Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Potty training kids earlier - saves diapers

We're proud to announce that our son, at the age of 22 months, is fully potty trained.

He says 'pooa' when he needs to pee and poop now.

In fact, he's been pooping in the $3 potty we got him when he was 6 months old (bought the potty in the UK for 1.5 quid). [sidenote: we bought 2 potties - one for upstairs, one for down]

Most kids use 4-5 diapers/day, if not more. After 6 months, we were down to 2-3/day, and for the last year, we were at 1/day. The last 2-3 months, he's been at 1 diaper/2-3days or less. Most of that was from catching his poops (earlier) and (recently) from catching both.

It's amazing how much we've saved. Each diaper is approximately 25c each (100 diapers for 25 dollars). Let's say we average a 4 diaper savings per day... x365x2years.... = $720

It's a bit of change! The rate of return on the $3 is enormous! Plus, our kid is much happier.

You ask how? Just look at 'diaper free' or 'diaperless' on google and find out. Save money, save the planet (these things don't degrade easily), and saves on cleanup (we like the last reason the best).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Make gravy while the turkey is cooking

Just a quick trick. You can take advantage of the heat that comes from baking/cooking in the oven. On stoves that have a 'vent' between the oven and one of the elements - you find this by leaving the stove off while you are baking something - you can cook or warm up gravy on this said element.

The heat will rise through the vent and heat the pot that you have on top. It's a great way to use as much of the oven's energy for heating as possible.

We do that with gravy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A stitch in time saves nine.

While making the driveway and walk safer for the guests we were having, I was reminded of this phrase: "A stitch in time saves nine". Why?

Well, I was chipping away at the ice today in preparation for tonight's guests... but you have to realise that the snow fell two days ago. Moreover, I had also used copious amounts of rock salt as well to try to melt the ice as well as increase traction.

What if I had shovelled the snow a day or two earlier when it was still snow and not ice? It would have taken me less time and less rock salt, and definitely less effort.

So, that's my frugal lesson for today. Shovel snow when it's still snow and not when it's ice. You save time, money, and you don't need to worry about people slipping.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cooking for potlucks: crockpots, saving sauces

If you've ever cooked stuff like ribs in a crockpot, you often find more sauce than you need. Of course, if you are eating at home, that' s okay. The sauce can be used as a base for soups, cooking something else like chicken, or for putting on rice.

If you're at a potluck and you've made your crockpot ribs, often the sauce remains and it's often so gross that you throw it out. It's probably been dug through and is left for

....what if you emptied the sauce out at home and saved it?

So, when we do potlucks and have too much sauce (or sauce that isn't able to be used up), we save it for our own future use.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What is your identity? How do you define yourself?

In the last decade, more and more people have started defining themselves according to how they dress, how they look, what handbag or shoes they have on. Many people are pushing the envelope of their take-home pay in order to look the part.

At our home, we don't really care about any of that. You can drive your 10 year old car if you'd like, we don't care. We drive one that is over 10 years old now.

Anyhow, here's an interesting article about how the psyche is changing.... it's from report on business. The URL is in the link above.

Overall, think twice before you buy. If you are buying because it makes you 'feel' good or gives you confidence, please think again. Take a look at our mantra on the right hand side and stop, pause, and think what you are doing to your life. Are you defined by who you intrinsically are? Are you defined by what name brands are attached to your body? If you are secure with who you are, you don't ever need to show anyone else - vice versa for insecurity.



NEW YORK — A paralegal, recently laid off, wanted to get back at the “establishment” that he felt was to blame for his lost job. So when he craved an expensive new tie, he went out and stole one.

The story, relayed by psychiatrist Timothy Fong at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, is an example of the rash behaviours exhibited by more Americans as a recession undermines a lifestyle built on spending.

In the coming months, mental health experts expect a rise in theft, depression, drug use, anxiety and even violence as consumers confront a harsh new reality and must live within diminished means.

