Why I Thrift!

Thank you to Fox Taylor for this blog. I love how she uses creativity to satisfy her wants by visiting thrift stores to find gently used items at a fraction of the cost.

Fox on an Island

04_10_2016_07

I have been big into thrifting for clothes and household goods since I was about 15 (17 years ago! Ah!) and have no problem telling everyone about it. A lot of the time people are surprised; a former boss once asked me how I had so many clothes because I basically never wore the same thing twice, and when I said I buy everything for super cheap second hand she was shocked. The next person to walk into the office heard her blurting out Did you know she’s never bought anything new?? That’s not true, I do buy new clothes from time to time, but I’m going to show you in this post why I don’t do it very often.

I bought a beautiful Matt & Nat wallet a few months ago and have wanted to get another one of their products. I am currently borrowing J’s black backpack to…

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Finding Zen, Yoga you can afford

yoga with text

How to find zen at a cost that doesn’t cause anxiety

 Over the years I have experienced income loss or reduction for a variety of reasons. Most were because of circumstance, but the last one was by choice when I decided to leave my managerial position and to work part time.   One of the reasons why I made the decision to trade money for time was because I wanted to reduce stress and to pursue other activities.  Job stress and burnout were key factors in making this decision.  One of the things that I wanted to pursue was to find a positive means to deal with stress.   I wanted to join a yoga class, practice yoga and explore new routes to the discovery of the benefits of meditation.  When I looked into the cost of taking classes a couple of times I week I put on the brakes.  If wanted to stay in my own neighborhood and take classes it would cost me $50.0 for a month long introductory pass and then after that 20.00 for a walk in class unless I bought a package.  I looked at other yoga studios an found several packages with prices at variations such as this:

Single visits $10.00 – $20.00 per visit
Intro prices $50.00 per month
Monthly memberships  $89.00 per month to
Bundle prices eg 10 classes $170.00, seniors rate 10 classes 150.00
$113.00 regular $99.00 seniors 55+

We live in a stressful world and yoga and meditation have become increasingly popular over the last few years.

According to the American Ostoepatic Assosication http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx
some of the physical benefits of yoga include:

Yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”

Other benefits include:
Increased flexibility
Increased muscle strength and tone
Improved respiration, energy and vitality
Maintaining a balanced metabolism
Weight reduction
Cardio and circulatory health
Improved athletic performance
Protection from injury

In the end, I opted to join a friend and together we went to the Calgary Women’s center.  They offered a couple of free instructor led sessons per week.  They have mats available for those that need them and they bring in volunteer instructors from popular Calgary yoga studios.  It did not have the ambience that you get in a high end studio but it was enjoyable and we here happy with it.  I particularly appreciated that they made the practice of yoga available to all women including those that would not have had any means to have been able to afford to participate in yoga otherwise.  Yoga classes, combined with the gear required to participate can be expensive.  Lululemon is a very popular store to by yoga clothing at, but its price range is above the reach of many of us. Although much of the research that I did is specific to Alberta, Canada where I live, you could use these tips in your area as well.  Here are 10 ways to find options for those that would love to participate in yoga but would like to spend less to get their zen.

Classes:

  1. Calgary yoga studio Bohdi Tree offers a “Karma” program with yoga classes for $5.00. Check their schedule for dates.  Other yoga centers may offer similar discounted classes.
  2. Groupon https://www.groupon.com/local/calgary/yoga   A check of Groupon Calgary found 13 different options and prices for yoga prices.  Again, a check of Groupon in your area may yield similar results.
  3. Look at community resource centers such as Calgary Women’s association. They are currently offering both yoga and zumba classes.  There is no charge and they have gear if you don’t have your own.
  4. If there is a studio close to your or one that you would like to try, see if they have a program wherein you can sign up for introductory classes if there is no ongoing commitment. The cost for a month of introductory classes ranges about $40.00 per month
  5. If you can’t get out, there are many online yoga classes on Youtube for any level of fitness and experience and it’s absolutely free.
  6. Google other places where there is free yoga offered: http://www.avenuecalgary.com/Things-to-Do/Where-to-Take-Outdoor-Yoga-in-Calgary/
  7. The City of Edmonton offers drop in classes at a variety of facilities around the city for as little as $8.00 that will allow for participation in Instructor led yoga classes

 http://www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/drop-in-fitness-schedules.aspx

