My First Time

It happened! I actually stepped foot into a Tiny House today!!

Don’t get too excited, we haven’t even started building our Tiny House yet – but what a wonderful experience it was to actually go and visit one.

When I first stepped foot into the first Tiny House we were visiting at Kent Homes in Bouctouche, NB, I knew it was meant to be. A feeling I can’t quite describe washed over me. It was a mixture of joy and belonging, and knowing that I was right where I was meant to be in life. This is my future. I am a Tiny Houser.

I first spoke with Laura Maillet, designer and employee at Kent Homes in Bouctouche, about a week ago. It did not take long for us to set up a meeting time, as I had explained to her that I was interested in getting as much information as possible about Tiny Houses and their place here in Eastern Canada, more specifically in New Brunswick.

Laura was such a pleasure to talk with. We met up with her this morning at 10AM and we hardly stopped talking during the whole 2 hours we spent there.

As soon as we arrived, she greeted us and we went straight to visit the first of their two finished designs. The one we were about to enter was called The Haven, and it’s name was right on par – safe, comfortable, cozy, home. The inside was all wood, giving it a very traditional cottage feel, which is a big appeal for customers in Maritimes and surrounding areas.

The Haven had one large loft for a queen or king sized bed, and a smaller loft which can either be used for storage or as a small second sleeping area. Below that small loft is a custom built couch, which could also double as a spare bed if a customer wanted. Walking a little further into the house is a seating area across from a large screen TV mounted on the wall, and then the kitchen area – personal favourite! On one side, the fridge and the (steep) steps to the main loft. On the other side, some counter space, a four burner propane stove-top/oven, a sink, and lots of storage space! Gotta love that storage space. The house is also equipped with a washer-dryer combo (apparently not very efficient, as I’ve read in many reviews – at least not in Canada) and a nice washroom with a flushable toilet (could also be a compostable toilet), a small sink, and a nice shower.

One thing that stood out to me immediately was the amount of natural light coming into this Tiny House. Laura explained that the average 2-3 bedroom house will have 7 to 9 windows, whereas this particular house has 18, including the skylights. Every space in the home feels light and open, despite the size of the entire building being under 200 square feet. I was happily surprised, I did not feel closed in at all. It was even cozier than I had imagined, if you can believe it!

The more time I spent inside the small little house, the more it became clear that I really was taking a step in the right direction, that this was exactly where I was meant to be. And thinking of that made me wonder about Laura’s journey, and what it is that brought her to thinking about Tiny Houses, let alone designing them.

Laura’s daughter was apparently an environmentalist, very conscious of her ecological footprint, and began sharing information and pictures she would find online about Tiny Houses when they first came out in the early 1990s. Laura was intrigued. She had always been interested in small space designs and fell in love with Tumbleweed’s first series, which consisted of cottages. Since that time, she had always photos or images pinned up around her desk, and one day, a new VP walked into her office and noticed them. Given their growing popularity in the past few years, he suggested, “Why don’t we build one?” And thus the project was born.

Laura and two other employees from Kent Homes actually got the chance to attend a Tumbleweed Building Seminar in Boston – something I’ve long been debating! She let us know how informative the weekend was, and that they had even approached them to partnering up to do this project, but unfortunately, they weren’t ready to commit so Kent Homes decided to do the project independently.

Given their connection with Tumbleweed, they were their first choice for purchasing a trailer to start building their first demo Tiny House – The Haven. Unfortunately, Kent Homes had the displeasure of learning that trailers certified in the Unites States do not meet the Canadian standards. Therefore, their display model will probably remain a demo and never be sold, as it is not road-worthy in Canada.

The bright side: they found a hidden gem nearby. A company named Linkletter’s Welding Ltd (LWL), located in Central Bedeque, PEI, was willing to not only build them custom-made trailers (lowered floor between the wheel-wells), but also to certify the trailer and house as a whole. You read that correctly – they will certify both the trailer, and the plans for the tiny house. Because of this, Kent Homes is limited to only selling the plans that have been approved and certified, so there is not always room for customization. But if you check out their options online, you can see they are pretty much all great choices.

