How to Best Start An Emergency Fund in 2018 Living Pay Cheque to Pay Cheque

Many Canadians are living pay cheque to pay cheque. It is a plain fact. If this is you, please know you are not alone. I’ve been there done that. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to start saving a bit of money in 2018, let us start with the best way to start an emergency fund in 2018 even when you are living pay cheque to pay cheque. Yes, it can be done.

The Reality Check

First up, before you can move forward, we have to look at our past. We have to look at our current and past habits. Can I challenge you to look at your budget if you have one? If you don’t have one you want one, stat! For me, the best way to do this was to track my spending. Write down every penny you are spending as a family. This may seem daunting at first but by carrying a small notebook with me, I was able to track my spending. You can do it too!

The Road Map

If you don’t already have a budget in place, this is where you start. Look at what you have been spending. Look at your priorities. I was surprised at how much I spent in certain areas in mindless ways. Every penny does matter when you are living pay cheque to pay cheque. Set your priorities, if savings is a priority that you really want go for it! Find areas you can cut or do less. Starting small is ok. Even $10 a week makes a difference over time.

If you need help on how to set a budget here are a couple of posts from friends of mine that helped me:

  1. 7 Steps to a Budget Made Easy

2. Gail’s Guide to Starting a Budget

Quick Start Your Savings

I know as I look around my home there are several things I am not using. Right now, there is that bread maker I got last Christmas and used twice, there is the old camera collection that is gathering dust, and the pile of books I have read. Take a look around your house, what if you sold these and started your nest egg, your emergency fund with the proceeds? Most of us have a few things we can sell for a profit. I use Kijiji when I have things to sell.  By selling even $200 in goods it gives you a starting balance.

Add to Your Income

For those of us who are parents, it can seem hard to find the time to add to our income. It isn’t always easy for anyone. You can freelance your skills if you have one. I know several friends who supplement their income writing for blogs and brands. I know some younger girls who babysit. Others I know dog walk. What could you do for a few hours each week to supplement your income? Can you ask for more hours at work? Use this income minus transportation costs to go straight into your emergency fund.

By taking these actions, I was able to start my own savings account when I was living on less than $26,000 a year in Toronto. It can be done. When there is a will there is a way. Let me know what are you doing to ensure you have an emergency fund?




12 Budget Tips for New Couples #FLM2015 #CDNmoney

Budget Tips Couples

If you’re newly dating, moving in together or starting your happily ever after money may be on your mind.  The truth is hitting a milestone in your relationship is exciting, but it also costs money.  If you’re comfortable spending the rest of your life with someone it should be no big deal to bring up the topic of money.  But what if you’re a new couple?

Bringing up who’s paying for what and how to split expenses may be uncomfortable.  However it’s important to set the ground rules when it comes to your couple’s budget.

Here are some budget tips to help new couples ease money into their relationships:

It’s O.K. to let him pay

I think it’s nice when men are traditional on the first date.  Don’t feel bad for letting him pick up the cheque and also don’t feel like you owe him anything.  The first date doesn’t set the tone for the relationship, so there’s plenty of time to set the rules later on.

Never co-sign

If you’ve ever seen an episode of Judge Judy or The People’s Court you know that co-signing for a loan is a bad idea. When you co-sign for a loan you can be solely responsible to repay the entire outstanding debt in case the other person doesn’t pay.  That’s a big financial responsibility.

Lending money is a no-no

When you’re in a new relationship the bliss can be overwhelming.  However try not to let your emotions get in the way of your money because if the relationship doesn’t last you may find yourself out the money.

Set money aside for date nights

Date nights are an important when you first start a relationship.  Making time for each other and doing something special can help you get to know each other better.  Save together and spend the money on a special night that you’ll both enjoy.

Take a vacation together

They say you never really know someone until you travel with them.  I think taking a vacation together (even if it’s a road trip) within the first six months of the relationship will help you get to know your sweetheart outside of their comfort zone.  It will help you decide if the relationship is worth an investment.

