Saturday, December 12, 2009

Whirlwind past few months.

Wow, it's been a whirlwind past few months and it was either to live life or keep blogging. We chose the former, thankfully!

We just had a baby the other day - we are very thankful and are blessed to introduce another member into our family!

Anyhow, we hope to commence blogging again!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gail V's case study: example of a fast treadmill

Today's case study at Gail V's website was interesting. It is what I call the 'treadmill' going a little too fast.

For those of you starting out a new stage in life (i.e. student to working class; trainee to practicing whatever) or have had a salary increase/promotion that yields more disposable income, it is very tempting to live it up.

You can justify it by using phrases like

"I deserve it"
"I worked hard, now it's party time"
"Just this one time..."
"I can afford a nicer...."

You have to remember that when you lock yourself into a higher lifestyle, it is very difficult to come down. Moreover, once you've locked yourself into new payments, it's hard to come back.

The case study that Gail has on her website is very interesting, and highlights a family that needs to trim back on things to regain financial control.

What we are highlighting is that their treadmill is going a bit too fast. We don't care how they got there, but it is definitely going too fast.

We're in a society where banks, furniture stores, and other companies have turned everything into a payment. While it looks like a small price to pay, it adds to the speed of your treadmill.

When a treadmill is going slowly, it is easy to keep it going, but once it speeds up, it's hard to stop.

That's why we advocate living based on your previous stage of life. If you get a job, budget as a student; if you progress from being a trainee to a full-fledged doctor or something, budget as a trainee; if you get a raise, budget as if you didn't.

That way, whatever is extra helps to slow the treadmill down and eventually allows you to get off the treadmill (i.e. when you are financially secure or retired!).

Long time no post! We've tilled under our garden!

It's been awhile since we last posted. Life has gotten quite hectic, especially in preparation for our third child in nearly as many years.

Anyhow, we harvested all of our tomatoes prior to the last frost warnings, so we're sitting on a pile of >100 tomatoes!

Over the last weekend, we took out the trellis and also cut the remaining plant stalks into little bits with garden shears (we found a pricing error one time at a store by accident, so they gave us one set of shears for free). We then took a small edger and tilled everything into the squarefoot garden, square by square.

From now until winter sets in, we'll fill our squarefoot garden box (every square) with organic plant waste from our household and we'll till it in so that the stuff composts by next spring.

Stay tuned for more garden details next year!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pita Chips

Pita Chips are all the rage these days in our health conscious world...not to mention they are incredibly tasty with the perfect hummus! We picked up some day-old pita bread at the grocery store today at 50% off. Brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with some seasoning salt, bake at 300F until it's golden and turn the oven off and let cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

Break up the pieces and you've got yourself some gourmet, fresh pita chips! Voila!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

End of Season Sales

A great way to save money? Wait for end of season sales. Everything from seasonal clothing and footwear for your kids (for next year) to gardening supplies and tools to seasonal stuff for around the house. After identifying a "need" for the item, waiting for the existing season to pass and for the end of season sale allows us to really justify whether we really "need" the item or not. Many times we realize we don't...but often enough, we realize we do need it and the hunt begins for the deals. It saves us money and gives us to time to evaluate whether there is a true need or if we can come up with a substitute. Today's find? A weed digger for $1 and a kids inflatable wading pool for $3...all of which were nearly 70% off!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scored some free carmats

Just happened to look on and scored ourselves some Toyota Sienna floor mats. They're actually cleaner than the ones that came with the car!

It's amazing what people will give away.

...if only the car mats would offset the shipping costs of my other floor mat purchase. This WAS a point of personal weakness, I have to admit.

More on that later.

Invisible leakage from your employee badge....

I bring my lunch everyday because it tastes better and the marginal cost of it (i.e. as a leftover from the previous night's dinner) is quite low. From time to time, I find myself wandering past the cafeteria and notice that other employees are scanning their badges to pay for their lunch.


Credit cards.... debit cards.... and now employee identification badges???

That's another way for money to leak out of your wallet. It's not like you cash your whole paycheque and then spend it, or use it for something useful (like paying off debt), but it's simply gone - you can't even touch it because it's taken off your paycheque.

Do yourself a favor and find those 'invisible' money leakage spots. Those employees, while enjoying a lunch (probably less tasty than mine), pay for it big-time in the end.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tricky Tricky

Did you know that the Dollarama stores have stooped to become a "dollar PLUS" store? It's inflation baby! The funny thing is that they now have 2 or 3 versions of an item for you to choose. You just have to be careful in which version you choose because one could cost you a dollar and the other could cost you two dollars! Might I mention that there really is no quality difference between the two versions, keeping in mind that one is twice the price of the other one.

Seeing that most items found in Dollarama are made in China, this is a sign that China's now exporting their inflation. We will soon see the trickle-up effect in other made-in-China products. Save up Frugalistas!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baking Marathon

We conserve the energy used to heat our oven by the following ways:

1. Making larger portions so that you can maximize the food that you are cooking in your oven at the same temperature. (ie make several casseroles or bake a whole sheet of chicken and another whole sheet of potatoes) If you're going to be keeping that oven on for 1 hour anyway, you might as well multiply its cooking power and make dinner for another night and freeze it! Besides, prep time for extra ingredients will only take you a fraction longer.

2. Baking different things consecutively while the oven is hot! (ie after making the casserole, make a batch of muffins or cake for dessert!) It saves energy because you don't have to reheat the oven to the desired temperature again if you are planning on baking something else soon. If you are quick enough, you can whip up the muffin batter while your casserole is're waiting anyway! Muffins, cookies and cakes freeze great and come in handy when you are in need of a quick dessert.

3. Turn off your oven and leave the door closed a couple of minutes before the desired doneness. This, of course, requires some experience and knowledge of how well your own oven retains heat. (ie when your muffins are 95% done, turn your oven off and keep it in without opening the oven door until it's desired golden color) Word of caution, keeping your goods in the oven for too long will dry it out. I did read somewhere that you are supposed to do this anyway when you make cakes and it allows your cakes to cook perfectly every time!

4. Turn the oven light off when you are not needing it. While this one seems like a no-brainer because us Frugalistas do it throughout our house, we sometimes forget to turn the light off in the oven!

Remember every little bit saved counts! Happy baking!
I think I'm going to thaw a muffin that I baked last week now....mmmm....and smother it with butter....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Loading dishwashers to the MAX!

We use our dishwasher at home to the limits of what it was engineered for! (of course, we did this all by trial and error) What do I mean by this? Well, when we load dishes into the dishwasher we packed the dishwasher so full that we have to doublecheck that the sprayer arms still move.

How did we get here? When we first bought the dishwasher, we loaded it according to the manufacturer's suggested loading schemes in the instruction manual. Little by little we discovered that the dishes were still coming clean despite loading more and more into the dishwasher. We were then able to take pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery from at least two meals and wash them successfully by moving things around.

But then, it dawned upon us.

Why not also use all three dimensions inside the dishwasher to the maximum? All you need to do is ensure that enough water from the spray gets into various places and that it can run back out. The water, if hot enough, should be able to dissolve grease and the detergent should also help in that regard.

We routinely now load everything from 4+ meals into the dishwasher. Everything (99% of the time) comes out perfectly squeaky clean. No streaks, no greywater, no waterspots, just clean.

What are some tricks that we use?
1. Ensure that the water is the correct temperature for the dishwasher. I always run the hot water tap that is closest to the dishwasher into a drinking water filter before I turn on the dishwasher. If I'm boiling clean and non-starchy vegetables, I throw the boiling water in there if I'm going to turn on the dishwasher soon. That way, the hottest water hits the dishes and I ensure that things are clean.
2. If there is any food that is baked on or cooked on to anything, use a scrub brush and some powdered detergent to scour it off. Put it directly into the dishwasher for rinsing and sanitizing. The residual detergent that is on the icon will just become part of the "pre-wash" detergent.
3. Discovered little nuances of your dinnerware - certain items can nest inside each other and still allow for water to come in and out very easily. A good example would be our small dishes. Normally, the manufacturer would suggest that you put single dishes and allow for space between them. What we've discovered is that little dishes that our children use can actually be used to space out these dishes and still provide for enough water flow. So, instead of putting one dish there, we can actually put one small dish and one children's dish in the same slot - 50% space savings. All of our pots and pans nest within each other so we often put all three of them together and they take up roughly 1/3 less space than three spread apart.
4. Don't be afraid to load vertically. Just ensure that your water can reach the upper objects fairly easily. Going back to the example of the small dishes above, we often cap a row of 4-5 small plates (with intervening 4-5 children's plates) with an ice cream bucket. Sometimes we'll even put a large caserole dish on top of that, as we know the water will flow around.
5. Use smaller cutlery and dishes.
6. Don't be afraid to stack things on top of your cutlery as well (small cups)
7. Cutting boards can be placed on the sides and potentially even suspended in midair depending on the setup of the racks
8. Always use fresh detergent.

