious locks?! Let us know :)

Happy Savings!
- C

Monday, 5 November 2012

Free Pumpkin - FOLLOW UP

A few days ago I discovered free pumpkins in grocery stores following the Halloween rush.  Yep, 100% free, you just can go in and take what you like.  In an new attempt to be thrifty, I blogged about how I was going to save money and use these pumpkins to make my own pure pumpkin puree.  You know, the stuff you buy in the can usually around Thanksgiving and Christmas?  That was my plan.

So off to Google I go, searching How to Clean a Pumpkin.  A few different techniques were found, mostly involving boiling or roasting, or some combination of the two.  So I picked one that assured me it was simple and easy and brought the best flavor out without causing the pumpkin flesh to become soggy.  I found it here.

I followed the instructions as followed, with only some minor spillage of the pan water into the oven.  Seemed to work okay, except to me it seemed like a lot of water and moisture in the pumpkin.  Once I scraped all the flesh out, I actually put it in a fine sieve to drain it off.  It still seems quite moist, but I guess we will see!  I also put it in to the blender to mix it up a little, so that it didn't have so many large and stringy part to it.  This caused it to resemble baby food, but seemed to do the trick.  I got about 8 or 9 cups of pumpkin flesh out of the one medium-sized pumpkin.  Not too shabby, seeing as it was free, and normally you can get the can of pumpkin (about 3-4 cups), for $2-$3 in stores.

HOWEVER!  This process involved a lot of time, made a lot of mess, and really has me questioning whether or not it was really worth it.  Sure, I used a free pumpkin and saved a couple dollars by using a DIY technique, but it was a hefty process!  Scraping the flesh out of the skin is also really not as easy as it looks in the pictures, and was made into a bit of a soup-y mess with all the excess moisture.  I really should have taken pictures of the sad looking skin, full of holes and nicks, once I was done with it, but it was making such a mess that I just had to get it into the trash as soon as I could.

So come November 1, 2013, will I be creating my own pure pumpkin using the rejected Jack'o'lantern pumpkins?  I can't say I will.  For all the effort, and really the amount that we actually eat pumpkin things, I will most likely pass up on the opportunity to take on this challenge again.  Yes, it is nice to have pumpkin flavored things in the fall, including Gina's Pumpkin Butter that I did make another batch of today, but I really could go without and not miss it too bad (p.s. you must make this pumpkin butter!  Dairy and gluten free, and tastes just heavenly in her overnight oats in a jar).  I'll just savour the pumpkin tastes a little more when I do buy the canned stuff once or twice a year. 

Any major flops or money saving fails that you have tried out that are worthy enough to be featured?!  Did you try something out that could be the greatest hits of Pinterest Fail?!  Please do share, so we can all feel a little better that we've all tried and failed (hilariously) at trying to be thrifty to some extent!

Happy Saving!
- C

Food Substitutions

Sometimes that delicious recipe that you find has some weird or peculiar ingredients in it that you don't have on hand. Ground cardamom, star anise, xanthum gum, are just a few that I've stumbled upon in my adventures. Even if you do know where to find these ingredients, sometimes it's not worth the $11.99 for the 1/4 tsp you need. Instead of blowing your budget out of the water, check the interweb for some possible substitutions! There are so many simple and possibly cheap (if you have the suggested substitution on hand) substitutions for lots of strange ingredients. Even for the not so strange ingredients that you may just have run out of. I also use my Betty Crocker cookbook for substitutions; some of the "well-rounded" cook books have them listed either on the front or back cover. There'a a panicked feeling that overtakes you when you realize you're missing a key component to your great-grandma's favorited recipe, but scope out some substitutions before you throw in the towel!

I feel that the most common substitution that can usually be made is margarine in place of butter, or vice versa. I use them pretty interchangeably for most recipes, and whatever I have on hand will do. With the exception of my banana bread! I must use margarine, even though the recipe calls for butter! It just tastes better!

A nice change in baking, and the addition of a little nutrients, is the use of applesauce in place of either oil or butter. It can usually be substituted up to 3/4 of a cup (1:1 ratio). Try to use the unsweetened variety, otherwise adjust the required sugar to be added.

