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Two Things You Can Do Today to Start Living Frugally

Ever feel overwhelmed at the thought of living frugally. Sometimes we are living on tight budgets, paycheck to paycheck and things can seem daunting. Sometimes we say we are too busy, we don’t have enough cash flow to make any changes. Ever talked yourself out of making a change? If you ever wished you were more frugal, today is the day to start. There are two things you can do to start this journey today.

Learn to Prioritize

It’s great that you want to save money. Really, it is but it does take effort. If you want to start living frugally you must be committed to a lifestyle shift.  Please realize I do not spend oodles of time each day thinking of ways to save money every day. After a while, it does become automatic but first, you have to learn to say no, you have to learn how to prioritize. Yes, you will need to cut some things. When I cut the cable, it seemed like I would have nothing to watch but I have found ways to watch great shows while maintaining my budget. You will learn you need to cut the fluff to make room for things that are actually important like planning for the long term, thinking of family vacations, that major purchase you have dreamed of making, retirement and the like.

Set Realistic Goals

Have you made the commitment to live a more frugal life? That is great! Let’s build on that commitment, by setting realistic goals. Let’s get cozy. Sit down with your spouse or family and have a real talk about what is important to you as a family. What are the things you love? What is important to you? Knowing what is really important to you as a family moving forward will help you set realistic goals. You will know your why.  Pick two or three.

Start with two or three long-term goals, if you choose more you may get overwhelmed. For instance, if you set the goal of being debt free, taking a trip, planning for retirement, planning for an emergency fund all at once you may feel overwhelmed. It is okay to take baby steps but you have to get started and the best way to do that is by making two or three realistic goals. Once you have those goals in place, you can chunk it down it to smaller goals.

Here is an example:

You want a new car and you plan on saving so you can pay cash for that car. Your car budget is $10,000 and you would like to purchase that car in the next two years.

You have to save $5,000 a year or 416.00 per month or 96.00 every week.

When you lay out your goals, know where the money is coming from, if you have cut from one area you can move that money to your savings. Are you going to also sell things to help get you there? Are you going to look for extra work? Part of realistic goal setting is knowing how it can be achieved. Make a plan, the work the plan.

Yes, making goals takes time but it is time well spent. Once you have started working on your goals, you will want to track your progress as this will keep you motivated.

By learning to prioritize and making goals you are starting to take baby steps to a frugal rewarding life. If you were just starting on a frugal lifestyle what tips or tricks have worked for you?

 

5 Frugal Life Hacks that are Perfect for Me

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

Tangerine Bank.

Free Banking

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

the new bedroom

Choosing Used Over New

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

Cutting Cable

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

The Soda Fix

sodastream

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

Free Entertainment

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

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

 

How Far From the Brink are You?

An emergency department sign.

I was reading the newspaper with my tea this morning, yes, I am old fashion like that when I came across an IPOS Reid survey that scares me. For as long as I have had this blog I have shared my story of debt and how hard it is to rebuild after debt destroys your life. It’s hard, it takes work, it takes time. One simple emergency and things change.

A new poll stated that many Canadians are less than a paycheque away from being able to pay their bills in fact many where already there. That should scare you. I know it scares me. Many are on the road to bankruptcy. They see bankruptcy as an option. Bankruptcy doesn’t change habits. It doesn’t change mindsets. Emergencies happen, they are a part of life. I have lived through divorce, fire, flood and hurricane.

I know of more than one who declared bankruptcy only to have to declare it again within years. Why are we allowing ourselves to live so close to the brink? Many Canadians live with no savings and live paycheque to paycheque. I was one for many years. It’s a scary place to be. You have no safety net. You are not prepared for any emergency.

As a nation, we are a nation of debtors. Us Canadians carry the highest debt load in the G7.  We believe because of the low interest rates we can afford more, need more. We no longer save for what we want, we go and buy it and then worry about the payments. We buy furniture, clothes, travel, cars, education all on credit. What does it all this credit do to us. It makes us slaves to those we owe.