Once they had trailers on hand, they were ready to get down to business – starting the actual build of their first Tiny House.

Laura informed us that approximately 425 hours of work were put into building The Haven – keeping in mind that numerous departments had to play a part in the design and construction of the building, and this was in fact a demo home. She said after ironing out all the kinks, they were able to build a second model (their first sale!) in about 4-5 weeks, working on it full time. But she emphasized about taking the time that is needed to get everything done right, to figure out the best approach for individual project – and sometimes that means standing around for hours trying to figure stuff out.

One very interesting idea that Laura mentioned they had tried out was doing a taping exercise. Basically, they taped off the realistic proportions of the house walls, appliances, furniture, etc., to see how it felt to walk around in it, to make sure it’s comfortable to walk around everywhere and not feel confined in a small space.

“A house doesn’t have to be big, it has to be functional.”

What can you do without spending any money? 

Apparently, a lot!

For those of you who don’t know, my boyfriend and I are doing a “No Spending Month,” and what that means is that we basically spend no money. Yeah, I guess that was obvious.

Fortunately, there is actually a lot of stuff you can do without spending any money. Since March 1st, we have:

  • Had a cookie bake-off
  • Played Monopoly!
  • Tried out amazing new recipes
  • Delivered some handmade products
  • Visited kitties and puppies at the SPCA (more than once)
  • Attended volunteer orientation at SPCA!
  • Found some old pallets to use for projects
  • Played music together
  • Made more desserts!
  • Gone to work (surprisingly, me more so than him!)
  • Gone to a horse show!
  • Cooked on the BBQ and watched the sunset
  • Gone to see a craft show (without making any purchases, of course)
  • Gone to the library
  • Visited the Art Gallery
  • Hung out at Long & McQuade
  • Finished some projects (me – yarn work; him – ammunition and fixing his truck!)
  • Attended a fire with friends
  • Received goodies in the mail from family and friends!
  • Made pies for Pi Day
  • Started doing a big clean-up in the house

I can’t believe how fast it’s going by, and I’m glad I feel that way. It’s not always easy knowing you aren’t supposed to spend any money for a whole month. But on the bright side – and surprisingly so! – Max has been super strict about not bending the rules, despite the fact that he did end up buying a coffee the one morning he was working this month. I totally understand though, he hadn’t been able to sleep a wink the night before and had to do a 12 hour shift. I don’t know how he does it!

Work has actually been keeping me pretty busy lately, so that helps with not spending any money. Unfortunately, the fact that I’m working so much means I need to have some kind of school appropriate snack – as in, no peanuts – and we basically don’t have any. So I did end up spending a little bit on snacks for work, only the bare minimum. We bought bananas, popcorn kernels, bits & bites, and salted crackers. I think we did pretty good, especially with all the tempting food at the grocery store, staring at us, begging us to buy them! … But enough talk about food, I’m getting hungry again!

I personally think it’s going really great so far, and I love that we’ve been able to find so many activities to do without spending any money. Notably, I LOVE that we’re going to the SPCA so often now! Sometimes it’s hard, because you wish you could just adopt them all, make sure they are all loved and cared for. But that’s unrealistic, and we just keep reminding ourselves that they’ll find they’re forever home soon enough. Our personal favourites at the shelter are Roger the Cat and Claude the Dog:

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True love.
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The biggest puppy there is also the cutest!

Making pies was pretty fantastic too! I got the pie crust recipe from my mom that same night, when I realized that we had some blueberries downstairs in the freezer! We got to work right away making the pie, only to find that the pie plate was nowhere to be seen! Crap. Now what? Well, our final conclusion was to use a cheesecake pan to bake the pie, and make it thicker since it isn’t as wide as a pie plate. Results: amazing!!! Side note: I may have put wayyy too much sugar in it.