Another delicious and healthy substitute is Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Now it may not always be the greatest substitute (Greek yogurt tends to be more expensive than a no-name brand sour cream), but perhaps you've got some in the fridge. They have similar consistencies, as well as taste, and they can usually be swapped out for each other when baking.

One last substitute that you can get away with and have no one notice? I had a recipe call for curry powder, which I was sure we had lots of, only to open the pantry and find the lovely little jar empty! Calm down, don't panic, and head to the World Wide Web! As I Googled a substitution, I learnt that curry powder is just a concoction for various spices, all of which I had! Some combination of cardamom, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, chili powder, pepper, and fennel seed will give you a decent spice blend. Search around to find a mixture that you can create and voila! No need to toss the tikka!

What are some go to substitutes that you have or do use in baking, either to save your treats or save your toonies?
Share any suggestions you may have in a comment below.

Happy Saving!
- C

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Free Pumpkins!!

Okay major score! So this morning on the Facebook Swap and Buy group that I am a part of, people were discussing free pumpkins! Yes, the F word; free!

How have I missed this?! All the grocery stores have giant orders of pumpkins for the Halloween season. Well what do they do with them after Halloween is over? GIVE THEM AWAY!! Yes, this is awesome. For those of you who love pumpkin flavored things, hello! Jackpot! So I went out and grabbed two free giant pumpkins, and this afternoon will be making my own pure pumpkin purée! Yep, usable in pumpkin butter (aka heroin!), lattes, baking, soups, you name it!

So if you have an hour or so to roast off and 'clean' a pumpkin, you too can get your own fresh pumpkin, instead of the canned stuff. I plan on freezing mine in 1/2 portions, and with 2 giant pumpkins, I think that will be a lot.

Happy Saving!
- C

Friday, 2 November 2012

Writing it Down

Busy week! Sorry that I did not post this sooner, I feel like if my head wasn't screwed on I would have misplaced it this week!

So as we wrapped up our first month of 'jars' and our budgeting, we had 1/8 of our total remaining! Pretty good, I think. However, we maybe did go a bit high on some things, as we didn't know what to budget, but this month we've got a better idea.

The biggest thing we've noticed that had helped us be successful is writing it all down and keeping track! I think back to how we used to be, and although we really didn't spend frivolously, we still spent stupid money on pointless things! And we had no idea what we were spending and where. With keeping all our recipes, and seeing exactly how much money we have left in each jar, you really get it! Just as we have to write down our personal goals in order to keep ourselves accountable and on track, we must do the same thing with our financial goals. No excuses!

In addition, being comfortable with lower than normal bank account numbers, as we withdrawal all our monthly spending once the fixed costs are accounted for, is something that is still taking time to get used to. But when you think of it as that is the lowest it will be, and that it will only o up from there, makes it a little bit of an easier pill to swallow.

I'm curious to know, how many of you actually know what it is you're spending your money on? Are you writing it down, inserting it in your spreadsheet, and keeping track o here your money is going?!! If so, how do you keep yourself and your spending a organized? If not, do you feel you have a good grasp on those dollars you're spending? What would you like to change or improve in order to be more on top of your monies?

Happy Saving!
- C

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Trick or Treat!

Weeks before Halloween, every store starts to sell candy and costumes, and it can be overwhelming. Different types of candy, different amounts per package, but where is the 'best deal'? Before you buy any candy, consider how many trick or treaters you may be getting. Last year, I believe we received 3 ghouls and goblins! Thankfully, we'd learned from the year before that we didn't get a high number, so I didn't buy a whole lot, this avoiding HAVING to eat any leftovers. However, being in a new neighbourhood this year, it's kind of a crapshoot this time around! So, we estimated low numbers, as a result of being at the end of a street, not a lot of kids at this end of the street, not all the houses are even lived in on our street, etc. So, I headed to good ol' Walmart to buy our candy. Why? Because its dirt cheap! So I bought 110 pieces of double bubble gum for $3.28! This way, if we have high numbers, kids may only get 2 pieces each, but if we start getting low turn out, kids can receive handfuls of treats at this house! Also, I bought double bubble because kids like gum and I won't eat it!! Hurrah! But back to the store you're buying from, Walmart also know has the Ad Match guarantee - bring in any flyer with a lower price and they'll match it at the counter! I didn't bring in any flyer because I wasn't buying a large package, but totally something to consider if you're looking to buy a lot of candy, or even other items that you're heading our to purchase.

