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!