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.