As for decor, I didn't buy anything new this year. A few little decorations is more than enough (for Halloween). I bought a pumpkin and using my Save-on-More club card got my pumpkin for $2.99! We carved it to be eating a leg (see the picture) using an old pair of pants that were ripped up and ready to be turned to rags anyways. So, we've managed to get some deals and repurpose some goods to save a couple bucks!

Can't wait to see the scary trick or treaters tonight! And if they don't show, my husband can take the candy and hand it out at school!

Happy Saving!
- C

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hidden Treasures

We've all heard the phrase "one man's trash is another man's treasure". But how many of us really take advantage of that? Besides the odd garage sale in the summer or a random antique store, it's hard to really take up on that mentality.

But, through the magic of Facebook, it's actually right at our fingertips. If you aren't already involved in one, search for a Swap and Buy group in your area. These online groups are designed for members to post pictures for the rest of the group to see and sell to. So it works double duty: you can find good deals (as bartering is totally acceptable) on gently used items you might be looking for, and you can also put your unwanted goods up to sell and put a little extra cash in your pocket. How good does that sound?! Double savings! It is similar to kijiji or other online sites, but with thousands of people in the group and high traffic to the page, sales often happen quite quickly. Some gems we've gotten a hold of; patio table, 4 bouncy chairs, and an umbrella for $50, a matching lamp to one we already had for $3, and then we've sold some of our stuff for good deals - $40 we sold our old bbq for and it was bought and picked up within 2 hours of us posting it on the group's page. We're currently in the process of selling off board games we don't really play (yes, there are some in this house that don't get played!). And with $5-$10 a piece, it's quick and easy earnings that add up fast!

So check out the groups in your area, and let me know what you have found or do find in the future!

Happy Saving!
- C

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Comment Suggestions

Happy Saturday everyone!

So lots and lots of comments have been coming in to me through posts and emails, and I wanted to share a selection, perhaps with my own comments as well!

Ways to save:
"Programmable Thermostat" - yes! This is something we had invested in at the condo, and something that came installed with the new house. So handy to be able to keep it cool when you're typically not home and reduce the cost of heating the house when it's not necessary.

"Buy certain things, like meat, in bulk". - Costco is the cheapest for meat! We don't usually buy meat elsewhere, as we know we can get it way cheaper. We also like to get large quantities and freeze it so we always have some of a few different meats on hand.

"Canning" - I so want to learn to can more things! As anyone who was at our wedding knows, I'm okay at jam ;). With a little help from my superior jamming experts, of course. But perhaps next year I will take on the challenge of canning goods!

"Coupons" - now this is something I've mentioned, and something that's gotten mixed reviews. In my opinion, coupons can be fabulous, if you can coupons for what you would already be buying. Yes, a lot of times they're for packaged and processed goods, but sometimes you can get them for cheese, produce, and toiletries, so keep your eyes peeled. In addition, check out - you can pick which coupons you would use and they'll send them to your house, for free!!!

"Freezing leftovers" - yes!! How have it not mentioned this yet! One comment came in about making a huge bath o something, in this case it was soup, and freezing them in ice cube trays to be warmed up (2-3 per person) for a later day. Great suggestion to put the frozen soups in for a lunch, and by lunch they're most thawed and just need a quick heat in the microwave! Genius! We've frozen half of things like casseroles or a lasagna, because its hard for the two of us to eat that much in one week- we usually get sick of having it so many days in a row, then it gets left and goes bad. So freeze it, well sealed and well marked, and just leave it in the sink one morning before you go off to work an it'll be thawed by supper!

Well, hope you all have a super weekend! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the above comments, or any others you may have.

