Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's Time

Taken on a beach walk April 1 - Beautiful Vancouver Island

Tomorrow we fly off for the big Europe trip and boy it couldn't come soon enough.  No, I did not clean the house before we left (who does that?) but am still totally exhausted with all the preparation.   My last nerve is gone, and I spent the week with a wicked eye-twitch.  Thank goodness for holidays.   I live for travel, and ultimately it is so worth it.  I don't expect to be blogging while away so enjoy April and see you back Easter weekend!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Good To Be Alive!

Today was a  beautiful sunny 13 degree Celcius Spring day. It sure feels good to be alive! A picture post today:
Bottle Collection in the sunny bathroom window
These bottles have been collected over the last 20 years, some have value and some don't. I love glass and they sure look pretty in the sunlight.

Thrift Store Shirt $3
A very quick trip to the thrift store today netted 3 tops.  This purchase will end up going on the April clothing budget report since I closed off March yesterday.  All three for $10.50.  This particular shop always has nice clothes as is part of a women's shelter.  They posted a notice that prices are going up by .50 cents per piece tommorrow.  Still a bargain! All three pieces appear not to have ever been worn.  The sweater is coral rather than pink.  Coral is my favorite color.  It looks a bit funny on the hanger but looks much better on.  The black tank looks really good underneath.
Thrift Store Sweater $4
Thrift Store Tank $2.50
These are the plants in my dining room (yes, unfortunately the lady who built the home put carpet in the dining room - we hope to remove it one day) which leads onto the small patio.  The blue pot holds a green pepper plant rescued from outside in September before it had a chance to do anything.  I see two buds all ready to go - may even have a small crop this year.  The red pot holds a bargain tropical plant purchased half dead last year on sale but fully back to life now.  The brown pot holds a habanero plant which is flowering now.  Much larger than when I brought it inside last fall.
Dining room plants
This little guy is garlic.  Two weeks ago I found a garlic clove sprouting in the fridge and planted it - it took right away.  I think I will be planting more!
Baby Garlic

Habanero Pepper Bud

And finally, a great song  - Ain't It Good to Be Alive!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Budget Results - It's Officially Spring!

Although March is not over yet, in an effort to make sure this post goes up before our holidays I am calling the March budget officially done.

March Grocery Budget 
March's grocery budget was $450 plus $4.05 left from February underage for a total $454.05.  Actual Spent was $456.62.  Close enough! $8.75 coupons used.  This category includes all over the counter medications, personal grooming items, soaps, cleaners and household items for two adults who eat at home 99% of the time.  As we are away two weeks of April I have adjusted next month's grocery and non-food items to $250 less overage of $2.57 = $247.43 which also gives extra room for over the counter meds which we still need while away rather than just halving it.

This was a great stock up month.  Chicken was the name of the game.  I bought 8 kg of chicken legs($1.50 per kg) and 4 kg of skinless boneless chicken breasts ($2.66 per kg) all at rock bottom prices.  Yes, we eat chicken parts primarily because I cannot get a decent price on a whole chicken and refuse to pay 3 times more just to do so.  Some don't like chicken legs, but we love them.   This week I slow roasted them on the BBQ and they tasted incredibly good. They take a lot of patience turning so you don't burn them but man, so worth it.  I also bought and chopped up another ham.  This last week we have been trying to eat up things in the freezer and veggies so nothing goes to waste and if there is anything left I will give it to Mom when we leave.  The only problem with that is that Friday hubby went to the store to buy pop that was on sale and came back with $7 cheese stuffed peppers.  Note to self, must always have munchies in fridge, and keep hubby away from deli section of grocery store.

Hair Budget $250 per year
Zero spent in March.   We leave on holiday April 4th so expect to get my hair cut this week to make it easier to take care of on holiday.  Left in the budget for the year = $231.77.

Clothing Budget $200 per year
This month I bought a great pair of pants for $4.00 and those incredible Clark's shoes for $22.25 both at the Thrift store.  $164.14 left to go in the clothing budget for the year.
This photo of Lisbon, Portugal is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This photo of Amsterdam, Holland is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This weekend has been spent doing last minute paperwork for our company and packing.  We have a very full work week before we depart to Vancouver on Friday night and then Saturday fly on to Portugal where we will spend 8 nights then 3 in Holland.  I kind of feel like the little kid who knows school is getting out soon.  We have carefully saved and pinched pennies and now we have two weeks off in Europe!  I have only ever taken one other two week holiday and that was when I was 19 years old, and as a couple we have never been away on holiday over 8 days.  My only concern is whether or not we will have access to do laundry.  On the safe side I have packed a little laundry soap so worst case scenario we can do some washing in our hotel room sinks.  Five Sleeps!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Has This Ever Happened To You?

