Money & Happiness

Most of my previous posts have focused on money and how to budget it properly so that I’m able to spend on things that I want. I spend a lot of time looking at my bank records and figuring out what I can afford. Many times when I think about it too much I feel stressed. I think this is a feeling that a lot of us experience. I recently watched this TED Talk by Michael Norton called, “How to buy happiness.” Norton talks about a study that he and his team did on spending. He opens his speech with this note:

 If you think money can’t buy you happiness you’re just not spending it right

In this study Norton and his team give envelopes out to people in different places of the world with either a $5 bill or a $20 dollar bill. Some people are asked to spend the money on other people by the end of the day. The others are asked to spend the money on themselves. Once the day is done Norton asks them questions about how they feel and the results are pretty interesting.

This video really got me thinking about the topic. Yes it’s greatly fulfilling to spend my money on others but ‘m pretty happy when I spend on myself. I’m happy to have been able to afford this move, I’m happy when I’m able to buy new clothes, purchase a ticket for an event, even a new accessory for my kitchen. What makes me so happy to make these purchases for myself is knowing that it’s all possible because I have worked for it to be.

Whatever kind of spending it is that makes you happy is what works for you. What I hope to achieve with this post is to make both you and I take a step back from our every day battles with our budgets every once and a while. We can’t run away from financial responsibilities but what we can do is put them on the back burner to things that are much more fulfilling.

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

Cash Strapped in Vancouver, BC

My friend Sheryl is currently living in the expensive city of Vancouver. She’s been moved out of her parents’ home for a few years now. She originally moved to Montreal to attend McGill and jumped over to Vancouver once she graduated to  start school at UBC. Sheryl is no stranger to budgeting and as a full-time student she’s able to offer some great points that I can’t. She relies on student loans so careful spending is a must. Luckily for Sheryl, her new surroundings in the city have inspired her to find new hobbies and interests that cost her next to nothing! She’s got some great advice for any cashed strapped student and some inspiring words to share about trying new things.

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

Dine on a Dime

(Ok so maybe not actually dine on a dime but as close to it as I can get you!)

I love to eat at restaurants. Well I love to eat in general but there’s something about doing it somewhere other than your home that makes it so awesome. Not only is it the food but it’s also the environment, the culture and the company that I really enjoy about the experience. If it wan’t such an expensive habit I would never feel guilty about it. But this love is really driving up my credit card bill and the prices have only gotten scarier since I moved to Toronto. It’s hard for me to turn down dining out with my girlfriends or say no to a tempting item on a menu. Plus, I really don’t want to be that friend that orders just a beverage or stays in while everyone else I know is out having a good time.

I’ve been having trouble sorting through the endless options in Toronto to find places that fit my budget. That is until I recently came across this amazing list on seetorontonow.com. It names a few restaurants that serve up some cheap eats in some popular neighbourhoods in the city. Queen West, King West, Kensington Market, the Annex and Greektown to be specific. This super helpful list has basically turned into my bucket list for the year. I encourage you to bookmark this page for the next time you find yourself looking for somewhere inexpensive to dine.


Cheap Eats in Toronto   Tourism Toronto
Check out the list!

As a little bonus here are some of my tips to help you from going over your budget even when you do decide to dine out!

1. If you know you’re going to be eating out one week then add the cost to your grocery or entertainment budget!

2. Stay away from appetizers…you know you’ll be full enough with just the meal.

3. Share a dessert if you must. You also know you’re going to regret the decision to get dessert anyways so help yourself out in more ways than one and split it with your company.

4. Bring the amount of money you plan to spend with you, in cash! It’s way too easy to go over a budget on a debit or credit card.

5. Don’t choose the most expensive item on the menu (obviously!). Don’t even entertain the idea of those high priced meals, you’ll just be teasing yourself. Besides who said price determines deliciousness??

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

Work it at Home! 5 Items for a Home Workout

One of the hardest sacrifices for me when I moved out was getting rid of my gym membership. I was there a few times of the week, probably more than I was with my friends. Now my friends come over and crash on my couch but the gym can’t do that…or can it! This post is a cure for that no gym membership sadness! Maybe you aren’t even sad that you can’t go to the gym. If you can’t afford it, aren’t comfortable working out in public, or just really can’t stand the smell and the muscle men (oh how I miss those muscle men) but you still want to stay active, here are 5 household items that you can use to work out in your own place!