Have you ever stopped before you bought on credit? before you took that deserved trip? bought that pair of shoes? took that night out? They all have ramifications if you don’t have the money in the bank.

Getting out from under your debt load takes hard work. It takes taking a step back and seeing how close to the brink you really are. It takes realizing you made a mess and being willing to clean it up. It means being willing to do the work. It may mean some major life changes. I know for me it did.

If you are in consumer debt, figure a way out, stop spending your tomorrow. I know for me it meant being real about my debt, it meant hard conversations, it meant making choices and realizing I really did want a better tomorrow and I would make sacrifices today. Do you know how close to the brink you are?

Things like seeking a professionals help are ok, so is building a nest egg of savings to keep you away from the brink. Build an emergency fund. Start with a $1000 in the bank that is there for emergencies, and build from there. How do you get that first $1,000. Most who have huge consumer debt loads, have stuff. Sell some of it or get a part time job or create a secondary flow of income. Do the hard stuff to get where you want.

Trust me it takes time and energy to move away from the brink but it is worth it for the peace that comes.

Are you a Savvy Saver? Take the Quiz

become a savvy saverIt’s Financial Planning Week here in Canada and  TD has launched an online Savvy Saver Quiz, to help you understand more about your personal finances. Whether you are dealing with student loan debt, mounting credit card bills or looking at retiring it is always important to know where you stand financially. I can never say this enough. You can always make better choices when you are well informed. That is why a simple quiz can help you make important decisions.

savvysaver

Are you living paycheque to paycheque because you’re spending too much on little things that do not matter?  Do you have an emergency fund? I have often written about how important an emergency fund is?  There are so many things to think about to make you a savvy saver. Are you contributing to an RESP for your kids, an RRSP, a TFSA? There are so many ways you could be saving today. Taking the TD Savvy Saver Quiz is a great first step in a) understanding whether your finances are on track and b) getting easy advice on next steps you can take to meet your financial goals.

Why not take this quick and easy quiz and see where you stand? You may find you have some little changes you can make that can make a big difference in your life today and help you to be a savvy saver.

Some Family Budgeting Tips

Earlier this week we talked about family budgets on the #cdnmoney Twitter chat.  Thank you to everyone who participated and shared your tips on how to manage household finances, how to teach your kids about money and how to find a happy financial balance between money and your relationship.

Our special guest Jordann from My Alternate Life is joining us today to share helpful information on how she manages money in her marriage and keeps things spicy when it comes to their relationship.

How do you convince your partner to get on board with budgeting decisions?

The best way to reach a consensus on budgeting decisions is to have a clear set of financial goals in place that you both agree on. That way, both you, your spouse, and your budget have a common objective. If there is a disagreement about a budgeting decision, just refer back to the goal. If the decision benefits the goal, that’s the one you should make.

 

When do you choose to compromise on budget items and when do you hold your ground?

 

Personally, I always compromise on small budget items, because I want to reserve my bargaining power for the bigger choices. For example, if my husband wants to buy a deep-fryer with our household spending money, that’s fine, because later I’m going to argue that the savings from our car insurance premium decrease should go into the house down payment fund.

 

Save your arguments for the big items, and make sure to compromise at least half of the time. Otherwise, you might end up with a partner who feels resentful, and not in control of their money.

 

Here are some more helpful tips on managing family budgets.

4  Family Budget Tips

 

Join us on Twitter next Tuesday November 10 @ 7 p.m. EST as we talk about common money myths.  

 

Follow @CommonCentsMom along with my new co-host @TahnyaKristina and #cdnmoney to get all the goods and share your money myths.

