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Switching banks, switching phone plans, starting fresh.

Isn’t it funny how people are so resistant to change that they’ll stick with the same thing even if it’s unnecessarily costly? I know because I’m one of them. For years and years I’ve stuck with the same bank because I was lazy. As a result, I’ve become a loyal CIBC patron by default. Similarly, I’ve become a loyal Rogers patron by default. Now let me just be clear: neither of these institutions has particularly wronged me in the past. I simply think that shopping around to get the best deals is something I need to become more proactive with.

PC Financial

After reading Shawanda’s post, I realized that I’m throwing away too much money on banking fees. Although they have been negligible in the past, as of late I’ve been paying $8-10 per month for a minimal amount of transactions. Whaaa?! I’m pretty sure the only activity on my account is four direct deposits per month, one bill payment, and a cash deposit. For the most part, under ten transactions per month. It truly makes me wonder. I will walk for half an hour in heels while holding an awkwardly large vase in order to save a $10 cab ride but I sit around watching the same amount of cash vanish from my bank account every month simply for having a fairly inactive account.

…but no more! President’s Choice Financial is wonderful and boasts a no fee bank account that will let me transact to my little heart’s desire. Sure I won’t get the convenience of going to a physical bank but I rarely do this anyway. I finally made my way over to a pavilion this past week and a nice man helped me open an account. Sweet! Speaking of sweet, the trip ended with a coupon for free PC ice cream! If anyone hasn’t tried PC ice cream shop flavours, they are delicious.

Before picking up my ice cream, I made my way over to Joe Fresh and picked up a new dress. At $30, it will pay for itself within three months of saved bank fees!

Wind Mobile

Now that I’ve dealt with my banking situation, I will soon be moving onto phones. Unfortunately my phone contract is not over until November, but I’ve decided to switch over to Wind Mobile. I have heard mixed things about reception with this provider, but at $40 for unlimited talk, text and data, I’m willing to deal with a smidgeon of inconvenience as I barely use my phone. Oh, if you haven’t heard, I’m also the last person on Earth with a not-so-smart phone. This will all change with my new plan! I pay about $35 for no data right now, so $45 (w/ tax) won’t be a huge stretch. The downside is I’ll have to buy my phone outright, but I also won’t have to deal with the inconvenience of being locked into a contract.

Do you shop around for the best deals or are you guilty of sticking around simply for the convenience of not switching? Anyone use Wind or PC?

LF on being cheap

It has been discussed time and time again, but recently it has been bugging me: being cheap.  Here in the PF community, I like to think we’re a frugal bunch – not a cheap bunch. This is why it bugs me when people can’t make the distinction and plague society with their flat-out cheapness. Wtf?

Just don’t.

…on going out to eat

At the restaurant where I waitress on weekends, there is a young family of four that comes in every Saturday. I always get stuck with this group and I hate them for a few reasons:

  • Our receipts have a survey link at the bottom that you can fill out for a free appetizer on your next visit. This is fine and a great way to enjoy a free app, but they do it EVERY SINGLE VISIT. The point of the survey is for us to assess the quality of our food, service, etc. Having the same people critique the same food and the same service every week does us no benefit beyond the first, I don’t know, 100 times? This is purely exploitative of the system, I think.
  • They order three waters and one pop. The pop is bottomless. Enough said?
  • They order one kid’s meal for TWO KIDS. The kid’s meal is tiny. Why are they making the poor kids share one?
  • The woman works for the same chain of restaurants so she uses her discount card, which gives her 20% off. Of course this is fine as that’s what it’s meant to be used for. But between exploiting the survey and using a discount card, a meal that would easily be $45 ends up being $25.

I don’t know about you, but when I use any sort of discount at a restaurant (coupon, group deal, etc.) I make sure to tip on the entire amount. I think it’s embarrassing to go into a restaurant, exploit every type of discount, and tip a whopping $4 for a table of 4. I understand that some people don’t have an abundance of disposable income, but if I don’t feel like I can afford to go out and enjoy a meal, then I don’t go out and enjoy a meal.

Of course after working in a restaurant for two years, I can write a whole blog post on cheapness in restaurants but I’ll leave it at that for now!

…on shopping

I love me a good sale!

I know a few people that do this, but to me buying a dress and wearing it to a party and returning it the next day is cheap.