It's a trial and error process that needs to be worked out for your specific dishwasher. Once you have done so, you can wash superhuman amounts of dishes in one load cleaner than anyone really could wash them by hand.

There are some things that you need to wash by hand, but we find that most things you can throw in... including that scrub brush with caked detergent I mentioned above (we got it at the dollar store).

Tell us your frugalista tips on dishes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baby wipes

Baby wipes are a hazard to the environment. We use them very sparingly in our household...usually only when we are out! We use them for quick diaper changes when we're out and have no access to a sink and for wiping our toddlers' hands after they've touched dirty things and before they have snack (see previous post).

As for what we use at home- small face cloths. They are so cheap and biodegradable. We reuse the face cloths (different ones of course for each body part!) for wiping dirty bums and faces and hands. You also can wet them with warm water too so it's not shocking on your babies gentle skin. We've averted diaper rash for both kids by changing their diapers right after diasters and by giving them a gentle clean wash on their bum...we always found that wipes never cleaned well enough!

I'm still on my stash of baby wipes that I picked up from a store that was closing and selling them for 50% off. Another good alternative is using a good quality paper towel soaked in water and a couple of drops of baby wash.

Remember, while dirt is good for kids, handwashing is always best to prevent everyone from getting sick!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ice Cream

Our family LOVES ice cream. During our vacation this summer, we were dying for ice cream. Rather than stopping at an ice cream shop for 4 ice cream cones running at $3+ per cone, we decided to go to the grocery store and splurge instead on a fancy 1.5 L bucket of our favorite ice cream flavor (which was also on sale) and a box of cones. It came to a total of around $6. We filled our sink with ice to prevent the ice cream from melting quickly and proceeded to stuff our faces full of ice cream that night. We easily finished the bucket of ice cream with cones to spare!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Snack distraction

If you have kids that are remotely like ours, they like to snack...a lot. In fact, snacks make for good distraction when you need to keep them occupied and quelled when they're starting to get cranky when you're out.

To save on buying treats, I always keep a stash of cookies/crackers/goodies in the car, along with a little cup (that I put the treats into) each child. That way, I can entice them to get into the car and sit nicely while I frantically load the car with groceries or get them buckled in. This way, kids don't expect treats from stores every time we go out...and we can truly treat them once in while when we all deserve a treat from the store!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ice cream bucket becomes a small compost bucket

We have a green bin program in Halifax. We've tried using the small green bin (left from our previous homeowner) to store stuff in the house until there is enough to empty out. It was too stinky and hard to clean. We've tried putting stuff into paper, cereal boxes, etc.

We've tried everything, but ended up zeroing in on the lowly 4L ice cream bucket with lid. We line it with degradable paper/newsprint, and we then put kitchen scraps into it. If we don't empty it the same day, that's fine - whatever is in there stays sealed. If we do empty it, we put it immediately into the dishwasher and leave it sealed until we have a big enough load to wash.

It is quite convenient and doesn't cost a thing. It allows us to also reuse ice cream pails until they fall apart and are ready to be recycled. It isn't stinky because the lids seal well, and we've noticed that pretty much everything in the kitchen is sized appropriately to fit.

Any suggestions from any of our readers?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Long awaited update on the garden

We are nearing the end of our growing season and I just realized that I haven't blogged for a while about our garden.

There were definitely some things that I won't even attempt to grow next year- namely eggplant, cucumbers and peppers. Surprising that I didn't have much luck with carrots either.

Anyway, we've had many good dinners with fresh snow peas, sugar snap peas (my two year old loves them fresh!), tomatoes and some baby swiss chard. We've had one harvest of zucchini so far, but we are still growing three more in the garden...just waiting for them to get bigger.

Our corn is growing but it's little- oh well. It was neat to see it grow.

We still have TONNES of green tomatoes and we are waiting for them to ripen. Delicious and very satisfying to eat produce grown from your very own garden! We are definitely going to be doing this again next year....minus all the carfuffle with the transplants....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

yummy bread crumbs

I'm almost too embarrassed to blog on this- even being the frugalista that I am.

I save up bread crumbs or little pieces of bread that my kids have broken off accidentally at the bottom of my bread bags to use when I make casseroles and want a tasty, crunchy topping.

I simply collect them in a yogurt container and allow it to dry out before putting the lid on. I collect savory crumbs of all kinds that I would otherwise throw out (ie, crumbs from frozen chicken fingers, cracker crumbs, whole grain crumbs.) It makes for an interesting mix of bread crumb.

Easy recipe is to top your casserole with some cheese, and the bread crumbs tossed with melted butter, garlic powder, parsley and some salt. Our family LOVES the crunchy topping!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wait for five years.

I see college graduates get their first job, and the first thing that they do is go and buy something (like a vehicle, a house, etc) and inevitably ratchet up their spending habits.

My philosophy on this is that you need to build up a buffer. Take about 5-7 years of delayed gratification, and save and invest your money.

A good rule of thumb is: budget as if you were living 5-7 years ago, or live as if you were living in your earlier life stage. This will prevent you from going nuts when you see a jump in salary.

Thus... a university student coming fresh out of university and having their first job should live like a student. Someone who just received a promotion should live as if they didn't get that promotion (i.e. their prior state) and save the difference. A good example is in the medical field. A medical student should live like a graduate or undergraduate student. A resident should budget as if they were a medical student. A staff physician should budget as if they were living on a resident's salary.

Any extra is therefore saved. After 5-7 years, you would have developed a nice little habit of living below your means.

This was one of the best tidbits of advice that we were ever given - thanks Amenla!

59% of Canadians live payday to payday

Read the quoted CBC article below. Our consumption-driven lifestyles have completely overtaken us and the treadmill of debt and payments is getting faster and faster.

Frugalistas unite!

"Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians would have trouble paying the bills if their paycheque were delayed by one week, a nationwide survey suggests.

The Canadian Payroll Association survey released Monday found that not only were 59 per cent of respondents living paycheque to paycheque, but they had little ability to put money away for their retirement.

"We were shocked by that number," CPA chairman Janice MacLellan said. "So many Canadians are now living so close to the line that if they miss a single paycheque, the majority will find themselves in financial difficulty."

Financial experts recommend that people should have emergency funds to cover about three months of expenses, such as rent, mortgage, utilities, other bill payments and groceries.

Of those surveyed, the younger workforce said they felt the greatest pinch. Forty-five per cent of people aged 18 to 34 said it would be difficult or very difficult to make ends meet if a paycheque were delayed, with a further 21 per cent saying it would be somewhat difficult.

Single parents were in the most precarious situation, with 72 per cent saying they would have some trouble making ends meet.

The survey also found that 50 per cent of workers coudn't save more than five per cent of their net pay for retirement — half the amount financial experts generally recommend.

About one-third of respondents said they've been trying to save more money than a year ago because of the economic uncertainty, but have been unable to do so. Another 42 per cent said they weren't trying to save more.

When it comes to remuneration, 65 per cent of employees said higher wages were most important to them, while 25 per cent cited better health benefits and 10 per cent preferred education funding.

Asked what they would do with a $1 million lottery win, 70 per cent of people said their top priority would be to pay off debt, while 35 per cent would put as much as possible toward retirement.

Surprisingly, not many people would have a celebration. Just three per cent of Canadians said they would use some of their winnings to throw a party, with Quebecers — at seven per cent — a bit more likely to do so.

