Friday, April 29, 2011

Vegas Baby jackpot count

Drum roll please! After diligently putting away bits of my Fun Money for the last 3 months, I am pleased to report that I have saved up $340 in my Vegas Baby envelope. Gail Vaz-Oxlade would be so proud. This is something that I definitely do not want to forget in my suitcase for tomorrow's trip.

This cash is in addition to the money that I set aside with each paycheque in my Travel Fund to cover my vacation's big expenses like hotels and flights. I am putting it towards some fun times in Sin City and it means that this month's budget won't feel the pinch of my trip. While I'm more of a saver than a spender now, I am looking forward to telling the dealer to hit me!


Savvy items to pack in your suitcase

Just because you’re headed out on vacation doesn’t mean you should take a vacation from being financially fabulous. My Eye Candy and I just took a long weekend away in beautiful Kelowna, B.C. and now we are off for a sinfully fun time in Las Vegas with my sister, cousins & corresponding significants.

My rule for vacations is to only do what can afford so these flights & their respective hotels were paid for in advance. Plus, I’ve continued to put away money in my Vacation Fund with each pay cheque and I’ve been diligently saving my Fun Money for me to spend while I’m away. For all the activities that we have planned in Las Vegas (there is a spreadsheet of them!) and dinners out, I know that I have the cash in my bank account to afford it all. This way I can thoroughly enjoy my time away without a looming credit card bill when I get home.

I didn’t always vacation like this and there were times when I holiday-ed now and paid for it later. It’s stressful to do this and depending on how quickly you can pay down your credit card or line of credit, the interest you’ll be charged could quickly become double the cost of your initial vacation. And wouldn’t you rather defer a vacation for a few months so that later you can sip fancy umbrella-dressed cocktails on a beach during one holiday and zipline through the amazon on the next one? I rest my case.

A vacation can give you some much needed R&R, but the only thing in red
that you should be carrying for it is a suitcase and a cute pair of heels.  

While I’m looking forward to enjoying a carefree Vegas vacation, it is not free and there are some simple things that I pack in my suitcase that will help avoid the little impulse costs that sneak up on you. 

  • Trailmix & Ziploc bags – who wants to pay $3 to satisfy every salty craving at the hotel vending machine or mid-morning snack attack? It’s unhealthy for you and your money. Instead, bring one package of trailmix in your suitcase and keep a mini-bag of it in your purse at all times. This way, you can fend off cravings & costly snacks in between meals.
  • Empty water bottle – by the same token, who wants to pay $3 for a bottle of water? I bring an empty one in my carry-on and fill it once I’ve crossed airport security at the waterfountains. I have no problems  with this “tap” water. I reuse the bottle throughout my vacation either with the hotel tap water (which of course, depends on where you’re staying as I learned a very nasty lesson in the Czech Republic during one trip) or I’ll buy a giant water bottle a local convenience store and refill my mini-one as it’s more practical to carry in my purse.
  • Dark chocolate – it’s really just a matter of time before the mini-bar is calling my name and I’m having a sugar craving. There will be 2 bars packed into my suitcase for the trip and hopefully, they last a little bit longer than just the time in the airport.
  • Magazines & books – I have several subscriptions to my favourite magazines (check out The Girl Next Door’s Guide to Finance thoughts on Does Subscribing to Magazines Really Save You Money?) and I’ve hidden away the last 5 that have come into my mailbox for airplane and poolside reading. But that same token, the library has called today and much anticipated chick-lit is ready for pick-up. This pre-planned reading material avoids the last minute hazy browse & impulse purchases at the airport boutiques.
  • A well-packed make-up case - not just with your favourite cosmetics, but the items that you use from time to time and would cost a fortune in the local convenience store. I don't carry everything but the kitchen sink, but I always bring along Benedryl & Tylenol, Ricola & Trident, a few bandaids, and even mini bottle of nailpolish remover. The secret is too remove as much of the exterior packaging as possible so the items end up taking very little room and then you have more space for your favourite lipsticks.
My suitcase for Vegas is almost packed – swimsuit, sunscreen, fancy dresses, shoes, passports, and plane & show tickets. Is there anything else I should add for a financially fabulous vacation? I have a tinsy bit of room left…


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kelowna costs

Hello my dear and financially fabulous friends! My Eye Candy and I have returned from a wonderful long Easter weekend away in beautiful Kelowna, British Columbia. This was my first trip to the west coast of Canada and I cannot wait to go back. We spent 5 days with my EC’s father and step-mom soaking up the 20°C sunshine, sipping wine & visiting vineyards, simply staring at the mountainous surroundings, and enjoying rounds of family togetherness that included several evenings of kareoke.

