Oops. Registrations are full, and you’re green with envy as your friends get the airbrush tan in preparation to head south. March Break is here and you kind of forgot to plan anything. Worse? The whole family is feeling burnout from the holidays, school, and our treacherous Canadian winter. Is a change as good as a rest? We think so. If you’re creative and have a semblance of a plan, you can pull through. Here are a few ideas.
Valentine’s Day is coming up quickly! If you’d love to get away but can’t afford the time or cost, why not plan a staycation in your own town, or somewhere within driving distance? A staycation is an easy way to get away from the kids for a night, or the weekend, it’s cheaper than a big vacation and you get to explore your own town as a couple. There are many ways to make it romantic and I’ve got a step-by-step process to make it easy!
It’s easy to entertain children on a dime in Vancouver, so save your money for a rainy day (not that Vancouver has any of those) and check out these 10 things to do in Vancouver for those on a budget. Here are our top 10 affordable Vancouver family activities – feel free to add to the list in the comments!
There’s something for everyone at this popular Vancouver tourist attraction, from the food and flower market to feeding the pigeons on the wharf. Kids play for free at the indoor playground in the Kids Market, and the outdoor water park if the sun is shining. On weekends, buskers entertain crowds of people and the atmosphere is more carnival than quiet.
Beaches and kids go together like pie and ice cream, so take yours to one of Vancouver’s several sandy beaches. Go to Spanish Banks for incredible city views, Kitsilano Beach to catch some basketball or volleyball pick-up games, Third Beach in Stanley Park for a calmer setting and sunsets, or Ambleside Beach to catch some waves if they’re breaking. Beached logs double as chair backs, just bring a blanket and a shovel and a desire to get your feet wet.
It’s not Vancouver’s most popular tourist attraction for nothing. In Stanley Park, the largest urban park in North America, you can bike around the seawall, play in the water park or playground, smell the roses in the rose garden, check out the Totem poles, ride the miniature train (for minimal cost), and watch the float planes take off and land in the harbour. If you want to get up close and personal with Douglas Firs, there are also well-marked hiking trails to explore.
Similar to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, only without the price tag, the Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge located in Lynn Canyon Park is the most thrilling adventure you can have for free in North Vancouver. Suspended fifty meters above water, the bridge will bounce and sway as you walk across it, thus earning its nickname, the shaky bridge. Bring a picnic or purchase snacks at the cafe in the nearby Ecology Centre, which is also worth a visit and free of charge.
Head east of downtown Vancouver and you will hit the third largest Chinatown in North America. From the ornate gated entrance to the narrowest building in the world, Vancouver’s Chinatown is a vibrant, historical part of the city, loved by young and old. If they like Chinatown they’ll love the Richmond Night Markets for cheap thrills and sampling Asian cuisine, on May 15-Oct 12.
For minimal cost, get a tour of Vancouver’s False Creek in one of these cruisers. Choose one of their eight docks to start from and enjoy a twenty-five minute boat ride around the bay, children ride for $4. The Aquabus is stroller-friendly and the best-kept commuter secret in Vancouver, with boats leaving every fifteen minutes.
May 2015 marked the 138th anniversary of the first train arriving in Vancouver, and you can check it out for free at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre in Vancouver’s Yaletown. CPR Engine 374 is on display, and volunteers will give you a tour—their knowledge of rail history will impress Thomas the Tank Engine aficionados.
We mean this in a good way. Vancouver is home to the finest hiking east of the Rockies, many of which are possible for little legs. Pack water and snacks and head to Deep Cove, the Quarry Rock hike is part of the popular Baden Powell trail, and takes about an hour and a half round trip. The reward is a stunning vista of Indian Arm and mountains surrounding Belcarra. For flatter terrain and less view try Rice Lake, a three kilometre loop in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.
Libraries aren’t just for bookworms. Head to your local library for story times, author talks, LEGO parties, movie showings, pajama parties, board games, puppet shows and singing, all for free. The summer reading club will be starting soon, sign your children up and inspire them to read more, and game less this year.
While the Vancouver Aquarium and Science World are popular destinations, they aren’t inexpensive, especially for families. Alternatives are the Vancouver Art Gallery, $6 for children and by donation Tuesday evenings, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre with an $8 evening rate for children, and The Vancouver Maritime Museum with entrance by donation Thursday evenings. Culture doesn’t have to be costly.
Face it, there’s nothing to keep you inside in Vancouver – not even the rain.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/
Every parent knows the constant challenge of trying to clothe growing kids – especially as the seasons change. You finally assemble a basic wardrobe, and suddenly the clothes are too hot or too cold. Add style-conscious older kids to the mix, and clothing your kids on any budget can seem like an impossible task.
