Six Things You Can Start Doing Today to Become More Financially Conscious

I will admit, I am not perfect when it comes to budgeting and being frugal every waking moment of the day. However, consistency is the key to keeping yourself in check when it comes to spending and budgeting. Consistency has formed the habits I use on the daily to not only save money, but budget appropriately.

If you are like me and are new to the budgeting world, first of all, welcome! Starting a budget is one of the more adult things I have done in my life, and I have to say it’s been a bit scary, but equally thrilling. Sadly, budgeting is not all glitz and glamour and you may be the only person who’s actually excited about your budget BUT it’s still a good feeling nonetheless.

Before I mapped out an actual concrete budget, I started becoming more financially conscious. This step is important before you sit down and actually map out your budget, because it allows you to get an idea of how and where you’re spending your money. I personally recommend taking one month to map your expenses so you can see what you spend your money on.

So, for a whole month I tracked my spending and basically had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I realized what a monster I was. I had no concept of saving money let alone getting on top of my bills whatsoever! So, after looking at one month’s spending, I had to sit and make some changes. I gave myself another month before hammering out a concrete budget. Why did I do this you ask? I did this simply because if I had built a budget off of my initial one month ‘assessment’, no budget in the world would be able to justify that I was over spending. In simpler terms, I was spending more than I made, and in order to create a workable budget I had to reign in my spending.

In one month, I transformed my mindset and spending goals. I am still not perfect to this day, but creating the right mindset was key for me to focus on saving instead of spending. From the mindset, I then created my financial goals (which will look different depending on your salary, wants and needs). In order to be in a financially conscious mindset, I created several habits to engage in to help me stay on track. Listed below is the tips and tricks I used to become financially conscious and seriously cut down my spending.

Become intimate with your finances

The grossest part of becoming financially conscious was me opening my online banking and staring at what I had done. In order to become financially conscious, you need to be aware of the INS and OUTS of your account. This is a little painful, and was different from my shove-it-under-the-rug approach, but being up-to-date with your bank account is the key to make this all work. You need to know what’s going on inside your account, and the only way to do that (unless you plan on appointing someone else to entirely manage your finances) is to be AWARE.

See a financial advisor

I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve, but the real goldmine is the financial advisor at your bank. These are trained professionals who work with money all day! I booked a FREE appointment with my financial advisor to go over my spending habits, and come up with a plan for my spending. This helped me to become even more aware of expenses I was not noticing, as well as how to distribute my income better over my expenses.

Track your daily expenses

Again, really gross and can be quite painful to see what you’ve spent in a day, but do it. At the end of every day, I sit down and jot down in my planner what I spent and where. This makes me visually aware of the numbers, and I can see them adding up right before my eyes. Half of the battle of becoming financially conscious is becoming aware of the seemingly harmless purchases we make each day. Putting them down on paper is one more concrete way to see where your money is going.

Analyze the patterns and look to make modifications

Analyze seems like a pretty heavy duty word, but what I mean is look at where you’re spending money over and over again. I recommend taking out a bunch of coloured highlighters, and assign frequent purchases a certain colour (ex. coffee, grocery store, clothing store). This will make you more aware of the frequency of which you are spending money on these items. Now, once you see the colour pop up over and over again, then it’s time to analyze further. Ask yourself “is this something I need, or want?” If you see the word ‘fuel’ highlighted more often than not, that may be a necessity. Groceries are also a necessity. The coffeeshop you visit daily? Maybe not a priority right now. Assess whether you can cut down the frequency of the spending or eliminate it entirely. You can check out my blogpost 15 Ways You Can Save Money With Minimal Effort to modify these areas of spending further!

Be honest with yourself

I can assure you I am a ‘yes’ person. As in YES I would love to go out for drinks/dinner/shopping/horseback riding/taking a rocket to the moon. I love doing all of the things and that was part of my downfall. I never cared whether I had the money for it, I just wanted to do it ALL. Now, before I go out for an activity, I check my budget for the week as well as my previous spending for the week. Did I already go out to lunch this week? Is this the third time? Can I really afford it? In order to stay within your financial goals, sometimes this means saying no, or taking a rain-check to plans. Honestly ask yourself ‘can I afford this right now?’ and make your decision based on the honest answer to that question.

*Disclaimer: this is not to say never go out and have fun with your friends. NOT what I’m trying to say. This is making yourself aware of your financial standing and your budget before agreeing to plans. I recommend incorporating funds into your budget for going out and having fun!

Making a list of wants and needs

Not glamorous, I know. But, sitting down and being honest with yourself about whether your next purchase is a want or a need will help you determine the urgency of which you need that item, and whether you will need to incorporate that purchase into your budget. This can also help ease the stress of ending up at a store, just ‘going to take a look’ at said item, and then having the internal debate on the spot of whether you need that item or not. Planning ahead of time will ease some of the decision-making on the spot. I’m all for buying myself a treat, but treats should come secondary to purchasing a need, and should also come secondary to staying within the budget. Plus, keeping a small list of wants is a great way to have an idea for upcoming birthdays and holidays!

Takeaways

I do firmly believe in living your best life and having a blast. I’m all about the fun and seek to make my life as enjoyable as possible. However, I also firmly believe in working hard and being financially stable. Financial stability can seem like a tough and daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. I am a reformed impulse buyer, and I truly notice the positive impact becoming financially conscious has had on my life. I hope you truly take these tips and incorporate them into your daily lives to become aware of your spending habits!

