How to Have a Happy Halloween on a Budget

It’s hard to believe it is the middle of October already, and if you are like me I start thinking about Halloween the day after Thanksgiving. Halloween though can cause a drain on the pocketbook. It’s one of those holidays where it is easy to spend and spend. We absolutely love Halloween in this house. My teen has already been down to Niagra area for a Haunted Hayride, corn mazes, and a bonfire this past weekend as she helped a friend celebrate their birthday. So how can we have a happy Halloween on a budget? Trust me, it is possible to do and you can it on a budget.  Here are my rules for a great Halloween:

Budget

Before you spend a single dollar on Halloween, plan your spending. Have a budget in place. Are you going to be buying costumes for yourself, the kids, pets? Planning on attending local Halloween events (what are the costs involved?)? Are you going to decorate your house? Are you handing out candy? Trust me, you can save on all of it, but first, you have to know your budget.

Get Inspired on Pinterest

We love Pinterest for inspiration. If you check my Pinterest boards you will see I have a Halloween board that is full of decor and costumes ideas and another board full of Halloween food ideas

Shop What You Have

We love holidays in this house. I have a Rubbermaid container for every season, every holiday. Over the years, I have collected favorite elements for my Halloween decor and possible costumes. What do have in your closet, attic, or garage that you can use? For me, I have been blessed to have been a Hallmark blogger so I have a collection of favourites that I use year after year. I also keep past costumes if I see a potential use for the pieces. Do you have a dress-up box? We had a tickle trunk for years. Everything my daughter wore for dress up was up for grabs when it came to Halloween costumes.

 

The Dollar Store

We love dollar stores, you know the ones where everything is one dollar or pretty close to that. For Halloween, we purchase things we need here most often. Need Halloween makeup you can find it? Need temporary hair colour, you will find it, Need a few decor items you can find that too. Here where I live I have two favourite dollar stores: Dollarama and Dollar Tree. Be careful at Dollarama though many items are more than a buck! Look for value.

Thrift Stores

The third place I hit is thrift stores. I have shopped a Value Village in the past for Halloween but they are now getting almost as expensive as Walmart and other retailers when it comes to Halloween costumes.  My current favourite places to thrift shop for Halloween in Toronto right now happens to be the Salvation Army thrift stores. We have found some great costumes and dress up clothes at thrift stores by keeping our eyes peeled.

Save Money on Candy Shopping

Do you have hundreds of kids hitting your house? You can save on Halloween candy as well. We found a couple of bags of candy that we know kids love at Dollarama for three dollars a bag but to save on things like chips, chocolate bars, and Twizzlers check your sales flyers the two weeks before Halloween.  With your Flipp app, simply enter the word Halloween or candy in the search bar and watch all the adds appear. Simply clip your favourite or the best buy and remember you can price match at stores like Walmart and the Superstore.

Thes are my tips for a budget-friendly happy Halloween. How do you celebrate Halloween without breaking the bank?

 

Cat Adoption: Things to Think About #ChurchandDwight #ad

When my daughter was little we were cat people. Fact is we would have a cat right now if our landlord allowed pets (there is a no pet rule as someone has an allergy). We had two beautiful cats, Tiger and Bandit. Tiger, we got as a kitten but Bandit was an older cat when we adopted him. We have experience with both kittens and older senior cats.

There are many things that get better with age, and a feline friend is one of them! If you’re thinking about adopting a kitten or know someone who is, ask that they consider a senior cat instead. Sure, kittens are cute, but adult cats have a great deal going for them. Read and share this list of why adopting a senior cat might be right for you!

  • Senior cats are some of the hardest to find homes for — so when you adopt a senior cat you’re literally saving a life! This is a great life lesson to instill in your little ones.
  • A senior cat’s personality has already developed, so you’ll know right away from your first encounter if he or she is a good fit for your family.
  • A senior cat won’t grow any larger, so you’ll know exactly what you’re signing up for. Plus, you won’t have to upgrade to a larger cat house or litter box as they continue to grow.
  • A senior cat may be house-trained with basic etiquette and not attack feet, bite hands or use the couch or carpet as a scratching post.
  • Senior cats are often already litter trained and are less likely to “forget” where the box is. To help keep cats happy about their litter box, no matter what their age, use a quality cat litter like Arm & Hammer Slide. It traps odours for 7 days, and is dust-free with a soft texture that’s easy on paws. What’s best is the patented EZ Clean technology means the used litter slides right out! No more scrubbing or scraping the bottom of the box!
  • Senior cats are often content to just relax in your company, unlike younger cats, who may get into mischief because they’re bored. Bandit loved to snuggle with my daughter.