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Super thick, super sweet blueberry pie! 

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the month! We already have some ideas of what we’re going to be doing. One of our friends is finally coming back from the camp so we’ll be able to spend some good ole quality time with him. There’s also a few free shows coming up this week so hopefully we’ll be attending those as well. Oh, and we haven’t had a chance to stop by the local museum, where the entry is free of charge.

AND EASTER! You don’t understand how excited I am for Easter! I am pretty sad that I won’t be spending it with any of my family this year, but Max and I made an agreement to spend a small amount for Easter, and as you could have suspected, I already have everything planned out on my end! Stay tuned to hear all about it next week!

Back to Basics

You know what sucks? Still being (basically) unemployed after applying for +100 jobs. As a side note, yes, I have been hired as a substitute educational assistant, but I only got one shift in the month of February. Womp womp.

So what do you do when you have no job and very little income? You budget, budget, budget!

Some of you may remember a little challenge I set for myself back in October 2015. Yup, you guessed it, the No Spending Month Challenge! So my boyfriend Max and I decided we would give it a try for the month of March given the fact that it’s usually the toughest month of the year, and also because it’ll feel so great to see all the money we saved AND get our incomes taxes back!

Part of me thinks this time around will be a lot harder for a variety of different reasons.

  • Reason #1: Max is the spending type. When he wants something, he buys it. But guess what? He’s broke too so we’re doing this together.
  • Reason #2: Our friends here are all the “going-out-for-supper” type. It’s really hard to keep up with the No Spending Challenge and still have a social life. Also Max loves wing night.
  • Reason #3: Max doesn’t care about rules that much. He’s already asked me if we could push the challenge one day later.
  • Reason #4: Most importantly – and in all seriousness – our stockpile isn’t as plentiful as the one I had in Moncton, so it will probably mean needing to spend a little extra on groceries.

But on the bright side, I’ve already done up the monthly meal plan for March, all the meals of which consisted of low-cost, budget-friendly recipes, some of which we already have all the ingredients to make. Today I’m going to prep and print all our grocery lists for the month so I can calculate how much we should be spending during the month, and then see how we can try to minimize that by getting the best deals, but not buying in bulk like we usually do.

What it’ll mean for us:

  • No going out for date nights/with friends
  • No going to the restaurant/take-out
  • No personal purchases
  • No treats, even during grocery shopping
  • Minimal usage of the car

Basically, we’ll just be spending money on rent – damn you, apartments! – and the basics at the grocery store. If I can convince Max, we might even try to do a small grocery run to No Frills on foot!

Do you have tips or tricks that we could use to try to make sure we stick to it? If so, let us know. And if you’d like to try the No Spending Month challenge with us, send us a message or leave us a comment and we give each other moral support – we’ll probably need it!

Meal Planning

One of the best parts about not working is the fact that I can stay on top of almost everything in regards to my personal/home life. And to me, that means cleaning/organizing/planning. Best of all: meal planning!

You might be wondering, what is meal planning? Well basically, it’s like deciding in advance what you’re going to eat either on a weekly or monthly basis. From there, you make a specific grocery list that consists only of the ingredients you need for your weekly meals + some snacks and home essentials. Some people like to plan week to week, but what I found works best for me is to plan one month at a time with 30 some odd different recipes and go from there.

I’ve actually used quite a few free printables for meal planning in the last year or two, and here are my top picks:

 

You should definitely do some browsing and see which one suits your needs best. Then once you’ve decided, print one out and try it out!

The first step to meal planning is integrating good recipes, some of which you may not have even tried before. And ideally, you should pick at least 2 recipes that contain similar ingredients if you know you won’t be using a lot of one ingredient that is likely to go bad within the week. For example, when I buy cauliflower, I make sure I can use it in two of my weekly recipes if I only need half for one recipe, that way none of it goes to waste. Alternatively, you can freeze what you don’t use and save it for later, but make sure you freeze it as early as possible so it stays as fresh as possible for when you unthaw it.