Here are 7 tips for keeping clothing costs down, while opening kids’ minds to a world of clothing possibilities:
Build a basic wardrobe: You don’t need a dozen of everything to make sure kids are covered. Children shoot up so quickly that most outgrow the clothes long before they wear out. A few well-made pairs of pants, a few tops, a hoodie or jacket, and you’re set.
Borrow expensive items: Resist buying items like suits, ties, formal shoes, leather belts, dress pants or formal dresses for events like weddings (they often get only one wearing anyway.) Find a family with children the same size, and ask to borrow the item for a day. The photos will look just as sweet!
Organize a clothes-swap: Many kids dread hand-me-down bags from their cousins or neighbors, as items are often the wrong size or not to their taste. But four or five families together can come up with a few things for everyone.
Consider alterations: If you don’t sew, too-big clothing from clothes swaps or hand-me-down bags can be altered at your local dry-cleaners for a fraction of the price of buying the same item new.
Buy second-hand: Most of the children’s clothing in places like Value Village is nearly new, the selection is vast, and the price is a fraction of what you’d spend for retail. Some stores give you a discount for donating your used clothing before you shop, bringing the cost down further.
Split the difference: Your child may be averse to wearing someone else’s cast-offs, so meet them halfway. Perhaps you buy that new jacket they’ve been wanting elsewhere, in exchange for second-hand shopping for the rest.
Weave in the learning: How many pounds of used clothes end up in landfill sites each year? Do we really know who makes the clothes we buy at the shopping mall, and what conditions they work under? Kids may be ready to consider second hand once they know (visit nochildforsale.ca to learn more).
Disclosure: This post was made possible through World Vision Canada’s #NoChildforSale campaign.
Living on a small island 60 feet from the mainland is idyllic. We put groceries in a wheelbarrow, barge to school and compost all we can. As enchanted as it is, island living requires planning and energy. Typically I think of energy as the stamina to chase kids or dig for hours in the garden. We try to maintain and grow energy in our bodies by eating well and being efficient but I am a bit disappointed in myself for not paying enough attention to the energy we waste in our home.
I have been invited to participate in the SC Johnson 30 Green Days Challenge and will be sharing tips for making green-minded decisions each day. Many of my goals require simple common sense, and I am excited by the thought of being mindful in order to make my home more efficient and responsible to the planet.
This week our household focus is energy and we are starting small. As much as I want to replace the motor on my barge with an electric model, trade my car for a Tesla or install solar panels, my family and I have decided we will take a few baby steps first.
10 Ways to Conserve Energy Usage:
1. Use an appropriate appliance for what I am cooking. No more tiny pots on big burners or heating up the whole oven when the toaster would suffice.
2. Unplug chargers when they are not, well, charging.
3. Make turning off lights more of a priority in the kids’ morning routine. In fact, make a game of it!
4. Replace the seal on the fridge door so that the door closes properly.
5. Fill up my front-load washing machine to the brim every time. This shouldn’t be difficult with the mounds of dirty clothes produced by two boys.
6. Use the oven’s convection setting that I always forget I have.
7. Wear more sweaters = less turning the heat up.
8. Shut my computer down when I am not using it (gasp).
9. Put a towel under the door from my storage room (the one I have never used) which is 2 inches too short, allowing heat to escape.
10. Learn how to microwave well so I can make perfect morning eggs using a more efficient appliance than the stove.
The SC Johnson Green Choices website has a ton of tips to help you make green decisions too.
Small changes make a big difference.
While SC Johnson is the sponsor of the 30 Green Days Challenge, all opinions and comments within this post are my own.
I remember as a student having an ‘understanding’ with the local magazine shop. Once the issues were out of date, the shop would send back the covers of unsold inventory for reimbursement and put the full issues minus the cover in the trash. You could say that as a student I was frugal, but I managed to find many wonderful articles in these ‘found’ magazines. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?
Well times have changed (thank goodness). Mobile and internet savvy folks can now get access to over 100 of the best magazines (and back issues!) with Next Issue Canada, a subsidiary of Rogers Publishing. For as low as $9.99 per month, you can receive unlimited access to over 100 of the world’s best magazines, including back issues. If you’re a magazine junkie, this is a huge savings, and we’d love your help spreading the word!
I just signed up for a FREE 30 day trial of Next Issue Canada to be used on my tablet and guess what I found? Sign Up for the Trial!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored article from Next Issue Canada. All opinions are our own.
