Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Three ways to save - Back to School on a Budget



*** This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase using this link. For more information, please read my full disclaimer here.***


Whether you're eight or 18, back to school always means extra spending.

I enjoyed school and everything that comes along with it, including all the back to school supplies. Some supplies aren't cheap, though, and there are some great ways around spending wild amounts of money while getting ready for back-to-school on a budget.

  1. Buy It second-hand - probably one of the easiest ways to save some coin, buying your supplies second-hand can save massive amounts of money when you're on a budget. For example, I took a quick spin through Amazon looking for some of my old university textbooks. Every textbook could be bought for more than 50 per cent off. I did the math, and for my average university term, I would save about $500 on books by buying second-hand.

  2. Look for open package/ floor model deals - This is a less thought of idea, but it is an amazing one nonetheless. If you are looking at any sort of furniture, electronics or anything else that usually comes in a sealed package, buying a product that's recently been returned can save you a ton of money. on Monday, both Husband and I got new phones. We both got open package deals on our phones, which ended up saving us about $150 on our purchases, or about 10% off each phone.

  3. Look into refurbished electronics - If you can't find an open package, why not look into something rebuilt? This option is especially good if you don't mind being one model behind as you can usually get a refurbished computer/phone/hard drive at an extreme discount.

What are your best back to school savings hacks? Leave them below!

~Ash

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

Monday, 28 August 2017

Back to School Food Hacks on a Budget



Grab your backpack, move into your dorm; it's time to go back to school.

This time of year can be particularly challenging when it comes to budgeting. If you're anything like me, you start worrying about whether you made enough money over the summer. I did this every year, even though I always made it through with money to spare.

Actually, the reason I made it through with money to spare was that I was worried at the beginning of the year. That fear makes you assess your situation critically nd find places that you can make changes in your spending.

The spending I found easiest to modify was my grocery budget. When pushed, I could go about a week and a half or more on about $40. Today I'm going to share five of my best food hacks for university living:


  1.  Ramen - Ok, I know this is cliche, but ramen can be a true godsend. I used to do mine up with tons of veggies and green onion and it was absolutely amazing! If you feel like getting creative, that little pack of ramen noodles makes an excellent food hack. Play with it! You can put almost anything in ramen - pork, beef, tofu, veggies, or my personal favourite...
  2. Eggs - Eggs are one of the smartest things to have in your fridge. they're relatively cheap, filled with protein, easy to cook and can be done in tons of different ways. I would eat eggs about twice a week. If you eat two eggs per sitting and have them twice a week, you get three weeks' worth of meals for about 50 cents per meal. 
  3. Buy big, portion small - I was the queen of portioning when it came to bulk. I would buy large packs of frozen tortellini (another godsend on busy nights) or meat, take it home and spend a little time measuring, weighing and freezing a lot of food. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run and you will love that you can have a different meal every night instead of having to eat the same thing just to use it up. 
  4. Beans really are magic - I'm serious! Nothing will cost so little but fill you up so much. Even if you go the "expensive" route and buy canned beans, you're still going to get a lot of bang for your buck. Beans and rice will keep you full, can be made dozens of different ways, the leftovers freeze easily and can be absolutely delicious. here is one of my favourite rice and bean recipes for you to try!
  5. Learn to make a basic homemade soup - This is a little more complicated of a food hack, but it it is a truly great idea. I hate seeing waste and I have found that one of the best ways to minimise waste is to know how to make a good soup or vegetarian chili. soups make it easy to use up some of your older veggies before they need to be binned. Soup, especially blended soup, is really easy to freeze and can be portioned out so that you aren't stuck eating soup for a week. 
There you have it; some really easy, ways to save money while you're at school. The biggest suggestion that I can make is to ensure you're using all the food you're buying and to shop wisely.

Good luck with the new school year!

~A

For more information, click this link or visit the website listed above

Sunday, 27 August 2017

INFOGRAPHIC - Simple ways to Save with Minimal Effort

Hello friends!


I know I keep talking about the importance of saving money... it's kind of my thing at this point.

This week I have decided to make an infographic to show just how easy it can be to save anywhere between a few dollars to upwards of 100 dollars each month by doing nothing more than cutting out unnecessary or easy to DIY items. Once you get used to the changes, you won't notice the difference and as a bonus, you will have more money in your account to put toward the things you really want.

~A



To learn more, click here or visit the website listed above

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Online shopping - Three things to check


I am a person who doesn't like to spend a ton of money on my clothing (as I have discussed before here and here), but occasionally I get bitten by the fashion bug and want something trendy. When I do finally decide to buy, though, I usually turn to discount shopping websites.

But...