How do you find good healthy recipes if you either have none or are tired of eating the same old meals over and over again? For me, it was buying a new cookbook and doing lots of online research on Google and Pinterest. And I have to say that the cookbook purchase was well worth it. As a side note, I’m a pescetarian, which means I’m a vegetarian who occasionally eats seafood/fish. Because of this, I decided to buy a vegan cookbook, but not just any vegan cookbook! I bought the best of the best: Oh She Glows! ❤

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I’m still working on compiling a recipe book of my own, with family recipes as well as ones found online, but it’s not very complete. Mostly I just go online to pick some recipes when I’m doing a new meal plan.

Some recipes will require more ingredients than others. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, but sometime’s that’s less efficient because maybe you’re on a tight budget. It’s important to look for budget friendly recipes as well, even if that means that some recipes will only contain a few ingredients. As for myself, I try to make those ingredients some of my favourites, such as broccoli, cheese and pasta. Most pasta dishes can be pretty simple, and stir fry is always a great go-to meal for veggies lovers and omnivores alike!

Here’s a list of my favourite frugal recipes:

And there are so many more options! In this upcoming month, I’m going to try a variety of new recipes that contain red lentils because I’ve got a full bag I haven’t used yet. I’m also going to try making something called Cauliflower Buffalo ‘Wings’ because the cauliflower is on sale at No Frills this week.

The next step to meal planning after choosing lots of healthy recipes is to make a grocery list! You can go the easy way and just write everything on a piece of paper, or write it down on your phone given the fact that you mostly bring your phone with you everywhere you go. As for me, I don’t know why but I love the idea of printable grocery lists. I try to keep all of them after I’m done my grocery and file all of them so I can go back and see what main ingredients I often buy. Here’s my current template for my weekly grocery list:

Grocery List Template
This PDF file lets you edit and customize the grocery list!

Where to start though? Well I like to take all my recipes and see what ingredients I don’t have lying around the house. I’ll write all of those down and how many of each I need, double checking the fridge and storage to make sure I don’t already have what I need. Then it’s time to do some research.

My favourite step of the process is finding the best deals. I have various apps for this, as I mentioned in my blog post Home Organization, that show me coupons and/or deals for the stores of my choice. I look at all the flyers first to see what’s on sale, and I also check the PC Plus App to see what products will give me points if I purchase them. The main part of my grocery shopping is done at PC stores, either No Frills or Superstore, because of the amazing deal they have with their rewards points. It’s by far the easiest one to accumulate and saves you tons of money! I should also mention that I have the PC MasterCard which also gives me extra points for every dollar I spend. So far this year, I’ve already cashed out $80 worth of points – and it’s only been two months!!

After I check to see where the best deals are, I’ll mark it down next to the items I need to make sure I get it at the right store. At this point, I might also add products if there’s a great deal somewhere, and then stockpile that item. But I know it isn’t always feasible for everyone to tell themselves they’ll go to 3 different stores to get the best deals, so you do what’s best for you.

Once you’ve gotten your grocery list all done, you go out and you buy your food! I find that picking a grocery day/night is the best way to make sure you don’t overspend or go to the grocery store numerous times in one week, so I head out to do a haul every Thursday. It used to be Tuesday in NB, especially when I had a valid student card because students get 10% off on Tuesdays – definitely something to look into if you are a student!

And that’s about it. That’s how I do meal planning.

Try it out for yourself and feel free to let me know how it goes!

Home organization

If you don’t know this about me already, I am slightly obsessed with cleaning and organizing my home – or anyone else’s home for that matter. I started looking into it via Pinterest a little over a year ago and it’s actually amazing how much my life has improved since then. Notably, I’m talking finances. Getting organized helped me get things done, and getting things done helped me save a ton of money.

