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The Year of Non-Sponsorship Begins

It’s 2018 and I am doing something radically different. Most bloggers are looking for ways to increase their audience to share more, to put out better content so they can earn more. There is so much noise in the blogosphere right now that it is difficult to get your message out there. I have decided to do an experiment with 2018. For the first two years of Common Cents Mom, I simply shared my life and what worked for me. I am getting back to that as the year of non-sponsorship begins.

What does that mean?

There will be not a single sponsored post for 2018 on this blog. Not one.

Bold move? Maybe, maybe I am nuts but I simply want to get back to storytelling and helping others without brand sponsorship always on my mind. Some of my most shared and still looked at posts have no brand attachments, they simply helped you, my readers.

When I want to share something, maybe a fun event I am attending I will, my money saving posts will be about what works for me today and what you may want to try, my posts will be about the causes I care dearly about. If you know me you know homelessness and hunger are two issues I care deeply about.

I am also on a health journey, so you will read more of that as well. If I am sharing about essential oils I will share a link to my storefront as I am a doTERRA Wellness advocate.

When I find an item that is really working for me and I want to review it or share it, I will. If it happens to be sold on Amazon I will share a link ( If you buy from one of my links I will earn money)

Two of my favourite apps Caddle and Ebates I also earn a very small amount when you sign up. These links have been on my blog forever.

Otherwise, as the emails come this year I will be saying NO so I can say Yes.

What will I be saying YES to?

I will be saying yes to helping in ways that matter to me.

I will be saying to time with my daughter.

I will be saying yes to fun opportunities that help us to have fun, grow and develop.

I will be saying yes to building relationships that matter.

I will be saying yes to supporting the causes that matter to me.

I will be saying yes to growing.

Do I expect some challenges along the way? Yes. Will it be a challenge to turn down money when asked? Yes.

Let me know in the comments what do you think about my challenge for the year?

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Tips for Hosting the Best Holiday Dinner

 

Can you believe it, Christmas is just days away! There is so much to do!  If you’re like me, your mind starts racing… gift lists, shopping trips, recipe ideas, and there are more holiday dinners than you can count on both hands. Where do you start?

If you’re like me, hosting a holiday dinner are at the top of the list. How do you ensure they go off without a hitch? Here are a few simple tips and tricks that will make every meal a hit:

  1. Make a list and check it twice. There are great organizational apps (I like to think of them as my virtual assistant) that can help you prioritize. From stocking up your pantry and creating menu ideas to managing RSVP lists, storing these items in one place can help you organize and strike off those to-dos!  Plus, the feeling of accomplishment you get when you check an item off your list is always a bonus (whether it’s on paper or on your phone!)
  1. Get the fancy silverware and dishes ready. Holiday feasts and festive parties mean bringing out your best silverware and serving dishes. To refresh your silver, try Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Just rub a paste of three-parts Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and one-part water onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Then rinse thoroughly and your dinnerware will be sparkling-ready to impress your guests!
  1. Expect the unexpected. For that unexpected guest who drops by, not-so-holiday-specific items like stationary, pens and notebooks are a nice last-minute gifting idea that anyone will appreciate. Taking a non-holiday themed approach means items can be purchased well in advance of the holiday shopping rush.

  1. Keep messes to a minimum. Having a trusted stain fighter on-hand to tackle those holiday spills and stains is a must! My go-to products are the OxiClean MaxForce Foam Laundry Pre-Treater and MaxForce Spray Laundry Pre-Treater. Both can treat wine stains, gravy spills and stains from sticky fingers to keep linens and napkins table-ready for next season. The Pre-treaters can stand for up to a week before washing.
  1. Pamper yourself! Treat yourself to that festive latte, Santa-shaped cookie, or extra hour in bed without the guilt! You deserve it for all your hard work, and it may be just what you need to keep your spirits up and stay energized for your next dinner party!

What are your tips for easing dinner party prep and clean-up stress? I’d love to hear them! May you have a great holiday dinner with friends and family.

* this post has been sponsored by Church and Dwight and I have been a brand ambassador for them for the last 3 years. We love our Church and Dwight products! 