Did any of these tips help you? Did you try something else that was super effective? Let me know in the comments!

Why its OK to Feel Lost in Your Twenties

While growing up, I had the added advantage of having a half-sister who was twenty-two years my senior. It was like having a second mom, but without the scolding and lecturing, just the good stuff. Imagine having a fountain of knowledge present at your side, waiting on your beck and call.

We aren’t all that lucky, nor did I really listen to half of the stuff she said to me. At the time, I was too busy thinking I knew everything to really take into consideration what she was saying (which I now wish I had). Aside from many regrets of not listening to everything she said, I do remember one thing that was constantly on repeat throughout my teenage years.

Around the time I was fifteen or so, she started dropping hints about my twenties. I thought it was a little weird, considering I was only fifteen, but she was smart and often repeated herself (causing these little sayings to get stuck in my brain).

“Your twenties are the most exciting but weird time of your life” she would say. “You’ll be surrounded by people and friends who are at very different stages in their lives. You’ll most likely feel very lost.”

Okay thanks, but how does that help? How was that supposed to prepare me for apparently the most confusing decade of my life? I would snarkily reply. Sometimes fearfully reply. But her answer was always the same, that it was completely okay to be lost and confused in your twenties, it’s exciting and thrilling and can be also the most lonely time of your life. But it all works out. You were supposed find yourself the most at this time.

Okay but HOW was this helping? At the time these supposed words of wisdom left me feeling even more confused and unprepared to enter my twenties. How could it be okay to be lost and confused? My life as I knew it was governed by friends, family and the daily requirement to go to high school. The routine was the same, and from what I could see, all of my friends and I shared the same routine and seemingly goals.

Of course, you don’t see it until you’re in the thick of it. Absolutely lost in the rhubarb. It seemed like life as I knew it jumped off the deep end. I definitely did feel lost. But did I feel lost because I didn’t know what I was doing myself, or because I couldn’t keep up with what everyone else was doing? I had friends who never went to college and did nothing, but also had friends who never went to college and were thriving way more than I was. I had friends who went to college and were bottoming out, and then I had friends who went to college and were already talking going to grad-school and being offered excellent jobs in their field.

I had friends who had children, friends getting married, friends ending high school relationships, friends getting pets. There were friends starting businesses, friends going broke. Friends travelling the world and living their literal best lives. Friends who were a source of untapped potential and sadly had no motivation and drive.

It was the strangest thing I had ever seen. We had all just come from the same routine, and had managed to manipulate the outcome a thousand times over. So this was the lost feeling we were told about. The part where you don’t exactly see where you fit on the spectrum of success (and then get a little older and realize the spectrum of success is completely an individual spectrum personalized to you).

And then comes the part (that no one really mentions but is definitely a phenomenon) where your friend life becomes a revolving door. Some friends stay, some come and go as they please. Some linger and fade out, some friendships blow up and leave shrapnel in every piece of your life. I can honestly say year to year my friend scene always looks a little different, but the comforting fact is there are people who enter that door and manage to keep rotating with you.

Then we obviously have to consider jobs. Who knew I would end up having several part-time jobs, volunteer gigs and then eventually what I call my big girl job? That big scary job you go for after you get your degree to make start to make a debt in 4 years of student debt? That’s pretty scary. And then realizing this may not be your permanent home in the job world? Also scary. Don’t even get me started on the lingering thoughts of going back to school to FURTHER your education to find a better permanent job home!

Now we can’t forget about the dating scene. Theres the bar scene, which can be its own battleground within itself. Theres the world of online dating, also scary. Theres the possibility of meeting someone in a picture perfect movie setting (running into someone head on in the grocery store and falling madly in love). Then, your ever evolving the friend group has its own set of friends-of-friends who you’re suddenly exposed to. Then theres breakups, moving in with someone for the first time and the looming possibility of marriage. Nightmare material.

Wow, okay, so my life right now actually looks NOTHING like I pictured it would. Weirdly enough this is okay. Weirdly enough, the path I ended up taking was a path I’m GLAD I had taken. For every moment of uncertainty, there was a moment of relief as the plan unfolded. For every moment I felt as though I wasn’t doing enough in comparison to others I knew, there was a moment of comfort as I reassured myself that it wasn’t a contest, this wasn’t a race. Success wasn’t measured by a super elite job or a six-figure salary, success was doing what made you happy and what made your life worth living.

Your twenties may look a little bit like a rollercoaster ride, with plenty of highs and lows. Your twenties may not feel like you’re where you are supposed to be. And that is okay. The decade of the twenties is a time of mass transition. You are just figuring out yourself and what the rest of your life is going to look like. This is the first time you’re calling the shots and figuring out what it’s like to navigate the adult world. Theres more room for freedom, decision-making and trial and error. You are essentially mapping your way into the adult world, which is big and scary.

So, if you’re feeling lost. Or you feel like maybe you’re not doing as much as everyone else around you is, or maybe you think you have no idea what you’re doing at all, here are some reminders that you’re doing the best that you can in the place you’re at.

