Archive for Frugal Tips

Before You Take that Spring Break Vacation

spring break

spring break

Here in Toronto it is spring break, and while my teen and I are doing a stay-cation that involves lots of frugal fun right here at home in our city, many of my friends and their kids are getting on planes or in cars and taking off on vacation. Now if you haven’t already booked your vacation, my friends over at Lowestrates.ca have some great tips. If you do already have plans, then there are some important things you need to remember before you leave.

Buy Travel Insurance

My mom and sister both love to travel and one thing they never travel without is
travel insurance.
On one trip, my mom took ill. Thankfully, because she had travel insurance, there were no issues and she got great care even though she was in Cuba.

Check Your Passports

I had a friend last year who got turned back at the airport because her passport was invalid. Remember: you have to have at least 6 months left before your passport expires if you are traveling outside Canada. My friend was unable to go on her trip to Turkey simply because she didn’t check her passport.

Pack Your Medications

Make sure you have enough of your medications in their original packaging to last the entire trip, and bring enough for an extra 2 days, in case there are any travel disruptions. This way you can avoid searching for a fax machine and a pharmacy while you travel.

Take Comfortable Shoes with You

Have a great pair of walking shoes with you. You don’t want to miss out on an adventure because your feet are tired and sore. For me, I wear my walking shoes most of the time when traveling and keep my flip flops for the beach and my heels for those special nights out.

Prepare Your Phone for Travel

Now my sister, when she travels, leaves her data turned off the entire trip to avoid any surprises on her bill. I know I could never do that. Thankfully, if you want data when you travel you have a few options. You can purchase a special data plan for roaming outside the country through your cellular service provider. If you are a Rogers customer you can #roamon for $5 a day using your home data while in the US. Personally, it’s the best plan I found so far for Canadians who have a Rogers cell plan. Additionally,  depending on where you are going, you can buy a local SIM card and plan at a reasonable rate for many countries. You can always check out Roam Mobility if you are traveling in the USA or Mexico (they will ship you a SIM card that will meet all your data needs for your trip). It’s a great way to have data while away. When you have a mobile data plan with roaming, you can always use apps like Skype to stay in touch and save on minutes.

Pack Light

Only pack what you really need. Sometimes we think we need to take a large suitcase but we only use a few outfits. I prefer to travel with one carry on. I take the essentials and leave room in the budget to buy any must have while away. By only using a carry on you save the luggage fees (and yourself from waiting for checked luggage at the airport).

Visit Your Bank

When traveling, I always let my bank know I am going to be away and which countries I will be visiting. I have seen more than one credit card or bank card rendered invalid because a purchase was being made outside the norm for the account, and replacing cards while on vacation is a hassle. By letting your bank know where you are traveling and your dates of departure and return you can prevent the hassle of having your cards cancelled.  While at the bank, also take the time to exchange currencies if you can, you will definitely get a better deal than doing so at the airport.

Before you go on that dream spring break vacation make sure you are prepared.  Take the time to get travel insurance, remember to check your passports, pack your medications plus a little extra, get your phone ready for travel and visit your bank. These errands won’t take too much time out of your day but will let you relax on your vacation knowing that you have everything you need.

 

 

The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Check List

spring cleaning
spring cleaning

Next week, spring is officially here. Are you as ready for it as I am? After this bitter winter I am ready to throw open some windows and do some spring cleaning! Yes, me, the one who has survived the winter surrounded by dust bunnies, is ready to do some major cleaning over the next couple of weeks. I always like to try to have my house nice and clean before Easter. So how do I do it? Well I was taught how to clean by my mom who worked cleaning hospitals for years.

Here is what is on my list:

 Make Doormats Welcoming

Doormats are the front line against tracking dirt into the house, so keep them clean enough to function efficiently. Really you want to get rid of all that tracked in salt and dirt from winter.  If they’re extremely soiled, soak them in warm water mixed with a scoop of OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover for six hours then wash as directed – even the toughest stains get washed away! Remember to always follow manufacturers’ care instructions.