A coworker of mine told me that her mother uses appliances from department stores until they’re completely worn down and then exchanges them for new ones. She gets away with it. This is cheap.

Bargain hunting (even if it takes you hours!) is frugal. It doesn’t involve wasting people’s time, scamming the system, or generally being a burden to the world in order to save a few bucks.

…on being social

Going to a potluck and bringing a bag of chips when everyone else has made extravagant salads, dips, pastas, etc. is cheap. There is nothing wrong with bringing snacks but I try to ensure that the price will roughly match what everyone else is bringing (i.e. a bag of chips with a homemade taco dip…yum!)

Going to a potluck and bringing nothing. Ummm! Cheap and awkward.

Allowing a friend to cover a meal and never reciprocating. Cheap.

I invited a friend of mine over for dinner and she insisted on contributing to groceries. I did not allow this because to me, inviting someone over for dinner means I’m treating him or her to dinner. Allowing her to bring groceries would have been cheap in my opinion!

Overall, I think the distinction between cheap and frugal is tact. I am all for going on a coffee date instead of a dinner date to be frugal. I am all for waiting for a dress to go on sale before buying it. I use group buy coupons. I walk instead of taking a bus or cab. None of these activities are exploitative or tactless. They don’t make a mockery of the system and they aren’t disrespectful to the people you care about. That’s where I draw the line.

Where do you draw the line between cheap and frugal? Do you have any cheapo stories? I’d love to know!

Finding balance

Life is hectic. Right now, I’m working two jobs, trying to update my skills in order to make myself more marketable, volunteering for a not-for-profit, trying to keep up with blogging, and looking for a job as my current job is not permanent. I’d also like to do some reading and for once, not the guilty pleasure kind – the kind I refuse to call ‘self help.’ I currently have Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ sitting on my desk beckoning me. Will it be life-changing? Will it be eye-opening? I really don’t know, but there’s only one way to find out.

I’m sure my schedule doesn’t phase most of the PF bloggers out there. I can think of a few offhand that have equally busy schedules and manage to do it all. I can’t pretend to understand how it happens short of having a few clones doing all their biddings. I’ve been exhausting myself these past few weeks by thinking and thinking about all the things I need to get done and how I’m going to do it and am I going to burn out and are there enough hours in the day/month/year/lifetime. Should I become Martha Stewart and sleep 4 hours per night?

How will I find balance?

Make a schedule. There are a few things I want/need to do right now, including working from 9-5 plus weekends and usually one weeknight. Those hours are a given and I need to work around them. This leaves me with 4 weeknights. I can study the computer programs I would like to learn during 3 of those nights and leave one night for relaxing. That’s where the balance comes in!

Set goals. You’ll hear it time and time again, but setting real, measurable goals is effective.  I found that with job searching, I was most productive when I told myself I’d apply to at least one job a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but with each application taking so long to tailor, it’s easy to procrastinate and go days without applying to a single job. Saying I’ll apply to at least one job a day is less daunting than just saying I’ll apply to tons, and also very achievable.

Take mini-vacations. You may not be in a place where you can take real vacations. For me, it’s financial constraints I’ve placed on myself as well as the whole not having vacation time thing. At the same time, however, I don’t really want to burn out. For me, taking a weekend off once every so often is important. This summer, I’ll be going to a friend’s cottage for a long weekend. Long enough (and inexpensive enough!) to satisfy my need to get away and take a break from the daily grind!

Stop wasting time. Spending hours finding out way too much about people I don’t really know on Facebook is probably not the best usage of my time not to mention creepy as f(*&. I need to stop…right…now. Wait, let me just stare at my friend’s friend’s sister’s vacation pics first. Oooh Hawaii!

Stay positive. Every type of wisdom from ancient to new-age comes down to one basic concept: positivity. You get back what you give to the universe. You’ll have good days and bad days but when it comes down to it, it really will be okay. Focus on your immediate goals and make them achievable. Sometimes it is that simple.

I am by no means an expert on finding balance (obviously), so I’m hoping these tips will help both you and I cope with stressful situations. At the end of the day, I know I’m lucky to have had the opportunities that I’ve had and that if I keep trying, more will come to me. For now, I’m going to follow Dory’s advice:

And that’s the truth. On a completely different note, I just found this online and it has completed my life. You’re welcome.

Have a great weekend!