Did you Know? With Friday, the 13th approaching, it’s important to remember that senior cats aren’t the only ones that tend to be forgotten – black cats are too. The superstitions that surround black cats have a real impact on them finding a forever home. Remember, the idea that black cats bring bad luck is nothing but a myth so don’t let that stand in your way of welcoming a deserving cat into your family.

Have you adopted a senior or black cat? I’d love to hear about your experience.

To adopt a senior or black cat or learn more about cat adoption, visit your local SPCA or go online.

*this post is sponsored by Church and Dwight. As always my opinions are my own.

Getting Ready for this Years CNE

It’s hard to believe that the Canadian National Exhibition here in Toronto is a mere seventeen days away. Opening day is Friday, August 18th! Our family and extended family have always loved attending the ex. We go several times each year. We have our traditions, memories and meeting places.  My teen loves the midway, youth day, and the candy apples. Where I love the shows, music, shopping and all the new foods every year.  If you want to do the CNE on a budget, now is the time to prepare.

Go for the Advance Purchase options

By purchasing your tickets early you can save up to 34%. Purchase CNE Gift Card Tickets at participating GTA supermarkets and Canadian Tire stores in early July. Tickets are also available for purchase at participating GO Transit stations. Click here to purchase online.

Download Your Child’s tickets

Taking kids, can’t find your passes that came with their report cards? Download a free pass for them before August 17th. Be quick though these free passes are not available once the CNE begins.

Plan Your Days

From new events like the East Coast Kitchen Party opening weekend to the classics like the Air Show, there is lots going on at the CNE this year. We are loving the music line up and make sure you check out the international performers as well. By the way, do you know who is headlining the Ice Show this year? Elvis Stokjo.  With this year being Canada’s 150th year there is lots of  Canadian content to this year’s ex. So much to see and do!

 Take Advantage of All the Free Things to Do

Some of our favourite things to do are free. We have always visited the farm, Kids World is full of fun activities for the little ones, we always take in a show everytime we are there and don’t forget the daily Mardi Gras parade at 6 pm. As well as all the free performances, do check out the exhibits as well. This year I am looking forward to checking out the Celebrate Canada exhibit and the Quilt of Belonging.

Let me know what are you looking forward to at this years CNE?

mom sneak Netflix

How to Get Your Netflix Time In #StreamTeam

Have you ever found yourself with no time to do the things you love? Life has been getting busy here. My teen will soon be off to college and there are now 4 kids under five under the roof ( 2 born in the last 3 months and two that are starting school this fall). It seems when I am not spending time with my own girl I have two little boys and two little girls to delight in. We are three families under one roof after all.  When I am not at work, I am currently either spending time somewhere in the house. There is an old saying many hands make light work and that is definitely what living in my house is like. So how do I find the time to do the things that I love? How do I get my Netflix time in? For me sometimes, I have to sneak it in.

Recently Netflix did a survey and found moms are great at the #momsneak. I know I am. Check out this infographic:

mom sneak Netflix

 

I know for me there are 3 places I sneak some Netflix time. I have a one hour commute to work each day. A few times a week when I am not listening to some of my favourite podcasts I am catching up on a show that I have downloaded from Netflix. If you have not downloaded a show I highly recommend it. I also sneak some time in when I head to the laundromat. It’s just enough time to watch a movie while I get the laundry done. The last place I sneak Netflix time is in the bathtub. There is nothing like a great soak, a favourite beverage, and a great flick.

 

So tell me, what kind of mom sneak are you? How do you make time for you each day? For me, it is all about that magical balance that allows me to steal a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

* I have been a proud member of the #Streamteam for the past 3 plus years but this is my final post as a member of the team. I did receive compensation in the form of free Netflix and some swag, no cash ever. I will miss the team and getting to bring you my readers exclusive content but there is a time and season for all things. 

How to Save for Summer Fun

 

Taking a summer vacation is an expense that is a luxury for many Canadian families. It’s hard to save when money is tight! For my own family, we have needed a summer getaway, so we came up with a plan that would get us away enjoying Canada this summer for Canada’s 150th birthday.

 

What did we have to do?

