Sunday, 13 August 2017

BUYING IN BULK





There are some all purpose products that do for so many purposes.   Amazing objects really and those are worth your investment.  Likewise, there are some products that serve many purposes.   You can find articles on-line detailing one hundred uses for vinegar.    It's an inexpensive product so have at it!  Mason jars also come to mind.   Go on Pinterest for one hundred ways to use them if you come up short of ideas.    Besides canning and storing food, vases and fancy summer drinks, you will find ideas you haven't thought of.    

Bulk Barn lets you bring your own mason jars to purchase from the plethora of items they stock.   The idea is to save time by not having to first load up plastic bags and then transfer them via a funnel to the jar once you get home.   Another advantage is that you purchase the amount you want and no more or less.   I find that inevitably I end up with a half cup of the product unable to fit in the jar and I have to leave a sad little plastic bag of something floating around in the cupboard until it spills out and makes a mess on the shelf.   Think of hot chocolate mix.

The staff weighs the jar in advance and writes the amount on the lid so that you don't pay for the weight of the jar when you check out.   The only problem I encounter is that you need to use the product up entirely before you return to refill your jar and  items are used at a different rate.   I use large jars originally bought from IKEA for flour, pasta and sugar.   Transporting many of these can be a little awkward.   I still like the idea but I don't berate myself if I end up using plastic bags provided by the store since I do recycle them.  

Buying in bulk means you only need to buy what you need and you can try a small amount out rather than commit to something that you or your family doesn't like at all.   If you are purchasing for a special diet, like gluten free, there are many options.

But a word of warning, 100 grams (the pricing method used)  is not very much and some things, like chocolate chips, seem to measure heavy.   It was also my experience that anything that is crispy such as chips or cheezies (these are my husband's weakness) will become soft  and not crispy from exposure to the air in the store.  

   


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Don't look on it as Deprivation

                                                                       


Look on it as a challenge.   Think about what you need (or at least think you need) and then consider how you can use your skills and talents to get it cheaper.   Don't put yourself down, you do have abilities that can save money and give your ego a boost.   

There are the short term, single use items.   Don't spend much on these.   You need some fancy clothes to wear on a cruise vacation or to a fancy do.  These are once a year items.   Now, if for some reason you have been nominated for a prestigious award--Best Actress, Nobel Peace Prize--by all means go all out.  Splurge.   The world is watching.

In other situations, the ones you are more likely to be involved in, don't spend more than absolutely necessary.    This is where sewing skills could be useful.   You can whip up a dazzling sequin covered top for less than $20 and the sequins will cover up any wobbly seams.   No sewing skills?

See if you can borrow or try a consignment or thrift store.  Use your treasure hunting techniques and skills.  Glamorous apparel is inevitably in good condition from infrequent use.   Some cruisers gain weight from cruise to cruise and have to upsize.

Sometimes you have to be patient and wait for a solution to present itself.  I have been contemplating purchasing a small camping trailer for some time.   As any dog owner can tell you, vacations can present problems when you have a pet(s).   Airlines make it difficult and expensive to bring a dog on a flight, not to mention a few that have gone astray while in their care.   Hotels and motels will sometimes label themselves as pet friendly and then use it as an excuse to add a $40 a day, per pet uncharge.   I can understand that there will need to be a thorough cleaning including carpet shampooing at the end of the stay but an additional $560 for a week's stay with two small dogs is pushing it.   

Wisely, I considered renting a camper for a trial run.   Always a good idea with major purchases.   For example, not that I was ever considering it, but driving in a relative's Mustang convertible a few times put me off that purchase permanently.   Too difficult to get in and out of, too much wind your face and too much of a temptation for the driver to speed and subsequently get noticed by roadside patrols.     But camper rentals specifically state, No Pets.  I suppose they can't say No Children although small children can drop ice cream cones on the carpet and mess it up that way.   Pulling even a small fibreglass camper requires a larger vehicle with a tow package so the entire project is still in the fantasy stage.   