Organize Your Closets

Organizing your closet is the first step to organizing the rest of your home. Donate unused clothes and accessories, and declutter! I start here every spring. So far this year I have given away 3 bags to one of my favourite charities and soon I will have even more ready to give.

 For the clothes that you do keep, ensure they are clean and crisp for the new season ahead by laundering them with OxiClean™ Liquid Laundry Detergent. It attacks dirt and tough stains left by Old Man Winter, and will leave them smelling spring fresh.

Wash Walls and Baseboards

For this big job, use a simple mix of vinegar, Arm&Hammer baking soda, and water to get those marks left all winter long by boots, shoes, and hands.  This job actually excites me as I can see such a difference when I am done.

Make your Dishes Shine

 With the arrival of the new season comes the arrival of home dinner parties! Ensure your dish and glasses are guest ready by using OxiClean™ Extreme Power Crystals™ Dishwasher Detergent Paks to tackle tough stains and stuck-on-foods. The best part? No more pre-washing or re-washing necessary so you’ll have time to relax after the party. If you have a dishwasher these really can be your best friend.

Carpet Cleaning

Fabrics that have absorbed a winter’s worth of dirt will need a deep clean to get them ready for another year of wear. Shampooing your carpets is a good start, but for tougher stains, use OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover – simply mix a little bit of the stain remover with warm water as per the instructions on the label and blot with a clean towel until the stain disappears. Always rinse thoroughly with clean water. Allow to dry thoroughly before walking on the treated areas.

 Patio Season

While it may still be cold, you can start thinking of the warmer weather and spruce up of your patio. Remove any large debris such as sticks, branches, and leaves by hand. Next use the sprayer setting on your garden hose to wash away as much of the winter dirt and grime as possible. Don’t forget to properly store away all your winter gear after cleaning it first.

Tackle stains left on outdoor furniture upholstery with OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover – it’s chlorine free and colour safe so you can use it on gutters and unfinished decks, too.

Clean Windows and Blinds

For cleaning windows and blinds use a simple mixture of Arm&Hammer baking soda, water and vinegar. I find this is often my multiple purpose cleaner as it’s frugal and environmentally friendly too.

These are all the chores I have to do every spring. What are yours?

*Disclosure-I am a brand ambassador of Church & Dwight, the makers on Oxi-Clean and Arm&Hammer products. I do receive compensation for all of my posts. As always, my opinions are my own. 

6 Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Daily Deal Site Buying

Get the Most out of Deal Site Buying

Get the Most out of Deal Site Buying

Are you looking for a great deal? Love shopping through some of the daily deals sites? I do. Over the years I have gotten some great deals on everything from concert tickets to meals out to even a weekend getaway. Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your deal site buying experience.

Not All Deal Sites are created Equal

First not all daily deal sites are created equal, do your homework and check out their social media feeds. Sometimes a simple google search will tell you that a certain deal site is having a huge issue with customer service or delivery times. It is up to you the consumer to do your due diligence.

Check for deals Outside Your Area

Did you know some deals are valid across Canada? across the US? I have seen deals for gift cards to certain coffee destinations that well are valid at each store and the like. Check where deals can be redeemed. Is it truly a local deal or can it be used outside your area. As well, if you are travelling don’t forget to check out the cities that you will be visiting.

Know Your Prices

Looking for a great hotel room rate for a night away? I was going to use a daily deal site for a conference I am attending this weekend but I ended up getting a better deal dealing with the directly with the hotel. Remember the price on the deal site might not be the best price you can find on any given day.

Read the Fine Print

Many of the deals have fine print attached. Some common ones exclude certain dates, some limit the number you can buy. Some have a very quick expiry date. Always read the fine print.

Lower Expectations

Sometimes you may get treated differently when redeeming a deal. You may have to wait for that salon appointment. Restaurants may leave expensive items or ingredients off the menu when they have a deal going on. The reason many do this is they expect deal hunters to be a bit stingy. Hate to say it, deal hunters are not always the best tippers. Be nice and tip on the full value of a service rendered.

