How I Dropped my Monthly Phone Bill to $15/Month (With Talk, Text, and Data!)

As you guys are aware, I’m frugal with my money – I mean, why waste my hard earned money when I don’t have to?

Being in Canada, phone plans are notoriously expensive. I’m not even kidding you. Plans starts at $65-70 per month for 1GB of data – and I can’t recall if that’s even with unlimited talk! I bounced from Rogers, to Fido, to Virgin, and eventually settled on Freedom Mobile (previously known as Wind) because they were disrupting the wireless industry with their low, low prices (I paid $35 for 4GB of data with unlimited talk and text!).

It wasn’t until recently when I decided it’s time to leave Freedom. Yes, they were cheap at $35/month for 4GB of data but their service was horrible! Throughout the day and evening, text messages would not come through until hours later – I’d be working and thinking nobody is texting me when in reality, friends did and I receive them all at once. You can imagine how annoying it is when you’re having a conversation and all of a sudden, messages stop, and when they do come in, the time stamp shows the current time, not when it was actually sent/received, or the texts are out of order. On top of that, it occurs with my phone calls as well. I’d look at my phone and out of nowhere, see that I have a voicemail or my friends would tell me that they tried calling me but I never answered. Lastly, once the LTE drops to 4G, you mind as well not even be connected to the internet because nothing functions on Freedom’s 4G network.

And, I’m not living and working in a dungeon. I’m in a central part of Vancouver and the cell service sucks. Most recently that drove me to cancel my contracts with Freedom Mobile was the unreliable monthly fees. For the past 2-3 months, my phone bills have skyrocketed to about $100 per month and when I finally inquired about it, they told me that my phone connected to their competitors’ towers because Freedom Mobile towers aren’t as strong and smaller, hence me paying extra for data roaming (despite still being in the city). I  asked why is it happening now and never before and they didn’t have a proper response.

Unsatisfied with the surprise charges and unreliable service (seriously, if I died or left the Lower Mainland, Freedom probably won’t even connect my calls, lol), I decided to just buy out the rest of my phone at $311.

So, how did I managed to drop my phone bill to only $15/month?

Nope, I didn’t stay on the line with Freedom to negotiate. I don’t have a secret 20+ years account with a provider. Nor did I use any friends/family/employee discounts.

Instead, I simply went to Fido and purchased their tablet data plan and downloaded a great app called Fongo and switched over to their system.

Fongo

How does my phone work?

  • I don’t have a traditional talk/text/data plan. Instead, I only have data on my phone.
  • I text and call using the Fongo app, which is free with paid subscriptions.
  • Basically, my cell phone has turned into a  VoIP phone. It uses the internet to make calls and send messages.

How much am I paying?

  • My initial fees were about $360 which included buying out my phone ($310), Fido’s one-time sim-card activation fee ($25) and Fongo’s service fee to port my number over to them ($25).
  • My monthly cost is $15/month from Fido aka my new monthly phone bill.
  • I do also still text (yes, I know right?) and Fongo offers unlimited texting packages. I chose to purchase 6 months unlimited texting across Canada for $10.. which equals to about $1.67/month. I pay this up front but if you’re anal, my monthly phone bill is technically $16.67.

How much am I saving?

  • My phone had 22 months left on its contract – yes, it was a new contract and I’m still annoyed I decided to renew with Freedom. However, since I’m moving to Australia in October 2018, I was going to have to buy out my phone at the end of the day.
  • My initial cost was $360. If I decided to stay with Freedom Mobile until the end of my contract, it would have cost me ~$770 ($35 x 22 months).
  • On this “new mobile plan” I have, it only cost me $330 for 22 months. Even with the $20/year texting plan subscription from Fongo, it’s still significantly cheaper than staying with Freedom for the duration of my contract!

Is this for you?

  • Consider how much data you use. Unlike traditional phone plans where you have a dedicated amount of data for surfing the web and apps, the data only plan you get is all the data plan you get for the web, surfing, calls, texting, etc. So, if you’re a heavy user of the web on the go, this may not be the best option for you.
  • Consider how often you call. Because your calls are now being placed on data, the longer you chat, the more data you use. Obviously, when you’re connected to your wifi, all your calls are “free” and you can talk as much as you want. But, if you’re someone that loves to gossip over the phone while you’re shopping… this plan may not be for you. I’m only on the phone out and about when companies call or giving my friends/family a quick shout.

