Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Buying Glasses Online (Clearly.ca Review)

My eyes aren't horrible but my long-distance vision is bad enough that I need to wear glasses. What does that make me, near-sighted or far sighted? I can never remember which is which! I've worn glasses for about 15 years and only started wearing contacts a couple of years ago, and even then I still wear glasses more often than not. 

If you've ever had to shop for glasses you'll know that buying them from your optometrist's office can be CRAZY expensive...my first pair of glasses were almost $400 and that was 15 years ago! That's a ton of money and if you don't have health benefits that cover glasses...yikes. Even if you do have coverage it often isn't even enough to get the pair of frames you want. My coverage is only $200 every two years and this runs out quick when I'm also claiming for contacts. 

That high price left me looking for a cheaper option and that's where Clearly.ca came in. I've been ordering glasses (and more recently contacts) from their site for years and am a fan. I like like having a couple of different frames so I can change things up every so often and by ordering online I can do this without completely breaking the bank. Over my years of ordering from them I've found the ordering process simple, delivery very fast, quality is great and returns are super easy. 

Now, one thing to note is that Clearly recently rebranded and made a bunch of changes to their website that I'm not exactly loving. They took away the different views of the frames so you could only see the front but I was told this was being fixed and it looks like most frames now have multiple view (hooray!) They also removed some of their advanced search options; there used to be an option to only search frames with nose pads (essential for me...I have a weird nose or something) but that's gone. I also returned my last order because I found the lenses had a lot more glare than normal. I've always used their standard (free) lenses with no issues but they just didn't cut it this time. I did receive a new pair with the anti-glare coating and they are significantly better, so I would suggest forking over the extra $30 for that.

Probably my favourite thing about Clearly is their return policy. You can return your glasses up to 365 days after your purchase (in unworn condition of course) and they will cover the cost of shipping. The process is super easy (I've done it a few times), you just call in and they'll email you a return shipping label to print and then just attach that to the box and pop it in a mail box. I've never been hassled on the phone about a return either, the customer service reps are great. Sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to know if the frames you've picked out will suit you so the simple return process means you'll never be stuck with a pair of glasses you don't love. 

The ordering process is also pretty straightforward. First off you'll need your prescription so if you didn't get a copy the last time you were at the optometrist you should be able to just call them up and have them send it to you. You'll be able to input it straight into the Clearly website and store it for future use. Then shop away, there's a huge selection and lots of different styles to choose from so you shouldn't have a problem finding a pair (or three) that you like. Prices do vary so keep an eye on that as there are frames starting at only $60 and others as high as $400+. I don't think I've ever spent more than $100 on frames and they've never felt cheap. Once your frames are picked out you'll be given options for the type of lenses you want, I always go with the standard but would recommend getting the anti-glare coating...I did find it made a difference on my most recent pair. If your prescription is quite strong there are also options to have the lenses thinned but that's not something I've had to deal with. Then submit your order and they'll show up on your doorstep in just a couple of days (shipping is really quick). 

If you wear glasses and are in need of an upgrade I highly recommend giving Clearly.ca a shot, with the cheap prices and free returns you really can't go wrong. Right now you can use the coupon code FRAMES20 for 20% off your purchase. 

Here's a few frames that are currently available that I really like: 
These are the ones I just got, they're great.

A nice basic frame. 
If only I didn't need nose pads...
I'm a sucker for tortoiseshell. 

**Disclaimer: Clearly did provide me with a free pair of glasses after my last return, but the opinions in this post are my own and I've been a longtime customer. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Home Buying Series: Home Buyer's Plan (HBP)




Our home buying series continues and this week we are looking at the Home Buyer's Plan; a convenient tool that helps you use your RRSP's for buying your first home. The last couple of weeks we've talking about Renting vs Buying and Saving Your Down Payment

With the Canadian housing market the way it is, it can feel impossible to save enough money up for a down-payment on your first home. You need to have a minimum of 5% for a down-payment to get a mortgage and any down-payment under 20% requires insurance coverage through CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) which will cost you a pretty penny. But let's be honest, 20% can be impossible these days so it's not unlikely you're just aiming for the 5%. Just a note, CMHC also changed their rules recently and you now need 10% down for any portion of your mortgage that is over $500,000. 

One thing you are able to do to help out with your down payment is to make use of the Home Buyer's Plan (HBP). The HBP allows first time home-buyers the chance to pull money out of your RRSP with no tax to use towards the house purchase. You can pull out up to $25,000 within one calendar and if you're buying with a partner the amount would double to $50,000 (assuming they are also a first time buyer). The process is pretty simple, there's a quick form you need to complete and submit to your RRSP provider, and voila...tax free money in your pocket! 


