I’ll Never Need a Double Sink Ensuite

I have a massive soft spot for home-esque shows. I love DIY shows, home buying shows, renovation shows, if it involves a dwelling of any kind I’m pretty much all over it. When I watch some of these home shows though, my blood boils. They refuse to buy a beautiful and perfectly priced house because something as menial as the carpet in the guest bedroom is ugly…that’s a deal breaker?? The biggest thing I simply do not understand is people, couples mostly, who demand a double sink in their mandatory ensuite.

Maybe it was my upbringing. There were three women in the house with one bathroom. One. And we all lived to talk about it. How? It’s really quite a complicated process actually. We would all stagger our bath and shower times to accommodate the other people. My mom would often get ready at the gym after her swim every morning and my sister and I would usually spend 10 seconds (literally) every night to ask when the other had to be out of the house in the morning. Sometimes one of us would shower at night, but most of the time we’d just stagger shower times in the morning.

One bathroom with one sink. Sometimes we’d end up in the bathroom at the same time (gasp!) to brush our teeth. Insanity it was. Two people confined to the same space for two minutes. With one sink I can honestly say the three of us never once had an issue. As we got into teenage (makeup and hair-doing years) nothing changed. We’d have our showers and retreat to our rooms where we somehow managed to complete our morning getting ready tasks sans sink, sans bathroom and with a cheap $5 WalMart mirror.

This concept seems to be a totally foreign concept to most people. I was talking to a patient of mine who happens to be a real estate agent about how we will be selling in the next two to three years and she was curious to know what sort of things we would be looking for. I told her basic necessities like a proper entryway with some storage, closet space, a functioning kitchen, garage or shed storage, all in a safe neighborhood with good schools. She looked confused.

Apparently no one seeks a house without details such as two- car garage, hardwood throughout, and of course, the infamous two sink ensuite.

Don’t get me wrong, since having a kid, I can understand the appeal of having an adult bathroom space that isn’t overrun with bath toys, strawberry shampoo and Elsa bubble bath bottles, but I certainly don’t need it. Ensuite will never be on my ”must have” list. Nor will a double sink vanity (given the choice I’d rather a single, large sink and more counter space anyway). I just don’t get it. Assuming you’re a couple (why would one person need two sinks?) can’t you come together and make it work?

Mike and I leave the house at the same time everyday. I can’t think of a single situation where I wished I had two sinks instead of one. Ever. Are we totally alone on this? If you couldn’t live without your two sink ensuite, enlighten me as to why, please.

Why is Kids Dance Class as Much as College Tuition?

wpid-20150530_150552.jpgThis summer Maria partook in her first, of what will be many, extracurricular activities. We signed her up for soccer and she loved it. Mike still plays soccer as an adult and though I was never big into team sports growing up, I value their importance. Soccer was a great introduction for both us and her into extracurricular activities. She is starting to understand the commitment of attending her ”games” (though soccer at 3, according to Mike, is more like herding cats than actual games), we as parents got our first feeling of change in our schedule, and it was a fair price especially since we didn’t know how she’d take to it so young.

For $75, she played 10 weeks of soccer. The price also included a team t-shirt and goodies at the end of the season (a little medal, a bag for soccer gear, some stickers and candy treats). We were pretty impressed. With the fall and winter coming, we wanted to sign her up for something else, something we know she will love, dance class.

Maria loves to move. Her favorite thing is to get us to play YouTube videos and she dances along to them. It was a no-brainer that we’d put her in dance classes. That was until I contacted the local dance academy.

At age 3-4 they’re put into an intro to dance class which is more about listening to instructors and being immersed into the dance culture than formal dance instruction. Though this particular school is widely regarded for its competitors in many forms of dance (mostly ballet), I was more than a little shocked to hear the tuition for the year (8 total months) would cost $415 plus 15% taxes and uniform cost. Over $500 to simply introduce her to it. I was also shocked to see if they stick with it and become highly competitive (dancing 10-15 hours per week), I could expect over $1,000 for tuition each semester (3-4 per year) plus competition/recital fees, pictures, costumes, dance shoes etc.

Though I value children doing something they both love and gain physical activity from, I don’t know we’ll ever get to a point where we’re willing to pay over $5,000 a year for something. Again, I don’t know as we’re many years away from that decision but do feel like I could invest $5,000 per child in many other ways- varying extracurricular rather than one single activity, more travel, more post secondary education funding, more funds in general for their needs.