Happy Saving!
- C

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Service Industry Tipping

Both having worked in the food and beverage service industry to some capacity, Matt & I understand what it means to tip those serving you when you receive exceptional service.  We usually tip well, especially when we can see the quality of the service we are receiving.  We've been on the other side, and we know that the generosity that customers show is so rewarding for the very hard work you're putting in. 

I know that many people will discuss the tipping of 'non-food service' tipping.  In this situation, I'm referring to the other services you receive; spa treatments including hair, massage, nails, waxing, gas station attendants (back when there were more full serve gas stations), and other service industry positions.  Some feel that is their job, and tips are not required.  However, more often than not, their employers know they'll be tipped, so they won't pay as much to their staff to 'balance' their income.  Well!  I definitely feel that those serving should be tipped, and tipped according to their level of excellence!  Which is exactly why I came to a bit of a pickle this month with my Personal Maintenance budget.

My hairdresser is phenomenal!  For anyone else who knows or goes to her, they completely understand.  The 2.5 hours in her chair never feels like long enough when you're in such good conversation. :)  When we were budgeting for this month and I knew I had an appointment, I guesstimated about how much I normally spend there.  I rounded the wrong way, and needless to say, yesterday - one day before my appointment, I realised I was not going to be able to tip her the same way I normally do.  I felt awful!  Do I dip into another jar and take an I.O.Y?  Do I just leave what I have and pretend like I don't notice?  No, I know the right thing to do!  Cookies make every thing better!

I felt really guilty that I was taking cookies in place of half of my normal tip.  I thought, "wow, this makes me look really cheap!"  But, we set rules, we set aside money, and I didn't have enough.  So, this was the next option to really show her how much I appreciate what she does.  When I arrived at the salon, I felt nervous.  Nervous that I had to explain I couldn't give her more of a tip, and she hadn't even started on my hair yet!  I was embarrassed.  But, her warm grin and welcome made me forget my nerves and remember she's not scary and won't bite!  I handed her the cookies and explained my situation.  Her reaction; a huge hug and saying 'this is the best treat you could bring me!'.  PHEWF!  Huge relief!  Being her darling self, she says she never expects tips, and they're always extra bonuses and she's thankful when she gets them - but never expects anyone to tip her.  She thought it was very thoughtful of me to do this, and that made me feel so much better!  I also felt better that I didn't dip into another jar and take money from another area of our budget.  We'll never save any money if we just keep making excuses and 'borrowing' from other areas.  It's about setting the boundary and staying within it.

Now, would I suggest doing this for a new stylist you've never been to?  Maybe not!  For those who don't know you, perhaps it may come off as insulting, or maybe the stylist is a germaphobe and wouldn't want to accept a homemade treat.  In this case, I've been going to her for a few years now, and I knew that this would probably be something that would make her smile.  At first I thought I was coming off really cheap.  After how excited she was to get some home baked goodies, I realised that it was a smart move, and I feel happy that I was still able to show my appreciation.  Success!  Any stylists or service industry people out there reading - if your well-known client, whom you knew was saving and on a tight budget brought you a home baked treat, how would you react?  I think back to when I was serving - if it was a regular, I'd have been very touched to know they took the time to share with me how they appreciated me, in a different way than with money.  If it was a non-regular whom I didn't know, I might be creeped out!  Wondering what you would do, and whether or not you've ever received something like this?!

Happy Savings!


Using this space to quickly send out a happy birthday to my fabulous mother-in-law today!!! She deserves a day as lovely as she is!

Love ya Momma M!!

So I've seen a commercial a few times now for It is a website that hosts online shopping stores, and when logged in to it, any purchases you make to their sponsored stores, you receive a certain percent of cash back. It is similar to, in that you first log in to their site, then click over to the site you're going to do your online shopping on.

Now, this is only going to save you money if you do any of your shopping online. However, if you do a lot of online shopping, this could earn you some big bucks (over time). If you're not already planning on spending the money, then you're just using up more money to save money - bad idea!

I'm wondering if anyone has seen more about this, heard about if, or even used the Canadian-based website? Interested to hear your thoughts on possibly earning cash back on your purchases, as the Christmas shopping season begins.

