Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Earn a FREE $75 Gas Card!

Back in March I'd applied for and was approved for an MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard to replace my Shopper's Optimum MasterCard.  

I was thrilled with not only the Cash Back that I'd be earning just for using my MasterCard (no interest charges for this PF blogger!), but also with the sign-up bonus I'd received....$60.

Fast forward to today, and Rate Supermarket is offering an even better deal!!  When you apply and are approved for either of the two cards listed below, you'll receive a FREE $75 gas card. A cool $75 would have gotten me through two weeks worth of gas!

By applying you'll also be entered to WIN Free Gas for a Year (a $2,500 value)*! 
*Offer valid from 5.00am EST on May 16, 2012 to 12.00am on June 30, 2012.

Here's a breakdown of the benefits of each card:
  • Annual Fee: $0.00
  • Rewards: up to 5%
  • Purchase Rate: 19.99% 
  • Balance Transfer: 1.99% (19.99% after 10 months)
MBNA Rewards MasterCard:
  • Annual Fee: $0.00
  • Rewards: Flexible! (Redeem points for cash back, travel, brand-name merchandise, gift cards from top retailers and charitable donations.)
  • Purchase Rate: 19.99%
  • 1,000 Bonus points after your first purchase + every year after 
My story : My credit card spending averages out to approximately $650/month - the usual charges are for food, gas, entertainment, car maintenance, gifts - which brings my year 1 cash back total to $228.
Since I pay my balance in full each month, the cash back feels like a gift for the convenience of using my credit card instead of cash; these cheques will go right into the travel account.  I LOVE free money!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Energy Conservation

I blogged back in March that in my original 2012 budget I'd included $55/month for hydro.  I've now been through a winter cycle (January - March), and a spring/summer weather cycle.  Seriously, it's May and Ottawa's been hit with 25-28 degree weather a few times this spring.

On my March bill I'd spent $1.24/day on hydro - including all those delivery and service charges.  This billing cycle, I managed to get it down to.......$1.23/day!! 

My two month bill, instead of the $110.00 I'd budgeted was only $70.47 -- off to the travel fund the extra money goes!

While a $0.01/day savings doesn't seem like a lot, my bill would have been much higher had I not been trying to conserve energy.  

I've turned on my air conditioning, but my hydro bill was lower.....that's because I've been unplugging my chargers during the day (cell phone, iPad, Laptop), I've been running the dishwasher cycle in the evenings/weekends when hydro is off peak, and because I've been involved in classes, the gym, volunteering, I just haven't been around to turn on lights or watch tv!

With a beer budget, every little savings counts, right?!  :)


What do you do to lower your hydro/natural gas/water bills?? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Referrals Shout Out!

I've noticed since the beginning of the year that my referral blog hits are coming not from Google searches, but from other blogs!  

So, I wanted to give a shout out to this month's top 4 referrals and a note on why I love each of their blogs:

I love Cait's writing style, the topics she addresses, her perseverance to get out of debt and how passionate she is about living a balanced lifestyle....can I say I'm also jealous she's (hopefully) about to embark on an amazing experience at The Bold Academy.  To contribute to Cait's goal, please donate here.

I was sad to see that the original Fabulously Broke blog was sold to the Financial Blogger, but I think that the new blog owners have done a good job of keeping up with quality postings.  Although I do miss reading posts during the course of FB's year off to travel! You can find the 'original' FB at The Budgeting Tool now!

Let's just say every Saturday I now wake up thinking about what Bridget's Personal Finance GIFs will look like that weekend!  When I read Bridget's post about investing a couple of weeks ago she wrote "I have a passive monthly dividend income".  Me...."um, what does that even mean??"  I admire anyone who can educate themselves on a topic that to me, is another language!!

4) Cents of a Country Girl
In some ways our blogs are polar opposites....big city vs. country living.  In other ways, we blog about facing similar challenges, like owning our first homes solo.   I love learning about life in the country, what can I say!

Thanks to these lovely ladies for adding me to your Blogroll and for all of the work that you put into your own amazing blogs!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What to wear at a vineyard wedding?

You already know that I'm working on putting together a group wedding gift, which is 90% complete.  What I haven't talked about yet is what I'm planning on wearing to the wedding.....that's because I just don't know!!!