Plan monthly expenses together

Talking about money sooner than later will help your relationship transition smoothly.  The tone of the conversation is set by how you bring it up.  Don’t talk about money the first time in an argument about how each other saves – or doesn’t.  Plan a monthly budget together and account for joint expenses.

Start with a joint bank account

I always say that joint bank accounts are better than credit cards because (unless you have overdraft protection) you can’t spend more money than you have.  There’s no harm in overspending with a bank account because it can’t put you into debt.

Avoid joint credit cards

This is a terrible idea for new couples.  Until you’re comfortable with how your mate manages money joint credit cards, loans and lines of credit are a no no.

Forget family cell phone plans

Family cell phone plans can be a big money saver, but it’s a bad idea for new couples to jump into any joint expenses, especially variable expenses.  Keep the cell phones separate until you’re sure neither person is trying to stick the other with a huge cell phone bill.

Prioritize your couple’s goals

Setting expectations is essential when it comes to money.  When you prioritize goals you each know what you’re working towards and how your savings will be allocated.  It also helps set realistic timelines for activities.

Don’t forget about your own goals

When you always put someone else before yourself resentment can build up and that’s unhealthy.  We can work towards multiple goals at the same time so don’t forget about yourself when you’re in a new couple.

Just talk about money

This is the simplest advice I can give when it comes to couples, budgets and money.  Over communication is better than no communication at all.  So talk about money if you don’t want it to become a sore spot in your relationship.

Join me tonight at 7 pm EST on Twitter as we discuss family finances with couple’s budgets tips and teaching our kids how to learn to budget.  Follow @CommonCentsMom and use the hash tag #cdnmoney. See you there!

Photo from Pixabay

Create a Summer Budget and Have Fun

a view of the CNE

Today marks the start of summer for many Canadians families as school it is out. Parents are busy planning vacations, summer camps for kids are being finalized and then there are the fun things you want to do close to home. It all adds up and many find it difficult to stay on budget during the summer. Choices have to be made.  Did you know most parents spend on average $1000 per child on summer fun. Camps and fun are expensive you know!


So how does one stay on budget? How does one have a summer of fun without the stress?

Planning goes a long way. If you haven’t started yet don’t worry it is not too late.

First, breathe then it is time to start planning the summer of memories that won’t break the bank.

1. Create a budget, know how much you want to spend between now and Sept when the kids go back to school.

2.Summer camps take a huge chunk out of any parent’s budget. Keep this in mind as you plan and know the earlier you book camp the better. Now if you have left this to the last minute check your local cities community day camps. Here in Toronto there are spots still available at many day camps all over the city. They are not that expensive either.

3. Grab an Attractions booklet from your local tourism board, these are usually full of discounts for lots of summer fun. I took a day trip last weekend and stopped at an Enroute location and was able to get one for Toronto and one for the Niagara region (two of the places we will be hanging out this summer). There were lots of great deals.

4. Shop the deal sites. Sites like Groupon, Buytopia and WagJag have some great deals even for families looking to have some summer fun on a budget close to home.

5. Remember You Rewards Cards. At this time of year, we like to cash in some reward points to get access for summer fun. In the past we have used AIRMILES for the CNE and Wonderland. Have a credit card that you have been collecting points on? See what you can do with it, without putting your hand in your wallet.

6. Check out your local event listings! Here in Toronto, summer is packed with festivals and events every single weekend and many are free to attend. We pack some snacks and take in the event and even have a budget for this kind of fun, you know the kids will want to hit the ice cream truck after all.

7. Plan for you splurges. As much as I write about doing low cost events that still give you a summer full of fun we also splurge a bit, but we plan those splurges. Our annual trip to the CNE has already been budgeted for, so has our trip to Niagara Falls, and well we have a Wonderland budget in place as well as we are season pass holders.

