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!

7 Ways I'm Saving for New Zealand

Who doesn’t love clip arts?!

Following my previous post of announcing my move to New Zealand, I really need to get my spending habits fixed and start saving.

I’m cutting back drastically and a lot of my friends have noticed already. I hate being the “cheap” one out of my group of friends but hey, I gotta chase after my dreams and not mope around all day!

My plan of action includes:

  • No more impulse purchases. From now, instead of my “wait 24 hours” method, I’m increasing the the waiting time to 72 hours. Three entire days need to pass by before I commit to my purchases. I’m also going to cut my visits to the dollar store and unnecessary visits to random stores when I feel “bored”.
  • No more bookstores. Being a bookworm can get expensive – you just want to continue buying books despite a bookshelf full of unread books! Instead, the only books I allow myself to buy are the ones on sale. All regular priced books (and even sale books) would go through the public library first. If the library doesn’t have it, I’d add it to my to-read list and read another book in the meanwhile.
  • No more Starbucks (on a near daily basis). Starbucks ate a lot of funds. Looking back, I spend about $30-$40/week on Starbucks! Instead, I’m going to treat myself to Starbucks from time to and time and visit Tim Horton’s for my coffee fix instead. I even uninstalled the Starbucks app from my phone to help with this change.
  • Cut back on eating out. From now on, I’d invest more in my groceries than dine outs. Often time, I feel too lazy or uninspired to cook. The amount of money I spend on take out should be redirected to groceries for cheaper eating habits.
  • Fix my credit cards. By fix, I mean pay off all the debt and lower the credit limit. Also, get into the habit of only using cards for its original purposes. My MasterCard for school/emergencies only. My Visa for my own personal spending.
  • Transition into cash only. Everyone knows the best way to save money is to use cash and not cards. Using cash would also help me stick to my monthly budget more easily.
  • Dedicate a portion of my paycheques into a savings account. I think I might dedicate half of my paycheques into my savings account. I’ll also be increasing my mutual funds purchases so I get a bigger return on investment by the time I want to leave for NZ.
  • Cut back on services. I’m thinking of cutting back on my cellular plans and even changing my phone to a cheaper phone. I currently subscribe to Spotify and Netflix, both services I can’t live without. But, for example, I can downgrade my gym membership or invest in a few equipment for a home gym. There are plenty of fitness centers that is cheaper than Steve Nash.

Times like this, I wish I had a valuable skill to earn some little side income. I also wish I had more stuff to sell, haha.

But, gotta do whatever you gotta do to make dreams come true!

Tips for Finding What You Want to Study in University (Without Breakingthe Bank)

Post secondary is an investment. It’s an expensive investment towards your future.

I was lucky enough to find what I loved to do early into my post secondary career but many people aren’t. And one of the most common responses to university is that they don’t know what to study and can’t afford to “waste” money on general studies to find their passion.

I agree with that. I can’t see myself ever spending $700-$800 per course just to see if I enjoy Criminology or Social Work. Testing the pool of majors isn’t the same as choosing classes for your electives – most of the time, we take “fun” classes as electives while working towards our designated degree. Whereas, these people aren’t taking the class for fun; they’re taking it to see if they can have a future in this field (which, can be fun, but you get my point).

There are many ways to branch out and discover what your interests are and weather you can picture yourself working in this field without breaking the bank (because we need to save those pennies towards your actual courses)!

Drop into a university lecture

For most part, many university lectures don’t take attendance (and even if they did, it’s a big lecture hall…). Take a seat in the back and observe the lecture. Simple as that. You can get an idea what economics is like, or how boring history is. Of course, sometimes you can’t judge base on one day but for the most part, you get a general idea what you’ll be spending your next few years studying.

Apply to your local colleges

Colleges are cheaper than universities. They offer much more flexible classes and “fun” classes as well.

Register for night classes/community classes

Night classes are usually skills-based classes but you can still figure out if you enjoy it or not. For example, a popular choice would be a language class or a cooking class. From there, you can determine if you want to pursue a degree in a foreign language or attend a culinary school.

Buddy up with a friend

If you have a friend that’s attending school, ask him/her about their experiences with their classes. Take a peek at their textbooks and see if you enjoy the material. School textbooks are much different that those “dummies guide to ____” books in your local bookstore.

