A Great Contesting Story

I haven’t blogged about this yet and really I wanted too! I wanted to wait though till cheques where out there. That happened last week. Now I can share the story of the school community here in Toronto that could and did win big for our school!

Back in August Please Mum hosted a contest. Parents could fill an online ballot and vote for their favorite school. The school by September 15th with the most ballots won, and10 parents across Canada would win too. Parents won $500 in a Gift Card for Please Mom which I am sure helped make a dent for several families and their back to school shopping.

When I first saw the contest it was post on the Frugal Shopper forum, I filled out my ballot and voted for my daughter’s school: RH McGregor here in Toronto. The more I thought about it I thought hey our school could use the money and we are always looking for an easy “fund raiser” so I sent off an email to the co-chairs of our school advisory and home and school committees. Well the home and school chair took it to her executive meeting that was happening the week before school started and ran with it. On the first Friday in amongst the hand outs was one telling of the contest. Parents basically had a week to get online and enter and enter they did! The parents all have a we can do attitude!

Well almost a month later our dear principal who really didn’t pay attention to all home and school was doing to enter this contest got a call from Please Mum, our school won! So how would he decide to spend an extra $5,000? He could choose from a huge dance party, books for the classroom, gym equipment, or art supplies. What would you of picked for your child’s school? I think he did well when he choose books. So our wonderful librarian now gets to shop for the classroom libraries.

Now the story of the contest win doesn’t end there. You see my daughter’s school is one with a great home and school organization that does have the ability and does raise thousands for the school. So a decision was made to help out another school locally who isn’t as lucky as we are right now. So another school is getting $1,000 to help with their libraries.

For me a mom I thought the win was great but what a great lesson to instill to the kids: when you are blessed, bless others!

Toronto Life and Cheap Finds

Living in the big city there are so many ways to save and find things on the cheap. We have a local magazine called Toronto Life that celebrates all things To and in this month’s magazine there is an article on Good Stuff Cheap, but they aren’t cheap. They are merely good deals for those with decent pocket books.

Now for really going cheap ( well actually frugal) in this city read what I have to say instead of the magazine. As a mom living on less here in the city there is much you can do to do almost everything on a way that keeps your money where it belongs in your wallet.

So first for clothing finds: I love Value Village ( the ones at Danforth and Woodbine and the one on Queen Street both have great selections-thanks to good donors from the Beaches)! I have found so many great finds here. Designers even with tags attached for under $15. My beautiful leather purse that gets lots of compliments was $3.99.For Roo I also love Ages and Stages on the Danforth. It is a great small consignment shop that does a brisk business. This week I saw a wonderful in new condition Gap winter coat for $18. 50

 If you have to have new we have so many warehouse sales through the year by almost every company, the Toronto Star always lists these every week. As well I shop the end of the season this way I can get what I want and well save some. I also try and buy mostly classics but have one or two funky for fun days items in my closet.

For furniture: Yes I dumpster dive, well not actually dive but I have picked up pieces that others are throwing out, as well here again Value Village comes in handy, but so do garage sales and Craigslist and freecycle. I can get any piece of furniture that I need here in this city for under $100, and it be a good piece not the stuff sold at Walmart. Roo’s cast iron day bed cost me $100 in like new condition with mattress. Her dresser was a freebie, as was my leather love-seat from the 60’s. Can you say our place is vintage!

Once you get to know neighbourhoods here in Toronto you can do anything and everything on the real cheap. As for you who live in other cities well all these skills and transferable to where you live.

Works for Me Wednesday Part 2-Fix It!

Shannon wanted us to post this week what we FIX it a hurry for dinner. You know those days when you are too tired to follow that menu you planned on Monday..well since I try real hard to stick to the menu so I can stay on budget..I wasn’t sure what to put but there are days when I do change things up….so what does this cheap mom do?