Why does this work for me?

  • I’m always connected to wifi majority of my day – when I’m at work and I’m at home.
  • I don’t use data that much when I’m on the go. My commute to work is only about 30 minutes or so and I usually tend to listen to music than browse on my phone. So 3GB is more than enough for me.
  • As I mentioned above, I normally don’t chat on the phone when I’m out. I usually enjoy making calls in the comfort of my own home.
  • Majority of my friends are already using some sort of instant messaging so I can essentially ditch the texting if I really don’t want it.
  • Since I love to travel, using Fongo allows me to actually use my Canadian number when I’m down in the US or overseas – all I need is to connect to the wifi! So, that means, goodbye missed calls and texts while I’m on vacation! I can also call home to Canada wherever I am in the world.
  • This would also be beneficial when I move to Australia and can keep my Canadian number so anyone back home can contact me.
  • Did I mention it’s only $15/month for me?

So, if you’re using your phone similar to the way I am, consider switching to an all data plan with your provider and ditch the traditional expensive phone plans! I’ve made my decision and absolutely do not regret it at all. The Fido network is amazing and Fongo’s quality of service is superb and their customer service is wonderful! I think the only regret I have is not listening to my brother earlier and switching over to Fido/Fongo.

*Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by Fido or Fongo.

What We’re Doing to Save for Australia

Obtaining a working holiday visa and moving abroad is expensive. For us to move to Australia, it’d cost us about $5,500 AUD which is more or less the same converted to Canadian currencies. The $500-and-something is for the visa application alone. The $5,000 AUD is what the Australian government requires all holiday visa holders to have when they pass through immigration because that 5 grand is supposed to be a safety net for when things go south and don’t work out.

So, that’s expensive. Not to mention the airline ticket to get there!

What We're Doing to Save for Australia

But, we’re serious about moving to Australia. We’re not renewing our rental lease next year. We’re not looking at adopting a pet. We even skipped out on Black Friday/Cyber Monday TV deals because it wouldn’t make sense to drop $600 on a new TV and not see it for another 2 years or so.

So what else are we doing to further our savings for Australia?

  • Buying Starbucks only 1-2 times a week and substituting coffee with other caffeine filled drinks such as green tea. Dan even makes instant coffee to reduce our spending at Starbucks. I’m trying my best to eventually cut out Startbucks entirely (save for maybe a weekend treat) and have coffee at work instead.
  • We’re only watching movies with promo codes and not whenever we’re just “bored”. My dad’s cellphone provider offers discounted goods and movie tickets is one of them. We get 2-for-1 deals every two weeks! Alternatively, I think we’ll just wait for the movie to be on rental or available on Netflix.
  • We joined Costco to buy bulk and reduce our trips to our local supermarket. Things at Costco are definitely cheaper than our supermarket and we’re so happy to join Costco. We live about ten minutes away to our nearest Costco as well.
  • We always meal prep. I had a bad habit of buying lunches because I was too lazy to cook. Earlier this year, I learned how to cook proper meals and developed the habit of prepping every Sunday. Dan is always on top of his meals since he requires specific calories and foods to maintain his physique and weight.
  • We only order out twice a week (or less) and always below $50. You can still save while indulging and not giving up on everything in life. We had a habit of pretty much ordering every week, and on some weeks, even more than once. We decided that we’re only going to order every second Sunday and our entire meal has to come under $50 (including tips and/or delivery fees).
  • We buy what we need. Long gone are the days where we threw out money on useless crap “just because”. We now stop and critically think whether we need something or not. Most of the time, it’s just another item we could do without and wait until it comes on sale, or when we’re not trying to save for such a big moment of our lives.
  • We seek cheaper alternatives and discounts. This makes us so uber cheap but we’re slowly switching to no-name brands. We look at Groupon and essentially let Groupon decide what to do (if we can’t find anything free to do). I make the time to visit student salons instead of being lazy and visiting the closest salon to me. Did you know I managed to get a $5 student haircut? IT’S JUST HAIR FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY AM I PAYING $20+?!
  • I’m using my credit card more. I shy away from my credit card because of the way I abused it when I was younger but I’ve slowly started using my CCs a lot more and still within budget. I use it so I can rack up points and redeem as a cashback or a flight. Just the other day, I used my points to pay for half my ticket to San Francisco!
  • I’m limiting my nights out. I’ve told all my friends that I’m saving for Australia and it’s up to them if they want to hang out on the cheap. It’s not to say that I say no to every invite I get but if I do go out, I limit myself to a cheap appie, and no drinks (or one drink).
  • We’re selling our crap. Decluttering has helped me curb my excessive shopping habits and now, we’re selling anything of value that we no longer need/use. We chose not to sell everything because my mom is able to keep some of our stuff in her garage and we believe that some of our stuff has no value but could cost us more to buy them back when we move back to Vancouver.
  • Downgrading and cancelling services. We’re not crazy – we’re still keeping Netflix and Spotify but I’ve downgraded my cell phone bill to $15/month; I’ll be cancelling my monthly waxes and switching back to trimming (or maybe I’d take a look at some waxing Groupons); I’ve cancelled my monthly subscription to Pixel Scrapper (digital scrapbooking); shit, I’m evening keeping a free WordPress domain until I’m good to spend again!

