What Consumes Your Mind, Controls Your Life

Photograph 046 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com

Photograph 046 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com


That was the title of one of the latest blog posts on blondeonabudget.ca, one of my utmost favourite blogs about financial freedom and minimalism. While, Cait discusses social media and how it has helped to create more clutter in our lives, reading her article made me realise the clutter that I had in many different areas of my life. This clutter is not simply digital or physical clutter, but mental and emotional clutter. Also another thing that I became acutely aware of was the financial clutter in my life. For instance between my husband and myself we have six active credit cards at the present time, numerous checking and savings accounts, numerous overdraft facilities, numerous personal loans and rotating debt.


Why do I need so much? Why can’t I simply amalgamate all of them into one and manage? Well, I have tried that in the past and while it has helped for a while, I have often been able to rack up more debt because there are other cards that have been lying around with their full limits available. The question then is, why have I not simply amalgamated everything and closed down the rest of the accounts? Well, in terms of credit scores, isn’t that supposed to be bad? Let me explain it as I have understood it for the past so many years. Aren’t you supposed to pay up the balances or at least pay them off regularly to show that in fact you are a good credit risk, and once you get it paid down shouldn’t you keep the card, so it shows up on your credit history as being available?


I may be wrong, please correct me if I am. However, whether I’m wrong or not, I got to thinking, if I’m trying to live a frugal life and if I’m trying to reduce my spending, should I even be worried about my credit score. I don’t think so. Yes, I guess you would say that I should because I may need credit in a hurry and may not be able to get it. That is in fact true, but being able to get credit in a hurry is the reason that I’m in this mess anyway. So in that case, shouldn’t I be treating the problem at the source? Not allow myself to be seen as a good credit risk, which means I will have less cards with less limits, which in turn will make me unable to make purchases that I cannot afford and don’t need.


I know you can find many holes in this theory and like everything else it may not be 100% practical, but I think I’m willing to give it a try even though it is so risky. Therefore as a first step I think I should immediately cancel all those cards that I’m not carrying a balance on and continue to close each and every card as I pay it down. What other things do you think I should be doing?

Simplifying the School Lunch Routine

IMG_4282Over the last two years since my son started Kindergarten, I have always taken the easy way out and either given him haphazardly put together lunches or just ordered out. However, as back to school season began this year, I decided that I will do my best to become more organised, provide both my kids with healthier options and most importantly save my wallet by not outsourcing this simple chore. As a first step I decided that I would minimise the menu choices and have five different choices (one for each day) and repeat the same menu for the entire school year.


By doing the above, I thought that I would then be able to get into the routine, gain a better understanding of what my kids liked and didn’t like and most importantly instead of scurrying each morning to haphazardly put something together I would be better able to provide them with healthier choices with minimal effort. Last but not least, I also thought that by planning out the menus in this way, I would be able to buy produce and snacks in bulk, thus reducing the cost and also stretching my grocery budget as many of the items could be used by us for other meals.


One week after starting this menu I already start to see problems where the kids are either not happy with some of the items or where I just cannot get the named items at the expected low price. However, I think that is a good thing. I know I will have to make a few changes as time goes by, but for now I’m sticking with this menu for at least two more weeks before I start making any changes. This will not only give the kids more time to settle down and like the meals, but it will also give me time to research prices and different food items, before I plunge in and make any changes.


Look at the menu that I have pasted below and let me know what you think of it. I would like to see your menus and learn from you.




Tuesday Wednesday Thursday






Bagel & Cream Cheese




Butter/Jam Sandwich


Cold Cuts Sandwich




















Baby Carrots





Cheese Strings







Bear Paws


Yoghurt Tubes








Grapes, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Apples, Pears, Cherries, Oranges, Peaches, Tangerines, Clementines, Water Melon



Plummeting Gas Prices: What Will You Do With The Windfall?

Photograph 014 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com

Photograph 014 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com

Today I read an article in Newsweek that Consumers are seeing an upside of falling gas prices. Do you? Yes, I do. However, not for the reasons stated in Newsweek. Apparently the falling gas prices across North America and especially in the United States would enable families to save at least $700 per year, which economists believe will help to spur up consumer spending for the back to school and holiday season. I read much to my amazement that as much as 70% of the US economy is represented by consumer spending.