Ok, it's not quite that painless, you do need to pay the money back but you do have 15 years to do it. No putting it off though, you'll have to pay back 1/15th of the amount every year, starting the second year after you pulled out the funds. If you don't make your scheduled repayments it will cost you, the amount you were due to pay that year will be counted as income and taxed at your marginal tax rate. The amount you owe in repayments each year will show up in your notice of assessment but it will also just be the original withdrawal amount divided by 15. Obviously the repayment amounts don't act as regular RRSP contributions, as in you don't get a tax refund on that amount...you got that the first time around. 

The big advantage of saving for your down-payment within your RRSP is that you'll get money back from your contributions when you file your taxes and that can be an extra bonus in your saving. The HBP may also give you access to funds contributed via a work plan. If your employer contributes funds to a Group RRSP you and doesn't have withdrawal restrictions you may be able to pull those funds out as well. 

A couple of things to take note of before you plunge ahead. Those RRSP funds are supposed to be for your retirement, so promise me now that you'll ramp up your retirement savings once this house purchase has settled down? It's important to remember that if you left that money in your RRSP it would sit there and earn you some interest and/or growth that you'll miss out on. You also want to make sure that you don't invest in anything to risky while you're building up your down-payment. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a down market (like now) when you need to pull out money. 

Another thing for first time buyer's to remember is that you can claim up to $5,000 when filing your taxes for the home buyer's amount. The full amount can be claimed by you or your spouse (if applicable) or it can be split. Every little bit helps, that first year owning your own home can be pricey. 

Feel free to post questions or comments below and you can also check the CRA website for more information. Next week we'll be continuing the home buying series and will be focusing on getting your mortgage pre-approval. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

10 Essential Fall Comfort Food Recipes

I can't be the only person who is suddenly craving soups and casseroles now that the temperatures are dropping and the days are getting shorter right? This time of year always has me seeking out all my favourite comfort food recipes that are big on delicious and low on lettuce (no salads here). It's funny how we divide up recipes between Spring/Summer dishes and Fall/Winter dishes; even on a cold and rainy summer day I would never think of making a batch of chili. 

While doing up the meal plan for this week I started reaching for those Fall recipes that have been on the back-burner for the last few months and it was another reminder of how much I love this season. Winter is a hard pass for me but I would be happy with year round fall...if only that's how leaves worked! Anyways, here are a few of my picks that I'm adding back into our menu rotation for the Fall. 

1. 7-Ingredient Easy Zuppa Toscana
This is my all-time favourite soup and was the first thing we made when the weather turned earlier this month. I could eat gnocchi for every single meal and it's such a delicious addition to this soup. 

2. Asian Pork Tenderloin with Ginger Glaze
Our slow cooker pretty much lives on the counter from now until April because it is the simplest way to get a quick dinner on the table after work but still get a dish that tastes like you've put a ton of work into it. Pulled pork is delicious and the ginger glaze from this recipe is a great twist. 

3. Dill Pickle & Potato Soup
This one is a bit divisive in my house as the bf isn't a fan of dill pickle soup but I definitely am. I've been known to make a big batch of this up when he's gone and then freeze it up for lunches so I can get my fix. 

4. Jalapeno Popper Chili
Confession, I don't really like chili that much. Feels like I'm breaking some sort of sacred tradition but it is what it is. This chili is an exception though, and while it might not be my top pick for dinner I much prefer it to any other chili I've tried...I guess it just takes the addition of cream cheese to get me on board. 

5. Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma
This chicken recipe is one of the best I have ever tried and it works by itself or all wrapped up with all the fixings. If you're going with wraps I highly recommend not skipping out on the garlic sauce, it's perfectection! I've also made Jo's tabbouleh salad recipe that she recommends in this recipe and it's also really good. Make a big batch of the chicken and you can use up the leftovers in wraps or on salads for lunches. 

6. Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos
Cream cheese and hot sauce, how could you go wrong? These little taquitos are a great appetizer but they can also make a quick weeknight dinner if you add in a side of veggies. 

7. Simple Vegetarian Skillet Lasagna
The bf always prefers that dinner includes some sort of meat but pasta is usually one dish I can make meatless and he is ok with. This recipe is packed full of vegetarian goodness (and cheese, lots of cheese) that you wont miss the meat. It's the epitome of comfort food. 

