Inconvenient Truths

Today there were two news stories that caught my eyes and ears this morning. Both have to deal with inconvenient facts..

First was a shameful story I think for all Canadians. We are living our children in the dust. We were rated 12th out of 21th western countries in how we treat children. Too many of our children live in poverty. One in 4 has a child in just like mine.We live we below the poverty line and live off less then $1300 a month in Canada’s largest city. ” Compared with other industrialized countries, our children are suffering from unacceptable rates of poverty, obesity, mental illness and violence that have persisted or increased since Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991,” Unicef Canada President Nigel Fisher said in a statement. So what do we as Canadians think is important? Right now federally we are running at a surplus. Can not some of these funds go to what is really important: our children? I will give some concrete example of where we fall short:

1 in 4 families will at some point use a food bank

Wait times in Ontario to get a child diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD run between 18 to 28 months( meanwhile they fall further behind on school work and it is often difficult for these children to get caught up).

Wait times to get OT assessment in the Toronto District School Board average one year.

To get a pscho ed assessment in the Toronto Board can take 2 years or more.

To access mental health programs for children in Toronto you wait over a year even after diagnosis. Roo has been on a wait list for such a program for 10 months now.

 Sports programs are offered for free to all who qualify for Toronto’s Welcome program but when people go to sign up classes are often already full, so there child goes without.

Educational Assistants and Special Needs Assistants are in short supply( in fact the Toronto board layed off lots of these this past year) and these are the people who help our kids get the education they deserve under the law.

As a mom who is cheaper than cheap I am always on the look out for ways I can save money so I can spend it making sure Roo is getting what she needs…that is why I became such a cheap mom. I supplement where I can, enter contests, volunteer etc..I try my best to give her a typical childhood but I know I am lacking in so many ways and if funds were there so much could be done to better increase her chances for success later on. I am fortunate though I know how to find ways of doing things that can help her be the best her, I feel for those who haven’t figured out the how to’s yet and there are so many of those.

Now as for the other story it is about going green so I will right the second half of this post tomorrow.

Christmas Tipp#12-So many charities come looking for money this time of year and there are so many places were we can put our giving dollars–can I recommend you live to help the poor locally in your community: here in To I recommend both the Salvation Army and Scott Mission for the amount of work they do to help the homeless as well as feed poor families..

Gratitude for today: I am thankful that I met with Roo’s teacher and found out behaviorally over all she is having the good beginnings I dreamed of and we now have a plan on how to work on some goals we set for her.

Busy?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything that keeps you busy as you try to be that good frugal mom? Well this morning I am a tired mom with a cold. I think this week with the long list of tasks I gave myself I over did it..After all what did I really get done? Here is my list of tasks done:

  • Finished class lists for about 3/4 of my daughter’s school( school is 600+ students)
  • Reviewed Daughters IEP and test scores and work portfolio in attempt to be ready to meet daughters teacher.
  • cleaned out under stairs storage area
  • decluttered and purged Roo’s bedroom
  • applied for 8 jobs and interviewed for 2.
  • Made 3 Christmas gifts
  • read and reviewed book for First Look
  • scrapped 12 pages for Roo’s scrapbook
  • deep cleaned fridge and stove
  • reorganize coupons
  • attended one day conference on parent involvement
  • researched curriculum for grades  3 and 4 so I can supplement Roo at home
  • Babysat for a friend who really was in a pinch
  • Baked 3 dozen cookies
  • shop for one Christmas pres that I have to mail.

This plus all the normal day to day stuff of being a solo flying parent. So this morning I am sipping ginger tea and trying to get a wee bit of energy. I have already vetoed our trip to the Santa Claus Parade though as I don’t think I could handle it with the how I am feeling. So do we as mom’s ever really over do it? and how do you stop yourself from overdoing it?

Christmas Tip#8: When you are getting busy this season remember to get some R and R time in too! We need down time!

Gratitude: Today I am thankful for a lil girl who loves to be a nurse!

Fare thee Well George for Now…

 I know I know I have already broken the Post a Blog a day pact. Im sorry. The last 2 days have been very hectic here as I took a very temp job to try and get some extra cash for Christmas.

Tonight I knew as soon as I heard the news that is now being reported everywhere that my post today would NOT be my usual frugal kind of post.

Today George Osmond passed away. If you don’t know who he was. He was the dad to Donny and Marie and seven other. 