For this trip, my Eye Candy redeemed Aeroplan points and we only had to pay the $186 taxes for our flights from Montreal to Vancouver to Kelowna. (This is a definite perk to having a boyfriend who travels too much for work and makes up for the lonely evenings.) As I mentioned, we stayed with his parents and they were nice enough not to charge us for room & board. For the rest of my costs, I dipped into my Vacation Fund. This is an account that I set-up last year with ING and I automatically put $200 from each paycheque into it. While I am still careful of where my money goes while on vacation, this money is mine to spend for new experiences and to have some fun.

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere
  • $19.09 at MISSION HILL for wine tasting & tour, and a bottle of Pinot Blanc.  
  • $20.20 at QUAIL’S GATE for a wine tasting & tour, and a bottle of Chemin Blanc. This was served to President Obama when he visited Ottawa for his first state dinner outside of the USA . And if it’s good enough for the Obamas, then it’s perfect for me too!
  • $40.19 at the DIRTY LAUNDRY for wine tasting, story-telling, and 2 bottles of their HushHush Rosé. Our sommelier shared all the “secrets” of the Okanagan Valley and each piece of local historic gossip is paired with a delicious wine.
  • $20.08 at SUMMERHILL for wine tasting, pyramid touring, and a bottle of organic sparkling white wine.  
Eats & Treats
  • $70 at the LOST MOOSE. My Eye Candy and I treated his parents for dinner at their favourite culinary hide-away. This restaurant is tucked up on the top a mountain overlooking the Okanagan Region and we devoured BBQ ribs while watching the sunset from our window-side table.
  • $25 Saturday morning breakfast for me + EC at the golf club
  • $9.70 at Zellers for Easter chocolates – yes, we had an egg hunt.
  • $27 on the flight home for lunch & a round of drinks (side note: another perk to my EC’s job is the access to the Air Canada lounge where I enjoyed more than my fair share of cookies during the journey.)
  • $35 for my share of the airport parking fee
  • $6.72 bubble wrap
  • $16.70 boxes
Fortunately, I brought a regular sized suitcase and had room to bring home all of our wine purchases… but I needed to make an emergency stop at a dollar store to get packing material. Wine is too precious to take risks with and I am pleased to report that each of my bottles (and those purchased by my Eye Candy) made it home safely.

Total Kelowna cost:

And on that note, I off to browse through my vacation photos and enjoy a glass of wine (or two!)…


 Lake Okanagan

View from Quail's Gate Winery  

View from Lost Moose in Penticton

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gift Giving on a budget: Mommy needs some sleep

This is a gift basket that I put together last week for our team’s logistic superstar who is heading off on maternity leave. I know that having a second baby doesn’t scream, “peace at last”, but when I saw it written on an eye mask, I could resist using it as the centre piece for my basket. After all, 1 year away from my team would be peace at last.

While I’m sure she’ll get lots of presents to spoil her baby, I decided that she deserved some TLC too. I used a brightly coloured pink & green polka dot patterned photo memory box and inside, I included Cake bubble bath in a soft citrus squeeze scent, a soft bath puff, chocolate champagne truffles, fuzzy socks, and of course, the fabulous eye mask. The total cost of this cute basket was $15.

I just hope the baby gives her some time to get some well-deserved R&R before safely making his way into the world.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Who let the dogs out?

As many of my Facebook friends are aware, Miss Fergie and I were not talking to each other by the end of Thursday night. In the few minutes I took to take a shower, she pushed open my bedroom door, walked in, located my ½ packed suitcase for my upcoming weekend in Kelowna and opened it, pulled out my creamy blush Steve Madden shoes and chewed one of them to bits. And I do mean bits.

I’d like to enter Exhibit A into evidence. Please see below:

While she is a puppy and they are prone to do things like this, Miss Fergie knows that she is not allowed in our bedroom. In fact, she often sits in front of the door and puts one paw over the threshold just to play coy with me.

