Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Please Help make my Dreams Come True!





So...

This post is going to vary a bit from the usual.

For those of you not familiar with Patreon, it is a website that remodels the idea of patronage for the 21st century. It allows individuals to support creators by becoming patrons (for as low as $1/month) so that they can devote themselves fully to their projects. Each patron tier comes with a reward that is set by the creator.

As I have gotten deeper into the blogging, I have realized that while I want to continue blogging, I also want to do more.  I have finally made my way back to writing and I want to reach as many people as possible. One way I want to do this is to write an E-book that would be available on my site (ideally for free or an extremely low cost) to help people get their personal budgets back on track. I also have other books planned for the future and would love to see those come to fruition during this journey.



Please go check out my Patreon and see what it's all about. If it's something you're interested in investing in, please choose one of the tiers. If not, that's cool too. You've already done tons by reading and hopefully spreading the word about the blog.

Please share this with your friends. I can't do this on my own and word of mouth is worth its weight in gold.

Remember, every penny counts.

Regular service will resume on Friday with an absolutely awesome infographic!

Thanks again,

~A

To learn more, please click here or visit the site listed above.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Our Budgets are Products of our Past

I was fortunate enough to have my parents come and visit over the weekend. Talking to them helped inspire this post.

As I have mentioned before, my family lived on a fairly strict budget while I was growing up. I never wanted for anything, but I knew that Mom and Dad paid attention to every penny that went in and out of our home. I learned from her and while I am nowhere near as strict with my money as my parents, I still keep track of where every penny goes. I was immersed in a world of balanced books and cautious spending and frankly, the lessons stuck.

Parents, Bro, his wife, and the Brits


My parents came by their frugal ways honestly, as well. My Mom's parents emigrated to Canada from Britain shortly before my Mom was born. Both of my grandparents worked hard for their family and in the end, helped to teach my Mom about money and how to spend.

My Dad, on the other hand, was a child of the military, or what we call here a base brat. Being non-commissioned in the Royal Canadian Air Force did not translate into big bucks. A family of five living off a single income was tough, but through tight budgeting, smart spending and a little bit of wheeling and dealing, my grandparents kept the family afloat.

When Mom and Dad got married, there was not a lot of money to go around and Mom's (slightly) obsessive habits paired with Dad's learned frugality meant they were able to do a lot of things that, under different circumstances, they would not have been able to accomplish.

Parental units... That are so lucky I don't have any pics of them from the '80s


My parents played the real estate game and (largely) won. They started with a run-down farm house in small-town Central Ontario, flipped it and bought a parcel of land about 25km down the road in a small beach community. They sold the land for a profit then bought a half house, upgraded to a townhouse then eventually bought the home they're currently in. The only time they didn't turn a profit was with the townhouse, but the market was in a slump and they got their current home for a relative steal. They then went on to pay off that mortgage in half the time, all of that on a relatively modest income.

As I said, budgeting god and goddess.

I am a product of my upbringing. I spent my time watching how my Mom did the books every month, how she went to work and saved every penny to go toward the mortgage and how she made sure she got the best price on everything. I saw the work my Dad put in on the side, mending any issues on his own, working his side-hustles (he had a couple... one brought money, the other brought wine) and generally working his tail off.

As I said, we didn't want for anything. The Dominican Republic, 2009


I am fortunate I saw this as I was growing up, but as I got older I noticed that not everyone was so lucky. I watched friends blow through their money at light speed, leading to them having a hard time buying groceries. I saw adults in deep, almost insurmountable debt with no knowledge of how to fix the situation. I realized how fortunate I am.

I love getting the chance to share my knowledge. If I can help even one person learn how to better manage their money, I feel like it's a job well done. Obviously, I want to help more, but one step at a time.

Just because you haven't had the chance to learn about budgeting or saving yet doesn't mean you can't start. My biggest suggestion, though, is starting now. Start today. Even if you only put away a few dollars a month, you are starting your journey.

I plan on including infographics and helpful printables on the site over the next few months. Also, make sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you can keep learning and never miss a resource!

Let me know what you would like to see!

~A

To learn more, please click here or visit the Patreon site.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Infographic! - a budget-friendly home

Hello all!

Today I'm going to try something a little different - I have put together an infographic on how to save money in your own home. 

Let me know in the comments if there are any other infographics you would like to see, and don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter! 

~A





Click here orvisit the website.



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Say NO - Stick to your Budget

No.

Just no.

It's only two letters long, but that word can have a lot of impact on your day-to-day living, especially when it comes to savings and budgeting.