8. Apricot Chicken Orzo with Marcona Almonds
I know, this recipe sounds a little weird...who wants dried apricots in their dinner? Trust me though, it's worth it. It's actually fairly similar to risotto and the combo of chicken, apricots and almonds works better than you'd expect. 

9. Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd's pie is one of those classic dishes that everyone seemed to have as a child and didn't necessarily like that much (at least that's the case for me). The switches from ground beef to ground turkey and normal white potatoes to sweet potato really change things up and make it healthier and I think more delicious. 

10. Fish Pie
Another throwback for me but I'm not sure if fish pie is as common as shepherd's pie over here in Canada...it's a British thing. My mom used to make a fish pie that I've never been able to properly recreate but this one from Jamie Oliver is a pretty good substitution. It's got a fairly strong lemon flavour which I really like and has the essential topping of cheesy mashed potatoes. 

Do you guys have specific dishes you only cook in the Fall/Winter? Any suggestions on new recipes I should try? 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Home Buying Series: Saving Your Down Payment

Continuing on with our Home Buying Series this week and today we're turning the focus on the good old down payment. Last week we talked about the pros and cons of renting vs buying so if you missed that you can check it out here

You're ready to buy a house...how exciting!!! Happen to have a spare $50,000+ kicking around? Probably not but chances are that's what you're going to need to save up to put down a solid down payment. In Canada you have to put down at least 5% and if you want to avoid paying for the extra insurance coverage through CMHC you'll want to get that amount up to 20%. It's not a deal breaker but if you are willing to spend the time to save the extra money it can be worth it. If you are buying a $400,000 house with only 5% down you will end up paying $13,680 in CMHC premiums...that's not nothing. I do realize that saving up $20,000 is much different than saving $80,000 but do what you can. Play around with the mortgage calculator to figure out how much you can afford and how much you'll need to save to get into your dream home (or scaled back starter home). 

Mortgage payment calculator

Mortgage calculator by ratehub.ca

Once you know how much you need to save you can get started on the actual saving plan! 

First up is to figure out any resources you already have that you can tap to get started. Maybe you already have some money saved up in your savings account or TFSA? Perhaps your parents have offered to gift you some money for a down payment? Those are easy resources for money but don't forget about your RRSP's. If this is your first home purchase you can take advantage of the Home Buyer's Plan and pull money out of your RRSP's tax free. We'll be going into more detail about the HBP next week but for now just know that your RRSP's can come into play. 

Where is the best place to save? 
You want your money to grow tax free as much as possible so this makes your RRSP and TFSA the first choices. The advantage of your RRSP is that you will also get a tax refund on the amount you contribute so that can help bump up your savings. Remember though, you will have to pay back all withdrawals from your RRSP but since you'll be such a pro at saving this shouldn't be a problem. I would go RRSP first and if you run out of room there then go to your TFSA before looking at non-registered savings accounts. 

What to invest in? 
If you're time frame is short (less than 5 years), you'll want to stick with secure investments to protect your principal. Shop around for the best rate on high-interest savings or a money market fund and look for an institution that wont charge you administration fees for an RRSP and/or TFSA. 

If you aren't planning to buy a home for more than 5 years you can start looking at other investments such as mutual funds or even stocks. You still don't want to take any big risks though so keep things conservative. 

Make it Automatic
Once you know how much you need to save, where you're going to save it, and what you're going to invest it you need to make it happen. The best way to do this is to set up your contributions to run automatically so you can't be swayed by that new pair of shoes or just plain old forget. Set-up your contributions to coincide with your pay cheque; if you get paid bi-weekly then have your contributions run bi-weekly. Set a goal date to have the money saved up and figure out how much that works out to each period. If you want to save $50,000 towards your down payment in 3 years and will be making bi-weekly contributions you'll have to save about $960 each pay period...is that do-able? If not you'll need to adjust your numbers. 

It's not going to happen overnight but saving up for a down payment is a necessary evil when buying a home. It will be worth it in the end though, and think of all that equity you'll have :) 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

September Loves

And here we are at the mid-point of September already! That means it's time for me to give you a little taste of what I've been loving this month. As you guys know I've been limiting the buying over the past little bit in preparation for our trip to Barcelona in November so you're not going to find any items of clothing, shoes or purses this month. Instead we've got some long times favourites, a couple of gift ideas and some cheap ways to pass the time. 

1. It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort
I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and it's one of my favourites so far this year. I've come to the conclusion that autobiographical books about other women's somewhat messed up lives are kind of my jam (think The Glass Castle, A Complicated Kindness, Lullabies for Little Criminals). If you feel the same then definitely pick up this book. The author, Nora, has had a pretty rough go of it but she's also funny and sarcastic and will have you laughing and crying at the same time (just as the title suggests). 

2. Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte Hand Cream
Yum! I went to Bath & Body Works to pick up some hand soap for the house (does anyone NOT use that soap?) and grabbed this hand cream because I needed a new one for my purse. It sounds weird and delicious but smells even better than you could imagine and makes me hungry every time I put it on. Plus, their hand cream actually works pretty well so you don't have to just buy it for the smell. There's also a soap out right now that's Coconut Pumpkin Latte and it might smell even better than this cream. 

3. Root Cover Up Spray
You know how your hair dye always seems to need a touch-up before you need a hair cut? That happens to me every time and I'd rather not spend the extra money and time sitting in the salon chair more than necessary. Cue L'Oreal's Root Cover Up...basically spray paint for your hair. Sounds strange but it actually works really well to cover up those pesky grey hairs in between colours. It comes in six different shades and you just do a quick spray wherever you need it and you are good to go. It shampoos out so you'll need to use it after each wash but I haven't found it to rub out if you run your fingers through your hair. 

4. Jigsaw Puzzles
Ever since I was a little kid I've always enjoyed doing puzzles and I find it a great way to pass the time when you'd rather not venture out in the cold. They are also a pretty cheap way to pass the time so it's a win-win (unless you're the bf who wants nothing to do with my puzzles). Amazon is a great place to find reasonably priced puzzles but you can also check out garage sales in your neighbourhood (just be prepared for a few missing pieces). 

5. E.L.F. Kabuki Brush
I have used this brush for years and it's my favourite for applying powder. I like that it's small and fits easily into my make-up bag, is nice and soft, blends really well, and is only $6! E.L.F. gets really good reviews for a lot of their make-up brushes so if you have some that need replacing but don't want to spend a ton you should check out their site. They almost always have offers running for free shipping and/or free samples and I've been happy with most of my purchases from them. 

6. Edmonton Cooks by Tina Faiz and Leanne Brown
This is such a great idea for a cookbook! Tina Faiz and Leanne Brown have gathered up a whole bunch of recipes from some of Edmonton's most beloved restaurants (and food trucks) and packaged them together in this fantastic cook book. Always wanted to make green onion cakes at home? Now you can! This would make a perfect Christmas gift for anyone in your life that enjoys cooking (or eating). You can buy it online through Amazon but if you live in Edmonton many of the restaurants are selling copies and some are throwing in a little perk if you buy from them. 

7. S'well Water Bottle
I know, I know, these water bottles are ridiculously expensive and I didn't actually spend the money on one myself. I got one for free from work but I really do love it. It keeps my water cold for such a long time but is double walled so doesn't feel cold to the touch. It's crazy to spend so much on a water bottle for yourself but it would make a nice gift for someone who's hard to buy for. If you want a slightly cheaper option you can check out this one from Minimal...the bf has the blue one and it's really similar to my S'well bottle just not quite as pretty ;) 

8. Pumpkin Muffins
'Tis  the season folks! Now I'm not actually a fan of pumpkin spice latte's but I like just about everything else pumpkin (see lotion above). I particularly like pumpkin in baked goods and these muffins are a staple in my fridge in the Fall. Really though, how can you go wrong with pumpkin and chocolate chips?! These are easy to whip up, freeze really well, and are actually pretty healthy assuming you don't eat 4 in one sitting. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Home Buying Series: Renting vs. Buying

Buying your first home is most likely the biggest financial decision you will ever make so over the next few weeks we're going to delve into that process with a new Home Buying Series. We'll start off today by figuring out if you're ready to jump into home ownership and continue through all the steps including posts about the Home Buyer's Plan, mortgages, closing costs, etc. 

First things first, are you even ready to buy? The common bias is that it is always better to buy than to rent but you need to know that there are pro's and con's to both. Today we're going to look at some of these pro's and con's so you can better gauge whether or not you are ready to make the jump into home ownership. 

The biggest argument against renting is that you aren't building any equity but this isn't always true. Rental payments are often lower than what your mortgage payment would be and you also don't have the additional costs associated with owning a house which should mean that you have some extra cash flow. If that's the case you should be investing that surplus and building up your savings...and what does that mean? You're building equity! 

Home ownership also comes with a whole lot of responsibility. You no longer have the ability to call up your landlord if the furnace craps out or the sewer backs up, you have to deal with this yourself and you're on the hook for the cost. 

