DIY Haircuts + A TV Obsession

 

When I started my frugal journey, I started by writing down all of my monthly expenses (rent, insurance, cell phone, etc.) and looked as to where I could cut trim the fat. Fast forward to now, and I’m looking our variable expenses (groceries, clothing, diapers, etc.). Coincidently, both my oldest son and my husband desperately need a haircut at the same time and I thought… Hey, I could give it a shot.

xander 1xander 2

This is the before and after picture of my son. We went to the store, picked up a $25 kit and gave it a go. Not pictured is the BIG patch that’s missing from the back of my son’s head from when he moved. But if I took anything from this experience, it’s that you can’t get better at a skill if you don’t try… And hair grows 😉 Plus, if I can cut both my son’s hair, that’s an estimated savings of $400 a year!

america unplugged

In other news, has anyone else watched America Unplugged?! I’m obsessed.

It’s a mini series on Netflix, (8 episodes), which highlights Americans who are living off the grid and have homes which are completely sustainable and self sufficient. The elaborate power systems, water systems and gardens that people have is incredibly inspiring.

With hydro costs soaring in Ontario, I can’t help but wonder what the long term savings vs up front investment would be to install solar power, or how reliant we are on grocery stores despite soaring food costs. Anyway, it’s a wonderful show for some self reflection and with 20 minute episodes, it’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon 🙂

Happy Easter everyone!

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.

Buy Nice or Cry Twice

As of today I am 36w1d pregnant with my second little boy so I am expected to give birth… In another 8 years, or so it feels like. Since my due date is getting scarily close, little man and I went out today to get a breast pump!

january-5

I’m pretty frugal when it comes to most things for children. Clothes, books, even some furniture can be bought at consignment stores for significantly less than retail price and still be in fabulous condition. However, there was something about making the leap and buying a second hand breast pump on the Buy/Sell page that I kept thinking, “I should hold off” and “something tells me I need to look into this more.”

An excellent explanation I found was:

“In an open system, the pump’s motor can be exposed to your milk. This is important because the milk that is unintentionally drawn into the pump can often go unnoticed. This can result in mold growth and transmission of viruses.”

“A closed system breast pump is designed to keep every drop of your expressed milk away from the pump’s motor and into your collection container. This decreases the possibility of mold growth and infectious particles. Closed system pumps are considered more hygienic because they have a barrier, such as a filter, which catches any milk before it reaches the pumps working parts.”

Ultimately, I ended up picking up a Medela Swing Breastpump which is an open system pump and designed for one user. (There was even a warning notice in the box!) But the main thing I have learned from this experience is when it comes to anything regarding hygiene or where infection/disease could possibly be transmitted, do your research. Sometimes frugal isn’t always best.

RIP $248