It's OK to say no. (License- Creative Commons)


As I mentioned, last week was my anniversary. Husband and I kept it relatively low-key due to slightly tighter funds, but we had a plan and we had every intention of sticking to it. Naturally, this, the time when cash is low, is the time when some of my friends came out of the woodwork and decided to suggest we get together for a nice lunch.

Frankly, I didn't have the money. everything was either tied up in my budget, savings or celebrating.
I said I couldn't go out.

I was frank with my friends and said that this week wasn't good because Matt and I had planned something for the weekend (but that I would either love to get together for coffee or reschedule for later). Everyone was understanding and nobody gave me any grief for choosing not to overspend.
This idea may seem trivial, but it is actually a very important lesson. I could have put it on my credit card or just gone out and spent the money, but I didn't. I chose to keep to my budget.

I have heard so many people say it's embarrassing that you can't go out. Why? Everyone has weeks like that. We all have that extra expense that steals away the extra bit of "fun" money we have set aside. Whether it be a car repair, an appliance replacement or a mini-vacation, all of these are things you have chosen to put your money toward. That's not embarrassing; that's responsible.

Money is finite.

That's ok.

That's why you should feel fine saying "no."

~A


Click here or visit the Patreon website.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Wine can help you Connect

It's time to Connect with your friends.

The weekend before last, Husband and I had the opportunity to go out sailing with a couple friends of ours, K and M.

This is the third time we have been sailing with  K and M and when we go on these trips, Husband and I never like to show up empty-handed. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I like to show my appreciation through food and drink.

$15.95 At the LCBO -- Source: LCBO Website
We live just outside of Niagara Region and are fortunate enough to be blessed with an abundance of cherries and peaches around this time of year. We picked up a nice bag of local cherries along with some (as local as possible) strawberries and of course, grabbed a bottle of wine. 

This time around we went with another Southbrook wine. The Connect Organic White is a lovely wine with a slight sweetness that is fantastic on a nice hot day. When you pour this wine you will immediately smell citrus (mostly lime) and mango notes. This wine definitely classifies as off-dry to mildly sweet, so it has a bit of staying power on the palate. The wine balances citrus and sweetness well and drinks very smoothly. I strongly suggest serving it ice-box cold as I find it loses a little something if it gets too warm. This wine would be relatively versatile and could be paired with a variety of dishes. Personally, I would serve this as a pre-dinner glass with a fruit-and-cheese tray.

I thought this wine was a perfect ending to a gorgeous day of sun, sailing, fickle winds and friendship. When we got back to the harbour (not allowed to be drinking without being docked or anchored), we opened the bottle, pulled out the patio (read: plastic) wine glasses and said a good "cheers" to one another. We laughed about the day and our ridiculous lack of wind. We reminisced about our other times on the boat together. We talked about the tanker that came thundering into Hamilton Harbour (it was actually very cool). We laughed about our other misadventures. We ate some local fruit enjoyed some wine.

Honestly, it was an amazing way to end our time on the boat.

In my life, community and family have always been built around food and drink and I have carried this tradition well into adulthood. I believe that almost anything can be better with good food, good friends and good drinks... not always in that order.

Check out Connect Organic White the next time you are meeting with friends so you can share something great while making new memories.

~A

***** The Connect White was provided by Southbrook Winery for me to write a review. The ideas in this post are 100% my own. *****

Friday, 4 August 2017

GUEST POST - Earning with your Phone and Laptop

How you can increase your income with no starting capital and no special knowledge

Hi there! My name is Steve from stevesincomestreams.com and Ashley has been kind of enough to invite me to talk with all of you about earning on your phone and laptop. You all seem to be focused on budgeting and creatively saving money. I do the same, however, I think that these extra earning methods would be a great way to increase your income, allowing for either more savings or a nice treat now and again! I’m sure many of you have already reduced your spending habits as far as you can, so supplementing your income will be a great way to either reward yourself every once in a while or turbo-charge your journey to a savings goal.
 