“People start seeing their economic situation change, and it stimulates a sort of survival panic,” said Gaetano Vaccaro, deputy clinical director of Moonview Sanctuary, which treats patients for emotional and behavioural disorders.

“When we are in a survival panic, we are prone to really extreme behaviours.”

The U.S. recession that took hold in December last year has threatened personal finances in many ways as home prices fall, investments sour, retirement funds shrink, access to credit diminishes and jobs evaporate.

It is also a rude awakening for a generation of shoppers who grew up on easy access to credit and have never had to limit purchases to simply what they needed or could afford.

Instead, buying and consuming have become part of the national culture, with many people using what is in their shopping bags to express their own identity, from the latest gadgets to designer handbags.

For those who need to abruptly curtail spending, that leaves a major void, said James Gottfurcht, clinical psychologist and president of “Psychology of Money Consultants,” which coaches clients on money issues.

“People that have been ... identifying with and defining themselves by their material objects and expenditures are losing a definite piece of their identity and themselves,” he said. “They have to learn how to replace that.”

Beth Rosenberg, a New York freelance educator and self-professed bargain hunter, said she stopped shopping for herself after her husband lost his publishing job in June.

She is now buying her son toys from the popular movie Madagascar for $2 at McDonald's, and is wearing clothes that have hung untouched in her closet for years. She said it has been stressful to stick to an austere budget after she used to easily splurge on $100 boots.

“I miss it,” she said of shopping.

Resisting temptation now could be even more difficult, as struggling retailers roll out massive discounts to lure shoppers during the holiday season.

Fuelled by easy access to credit, a housing market boom and rising investments, U.S. household spending accelerated in much of the past decade while the savings rate declined.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 killed thousands and shuttered U.S. financial markets, consumers were encouraged by politicians and business leaders to spend as a way of saving the economy and proving capitalism could not be crushed.

“We're getting these messages that it is, in effect, patriotic to spend money,” said Stuart Vyse, a psychology professor and author of “Going Broke: Why Americans Can't Hold On To Their Money.”

The United States is deeply dependent on such spending, with consumption generating two-thirds of economic activity. But problems arise when consumers become dependent on buying goods and services to cope with their emotions, Mr. Vaccaro said.

“We have difficulty handling our internal emotional state in other ways when we can't do that,” he said, prompting some to seek out immediate gratification through drugs or alcohol.

Besides an increase in shoplifting, psychologists said retailers need to be prepared for more instances of violent behaviour like that seen at a Wal-Mart store in Long Island, New York the day after Thanksgiving.

“I wouldn't be surprised if we see an uptick in crime, related to stealing,” said UCLA's Mr. Fong. “I wouldn't be surprised if we see more workplace violence and more violence at the malls.”

A throng of shoppers seeking rock bottom prices on flat-screen TVs and computers surged into the Wal-Mart store in predawn hours, trampling and killing a worker in the process.

Mr. Fong said many shoppers have never stopped to think about why they were buying items, and it was easy to ignore looking deeper during a boom that support such spending.

But now, patients that can no longer shop to relieve stress have become anxious or depressed, he said.

Others fume: “'I used to be able to afford that, I should be able to afford that now, I deserve that stuff,”' he said.

But Mr. Vaccaro said the downturn could be a time for shoppers to pause and study what they are attempting to achieve or what void they are attempting to fill by spending.

“We don't buy products, we buy feelings,” Mr. Vaccaro said. “We're buying the anticipation of the feeling that we think that product or service is going to give us.”

Mr. Gottfurcht said he encourages clients to take a walk or do some deep breathing before making a purchase to avoid an impulsive buy. He also recommended that clients keep a journal, noting how they felt when bought an item.

He said clients should then check the list a week later to see if the “glow” of that purchase has worn off, and it only satisfied an immediate want, not a true need.