Why I'm Not Letting Student Loans Hold Me Back Anymore

On a bright sunny day in September of 2016, I handed in my last final exam of my undergrad. I was unofficially done school!

I told myself so many times that I’ll move to New Zealand once I’m done my schooling but the more I thought about it, the more I was hesitant. I was scared to move halfway around the world with student loans. I was scared that I didn’t have a “safety net” to fall back into if I couldn’t make a monthly payment. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to pay rent, expenses, and my monthly loan repayment.

So, I told myself that I’ll pay at least half of my debt before I move. I won’t travel for the entire year of 2017 to prioritize my loans. I’ll just work and get some experience on my resume before moving overseas. I don’t know if I was just making excuses up for myself or genuinely considering this as my plan.

Why I'm not letting student loans hold me back anymore

Vancouver is a social hub for young travellers on the working holiday visa. I’ve met many thus far with different backgrounds. Some have no money whatsoever; some have student loans that they’ve barely made a dent on; some saved their money.

The more I got to realize, and the more I took my responsibilities seriously, something clicked in my head. If I can manage my finances perfectly fine, and experience first hand from other people that moved across the world with student debts… well, why can’t I?

If everyone kept to themselves because of their debt, how far would we progress, culturally? Where would I have met all my foreign friends from Ireland? Spain? Australia? The UK? I started to realize that my scenario wasn’t uncommon. There are billions of other people with debts, some bigger than mine, that is still moving on with their lives, seizing opportunities and moving to foreign places and lands.

What’s so different that I can’t do that despite having an education, experiences and most likely a smaller debt?

Nothing is different. It’s just the matter of breaking out of your comfort zone and accepting the fact that a student loan isn’t a debt sentence. The other day, my colleague described student debt as something that’s “just part of life nowadays”. As I reflect on this newfound feeling and realization, I honestly believe I was just making excuses to delay my move to another country… because I was scared. Excuses to not see at least one new city a year because my student loans would cripple me if I dare go out and enjoyed myself.

I’m not saying that I’m going to forgo paying back my loans and take my precious time and rack interests up. All I’m saying is that I’m still going to move on with my life, take fantastic opportunities and risks and just go with the flow with my loans. There will be months when I pay back only a few hundreds of dollars, and there’ll be months that I’ll drop hundreds down on my loan. All I know is that I’m still going to travel and see new places, and have fun, and pay off my loans within 2-3 years (the average Canadian takes approximately 9 years to pay off their student debt)! I don’t want to view my loan as a debt sentence anymore; I’m starting to view my loans as just another part of my life that I’ll need to get over and I will. Not ten years from now, but in a few years.

Student loans seem so scary when you’re fresh out of school, but is so many people can do what you want to do with (bigger) debt on their back, why can’t you?

I’m excited to not view my student loans as set back and using it as an excuse for things I want in my life. I think with proper management and handling, loans are just another mountain to slowly hike and climb over. It’s right in front of you, and it can look big, but you’ll get over it one day. Just keep moving!