Image - Creative Commons. Source - WikiHow
 

When Ashley asked me to introduce you all to an earning method, I considered many options. I could have talked about a number of methods that require some money down, like index fund investing, starting a small business or flipping domain names. I also could have talked about an income method that required specific skills, like app development. However, I settled on phone and laptop earning because it requires neither. These methods are incomes streams that require NO starting capital and NO knowledge - so you have NO excuses to not get started with them today! Here are my favourite methods below.
  1. Lockscreens. I used to be big into lockscreens, even running five at once at one point. Recently, though, I have reduced the number of lockscreens on my phone to 3, due to SlideJoy’s decreased earnings. They now include Adme, Smores, and Fronto. I may get rid of Fronto as well, due to their app’s buggy behaviour. Use my Amde code, vPTmE0i4BX, and Smores code U0GZQR, for bonuses. At the moment, the lockscreens earn me about $10 per month – the equivalent of owning $750 worth of stock paying a 4% quarterly dividend! I’ll take that kind of earning any day.
  2. Robinhood is a fee-free stock trading app that is a great way to put those lockscreen earnings to work! I wrote up a brief description of some strategies a few days ago if you’d like some tips to get started. Use my link for a free stock worth between 3 and 250 dollars!
  3. Panel App is an app that tracks your location and asks occassional questions about your experiences at certain shops and parks. I consider this method passive, since the questions only come about once per week for two minutes, and it earns me about $25 dollars per year.
  4. Lastly, ebesucher is still chugging away for me, earning $10 a month without any work on my part. It is a surfbar site, where you open a tab in their site and then minimise it and let it run in the background. Ebesucher will automatically visit various paid advertisers who are trying to get their page visits up, but you don’t need to actually look at the sites that the tab visits. Easy passive income!

Those are the earning methods I’ve found useful enough to keep on my phone and laptop lately. How are you all earning side income? Do you know of any apps or sites I should check out? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for letting me help you all out!

PS – check out my blog’s new twitter @StevesStreams!
 

 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Anniversary - Bologna Budget Style

Yesterday was my anniversary.

As of 7:40 yesterday evening, Husband and I had officially been married for two years. I would like to say, before I get into the meat of this post, that I am very lucky to have married my best friend. We really are like peanut butter and jelly.

The very newly minted Mr. And Mrs.

*****

With me rebuilding my freelance career, we decided to go relatively low-key when it came to celebrating this year, and I have to tell you, it has been fantastic (so far... we are doing more celebrating this weekend).

We didn't have to spend too much, either.


Matt and I with the full Idle contingent (minus T... she was probably behind the camera).

We chose to have a nice dinner out at a local restaurant (Borealis, a new favourite of ours), have a drink and just spend some time in one another's company. It wasn't extravagant or excessive in any real way; we just enjoyed a very good, intimate dinner with one another (not to mention a little dessert... this place does AMAZING desserts) and called it a night.

We didn't get each other gifts or do anything over the top - we exchanged cards of varying degrees of cheesiness and ... this is where I get into the bologna budget side of things - wrote each other letters in our anniversary journal.

Me and my Man of Honour ("little" brother)



This was an idea of Husband's last year. He went out and got a nice moleskin journal and started a tradition that I hope we will continue for the rest of our lives. He wrote me a beautiful note (that made me cry). He told me that every year we were to write each other a letter in this journal around our anniversary to say what we are thankful for in our marriage. Honestly, if I didn't get another anniversary gift for the rest of my life I wouldn't be upset, as long as we keep filling in that book.  It shows more love, thought and caring than anything that could be bought and paid for.

To me, those are the real treasures.

... I think I may have gone on a bit of a tangent there...

Matt and his Groomsman (He introduced us 13 years ago)


What I'm trying to say is that, just like everything else, you shouldn't just measure gifts in dollars and cents.

Husband is not a romantic person, nor am I. When he opens his heart like that, it means everything. I know it means a lot to him when I do so as well.

We are so cute (totally biased)

So again, I stress that value does not come with a price tag. Getting caught up in money when it comes to gifts could make you miss out on something truly valuable.

~A

To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Seriously Cool wines to fit your Budget

It's been too long since we've talked wine.

This weekend, I was fortunate enough to get to try a new wine series. I decided I couldn't wait until Friday to share these finds with you.

The Seriously Cool wine series was developed by Southbrook Vineyards (Ontario) to create a high-quality wine that was readily available at a reasonable price. These wines are pretty (Seriously) cool in their own right as Southbrook is working with and supporting local growers as they transition to fully organic practices.

The series includes a white (Chardonnay), a Rosé and a Red. Priced between $14.95 and $15.95 each, the wines are reasonably priced and each one brings great value for the cost.

I'm going to take a quick look at all three today.

Let's work light to dark, shall we?

I love the bottles, don't you?


The 2016 Seriously Cool Chardonnay was the first I tried (with the help of my lovely Husband). There is a lovely, green sweetness on the nose that gave way to a lot of green apple notes.  I also got a bit of peach and pear in the mix. The Chardonnay also has a bit of a citrus "zing" that I smell in most unoaked Chardonnays. It has a very well-rounded flavour with no one taste jumping out and overpowering the rest. It had some nice sweet notes though it is still a relatively dry wine. It also had a nice herbaceous note that I couldn't quite put my finger on, but it added a little extra to the already pleasant mix. When it comes to Chardonnays, I usually drink them only with food, but this would be a fantastic patio sipper as well because of how light it is. If you are cooking, think creamy and maybe a little citrusy. My go-to would be a nice citrus chicken on the barbecue. If that doesn't work for you, you could also try it with light cream sauce (preferably with a touch of seafood).

i couldn't believe how bright this Rosé was!