Ahh. October. Just when you’ve eaten your fill of turkey, forked over a ton of cash for organic pumpkin pie ingredients and filled your house with harvest décor, you realize that Hallowe’en is only two weeks away. Or maybe one. (Your calendar is still covered in gravy splatter.) The turkey coma is replaced by the end-of-October panic attack. You create a list. Lists are fun! Until you realize that you have not one thing checked off yet.
– Costumes for the kids
– Candy for the door
– Extra candy for when you run out at the door
– Baking for the Hallowe’en party at school
– Decorations to make your home the spookiest on the block
– Rake, lawnmower, yard bags and Mums to tidy up the yard
– A costume for yourself so you can look like a rockstar parent in front of all of the other parents who come to the door (they won’t know you haven’t cut the kids’ nails in a few weeks)
– And along that line of thinking, cleaning supplies to make your front foyer sparkle (The rest of the house doesn’t matter)
And now I’m slightly stressed. But I do like to multitask and thankfully, was approached to try out the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card. I’ve held different Amex Cards for over 15 years and have used a ton of the American Express customer service extras and benefits (Front Of The Line for theatre tickets being one of my favourites) so I jumped at the chance. The company has been great to deal with. Over the years I have been phoned to check on irregular purchases, had cards replaced immediately when I’ve (ahem) lost them, and just last month, used the Amex Members lounge at the US Open to charge my phone and have my swing analyzed. So I’m a huge fan.
Currently, there is a promotion that if you enroll and spend $50 or more on you Amex AIR MILES Card from October 24 – 31, 2013 you can earn 100 Bonus AIR MILES reward miles.
All of the purchases I would be making anyway from my Hallowe’en list will earn me reward miles, and quite certainly also Bonus reward miles. (Because we all know about my family travel obsession.) Any flight or hotel that doesn’t dwindle the bank account makes me smile again and again. I know there are tons of travel reward cards out there as I’ve used many of them. The American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card p is quite different than most.
1. You can use your reward miles to cover taxes and fees on flight redemptions, and no blackout dates or zone limits means I can control my own travel decisions.
2. There are choices in the Card I choose based on my needs (and which I think will look chic in my wallet.) No need to stretch the budget or change existing spending habits (apologies to my poor husband).
I chose the new Reserve Card for myself and feel the $299 annual fee is well worth the benefits.
1. I earn reward miles twice when shopping at participating AIR MILES Sponsors across Canada using my new Credit Card combined with my AIR MILES Collector Card.
2. AIR MILES has introduced FlexFly Redemptions, meaning with this card I can access additional airlines and destinations, departure times and seats not within the AIR MILES Flight Program.
3. Complimentary companion ticket for a short-haul flight once annually
4. Access to an AIR MILES concierge service (loving the sound of that)
5.. Four passes to Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide every year. If you’re wondering about the benefits of this while flying with kids, we did an article on it. [link] Of course.
6. Emergency Medical Insurance (Out of province/country), $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance, Car Rental Theft and Damage insurance, Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance, Flight Delay Insurance, Baggage Delay Insurance, Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance. Because I know all of you moms pay really close attention to insurance policies. (This can eliminate the stress of not reading stuff unless it’s about fashion).
- How you Earn reward miles:
- Earn 1 reward mile for every $10 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors
- Earn 1 reward mile for every $10 in Card purchases at other eligible grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada
- Earn 1 reward mile for every $15 in Card purchases everywhere else
The other Amex AIR MILES Card options:
The American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card:
1. $65 annual fee waived for the first year
2. Reward miles are earn at the same rate as with the Reserve Card
3. Car Rental Theft and Damage Insurance and $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance
The American Express AIR MILES Credit Card:
1. No Annual Fee
2. Earn 1 reward mile for every $15 in Card purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors and 1 reward mile for every $20 in purchases you charge to the Card everywhere else
3. $100,000 Travel Accident Insurance
Is your stress dwindling too? Or already dreaming of your dream destination? Psst. You can take the extra Hallowe’en candy with you. Wink.
Disclosure: This article was generally sponsored by Amex AIR MILES. As always our opinions are our own.
July marked my tenth wedding anniversary this year. All of our family members wanted to send a gift. Do you know what we picked? RESP contributions to our sons’ education funds. Want to know a few more Secret RESP Budget Tips?