The greater opportunity of the downturn, Mr. Vaccaro said, is that it represents a chance to move away from “irrational” and “careless” consumerism toward “a more discerning consumer.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Do it yourself haircuts - at $200/hour

When my wife wanted to learn how to cut hair, I thought she was joking. Actually, my wife reminds me that it started from a bad haircut that I had..... and she had to fix it.... At that time, she was going to take a $70 cutting course through a local technical college but I didn't think it would ever amount to anything more than an passing fancy.

Several years later, and I realise how much foresight she had. She has been cutting my hair ever since and now cuts our kids' hair as well.

How much time has it saved us? My guess is about 1 hour per haircut (travel time) + 30 minutes of waiting time per haircut. If we also take the amount of money she saves (around $20+tax+tips/haircut, after tax dollars), we gather that we've saved at four years' worth. 48+ haircuts, and at least 6 in a foreign country (UK) at twice the price of a CDN haircut.

So, what is the approximate value of this to our family?


Time = 72 hours

It takes my wife 30 minutes per haircut... and less and less time recently.

She cut our son's hair in 9.5 minutes (he's less than 2 years old). Trip time = 0. Money saved = $25.... at a rate of $157/hour. Pre-tax, that's about $200/hour.

Tell me.... how easy is it to make $200/hour cutting hair?

...DIY hair. Find a course, learn to cut, and save yourself a bundle of time and dollars.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick tip for scrap paper

When you receive letters, the envelopes you receive them in can be used as scrap paper. Why not take an extra 5 seconds and split the envelope down 3 sides, flip it inside out, and use the entire inside as scrap paper?

just make sure that afterwards you shred the paper or remove your address so that it cannot be used for fraudulent purposes.

Save some trees, save the environment, and maximally use those envelopes that you get in the mail! If you get manila envelopes, say in an office environment, you can split those into near 8 1/2 x 11 size pieces of paper by chopping down all 4 sides with a letter opener.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ideas to save money on the holidays.

Frugal and Fun Gifts

First Posted: December 10, 2008
By Staff

Before you break your shopping budget (or if you already have), remember that a good gift doesn’t have to be a pricey gift. There are many thoughtful and meaningful ways to spread holiday cheer and gifts that won’t put you into debt. Here are some gift ideas to consider:

* a child’s artwork, framed (this works best if the recipient has kids or grandkids)

* home baked cookies or bread (with the recipe)

* a self-made gift basket filled with the recipient’s favorite chocolate bars and candies

* for "her", a gift basket containing a mix of her favorites… favorite soap, bath products, candy, etc.

* for "him", a gift bucket of things he likes… snacks, a selection of beers, car care products etc.

* for kids, an assortment of childhood favorites like a whoopy cusion, sticky hands, "goo", "surprise" eggs, etc.

* a CD/DVD filled with a well-organized library of photos and memories (great for family and close friends)

* a photo album with pictures and quotes

* warm gloves, socks, and hats to fend off the winter chill

* an "emergency" office essentials kit with items like sticky-notes, pens, a stapler remover they can have to themselves, and stamps for the co-worker or small business operator

* customized calendars with pictures you pick out, and reminders about important dates like birthdays and anniversaries

If you're still stumped for ideas, check with others on what gifts they are giving to the person in question. Skis? Well, they might need goggles, ski wax, and other accessories. Some shiny new electronics like a portable gaming system or a new cellular phone? How about a gift pack that includes handy items like screen protectors and an extra set of cables for the office? A useful gift can not only save you money, but shows you put some real effort into picking out a gift!

(this was taken directly from; see above link) I love that site.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to decorate a tree on a budget.

Found this today (see link above). Not sure if it is helpful, but it gives interesting ideas. We bought a tree on boxing day and are using it every year! We decorate with plastic ornaments that we picked up on boxing day also!

How to watch heating oil prices

We have a little secret at our place for determining the timing of the purchase of our furnace oil.