The wine I found most surprising in the trio was the 2016 Seriously Cool Rosé. I will be the first to admit that I am a bit wary of Rosés. I have had some truly exceptional ones, but at the same time, I have had some that made me outright recoil.  This Rosé definitely leaned toward the former. I was thoroughly impressed with this wine! I think one of the things that made this wine so fantastic to me was that it was different from other Rosé wines I have tried. I have drunk dozens of Zinfandel Rosés and for me, those can be very hit or miss. This wine is made with Pinot Noir and Vidal, two grapes I absolutely adore. It also isn't overly sweet, which is a delightful change. This wine smelled like strawberries and sweetgrass. At times I almost thought I was smelling sweet cream as well. The wine bounces lightly off your tongue as you drink it, giving you the idea of strawberries and again that slightly grassy, herbal touch. This is a glorious summer wine that would not go amiss with a nice goat cheese and strawberry salad or even a gourmet mac and cheese as long as the cheese in it isn't too sharp.

My personal go-to. I was so impressed with this red.


Finally, we get to the Seriously Cool Red. I was not sure what to expect from this wine. It is primarily made using lighter wines (Pinot Noir and Gamay), so what I smelled and tasted was a bit of a surprise. It was heavier on the palate than expected - something I would call medium-light to medium bodied. Even on the nose, it didn't meet my preconceived expectations. I got a lot of tobacco and smokiness with an edge that is almost juniper-y. It smells like plums, dates and a lot of mixed berries. on the palate, the conifer taste faded into the background. The juicy, fruity flavours definitely took the spotlight. It finishes with a nice smokiness and the tiniest bit of bite. Even my Husband, someone who is unlikely to reach for a bottle of red at the best of times, said he would love to have this wine again. This wine is just light enough to be a four-season drinker but is bold enough to stand on its own two legs. On a summer day, I would serve this with a big juicy burger, or if I were feeling a little luxurious, a nice, medium-rare steak.

These wines are all exceptional for their price point and each one managed to surprise me in its own way. I always love a wine with a bit of character and these three definitely fit the bill.

So get outside, gather some friends, and say cheers to some good company (and good wine, of course)!

Have you ever found a wine that surprised you, good or bad? Tell your story in the comments!

~A

To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Credit 102 - A credit score breakdown

Used with permission by CreditCafe.com


If you read Wednesday's post, you have already read about credit basics. Today I am going to take a quick moment to talk about how that credit score is calculated.

Credit scores are calculated using multiple sources, all given different levels of importance. In essence, there are five factors that help calculate your credit score.



Payment history makes up the largest part of your credit score. It will look through your entire credit history and see if you have any late payments, missed payments or delinquent accounts. Every time you made an error regarding your finances, it will negatively effect your credit score.

Amounts owed make up the next biggest part of the pie. This takes into account any loans you have currently outstanding. The more loans you have, the worse off you will be.

Credit history makes up only 15 per cent of your overall credit score. The longer you have been building credit, the better.

New credit includes any current requests for credit. Multiple requests for new forms of credit, especially denied requests, have a big impact inside that 10 per cent.

Types of credits used is the final slice of the pie and refers to where your debt is held. It takes into account things like credit cards, lines of credit and mortgages to see where your current debt is residing.

All of this together makes your credit score.

Any questions, please leave them in the comments below!

~A

To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Credit 101 - What is a credit score? Why is it important?


Used with permission from cafecredit.com

It's time to talk credit scores.

I know it's not the most fun of topics, but I believe it is one of the most important.

First, what is a credit score? A credit score is a numerical score between 250 and 850 that can be used by banks and other lending companies to see how good you are at paying back debt, whether you maintain a good standing with your existing debts and to assess your overall creditworthiness. A person with a higher credit score represents a lower risk individual. These are the people that get the best rates on large-scale loans such as mortgages.



What represents a good score? Credit is a sliding scale and can be broken into distinct groups from poor to excellent. Fair Issac Corporation (FICO) provides one of the best-known pieces of software used to calculate your score. This little number can make a big difference in interest rates, credit given and even whether you qualify for a loan at all, so it is handy to keep an eye on your credit.