My Favourite Reads and Shows of 2017

It seems every December every one does a best of the year list. This year as I commuted I did lots of reading and watching thanks to being able to download lots of Netflix shows.  Which one did you do more of? Did you read more or watch shows? Here are the shows and books I really enjoyed in 2017. Some of these were published years ago but read by me for the first time this year. Some books were for personal growth and some were there just to enjoy. These are my favourite reads and shows of 2017.

My Top 10 Reads of 2017

  1. Wonder- I had to read the book before watching the movie. It was so good! I would suggest this book as a great teen read as well. My daughter loved the book as well.
  2. The Hand Maid’s Tale- This book as well the show had me mesmerised. I feel in love with Margot Atwood as an author this year. My teen is getting this book under the tree as she loves dystopian novels.
  3. The Success Principles- I was challenged to read this one as part of a program I was part of. With Jack Canfield, you can never go wrong.
  4. Option B- Sheryl Sandberg’s second book was so different from her first but her ability to move on inspired and encouraged me this year. 
  5. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness- With so many characters in this book and a search for happiness and love, it was one I binge read this year.
  6. Unshakeable- Tony Robbins (who I have long adored) came to Toronto this year and so reading Unshakable made perfect sense for this personal finance writer. If you want to know more read it now.
  7. Braving the Wilderness- I love reading Brene Brown. We all long to belong. I know I have and well she articulated some of my thoughts so well.
  8. The Book of Business Awesome/ The Book of Business UnAwesome- When a friend writes a book, it is on your list. I love Scott’s take on business.
  9. The Sun and Her Flowers- I must admit I cried during reading this book. Just read it.
  10. How to Be a Bawse- Fellow Torontian and YouTuber was a must read for me. This girl rocks.

Besides reading I did lots of watching this year as well. My favourite tv shows were all ones that my teen and I watch together. There are 5 of them.

My Top Watches of 2017

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale- It had us on the edge of our seats waiting for the next episode.
  2. Young Sheldon. – My teen loves this show and it can’t be missed by her.
  3. The Good Place- This show with its constant surprises is simply fun and my teen and I both love it.
  4. The Good Doctor- This show is one we do not miss and we are in love with it.
  5. This is Us- I got addicted to this show during its first season and am loving season 2. My teen joined me in watching this show after getting caught up watching it on Netflix.

We both watched lots of Netflix as well. Our favourite Netflix shows were series. These were all watched this year.

  1. Atypical-Both my teen and I loved this show.
  2. 13 Reasons Why- my daughter and I thought this show was intense but it allowed for some great conversations.
  3. The Crown- I have had a love affair with everything Royal since I was young so I love this series.
  4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt- we love to laugh and this show makes us laugh out loud!
  5. Orange is the New Black- We have loved the show since the first season.

So let me know what were your favourite reads and watches this year. I really want to know.

 

Flipping for the Family Cookie Exchange

Every year our family has a tradition. It is part of our Christmas festivities. We do a cookie exchange the week before Christmas. On Saturday, family and friends gathered to share thier baking. When it comes to Christmas, I think most families love cookies.  Let me know about your family cookie exchange.  In our family we each bring 6 dozen and take home 6 dozen. There is always a great selection, from my mom fruit cookies, to my sister’s loafs, to peanut butter cookies to christmas peppermint patties there is something for everyone.

On Friday, I shared this video of my teen making the cookies on Instagram.

If you are looking for some great cookie recipe ideas, do check out my Christmas Pinterest board. On Friday, my teen and I made our favourite no bake cookies, Mudpies and then yesterday she made the classic chocolate chip for Santa.

Here is the Mudpie Recipe that we use.

In getting ready for all that baking we did have to hit the grocery store so as always we had this shopper’s best friend on hand, the Flipp app. We were able to get deals on flour, chocolate chips and butter. This week as you are doing all your holiday prep don’t forget that your Flipp app can help you in so many ways.Coupons and Rebates

  1. You can check the flyers and browse if you are looking for ideas. Have you checked out the Flipp Gift Guide?
  2. Run a search for an item and find the best deals on that item. This is great for price comparisons on all those last minute gifts you are shopping for.
  3. Use the Flipp app to price match at many retailers. I love to price match especially at Walmart here in Canada. My US friends there are a number of retailers
  4. Check out the coupons and rebate section for more deals. Did you know you can often use these for items that are on sale? I love the rebates section now. Let me know if you have used it.
  5.  Utilize the Deal Finder to find this weeks best deals. Look for it at the bottom of each flyer page.