I spotted a dress at Ricki's that I fell in love with last month and saved money from the gas/grocery/entertainment/travel budget to buy the dress.  This dress is the first purchase of 2012 that I've paid full price for -- I love it that much!!!  I am just not sure yet if it's right for the wedding.

The wedding will be at Vineland Estates Winery.  I should mention that it's a day-time wedding.  That means an 11am ceremony followed by a winery tour then an afternoon with no dancing (no dance floor and no deejay).

Here's a shot from the vineyard's website:


I'm putting a call out there to PF Fashionistas!!  Here are my two dress choices:

Ricki's gold: Regularly $129.95...bought for $29.99 (yippee!)

Ricki's blue: Regularly $79.95....paid full price.

Okay readers.....which dress would you wear to the wedding??  

I have a big push to finish before the wedding in exactly 2 weeks.  I am currently a size 13....the gold dress is a size 12 and the blue dress is a L (I'm into a large currently, but would love it to fit better!).  You'll be seeing a lot of #pfworkout tweets from this blogger!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apps I Love!

I purchased an iPad 2 back in August (2011) and I've loved it ever since!!  The $500+ price tag was one I mulled over for about a month before I decided to buy it. 

I thought I'd do a post today on my favourite Apps - some new, some I've been using for the past 8 months.  In no particular order they are:

1) Travel Wallet (Free lite version, $2.99 full version) - This app lets me keep track of spending on vacation.  Instead of keeping a spending journal, I have a real-time tracker of how much I've budgeted and how much I've spent.  I can attach a photo of any receipt to my trip expenses. I can calculate how much of my budget I've spent already and how much is remaining overall and in each category.  For my trip to Europe this summer I can see that I've budgeted $3,200, I have paid $1,900 and I have $1,300 to go. These expenses are in the following categories: food, souvenir, attractions (not including Olympic tickets), transportation within the cities, passport renewal, and park and fly Ottawa.

iPhone Screenshot 1

2) LoseIt! (Free) -   Since following the LoseIt! program since mid-march I have lost about 12lbs and am down 2-3 dress sizes, depending on the store.  I have been using the App when I'm at work or away from my laptop at home.  Features of the App are the same as what you'd see on the regular site.  What sets the App apart from the computer-based version is the fact that I can scan bar codes into the system instead of manually adding the food along with the calories, fat, protein, fiber, sodium, etc.  I've found that a few not-so-popular brands don't scan properly, but I've had success with most of what I've scanned.  

iPhone Screenshot 1

3) Budget Envelopes (Free for first 20 transactions, $1.99 thereafter) - Since I switched over to the MBNA Smart Cash Back card I've been spending on my credit card instead of cash via the envelope system.  The budget in gas, groceries, gifts, entertainment remained the same, I just spend the money using plastic instead of paper.  I use the budget envelope app the same way as I did my budget binder when I was spending cash. 

4) Couch-to-5K ($2.99) -This app will be getting a good workout the next nine weeks!  I'd used it in the past, but quit at about week 3.  Today, Destination Declutter and I are starting the Couch-to-5K program.  The C25K app will help me stay on track with the 3x weekly training sessions -- I've also downloaded running podcasts to track when to transition from walk to run and back again since I won't be running with my iPad -- for iPhone users I think this app would be more useful.


What are some of your favourite Apps?!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Free Dietitian Services - Yes, Please!!

While searching online for "healthy eating Ontario" I stumbled upon this website. 

"EatRight Ontario allows you to ask nutrition-related questions and receive feedback by phone or email from a Registered Dietitian. Nutrition tools and links offer many additional resources to support you in developing healthy eating habits for you and your family."

Wow, so instead of paying to speak with a dietician in person, I can call and speak with a dietician over the phone FOR FREE?!?

I checked around online and here are a few in-person options:
- London, ON - initial consultation: $90, follow-up appointments $30 for 30 minutes
- Ottawa, ON - initial consultation: $90, follow-up appointments $35 for 25 minutes
- Toronto, ON - initial consultation and plan: $125, follow-up appointments $5

I want to point out that if you're looking for a one-on-one ongoing relationship with a Registered Dietician, the in-person option is likely worth the investment and regular appointments would be more beneficial. 

In my case, yesterday I called Eat Right Ontario to speak with a Registered Dietician about calorie intake, to ask a few questions about coconut oil, and about protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.  I feel confident enough to design my own meal plan to ensure that I'm eating right (no pun intended) after having all of my questions answered, so for me, an infrequent use of  Eat Right Ontario is perfect.  If I wasn't, Eat Right Ontario has a meal planner too!