And if you're a relative of a lottery winner, don't count too heavily on getting a share. Just 26 per cent of Canadians said they would give some of their winnings to family members.

The CPA survey involved more than 2,800 employees across Canada. The results are considered to have a margin of error of 2.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20."

The nerve of credit card companies.

Just got our credit card statement in the mail today. Attached with the bill was a sheet of cheques for 'cash advances'.

What did it say?

"So why wait?

  • take that much needed vacation
  • make that large purchase you've been dreaming about
  • take control of your finances and consolidate those high balances
These cheques provide you with the flexibility and convenience you need to make things happen!"

Wow! The nerve of those credit card companies to put us into more debt! We're smarter than that!

Anyone in the Halifax looking for a Sienna?

This is a great deal. I was a little too curious and ended up looking it up on Anyhow, the retail value for this vehicle is $19500, given the mileage, and the wholesale (auction price) of the vehicle is $16725.

This is exactly the type of vehicle we would have bought in a heartbeat - for just under $14K.

Unreal. It also has an extended warranty, so it is a STEAL.

Just ask the right questions...

1. Are you the first owner?
2. How has the vehicle been maintained, and do you have the records?
3. Why are you selling it?
4. Has it been in any collisions?
5. Any pets or smokers been in it?
6. Any leins against the vehicle?
7. Would you be willing to get it re-inspected prior to sale at a Toyota dealership?
8. How is the vehicle mechanically and electrically? Are there any problems with the body (rust, leakage)?
9. Have there been any modifications to the vehicle?

Make sure to have it inspected, and away you go!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If you can't use all the lemon... freeze it!

I was drinking some water with lemon in it tonight and I asked my wife where she got the lemon from. She said.... a little while ago. What? Yeah, she froze the lemon that she couldn't use and we're using it to flavor our water.

Rather than having a lemon go moldy in the fridge, she cut it up and froze it. Now we have 'fresh' lemon to put into things, like water.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Send us your best frugal sites!

Please do send us your best frugal sites, and feel free to submit frugal tips as well! We are ALWAYS looking for neat suggestions!

Waste not!

I always make sure that I finish everything on the dinner table, including any leftover rice. Nothing is to be wasted, as everything is food and everything eventually costs someone something.

Just a little tidbit.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Do it yourself car stuff.

As you know, we ended up buying a used 2005 Toyota Sienna approximately one week ago. This vehicle was in beautiful condition and had everything that we needed and more.

Unfortunately, when we purchased the vehicle it came without any door remote controls and didn't have a spare key. We inquired at the dealership and it would have been approximately $300 for a single remote control, taxes in. It would've been fairly pricey as well for an extra spare key (45 for the key).

The last time we purchased a vehicle keys did not have transponders and it cost less than three dollars for key. Nowadays, all keys seem to have transponders and therefore are much more expensive to duplicate - at least 10x more expensive (4 dollars vs 40).

So, what to do?

I looked on the Internet and found some original equipment manufacturer dealers on eBay and essentially went to their storefront. I found a local supplier in Canada and ordered a couple of remotes as well as a spare key from them. The remotes costed me $30-36 each depending on whether or not they were used or brand-new.

The key was less pricey than that offered at the dealership; however, I can't program this or cut it myself unfortunately. The dealer will charge me approximately 45 dollars to do so.

Prior to purchasing the remote controls, I located some programming instructions on the Internet by doing a Google search for my vehicle. Armed with instructions and the remotes, I sent in my vehicle and played along with the instructions. After approximately 60 seconds, and a strange song and dance with the doors and ignition switch, my vehicle was fully programmed to recognize the two remote controls.

I did the same thing for the cabin air filter that the vehicle has. The dealer was going to charge me approximately twice as much for the air filter with installation. Again, I looked this up on the Internet and the air filter was purchased through a Canadian original equipment manufacturing website at much less cost (around 40% less). The installation of the cabin air filter took approximately 30 seconds as it was easily accessed in the glove compartment. Our filter had not been changed probably since the car was manufactured, and so it was heavy, black, and full of leaf debris. I'm glad we're breathing much cleaner air now!

So, we saved several hundred dollars in parts and labor by just doing it ourselves. Of course, much more complicated issues such as accessing the engine block or doing major mechanical work really for the dealer. Otherwise, anything that is easily accessible by our own hands and is very simple to do, we end up doing.

Please share with us any of your car stories.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just found an awesome, raw blog. Love it! Stuck it to the blog list on the side.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The do not buy list

Don't buy these... you don't need them. I got this list from

"* air fresheners
* most cleaners (baking soda and vinegar work better anyhow for most things)
* fabric softener
* jet dry (use vinegar)
* books that I can get at library and won't read more than once anyhow
* DVDs (I don't watch them more than once usually and can get most from the library)
* magazines (better stuff online)
* most premade foods and mixes
* most disposable things, including fem products
* moisturizer and hair conditioner (I just don't need them, so why use them?)
* anti-aging potions and lotions that are more hype than science
* Teflon pans (cast iron is much better and healthier)"

This was a comment from Meg.

Monday, August 31, 2009

How to waterproof a child's bed...

We have a child who is potty trained but isn't quite fully up to snuff in the middle of the night. Sometimes the bed gets wet and it's tough to change sheets in the middle of the night. So, we've decided to waterproof.

We thought of using the plastic wrap that the bed came with, but what is even easier is plastic cling wrap. You wrap the bed with plastic wrap, put the towel on top of that, and then a fitted sheet.

Voila. Waterproof bed.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scored the minivan!!!

We scored a wonderful minivan - straight out of our dreams and prayer, and into reality. We had been praying for months that the Lord would give us one. We had looked all over. Salespeople said that we couldn't get one for that price. In fact, the probability to score a 7 seater minivan at that price was difficult.

What did we want? Ideally 8 seats... ideally with vehicle stability control and 3 row side curtain airbags. In the price range that we wanted, this was literally impossible. First, 8 seats already put us at an impossible ratio. For every 20 minivans, the salesperson said, there is ONE 8 seater sold. In the 2005 vintage, the other features were next to impossible to get in an entry-level minivan.

...and literally, as I was about to give up, the Lord made me look one last time at An 8 seater sienna LE (yes, one level up from base model) came up. Traction control, stability control, etc? Well.... I called Toyota and got the spec sheet. Sure enough, scored both... and a JBL sound system with DVD entertainment, power sliding door, etc.... we ended up getting this for less than retail.

God is good.

Lessons learned:
1. If you are Christian, commit that to the Lord and he provides on his own time. God does answer prayer.
2. Do your homework and you won't be taken for a ride. Please see below.

How to not get taken for a ride:
1. Know how to look at a used car - look that up on the internet (what to look for - how to pop the hood, look under things, look at certain areas)
2. use for used car prices (they give wholesale and retail pricing, so you know when you are getting genuinely ripped off). Sienna CEs were being sold at $4500 over retail at the dealership, with etching/lein fees, etc. Knowing the value also allows you to JUMP on something that is good. In this case, I knew the value and jumped all over it.
3. don't buy at a dealership (they were charging us fees - and double taxing us on tires that already had been purchased by someone else)...
4. walk away if they won't let you inspect it (we've had several of these)
5. be willing to drive a little further to buy something
6. phone a dealer to get them to search the VIN for you for TSBs and recalls... and to know the packages/options on the vehicle. My seller didn't know the value of the vehicle (he was a dealer but was oblivious) and priced the vehicle lower than it should have been. I asked a few questions and determined that he had not done his homework...
7. Get the collision history of the vehicle. We got ours from
8. A phone call is worth more than an e-mail. We jumped the queue because of this and were first in line to view the vehicle.
9. Get everything in writing, including any promises, on the bill of sale.

Frugalista tips?
1. See above.
2. Have CASH available. We didn't have to arrange financing, get banks to approve anything. It went straight from the bank account to a bank draft within minutes. Plus, we don't believe in debt.
3. Buying used allows someone else to take the depreciation hit.
4. Be satisfied with what you have. Our vehicle has a few dents here and there, but nothing major.

Enjoy your next vehicle purchase!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It never hurts to keep the boxes and it never hurts to ask.

I'm a huge packrat when it comes to boxes that things come in. I ended up buying a server case many months back for a home-built network attached storage device, and for the life of me couldn't figure out why I was getting random errors, particularly under high I/O.