Don’t compare yourself to others, it’s not a race

You’re doing your own thing at your own pace. It’s not a competition. As long as you’re heading down the path you want to go, you’re doing exactly what you should be. Remember that social media is a highlight reel, and people are reluctant to post their struggles.

You’re in a period of transition

Often, when things are in transition they kind of look like a bit of a mess. This can also be what your life looks like. It’s important to stop and take a breather, and remember to not be so hard on yourself. Will your life always look like that? Most likely not. Visualize a house being moved into. Messy, boxes everywhere, to-do lists a mile long. But, when things start to fall into place, the house gets organized and moved into. And then it looks like a home. This also applies to your life.

Success is a measurement created by you

To be successful means a lot of different things to different people. Does you leading a successful life mean you’re happy? Does you leading a successful life mean you have a million dollars? Success is defined differently to each individual. Your success may not seem like success to someone else. You need to sit down and define what it means to be successful for your personal self, and work towards what goals are going to get YOU there.

Most people do not feel entirely comfortable in their twenties

Most people are trying to figure themselves out. Most people are trying new things and sticking with what works. There is trial and error, as well as massive growth. I can assure you that you are not the only one who feels this way, even though it feels like an alienating process. I encourage you to chat with people who are close to you and share these feelings.

You’re doing a great job

Life does not come with a set of instructions. You are creating a path for yourself that did not exist the day before. You are creating a life for yourself that you will love and enjoy, and there is no wrong way to do that. You are doing great, and you will get there.

 

Takeaways

It’s okay not to be okay in your twenties. It’s okay to feel lost, to feel like you’re going nowhere, and to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. This is completely normal. It’s also okay to feel like you DO know what you’re doing! It’s okay to be thriving and in a good place! Everyone’s twenties look different, and you just need to forge your own path, wherever that may take you!

 

Did this post help? Do you have any personal stories of feeling lost in your twenties? I would love to hear in the comments!

Yelling at Retail Workers: Why it’s NEITHER Cute NOR Appropriate for this Holiday Season

Small disclaimer, yelling at retail workers is actually never appropriate, however I’m a firm believer in baby steps. Surely, you know at least someone who has worked in retail. You may currently work in retail or have worked in retail at some point in your life. I have personally spent over seven years in retail and I have several family and friends who continue to work in retail. Although retail will not be my primary scene for the first Christmas in eight years, my heart still goes out to retail workers at this time of year.

I do totally get it. I’m not immune to the pressing demands of the holiday season. The desire to find the perfect gift under less than ideal time constraints. I have been there friends! I get it! The holidays can make a monster out of the best of us. However, I have also been on the other side of the fence. I have been called countless names, most that I let roll off my back, several that made my teenage self cry in the stock room at the back of the store. I have been yelled at and dismissed, most of these events being an all year occurrence that particularly ramp up over the holidays.

I’m here to generally get one point across, and that point happens to be that this behaviour is inappropriate. Yes, please, repeat after me: Being rude to, threatening or yelling at retail workers is inappropriate.

I’m not here to defend the odd occasion where you have had a horrible retail experience where you were the victim, which I guarantee has absolutely happened. However, that is not what this post is about. I am here to draw light to the fact that as we enter the holiday season, stressors rise and tempers flare and often retail workers take the brunt of it.

Below you will find a list of common problems that often occur in retail, and some possible causes of the error. As you read, I encourage you to truly put yourself into the position of the retail worker. Whether you have had the pleasure of working in retail, or perhaps you may have not, attempt to put yourself into the position of these workers, young and old. They often end up working extended hours to stock shelves, ring through purchases, and assist you with your shopping needs. They are away from their families to be able to facilitate your shopping experience. These are all important things to consider while reading the list below.

This is a stressful time of year, not only for you

In addition to working the stressful retail environment, this is also a stressful time of year for the retail employees themselves. They also must find the time (outside of their hours, within regular retail hours) to shop for and purchase gifts for their friends and families. Some retail workers also have the added stress of being students, and participating in exam season in addition to working in retail environments and shopping themselves. It’s easy to have our blinders on and forget that we aren’t the only ones who are stressed, but this is important to remember.

9.5/10 times the cashier is not in charge of stock, or lack of stock

This is a big one. The cashier is not responsible for ordering stock. The employees stocking the shelves are often not responsible for ordering stock, the manager may not even be responsible for ordering stock! As more stores switch to automated ordering systems, there are kinks that need to be worked out. Ordering products is a closed loop system in the sense that once the order is sent out of the building, the order is then received and then delivered (the stock coming into the store as a shipment). Here are some possible reasons why there may not be enough stock at that particular moment:

  • The item is in high demand – this is a new product hitting the shelves and only finite numbers of product have been distributed. Chances are, the store you are shopping at received only a certain number of said product.
  • The item did not perform as well last year – ordering to fill shelves is a numbers game, and if an item did not perform well last year but suddenly gains popularity, there may not be enough to be distributed throughout all stores.
  • The store ordered the product, but there was an inventory issue at the warehouse – the order was sent for the item, but the warehouse did not receive the item to be able to ship it out to the stores.
  • The store ordered the product, but there was a manufacturing issue – the order was sent, however the manufacturer is unable to meet the demands of creating said item, meaning there is not enough product being sent out from the manufacturer.
  • The store did not anticipate the high demand for said item – it happens, supply and demand are a constantly changing dynamic.
  • The sale started Monday and there isn’t enough left by the end of it – if the item is highly anticipated, at a great price or there is a shortage of stock to go around, sale items will sell out fast.
  • Transport issue(s) – the item got lost in transit, the item got damaged in transit, there was a miscommunication and the item was sent elsewhere.
  • The store made an error – the person responsible for ordering the item did not appropriately plan for the demand of said item.