There's also a lot of additional costs you will face when you buy a house. More often than not your water, power, and gas bills will be included in your rent so you don't really think about them but those will now all be over and above your mortgage payments, plus you'll have property taxes and house insurance to pay for. There will also be lots of one-time purchases that will come up, especially if you're moving from an apartment to a house for the first time (like we did). Have a lawn? You'll need a lawnmower. Sidewalks? You'll need snow shovels. You get the idea. 

Houses cost a ton of money, shocking right? If you can you'll want to save up a 20% down payment so that you can avoid paying the extra insurance premiums from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). That means if you're buying a place that's $300,000 you'll need $60,000 for a down payment...better get saving right? You'll also need some extra to cover lawyer fees and all those little extras we already talked about. 


Buying your first home is undoubtedly going to be a huge expense and will take a lot of planning and saving. However, it can also be a great investment. It's a challenge to build the same amount of equity through saving and investing as you can paying down your mortgage. Interest rates are low right now (but be prepared for them to go up) so your mortgage payments will be about as low as possible and you'll be paying more to your principal than to interest. Hopefully the value of your home will also increase over the time you own it and you'll build more equity that way. This is not a guarantee though, especially if you live in Vancouver or Toronto where the real estate market is kind of bonkers. Do your research on house prices in your area and what neighborhoods are most desirable. 

Another big pro of owning your own place is that it's all yours and you can do what you want to it. Renting comes with less responsibility but you also don't have the pride of ownership you get from owning your own place and you don't have much flexibility when it comes to decorating and renovating the way you want. Putting your own touch on a place makes a huge difference and it's nice to be able to try out a new paint colour without getting permission from your landlord. 

Before jumping in to the housing market with both feet make sure you weigh your options and figure out what makes the most financial sense for you. If you've got any questions feel free to ask away in the comments and stay tuned for next week when I talk about saving for a down payment. 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Are Group RESP's a Good Thing?


I've talked on the blog about RESP's before (you can find that here) but one thing I haven't discussed is whether or not you should do your RESP saving through one of those Group RESP programs that are floating around. Short answer...not so much, but let's talk about why. 

The basic premise (aka the sales pitch) actually sounds pretty good. You invest your money with a whole bunch of other parents who have children the same age and you'll get a share of when your kid ends up in post secondary. Your perk will come from any kids who don't go on to university and forfeit their share of the profits for everyone else to split. Hopefully that's not your kid ;) Those extra shares mean a higher overall return for the kids who do go to school while keeping investment risk low? Sounds too good to be true...and it certainly can be. There are a couple of perks for pooled plans that we should talk about. First off, you wont have to worry about choosing investments if that's not your thing as all the investment decisions will be made for you by the administrator. Second, once you sign up you are committed to making regular contributions to the plan. If you miss a deposit or want to stop altogether you can face pretty steep penalties and will often lose any money your contributions have earned. Basically, you'll get back the money you put in (minus fees and penalties) and have to start from scratch. 

Next up, the not so great. There are a few cons you should be aware of before signing up. 
  • Higher fees than a family or individual plan set-up at your regular financial institution. Most group programs function through direct sales so to cover the commission costs you will be paying high start-up fees. Avoiding fees altogether is nearly important but you'll save yourself money by going it one your own. 
  • Annual investment returns can be quite low because group plans are tied to fixed income products; higher security but lower returns. Your extra return really banks on a portion of the beneficiaries in your group not going to school. 
  • Additional restrictions on contributions and withdrawals. Most plans will lock you in to a minimum monthly or yearly contribution and when it comes to withdrawing the funds for your child's education you can face even tougher rules. Regular plans allow to pull out funds for part time or full time schooling but a group plan may limit withdrawals to only full time students. Withdrawals can (with some plans) even be declined if your child doesn't go to University right after high school. What the what? You NEED to read the fine print before signing up for anything. 

Although RESP group plans can be quick and easy to set-up and will force you into saving the lack of flexibility and high fees outweigh any pros and you need to make sure you are aware of any restrictions before signing up for anything. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Fall Bucket List

Hello September and your distinctive chill in the air, yellow leaves and pumpkin everything. It may not be officially Fall for a couple more weeks but the weather has already turned on us here in Edmonton and the trees in the River Valley are already turning fast. Too soon! I am so not ready to give up summer and get back to the normal grind. I saw this on Instagram today and it completely describes my current feeling...