Brown Mouse says - Are you talking to me?
I am back to good health - thank you to all my well-wishers. This picture is for Jane who is considering getting a guard hamster.  My thoughts?  They work cheaply, and never talk back. What is not to like?  My hamster, Brown Mouse (*long story but never temporarily name a pet something, it will stick) is shown here peeking out of his straw tube today while I was cleaning his cage.

Mom and I did a speed trip to Costco yesterday stocking up on all the items she needs for the next few weeks and for the first time ever something really weird happened.  At Costco Canada they have a guy at the door who checks your receipt against items in a cart then lets you go out into the parking lot after you have paid.  He spotted an item in our cart that the cashier missed.

So there we were at 4pm on a busy weekday with many people in the lineup behind when he realized that we had not paid for something.  The poor kid (looked about 17) didn't really know what to do.  A co-worker told him to call a supervisor.  In the mean time I suggested we pull over to the side so he could let some of the 10 people in the lineup behind go through - plus I felt like we were becoming a bit of a spectacle.

Soon a supervisor rushed over, filled out a little slip, led me to a till and put the charge through.  I felt weird  like all the other customers were looking at us as if we were trying to steal.   I simply left the large heavy items in my cart like they tell you to rather than putting them on the counter.  What did they miss?  Five litres of dish soap.  Yes, I had to pay for it.  Really, based on what went on, I kind of felt that they should have done something for me as this was not my fault at all.  How obvious is a large jug of dish soap in a cart? Not really an item that should have been missed.

So, has this ever happened to you?  I left there feeling a bit weird,.  Am I over analyzing it?  Not a great shopping experience.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

This Week In Livingrichonthecheap

1.  I am not feeling well, and have had a touch of the flu for three days.  I still went to work on Friday but have been laying low with a dull head ache.  I hate being sick.  It totally sucks (yes, I am an '80s girl).

2.  As of today I am fish sitting for the neighbors goldfish as she is in Europe with her Brownie Troop and her family is away for a few days.  In the past she has been our hamster sitter so it was our turn.  Later today we shall introduce the hamster to the fish.  Real exciting life we live here.

3.  We broke our "no eating out until holidays" rule on Friday night - I certainly was not up to cooking nor was hubby so Micky Ds it was.  Tasty, bad for you and relatively cheap, and all that for $17.  Oh well, now we shall try and be good again.  We did go a whole two weeks without so much as a coffee out so not too shabby. As penance last night I cooked up two huge homemade pizzas, one of which we ate for dinner and one of which we will eat for dinner tonight.

That's all I've got.  I am spending the rest of the day in bed trying to get rid this crud.  Cheers!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sgetti Sauce

Yeah, you heard me.  My 72 year old Mother still calls spaghetti Sgetti so today I am sharing my homemade Sgetti sauce.  I have been making this for over 20 years from scratch and hubby says it is his favorite thing I cook.  You can make it in a crock pot, on the stove or even in an electric frypan (at one time that is all I had for cooking implements).  In addition to being tasty, it is cheap if you make it large batch style.

Browned ground beef - whatever amount you wish.  This sauce works with a little or a lot so you can stretch your meat budget.  I recommend draining the cooked ground beef then rinsing under water after browning before putting in the pot to remove the extra fat.  If vegetarian omit the meat and feel free to throw whatever veggies in you wish - I promise it will still taste great.
1 can tomato sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cloves fresh chopped garlic, throw in with ground beef when browning
1/2 cup ketchup (*secret ingredient - up until now oops)
teaspoon of basil, even better if you have fresh
teaspoon of oregano, even better if you have fresh
1 pepper, red, green or yellow (today's batch had 1.5 as I had some rubbery ones that needed using), throw in with ground beef when browning
1 onion, any kind diced, throw in with ground beef when browning
1 can sliced mushrooms
Optional:  chopped celery, hot sauce/cayenne pepper if you like it spicy

This recipe is very forgiving - and great for using up limp veggies in the fridge.  Let it simmer for 1-2 hours stove top or if done in the crock pot for 3 hrs on high.