I finally looked, and saw some exposed wiring in the case due to the backplane design... but unfortunately had purchased the case four months ago.

I ended up writing the company, who I will name, since they have AWESOME customer service (, and asked them about this. They told me to ship the case back. I told them the case design was poor and caused interference for my SATA drives under high I/O stress. I was very nice on the phone and had them pay for my shipping back (which would have costed around 50-60CDN). Instead of replacement, they opted for a refund.

I'm glad I kept the boxes and I'm glad I asked the questions. Otherwise, it would have been a very expensive paperweight.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Frustrating look for minivan! Soon to give up :)

As frugal as we are, it's tough to look for a minivan for our growing family. We don't want anything new, that's for sure. That pretty much leaves us with used vehicles, which we don't mind at all.

We dropped into a dealership tonight and saw the incentives that were being dished out. Big incentives to move vehicles off the lot. We asked the salesperson how many people, proportionally were leasing. He said very few. Most paid 'cash'.

Huh? Isn't this a recession? Isn't this the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? ...and people are paying cash for their vehicles?

....not just 5grand, but 30+grand for a vehicle? You have to be kidding!

Anyhow, further probing with the question - "what proportion of those are financing" - tells me the answer. He says that 95+% of people are actually financing the deal and that others are putting it on their lines of credit.


Our family philosophy is to save up for something that depreciates (like a car, or a deck, or another consumable) with cash, and not ever have to tap into a line of credit.

It's weird, the philosophy nowadays. Everyone is buying things like there is no tomorrow. When will it stop?

The shutdown of car factories in conjunction with the Cash for Clunkers program in the US has soaked up all the supply of minivans, and all the incentives, low interest rates, and the hype about the economy recovering has caused buying to become frenzied again. No wonder we can't locate minivans - they're selling like hotcakes!

Our search for a minivan continues, but I think we're going to have to finish looking soon, as we are getting tired! Oh well, the Lord has something good for us in the end.

Where have we looked?
- repossession sales
- new car dealers
- used car dealers
- used car brokers
- have even considered becoming a used car dealer myself....
- lease takeovers
- kijiji
- autotrader
- other provinces, including Ontario, New Brunswick, PEI (we nearly went to see a minivan in PEI, believe it or not, only to find out that the person refuses to get it inspected)

...nothing good so far, but we do have a few leads and a lot of prayer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Free 5x7 photos (

"It was just a few weeks ago that was offering four free 8X10 prints to its members -- and now there's another photo freebie available! Get Eight Free 5x7 Prints from the Photo Centre when you use promotional code CWFEA817.

This freebie is valid for Costco members only and expires September 6, 2009.

To order prints, an online photo account is required, so you may have to set one up to take advantage of this freebie. Fortunately, opening a photo account is free."

Free wrapping paper

We saw a neat idea for wrapping paper at a birthday party we went to yesterday - the comics section of a newspaper! Zero cost, saves manufacturing, and looks really cool!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Outdoor toys

All of the outdoor toys for the kids are bought from garage sales, junk sales or even taken from someone else's garbage pile (we found a wagon that someone tossed..and replaced the wheels for $ looks like new after a bit of scrubbing!)

These are plastic toys that get abused, scratched up, rained on, snowed on, dirtied, faded over time....why pay lots of money for it when you can get it for free or for a small fraction of what the original owner paid. We salvage it and rescue it from ending up in the landfill where it will never biodegrade. We think if it as giving the toys a new lease on life.

Speaking of which, anyone looking to get rid of a sandbox with a cover? :)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Your trash measures your consumption

Thought of the day: the amount of trash that you output directly reflects the amount of consumption that you or your family have.

If you eat processed foods, you will have lot of containers. If you use a lot of boxed items, pre-made food or packaged goods then you will have a lot of trash.

If you buy stuff that you don't need, you will have the boxes/packaging that everything came with.

I'm proud that our family puts out ONE trash container every TWO weeks - we have two kids under 3. We recycle everything that we can, we compost all our organic matter and we save up our bottles and cans to return for their deposit.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Angel food cake.

I recently discovered the boxed Angel food cake mix. It's great! It's costs less than $2 and you only add water! I was amazed at how easy it was to make (literally, add water, mix and bake) and how good it tastes.

Gone are the times when you have to beat a while dozen of egg whites (and with the price of eggs these days so high...) and fold your flour in gently.....

It tastes heavenly with unsweetened whipped cream and fresh strawberries....mmm.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dish/Laundry detergent

We noticed that manufacturers are packaging a lot of detergents in prepackaged "doses", ie dishwasher detergent tablets.

This forces you to use a set amount (which you can actually decrease depending on how soiled your dishes are).

Try to buy the powder or liquid form of detergent that you can measure out yourself. You'll be able to squeeze in quite a few more loads than the label suggests, they tend to be a little cheaper and it's better for the environment!

Credit cards with good rebates...

I never ever want to recommend credit cards to anyone who is frugal - it's much too easy to spend spend spend money away. Even if you are frugal, a credit card can start the downward spiral into consumer debt. Not good.

Nonetheless, if you pay off your card balance in full every month, and if you are disciplined, you can make use of a credit card to earn points, dollars, or whatever else.

The best card we have gotten so far, hands down, is the MBNA Smart Cash card. It's a platinum card, so your rental car insurance is covered. As far as the card, for the first 6 months, you get 5% back on groceries and gas. All other purchases are 1% back. After the first 6 months, you get 3% back on groceries and gas, as well as 1% back on everything else. The rebate comes in the form of a cheque every month.

If you're like us, and you just get groceries and gas most of the time, then this is for you. There are no fees as well.

We've ditched our PC Mastercard, as it only gets you 1% back on everything, and it ties you down to having to buy at Superstore.

Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Diarrhea food

After having to deal with diarrhea in two kids in the span of two weeks (yeah, I know...lucky us...), we figured out some good tips:

1. Frozen banana popsicles (just halve a banana and stick a popsicle stick into it and freeze). It's one of the only fruits you can eat when you have the runs. It's a delicious snack even when you don't have the runs!

2. Gatorade powder. Rather than rushing out to buy a bottle or two of Gatorade every time someone has diarrhea, you can make it as you need it! It's great for rehydration. It's good on your wallet too! (two 750 mL bottles cost around $3 and a can of gatorade powder that can make 8L costs around $5)

3. Toilet train them!! The mess is much easier to clean up! We reaped the rewards of toilet training our kids super early. Our two year old was able to hold in his diarrhea with minimal leakage (sorry about he visual) until we got the potty for him! Our baby was even able to hold it in several times so that we could avoid big-time disaster (change of clothing, clean floors, launder sheets/blankets/etc). For little ones who have diarrhea, having a pair of training pants over top of diapers definitely helped contain the leakage.

4. Congee. Ancient chinese secret. It's a cheap-to-make, simple rice broth that allows you to digest easily when you have the runs, it also helps rehydrate you and helps you clear the virus in your gut.

Let's just say that we survived this last round of diarrhea (our first time dealing with it actually) with some good tips. Next time, we just need to remember: super good hand-washing when we're travelling with the we can avoid it altogether! Thank goodness we didn't have to deal with any diarrhea on our 5 hour flight home!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer's in full bloom

Wow...can't believe we haven't posted for almost 3 months! Well...we just got back from a month long (but it seemed like forever and a day) vacation to a place that was 3 time zones away. It nearly killed us. We have been back for over a week and we are still recovering and our kids are adjusting!!! We decided that a two week vacation is long enough...and that we need another week back at home before everything become somewhat normal again.

Anyway, great cheap and healthy (somewhat...considering all the other snack choices out there for kids) snack idea for toddlers and teething babies when you're holidaying or at home: ice cream cones sans ice cream. It kept our kids busy for a while, they loved the crunchiness of it, it melts almost immediately and it contains very little sugar, salt and food coloring, if any. The only warning is that it makes a terrible mess if you've got kids like ours...but who cares? When you're out, you're not the one cleaning up after them-- it'll likely just form a nice little "ground zero" around them.