  1. Laundry Detergent & Fabric Softener
    Use these items as your arm weights. The handle on each bottle gives you something to grip on to, much like a weight you would use at the gym. In these pictures I’m using them to do a bicep curl and a one-arm kickback for my triceps.

    photo 3 (17)

    Bicep Curl

    photo 4 (11)

    One-Arm Kickback

    The exercise options are really endless with this tool. I also use them to do exercises that I would with a kettlebell. One example would be a kettlebell swing. Check out this video that explains how to properly do this exercise.

  1. Soup Cans
    You can use soup cans for almost any workout. You can play around with weight by working with different size cans. In these pictures I’m using my soup cans to workout out my shoulders & core.

    photo 5 (8)

    Shoulder Press


    photo 1 (49)

    Side Lateral Raise

    photo 3 (16)

    Russian Twist

  1. Towel
    Here’s a trick that I found out about recently. You can use a towel for floor exercises using your feet or your hands. If you’re using this tool you’ll have to stay away from carpet. The towel is able to slide along floors with a smooth service. Check out this blog post for some great towel exercises: http://kamafitness.ca/2013/06/21/abs-thighs-sliding-workout/

  2. Chair/Couch
    You can basically turn any piece of furniture in your household into a tool for exercise. I’m using a chair because the height of the seat works for me. If your chairs don’t work you can always try a couch, or a coffee table. Here are two examples of workouts you can do with your furniture!

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    Tricep Dip

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    Chair Squat

  1. Pantyhose
    Instead of going out and buying resistance bands, use an old pair of pantyhose instead! For example, you can loop your pantyhose around your feet and pull back with both hands as you would on a rowing machine!

There you have it. Five items to start building your home gym!

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

How to Set a Budget!

Budgeting seems pretty simple right? All you have to do is put aside some money for bills and be careful with your spending. No big deal…

Not exactly.

Before even thinking about moving my mom was continuously bugging me to start a budget plan for my money. I didn’t understand why she was so persistent. I thought that once there was something I wanted to spend my money on I would put aside some loot from a couple paycheques and then I could have it.  Then my idea  to move out came along, and budgeting became a whole lot more complicated than my master plan. I realized then that a few paycheques wouldn’t be enough, I had to start putting aside money & looking at my income way before I could step foot outside my parent’s home.  Once I set out a budget plan my expected move out date was pushed back by months, then a year, then a year and a bit. Now I’m obviously moved out and living comfortably (well comfortable enough) & that wouldn’t have been possible without a budget in place!

So where to begin? Do your homework! Talk to your family, friends, and see what the experts have to say online. Here’s a start for you! I’ve decided to share this video called “How to Set Up a Budget” by the Bank of America. It’s short, sweet & to the point. You won’t fall asleep watching it & you’ll take away just six basic steps to setting up a budget. Happy saving!

 

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

How to Make Your Beauty Products Last Longer

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to beauty products is how quickly they go from in the package to in the garbage.  It’s pretty frustrating that this always seems to be the case with the items I spend the most money on.

After some research and some trial and error I found some great ways to prolong the life of the following beauty products.

photo (13)

1. Mascara
Solution: Saline solution or eye drops

Do you ever find that your mascara tends to dry out super quick? Not to mention the brush starts to clump up after using it a few times. I’ve tried to fix this problem by testing out different brands but they all turn out the same. Realistically finding good mascara is like finding a best friend. No others seem to live up to its standards. Best friends have flaws and we learn how to cope with them. Our mascara is no different!

When you start to notice that the desert has settled in your mascara tube use contact saline solution or eye drops to de-clump! Just take out the wand and add a few drops in the tube. Then stick the wand back into the tube and wiggle it around a bit to mix in the solution.

2. Nail Polish
Solution: Nail polish thinner OR nail polish remover

The worst. I really don’t think I’ve used a nail polish more than a dozen times before it starts to get all gummy. There is a lot of product in these expensive little bottles. It’s really a shame to throw them away before getting the most use out of them.