I never want to be that parent who says they can’t do something, especially if it’s a financial reason but I will need them to understand and value what they’re getting for the money spent. It’s not that we wouldn’t spend $5,000 per year on our kids, it’s just that we’d need them to understand that with that sort of cash going towards a single event, there will be concessions in other areas.

In terms of where we’re at now we won’t be enrolling her into a dance class at this school for some time, if ever. We’re looking into public classes through parks and rec as well as a few other things like swimming lessons and other winter/indoor activities. I know it’s cliché, but I do want the world for my kids. I want to be able to provide them with as many opportunities in life as I possibly can, but enrolling her into a sport that has tuition as high as a year at university will limit those abilities.

Were you into, or are your kids into, any expensive extracurricular activities? How do/did you manage?

Top Tips To Save Money On Your Car

steering-wheel-801994_1280There’s no doubt owning a car is expensive and some costs can sneak up, especially when it comes to the depreciation of a vehicle. There are ways to save on your motoring costs, but first of all you need to know what they are.

Back when you were learning to drive the costs were as clear as day: the costs of the lessons, the fees for the driving and theory tests – now reduced thanks to free online resources – and maybe a bit of petrol money here and there.

Now you’re running your car, you can look forward to various different costs, known and unknown, so it’s important to save cash where you can.

The costs can be divided into ‘standing’ charges and ‘running’ costs:

  • Standing charges – costs you incur even if you don’t turn a wheel
  • Running costs – costs incurred by physically using the car

Standing Charges

Finance (where applicable) – if you’re thinking of financing your car purchase through some form of loan, then make sure you shop around for the best deal.

The APR (annual percentage rate) is the rate to compare, but it’s better by far to find out what the TOTAL cost will be over the term including interest payments. This makes it easier to compare what you’d actually pay with different providers.

Insurance – a significant cost, especially if you’re a young driver with little no claims record. The key is to shop around: use comparison sites like this one to conveniently get quotes.

Don’t forget to check prices at renewal time. Insurance companies are notorious for charging more at renewal than they might for new business.

Depreciation – the largest overall expense mainly for newer cars. You’re too late if you already own a car of course, but bear it in mind if purchasing.

Breakdown cover – a worthwhile investment to prevent being stranded, but don’t just rely on household names like the AA and RAC. There are others – and some pay and reclaim outfits are worth considering as you’ll save money compared to the ‘big two’. See here for further details.

Running Costs

Fuel – likely to prove the largest running cost so keep your eye on local full prices. Supermarket fuel is considered to be of decent quality, so if it’s the lowest priced, fill up with it. An advantage with supermarkets is the promotions they sometimes run for fuel in conjunction with their loyalty schemes.

When travelling longer distances, try and avoid motorway services as fuel is more expensive than elsewhere.

Servicing and repairs – check out reputable local garages and pricing. If your car is under warranty, you don’t necessarily have to use the franchised dealership so long as your independent garage can provide work and parts to the manufacturer’s standards.

Shop around for MOT tests – although there is an ‘official’ MOT fee, many centers provide their own prices below it. The trick is to find a garage you can trust and stick with it. Word of mouth recommendations can be crucial for this.

Tires and exhausts – shop around. Some local tire and exhaust centers, including franchised dealers, may be prepared to price match even on Internet quotes. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Taking the Time

Of course, shopping around and conducting ad hoc research to save money takes time, but it’s worth in the long run. Even small savings on your car running costs can soon mount up over a year or so.

How do you save on car costs?

What I’d Rather Have in Place of a Traditional Anniversary Gift

weddingWe live in a society that tell us tangible gifts equals love. Hallmark makes millions every year printing words on paper for us to buy. I rarely buy a card because I want to (though some are too perfect to pass up), most of the time I buy them because I feel my gift is incomplete in some way, which is just wrong. Every year on our anniversary, friends and family call to wish us well and most will ask what we got each other. This year I don’t want anything.

I’ve never been one who likes stuff, so unnecessary gifts just seem silly to me. I get that some people love them and that is fine, it’s just not for me. I’d rather do something with my husband than spend money on gifts. I feel like we’re the minority though. Everyone I know buys gifts for their spouse when their anniversary rolls around and though we have as well in the past, this year we’re not.