You might be thinking I missed an ingredient - tomato paste, not required if you add the Ketchup which I prefer the taste of.  I have always hated the taste of store bought spaghetti sauce and no matter how broke I was I could afford this recipe.  This makes enough for three batches of sauce for two people and could easily also be used for lasagna.  We had the first batch for dinner and are freezing the other two.   On a side note hubby has owned these square containers that I am using to freeze the sauce in since before we even met.  They are over 11 years old and still going strong.  When hubby cooks spaghetti sauce he makes meatballs.  I find them too time consuming so make this meat sauce instead.  It takes 15 minutes to put together.  My friend Alex over at Living the Small Life uses left over meatloaf squares (great re-use)  in her spaghetti sauce.

I have been doing some Spring cleaning in the form of cleaning air vents and baseboards around the house.  I have also made a huge list of all the things we need to do, both personal and company wise before we go on holiday.

In the mean time I highly recommend you go check out my extremely funny friend Mitchell's blog - Mitchell is Moving as he has posted some fabulously beautiful shots on a day trip near where he lives in Fuengirola, Spain.

Spain is right next to Portugal where we are going on holiday, and definitely on my list of places to travel (maybe next year?)- 17 sleeps to go!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thrift Score! Momma's Got A New Pair of Shoes

Even on a cloudy dark day (hence the lousy picture) I am now walking on sunshine thanks to my brand new pair of Clarks Unloop leather shoes found at the tiniest Sally-Ann thrift store I haunt.  Seriously, this store is about 15 x 15 feet but I seem to find the coolest stuff there.  Now, I admit, I saw these a few weeks ago and didn't really look at them.  I just didn't think they were my style,  but boy have they grown on me.  I was starting to feel the pressure of needing new shoes for all the traipsing around we are doing on our trip and didn't really want to wear runners the whole time.  In our small town all the new options had been looked at - nothing. I was starting to think we were going to have to drive an hour down the road for some big mall shopping until I tried these on.  I readily admit these are not cute little clubbing shoes.  Since I rarely wear cutesy shoes these are just the ticket as they are the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned.  Like walking on pillows, I am telling you - definitely my best thrift score this year!

Real leather, and they appear to be virtually brand new with no scuffs.  Yes, I was like all the others.  Willing to buy used clothing because you can get home and wash it and remove all the other people cooties.  This is the mindset when buying used anything - get it home - disinfect it - good to go.  Since breaking my self-imposed "I can't buy used shoes mindset" this is the third pair of thrift store shoes I have bought.  All three have been either almost brand new or in the case of one pair brand new as they still had tags on them.

Now for the good part.  These shoes are currently on sale at Sears Canada for $139.99 plus tax.  Since we pay 12% tax on non-food Goods in BC they would have come to $156.79.  What did I pay?  $22.50!  Most of their shoes are around $5  but because these were higher end they were higher priced.  I feel I still got the bargain of the century.  I wore them yesterday to work and now know, they are exactly what the doctor ordered for tired tourist feet.

Have you found anything great at the Thrift Store lately?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Travelling On The Cheap

So you have saved and penny pinched your way into a lovely International holiday.  I love researching and planning trips, especially if we are the ones going, like our trip to Portugal and Holland next month!  As someone who previously managed a Thomas Cook location for several years and a self-proclaimed Frugalist consider the following before you go on your trip:

1.  If you are flying take your own set of earphones.  Some airlines give them out free of charge to access entertainment on the seat back in front of you but most charge.  No sense in paying for something you likely already own, and that are far superior.  Consider that even dollar store ear phones are likely better quality than the ones the airlines charge for.

2.  Pack some snacks and entertainment material like books or electronic devices.  Although most airlines take care of this once on-board often you will have to wait for hours well after you have cleared security before you board your aircraft.  Airport food is expensive, as are books and magazines.  No need to be spending your hard earned travel money before you even reach your destination.  Also consider keeping chargers in your carry-on as many airports offer free charging stations.

3.  Don't over-pack.  Make sure there is some room in your bags for souvenirs.  Some airlines charge for the first bag.  Find out restrictions ahead of time and plan accordingly.  Checkout my blogger friend SonyaAnn's packing for Vegas without paying for luggage at A Mom, Money and More.  Very funny lady!  Most International flights allow for at least one piece of free luggage, but ensure your weight is not over or you will just be paying more at the airport.  This is not the time to be packing a pair of shoes for every day of your trip.  Don't ever spend tons of money on suitcases.  The airlines don't care and will wreck the cheap ones just as quickly as the expensive ones.

