back to school tips

Back to School Tips from Some of Canada’s Mom Bloggers

back to school tips

It is that time of year, back to school is around the corner. Parents are making lists checking them twice and asking friends for advice.  Since I live in the digital world, yesterday I asked several of the bloggers I know for their best back to school tips. They were happy to share them with me. I wanted to give you my readers some great tips. My friends did not disappoint.

Here are some back to school tips from some of Canada’s best mom bloggers:

From Ruth Ann Swansburg

Buy a good quality Plain (no characters) Back Pack. Accessorize with key chain, zipper pull or other “favourite character” or theme accessories. This will allow use of the bag for multiple years, and no need to worry about the trends or characters your child is wanting each year.

She blogs at

From Bonnie Guy

Put Mabel’s Labels on EVERYTHING!!! They stay on most surfaces and help you prevent lost or stolen items at school.( Labels helped me save so much cash when my daughter was younger.)

She blogs at

From Becky Stanisic

Shop your own home first! Take stock of what lunch items you already have, hand me downs from one kid to another, and rulers/supplies that are still in good shape!

She blogs at

back to school

From Aneta Alaei

Do not buy something just because it is on sale. If you can’t use it its not a sale but a waste of money

She blogs at

From Diane Morgan

Always to make sure whatever lunch containers you provide can be opened by your children.

She blogs at

From Lori Anne

Shop off season (for next year!) We shopped for back to school clothes at 70% off by shopping the clearance section and combining promotion and sales codes. Get on the email list for your favourite clothing stores for the kids, and shop early. I label what’s in the boxes, and put them away at the top of closets, so they don’t get worn until school starts, but I can still keep track.

She blogs at

From Fariha Naqvi

Take stock of what you have at home, then buy accordingly. Erasers can be reused, pencil cases (if dirty) can be washed. Use Flipp to price match and ensure you get the best price. Also, stock up if you get a deal.

She blogs at

From Sherrie Guthrie

Make a list of all of the things needed, and a separate list of wants. Also remember to see what your school policies and procedures are in regards to BTS supplies. Most public schools have suggested lists of supplies, but nothing is required in most cases. As well, shop NOW, not at the last minute for shoes. Most shops have a limited number of shoe sizes in each style. My last suggestion, use coupons and web deals to help save more money.

She blogs at

From Andrea Tomkins

My kids are older now, so we give them a lump sum, and it has to really stretch! They use this money to buy school supplies AND clothing (although we buy their footwear). It forces them to reuse last year’s school supplies, reduce purchases, and find the best deals.

She blogs at

From Anne Marie Brown

Usually, the first week of school still has nice weather and kids often are still wearing summer clothes. Wait until the fall sales to buy up the wardrobe items needed for that season when it comes to clothing.

She blogs at

If all else fails, be sure after a long day of shopping grab a glass of wine and put your feet up. Let me know your best tips in the comments and I will be sure to share some of them on my facebook page.

















15 Free Things You Can Do In Niagara Falls

If you follow me on Social Media You know I love Niagara Falls. Since it is a short road trip from Toronto, we go at least a few times a year. There are lots of ways to save when you go for a visit, and we have saved on everything from our room stay to our meals to the great amusement attractions. You can easily find lots of great deals but did you know there are many things free things you can do in Niagara Falls.

Here are 15 things you can do for FREE in Niagara Falls.


