Curb Watching and Ways to Get Free Stuff

This is a guest post from the infamous (and very mysterious) Mr. CBB. He is one of the nicest and most helpful bloggers out there. I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me and this little ‘ol blog of mine. 

One way to get free stuff is what I like to call “curb watching” and I’ve scored some great items that have saved us money in our budget. Have you ever been in your car driving and randomly see items placed at the edge of the road with a “Free” sign? Well, homeowners are telling you it’s ok to take this item home if you want it.  Some Canadian cities may have a by-law so you should always proceed with caution if it doesn’t say free. When you do see the lucky words “free” and you need it, get it while you can, free is free and these items can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. They don’t normally last long as people snatch up these items in an instant. I don’t go out looking in my vehicle as that would be wasting gas to me although there is a bloke who travels our area in his truck once a week to gather what he can. I suppose if you are picking up electronics and antiques or items you can potentially sell it’s a big business and worth the time and gas money for some. It’s no different than storage wars it’s just you don’t have to pay for it. This is also a great way to save items from going to the dump whilst helping the environment.

You may also find after a homeowner has a garage sale that they may put what doesn’t sell “free” on the curb or on recycle day is another great time. Some home designers or even home stagers find free or cheap furniture at vintage shops, reuse/recycle shops and you guessed free online or the curbside. They may use what they can find to repurpose for a design project they are working on. What better way can you think of especially if they can get it for nothing out of pocket. We also tend to see computer monitors, base machines (computers), printers etc on the side of the road. Sometimes refurbishing items like computers if you are tech savvy and donating them to people in need for education purposes will help them in many ways they would have never dreamed possible. Books, clothes, paper, pencils, pens etc can be donated to churches, family groups, overseas, babysitting clubs etc rather than tossed in the garbage.

We also have friends who participate in their city-wide household recycle day program. We like to get rid of items we no longer use or haven’t used over the course of 6 months to a year. De-cluttering is not a bad idea especially if it is crowding your space. Sometimes less is more and less to clean up and keep organized. The program will give you specific times to put it on the curb with a free sign and then you sit back, relax and someone who fancies your stuff will pick it up at no cost to them or you. If you are in the mood to score some great “new to me” type deals head out to see what you can score for free.

Tips for Scoring “Free Stuff”

  1. Always keep your eyes open when you are driving, be aware of your surroundings looking for free signs.
  2. Go for walks on recycle day in your neighborhood or after Garage Sales.
  3. Check online Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook or Freecycle for free stuff.
  4. After someone moves house they may put lots for free on the curb so watch who’s moving in and out of your area.
  5. Don’t be shy to poke your head in a garbage bin in the park, camp ground, beach or scour the ground, ditches or recycle bins for beer cans or bottles all worth $$$$ If you live in a Student City watch when the students move in and out as they normally don’t like to take what they brought home or buy while in school.
  6. Your friends and family might have something they no longer need and want to donate it or get rid of it. Don’t be shy to ask or say that you might be interested in it.

What have we found? This is only a few of the items….

    • Sears Craftsman Lawnmower that ranges in cost around $350 and all it needed was a cleaning and a new filter under $10 (waving to neighbor as I mow the lawn now with his supposed “junk mower” chuckling… ha!
    • Lawn Roller which would have run me around $100 to buy in perfect condition
    • Patio Stones to hold our rain barrel in the back yard
    • $16 @ Ikea  outside Garbage Can for Dog Poop in perfect condition
    • Lots of clothes on freecycle that I can use to get dirty in (get your minds out of the gutter, I meant gardening and working around the house)
    • Free Vacuum on Freecycle all it needed was a $12 filter works perfect
    • Canarm Fan remote and controller $35.99 @ Costco

If you see something on the curb and you are in doubt don’t be afraid to get out and ask the homeowner. Most likely if it is on the curb than it is for free but just to be safe if there is no sign, I’d ask. The last thing you need is Aunt Thelma running out the house with her broom stick chasing you down the street for trying to make off with her weed eater.