Here’s how:

  • Meal planning
  • Stock piling
  • Couponing/Points Cards (including coupon apps!)
  • Waste reduction
  • Decluttering
  • Budgetting

By implementing good habits as listed above, I was able to not only save money, but to feel good about it because I knew that it was my hard work and dedication that helped me achieve my goals. Dedication is really a key aspect when taking on any challenge, and when it’s combined with consistency, you begin to see change.

I want to take the time to underline again that I LOVE doing this kind of stuff, which makes it easier to motivate myself to keep doing it every day. It’s a lot trickier when you want to be able to get organized, but you don’t like doing it therefor it feels like a chore you need to keep doing, over and over again. Don’t get discouraged even if this may be the case; you can always make changes that are adapted to your lifestyle and find a way to make it work under your terms.

The first topic of home organization that I was interested in was meal planning. I lead such a busy life, always getting involved with events, volunteer work, gigs, work, projects, etc., and I was tired of – and broke from – going to the restaurant all the time and buying groceries every other day because I never had all the ingredients I wanted to make the meals I wanted. So I did some research on meal planning, just to see what I could find. Unfortunately, one of the biggest fads was “Freezer Meals”, most of which contain meat. The problem being: I’m a vegetarian. There were also tons and tons of meal ideas for monthly meal plans, but again, they were all easy go-to meat-based recipes that I had absolutely no interest in making. The solution: I needed to buy myself a good vegetarian cook book. I actually owned one, not that I had ever really used it. My dad bought it for me when I decided to become a vegetarian when I turned 16. The only meal I had ever tried to make was a vegetable lasagna – YUM – but it always took so much time and effort that I only ever made it twice, and the second time was for a fundraiser and I wasn’t even the one cooking.

I’ve never thought of myself as a fussy person, but just by browsing through the veggie cook books at Chapters, I realized how limited I had made my diet. I suppose it was due to habits; I ate what my parents ate. So I took a leap of faith and bought a book with a wide variety of vegetarian meals, and decided I would start a 30 Day Home-cooked Meal challenge to try a new recipe every day. (See: Cooking With Gary the Giraffe)

Next up was to find a meal planner. Did I want to use an app or a print out sheet? I couldn’t decide so I decided to try both. I downloaded the Pepperplate app on my phone and iPad, and printed out some free sheets from Pinterest searches that I thought looked good. At first, I tried doing a weekly meal plans, so that meant picking 7 meals, writing down all the ingredients I needed for them, and only shopping for those items – and snacks, of course. It worked pretty well, although sometimes I would switch them if I wasn’t in the mood for a certain meal on a certain weekday. I tried to make sure my time was well managed around making the meals. What I mean by that is that I used to have choir practice every Monday night at 7pm, and since I work until 4:30pm, that means I only have a little over 2 hours to cook the entire meal, sit down to eat, and clean up. In that case, I would always make sure that Monday meals were quick and easy to make so that I could have some extra time to take a shower, watch some TV, or catch up on my e-mails.

After finishing the 30 Day Challenge, I realized that weekly meal plans felt limited, so I printed out new monthly meal planning sheets – I still use these today. My new plan was to pick out enough meals for the entire month and post that on the fridge. Then I would also use the weekly meal planner to make sure I was only going to do groceries once a week. I also clicked in that it would be more efficient to make sure I used some of the same ingredients for more than one meal in the same week. For example, if I buy spinach for just one meal this week, it is most likely going to go bad because I haven’t planned a second meal that contains spinach to use it up before the expiration date. I worked this into the planning and it helped reduce the amount of food I was throwing into the garbage – make that compost, now.

The whole meal planning did save me money, just like that, without even doing anything else. But to me, it was like taking the first bite of a delicious chocolate cake that just melts in your mouth, and I wanted more. Next up was a combination of stock piling and budgeting. (Side note: the coupons were a part of it, but I wasn’t fully immersed into couponing until just now.)