For now, a still living at home daughter provides pet care.   We've yet to find a future solution but then they all seem to miss us so much when we're gone so we'll have to cope with the guilt factor first!

I remember that  in The Tightwad Gazette, Amy Dacyczyn  advised against getting premade pudding cups even if they were free (due to some extreme couponing venture).    Your children (or you) will develop a taste for them and they won't always be free.   Getting into that situation can lead to feelings of deprivation.


   

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sew What?


 




Sewing is in danger of becoming a lost art.   Perhaps that is too dramatic a statement but home sewing is definitely on the decline.   Fabric stores are a barometer of this and they are few and far between.  Then there's the price of fabrics and notions -- quite expensive.   I suspect it is something to do with the cheap clothes that come from China and similar exporting nations where labour is low cost in the extreme and safety standards lax.     I don't think fabric is imported in the same way that clothing is and there is also the lack of volume to keep the price down.   You can buy a $3 tee shirt but you can't buy the pattern, fabric and thread to make it at even three times the cost.   No wonder women (it is still mainly women who sew) have put down needle and thread and consigned the sewing machine to the attic or basement.

Sewing used to be a full year course in high school although in those days it was only available to girls.   Boys took courses that would have been useful for both sexes like electricity and drafting.   Nevertheless, I recall taking not just the basic course but several optional elective courses in the higher grades.   I learned a lot despite being at the age where school can seem to get in the way of your social life.   But there was the bonus of hopefully sewing a gorgeous dress to attract the boy across the aisle you had your eye on.   I should mention that at this time, difficult to believe now, girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school.  Strictly dresses or skirts.

Later on, I liked the uniqueness of sewing.   No one else ever had quite the same item of clothing and there was the ability for the skilled to custom fit and get around height or measurement aberrations from the standard lines.    Sewing for children can be rewarding as small amounts of fabric is needed and your children never complain about the results.

Today, you would be hard pressed to sew your own dress for less than $50, taking into account pattern, notions and fabric.   You might save by re-using a basic pattern  and trying to get everything on sale but there is always the risk that the whole thing becomes unwearable.   A sewer (or sewist as I have heard it called) is not being honest if they don't confess to their share of wadders -- you know, those items that you wad together in frustration and stuff to the back of your closest with a plan to somehow salvage something out of what turned out to be a hopeless mess.


Here's an example from a store called Uniqlo (prices in USD).   I have never shopped at this store so this is not an endorsement.   I found it through another interesting fashion type blog The Vivienne Files. Uniqlo features this cotton/linen summer dress for about $20.






Do you sew?

Sunday, 23 July 2017

PRICING

   




I am what I have read is called a pescatarian.   Sounds vaguely religious, doesn't it?   But no, this word means that I am a vegetarian but also eat fish and seafood.   Some people wouldn't call this vegetarian at all but as I am wont to say, to each her own.    I can see the ocean through my living room window on the west coast of Canada but I have a feeling that the price of fish or seafood  here is the same in the Canadian Prairies or American mid-west.   In other words, expensive.

When food products are priced by the hundred grams, consider it a warning:   It is expensive.   A hundred grams is not very much;   in non-metric measure it is 3.5 ounces.  (Remember, a pound is 16 ounces.).    Southwestern British Columbia is one of the top salmon fishing regions of the world.  Read more here.    Local supermarkets have been running ads about their great salmon prices, bragging about $2.49 per 100 grams for whole salmon with head and tail cut off.     But somehow this translates to a 30 cm (or 12 inch) piece of salmon costing $36.   Yikes.  This would be more than a sirloin tip roast beef would cost and the animals that provide that have to be raised, fed, vetted and otherwise dealt with.   I venture to speculate that the fisherman (or woman) who caught the salmon  received nowhere near that price.

   



A relative explained how he overcame this problem.   Driving to the Steveston neighbourhood, which is part of the Greater Vancouver region in Richmond specifically, he headed straight for the docks at a time when the commercial fishing season was open.    There, shrewd negotiator that he is, he arranged with a fisherman coming in to buy 15 large salmon for $10 each.   Now the fish are not cleaned in any way so he had a job ahead of him but I was told that you get used to it and the task is not difficult.   He ended up with enough salmon in his freezer for a long time less the half of one my copious praise engendered me.