With that being said, I promise that I won’t use my student loans as another petty excuse to not achieving one of my goals and seizing the opportunity to move abroad to Australia.

5 Tips to Saving Money on Your Vacation

I just got back from my New Zealand trip and it was amaaaaazing! I’ll be posting up pictures and recaps over the next few days/week!

But, I think everyone agrees with me that vacationing can be expensive. Whenever I plan my trips, I try to stick to my budget (aka budget travelling) but not limit myself to what a foreign city has to offer.

Skipping aside the generic tips on saving money (eg. finding cheap flights), here are some extra tips to saving money on your vacation(s):

Hostels can be your best friend.
I adore hostels. I mean, $30 per night?! Count me in! I don’t believe in spending $100+/night for hotels where A) you’re only there to sleep/refresh and B) it’s “stuffy” aka nothing fun to do. Hostels are cheap and fun! During my stay in Wellington, I stayed at YHA Wellington City and absolutely enjoyed it. Because the thought of sharing a community bathroom and room with 6-8 people terrifies me, I chose to chip in a few more dollars for an ensuite room where I shared a room with only three other females and had our own bathroom. If you’re interested in trying out hostels, check out this guide!

Skip the souvenir shops.
If you’re one to buy souvenirs for yourself and/or friends/family, this one can save you tons of money. In my local dollar stores, they sold a lot of Canadian keychains so when I was overseas, I checked the dollar stores for souvenirs (especially those dollar stores located in touristy streets). To my surprise, I found beautiful glass souvenirs for $2.50-$3.00 (whereas this would have costed me probably $8-13) and keychains for $2. I remember seeing a beautiful keychain for $8.50 and found a similar one at the dollar store for only $2.50! I did venture into souvenir stores for specific items I couldn’t find in dollar stores.

Speaking of souvenirs, carefully plan out who you want to get souvenirs for. Does Billy from two cubicles down really need a souvenir just because he purchased coffee for you a few times? I used to buy souvenirs for co workers and acquaintances. Now, I buy them only for close friends and family.

Stay in.
Travelling doesn’t mean you have to be outside 24/7. Stay in! I chose to stay in a few times during my trip in New Zealand and had no problem whatsoever. After x amount of days on our feet and damaging our wallets, one (or a few) days relaxing allowed us to replenish our energy and gave our feet and wallets a break. In Wellington, I chose to stay in at night time rather than window shop (and potentially spend more money) or hit the pubs. Plus, my hostel was doing movie night.

Don’t dine out for every meal.
During my vacation, we went out to eat for only for lunch and a quick snack from time to time. We never went out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and rarely ate out for two meals a day. What we did was went out to eat for one meal and usually for dinner we hit the grocery store for stuff to cook or a huge precooked chicken that lasted for days. Just like dinner, breakfasts consisted of things found in the fridge rather than on the menu.

Pack what you have, don’t buy what you want.
It seems like a no brainer but I’m surprised by the amount of travelers that don’t pack what they already have (eg. towels, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc) and instead, buy them upon arrival. Some would argue it’s to save luggage space but you’re wasting money. I chose to pack what I need and in a small suitcase so it limits what I can buy on vacation. I think everyone is tempted to hit up the shops and see what fashion is trending in foreign cities. Because I had limited luggage space, I carefully chose what I purchased which helped me save a lot of money because I knew for a fact that if I had a bigger luggage, I would have purchased more. Yes, I had days dedicated to shopping during my trip but that didn’t kick me out of my budget.

Will you be travelling soon? And if so, where?
Share some of your money saving tips while on vacation!

6 Things to Consider Purchasing off Ebay or Aliexpress

I’d happily admit that I’m a frugal person.

And there’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I think it’s smart to be frugal… I mean, why waste money when we don’t have to, right?

One of my biggest secret in indulging while living frugally is online shopping.

Yup, online shopping. AKA what every financial blog tells you to stay away from!

But, online shopping is not the worst thing ever. In fact, I save more on online shopping than clipping coupons or waiting for sales at my local store. If you’re smart with online shopping, online shopping isn’t a debt sentence.

For example, my “make-up of the night” look for my birthday was about $5, my bikini trimmer was $5 less than in store, aaaand, by biggest investment this year, Lexington, my new mirrorless camera was $270 cheaper online than in store!