Onto more green things...our garden has sprouted. All the transplants and seedlings that I've started myself and that I've moved out have died. My neighbor's father-in-law said that it was a waste of time and it rarely works. He's right!

So far, I've got 9 inch tall beans, peas, corn, gai lan, swiss chard, tomatoes, zucchini and green onions. How exciting! We just had our first harvest of green onions last night for these steamed green onion buns that I made and they were delicious! Hubby pointed out that the green onions tasted so "green" and fresh... and different. I told him to get used to eating fresh veggies!! Such a difference! It also reminded us that it's time to visit our farmer's market again for some fresh, locally grown goods!

We moved our raspberry bushes from the side of our house (looked like a disorganized mess of leaves) to a little patch in our backyard. We hope they survive the move and that we get to pick some of our own raspberries this summer!

I'm buzzing with excitement about what we'll produce from our own backyard this year!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cleaning up the garage

I think we're going to have to try cleaning up the garage. We have leftover paint from renovations a few years back that we could consider using.

Anyhow, here's a link that points to someone who did just that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Savings accounts - shop around

With the low interest rate environment right now, it is very difficult to get any sort of rate of return for cash that is parked in a savings account. Essentially, this puts the savers at a disadvantage in the near-term.

We ended up chatting upon an offer from Canadian Tire Financial Services with an introductory interest rate of 3.5%x3 months and some other bonuses for setting up a transfer ($25). It would be worthwhile to investigate this option, as the interest rates are significantly increased over other financial institutions. All that is required is a check to link your current checking account with this savings account. The savings are also guaranteed according to the CDIC rules.

Note: We do not have any conflicts of interest in recommending such institution.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

$1.69 for a dozen large eggs.

If you're living in Halifax, Shoppers Drug Mart on Robie street has eggs for 1.69/dozen. Normally found in the stores in the $2-3 range.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A diaper's last stand (make it wipe something)

Quick tip: I'm sure you throw away a lot of diapers. They're usually clean on the outside, aren't they? Well, you can use that as a 'generic' wiping tool for cleaning something like a toilet, dirty floor, or something you'd waste a small paper towel on.

Use the diaper to catch pee, roll it into itself as if you were going to discard it, and just use the outside surface (dry) to wipe a surface. Make sure the diaper isn't wet or yucky... or smearing poop everywhere!

Just a thought. It's the principle of using something more than once.

Nice set of calculators.

Here's a link to a nice set of calculators. It also features a good link for people thinking to break their mortgages as well and renegotiate at a lower rate... (be careful though).

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free activities for the kids

Just a couple of free activities we've done with our kids that they get really excited about:

1. Visit a fish monger- they love watching lobsters/crabs/fish

2. Visit a pet store. Get to know some pet animals without needing to take care of them yourselves!

3. Stand and watch at a bakery- our son loves watching people decorate cakes and he even gets a cookie sometimes for free!

4. Go on nature walks- look for puddles to jump in, find twigs and branches, look for wildlife like squirrels and birds.

5. Go watch the trains.

6. Go to a construction site and watch the big machinery.

7. Going to a playground- this is pretty self-explanatory.

8. Go to the library and play with other kids or read books.

9. Go to a bulk food store and name as many items as you can. You can actually do this at any store.

10. Play in the snow- yeah...we still have snow around to play with...

11. Go to the airport- they love watching planes fly by.

12. If you've got water closeby, go watch boats and see how many different ones you can name!

13. Putz around in the yard and do some yard cleaning and get them to help you!

14. Garden- they are so interested in watching things grow...and sticking your hands in to soil is irresistable for toddlers.

15. Go to a florist and watch people arrange flowers.

16. Bake at home- pizza, cakes, cookies....they love getting themselves dirty and they love eating their own creations afterwards!

17. Park at a bus depot and watch busses roll by- ask where they are going, who they are picking up...and look for other large vehicles on the road- snow plows, trucks, emergency vehicles.

All these activities are opportunity for conversation and for them to observe life in their communities, how and why things work. We find that it solidifies a lot of what our toddler reads about in books and watches on TV.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Those rewards programs... make them count.

We've saved up our aeroplan points and air miles for a little while now, but we make sure that those points go to good use.

Of course, you need to make sure that you are getting the best deal so be sure to check on the number of points that are required for certain items. That being said, a lot of the items are not exactly items that you would by using real cash anyway...!

A lot of the times they place lots of restrictions on trips via points, so using points may not be beneficial anyway. They make you pay taxes so a lot of the times the difference is not all that significant when you factor in seat sales and the flexibility of purchasing airfares using cash. Finally, most of those trips that are claimed on points must be planned well in advance and often, you have to make a significant number of stopovers to get to your destination if it is far away.

To make a long story short, what we ended up doing was redeeming our points for gasoline cards as well as for gift certificates at the grocery store. We figure we can use this to benefit our family rather than spending the points on a trip or on something electronic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

itty bitty leaves

Update on my seedlings:

So some of the seeds have germinated and have peeped through the vermiculite with the first set of leaves. I transplanted them (take them by the leaves and dig down with a pencil to lift the root) into a seed starter mix in a homemade six pack transplant container.

I am so proud that I devised my own six/four pack transplant container this afternoon. We've been saving the plastic pints (for berries, grape tomatoes, etc) that have the holes on the bottom and attached lids. What I did was cut the lid off with the scissors, then proceed to cut the lip off the lid. I cut the lid lengthwise so I had two long strips. For one of the strips, I cut two slits equidistance from the ends (half way up the width) and for the other strip, I cut it further into two pieces and make one slit half way up the width in the middle of each half.

I basically built a soil/root divider (you slide the shorter pieces up slit to slit onto the longer piece to create 6 partitions or 4, depending on the size of your container) and fill with the seed starter. I dug into each partition with my pencil and planted the sprouted seed in the middle.

I'm no gardening expert so you can read on other websites how to continue...

Another idea that I'll try next year is to sprout/germinate my seeds in egg cartons next year. You basically poke holes on the lid and bag it to keep the moisture in. We go through maybe two egg cartons a week so I have plenty sitting in my garage!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Large eggs? Extra large eggs? Small eggs?

An egg is an egg is an egg.

Do you notice that when the recipe says 'one egg' they don't say 'one large egg'? You certainly don't notice them saying 1.15 small eggs, 1.0 large eggs, or 0.98 of an extra-large...

Well, an egg is simply a 'fixed' quantity unit. So, why not just buy the large eggs (regular size) rather than extra large? ...the same argument, applied to small eggs, is different. Small eggs are quite small compared to 'large' eggs.

...what ever happened to 'normal' eggs? (well, they've been rebranded 'large'... or so we think!)

We asked the same question too, and stopped buying 'extra' large eggs. After all, an egg is an egg is an egg. You won't notice the difference in volume anyway.

Most recipes imply large eggs anyway, so buying extra large doesn't make sense!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Use imagination as a substitute for childrens' toys

My son and I love playing 'tent'. I basically sit under this big throw and he joins me. I remember, as a kid, loving to play tent and it is kind of neat to see that he likes it too!

Why didn't I buy a tent? He probably wouldn't have used his imagination!

He plays "guitar" on his books, and so on and so on.

It's quite cute to watch!

Spare the cash, and use the imagination!

Huge debts paid off quickly... others' experience

Here are some interesting articles on how to pay debt off quickly. The job market is tight now, so perhaps getting a 2nd job might be much harder.

It's not just about living within your means. It's about getting by with the basics and using the leftover to pay off debt. It's about making sacrifices and being resourceful.

