One For the Ladies

*Let me begin this post by saying that this is NOT a sponsored post. I am receiving no money whatsoever for writing about this product, this is simply something that is near and dear to my heart, which I wanted to pass on to those of you who still might not be aware.

Also: Men, you may want to avert your eyes for this one, as it’s a little bit of a TMI post. Or better yet, just send the link to the women in your life without reading any further. They’ll thank you for it.

We ladies kind of get a raw deal in life in some ways. Not only do we have to deal with getting our periods every month, but we have to pay for the supplies to deal with it on top of everything else. And you know what? Pads and tampons aren’t cheap.

It was almost 10 years ago when someone introduced me to the world of alternative feminine hygiene products. At the time I was mostly in search of something that was more environmentally friendly, because let’s face it, on top of being expensive, pads and tampons are terrible for the environment, from the bleaching process they go through to the amount of garbage they create. The fact that these alternative products save tons of money in the long run was just an added side benefit for me.

Whether its reusable menstrual cups or cloth pads, there are alternatives for women out there besides dishing out tons of money every month to take care of this particular need. I personally use The Diva Cup, which I purchased 9-ish years ago for around $40 or so. At the time it seemed like a big purchase, and it is, when you compare it to what I normally spent on pads and tampons every month. But the thing is…that was it. In the time since then I pay out a little money for pantyliners for those heavier flow days, but in terms of the amount of money spent and the garbage created, it’s next to nothing. It’s one of those things that saves tons of money long term — if I only previously spent $10 every month on feminine hygiene products, then over 9 years that results in a savings of about $1,000 or so dollars.

Ah, if only I’d actually started putting that $10 in savings in the bank every month 9 years ago. Live and learn.

diva cupThe Diva Cup is made from medical grade silicone and works exactly like you might think…it is a cup that does the collecting that only requires emptying a couple of times a day. On top of being great for the environment and saving money, honestly, it makes me forget that I’m even having my period at all. And for me, that’s one of the biggest benefits of all.

And you know…saving money sure doesn’t hurt, either.

Does anyone else out there use alternative menstrual products? I don’t know a lot about any of the other products out there, but I’d love to learn more.

If you want to learn more about The Diva Cup check out their website…or better yet, shoot me an email, I’d be happy to tell you all about this awesome money saving product.

 

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Letting Go of Financial Embarassment

So Todd and I have been doing this whole budgeting thing for nearly three months now, and it’s been going really well. Our system of using cash for variable expenses has been working. We’re paying off our bills. We’re sticking to the budget. We’re building our savings. We’re more aware of our financial choices and are focused on making smarter ones. By all accounts, all is going pretty darn good.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout this whole thing is that there is a certain amount of embarrassment attached to financial matters. Not just mine, but for other people as well. I’ve quickly learned, however, that this embarrassment is simply something that one has to shove to the side if you’re going to be successful at this budgeting/financial responsibility game.

I admit that when we first started using the cash system I felt a little bit embarrassed when I counted out my money at the cash register, particularly when I was spending a larger amount of money, like at the grocery store. I mean — cash? Seriously? WHO USES CASH ANYMORE??? I’m sure I saw a cashier or two roll her eyes as I dug around in my bag looking for change. Cash is just so…90s, isn’t it? I mean…plastic is totally where it’s at.

Except plastic is the reason why there are a lot of people in financial trouble, and certainly one of the reasons why Todd and I needed to make some major adjustments. So I’ve been working hard to let go of that embarrassment. I mean, shouldn’t it be MORE embarrassing to pay for a pack of gum with a credit card than cold, hard cash?

It all came to a head for me over the Christmas holidays. For New Year’s Eve, Todd and I planned a board game and home made sushi night with our three girls. I’d budgeted for the sushi supplies and we hit up the grocery store. The only thing we couldn’t get at our chosen store was smoked salmon…everyone’s favourite sushi ingredient.

We decided to head to a different store to see if we could get what we needed. I mentally noted that I only had 8-ish dollars left in my grocery budget. Of course, we had other money, it’s not like it was our last $8.00 in the world, but I’m committed to this whole sticking within my budget thing, dang it. Of course, truth be told, I was perfectly willing to go over budget and chip in some of my own personal spending money for this sushi venture; after all, it was a special occasion.

So without paying much attention to the price of the smoked salmon, I grabbed what I needed and headed off to the cash register.

Imagine how tickled I was to discover that the salmon came to exactly $7.99! And then I remembered — sure, I’ve got the exact amount I need, but it’s all in change. Small change at that. I pulled my handful of change out of my bag and started counting, albeit with some discomfort. Todd and I often joke around a lot when we’re waiting in lineups and such, and this was no exception. While I kept counting, he feigned impatience, cracking jokes in an attempt to embarrass me. I noticed that the gentleman waiting in line behind us was showing some signs of true impatience. I cringed inside more than a teensy bit.