LF

I’ve forgotten how to have fun (part deux)

I’ve noticed that the search term ‘I’ve forgotten how to have fun’ has brought more than one reader to my blog. I find this fascinating and sad! Why have so many of you forgotten how to have fun? Admittedly, I think that more and more, I’ve become the opposite of fun. I’ve opted for savings over sangrias, frugality over fashion and friends. It’s true.

Instead of turning this into a sad post, I’ve decided to revisit the topic by brainstorming suggestions that might remind you AND me how we can strike a balance between saving money and enjoying life.

Set ‘fun’ goals

As PF bloggers, we are generally inclined to set savings goals and debt payoff goals. Why not set fun goals as well? I’ve tried to do this in the past, but to no avail. Along with saving X amount, why not make it a point to catch up with one old friend every week and do something frugal? A walk in the park, a coffee date, or a night in all work well.

Remember it’s not just about the moolah

I’ve been so wrapped up in debt payoff and savings and I think it’s the culprit. I go out for drinks and feel guilty the whole day leading up to it. ‘How much will this set me back?’ ‘I really shouldn’t be drinking beer and eating bar food…’ are some of the thoughts that float through my neurotic head. Surprisingly enough, I end up going out and having a blast and catching up with great people. And the bar food is delicious. And it’s fun. And it only costs me $10 max if I’m careful – which I am.

Use group deals

Groupon, Teambuy, WagJag and about a gazillion other group buying sites make it easier than ever to find fun things to do in your area at a fraction of the original cost. Do something you wouldn’t normally do like salsa lessons, canoeing, go karting, or whatever it may be. Cheap and fun!

Challenge yourself to discover something new in your city

Do your research online and find out what festivals are coming to town this month. Or perhaps there is a beautiful park you never knew about. Be a tourist in your own city at no cost! I dare you.

So, for any of you that find me because you’ve ‘forgotten how to have fun’, snap out of it. I promise I will (try to) too.

Do you ever feel like you compromise fun in the name of frugality?

Employment woes

Jeremy over at Modest Money wrote an enlightening post about the challenges he has faced with unemployment. Although I have not entirely been in the same boat, I feel his pain. As some of you know, after going back to school and graduating from a program entirely different from my undergraduate background, I have faced an uphill struggle. Let me start from the beginning.

May 2011 – August 2011 

The beginning of 2011 brought hope and excitement. I was enrolled in the co-op stream of my postgraduate program and couldn’t wait to see what opportunities were out there for me. I waited with bated breath until my co-op job list became available to me. Unlike some of the people in my program, I had a couple of years of work experience under my belt prior to starting the program. Little did I know that this experience would do me no favours. I waited and waited, applying to jobs few and far between. Many were unpaid and I was refusing to settle for that. I was going to take a paid position with a reputable company, I’d decided. I did interview after interview and faced rejection after rejection. I was, after all, competing with every co-op student from my school and every other school with a similar co-op program. I was letting great opportunities slip through my fingers because they didn’t fit the bill of what I wanted. Eventually I was forced to take a position that paid a small stipend because I was near the end of the hiring season and hadn’t lined something up. I had no one to blame but myself. From May to August, I continued to waitress, worked at my internship and applied to full time jobs. Sh*t was crazy. Oh, I also paid off a $9,000 line of credit that I accumulated during the school year. Yay.

September 2011 – December 2011

During the summer I went in for a few interviews that didn’t work out. At the 11th hour, I asked if I could stay at my current job. The answer was a yes, but only on contract through until the end of the year. It was a startup after all, so funds were scarce. At this point, I had to take what I could get and I saw it as an opportunity to keep looking for jobs while continuing to build my resume. I got new job duties so I wasn’t unhappy staying put. My stipend was also more than doubled and I continued to waitress so my overall income continued to increase and I started to tackle my student loan aggressively. I did a few interviews and by November, I finally landed a job at a company that I really wanted to work for…but it was an internship. Around the same time, I was also close to landing a permanent position with a different company. I rejected it in favour of the internship because I had already been offered the internship, plus the full time opportunity was for a job that was very similar to the job I had left to go back to school for. One step forward two steps back? I took the risk and accepted the internship with the certainty that I would be hired on full time afterwards. Most interns had been hired on so why wouldn’t I? I’m awesome, right?

