31 December 2016

10 Highly Effective Ways to Burn Through Cash in 2017

In 2017, there are tons of great ways to meet absolutely no financial goals. With a sluggish economy, flaccid job market, and easy access to credit, now is as good a time as ever to reduce your savings on high-cost investments. 

Here are some of the best ways to burn through your cash in 2017!

1. Credit Card Interest - Why pay off the whole amount when you can just pay the minimums? Rather than simply paying creditors the amount that you spent (let's say $375 for that really cute armchair from Ashley), you can end up paying nearly $600 by dragging out those payments! The same goes for your casual purchases. While most of your in-store purchases may have ranged from $2-100, it really adds up! 

2. Loyalty Rewards Spending - Perhaps one of the most popular and logical trends of the decade is spending as much as possible in order to win on some free points! Take Scotiabank's Scene Visa, for example. If you blow $1000 on cosmetics and takeout, you get to see a free movie! Totally a win. Totally. 

3. Memberships & Subscriptions - Amazon has really caught onto the subscription sensation. If you want to deplete your chequing account quickly and without having to think, "How can I get rid of all of my earnings?" subscribe, subscribe, subscribe! Join the Dollar Shave Club, order those fun boxes of goodies you hardly have to even open because they're all tiny little trial products, and then add on a few magazines, online subscriptions, and maybe even throw in a couple memberships to clubs, attractions, and gyms! Do this a few times, and you'll be rid of a few hundred dollars a month without even having to think about it!

4. Eat Out...Often - This one comes with great perks: convenience AND tasty food! Some weirdos take hours out of their weeks to grocery shop, prepare food, eat it in their mundane little homes, and then go so far as to clean up after themselves. By eating out, you can easily burn 10x the cash with 1/10th of the effort!

5. Take the Promo Contracts - Sure, you end up paying less at first, but this is an investment! Take Rogers. You can take the hit and only pay a little for cable, internet, and home phone for the first six months, but you're in it for the long haul. Once you've suffered through that first six months of lower-than-average bills, you'll end up paying close double what you were paying before. Now there is effective spending! Any time you see the words, "Introductory Rate," take it! The cash will be flowing from your coffer with robust speed before you know it.

6. Only Shop in the Front of the Store - It's unfortunate that it has to be true, but most stores reduce their prices and keep these items close to the back wall. When you're out to get rid of as much cash as possible, you simply have to focus on the front of the store where the new arrivals and hottest items are displayed because you're pretty much guaranteed to pay full price on these. It's much easier to buy one well-priced item than have to find two items for the same amount of money!
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7. Replace Your Stuff Frequently - One of the added benefits of living in a disposable-loving society is that it's easy to replace your items often. Don't like your grey Kitchen Aid mixer? Good news! You can give that one away and purchase a new seafoam green one! You get your whim's desire and burn a few hundred dollars all at once! The same goes for other household items both big and small. Swap out your water bottles, phone cases, stoves, and couches as often as you can. It's fun AND will help you to meet your spending goals!

8. NEVER Look at Your Bank Statements - Something magical happens when you resist opening those envelopes that arrive each month from the bank... your chequing account stays closer to 0 than average! Some say it's because of hidden charges, fees, or even forgotten recurring expenses, but others believe it's magic. When you don't look, it really helps to keep your savings to a minimum. Plus, it's perhaps the simplest piece of advice there is on this topic!

9. Enable the "Tap" Feature on all Your Cards - It's hard to admit our own laziness sometimes, but having to insert your card and punch in your PIN takes up valuable seconds of your day. Research has shown that the simpler it is to complete a transaction, the more you end up spending. It's simple but effective.

10. Always Take the Payment Plan - Many businesses are shy to boast about the power of their interest rates on payment plans to help your purchase to take up as much cash as possible. But the reality is that you spend the least when you pay for a large purchase all at once! While you could easily get caught with a 0% Financing Option, you should know that most of these let-downs are corrected after a few months, and you'll be eligible for high interest payments shortly after. Just pay attention to the rates, and you're guaranteed to find ways to spend the highest amount possible!

Do you have more great ways to burn through cash? Post your great ideas in the comments! 

28 July 2016

Don't give up now, my darling.

My darling, don't give up now. It's all going to work out.