What have you gotten free from the curbside, online or from friends or family?

Note from Catherine: Here in HRM (the municipality I live in), twice a year on non-garbage collecting days, we have a ‘Curbside Giveaway’ where residents put stuff at their curbside and people drive around picking up what they want! My sister-in-laws best friend furnished her entire first apartment this way! We also have a few regulars who drive around the neighborhood looking for people throwing out any metal containing items to recycle as scrap metal. It’s a lot of work for little return but kudos to them! Thanks again Mr.CBB for being my very first guest post, it was a great one!

Author BioCanadian Budget Binder is a blog about a Young Canadian Couple’s Journey to Debt Freedom written by Mr.CBB who moved to Canada from the UK. You can Follow Mr.CBB on Twitter and Facebook.

Do You Really Need Dental Insurance?

 

As a dental hygienist I have quite a good understanding of dental insurance, based on the dental fees and codes I use every day at work. Now I realize I’m in Canada and insurance in Canada vs. the US is different (medical anyway) but my main point can probably be generalized no matter where you live. If you’ve ever looked at the breakdown of your healthcare insurance premiums, the dental insurance portion is usually substantially more than your medical portion (again, in Canada). I know for instance my sister-in-law has the option of paying something menial like $30.00 bi-weekly for medical, only or $100.00 bi-weekly for medical+dental. This is a pretty huge difference. I realize all plans are different but in general, dental is more than medical, maybe not by this much but by some percentage.

Having insurance is a very comforting thing for people. Dental insurance in particular because there is a notion that dentistry is outrageously expensive. Why I won’t argue it is expensive, for some people, they end paying more for insurance than they will EVER use in a lifetime of dentistry.

Who Needs Dental Insurance?

Before explaining why one may not need dental insurance, I will explain who probably will need it. Dentistry has changed substantially over the last 40-50 years. The focus has shifted 180 from restorative to preventative. It use to be that you only went to the dentist if you had a problem, they dealt with that one problem and you were on your merry way. This is still the way for a major portion of the world, but in North America, most of Europe and parts of Middle East, the focus is on prevention, especially starting at an early age. With all this in mind, if you’re over the age of 40 or so, it stands to reason that you grew up in the ‘older model’ of dentistry regardless of where in the world you are from.

From this I will make some assumptions. You probably:

  1. Don’t have the best memories of childhood dentistry
  2. Have some form of restorative work done in your mouth (fillings/crowns/root canals)
  3. Have, over the past 40 years had to maintain your restorative work (repairing fillings, fixed broken or cracked teeth/fillings, replaced bridges/crowns etc).

If this is the case, you should probably keep your insurance. If this is not the case, you’re a minority.

Source: Turner Pediatric Dentistry

Who Doesn’t Need Dental Insurance?

I’m happy to say I am 100% dental-restoration free. I have no fillings of any sort. Luck?, No. The fact is, is that I grew up in a city with a fluoridated water supply, started seeing the hygienist for bi-annual cleanings at a very young age, brush and floss regularly and had dental sealants applied when I was a child. I am thankful to say this is a more common trend among children these days. Not that early childhood caries (baby bottle decay) isn’t still a rampant global problem (dental caries is the number one bacterial infection in the world) but there are more cavity-free children and adults in the world because of advances in dentistry, regular fluoride usage, overall knowledge and prevention.