Every season I do a new bucket list and I just looked back on what I had for summer and it was kind of a big fail (only 3 for 6), what the what! We went to a ton of summer festivals so that was a big win and did a few local day trips but not as many as I would have liked and of course went to The Tragically Hip show. I however gave-up on running (not my thing), didn't try out those DIY blinds (that's more of a Fall thing anyways right?) and STILL didn't make it to the St.Albert Farmer's Market. I think it's still on for a few more weeks though so maybe I've still got a shot at that one. Time to look forward and make some (hopefully more successful) plans for Fall.

1. Check Out Roger's Place
Edmonton's new downtown arena is pretty much ready to go and I can't wait to get inside and actually check it out. It looks pretty impressive from the outside but there is still a lot of construction in the surrounding area so that part is a bit of a mess. From the few images of seen of the inside it looks fantastic! I've already got a few things lined up so I'll have ample time to check it out. We're going to the open house on September 11th and then also have tickets to the first Oil Kings game, the first Oilers game and the Carrie Underwood concert. 

2. Enjoy Some Fall Colours
This is a bit of a carry-over from my summer bucket list but I want to make it back out to my favourite local hiking spot (Cooking Lake / Blackfoot Recreation Area) to get up close with nature and in all it's colourful Fall glory. As I said above, the River Valley is already starting to turn so we'll have to make time in the next couple of weeks to make it out to the park. 


3. Edmonton International Film Festival
Every year the downtown Landmark Cinemas (aka my all-time favourite theatre) plays host to the Edmonton Film Fest for 10 days in the Fall. It's no TIFF but it is a qualifying film fest for the Oscar's so you'll be able to seek out some gems that you might not usually get to see. Last year I saw 'Room' and that went on to win an Oscar. The schedule hasn't been released yet but will be out by September 15th at the latest. 

4. Go Watch Stand-Up
I've been watching quite a bit of stand-up on Netflix but it's not something I actually go and watch live that often...time for a change. I'm already going to see Jerry Seinfeld when he's here in November (birthday present for the bf) but I'd like to go see something at a smaller venue, maybe The Comic Strip or even The River Cree (but so far). You know, smaller but it has to be someone I know of...bad stand-up is the worst. 

5. Fall TV Premieres 
Obviously I love TV so September and October are kind of like Christmas with all the new premieres starting up. Guilty confession, old school network TV shows are my jam. Sure I can appreciate the greatness of HBO or a Netflix Original Series but a fun, easy to watch show (I'm looking at you Hawaii 5-0) can capture my heart. This upcoming season I've got my eye on 'This is Us' and 'Lethal Weapon' (likely horrible but could be right up my alley). Kristen Bell is also in a new show called 'The Good Place' but the premise sounds stupid...she dies and goes to heaven but should have gone to hell. 


6. Scare Kids w/ Crazy Halloween Decorations
Our neighbors always go all out at Halloween and turn their house into a nightmare. Trust me, more than once we have had a kid show up on our porch in tears! This year, we're going to jump on the bandwagon and create our own house of terror. We also learnt at our block party that there are quite a few homes in the area that put up some pretty extravagant decorations so we're also going to do a quick tour and see what everyone has going on. 

7. Art Gallery of Alberta
I've only ever been in our art gallery once and that was for a special event that the bf's Uncle was involved in. I guess it's that thing that you are just so rarely a tourist in your own city. I like art galleries though and the AGA is a supposed to be a good one so it's something I'd like to check off my list.

There we have it, let's see if I can do a little better on this bucket list than the last one. Do you guys have any activities you'd like to do this Fall? 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

13 Freebies that are Actually Useful


There are a tons of offers out there buzzing around the internet for free samples, cash for doing surveys, and various other freebies that end up being a big waste of time. I'm sure a lot of you are just like me and don't want to waste hours answering stupid survey questions just to potentially get a few dollars (or cents) or have to stalk all sorts of websites begging for free samples. If that's your thing, have at 'er but I need things to be a little more streamlined. Because of that I've rounded up a few resources for great freebies that you will actually use and are easy to get. 

1. Edmonton Public Library - If you live in Edmonton and don't have a library card I don't think we can be friends anymore. You can redeem yourself by going (right now) and signing yourself up. Even if you're not a big reader it's still worth it as not only does the library have books, they also have movies, TV shows, video games, magazines, digital database subscriptions, etc. It's free and easy to sign up, just stop in to one of their 19 branches and get started. 