A few months ago the ultra consumerist me would not have been surprised by these numbers, however today, I’m absolutely floored. Why do we have to consumer so much and why are our economies built so that it is so highly dependant on consumption. But, I think the biggest question for me is why had I been so blind to this over the years and why had I let myself be sold on all these unwanted products? Which not only has caused so much strife in my personal finances but it has also caused so much of problems for the planet. Call me blind, if you will and you are correct I have been absolutely blind all this time. I still don’t think that I have got my vision back but at least I know I am on my way to recovery.

Reading through the article I was still more surprised at how blatantly experts had stated that the additional savings could be spent on big screen TVs or some other consumables, without a thought to how they could maybe use that money to invest or pay down debt. Furthermore, the article also goes on to point out that as gas prices are expected to drop the demand for gas guzzling vehicles are on the rise. As good as that may sound for the auto industry, is it not sad for the planet? Shouldn’t we use this time to continue to invest in green technologies and green energy initiatives. I guess, that is not how policy makers look at it. Rather I guess, that falling gas prices could also spell doom and gloom for the clean energy and green energy industries as demand for their products wane. If this is the case, as sad as it may seem then I am going to use the drop in prices in these industries to purchase products that are clean technology oriented.

Furthermore, in my case this drop in gas prices is going to help my family save at least $50 a month and I have decided that every month I’m going to put that extra $50 towards paying down one of my smaller credit cards. How about you? What will you do?

My Plan to Declutter

Photograph 007 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com

Photograph 007 by Lauren Mancke found on minimography.com


I have long since come to understand that when I tidy up my living space and reduce the amount of stuff that is lying around, my head feels more clear and most importantly I feel more relaxed and therefore more productive. However, decluttering or tidying up is something that I don’t seem to enjoy at all and therefore, continue to put off. But, hopefully the new strategy that I read about today, should help me through the process and make me better at decluttering. Most importantly I hope that it will help me approach the process in much more enthusiastic manner.


After having read Brian Gardner’s article, Decluttering: 5 Simple Steps to Getting Rid of Stuff, I have now decided to categorise the decluttering process by room as suggested. But, I also thought that in order to make the process slightly more simpler and break it into bite size pieces I should also list the different closets and storage spaces and tackle them one at a time. So this is going to be the list of rooms and storage spaces that I need to declutter. I have also designated a week for each declutter and have decided to tackle the easier projects first in order to be able to build on the successes and use it as motivation for the bigger projects.


  • Master Bedroom – November 16th
  • Kids Bedroom – September 14th
  • Office Room – November 2nd
  • Storage Room – December 14th
  • Guest Room – October 26th
  • Master Bathroom – September 28th
  • Guest Bathroom – September 21st
  • Kids Bathroom – October 12th
  • Kitchen – November 30th
  • Walk-In closet – November 23rd
  • Office Room Closet – November 9th
  • Kids Room Closet – October 5th
  • Storage Room Closet – December 14th
  • Storage Under the Stairs (1) – December 21st
  • Storage Under the Stairs (2) – December 28th
  • Wet Bar and Pantry – December 7th
  • Laundry Room – December 7th
  • Linen Closet – October 19th


As you can see I have made sure that I enter the new year with a clean slate and fully decluttered. Just as Brian has aptly stated in his article there is always the risk that I may actually pile on the stuff and move it from one room to the next without actually reducing the stuff. Speaking from experience I have done this before when I have decluttered my stuff and in order to be able to ensure that I actually do a proper declutter, I hope to reduce the stuff in each room by at least 30%. I would love to be like Cait Flanders and reduce my stuff by 75%, but I know that by setting a goal like that for myself at the outset I might end up just setting myself up for failure. So, I think it is best for me to start with a more moderate goal.


Also, while I’m aware that unforeseen obstacles may result in me not being able to complete some of the decluttering. However, since I’ve given myself a whole week to complete many small projects, which would take an hour or less like the ‘kids’ bathroom’ for instance, I’m sure I will be able to complete many projects some weeks, thus giving more time for longer projects. Besides that even the biggest projects on my list like the storage room would not take a whole week and at most might take about 5 hours to complete, so by giving myself a whole week, I have actually built in an allowance for any delayed projects or to make room for unforeseen obstacles propping up.