Okay once a week in my house is breakfast for dinner anyways so often I will swap days with another, if I have already does breakfast for dinner. Then it is leftovers, and if that don’t work then I use : grilled cheese and soup, which is also a standard cheap and healthy meal in this house.

So there now go and if you are a Cannuck read Part 1 of what really is working for this frugal mom.

Works for Me Wednesday

It’s another Wednesday so what has been working for me lately around here? We all know I love a great deal, games and contests right. Well there are two Canadian websites that I want to recommend and no I am not getting referrals, these are sites I use and know by experience do what they say!

First is Pigsback, it is new on the Market, but what a great find it was. You collect points for not only shopping online from major retailers we all know and love but by entering contests too! Guess which I do more of? There redeemable awards are great too ie you can get a Gift certificate without having to have a zillion points. They mail them out too within the time frame given.

The second is for Chapman’s Icecream Kid’s Club. It too has a point system where you play games and can earn rewards. My nine year old daughter loves it and has gotten stickers, activity book, pens, beach ball, and calculator in the mail all in great condition!

These two sites help this mom be a frugal Cannuck while doing what I love..saving money, and having fun! So they both work big time for me.

PS. If you want (or actually let me) refer you to Pigsback, then yes I can get referral points, and they have a contest the person with the most referrals in a week gets $10,000 points and that is 4 $25 gift certificates! Leave a comment and I will email you within 12 hours.

Now head over to Shannon’s for the rest of what is working for everyone!

Planning Our December

Do you find that this time of year seems to be about hustle and bustle and so much of what is really important gets forgotten. For us it kind of creeps up on us and then from the beginning of December till the new year it is a time of busyness. So this year we came up with a Holiday plan…each weekend there is 1 thing that takes out of of the house besides church no more.

This weekend Roo and I will hit the mall for the last time. I have $75 in free Shopper Drugs shopping to do with my Optimum points. With it I am getting Roo some small presents and stocking stuffers. Then on Sunday Roo is singing at church–a solo, and taking part in the children’s presentation.

Next weekend we have been invited to a party so that will be fun, and on Sunday Eve we will be watching a holiday movie on tv.

Then the weekend before Christmas is about getting down to what is really important, the reason to celebrate. We will go to a live nativity pageant downtown, and to church.

On Christmas Eve it is company coming over, and then Christmas Day will be our traditional pj day..Christmas (my birthday) is the one day I can stay in pjs if I want to and I do!

I find by having a plan there is no longer the need to get caught in the bustle. Roo and I can relax and enjoy things like the pile of Christmas stories on her shelf, a Christmas special or just some time together. So do you have a plan or do you get caught in the bustle?

Salvation Army tells 9 year Special Needs Child to Take a Break

As I wrote on Saturday about what happened on Friday, today Roo( my nine year old daughter who walks the spectrum line) got her verdict. The director of the program she was attending called and basically said Roo is not welcome for a MONTH!

So 3 months ago when I first heard of the program I thought it was  a god send and much needed here in the community. Is the program meeting who it is attended and is it helping all the chidren grow? Those children at risk of having to be latch key kids working, with them and encouraging them while meeting the mission statements of the Salvation Army who fund the program…right now I am not sure they do.

The program which began this fall was to offer a safe affordable fun teaching inclusive environment for all children who are apart of it. There emphasis is respect, but where is the Christian love that the Salvation Army is supposed to be so very good at? Don’t the both go hand in hand? When the program director called it was all about Roo and her lack of respect on Friday.  As I posted Roo was asked to sit out after being tagged out in dodge ball and didn’t think she was really out and it escalated from there. The director told me tried to get Roo to do what she thought was right, sit out, then she said to Roo if she didn’t sit out she was ruining the game and day for all. Roo of course got more and more upset ( that linear thinking was happening). Well Roo from somewhere i don’t know where still threw a small ( a piece that might fit on your thumb)amount of plasticine. The director took that as utter disrespect, called me and asked me to pick her up which I did. Roo later that night did apologize to the director on her own.