As I finished counting the very last of my change, equaling precisely $8.00, I turned to the somewhat grouchy gentleman behind me, giggled, and said “Exact change! It was meant to be.” Todd and I skipped off, laughing together at how this random guy likely thought this crazy chick was spending the very last of all of her money on smoked salmon, of all things.

Financial embarrassment? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

….

….

….

….anymore.

 

*cough*
I’d love to hear if anyone else out there have experienced any moments of financial embarrassment, and if so, what you’ve done to move past them.

Until next time,

~Kelly

Date Night: Wendy’s

The wife and I don’t normally eat out. She’s an incredible cook and loves to prepare food, so it’s really a win-win situation: making dinner yourself is a lot cheaper than buying it at a restaurant. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be able to get out of the house and treat yourself to a meal prepared by somebody else.

With our new budget in place, one would think that eating out at restaurants would be completely off the table. However, as a married couple we also know the importance of going out on a date. Thus, we have a small amount inserted into the budget to allow for a monthly “date night”. It could be a movie, a concert, or a dinner out. It’s not much and, if we want, we can let it carry-over from one month to the next. But it’s there and it’s important.

So having said all that, we’re still working within a budget. That means we’re not going out to 5-star restaurants. Instead, we plan on simply making the most of whatever we decide to do regardless of where we do it.

We’ve never been much for couponing. We get them in the mail and go through them, but up until recently we never really looked at them very closely. Now? Well now we’re analyzing them to ensure we’re buying what we want at the best possible price. And yes, that includes “date night”.

Recently we got a coupon flyer for Wendy’s. Kelly is not a fast-food fan by any stretch, but she doesn’t mind the occasional meal at Wendy’s. This flyer had a free chili or baked potato with the purchase of a regularly priced meal. She enjoys both chili and baked potatoes, so I jokingly suggested that I take her out to Wendy’s for a dinner date. Without missing a beat, she said “yes”.

Dinner For Two

Dinner for two!

Again, it doesn’t really matter where we go for our dinner date. It’s all about us and just getting out of the house. So we went to Wendy’s and used the coupon. The meal itself was under $10 and “filled the hole”. Was it a romantic dinner? No, but it served the purpose and we enjoyed having some time together out of the house, eating a meal that we didn’t have to prepare.

One of the things that people always say but usually forget is that money does not buy happiness. Financial issues make up one of the biggest reasons for divorce. If you can ensure the relationship is strong when money is tight, then you’ll be able to grow the relationship along with your savings account.

Date night at Wendy’s may not sound ideal to some, but when you’re on a budget it’s all about making the most of your time together, regardless of where you are. We only spent $10 and enjoyed a meal out together, recognizing that it was more about the “who” than the “what” and the “where”. There’s nothing wrong with that.

~Todd

The Latte Factor

So even if you haven’t heard the term “The Latte Factor”, you’re familiar with the concept. Basically, it’s the idea that those small, daily, “throwaway” expenses, which aren’t much at the time, add up to a significant amount of money over the course of the year. This was one of things we looked at/talked about when Todd and I went over our budget plans and trimmed the fat.

We’ll use my own spending as an example. When Todd and I began coming up with our plan to save money and get a handle on our finances, we began looking at places where we could cut expenses. The first thing I thought about was my own daily coffee run. Now, this is something that’s easily dismissed, after all, it’s just coffee, right? Add to that the fact that I don’t go in for those fancy, schmancy frappe-latte-no whip-extra skinny kind of beverages. I drink straight-up dark roast without exception.

We are fortunate/unfortunate enough to have a Starbucks very close to our home. Most days we’d stop there on the way to work so I could pick up my venti dark roast. Yum. Failing that, I would grab a coffee from the shop in our work building. So most work days, I would grab a coffee. Weekends are a totally different beast, and would often buy at least 2 coffees both days of the weekend as we were out running errands.

Why, yes, I *AM* a caffeine addict. Thanks for noticing.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that I was buying only one Starbucks venti dark roast coffee every single day of the year. At $2.82 a pop it’s a small price to pay for a delicious cup of liquid awesome, amiright? Throwaway spending that I wasn’t even thinking about.

Hold up a minute.

$2.82 x 365 = $1,029.30. On coffee. Coffee that I will fully admit I don’t even really love all that deeply. $1,029.30 that I wasn’t even thinking about.

Immediately I knew what I had to do. As much of a caffeine addict I am, I knew that the daily visits to Starbucks had to be put to an end.