If you are like many people I see every day in my chair, you come to the dentist every 6 months for a ‘cleaning’ and may need the odd restoration done (small cavity), but in general, the need for major restorative work in younger populations is decreasing. Based on general dental fees in Canada let’s look at what you’re paying for (all very approximate prices):

Bi-Annual Cleaning:

  • Scaling (the ‘scrapping’): $70.00-$120.00 depending on time/amount of deposit present.
  • Polishing: $20.00
  • X-rays once/year: $15.00-$30.00
  • Fluoride Treatment: $12.00
  • Check-up with dentist: $50.00

Total: $217 (based on $120 for scaling) and since usually you only ‘need’ a check-up, assuming everything is fine, every 12 months, as well as x-rays, your second bi-annual appointment will only cost $152.00. An annual total of $369.00. That’s less than $31.00/month. I can’t say I know anyone who pays less than $31.00/month in dental insurance premiums. Even if you break a tooth and need a filling every 5 years of $250.00 (healthy cost assumption) or God forbid, a Crown once in your lifetime of $1,000…still much less than most dental insurance premiums.

Setting aside $50.00 a month in your budget to pay for dentistry in CASH is probably cheaper than paying for your dental insurance portions.

My job as a hygienist is to do my damnedest to prevent you from ever seeing the dentist outside of regular check-ups. If I do my job, and you work with me by keeping up with your home care, following my instructions, you shouldn’t need to see a dentist unless an emergency happens. I realize every case/patient/mouth is different but I wanted to give everyone something to mull over and offer insight that may not have been thought of before.

Did you know, in Canada you can claim dental fees paid as an income tax deduction?

We’re Switching To Cash! (Our ‘A-Ha’ Moment Weekend)

This weekend hubby and I decided, together, that we’re switching to a cash budget.

I’ve always taken care of our family’s finances. Not that hubby didn’t know what was going on, but he didn’t really know. For example, he knew we paid the mortgage sometime around the end of the month and knew the amount, but because he’s never really sat down with me all looked at the nitty-gritty of our budget, he couldn’t really appreciate the frustrations I was having with balancing the budget. We have more than enough money coming in every four weeks but I was struggling, mostly due to the fact that like 75% of our bills are due within 10 days of each other. I needed his insight to help me figure some of this stuff out.Two heads are always better than one.

He trusted me to manage the money and quite frankly, he didn’t have any desire to manage our budget. He works as a project manager by day, managing million dollar projects for a living, he didn’t want to have to come home and then deal with more budgeting. At first I didn’t mind but as things got tighter (me being on mat leave) I started struggling.

We previously had it set up separating all bills from variable living expenses (food, gas, our cat, entertainment, prescriptions etc) so basically if there was money in the chequing account we could spend it. He’d see the amount and know that’s what we had for the week (gas, groceries, cat all included). This only works so well.

If one party in a relationship doesn’t understand why we only have ‘x’ dollars this week because of ‘x’bills being due, it’s easy for frustration and resentment to start.

Questions start, even if done in a loving way; What did I do to only leave us with this amount of money? Why does it seem like I’m nickle-and-dimeing every purchase?

Because both parties weren’t 100% on the same page, it was difficult to make things work. I was feeling guilty about managing money a certain way, especially when I had to constantly say ‘no’ at a purchase.  I found it easier to say ‘yes’ and scramble to make the money up at the end of the month some magical way. This only works for so long.

When I realized permanently changing our mortgage billing date by a few days would help in the way that our paycheques fall, I called and changed it, even though we had to pay the adjusted interest amount to account for those days. When I tried to explain to hubby why I had to make the change he wasn’t understanding at first, all he knew was that we had enough money coming in every month and didn’t think there should be any issue. It was in this discussion that my hubby finally realized I may be in over my head managing it alone.

Yes I may be university educated 2x over; Yes I write a PF blog and read everything to do with money all.the.time; Yes I stay home on my birthday to watch a DVR full of ‘Till Debt Do Us Part’ but No, I couldn’t make our budget work the way I knew it could work…alone.

He sat down with me on Friday night after a monster work week and together, for 4 hours, we managed our budget, week-by-week for the next 3 months. I haven’t felt this relaxed about money in a LONG time.

I don’t think money is evil. I think ignorance around monetary issues and not addressing them can cause people to be evil though. I’m so glad I don’t have to think about money for the next while and when I do I know hubby will be there with me to fix any bumps in the road.