Roo had only been in the program for 10 days total time. I actually looked at the calendar of days when she had been there…10 days that is all..

Now what are the results of this:

First,Roo is left with a shattered self esteem. She is a 9 yr old after all who at school right now isn’t feeling like she fits in, so here is another place she feels not welcome.

Second, it punishes not only the child but the parent that the program is supposed to help as well.

What would you think? and what would you do? Roo can return to the program in January but not until then…the reasoning behind this the director felt like she needed to set and example or she would lose control of the group, and to teach Roo there are consequences for her actions: do you really think any child will be thinking of what they did for a month or that some one else doesn’t want her?The impression I was left with today is that Roo is not really wanted in the program.  So please leave comments and let me know what you think as I try and pray through what to do with Roo to try and boost my gal back upand show her the love she so desperately needs right now.

Menu Monday-Cooking with TVP

Well it is that time again, time to plan the menu and last week I picked up some TVP! What is TVP? Well we use it as a meat extender in this house but it is a soybean product that can boost protein eating in many dishes. So how will I use it, you will have to see my menu over the next couple of months to see( yes I have that much).

Monday- Tacos( we love Tacos and by using a mix of TVP and hamburger we can really stretch this).

Tuesday-Veggie Spaghetti  (slow cooker recipe) and Salad

Wednesday-Breakfast for Dinner-Cheese Omelet and Tomato Slices

Thursday-Hotdogs and French-fries and corn

Friday-we have been invited out

Saturday-cheese pizza(bought on sale for $3.99) and salad

Sunday-Roast Chicken, potatoes, carrots, corn( whole chickens are 2 for $10 at Food Basics).One of the ways I make this really flavorful is to add some sweet onion dressing to the chicken. Makes for a very yummy bird.

Christmas Tip–Have you started your Christmas baking yet? If not this is the week to get it out of the way..This week Roo and I will make sugar cookies  for her classes. The recipe we use is on the Kraft Website and we love it…

Now go to the Organizing Junkie to see all the other menu plans every one is cooking up this week.

When Good Plans Fail

As my daughter’s illness started to come under control this year, I began to dream again: dreams like going back to work full time, of Roo fitting in. Well this week this mom got a couple of slaps upside the head and was faced with the realities that can come.

First is on the behavioral end of things, yes Roo has gotten so much better, but she still has far to go. She gets caught up in a linear thought and cant change it and then that becomes her truth, and she will stick to it no matter what. She can become stubborn beyond stubborn when in a cycle like this and until she has had time to first calm her body and her thoughts down she is stuck. At home when I see these coming I try and nip it is the bud and tell Roo to go and have some cool down time, often after this she then she can talk through any problem. In the real world though and when she is dealing with others who can have temporary authority over her some days she doesn’t fair well.

 Yesterday at her new after school program was one of those days.  Roo was playing dodge ball and was supposed to be out. She says she never felt the ball hit her, her teacher asks her to sit and it spirals downward from there. There was no hitting, no biting ( some of the things she used to d0-) just a level of disrespect and not following the rules).Resulting in Roo being asked to take a break from the program which means I at this time do not have childcare for Roo.

Finding childcare for a child with special needs in Toronto is extremely difficult if not impossible and is VERY costly if you have to do it yourself. It makes it that you have to earn at least $15 an hour minimum and then you would be back to what you got on welfare. You see a babysitter would charge at a minimum $10 for 3 hours a day=$150 dollars.  That is something that I can not afford and with Roo turning 10 on January 2nd she no longer qualifies for child care subsides and to get a space in a daycare here lets just say she will in junior high before her name got to where she would have a spot.

So basically this means that the $100 I spent on bus-fare in the last 3 weeks is for naught, as once again I have to pick her up at 3:30 every day. So my dream of returning to the work force are once again on hold.