This website allows us to look at trend data:,39&dummy=#PriceGraph

We also have designed a spreadsheet to track how many litres we have in our tank and how much we use, per day, on a seasonal basis. This tells us how much reserve we have and based on the tank size, we can tell how long our tank will last. That gives us the opportunity to wait for lower prices, assuming the trends are there.

By doing so, we can buy less oil during the peak season (stretch each tank out longer) and wait to purchase fuel during the non-peak seasons when it is cheaper (i.e. summer, late summer).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dead dead dead batteries

We use batteries until they are dead.... not just registering on the battery indicator as dead, but really really dead.

What do we mean?

When batteries (AA, AAA) are dying, they lose their voltage a bit (i.e. drop from say 1.5 to 1...whatever volts). Using this voltage difference equipment, like thermostats, detect that you need to change the battery. We basically take those batteries that have been deemed 'dead' by very 'mission critical' devices (like thermostats) and put them into less mission critical items such as children's toys. We even put "dead" batteries into low-voltage requiring items like wall clocks and find that they still keep ticking along - often for months, without losing time.

So, this is how you prevent AA, AAA batteries from being thrown out prematurely and decrease the environmental hazard. In addition, we recycle the batteries at the local depot so that they don't end up in the landfill. does pay to be frugal, and the benefits can also save the environment.

(Yes, we do have a huge stock of NiMH batteries too. We bought those at firesale prices when The Source had a sale a few months back.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

When you shop, just wait.... to get the killer deal.

We always keep a list of things to look out for when we shop, but we never buy on the first go-round. That is, if I need a poncho, say, we keep looking for a poncho everywhere we go. If we see one, we just simply note its price and decide to return if it is the cheapest.

We never ever just end up buying the first item that we see that fulfills the criteria of what we are looking for unless it is on sale. Certain stores have 'on sale' items that are still more expensive than other stores' regular prices! Beware! As soon as we have priced out the competition (this can take a few weeks, depending on how often we go to the mall/stores), we simply go back to that store with the best deal to pick up the item ONLY if we happen to be in the area. We never make special trips just go 'shop.'

If we're looking for electronic gear, we go to places like or if we are looking for across-the-board deals, we look on the forums at We also take advantage of pricematching that can occur with electronic stores, and say or another online retailer. We always factor in shipping as well.

By using some of these techniques, we get the best prices and we usually know of killer deals out there.

It's the impulse shopping that causes you to spend more than you need to. It's the patience that allows you to get the deal. It's all in the 'hunt'.

Overall, don't buy anything that you would otherwise not need or would toss in a garage sale 5 years later due to its trendiness!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Double check your tire pressures

It's winter time again. Double check your tire pressures, especially on winter tires that you are rotating back on your vehicle. We ended up having our winter tires at 25PSI, which is 7PSI lower than recommended.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bring out the bubbly

We don't drink any alcohol in our household, but we've found a great alternative for those special moments...sparkling juice, or better yet, soda water plus some juice concentrate or with just lemon juice. Makes things more sophisticated yet really good on the wallet! Bypassing all alcoholic drinks also saves tons of $$ and is healthier for your body!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Saving space by crushing things

We discovered an interesting trick especially when it comes time to rake leaves or throw of the recyclables. In order to use less bags, especially in the case of recyclables, we simply crush whatever we can so that it takes a less space and we can jam more of whatever it is into the same bag.

This comes in quite handy every fall and we have to rake copious amounts of leaves. Usually rake leaves over several weeks and store them in piles. When it comes time to disposing of these leaves we compost the ones in our backyard and pack our front yard leaves into our green compost container that the city collects. We simply put everything into the green compost container and then use a shovel to pack things in. That way, we save on clear plastic bags as well as the environment.

Is there anything else that you crush that would potentially save space and prevent waste?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Musings while I walk to work

I walk to work daily and think to myself. What if.....

What if we all ended up just using less stuff and going back to the basics. What ever happened to the simple family life? One car? A house that was appropriately sized for your family?