We all know that can be a gamble. We've all seen the wardrobe fails when it comes to buying online, and when you can't physically touch and feel the garment until it shows up at your house ... well, let's just say we have all gotten something like that.

The dress was supposed to be something like this one (not actual style ordered) SOURCE
 For me, it was a red dress. I found a '50s style swing dress that looked like it was made for me. I ordered it from the (unnamed) website, waited more than  two months for my package to arrive and found that it REALLY didn't fit. Unfortunately, due to the company's poor return policy (60 days) I couldn't return it, even after I explained the situation.

Lesson: a lot of these discount shops are cheap for a reason.

So how do you avoid these mess-ups in the future?

 
 
First and foremost, check the reputation of the online shop. If it doesn't have a good reputation, don't risk it. Check multiple sources, too; some of these places will use bots and fake profiles to balance out bad reviews.

Second, take a look at their return policy. If they don't have one or it is an extremely sort window (i.e. less than seven days), proceed with caution. Remember; it's only a good deal if you're able to use the product.

Third, where are they shipping from? It can be important to take courier time into account. As an example, PatPat (linked in this post) ships from the continental United States and I'm in Canada. I know any clothing I order from here will make it to me faster than something shipped from China. Continental shipping times and overseas shipping times can vary greatly (no matter where you live) so it can be crucial to know when you are supposed to be receiving a parcel, especially if it's needed for a specific date.

Up to 90% off Summers End Family Apparel
 No coupon codes necessary.
Shopping for clothing online can e a hit or miss, especially when going with some of the discount sites, but following these rules can save you a lot of hassle in your journey to save money.

~A

*** This post contains affiliate links ***

For more information, click here or visit the site above.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Special Occasion Wines

Some wines are just made for special occasions.

I love to share my picks for the best and brightest wines on a budget, but occasionally, you want something special.

Taking a step up from entry-level wines can be a great way to add a little extra to your day/ evening/ meal and the best places to buy these wines is at the wineries. These special wines are the more refined examples of what a good winery can do; these wines are usually produced with the best grapes, the most care and generally put out the best product.

Southbrook sells many different wines in local outlets, but it keeps its best close to home. If you want their premium wines you need to go to their winery in Niagara, Ont. Their highest-quality wines are crafted and aged with care and in much smaller batches. These wines are made to bring out the absolute best in the grape.

I will say that these are not everyday wines, but in this instance, you definitely get what you pay for and they can be a delightful way to treat yourself.

The two examples I recently tried were Southbrook's Small Lot 'Natural' Orange wine (2016) and their Triomphe Gamay Noir (2016).


Southbrook's Small Lot 'Natural' Orange wine 2016 - Organic and biodynamic

The Orange ($29.95) is completely different from a conventional white wine. My first sip was a little surprising and I had to take a moment before taking a second sip. In truth, I had to try and get around my expectations of what a conventional white wine should taste like. After that, I gave it another taste and was able to really experience the flavours. The wine had a tang that was very akin to a cider or a sour beer. I actually found it a little hard to find the grape in this wine, probably because orange wine goes through a completely different fermentation process compared to what we are used to drinking. This wine drinks very tart with clementine and kumquat flavours and subtle floral notes and is very refreshing served cold. I think my preference would be to serve this wine with food; salmon and very flavourful seafood or something with a bit of a sour bite to enhance the flavours.


Triomphe 2016 Gamay Noir - Organic

The Gamay ($21.95), on the other hand, was exactly what I expect from a mid- to high range Gamay: fruity, light, fresh, a little chocolatey and a little smoky on the end. I have found through my wine adventures that sometimes when you buy the less expensive bottles, you lose some of the complexity and character that makes a wine go from good to great. This wine is a fantastic example of that theory; it is delicate yet extremely flavourful and is laced with character and nuance. Both times I have drunk this wine I have found something that I previously missed. One warning, though - the Gamay goes down very easy. This wine can be enjoyed with or without food is worth every penny.

It is always great to stay inside your budget and live thrifty, but remember, life is to be enjoyed as well.

Don't be afraid to treat yourself occasionally.

Go ahead; open the good bottle.

~A

*** These wines were sent to my by Southbrook Vineyards for review. The thoughts expressed in this article are 100% my own and reflect my true opinions of the products ***

Friday, 18 August 2017

Infographic! Saving when Shopping for what you Want

It is so tempting to go and buy what you want.

Sometimes, when we have that little bit of extra money and we've already topped up our savings for the month, we may choose to treat ourselves.

No matter what we're buying or how liquid we feel money-wise, it never hurts to go out and find the best deal. This infographic covers three great ways to make sure you're getting the most for you money.

Enjoy!

~A

PS - If you want to see more posts like this, please think of supporting my Patreon. Every penny counts!


For more information, please click here or visit the website above.

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.