I will admit to crying over the loss of these shoes not once, but twice with my Eye Candy and then my Mum on the phone immediately following the incident. The next day I teared up yet again as I recounted the massacre to my office BFF. After all, these were the perfect pair of shoes for work and play during the summer months. Plus, I had taken the time to have them re-heeled and re-soled last October so they would be ready for this season. I agree with Miss B of Behave Fashionably that what Fergie did is horrifying and as I’m a few days away from a sunny vacation, I was even more despaired by their sudden demise.

In a post last month I wrote about how an encounter with Cruella De Vil talked me out of buying shoes, and Annabelle of The Year of Shopping Detox and I later commented about needing guardian angels to watch over our shopping. Well, I have something better than that!

Just as I was trying to debate returning the coveted Cameron D blazer to pay for new all-purpose but equally-stylish summer sandals,  I noticed that a mysterious $$$ amount had appeared in my chequing account on Friday evening. I immediately called my Mum. She also played coy, but when it comes to my shoes, my Mum is my fairy godmother. With her generouristy and a trip to WINNERS, I have a new pair BCBG camel coloured sandals for the summer that won’t be going anywhere near Miss Fergie.

Bibbidy bobbidy boo.


PS: While I knew my shoe is in a terrible state, I did make the effort to visit 2 cobblers and neither could repair it. One laughed and the other suggested that I let Fergie bury it too. There is one more shoe repair guy that I plan to try who is apparently legendary, but I have little hope. Don’t you wish there was a website like “chance encounters”? I wish I could post a picture of the perfectly good size-7 left Steve Madden shoe and put a personal ad out for a new right-side. *Sigh*

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekly spending recap: April 10th - 16th

Sunday, April 10th
  • $31 at the SAQ from our Grocery/Household envelope
We enjoyed a couple glasses of wine on our back balcony as spring's sunshine has finally sprung. This was post a beautiful run along the Lachine Canal so the carbs didn't count.
Monday, April 11th
  • $14 on groceries
Did a spinning class at the YMCA which is part of my monthly membership for $52.

Tuesday, April 12th
  • No spend day!
It was our first outdoor training session for my 3 Vitesses Triathalon Club. I’m pleased to announce that the club’s website (designed by the sporty, handsome and tech-savvy athletes known as The Spike & The Hammer) is up so if you’re interested in getting fit with some fun people, please train with us!

Wednesday, April 13th
  • $70 for our cleaning service (part of the 4 week budget)
  • $3.69 on a secret item
  • $23.12 at Canada Post to mail the secret item plus to stock back-up on stamps
My cousin is finishing his exchange in France and with less than 4 weeks to go, I’ve sent him a little something to remind him how good life is in Canada. I’ll share this “gift on a budget” in a few weeks just to guarantee the surprise element of snail mail for him.

Thursday, April 14th
  • $178 to HYDRO QUEBEC
They have moved from a monthly billing post-usage billing system to a monthly pre-usage billing system so this covers from March to June 2nd and is part of my rolling 4-week budget.
  • $44 at H&M for a blue & white striped blazer (Clothes Fund)
  • $26 at WINNERS for a military inspired work dress (Fun Money)

Success! My coveted Cameron D blazer has been found, purchased and even worn. (See my post:
Changing my mind like a girl changes clothes.) I also picked up a another dress that is similar to one that I had torn out of a magazine a few months ago.

After diligently tracking my spending and building 4 week rolling budgets for 9 months now and finishing a 40-days of no shoes/clothes/accessories shopping, I have put an official “clothing” expense into my budget. I have decided to set-aside $100 a month for clothes that is above my Fun Money. While this is much lower than the old-me would have spent, it will be at my discretion how I use it each month… some months may be higher if I know I need to purchase running shoes or a fancy dress for a wedding, and other months may be lower if I put my weekly Fun Money towards clothes instead of entertainment, dinners, or random miscellaneous purchases.

The amount in my Clothes Fund is not significant as it’s my attitude that’s important. Over the last little while, I’ve come to appreciate the existing clothes within my closet and I spend time planning looks that I want to wear. When I shop, it’s now with a purpose as I’m looking for a particular item that I felt would augment my current wardrobe instead of a frivolous purchase that is a quick pick-me-up.