If you are a Flipp fan, do you have a favorite tip to share? If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, you will find you are able to save on all your shopping needs. I know for our family it has cut our shopping costs by about 25% this year. Can you imagine what you could do with 25% more cash in your walllet in 2018?

Downloaded the Flipp app and don’t miss out on savings and cash back. Download Flipp from Google Play or the App Store and start saving.

If you haven’t started using the coupons and rebates with the app, you can find some helpful information with Flipp’s Guide to Rebates. Print off your coupons to match them with deals.

Don’t forget to add all your loyalty cards to Flipp so you always have them with you.

*this is a sponsored post and I have partnered with the Flipp app for the past 3 years. I love this app and my opinion has never waived when it comes to this app!

 

 

Give the Gift of Maternal Health with Cuso International #CusoCAN

At this time of year, our family is grateful for all we have especially each other. As a mom, I am especially grateful for my daughter. She has been such a huge blessing and I was blessed to give birth to her with the best of care from a wonderful team in New Mexico. My niece recently gave birth and my family has been enjoying spoiling the newest little one who has blessed our family. Some mothers are no so lucky. Those of us who live in North America are blessed to have the best care possible. In places like Ethopia that is not the case always. Cuso International is a charity making a difference in this area.

In Pawe, a small community in rural Ethiopia, mothers like Abeba have their babies in health centres that aren’t equipped for unexpected circumstances. Simple challenges that seem like a small hiccup in the labour process here can lead to tragedy. The health professionals don’t always have specialized training, and infection and life threating complications are common. Thankfully something is being done!

 

A Canadian midwife is making a difference

 

Jennica, a midwife from BC, volunteered to live in Pawe to help share her skills and knowledge with the doctors and midwives at Pawe Health Centre. She worked with the doctors and midwives to use monitors to help identify babies in distress. Digital monitoring is so common place here, you’d probably have a hard time finding someone who wasn’t monitored for at least part of her labour at the hospital. So, it’s easy to forget that this simple process can mean the difference between a life saved and a life lost.

Trained volunteers like Jennica save lives

 

Cuso International is a charity that has been sending volunteers around the world to help communities thrive and grow. The Maternal Health program, like the one in Pawe, is helping to save the lives of moms like Abeba and countless other women and little ones that are home with their families this holiday. With more training and better hospital practices, health workers in Pawe can recognize danger signs earlier, treat them faster, and help more moms deliver their babies safely.

 

You can help too

While you’re sharing this time with your family, you can help ensure that mothers around the world can do the same. The Cuso CAN Fund was established to give you the chance to support Cuso International’s high priority maternal and child health projects in Ethiopia, Benin, Tanzania, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In all these places, pregnant and labouring moms need the kind of trained, compassionate care you had when you delivered your children. Help send Canadian medical volunteers into communities to save the lives of moms and babies this holiday season and through out the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Hallmark Christmas and a #Giveaway

It is that time of the year that we are all busy getting ready for Christmas. The decor gets pulled out, the house gets decorated, hot chocolate is sipped, and our favourite Hallmark movies get watched. We are definitely a Hallmark house. From our decor (thanks to the team at Hallmark Canada) to what’s on tv you would think you have entered a Hallmark home at our place.

As a teen I started collecting Hallmark Christmas ornaments. We have always been a Hallmark family, even my grandparent’s tree had Hallmark ornaments. I am so glad to keep this tradition alive.  I have been blessed to work with Hallmark Canada over the past few years and they have sent a box this year that was filled with beautiful decor items, cards, gift bags, gift items and of course a few ornaments.

I went through the box while watching a Hallmark Christmas movie and  the W Network. Did you know they have been showing many a Hallmark movie this month.  Since I have been in recovery mode after a fall late last month I have had the time to snuggle on the sofa and watch some of my favourites. Have you been watching?

The box itself was filled to the brim with a great selection of items and I wanted to share a few of my favourites.

There is the 2017 Dated Frame, which I thought would be a perfect gift for grandparents. I love giving the gift of photos.