In the case of salmon, as with many other things, try to bypass the middleman.   Get a group together, go on a fishing expedition or head to the docks.    I like to watch the live bear cam this time of year, from a remote location in Alaska.   The bears sit at the bottom of a small waterfall as the salmon attempt to leap over it.   Easy pickings for the bears.   Five minutes of watching features dozens of salmon leaping.   I had to stop shouting, "There's another $36," after family members complained.

I go on a cruise once a year where seafood and salmon galore is included in the price.   I practise delayed gratification when I get the urge for it.   It works -- usually.    After all, buying one salmon a month at $36 will cost you $432 a year.   Almost enough for:


Y6C: 6-DAY YUKON




SHIP: ms Nieuw Amsterdam
DEPARTS: Vancouver, B.C., CA
ARRIVES: Whitehorse, Yukon

From
CA$497
per person Interior

Sunday, 16 July 2017

DO WITHOUT

This is the final instalment of the four part series revisiting the World War II motto of:

                     

 




Do Without has a grim sound, evoking visions of deprivation, hardship, denial and general misery.  You're hungry, your clothes are threadbare, and entertainment consists of watching the dandelions grow.    Relax, that is not what is meant by doing without, at least not here.   Instead of doing without think of choosing differently.   That sounds better, doesn't it?    Choose not to clutter your home with unattractive clutter.    Choose to buy quality items that you will keep for a long time gladly.   Choose to focus on the priorities you have decided bring meaning to your life.

What you are really doing without is that desperate feeling of being of debt, of being at the mercy of payday loans, of realizing that things you paid top dollar for would only garner ten percent of that value when you try to sell them on eBay or Craigslist.   


Part of the Stop Budgeting, Start Dreaming manifesto means you allow a certain amount for small splurges.   Allow a certain amount each month that you spend once every 30 days or save up for a grand extravaganza.   Be reasonable when you set the amount.   Two dollars a month will barely buy you an ice cream.   Can you squeeze $20 to $30 out of your earnings?   You may feel fine doing without daily bought coffees and  weekly movie tickets if you let yourself indulge once a month.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

MAKE IT DO


                                     


Making something work for a function other than what it was designed for, in other words making do, requires ingenuity and creativity.   Who doesn't want to have these attributes?  You consider the function of the product you think you need to buy and then investigate/consider/ponder how you can achieve that with what you already own. Some products like vinegar and mason jars lend themselves to multiple uses.  Just Google Pinterest for vinegar uses or mason jars to be amazed . . . and distracted.  You may find that you stop whatever useful and necessary task you are performing, like cooking dinner, to try to etch the mason jar glass in a decorative manner.   Who knew you could do that?

Making do also means finding ways to work with what you have.   A toaster oven may not be ideal for toasting your bread in the morning but it also does many other things whereas a toaster only toasts bread.   Especially do what you can to avoid buying items for one time use.   Cast about your friends and relations for extra dishes, pots and pans for that once a year family extravaganza that you offered to host in a moment of weakness.   Everyone is so glad you're doing it that the will be pleased to  lend some cutlery to you and assuage their guilt.

Women used to share maternity clothes and some still do.  Surprising in a way,  considering that in the days of large families you would get substantial use of  these garments.   If you prefer not to share clothing, what about items like extra long ladders for cleaning gutters outside, hedge trimmers used maybe once a month in season, power washers used when you paint the deck every five years and maybe once a year to clean the driveway.   Does every family on your block or every member of your extended family need their own supply?   I suppose there could be disagreements if one person manages to  spill a can of paint over the power washer rendering it inoperable.   There is a risk this could become a family legend repeated at reunions down the decades to the chagrin of the descendants.    