 

Set a Goal

While you may not have the time to save big for an extravagant vacation this year, you can definitely plan for the future. How much money do you need? Where do you want to go? You will want to know how much a vacation to your ideal spot is going to cost. My teen and I thought of several places we wanted to visit and decided on some time in Niagara Falls for Canada Day. Can you just imagine the fireworks and the light show?

 

Take a look at hotel rooms, airfares, train fares and the like so you can set a realistic goal.

 

Look for Ways to Save and Earn

When trying to save money for something special like summer fun, you can find ways to save some and earn some. Bring the whole family in on the plan. Teenagers can pick up part-time jobs and learn to earn and save for something they really want to do. They can even help create the summer fun budget. My teen and I plotted our summer adventures a couple of months ago. Then we had to come up with a plan to earn and save.

 

Get a Separate Bank Account

It is easier to save for that special trip if you set up a separate bank account. Recently, we are liking the EQ Bank Savings Plus Account. With their current 2.30% interest rate and the fact that EQ Bank has no monthly fees, your savings can add up quickly. I suggest setting up an automatic payment between your main account and this savings account, that way you can save automagically.  If you deposit a $20

bill every week for 12 months you have $1,040.00 saved for summer fun. Interest on this would be about $23. Would you miss $20 a week? Most of us would not and think it could be earning interest along the way as well.

 

I should let you know EQ bank is a digital bank that provides a great mobile banking experience that helps Canadians save more faster. When you are ready to spend your summer fun money you can simply transfer your money with 5 free Interac e-Transfers® a month and take advantage of the fact that the account has no minimum balance, no monthly fees and unlimited day to day transactions.

 

Set a Budget

We have set a budget for summer fun. Each week we know what is in the pot. There is money for our trip and there has been money set aside for our days at Canada’s Wonderland, the CNE and the local festivals we like to attend.

 

Now you may be a wee bit late to the game for this year but you can always start planning for next year now. Simply open that bank account and watch your savings soar as you plan for and get excited for the vacation ahead.  In the meantime, plan a frugal summer of fun in the city where you live.

 

As a special treat for my readers to get your summer savings started, new accounts opened have the chance to win one of 10 $150 deposits into your new savings account! That’s equal to taking care of a hotel room for a night away.

 

Flipping for Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas the Kids Can Make

There are certain rituals that moms appreciate. For moms like me, we love when our kids read us their favourite stories, we love the homemade craft projects and gifts and we love breakfast or brunch served in bed. So what are the kids going to make? There are many things older kids can make with little assistance, younger children may need some help and kids as young as six or seven can serve cereal, toast and juice.

So what is my idea of a perfect brunch the kids can make:

Do you love pancakes as much as I do?

Here is a Healthy waffle recipe that I would use as pancake batter and serve with strawberries and whipped cream.

Here is one of my favourite recipes from my childhood Eggs in a Hole. I taught my daughter how to make these just so she could surprise me with them. 

 

Another great recipe I found is for these Mini Frittatas.

Know if you are going to let the kids in the kitchen to create, the kitchen has to be well stocked and I found some sweet deals this week on my Flipp app. From fruit to bacon I was able to make my shopping list while I sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of tea. This week I am saving money on everything on the list. Here is what is on my shopping list this week:

Each of those circles on the list, an item I clipped so I could save as I price match week after week. Yes, you can price match straight from the app at many stores including Walmart and No Frills. Remember if you use your Flipp app, it is the easiest way to make your list, find coupons and get a great deal. I love using the app to price match week after week. Every week I am reminded how what a money savvy mom I am and that is a pretty great mother’s day gift in itself.

Will your kids be in the kitchen this Mother’s Day? Let me know. In the meantime, also do let me know of the great deals you are finding as you use your Flipp app each week.

 

Why 2017 is the Year of the Rewards Credit Card in Canada

There is a war going on. It is a war for your loyalty and spending dollars. Credit card providers want your business and they are going to extremes to get you to become loyal to them.

Did you know that credit cards are the most common form of payment in Canada? Over 42% of Canadians turn to a credit card first. Kind of scary right? But with that simple fact, every time a consumer like you or me turns to our credit card, the credit card provider is earning money, and that’s why they want you to use their brand.

Credit card providers are working overtime to get our loyalty. Competing amongst themselves to offer lower interests rates is one arena for battle, but another is rewards programs. This year, more than ever before, credit card companies are offering bigger and better sign up bonuses with more generous rewards programs.