Gear:

  1. Thrift shops and second hand stores are a good place to find expensive items such as used Lululemon products. Walmart, Costco, and Target and bargain chain stores sell gear and clothing than are non-designer for good prices.
  2. Here is a website that provides good alternative Canadian places where you can buy yoga wear: http://musicbycalla.com/2015/03/26/8-places-to-buy-yoga-gear-that-arent-lululemon/
  3. Lululemon  facebook page.  This page is a US based site wherein members offer used Lululemon products for sale.  Some sellers do ship to Canada.  Not sure it would be a great deal with the exchange rate and shipping but some may find it helpful especially if you are looking for items that are difficult to find:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/lululemonbuyselltrade/

Namaste

 

Couponing in Canada: How to save money and get great deals

coupons with text 2

The Canadian equivalent to Extreme couponing

I admit in a guilty sort of way that I have watched the odd episode of “Extreme Couponing” on tv in the past.  As cheap and frugal as I am it didn’t really catch my attention because I know that some of what they can do with coupons in the US is not an activity that can be duplicated in Canada.   In Canada we aren’t able to benefit from double coupon day where the grocery store accepts your coupon and then doubles the value of it. Coupon stacking wherein you can present and use more than 1 coupon per item is also not a widely accepted practice.  Most places of business will only accept one coupon at a time whereas on the TV show a savvy shopper  scouts out the deals and then hands in enough coupons so that the purchased products are so deeply discounted that the store ends up owing them money – or something like that.  Secondly, there is the stockpile of goods. Even if I could build up a huge stockpile of goods I  have no where to keep them.

But here in Canada, coupons are still being used creatively.
Here is a recent shop posted by one of the the ladies on the Alberta Only Coupon and Product Training Post Facebook site (link below)

Amelias Haul

Total retail = $329.70
Paid = $104.30
Total savings:  $225.40

Tide pods – regular 4.97, on sale for $4.47 then the $3 p&g coupon = $1.50 each
Finish – regular $10.99 on sale for $7.99, $8 rebate = free
Sunlight dishwasher tabs – regular $10.99, on sale for $8.99. Coupon stacked for a total of $5 off each = $4 each
Blue wilderness cat food won in a draw
Olay – regular $7.99, on sale for $2.79 and 75 cent coupon = $2.05 each
Old spice deodorant – regular $7.99 on sale for $3.99 with 75 cent coupon = $3.25 each
Starbucks drinks – regular $2.99, on sale for 2 for $4 with $1 off coupon = $1.50 each
Herbal essences – regular $3.98 on sale for 2 for $5 with $1.50 off wub2 = $3.50 for 2
Mouthwash – I think it was $5 regular (this one I forget), on sale for $3.50 with $1 off coupon = $2.50 each
Schweppes dark ginger ale – regular $1.97, on sale for $1 with a $2 off wub2 = free

In my own clunky attempt on combining coupons with sales today  I did buy 1 loaf of bread at No Frills.  Along with the bread that I paid $1.88 for, I received 200 PC points, and 1 qualifed for a .50 rebate from the Checkout 51 app.  I’m up to about 3.00 worth of rebates there, I started last week and I can cash in and they will send me a cheque once I amass $20.00 worth of rebates.