  1. Visit the Niagara Botanical Gardens. It’s great exercise and if you love photography, it is a photographer’s delight.
  2. I love flowers, and the Floral Clock is a must visit that everyone loves. You will find it on the Niagara Parkway.
  3.  My daughter fell in love with the Dufferin Islands. Be sure to check them out. Have fun exploring all the islands, maybe one will be the perfect spot for a picnic. daredevil exhibit
  4. The Niagara Daredevil Exhibit and Gallery is free, and it is a neat way to learn the history of those who have attempted to go over the Falls
  5. Go for a bike ride along the Niagara Parkway. There are 56 kilometers of beautiful scenery from Fort Erie all the way to Niagara on the lake.
  6. Visit the Heartland Forest. It has free admission and has some great forest trails, outdoor learning centers, a fish and frog pond and one of the largest treehouses in Canada. niagara-falls-history-museum-960-00
  7. Visit the Niagara Falls History Museum on Thursdays from 5-9m (it’s free then). Learn about the history of the city and the local area.
  8. Check out the Oakes Garden Theatre.  This beautiful garden is the entrance way to Queen Victoria Park. It’s right at the foot of Clifton Hill and gives you a geat view of the American and Horseshoe falls.
  9. The Niagara Gorge Discovery Center is one of the best hiking spots in the Niagara area. With the backdrop of the Niagara River, it is a spectacular place to hike. Make sure you check out the discovery center to learn how the Falls were created.
  10.  Niagara on the Lake is a short drive from Niagara Falls, and it is one of my favorite places. The area is known for its wines and outdoor festivals. Visit Queens Royal Park and enjoy a picnic lunch with a great view.cham-sham
  11.  Ten Thousand Buddha Temple. The Cham San Ten Thousand Buddha Temple is an Asian style building with beautiful works from Buddist artists. They provide free guided tours on summer weekends from June to October.
  12.  The Ontario Power Generation Festival of Lights. This winter festival is breathtaking. It includes over 125 animated light displays. There is no admission fee, but donations are accepted.
  13.  Take in McFarland House. Guided tours of this historic family residence are available from mid-May to Labour Day.
  14. 1812 Battle Re-Enactments at Old Fort Erie. Watch the fort come alive during special lantern tours after the Saturday evening battle. Camps and battles are free to the public. niagara-falls-fireworks-large
  15.  You can’t go to Niagara Falls without taking in the Falls Firework Illuminations and CocaCola Concerts. Niagara Falls has hosted Canada’s longest running firework series over Niagara Falls. Fireworks happen on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays until October 31st.

Know of any other great free things to do in Niagara Falls, then let me know.

5 Ways to Win During Back to School Shopping

5 Ways to Win During Back to School Shopping

5 Ways to Win During Bacl To School Shopping

I was at Walmart Canada last week, and it was great to see all the back to school supplies are out. Even though our summer vacation technically began on Thursday of last week, I am already thinking about ways to save next year. Why did our summer vacation start so late this year? My teen decided to take a summer school course. While walking the aisles, I realized we all could save during the back to school rush, not just parents who are sending their kids back to school.

So how can we all save?

1.  Shop The Summer Sales Racks

Here in Canada, in the fall and winter layering is a big thing. Shop the summer racks for the light clothing you can layer. Everyone else is thinking of what’s new but now is a great time to get some layering pieces.

2.  Get Your Office Supplies Now

If you work from home like I do, now is a great time to stock up on much-needed supplies. Need paper for your printer, pens, labels, and other office essentials? This is the time to hit places like Walmart, Staples, and the other major retailers. Grab those loss leaders ( the deeply discounted items that are meant to get you in the door).

3. Use Your Loyalty Cards

While you are out stocking up, collect your points or if you shop online use a site like Ebates ( a great portal site that gives you cash back). As well if you pay using a credit card that gives you points or cash back you can double dip as they say. Just remember to pay that credit card bill in full at the end of the month. After all who loves interest?

4. Win with Social Media

Do you follow your favorite retailers and brands on social media? You should. Your favorite retailers may just have special offers for their fans. They often do have back to school giveaways that you may want to enter after all there is nothing better than winning something you had planned on paying for.

5. Remember to Price Match 

Anyone who reads my blog knows I love to price match. Just letting you know Staples price matches. I don’t often write about it here on my blog but during back to school it is important to remember. Check out your local flyers on the Flipp app. Many retailers are now allowing you to price match straight from your phone.

These are all simple ways you can save and win during the back to school season even if you are not a parent. Tell me do you have any saving strategies that you use to win during back to school season?



the rethink reuse philosophy for back to school

The Rethink ReUse Philosophy for Back to School

the rethink reuse philosophy for back to school

Had to think that back to school is just a month away! This summer has been flying by. Today is the last day of summer school for my teen. She is writing her exam as I type this post.  With today being her last day of school, it has me thinking of the school year ahead.  My teen is headed back for one final year. It will be a year filled with science and math. She is super excited about it, but it got me thinking of the things we need to do to get ready for back to school.

One of the things we always do is take stock of what we have in the house. Did you know the average parent will spend over $100 on back to school per child, and that does not include clothes? Think about it, do you need a new back pack every year, new pencil boxes and the list does go on.