Check out courses online

There are a lot of free (and paid courses for credits) courses on the internet! Many of these online courses are offered by top universities around the world. You can get an idea of what going back to school is like and what the material is like.

I’m an advocate for school! I love learning and exploring educational options.

Now get out there and learn!

Buy/Rent/Sell Your Textbooks with Bookmob.ca

Selling textbooks can be a chore. I hate meeting up with people because they’re all over the city and my schedule is no longer flexible to meet up in the afternoon or morning. And if I have an available time slot, the buyer is busy.

I don’t keep my textbooks. It’s a waste of space in my home and an eyesore too. But, being a student, I do want some pocket money back from the books I purchased. Rather than using the traditional Facebook groups and Craigslist to sell them, I decided to use Bookmob to sell my textbooks.

Why? Because they’re the highest paying buyback program in Canada, with free shipping, fast payouts and they buy your books instantly! Instead of letting them collect dust in my room, I chose to get some money back from my books!

It took only 4 days for my textbooks to reach (I shipped it out on the 18th but I made my buyback on the 17th). Bookmob pays for your expedited shipping to Ontario via Canada Post; you would need to buy your own packaging but they’re less than $5 in a Canada Post office.

Bookmob takes about 2-3 days to process your payment. You can select between Bookmob credit (highest payout; worth it if you use Bookmob to rent/buy textbooks as well), PayPal, or by check. I chose PayPal because it’s the fastest with no withdrawal fees as well.

Proof of Bookmob PayPal payout

Within three days of receiving my package, Bookmob sent me my quoted amount of $96.24! While using Bookmob to sell my books, I was able to go about my days completing much more important tasks instead of constantly advertising and traveling the city to sell my books.

Bookmob is not only a buyback service, but you may also choose to buy or rent your textbooks with Bookmob, saving about $500/year!

*Disclaimer: This business review is not sponsored by Bookmob nor is this blog affiliated with Bookmob. All opinions and experiences are my honest opinion and any additional resources required were paid with my money.

5 Successful Methods of Saving Money

Nearly a year late but I have found 5 ways that works for me when it comes to financial habits. I wish I took my finances much more serious (I acknowledged my spending but never really commit to changing anything) earlier on but better late than never!

Just in time for the new year, here’s 5 working methods of saving money that could work for you!

1) Unsubscribe from e-mails
Everytime I told myself I was going to save, I got emails from my favourite stores telling me there’s a sale or there’s free shipping… those two marketing schemes gets me the most, especially free shipping. I can’t believe I’ve never thought about it before, but just after Black Friday/Cyber Monday, I unsubscribed to all promotional emails from my favourite stores (and if these stores have loyalty rewards notifications, eg. Chapters, it won’t affect those notification emails). Unsubscribing from these stores was the best thing ever and best thing is that I’m not drawn into the whole Boxing Day Week sales… I seriously don’t know what’s for sale for Boxing Day! I also tell cashiers not to sign me up for their promotional emails and I request stores not to send any advertisements.

2) Develop automatic monthly saving transfers
I may have mentioned this before but seriously, go into your bank and ask them to turn on this feature! I have three savings accounts: 1) regular savings account that’s connected to my debit card, 2) Tax Free savings account that isn’t linked to my debit card but I can still access it through online banking and 3) Mutual Funds that I cannot touch WHATSOEVER. I legit need to make an appointment with a financial adviser to access those money which is better if I ever act on an impulse to drain those funds out. Since I don’t touch my Mutual Funds, I put $50/month, and $20.50/month in my tax free savings, and $1/debit card transaction to my regular savings account. I’m thinking of increasing the monthly deposits once I get a better job!

3) Develop a reward program for yourself
This is something new to me but it’s a classic. Basically, you write a list of things you want but you only buy them if you’ve succeeded in achieving one of your goals. For me, my goals are mostly educational, such as, maintaining at least a 3.00GPA, or finish all my exams with 80% or more, and once that’s crossed off my list, I’d reward myself with a mini shopping spree (of $50… remember, budgeting!) or treat myself to a fancy dinner. Yes, I may be losing out on a lot of events or clothing items but at the same time it allows me to be motivated towards my goals while saving at the same time.