When it comes to cheap online shopping, I only stick to two sites: eBay and Aliexpress. Right now, Aliexpress is my favourite.

So, what should you consider purchasing online rather than in stores?

Beauty and beauty accessories.

Especially if you’re not a make-up guru and can’t be bothered with make-up, consider purchasing your stuff from budget lines such as E.L.F. or buy them online. I can get an eyeshadow palette for $2-3 (good quality) compared to spending $7+ in store! Especially if you’re looking for specific colours, online shopping is the way to go! Because I don’t know much about make up, my brushes are shipped overseas, costing me $1!

Accessories

It baffles me that people continue to buy jewelry from Forever 21 and H&M. Sure, they’re relatively affordable at $4-7 per piece but what if I told you, 95% of my jewelry cost me only $1? $2.25 at the most? And yes, after all that wearing, it still survives. I’ve also purchased cute scarves and hats as well.

Bags

If you’re not big on designer bags, purchase them online. They may be no name brand or a foreign brand but they’re top notch quality for only $20 or less! The best part is, most of these bags are fairly unique so it’s likely not many people in your city will be seen having one.

Clothes

Yup, it’s possible to do online shopping for affordable clothes! I’ve purchased a few pieces of clothing for $10 or less for school and work. I’ve yet to run into any problems with them. A few stitches may be poorly done but you can just cut off excess thread. Similarly to the bags, I love how nobody else has them! Consider coats, active wear and bras!

Electronics & accessories

This is a toughy. I’ve purchased a few electronics online and gotten lucky. I mean, I did save almost $300 on my camera just from buying online! I would consider other customers’ reviews before buying online mainly because electronics are bit more “iffy” than the other products. I’ve only had one minor issue with a portable speaker I got online for $15, but I didn’t really needed the bluetooth. My favourite one is getting a Class 10 32gb memory card for my camera for only $10.

Also, if you love switching up your phone cases – buy them online. $1-3 is better than $25 at the stores!

Household decor

I have yet to purchase any household decor because I’m still living with my parents but from what I’ve seen, cute, unique and adorable pillows for only $3-5?! I would totally save them for when I have my own place.

* * *

 

While many items are cheap, be realistic about shipping and time of arrival. I usually filter my searches to list free shipping products only. If I really want an item, then I’d be willing to pay for shipping if the item is still cheaper than in-stores. Also, if the time takes longer to deliver, I might consider picking an item online. For eBay and Aliexpress, because all of the items come from China, it takes about 2-3 weeks for it to arrive to Canada. Some places, like Europe, can take only a week or so.

 

Also, PayPal and Aliexpress have free protection programs to protect consumers against untrustworthy businesses. On the rare occasion my item would arrive defective or not what I ordered, a quick email to the seller and I got my refund back. With Aliexpress, the $15 coat I ordered from a seller turned out to be fraud and surprisingly, Aliexpress was the one who found the seller to be suspicious, put a hold on my order until the seller could prove they were legit, and after 3 days, Aliexpress emailed me telling me they’re issuing a refund because the seller was a fraud.

 

I have yet to get “scammed” via online shopping because I stick to eBay/Paypal and Aliexpress.

 

Let me know what you enjoy buying online than in stores! Hope you enjoy Aliexpress as much as I do! 🙂

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1 Month Update on my 100 Days Shopping Ban Challenge

I’m back from my Alaska trip! Prior to leaving for my vacation, I was doing very well on my Shopping Ban Challenge (with the sliiiiight setback on some Canadian jades).

In my natural habit surrounded by stuffies! #Alaska2015

Vacations are not cheap. My airline tickets to Alaska were cheap but expenses on trips can add up easily. You’ll see very few Canadians south of the border nowadays since our dollar is extremely weak and makes no sense for anyone to be splurging in America – in fact, many Americans are flocking over to Canada for vacations and shopping!

I had no other choice since all my flights and accommodation were booked already, waaaaay before the dollar dipped as low as it is now.