What is stock piling, exactly? Well, basically it consists of buying a LOT of non-perishables when they’re selling at their best price. How do you do this? Flyers. All of the flyers. It’s a process too, because you need to visit every store that sells the items that you use – oh yeah, good tip: only buy stuff you know that you use! – and compare the regular prices to the sale prices. Sometimes Sobeys will have an item on sale, but the regular price is still cheaper at Superstore, so obviously, I’m going to buy it at Superstore. The smartest way to do stock piling, is to ONLY buy sale items, when they are at their cheapest. This makes it a bit more difficult because at the beginning, you don’t necessarily have a lot to work with. The first time I started stock piling, I bought non sale items as well, but made sure to stay on or under budget.

As for the budget itself, I’ve tried a lot of different things. I did print out sheets to keep track of what I was using. I tried spreadsheets to keep track of all my finances. And then finally I found what worked best for me (at the time): cash. What that means it that I budgeted my money by only shopping with cash, that way I could never overspend – not that I usually do anyway, I’ve been frugal my whole life. I bought a coupon organizer and put a set amount in there with the coupons every week I went to do my groceries. I also kept track of the money I was spending on cue cards. Each cue card represented a month, and for each week of spending, I would write down the total spent, and the total savings. Then at the end of the month, I wrote down the grand total which would indicate if I went into the positive or into the negative. The reason I even mention going over budget in this scenario is because the stock piling can cause the budget to be a little unbalanced the first week of every month, and I would allow that because I knew I would still end up saving money at the end of the month. And I did. In only 6 months, I saved over $250! Imagine how much you could save every year!

Unfortunately, I moved after 6 months or so, which meant I would have to start over. This is when I started implementing waste reduction and decluttering – it’s pretty much necessary to get rid of clutter when you move anyway so it’s a win-win. As for waste reduction, I’ve always been eco-friendly, very aware of my environmental impact and my ecological footprint, but I hadn’t really gotten into good habits concerning waste management at home. I had just moved into a nice spacious house with only one roommate, so I knew I had more flexibility when it came to deciding I wanted to compost more frequently. Another important thing – that I’m not very good at – is to portion foods so that it doesn’t go to waste, in other words, always finish off your plate. Luckily, I have an amazing brother who will eat anything I can’t finish, and then I got a wonderful boyfriend who could do the same. So although I am relying on others, I can say that I’ve got that accomplished. But in all seriousness, I do serve myself smaller portions and I take home any leftovers if/when we go out to restaurants.

And then I moved again! I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to cope well, despite the instability of living arrangements in the past 6 months. But it also meant starting over, again. Not to worry, given the fact that I was – and still am – unemployed, it gave me plenty of time to get everything in order to have a budgeted, organized and eco-friendly home. With all this free time, I decided it was time to get into couponing and get my points-card game on! I found a printer on Kijiji for $10 – booya! – and got right to printing coupons. I already had three coupon apps on my phone, but I figured there must be others I haven’t heard of, so I did some research and ended up with these:

  • Checkout 51 (My all time favourite)
  • Zweet (Pretty good app, but fewer options)
  • Snap by Groupon (Often the same options and you can only use them once each)
  • Cartsmart (Just downloaded it. Seems to have a decent variety, but not a huge selection)
  • Coupgon (Just downloaded it. Very limited because it’s based on specific stores and it only recognizes one store in my area)

*Bonus app: Flipp! Absolutely amazing app that gives you coupons and shows you all the weekly flyers for the stores around you. Win-win!

