Free Appetizers at Popular Restaurants

Loyalty programs = Free Appetizers

restaurant with text


In a tight economy, restaurants want your business. If you are going out to dinner and want to add a free appetizer to your meal here are links to the websites of  10 Canadian restaurants where you can get a free coupon for an appetizer and other free goodies just for signing up for their loyalty program.   I read that some people have been able  print off and use these coupons more than once.  I have an email account that I use for this purpose so that I can keep free offer in an inbox separate from my main e-mail address.

Montanas Appetizer and free birthday dinner


Red Lobster (Fresh Catch club), appetizers

Swiss Chalet, Rotisserie Mail   also you can redeem points from your Scene card

Boston Pizza , Free appetizer for signing up, Free dessert on your birthday Free individual two-topping pizza for your first anniversary

White Spot Restaurant,   a coupon for $5 off your next dinner purchase just for signing up.

Olive Garden, Free appetizer:

The Pickle Barrel

Chili’s: Chilis’ works on a point system, you get 60 points just for signing up, this is enough for a free item from the menu, a free dessert on your birthday and more.

East Side Marios:  Free appetizer when you sign up for their newsletter

If you live in the U.S. there are probably even more options available.  Here is a link that I found that shows 400 places to get free meals on your birthday.

Bon Appetit







Dollar Store Deals

Name Brand or Dollar Store Brand
Facial Cleansing towellettes

We all have things that we consider to be “essentials”.   This is a price comparison of facial towellettes. Arguably, washing your face can accomplished with a facecloth and soap, but many of us have become reliant on pre-packaged towelettes purchased at the drugstore.  They are quick and handy to use  The usual supply is a one month package of about 30 of these wipes. There are many varieties available, mostly offered by well know cosmetic makers and they cost about $8.00 -$13.00 per package.

olay montage

Available at Walmart Olay Regenerist $12.56 for 30 wipes

I have not tried these.  They sell for $12.56 for 30 towellettes.

ks photoshopped

Kirkland Signature $15.99 for 150 wipes

These are great.  There are 5 individual packages in the box for $15.99.  They come from Costco  and they are very good product.  A box of these costs $15.99 and there are 5 packages in the box, for a total of 150 towelettes.  All in all it is a good deal and a good product – if you have $15.99 to spend.

good facewipes

Purchased at Dollarama  for $1.25 for 25 wipes

If you don’t have $15.99 to spend on a bulk purchase the facial cleansing towelettes above $1.25 for a package of 25 and are available at Dollarama. Although they are not as luxurious as the Kirkland,  they are a relatively decent alternative.


Purchased at a Dollar Store for $1.25 for 30 wipes

The ones pictured above are like sandpaper.  I purchased them at a different Dollar store than the wipes pictured above but they are not the same quality.  I would probably not use them.

The Dollar store, often overlooked, can become one of your new best friends when you are on a tight budget or practicing frugality.   The Kirkland Signature at $15.99 for 150 towellettes  are a good bulk purchase but if you are short on cash or on a tight budget there is a decent product available for $1.25.

Deal or No Deal: Self Pedis and Self haircuts


spend save

DIY: Hair Do or Hair Disaster?

I used to binge watch a show that we have in Canada called “Til Debt do us Part”.  Its a reality tv show featuring  Gail Vaz Oxlade, a financial writer, who is very knowledgable about managing money and helps people that are anything but, to learn how to corral their debt and live within their means.  She also did or still does host a show called “Princess” that is about young women (mostly) that rack up all manner of debt living like princesses, usually by means of working low paying jobs, living for free with their parents, bumming money from anyone that will give it to them and piling up debt on their credit cards.

One of the common themes that I noticed in these shows is that many of the  women really feel that a pedicure is not a want,  rather it is a hard limit need.  Asking them to give up the weekly pedi is akin to asking them to sleep in their car for a week.  The suggestion that pedi’s can be given up is often met with extreme reluctance.

I understand that for some people proper footcare is not negotiable.  I am only addressing the cosmetic aspect of footcare.

Because of my overspending during this past month of March, I am back on a Budget of Austerity.  As a result I am doing my own pedi’s.


My at home DIY Pedi

This cost me nothing, is quite passable, and to be honest I am not a fan of the pedicure anyway. A tube of Gehwol Med Salve for Cracked Skin costs about $20.00 and lasts me about 2 months.  For me it virtually eliminates rough heel skin so going for a pedicure is a waste of money anyway as the pedicurist has nothing there to file and grate away at. All I really need is a cut, file and a polish change.  A polish change would have cost me about $10.00 at a nail salon.  A regular spa pedicure costs about $28.00 in my area.

Here is the URL wherein you can purchase the Gehwol product.

As long as I can bend over to reach my feet I am capable of doing my own pedicures.  The only reason for me to go out for one is laziness and because I don’t feel like doing it myself.  If you feel the same way, don’t want to do it yourself, and want to save some money to have it done professionally, there is always Groupon.  I found 7 Groupons for manicure, pedicures or combo packages in my area.