The 5 Best Things To Buy At Thrift Stores

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By now you know that thrift stores are awesome places to shop if you’re trying to save money. But do you know what the best deals are in the thrift store? If you’re trying to get more bang for your buck, look for these items at your local thrift store!

thrift store photo2

 

  1. Purses – If you need a clutch for a special event, but are not likely to need one again anytime soon, or if you want a purse to match a certain outfit for an event, head to your local thrift store. It may take a few trips, so it’s definitely better to start early but you can usually score a purse to fit your needs for under $10. Best of all, if you’re willing to do a little cleaning, you can sometimes get designer bags for a fraction of what they would cost. I have a collection of designer purses and have never bought one at anything close to retail prices. I’ve had to do some minor repairs or spot cleaning to a couple of them, but it’s totally worth it to have a Coach purse without the dent in my wallet.

 

  1. Books – Yes, the library is free and should be used as a first choice, but buying second hand books can be a major money saver. Used books are significantly cheaper than their brand new counterparts. You aren’t likely to find very recent books on the shelves, but if you’re looking to stock your cottage bookshelf or want to introduce your child to your favourite series from when you were a kid, used books are the way to go. Some stores even have buy 3 get 1 free deals on books and many offer a reduced price on kids’ books.

 

  1. Games and Puzzles – Again, you are unlikely to find the latest popular game at your local thrift store (although you should always keep checking since you never know what might come in), but if you are looking for classic games such as Scrabble, Monopoly, Sorry, or Mousetrap, head to the thrift store! Always double check for missing pieces, but most people don’t donate broken games. If you’re looking for some rainy day activities, thrift stores usually have a great selection of puzzles – some of them never even opened. Games and puzzles usually cost between $2 -$6 in a thrift store compared to $20 and up in a retail store. Even better, once you’re done the puzzle or if the kids outgrow the game, you can re-donate it and keep the cycle going.

 

  1. Furniture – Thrift stores are often short on space, so they price furniture low to get it out the door. Some of the furniture needs a little TLC – but if you love a piece, you shouldn’t let a scratch or a missing drawer pull get in the way. Most of the fixes are really simple and there are tons of how to videos online if you decide you want to take on a bigger project. As a caution, don’t buy used mattresses (because of the risk of bedbugs) and clean upholstered items using a steam cleaner if possible.

 

  1. Baby Clothes – Kids grow fast – especially in the first couple of years. While you could drop a ton of money on new clothes that they’ll wear once and then outgrow, the smarter move is to check out the local thrift stores. Often you’ll find items that weren’t even worn! Think of them as hand-me-downs from kids you haven’t met. Always wash clothes from thrift stores at home before wearing, most clothes are washed prior to donation, but it’s always better to wash using your detergent and to give you peace of mind.

 

Those are the top 5 items to buy used, do you have any items that you prefer to buy used that aren’t on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Easy Ways to Save Money this Year

Easy_Ways_to_Save_Money_This_YearMany families make a New Years resolution around money. Most want to save more and get out of debt. Many of today’s families are looking for simple ways to put money back in their wallets. This makes sense. I know I am one of them, I want to save more, and do more with the dollars I do spend. So how can families take simple easy steps to save money this year:

1. Breathe-remember to get financially fit takes time and practice just like with any sport you train for, except hiccups along the way and know that it is ok.

2. Get a plan. You can never reach a destination without a plan. A budget is a road map to get to where you want to go.

3. Track. Every good athlete tracks their progress or has a coach who watches out for them. By tracking what you are doing you can find simple little ways to do just a bit better.

What are some easy adjustments your family can make to help you pay down debt or save or even better do both?

I went out for a lunch recently with a friend who has spent the last year tracking every dollar in and out of her house. She was surprised to see how much she really did spend on certain categories. I think we all get a nice wake up call when we track spending.

So what are 3 big categories we can all look for simple ways to save?

 

Groceries- No home can survive without a grocery bill. But how can you do better at the grocery store? Do you price match? Bulk buy? Shop the sales and learn about sales cycles? There are choices you can make today to cut your food budget. It might be about buying less processed junk–I know in our house we are working on that this year. It might be about reducing waste- do you realize how much food we throw away every year?