For my frugal teen, this means we do an inventory and then make a shopping list. Do you take an inventory of what you have in the house?

For a child in high school you can often reuse:

  • locker locks
  • locker storage items
  • Binders
  • pencil cases
  • thermos
  • lunch bag

Does your teen still have theirs from last year? Dig them out if they are in good condition they can be used. My teen has had the same locker set all through high school.

For the younger crowd check out the condition of the items they brought home can any be reused?

  • Lunch containers
  • thermos
  • locker locks
  • binders
  • pencil cases or pencil boxes

The list does go on, take an inventory.

Last year I thought my daughter needed new pencil crayons, really she did not and I have a pack of brand new ones sitting here still unopened. Learn from my mistake. Make sure you check everything.

We also use this as a time to check out her drawers. We look at what clothes she may need for the coming season. This year we know she needs a new hoodie, new sneakers, two pairs of sweat pants and new jeans. She also needs socks. That is it. Remember they do not need several outfits for back to school. We have always had one new outfit for that first impression but beyond that many of my teen’s clothes were items passed down or buys from Value Village or our local consignment store. The one thing she does get new always is shoes.

Are you an inventory taker? A reuser? Let me know. As well, if you have any back to school tips be sure to share them with me as this will be a theme on the blog here in next month.




5 Tips for Planning a Long Weekend Barbecue on a Budget

The Canadian long weekend is ahead! Friends and family will gather in backyards, at the park or at a beach to celebrate Canada Day. With summer now really in full gear, one of our favorite things to do is have a barbecue. It is simply part of the Canadian long weekend experience. So how does one host a great barbecue on a budget well? If you use the Flipp app, it is easy to save both time and money whenever you are getting ready for any long weekend but especially the Canada Day long weekend. With this shopper’s best friend, my Flipp app, I was able to find everything on my list!

 So How do you plan a Canada Day Barbecue on a Budget?


1. Shop What You Have at Home

To start take stock of what you already have at home that you can use. Always check your pantry and storage first! For us, this means the decor, plates, cutlery. tablecloth and the Canadian flag are all not necessary purchases. There will be no shopping for these items. Often we forget to take stock of what we have and buy things we do no need. Have you ever realized you have two or more simply because you forgot to check? I know it has happened to me.

2. Menu Plan

Before you hit the grocery store, plan your menu. What do you want to eat? What does everyone love? Will you stick to a theme? For Canada day you may go with family favourites, a Canadian made theme, a red and white theme, or you can create a theme perfect for your gang.

For us we are going with some family favourites we found on the Food Network website. We will be having:

  1. Grilled Corn on the Cob wrapped in bacon. That says Canadian to me.
  2. Mesa Grill’s Southwestern Potato Salad. A nod to my American-born daughter.
  3. Grilled Brussel Sprouts  A new favorite of my teen
  4. Hamburgers with Double Cheddar Cheese. We love Canadian cheese.

For dessert, our family loves watermelon and strawberry shortcake.

Check your pantry and fridge to see what you need before you make your shopping list.

3. Make a List


The shopping list is my favourite feature on the Flipp app. I use it every week. Do you?

I love how it keeps me organized and helps me plan, and it brings up all the flyers that have the item on sale that way I can locate the best deal quickly.   The deals I have in Toronto may be different than the deals you have locally. Here is what is on my list.

flipp shopping list

I found great deals on:

Watermelon at Food Basics for $2.88

Corn on the Cob at Walmart for $0.47

Batteries which we need to have for toys at The Source for $5.49 + $1.00 off coupon ( from the Flipp app)

Lean Ground Beef at Food Basics for $4.99

Off at Walmart 2 for $13 ( you can stack this with other offers this week)

Banana Boat or Coppertone sunscreen at Metro for 8.99 (again check for stacking possibilities)

Fireworks are a great price at Giant Tiger. Sparklers for the little ones are only $1.25

4. Clip Coupons

Did you know you can find coupons on the Flipp App? You can. This week batteries are on the list, and I found a $1.00 off Energizer batteries and when I combine that with a sale price I save even more. Do you use coupons? On my list of deals, there are several coupons out there that would allow you to stack and save more. Let us know.  I find coupons on several apps, in-store or by following brands on social media. 