While reading Brian’s article I also came across this fantastic piece by Kariane at Everyday Mindful Living, about The Wonder of Freecycle. My initial plan was to make four piles of items when decluttering

  • Keep
  • Sell
  • Donate
  • Trash

Again speaking from experience, I often keep many items for sale but do not actually sell them because I feel that it takes too much time. Also I have made excuses like “I will list it on kijiji.ca, when I have the time to hang around the house for the buyer to come by’. That problem is now eliminated because I just realised after reading Kariane’s article that I can leave the stuff outside my house and let the person pick it up. Kariane’s article is truly wonderful and has now opened up my eyes to a whole new way of getting rid of stuff, because not only don’t I have to go and drop it off, but I could give away a lot of stuff to people who actually want it. Directly after reading Kariane’s article I just looked up the Freecycle.org in my community and found that there was someone looking for bedding and another person looking for Kitchen wares, both of which I have in my garage at the current time from a previous decluttering exercise, where I had planned on donating the stuff to the local Value Village but had not got down to taking it there yet. Also I have many items that others on Freecycle.org seem to want but, which I was thinking of taking to the local recycling plant. Now, I don’t have to do either, I will just email the folks and ask them to come get it if they wish.


Thank you Cait for the inspiration to Declutter, Thank you Brian for the advise on how to Declutter and thank you Kariane, for a wonderful idea on how get rid of the stuff without too much hassle and in a very earth friendly manner :-).

Fail, Fail, Fail

So you might be wondering why I have not been online and have not posted anything in the last few weeks. That is because I have not been living frugally and broke every rule in the book and have started spending like crazy and have fallen deeper into debt. I felt like a total failure and decided that it was absurd to try to write when I can’t even live by the goals I set for a few weeks.


Finally however, I did analyse what happened and realized that the direct result of the spending spree was not because I had become ultra consumerist again but rather because I had not sufficiently planned for unexpected expenses such as kids hockey gear, which cost me $450 nor a new laptop that my husband purchased for over $1200. These were essentials rather than mere crazy shopping sprees. Also I had to spend on back to school clothes and items like backpacks, lunch boxes etc.


So once I realised this, even though I in fact continue to feel like a failure, feel that there is still some hope and that I should get back on the band wagon and do my best. After all I seem to be getting a serious thrill out of being frugal, snagging amazing deals like the ones, which I will discuss in my stitching frenzy articles. I have also started using much of Greg Kuhn’s teachings to get myself mentally prepared for this amazing journey that I’m about to embark on.

Dreaming of Retiring Early?

Retirement OutlookThrough the years I have always wanted to work on my own terms work, when I want, go on vacation when I feel like it and only take on projects that I really enjoy doing. Also I like to have flexibility like working at a stretch for days on end on projects that I enjoy, taking a break when I’m done and simply starting the next project whenever I like. I’m sure many of you would love to have the same life but think that this is just not possible and that you will never be able to achieve such a dream. I was one of them too.


One of the main reasons that I thought, it will not be possible for me to work and still earn a solid income to meet my needs is because I always thought that I need at least $5000 in after tax income in order to be able to maintain the lifestyle that I want. This is in fact correct. In order for me to continue with my current lifestyle or the lifestyle of acquiring stuff, outsourcing much of the day to day, care needs like food preparation, house cleaning and child raring, $5000 is a bare minimum and even with that amount it will still not be possible for me to meet all my obligations. So, like everyone else, I too felt that there was no way around it rather than to continue to work in a predictable job with a predictable income and hope that nothing changes because even the slightest change in circumstances could be catastrophic.


But then as I continued to change my view about consumerism and began to understand how consumerism was actually causing me to be a slave to my job, I began to see that I could still maintain a high standard of living, but one that even though it may not result in similar expenses like the ones that I have, would still be very enriching and extremely fulfilling. So, as I began to explore this idea more in depth it began to occur to me that frugal living is what would help me the most. By this I don’t mean that I should be cheap with my choices, but rather that I should try my best to reduce wastage wherever possible.