There is a price error (that most likely can be fixed within a few minutes)

Again, the cashier you are taking it out on is not responsible for pricing. The employee stocking the shelf may not responsible either. Often, price inputs are done at a level of the company that does not take place within the store. Price changes are generated and activated at the time of sale. There may be errors during this process. If the item is featured in the flyer for said price, you will be able to get the item at that price. It can be frustrating to have to go and fix a price, however, errors exist and this is life. Each day we make errors in our day-to-day lives and we go about fixing them. An error in price can be rectified quite easily, and often the price error is then rectified for future shoppers.

Stores have reduced hours leading up to the holidays

Often on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, stores will close earlier and will close the day of the actual holiday. This is a common practice among retail outfits. I can still remember getting yelled at (my first year working Christmas Eve) because we closed at 6pm on Christmas Eve, and this man could not figure out for the life of him why we would be closing so early. It’s important to remember that after retail workers have served the last customer, there is still cleanup and closing duties that must be performed before they can head off to join their families for festivities. This is not a personal vendetta against customers, but due to mandatory retail closures that are pre-determined by your municipality/province/state.

Yelling because you are upset is inappropriate regardless of whether you feel it is warranted

At the end of the day, retail workers are humans deserving of respect. These employees go to work with the sole purpose of providing a service for customers. They do not have malicious intentions behind their actions. As the flow of customers increases during the holiday season, retail workers are attempting to mediate the traffic into the stores, ensure product availability and ensure checkout in a timely manner. This includes ALL retail workers, from new hires to seasoned veterans. They are all doing the best they can to ensure you are able to leave the store with what you came for. Yelling, using derogatory names or threatening retail workers because they do not have a product you desire, they are not moving fast enough for you, or they do not have an answer you like is inappropriate, to simply put it.

In order to further facilitate your shopping experience this holiday season, below there is a list of tips you may find useful to be able to navigate the retail setting a little easier:

Leave yourself ample time to shop

To ease the added stress of a time constraint, leave yourself enough time to complete your shopping trip with time to spare. This way, if a problem arises, you’ll have accounted for the time in the first place.

Have a backup plan

If you are seeking high demand products, be aware that they may sell out fast during the holiday season. Have a backup gift or food idea in place in case of unfavourable events.

Seek out sale items at the beginning of the sale

Items may sell out faster than expected or the store may have limited stock. Treat every sale as though it is a limited stock sale, and allow yourself to grab the deal when it first comes out. The further away you get from the start date of the sale, the less stock there will be for that sale item.

Research and or call ahead

If you fear a hot ticket item is going to sell out fast, research which stores have items in stock prior to going out and tearing up the town. Call ahead before leaving your house to verify the store has the product in stock before making the trip.

Stay clear of the stores if you are overwhelmed/not in the mood

The last place I personally want to be is out shopping when I know I’m in a bad mood. If you are overwhelmed and overly stressed, try steering clear of the stores. The over-stimulating environment coupled with the stress you are experiencing will not dissipate upon entering the store. Listen to your own limitations and consider rescheduling your shopping to a later time when you aren’t mentally taxed.

Breathe

It is normal to feel stressed at this time of the year. Everyone wants the holidays to flow perfectly and smoothly, and sometimes that may not be the case. You are doing the best that you can with the tools and resources you have. The memories you make will be worth the frenzy needed to get into gear, but just remember to take it easy and take time for yourself.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

Before you go to open your mouth and possibly yell as a stress release, try putting yourself in the other person’s position. They may not have the AUTHORITY to change what you are upset about. They most likely were NOT the cause of the problem you are experiencing. They will most likely be able to FIX what the issue is, but you do not need to yell, berate, or threaten them.

 

Takeaways

The holidays are stressful for everyone, including yourself and the retail workers you are interacting with. They are often trying their best to deliver a smooth interaction for customers throughout the store. Human error occurs, but it also occurs in our day-to-day lives. It is unacceptable to yell at and berate another human for something they have no control of. Misplaced stress and aggression is never appropriate. Remember, you can not simultaneously demand a service while degrading those providing it.

 

I hope this post was able to open your eyes to the world of retail over the holidays. Leave any comments you may have, I love hearing from you!

 

 

15 Ways You Can Save Money With Minimal Effort

The older I get, there is nothing I love more than saving money. Perhaps it is directly related to the fact that I need to use my own money as an adult to survive day-to-day, but nonetheless, saving money has become a new hobby of mine.

Saving money isn’t shiny and glamorous. I don’t have a camera crew following me throughout the store as I shop and spend coupons, and I definitely haven’t won the lottery and made millions. The simple act of saving money day-to-day isn’t glamorous to the masses, but to me, it makes me quite happy to see that I can keep my spending in check.