Let me give you an idea of what I mean:

From a relatively young age, I had it drilled into my brain that I had to be careful with my money, always pay debts and take care of my credit score. By 18 I had a credit card and my parents were again telling me to take care of how I used it. I was starting to build my credit and mistakes now could become a problem in my future. I was also told they wouldn't bail me out, so there was a bit of added incentive. Keeping to this strict use of credit, paying off my education loans quickly (almost immediately) and continuing to stay ahead of my payments kept me in (what I thought was) pretty good standing. When Husband and I sat down with our mortgage advisor, he asked if we had any idea what our credit scores were. Turns out all that hard work paid off - we were both in the "excellent" range which allowed us to buy an amazing little starter home (the one in my banner) and get a fantastic mortgage rate.

I will be continuing this series over the next few weeks, talking about what makes up a credit score, common credit gaffes, and credit-building myths.

Is there anything you would like me to cover on credit? Let me know in the comments section!

~A

To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Thrift Shop 2: Six Reasons to love Thrift Shops

The thrift shop is a place of untold treasures - and I love it for cultivating my personal style.


Dress - $14.99 CAD

Here are some of the reasons I can't walk past a good thrift shop:

  •  Cost - Of course, when your main goal in life is to get something for less, the thrift shop is a great place to start. Last week, I bought a ton of new outfits for a relatively small amount of money. I did the same thing about a month ago, leaving me with about $85 spent and 20+ new outfits. It doesn't matter how good you are at hunting down bargains; you're not getting Tommy Hilfiger or Silver Jeans for $15 anywhere else. 
  • It lets me play with my style a bit - Clothing is a huge part of how we express ourselves. I know I have a very specific style (Jeans, black shirt, cat hair) and I have had that style, paired with a funky haircut and minimal makeup for years now. Thrift shopping allows me to try something I wouldn't normally without paying an arm and a leg. I don't want to spend $50 to wear something once or twice and realise I really don't like the look. At a higher price, I wouldn't have bought those orange pants. At $15, though, I am so glad I did! They are fun, bright and let me play around with a colour that I normally wouldn't wear.

Capris - $14.99 CAD, Print top - $5.99 CAD, Butterfly shrug - $4.99 CAD
  •  I am hard on clothes - I spill, I sweat and I completely destroy clothing. when I got married, more than one person commented (surprisedly) that I hadn't spilled anything on my very white wedding dress. Buying in thrift means I can buy clothing that I like, but if it gets destroyed (as is my want), it isn't going to break the bank to replace those pieces. 
  • It's a treasure hunt - I love both consignment and thrift, but I always feel more proud when I find something really cool at the thrift store. The workers at the consignment shop have already done the hard work and found the best pieces - it's more a matter of finding something that suits your taste/style and sizing requirements. Don't get me wrong, I love consignment and have found some phenomenal gems in them, but for the true treasure hunt, it's thrift all the way.
Pants - $14.99 CAD, Owl shirt - $7.99 CAD

  • It's another way to recycle and reuse - Husband and I are working hard to live a greener life lately, and thrift is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Your clothing will be unique to you - I have been complimented more on my thrift shop finds (especially my dresses) than any other pieces of clothing I own. I get asked a lot, "where did you find that dress?" People don't believe me when I say it's thrift. I love that I have something completely different from everyone else. If you're handy with a needle and thread, you can even go one step further, do some alterations and create something completely new out of an already cool find! 
 My friend started me on thrift shopping when I began college; since then (eight years ago), I have learned to love the hunt and put together some great outfits!

What are your favourite parts of thrift shopping?  What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

~A

PS - If you missed part one, see it here.

***BONUS REASON***
 Sometimes you find something really absurd, like...

Unicorn onesie - $4.00 CAD
To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.


Friday, 21 July 2017

Thrift Shopping: Fun and Money-Saving

"Never underestimate the power of wardrobe." - Mary Reynolds

A good thrift shop can make a budget go miles.

One of my favourite things to do is go to the thrift store. We have a couple of amazing thrift (and consignment) shops in my area and it is amazing what I have found by just taking a peek.  A

 I believe that if you put in some time and effort, you can bring home a huge haul from the thrift shop. For example, I paid about $60 and got at least 10-15 outfits (through a bit of mix and match).

Shirt: $5.99 CAD, Jeans, $12.99 CAD (previous trip) Tank top: a relic of mine.



 So how do you go about doing this yourself? Thrift shopping is not like going to a box store and pulling something off the rack. You have to be willing to put in some serious time and effort to find the hidden gems.