Happy Saving!
- C

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Thoil Your Desires

So I was reading Gail Vaz-Oxlade's blog today and wanted to pass forward the link to her blog post about Thoiling! Seems like a silly word, but as she explains it, it means to not be able to justify spending your money on something. She talks about being able to afford something, but not being able to thoil it!

Check it out here and let me know what you think, and whether or not you can thoil those wants that you know you don't need right now!

Savings vs Earnings

So far, my efforts to start saving and being a little more frugal have proven successful. We have become much more aware of our spendings, and where our money is/going at all times. However, with the new house and the lovely property tax assessment we've just received, I think it goes past sayings, and now becomes an issue of earning.

Don't get me wrong, there are still things we could be giving up and sacrificing things like cable, our iPhones, and having a second car, I'd rather work harder to be able to keep those things that aren't necessities, but are big parts of our lives (the car and phones more than the tv!). So, I've spent a large part of last night and this morning looking for a job. Something that is flexible, so that I can continue consulting, but something with a little more security than just consulting alone. In a field where you have to build your reputation, it is important that I can still keep consulting in some capacity. I cannot always guarantee that I will have a busy month consulting, but I can guarantee that every month we have fixed payments that will be there no matter what. Saving tricks will always help to make the earnings go even further, but more earnings wouldn't hurt either!

Therefore, on this snowed-in day in October, I'm going to be applying for a few different jobs today in order to fill up our savings a little more. Why not use the extra time that I do have to build up our funds as much as possible, instead of wishing it could be more and being upset that it is not. I'm taking this into my own hands and putting these little stumpy hands to work! I will keep you all posted on my earning endeavours, and hopefully how it can contribute to our saving endeavours! But first, I must go shovel the driveway!

Happy Saving!
- C

Monday, 22 October 2012

Fresh Bread at Home

Our first winter snowfall warning of the year was just issued today! October 22- I guess it has come earlier, so we can't really complain! One of the things that I used to love that my mom made when it was chilly outside was homemade bread. Well really, homemade bread at any time is really good! And I thought, why not give it a try, instead of paying +$2.00 a loaf at almost any store?! It's just me who eats it (most of the time!), as my husband is gluten-intolerant. So I was reading around for some different recipes, as well as the best ways to freeze it [see some tips here!: I also sliced mine before freezing it, in case I only want to grab one slice at a time from the freezer]. I found lots of recipes and decided to go with this one. Simple enough, all the ingredients at home, and I had the time this afternoon for the process (I used my oven as opposed to a bread machine).

It was a success!! 2 loaves, super delicious, and my house smells amazing! I will be keeping one out, and slicing one and the freezing it. I read that it is best to slice before freezing to a) help if you thaw the whole loaf at once and b) easy to grab just one or two slices out of the freezer at a time as needed. And really, to make a couple loaves at a time, not any difficult or more time consuming than just a single loaf.

Mmmmmmm!!! So I saved us about $10 this month by baking the bread at home. Baby step, but every little bit helps! How many of you bake bread, or other bakery items at home?

Happy Saving!
- C

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Dreaded Taxes

So being first time new home owners, there are a lot of unexpected costs that you don't hear about. From little fees to big costs like blinds for your whole home, the extras start to add up fast. The quick way to deal with these costs is definitely to just not give in to the not-completely-necessary costs, such as blinds. We've done this for now, as the winter is approaching and the dark is arriving earlier and staying longer each day, we figure we can stretch it out for a little while longer! No peeps shows allowed-all changing and nude lounging is done behind closed doors with no windows! Sorry :)

But by far, our biggest unexpected cost, and one that we can't really push back, is the city taxes that showed up in our mailbox. 5 months worth of taxes due by the end of the month, yikes!! We knew we had to pay taxes, I guess we just didn't clue in to when they would be sent to us. So, how can we save here? When I go down to pay them, we're signing up for the monthly installment, automatic withdrawal program for property taxes that our city offers. Similar programs are offered in most cities as a way for tax payers to pay their dues on a more tangible, monthly basis, then the huge lump sums on a less-frequent basis. They also reduce your payments to only 10 months a year, and provide a slight discount (I believe 1.25%) for the monthly option. And let me tell you, with a husband who is a school teacher, we're all in favour of a two-month hiatus over the summer months!