The easiest way to save money is to look at all areas of your life and assess your day-to-day spending. What do you find you’re spending the most on? Is there a way to spend even less money or cut that expense completely? By thoroughly assessing my spending, hobbies and habits, I was able to cut down or eliminate costs. Some of these were simple and required no brain power at all, others took a little more time and planning. Below is a list of 15 things I’ve done to either reduce or eliminate costs out of my day-to-day spending.

1. Pay off your credit cards to eliminate paying interest

Interest is a money sucking vortex. You never see that money again! This in no way benefits you to spend this money! This also applies to other loans and payments requiring interest. Pay off the principal as soon as you can to avoid forking over extra money that absolutely adds no value to your life.

2. Stop buying takeaway coffee everyday

This was the simplest thing I did to cut down on day-to-day spending. Simply make your coffee at home and either enjoy it before you leave or put it in a travel mug. Once you sit down and do the math and see how much money you’re throwing away on the daily coffee it becomes easier to let that expense go.

3. Make your own lunches

Cannot stress this enough. You don’t realize how much money you’re spending until you sit down and account for the groceries you’ve already purchased in addition to the daily lunch you’re paying for. Average lunches can range from $5-30 depending on what you’re eating, and can add up quickly if you make it a daily habit. Limit purchasing lunch to one day a week (as a treat) or completely going homemade to cut your costs.

4. Flyer browse before you shop

I used to work at a grocery store and out of convenience would pick up products on my way home. I never consulted other sources, nor did I really look too much at other stores. You may find yourself a better deal if you flyer browse beforehand. Check out the weekly sales or simply browse the price of the item within the store. You may find another store carries an item cheaper at regular price than the current store you shop at. It takes a little more research but there is no need to pay more for a product you can buy cheaper somewhere else.

5. Go to the library

I do enjoy purchasing books to bring home and to have for whenever I need a guaranteed good read, but if you’re an avid reader like myself it isn’t feasible to purchase every single book brand new. Check out your local library for books to read. They have magazines, DVDs, and often have new books that are currently hot on the market on their shelves (they may require a wait list to read, but they’re free).

6. Call your phone company to adjust your plan

Often times by calling your phone company you may be able to negotiate a better plan for yourself, especially if you’re a loyal customer. When you go to the kiosk, the workers there don’t always have the authority to make big changes. Customer service reps over the phone have more wiggle room when it comes to adjusting plans and making changes.

7. Buy generic

Most stores carry their own brand name of food, and these often come cheaper than the brand name items. Generic really isn’t much different from the bigger brands. The company of the store pays the brand name companies to make the food for the generic brand, often using the same ingredients, at a cheaper cost to you. When you can, buy generic to limit your costs.

8. Carpool/bus/walk to work

To save money on gas, start or join a carpool with people you work with! Or, if you’re able to, walk or bus to work. You would be amazed at the amount of money you save on gas, especially if you find yourself having a far distance to go, or are sitting in traffic for long periods of time (literally just wasting gas). Often, cities with excellent transit systems have bus only lanes, which can buy you time if your regular route home has a heavy flow of traffic.

9. Limit number of drinks when out for dinner

You’re already spending quite a hefty amount when you’re going out to dinner before you calculate alcohol into the equation. Instead of ordering several drinks when out, stick to one or wait until after dinner to go home and have a drink.

10. Make your own wine

If you’re an avid drinker of wine like myself, you may find yourself leaning more towards making your own wine. Although you must pay for the batch upfront, you save yourself more money in the long run as it works out to an average price of $3 a bottle (depending on the type of wine you want to make). Although initially pricey, you save anywhere from $7+ a bottle.

11. Shop the sales

If you really want a particular item, and it’s too pricey for your budget, try to wait it out for the sales. Although this can be difficult and requires patience, you may end up saving yourself a whole bunch of money. This will also help determine if the item is really something you want and or need, as you will be more willing to hold out if it is something you really want.

12. Shop refurbished/open box

For electronics this is specifically helpful. Open box items (someone has opened the box and returned it) or refurbished items are items that are not considered new anymore, and are discounted from the original price. You must check the websites/stores frequently as there is no guaranteed number, but you may be able to save yourself quite a bit of money. These items also often come with a warranty that keeps the item under protection (retailer dependent).

13. Sell items before purchasing new items

This can mean a variety of things, but some stores have trade-in opportunities for your old items. For example, electronic stores may take back old electronics that are still in good condition in exchange for store credit, which is perfect if you are planning on purchasing something else. Sell items you no longer use such as books, furniture and items on online platforms designed for secondhand items. You can either keep the cash and put it into savings or use it towards a new purchase you were planning on making.

14. Shop at department stores

If you’re looking for something you should check out the department stores in your area before heading to the stores. Often you can find brand name items at a discount. From books to makeup to kitchen appliances to clothes, you may find exactly what you’re looking for! Definitely worth checking out before shelling out full price!

15. Take advantage of daily specials

Whether you’re going out to eat or looking for a sale before you go out shopping, check your email for a coupon or check a restaurant’s deals for the day before heading out. Often stores and restaurants have daily deals and discounts on specific items or meals. This can be a great way to still head out while saving yourself a chunk of money!

Takeaways

There are hundreds of money-saving tips you can come across through the internet, chatting with friends and my personal favourite, Pinterest. At the end of the day, saving money comes down to consistency and effort. You may very well stumble upon a deal, but it is better to go into shopping prepared with a deal. Consistency is what is going to get you up and making yourself that coffee or lunch for the day. So I’m challenging you to assess your spending habits and look at what areas of your life you can improve!