There was lots in the box for the wine lover. When I saw the Mover and Shaker Martini glass, I thought of a girl friend who is a definite mover and shaker every day. It’s available for $19.95. There are also great bottle tags and wine charms that would be a divine add on.

They also sent this beautiful copper coloured retangular metal tray, a 3×4 Pillar candle, mixed rosehips, and adorable poinsetta lights. I have combined these for a beautiful centerpiece for my coffee table.

To add to my snowman collection for this year there is the “Stockings Hung with Care” Snowman and pup. It is only $17.95 when you purchase 3 cards. It is the 14th in the snowman series. So far I have 5 from the series. Candy canes light the way in sync to the tune of Jolly Old St. Nicholas.

Two of my favourtie things in the box this year were the Mixed Media Santa and the Mixed Media Santa in a Sleigh. Both are great decor pieces that would look perfect on the mantle.

Here on my blog, one reader can win the Mixed Media Santa this holiday season.

*Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only.

**Giveaway ends December 15th at 12:00 am.

 

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Worry Eaters Review – A Safe Way to Express Emotions

Sometimes it is easy to dimiss our children’s concerns and worries. Whether they are worrying about monsters under the bed or the abilty to make friends each worry and concern does impact them. We have a worrier in our midst and one of the toys she is getting this year will help with her worries. It is called a Worry Eater. Perhaps if you are a parent of a child with anxiety and or worries you may want to check them out.

Worry Eaters are plushies with a zippered mouth that can eat thier worries. This allows a child to get thier worries out in a safe manner and helps to omfort them. What is the thought behind the worry eaters? The worry eater helps the child “talk” things out. If you ever had a child with an anxious heart you understand that getting them to verbalize things can be difficult. All children have to do is print out thier worry on a piece of paper and place it inside the worry eater. Zip the mouth shut and the worry eater goes to work.

Worry Eaters may not solve the issue but they do start a dailouge and that is a wonderful thing. As a mom with a child who had many concerns I wish I had this toy when she was little and I can see its use.

Worry Eaters come in two sizes small and large and there are several characters to choose from, We received Flint who looks like a pirate for this review. They are reccomended for age 3, my personal recommedation would be for the 5-7 age range as that is geared for kids that can print and do things in secret if neccessecary. Overall a great Christmas plushie idea for kids and parents to help them communicate.

Let’s Talk Practical Stocking Stuffers for the Family #ChurchandDwight

It’s almost crunch time when it comes to Christmas shopping! Yesterday, I was out shopping for the stocking stuffers for our family. I know traditions are different in every family some go expensive, some go for chocolate and candies and some go practical. We tend to go practical in our family with a few food items along the way. I grew up this way practical stocking stuffers have always been part of the package along with at least one clementine and some chocolate.

Typically in ours you will find clementines, chocolate, always a new tootbrush, toothpaste, personal care items, socks and if for a kid there is always a small toy. So we are a family that thinks practically but we like many others have a sweet tooth and a craving for a bit of fun.

What about your family?

My friends at Church & Dwight have some suggestions for you. They are all very practical for those of you who are like my family and love to have a few practical items amongst what you give.

It happens every year! Just when you think you’ve wrapped up your holiday gift list without going over-budget, you realize that there are still stockings to stuff. Not to worry, we have you covered. Here’s a list of some of the best stocking stuffer ideas out there that are both practical and affordable.

Gifts for Her

Batiste™ Dry Shampoo Lotus: With hints of Apple, Wildberry, Grape and Citrus, Batiste™ Dry Shampoo Lotus instantly refreshes your hair between washes by absorbing excess oil from the roots, leaving hair smelling fresh and clean for every and any occasion.

Nair Nourish Crème for Legs & Body with Grape Seed Oil & Nair Nourish Crème for Face with Grape Seed Oil: Nair™ Nourish™ Crème with grape seed oil and antioxidant rich Resveratrol provides a luxurious at-home hair removal experience that nourishes the skin. It’s like a spa treatment in the comfort of your own home.

Gifts for Kids

 

Orajel Spider-Man and My Little Pony Anticavity Fluoride Toothpaste and Manual Toothbrush: The perfect stocking stuffer for your children, and their smile! Thanks to these beloved classic characters brushing has never been more enjoyable for kids, and healthy holiday presents have never been easier!