So for savings on your property taxes, if you haven't already, consider looking into and signing up for a similar, monthly payment program! Besides the decreased amount to be paid out, who doesn't like a two-month holiday, even if it is just from the tax man!

Happy Saving!
- C

Friday, 19 October 2012

Bulk Barn!

In sticking with the food savings, this is one store that I have found you can save BIG BUCKS on....if you're smart about it!

Bulk Barn is a store that has almost everything you could imagine in bulk. Therefore, you can select the amount of what you need, and avoid buying 10 pounds of skim milk powder when you only need a couple tablespoons!

Specifically, we shop here for two main things that I want to share with you. The first is spices. As they charge by weight, you can get dried spices for dirt cheap!! Spices at most grocery stores are >$5.00 for a little jar. Well at Bulk Barn, depending on the spice, it's usually under a dollar! I had bought 3-$1.00 glass spice jars from a dollar store a few years ago, and I just refill them as needed. So that is the first money saver. The second is gluten free flours and baking mixes. They have so many of them, and again, quite cheap! However, with the gluten free flours, you have to be careful because they are by weight, and it can add up quickly, as they are quite heavy. We usually just grab the 1.5 cups that the recipe calls for and that usually saves you spending too much.

So, check out where your local Bulk Barn is, or another similar bulk foods store, and try saving on some of your most used foods. What have you found at Bulk Barn or other stores that saves you $$?!

Happy Savings!
- C

The Problem with Canned Portions

I've been finding a lot of recipes lately call for a small amount of a canned good. Products that you can only buy in giant cans, or at least cans bigger than you need. With the fall season now fully upon us, I've been inspired to make all things pumpkin! For anyone who has ever bought pure pumpkin in the cans, you know it comes in a massive can! Most of the time, you only need 1/2 cup or something measly like that! It may be pumpkin this time around, but it happens in our house with everything from pumpkin, to coconut milk, to evaporated or sweetened condensed milk, even tomato sauce!

In the past, I usually put the renin ants of the can in a container into the fridge, and swear that I'll use them before they go bad. In all reality, they get pushed to the back, forgotten about, and even mistaken for what they actually are! In the end, they usually get pulled out weeks later, moldy or frozen (if they've been left in solitary confinement at the back it's bound to happen), and chucked out anyways. Putting them in the fridge because you don't want to get rid of perfectly good product always seems to just prolong the inevitable.

So browsing Pinterest, I noticed people were suggesting putting small servings of things in an ice cube tray and freezing them to use at a later date. Well of course! Why was I not thinking of freezing these leftover bits?! So I started with the can of pumpkin I had just opened. I needed a 1/2 cup for a recipe, and decided to freeze the rest in 1/2 cup portions in their own freezer bags. I labelled them and got as much air out as possible and voila! For once a used a whole can of a ingredient like this. I have since done it with coconut milk, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and frozen orange juice concentrate. What I've found to be a great way to think about portioning, is think about how much would normally be used of that ingredient in a recipe. It may seem silly to freeze a bunch of 1/2 cup bags of coconut milk, but most of the time the recipe doesn't call for much more than that. By freezing the remainder in its entirety, if its way more than you'll ever need at once, you're again just prolonging throwing it out. The whole point is to reduce waste and get more bang for your buck. So even if you have to use a few more freezer bags, they're worth less than the can of food you'd be tossing out in the end.

When it comes around to needing a small amount of something you cannot find a substitute for, consider this freezing method. I've surprisingly used up almost all of the pumpkin I'd portioned, which ended up being about 2.5 cups worth! Major score! Because they're in small amounts, they're easily thawed in 30 minutes by letting them sit in the sink before you need them, or even running warm water over them right before you need them. Another idea to use that canned good up right away, plan to make a double batch and freeze half. Whether healthy snacks or a full meal, having the extra made in the freezer will definitely come in handy when you're all too busy to prep down the road.

What kinds of things have you frozen, or preserved in another way to use up all of the item? I'd love to hear what you freeze, or even how you do it!