I know you feel alone--desperately so, but you shouldn't. It's how all of us feel, and doesn't that make it so that we are together?

You've been fighting so hard and made mistakes along the way. I know that it feels like it won't ever end.

But darling, it will.

And all will be well for you. I promise.

Because every time you fight for it, cracks form in the walls that bar your way. Walls aren't infinite. They're a thousand percent fallible, and keep pushing, because, darling, you're almost there. You'll knock them down soon enough.

I know you feel alone. I know you do.

But make that motivation for you, because it's worth fighting for, even if nobody is fighting beside you.

Darling, nobody is beside you because we're all fighting at once.

Fighting for this,
fighting for that,
fighting for him,
fighting for her,
fighting for us all.

And, God, we need hope.

So soak up that hope from every cranny of the universe, because hope is your fuel, and you need it to keep moving forward.

I hate what you've been through. I hate that you've hurt and struggled all alone. I hate all that's been done to you.

But darling, you're going to make it.

One day, standing on two solid feet, you'll know it, and you'll look and cry because your success was unimaginable.

Never give up, darling.

That cry in your heart that pleads for more than what's in front of you needs to be heard.

When you hear that cry and keep trying, pushing through and fighting with all your strength, well, my darling, you'll change the world.

Small steps, big steps, back steps, non-steps... there's a time for all of them.

So breathe, my darling.


Breathe again.

I mean it.

You are going to be okay. I promise.

10 January 2016

Do Better With Your Money: #RealTalk

Don't for a second believe that being perma-broke is your future. Peers and even the public may tell you that being strapped for cash is normal, but it doesn't have to be your normal.

You may not like it, but it really just comes down to one thing: self control.


But realistically, the only way to save money is NOT TO SPEND IT! If your balance is always at 0, or worse, taking advantage of the Overdraft Protection your bank automatically applied to your account way back when, you're doing it wrong.

Of course, there are those insane times when you truly are financially screwed, but don't let yourself believe that you are in that state permanently. 

You've GOT to control your spending.

Want to know the biggest culprits for draining your account quickly? Too bad. I'm already spewing.

1. Rent that simply is too high for your income. Your rent should never EVER be more than 50% of your monthly income. The closer you can get it to 30% the better. And guess what? You have a choice! You can MOVE. Granite countertops and spacious bedrooms will always be there for you later...when you actually make enough to justify them. If you're already looking for a place, set your price range and don't even look at the places that are too expensive for you. Don't compromise your financial future for temporary luxury. 

2. Monthly bills. They always get a cut of your income and determine how much wiggle room you have left at the end of the month. In southern Ontario, there are a few realities:
          a) You don't need a landline
          b) You don't need cable
          c) Your personal cell phone bill has no reason to be much more than $50/month with some of the highly competitively priced piggy-back providers (like Koodo, my personal favourite, Virgin, Wind, etc.). And let's be real--"unlimited everything" is excessive. Unless you're cutting out internet altogether, you don't need unlimited data. You can handle yourself better than that. (Although, if you snagged a $35 Unlimited Plan from Wind or something, that's not so bad.)
          d) Your insurance: cell phone insurance is fairly useless, especially beyond the first year. Chop it off your bill! Shop around for life, car, and rental/homeowner's assurance, or ask your friends for a reputable financial advisor, who may have a running list of the best deals in town.
          e) Utilities: in general, there is a LOT you can do to reduce your utility bill. Beyond that, you're out of luck, but if you're running your dryer at peak times consistently, change your game plan. 
          f) Internet: This one is non-negotiable for me as I largely work from home. Especially if you don't have a computer, figure out if you need it or not. If you're still paying out to Rogers and Bell, see if you can get out of your contract. Small companies like Start Communications, TechSavvy, and Cogeco, among others, can chop your cost in half (or more). Don't let them convince you that you need the highest possible speed, either. Even 6mbps is plenty for most households. If you're with a flexible company like Start Communications, start out with less than unlimited usage and see what you can get away with. I got away with 100gb/month for years.
          g) Bank fees. Did you know that some personal accounts are completely free as long as you keep a minimum balance? With interest rates as useless as they are, you're better off keeping your emergency savings in your chequing account to waive fees than to put it in a TFSA, or worse, a normal savings account. Of course, if you still can't handle seeing a positive balance in your account, hide the money somewhere else and deal with the fees so you don't spend it all on something you don't need.