After we got the budget worked out and balanced, he made a to-do list, included on it was for me to buy/make/whatever a money envelope/jar because according to him, we were now on a strict cash budget (music to my ears)! Did I mention we also figured out and budgeted for a pretty kick-ass CASH CHRISTMAS?! I have so much relief knowing where the money is coming from and how we’re paying for stuff and when.

2012 isn’t over yet but has been a monumental year for hubby and I in terms of growth as a couple.  We’ve been together since high school, spending our lives growing up together. I’m so proud the we’re able to acknowledge that we’re not perfect and address areas we know need help. Reminds me how much I love him.

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photo source

Photo Source

My ‘Big Cook’ Weekend

This past weekend my sister-in-law and I went to her aunt’s house for our first Big Cook. If you’re not familiar, Big Cooking is preparing multiple meals at once for your freezer so you just have to throw it in the oven or slow cooker and supper is done! Sounds pretty awesome to this momma who is always looking to invent a few hours every day!

Given that this was our first time doing a Big Cook, we decided on 10 recipes to try; preparing two meals of each recipe, giving each of us 20 total meals. Since both my sister-in-law and I have households of two adults and each recipe recommends a serving of 4-6 adults, we further reduced each meal (except one casserole) by two, giving us a meal total of 38 each, plus her aunt’s 20 meaning we prepped 96 meals in one day! Pretty awesome right?

We made:

  • Sweet and Sour Meatballs
  • Tatertot Casserole
  • Chicken Cacciatore
  • Amazing Chicken
  • Cranberry Chicken
  • Honey Sesame Tenderloin
  • BBQ Pork
  • Friendship Soup
  • Bruschetta Chicken
  • California Chicken

All this required a multitude of ingredients including:

  • 60lbs of boneless/skinless chicken
  • 20lbs of lean ground beef
  • 24lbs of pork (tenderloin/roast)
  • 24 cups of cheese
  • 24 cloves of garlic (minimum, because we all love a little extra garlic!)

When we started adding up everything we needed I began panicking at what we were going to have to spend, 60lbs of chicken?! It ended up working out pretty amazing though.

For all the ingredients needed, everything listed, plus probably close to 100 other items from soup stock to canned tomatoes to green peppers, we spent a grand total of $461.09

$461.09 total=

  • $153.70/per person or…
  • $15.37/ recipe or…
  • $7.68/meal (4-6ppl) or…
  • $1.53/serving (5 person average)

$1.53/serving for fresh veggies, lean meat and no ”cooking”!

Planning was key in saving money.

We planned for about a month. Decided on the recipes and shopped the sales for the 3-4 weeks leading up to it. Just as I would for any normal meal plan. Costco came though for items we needed a lot of (tomato paste, chicken broth for example) but wasn’t great for meat prices per kg price. We ended up buying the chicken and beef from a local butcher and it was a beautiful product. He sold it to us for his sale price given the volume of the order. We got the chicken for $3.77/lb and lean ground beef for $2.49/lb. Bulk Barn was also a huge resource for all spices/herbs/powdered stocks.

It was a LONG day (8hrs of prepping the meals) but so worth it. I have 38 yummy, healthy meals in my freezer that I can throw in either my crock-pot for 6-8hrs on low or cook in my oven for 1-2 hours if I’m home.

Tuesday being my birthday, I certainly wasn’t cooking, so took the opportunity to try one of the recipes. We ate the sweet and sour meatballs and they were delicious! Even with me halving the recipe, my sister, husband and I ate and were stuffed! This full recipe could easily serve 6-8 average adults (they were healthy sized portions).

It was a great experience and we’re already planning our next one for the new year!

Have you ever done a Big Cook? Will you try now that I’ve incited you with no ”cooking” and budget friendliness?

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Photo Source

 

 

Teaching ”Honey Boo Boo” Some Budgeting Skills

The very fact that a show like this exists on TV kills my soul. Are we a society so insecure about ourselves we need to watch crap like this to make our lives feel more nourished? Anyway, what’s got me all hot and bothered is that apparently Ms Rosie O’Donnell wants to buy poor Honey Boo Boo a house.