What ever happened to growing our own vegetables? (we'll do that next summer... and grow some fruit too)

What ever happened to the feeling of satisfaction that you get when you just know that all your NEEDS are met? Why do we chase bigger and better things?

Why do we put children in 4 hours of soccer lessons a week when playing soccer in the backyard used to be the norm? What ever happened to unstructured play?

Why do they design carseats so elaborately so they don't fit in small cars (thus causing you to buy a bigger car)?

Why are we so obsessed with 'germ free'? (it's likely a media thing)

Why do people smoke when they can't put food on the table? (it's an addiction, I know)

Life is so complex and we choose to make it much more so. The recent credit crunch has allowed me to observe a few things, but I reckon it will get even worse before it gets better.

We will be going back to a simpler way of life, whether we like it or not. I heard this somewhere, but I don't know where: Frugal is the new black.

Save those jars! Save the environment!

When you buy some sauces to cook with they often come in jars. You can either through these jars out for recycling or you can keep them-we choose to do the latter.

So what do we use those jars for? Well, we buy ketchup, oyster sauce, and other sauces in bulk because it's much cheaper to do so. We go through so much of those sauces that buying them in small quantity isn't a very smart idea. Instead, we buy in bulk quantities of the sauces and split up the quantity between the various jars. We then put those jars in our fridge. When it comes time to using the sauces, we simply spoon them out.

So what we actually save? Well, it's the price differential between buying many small quantities of sauce versus one large container. More importantly, however, it is the fact that we have a lower footprint on the environment because we don't go through many plastic containers to use the same quantity of sauce. By the way, once the sauce is done we re-wash the jar.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Don't unwrap all your toys at once!

You have to realize that kids nowadays have a certain attention span. This attention span is definitely quite short and it is hard to maintain interest in things.that same concept applies to toys.

Whenever we receive toys for kids or purchase them we don't let them play with them all at once. The reason is that kids will lose their interest in the toys and they will simply sit and clog up space in the house. What we do is we give them a portion of a toy set [say, one car out of a set of five cars] and as we notice them gradually lose interest, we open up portions of other toys.

We've been doing this with gifts and purchases so that the kids stay interested in toys because they're new all the time! It's also good for clutter around the house because we don't have the cleanup multiple types of toys and reassemble things that they've disassembled. Plus, a lot of toys nowadays contain batteries and we really don't have too keep watch of which toys have that are dying.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Those plastic utensils. Save them, reuse them and save the environment.

Have you ever gotten plastic knives, forks, and spoons with your take-out meals? Have you ever gone to grocery stores and taste tested new products and received plastic utensils? Do you sometimes have lunches at work where by plastic utensils are passed out?

Have you ever thought of what type of environmental impact these plastic utensils could be having, and how long it actually takes them to degrade if ever?

Have you ever had a function at home, say a dinner party or another type of party, whereby you had to purchase plastic utensils?

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, especially the last one, then a suggestion that we have for you is to keep those plastic utensils and wash them at home instead of throwing them out. You can now use those for your dinner party. That way, you do not have to buy any extra plastic utensils and you don't have to create extra waste. What's even better is that you actually save money in the process and feel good about it. I'm not even sure that anyone else will notice.

As a further note, we often use these utensils in place of garden tools for small potted plants at home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What if I don't bring lunch to work?

I pack my lunch everyday and haven't deviated from that since I started working. It has saved me countless of dollars and I'm much healthier because of it. But, what happens if I forget my lunch or if there were not enough leftovers from the previous night's dinner?

An easy thing would be to simply go downstairs to the local cafeteria and buy something, but I don't. I resist the urge to splurge.

What do I do instead? Well, there is a local grocery store that is three to four blocks walk away. Actually, it is probably even closer than that. What I end up doing is going there, buying unprocessed fruits and vegetables, and basically having a nice vegetarian lunch. That's what I did a couple of days ago and basically had some fruits for lunch.

Anything that I didn't eat at lunch I simply took home. All of that costed eight dollars including tax.