With this said and done I really had wanted to be working by my birthday which is now 25 days away but I feel that is an impossibility so I am trying hard to just deal with the hand that is dealt.

It has also made for a change in the Christmas budget. There will be less here. We will make due, and we willing be going to less things then I had planned: There will be more things done at home like game playing, movie watching,  and crafts.

It has also changed my volunteering plans for the month as well as I am first and foremost the mom of a special child.

Part 2 of Living on Less: The Food Budget

Often we have to stretch when we choose to live on less. For me the area I find me stretching in the most is my food budget. Gone are the days of ordering in or take out so how do I stretch my money in a city where food prices are well lets put it this way: in the US I fed a family of 5 on the same amount.So what are my strategies:

1. Shop flyers for the loss leaders. These here in Canada seem to cycle about every 8-12 weeks. So that means I know I can get 24 rolls of toilet paper for $3.99 after my dollar off coupon every 8 to 12 weeks so I get it when it is at that price.

2. Collect and share coupons. I use both Save.ca and Frugal Shopper for coupons and if you are really a good collector you can trade or even get on a coupon train.

3. Menu Plan: I like to plan on Monday mornings for my week, using what I have in the house..things bought from flyer’s or my staple list.So how does $200 get spent:

1 have 4 basic areas

  • Meat and eggs: here I spend no more then $50 a month and it stretches for about 20 meals, and includes deli meat for lunches
  • Fruit+Veggies: here I spend about $40 for a mix of fresh and frozen( I usually buy seasonal and on sale).
  • The Basics: or as some would call them dry goods..here I spend about $60
  • Leaving $30 for the fillers: cookies, chips, baking supplies etc.

With $20 left over for milk!

So that is how I live on less in the grocery store.

Today I am thankful that up here the school week is over and I get some Roo time in yeah!

Living on Less

Some of my regular readers know that I live on really what is very little in Canada’s largest urban center. This is what has forced me to be cheaper later maybe I can then be Cheap and after that maybe I can graduate to frugal. This week here in Toronto a study came out about poverty in Canada and more specifically here in To and the number of children. Did you know that 1 in 8 children live in hoseholds that are well below the poverty line, and that gap is growing rapidly here in the city..

I am going to give you some facts:

A single mom who is forced onto welfare( and many are because of unfair IE rules here in Canada) who has one child receives $874.00

She will then receive $ 266.00 for Child tax on the 20th

If she is volunteering she will receive another $100 for a bus pass.

So a mom with one child lives off of $1240 at the most…this is the amount that I receive.

How does that get spent here in the big city?

Here is my budget:

Rent $700 ( for a small basement 1 bedroom that is actually an illegal apt)

Phone and Internet ( the net is my only luxury but it is also a tool for job hunting and school work for Roo) $74.10

Food-$200 ( tomorrow I will write about how I make $200 stretch)

Busfare- $75

Laundry-$40

Personal Grooming and Cleaning Supplies -$15

After School Program for Roo-$10

School Expenses(field trips, pizza lunch, scholastic etc) -$20

 Clothing $25

which leaves me with just over $100 for anything else that may come up like the dentist which is not covered properly here in To for poor adults.

In 10 years Roo has never been on a vacation – she doesn’t know what they are. She has never spent a holiday with my family who live in Nova Scotia. These are the realities. Does this bug me? No it is my reality for now..

I am job hunting and luckily I have been given the tools that most months I can squeak by. I will admit with things like Christmas and 2 birthdays around the corner I do worry. I have never wanted Roo to know how poor we are so I don’t talk money with her. I try and teach her that some times mom can say yes to a request and some times the answer is a no. I am trying to teach contentment with what we have.

With that said and done I am really trying hard to live with less. I do this most months by shopping well and entering lots of contests which have given Roo and I some fun times in the city, however we would love that trip to Whistler to play in the snow, or one of the computers , which are only a couple of the contests I am entering all the time right now.

So any ideas for living on less but living well?