8. Check out your local library. Most have great free programs all summer long. Here in Toronto, remember you can even pick up passes to some of our local attractions for free.

There are so many ways to stay on budget and have lots of summer fun, let me know some of your favorite ways to do just that!





5 Simple Ways to Live On One Income or Less

5 Simple Ways to Live On One Income

Ever wonder how a single mama does it? After all when you have one income or sometimes less it can make life hard at times. I have been a single mom since the day my 17 year old was born. She was born while I was homeless, and living at a battered women’s shelter in New Mexico. We are now a thriving family unit, but that was not always the case. We have walked through the fire (yes,literally) that life can sometimes throw at you, to get to where we are. We have been homeless twice. I have also been unemployed more then once in those years, and yes, I even had to collect welfare. I can tell you all about life and poverty in Canada but we are not there now, thankfully. What I learned over those years has made me an expert in simple ways to live on one income or less.

So how do I live on one income, or less and make it work?

Know What You Want

We all have goals and dreams and things we are working on. One of the things I did was write down what I wanted, I set goals and deadlines. First was getting us stable and then growing from there. Sometimes I needed to change what I wanted when life’s challenges arrived ( fire, medical needs, etc) , but the first order of business is always know what you want. What are you striving for? You then have to take the steps to get you there.

Know How Much You Have

Track your expenses, know what is coming into your home and going out. Know your bills and have a plan in place to pay them. Lose your job, etc start slashing drastically to save as much of your bank account as you can. Look for the big wins and the small ones as well. I know I have over the years, cutting cable a number of years ago saved me huge, so did cutting magazine subscriptions. Now, one thing that saves me money every week is eating less processed food. Did you know you can even make your own cleaning supplies with a little lemon and baking soda?

Watch Your Budget

Regular tracking of where you spend, and having a budget helps you stay on track. Trust me, it does. It also makes you think creatively when funds are running low. Instead of going out to the movies, it might be Netflix and popcorn and pajamas at home. Instead of that dinner out with friends, it might be a potluck picnic in a local park.

Look at Your Housing Costs

Only one third of your income should go to housing.  When I had it rough, I lived in some not so great apartments, they were what I could afford though. I will also admit my daughter and I live in a one bedroom apartment. We make the smaller space work, with zones and screens. It meets our needs. Could you make due with less space, less stuff?

Diversify Your Income

As I started back into the workforce, after taking time off to deal with medical issues my daughter had I got creative and my blog became a source of income. I also have done small contracts with several different businesses and social media agencies over the years. Most of this was done on the side, while holding down a full time job. My freelance work now provides a full time income for me, yet I also know it is not wise to have all your income coming from one source. For example, with the close of Target Canada this week, I lost a revenue source, last year they had paid me over $2,000 through their SM agencies. Was it a hit, yes, but it really isn’t too bad as I have many other people I work for. May I suggest you look at little ways you can earn a side income from home.

There are many simple ways to live on one income today, if you like me are forced into, let me tell you, yes you can make it work. If you are a family who wants one person to stay home, it is workable. Know what, know how,watch, look and diversify and you can  live on one income or less.


7 Simple and Easy Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Simple and Easy Ways to Eat Healthy

One of the goals I am working on this year is continuing to work on being a healthier me, the lifestyle changes continue. One of the things I am working on the most is eating better, making better food choices. I even gave up Diet Coke, which was a struggle, believe me.

So how can I eat healthier on my limited budget:

Eat Real Food

Trust me I was eating way too much processed food, even if it has a healthy label it is often better to eat the real thing. Guess what? The real food is cheaper, and another thing to note you can even price match real food on sale making sure you get the best deal.

So avoid the boxes and prepared stuff and you are well on your way to really eating healthier.

Buy Proteins on Sale

I like to stock up my small freezer especially when I spot a sale. We stock eggs, chicken, tuna, ground turkey and even ground beef. I also have a thing for game meat and love when I can find some bison.

