3 Free Things to Start Doing Today to Make Monday to Friday More Enjoyable and Productive

Monday. It’s a word with a bad reputation. People dread Monday. Monday means work. Monday means not sleeping in. Monday means rush hour traffic, and kids lunches, and meetings and emails and to do lists. What if we approached Monday’s with a different attitude? What if we helped our body to be in the best state possible so that Monday was not dreaded….but enjoyed?

Here are 3 things you can do to make your week more enjoyable that are 100% free and you can start doing them today.

Sleep More. Drink Water. Be Grateful.

  1. Sleep More. Oh, just ten more minutes, please!! Are you tired all the time? Did you know that 60% of Canadians are sleep deprived?  The average person should get 8 hours of sleep per night, and apparently most of us are getting 6.9. Yikes.

I know what you are thinking. “There is no way I can get 8 hours of sleep. I have kids to take care of, bosses to make happy, errands to run, a house to maintain, food to make, events to attend and gosh I should really try to get to the gym.” There is no doubt that our lives are busier than ever before and we are constantly trying to fit more and more into the same 24 hours. However, there is a good chance though that if you really try, you can carve out the time for some much needed extra zzz’s. I’m going to point out one easy way – turn the TV off.

Did you know the average Canadian watches 30 hours a week of TV? Thats over 4 hours a day! Carve off some of those hours and hit the bed sooner and your body will thank you. If you don’t watch TV, hats off to you. Take one hour off of whatever your ‘wasted time’ activity is….you know the one, we all have one! Instagram, Facebook, magazines….there is definitely 1 hour that can be re-categorized to prioritize sleep.

  1. Drink More Water. We need eight to ten glasses a day. That’s a lot. More if you drink caffeinated beverages, which I’m betting you do! Buy a water bottle. Heck, buy three water bottles. One for the office, one for the car, and one to take with you wherever you go. There, no more excuses! And if you forget your water bottle….the great news is that in most places you can get water for FREE :). “But Jenn, I don’t want to have to use the washroom every hour. It’s so inconvenient!” OK. So don’t drink more water, be dehydrated and groggy and grumpy, and over-eat because you think you are hungry when you are really just thirsty. (Frequent washroom visits don’t sound so bad now!)
  2. Be Grateful. I started writing in a gratitude journal at the beginning of the year and it was a real game changer. It’s so easy to complain. To see the glass as half empty instead of half full. It can be hard to transition to this way of thinking if it’s not something you have ever done. That’s OK. Start small. Just one thing a day. Maybe it’s the sun shine, or your kids smile, or your helpful coworker. Maybe it’s the bus driver waiting an extra moment for you to run onto the bus. Maybe it’s the sunset you get to watch because your eyesight is still in tact. Maybe it’s a warm cup of coffee in the morning on a cold fall or winter day. Our mind is like any other muscle in our body – it needs exercise. Exercise being grateful – do it every day. You will be surprised how quickly you can find several things to be grateful for!!

I really truly believe that the three above things can make a significant impact on your daily quality of life. Life is a gift. Be present. Make the most of it. Be good to your body – it’s the only one you’ll get.

 

3 Easy Ways to Keep Travel Expenses Low for your Employer

I recently returned from a 2 day CPA conference in Toronto. Toronto is one of my favourite places. Lively, close to water, good transportation system, lots of options for food and shopping…and many opportunities to choose a cheaper alternative when it comes to travel and accomodation.

Many workers who are part of a professional organization are familiar with the fact that we need to fulfill a certain amount of professional development requirements on an annual basis. These courses can get expensive, but for the majority of the people it is a non-issue since their employer covers the cost.

….or is it?

Let’s take a step back and consider that our employers wallets are not necessarily bottomless. Although many of them sign the expense reports without blinking an eye, we should consider the impact of unnecessarily high travel expenses. Maybe we can reduce G&A for the company, improve the bottom line, and reduce the chance of layoffs, if we all take small steps to make travel and conferences less expensive. I heard of an employer once who cut free coffee to the staff during tough times…but still flew their executives business class. Really? Anyways, I digress.