      

The Daily Connoisseur recommends a ten item wardrobe (with some extras) of high quality, carefully chosen clothing.   It's easier to make it do if everything you own Sparks Joy  a la Marie Kondo.

Focus on multi-purpose, multi-use items when possible.    You won't mind paying for good quality when you know something will be used in many ways for many years. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

WEAR IT OUT


               

When was the last time you wore something out?   I wore out a pair of slippers recently but I must confess that part of the reason was that I couldn't find a similar substitute.   I should add the phrase, ' at a price I wanted to pay'.   The original ones had been a Christmas gift from a few years earlier and they now sported holes in the footbed and the sole was coming apart.   I could replace them with no feelings of guilt and feel satisfied they had served me well.   Even if I hadn't paid for them originally, I had received my money's worth.   

I once chided my daughter for spending more on a strapless evening gown that would be fortunate to be worn twice than the winter coat that would be worn almost daily for eight months and hopefully for at least five years.    Evening gowns are so glamorous, so fun to shop for and can transport the wearer to fantasies that cannot be matched by a study woolen coat.    Well, you're only young once and if a dress can make you feel like Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe and, better still, make you somewhat resemble the movie icon even I would have to say 'Go for it!" At least once in your youth . . . just don't make it a habit.    But skip the two dogs;  they would cost more in the long run.  (Say I with two dogs!)






But, back to my slippers, I bought a new pair on-line that resembled my old favourites but, alas, were not of the same fit, support or quality.  Where my gifted slippers had cost $40, the unsatisfactory replacements had only set me back $12.   There was a time when $12 bought a good pair of slippers but things change.  What I should have done was waited for my favoured brand to go on sale--everything goes on sale sometime, right?    After my experience I would leap at paying $25.   This time, I bookmark the name and brand of slipper and search weekly.   I suspect there are apps that do that for you with less effort.   

The moral of the WEAR IT OUT mantra is that you will only truly get use and wear something out with the satisfaction that you have had your money's worth, if it was good quality to start with.   There is no pleasure in a T shirt that turns shapeless and sports small holes after two washes.  When you find a company, a product that encapsulates those elusive qualities of good construction and excellent materials, you will likely be happy with your purchase . . . for a long time.   By avoiding materials with micro beads or microfibres you'll also be helping the environment.

With both fashion and furniture, classic lines and colours will likely please you longer than one season wonders.   Although I've noticed that gaucho pants, which suit few women, make regular re-appearances.




Sunday, 25 June 2017

USE IT UP

 


There was a mantra in World War II:

       Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.   These were desperate times for many and there were shortages of basic goods during the depression, during the war and for many years after.   If you read articles, books or records of the time you can't help but be impressed with people's ingenuity and resourcefulness.   Does it take a crisis to bring this out in people?






Let's look at the first part of the phrase:   Use it up.   When I read that 40% of food goes uneaten here (this is an American article) it seems appalling to me.   Where does that 40% go?   Many places it seems.  There are losses in the farming process, in harvesting, packing and distributing.   We all know about losses in retail which at least provides something for those inclined to dumpster dive.  Then there are losses in restaurants and losses at home.   A lot of food is wasted but perhaps since it now goes into the organic waste container under the sink and is picked up with the garbage pick up by many cities, we feel better about it.   Do they turn it into fertilizer, we wonder?

At least with clothing we can donate what we no longer want to charities.  They are overflowing with our discards but some are difficult to make a profit from.  How much would you pay for a used T shirt that cost $3 new?    Those that remain unsold are shipped in bulk to countries in Africa where they undermine the local clothing manufacturers.

Do you use up your appliances?   Warranties have shrunk to minuscule levels over the years and a 3 month warranty is about all you will get without purchasing extra coverage.   The average lifespan of a large appliance seems to have been shrinking and replacement after five or six years doesn't seem unusual.   People will repair the appliance once except that repair costs can mean that it won't be done a second time.    The unwanted hulk is transported to the dump where it will rest indefinitely.