Happy Saving!
- C

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Cleaning House

When we moved into our new house, we said to each other that we wanted to do the best job we could to keep the house in the cleanest condition possible. By staying on top of cleaning, we would never have to spend several hours the night before company was coming over, or do not have to panic if people show up unannounced.  I've also started using a 15-minute a day cleaning schedule, that was based off of the one here.

Our main floor of our house has proven already to really be the gathering area. We've got an open concept layout, where the front door opens into the kitchen/living room/dining room. The flooring is all a dark hard wood, and I started asking around as soon as we moved in, the best way to clean it. A great suggestion was provided by good friends of ours who live down the street and bought their house a few months before we did. They suggested the Rubbermaid Reveal. This product is a household sweeper/mop tool. It has interchangeable covers for different purposes or floor surfaces, as well as it sprays cleaning solution when "mopping". But how does this tie into our saving endeavors?! Well, not only is this tool handy, efficient, and versatile, it's also a great money saving investment. At $29.99, I purchased the Reveal, that comes with the solution bottle, one floor cleaning pad, and the mop itself. For another $6 or so, I purchased another pad, so I had one for sweeping/dusting, and one for wet cleaning/mopping. This is a money saving tool in that the cleaning pads can be washed and reused!! The packaging says good for 100 washes in the washing machine...hello people! Great deal! Avoid using the one-time-use other brands, or the dirty old germ collecting mops. This is great! In addition to the reusable pads, the cleaning solution bottle that is used can be filled with whatever solution you prefer. You can use a store-bought floor cleaner, a water and vinegar solution, or any other homemade cleaning solution you choose! Great money saver, as you don't have to pay big bucks for the specific size and solution in other certain floor cleaners. So you save money in two big ways with this product. Also, at >$30, it's a easy investment to make to assure you're house is being looked after without blowing your budget!
The Rubbermaid Reveal.  Click
HERE for product information.

What ways do cleaning supplies help you save money? Are there any tips or tricks, or products even, that you have found that are totally worth sharing? Please feel free to share your money saving cleaning secrets below!

Happy Saving!
- C

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Shopping Around

It is so easy to get stuck to one grocery store. Whether it be for the reward points or offers, the location, and sometimes the good deals, we usually spend most of our grocery money at one store. Now I have no official numbers on that, but I am comfortable saying it, as I've seen the trends within my own social circle. I'm guilty of it too! However, with the jars in place, I can see how much I have left for the month to spend on groceries, and I decide to go out of my normal grocery world to get the biggest bang for our bucks!

One thing I've found the most effective when shopping is having a list. Yes, this is my gold personality taking over, but it's so simple. Write down what you need, and don't buy anything other than what's on your list. Last night, I made a list of all the meals I would be making for the next 2-3 weeks (7 entrees that usually serve 4-6, so between the two of us, they last a while!). I picked recipes that did not require me to buy a lot, maybe 1-2 ingredients needed for each recipe. On top of that, I wrote down all the other things we needed, which was about 98% produce. Which brings me to one of the greatest grocery shopping tips I ever found in my undergrad years: stick to the outside walls and or isles of your grocery store. This is where all the fresh and minimally processed food is. Once you start to work your way in to the centre of the store, you start to get more and more processed. Now, with the exception of the odd baking item and household cleaning and maintenance supplies, you can usually find most of what you need in the outside isles. :)

To jump back on topic, I stuck exactly to my list! No deviations or justifications to why I thought anything else would be okay to through in the cart. Just what I needed, end of story! I did, however, not get two items on my list due to price! Even though I was at a cheaper-than-normal store because they cut costs on things like the cashiers bagging your purchases, the two meat items I needed were way more expensive than I know I've purchased them before. So, I proceeded to bypass them at this store. Instead, once I'd finished at store A, I drove directly across the road to enter the large wholesale store. I still had my list, and only 2 things on it I needed. So I headed straight to the back wall, grabbed my 2 meats, and went straight to the til to pay. Now, I bought way more meat than I needed, as both items (chicken thighs and pork loin) we divide into recipe sized portions and freeze. Which in this case, was a much more cost efficient option than buying only enough for one recipe for only a few dollars less. I bought 26 chicken thighs for $17, and a huge pork loin for $20. We will get 2-3 meals from the chicken thighs, and we cut up and portion the loin to get about 16 steaks, 2 medium freezer bags of cubed pork (Ie stew or kebab), and usually one bag of strips (best used in a chop suey or stirfry). So for about $85, I was able to buy enough for approximately 53 servings from the recipes we plan to use it all in, as well as items for 8 lunches, and our usual produce and fresh foods! SCORE!