Did you find these tips helpful? Is there a major tip I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!

How You Can Make Cardio Less Hard-io

If you’re like me, you may not like cardio as much as the rest of the fitness universe does. If you do like cardio, I applaud you and truly wish I had the same drive as you, but unfortunately I was not designed that way. It’s not that I hate the feeling of cardio, I do love sweating and feeling the endorphins kick in. I love how alert and refreshed I feel after a great cardio session, and I definitely love feeling the burn and powering through it.

So it sounds like I do like cardio right? Well, I love the benefits of cardio. I love the after the cardio part. The part I do not enjoy as much, is the actual act of doing a cardio workout. I find it boring. I cut the time in half, then quarters, then eighths. Then I count down the seconds until it’s over. I absolutely hate running on a treadmill, the stair-master will be the cause of my premature death and nothing on the TV screens above at the gym can take my mind off how badly I want to get off the elliptical. I’ve tried cardio classes at the gym and I’ve tried talking to a friend while I workout, but both have left me winded and no where closer to loving cardio.

I’m not proud of loathing cardio so forcefully, I fully understand cardio and its benefits. I WANT to do it! I just can’t get around the fact of how utterly dull I find it. So, with that being said, I started to step out of the conventional cardio box and really think about it. What was I possibly doing wrong? The answer to that question was, I was not choosing a method that was enough to keep me engaged.

The good news is, cardio exercise is roughly defined as any exercise that increases your heart rate. Cool! So, I started researching and figuring out activities I could do outside of a gym setting to raise my heart rate (and still reap all the benefits of cardio) without me actually hunkering down and doing a cardio workout. Below, I have compiled a list of activities that I found challenging and still increased my heart rate (and caused a little sweating to go on) without making me feel like I was even doing exercise in the first place.

Going for a Hike/Walk

The hillier the better. Find trails near your location and just go out for a walk! Grab a few friends and make a day of it. You don’t feel like you’re even exercising and you get the added bonus of being surrounded by nature.

Going Rollerblading

This activity is not just for kids! Head out for an afternoon and see how far you can get. Go around your neighbourhood a couple of times. Rollerblade home from work. You’re using your legs to propel you, and it has the added bonus of it being faster than walking!

Go for a Bike Ride

Same idea as rollerblading. It might not feel like much exercising, but it still counts for more than sitting on the couch the entire afternoon. Swap your other method of transportation for bike riding and sneak in a few extra active minutes per week!

Dancing

Sign up for a class or hit the town with your friends. Even just boogying alone in your room is enough to get your heart rate up. Make a playlist and dance your way through it and you may be surprised how out of breath you are at the end!

Clean the House

This is a 2 for 1 special my friends. Not only do you get a clean house out of the deal, but you also get moving! Great if your house has multi-levels, utilize the stairs. Move the furniture around. Vacuum. You would be surprised how quickly you can work up a sweat.

Sex

It is technically an activity and it gets your heart rate up!

Rock-climbing

More and more rock-climbing gyms are popping up every day! It takes real upper body strength to scale up the wall like that! Definitely an interesting way to get moving.

Indoor Trampoline Park

Again, increasing in popularity, these are popping up all over the place! While bouncing on the trampoline may have felt like nothing as a child, it will get your heart pumping to bounce from trampoline to trampoline! You will feel the added bonus of having worked out your legs the next day!

Swimming

I can’t talk enough about how much I love swimming. Not only is it great cardio, it’s easier on your joints! Many pools offer open swim for relatively low prices, or you can enroll yourself in a class! My personal fav is doing laps, but I am not opposed to any games!

Back-yard Games

Badminton, volleyball and or tossing a ball/frisbee back and forth are great ways to get moving even if you’re at a barbecue. This is something you can do with family or friends, and requires minimal equipment.

Taking your Dog on a Walk

OR if you don’t have a dog, offer to walk a neighbour’s or go with a friend! Going out to walk the dog is the easiest way to get moving, and it benefits both you and your furry friend! If you already do this, switch up the route and take the long way! Take a hillier route! There’s so many ways you can adjust your regular routine to incorporate more activity.

Join a Beer League

Baseball, football, soccer. It’s the adult version of exactly what you did as a child. Get out with your friends or make some new friends and go have fun! Theres also usually the added bonus of drinking beer whilst in a beer league, so that’s always something to remember!

Takeaways

I am not a fitness expert, however, these are some of the things I did to get more cardio-type activities into my day-to-day life without wanting to cry from doing conventional cardio training. The idea behind this post is to get moving outside of a gym setting. These ideas can be added onto a regular gym regime! I’m hoping I inspired you to try something out of your comfort zone or find something you enjoy more than conventional cardio!

Do you have any other activities you do outside of traditional cardio? Did you try out any of these and love them? Let me know in the comments!

 

The SIMPLEST Thing You Can Start Doing to Increase Your Level of Fitness

I did not start this blog to preach to anyone about becoming active. In fact, I didn’t start this blog to preach about anything! I started this blog to inspire, to spark a fire somewhere within you to want to make your life better. My posts are filled with tough love and things that make you think because I want you to improve your own life, but I want you to do it because you’ve found that desire within yourself.