Think Outside the Box

Sometimes a daily deal can be the chance to try something new, to see if it is a fit for your lifestyle, a fit for your family. One of the things I have been eyeing are some of the deals on fitness classes. It is a great way to challenge yourself to learn something new, or maybe it is try a new style of cooking.

Some of my favorite deal sites are Groupon, WagJag and Living Social. Do you have a favourite? By remembering these tips as you look for your next great deal you are sure to ensure yourself a great experience at a price point you love.

 

Three Tips for Frugal Feline Care

cat playing

February is here, which means the end of winter is getting near!Many of us are still in hibernation mode. I know for me with the brutality and cold of this winter I am wanting to stay indoors and hibernate. My sister tells me that even her feline who loves a good stroll outside is wanting to stay in where it is warm. There are some very simple frugal ways you can care for your felines this winter and all year long really.

cat hibernation

 If you recently added a feline to your family they may need some tender loving care. Make the most of your time with your beloved cat this winter, whether they’re a long-standing family member or recently adopted, and what better time than in the season of love to nurture your bond with your pet. Sadly, according to the Ontario SPCA, nearly one-fifth of cats were returned to shelters in Ontario in 2013, post-holiday. The top three reasons included cats conflicting with other pets in the home, allergic reactions, or facing behavioral problems, including litter box issues. There are several frugal ways to ensure your pets are well cared for.

Feed Them Well

 Make sure your cats maintain a healthy and balanced diet. We humans can’t survive on junk and either should your pet.  This may require consulting your veterinarian. Just like humans, cats have different nutritional needs depending on their age and health. Otherwise, stick to quality food and fresh, clean water. Think of meat as the first ingredient you want to see of the list of ingredients on any cat food you purchase.Despite popular belief, milk shouldn’t be their main source of hydration and may actually cause stomach discomfort. You actually will save yourself money longterm if you watch your cat’s diet. Think, less vet bills.

Set the Stage

Just like we want to curl up during the cold winter, so do our cats! That’s why it’s important to make sure your cats are comfortable. Cats are naturally very clean so an untidy litter box won’t do. Try Arm & Hammer™ Clump & Seal™ Complete Odour Sealing Cat Litter, the only litter that forms a tight seal around their mess and destroys it with unique odour eliminators and Arm & Hammer™ Baking Soda. Also, place litter boxes far from food areas and use the North and South, East and West rule. Putting food and litter at opposite ends of your home encourages proper practices.

cat playing

 Encourage Play

Felines are incredibly curious about their surroundings. They’ll pounce on anything that moves, rolls or sways. Pair a scratching post with a ball of string, a feather teaser stick, or even a stuffed mouse – any of these will do the trick! Just be sure the items you bring are safe for your cat and cannot be swallowed or easily torn apart. In our house even, even a ball of string has kept our favorite feline busy playing. Another great toy that our favorite feline loves is a small ball, I think he chased it around the house for days. Most feline toys will cost you very little.

 It’s pretty to simple to take care of your felines this winter, and year round. For more tips and information on taking care of your pets, visit OntarioSPCA.ca.

How to Cut Cable Costs in Canada

cut the cable

cut the cable

Are you still spending a small fortune on cable or satellite television? The average Canadian household spends $123 That is over $1200 a year! Now many are even higher than that if you add specialty channels like HBO, sporting channels and the movie channels. What could you do with that money? Spending a small fortune on cable does not work for me and never has

There are so many ways you can cut your cable costs. Some are radical, some are simple and easy.

We have not paid for cable for several years now. Back when I first cut cable I wrote about how you can Watch Canadian TV for free. It is one of my most read posts. Every day some is looking for how they can watch tv for free.