4.  Research how to get to and from all the airports well before hand.  If you must park there are usually discount coupons available online.  Often you can get a shuttle much cheaper than a cab.  Sometimes in certain destinations like New York City and Amsterdam you can take public transportation to get close to your hotel straight from the airport.

5.  Know your limits with regard to accommodation.  I am not a hosteler nor do I enjoy Bed and Breakfasts. Neither makes me or hubby happy or comfortable, therefore we may spend more on our accommodation than others do.  I admire those that can travel that way but still prefer to stay in hotels, and I think you know by now that I am certainly not a snob.  We like our own bathroom and plenty of privacy and I have a hard time eating breakfast with total strangers.   I rely on  to find the top rated moderately priced hotels in each destination.  A case in point - most hotels in Amsterdam are extremely expensive, as are the decent Bed and Breakfasts.  By staying on a short walk from the outer canal ring we are paying approximately $30-50 CAD per night lower.  Our hotel is still in the top 25 as chosen by readers of Trip Advisor based on their personal experiences.  We are not getting a nondescript hotel but a small 14 room family run hotel with attached restaurant.   Our included breakfast is raved about, unlike many of the high priced chain hotels.  By booking several months ago directly with the hotel we locked in a low price which for our dates prices are now much higher.  I have been monitoring them, as if I happened to find a better deal, we still have the option of canceling as long as we do so before their required deadline.  I also regularly use,, and to price compare but prefer to book directly with a hotel if they offer similar or lower rates.  The hotel I have booked in Lisbon reserves their best rooms for those who book directly, on the best floors.  The rates were similar to those found on Expedia but I booked directly with the hotel thus guaranteeing a higher floor in the hotel, which is important to me to get away from street level noise (plus we take earplugs which any traveler should have just in case).  If you are thinking of staying more than a week somewhere consider renting an apartment as it may be cheaper.  Check out Air BnB for private rentals.  Travel agents will never recommend accommodation that doesn't pay them commissions.  This is a fact and something to keep in mind.  There may be perfectly good places to stay that won't be recommended to you.  Do your own research - hey, its your money!

6.  If you plan to take day trips research out the options and prices in advance, even if you don't book them in advance.  That way you will be armed with the appropriate price ranges and will not get ripped off.  I have booked two small van tours so we can go to places in Portugal that we could not otherwise travel to.  On the second tour as it is a very small group they have agreed to allow us to bring our luggage for the day and drop us off at a completely different hotel in a nearby town at the end.  This would have cost an estimated 55 Euro to get between the two hotels.  By the tour company agreeing to do this at no additional cost we are saving that 55 Euro (approximately $88 CAD). I found the tour company on Trip Advisor as well.  Based on their sterling reputation I believe things will go smoothly as they certainly corresponded easily and quickly by email to my requests.

7.  Research inexpensive eating options.  Renting locations with kitchen facilities is not always the cheapest option, which in our case it is not.  Our hotels all include breakfast and we will snack our way through markets for lunch but will need someplace to eat reasonably each dinner.  Two of our three hotels on our upcoming trip will have small fridges which we intend to use for snacks (**and beer and wine, a corkscrew is already in the travel drawer ready to be packed).  Portugal is much cheaper than Amsterdam but still, you can easily spend a lot on eating out.  Through research I have found that it is common practice for restaurants in Portugal to bring things like bread, olives and cheese to your table unrequested.  They may appear to be on the house but when you get the bill you will have a bad shock as everything you use will be added to the final tab.  Knowing in advance these things will relieve the added stress as well as be easier on the pocketbook.   You can simply refuse the items if you wish as they are brought to your table.  Standard tipping in Portuguese restaurants is 10%.  In some countries tips are added to the final bill before they get to your table.  In Canada it is standard to tip 15%, anything less is a bit insulting unless you received poor service.  Knowing these kind of things can help you budget for your holiday. In Amsterdam our more inexpensive eating options are likely in bars.  We don't tend to go for really expensive meals out at home, so why would we on holiday.  If fine dining out is really your thing then budget accordingly and do your research ahead of time so you don't spend big bucks in restaurants that don't have good reputations.  Most local restaurants that do not cater to tourists may be cheaper options but may also not speak your language.  Consider researching ahead of time translation for basic food groups and arm yourself with this information.  Try local wine and beers - they are always cheapest.  This may also prevent you from eating something you do not wish to eat.  I was researching a bar near our hotel in Amsterdam and realized their stew featured horse meat, which is common in Europe but not in North America.  I do not want to eat horse by mistake (or on purpose - ever).  Google Translate is a very handy tool in this regard.