Friday, April 15th
  • $13 at MONDOU
  • $30 on groceries
After work, Fergie & I headed over the dog park where a woman and I started chatting while our furry friends played. She was quite concerned that Fergie’s collar did not have her name tag on it with my phone number. While Fergie wears her Montreal canine license with code, the woman pointed out that if Fergie were to get lost & hopefully found, it would be much faster for the finder to call us than go via the Municipality. With that, Fergie and I headed over to Mondou to get her a name tag. While this cost could have come out of our couple’s Grocery/Household expense, I decided to use my Fun Money as I purchased a heart shaped tag that has pink bedazzled crystals on it! Talk about fun! I feel like Fergie now has an extra bounce in her step as her collar looks so chic & stylish.

Saturday, April 16th
  • No spend day!
We were treated to a dinner at my Eye Candy’s mom’s house and spent the evening catching up, enjoying Rouladen, sipping Flensburger beer and discussing the merits of Tom Selleck’s handsomeness as he has aged (ok, the last part was reserved for me + EC’s mom as I think the EC tuned out for that conversation).

$15 has been moved into my Vegas Baby Fund which was left over from my $80 weekly Fun Money.  With my Eye Candy away this past week in Dallas for business, my grocery/household expenses were only $75 for the full week (including the trip to the SAQ) so I moved my remaining allocated $45 over to our couple's Mad Money fund. I have to admit, these envelopes are becoming quite thick with cash so the good times in Vegas are set to roll. 


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Be your own sugar daddy by making your cash work for you

Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter

I just finished reading Rich Dad Poor Dad and I highly recommend it for my fellow yuppies who are also just starting out in their professional lives and quickly trying to live the dream (or at least, appear to be living the dream). While the investment strategies in this book focus on real-estate, there are many simple lessons that changed the way I think about my “assets”. The bi-line of the book describes RDPD as “what the rich teach their kids about money – that the poor and middle class do not.” Kiyosaki shares the stories of his 2 dads: one who told him to work hard and the other who told him to have his money work hard for him.

The latter lesson is what separates the “rich dads” from the “poor” ones. The rich dads have the returns on their assets pay for their Porsche and fancy houses, while the poor dads work hard to get pay raises to buy the same things. The difference is that the rich dads are building portfolios of assets, while the poor dads have expenses.

Kiyosaki explains the trap that many Yuppies fall into and terms it the “Rat Race” : you get your first job, your first condo, furnish it, then fall in love, move in together, thinking you know have twice as much money available you buy a bigger house and a car only to discover your life is eating away at your cash flow so you work harder to get a promotion, only to see half your earnings go to taxes and then at the end of the day, you’re stressing over payments… but hey, at least you’re living the dream.

This book helped to remind me of the basic accounting principles I learned in year 1 university: assets = I own them vs. liabilities = I owe someone else. I was reading this book at the same time that my Eye Candy and I drove away from the Mazda lot with our new CX7 and I was so proud to have “purchased” my first car. Only, I haven’t really purchased it – it’s an expense that I’m paying for over the next 4 years and from the second we drove it off the lot, our vehicle lots its value.

My real “assets” are my RRSPs and my investments and I should use these assets as revenue generators. Kiyosaki encourages readers to think of their assets as the “business that you’re in” and your day-to-day jobs as profession. It’s the success of your business that will get you out of the Rat Race… not your day job.

My key take-aways from this book:
  1. To pro-actively manage my assets: pay myself first
  2. Build my financially literacy: take time to learn how to invest
  3. Instead of thinking, “I can’t afford that”, ask myself, “How can I afford it”?
  4. To recognized my expenses as a cost of life… not part of my net worth 
  5. Work to learn 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Going once, going twice

I made my first Craigslist sale tonight! Where has this site been my whole life?

On Sunday afternoon, my Eye Candy and I cleaned out our storage locker in the basement. We had become that couple in our condo building - the ones with the stuff stuffed into the storage locker so high that you couldn't open the door or see into it. But after only 90 minutes of shuffling about, we had taken everything out of the unit, sorted what we still needed (well, not all of the items are needed by both of us as my camping/hunting days are non-existent), and piled up items for donation. But then I decided to see what "stuff" I could resell on Craigslist.