4) Have budgets
I feel like this is the hardest thing to achieve. Instead of planning out budgets (that always fails through), I downloaded Mint and they set up all the budgets for me. Right now, a few budgets includes $100 clothing, $50 restaurants and $10 coffee shops. I think they might analyze your recent spending history to come up with these budgets but I’m not entirely sure. You can customize each budget to increase or decrease the limit and Mint sends notification that you’ve reached your limit or if you’re overspending. Mint also keeps tracking of how much you spend on a month and if you’re spending more than you’re making. Best part, it keeps all your banking info in one app so you’re not constantly logging into several banks to view your statements!

5) Check your credit cards
I recently chose to downgrade my limit to $500. Not only would that decrease my spending, but it’d also maintain my credit score and even boost my credit score. I can easily max out my credit cards and sometimes take a while to pay it back. With only a $500 limit, paying that back is nothing and I can watch what I choose to spend my credit on. Also, consider getting cards that are beneficial to you. For instant, I stop using my TD Cash Back Visa when I realize it doesn’t do much for me. I instead switched to Scotiabank Visa for the free movies tickets – so yes, I spend money but at the same time I save a lot on movie tickets because I essentially get them for free and I’m a huge movie goer. My cousin opted for a TD travel rewards Visa because she loves to travel. Consider branching out to another bank if they offer a suitable credit card for you.

Five Ways to Party Smarter (Financially)

Just in time for the weekends, I present you five ways to party financially smarter!
You can always have a great time without breaking the bank!

1. Stop by the lounges, not the clubs!
Ideally, the first thing that comes to mind on the weekends is probably hitting the hottest club(s) in town and that’s the biggest way to drown your bank account.

Depending on the club and its hours, clubs include paying for coverage AND coat check (unless you opt to freeze in the early mornings) and usually overpriced drinks. Not to mention you’re paying for NO services.

Why though?

Why are you spending so much to head to a building filled with loud, sweaty, (perverted) people?! The music is so loud, you can’t even talk to your friends, and the place is probably so crowded, you’ll lose your group!

Instead, hit the lounges or the pubs. There is no coverage and coat check fees. The drinks are much cheaper, (c’mon, compare a $4-8 shot to a $15-20 shot!). These places usually play great music, loud enough to hear the lyrics and low enough to hear your friends. Not to mention, lounges and pubs are a great alternative to meet (professional) people and some places even has a dance floor with a live DJ or band!

Lounges are much more intimate and classy to meet up and meet new people compared to clubs.

2. Stop taking taxis
Taxis are expensive unless you’re lucky enough to live in the same place as your friends to split the cab ride. However, consider alternatives such as checking up on late night buses and trains (assuming you’re not fully drunk yet), or taxi alternatives such as Uber. If you can drive (sober), borrow a friend’s car or consider a car-sharing service such as Car2Go.

3. Stop buying drinks for everyone
This tends to happen more when you’re in a club, but seriously, you gotta stop buying shots for everyone. If it’s a birthday, then yes, treat your friend to a shot or two, but don’t buy your entire group of friends shots.

If you guys are planning a huge ass “let’s get wasted” weekend, nobody is going to remember you buying them a shot. You can spend up to $35 on a shot for a person and they won’t remember it. Many of us assume that the next friend will buy the next round, but that usually doesn’t happen. That friend couldn’t care less that you’re taking care of another round of shots, as awful as that sound. They’re probably shit faced already!

Buy shots for yourself. Once you start buying them for your group, they’ll expect you to do the same for the rest of the night.

4. Avoid cocktails 
Skip those stupid fruity cocktails that’s eating up your bank account. Cocktails are normally filled with more ice cubes than alcohol. Switch to beer (on taps). Not only is beer cheaper, but they come in a bigger bottle/glass for half the price and they taste great too! (PS: if you’re looking for a guy, guys like it when girls drink beer *winkwink*)

5. Keep items with you at all times 
The amount of things my friends “misplace” when they’re drunk is such a wasteful of money! This is a no brainer but I feel like many of you guys still forget to look after your cellphones/cameras. If you’re going to be piss drunk, give your valuables to your best friend to look after! I’ve been to so many parties where girls would leave their phones lying around on a table and forget about it. Many of people are nice enough to leave it alone but nowadays you can’t trust humanity as much. When I’m not going to drink as much, I don’t mind looking after a few items while my friends are drunk. I return it once they get home or the next morning.

I like to carry a smaller bag when I head out for the night. Not only is it small enough to stay with me at all times, it’s small enough so I consider the necessities for the night instead of throwing in things “I might need” and have the risk of losing more items.

Have a great weekend and stay safe!