As a society, we don’t put much of an emphasis on moving. Depending on your line of work, you may sit at a desk for the majority of your shift. Driving a car requires sitting, and we also do a lot of that. Conveniently, a lot of the activities that we like to do (such as binge-watching a series while laying 4 blankets deep on the couch) are sedentary activities. We don’t strive to become slow-moving, we just happen to find more comfort in wearing soft fuzzy pyjamas than we do in lifting a barbel repeatedly over our heads.

The good news is, we don’t have to lift a barbel repeatedly over our heads. Nope, you read it right. You can if you want to, don’t let me stop you. However, my goal today is not to guide you in the direction of picking up a cold metal plate and beginning the hardest performance of your life. No, no, no.

I just want you to stand up and stretch. Yep, right out of your seat. Feel your shoulders fling back behind you. Let your spine curve like a cat, feel all your little muscle fibres stretch. Moving shouldn’t be looked at as a chore, but something you truly need to incorporate into your life.

You don’t need me to sit here and preach the statistics of what happens to your body when you don’t move (cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, muscle atrophy, etc.) You can surf the web and draw your own conclusions for your own viewing pleasure, but the fact of the matter is that we as North Americans are not moving nearly as much as we should be. We sort of kind of run into problems with this because the human body was designed to move. Our design does not permit hours of sitting on end or countless hours spent in bed (not sleeping, just lounging).

Now here I come in, with the simplest task of all to get you to move. Go for a walk. Just go. I know, a little anticlimactic but bear with me. If you are lacking in the fitness department and don’t even know where to start, just go for a walk. Seriously. It is the simplest thing you can do and the first stepping stone into getting into a regular routine.

Go for a ten minute walk around your neighbourhood. If you can tolerate that, go for another one tomorrow. Do this a few times a week until you can work it up to every day. Then go for twenty minutes. Take the second lap around the block, bring the dogs, venture out onto a street you’ve never walked along. Do that everyday until you feel like you can take on more. Then try thirty. What is half an hour of you day? Half an hour of getting your blood pumping around your body, getting your heart rate up and releasing the feel-good endorphins that happen when we exercise.

If I’ve lost you and you think that a walk isn’t going to solve all your problems, then let me shed a light on what is really happening. The first day you walk, you’re spending ten more minutes moving than you were yesterday. That’s already an improvement from yesterday. When you keep doing this ten minute walk, day after day, you build endurance. This means you will be able to go on longer walks without feeling like your body is going to be overly taxed. Okay, so in addition to improving our bodies each day and building endurance, we also start the process of creating a habit.

Creating a habit is what I really want you to take away from this. A ten minute walk one day isn’t going to solve your problems for tomorrow. But, it puts you one step closer than it did the day before. By consistently repeating a small increment of exercise, you will gradually increase as you naturally become accustomed to that level of exercise. If you keep at this everyday, you will continue to improve your mental and physical well-being.

So, if you were at all thinking of starting a new fitness regime (it is that time of year where those thoughts creep up), then definitely by all means go for it. But I’m telling you to start small. Doing one super intense workout and then being too sore to go back to the gym for a week is sort of defeating the process. Taking one big leap and overshooting our abilities not only leaves us depleted, but also often deflated. We take on too much too fast and then end up disappointing ourselves when we don’t quite achieve the results we wanted to.

If you takeaway anything from this post, I want you to takeaway the significance of one small action turning into a lifelong habit. Take the one step today to improve your physical health and well-being by literally taking the first step out of the door and around the block. Marathon runners don’t happen overnight, they started with one small step out the door.

 

What do you think of taking one small step to change your life? What small step did you already take that changed your life? Let me know in the comments!

 

Why You DON’T Have to Break the Bank Christmas Shopping & How You Can Do It

As that time of year rolls around again, it’s hard not to feel our blood pressure spike at the mere mention of Christmas shopping. A lot of times when we think about stress related to Christmas shopping, we associate it with a time constraint, and less often associate it with a financial constraint. The holiday season is a financially taxing time of year that not only places strain on our budgets, but our emotional and mental well-being.

I have 100% been there, as I’m sure many others have. Perhaps it was a financially taxing year and the budget falls short of what we need it to be. The list of people we have to shop for seems to have grown exponentially and we don’t have anything started yet. This opens the door to over-spending on gifts because we are in a rush, and perhaps need to be rush ordered in order to make it on time. This leaves us feeling rushed, overspent and drained, feelings which linger long after the holidays and trickle right into January (especially once we see the bills).

As a society, we have turned on the materialistic view of Christmas to full blast, and instead focus less on the time we get to spend with family and the memories we will be making. As the obvious answer to saving the most amount of money would be to boycott gifts altogether, it’s not exactly the most feasible solution.

However, this does not mean you have to go out and spend more than you make and stress yourself out entirely. The holidays are a time of joy and we shouldn’t be sacrificing our emotional well-being to provide joy to others. Below I have created a list of suggestions you can use to cut your costs and not overspend this year that I hope you find helpful.

Create a Budget (and Don’t Go Over it)

I know, groundbreaking. I’m sure you’ve heard of this one many times. Perhaps you may have created a budget in the past and maybe still went over it. Creating a budget is the key no-nonsense way to save money during the holidays (and everyday life, but we’ll just focus on the holidays for this post).