For those of you who don’t know this: I grew up in love with Donny as did many girls my age.  I was excited when Donny lived here in Toronto for a wee bit during his performing time up here and we were in the same ward.

 When I think of his dad and the impact that dad had on his family I couldn’t help but think of two things. First the incredible love that was shown between all family members and it started from the top and flowed down and back up. Secondly they lived there faith. Then my thoughts were drawn to sacred covenants made at alters long ago and what they mean to those who call themselves LDS.  One of the primary beliefs that are held is that we can be together as a family unit after death. With that in mind. I know the Osmonds will miss their patriarch but I can just imagine right now a certain dance in the heavens between a man and his eternal bride who used to dance together to make money. I am sure as they grieve they will also be comforted by their faith.

Today I am thankful for my own family…For having had and having loving parents , and the bestest daugther.

Christmas Tip #5This is more a local request for those that live here in Toronto. Down at the Sony Center on Thursday, Nov 8th they are attempting a world record. What record: an attempt to fill the worlds largest stocking with unwrapped gifts for the Salvation Army. If you can please bring a large unwrapped toy between 12-3 pm to 1 Front St E please do so. If you are one of the first 1500 to do so you will receive as a thank you a ticket to White Christmas for the Nov 22nd performance. As well they will have lots of hot chocolate and cookies on hand and I have hard even a few giveaways….so come lets help some of the kids who need it have a brighter Christmas.

If you aren’t here in Toronto may you make giving somewhere somehow part of your holiday season.

Starting to Feel A Bit Like Christmas

Tis starting to feel a bit like Christmas. Yes all the store are quickly getting to into Christmas gear, and you truly know the season is at hand when The Bay on Yonge St reveals its Christmas window, they are a site and a tradition here in To.

Well here at Castle a La Cheap Mom we too are getting into the spirit so much so that guess what we broke out this weekend. The Christmas decorations.We went through the box, checked it once, checked it twice, and then began can I say this out loud — to decorate! Last year because we were tree less till just a few days before the holiday I really didn’t get to enjoy the season. So this year I am starting early! But then again I really love the season..

We are using an artificial tree, and have all the decorations we will need for the season minus a table cloth( can you figure out where I will be looking for one this week?).

Christmas Tip #4– When getting out your Christmas decorations why not try and save some green and use LED lights. We switched to these last years and for pennies our tree was well lite while not wasting much electricity…So be good on your pocket book and go green.

Today I am thankful for a daughter who loves Christmas as much as I do! Decorating with her after a hard morning of school work. (She finished her Emperor Scorpion project this morning) was so much fun. We laughed and giggled and remembered where and when each ornament came into our home. It truly was a great afternoon of fun.  

waterballoons

Happy Blogging Birthday to Me

It was five years ago tonight that I first sat at a computer screen and typed my thoughts for the world to see. Over the year many sites have hosted the evolution that is me.

I started my blogging journey on Xanga. My site there called “Simply Hollie” was the beginnings for me. It was there that I stayed for a bit. It was there that I first had to write about the fire that would change my life.

Then I moved my blog to MSN and took back an old MSN forum name I have used for many years on line: that being “Celestialmom”. I blogged here for a long time as well. It is here that I first blog about Roo’s diagnosis of being a special needs child.

Then when MSN was going through a period where my site was more down then up, I moved to blogspot again as Simply Hollie…while there I began Cheaper then Cheap as well( but it was only a few month old when I came here) and am now combining all that I am and ever will be.

In the last 5 years I have come to know and visit many bloggers  some stayed on my radar and others faded. You know us bloggers have a life outside our computers right? I have favorite reads that I must go to…girlfriends that I have known only through what they have typed to me over the years. Catholic Mom, Lynne, Beast Mom, SAMM, Jungle Mama, Katy, AM, Holy, Thotman are all old friends with many exchanges between us. AM moved from the blog world and has become one of my closest girlfriend’s…but we started our friendship online. It is her parent’s that took me in for a year after the fire.

I love the interactions that come from being part of the blog community and so I will make that what I am thankful for today this my blogger birthday! For those of you who have read me over the years thanks for letting me ramble-may you of taken away a piece of me. I want to thank you for stopping by, for sitting and reading a bit, for sharing and for caring.

No Christmas tip today I have a blog birthday party to get too! Happy Birthday to me!

November Has Blo In

Well November has come in with a roar! There is much to do for this cheap mom. Today begins National Blog Posting Month and I am participating so expect to see a post every day this month..