Mr Money Mustache has been preaching this same thing for eons. According to him, much of our problems with money could be easily dissipated by optimising the way we live and reducing waste. Furthermore, from everything that I have read and understood from what he has said and many others continue to say, by being able to control your housing, transport and food costs, you will almost certainly be able to reduce your financial needs without really reducing your standard of living. Now, this is something very difficult for me to digest. First of all how can I reduce my housing expenses without downsizing? And, if I downsize, doesn’t that mean that I will be in fact reducing my standard of living? How can I live without a second car? It is impossible, how would my husband drive himself to work and how would I be able to take the kids around to their myriad of extra curricular activities?


On the surface, when I first thought of everything they seemed to be paradoxical in nature. There was simply no way out. However as I continued to think about it, I began to realise that in fact much of what I think of as living standards was a house, a car, a specific neighbourhood, etc, that we had chosen to live in and live with in order to impress our friends in the misguided belief that it will make us feel happy and fulfilled. While the house is nice and the cars are nice and all the many extra curricular activities for the kids make us feel like awesome parents, in reality they are hollow. And not only are they hollow but they also seem to be sucking the life out of us and keeps us tied to our never ending need to earn money in inflexible jobs to continue to service our debts.


So, the bottom line then is that I should weed out all the unwanted wasteful spending from my monthly expenses, and trim costs wherever possible. In the short term not only will this help me to pay down my debt with the surplus but it will also make me feel better as I become more resourceful and find true meaning and joy and not false happiness that is based on ‘stuff’. Furthermore and most importantly to my point about working only on projects that I enjoy and in a flexible manner, this would also help me to achieve my dream of early retirement much sooner than otherwise expected.

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Grocery Shopping – August 11th, 2015


Items 11-Aug
Bananas $3.43
Milk $3.97
Nutella $10.98
Noodles $4.79
Total $23.17
Points 0

While I did manage to get a good deal on the Nutella (1.45kg or 2 jars of 725g each), I forgot to present my PC Points Rewards card and therefore lost out on saving more points on the Bananas that I purchased. Hmmmm……the travails of being a hurry and not paying enough attention.

If Everyone Adapted A Frugal Living Attitude, Wouldn’t It Damage The Canadian Economy?

Can we all be frugal?Over the years as my addiction to stuff went on and on, I used to tell myself that by being an ultra consumerist shopping, and through shopping and shopping, I was in fact helping the economy. I always told myself that I needed to be a consumer in order to help the economy create jobs, which kept companies in business, which in turn helped me to earn an income and increase my standard of living. I believed that it was in fact my duty and it was only the constant cycle consumption which could help me live a better life. I also thought that Frugal Living was heretical to our capitalist society. But, I still had this nagging feeling that something in that argument was not right. This was because I knew that the environment was at a disadvantage. Yet I kept on believing that there was no way to stop consuming and the best we could do was to consume more environmentally friendly products.


Fast forward a few years into 2015 and I decided to research what would happen if all Canadian en-masse, decided to embrace frugality. Would it be unsustainable? Would we become a third world nation or worse? Would we have to become communists? The answer I found was quite shocking and even disturbing to me, to the point that I decided to deny it and say that it was just a few eccentric people who believed that mass scale frugality could help us retain our capitalistic values.


See, I had blindly followed what the mass media and politicians continued to tell us, instead of actually researching what economists had to say. And we can all agree that economists have a better understanding of economy and finance than journalists. According to many economics books and my utmost favourite, Economics Explained, in fact consumers are NOT the engine of growth. Then who are the drivers of an economy? Drum roll please…….it is the savers and investors.


As far as I was concerned, this was the final nail in my consumeristic coffin. I was so angry with myself for blindly believing that my insatiable need for ‘stuff’ which also has me in a $150,000 hole of debt, did not help the economy one single bit. Well, yes I did help, but not in a positive manner, but rather in a negative and self defeating manner. Not only did my endless consumption and need for stuff, help destroy the planet, but it also has made me a slave to my debt. It has also reduced my level of self worth and self esteem and handed over the power to the brands I wear, the company I keep and the stuff I own. This in turn has resulted in less time to actually live my life on my terms because all my waking hours are spent working to pay for the stuff I purchased and maintaining all that stuff that I acquired.