If you’ve never seen this show, do your brain cells a favor and don’t bother. All you need to know is that it’s aired on TLC via a spin-off another winning show called ”Toddlers and Tiaras”. Millions of people are watching this show every week and apparently the main 7 year old star is making $2,000-4,000/episode for 10 episodes (to start).

She’s getting $40,000 to basically do nothing but have cameras follow her family’s insanity for a few weeks and Rosie O’Donnell thinks her money is best invested in a house for them? I’m fairly confident that with millions of people continuing to watch every week (shudder), this kid will be just fine without your charity. But if you’re just handing out cash, HELLO ROSIE I NEED MONEY TOO!!

With some proper budgeting skills, Honey Boo Boo should be able to afford her own house just fine. Not the kind TV watchers want to see (a million dollar mansion) but a modest home for her family (extra finger space and all). Is it really fair that a family in financial troubles is handed buck loads of money with no skills to properly manage it? Let them spend it frivolously and hand them everything they need for ‘free’ (ie house). When the TLC money stops pouring in what are they to do, maintain the lifestyle Ms O’Donnell set up for them? Good luck.

I admit to being totally ignorant in this post, I obviously have no idea how the family spends their money or if they really are in any trouble financially (because let’s be honest, normal people without issues don’t make great TV do they?). Maybe it’s all part of the act and the family really does have their crap together. I hope they do, I hope they have funds built up for proper food so they don’t have to eat ketchup and spaghetti noodles for supper, so they can fix their teeth and enough money set aside to buy a house without a train track running through the property. If they don’t, maybe TLC can reach out to someone to teach Honey Boo Boo some money skills to go along with all the fancy beauty pageant crap she’s being fed. I’m willing to do it for cheap if they’re looking to hire.

{FYI: Yes, I have watched the show. It’s like a train wreck you can’t look away from. I only did it once and I vow to never do it again. This is a public apology to my brain and all forms of books and academia I may have pushed out of my brain or un-learned because of said action.}

PS, does anyone remember when TLC (THE LEARNING CHANNEL) use to air quality TV? Yeah, me neither.

{Photo Source}

Taking Over Someone Else’s Finances?

My sister sucks at money management.  Like really terrible.

I don’t understand how one girl can spend $600 at a grocery store in one month, justify having $300 set aside for a CAMPING trip with friends (who needs $300 to camp?!), literally buy a new purse at least once a month (justify this because she ”only spends $50  a month on clothes at a local thrift store”). ALL while being $1000 in overdraft, a maxed out credit card, line of credit and student lines of credit to pay for. Oh, and while she loves her career she doesn’t make a whole lot of money. This is a situation where her career makes her truly happy, shes amazing at it and it’s rewarding so lack of money is worth it, if she can manage.

We all have our money issues and reasons why we ended up in the financial situations we have, I’m no saint. I try to explain to her that she won’t need $300 to go camping for two nights and suggest she, throw $200 on debt but no, she might need that money for camping??? She had enough smarts to take my advice a few years ago and suggest, when she got a raise, to increase her provincial loan payment and pay it off in two years; yet while in a time of financial hardship during a relationship fallout, instead of calling to temporarily lower her loan payments down to the minimum (a $100/month difference), she lived off credit to make up for temporary lost income…this made sense to her.

She does not understand that paying off a credit card with a line of credit isn’t actually paying anything off. She’s an educated person but continues to money, she justifies the weirdest things. I also encouraged her to pay closer attention to her credit score but she couldn’t be bothered.

I have budgeted her many times and she’s not upheld it. She’s at the point now of needing serious hand-slapping-help before she really ends up over her head, she’s very close. I love my sister and don’t want to see her suffer financially. She has proven to me that she has no financial maturity and I feel like, as the big sister, I need to step in and take over her finances for a while to get her back on track.