I’ve clipped the odd coupon here and there and always use the restaurant fast coupons that come in the mail, and I’ll have a quick once over of the flyers to scout out nearby sales.  Recently though my my daugther in law signed me up on an Alberta based  Facebook couponing page.  The members of this site practice what I would best describe as “Coupon/sale Combining”  and at first glance it is a definite move toward a Canadian equivalent of  Extreme Couponing.  I dug further and found out that this is something that is actually rather established in Canada and is quickly moving forward although I suspect its popuarity appeals to a  younger demographic,  particularly for young families with kids. I researched it a found a lot of places and ways to obtain coupons for things like diapers, baby products,  laundry detergents and cleaning products as well as grocery coupons.  I can certainly see how a  young family that uses these kind of products, and a lot of them,  would benefit from couponing.  Additionally, it appears that some of the members of these groups are successfully using more than one coupon to purchase a single product.

The old school way of collecting as many flyers as you can and then spending hours cutting them out has morphed into a more high tech search.  There are apps, websites and Facebook sites to help you in your search for sales, coupons and cashback deals although it appears that there is still some old school organization of your coupons involved.  (Meaning according files)

Here are a couple of Facebook sites to get you started:

Alberta Only Coupon and Product Training Post:  Their mandate:  “The purpose of this group is to learn how to start couponing, trading and overall saving money for you and your family”. 

This is a closed group and it is only meant to serve those that live in Alberta
https://www.facebook.com/groups/987963061290997/  They do a great job of explaining the ins outs of how coupon/sale combining works and what and where  you can and can’t combine or double up on the use of  your coupons.  They also encourage trading coupons that you don’t need and passing on the savings to others in the group.  Additionally you can arrange to exchange items in your stockpile for items that you need from other members stockpiles.

SaveaLoonie.com has both a Facebook page and a website with blog, and this is a great site for gathering information, finding printable coupons.
Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/canadiancoupons
Website:  http://www.savealoonie.com/

So in the name of  “Coupon/Sale Combining” here are the Coles notes on how this works.  (And ladies if you are old hat at this, it is all new to me, so please correct me in the comment section if I am off base with some of this).

First:  Find out where the sales are and see if you have any coupons that you can combine with one of these sales . A good app to use for this is the Flipp App  https://app.flipp.com/

Second:  Find Coupons for items that you would use. Visit a few of the websites available.  I have listed several below to get you started. Print these off those that you would use and organize them.

Third:  Hit the stores when your items are on sale armed with your coupons and buy as many of each item as you need or can get especially if the coupon/sale offers will reduce the original cost of the item significantly.

Forth:  Check your Checkout 51 app and upload snap shots of your receipts for further cashback on qualifying purchases.
Checkout 51:   https://www.checkout51.com/

Fifth:  Take a picture of your score and post your victory  on your facebook page.  Then the option is open to trade items that you have more of than you will need.

Below is a list of other great websites and blogs loaded with flyer info and printable coupons that you can use in Canada:

Hope this helps you save a little money.  We could all use a little more jingle in our jeans.

 

 

 

Cheapskate Travel Tips

new new cruise with text

Ideas to help you plan a vacation that you think that you can’t afford to take

I need to switch gears for a bit but before I do, this blog is about saving money on travel and I just found a Groupon that allows for the purchase of a night in a Fernie,  BC lodge plus 2 chairlift tickets for  as low as $69.00 per night.  There are 5 other options if you want different days or more than one night.  https://www.groupon.com/deals/ga-fernie-slopeside-lodge-6

My last writings have been about how to deal with the immediate needs that arise as a result of income or job loss. While blogging about surviving income loss is a passion, so is travel.  Summer is here, and while I usually don’t do a lot of summer travel because I can live with the summer temperatures here, I do like to get away in the winter.