A budget is going to look different for each person, but it really is best to sit down and look at what you can truly afford to spend this Christmas. Can you find a way to allocate more money from other areas without creating trouble for yourself? Can you pay your bills and still have money left over to shop this year? If your state of living (i.e. food, rent, bills) are going to be compromised, then the budget for gifts will not work. You will need to be reasonable with yourself and set a realistic budget based on what you can afford to spend. From there, you will be able to allocate money accordingly to how many gifts you need to purchase from your list.

The key here is to not go over the budget. As soon as you do, you are borrowing money from other areas that it was not originally allocated to in the first place. This is where you run into problems for next month, as you will be shorting yourself this month.

Create a List

Again, groundbreaking. But seriously helpful in the long run. Sit down and gather all of your information needed to make one master list. By creating a list, you can roughly assess whether you will be able to stay within your budget. It’s also handy to have your information all in one place so that when you do start shopping, you won’t miss anything and you will be able to keep track of your purchases.

Ask for the Details

When asking the people on your list what they would like as a gift, ask for specifics. Is there a specific website you need to purchase this from? Do they have more than one gift idea? What do they really need this year?

Personally, I have started asking two simple questions each time I gather information for a gift. 1. Is there something you need or would really like to have 2. Can you give me 3 gift ideas. These questions sort the wants from the needs, and also give you options. By asking for at least 3 ideas, you aren’t stuck with one gift choice only. By asking for 3 ideas, you can choose one that fits within your budget, and it will take the guesswork out of you having to find them the perfect gift as it is something they will actually use.

The more details you can get the better. This ensures the gift will not go to waste, and that you will be able to find out exactly what they would like and how to go about purchasing said gift.

Start Early

Start asking for gift ideas in November. There’s nothing worse than getting down to the wire the week before christmas. In addition, this gives you time to look for upcoming sales (including Black Friday). The more time you have to plan, the more flexibility you will have with finding the price that fits into your budget.

If November is still too late for you, ask your family and friends to update you with gift ideas throughout the year as they have them. This will also give you flexibility with watching for sales and price changes with plenty of time to spare before Christmas (and depending on the store’s policy, you may be able to take the receipt and item back for a further discount if the sale begins after you’ve purchased it).

Research

Put in the time and effort to research the product across many different platforms. Although time-consuming, you can see variances in prices simply from scouring fliers on your everyday purchases. Gift shopping is no different. Use your research to look for who’s hosting the lowest price, or whether you will be able to get a lower price through price matching. After learning this trick, it feels irresponsible to my wallet if I purchase something in the first store I see. I usually check a minimum of 3 websites before making a purchase to ensure I’m getting the best price.

Sales, Store Loyalty Programs and Open Box

Sales are self-explanatory. Simply watch the sales of the product and jump when the price is right. This can be tedious but if you want the lowest price you’ll have to pay attention to prices. Most stores have weekly price changes and mark-downs so it’s key to keep an eye peeled if you have your sights set on an item.

Store loyalty programs are a great way to earn points that later save you money off later. Although it’s a tempting mindset to save the money on yourself, it really makes no difference if you use the money towards a gift for someone else or a purchase for yourself. If you end up using the money back, you can extend your budget for Christmas, or even end up saving some money. This is a great trick for if you happen to be hosting a dinner or party. Use store loyalty points at grocery stores to get free groceries (in addition to coupons and flyer searching) for your party. This will keep your hosting costs low and allow you to allocate that money somewhere else into the budget.

A lot of electronic stores have ‘open box’ items (someone opened the box and returned the item, but they must sell it as an open box). Often the product has been minimally, if at all, used and comes with a warranty that guarantees coverage of your item. The ‘open box’ items are a great way to get a lower price on electronics (especially since they’re essentially risk free due to the warranty).

Go Halfsies

One of my personal favourite tricks to saving money. If there is a high-priced item a family member or friend is desiring, attempt to get a sibling or a friend to go in half on said product. This way the person still gets the product they desire without you breaking the bank to do so. At the end of the day, the person receiving the gift is not going to be upset that you personally didn’t spend the full amount, but they will be thrilled about the amazing gift they are receiving.

Opt for a Gift Exchange

For those with large friend groups or families, gift giving can get pricey if you are expected to give gifts to all 12 of your aunts and uncles and umpteen cousins. Instead of breaking the bank and spending a ridiculous amount, suggest to your family or friends  the option of holding a Secret Santa or a gift giving exchange. This way everyone will receive a gift, and people can swap gifts as they so please. Set a budget everyone is comfortable with and end up saving by only purchasing one gift.

Do What Makes You Comfortable

At the end of the day, you are your own referee when it comes to your budget and how you spend money. Only you will be able to know how your feeling in regards to spending, and whether you are personally able to afford it. Sometimes this means saying no, such as saying no to being included in your 5th Secret Santa, or saying no to a holiday party where you need to provide a dish. Set your own limits and say yes to what you can afford. Be honest with yourself, because come January you will still be responsible for your everyday expenses. It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday spending craze, but planning and diligently sticking to your budget can help prevent the typical overspend.

I hope this helped ease some of the holiday stress. Did any of these tips make you think? What tricks do you use to keep your spending in check around the holidays? Let me know in the comments!