2. SampleSource - I've been a member of SampleSource for a few years now and have gotten my hands on plenty of great samples. I'm kind of a sample junkie (you can ask my bathroom cabinet) and SampleSource makes it really convenient to get a whole pack of samples delivered right to your mailbox. They usually have campaigns a couple of times a year so I suggest signing up for an account and you'll get an email notification next time a sample box is available. After you've received a box they do ask you to complete a survey about your opinions on the products but I've found the surveys to be pretty straightforward and don't take much time. Below is a picture of what was included in the last box I got:


3. CBC Television - I watch quite a bit of television and there aren't that many options for free TV viewing. There's always free trials for Netflix, Shomi, and all those streaming services but those will only last you so long. One really good option to check out is CBC. You can get free (no cable login required) access to all their shows streaming on the CBC website. I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now thinking CBC has nothing you'd be interested in but don't be too quick to judge. Try out X Company, Republic of Doyle or Being Erica.

4. Project Gutenberg - Another resource for free books. Project Gutenberg is a collection of written works that are part of the public domain and includes many of the classic books you've probably always said you should read. You'll be able to find works by Jane Austen, Charles Dickins, Mark Twain, etc. I don't know exactly how the collection works but it has something to do without copyrights expiring after a certain amount of time.

5. OpenOffice - If you're like me you spend a lot of time on a desktop computer at work and next to no time on a computer at home. Almost everything I need at home can be completed on my phone or laptop (I've just got a cheap chromebook) but every once in awhile I do need access to Word or Excel. Enter OpenOffice, a free software suite that will give you all the components of Microsoft Office for none of the money. It works, it's not fantastic but for the limited time I need it at home it absolutely serves it's purpose.

6. Free Fitness - There's no need to get locked in to paying for a gym membership every month as there are tons of great workout videos available for free on the internet. YouTube will become your very best get fit friend and you can get your workout done in the comfort of your own home. Check out Fitness Blender for an extensive assortment of full-length workout videos that will get you whipped into shape or if you prefer the yoga route you should definitely check out Yoga with Adriene

7. Swagbucks - I've used Swagbucks for a few years now and have been rewarded with $250 in gift cards in that time, and that's not even trying to hard. Basically you earn swagbucks a variety of ways and then redeem them from gift cards from a bunch of places including Amazon and Starbucks. You can earn bucks by using the swagbucks search bar, doing surveys or just by online shopping. I used to do more surveys but now usually just get them via online shopping. After you sign-up you just go to the shop section and link to whatever site you're planning to buy from (there's lots of options) and you earn back swagbucks for every dollar you spend. Simple! 

9. Free Nights at AGA - The last Thursday of every month gets you free access to the Art Gallery of Alberta from 6pm to 9pm. It's a great time to check out the current exhibitions and perfect for a cheap date night. Check your local museums and art galleries to see if they have a similar program running. 

10. Provincial Parks - Want to get out of the city and enjoy the outdoors but don't want to fork over a bunch of cash for park entry? Check out a provincial park instead of a national park. There are lots of great provincial parks in Alberta and they wont cost you anything to get into. Plus, I've found they are just as well maintained and often quieter than the national parks. My favourite spot that is within day-trip distance of Edmonton is the Cooking Lake/Blackfoot Recreation area just East of the city. It actually borders on Elk Island so has a lot of the same wildlife and vegetation, lots of well maintained hiking trails and nice picnic spots. 
Cooking Lake/Blackfoot Recreation Area - October 2015
11. Home Depot Workshops - If you have some home renovations that need completed but aren't exactly the best at DIY it is worth checking out your local Home Depot. They often have free workshops that you can attend to learn a new skill and this could end up saving you a bunch of money if you no longer need to hire someone to do the job. 

12. Birthday Freebies - There's quite a few companies that offer birthday freebies so it's worth checking to see if your favourite stores or restaurants have any perks. My all time favourite has to be Sephora, if you are a Beauty Insider you will get a free product during your birthday month and they are usually full-size, actually good products. Starbucks will also send you a coupon for a free drink on your birthday if you are a member of their rewards program and if you're a fan of burgers you can sign-up to Red Robin Royalty and get a free birthday burger. 

13. Free Printables - Just type this into Pinterest and you will be overloaded with free templates and art work that you can simply print off to use to organize your life or decorate your house. Sure, it's not going to be the fanciest art work you've ever seen but it's better than bare walls and real art work is EXPENSIVE! I especially like the printable planners, as much as I am tied to my phone I still like to have a hard copy of my schedule at home and when you use a pretty template it even looks nice on your fridge. I like this print, these prints and this print and am currently using this weekly planner

Monday, 29 August 2016

Weekly Ramblings - August 29, 2016

1. It officially felt like Fall in Edmonton this week, boo!!! I actually gave in and turned the furnace on one morning because our house was FREEZING and we even put on our cozy winter sheets last night. That may have been a bit of a rash decision because it's supposed to be back up to 25 degrees tomorrow. Oh well, no regrets...I love our winter sheets. 

