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!
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!
Todays Parent: The goods on thumb sucking – will it really affect you child’s teeth if you don’t set an end date?
Conde Nast Traveler: In case you’re planning a road trip around the Florida Keys, you’ll want to check out more than the key lime pie – especially in Key West.
Real Simple: If you have pets, or crayon-wielding toddlers, you’ll love this article on how to clean your upholstery.
InStyle: Instant style when trying to get fit. No more excuses to dodge the gym.
Town & Country: Who knew this iconic luxury magazine does a round-up of their top 50 bachelors? Not that we’re looking, but..
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.
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. 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.
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.
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’.