I’m going to talk to her this next week, but I’m thinking about taking control and putting her on a cash budget. I’m going to play a Gail Vaz-Oxlade role and take away all her debt and credit cards (and maybe even cure them in a jelly mold). We live close enough that, God forbid, there was an emergency and she needed to get to a bank, I could give them back (with discretion, of course).

I think once she learns that she can live on cash without dying from starvation she’ll be able to takeover her finances again but for the in-term she needs a good sisterly kick in the ass.

Has anyone ever done anything like this for friends/family? What was the outcome? Any advice?

Charging Your Kids Rent?

Source: http://mamikikeyu.wordpress.com/

Source: http://mamikikeyu.wordpress.com/

A high school friend of mine still lives at home, she’s 28 years old. She works full-time, has a car and only had a small amount of debt from one year of college which she paid off in a few months.

It was no secret that when we graduated high school, if she, same with her brothers, chose not to pursue post secondary education they would have 6 months before they had to start paying rent to live at home.They were expected to work full-time and couldn’t just sit on the butts at home.  I don’t think this is a totally unrealistic request of parents.

Forcing your child to start contributing to the family’s finances is a smart way to teach great money management skills while in the safety of the family home and much less risk than being on their own. Since she started paying rent she was now allowed to have a say in the running of the house. She wanted her own land line in the house (she didn’t have a cell phone at the time) so she sat down with her mom and went over the family budget with her new rent contribution and budgeted in adding a second line to the phone budget. Her mom was a sweet, organized lady who taught her daughter a lot about ‘life skills’ so why is her 28-year-old daughter still at home then?

Never increasing the menial rent and allowing her daughter to stay too close to the security of home has allowed my friend to get much too comfortable.  In her moms eyes, as long as she was paying rent, what my friend did with her money was ‘up to her’ as she had already taught her the skills, it wasn’t moms responsibility to implement them. The end result is my friend being 28 and still living at home. She blows through her money on food, clothes and crap for her ‘bedroom’ that she doesn’t need. I can only imagine what I could accomplish if I lived at home for 10 years after high school only paying $150.00/month.

I have no problem, and actually think it could be a smart move to charge kids rent who are not in post secondary and live at home after high school. Never charging any amount that could interfere with potential goals (if they’re taking time off school to save for travel or save for education etc) but I think by charging rent it teaches responsibility as an adult. Having said this there has to be some guidelines. My friend is still at home because she still pays the same $150.00/month in rent that she did when she was 18.

I understand that mom is now compliant with their living situation but at what point do you force her to gain a life of her own? Something I would have done a long time ago. Mom needs to jack the rent up to a more respectable amount if she’s going to continue to allow her to live there, then maybe my friend will realize she could have a place of her own where she can start a life (of her own!) for the same amount of money. Once she gets this realization in her head, maybe, just maybe, she will start saving for said abode. Who knows? All I know is that I may have a crap load of debt but I wouldn’t trade my life, home, family and independence for anything, especially living with my mom at 28 years old.

Who has, or plans to potentially, charge their children rent after high school? OR Who has paid their parents rent? Opinions please!

{Note: I am not saying all situations are the same. I realize some people stay home for many different reasons, I know people in these sorts of situations. There is no ‘situation’ around said story, my friend is just a financial lazy ass with Momma encouraging it}

Children and Post Secondary: Why We Might Not Pay For All Of It

Knowing the financial mess one can end up in from not having a savings plan for post secondary education first hand, hubby and I opened a RESP for our daughter when she was 5 weeks old. I remember the representative going through the projected education costs for when she’s ready to graduate and was blown away. How can universities justify such an insane inflation?

This week a local news story came out about the rising costs of tuition in Canada. Tuition has increased 5% this year alone. Holy Cow.

At this rate, when baby girl is ready for post secondary, in 18 or so years (should she chose university/undergraduate degree), we’re looking at over $12,000/year. That’s assuming she lives at home and hasn’t factored in books or any other added expenses.