I also ordered Netflix. Here in Canada it costs me $9 a month and you can have 2 devices watching at any one given time. This works for us as Rachel can be watching her favorite animated shows which are on Netflix while I watch a movie. After 2 years of paying for Netflix, I was invited to be part of the #streamteam so now I even get my Netflix for free.

We highly reccomend the Netflix route, and always have even before I became a brand ambassador.

My current rental situation has me getting basic cable tv as part of my rental agreement.

Are you trying to cut your cable costs? Here are some tips that DO work:

1. Call your cable provider and tell them you are thinking of leaving, see if they can offer you a better bundle. Did you know you can negotiate with your cable provider. If they say no look for a better offer. They exist.

2. Get rid of themed channels. Do you really watch them enough to pay the extra money for them. Most people only end up watching a small number of channels. Count up the number of hours a month you watch them, if it’s less than 10, why do you have them?

3. Do not order Pay Per View movies, or sporting events. You can get a theme package or two for the cost of these.

4. If you love movies, I do recommend Netflix or how about using your local library? We use our Toronto Public Library on a regular basis and they have a great selection. Between Netflix and the library we have more movies then we can watch.

5. Are you renting a box from your cable provider? Get rid of it. You can own your own outright by buying one at many of the big box retailers, I suggest Best Buy for this one.

6. Go on a Media diet. Cut the cable and choose other sources for media input and watch what you are watching. There is more to do then sit and watch media streaming in.

7. If you must keep your cable, think of bundling services. Do your research and choose one source for internet, cable and phone. Remember in every market there is competition so do shop around and find the deal that works for you.

Whatever you decide to do, there are many ways for Canadians to cut cable costs. For my American friends many of these suggestions will work for you as well.

3 Creative Spring Break Ideas to Surprise Your Family

beac

Spring break is a great time to create a new experience for your family that will provide lasting memories. The best way to take advantage of this time is to think outside of the box for activities. Here are three spring break ideas you probably didn’t think of, but are sure to provide some thrills:

beac

1.      Last-minute getaway – Sometimes waiting until the last minute pays off, and this is often the case with beach vacations. If you’ve had it with winter and are feeling the urge to escape with your family to someplace warm, now is a great time to check your favourite travel site to see if you can get a good price on a hot holiday.

Before booking, remember that there are some considerations that go hand-in-hand with travelling across borders. A big one is travel insurance. Western Financial Group recommends speaking with your insurance broker who will help ensure that you have coverage that meets the unique needs of every member of your family.

 

2.      Dogsledding in the Rocky Mountains – Imagine taking in the majestic Canadian Rockies while racing through the snow on the top of sled. Dogsledding in the mountains is quickly gaining in popularity and there are now several operators catering to groups of all sizes. Whether you are a dog-lover or not, the power and discipline involved will have you in awe. Just be ready to yell “mush!”

skiing

3.      Links and slopes on the same day – Skiing and golfing might not seem compatible, but for a brief window in March, they can be. The large elevation changes in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley let you tee off in the morning and end your day carving some tracks on the hill.

If you plan on driving to the Okanagan, keep in mind that you will likely encounter some wintery conditions along the way. Western Financial Group reminds people to make sure they keep their winter tires on their cars until late April and to ensure they have an emergency kit stashed in their trunk before setting out on a road trip. This kit should include blankets, food, water, candles, matches and an adapter or batteries so you can charge your cellphone.

Whether you are taking on a brand new adventure this spring break or pursuing your favourite hobby, have fun and stay safe! More information on travel insurance is available at www.westernfinancialgroup.ca.

#CommentsWays to Save: Day 7- Bulk Cooking Basics

coomoncentsday7

coomoncentsday7

Have you ever thought about cooking in bulk so you could free up some time and save some money? Some people cook for an entire month over a day or two. One of my friends lives by cooking for a month and creating meals she can simply grab from her freezer. When I can I love to spend Sunday preparing food for the week ahead. Bulking cooking definitely does free up your time. Now there are some bulk cooking basics that are important to remember.