January 2012 – May 2012

This place is great. I really, really love this place. I’m getting fantastic experience, it’s in a field I adore and things just couldn’t be better. I’ve arrived. Wait, if I love this place so much, they must love me back, right? Well, I think they do! They really love me! My boss trusts me with real work and I get along great with all my coworkers. I keep the lines of communication open with my boss in terms of staying. As it happened, there were no full time opportunities for me by March, the original end date of my contract. They’d love for me to stay for two more months though, and perhaps something would come up. I took them up on it but realized that I needed to seriously start thinking about alternatives. The markets weren’t doing great and there was a real possibility that I wouldn’t be able to stay on at this company that I loved. In April and May I looked and looked and went through a few interview processes, some of which I am still a part of. Last week I ended at my internship because there just wasn’t anything to keep me there even longer. On the plus side, I managed to entirely pay off my $16,000 of debt. Woot!

What now?

I don’t feel hopeless because I know the right opportunity is out there for me. I am frustrated though because I have been seeking out full time opportunities for most of the past year and instead I’ve landed on contract after contract after contract. I recently visited an astrologer (don’t laugh at me!) and he said that based on my numerology, I have to work incredibly hard to achieve the same things that come easily to other people. Of course I don’t need an astrologer to tell me that – I know it’s true. But at the same time, why complain? All I can do is keep trying and know that one day it will all pay off for me. I will be awesome and all of this will just be a funny memory.

Are you currently in the middle of  a job search? What struggles do you face? 

I got my first freelancing gig!

Yup, you read it here first. LF is a freelancer. Okay, that’s going a bit far but I am happy to say that I got my first paid writing assignment with a very popular Toronto blog. I am being paid a whopping $25 but more importantly, I’m gaining exposure and finally will have my first real writing sample. I’m hoping this will be the catalyst I need to kickstart my part time career in writing. The daunting part is the fact that I have need to do a bit lot of research. The plus side is the research involves eating! Mmm, eating.

I know that I’m going to put a lot more than $25 worth of effort into this because the quality of this piece will really make all the difference. I also need to set forward a plan for how I am going to secure more assignments after this one. In order to put in the effort level I need to make the time. In order to do that, I need to cut down waitressing hours. In order to do that, I need to secure a full time job. So much to do! I’ve been trying to network like crazy instead of solely relying on online job applications that I am fairly certain fall into a black hole of oblivion. There are a few good prospects and I have also put some pressure on my boss to give me something conclusive regarding my chance at securing a permanent position. I really love where I work and I would be pleased to stay but we’ll see!

Do you do any freelancing writing? Do you have any tips for securing assignments?

May goals

Hope everyone is having a great start to their weekend! I sure am. I just attended a fantastic Red Hot Chili Peppers concert here in Toronto. If anyone is able to see them on their tour this year, you’re in for a real treat! This concert actually got me thinking about a few things I would like to do over the next few weeks.

Rediscover the music I love

This one stems directly from the concert. As the band played songs I knew and loved, I realized just how little I actually take the time to listen to music. Even on the subway I usually opt for a book or the Economist. Growing up I loved listening to Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac and of course RHCP to name a few. Under the Bridge still moves me every time. Led Zeppelin IV is still my favourite album and it’s sadly collecting dust in my room.

Tweet more

When I say tweet more, I mean from my blog account. I’ve noticed that tweeting is a great way to engage with other bloggers/readers and it still isn’t something I’ve put into practice. With that I urge you, kind readers, to take a look at that Twitter sidebar riiight to the right of your screen and please follow me 🙂 I’m attempting to tweet more but with all of two followers (thanks Modest Money!) I’m doing the equivalent of having a conversation with myself. Please follow me before I become that crazy lady babbling to herself on the street!

Set a real budget

I have a blog-fession to make. I haven’t been following any sort of real budget this year *gasp*. It has worked out okay and I’ve (almost) reached my target debt payoff date but now that all my money will be mine again, it is more crucial than ever that I keep on track with new savings goals.

Sidenote: YAY I finally get to start saving!

Read more

Right now I’m reading the second Hunger Games book and I’m sorry Hunger Games lovers who may love all the book, but I kind of despise this one. Why has Katniss become so tortured and annoying? When did this become Twilight? I’m only about a third of the way through so I am hoping it gets better. I would like to read two more novels this month as well.

There you have it. Simple and perfectly attainable goals, no?

What are your goals for May? What are your thoughts on the second Hunger Games book? What are you doing this weekend? Share share share!