And I even have two themes for the month: Frugal Christmas tips and Gratitude. Since I am a thankful mom who is cheaper than cheap you will get to read the best of both. I may even sprinkle in some of Roo’s antidotes( when you are solo parenting a child with special needs you never know where life might take you).

So on to Christmas Tip#3:

If you already haven’t figure out your holiday budget..there is nothing worse then going in debt to show some love…so plan ahead.

Here is my holiday budget:

Christmas Baking: $20

Gifts for Roo:$175 ( $100 of this amount comes from her dad and gram who send cash and I buy gifts from them)

Gift for Mom:$25

Gifts for others: $30

Christmas Meal:$40

Total:$265

Roo and I are busy planning what we are making this year and I am sure than will come up in a tip to come.

When the fall comes it really does get you in a thankful mood as the holidays come along. Today I am thankful that I am a mom. It is the best job in the whole world. I love the fringe benefits of mommyhood the hugs and cuddles.

Well time to go pack up the candy that is still out…

rainy day activities

Rainy Day Activities

rainy day activities

Today it is a wet yucky fall day here in Toronto, so what does a frugal mom do with her child on a day like today?

First off Roo loves her computer time. On the weekends, I let her have an hour. Her favorite websites are Webkinz ( Mom rates this a great site with a cheap cost), Champman’s Kids Club( you can even earn stuff they will send you for free), TVOkids and Link to Learning( a great site for educational learning put out by the province of Ontario).

Then there is craft time: I keep an ample supply of craft items on hand, and then we have our recycling bin of course. Roo often raids it for her latest creations. This week she used old bits and pieces to make a webkinz house for her stuffed ones and furniture too.

Another of our favorite activities when we just have to get out of the house is to go to the library to read together. Roo and I both like this as it gives us some nice time together.

Sometimes we go to the mall and go window shop. I am able to gleam as we go some great ideas for Christmas shopping.

Games are another favorite in this house. I have been able over the last to collect quite a few from second hand stores and garage sales ( just make sure you check that all the pieces are there).

We often do family movie time. We can rent from our local store a new release for $1.99 or we have about 50 dvds that we own. I put on the popcorn popper add some real butter and we are good to go. Who needs a movie theatre!

Baking is another way to chase away the rainy day blues and think they are learning important math skills too.

So many things to do, what are your favorite ways to chase away the rainy day blues on the cheap?

frugal Halloween costume

Frugal Halloween Costume Ideas

 

frugal Halloween costume  Roo and I have been so busy this fall and now  Halloween is less then a week away! Lucky for me I won $90 in Gift Certificates to Value Village. I went shopping there yesterday and it was a madhouse of people trying to get ready for that big night. They say 2/3 of all Canadians will do something to celebrate that night with the average family spending at least $60 to enable them to celebrate whether that be in getting the perfect costume, or stocking up on candy, or how bout those outdoor decorations.

Roo and I were talking about how we could do a make do costume with what we have here in the house and that way we get away with a cheap Halloween. Well as we were planning my girlfriend  calls from a costume shop and tells me she is buying Roo’s Hallowen costume. So Roo was gifted a costume this year…so she will be a beautiful mermaid.

But as we planned and talked there were and are lots of ideas out there for a very frugal Halloween night.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • a bunch of grapes: An oversize dark-green shirt and green leggings are the base for a bunch of grapes. A bag of round green or purple( Roo wanted purple) balloons are inflated and pinned to the shirt. A brown hat is the stem.
  • A plain black large T-shirt is painted with “bones” to become a skeleton. Wear with black leggings
  • An artist can be made with a red beret and a paint smock, paintbrush and an artists palette can be made using cardboard and craft paint.
  • From the WIZ we thought of the the tin man using grey sweats and top, aluminum foil, and cardboard and for the hat a funnel covered in foil.
  • You could go as a tree. A large brown t-shirt and leggings becomes a tree trunk. From the dollar store, plastic vines and leaves, a stuffed squirrel, butterflies or apples could be added to the tree.
  • Last year Roo went as a pirate that we created here at home, with old jeans that we cut off, an old white shirt of mine that we cut up as well, and a bandanna and eye patch were gotten for $1 at the dollar store.