So this is my life now:

COFFEE

My favourite bag of Just Us! dark roast costs $10.99 at the grocery store (less if it’s on sale!) and a carton of coffee cream runs me $2.82, both of which last two weeks. My handy dandy calculator tells me that this means I am now spending$356.06 per year on coffee, resulting in a savings of $673.24 per year. ON COFFEE. On plain, un-fancy, straight up dark roast coffee.

For a small bit of effort every morning I’m not only saving money, but I’m actually having coffee that I love. It’s a winner all around if you ask me.

What about you, friends? In what ways have you made small changes to daily habits to save money?

Until next time,

~Kelly

Spending money to save money

When it comes to this whole frugal living thing, sometimes we have to spend a little money upfront in order to save money in the long run.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself when it comes to my new purchase. Because I either did something pretty smart, or I spent money needlessly. At this point it could totally go either way.

I bought a breadmaker.

It wasn’t an impulse purchase, but rather, something I put a fair bit of thought into. I am a busy woman. And much as I would like to bake my own bread from scratch, that’s just one of those things that isn’t going to happen.

We don’t eat a ton of bread in our family but here is the thing: I do not eat gluten. Has anyone checked out a loaf of gluten free bread lately? I typically buy it at the Farmer’s Market, where a nice loaf of delicious gluten-free bread runs me $7.50. If I buy two loaves a month, for 12 months, we’re looking at $180 just in my bread alone.

And of course, my girls and Todd also eat bread as well. And who doesn’t enjoy a (sort of) homemade loaf of bread? The ability to make bread easily could definitely help stretch that grocery budget down on the road.

So we made the purchase. Better yet, we scored one at Canadian Tire on sale for 40% off, saving $40 on the initial purchase. So that was definitely a good feeling.

Only time will tell if we put that bread maker to good use and make some lovely cheap(er) loaves of home made bread. I’m giving myself six months, and if I haven’t used it to its full capacity, then I’m going to offload that bad boy and sell it. No use keeping something around if I’m not going to use it, right?

So wish us luck on the bread making/money saving adventure.

Until next time,

~Kelly.

*Update: I purchased this bread maker on October 25th. As of today, November 7th, it is still in the box. I have, however, researched recipes and am ready to fire it up this weekend. I’ll keep you all posted on whether or not this potentially hair-brained scheme of mine works or not….

Trimming the Fat

So after Todd and I created our budget, we realized that if we wanted to pay off our debt more quickly, we would need to generate more money. We’re left with two options: get second jobs, or make our money stretch further.

Now, I already have a (very small) second job. I do a little writing on the side for an online parenting site and get paid a small amount per post that they publish. It’s never been a way to get rich, by any stretch, however, this money has come in very handy in the past, as it helped to fun our (modest) wedding last year, family summer vacations, has helped with Christmases past, and has even provided a bit of “fun money” when required. We decided that this “extra” money that I earn will be saved exclusively for Christmas, which is what I’ve done for the past year now. So at least we have that taken care of. It will also be there as part of our financial safety net just in case something catastrophic and expensive comes along.

So since further employment isn’t really a viable option (after all, we need lives, too!), we decided that we needed to trim the fat from our existing budget. This meant that we looked at everything we were spending money on, to find ways to do it cheaper. It’s surprising how much extra money can be generated by just making a few cuts here and there. By switching bank accounts, Todd was able to save about $30/month on banking fees alone. He did some shopping around and got us a better rate on car & apartment insurance (to the tune of about $25/month). While it’s easy to dismiss something like those monthly banking fees because it doesn’t seem like a whole lot, a quick calculations tells us that $30/month = $360 a year. And I know a certain credit card – or two – that would love seeing that! And that’s just one place where we were able to trim things back a bit. Fortunately we were able to do this in several places within our monthly budget, giving us extra money to put toward paying off that debt.

So, we trimmed the excess. And while I would love to report that we trimmed everything down to the bare bones, I’m not going to lie to you. Because we are NOT about extreme living, as I’ve mentioned before. We, like many people, enjoy our comforts. For example, we left in our budget amounts for internet, cable, and Netflix. We also put money into the budget for things like family dessert night and the occasional date for Todd and I. Because we’ve still gotta have some fun, yo. (Though sometime in the next few weeks I do plan to contact our cable/internet provider, as well as their competition, to see if switching to get a better deal is a sensible option. Because sure we like our cable, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t pay less for it if we can.)

So yes, we trimmed the fat, and likely could trim it more if things get desperate, but at this point I’d like to think that we found a balance between trimming the excess while not going to unnecessarily uncomfortable extremes. I know us both well enough to say that we couldn’t survive without a few comforts. Though we may have to get creative when coming up with frugal date night ideas.

Hm. Sounds like a blog post just waiting to happen.

What about you, readers? What comforts have you kept in your budget? What are you unwilling to part with unless you really, really have to?

Until next time,

~Kelly