Here is the URL for Groupon

I did for years cut my own hair, but as soon as was financially possible, I gave that up.

bad hair bird

DIY haircut possible outcome

Unless you are a professional hair dresser or are doing very young childrens hair, I think that it is safe to say that most people should avoid the self haircut route.  A botched pedicure can be safely hidden.  It is much harder to hide a botched haircut.

The verdict
DIY Pedicure:  Good Deal
DIY Haircut:  Bad Deal


Are your grocery store loyalty cards working for you?

I paid $4.90 for this



groc receipt 1

Thank you PC Plus.

We don’t do super couponing on any level in Canada, but we do have other ways to get nearly free groceries.  This is $60.00 worth of groceries.  I only ended up paying the deposit for the recyclables.

There are lots of other things that I can do with the $60.00 that I saved.

Drastic moves… Like moving back in with your parents

crisis with text

#biggest loser or # winwin

Many years ago when I was a single parent living in a small home, the economy and other unfavorable financial situations made it necessary for my mother to move in with my 13 year old son and I.  The house was small, there was very little privacy, and none of us were really happy with the situation.  More and more as a result of economic pressure in the way of job loss, rising taxes and the rising cost of living, people are finding it difficult to live independently.

You can work toward being the most frugal person in the world but the rising cost of living points to a future wherein it may not be possible for two working people to sustain one household.  It is becoming increasingly difficult for two full time income earners to pay  a mortgage, utilities, food and childcare. The best crafted budget in the world can only withstand so much belt tightening. In order to cope with the increased expenses and/or reduction in income, people are left with having to find more creative means of meeting their needs.  Either you need to bring in more money or you need to cut expenses in other areas to get by, but at some point you can’t work any more and you can’t cut any more. I see a day wherein there is a melding of the nuclear family and the the joint family living arrangement common to many south Asian cultures.  In the traditional North American culture of the nuclear family living arrangement is it possible for two or more families to cohabit in one dwelling in order to prosper financially?

Granted, it is a suggestion that may be met with considerable resistance withinin the mainstream North American culture but with our culture becoming increasing ethnically diverse, it bears consideration, albeit in a modified form.

The culture in North America embraces a lifestyle wherein children are expected to move away from their parents home to go forward and create their own households.   Traditionally we embrace the tradition of the nuclear family. The drawbacks to the nuclear family model include maintaining large houses for relatively small famlilies, having children and then paying large sums of money for someone else to care for them while we work, and eventually paying for the care of our aging parents.  We tend look negatively upon adults still living at home.  Situatations wherein families, due to varying circumstances, have to move  back in with parents require apologetic explanations such as “Oh yes,  Jack and Jill are a little down on their luck due to the economy so we are doing what we can to help them out, and once things get better they will certainly get a place of their own.”

Other cultures, notably the  East Indian culture embrace the  joint family arrangement. A joint family arrangement consists of several family members spanning several generations living in one home and contributing jointly to the economy of that household.  It allows for money from several contributers to flow into the home, thereby dividing the cost and the work of running the household.   Childcare may be carried out by senior members of the household and elderly members are cared for by younger members.  There are more people contributing financially to the household so it increases the number of financial “eggs in the basket”. The article below provides an in depth look at what  life in a traditional joint family looks like.

It is pretty doubful that people that are familiar with life within the nuclear family could see themselves in this type of living situation.  The economic benefits are well spelled out in this article, but so are the negative aspects.  People that have been raised in a joint family situation and have the expectation that they will carry on living in that tradition don’t necessarily have any other frame of reference to compare it to, although it is inevitable that some members of these families may be attracted to the nuclear arrangement.

Despite the economic advantages of a joint family setup it is so different than the traditional nuclear family that it would be a tough sell in to those that know nothing outside of the nuclear family.  It is challenging to define a housing model that make the melding of the traditional nuclear family with the joint family more palatable to a privacy and independence loving population. It requires an ideological shift by the people affected by the change and by municipalities in terms of neighborhood planning. There needs to be housing that provides something more expansive than the single family home with a nanny suite, something that offers the ability for several families to live in one dwelling with enough common area and enough privacy for family members.

If we were to rethink how we could comfortably accommodate several families in one home, what could that home potentially look like? My brainstorming of what might consititue something that might be a starting point to an acceptable form of joint family housing suitable to those only familiar with the nuclear family  led to a housing model that is based on a retirement lodge.  If you are unfamiliar, the basic setup is like this:  each resident has a suite equipped with a private living area, and a bathroom.   The more expensive lodges may also have a full bedroom, a living room, a private bath and a full or partial kitchen area.  In all of these lodges there are shared common areas such as a kitchen that prepares food for the entire population and a dining hall that can be used by all lodge members.  There are also shared common areas where people can gather to socialize, watch TV or hang out.  It provides a large number of people shared housing and privacy at the same time.  This is a macro level example, but I can see a micro level, more suitable to a family living situation, based upon this type of model.

Eventually, with the diversity of the population and changing economic needs I see it as inevitable that municipalities will have to come on board to recognize the benefits of multifamily dwellings.  How do you build larger dwellings without compromising other services that cannot be placed on that land?   How  is parking impacted by family dwellings with several vehicles?