Here are three important tips for going thrifting:
  1. Be willing to put in the time - As I just said, thrift shopping is not an in-and-out thing. you have to be willing to go through everything there to hit the jackpot. and on that note...
  2. Go through EVERY single rack, every single size - Things get mislabeled, put in the wrong places, or hidden by people who plan to "come back later." I actually found the cutest owl shirt (to be featured next week) by doing exactly that. And finally...
  3. Try everything on - as I said, it might be mislabeled. I had a heartbreaking instance today where I found the most adorable skirt (reversible with blue polka dots on one side and flowers on the other) but it was about three sizes smaller than labelled. If I had taken it at face value, I would have bought a useless (to me) skirt.
Shirt: $5.99 CAD, Guitar infinity scarf: $1.99 CAD
To sum it up, why do I love this? Well, beyond the massive savings the outfits are unique, they're fun, and they're almost impossible to replicate.

Not to mention they all suit my special brand of crazy.

Do you have any great thrift store finds? Tweet them to @bolognabudget or leave a comment!

 ~A

Update - See part 2 now!

To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Credit Card Debt - Don't let it Destroy your Budget


You see the envelope and open it with dread.

It's another credit card bill. 

If you're trying to get back on track financially but are still running into issues with overspending due to the plastic in your wallet,  it's time to make a big change.

Used with the kind permission of www.creditcafe.com


As I see it, you have two options: don’t carry your credit card or cut it up.

I believe that a credit card is an important thing to have in your life. In a world that is going moneyless sometimes you run into roadblocks without it. Some places either don’t take cash (for example, if you’re buying online) or, in certain circumstances, it’s just safer and/or easier to carry a credit card (like on an international trip).

Building and keeping a credit score is also extremely important nowadays. Small purchases that are paid off quickly can do a lot for a person's long term credit. That said, when all else fails, and you no longer have the ability to keep up with the bills, remove the temptation. Put the cards away for a while. Lock them in a cupboard or give to someone for safe-keeping; anything to get them out of sight. It is amazing how much this will help.

If that doesn’t work, and the debts keep increasing, it may be time to say goodbye to plastic altogether. If it’s really bad, it may be time to remove the temptation completely and cancel some cards, but use that as a last resort.


Shared with kind permission from TaxCredits.net.


Try not carrying any cards for a month. Work on a cash-only system with a weekly budget. When we’re using cards, money is abstract. By using actual cash system and setting a fixed budget with no backup (meaning, your cards) it is amazing how quickly we start to see the value of a dollar. In turn, we become more conscious of our spending habits.

I used to overspend, (which led me to this blogging venture, actually). I found a couple months of working on a cash-only budget straightened out my relationship with money. I use cards again, but I am conscious of everything that goes into and out of my account.

Credit card debt is some of the worst due to the massive interest rates and you can easily dig a hole to the point that it's nearly impossible to get out.

Also, think of it like this; is that nice thing you *needed* to have worth missing a rent or mortgage payment?

I didn't think so.

Let me know what you do to keep your spending in check in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

~A

To learn more, click here or visit the Patreon website.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Summer Potluck on a Budget

It's patio season and that means backyard parties.

Sometimes it's hard to come up with something to bring along. I don't like being the person who brings the soda, so I always try to figure out something unique to make and share with my friends. This weekend was my community band's summer picnic, and I rose to the challenge like a champ.

The first thing I made ultimately didn't make it to the picnic, but they have always been a perennial favourite in our home and the homes of my friends. These are awesome because they are cheap to make (they are mostly bananas and oats), quick and almost completely impossible to screw up.  Believe me, I've tried. They also work best with overripe bananas, so you're using up all the food in your house and eliminating waste!

You will need:
  • 2 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1.5 cups of oats (give or take, depending on the size of the bananas)
  • 0.5 cups of mini chocolate chips, walnuts, or anything you want to use!
  • Parchment paper (ideally) 
These babies didn't make it past the kitchen door.

Preheat your oven to 350F and leave it to heat. Spread your parchment paper on your baking tray. Mash the bananas until they are liquid. Honestly, hands work best. Mix in your oats half a cup at a time until the mixture looks well combined, but almost like it wouldn't be able to hold together if you added more oats. Mix in your mini chocolate chips. make balls and press them on the cookie sheet. One-inch balls are good for group gatherings, but when I make them for home I tend to make them larger. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until firm.

Pennies a person and delicious.

The food that I ended up taking was a batch of coconut flour blondies that were to die for (recipe here at Ambitious Kitchen). I am usually looking for cost-effective alternatives, but sometime it is just too challenging. I have some friends who have food sensitivities so I take special care to try and make things that everyone can eat. You can't get around the fact that coconut flour is relatively expensive but in all honesty, of all the gluten-free flours I have tried, I have had the best luck with it which, to me, makes the extra expense worth it. Also, the recipe doesn't use too much. If you need to go food-sensitive, this is a great option - BUT I would suggest going to your local bulk food store and buying the exact amount of coconut flour you need to cut costs.



These. Were. Delicious.

What is your favourite potluck recipe? I would love to hear from you!