Saving money on your travel expenses (without sacrificing comfort or service!) in 3 easy steps:

  1. Book AirBnB. The conference I attended had organized a preferred rate with a close hotel for $200 per night (plus taxes, plus hotel charges). I found an AirBnB one block from this hotel for $150 per night all in. This was for a 1 bedroom, non shared, apartment with underground parking, free wifi, and fully equipped bathroom and kitchen including a wide assortment of teas, coffee, juice and pop.
  2. Take Alternative Forms of Transit. Toronto recently opened the UP Train (Union-Pearson), which takes passengers from the terminal at Pearson airport to Union station, the centre of downtown Toronto. All in under 25 minutes for $12 one way. Honestly, why would you take anything other than this train? It’s fantastic. Toronto also has UBER, an alternative to taxi services. I took an UBER during my stay and it was 2/3 the cost of a taxi. Also, the driver was awesome and courteous and even returned one of the bags we left in his car. What a guy.
  3. Book early. Many conferences offer an early bird discount. Plan a bit ahead and book your conference during the window which provides this discount, rather than paying full price.

The above are three simple things that can actually save your boss a bundle. For those who are consultants, this is likely just everyday behaviours adopted in the face of a reality where you have to pay for all of your expenses. For those under the employee category, this is a chance to differentiate yourself from the average Joe and demonstrate your team player attitude.

Safe travels.

 

A Suggested Alternative to Netflix

A quick thought for today….

Instead of automatically turning on Netflix to decompress, why not pick up the phone and call a friend? A twenty minute conversation may bring appreciation, happiness, and a sense of gratitude for having someone to connect with. In our busy lives it can be easy to let days, weeks, or months go by without connecting with friends and family. Lets not forget the basic function of the telephone and the ability to take pleasure from the simple things in life.

Make Every Purchase an Opportunity to Save

Ever consider how much your daily beauty routine is costing you? Face products, makeup, personal hygiene…it can really add up for a gal! This weekend I had to replenish a few toiletries – including face moisturizer. In true frugal nature, I first checked the online flyer for London Drugs to see if my moisturizer, usually $40, was on sale. No luck.

Do you look for sales when buying these repeat purchase items? You should. If you know you are going to use these products, stock up when they are on sale (on non-perishable ones of course).

I was curious about the option of buying directly from the source, so I went to VICHY’s website directly. In doing so I found out they have an automatic replenishment program. If you sign up, you get 20% off all purchases and you can decide the frequency with which product is delivered. Ability to cancel at any time, and no penalties. Pretty sweet!

I almost went ahead with this option but something prompted me to call London Drugs directly. When I did, I found out that they had an anniversary event that day. I could buy the moisturizer at the usual $40 price but would receive 75 mL instead of 50 mL. Sweet deal! SOLD!

So much more product for the same price!!
So much more product for the same price!!

In addition to getting the sale, I have a loyalty card which gets stamped for each purchase. I am now only 2 away from my freebie!

pic1

So, to summarize:
1. Be on the look out for sales on items you use regularly. When on sale, buy multiple!!
2. See if buying direct from the source is cheaper
3. Inquire about loyalty cards*

*I will say, loyalty cards can be a pain. They start to add up and take over your wallet. I keep loyalty cards only for key items, such as expensive moisturizer that is bought regularly. I also store the cards in a separate wallet, only taking out with me when required. As more vendors transition to app based loyalty programs this will become less of an inconvenience

I know I could buy a cheaper moisturizer but after years of failed attempts and bad allergic reactions, I stick to the one that treats me well. I manage the cost by using the above steps. Taking care of your body is just as important as managing your finances 🙂

How to Save $100 at your Next Concert or Outdoor Festival

Calgary was super lucky to be one of the chosen locations for Country Thunder this year – a three-day outdoor concert featuring a variety of country artists. The price tag? $180 for a three-day pass.

Ouch!

The passes were sold a year in advance. Pretty smart actually since it created a lot of hype and anticipation. As one of the singers was Luke Bryan I (obviously) had to splurge and buy a ticket.

When you think about it, a regular concert ticket can cost anywhere from $75 – $200, so $180 for a 3 day concert where there are 2-4 artists per day is pretty good value.

