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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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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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.

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