Entertainment- Do you really need that night out at a bar? Why not make it a games night at home with friends and why not make it potluck. Love Movies, instead to hitting the theather ever week with can rack up over the year make the library and Netflix your entertainment hubs. You can also look for free events or low cost ones for your family to enjoy. In every community they do exist. I know here in Toronto there are free events every single week.

Travel– There are many ways to save on travel. From looking at when you go, high season vs low season, to choice of location, to could you have just as much fun with a camping trip to a provincial park or a road trip. If a train trip is your thing and you live in Canada, Via Rail tickets go on sale often, watch for them and plan your trip. My daughter and I have traveled by train extensively in Canada and we both enjoy it. We also like to go camping, nothing beats smores around a campfire.

There are so many easy ways to cut costs and save money every year. Just take a look at where you are spending and look for creative ways you can reduce it.

What are some of the ways you are thinking of reducing your costs this year?

 

How to Be Happy on a Budget

Happy on a Budget

 

Recently I have been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin which got me thinking about money and budgeting and happiness. I also just wanted the documentary Happy on Netflix. So happiness has been on my mind. Really there are so many ways to have peace,joy and yes even happiness on a budget. Money has never bought happiness and it never well So how can we be happy on a budget?

First we really do need to remember that Money does not buy happiness. You can not buy the things that bring happiness in the long run.

So what can you do today to be happier on a budget?

Count your Blessings

Gratitude is a very powerful thing. Once we get grateful we tend to see things more clearly. We tend to be thankful for what we have been blessed with even on the days when that is very little. I remember in the days and weeks after the fire, first and foremost I realized how insignificant  things were. My daughter and I were safe, I was happy with that.

Friendship is Important

Friends on the journey that is life makes everything ok. Make time for friends, enjoy each others company. We can all get caught up in the grind of the day, but when you stop for a moment and simply get caught up it makes you smile, it makes you laugh and sometimes it even makes you cry. But all the time my friends have brought the greatest joy into my life. If you have just moved, if you find yourself lacking friends, step outside yourself and go and get to know some new people and remember friendships take time to cultivate.

Serve Others

Some of my happiest moments are when I am giving to others. Helping others over the years has taught me many lessons. It has taught me that even when I have been struggling I have something I can contribute. When we serve others even in simple ways it brings joy not only to them but to ourselves. Serving others rarely costs you anything but time and a smile.

Take time to Laugh

My father taught me one of life’s big lessons, how important laughter is. There were very few days in his life that he did not share a joke or a smile. He loved to tease and laugh. My father was not a rich man in the material sense but he was very rich in the happiness that existed in his life.

Worship

I know not all my readers believe in God, but for me I have found prayer and even hearing the words of Allah (God) bring a peace and joy and real happiness to my life. Getting together often inside a faith community often brings contentment, peace, joy and even happiness.

Learn Something New

I have always loved to learn new things and over the years have had several hobbies from photography, to reading, to learning new skills including how to even set up a blog. Learning something new always brings a smile to my face. It’s like getting a light bulb moment on demand.

I have learned I do not need much money wise to be happy. I have learned that peace, joy contentment and happiness are a matter of a thankful heart that is reaching out where and when they can and taking time to enjoy and laugh with those I care about. What about you what brings you happiness?

 

 

 

 

What Makes the World Go Round?

globeNo need to get all scientific and start explaining gravity. This isn’t a high school quiz. Talking about money. Pretty much everyone could use a little extra in their pocket. Perhaps a little bit of walking around change for a treat every once in a while.

Spare change beyond what showed up between couch cushions use to be harder to find, especially for moms. Back in the day the only ways to earn a little bit on the side meant doing more of the same home chores for other people. Extra laundry, extra cooking, extra cleaning, an extra child or two after school. Part time or flexible time jobs just didn’t exist. Necessary but not exactly a joy for most people or even a possibility for some in a stay at home position.

Bring on the internet age and whole worlds of possibility open up for anyone that can’t or doesn’t want to work traditional business hours. Opportunities like online businesses, freelance work and remote arrangements have all become possible with a computer and a strong internet connection.