And then of course there are the points cards:

  • Air Miles (not a huge fan, and there’s no Sobeys or IGA in my area right now)
  • PC Plus Points (LOVE this one! You can redeem $20 with just 20 000 points. I’ve already redeemed $140 since I got it a year ago. Can be used at Superstore and No Frills)
  • More Rewards (This one is for Save On Foods. Seems hard to accumulate points fast)
  • Optimum (A lot of people are familiar with the Shoppers Drugmart points card. I only recently became more aware of the points system and got $30 of free groceries last week!)
  • Smart Shoppers Cards (These can be used at Freson Bros by collecting stamps and filling out cards to redeem free or reduced price groceries. Love it, but the food at this store is expensive so you have to spend a lot of money to acquire enough stamps for free food.)

And that’s where I’m at right now. I just started my new stock pile so I’m pushing the budget quite a bit and will continue to do so for a maximum of 2 more weeks. After that, it should be smooth sailing with savings a plenty!

No more No Spending Month!

Well, the day has finally arrived: November 1st means no more No Spending Month! For those of you who are unaware of what this is, it is a month-long challenge to spend no money other than the bare necessities (rent, bills, gas, minimal groceries). But you know what the funny thing is? I didn’t spend a penny today either. Funny how this might influence my purchases for the next little while.
You are probably all wondering how it all went, and whether or not I managed to survive not spending any money for a whole month. Let me tell you that it was not easy, especially when your friends invite you to go out with them. But on the bright side, as soon as I explain why I couldn’t go out with them, all my family and friends were very understanding and often came up with other stay-at-home activities we could do together to avoid spending any money. And truthfully, I don’t think I would have made it through the whole month without giving up if it wasn’t for all the amazing people in my life.

Let’s talk more about that for a second: the people in my life. Have you ever thought to yourself “Oh my God, how did I ever get so lucky?” Well that’s how I feel about the people in my life. And the funny thing is that these people – yes, I’m talking about you! – haven’t changed in the passed couple of weeks; what did change is that I became more aware of how caring and generous you all are. I don’t know when – well, ok, it actually happen a couple of dozen times – but it hit me. These people are absolutely incredible. They are so wonderful, what would I possibly do without them? They have helped shape me as a person and have influenced me in so many different facets of life. They are part of what makes me, me. And for that, I want to take the time to say thank you. Thank you, even if all you did was buy me a coffee. Thank you, even if you just offered me your leftovers one day. Thank you for offering to pay, even if I said “No, thank you.” To you, it might seem a little meaningless, but it profoundly touched me to see all these acts of kindness throughout the month, realizing what a great support system you all are. I couldn’t possibly pinpoint every single moment, but that’s only because there were so many that I was overwhelmed and could not keep track of them all. You are honestly what helped make this challenge a lot easier.

Of course, I won’t lie to you and say that this was a piece of cake and that I managed to meet this challenge with nothing but grace. Nope. As most people do, I caved. I “cheated” a total of seven times. And I did keep track of this, so here’s the list of things I spent money on (that I wasn’t supposed to):

  • Beverage at Second Cup – I picked the cheapest one, I couldn’t use their wi-fi without buying something.
  • Beer at Old Triangle – Meeting up with a friend to talk about music and writing, I couldn’t resist
  • Vegetarian Burger at Harvey’s – I was tight for time between two volunteering events and didn’t even have time to stop home to make a sandwich, so I found a coupon and went to Harvey’s.
  • Filet o Fish meal at McDonalds – I just caved. Period.
  • Bagel and Muffin at Tim Hortons – Woke up late for volunteering, needed to eat breakfast.
  • 2 shower curtains at Dollarama – The cat decided my No Spending Month was the best time to destroy my shower curtain. Twice.
  • Latté at Second Cup – Meeting with an old friend before heading out on my cross Canada road trip.

A total of seven items. Am I disappointed? No, not really. Half of the time, I accepted the fact that I had to choose between spending a bit of money and not eating. And the point of this challenge isn’t to starve yourself – ok, well maybe starve yourself of material gains.