Prepare Ahead

Sometimes thinking about cooking in bulk can get a bit overwhelming but by doing the prep work you will be on your way. What is the prep work?

1. Think about what you want to achieve. Are you cooking for an entire month? all meals? or just dinner? For me I do just dinners and have simple breakfast and lunch meals ready that take no longer then 15 mins of prep time.

2. Make a list, check it twice. Planning for your meals is important, what will you cook, do you have a great recipe everyone loves? If you need bulk cooking ideas I really suggest Pinterest as a great resource. Write down what you want to cook, and make a list of ingredients. I also check my favorite money saving apps to see what is on sale. ( For me here mine are Flipp and Checkout 51. In the states you might also like some of the coupon apps)

3. Think about your storage. How will you store this food? Do you have the freezer space? Check and make sure. Do you have the containers needed? I grab what I need from the dollar store. I stock up on aluminum trays and plastic freezer bags. For some things I do recyle plastic containers. Don’t forget labels.

4. Shop with a List. Remember that list I had you make? Well it’s time to hit the grocery store with your list.

bulkcooking

Cook Day/ Days

1. Start early. By getting an early start to the day you are giving yourself time to enjoy the cooking experience.

2. Do your prep work. We chop all our vegetables, open up the cans, get the spices ready, and basically prepare chef stations. Since I do this for a week I have 7 stations I set up on my table.

3. Boost your energy. It’s going to be a long day, so to boost my energy I enjoy music while I cook. I turn on my favorite country tunes and well I have been known to break out in dance in my kitchen.

4. Start cooking. Tine to get cooking. In our house this is a family affair with both me and my daughter cooking. She is the better cook and even studying culinary arts in her high school. So feel free to get some help in the kitchen.

5. Everything cooked, now it’s time to store it all. Make sure you package the containers, freezer bags with proper labels. What needs to go on the label? Contents, date made.

Clean Up

Time to do the dishes and return your kitchen back to order, at this time I also use some oil and diffuser to get rid of any unwanted odors.

Have you bulk cooked? How many meals have you prepped at one time?

 

 

#Commoncents Ways to Save: Day 4- How To Save Money Using Social Media

commoncentsday4

commoncentsday4

Sometimes your social network can really be your best friend when it comes to saving money. By using social media you can stay on top of great deals, coupons, contests you can win, and great DIY projects that can have you saving hundreds of dollars even thousands every year.

By using your social network in smart ways you can soon be saving even more. There are so many ways to save using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. From all 4 sources I have found great coupons, deals, and even have won some great prizes.

Twitter Can Save You Money

1. Create Lists that Help You Save. Follow people and brands that are know for sharing great deals, tricks and tips. Here are my go to people on Twitter.

 

2. Attend money saving chats. Every week there are 3 great chats, that are all about living better on a budget. I host the #cdnmoney chats on Tuesdays at 7 pm EST, I also reccomend the #WBChat hosted by @Wisebread on Thursdays at 3 pm EST and the #MCCchat on Fridays at 4pm hosted by @MoneyCrashers. Those ones are great especially for my American friends.

3. Folllow the hashtags to maximize your savings. Some of my favorites are: #coupon, #savings, #cdnmoney, #giveaway, #win, and #freebie.

Facebook Can Save You Money

For Facebook my strategy is a little different. Here I follow the brands and stores I love. They often share coupons that are just for their Facebook fans. I also belong to a few Giveaway groups, and a few that are about life hacks, DIY projects and budget travel.

Instagram Can Save You Money

Here I follow some great frugal people who share great DIY project inspiration, brands that I love that often do contests via Instagram, and friends who often share a great deal.

Pinterest Can Save You Money

For Pinterest I have created several boards that all save me money. I think of Pinterest as my private library that I am sharing with friends. I love frugal healthy recipes, great upscaling projects and there are lots of great money saving tips to be found with some exploration on Pinterest.

How have you been using social media to save you money?