So the savings today were huge for what I know I would have paid elsewhere. My challenge to you, know your prices, and think about possibly stopping at one more spot on the way home to save a large % on certain items. Get out of your bubble and try a new store. You don't know what you could save until you do!

Happy savings!
- C

Monday, 15 October 2012

Yesterday I Said Tomorrow

So today is Day 1 of my new adventure.  I've started this blog to share stories about "My Wife Savings" - the ups and downs that come with trying to save money in various different ways as a newly-married woman.  I'm a Saving Wife, Saving for Life!  I'm hoping that each post will demonstrate one technique I've used to save money, and whether it was successful or not.  I can't wait to try out some of the ridiculous things I've read about, share some of my personal favourite ways to save, and create some open discussions about new ideas with those who are willing to share how they're building up their Wife Savings!

I feel a little bit of background information about us might help to profile our situation.  I am 26, and graduated last fall with my Master of Arts in Kinesiology.  I work as a self-employed Mental Skills Trainer/Sport Psychology Consultant.  I complete personal, one-on-one consulting, as well as contracted out consulting for various sport development organizations.  My income is variable, and depends on the work I am able to arrange each month.  My husband is 27, and a first year teacher at a local middle school and loving it!  He loves his job and puts more than all he has into each day in the classroom and on the court.  He teaches, coaches, and volunteers for whatever he can within the school.  His contract is for the remainder of this school year, and his goal is to land a probationary contract with the same school next year.

Our for sale sign!  You can't actually see our house in this picture, just the neighbour's!

In August of this year, my husband and I bought our first home.  He was in a mutually owned townhouse with his father and siblings while going through post-secondary, but we've since branched off and purchased our first home.  Following the withdraw of our first mortgage payment, we began to seriously discuss our need for a budget; what is our game plan??  My father-in-law has been mentioning budgets to us for a while now, and it's always something we've put on the back burner.  Now we realize that this is something that we need to get on top of to keep ourselves in line.  So last week we outlined all of our fixed costs, variable monthly spendings, savings, and investments, and realized we needed to start some extreme budgeting!  Following a few tears, minor panic, and reassurance to each other that we're fine and it'll just be 'tight' for a while, we've taken a fun (yes, I said it!) approach to budgeting.  For anyone who has seen the TV show "Til Debt Do Us Part", we're following Gail Vaz-Oxlade's use of Mason jars to store our savings.  We've often watched her show and thought "How do these people get to that point?!"  In realizing that we never wanted to get to that point, this was our first step to saving!

First month jars.

It has been a week of our money jars, and so far it's going well.   For me, I have to get used to not using my debit card to pay for things.  We take the money from the jars we've set aside and use that money to pay for whatever it is we need to purchase.  The receipts go back in the jar, along with any change leftover from the purchase(s) made.  At the end of the month, the remaining cash and receipts should add up to the original amount that was budgeted for each category.  I like it!  My husband always says he prefers to pay cash because you visually see the exchange of money and it doesn't fly under the radar like debit or credit card transactions.  I'm totally finding this to be true!  I hope that we can stay on track with these jars andI can't wait to share at the end of the month, how they really worked for us.

As a challenge, I encourage you to try out the jars too!  Use something you have in your house, whether it be old Mason jars, or your great-grandmother's prized teacup set, DON'T SPEND MONEY ON THE PURCHASE OF JARS!  Use what you already have!  Label each jar and fill it with your agreed upon monthly spending for each category.  If you don't budget for it, it's something that you'll have to sacrifice this month.  Remember to keep your jars in a hidden, locked safe.  This is your bank now, so take care of it!  Please share what your experiences are with this or something similar!  

Happy Saving!
- C