Well hope that gets you thinking about the great night ahead next week.  Are you going out? are your kids if so as what? and how are you making it cheaper then cheap?

coffee time

Conversation over Coffee

coffee time

Yesterday afternoon I was over at another mom’s house. We were trying to get things ready for my daughter’s school fall fair which is on Saturday. The conversation turned to being cheap and parenting and how they go hand in hand. This other mom is a Stay home mommy by choice. We have both made the choice to stay at home moms.  She said “I decided to be home with mine right now, and yes that means cutting back on certain things, and you cant compete with the neighbors”

So I started thinking of the choice I made to be here while Roo was getting diagnosed and stable.What did I give up to become this cheap momma that I am?

1) An hour commute each way to work.I take transit and rush hour traffic is not a good thing. I was glad to see this go!

2) Adult interaction-I have been blessed because I still get this because I volunteer, and the thing about volunteering it often comes with freebies or hidden benefits.

3) Eating Out- We eat at home. I can buy a pizza on sale for $3.99 instead of doing the $20 order in, or make great hamburgers instead of a trip to the golden arches. I also take snacks on on many of our day trips.

4)Going to the Movies- Okay this is one I miss, but when Coke has their movies passes on for my coke coins, I stock up. Then a movie costs the total of a box of popcorn. Other wise we use the library for our rentals.

5) New clothes and shoes–Yes I can”t buy at the beginning of the seasons for Roo and me. What I have found are some great consignment and second-hand shops. Did you know you can wardrobe a nine yr old for under $100 a year? For me, I buy when I need and make do! Thank goodness for the classic look.

6)Visits to the salon. Instead of spending $100 for my cut and color. I now color myself and go to the hairdresser once every ten weeks.

So have I had to give up much? Or am I now wealthier in ways that matter? I figure I am time rich. I can sit and read to Roo when she wants me, I am the one helping with homework and am in the school, so I am a mom in the know.  I have time to give in my community, and that brings blessings. I can bake cookies when I want or visit the sick or do so many things that I couldn’t do when I worked full-time.

This conversation over coffee (diet coke for me) made me stop and think about that choice I made, and I am thankful that I am now this cheap mom who is as wealthy as I need to be!

IMG_0072

How I Learned to Live on a Budget

commoncentsmom

When I was younger, I always envisioned myself happily married raising kids and being a stay at home mom while my husband was the bread winner. Call me an old fashioned gal okay! I know what was I thinking!

Back in 1997, I had that. I was a newly married step mom to three children under the age of 8. I loved my life, we lived in rural New Mexico on the edge of Carlsbad, owned a small property management company and well were happy or so I thought at the time. I was pregnant with Roo and life was good. I was always busy between family responsibilities, helping my husband with the business and church responsibilities I was always on the go.

Then came that dreadful day and my life changed in an instant, my dream became my nightmare. I had been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sealed in the temple, serving in the ward and community and my life changed radically and quickly. The night my life changed was the same night Princess Diana died. I felt like I wept as the world was weeping.

By January 1998, I was a homeless mom of a newborn daughter. Picking up the pieces after a shattered dream. I found I needed family close by so I chose to move home to Toronto, my birth place, and home to my dad and grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. We arrived back in Canada in August of 1998.

Now it was time to get real and address what needed addressing; I found us a cute little apartment. I went back to school and then when Roo was 18 months old I finally returned to the world of work. Quickly, I found out that well that living off one income in Toronto was going to force me to get creative and learn all I could about living on a budget. I decided that living in the big city was too expensive and ended up in Hamilton for awhile (3 years).

Then on June 24th, 2004, the unthinkable happened. There was a deadly fire. At 3 am we were woken by firemen at our door. Our apartment building was on fire; the fire was originating from a unit very close to ours. We watched as the adjoining building burnt to the ground, and a young woman died just feet from where Roo’s bed was. After the fire, we were allowed to move back in but to honest, after the fire, it simply was not a place I wanted to be. At the same time, my dear daughter Roo was starting to have medical problems that were on brought to a head by all that we were going through.

I decided to come back to Toronto as the supports I would need in raising Roo were here, so I quickly had learned to live on the cheap. Budgeting was a must. For over two years I could not work as I was seeing that Roo got diagnosed, and saw that she was getting the best treatment and therapies that we could get. I am thankful this period in my life taught me that I can be self-reliant on little. Not to say I haven’t had help from family, friends, and even strangers along the way but I have learned to live on less. I know that I don’t have to wear the latest fashion, eat out much, buy the newest toy, or buy into all the material things that consume so many….I have taken a step back and am now a frugal money smart mom, and even though some days it is challenging I am blessed cause I now know that I can and will forever be a frugal mom no matter how my life might change in the days and years ahead.