Weekend in Winnipeg 

This weekend I flew to Winnipeg to visit my best friend of thirteen years! She came to visit us at Christmas for a few days so I promised to return the favour, (especially since flights are cheap right now; thank you, New Leaf!)

I am by no means the most frugal person in Canada. I won’t have a TLC special anytime soon, but these are some of the things I did to have a modest trip to Manitoba 🙂

The Airport 

  • I only packed a carry on/backpack. I know this can be difficult for some people, especially if you’re going for a week or longer. However, baggage fees have become outrageous in Canada and if you can manage with just a carry on, that’s around $40 saved!
  • I brought an empty reusable water bottle to fill up once past security.
  • I’ve also heard of people bringing an empty thermos with teabags (or coffee), and then just getting hot water once you’re past security 🙂
  • Packed an absurd amount of snacks. Flight delays and travel hiccups can happen to anyone.
  • Also, don’t forget to check in online once you have the opportunity to, to ensure you get a seat on your flight.
  • Brought an absurd amount of entertainment; podcasts, music playlists, an empty notebook, a book or whatever pleases your heart 🙂

Also, while on vacation, CASH IS KING. 

It makes it easier to not go over budget when you have to visualize your money disappearing from your wallet 😉

Cut the Cord + A Coffee Alternative

There are countless articles online about people happily cancelling their cable, so I’ll make this brief… WOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!

Last night my husband cancelled our cable, Crunchy Roll account AND lowered our Netflix from 4 screens to 2, therefore saving us roughly $50/month. This is a huge deal because he’s been very attached to cable in order to watch NHL/NFL, so I’m incredibly proud of him. I really, really encourage you, (if anyone is reading this), to look through your monthly expenses and see where you can trim the fat. Entertainment is huge because I’m hoping our family can transition from the time we spent watching tv/movies to doing puzzles/colouring/stories/family walks/etc. instead 🙂

Here are some stats about television viewing in Canada:

  • In 2016, approximately 202,000 Canadians cancelled their cable from the largest seven providers, a number which has been rising since 2014
  • As of 2015 in Canada, the average television subscription cost $66.08… That’s $792.08 per year!

Also, a small confession… Since my second son was born about a month and a half ago, I’ve been going to Second Cup almost every day and spending $5.30 on coffee per day. That’s completely unacceptable with the amount of debt my husband and I have.

But I have found the holy grail of almond milk, caffeinated drinks so (hopefully), no more take out coffees! If you’re hooked on take out coffee, and are trying to kick dairy. This is totally for you.

And of course I buy the large size for $5.99/1.4L each because 1. Saving money and 2. I am very, very tired 🙂

Rome wasn’t built in a day and my debt sure won’t be gone in a day either, but I’m getting there 😉

Rewards Programs Aren’t That Rewarding

loyalty-rewards-cardsThere are very few absolute truths in the world; death, taxes, and everyone likes free things. This would explain why 90% of Canadians have loyalty reward cards, and a surprising 40% have at least 4 rewards cards! While it can feel great to see your points add up, and the bliss you experience when you can finally collect a reward – I don’t personally use them because I feel that the cost does not equal the reward. Here’s why.

Loyalty reward cards encourage consumerism. In my personal experience, loyalty reward cards encourage spending. This is particularly problematic because they encourage spending at one single location. Take groceries for example. I have heard people say countless times that they shop at X store because of Y benefits. But if you commit to this mentality – how likely are you to shop around for deals? Read flyers? Find the best price? You’re not.

The benefits typically aren’t that great and you can easily lose more money in the long run. From what I have seen on the Canadian market, the rewards you can receive aren’t that great and not worth the hassle. It can take months, possibly even years to see any sort of benefit. For example, with Shoppers Optimum points, you earn 10 points per dollar spent… However, for the first tier of rewards, you need 8000 points (aka spend $800), in order to save a measly $10. It’s just not worth it.

They’re often tied to credit cards. Full disclosure: I loathe credit cards. I have one in the event that I need to rent a car/hotel/parking/etc but they’re awful. I feel that even the most disciplined people can struggle with using a credit card correctly (ie paying it off in full and never carrying a balance) – which is why I personally feel that it’s better to ignore them altogether. Plus, who in good conscience can charge consumers 19.99%+? Pure robbery.

The “rewards” can change at any time without the consumer’s consent. Remember the Air Miles fiasco that happened a few months ago? In 2016, Air Miles realized that it was bad business having unpredictable liabilities as they couldn’t predict when consumers would cash their “miles”. To combat this, they implemented a rule that miles expire after 5 years… And Air Miles consumers collectively lost their minds. And even worse, a lot of people ended up with garbage they would not have wanted in the first place. Unfortunately, rewards programs can change without notifying the consumer which could lead to a headache later on.

All of this being said: I’m definitely not perfect. I have 3 rewards programs cards currently in my wallet right now. But personal finance is about progress and not perfection, right?

An Argument Against Toddler Birthday Parties

birthdayRepeat after me: Not choosing to hold a birthday party for your toddler, does not mean you love them any less. It does not mean there will be a horrible void in their childhood. It does not mean you are a bad parent.

My son’s second birthday is fast approaching and after numerous conversations with my husband, it really doesn’t seem like we’re going to be hosting a birthday party and I am sick of being guilted into feeling like I am a terrible mother for making this decision.

First of all, it is not uncommon for parents to spend hundreds of dollars on a birthday party. This is completely absurd considering 48% of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque. It’s not as though this is on purpose either. But when you factor in the costs of possible venue, activities, food, cake, presents, goodie bags (don’t even get me started on goodie bags) – how do parents stand a chance?

And think about it. I recently attended a birthday party for a one year old that her mom went above and beyond for. It was Strawberry Shortcake themed, the food was lovely, there were lots of balloons for the kids to play with and you know what the birthday girl did for 80% of the party?… Sleep. Even if she was awake the entire party, she wouldn’t remember it but instead children remember how their caretakers made them feel overall. That they felt loved, secure and cherished.

Finally, I have to ask: are birthday parties at such a young age really for the kids? Or are they for ourselves to a certain extent? If you have birthday parties for ages 1, 2, 2.79 – whatever, and it works for your family and makes you happy – that’s great! I just want you to ask why. Is it societal pressure? Social media? Because it’s just the thing to do?

This isn’t to say that when my son’s birthday comes, I’m going to ignore it. We’ll celebrate in our own way. By doing what he wants that day, (yes, even if that means 5 hours of watching Paw Patrol…), getting cupcakes and showering him with love and attention. The point of this is to say that parenting involves a lot of hard choices and in this case – I choose financial responsibility.