I have an old chair that my parents brought over from the Old Country when they immigrated sixty years ago.   People used to ship over their belongs it seems.   I've have it re-upholstered twice and the craftsperson remarked on the quality of the curved wood back.   I don't think I could ever use it up and I don't really want to.



Next time:   Wear it out!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Thrift Stores


   


How do you feel about thrift stores?   In my childhood, as an immigrant family, I remember trips to the Salvation Army.   There may have been other thrift stores at this time but I don't recall visiting any.   Years ago people had less, wasted less and definitely shopped less.   The Salvation Army store was in a poor part of town and not a place I enjoyed spending time.  There was a certain stigma it seemed.  Huge tables with heaps of tangled clothes and cigarette butts on the floor.   (These were the days when you could smoke anywhere)

Things have improved.   There are different types of thrift stores and some are better than others.    Different worthwhile causes are supported;   the one I went to today is part of the local hospital auxiliary.   So proceeds of sales go to a worthy cause.   That feels good.

I don't really need to shop at a thrift store.   Years of employment, careful spending and saving and investment have left me in that enviable position.     Our local thrift store gets lots of donations and lots of traffic.   Going there is almost an adventure and much more interesting than going to the mall, a chore I avoid.  You never know what you are going to find at a thrift store.   It can be a trip down memory lane.   Amazing what people hold on to and then finally donate.   I sometimes wonder if it is an estate matter.   The person has passed away and their family has to clear out a large home filled with memories.   Only they are not their memories.  Today, I looked through sewing patterns that I recognized from thirty years ago.   I sifted through a collection of the Golden Books series for children and found Heidi which was one I read and re-read in my childhood.   I had to get that for 25 cents.

Sometimes there are things I don't really want to spend much on.  I probably could skip them altogether.     Here's an example:   Booties for my dog.   Would they protect his feet?   Would he refuse to wear them?   I don't want to spend $20 to find out but for $1.50 I'll give them a try.   If you have a weakness (don't we all!) a thrift store is a place to get a cheap fix.   Think scarves, purses.  Maybe you would like to try a new hobby or a new sport.     
      




Then there's the treasure hunt aspect.  The most interesting things can end up in thrift stores.  I have to confess I don't buy clothes there although I have donated them.    I tend to prefer to follow the thoughts behind the 10 item wardrobe designed by the Daily Connoisseur or even The 33 item wardrobe wherein you commit to wearing only 33 items for 3 months.   Getting what makes you look great and is good quality, not to mention coordinating, can be extremely difficult in a thrift shop.

Have you shopped in thrift stores?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Needs and Wants

   








You may have done the exercise of considering potential expenditures as falling into the category of either a need or a want.   You probably think of a need as a legitimate use of your funds as in you need to eat to survive or you need to drive to your job as you'll be fired if you stop showing up.  At first glance this appears to be supremely useful but it can have the effect of truncating the analysis.

You might make a list:

Need to pay                                    Want to buy
                                          
Housing                                          a dog
Food                                               new shoes
Car                                                 dinner at new restaurant
Telephone                                      Travel
Credit card interest                        music lessons


You'll notice that the items on the left, the Need category are the ones you might see on a typical pre-printed budget that you fill out.   They tend to be big ticket items or the larger line items in your budget.   But since you need them, and need to spend the money they cost, you focus instead on limiting or eliminating the wants.    Now some of those wants may be frivolous, unnecessary and short-lived pleasures.  But some of them may add life long meaning to your life and memories that you will remember on your death bed.  I appreciate that my immigrant parents paid for piano lessons for years enabling me to have a talent and pleasure I enjoy today.   Many people consider their pet to be a member of their family that they would not do without.

Maybe a tiny house is too extreme for you

If you cut your housing expenses by two thirds you will be able to still have something you need, ie. a roof over your head and at least several of your wants.   Impossible you say.  Not really, you just need to think outside the box.   Families today live in houses three times the size of a couple of generations ago.   1200 square feet comprising 3 bedrooms and one bathroom used to work just fine but today 3600 + is more common with 5 bathrooms and 4 bathrooms the norm.   Somehow it became a rule that each child should have their own bedroom.   I think that idea has its root in advertising and marketing.   When in doubt about the origins of something that has become accepted, follow the money!   Who is benefitting from enormous over-the-top weddings?   Separate rooms for 60 shoe wardrobes?