Buy Frozen Fruit and Veggies Especially Off Season

You can often get these at half the cost of fresh especially off season and guess what by choosing frozen you are making the healthier choice. They are healthier because when packed right after being picked they are full of nutrients. Yeah!

Visit Your Farmers Market

I have been getting some great deals at my local farmers market, now it is not always the cheapest but I have been able to find some great organics and at the end of the day they sometimes even drop the price so they do not have to take things back.

Use Technology in Your Favour

We all know I love to price match if you are a regular reader of my blog. Did you know you can even price match on things like apples and meat? Apps like Flipp let you do just that. If you also use Checkout 51 you can check for additional sale items that can leave money in your wallet and that makes sense.

Drink Water

Since January 1st, I have had Diet Coke twice. For me that is a huge win right there! Now I find myself actually drinking water. I bought a Brita Water pitcher and it filters my tap water which is a good thing. It’s cheaper than bottled water and soda. When I crave the carbonation I use my Soda Stream to carbonate the water, and I add lemon or line or both to my glass just for taste.

Be Prepared

One of the things that has me ordering in, or turning to fast food or processed meals is not being prepared, when I menu plan I am better prepared for everything meaning I eat better healthier meals. Menu planning is part of it and it needs to be done to keep me on course.

What about you what tips and tricks help you eat healthy on a budget? How did you transition to eating healthier?




A Manulife #CentsAbility Check-in – Counting my Savings

In late September I told you all I was taking part in the Manulife #CentsAbility challenge. It was time for this freelancer to take control of her finances and her multiple streams of income: sponsored posts, affiliate links, and community management services and not only budget, but look at the ways that I could save. Even a frugal mom like me is tempted to indulge sometimes! So how have I been doing so far? Where have I struggled, and where have I succeeded?

#CEntsabilty lunch at Blissdom Canada

While at the Blissdom Canada Conference it was great to meet the team from Manulife. I loved the Friday lunch, and was thankful that Flipp got to be shared as well with each person that was there.

Blissdom Budget


To begin the challenge with a hotel stay and a blogging conference, as good as Blissdom Canada is, was a struggle. You see we do not stay in hotels often, so there was the temptation to spend, and that was before we hit the Handmade Marketplace.  Whe did spend and indulge some temptations like an in room movie for my teen daughter who was with me. Late night room service the last night was a treat as well. I had budgeted to buy food and snacks and this is where I went over budget. I had a teen with me, and had to feed her. Yes, we hit the local No Frills for bananas, chips and soda and even brought muffins from home but meals still needed to be had. We ordered pizza and made it last 2 days ( thank goodness for a fridge for the room) and we had the breakfast buffet our last morning as we were on our way to an event and would not have time otherwise. So I blew my budget while at Blissdom Canada.

From Blissdom Canada's Handmade Marketplace

We did manage to stay on budget while in the Handmade Marketplace and I was glad to support some great local businesses that are doing good things. This necklace purchase from Just One goes support a woman living in Africa in poverty and gives a hand up. I say that is a good spend.

So when I got home 10 days ago it was time to tighten the belt and get back on track. I have not eaten out in 10 days, as well we have not ordered in, its been about the good old fashioned basics. Making meals, checking the flyers for sales, and shopping smart. I did last weeks grocery shop for just over $100 and that included all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner. All my spending has been in check and I have been doing all those little things I committed to like making tea at home, using my Soda Stream more and looking for free or discounted entertainment to save money.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Then comes Thanksgiving and thanks to smart shopping using my Flipp app and price matching I saved $20 on that one meal. I was actually under budget for a holiday and we were even having company for the meal.

Now one of the surprises of the month has been prize wins! They definitely help as well. I was in the Cityline audience and won a new Samsung 55″ Smart TV and a Keurig at Blissdom and Rachel won boots from Trend Trunk at Blissdom Canada. so we have even added a few luxuries to the house in our frugal month.