Saving is hard. Especially with groceries costing a fortune, kids wanting to enroll in activities and the odd shoe sale that gets our heart racing and credit card exercised. While we all earn different incomes, have varying levels of expenses and manage finances differently, UrbanMommies has a few money-saving tips that will help you save sheckles (my Grandmother called them that) for the RESPs. Because if you don’t save, you’ll be stressed, the kids may not get to attend the school of choice, they may graduate with debt, and (drumroll please) you will miss out on FREE money from the Canadian Government. Yes, free money. (The Canada Education Savings Grant will match up to 20% on the first $2,500 contributed annually. That could mean up to $500 a year, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200.) i.e. You would feel like a putz if you skipped free money.
10 Secret RESP Budget Tips:
- Make it a game. Develop a budget and see how far under you can come each month. Split the leftover between a fun jar and an RESP jar.
- Once or twice a year, empty bags, purses and make a few forts with cusions in order to find spare change. (And undoubtedly a few missing lipsticks too). Have kids of any age separate the coins into piles – by colour, beaver, loon or Bluenose, and use the time as a math game. Roll the coins and take them to the bank as a family. Think: pigeon scene at the London bank in Mary Poppins.
- Do you have a talent? Though I’m awful at piano, I can get my head around notes and theory. I’m planning on committing a year to teaching the little ones piano myself instead of paying for costly lessons. Maybe a grandparent has karate or swimming skills…
- If your kids are young and you receive the $100 per month, funnel all government allowances into their RESP.
- I worked for a man in finance once who was on a company benefit plan. He paid for prescriptions and dentist bills and when he was reimbursed by the insurance company, funnelled all checks into the kids’ RESP funds. Sneaky.
- Coupons. And not your Mom’s spend-6-hours-clipping coupons. Buy grocery items on sale and stock up on what you can safely store. Check resources like the P+G Brandsaver and Cardswap in order to save on what you really need.
- Try to clean your house once per month using inexpensive vinegar and baking soda instead of costly brand-name products. It’s safer for kids too.
- We’re the beneficiaries of several cords of wood. This winter we’re going to try and turn down the heat in favour of real fireplace warmth. It cleans out the yard, and at the end of the winter we’ll put the difference between what we spent on fuel this year to last into the kids’ RESP.
- Craigslist, ebay and Kijiji. If you have a hankering for an air popper, travel stroller, bedframe or stand mixer, check these sites first. And then sell the stuff you don’t need. (We got most of our baby equipment on Craigslist and I sold it after 7 years of kids. It cost us almost nothing).
- The next time you’re in a bad mood, call your cable provider, cell phone company, credit cards, insurance people, etc. and threaten to leave unless they reduce your fees. You will be surprised. And even if you don’t save money you’ve probably gotten rid of the bad mood and improved your negotiation skills.
In terms of the scary world of finance and RESP stuff, get advice. (RBC who sponsored this post is a great option). It’s easy to start. No need to be overwhelmed. You have the flexibility to use the RESP for university, college, apprenticeship, non-credit courses etc., and if your child doesn’t use the funds, you can use your contributions and earnings to fund your RRSP!
You can find more great tips on saving for your child’s education here:
Disclosure: I am part of the RBC RESP blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.
February is my least-favourite month. And not just because the only time I was ever dumped was on Valentine’s Day. Daft cow. Anyway, holiday bills are still flowing in and the Canadian and US governments are all talking about budgets and fiscal responsibility. Ugh. But where finances and family budgeting used to be considered ‘I wish I were an ostrich’ words, Sandra Hanna, co-founder and CEO of Smart Cookies has turned me around. In sharing her top 10 tips for saving money, she suggests throwing out the term ‘budget’ (too much pressure) and finding hidden ways to save money – making it into a game. She had so many tips I couldn’t write them fast enough. I was so inspired and challenged to take charge of my finances.
A Smart Cookie’s Tips on How to Save Money
1. Sell things you don’t need. Along the ‘game’ lines, we’ve had a blast taking photos of items and being creative with descriptions. Taking interesting photos and using terms like “Pottery barn-style dresser” and “shabby chic” can get an item sold quickly.
2. Instead of heading to the store constantly, save time and money by using food you already have. Supercook.com and Myfridgefood.com will give you recipes with items that you have on hand (and may be craving…) The recipes they suggest may also get you out of a rut and help your kids to expand their culinary horizons.
3. Cardswap.ca is a gift card swap so that you can mail in a card you’ll never use and replace it with either cash or a card you need. While Aunt Betty was kind in giving you a giftcard for a movie, the extra dinner and childcare costs make it not so budget-friendly. Swap it for something like a new slowcooker – and save even more on comfort food.