Unfortunately the buck doesn’t stop there. On the actual day of the concert the following things can further reduce your bank account:

  1. Food
  2. Beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic)
  3. Transportation (the venue was sort of in the middle of nowhere Calgary)

I’m going to illustrate to you how two people attending this show can spend very different amounts of money. We’ll call one Typical Tom and one Savy Sam. Here is a snapshot of their spending for the day:

 

As you can see, there is quite a difference between Sam and Tom!

So don’t feel that you have to break the bank when looking at your entertainment expenses. There are always creative ways to enjoy some fun and relaxation and still have some money for rent at the end of it all 🙂

 

 

The Future is Looking Bleak for Millennials and Retirees…Look at the Silver Lining

I came across an article that the Guardian published titled Revealed: 20 Year Economic Betrayal Dragging Down Generation Y Income.

In a nutshell, the gap between pensioner and below 30’s income earnings is drastically widening and this doesn’t bode well for society. Why should you care about this? Well, I think the closing statement in the article sums it up quite nicely:

“We’ve never had, since the dawn of capitalism really, this situation of a population that is ageing so much and in some countries also shrinking, and we just don’t know whether we can continue growing the economy in the same way we once have.

Wow that sounds bad.  Many would read that and think, well, crap, now what are we going to do. I read OPPORTUNITY.

Why is the country shrinking? No one is having babies. When you have mountains of student debt, are earning a lackluster income, and constantly being faced with increasing expenses, owning a house and starting a family is just a far off dream.

At the same time we have many baby boomers wanting and ready to retire but suffering from market losses on their portfolios and increased need to support their children who are taking longer to “grow up.” Do we just sit back and hope for the best?

The more urgent problem in these two situations appears to be the baby boomers as their retirement is on the horizon. However every year it seems people are working longer, and delaying retirement. Eventually our bodies are going to say enough is enough and health will determine ability to work. What happens when a large percentage of the population doesn’t have enough money to get by? Maybe income supplementing? Where are we going to get the additional revenue to contribute to CPP and other benefits? The answer, taxpayers, aka the working class. Except, the “working” class is at home, in moms basement, working a job that doesn’t put a big enough dent in their student debt.  They are saddled with debt from going to school and taking a program which they thought would guarantee a large salary upon graduation. Maybe they have a decent job at the nearby bank or small business but are not making enough to cover living expenses. For those who are working, finding out that your next paycheque will have even MORE deductions in order to assist the generations which came before you, doesn’t help your situation!

This feels like a huge problem. I’m tired just writing about it!

The good news is where there is problem there is opportunity. What sorts of products and services are these groups going to require based on their lifestyles? Maybe new financial products will be developed that offer better flexibility. Maybe the job market will change and we will see an increased amount of contractors and consultants as employers don’t want to take on the risk of hiring additional employees but require tasks to be completed. Perhaps housing arrangements will change and we will see a greater amount of the population living together with second or third generations.

The government will step in where possible but ultimately it’s up to us to find ways to navigate these waters.

How can you benefit from these societal shifts? How can we turn around all of these bad news stories into stories of opportunity?

 

 

 

 

What do a Swiffer, foam ear plugs, and tampons have in common?

What do a swiffer, tampons, and disposable foam ear plugs have in common?

They are all products that I have eliminated from my shopping list by finding reusable more affordable alternatives.

When we think about budgeting we tend to create categories, guess how much we need for each category, and then that’s pretty much it. Well, I wanted to do more. I wanted to really question why I buy some of these things all the time without really questioning it. Lately I’ve been on a quest to identify products that I buy on a regular basis to see if that repeat purchase can somehow be eliminated which will save me money.

It started with Swifter. Although the thing is beyond convenient, it  feels wrong to put those big plastic pad things in the garbage after a few sweeps through the house. It just feels so WASTEFUL. So I bought a “swifter” that has a reusable cloth base. It’s GREAT at picking up the cat fur and dust.  A quick run through the wash and it’s ready to go again. I love this thing.

It’s hard to say how much money this would save as each household has different cleanliness levels and practices. A pack of swiffer refills costs about $10 so that’s $10 less you are spending each grocery trip.

Hello Reusable Cloths!
Hello Reusable Cloths!

 

Bye Bye Wasteful Swiffer
Bye Bye Wasteful Swiffer

 

The next item was tampons. Yup, I’m writing about tampons on my blog. There is a really awesome girl, I think from the UK, that has an excellent youtube channel dedicated to teaching women about all the reusable menstrual products that are on the market.