~A

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Friday, 14 July 2017

Need vs. Want When Budgeting

We’ve all done it.

We’ve all walked past that little trinket, that lovely something, and decided that we need to have it in our life. The allure takes hold and we buy before we give ourselves a chance to think about our well-planned budgets. I touched on this trap a bit when I wrote the post Everyone Makes (Financial) Mistakes, but today I’m going to delve in a little deeper and talk about how we can avoid making these mistakes in the first place, saving us from some serious buyer’s remorse in the long run.

First, step away from the shiny thing! It is best to remove yourself from the situation. For example, my biggest weaknesses at the moment are probably either wine or journals. I have a very hard time saying no to either of them and as such, have grown a fair collection over the past couple of decades (for the journals, not the wine… it would be challenging to start that collection at 11). If possible, I walk away from whatever I am lusting after and leave the store. When you're not standing and staring at your potential prize, it’s a lot easier to think about it rationally.

These two instruments were good investments.

If that doesn’t work, talk it out. Husband and I have gotten pretty good at talking out our purchases and are not all that bad at helping one another see reason. Now, we both have our blind spots; for me, it’s a good bottle of wine that I plan to keep for a “special occasion” (Note: at this rate, it’s going to be the same special occasion that your grandmother deems worthy of her good china). For Husband, it’s musical instruments. He has a bad habit of bringing home “strays” that just need a little bit of love… and a complete overhaul costing many hundreds of dollars. Again, talking to someone can make you see reason.

Part of my Ontario Collection. I probably won't be drinking them anytime soon.

Finally, look at your budget! You have worked so hard to stay inside your spending limits and you have done a magnificent job up to this point – is that one thing worth throwing off all of your planning and saving? Nine times out of 10, it isn’t.


I can say, with confidence,  that some of these were impulse buys. Also, this isn't even close to all of the instruments.



It’s hard to walk away sometimes. We’ve all been caught more than once going to the cash with a  little extra something in hand, having convinced ourselves we need it in our lives, but taking a step back from that “must-have” item can save us all a lot in the long run.
What are your weaknesses? How do you resist temptation? Tell me in that comments below!

~A

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Why you Budget for your Emergency Fund

Your car just broke down. You know you’re in for a big bill. How do you even start to budget for that?

The answer is, you shouldn’t have to.

My second post on this blog was all about how you should be putting money away in an emergency fund. Today I’m going to show you why.



Happy little Fiat, right?

It all started about six weeks ago. My car (the Fiat) was having trouble starting. This went on for a couple days and I was starting to get worried. Then, just as suddenly as it began, it stopped. Fast forward to about a week ago and the car was dead on its wheels. We tried jump-starting it – nothing. We tried replacing the battery – nothing. I know enough about cars to usually have a rough idea of what’s going on (my suspicions were alternator or starter), but there was no way I was going to be able to get in there and fix it. I managed to eke it to life just long enough to get it up to my mechanic and he told me what I had already guessed – my starter had gone splat. Annoying, but fixable and not too expensive. So one day and a hunk of change later, my happy little car was back and ready to roll.

Except it wasn’t.

On Sunday, Husband and I had decided that we were going to go down to a local cemetery for a walk and spend some time taking pictures. We got about 100m from the house when suddenly, the car stopped shifting. The linkage had separated. I managed to get under the hood and slide the pieces back together but there was no way we weren’t getting away without another trip to the mechanic. Another day without my car and a larger chunk of cash later, I had the Fiat back, much healthier and in its rightful place in the driveway.


The linkage that failed (failed component is top right)
 It didn’t come cheap, though.

Here’s the breakdown for all of the repairs:
  • Battery: $163 with tax ($20 rebate to come at a later time)
  • Starter: $474 with tax (Part and installation)
  • Linkage Cables: $595 with tax (Part and installation)
Total: $1232

If Husband and I didn’t have an emergency fund, we would be in trouble right now. Luckily, we follow our rules and put 10 per cent of all our combined earnings into an emergency fund. It hurts taking the money out of the accounts and paying that bill – but it would hurt a lot more if we couldn’t.

~A

Monday, 10 July 2017

Budgeting while Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk will save you big bucks in the long run.

Right?

Costco, or warehouse stores like it have been telling consumers that by shopping at their stores and buying larger quantities of food in one go will help your bottom line, budget-wise. As a seasoned budgeter who spends her time clipping coupons and price-matching flyers, I can honestly say it depends how you go about it. I recently made a trip to Costco with my husband and decided to break down the costs of each item and compare the savings.

On this trip, we spent $102 (before taxes). Below I have marked out the Costco price, the average local grocery store price and the difference between the two.