4. Search for the hidden money in your household. This can be a fun one for children too. Turning off lights, using Tide Coldwater to save on hot water bills and making a fire instead of turning up the heat can be fun as well as rewarding. PGeveryday.ca is a great resource for coupons on products you use all the time and the PG Brand Sampler allows you to be sent free products to try.
5. Hair schools provide a great inexpensive alternative to pricy salons.
6. Rent, don’t buy expensive clothes. If you live in the US, Rent the Runway. Enter your zip code, size and event date up to 6 months in advance and our calendar will help find available dresses and accessories. You can book rentals for a 4 or 8 day period. In Canada? Rent Frock Repeat. They send you 2 sizes to ensure a good fit.
7. Choose your apps wisely. Purchasing apps can be fun – .99 cents here, $2.99 there. It can add up. Buy when they are free or on sale – with Freeappaday.com and Appminer.com and make sure you try the free versions first to ensure you will actually use them.
8. Apps like www.groceryzen.com allow you to eliminate impulse grocery buys by organizing your grocery list aisle by aisle. (And you won’t forget the milk).
9. Control your own Entertainment: Vimeo lets you live stream your apple TV and curate your own content.
10. Save your time (and money) by never waiting on hold with Gethuman.com
One of the key changes I have made is registering for Mint.com, an app and website that tracks my bank accounts, credit cards and budgets. (Why, exactly did I think $50/month was adequate for clothes? Funny joke..) It takes a bit of investigation to realize that your information and passwords are secure, but once you make the leap, you will never be in the dark about your spending patterns.
Sandra’s other inspiration? Respect moms. Whether you work outside the home or focus on saving money inside the home (or both), Moms are a very powerful bunch in the financial and budgeting world.
Jill Amery was given the opportunity to interview Sandra Hanna as part of the #PGMom program through Proctor and Gamble. As always, her opinions are her own.
January is all about new beginnings – thinning out, simplifying and looking forward to longer daylight hours. So why do we continually sabotage ourselves in December? According to new research released by Mobilicity, Canada’s smart mobile phone carrier, 58 per cent of Canadians say they spend more than they should during the holidays and a further 59 per cent find themselves making impulse purchases. This overindulgence may lead to feelings of guilt, remorse or the ‘holiday shopping hangover’.
Unfortunately, it’s often parents of young children who are at greatest risk for this holiday overspending phenomenon. We’ve put together a few tips so that you can start your new year early (and not hide under the covers when your bills come in).
1. Buy e-books as gifts on Kindle, iBooks or Kobo. They are much less expensive (and environmentally-friendly) than the paper versions.
2. Utilize the apps on your smartphone to save money. Some of our favs include: Shopcatch, Groupon, Living Social, Hotels.com, Kayak, AirBNB, and Hipmunk. In today’s economy, it is perfectly acceptable to gift a daily deal voucher provided you have put careful thought into the desires of the recipient.
3. Set limits for gifting to family. Drawing names and setting a $50 limit can be fun and won’t break the bank.
4. Dropbox is a free service that saves you printing costs and allows you to access your documents and photos from any computer or smartphone.
5. Flipboard is a fabulous alternative to buying paper magazines. Big Oven or Food Network Canada house thousands of recipes and can help save money on Hard copy recipe books.
6. Amazon has a great app that allows you to scan bar codes in stores in order to compare prices to what the item sells for on Amazon.
7. Shop all year. Seriously. When you see a great sale, keep the December holidays in mind and consider buying gifts for friends and family early. Black Friday sales have also come to Canada and stores like the Bay, Future Shop and Apple are offering deep discounts.
8. Make sure you research your big purchases. Tripadvisor, Yelp and Auto Trader are great apps with which to research big ticket items.
9. We have lots of Homemade Holiday Gift ideas. Especially when received from children, they are filled with love and sentiment for special people in the kids’ lives.
10. Give experiences instead of ‘things’. Offer to babysit for close friends and supply movie tickets. Take a friend’s children to the zoo. Make coupons for the kids for extra screen time or a date with Mommy.
There is no need for guilt or remorse due to overspending if you consider the needs of others and plan ahead. (Goodness knows – parents are hard enough on themselves!) Using technology to make life easier (and cheaper) will help you to embrace your January goals and limit the January holiday shopping ‘hangover’.
Content courtesy of Mobilicity, Canada’s smart mobile carrier. Find out how to avoid a holiday shopping hangover and reduce your monthly spending all year round with unlimited data, talk and text, without contracts and hidden fees at Mobilicity.ca. Now that’s smart!