2. I was at the Eskimo's game on Friday night and actually saw a win (usually I'm bad luck). I got tickets through work for the 'Sawmill End Zone Party' and I'm pretty happy the tickets were freebies...I wouldn't exactly recommend forking over the $85+ to get in. It might be better on a quieter night (it was a game vs. Saskatchewan on Friday) but the whole set-up is pretty lame. You get a buffett dinner catered by the Sawmill but all they had were burgers, ribs, baked beans, a corn salad and caesar salad and you could only go for one plate. Drinks were purchased with tickets and because it was so packed down there you had to line-up to buy drink tickets and then again to actually order your drink. Seating was also an issue, there are tables and chairs lined up along the fence but they were all taken ASAP and then there were a few scattered high-top tables but not nearly enough for all the people that were packed in. We ended up only spending about half the game down there and then went up and found some empty seats in the upper bowl. 


3. It's been awhile since I've gone to a movie but we had no plans on Saturday so went to see War Dogs. It was alright but the previews made it out to be funnier than it actually was...another case of all the jokes being in the previews. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are the leads and neither really did it for me. I've never really like Miles Teller and found it weird that Jonah Hill gained back so much weight for this movie. I actually googled the real life guy his character is based on and nope...still doesn't make any sense. Anyways, wait for it to show up on Netflix. 

4. We explored around the old museum grounds yesterday with the dogs (finally an afternoon with no rain). It's really nice down there with fantastic views of the river valley. I'm curious to see what they'll do with the old museum. I know Government House is still used for weddings and other events but it's a shame that such a big space just outside of downtown isn't being used. 



5. There was a free BBQ across the street from us hosted by our local MP Randy Boissonnault and of course we went over...because free food people! It was interesting to say the least. There was the usual BBQ fare and an ice cream truck outside and a crazy Donald Trump supporter. Yup, that's right, a crazy Donald Trump supporter at a Liberal BBQ in Edmonton ??? We were lucky enough to be standing behind him in line for ice cream while he was talking on the phone about how he was going down to California to campaign for Trump, how Hillary Clinton was a lying b*tch and how he liked to call our local mayor President Iveson. At one point the lady in front of him asked if he was joking and he shushed her....hard! I was told by the bf that I was under no circumstances allowed to engage so I just stewed to myself.

6. I watched 'The Divide' on Netflix last week. Actually let me amend that, I watched it by myself last week and then was so distraught over the ending that I made the bf watch it with me again so I had someone who could console me. Has anyone else watched it? It's only 8 episodes and is definitely worth watching but I CANNOT believe there wasn't a second season...so many unanswered questions! The season finale was insane...all the other episodes are kind of a slow burn but that last one, nuts! 

7. I'm a sandwich fan and made the bf take me to Elm Cafe for lunch yesterday, and it was delicious as always. When we were there they had this new 'Edmonton Cooks' cookbook on display and it is such a cool idea! It features a whole bunch of local restaurants offering up the recipes from some of their most loved recipes. If you're a fan of the Edmonton restaurant scene (like we are) it's a must get. You can buy it on Amazon but it's also being sold at many of the featured restaurants. Obviously they had it at Elm Cafe and were offering a free drink with purchase. The bf was sold on it as soon as he saw that there was a recipe for green onion cakes, which I didn't realize until fairly recently are actually an Edmonton thing. Growing up here I always just assumed green onion cakes were everywhere but apparently they started right here. 

8. I read one of my favourite personal finance posts ever last week. It comes to you via Alyssa at Mixed Up Money and is called 'What If One Dollar Was Worth One Use?'. Read it and absorb all the brilliance. It is such a smart way to think of spending and cut back on impulse purchases that you're just going to regret down the road. 

9. This is an old tweet but I just happened upon it and laughed way too hard: 
10. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I started doing Shaun T's Focus T25 workout program and I'm still at it. I'm just starting week 3 and have been able to follow it almost perfectly. You are supposed to do a double workout on Friday's which has not been happening (one workout is hard enough) but other than that things are progressing well. I've been pretty lax about working out this summer so am out of shape and find some parts of the videos a struggle but there is someone who does modifications which helps a lot. Plus, it's only 25 minutes and there's lots of variety so it's not too hard to push yourself through.