All of the products Husband and I bought while we were at Costco this weekend, numbered for your convenience.

1. Granny Smith Apples – Costco - $8.99 for 6lbs
            Local Grocery Store – avg $6.50 for 4 lbs
            Savings = $0.12 per pound
2. Name Brand Cereal – Costco - $8.99 for 1.4 kg
                      Local grocery Store – avg. $6.50 for 700g
            Savings = $4.01 on equal amounts (1.4 kg) of cereal
3. Dempster’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread – Costco - $5.99 for 3 loaves
            Local Grocery Stores – avg. $2.50 pr loaf (or more)
            Savings - $0.50 per loaf, $1.50 total
4. Pre-bagged Salad – Costco - $3.59 for 1 supermarket-sized bag
            Local Grocery Store – avg. $3.99 per bag
            Savings - $0.40 per bag
5. Organic Strawberries – Costco - $5.99 for 2 lbs
            Local Grocery Store – avg. $5.00 per lb
            Savings - $4.01 on equal amounts (2 lbs) of strawberries
6. Vegan Protein Powder – Costco - $29.99 for 1 tub (34 servings)
            Local Grocery Store – avg. $45.00 per 1 tub (34 servings)
            Savings - $15.01 for 1 tub
7. Nature Valley Granola Bars – Costco - $11.99 for 36 bars
            Local Grocery Store – avg. $2.50 for 6 bars
            Savings - $3.01 for equal number (36) of bars
8. Optico Professional Glasses Wipes – Costco - $11.79 for 144 wipes
            On Amazon – avg. $28.97 for 144 wipes
            Savings - $17.18 for 144 wipes
9. Costco Store Brand (Kirkland) shampoo – Costco - $14.99 for 2  1.5L bottles (salon grade)
            Salon Grade Shampoo – avg. 23.00 per 1.5L
            Savings - $31.01 on equal amounts (3L total) Shampoo
Total Saved on this trip - $76.31


 The savings look great, right?

Well, they definitely are if you're going to use all of the product (this will be covered in a later post). We have spent a lot of time going through both Costco and the grocery stores comparing prices, keeping track of sales, and carefully deciding what we should buy where. The fact is, there are a lot of things we won't buy at Costco. Meat, for instance - We have generally found that we can find meat on sale for better prices at the grocery stores. We don't eat a ton of meat and the bulk amounts don't make sense for us.

Make sure to do your research and don't just take the warehouse stores at their word. There are a lot of phenomenal deals to be found in bulk - if you do it right.

Do you have any favourite warehouse finds you would like to share? Leave them in the comments below!

~A

Friday, 7 July 2017

Weekend Value Wine Vol. 2 – The Refilling


Let’s enjoy some wine.

When I started this blog, one of my best friends challenged me to find him some exceptional wines under $15 CAD. I took up the challenge and gave him two brilliant wines to try, both in his assigned price range (if you haven’t read it, check here). Instead of being thankful for the suggestions, he called me a cheater, suggesting that because one of the wines wasn’t single-varietal, they didn’t count in the bet (he has since admitted that the blend is exceptionally good).

Then another friend asked for a white wine suggestion! How could I say no? I took on the challenge a second time to find them (and you) some great wine.


Source: LCBO Website

The red I chose was an Ontario Gamay Noir by Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville. At a price of $13.95, this vintage (2014) is very affordable and more than worth the cost. I would classify this as a “summer red;” Very light and fruity but still very flavourful. It has a lot of cherry and raspberry notes with a slightly oaky, peppery finish. It doesn’t linger in the mouth but definitely leaves you wanting more. This is a great wine to share on a nice warm evening, sitting out on the patio. I drank it paired with a strawberry shortcake and a nice, rich chicken dinner, but it will definitely stand up to pork or beef very well.



Source: LCBO Website

Next, I had the opportunity to look at the 2016 Santa Carolina Reserva Chardonnay from Chile ($12.05). The winery was established in the late 1800’s and has been putting out a quality product for decades, even winning The Wine Enthusiast's New World Winery of the Year award in 2015. The Chardonnay itself is slightly different from the big, buttery ones most people are used to, but it has a richness and charm that I have not found in any other Chardonnay in this price range. It is surprisingly fruity with peach and pear notes, but it still carries that characteristic Chardonnay smoothness with notes of oak, vanilla and sweet cream. I would actually suggest letting this wine sit out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes before you pour, as keeping it fridge-cold is going to hide a lot of the complexity. This wine is screaming for some seared scallops or would be great with mussels in a wine broth.

I am constantly on the lookout for wines where the value/enjoyment far exceeds the price. Do you have any suggestions? Leave a note in the comments if there is anything you want me to try.

Cheers!

~A