I once was is in a restaurant where the lady serving us could hardly wait for her shift to end because she was going on vacation.  Her vacation was a trip to a small city an hour and a half drive away, with a 2 night stay at a hotel with a waterslide.  It didn’t seem like much of a vacation to me, more like a getaway, but for her, it was a full on vacation and I shared her excitement of her anticipation of this trip. On the other hand I have friends that both have very good jobs that expressed that they would love to go to Hawaii some day but just couldn’t afford to go.   Eventually they did take their trip and they told me that they paid $600.00 per night for their lodging on Maui for a two week stay.  This answered my wondering about why they felt that they could not afford to go to Hawaii. That is $8400.00 for lodging alone.  When I went to Hawaii a couple of years ago I paid $800.00 for my airfare for 2 and $1100.00 for my hotel for a week.   The point here is that everyone has a different definition of what comprises a vacation and what they need in order to make the trip enjoyable.

Flights:  I do use travel reward points from credit card purchases to pay for the majority of the flights that I take.  I have 2 credit cards that I use extensively.  I put every purchase over $20.00 on a card and then go home and pay off the purchase via online banking.

The banks are quite freely handing out credit cards and will use enticements of 15,000 – 20,000 points or miles to get you to sign up.  This is enough for a shorthaul return trip for example from Calgary to Vancouver .   I use my Alaska Airmiles mastercard that  I have had for over 10 years at Costco and No Frills, and my other Visa for other purchases.  Many cards offer companion air provisions for one flight per year, although these are better used for long haul flights as the cost of the ticket may be as high as $150.00 plus taxes which is no deal on a short haul flight. Alaska Air offers good priced flights for US travel, but travel usually routes through Seattle unless the flight is booked through partner airline.  When flying to the US I find that the taxes are lower if I fly out of Canada on a US carrier as opposed to on a domestic carrier.

These websites offer some insight into how Canadian travel rewards cards stack up:

 http://rewardscanada.ca/topcc2015/
http://www.greedyrates.ca/blog/best-travel-credit-card-canada/#.V25_IPmU3IU

Cross border travel:  We don’t usually consider this to be an option in Alberta is not particularly if you live in Northern Alberta.  If, however you live in Southern Alberta,  and if you don’t mind driving to Great Falls Montana,  Allegiant Air offers very inexpensive flights from Great Falls to Las Vegas and to Phoenix.  It is a  5  hour drive from Calgary to Great Falls.

As an example I made this price comparison:

Dates I checked are for a hypothetical return trip to Phoenix, Arizona for Nov 6-10, 2016, Prices in Canadian Dollars for 4 adult travellers

Allegiant Air Great Falls to Phoenix return:    C$1102.48 or C$275.62/person
Westjet  Calgary to Phoenix return:  C$1704. 16  or C$426.04/person

Car Rentals: I checked Enterprise to see how much it would cost to rent an economy carin Phoenix  for these same dates and was quoted a US $385.89 for a Toyota Yaris or similar.  A check ofhttps://www.carrentals.com/ came back with a price of US $224.16 for the same vehicle.  Check with your credit card and your auto insurer to see if you need to purchase the rental car company’s insurance.  Often your own insurance will render the additional purchase of a insurance as redundant and unnecessary. It is also usually cheaper to rent from offsite from the airport.  You may have to take a cab or public transit to get to the office, but it may be worth it to save on the daily rental fee.

Food: If you are going on a trip and want to go to some nice places for dinner,  go to the Groupon website for the city that you are visiting.  You often can find some very nice restaurants wherein you can get 2 dinners for the price of 1. Part of the beauty of this is that you have already paid for the meal before you even get to the restaurant.  We did this a couple of years a go in Miami and enjoyed several meals in very popular ocean front restaurants.

Hotels and lodging:  Companies such Homestay, VRBO and AirBnB have really opened up alternatives to the conventional hotel stay. I love to stay at a nice hotel where there are all kinds of amenities and daily maid service, but these other options are ideal for longer stays or stays wherein several people are staying together in one place.  My hotel budget can usually be served well by Hotels.com and if I am going to pay for hotels I may as well stay somewhere that will reward me with a credit toward a free nights stay after I have stayed 10 times.  They have a good choice of hotels that will suit most budgets.