Just another tool in my back pocket to help improve my overall health! 

If you don't live in Ontario, does your province/territory offer a similar service?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Investing in my Health

......or rather Spending for my Health?!?

I ditched my gym membership; I just couldn't justify spending what amounted to about $6/workout.  I bought a bike (this one from Walmart), I'm eating healthier, and I bought a heart rate monitor (this one from Sport Chek).

Within the past month I've spent just over $230 on "sporting goods".  I've sacrificed a great balcony space for pieces of equipment that will improve my fitness and overall health.

I've also been eating healthier.  This is what I made for dinner tonight:

I've been shopping the perimeter and included only fresh ingredients found on the outside aisles for this meal: tortilla with 12g of fiber (so this puppy will keep me full for while), avocado, red leaf lettuce, cucumber, shredded carrots, grilled onions, red/green peppers, mushrooms - cooked in EVOO.  Alongside a big glass of water. I did cheat and use 1 tbsp of store bought salad dressing. For any fellow calorie-trackers....only 395 calories for both the wrap and salad!! 

Back to finances....Since I started eating healthier I've actually spent less on groceries.  I've been budgeting $240/month on groceries and I've been able to stick to it.  My fridge is always stocked with healthy foods and my freezer is full of ready-to-reheat-at-work for balanced lunches. 

While getting into smaller clothes (I'm down from a 16 to a snug 13) might be a budget booster for most people, I have been a smaller person - a 10 is the lowest I've been as an adult out of school.  I literally have an entire suitcase and 1 dresser drawer worth of clothes sized 10 and 12.  I know, not practical to store and move a wardrobe worth of clothes I don't fit into across the province, but I knew that I'd get down to a comfortable weight at some point.

Thank you again to all PF bloggers on twitter using #pfworkout.  When I check twitter every morning and see the hard work everyone is doing -- while I was getting up at my usual 7am -- it's an incredible motivator!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How did I get so busy??

Within the last month or so my daily calendar seems to have something every day....aside from work of course!

Last weekend I began French classes I'm taking through Algonquin College.  I'm enrolled for 8 weeks.  Classes take place Saturdays and Sundays between 9am and 12pm.  On top of classes I have about 3 hours of online homework/week in addition to about an hour of textbook homework and studying (I have quizzes, a midterm and final exam).  So much for just taking a French class to brush up on my skills!

I posted back in February that I'd joined by condo's Board of Directors.  We're now getting into the Reserve Fund Study and Performance Audit time of the year, so that's keeping me busy.

I've also signed up for Boot Camp (starts later this month) and I've been hitting the gym about 3x/week in addition to heading outside on my new bike - I have a 1 month membership to try a new gym out.

I've started volunteering with three other organizations, two are recreation development organizations/organizations who raise money to offset sports costs to low-income families (definitely in my field), another unrelated to my field which raises money towards activities for children who are hospital-bound. 

On top of all of that, I'm still keeping up my goal to go out with former colleagues/classmates in the hopes of making new/old friends in the city!

I've been eating healthy thanks to the Eat Clean Diet and Clean Eating Mag and this morning I pulled on a pair of pants I haven't worn in about 2 years!!  Thanks to everyone on Twitter using's definitely motivating to me!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Net Worth Update - April 2012

I'd posted my first net worth update back in February and I figured it was that time again to check in and see where I stand.

Here goes:

February, 2012
April, 2012

Net Worth

I'm pretty middle-of-the-road happy with the progress.  I know that I could have done better in the savings department, and one of my goals for the year was to make two extra mortage payments and that has yet to happen, so over the next coming months I need to make that a part of my monthly plan.

My end of year goal is to have a net worth of $38,000 sooooo, only $8,458 to go over the next 8 months -- eek!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Budget: May 2012

Budget for May is complete!!

Crossing my fingers that I'll be able to stay on track:

Full Time Job
Transfer from Planned Spending Account

Mortgage + Taxes (3x this month)
Condo Fees
Insurance (Car/House)
Hot Water Tank Rental
Car Maintenance/Licensing
Extra Mortgage +Tax Payments
Natural Gas
Emergency Fund
Travel Fund
House Stuff
Gas - Car