 

 

#CommonCents Ways to Save: Day 3-A New Money Attitude

CommonCentsday3

CommonCentsday3

Ever heard the saying ” Your thoughts control you”, the same goes for how you look at money. Sometimes an attitude adjustment is needed before you can really begin to save money. Sometimes you need a new money attitude.

Ask yourself how do you look at money? I know for me I have had to adjust my attitude a few times.

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you spend when you have money in your wallet? Do have the attitude, it’s there I can go and shop?

Do you think you will never have enough money?

I can’t help my child get to college?

If I want something I always have my credit card. I can pay it off?

I am not out of money till I am out of credit?

When I am bored I head to the mall?

All I get are bills in the mail?

So ever have those thoughts? I know I have had a few of them over the years. So how do we shift our attitudes about money? I know two things that have worked for me over the years.

1. Have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful. Cultivate an attitude of having pleasure in all that you do have in your life. There are always others who are hurting more, have loss more, who need it more. Always. Be thankful in the moment and that that gratitude seep into every inch of you.

2. Be content. Enjoy what you have. Don’t always be looking for that next buy, planning that next car, that next tech toy when the one you have works just fine. Make do, be content in what you have already. So often we get caught in the race to be like our peers, and some times we go into debt to get there. Stop it. Be content in what you have.

By cultivating contentment and gratitude first I find I have been able to make a shift in my thinking. I no longer have to run to the mall to get that newest thing, I also know that God does provide for my needs, and he will continue to do so. After surviving a divorce, cancer scare, and a fire I am grateful for all that life brings. It helps me to know that even on a small budget I can be a money saver.

What about you? Have you had to shift your attitudes? What mindset keeps you on track?

#CommonCents Ways to Save: Day 2- Love for Less

commoncents-day2

commoncents-day2

With Valentine’s Day around the corner it is time to start thinking about ways to save on romance. Time to think about ways we can show our love for less whether it is dealing with our sweethearts or our family. What are some ways to save money on Valentine’s Day or any day you want to show someone you care.

Think outside the Box

Last year I wrote a post about some inexpensive ways you could show someone how much you care. There are lots of great craft ideas on Pinterest. You could make something or even cook a favorite dish of the one you love. Valentine’s Day does not always need to be about the spend. You could even give each other a nice long massage, write a love note, or create a scavenger hunt.

Get the Best Price on Flowers

Does your sweetie love flowers as much as I do? Stay away from ordering them online. Hate to say this but most often the best deals on flowers are at your local big box stores. Last year a nice bouquet of flowers at Metro cost less than $30.00 compared to the $50 roses I priced online. Now I did notice a couple of Groupons that were for flowers so you might want to check out your local group buying site to see if you can score a deal.

Saving on Babysitters

Valentine’s Day is a popular date night for many couples. Why not share a sitter? If you have 2 kids and your friends have 2 kids it might make sense and you save money on sitting. The other thing you can do if a babysitter is out of budget, it do a late night candle lite dinner at home after the kids are in bed.

Gift Shopping

It seems at this time of year it is easy to find deals on lingerie and chocolate. Make sure you check local flyers as well as look online. I found some great deals this week on both. If you are shopping online always remember to check for promo codes that might get you a discount or free shipping.

Saving on Dinner

This is one of those days that finding a deal for dining out can get difficult. Be careful when buying on group buying sites like Groupon. Check the black out dates, often Valentine’s Day is included. With that said some restaurants will do specials just for that day. Check often for perhaps a fixed menu. It might be a great way to save.

The other way to save on dinner is to do it at home. You could make a serious production of it. Break out the best table cloth, light a few candles, and make something decadent.

Whatever you decide to do for Valentine’s Day there are lots of ways to show your love without breaking the bank. That makes sense to me.

Join @ChristaClips and I for the #CDNMoney chat tonight, Tuesday Feb 3rd as we talk about Love for less. The chat starts at 7pm EST. What tricks and tips do you have when it comes to saving your pocket book at Valentines Day? Share your ideas in the comments or come join us on Twitter for a great chat.