Given that I am a cheapskate and that I love to travel, I would rather find as many ways as I can to travel often by minimizing the costs as much as I can.   Rewards cards let me fly for nearly free a couple of times a year. It means forgoing extravagance and staying in 2-3 star hotels, and sometimes driving a Yaris but it gets me away a couple of times a year.

What do you do when your Unemployment Insurance runs out

Dimes make Dollars How to create an extra month of living expense money on an already severely limited income As an Alberta resident and a veteran survivor  of several economic “recessions&#8…

Source: What do you do when your Unemployment Insurance runs out

What do you do when your Unemployment Insurance runs out

unemployed man with text 2

Dimes make Dollars
How to create an extra month of living expense money on an already severely limited income

As an Alberta resident and a veteran survivor  of several economic “recessions” I was surprised and yet not surprised to see an unfortunate question that came up on one of my Facebook pages recently.  The poster stated that her sister, who was laid off last year, has been unable to find employment since her layoff, and she questioned, “What does she do when her Employment Insurance runs out?”

In the early 90’s I spent a lot of time laid off. I never had any savings and I never got any kind of severance. What I did when I went through these times was hoard away enough money and goods to try to buy me another month of living living expenses to provide a cushion.I did this in several ways. For one thing I  worked temp while on claim. I registered with the temporary employment agencies.  I did administrative assistant office work, and I was not specialized in anything.  The temp agencies would send me to temp jobs and then I would claim the earnings from those jobs weekly on my report.  I was allowed to keep my  earnings although the amount was deducted from my EI cheque,  and my earnings were EI insurable which meant that I was building weeks up that could be applied toward another claim in the future.  When my current claim ran out I was creating enough weeks to initiate another claim.

Being in receipt of EI gives you breathing space or temporary relief but it in a challenging economy it is  wise to plan for a second loss of income that may occur when the benefits run out if no employment has been found.It is the understanding that your full time job and obligation while on claim is to look for for work.  This link explains current EI rules including rules for working while on claim.
http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/ei/regular_benefit/while_receiving.page

The objective here is to implement a plan to gather together enough money and food to carry you through one month of no income whatsoever if you do run your EI out.  Being unemployed is a tough situation.  I found that it always helped me to have some kind of a concrete, implementable plan B in place to buy me time.
Here are some suggestions to help with that objective:

1.  Sock away staple grocery items for future use.  Use your PC points, download a coupon app like Flipp.   https://app.flipp.com/

2.  Save every bottle and can that you have during your period of unemployment.  If you are accustomed to donating them to the kids that come to the door, hold off on the donations.  The bottles accumulated may be the difference between making a utility payment or not.

3.  Try to save your small change.  It adds up.

4.  This is a passive way of making a few bucks while you are sitting around at night doing nothing but it does result in real cash.  Sign up for Swagbucks or similar survey programs and do a couple of surveys a day.   You can make about $25.oo per month that pay into a Paypal account.  http://www.swagbucks.com/

5.  Download apps like Checkout 51.  This app allows you to get cash back on purchases that you make. You can claim when you have $20.00 in allowable purchase receipts.    https://www.checkout51.com/faq

6. If you have not missed any mortgage payments and you feel that you may not be able to make your mortgage payment after your last cheque comes in contact your bank to see if you have a provision to miss a payment.

7. Borrow money from your whole life insurance policy if you have enough cash value in the policy to borrow from.

8.  When your claim runs out you may qualify for assistance from Social Services (now known in Alberta as Alberta Income Support/Alberta Human Services),  or the “Big W” as we called it.  It was not a pleasant experience, but I count it up as a life experience.  They did give me a bit of money that helped me make my mortgage payment here and there when I needed it for a month or two.  I was a single parent and I hung on to my house with everything that I had and in the end I was able to keep my house.  I paid off the mortgage 3 years early a couple of years ago.  These funds come from tax dollars, so if you worked before you applied for them you helped fund what you are now receiving.