Is it you?



Sunday, 4 June 2017

Cold Turkey? Or . . .


   



I am not referring to smoking cessation.   I don't have any experience with that myself but I understand it is very difficult and usually takes many attempts to be successful.   The question is whether it is easier or at least more advantageous to wake up one morning and never smoke another cigarette or to try to gradually wean yourself off the habit by smoking one less a day or using some kind of filtration system that gradually reduces the amount of nicotine.   You can wear a nicotine patch or chew special gum to try to assist yourself.   But as Yoda said,  "Do or do not; there is no try."

What about if you want to make a serious change to your relationship with money.   Spending Fasts are a version of cold turkey.   You commit to only paying for essentials and define bills very strictly.   Maybe you only eat what is in your freezer or on your pantry shelves.   You pay your rent or mortgage and utilities.   It would be expecting too much for you to sit in the cold and dark or huddling around a solitary candle.   It doesn't help you to damage to credit rating by not meeting financial commitments you made, even if done rashly.    For some/many people omitting shopping, paid entertainment and socializing is difficult.  But lots of people have declared their intention to the world and left blog posts online for you to peruse at your leisure.  Presumably only the successful ones wrote a post about it the others cowered in shame and hoped no one noticed.

But realistically, making serious changes to your spending habits as well as your approach to your finances  can be done gradually, in stages, and there is an argument to be made that it will work better in the long run if done that way.   Unless you are facing bankruptcy, you can be a little gentle with yourself.  But only a little!

It is best if you have a goal to focus on when the going gets tough.   You want to live longer, be healthier, set a good role model for your children.    This applies to both the cigarettes and your finances.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Do Charities Manage their Donations Well?

 



We  moved to a new home almost a year ago.  It had been previously occupied by an elderly woman, now deceased about a year and a half.   She must have been generous because a steady stream of charities are still writing to her asking for donations, including local and federal political parties.   They are all mainstream charities whose names I am familiar with and perhaps the lady felt this would ensure her donations were well spent.   I notice that the charities spend a lot on postage yet must have no way of knowing if the donor has moved away or died.   Many solicitations seem to include date books, calendars or other goodies perhaps attempting to create a feeling of required reciprocity.

I've wondered about charities that I've supported myself over the years. When I research charities in general I  usually haven't been pleased with the information that's come my way.   Large, well known charities are often top heavy with administrators and Chief Executive Officers and similar positions are generously renumerated.   Large offices in high rent areas appear to be necessary.    A Moneysense article provides some details about the efficiency of large charities in Canada. Charity Navigator calls itself a guide to intelligent giving but some organizations have disputed their figures, for example, here.
  


One way to uncover more information is to volunteer at organizations that provide services you value.   Unfortunately,  as is often the case where you are employed, you may be disappointed to find that waste is endemic.   I have heard that from those employed in both medical and educational institutions.    People may be well-intentioned but they make poor choices.   This article in the National Post details how only 45% of funds raised for cancer go to fight cancer.  Having a good heart doesn't necessarily make a person financially savvy.  Small charities may yield to spending money developing logos, attending conferences or paying too much for office space.    In developing countries corruption can be rampant.   The justification may be given that some people are unfairly rich and resources (also known as other peoples' money) need to be redistributed.

When I was involved with a school parent group I found out that in middle class/well to do areas parents were allowed to fund raise for computer labs while in poorer areas where fund raising was minimal the school district would provide the computer labs.   Seems like another form of taxation.

What is the solution?






Sunday, 21 May 2017

Try To Make It Fun

 
Only $45.65 CAD at Nordstrom


Do you find it a pain to be frugal?   . . .