Hubby and I have every intention of continuing regular monthly contributions, plus additional savings when she receives money as gifts and such, but we have no intention of stretching ourselves thin financially for her educational savings. When the time comes and have have more money for saving (vs debt payoff) investing as much money as possible into our own retirement savings is more important than throwing additional money into her RESP.

In a perfect world she gets a part time job when she turns 16 and learns the importance of saving for things that she wants, education included, but despite the finical mess I’m in, I have no problems with student loans and (student) lines of credit. Very rarely in life does the opportunity to borrow at such low interest rates come up, and with proper money management and budgeting skills could be a smart move. I truly believe that if there is some financial responsibility in your education it encourages you to work harder. For this reason if our savings isn’t enough to cover her I’m not going to worry about it. By the time she goes off for school she’s guaranteed to have learned good money management skills-a promise I make for her-and can properly manage a little credit in her name.

I have friends who insist on having enough savings for any and all education their child may pursue, even if they chose something like medicine or dentistry.

Just an FYI this year’s tuition costs for these programs:

Dentistry students paid the highest average undergraduate fees at $16,910. Medical students paid an average of $11,891 and pharmacy students paid $10,297.

Read it on Global News: Global Maritimes | Undergrad tuition up five per cent this year, more than triple inflation

At the 5% inflation we’re looking at almost $41,000/year for dentistry in 18 years…Just sayin’.

Maybe I’m a mean mom, or totally alone on this, but if we’re fortunate enough that our child can get through Medical or Dental school, I’m pretty sure they won’t have much problem paying off the degree, that’s for sure.

For those with children, who are saving for their post secondary education? Who is prepared to pay for 100% of it, regardless of academic pursuits?

 

Budgeting In Items For Work Usage

Hubby’s cell phone bill is an average of $115.00/month that we have to pay. Insane right? If we didn’t pay for the minutes that we do, the bill will get to well over $200.00 (and has many times). Hubby’s phone starts  ringing and beeping like crazy from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed at night because of his job. He talks to many people all day in different locations around the province for varying companies. Given that his phone is a necessity for his job, don’t ya think he should be comped for it? 

If he didn’t have the phone/email requirements that he does, his phone bill would be a much more respectable amount (under $50.00/month). This sort  of makes me crazy. There has been ‘talk’ in the past about him getting some compensation for work usage (90% of his cell phone time) but it never comes to fruition. Friends of ours, who are on their phones a whole lot less than hubby is, are comped which adds to my frustrations.

He does gain gas mileage for work out of city which ends up working out to more than we pay for gas (we make money when he goes away from mileage vs reimbursement for gas dollars spent).

For me to work, I (legally) have to pay an annual licensing fee to maintain registration with my provincial regulating body (which gives me my malpractice insurance and registration with the national regulating body). This sets me back $625.00/year. Although it’s income tax deductible I still hate that I have to pay it, in my mind, it should be an expense my employer pays on my behalf, I’m sure he probably benefits from the tax break more than I but it’s not something he does, this goes for most of my classmates too.

Who has their job compensate part(s) of their monthly budget items? Am I alone in thinking we shouldn’t be paying for these things?

How We Eat On $300.00 a Month: My Meal Planning Guide

I’m surprised by how many comments and e-mails I’ve received about how, and what, I eat for $300.00 a month. I’ve always loved cooking and finding recipes that can make inexpensive foods taste great so I will start posting some budget friendly recipes for anyone who is interested.  For now I will give an example of our meal plan/grocery trip.

I don’t worry about breakfast or lunch too much. We eat basic cereal or toast/bacon for breakfast and usually a sandwich/yogurt/fruit for lunch, I only worry about dinners.

Organization

I use a list very similar to this meal planner made by Life in Yellow (which you can download for free! so head on over to her site!)

I make my plans up on Sunday and shop Tuesday bringing my trusty planner along with me.

