Under $20 Date Night: Groupon and Points Programs FTW!

So yesterday Todd and I decided that we would go on our very first under $20 date. I’ll admit I was kind of excited out it, because I’d scored an awesome deal on Groupon the week before.

Now, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Groupon. There are some legitimately great deals on there, but those regular emails are always tempting me to spend money that I shouldn’t on things I don’t really need. It’s not a deal if you’re actually buying something that you don’t need and wouldn’t ordinarily spend money on, know what I mean?

However….frozen yogurt is something I can totally get behind. Seems like these places have sprouted up all over the city in the last few years. We’ve tried at least one other before, and while I’ll admit they’re tasty, they’re not all that cheap. However, I scored a Groupon that was $7.00 for $12.00 worth of frozen yogurt for two. Not bad. Even better? I nabbed it on a 20% off day, and so actually only ended up spending $5.60. Sweet!

Dear Groupon: Today I love you.

Dear Groupon: Today I love you.

We went off to Goji’s to try out their frozen yogurt on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Because honestly? Todd and I can (and do) eat ice cream no matter what the weather. We loaded up our bowls and waited for it to be weighed to find out the verdict. Did we stay within the $12.00 limit?

Turns out we didn’t. Be we were close. It cost us an additional 80 cents. I could live with that.

I'm pretty sure it was all of Todd's Reese's Pieces that put us over the top.

I’m pretty sure it was all of Todd’s Reese’s Pieces that put us over the top.

After our frozen yogurt (it was delicious, btw. Not sure if it was full price delicious, but if we could score another awesome Groupon deal like this one, we’d definitely go back), we decided to wander around downtown a bit. We popped into a few of our favourite shops, having a little poke around, like we sometimes like to do.  Basically we were just killing a bit of time until our movie.

We decided earlier in the weekend after hearing great reviews of the movie ‘Trainwreck’, we really wanted to go see it. Of course, we budget money for ‘date nights’ anyhow, but I’m often hesitant to pay full price to go to a movie…after all, what if it stinks? I’m kind of a cheap-ass when it comes to some things, and one of my big pet peeves is paying full price at the theatre for a movie I ended up not really enjoying.

However, this time, the risk was a little lower…since Todd belongs to a points program with Cineplex, and he saw that he’d collected enough points (from previous movie visits) for a free movie. The total for our two movie tickets ended up being $10.50. Awesome!

Even better, we both ended up really enjoying the movie.

So yesterday’s movie + frozen yogurt date ended up costing us a total of $16.90.

$5.60 +.80 for frozen yogurt (with Groupon)

$10.50 for movie admission for two (by using points program points).

All in all, our first experiment with the $20 date night ended up being a roaring success. I’m already excited about planning our next one.

Until next time,

~Kelly

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Under $20 Date Night

$20 I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about Todd and I don’t make a special effort to get out and go on dates like a) we used to and b) we definitely should. We spent a good part of the winter holed up like the rest of the Maritimes, which provided us with a convenient excuse for not going out much. Lately, we’ve sort of fallen into the trap of saying, “Oh, we can’t really afford to go out on dates”.

*cough* Bullcrap! *cough*

The truth is, it’s entirely possible to have dates and not spend a ton of money. After all, it’s about spending time with the one you love, more than how much money you spend on them, amiright? So I came up with the idea of the Under $20 Date Night. The challenge for Todd and I for the next while is to come up with fun, interesting dates for the two of us that cost less than $20. Simple, right? And lucky you, you guys are going to get to read all about our inexpensive dating adventures.

Well…the ‘G’ rated parts anyhow. HA!

Re-evaluation

budget

So summer is here and with it comes a lot of unplanned expenses. Things like Girl Guide camp for our daughters. Our family vacation week in August. A plane ticket for Todd’s oldest daughter to come see us. Then of course there will be school starting again in September, which always carries with it a certain number of expenses.

We’d been doing pretty well in the finance department since we started our new plan last fall. The past few months have been challenging, however, as a number of unexpected expenses have been popping up. We’re still paying off our debt, but we just can’t seem to build any amount of significant savings. We’ll get a bit of money saved up, and then something will come along that will require us to dip into it.