In order to fix this problem you’ll need a nail polish thinner or nail polish remover. A lot of people will tell you that nail polish remover will just ruin your polish & in cases where I’ve added too much it has. However, thinner can be expensive & a bit difficult to get your hands on if you don’t live near a beauty supply store. Nail polish remover is cheap, easy to purchase & likely already in your home if you paint your nails. In my opinion, if nail polish remover prolongs the polish for even a few more uses, you’re still saving yourself some money!

For either solution: Add a couple of drops, close the bottle up and then roll it back and forth between both of your hands. Let the polish sit for a while before using it.

Some other tips for a longer shelf life include regularly cleaning the neck of the bottle and making sure it’s properly closed. Also, try and keep your polish stored upright and in a cool dark place.

3. Razors
Solution: Baby oil & blue jeans

I don’t know about you but I hate spending money on razors. I always find that I’m throwing them out after a few uses.

After shaving apply baby oil to the blades of your razor. This will keep the blades moisturized and from rusting! Lastly, you can sharpen your razor blades with an old pair of jeans. Run the razor over the jeans a few times one-way and then a few times the other way.

Most importantly, make sure to keep your razors clean:

  • Wash them after every use
  • Dry them off using a blow dryer or towel.
  • Store them outside of the shower to avoid rust.

4. Make up brushes
Solution: Soap & water

Make up brushes are a pricey investment so you want to make sure you do what you can to extend your time with them! The best way to do this is to clean them regularly.

Start by running your brushes under lukewarm water. Tilt the bristles down so that the water can’t run up the handle. If it does it might loosen the glue and cause the brush to fall apart completely, which is super counterproductive. Next swirl the brush around on a bar of soap then swirl it around in the palm of your hand with some water to work up a later. Wipe the brush on a damp piece of paper towel to really get the makeup out. After this step I like to put the bristles of the brush back under running water and use my fingers to help get rid of the makeup. Repeat these steps until your brush is clean!

5. Broken up powder – bronzer, blush & shadows
Solution: Rubbing alcohol

Seeing these items break apart has to be one of the most heartbreaking experiences that I have with any of my products. They always seem to fall onto the ground and break into a million little pieces just days after being purchased. Originally I would have a temper tantrum and throw the product away. Continuing to use them once they’re in pieces is way too messy.

The trick is rubbing alcohol! Add a few drops to the broken pieces in the original container or a new one. Start with small amounts! Mix the product around until it turns into a paste. Then flatten it out with a spoon and leave it overnight to dry out. It will be back in one piece the next day.

Hopefully these tips were helpful & most importantly saved you some money!

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

Cash Strapped in Osaka, Japan

My friend Ana moved to Osaka Japan last year. Like me, she moved from the comfort of her parents’ home and really didn’t have much practice budgeting her money. Since I blab on about my broke life in most of my posts I thought I’d give you guys a break and let you listen to her do the same!

From the stories she shares with me it’s clear she is having an amazing time in Japan. It’s greatly inspiring to hear about her path towards happiness and how being cash strapped doesn’t hold her down!

Enjoy!

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

Note to Self

Make Your Own Cork boards

At my parents home I had this really cool jewelry stand that I used to hang all of my necklaces on. Well ok…my mom had this really cool jewelry stand.  From the day I moved in until now I’ve had my necklaces sitting in a plastic bag in my cupboard. They get all tangled in there and I basically have to pull them all out to get the one I want. It’s a hassle.

I also used to have a cork board in my old room that I would stick all of my little reminder notes on. Now I don’t really remember much…Needless to say that didn’t move in with me either. So I crafted up a solution to fill both of these voids.

Finished product!

Finished product!

Follow these easy steps to make your own cork boards to pin whatever the heck you want to on them!

What you’ll need

  • Cork
  • Glue stick
  • Paint/Paint brushes
  • Crafting paper and/or fabric
  • Decorative beads and/or jewels
  • Double-sided mounting tape
  • Scissors
  1.  Cut the cork into the shape you want. I cut out 5 circles to run parallel to my mirror. If you’re making multiple boards like I did be sure to use a ruler to keep the size consistent.
    photo 5 (7)
  2. Apply your paint of choice to the cork. I’m using the same Martha Stewart Crafts chalkboard paint that I used for my Beer Bottle Vases. Apply two coats letting each one dry for at least an hour before moving on.
    photo 4 (10)
  3. Add whatever decorations you’d like to your cork board. I’m using glitter stickers that I purchased for $2 a pack. This cute addition was also used on my vases.photo 1 (43)
  4. I added crafting paper to two of my cork boards.  I purchased this paper at Michaels’s for $1 a sheet.photo 4 (9)
  5. Trace the shape of your cork board onto the backside of you paper & cut it out. Then glue the paper on to your cork board.photo 3 (13)
  6. Turn the cork board over and apply the mounting tape. Be sure to follow the directions on the package. Then stick it to the wall!photo 1 (42)

    photo 2 (46)

    Before adding the jewelry!