  • Opts for basic TV service -- no premium channels (editorial note: we don't have cable)
  • Chooses a dial-up Internet connection ($9.95 a month) over high-speed service (editorial: we dropped the speed and dropped our cost)
  • Buys food in bulk to last for months. (Read "Secrets of superstar grocery shoppers.") (editorial: we do the same)
  • Takes his lunch to work. (editorial: we also do this, and have been noticing others doing it also)
  • Makes a budget for the holidays, birthdays, etc., and sticks to it.
  • Applies "extra" paychecks to debt (a biweekly pay schedule had provided a third check two months a year). (editorial: extra money that we have is money that we don't even include in the budget. It's for the mortgage)
  • Applies any bonuses toward his debt. (editorial: we do too)
  • Sets the thermostat in winter to 63 degrees. (editorial: we have babies, so we set it a bit higher!)
  • Sets the air conditioner to 79.
  • Buys compact fluorescent light bulbs to reduce electric bills.
  • Takes out $25 in "walking around" cash each week. When it's gone, he doesn't spend more. (editorial: I don't carry any cash and haven't spent a dime on anything for the last few years. I don't carry around any money because I am always tempted to spend it)
  • Keeps the credit cards at home.
  • Shops with a list and buys only what's on the list -- and avoids looking at anything else, including sale items. (editorial: hard to do.... but we try)
  • Keeps his car tuned up to avoid bigger expenses. (editorial: yes, we do this too. it also lets you avoid the bigger expense of having to buy another car because the one you have broke down)
  • Doesn't keep up with the Joneses. He says he doesn't care what they drive, where they vacation or what they wear. (editorial: yes, we make it a point to not care what others' have. Most of it is purchased on debt anyway, so really... do they 'have it'? ...or does the bank?)
  • Avoids buying coffee or food "on the go" but instead eats at home whenever possible. (editorial: hence, we keep no cash on us)
  • Stays away from vending machines at work. (editorial: yes!)
  • Doesn't play the lottery. (editorial: it's a tax!)
  • Buys broken bags of mulch and fertilizer at deep discounts. (editorial: never thought of this)
  • When shopping for appliances, buys last year's model. (editorial: we buy the floor model and get a huge discount... which also happens to be last year's model)
  • Budgets vacations and looks for coupons wherever possible.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Plastic Containers

We were watching TV and they did a documentary about how there is this huge plastic dump in the pacific ocean ( and it made our stomach turn. What is this world coming to?

We thought of some 2nd uses for plastic that we throw away- yogurt containers, plastic pint containers, apple sauce containers.

As previously mentioned, we are starting a vegetable garden this year and we've decided to start some seedlings (usually 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost). So I rummaged around the house to find these containers, cut them down so that they were only around 2 inches tall and poked holes in the bottom for drainage.

Better yet, I made a little greenhouse with an aluminum Costco Pizza Pan and plastic lid (yes, we save those too...just in case we need it). So the greenhouse "houses" my seeds that are waiting to sprout. Which will take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks depending on the type of vegetable.

Now, the rest is all theoretical as I haven't transplanted seedlings before. Once the little seeds sprout and the first leaves form, I take a knife and lift the root out while holding onto the leaves and transplant each seedling into its own container (surprise, surprise- again, I've saved these from other plants that I've bought and I just fill it with a seed starter soil).

How can you tell I'm excited?? I'm glad that I'm getting some use out of a whole cupboard full of these seemingly useless plastic containers.

I will post some more updates of our gardening ventures as it progresses.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I need to vent. This is ridiculous. What is the world coming to?

We are facing financial turmoil that has never been seen before in our generation. As a couple with young kids, we see things that just cause our guts to churn.

Many of you probably know us and wonder why we spend any effort being frugal at all. After all, we actually don't need to be.

What I want to tell you is that we are frugal because we know that the lifestyle that this world has become accustomed to is unsustainable, and we want our children to develop those habits. These habits could ultimately save them from the financial destruction that a lot of people are facing today.

Here are some questions for society.

Why overextend yourself on credit? Who are you trying to impress? Who are you trying to keep up to?

Can you sleep at night, knowing that you are a paycheque away from financial disaster? Why don't you save? Why did you just lease that vehicle, when in fact, you should not have gotten one in the first place? When you see interest rates go down, do you go out and load up on more debt? Do you shop for relaxation?

How simple is your life? How much more could you simplify it?

What fallbacks do you have in case of emergency?

Those questions are just the beginning. As a generation, we have not seen economic difficulty and we therefore live in an era of entitlement. I deserve this, I deserve that. I'm sure we are all culpable of that.

We need to get rid of that mentality and return to being satisfied with what WE have, rather than what we think we should have. As a society, we've gotten away from our roots and have left sustainability behind.

We poison the water and the earth with our trash - all this, just to consume more and more.

I'm sick of it, and I'm tired of hearing people complain about the economy when they are unwilling to admit that their consumption habits are part of the problem.

The economic downturn will help to reset that consumptive habit. It's unfortunate that it had to come to that.

We might seem frugal to people, but that is actually the way things were when our parents were our age. They had to work for things, credit was tough to obtain, and they had to save because they knew that nobody else would bail them out. Our generation has forgotten those values and it's going to learn the hard way. Society has lulled us to thinking that so much consumption is normal, but it's not.

Good luck.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oil prices down, mortgage payments up.

Just because you get a break at the pumps or with the furnace oil, it doesn't mean you can spend more.

We've taken the difference and just tacked it onto the mortgage to pay down the principal faster. Same budget as last year, only this year, we've increased our mortgage payments as our heating/transportation bills have dramatically decreased.

Don't let this temporary decrease in fuel prices make you complacent about your budget. Make sure you pay down debt, as it is one step closer to being financially independent. Just because you have more 'cash flow', doesn't mean you have to spend it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


The basil plant that I've been keeping alive (there have been some resuscitations) in the past three years has begun to flower. According to what I've read online, once the flower dries up I'll find seed the cycle begins again.

The greenthumb in me is ecstatic!! This means that my sad-looking basil plant will be reproduced and hopefully when I plant these seeds this time around, I'll have a healthier (much healthier) basil plant.

Did I mention that fresh basil on pasta is wickedly awesome??? I'm looking forward to that day.

We are planning to start a small vegetable garden in our backyard this summer. We will keep you updated on its progress. Right now, we have the seeds of the veggies that we plan to grow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Garbage day

We always did this growing up- to prevent half-empty (or half-full...depending on how you see things) garbage bags from being thrown out, we always amalgamated our garbage so that all the bags of garbage that we threw out where stretched to the max. All you have to do is just empty out the garbage into the half-full bag and tie it! It saves you from replacing all garbage cans with bags every week...

...and don't get me started on purchasing garbage bags!!! It's a complete waste of money. We just re-use grocery bags...and if it doesn't fit your garbage can, then get a smaller one!

On a side note, it's an interesting thing to notice how much garbage you produce each week. We make it a fun competition to make sure we have less than our neighbors. As a family with two young kids (in a diaper stage), we only produce one rubbermaid can of garbage every two weeks and one blue bag of recyclables every month.

How you ask? We don't buy a lot of pre-packaged, pre-made foods, we recycle whatever we can (haha no pun intended), we compost, we toilet train our kids early so they use significantly less diapers (around 4-5 times less than the average age-matched kid), we reuse our envelopes (makes for great note-jotters) and flyers/magazines/junk papers (makes for great drawing material and educational material for our toddler.)

I heard on the weekend that a diaper takes 500 years to degrade. That made my stomach turn.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Some tips on saving big bucks while doing your laundry:

1. Use cold water
2. Dose your detergent according to how dirty your clothes are.
3. Chuck the stain removal products- they cost more, are full of harmful products and most stains can be removed with some good ol' fashioned soap and scrubbing before the stains set in or dry.
4. Hang dry the clothes.
5. If you need to use the dryer, you can partially hang dry the clothes first (until just damp) and then toss them in the dryer to get the fresh-from-the-dryer feel.
6. Learn how to iron your clothes. It saves lots of $$ from needing to get them laundered (around $2 per shirt each time)....that's like $10 bucks saved on shirts only in a week!
7. Buy a delicate garment laundering bag - basically like a net with a zipper to close the bag. You can use it to launder delicates and even some clothes that says "dry clean only" on a delicate cycle.
8. Only wash full loads.
9. Buy energy efficient appliances.

We need to work on #9....but of course, we'll only buy it if it's on sale. :)

Happy laundering!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

stock up!

I'm not sure if you've been reading the newspapers are looking up stuff on the Internet but you'll probably notice that inflation is reported to be roughly 1-2%. I don't know if I believe those numbers entirely. Inflation on goods you don't need is low, but inflation on goods that you do need is higher than reported.

The consumer price index is calculated using a basket of goods, including various things like [don't quote me on this] the cost of hotels, food, housing costs, energy, transportation, and other goods like electronics and computers. I'm sure there's others that I have not mentioned.