 

 

 

 

 

How to cope with Utility Rate Hikes

19 ways to reduce your heat, hydro and electrical bills

How to deal with Utility Rate Hikes

I live in Alberta, Canada.  In the past few years we have seen the costs that we pay in order to heat our homes and to have water, sewer and electricity services delivered to our homes increase substantially.  The cost of natural gas is going to increase further as a result of provincial legislation recently passed that is designed to combat climate change. I wish the government well in this endeavor, however I have concern regarding how this legislation, implemented in the form of a Carbon Tax to be initiated in 2017 is going to impact the cost of heating my home and the cost of purchasing fuel for my car.

Granted, the government promises small cash rebates to assist those families that qualify in order to help defray the increased costs, however, these rebates are only available to those who fall under a defined income threshold. Although we have only passed the first day of summer, it is prudent to examine some of the options that we can take in order to minimize the unnecessary use of  gigajoules of natural gas.  If the snowsuits are on sale for kids at Costco (and they are), then it is not too early to make an assessment of how you can reduce your gas and other other utility bills before winter sets in.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Remember to turn off the heat or AC unless you are using it or get a Nest or smart thermostat.
  2. Use a crockpot, toaster oven, microwave or bbq, when you can instead of using your stove or oven. microwave http://www.toasterovenguide.com/how-oven-toaster-can-save-energy-money/
  3. When doing laundry, prior to drying the load, remove and hang jeans and heavy items. The rest of your load will dry faster. Throw the dry, stiff jeans the next day in the dryer for 5 minutes and they will come out no different than if you had dried them completely in the dryer.
  4. Don’t run the dry cycle on the dishwasher, open the door and let the dishes to air dry.
  5.  Don’t leave the water running while you brush teeth or when your are working at cleaning up in  the kitchen or bathroom.
  6. Unplug unnecessary items like chargers, lamps and other electric appliances not in active use (energy vampires). http://energy.gov/articles/are-energy-vampires-sucking-you-dry
  7. Turn your lights off when not in use, or install dimmers or timers.
  8. If your house is often cold or you live in a cold climate and have a fireplace in your living room or family room, consider reducing the thermostat for the rest of the home and have your fireplace provide heat for the room that most of the family is spending time in.  I can heat the whole main floor of my home using my gas fireplace.  I have a blower fan but I rarely even use that.  A wood stove is a good heat source as well.
  9. Check and replace worn weatherstripping.
  10. Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees.
  11. Change furnace and AC filters and check to see if you can purchase reusable ones
  12. If you are replacing your toilets, choose low flow.  Currently as long as toilets are purchased prior to August of 2016, the City of Calgary is offering a  $50.00 rebate for low flow toilet purchases.  http://www.cityofcalgaryrebate.com/calgary/house.aspx
  13. Check for leaky toilets using dye.  http://www.conserveh2o.org/water-lost-toilet-leaks
  14. if you have to run your tap to get hot water, fill a jug and put it in the fridge for cold drinking water or fill containers for watering plants
  15. Do your laundry in cold water and only do full loads, or ensure that the cycle setting is appropriate for the size of the load.
  16. Create a cash envelope for utilities payments.  Insert the amount of money that you used for you last payment.  Use the money in this envelope to pay your next month bill, and refill the envelope monthly as part of your budgeting plan.  If there is a surplus of money in the envelope keep it and to use toward payments in winter months when the bill is likely to be higher.
  17. Call your utilities suppliers to see if there are rates that will work better for you.  There are different plans offered by different utility suppliers and the plan that you are on may not be optimal for you.
  18. If you have a hot tub ensure that you have an insulated heat retaining cover, a floating thermal blanket, and a fence or windbreak that will prevent wind from reducing the temperature of the water.  Also a reduction of the temperature of the tub may not be noticeable but will save money. http://www.spadepot.com/energy-conservation.htm
  19. And finally if for nothing more than a bit of levity, there is always this method for saving water: http://www.providencejournal.com/zz/shareable/20160621/math-does-peeing-in-shower-save-water