Within an hour of my posts going up my inbox was full and tonight, my first transaction occurred. Just as planned, a woman arrived at 6:30 pm sharp to pick up the beige umbrella that came with our patio set but was never used (having replaced it with a fun blue one). She paid me $15 for it. Score! I also have appointments set for this weekend to sell a few other miscellaneous items so my fingers are crossed that the transactions all go through. As for the cash, I'm putting it into our couple Mad Money envelope that we can use together on a rainy day.

Here are some of my suggestions for a successful (and safe) posting on Craigslist:
  1. Include pictures no matter how wonderful your adjectives are.
  2. Measure! Include dimensions. It will avoid pointless back & forth emails.
  3. Date! State when you got the item and it's current state (brand new, gently used, clunker)
  4. Explain why you are getting rid of the item. I find this helps to give credibility to the current quality of the piece.
  5. State "pick-up only". You don't need the hassle of driving around town.
  6. Don't leave your phone number on the posting. You don't need creepies calling you in the middle of the night to ask if you're fridge is running.
  7. Correspond by e-mail. If the person seems strange via e-mail, stop correspondence. It may be judgmental, but if I get the heebie-jeebies just e-mailing you, then I really don't want you to know where I live.
  8. Arrange a time for pick-up that has daylight involved. 6:30 pm was the perfect time for my transaction as 2 of my neighbours were in the condo foyer picking up their mail. (They also asked if my Eye Candy knew that I was selling what appeared to be his items....)
  9. Be ready with the item and have cash ready in case you need to give them change for a $20, $50, etc depending on your sale price. If it turns out that the purchaser is a little off their rockers even though they were normal via email, you'll want them out of your space immediately.
  10. By that token, don't invite the purchaser into you home under any circumstances. Have the item ready on your porch so you simply have to open the door and hand it to them. If it is too heavy to carry yourself, arrange for pick-up on Saturday morning when your beefy boyfriend or cute handyman neighbour or sporty girlfriends are available to help you.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hung up on you: the closet challenge

The weather in Montreal reached 12˚C during the weekend and I spent most of it on our condo's balcony sipping wine & enjoying fancy cheeses with my Eye Candy. We were wearing jackets and scarfs, but at least we were able to enjoy some sunshine and rock the sunglasses.

Perhaps it was a little optimistic, but I also took the opportunity to change over my closets. Yes, I am one of those girls who has too many clothes to fit in just one closet and with each season, I switch over my attire. (Please note that purging is a favourite activity of mine and in the 2.5 years that my Eye Candy & I have been together, I have reduced my required closet space from 3 to 1.5 double-doored closets which is miraculous. It also corresponds with my transition from single girl in her own apartment to coupledome in the condo so a portion of the purging can be explained by a space issue.) As I was taking down my winter-esque clothes, I did separate out the clothes that I did not wear over the last several months. A few items were tossed into the laundry room for minor repairs, a few sweaters are on their way to my Mum's closet (!), and another pile is set to be donated.

Once I had taken out my spring & summer clothes, washed them, ironed them, and got ready to hang them up, I decided that this is the year that I really monitor what I wear.

Introducing my closet challenge...

For each item of clothing that went up in my closet, I turned the hook around. As I wear each item, I will turn it's hanger back around. Over the next few months, I'll be able to see clearly what items I am not wearing and hopefully, be inspired to put together new options.

At the end of the summer, I plan to go through my closet with either my Eye Candy or a favourite fashionista who will referree the process: if I did not wear said item at all, it will be donated. Should I want to keep the unworn item, I'll be donating $5 for each piece to a favourite charity. I'm open to suggestions for causes so please give me ideas and I'm hoping some of my readers will also get 'hung up' on this idea & join me too!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekly spending recap: April 3rd – April 9th

I can’t be good all the time! This week I spent my entire $80 of Fun Money so there is nothing that will be moved into my Vegas Baby spending envelope. But at least I had fun in the process!