The one that she got me interested in was the menstrual cup. It’s a reusable cup that is inserted to collect menses, and, when full, is removed, washed, and reinserted. The average women spends thousands of dollars on disposable tampons and pads in her lifetime. This is a great way to reduce that cost. Also it’s much more appealing then putting bleached dry cotton up there. No more tampons? CHECK!

Again, every women is different so the savings will vary, but assuming 12 boxes of tampons per year and the associated liners, let’s say the total cost is about $100 per year. The cup ranges in price depending on the brand, but an average of $40 is reasonable. So $60 savings!

Hello Cup!
Hello Cup!
Bye Bye Tampon...
Bye Bye Tampon…

 

Next on the list was sleeping aids. I am a terribly light sleeper. So much so that even if there is nothing happening in the house, I still need ear plugs to sleep. My usual routine is to buy a pack of those orange foam ear plugs from Shoppers about once a month. Although they can be used more than once, they are kind of like socks and your dryer. They just disappear and no one knows where they went. I think my cat might have an idea though, as I have caught her on more than one occasion playing with them.

Something about their unusual shape and squishiness is extremely appealing to cats. Even if it weren’t for the cat though, it’s not something I would want to reinsert into my ear after several uses due to bacteria etc. So I checked out places to buy custom ear plugs, and Costco stepped up to the plate. I have an appointment next week to get my first set of custom made, reusable ear plugs and I am PUMPED. These will be washed on a regular basis, and stored in a safe place, away from kitty. What about cost? They are surprisingly affordable! I think they quoted me $65 on the phone. Other places charge around $100-150, which is still a great deal for something you will wear every night. I was spending $10-15 for a pack of ear plugs every time I would run out, so it’s great to not have that unnecessary expense anymore. And I’m betting my custom ones won’t fall out in the middle of the night! Who can put a price on a good nights sleep…

Not me - but gives you the idea! Look how nicely that fits in her ear. She looks so happy
Not me – but gives you the idea! Look how nicely that fits in her ear. She looks so happy
Be Gone, Orange Monstrosities!
Not me…but her position is a fairly accurate representation of me now that I have my new plugs…

At the end of the day, whether you choose to buy disposable products or reusable ones will probably not make a huge difference in your overall wealth.  However, the little things do add up. The underlying theme here is to be less wasteful which if practiced in multiple areas of our life can translate into greater wealth.

Next on my list will be getting rid of dryer sheets in favour of dryer balls 🙂

 

How much does moving cost?

Moving is a stressful experience. Things need to be packed. Movers called. Services disconnected and reconnected. Mail forwarded. Cleaning…and cleaning…and more cleaning. And more stuff to pack! Nothing like a move to make you realize how much STUFF you have.

I moved at the beginning of August to be closer to work. I feel very strongly that commuting is a big drain on our society – in more ways then one. Not only the physical time that is spent walking to transit, waiting for transit, or driving in traffic down the freeway, but also the hidden costs. It goes without saying that commuting is unfortunately a stressful experience for many, especially those living in a large city with regular traffic issues. The toll it takes on us mentally can be seen in the road rage that causes accidents, and in the way we treat our colleagues and friends after a trying hour commute. There is also the inactivity component – sitting in a  car or on a bus for 2 hours per day, 5 days a week is a lot of time just…sitting.

But I digress!

When you add it all up, moving can definitely be expensive. Here are a couple things to consider next time you go house hunting:

  1. If you hire movers, they are ALWAYS going to be more than you expect. Whether that is due to time, or number of people, or miscellaneous charges, or something breaking….even if you are diligent, expect unexpected add ons. The price here can really vary depending on the quality of moving services you hire, how many people, how big your place is…budget anywhere from $300-$2000 for this.
  2. Moving supplies can really add up. Boxes, tape, labels, bags to cover mattresses, pens, moving blankets, floor protectors. Even if bought at the dollar store, expect to spend about $50-100 on miscellaneous supplies plus a couple of hundred on boxes. You can save money by buying supplies second hand on kijiji. If you of the environmentally friendly type, Ecobox is a great rental service where you pay for plastic containers to be dropped off and later picked up. I paid $94 for 25 boxes. Worth every penny.
  3. Changing your address comes with costs. Canada Post will want to charge you $50-150 for mail forwarding service. Your drivers license will need to be updated with the new address information for $22. The registration card for your car will need to be updated too for another $10. Then there is the cost of your time that will be required calling all the possible people who would send you mail, and providing an updated address.
  4. FOOD! Wait, what? Why is food a moving expense? Because believe me, hours of packing, organizing, phone calls, and cleaning leaves little time or energy for cooking. I ate out almost all my meals the days leading up to and around my moving day. That can add up. Budget about $10 per meal, for a few days, so let’s say $100 per person on the conservative side.
  5. Gas. You will be making multiple trips, even if you don’t originally intend to. Put $100 or so here depending on the distance between the old and new home.
  6. Thank you gifts! If you are lucky enough to have friends or family offer their help, don’t let it go unnoticed! A nice bottle of wine, pizza, a movie certificated. Whatever it is, make sure to thank the people who took the time out of their day to come and help you. Budget for this will depend on the number of people helping you, and your financial situation. Use your judgement. It’s the gesture that is most important.
  7. Pet services. If you have a very hyper dog, or several cats you are worried about losing, it may be a good idea to put them in a kennel on moving day, so that there is one less thing to worry about. If cost is an issue, see if a friend or neighbour will pet sit for the day.

So there you go. Things to consider on your next move!

How eating MORE FAT can help you lose weight and make you a happier person!

Are you tired of calorie restricting meals and fad diets? Exhausted from ongoing trips to the gym that seem to never give you results? You may need to eat more FAT.

Ever had an experience like this guy? I can relate. As a kid, I had my fair share of “hangry” episodes. My family always joked that if I was irritable, feed me. I would experience extreme highs and lows with my mood. My blood sugar would crash and the “hangry” behaviours would emerge. I had no idea that it was related to the type of food I was eating.

Breakfasts consisted of sugary cereals, glutenous bagels with cream cheese, toast with sugar packed jam….all downed with a big glass of sugar loaded orange juice. It’s no wonder my body was pissed off! Also, makes me wonder about all those kids diagnosed with ADD….maybe they just had constant sugar overload. But I digress!

Adding more fat to my meals has been a real GAME CHANGER. I stay full for longer, don’t snack as much, don’t get the highs and lows associated with fat lacking meals, and have better mental clarity too!! Want to know how to add more fat to your meals? Here are four great options:

  1. Avocados

Avocados are very high up on the list of good fats. Spread avocado on toast with a sprinkling of lemon and sea salt, or add to salads for a creamy yummy treat. How much to eat? The popularity of avocados in recent years has sparked some debate over what an appropriate serving size is (the entire fruit is not meant to be eaten in one sitting as it’s very high in calories and fat). Try sticking to 1/2 of avocado per day, increasing it to 1 per day if you are really active or more athletic body type. (The other half of the avocado will go brown from being exposed to air. It’s entirely okay to eat, but if the brown colour turns you off, sprinkle some lemon or other citrus on the exposed avocado flesh before wrapping in cling wrap and putting in the fridge).

Serving: 1/2 avocado     Total Fat: 22g     Total Calories: 24

2. Almonds

I was not a fan of almonds until I bought raw, unprocessed, organic ones. They are amazing. Try to buy raw almonds without any added sugars, salts or flavourings. There are a lot of pre packaged almond ‘mixes’ at the store – avoid these. Almonds are great in salads, oatmeal, smoothies, or crushed up with some almond flour and eggs as a healthier substitute for Shake n Bake. They can also be eaten as a mid day snack to get you through the afternoon slump.

Serving: 1/4 cup     Total Fat: 14g     Total Calories: 163

3. Olive Oil

An awesome source of antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, olive oil makes a regular appearance in Mediterranean diets (and those guys live a REALLY long time). When buying EVO, pay attention to the quality. Many of the oils on grocery stores are diluted with cheaper oils, or have oil extraction methods that reduce all the great nutritional benefits we are trying to reap. Look for pure, extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil. Oh, and buy in bulk! You will save more in the long run and this stuff is a staple in kitchens so don’t worry, you will use it up. Store in a cool dry place. Uses for EVO are endless….the most popular one being for salad dressings.