So, aside from the meals and a few taxi rides, my shopping ban was skewed dramatically while on my vacation (which, by the way, I did mention I might put a pause to this challenge when I’m in Alaska):

  • I kept all my meals under $15USD. Hooray for free breakfast!
  • Limited my usage on taxis/car rentals so it was public transit for most of the time.
  • I kept souvenir shopping relatively cheap. Because most souvenir tend to get forgotten overtime, I based my selections on prices rather than looks.
  • I chose to stay in a hostel (because I also wanted the experience as well) so that saved A LOT of money for me.
  • I had Starbucks on a near daily basis because obviously Alaska doesn’t have Timmy’s…
  • I kept my clothes shopping limited – only purchased items I felt I needed to invest in; eg. business casual tops and sweatpants. Even then, they were relatively cheap since they were from Target.
  • I DID NOT BUY ANY BOOKS FROM BARNES AND NOBLES! That is a major bonus for me because I cannot walk out of a bookstore empty handed.
  • Similarly, I did not purchase any make-up/facial cleansers from Target
  • Or, in any case, any random shit from Target. I have the urge to purchase useless things from Target because it’s so cheap.

Overall, my vacation was short, but despite purchasing a few things here and there that were listed on the ban, I’m quite happy with my spending habits. Normally whenever I’m in the states, I purchase a lot of goods/clothes but since embarking on this challenge, it made my reflect on a lot of my purchases. I feel like I need to see an investment in what I purchase rather than basing everything off a “I like this t-shirt” feeling.

1 month into this challenge has me reflecting a bit. I think about the future so much it has affected my spending habits. No more buying books I won’t read for a while since I rarely got the time and I’m planning to move. No more purchasing random clothes based on style rather than functionality. My closet might be changing as well since I’m leaning towards a neutral, casual, professional look rather than a kiddish-teenager look with cute designs on my tank top. I also invest in a lot of basic stuff that I can wear both at a job and on my days off.

I’m excited with my progress. Kicking my bad spending habits is fun and gives such a nice feeling! Now that I’m back to reality, my challenge resumes and hopefully successfully complete it!

100 Days Shopping Ban Challenge

Earlier this year, I’ve made a resolution to develop better financial habits and get my finances in check. If I’m being honest, I think I’m doing very well compared to my habits last year. I don’t do impulse shopping anymore, surprisingly I survive on $200 per 2 weeks and hell, I haven’t touched a penny in my Savings Account since I started it for New Zealand (the old me would splurge on something big)! Also, I’m paying off my credit cards faster than ever.

To further challenge myself and reconsider all the useless items I have accumulated, I’ve decided to embark on the 100 Days Shopping Ban Challenge. This may be the start to a minimalism lifestyle but that’s a whole different story.

So, starting today, July 24th, 2015 and ending in 100 days on November 1st, 2015, my challenge includes…

Banned Purchases:

  • Books, magazines, stationery, notebooks, etc.
  • Electronics (unless my laptop or headphone breaks during this challenge)
  • Cosmetics
  • Facial cleansers/shampoo/conditioner/body wash (unless I run out during this challenge)
  • Gym attire
  • New clothes (unless required for work/interviews)
  • Accessories such as handbags, scarfs, hats, etc.
  • Canucks or any NHL items
  • Household decorations
  • Starbucks!!! 😦
  • Junk food such as chips and chocolates
  • Pampering appointments aka salons, massages, etc.

What’s Allowed:

  • Gifts for special occasions
  • Groceries
  • Once or twice a week sushi (because, let’s be serious, I would die without sushi)
  • Tim Horton’s coffee ONLY on days I work (which is 4-5 days a week)
  • Printer paper (and ink) because university is a biiiiitch
  • Alcohol and taxi cabs on those nights I go out with friends

This challenge occurs during my Alaska Trip in which I MIGHT put a pause on this ban because I would love to grab some souvenirs while I’m in Alaska.

On top of this challenge, I would also try to meet the monthly limits I’ve set for myself on Mint, particularly on dining out and coffee shops.

I would also want to clean out my closet (again) and get rid of A LOT of accumulated stuff over the years such as little plastic figurines, pictures of people I no longer talk to, DVD collection, etc.

This challenge would not only challenge and reduce my spending habits, improve my financials, but also allow me to reflect on the materialistic items I’ve “wasted” money on.

I’d be sure to keep you guys posted along the way! This list is just a few thoughts on the top of my head – I’d be adding more bans or exceptions as the challenge goes on!