In case you haven't noticed, car prices are dropping like crazy as our home prices. In addition, other discretionary expenses are also a dropping in price. That is putting a downdraft on inflation. You may have not noticed or might have noticed, depending on how closely look, that grocery prices are actually not going down very much - in fact, not at all. In fact, last week bananas were actually up approximately 15c a pound and we haven't noticed any significant decreases in the cost of any fresh produces since the summertime. Some people may attribute this to the relative weakness of the Canadian dollar in comparison to the US dollar and this also could be due to the increase in the cost to import goods especially in the wintertime.

So, in order to mitigate that inflation, we went on a little binge last week.

We went on a significant grocery trip last week. We went out and stocked up on dried goods, such as pasta. We didn't just buy small quantities of past, but we ended up buying approximately 36 kg of it (in restaurant-sized boxes). We also ended up buying a significant quantity of flour (we usually buy 20kg bags). We've noticed that buying in bulk significantly allows us to save money and we don't need to spend extra time going out if we run out of goods, because we never really do. Ditto with rice and sugar. We used to get 20kg of rice for around $12-14. Now, it's $33. We ended up buying the cheaper rice, which is still $18-19/20kg.

I digress.

All the flour and the past was purchased at a local wholesaler that does not charge a membership fee. Yesterday, we went out and bought some seeds but that is for a later post. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

DIY baby food - save money and it's very healthy!

Of course you can buy baby food in jars at the grocery store, but making your own baby food is not only easy but economical and brings peace of mind (you know the ingredients that are inside).

How do we accomplish this?

My wife simply makes a rice porridge (boil the heck out of rice and maake it gloopy). We freeze cubes of it in ice cube trays. Each cube is roughly 1 tablespoon in volume.

Then, she steams or boils vegetables (broccoli, carrots, shelled peas, cauliflower, sweet potato, squash, and whatever else we can find in either the fresh or frozen food sections), pulverizes them via a blender, and again, freezes cubes of these vegetables in ice cube trays.

We then freeze portions of raw meat (turkey, chicken, beef, pork, fish) on a plastic lid (roughly 1-2 square inch).

So basically, each morning, she takes out different variations of porridge, veggies and meat. (like a 3-5-1 ratio for example). She minces the meat cubes (everything other than fish) when it is semi-frozen and adds some water to make it a "watery meat paste". Or we steam the fish for 2-3 minutes then break it up with a fork.

I heat the porridge and veggies in the microwave until boiling and add the meat slurry....stir and heat until boiling again. (if using fish, just add the cooked fish to the boiled mixture.)

Our son eats half of it for lunch and we just save the other half for dinner.

It sure saves us a lot of money and also saves her children from having to eat processed food. Also, another side benefit is that since the texture is not completely puréed and smooth, they can progress to sell its very quickly.

How to recession proof your finances

I just saw this article this morning and thought I would share with you. Please click on the link in the title of the post.

I particularly liked the line about taking on new debt : "unless your job is ironclad and your financial picture rosy, it's not a good time to take on a lot of new debt." This is especially true in the bad times but also particularly true in the good times.

Happy reading!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Understand the macroeconomic picture

If you need to buy a vehicle or do some major renovations, you need to understand the macroeconomic picture.

What do I mean? basically, everything is about supply and demand. When supply is up and demand is down, prices will inevitably fall. The same can be said about the supply and demand of services and of products.

We are in the market for a vehicle in preparation for a potential family expansion. We realize that the current market for vehicles is still somewhat "hot" in that vehicle sellers will become slightly more desperate once they see that cars pile up in their lots. As such, by understanding the macroeconomics, we choose to wait for vehicles to come on sale. We don't really care about any financing or lease deals, as we will be paying cash for that car, so we can wait.

Likewise, with something like house renovations. We do understand that there are significant numbers of people who have been laid off from the oil sands and will be/have been flooding the Maritime provinces. This is going to significantly drive down labor rates and we're willing to wait. Plus, the federal government is now giving tax credits to do renovations and we feel that this is temporarily inflating the market for renovations. As smart consumers, we choose not to fight for a limited pool of labor with those people who are experiencing low interest rates and can therefore afford renovations based on credit.

So, a thorough understanding of the macroeconomics can also be helpful in a frugal lifestyle because certain decisions can be made in the context of supply and demand and therefore you usually can get lower prices as a result. Moreover, because of the frugal lifestyle that we live, we have no need for credit to the finance any of these major purchases.

That being said, it's always just difficult to predict the future.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Know your insurance coverage

When I went to the dentist a few months ago, I noticed that I was getting charged for extra cleaning above and beyond my plan. I initially thought that this was all covered up to 80%.

I inquired, and realised that my plan was based on a rolling year, rather than a calendar year. What does this mean?

It means that if I had some dental cleaning that was done and I booked a new dental cleaning within 365 days of that, I wouldn't have any new and unused cleaning credits it to use. Therefore, if I book the dental cleaning on the 367th day, I have new credits to use.

So, what I will do every year is just keep a mental note of when I had my teeth cleaned and just book the appointment one year and a day later. That way, I can maximize the use of my dental plan.

Note: I actually get seen much more often than once a year, but I'm just simply doing this for illustrative purposes.

Overall, make sure you understand your dental plan so that you can maximize its efficacy. I'm sure the same can be said about other types of insurance.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Make a little bit extra: INGDirect and Angus Reid Forums

There is a way to get something for very little effort.

1. INGDirect is now giving away money if you refer friends. Just quote this number when signing up for an account: 13864325S1. It's our little number, but you can definitely get your own.

2. Sign up for Angus Reid Forums at You get paid money for filling out surveys, it's quite neat!

Just two little ways to make a little extra cash on the side, even though it is quite small (but little effort is required).

Rationing Desserts

Is that even possible? I was born with a VERY sweet tooth and I love to bake all kinds of desserts. I start getting the shakes if I don't have homemade goodies around the house to snack on. :O) Having only two adults in the household, we are usually really spoiled by having an abundance of desserts around (why do recipes always make 1 WHOLE pie or 3 DOZEN cookies??) Simply too indulgent and fattening!

We've been freezing leftover cookies and pieces of pie and cake so that we can take 'em out on a rainy (or in this case, dessert-less) day. Once thawed, they are as fresh as can be...and you can even cheat and put some cookies back in the oven to freshen them up! It's easy as pie!

It makes sense to ration our desserts because we either get sick of them (that rarely happens) or we feel like we need to stuff our faces with them before they go bad.

(...mmm I just finished a piece of homemade pumpkin pie that I made in Oct.)

Here's to sweet eats!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thank you for dropping by!

We've had some significant increase in blog traffic over the past couple of weeks. We just want to thank you for stopping by for a visit. The intention of this website was to empower the common person to take their finances seriously, live within their means and also have a small financial footprint.

It's quite scary now with the ever-worsening economy to think that if you lost your job you would be moments away from financial destruction. By living a life that is frugal, you can save more of the money you earn have a much happier life and potentially get off the treadmill of needing to work to sustain your family.

Right now we've dropped off our blogging frequency just a bit because we are really busy; however, we intend to maintain this blog into the future because we feel this is helpful information for everybody.

The Frugalistas

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wicked thread on

This is a great thread. I had no idea that you could install a device in your car to save insurance.

Perhaps we'll try it!

I walk to work and my wife drives during off peak hours anyway! reading down in the thread, it gets somewhat silly at the end. Nonetheless, there are some great ideas in here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cool stuff before it goes in the fridge

The way we cool stuff before we put warm things into the fridge is by placing the warm container on the tile floor.

Tile quickly takes heat from it, and your fridge consumes less energy to cool the item.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Simple bath toys for kids?

It's kind of weird to buy toys for the bath and have them become 'yucky'... filled with old bath water, stuck on with grime. Most of all, they're manufactured somewhere else and you had to use your hard-earned cash to buy them!

We teach our kids skills and the natural properties of fluids subjected to gravity ... or so we'd like to think...

Just take clean yogurt containers (after you've eaten the yogurt) and use them as bath toys. Ditto with plastic cups you get at hotels or even juice or soda bottles.