Even when we have exchanged gifts in the past they’ve been practical. For our ”cotton” anniversary I received new (and needed) sheets. This week marks our sixth wedding anniversary and according to at least one website, the sixth wedding anniversary is represented by wood. Their suggestion for a gift is gourmet chocolates in wooden boxes with personalized engraved messages. I can think of about 2579214202 other things I’d rather than gourmet chocolates in a wooden box #wasteofmoney

Instead of buying each other gifts, something we’ve opted not to do in the past as well, we’re going to spend time together. Sounds simple but with three busy and intertwined lives, it’s difficult to spend quality time with each other.

When we sat down to chat about how we’d like to spend our quality time together, we joked that in this (extreme) heat, a hotel room with AC and a kid-free trip to Costco was just want we needed. We set aside a little money in our budget for our anniversary but I didn’t really want to blow it all on a hotel room. We both agreed some of our favorite times together are when we go on road trips. I love the conversations we have in the car and always look forward to them. So we’ve decided to use the AC in our car instead of a hotel and go on a day trip somewhere while kiddo enjoys some fun Auntie time.

A day trip saves on lodging and we get to spend time in the car, something I enjoy doing from time-to-time. We’re also planning to go for dinner somewhere but we haven’t nailed that down yet. As much of a planner than I am, I like the idea of not planning every detail and seeing where the roads take us. As long as we’re back for bedtime because the reality is, as we celebrate our sixth year of marriage, we have a three year old who needs bedtime stories and that’s fine with us :)

How do you celebrate anniversaries?

Psssst….Make sure you check me out over at Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses Podcast today!

Social Media Has Changed How I Manage My Money

Social media is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful things in the world. Watching it work in real time continues to amaze me. Just this past weekend we decided we would need to get something out for dinner since we had quite a few errands to run after work on Friday. We didn’t really want to eat in the mall food court but also weren’t feeling fast food or a sit-down joint. We  were stumped. As we were chatting and throwing possibilities out, Mike was playing on Twitter and sees a hashtag for a local food truck rally in the area we would be. Done. It took no more convincing for me. #foodtruckrally was all I needed to see. It was that simple.

A few hours later we were enjoying our delicious meals and talking about how amazing Twitter was for rescuing our ”what’s for dinner” dilemma.

Social media has changed every aspect of my life. It’s changed everything from how I decide where to eat, where I shop, who my Doctor is, my parenting, and how I spend and manage my money.

Can I get it for free?

The first way social media had changed how I manage my money, is in trying to figure out if I can get something for free. Though I wasn’t involved in the transaction, we knew we wanted to get Maria a bike this summer. I simply mention it to my sister and within a week she has a new-to-us toddler bike in her apartment. She simple put something on Facebook and a former coworker replied and said she had a small kids bike she was looking to get rid of before they moved, Total cost- $0.00, she just wanted the bike out of her life. The bike was used by one kid for two summers. Do you think Maria noticed, or cared, that it was used? Nope.

Is it worth my money?

We work hard for our money and value how we spend it. When we’re looking to spend it, on anything from a dinner out to paying for a hotel room on vacation, the first thing we do is check out social media. We read reviews and decide if it’s worth it. Social media presence is so important to us that if you don’t have one we will avoid you like the plague. Though Twitter is my favorite platform, Facebook is more ”user friendly” for a larger audience so I expect an up-to-date Facebook page at the very least.

Will you help me?

Companies who use social media regularly are fully aware of how important it is. When I have a problem the first thing I do is reach out on social media. It was no secret that I was disappointed in some of our kitchen renos five years ago. Some things were left untidy and drove me crazy (missing trim for example). I was working material costs in our budget last year so we could take care of them ourselves. I was annoyed one day looking at it, took a picture, tagged the company in a tweet and was contacted by the company within two hours. Within two weeks of that initial tweet the head contractor was in my kitchen fixing everything that I pointed out. It saved me money in materials and more importantly, my time, all because I reached out to them via Twitter.

Social media makes me trust a company more. Companies appears to be more transparent and honest when they’re willing to spend time engaging with their audience. I think it has something to do with the effort they put into their presence online. Any company that spends that much time wouldn’t want it tarnished publicly, so I, as a consumer, would be more willing to work with them, knowing if it didn’t work out I could, and would, voice my option publicly.

I enjoy that on a personal level platforms like Facebook and Twitter are easy and convenient ways to share good deals, new restaurant reviews and free stuff. If I have a question about a product I will first review it, then do a personal inquiry on social media to deepen my search and decision making. Social media really has changed how I mange every aspect of my money.

How has social media changed your spending habits?