That's the wrong approach.   You need to adjust your attitude.   When you have a goal in mind that is important to you, focus on that.   Do you want to buy a house?   Have a baby?   Take early retirement?   Travel around the world for a year?     These are big picture goals that will change your life and you have decided that will be in the best possible way.   Having longer lashes just isn't the same.

But don't give up on beauty entirely, if long lashes are in your definition of that.   There's a whole world of choice out there.

   
$4.96 CAD at Amazon.ca



The first mascara is approximately ten times more expensive you will note.   Giving credit to The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn where I first read the idea, you should ask yourself if this product is ten times better.   That is a difficult hurdle to overcome.   Some might consider the product superior ( although the Yves Saint Laurent brand may influence you in that decision).  Look at that shiny gold colour.   I would be curious to know if a chemical analysis showed the ingredients making up the mascaras are significantly different.

Look on it as re-directing your money.   You are not cheap, you are not depriving yourself of something, you are channelling your money to what is a significant goal.   

I read in an interview with the venerable Mrs. Dacyczyn that she considered the internet to be the single greatest new aid to frugality.   I agree.   You can check prices, shop around and generally occupy yourself very inexpensively in a myriad of ways.   Look on it as a treasure hunt.   They were always fun, weren't they?

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Is Insurance to Reassure You?

              




One of the first things a professor/instructor in Insurance Law said, and incidentally the only thing I remember from that course,  was "The first rule of insurance companies is 'Don't Pay!'"  Litigation would arise from this refusal in a small number of cases, bearing in mind that the cost of litigation would be more than most household and even travel claims, saving the most extreme.  I suppose that's why I've always been wary of insurance policies.

You have to have fire insurance on your home.   Probably your mortgage company requires it.   House fires in owner occupied homes are not very common but just in case . . .    You couldn't sleep at night without it.    What about a robbery claim?    Those are more common.   A young person broke in and stole our stereo and video recorder many years ago.   If you ever make a claim be prepared to have your premium go up the following year and not just on that property but any other real estate (like an investment condominium) that you happen to own.   Don't forget you'll need to pay the deductible ($500 to $1000) first.   Before long you've paid for your replacement item yourself.     

Some people take out disability insurance.   It seems you are more likely to become disabled, than die, at least in the short term.   But what is disabled?    If if you became a quadriplegic, unable to use all four of your limbs, your insurer might think that you might be able to hold a pencil between your teeth and tap out letters on a keyboard with the eraser end.    A little research on-line turns up a lot of sad stories.  Some are satisfied with what the insurance company has provided.   It can make you feel that paying a monthly disability premium was a little like buying a slew of lottery tickets every month.   You hope, you hope.  






Sunday, 7 May 2017

No Shopping?

   
Garth Williams (illustrator)



Are you one of the millions of people who has read the Little House in the Prairie series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?   Many people, myself included, have read and re-read the books and read them to our children.    Down to earth tales of family life in pioneer America and guess what?   No shopping.  (almost).   Somehow this family lived their life, their adventures, their struggles with little money.   They would be considered poor today, no doubt, but they didn't think of themselves in that way.   Their neighbours were all in similar situations.    But the love they had for each other, the hard work they engaged in, the ingenuity and inventiveness shines through every book.

I suspect the foregoing is one of the reasons these books have endured.   We want some of that in our lives.   Can we replicate it in any form?

The Ingalls children all had chores which they were expected to do without complaining.   Pioneer life was labour intensive and everyone had to pitch in to make it work.   Laura even took on work that was not considered appropriate for girls or women--heavy farm work pitching hay--because she was needed.    They were able to produce much of what they used.   Pa Ingalls hauled logs manually using his horses to build their home, Ma Ingalls gathered river side straw to make summer hats -- you get the picture.  These skills must have been passed on to them by older relatives.  

In Little Town on the Prairie the Saturday evening socials held in the town were free entertainment for all.   Talent shows of a sort and entertainment by town residents ending with a pot luck provided by the town ladies.   Reading that chapter made everything sound heartwarming, even hilarious.   Some family reunions are a little like that, as long as they're not held in a hotel.