While frustrating, there are some positives to be seen. Firstly, the good news is that we actually have a savings account to dip into. That one is huge for us. Secondly, there is the fact that we haven’t had to further add to our existing debt to get us through these past few months. Also huge. Thirdly, we haven’t had to make any super uncomfortable budget cuts. What these three things tell me is that our system is working. We’re successfully adulting. Go us!

Recently we sat down and starting going over our budget, looking at the places where we could trim the fat a bit. We’re not yet at the point where we want to do anything drastic. We’ve decided to start with making a few small changes to generate some extra cash first, to see where that gets us. If it proves to not be enough, then more drastic measures might be necessary. More good news? There are places where cuts can be made. We may not like them, they may not feel all that comfortable, but seeking out constant comfort was what got us into this crappy financial situation to begin with, now didn’t it?

So…onward and upward.

Until next time,

~Kelly

Why Are “Promposals” Even a Thing?

So on my travels online I’ve noticed more and more articles about something called “promposals”. If you haven’t heard of this increasingly popular phenomenon, basically it’s a fancy, over-the-top way of asking someone to go to the prom with you.

Like a marriage proposal, but for the prom.

I thought the whole thing was ridiculous the first time I heard about it. I just…don’t…get it. Back in my day, if you wanted to go to the prom with someone you just asked them. If you were too shy to do it yourself, then you slipped them a note or got your friend to do the asking for you.

That’s it. That was how it was done.

But now, asking someone to be your prom date, or even sending them a text or a Facebook message just doesn’t cut it. More and more teens seem to be embracing this trend and going totally over the top with their “promposals”.

Worst of all? They’re dishing out tons of money for it.

I recently read an article on Huffington Post that said “promposals” make up 1/3 of students’ entire prom budget. Even more disturbingly, it would seem that the lower the family’s household income, the more the students spend on their promposal (as well as the prom overall).

On average, the article reports that teens are spending on average around $900 on their prom experience, an amount which is down from last year.

The article doesn’t state where this money is coming from, but I’m willing to bet a fair bit of that is being paid for by moms and dads. Sure, there are some teens out there with part time jobs, but do they have self-control to be able to save up that kind of coin? I’m skeptical.

At this rate, I’d better get my ten and twelve year old daughters to start saving up for their proms now. Because you know I know one parent who won’t be dishing out that kind of coin.

I’d love to hear other people’s take on this one. Is my age showing a little bit here? Am I the only one thinking that this is a lot of money to spend on one night?

Until next time,

~Kelly

‘Debt’ is NOT a four-letter word

debt

So I realize that in the grand scheme of things, Todd and I are still pretty new to the whole personal finance world (particularly the personal finance blogging world), but in this short period of time, I’ve noticed that many personal finance bloggers seem to have the attitude that debt is a dirty, four-letter word to be avoided at all costs.

And well, I just can’t get on board with that line of thinking.

One of the unavoidable realities of life is that debt is unavoidable. I mean…how many of us are able to walk into a bank and pay for a house or brand new car in cold, hard cash? Not too darn many, that’s for sure. Things like mortgages and car loans are pretty much unavoidable for the average person. Does that make them ‘evil’? Of course not! If you want to own a home or drive a car, then debt just goes along with it. Most people (even the most frugal of personal finance bloggers) are okay with that.

Also, let’s look at the matter of education. For most of us, our post-secondary education came to us with the help of some sort of debt. Sure, there are a few lucky people who, with the help of parents and/or a part time job, are able to make it through without accruing much (or any!) debt. Lucky ducks.

Again, education and debt are two things that go hand-in-hand for most of us. And many people would argue that it’s a ‘necessary evil’. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that I never would have been able to get a post-secondary education without going into debt. But was it worth it? You betcha.

Now, for some people, the list of ‘acceptable debt’ stops pretty much here. House — check. Education — check. Vehicle — perhaps, depending on who you ask. My point is that debt is a very personal thing and while for some people, there is no good reason to go into debt, for other people there is a lot more ‘gray area’. As Todd and I work to pay off our consumer debt, we are learning the hard way that getting out of debt is a whole lot tougher than going in to debt. We’re on the several year plan to get rid of our credit card debt with the ultimate goal of taking our family on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

But guess what? We’re planning to go back into debt to do it. And we’re actually both okay with that.

I’ll be honest, it really chaps my hide to work on paying off our current debt because for the most part, I can’t remember what that debt was for. Moving expenses, a Christmas or two, and what else?