If I have meat in the freezer I will usually try and cook around that first. I had some pork loin chops left this week so one meal will include pork. Once I look through the freezer, I go to the weekly sales and see what meat is on sale. This week boneless/skinless chicken was on sale, as was oven roast so this will act as our starting point for meals. I always have ‘side staples’ on hand and buy as we run out  (long grain rice, potatoes, salad ingredients and frozen corn or broccoli). I only buy what I need for the week so if I’m out of rice but don’t include rice as a side for any of my dinners I won’t waste the $4.00 buying it this week if I’m not eating it until next. I don’t like to have money tied up in food.

In terms of chicken specifically, hubby and I share a chicken breast when cooking. I don’t know about where you live, but the size of the chicken breasts(and almost all meat for that matter) at our grocer are more than twice the recommended portion size for meat so 90% of the time I cut it it half. The exception being if we BBQ the breast then we tend to have our ‘own’ although we never finish them and the meat usually ends up in a salad for a lunch next day.

I plan meals and after looking through the cupboards and my recipe book, I only write down what we need (down to every tiny spice), if it’s not on my list I have it at home.

Meal 1: Sweet and Sour Pork Chops (with rice)

Need: 1 can of pineapple tidbits, cornstarch, 1 can of chicken stock 

Meal 2: Spicy Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (with fries)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, 2 buns, fries 

Meal 3: Grilled chicken salad (with garlic bread)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, salad kit, loaf of french bread

Meal 4: Dinner out with family-separate budget from grocery funds.

Meal 5: Greek Chicken Wraps (with my roasted potato)

Need: 1 Chicken breast, tortilla wraps, garlic/sea salt spice grinder

Meal 6: Chicken Divan (with rice)

Need: 2 Chicken breasts, broccoli 

Meal 7: Slow Cooker Roast  (with corn and mashed potato)

Need: Roast, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, bag of frozen corn.

Next I make my list adding the other necessities I need like milk. I also try and estimate the prices so I have a general idea before I go what I expect to spend at each store (I shop multiple stores chasing sales), so my grocery list will look like this:

Store #1:

-1 package B/S chicken (~$10.00)

-Milk ($3.50)

-Cereal ($2.50)

-Bread ($2.50)

-Salad Kit ($2.00)

-Tortilla Wraps ($2.00)

-Buns ($2.00)

-1 box of Kraft Dinner (Canadian staple, I love it!) (.65)

Total: appox $23.00

Store #2:

-3lb Oven Roast ($6.00)

-2 cans of soup ($2.50)

-pineapple ($1.50)

-Box of cornstarch ($3.00)

-French Bread ($1.50)

- Bag of frozen broccoli and corn ($2.00/each)

-Spice grinder($4.00)

-Fries ($3.00)

-Nutella (my weakness so only buy on sale) ($3.00)

-Chips ($2.50)

Total: approx $31.00

Store #3:

-Diet pop ($5.00+bottle depo $1.20)

-5lb bag of apple ($4.00)

-Bananas ($2.00)

-2x Granola bars ($2.00/box)

-Yogurt {This week a local grocer had a huge overstock of yogurt and was selling it for 0.25cents/4pack, Score!}

-Eggos ($2.00)

-Eggs ($2.00)

-Bacon ($4.00)

-Ketchup ($3.00)

Total: approx $22.00

Weekly Total: $83.00

Not included in my grocery money is cat food and cleaning supplies/toilet paper. We budget for the cat food separately and I started setting aside a few dollars each week for toilet paper and cleaning supplies since they’re so sporadic.

So there ya have it, an example of my weekly spending on food. Some weeks are more expensive when I run out of all ”basic” cooking stuff (always at the same time) but that’s usually only once every few weeks for stock ups. I try and keep my weekly spending between $65.00-$85.00.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Canadian Budget Binder but if you’re not, check out his weekly grocery store challenge to see how other bloggers stick to their budgets!