Project complete!

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

 

How to Make Beer Bottle Vases

 So my room has been looking pretty dull since I moved in…

So my room has been looking pretty dull since I moved in...Exhibit A!

Exhibit A!

 

While enjoying my favourite beer an idea came to me!

One evening while enjoying my favourite beer an idea came to me!

In this blog I'm going to show you have to take an empty space, a case of beer (that let's face it you are going to buy regardless of how broke you are) and a few other things and turn them into this!

I’m going to share that idea and show you how to take an empty space, your empties and a few others things to create flower vases!

First give your empties a good wash. You don't want mouldy flower vases!  Let the bottles sit in warm soapy water until you can easy peel the labels off.

First give your empties a good wash. You don’t want mouldy vases! Let the bottles sit in warm soapy water until you can easy peel the labels off.

Turn them upside down on a piece of paper towel to dry.

Turn them upside down on a piece of paper towel to dry.

I used multi-surface chalkboard paint from the   Martha Stewart Crafts line. Thanks Martha! It cost me about $10.  Feel free to use what kind paint you like for this project.

I used multi-surface chalkboard paint from the Martha Stewart Crafts line. Thanks Martha! It cost me about $10. Feel free to use whatever kind of paint you like for this project. Or you can go a completely different direction and use something like fabric or ribbons!

photo 5 (5)

I purchased this brush set at the dollar store for $2.

Apply the paint onto the bottle. If you're even half as messy as I am you're going to want to cover the area you're working in with newspaper.

Apply the paint onto the bottles. If you’re even half as messy as I am you’re going to want to cover the area you’re working in with newspaper.

Leave the bottles out to dry for about an hour before applying a second coat paint.

Leave the bottles out to dry for about an hour before applying a second coat of paint.

photo 1 (40)

I also purchased these glitter stickers at the dollar store for $2 each. Have some fun with decorating your bottles!

Guess what, I also purchased these flowers and leaves at the dollar store for $1.25 each.

Guess what, I also purchased these flowers and leaves at the dollar store for $1.25 each.

Here's a look at how the bottles turned out before I added the flowers!

Here’s a look at how the bottles turned out with the stickers before I added the flowers!

Now get to drinking so you can have as much fun as I did before and during this project.

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle

The Toronto Fringe Festival 2014

On Tuesday night I had the opportunity of experiencing The Toronto Fringe Festival for the first time. I checked out “An Evening in July” at the Martyr Church. I am still talking about how amazing the performance was.

In this show two crazy sisters plan out a birthday party. It’s a fairly simple plot but far from your average performance. It was an interactive show; the audience was almost as much a part of it as the actresses were. We were rarely sitting down. We followed them in and out of their house, held props and were even the guests at the party.

An Evening in July

An Evening in July

An Evening In July was more than worth the mere $10 that I spent to see it and I will probably spend another $10 before the festival ends on Sunday. If you purchase the tickets online it’ll cost $12 but that extra two dollars will guarantee you a spot at the show. It’s $10 at the door so go early if you decide to pay this way.

I didn’t know anything about Fringe Festival before this year. Turns out its been around showcasing some really great talent for 25 years. What makes this festival unique from others is that it’s all about celebrating a community and giving new or undiscovered voices a chance to perform. Even better, 100% of the ticket price goes towards the artist(s) you show up to see.

This is a super inexpensive way to check out some amazing indie talent. You can see acts all throughout the city with options to choose from such as theatre, dance, art, buskers etc. etc. etc. There really seems to be something for everyone.  The best part, you can easily rock a pair of sneakers and jeans so no stress about wardrobe choice!

This festival is broke girl approved! Go check out out the website.

http://fringetoronto.com/

Keep it thrifty,

Michelle (more…)