**Shrug** Ya got me.

And that is the thing that bothers me. The fact that this money was piddled away on things that I can’t even remember. Possibly things that I don’t even have anymore. Such a waste.

But for us, taking an unforgettable family vacation is something that is worth going into debt for. It’s one of our priorities in life. Where some people dream of home ownership or driving a fancy car, we dream of travel. And guess what? We’re okay with delaying buying a home in order to have that.

Personal finances are like many things in life — it’s personal. Each individual (or couple, as in our case) needs to decide what the priorities are, and then work toward them. And sometimes, that requires going into debt. Going into debt isn’t the problem, it’s the paying it off. But as long as you’re able to manage your debt, and pay it off responsibly, then what’s the harm? It’s your life, it’s your money, and its up to you to decide what to do with it.

What about you? Is there something that you feel is worth going into debt for?

Until next time,

~Kelly

Making Financial Room for Fun

I get emails every now and again from people reading this blog and a common issue that many of us share is how to find balance when we’re dealing with personal finances. Specifically,  balance between being responsible and paying off debt, but still making room for some fun now and again. Todd and I find ourselves in that spot often. Sure, we’re highly motivated to get the debt paid off, but at the same time, we still want to enjoy life as it is right now, instead of always waiting for when “things will be better”.

We’ve tried to do this in a few ways with our budget. Our budget includes amounts for a regular date night, as well as “family dessert night”. We also give ourselves an “allowance” so we’ve got some spending money for small impulse purchases. We make sure to also set aside a little weekend cash so we can take the kids out to do some things. Sure, that money could also be put directly onto our debt, thereby paying it off a lot faster, but again, we have to find some balance there. Occasional fun – both with and without the kids – is necessary for our happiness. I can’t imagine that we’d be able to stick to budget very long that didn’t leave us room for fun.

This week I mentioned that Todd and I had to make a crummy choice because it wasn’t in our best interests to overspend. After booking off those vacation days and looking forward to some fun and relaxation, it was a real bummer to have to call that off. I decided that I still wanted to do something. I did some digging and found some cottages just a couple of hours from home with an unbelievable off-season rate. It has a full kitchen and free wifi! We could bring our own food and have three nights of relaxation and adventure for a fraction of what our original road trip was going to cost.

It’s one of those situations where, sure, that money could (and some would argue should) be put toward eliminating our debt. But I just can’t justify a life that is all work and no play.

So off to the cottage for the weekend we go. We’ll return happier, more relaxed, and ready to stay on target with that budget of ours. Because relaxation and quality time with your spouse? Priceless.

Making Tough Choices Really Sucks Sometimes

money

Another financial whine coming on, kids.

This winter, Todd and I dreamed up the idea of going on a road trip to visit my bestie in Ottawa. This was a great plan for many reasons. 1.) It gave us something to look forward to over the winter, when let’s just say the weather here was less than ideal; 2.) We absolutely love going on road trips together and haven’t been on a nice long one in quite some time; 3.) Relatively speaking, a road trip is a fairly inexpensive way to travel; 4.) And last but not least, I haven’t laid eyes on my bestie in person in TEN YEARS. Ten. Shameful. We haven’t even met each other’s husbands!

So we dreamed up the plan. Booked the vacation days. It was going to be a whirlwind trip but hey, it was something. My bestie and I started getting pretty excited about the prospect of us finally being together again for some laughs and good times.

And then of course, the whole “income tax debaucle” happened, meaning that the money we had earmarked for our road trip really needed to go elsewhere. We had a few other unexpected financial setbacks happen the same week (including a huge ticket for forgetting to renew our car’s license plates as well as paying for the actual renewal).

I’m fairly certain that old Todd and old Kelly would have said “screw it” and just gone on that trip anyhow. In fact, I’m positive of it. We would have decided that we’d worry about paying those things off later in favour of having fun right now. This time, however, we sat down, crunched numbers, and had a serious conversation. The conclusion, of course, was that it wasn’t in our financial interests to take the trip.

Sigh.

The good news is that we’re learning. We’re showing more restraint than we did in the past, keeping ourselves focused on our end game, rather than throwing caution to the wind whenever the fancy strikes us. Which is great for our long game, but kind of crummy for the here and now.

Still…progress is progress. Right now, that is the thing we have to focus on.

Until next time,

~Kelly