8.  Research your transport options.  We are choosing not to rent a vehicle as Portugal has an excellent public transportation system of buses and trains at very reasonable costs.  You may not need to take any cabs on your holiday.  I expect only one, on arrival in Portugal after travelling for 16 hours.  This is a splurge.  We could get a shuttle for only a few Euros cheaper but in this case we likely will get a cab instead, and cabs are relatively inexpensive in Portugal (half what they are in Amsterdam).  I have also found out that in Portugal it is common practice to charge the fare plus a Euro or two for each bag.  This does not occur in Canada.  In most countries cabbies will quote a fare to you before you get in, for instance in Mexico, in fact you are a bit crazy not to lock in the price before you enter the cab.  Find out if that is common in the country you are travelling to.  In Canada you pay whatever the meter says as cabbies are not allowed to quote flat rates, with exception of most have a set rate to and from the airport.  In Amsterdam we will be taking airport shuttles as the train station from the airport is not close to our hotel.  We intend on walking a lot on this trip as wandering is often our most favorite part of the trip. Ensure to also take great walking shoes as no one wants blisters on holiday.

9.  Buy things like electrical converters and travel guides well in advance as if you have to purchase them at the last minute or at the airport you will be paying through the nose. I have an older converter and we ordered another online (free using GCs from swagbucks) so that we can plug in our ipad and laptop.  Yes, we have to travel with those items for our business.  We can partially disconnect but not completely so have also ensured that good WIFI is available wherever we stay.  This does not mean that I will be blogging on holiday as I hope to be too busy doing fun things.

10.  Try and stay away from buying things on your holiday with the name of the place you went to.  I know, this hard to avoid as you want a remembrance from somewhere you went, but a year or two down the road it will be in your next garage sale.  If you buy souvenirs, try and make sure they are useful.   *Hubby still insists on buying T-shirts everywhere we go, so I may be alone on this one.  At least he does actually wear them when we get home.   Check out this post on old souvenirs found at the thrift tore by The Non-Consumer Advocate for a good laugh.

11.  Buy appropriate insurance, especially medical.  Only the unprepared travel without out of country medical insurance then open themselves up to huge liabilities if something bad happens.

There are a zillion more tips but hopefully, if you are still reading you got something from this post.  Cheers!

Friday, March 7, 2014

7 Things Day

1.  We had takeout Japanese food last night which fed two adults plus lunch for Hubby today.  At $28 I could have bought far more groceries with that money.  Frugal Fail.  I am going to attempt no eating out until we go on Vacation April 5th.  We shall see how that goes as I have been very low energy lately.

2.  Due to low energy and lack of watching what I eat I have regained 2 pounds.  Need to do something about that.

3.  The snowbirds (Canadian Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and Snow Geese) seem to be acting like they are getting ready to fly back to their summer homes.  They winter here with our moderate temperatures.  That means SPRING IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!  The bunnies are busy cavorting (and pairing up) which also means Spring and we have had a sudden throng of Robins every where you look.  I also noticed that the grocery store has opened up their fenced area that they put out plants for the Spring, part of the Joy of living on Vancouver Island.  In Alberta this would happen in late May or early June.

4.  90% of the snow we got a week and a half ago (1.5 feet) is melted.  It is supposed to be sunny and go as high as 20 degrees Celcius by the end of next week  - yay!

5.  We just paid an extremely high electricity bill, which hubby was grumpy about.  This week he confessed he forgot to turn off the heater in the garage (*he turned it on to get rid of some condensation a few weeks ago, ahem!!!)

6.  I have suddenly been reading, a lot.  Nothing on TV and now I am addicted to reading again.  I am now on my 6th book of the year.  Last year I think I read 6 books in total.  It is good for the brain!

7.  I bought a great pair of pants at the thrift store yesterday for $4.  No one can tell me that you cannot live a good life on the cheap (I completely agree with you Van!)

That's all I've got.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What Does Da Wabbit Say?

These guys greeted me outside my part-time job Monday Morning.  Let me predict the future.  In a month or two there will be many bunnies running around!  Vancouver Island has a lot of two things.  Deer and bunnies, both due to a lack of natural predators.  These bunnies who were once domestic are now wild.  I have seen the black bunny many times and he lives in the briarpatch across the road in a vacant lot that has been taken over by black berry bushes.  This is the first sighting of his little girlfriend who was too shy for a closeup.  Da Wabbit says "get that camera outa my face!"