Yes, the Ingalls did go shopping, maybe twice a year.   They needed fabric to replenish their sparse wardrobe occasionally or metal teeth for the farm harvester but it was a rare occasion and purchases were carefully considered.

If Little House in the Prairie wasn't part of your childhood reading, you must have read Nancy Drew Mysteries  or the Hardy Boys.    Lots of adventures and not much shopping.  

We like to keep young people safe nowadays so there aren't many adventures.   Lots of shopping and screen time though.  It gets to be a habit.


                  
Garth Williams, Illustrator

Sunday, 30 April 2017

How Far Will You Go


   


I like to read blogs.   I have a fairly wide range of interests - besides saving money - and like to discover what others have to say.    There's always more to find out.   For example, did you  know that the vegetable products you buy to eat can also provide seedlings that will replicate themselves ad infinitum.  Check out The Economic Gardener from Mr. Tako Escapes website.  Now I'm regretting the garden seeds I optimistically bought a month ago.   The last ones never even germinated!

The Renaissance Housewife harvests and processes her own herbs to make herbal tea and generates enormous savings.   (You'll have to scroll through the entries about picking up and processing roadkill for her freezer.).   One of the things I like about her blog is that while she is frugal almost beyond belief (and benefits from the fact that shopping in the U.S. seems about 80% cheaper than shopping in Canada) she and her husband  spend money eating out in restaurants, taking cruises and travelling to tropical locations.   It's all about choice.   (I thought at first she went about her daily activities in a long gown and headpieces as befitting the sixteenth century but no.)



   

Open yourself up to different choices!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Managing Post-Secondary Education

                         


There was a time when going to university didn't involve going into debt, or at least not the kind that would take years to pay off.    At some point, post-secondary education ceased to be an extension of the public school system and became a kind of corporate venture.   Bean counters moved in.    Courses and programs were offered even though few or no positions were available for graduates yet at the same time popular wisdom seemed to be that a degree or two was necessary for career advancement.   Parents, with all good intentions, advised their children to follow the pattern that had worked for them.   Trade school was often seen as the last resort for students who couldn't cut the academic courses.  

University education also has a value that has nothing to do with job prospects but that is not as easily measured and valuated.    If university education is your choice, know that there is a level of maturity required to get a degree without incurring horrendous debt, and it is not possessed by most eighteen year olds.

Some big picture advice involves living at home as long as possible, hopefully with supportive parents.    Once you leave home, everything costs.   Adding a spouse and children places you on a trajectory where stepping off to continue/pursue post-secondary education involves difficult choices.  Canvas your friends and acquaintances.   Returning to university with a spouse and children involves a considerable change in lifestyle as well as helpful parents and in-laws.

Find a job that makes accommodations for students with flexible hours and an understanding boss.   Work one day a week at your busiest times and up the hours on holidays but be reliable and hardworking on the job.   It's only fair.

    




Here are some smaller tips, direct from a university student with no debt:



- don't buy textbooks until you are sure you actually need them
- try to share textbooks with reliable students.  Make a schedule to exchange
- buying your textbooks used and on-line is usually cheaper or even better see if they are available from the institution's library.   Even if they are only available  on reserve for two hours, work with that
- Culinary programs often sell students' products cheap 
- farmers' markets may set up shop on campus but don't get caught up buying a lot of logo'd products at the campus shop
- hang out with frugal students; go to fun pot luck type of events with your cohorts
- College departments may arrange social events that are slightly relevant. eg.  Archaeology department may screen Indiana Jones movies
- use campus computers for free.  Printer costs are usually minimal.   Wifi is free on campus;  get the code if one is required
- Don't live on campus;  it's usually not a good idea financially or academically
- Bring your own water bottle; many campuses have refilling stations conveniently located
- If you buy coffee on campus bring your own container.   There's usually a discount.
- Campus gym is usually available for free at certain times
- You may be required to pay for a transit pass; use it if it is feasible.  Or carpool
- Most campuses now require that you have extended health care or purchase theirs.   This would be the time to arrange a dental or vision check-up