5. Be a Budget Minded Bartender

Think about it. Trust me your friends will end up thanking you and are less likely to need a cab home. Serve one or to specialty drinks and then have a mocktail available. I use my Soda Stream and add ginger, lemon and a bit of mint to create one for my friends. Can you think of a signature drink you might serve? Have friends that love to drink, then make the bar BYOB.

When you spend a few minutes checking what you have, making a list and checking for coupons you can always barbecue and be a great bartender on a budget while saving time. Let us know what is one the menu for your Canada Day celebration?




frugal tips for a new mom

5 Frugal Tips for the New Mom #PampersSavingsCA


Every once and a while I get asked how I became the Common Cents Mom. What made me frugal? What made me a deal hunter? Truth be told it was becoming a mom. When my now teen was born, I was homeless. Yes, homeless and I had to restart my life. I quickly learned how to stretch my dollar and look for deals. I learned every money saving tip and technique I could they have come in handy the past few years as my nieces began giving birth. Babies are expensive, so I will pass on my frugal tips for the new mom just like I did with my nieces.

Earlier this month I shared a few tips but now let us get real and talk about things that are going to impact the pocketbook. Here are five tips that will help you save money during those early years:

Do Everything with a Bit of Planning

Ever gone to a store to get one thing and you end up with 12 as you browse the aisle and you don’t even really need some of the stuff in your court? I know I am guilty of it. Here is a well-known secret I am going to share with you, with a bit of planning you can ALWAYS have the best price. Sales cycle. Did you hear that? The average time between great sales on items is normally 6-8 weeks. When it is on sale by enough to last until the next sale. As well, since we are talking about being a new mom, do not overbuy, they grow quickly!

Apps are Your Best Friend

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Flipp. I was there very first brand ambassador. I am still a brand ambassador for a reason it helps families save time and money. Any app that does that can be my best friend! If this is your first time reading CommonCentsMom I have a couple of favorite Flipp posts you can read to learn more about the app here , but let me tell you it is available on both iOS and Android, and you will love how easy it is to make a shopping list and check your local flyers for the best deal in town that day! Call me crazy, but I think that is great information that can help any new mom save money.

I do use other apps to earn cash back on a regular basis. Who doesn’t like getting money back on items they are already purchasing. I use Caddle and Checkout 51 on a regular basis. This week on the Checkout 51 app you can earn $3 cash back on Pampers Cruisers, Pampers Swaddlers, Pampers Easy Ups and Pampers Wipes. You can also earn $2 cash back on Pampers Baby Dry.

pampers coupons

Become a Coupon Queen

Ever watch Extreme Couponing? Well, learning how to coupon is pretty easy, and when it comes to being a new mom, there are plenty of coupons available. You can check coupon sites for coupons that can be printed or mailed to your home. Are you on social media? Follow your favourite brands and you can also often get special coupons just for those who follow them.

Right now,  get $1-$3 off Pampers products at and pampers.caYou can also find coupons in store on shelves. Ever see those? I do all the time. I was told there are  save$3.00 when you buy any ONE Pampers® Easy Ups or ONE Pampers® Wipes 320ct or higher at Loblaws, Real Canadian Super Stores and Shoppers Drug Mart (coupons available in-store while quantities last.). Combine a coupon and a cash back offer and you save even more. Yes, you can do that!

Become the Price Matching Princess

Do you know what store prices match in Canada? When it comes to price matching in Canada use the following retailers when it comes to baby needs:

  • Walmart
  • Real Canadian Superstore
  • No Frills ( may limit quantity)
  • Fresh Co ( each store may limit differently
  • Babies as Us (Toys are Us)
  • Giant Tiger

Earn Cash or Rewards as you Shop

One of the things most major retailers are doing these days is rewarding loyal customers so are the banks. When you shop with a cash back credit card or rewards credit card you are earning rewards or cash back. I prefer cash back. I also have friends who prefer travel rewards. When you shop always have at least one card ready for you to collect cash or points that can be redeemed for goods. Did you know you can even double dip? An example fo this shop using your Airmiles Card and a credit card that collects rewards or cash back and you earn twice. You do not want to leave those dollars sitting with the banks and retailers.