On the contrary, if over the last 10 years starting in 2005, I had become more frugal, saved over half of my income and invested it, not only would I have helped to save the planet, but I would have become more resourceful, less dependant on stuff to make me feel better, financially independent, and most importantly it would have given me time to live my life on my terms and not as a slave to my stuff and the debt I created to acquire the stuff. Well, they say you shouldn’t ‘cry over split milk’, don’t they?. But it really is hard not to and it was very hard for me not to try to deny the accuracy of what I was reading and become more aware of my pointless lifestyle. Yet, I was so angry with myself that I continued to justify this way of life more and more and went so far as to say to myself that frugality could not work if it happens enmasse, simply because the investments I make with my savings will not yield a high value and thus retiring early, maintaining a high standard of living etc, would just be an elusive dream.


Even though I kept telling myself all of these things, as the days passed and I stopped blaming myself too harshly I decided to carry out some further research in to what increased savings and reduced spending would actually do to the Canadian economy. Again, I was surprised to find that lower consumption would require less paid work for all of us and more time to rest relax and enjoy. This in turn would then result in higher levels of productivity as individuals work out of pleasure rather than because they are forced to in order to maintain their lifestyle. So what would we do with the surplus that we have in products and services, well the easiest answer is that we could export it while simultaneously decreasing our need to import. Even though we work less and consume less, it does not mean that companies will be less profitable, it will only result in more creative disruption and this will not be as terrifying to the job market or companies as it is at the current time in our extremely fragile and debt leaden economy. The reason for that is because the loss of a job, will not result in financial ruin for a frugal individual. For a highly productive company creative disruption would not result in bankruptcy but rather new opportunities and markets to exploit.


I know that I may not be explaining this like an economist and that my argument sounds simplistic, I know that you will find so many holes in this theory and you are right to do so. But, I also know that the economists and books I read make sense and they are based on tried and tested facts and figures, to which I’m unfortunately doing little justice. Either way I would love to hear from you and learn from you whether you agree with me or not and would welcome comments both positive and negative here. As I told you before, I believe that in order to be frugal and sustain it in the long term I have to feel fulfilled and I can only feel fulfilled if I change my mindset toward frugality and debating with you and reading your comments could only help me further.




Can Frugal Living Be A Reality In Canada?

Frugal Living in CanadaWhen I look at most of the writer and bloggers and all the advice that is available, I have seen that an overwhelming number of experts are living in the US and a majority of the advice being provided is not always best suited for Canada. So when I venture on this journey to find a balance between Frugal Living and Fulfillment, I often wondered and continue to wonder if its possible here in the Great White North. While I believe that it maybe significantly harder for me to live truly frugally, I don’t think it is impossible.


One of the many reasons for this belief is that two of my current favourite bloggers Cait and Cassie Howard are both from Canada. Cait has lived in Toronto at many times during her journey to be debt free and Cassie continues to live in Ontario, my own home province. Furthermore, they have both been able to reduce their debt drastically. Another one of my favourite bloggers, Mr. Money Mustache, himself is a fellow Canadian who lived in the great city of Hamilton in the past and continues to provide much insight and advice for us Junior Mustachians who endeavour to follow in his footsteps. So do I think I can really keep this up and see true results sometime in the future? Yes, I do. I do believe that, even though we may not have the same advantages when couponing and saving on every day items like they do in the US, we can still find many ways to be frugal in a very satisfying way. Based on Cait’s own journey of living a more simple and minimalistic life, I also believe that with the right mindset I too will be able to break free from this incessant need for ‘stuff’ and become more minimalistic and resourceful, which in turn will then help me to become more frugal and fulfilled.

I know that even though I may sound overly optimistic, this journey is going to be hard, but as I noted previously in my strategies for living a more frugal and fulfilled life, I am willing to learn from other bloggers, implement whatever strategies I can, modify others and even create my own strategies to meet my goal. But, most importantly I’m going make this fun and I am going to give it my all make Frugal Living in Canada a reality and I am going to retire early.

What are your experiences, trying to achieving Frugal Living in Canada?

Grocery Shopping – August 7th

Grocery Shopping GrapesToday I needed to purchase some essential sewing supplies and decided to go to the nearest Walmart and while I was there I also decided to do some grocery shopping. Here’s my total expenditure before HST was added on.


Items Aug 7th
Bagels $3.97
Bread $2.47
Chocolate Milk $4.00
Lemonade $6.00
Milk $3.97
Orange Juice $7.41
Sewing $19.81
Total $47.63
Points 0