Sunday, April 3rd
$6.71 at Van Hotte Café
$120 on groceries at Loblaws

I spent the day walking around Vieux Montreal with my Eye Candy and Miss Fergie. Doesn’t she just look so regal on the red carpet? She is one posh pooch! We stopped for café lattés at Van Houtte and I picked up a water bottle for Fergie as we didn’t have our usual H2O supply in the back of the car. Unfortunately, I regretted this purchase as the barista gave me nothing but attitude. My French is not perfect, but I’m certainly capable of ordering 2 coffees and a bottle of a water. What threw him was my request for an extra cup (Fergie tends to choke if she drinks directly from the bottle) and he tried to charge me $0.25 for it. I don’t think so! As my fashionable friends say, some people spend $7 on coffee and they spend $7 on accessories. In this case, I wish I had opted for a ring or something else.

Monday, April 4th
$2.50 at LaSalle Aquadome for swimming
$5.70 at Jean Coutu for Tylenol
$3.80 at a Depaneur on almonds

What can I say? I had an exhausting day leading up to a grueling round of management meetings at work and the aspirin was a necessity. The almonds were also necessary as I worked late and need something to tie me over until I could get home for dinner.

Tuesday, April 5th
No spend day! My day was entirely devoted to powerpointing, studying and product labeling as it was the eve before our “Royal Visit” at work. Unfortunately, I missed my last spinning class as work got in the way.

Wednesday, April 6th
D-day! My management meetings went off without a hitch. Afterwards, I was too tired to spend anything.

Thursday, April 7th
Swam with 3 Vitesses at College NotreDame (part of memembership)
Paid $52 for my monthly YMCA membership
Paid $6 for monthly subscription to The Gazette
Paid $180 for my quarterly hydro bill
$65 at Burgundy Lion

To toast the start of my long-weekend, my Eye Candy and I hit up NotreDame and ended up at Burgundy Lion for fish & chips and a couple rounds of drinks. The evening was my treat as he was exceptionally supportive leading up to my meetings and deserved a little treat too.

Friday, April 8th
No spend day! My envelope is empty and I was forced to resist temptation on my day off. This wasn’t easy as I was on the hunt for a new blazer and ended up leaving the store empty handed. Check out my last post Changing my mind like a girl changes clothes.

The good news is that my sister’s boyfriend is now joining us in Las Vegas! I spent a few hours online and on the phone hunting down the best deal for him as our getaway is only 3 weeks away now. I managed to get him a trip that is $150 more than what we purchased 9 weeks ago with only a couple of tweeks. He gets to fly into Sin City with us, but is flying back on a separate flight as it was much cheaper… but overall, not too shabby.

Saturday, April 9th
A frugally fun day! My Eye Candy and I walked around the Plateau with Miss Fergie and we were going to stop at a favourite tavern Bar Bily Kun (they have ostriche heads on the wall!) when I realized that I had no Fun Money left.

Instead, we headed over the Atwater Market and picked up some cheeses, deli meats, spicy garlic pickles, and a bottle of wine using our weekly grocery money. For $45, we were able to enjoy our gastronomic treats on our condo’s balcony and watched the sunset together. The best part is that we have enough left over to do it again tomorrow! (It’s +8˚C here in Montreal and that’s practically swimsuit weather after the winter we’ve had.)

All in all, I spent my $80 weekly allocation of Fun Money. While the week started out as chaotic, stressful and challenging, at least it ended in a fabulously fun fashion.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Changing my mind like a girl changes clothes

After a few stressful weeks leading up to a grueling round of management meetings, I was thrilled when this Friday finally rolled around and I was able to treat myself to the day off. I also decided to treat myself to a light blue & white pin-stripe blazer as I’d like to recreate the look of Cameron Diaz for the upcoming spring & summer season. I thought the blazer is a smart but casual chic look to complement neutral shorts, skinny jeans and even white pants should I be so daring. (If anyone knows how I can get those legs, please advise immediately.)

Unfortunately, when I browsed through H&M, I could not find the blazer that I was looking for and left the store disappointed. This led me into a series of stores like Zara, Winners, Mango and Jacob where I browsed aimlessly in the hopes of finding a anything to cheer myself up. At Forever 21, I stumbled upon a cute beige crocodile side-strap mini-purse for only $11. I decided to treat myself to it.