There definitely are some easy ways to save money when you are a new parent and I hope these tips help you. Let me know of any others.

Disclosure: Disclosure: I am a Pampers Savings ambassador. As part of my affiliation with this group, I have been compensated to share deals and test diaper subscription services. The opinions on this blog are my own.



free hugs

5 Simple Ways to Bless Someone Else on a Budget

free hugs

Sometimes when things are stressing me out like they have been this week, I find giving to others lifts my mood. Ever felt like that? I know for me when life is busy and stressful that pause to help someone else ends up helping me. When I pass on a bit of encouragement, give to others, it soothes my soul.

Often as we think of things that would lift another we think BIG but it is often those small gestures that make a world of difference. Blessing someone in small ways is something you can do even on a very limited budget.

Here are some simple ways to bless others and I promise none of them break the bank.A Smile and A Hug.

A Smile and A Hug

Sometimes people don’t like hugs. My daughter for several years was one of those people even, but a smile even can go a long way. For those that do enjoy a hug, there is nothing better than a real hug from a friend who cares. Smiles and hugs are free and are good on the budget.

A Text Message

Often as we text back and forth we are usually in a hurry, getting quick information and that is ok. My friend Yvonne though is great; she will often send texts to a group of her girlfriends letting us know she is thinking of us. I always smile after one of her texts.

Writing a Note

One of the things I love to receive are handwritten notes. I also love to write notes. It is one of my favourite ways to surprise a friend with a note of thanks, thinking of them or encouragement.  Often I will pick up cards at the dollar store so I always have some on hand but I have also been known to splurge on some real cute ones from Hallmark as well.

The gift of food

Ever been sick and someone brought you a meal? Ever been having a rough day and someone do something small, like surprise you with a cupcake from the place down the street? For me sharing food whether it is a meal or simply some cookies I baked means I do want to make them smile with something tasty. We all love good food after all right?

Simply Listening

I know my life is busy right now as I am job hunting and getting my daughter to all her end of the year activities but that is no excuse for not listening. When was the last time you sat with a friend and really listened to them talk about something that was on their mind? Often people just want an ear that is actively listening.

I know these are just five simple things that we can do bless someone else, but as I said earlier, sometimes the little things have the biggest impact. Tell me how do you like to give when money is tight?










5 Frugal Life Hacks that are Perfect for Me

If you have been following me for any length of time you know I have been a frugal mom for years. I once was that mom on welfare but along the way I have picked up several money lessons that got me back on my feet and thriving.  I have become an expert at living well on a budget. Many of those lessons I learned on the way are now second nature, they are ingrained habits. Some of those habits are now life hacks that are simply perfect for me

Tangerine Bank.

Free Banking

There are several ways to get banking for free. One of the simplest those is a Tangerine savings account. If you are paying fees for your banking, try Tangerine. If you do bank with one of the larger banks, several will give you free banking with a minimum deposit amount.

the new bedroom

Choosing Used Over New

I am not sure if it the love of the hunt but I love a great deal. I have also learned that I love upclying and giving items a new life. I recently redid my bedroom thanks to a few great finds on Kijiji. For me if there is a major purchase to make I often choose second hand and I can often find what I am looking for without dropping a pretty penny. I often save 75% or more off of retail.

Cutting Cable

Several years ago I wrote a blog post about all the ways to watch TV for free. It is still one of my most read blog posts. I love my Netflix! For me it has all my favourite shows alongside some great original content. Have you thought of cutting cable?

The Soda Fix


Those that know me well know I love soda. Well I used to spend at $30.00 on soda. I know I was addicted. Well, along came Soda Stream and since buying mine 3 years ago I have switched from buying pop every day to drinking carbonated beverages and in the summer I really love my tea pops.

Free Entertainment

Sometimes I think I am blessed to live in Toronto. There are so many ways to not have to spend money on entertainment in this city. The Toronto library has great programs, there are movies under the stars and even theatre nights in the park. The list of free things to do in Toronto each week is actually pretty long and I would encourage you to take a look at our local events page and find a free or frugal night out.