So are you doing the #CentsAbility Challenge? If so how are you doing?







How to Track Your Spending

How to Track Your Spending

For the month of October both myself and my #cdnmoney co-host are taking up the challenge put to us by Manulife. We are tracking our spending to see how much we can and do save. Its part of the challenge to take back our paycheques. So to know how well we do there are many ways to track our spending. There are many different ways to track spending from excel spreadsheets to the newest in apps to using a notebook and pen.

So lets look at all the ways to track your spending:

A notebook and pen

I did this one for years, it is a great way to track spending as you go, especially if you do not have a smartphone, of if you don’t want to be using data. Many others still fear private information getting out so this old fashion method still works and it useful.

Want a tip if you are going this old fashion route. Use duct tape and create a small pen holder and have a pen just for tracking that you keep attacked to the notebook. No more hunting for a pen.

Excel spreadsheets

There are lots of free spreadsheets you can use. When I first started budgeting I used an excel spreadsheet alot. My friend Kerry at has a great free dowloadable budgeting spreadsheet.  These are useful.

Apps are handy

I have been using Mint for almost 2 years now to track my spending. Having this app and the weekly emails have helped me to stay on track, in fact it is one I do recommend having for budgeting and the best thing about it, its free.

I just also downloaded Spending Tracker to use as I carry my smartphone with me everywhere I go. I will be using it during the challenge to track my spending, and with a conference, Thanksgiving and Halloween all happening the month of the challenge it will be so important to track that spending the instant it happens.

There are many methods for tracking your money, as long as you are you can do well, as you will see your habits, your pitfalls, and you can adjust where you need too.

For the #cdnmoney chat on Tuesday October 30th from 7-8pm EST my co-host @ChristaClips and I will be leading an conversation on Twitter on this very topic. Join us and let us know how you track your spending. Are you joining the #centsability challenge? If you are let me know. If you want to follow us on the challenge you will find us posting on Instagram and Twitter with the #centsability hashtag.




Barbecue on a Budget

How to Barbecue on a Budget

Barbecue on a Budget

It’s that time of year, after a long winter many of us Canadians grilled this past weekend. Well it got me thinking about how much money we spend on our grilling. It is possible to barbecue on a budget.  You do not have to spend much to have a great healthy meal when you choose to use your barbecue. Barbecuing can deliver those sweet tangy tastes we all love while saving you some money if you follow these rules.

Spend a little on your grill

A good grill can last you up to 7 years, if you take care of it. So this is one place to invest a little of your hard earned dollar. A cheap grill will last you the season, so spend a little for something that will work for years. Read the reviews and research, spend a few hundred dollars and get something that will last.

Take care of your grill.

For it to last, you have to make it your baby. Clean it properly at the beginning of the season and at the end, but beyond that get rid of any ashes when they are cool, and make sure you oil the grates well before and after you use your grill. As well don’t forget to cover it when you are not using it. Last week I shared one tip about cleaning it. Did you know to use Baking soda to clean your grill?

Make your own sauces and rubs

Look at the cost of the sauces and rubs. Have you checked them out lately? Ouch. Well first you can make healthier ones by making your own ( Homemade ones have less sugar and salt and are better for you). Need some inspiration. Check out Pinterest.

Save money when buying Meat

I have two ways I save money when buying meat, one my butcher knows best. If I head over to visit him I get some really good deals and a dose of knowledge. I have also learned that game meat tastes wonderful barbecued. The other I use my money saving apps like Flipp to check for the best prices that week. I have been able to find get prices on chicken, steak, hot dogs and prepared hamburgers this way.

Remember Your Veggies

One of the things we often think about when barbecuing is the meat but think about adding vegetables to the grill. I love grilled vegetables and they and substance and nutrition to the meal.