Better yet, we've drilled holes into them and demonstrated how water flows. Our son loves pouring water back and forth during baths and it has improved his hand-eye coordination immensely.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My wife's haircut: DIY hair

My wife and I cut her hair the other day. Probably saved us 70+ dollars in pre-tax income (gas + haircut + wear and tear on the vehicle). It was slightly stressful, but the 'stress' of cutting hair should wear off once we do more.

Anyhow, where did we learn how to cut her 'victoria beckham bob?' Youtube. That's right.

Youtube is a goldmine for learning to do anything. If you have a question that needs visual demonstration Youtube has it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Go to the library.

Do you really need to buy books for your home collection? You often just read books and then don't read them for a long time.

Have you considered going to the library? It's usually paid through your tax dollars, so taking out books is usually free.

There are some books that could be family heirlooms, but other books don't even make it to the radar. Those latter books you could just take out of the library.

Monday, January 19, 2009

penny pinching

Did you know that you can get instructional videos on how to cut hair (certain styles too), and how to sew zippers onto things?

I'm not ashamed to say that saved about $100 last week cutting my own hair and sewing my own diaper bag...and it looks pretty okay!


TV can be good for you!

When I have free time, I watch a show in the aforementioned post- 'Til debt do us part. It's actually a really clever show in which Gail Vaz-Oxlade helps people who are drowning in debt get their finances in a better shape. Some people are completely clueless and are spending an upwards of 70% over what they make every month, no savings for rainy days or retirement and they often have to resort to pay day loans or carry balances on their credit cards (read: really bad and ridiculous interest rates).

Anyway, having watched this show for about two years (it's on Global TV in the afternoons), she does have some recurring messages for her clients:

1. Budget so you know where your money is going. You can control and clamp down on variable expenses (clothing, transportation, food, leisure, others) but you need to know how much is going towards fixed expenses too (mortgage, debt repayments for car, credit cards, store cards)
2. Don't have the "buy now, pay later" mentality. Instead, save up for large purchases. You may find that, in the time that you take to save up the money, you really don't want what you are planning to buy as badly.
3. Use cash only and document where you are spending every cent in a budget book if you can't control your spending. Get rid of your credit cards!
4. If you have tons of debt in many different places, consolidate it and you may get yourself a lower overall interest rate.
5. DON'T use payday loans. The interest rates are incredulous.
6. Communicate with your spouse/significant other about your finances.
7. Call your credit card companies to see if they can lower your interest rates if you set up a repayment plan with them.
8. Find free family/leisure activities (ie picnics, games night, sports, walks)
9. Don't eat out- cook your own food (much cheaper and healthier)
10. Save up for home maintenance (and car maintenance also if you own one).
11. Make your own gifts. It's too easy and too costly to buy them. Homemade and handmade stuff is more meaningful.
12. If you want to purchase something outside of a tight budget, find other ways to make more money to pay for it (extra shifts, ask for increase in wages, look for odd jobs)
13. Pay attention to any useless fees that you are charged (ie bank withdrawals, ATMs that are not your banks, banking fees, overdraft fees, interact fees) and avoid them. There are some banks that have zero fees(pcfinancial, ING direct) may consider switching to banking with them.
14. Looking through your expenses will also allow you to know where you are leaking money and where you are spending ridiculous amounts of money towards stuff that you don't need (ie eating out, smokes, alcohol, cash on snacks, shopping, big tvs, lavish trips)

This is all I can think of off the top of my head. It's quite a sensible show. It's a bit of a rant but I hope this helps!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Globe and Mail Update

Globe and Mail Update

With every penny spent taking on added significance as markets melt and jobs evaporate, saving has become the new spending. Here are some ways to cut expenses and tighten the belt until signs of a turnaround can be seen on the horizon.

Back to the barbershop

It's been 20 years (and more than two million copies sold) since David Chilton wrote The Wealthy Barber, but he's still willing to dish out the advice. While the book focuses on ways to obtain financial security, he insists it also provides guidance for those looking to cut back.

“The single biggest mistake people make in financial planning is buying more stuff,” he says. “Not convinced? Help a friend move – conspicuous consumption has overwhelmed us. It's difficult to save when you're always buying new televisions.”

He recommends throwing your bank card away, leaving your credit card at home and using cash for all of your transactions. It saves on ATM charges, which can add up at $1.50 (or more) a pop.

“I've always done that, and it has always felt very healthy,” he said. “Because, boy, is it ever easy to spend money when you've got a card in your pocket.”

Back to budgeting

Okay, everyone agrees the only thing worse than putting together a budget is trying to follow one. Well, too bad for you, says Gail Vaz-Oxlade, because budget you must.

“People are lazy, so they don't budget,” says Ms. Vaz-Oxlade, who dishes out financial advice to the hapless and indebted on the television show Til Debt Do Us Part. “The only way to know where you are is to know how much money you spent.”

Don't need a budget because you're good with money? Liar, she says – most of the people who argue with her about the irrelevance of hardcore budgeting don't even know how much they earn per cheque.

“I'll bet you dog to doughnuts that you're spending more than you think,” she said. “I challenge everyone to track their expenses for three months, and they'll see.”

There is an interactive tool on her website – – that can help people track and critique their own spending habits. There is one caveat, however.

“You need to read the instructions,” she says. “I can't stress that enough.”

Back to coupons

Linda Leatherdale knows a thing or two about personal finances and adjusting to difficult economic circumstances – she spent the last 23 years as a business editor and writer, but was handed a layoff notice last month. On her birthday.

She now dispenses free advice at, and says one of the most important things people need to do is splash their children with a cold dose of financial reality. After all, parents won't likely be able to tap into their home's equity if bank accounts start running low.

“Kids think money grows on trees, and this is a time when you need tough love,” she said. “Designer stuff has got to go out the window – if the kids feel they must have these things, then consider shopping at Goodwill.”

She said it's time to channel your grandparents – avoid using credit, and ask if stores have layaway plans for must-have items you can't afford. Coupons can also be useful.

“That's right, it's back to coupons if you can believe it,” she said. “But you need to be careful – it can be similar to points programs in that you buy things you don't need just because you have a coupon.”

Back to frugality – a blog that insists frugality can be “sexy, delicious and fun” – recently compiled a list of 50 painless ways to save money.

While some tips are predictable – bring your lunch to work, dine out less and buy used stuff – there are others that you don't hear a lot about. Like Tip #4: Raise your insurance deductibles.

“Get out your policy and raise the deductibles on your car and home insurance. You're not likely to claim the small stuff so choose a $5,000 over a $500 deductible to cut your insurance costs by about 40 per cent.”

Of course, not all of the site's suggestions are practical. Getting rid of your loveable, but hungry, dog could save you up to $1,100 a year – but you'll probably end up spending that much on Kleenex as you cry yourself to sleep each night.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Residual heat cooking

We have been doing this and we had no idea. We're not even sure that the term is correct.

Anyhow, when you cook something like pancakes, cookies, or even a turkey, you inevitably turn on the stove element or the oven.

Once the item is nearly finished cooking (i.e. >95%), you can actually just turn off the stove or oven and let the residual heat cook the food.

We do this with pancakes - on the last pancake, we turn off the stove once one side is done, flip the pancake over and let the residual heat cook the remainder. It works every time!

We accidentally found this out when we had a power failure recently. We were baking biscuits in the oven, the power went out, and the biscuits finished baking beautifully. My guess is that the power cut off around 3 minutes to the end of the baking. We subsequently had biscuits during the 5 hours that the power was out.

If you do this as a habit, you will find that this adds up over time and you will undoubtedly save money. Experiementation, though, is key - different ranges have different temperature characteristics. Also, this assumes that the entire object has actually arrived at cooking temperature. If you have a blazing oven but a frozen turkey, don't expect the thing to cook if you turn off the oven!

Thinking on the same wavelength: frugality as a family

You can't be frugal unless everyone thinks the same way. As a family, we have developed a little culture around frugality. We make sure that our spending, saving, and consumption patterns are consistent and we have the same attitudes on consumption debt.

In a family, money is often an area of contention. It doesn't have to be if discussions are carried out openly and realistic expectations are hammered out.

So, think on the same wavelength and have a wonderful 2009! Best wishes from the Frugalistas!