Really as I reflect I see my money habits have simply become ingrained ways of life for me. So tell me what are some of the frugal hacks you use every day.


the new bedroom

The New Bedroom thanks to Kijiji and the Second-Hand Economy

Last month, I was excited about Earth Day and the fact that we live in a second-hand economy. I wrote about here on my blog and my social channels. I was looking to give a new life to some second-hand goods as well. I wrote about wanting to redo my bedroom for awhile now. Well, this past long weekend, I finally got to finish that project.

The thing with the second-hand economy, you have to take the time to find that perfect piece. I was on the Kijiji website looking for the perfect headboard for my bed. Since I was a little girl, I have always loved metal frames. When I visited my grandparents, I slept in a bed with a black metal frame. I loved that bed.

One of the beds I looked at
One of the beds I looked at

As I hunted on Kijiji for a new bed frame and a chest of drawers, I knew I wanted metal. I thought I might go with white at first, but more and more I was drawn to black and then it happened last week. A new ad went up on the site. A young family was getting rid of their guest bedroom, and they put up an ad selling a beautiful black frame, and they could even deliver it. I emailed him quickly and got a response. The frame would be mine.

the new bedroom

It arrived on Saturday morning. Most of the rest of the day was spent putting the pieces of my new room together, and I am thrilled with the results. One my Facebook page today, I did a reveal. You can always check that out there! What I love most about my new to me bedframe and room? I was able to give a second life to some great things from the gorgeous frame to the chest of drawers that was a freebie ( I will be painting it black soon) to the small metal butterfly table I found last summer. My room is now mine and just the way I wanted it.

black metal bed frame
My new bedframe!

Through this experience, I love I saved money ( I bought the frame for $220 with delivery). New the frame is worth about $400. I also helped the environment and gave a great item its second home.  For me, it truly was a win/win.

Do you participate in the second hand economy? Let me know what you buy or sell second hand.




save on your road trip

How to Save Big on Your Next Roadtrip

Here in Canada, summer begins this weekend.  Road tripping can be a great way to save money on travel, but there are a number of costs both obvious and hidden that can derail your budget. Want to save big on your next road trip? Follow these tips and you will.


save on your road trip


Team Up! 

Road trips for one are no fun. Share your expenses put traveling with friends or family. You can save on fuel, while sharing the cost of accommodation allows you to gain access to a hotel room, large rental house or condo at a lower cost per person. When it comes to attractions and entertainment, you could also benefit from group entry discounts. Life is better when shared with friends and you save a bundle!

Apps are your Best Friend

There are a number of smartphone apps specifically designed to help you, many of which are completely free to download! Try using apps like Gas Buddy to compare fuel prices, you can use an app like Yelp to read reviews of places where you might want to eat. Planning a picnic on your trip? You can change your location on your Flipp app bringing you the flyers of where you are so you can find the best deals while on the road.

Venture off the Beaten Road

Venturing off the beaten path is all part of the fun, but it can also leave you with few options when it comes to dining. In truly remote areas, you may be hard-pressed to find lunch outside of a rest stop vending machine. Bear in mind that these tend to carry steep prices and little nutritional value. As you start planning your journey, think ahead and locate larger supermarkets along the way where you can stock up on sandwich fixings and healthy snacks ahead of time. Remember with your Flipp app will have all the local deals making this a smart choice!

Drive economically

Fuel is one of the major expenses on a road trip. In addition to using apps to find cheaper fuel on your route, the type of car you drive and your driving style can reduce gas costs. Remember to have your car in for a routine check up before you hit the road. No one likes to have to visit a garage they do not know.

Once you hit that open road, remember use your cruise control  and save as much as 35%. As well, avoid stop and go traffic, idling and blasting the air conditioning.

Remember Fees

When you’re working out a budget for your next adventure, you’ll undoubtedly factor in costs like food, accommodation, and fuel. However, don’t forget the smaller costs that can really add up over the course of a few weeks. Bridge and road tolls are commonplace in many countries, and if you’re visiting big cities you’ll need to cough up money for secure parking garages while you go exploring. Many national parks and campgrounds also charge daily parking fees, so always try to have some spare change on hand.

Be Environmentally Friendly

Visiting a big city? Once you arrive where you are headed, park your car and take the local transit, walk or bike. Most cities have places where you can rent a bike for a few hours or even the full day. I know this was one of my favorite things to do when I was in Vancouver.

With all things considered, with planning and making apps your best friend you should have a great road trip.