Make Extras

One of the things I like about grilled anything, is often the next day it tastes better. You can make enough for 2 meals instead of just one, and have your main meal for the next day as well.

how to barbecue on a budget

These are just some of the ways I save when barbecuing. How do you save money when grilling at your house? Let us know in the comments or when you join the #cdnmoney chat on Tuesday May 20th at 7 pm EST on Twitter.







Kids Clothing on a Budget

picKeeping your kids clothed can be a bit of a parenting nightmare. They wreck things, they lose things and they grow out of things really, really fast. There is also increasing pressure on parents to kit their kids out in stylish — and hence, expensive — designer children’s clothing. In the last few years, the demand for designer kids’ clothes has increased exponentially with economists and retail experts predicting this market will continue to boom. Talk about pressure! However, shopping for kids clothing doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful. Here are nine ideas for keeping your kids clothed in cool outfits, without the hefty price tag.

Shop Online

Scour the Internet for sales utilising a range of keywords and phrases including “discount kids clothing”, “children’s clothing sales” and “cheap kids clothes”. The Internet gives you the opportunity to explore whole new worlds of children’s clothing. Purchasing from overseas-based shopping sites can be a much better bang for your buck, with many online stores now offering free postage when you spend over a certain amount. Not having the same overheads as traditional retailers, such as location rental and high staff costs, means these online stores can offer some unbelievably low prices. If you are partial to particular brands, it also helps to sign up for e-newsletters, so you are informed in advance of upcoming sales.

Don’t Throw It Out

It is so simple to sell your kids outgrown items online, with sites like eBay, Craigslist and Gumtree. Create your account, upload a photo, write an item description, and specify your price. There are plenty of parents out there scouring the net in search of a second-hand bargain. While you’re there, have a look yourself. If second-hand is not your thing, specify the search engine to only show items in a “new” condition. You will be amazed by what you find in the form of factory seconds and sale items.

Relieve the Pressure With Friends

Host “kids’ clothes swap parties” with your family, friends and extended networks. Put an ad in a community paper or in the preschool newsletter, inviting parents with kids from a similar age bracket. Grab some champagne, canapés and make a regular event of it! Remember that other mums are feeling the pinch too!

Save on Staples

Don’t splurge on basic items like t-shirts, socks and underwear. These are lost, destroyed and outgrown on a frequent basis. You can purchase these types of items from cheap chain stores like Asda and Tesco. Get crafty in order to funk up staples. It’s amazing what a bit of fabric glue and a few sequins can do to a plain white t-shirt!

Label Everything

How many times has your child come home from preschool an item or two lighter? From socks and t-shirts to coats and jackets, ensure you invest in name tags and even bag tags for kids. It’s amazing what will turn up where, provided that it is clearly labelled. If your kids don’t lose it, you don’t have to replace it.

Purchase Items a Size Bigger

Kids grow fast, so purchase items like coats and jackets a size or two bigger to ensure they last more than one season. These are the sorts of items that are used on an almost-daily basis, so ensure you invest in high-quality, durable materials.


Take a community sewing or knitting class and try and make some of the more basic items yourself. Start off small with scarfs and hats. There are some really funky ideas on YouTube for making clothes without the need for a sewing machine. You can also search for inspiration on blogs and websites aimed at mums.

Buy Off-Season

You can save bucket loads of money if you purchase your items at end-of-season sales, especially in regards to expensive winter items like coats. Just ensure you purchase clothes a size or two bigger to allow for a year of growth! But you can always resell it on eBay if faced with an unexpected growth spurt.

Resist Buying Brands

With all of the fuss around stylish celebrity babies like Harper Beckham and Suri Cruise (who happen to be two of the most photographed people in the world!), parents are feeling increasing pressure to “keep up with the Jones’”. Just remember, celebrity kids get most of their stuff given to them, and are highly scrutinised when they do get it wrong. Be thankful that no one really cares what your child kicks around in!


About the Author: Sally Peterson is a Brit-based blogger with three small children. She looks to help other mums by providing practical advice around parenting and all things family.