Moms in particular can now find different ways to put that extra change in their pockets. Work time will fit their schedule. The work even will fit their interests better if the thought of doing more of the same “traditional” work is terrifying. Learning new skills has changed too. The online world brings education right to you.

Gone are the days of managing night school or juggling child care with getting an education. Online schools can get a person everything from a degree to a new skill. Usually giving the most up to date knowledge ahead of the older brick and mortar schools.

Want to learn about something as specialized as foreign currency trading? A quick search and you can find places like Knowledge To Action that will teach you something that was only a quirky corner of banking not so many years ago.

Think you know what makes the world go round or fancy yourself a bit of a travel buff? Think you are ready to challenge yourself to something new and possibly earn a few pesos or yuan in the processes? Give this quiz a try and see how you stack up your euros against dollars.

Entrepreunership

How to Help Your Kid Develop Entrepreneurship

Entrepreunership

 

Give your kid the tools for success at an early age by encouraging them to develop entrepreneurship. Creativity, self-confidence and a knack for making money can blossom in children as young as 5 or 6 years old, especially when their parents provide an engaging and safe atmosphere for development. Read on for tips about making child-sized startups a fun and profitable activity for your kid and his friends.

Encourage Creativity

The good news is you’ve already got the resources at hand that you need to teach your children how to be more creative — and children are naturally good at creative play. When you find your kids working something out for themselves or stuck over a problem, instead of giving them the answer, create a group-brainstorming session to find out the best solution. Even everyday activities can be turned into mini-sessions on how to be creative and entrepreneurial. A trip to the grocery store may wind up as inspiration for warehouse shipping for the new product they’ve invented or timesaving tricks for folding the laundry may be perfected by your kid while finishing his chores. By entertaining his ideas and showing that you believe in his ability to solve problems, you’re teaching your child the value of creativity in relation to self-reliance.

Show Them Role Models

Kids love to learn about other children who are doing extraordinary things. Seek out stories about other children who are entrepreneurs in the news or in books, and talk to your kids about how these children’s businesses got started. By showing your children examples, they’ll learn that age and size are not barriers to inspiration, creation or success. One great example of a child entrepreneur is Asya Gonzalez, who started her company at 13. The business, Stinky Feet Gurlz, not only designs and sells clothing and accessories, but also functions as a charity, donating money from every sale to her partner nonprofit organization. The nonprofit then uses the donated funds to help end child slavery and human trafficking.

Get Excited With Them

Children get excited about their new ideas, innovative solutions and business plans. While that inner voice every protective parent hears may want to warn them against potential failure, at this point it’s more important to get excited with them and to show your children that creativity is something to celebrate. Encourage your children to try to see their ideas through by making a plan and sticking to it — goal-setting is an important skill to teach young kids — and prepare to help them try again with the same level of excitement if their first project doesn’t work out. Resilience is a skill that will take your children far in life.

Provide Resources, But Teach Money’s Value

When your child does develop a business plan or an idea for a new product, they’re going to face the same startup costs that an adult business would. When this happens, parents need to be clear about the kind of help the family can give to get the project off the ground. Some parents of child entrepreneurs say that rather than giving their children money, they prefer to let their kids earn money to start the business by doing chores around the house or by doing chores for neighbors. If the amount needed is substantial, and isn’t likely to be covered by a summer spent mowing lawns, you may decide to donate a specified amount once your child has saved the first 20 or 30 percent. This will help your children learn about saving money and fundraising, both skills that can be absorbed at an early age.

Enroll in Courses or Clubs

If your area has one, your children may benefit from a camp or club that teaches entrepreneurial skills to the under-18 set. These camps let kids work on real projects and use case studies to illustrate real-world business concepts like marketing and shipping. If you can’t find a suitable course, look for a club for entrepreneurs or consider starting your own with your kids — that’s teaching entrepreneurial spirit as well!

 

About the Author: Barbara Gilliard is a small-business owner who enjoys brainstorming creative solutions to everyday problems with her three school-aged daughters.