All in all, I’m pretty proud of myself, especially because I actually ended up spending less money that I had budgeted for my basic necessities. The only groceries I bought during the month were as follows: salmon, cucumber, avocado, green pepper, red pepper, zucchini, pudding. That’s it. However, my roommate did help out a lot with this. She had loads of seafood in her freezer, which was great to add to some pasta dishes, and she always offered me some raspberries that she would buy at Costco. Oh, and did I mention she even took me out to supper to East Side Mario’s? I literally almost cried. I should also mention that my mom bought the supplies for Thanksgiving supper so that definitely helped a lot as well.

The hardest part was probably the last week, also known as PMS week. Thank God for two things: Halloween + My brother. Volunteering at the zoo for Boo at the Zoo meant free food, half of which was junk food. Hallelujah! That, plus we had 4 bags left over from Halloween and I gobbled them all up that same night. As for my brother, well he is just a gem. While he was visiting us this past week, he bought and fed me Kraft Dinner, twice. My mouth is drooling a little just thinking about it right now.

ANYWAY! I will admit that I’m glad the challenge is over. There were a lot of times that I struggled to say no, but I am also glad that I was able to persevere all month long. It was worth it in the end, especially when I look into my bank account and don’t cringe quite as much as usually. I would definitely recommend it if you’re up for the challenge!

Zero Spending Month

Also called a “spending freeze,” a zero spending month entails exactly what its title says: you go a whole month without spending ANY money. Well, I thought to myself, this sounds like a fun challenge! 

No, but seriously. Not only do I love challenging myself to living frugally, but there would be no better time than now to force myself to save money – mostly referring to the fact that I need to save money for my trip, but also referring to the fact that I have no job.

You might be asking yourself, “How in the hell do you go an entire month without spending any money?” And of course, the answer to that is that you can’t. But you can separate “needs” from “wants,” and realize where your money is actually going. So for myself, I’ve set up some ground rules to allow spending only on the following:

  • Rent
  • Monthly bills (electricity, internet and phone)
  • Fresh fruit & veggies (only as needed and preferably local) + milk, if needed
  • Gas for planned trips (visit to Miramichi + visit to Sydney to get my cars inspection done)

That’s it, nothing else.

Now let me just point out that doing this is basically impossible unless you are an avid stock-piler. To quote myself “Hello, my name is Carmen, and I’m a stock-pile-aholic.” Obviously, you need to have food stored in your cupboards – even if it’s shitty food – to be able to survive one month not buying an actual grocery. For me, this is especially hard because I’ve never convinced myself to eat something specific – for example, leftovers – when I was in the mood for something else. But now, it’s time to kick it into gear!

Brain: You better not let those three slices of smoked salmon go to waste… Make yourself a sandwich with that shit! 

Me: But it doesn’t taste good…

Brain: EAT IT! 

But on the bright side, I’m running out of foods that I don’t like. It probably also helps that I did a brain-storming session on Monday and realized there were 10 meals – that I actually enjoy – that I can make with everything I have in the house! The only purchase I’ll have to make is one red pepper and one zucchini. FOR TEN MEALS! Did I also mention I’m currently visiting my dad and step-mom? Hello free meals! Although I did have to pay for gas to get here, it was a necessary trip to get the inspection done on my car. Free meals were just a bonus.

Speaking of free stuff, I need to take the time to underline the fact that I am surrounded by such wonderful people. I started talking to some friends and family about my choice of doing the Zero Spending Month and have received nothing but support. I recently had coffee with a friend to catch up, and he paid for my coffee. I also went apple picking with my step-sister, and she said she would pitch in for me. And just today, my mom said she would give me money to buy food to make a Thanksgiving supper. I am definitely blessed and infinitely grateful to all the amazing people in my life, and of course, that extends further than just the three people mentioned above.

So that’s pretty much where I’m at with this no spending challenge. I’ll give you guys an update at the end of the month to see if I was able to manage, or if I caved a few times and explanations why. Wish me luck!