Incentives and perks are getting better and better for Canadians. Points are becoming easier and easier to collect, with payouts becoming more substantial. Cashback cards, for example, are starting to offer higher dividends, while travel options are also on the rise.

Lovers of travel can quickly earn points by regularly using a rewards card. Weekly groceries alone go a long way to building up your tally, but there are many ways to get clever to maximize your point payout.

When selecting a card, look for one with a sign up bonus. Some cards, for example, will come stocked with points valued at $150 or more. It’s also worth looking into the social profiles associated with each card because certain options offer bonus point events connected to retailers. These events earn bonus points when you use your card with an associated retailer, helping you eclipse the cost of a flight even faster.

But while it may seem obvious, don’t let the points blind you. Sometimes when you see your points building up to the point where you can get a free trip you will become inclined to spend more just for the points. As with any credit card, avoid carrying a balance and paying interest charges. A good points system does not equal low interest.

So where can you find the best cards right now? You can check in with your bank, but it’s easier to find a place to compare options from across the board. Check out the LowestRates.ca Find the Right Card comparison page. It’s a good place to see all the different options available.

As we look at the remainder of 2017, and into the years ahead, sit back and enjoy the credit card points wars unfold, as the ultimate spoils will fall to you.

How to Plan a Staycation

Sunnyside Beach

Wouldn’t it be great to escape the chaos and day-to-day responsibilities of our everyday lives for a week of fun and relaxation somewhere far away?  But what if it’s not in the budget?  Airfare, hotel rooms, rental car, dining out, and other travel expenses can make getting away very expensive.  And even if money isn’t a factor, sometimes health issues or work obligations prevent us from going away anytime we feel like it. It’s March break here and I am feeling we could use some down time.

But that doesn’t mean when the kids are home from school for summer vacation that you can’t still have a great time! Why not plan to take a vacation right in your own backyard?  A true Staycation is more than just time off at home, it’s an intentional time of fun and relaxation for your family.  It may take a little effort to do it right, but ultimately, it can be just as fun as going out of town.

  1. Set ground rules. The point of a Staycation is to make it feel as much like a real vacation as possible, without leaving home. To make sure the whole family is on the same page, it’s good to set some ground rules that everyone can agree on.  These could include some or all of the following:
  • No email
  • No computer or video games
  • No work
  • No fighting
  • Family time only—no independent activities
  • No cooking, cleaning or doing laundry
  1. Spruce up your bedroom. Make sure you have cozy soft sheets and that they are freshly washed. Add some scented fabric softener to the laundry so they smell great.  Unplug the alarm clock and hide it in the closet.  Put fresh flowers on your nightstand along with a book you’ve been looking forward to reading.  Fill a basket with your favorite snacks and some bottled water to keep in your room.  Place scented candles around to encourage relaxation.
  2. Be a tourist. Do you live in or near a city like we do where there are lots of tourist attractions?  If you do, you’ve likely never been a tourist in your own home town.  This is the time to explore where you live.  Visit local museums or monuments, try out a couple of the “hot spots” for dinner, go to the zoo, attend a sporting event or get theater or concert tickets. Here in Toronto, there are lots to do, and lots of them are free.
  3. Spend time in the great outdoors. Go on a nature walk at a nearby national park. With Rouge Park being a National Park and with all national parks being free for the 150th anniversary of Canada this one is budget friendly as well.  Do you live within a couple hours’ drive from a beach?  Take a day trip. If you’re not close to a beach or hiking area, go to a local park for a game of Frisbee, a long walk or some fishing.  Go camping or watch movies in the backyard. Here in Toronto, you might want to head over to the Toronto Islands which are just a short ride away.
  4. Enjoy a family night in. Play a board game together.  Have a movie night complete with popcorn and hot fudge sundaes.  Work on a puzzle or invent a new game.  Build a fire to roast marshmallows and tell scary stories.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or even travel out of town to enjoy a fun and relaxing family vacation.  I hope these ideas have inspired a few ideas of your own! We are looking forward to our next staycation right here at home.

Life Hacks to Spend Your Tax Refund On

Young woman inside sitting on window seat and laughing while loo

It’s that magical date that comes but once a year. No, it is not Christmas! Today is the day Netfile opens for Canadian tax filers

. For those of us who will be getting refunds, it is like Christmas day, and we are already thinking of ways to spend our refunds.

If you are ready to file your tax return for the 2016 year and are looking for an easy free way to do it yourself, look no further than the free version of TurboTax! From its fully guided experience that walks you through your taxes step by step, to TurboTax Free, a simple free option that covers most tax situations and can be used anywhere anytime, TurboTax has you covered.