But before I did so, I followed the rules of my great Auntie Shirley when it comes to purchasing accessories… always walk around the store for at least 5 minutes wearing said accessory. She shared this lesson with me 5 years ago when I almost bought a 60₤ embroidered floral wristlet clutch. Instead of encouraging me to make the purchase, she suggested I wear it around the boutique to make sure it was the ideal purse for me. After only 2 minutes of carrying it around Lady Green’s store, my wrist was bright red with deep impression marks and I knew that the purse was pretty and exceptionally painful. I walked away from it.

The purse at F21 was definitely not painful, but I knew deep down that it was an impulse purchase to make up for my MIA CameronD blazer. After 40 days of no shopping, I started to ask myself a series of questions as I walked around the store wearing the purse to justify the purchase.

Q: Where would I wear said new purse?

A: During my upcoming trips to Kelowna, BC and Las Vegas, Nevada of course!

Q: And during what activities would I wear said new purse that my existing goldie-beige Coach purse (à la tax refund 2007) and cream wristlet would not suffice?

A: In the desert of course! I determined that perhaps my Eye Candy and I would take a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon and in which case, I would certainly need a mini-purse that I could wear over my shoulders as my existing Coach purse and wristlet have to be carried over the inside of my wrist as there are no shoulder straps. Clearly my existing purse collection is not practical for rock climbing.

Having successfuly convinced myself of the genuine need for the mini-purse, I waited in line to make my purchase. And upon further reflection, I then realized that the Grand Canyon is a 7 hour drive from Las Vegas and we will likely not go on a spur of the moment hiking trip. And if we did, I would certainly need a backpack to carry bottles of water, food, and supplies… not a mini-purse that barely fits an iPhone, $5 bill, and lipgloss. While the mini-purse is pain-free, it was not worth the $11 hit to my wallet when my other purses would do.

With that realization, I put the mini-purse back on the rack and walked out of the store. Blazer-less and purse-less, but at least my wallet remained $11 heavier.


Sacrificing space to save money... is this just silly?

When I first moved to Montreal, I found a 3.5 apartment with 800 square feet for $918 a month in the neighbourhood known as the Golden Mile. I was a 10 minute walk from work and in the heart of downtown Montreal. I was also within walking distance to every shop you could imagine and the metro. As I had moved from Toronto, I thought that this was a score! Friends of mine were easily paying $1000 a month for less space and had the pleasure of living with a roommate just to be in the core of downtown TO.

However, I quickly discovered that I was paying a fortune by Montreal standards for my place. I then moved a couple more times into different neighbourhoods and with each move, my rent got a little bit lower. While I did sacrifice some space on my quest for a better rent deal, I never got as low as 90 square feet. Check out this woman who lives in NYC's smallest apartment for the "deal" of $700 USD a month. I don't think I could do it! I'm all up for saving money, but this would leave me feeling squished. My sanity is worth paying to protect and I think is small space is so extreme that it seems silly.

For someone who claims to be a professional organizer, I don't feel like Felice Cohen's apartment is all that streamlined or minimalistic... but maybe that's just me. I would have the apartment looking for like a chic dollhouse and with less piles everywhere.

What are the biggest (or smallest!) sacrifices you have made to save money?


Monday, April 4, 2011

Gift giving on a budget: You get a whale

A few weeks ago, I gave one of my favourite friends a humpback whale for his birthday. Seriously.

This idea stemmed from an encounter we had a work the month before when I came in one morning to find him jumping up & down exceptionally excited as if Oprah had just given him one of her favourite things. His reaction was just like Dane Cook describes when Oprah not only has Harrison Ford in her studio, but they are giving everyone humpback whales! (If you’ve not seen the clip and you are a fan of the O, I recommend taking 5 minutes to enjoy the spoof:

It turns out that our international team had just released his new advertising creatives, and while they were beautiful, I would have preferred a humpback whale. It became our running joke in the office that none of our products are successful until Oprah names them as one of her favourite things.

So when his birthday rolled around, I logged onto the World Wildlife Foundation site and made a $25 donation towards the symbolic adoption of a humpback whale. I’ve been a fan of the WWF since I completed a business analysis case for them in my not-for-profit management class in university and I love that $0.82 of every dollar donated goes towards conservation efforts.

In exchange for my donation, I received in the mail an animal fact sheet, picture of the whale, and adoption certificate which I framed as a present. My friend told me it’s the biggest gift he’s ever received. For me, it was the chance to bounce around exclaiming “You get a whale! You get a whale!”