 

Gifts for Adults

Vitafusion Men’s and Women’s Complete Multivitamins: Be at your best through an exhausting month. Vitafusion™ Multivitamins will help ensure your body has the vitamins and nutrients it needs for a happy holiday season and a successful year ahead.

Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant Bright & Strong Toothpaste and Battery-Powered Brush: This is the only toothpaste with Baking Soda, Fluoride and Liquid Calcium. The brush does more than just whiten – it removes 2X more plaque than a manual toothbrush. Use them together and everyone will want to know the secret behind your gorgeous smile.

Diovol Tablets: Enjoy and indulge this season. And stop heartburn and indigestion in its tracks! Diovol™ Tablets provide effective and quick relief of occasional digestive problems.

Ovol Regular Strength Chewables: Too much bubbly this season? Keep these chewables close by to help avoid unwanted hiccups at a holiday party.

RUB A535 Anti-Inflammatory Cream: Shovelling, sledding, and skating can be harsh on your muscles and joints. RUB A535™ Extra Strength Heat Cream is effective at soothing stiff, sore muscles, and sprains.

Trojan Chain Reaction Lubricant: Ignite your intense passion and watch sparks fly with delightfully unpredictable changing sensations. Trojan™ Chain Reaction™ Lubricant allows you to reach new heights of pleasure with a special blend of intensifiers that keep releasing a variety of sensations during use, providing a unique experience every time. Get ready to work up a sweat unlike any other because with this long-lasting lubricant, you won’t want it to end!

Gifts for the Whole Family – Aged 6 and Up

Gravol Ginger Lozenges: Don’t let a bumpy flight or long car ride ruin your holiday travel this season. Pack Gravol™ Ginger Lozenges to prevent nausea and vomiting.

OxiClean Stain Fighters & Arm & Hammer Baking Soda NOTE:

The holidays can be a messy time of year, so share your secret of keeping things fresh, clean and stain-free with OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover and Arm & Hammer™ Baking Soda

A Practical Stocking Stuffer Giveaway

And, today may be your lucky day. From vanity cabinet must-haves to at-home beauty treatments, jump on the chance to win a holiday stocking filled with tried-and-true products valued at $150 to help cut down your holiday shopping list.

In the comments let me know and don’t forget to enter using the Rafflecopter entry.

What are your favourite stocking stuffer products listed here?

*this post is sponsored by Church and Dwight and I do receive product and cash for my posts as part of an ambassadorship.

**giveaway is open to Canadian residents only.

***giveaway ends December 20th, 2017

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Online

Common sense tells us we are all at risk for identity theft? So how can you best protect yourself? Especially from online attacks?

There are some simple things you can to ensure your personal safety online.  Personally, I have had my wallet go missing and I hate to admit it has happened more than once. I know for me I got the sinking feeling and worried most about my identification. Since many of our lives and daily transactions are now done online, it is just as important to protect our online identities.

No one is exempt from online identity theft. We have seen thousands of people impacted each time a company gets compromised. Even the credit bureau, Equifax was recently compromised. Fraud is a real issue and it impacts many Canadians on a yearly basis. A couple of years ago Interac invited me to an evening out where I learned lots about the dark web and the real dangers that lurk at every turn. So how can we can we best protect ourselves from identity theft online? This is important to know as many of us right now are doing our Christmas shopping online.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Online

  1. Create a seperate shopping ID account. When you shop, do you use the same email address as all your social accounts? Don’t! Create a seperate account with very limited permissions. Use this for banking and shopping.
  2. Watch what you share online. In the age where many of our lives are online, don’t overshare personal info. You never know who is watching. Share what you would share if you were giving a speech with a megaphone.
  3. Sign up for a credit monitoring service and get alerts. Did you know you can get alerts every time  your card is used? Credit Karma offers a free service. This means if new credit is opened in your name you are alerted as well as any major changes even a creditor reporting late payment.
  4. Don’t carry non essential ID. Do you carry your SIN card? Stop! Carry what you need.
  5. Be careful where you store your credit card information. In the age of the internet of things it is easy to have your card info stored in many places. Be mindful where your information is being stored. It may not be that secure over time.

Remember an once of prevention helps especially when it comes to your credit.