With TurboTax and its accurate step by step guidance, you are sure to get your maximum refund. Now how to spend that hard earned money.

Do you want to be smart and improve your life with your tax refund? Here are some life hacks you may want to invest in:

Reduce Debt

Whether it be student loan debt or credit card debt, it is always smart to use the extra cash to reduce these amounts. Pay off this kind of debt as quickly as you can, and a lump sum payment helps you to reduce the amount you will have to pay. You also win in the long run as you will also be paying less interest.  Think of it as a life hack that pays off later.

Add to Your Emergency Fund

Think of all those rainy days when you could have used a few extra dollars in your bank account. Putting money aside into your emergency fund means the money is there for when you need it most.  Think of it has the life hack that brings peace of mind.

Invest in Yourself

Sometimes developing new skills can lead to more opportunities at work but other times they simply help you improve the quality of your life. You can take a cooking class so you are not tempted to eat out as much when you can cook gourmet meals at home, you want to buy a camera and learn about photography, to may want to learn a second language to help you communicate better with those around you. Perhaps you want to improve your health and take a yoga class.  This life hack is all about you.

Get Your Health in Order

Many Canadians have to spend out of pocket on medical costs. If you need to spend on that much-needed visit to the dentist, buy those new eye glasses or to meet with a nutritionist as you make healthy choices. This is a great time to spend that money. Remember to save your receipts as well because most of this can be written off as medical expenses.

The One Big Thing

Sometimes we have been dreaming of that new big screen TV, the new laptop, the new cell phone, or perhaps it is that new bag. Whatever it is, if it can enhance your life, now would be the time to make that purchase.

There are so many ways to save and spend your tax refund. Tell me what your favourite is, and you can win a free download of TurboTax.  I am giving away five downloadable TurboTax codes to help you get your taxes done and get that refund in your hands.

*Giveaway rules: Open to Canadian tax filers who leave a comment letting me know how they would spend their tax refund.  Giveaway ends March 5th, 2017
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Tax Trends that Will Effect You in 2017

Taxes

It is that time of the year again! It is January, and if you have been a reader of Common Cents Mom you know I start talking taxes in January to give you plenty of time to prepare. Again this year, I will be doing my own taxes and have once again agreed to partner with TurboTax Canada to bring you tax tips all tax season long. So what do you need to watch for in 2017?

This year Canadians are faced with a number of changes. Four of the child tax credits parents loved are gone. The tax credit for income splitting has changed dramatically and is now capped at $2,000. The good news is there have also been changes to Employment Insurance and the child tax benefit that are helping many Canadian families.

According to a recent TurboTax national survey, most Canadians are optimistic about their taxes and two-thirds do expect to receive a refund. More than half of Canadians will do their own taxes this year. With that said, it is really easy when using TurboTax.  I have used TurboTax for the past few years and have found it gets me all the money I deserve by automatically checking over 400 potential deductions and credits every year. This means I always get what I deserve guaranteed. You can read more about the guarantees here.

Are you an early bird when it comes to filing your taxes? It seems most Canadians- that is eighty percent file as soon as they have their paperwork ready. Over half of Canadians, say they will file in March but now is the time to prepare.

Did you know many Canadians aren’t taking advantage of all the tax deductions and credits as they should be? Now is the time to make sure you have these documents ready.

  • Only 44% of Canadians will claim medical expenses. Get your receipts in order, you can even ask your pharmacist for a copy of your receipts for the year.
  • Only 40% of Canadians with claim Charitable donations. Any time you give more than $20 to a charity get a receipt as it is a tax deduction.
  • Only 11% plan to claim rental receipts. Every year this helps my return soar here in Ontario.
  • Only 7% claim child care expenses. Save your receipts and have your care giver give the proper receipts.

Now is the time to get ready so you can get the best refund possible. Want to learn more ab0ut getting ready for this year’s tax season. Check out the tax tips section on the TurboTax website. It is filled with great tips that will help you get the best return possible. Also, remember to follow my blog and social this tax season as I bring you more information and tips. I also enjoy checking out the TurboTax blog all season long.

Let me know if you are expecting a refund this year and how you will spend it in the comments. I will be giving away 5 downloadable  TurboTax codes that will see you doing your taxes for free.

 

*Giveaway ends February 28th, 2017 and is open only to Canadian tax filers.