Serving: 1 Tbsp      Total Fat: 13g     Total Calories: 119

4. Fatty fish

Some fish, like salmon and sardines, are full of good fat. They are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D. Try to buy wild as opposed to farmed fish, it usually has a higher nutritional content. Salmon fillets are one of the easiest things to bake – through some lemon and salt or lemon and dill on the fillet, put in foil and put in the oven or on the BBQ. Serve with a side salad. You can use leftover fillets to make salmon cakes. (Or feed them to the cat, which is what usually happens in my house).

Serving: 1/2 fillet (palm size)     Total Fat: 13g     Total Calories: 280

And a bonus item…

Full fat greek yogurt

Not typically found on a list of ‘high fat foods’, full fat greek yogurt is a great thing to have in your fridge. Quick, easy, and versatile it’s a good source of fat AND protein which is another superhero you want onside in the battle to stay fuller longer. Unfortunately 95% of yogurts on grocery shelves are full of added sugar, ‘zero fat,’ and really just not that healthy for you. Try to buy plain, organic, full fat greek yogurt. It’s actually kinda hard to find full fat yogurt, with so many advertising 0% fat, but the natural food stores should carry it. For those of you who are lactose intolerant, there are brands which are lactose free. Stay away from the ‘reduced fat’ marketing ploys….they likely have added sugar to compensate, which will just end up making you more fat….ha, that’s kinda funny.

There you have it. I GUARANTEE if you add these things to your meal plan you will feel better, slimmer and be a happier version of YOU! 🙂 (Notice the lack of the word “diet” in that sentence. Diets are not productive. Don’t diet. Just make small lifestyle changes that, over time, compound to big results). So go ahead, EAT FAT!

 

July 1…Time for Not-So-New-Year Resolutions! Starting with…meditating

I need a re-start button for 2016.

I have mixed feelings about July 1. On one hand, it’s Canada Day. Everyone loves a stat holiday and the weather here has been fantastic. On the other hand, it’s July 1….which means it’s half way through the year. When did that happen? I haven’t accomplished even a portion of all the things I wanted to do this year. Am I the only one that feels this way? Is everyone else happily checking off their new years resolutions on a chart that is colour coded, organized by topic, sub organized by time required, sub sub organized by level of difficulty? God I hope not. In the interest of full disclosure, I did make the crazy leap to leave corporate at the beginning of the year and do consulting plus work in my dad’s business, and that was quite a shock to the system. (Yay me!). However there is alot of work still to be done… (boo me?)

Well, I will not let the calendar defeat me!  So, in the spirit of being positive rather than admitting defeat, I’m proclaiming July 1 to be the time for not-so-new-year resolutions. I hope you will join me! 🙂

Part of this will include a new perspective on my site, which was originally dedicated to money management tips. Although I still have a desire to share finance knowledge, I’m going to add health into the mix. I truly believe that health should be our number one priority – without it, we really can’t experience life as it’s meant to be experienced. I used to think that as a society we were lacking in our ability to educate and encourage financial literacy among Canadians, but I’m starting to realize it’s not just financial literacy….it’s overall wellness literacy, and that includes physical health. So many of us are struggling to make good decisions, like eating more veggies and getting regular exercise. These are decisions that should be easy because they are the “right”thing to do, and they provide long term benefits. Yet they are so…so…., well…HARD.

So my blog is going to be an assortment of wealth and health advice. I’m also hoping to use it as a bit of an accountability tool for monitoring progress on my goals for the later half of the year. The number one goal is….

Meditate.

That’s it. Simple. Meditate. I feel like my brain goes 100 miles per hour, 365 days per year. I’ve attempted meditation twice this year, and failed both times to keep it up. It’s almost as bad as going to the gym. You have the best intentions but there is always something better to do. I’m hoping that by putting it out to the universe like this, it will help me be more successful at having a regular meditation practice. I started this meditation journey thanks to Camp Calm – an online camp which included a whole whack of supportive materials. The Camp is done now, but you can still check out the books here.

So, here is to a “new” year. I’m excited, are you? How do you feel about a mid year re start? Kinda like Reboot!! (Boy, I just aged myself there…)