But the toughest sell will be to the population that is increasingly finding its family members forced to live together for longer periods of time in order to survive economically.  We need to find a way of combining the joint family living arrangement with the nuclear family in such a way that it promotes acceptance by those entering into and and by the municipalities that they live in.  Unless of course jobs are created for all, taxes and levies and delivery fees for services are permanently reduced, and the cost of all goods and services  goes down and stays down.  The odds are not in your favor if you are betting on that to happen.










5 Ways to get groceries when you are dead broke

How to put food in the cupboard in an emergency


free food

There is a lot of information online about how to save money on your food bill utilizing tactics such as  not going to the grocery store hungry, or planning your meals, or making large batches and freezing meals for later.

But first you need to get the food.  There are a couple of ways to fulfill your short term needs when you find yourself in tight bind.

  1.  In an emergency, contact the local Food Bank in your area.  Most people are aware of the food bank but rarely think that is a service that they would have to utilize themselves.  If you just got laid off and you have no money to spare and no money coming in for weeks, it may be a lesson in humility, but if you have the make the choice between rent or food, contact the food bank to get you through in the short term.
  2. The Pawn Shop.  We live in an age of consumerism.  Look around your house to see if you things like TV’s, electronics, musical instruments or other items that you can live without that you can take to a pawn shop.  You can buy the items back if you want them within a period of time.
  3. Tap into unused resources such as loyalty points cards to see if you have any options for using your reward points to make  purchases at a grocery store.  In Canada, many people collect Air Miles.  If you set your preferences for Cash Miles you can use these cash miles for grocery purchases.  I know of people that have been collecting Air Miles for years that have never looked into using them for anything.   Points may be used toward grocery purchases at the Safeway, Sobeys,  IGA and several other grocery stores affiliated with the Airmiles Program.  95 reward points buys $10.00 worth of groceries. The catch to this however, is that you have to have set your Air Miles preference to Cash Miles.  You cannot use Dream miles for cash purchases. If you do have an Air Miles card and you feel that you would never achieve enough miles to use them for travel, it is worth it to ensure that you are signed up to have your miles entered into a Cash Miles account.  This is particularly true if you live in an area that allows you to  collect points rewards on prescriptions. Safeway issues 7 times the number of base miles for prescription purposes.  Monies spent on prescription drugs can build up pharmacy rewards points quickly.;jsessionid=C18FFE16DAABB39C25FD9605E1908237?_requestid=4446629
    In Canada, you can also use Shoppers Optimum points for food purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart. Many Shoppers Drug Marts have a grocery section.  If you have been collecting points for years and have enough to redeem, you may be able to use them to for this purpose. you live in the United States, there are CVS, Walgreens and other Pharmacy store have similar loyalty programs that you may have overlooked as being a resource that you can use in order to purchase groceries when money is tight.
  4.   This is more of an income loss preemptive strategy than a postemptive strategy, but many grocery chains have loyalty cards that will allow collectors to redeem for  free groceries after collecting a certain number of points.  I am always surprised at how many people shop at these stores but don’t participate in the points programs.  My current favorite grocery loyalty card is the PC Plus points card that can be used at No Frills, Real Canadian Superstores, Loblaws  as well as several other grocery chain stores.  Points can be collected through the purchase of either food in the stores and/or gas purchases at their gas stations.  There is an website or a smart phone app that can be downloaded that show what products you can purchase weekly (based on your previous purchases)  in order to be awarded points.  I have found that it takes my family of 2 about 5 months to amass enough points to push out a cart full of $120.00 worth of groceries absolutely free.  I like to use the free grocery money to stock up on pantry staples a couple of times a year.  Here is a link to the PC points  Check the area that you live in to see if there are similar programs in your area.
  5. Check around your area to see if there are any other local programs or churches aside from the food bank that have programs in place to help people cope through an emergency situation.  A Google check of my area showed 5 places wherein application for food hampers could be made.





Deal or No Deal: Shoes that look like Toms

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I love Toms shoes.  I have several pairs, starting with the first pair that I bought while I was on vacation in the States.  I paid US $60.00 for them.  I find the price to be similar here in Canada.    They are comfortable, durable and they make my feet look smaller than they are, although I own both of the pairs of shoes below and they both fit even though one pair looks so much smaller than the other.  Not sure about that.  Here are a couple of pairs of shoes that I own:

Toms 2

Real Toms and Not Real Toms

Here is a pic of another pair of Not Real Toms

GT Toms

Giant Tiger Not Real Toms

The Real Toms pictured on the left hand side of the top pic cost US $60.00.
The Not Real Toms on the right hand side of the top pic cost C $2.99 and were purchased in a very generic clothing shop in a mall.
The Not Real Toms on the bottom pic can be purchased at Giant Tiger for C $10.00

While I am willing to bet that the Real Toms are probably better quality, if I blow through the others I am not going to be overly heartbroken about it, because I spent next to nothing on them.

Final Verdict:  Good Deal