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekly spending recap: March 27th – April 2nd

Success! My 40 days of no clothing/shoes/accessories came to an end and I did it! I went over a month without adding anything to my closet. However, my fun birthday gifts definitely alleviated some of the stress, but the truth is, I haven’t worn any of my new dresses yet as it’s just too cold here in Montreal.

Sunday, March 27th

- $95 at Loblaws on groceries which I paid from our Household/Grocery fund.

My Eye Candy was away until Wednesday night so this actually covered all my solo eating and got us through all our meals until today. With the cost of food continuing to increase, I’m feeling the pinch on my wallet so I’m getting more creative with pantry dinners and shopping the fridge for lunch ideas.

- $10 of Fun Money to buy tickets for my cousin’s cousins’ graduating design show. While I can’t be there in person to see his portfolio live, I still want to support his work. Plus, it’s an investment as I’ll finally have an interior decorating on my speed dial!

Monday, March 28th

- $47 on cat food for Fernando paid from our Household/Grocery fund. I opted for a bulk size so this should last my furry friend for at least 3 months.

Tuesday, March 29th

No spend day!

Wednesday, March 30th

No spend day!

Thursday, March 31st

- $10 on miscellaneous gift basket items from WINNERS & Loblaws. A colleague at work is going on maternity leave so a friend & I decided to put together a little care package for her. Some of the items I already had at home. I’ll do a post later to share some more “Gift giving on a budget” tips.

Friday, April 1st

My shopping ban is finished! Over the last 40 days, I’ve really learned to maximize my existing closet and I’ve slowly started to mix new outfits together. I also took the time to put together a little book of new outfits I’d like to wear for the spring. Most of the pieces can already be found in my closet (surprise!), but I do want some fun additions for spring. I also went through my closet and pulled out anything with a price tag on it that hadn’t been worn.

I spent my Friday night shopping with a friend at the Dix-30 and our first stop was H&M where I returned a shirt that I had never worn. With my $44 store credit, I picked up 2 new purchases that are slightly out of my comfort zone:

i) Olive-khaki rolled-up painters pants

ii) White short-shorts

The total cost was $5.80 of Fun Money after using my store credit. I’ve modeled them at home and played dress-up so I know have 6 outfits that can go with these 2 purchases. When I finally strut my stuff in them, I’m dedicating my outfits to FHTS for the ongoing inspiration and encouragement throughout the past 40 days.

My friend and I also recovered from our shopping spree at Cabana and for $13, enjoyed a glass of wine and checked out the bar scene of the South Shore.

Saturday, April 2nd

- $6.20 at Marché Atwater My Eye Candy and I enjoyed an afternoon strolling around the Canal with Miss Fergie and it was the perfect opportunity to indulge in a pain au chocolat + café au lait while watching the world go by.

I spent $47 of my Fun Money this week so I'm putting the remaining $33 into my Vegas Baby fund. The trip is now 27 days away (so is the Royal Wedding!) and I'm glad that I've made the effort to cut back my day-to-day spending so this vacation won't be such a hit to my wallet.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wired on savings

A few months ago, I wrote a post Wired! But now saving on my wireless. After spending close to an hour on the phone with my Rogers representatives, I managed to get my wireless plan slashed to $65 which is 57% of what I was spending on average over the previous 6 months.

I also sacrified very little as I was able to keep unlimited evenings & weekends (starting at 8 pm), unlimited text messaging, voicemailing, call display, my dataplan and even got a bonus of long-distance Canadian minutes. The secret to my negotiations was knowing exactly what I using for each line of my bill and continuing to insist that I wanted a package less than $70. Plus, I was couch surfing to recover from the flu so I had all the patience in the world to speak to customer service reps (after all, there are only so many episodes of What Not To Wear that a girl can realistically watch in just one day).

I did worry that this deal almost seemed too good to be true. But I'm pleased to report that Rogers held up their end of the bargain and my April wireless bill is $69. (Note: those $2 charges on Long Distance excess are definitely being billed back to work - afterall, $2 is a tea at Tim Horton's and 3 timbits). This is a financially fabulous success and I'm excited that my next 4 week rolling budget will have about $40 for me to move into investing or one of my savings accounts.