3. Overpriced food. I talk a lot about food costs. In my family, we aim for $1-2 servings for most meals, which is very doable when you only buy groceries on sale at low-end stores and make it yourself, and guess what? They're delicious. Comparing a hot, full-of-flavour homemade stir fry or pasta to a $13 burger combo? It's a no-brainer. Having a few things on-hand like re-usable containers and a microwave make a massive difference in making that meal prep worth it because you'll have no-work leftovers.

4. "I deserve this" consumer mentality. Nope.  Just because you want it doesn't mean you need it or deserve it. I can't say this enough: do without. In university, I was so poor that it took me 4 years to invest in the crappiest cheese grater Walmart had to offer. Just because something has appeal doesn't mean you should swipe your card. Learn how to walk away and empower yourself to know that you aren't going to be swayed by good advertising, the chic factor, or plain old greed.

I've summarized most of the cost-saving strategies that I usually preach, but my theme today is self-control. 

You won't get your finances in order until you've figured out how to spend far less than you make each month. 

It's agonizingly simple. 

Even if you simply start by just saying no a few more times a month, at least you've started on something. Pick a financial mentor...they don't have to know it. Just keep an eye on someone who has their stuff together. Think of them when a gorgeous pair of boots is looking back at you. Think of them when your friends are on their second round at the overpriced pub they chose to meet at. Think of them when your peers are buying new matching appliances and your kitchen looks like it's straight of the 70s. 

When you save now, you will have more freedom later. Better yet, you'll be able to do more with your life later. To me, that means being confidant you'll be able to take care of your family, that you'll be able to give to others generously, and that emergencies and freak situations won't be able to floor your financially. 

Say no now so you can say yes later.

20 May 2015

I'm Allowed To Be Freaking Out, Right??

Let's get real.

This shit is scary!

Next week, I'm getting married. MARRIED.

You know, that permanent, weld your life to another human who is totally imperfect but extremely likeable, wash each other's underwear, share a bathroom, bare-all phenomenon that people have been engaging in (lol) for ... ever?

It's just freaky. Like, right now, I can at least sorta hide frumpy days when my BO annoys even me. I can have my little freak outs and nobody is there to see them. It's perfect.

He's gonna know me. Even the stuff I at least attempt to hide from everyone else.

It's a drop-the-towel kind of vulnerability, you know?

Well, maybe you do. I don't. Yet. AHHHH!!!

Okay so it's not just that. I'm actually SO SAD.

[Disclaimer - I consider myself a single mom. If you have your kid the majority of the time and you're the only caregiver present, there's this level of all-encompassing, just-you-and-me-kid-ness that creates a closeness that doesn't even come close to any other type of intimacy. All you women who literally have no support, even on weekends or financially, koodos to you. I'm still a single mom.]

One of the more pivotal moments of my twenties involved bawling my eyes out while sitting on a rock under a bridge (yeah, I'm cool like that), while the reality of my looming single mom life smacked me right in the side of the face. I was TERRIFIED.

From that moment on, a lot of me retreated so that the outside world couldn't damage me any further. I had to be strong. I had to just figure it out. Nobody else was going to.

Single mamas, you get this, right? Those memories of your kid crying so inconsolably at 4 in the morning, and you just cry right along with that little babe because gosh, you're so helpless. There's that other classic memory where you check your banking info and totally forget to breathe because you're literally not sure if you're going to make it this month. And then there's those gosh darn sweetest times when that sweaty little toddler cuddles against you on the couch just because he wants to and it's like there is an iron ball shutting the rest of the world out of your precious moment.

You don't get closer than that, do you?

I've had a stiff spine as I've watched friendships I simply can't invest in erode, or while opportunities showed face but I just...couldn't. There was no more drop-everything-and-go. [What's a pub beer?? What's a job in another city?!]

You feel strong. And weak, but mostly strong. Being a single mom just turns you into a way stronger person than you've ever been. It's an all-encompassing identity.

And that's what has me freaking out. I LOVE my fiance. He's the kindest, most compatible person I've ever known. He's really just my favourite adult human. I'm stoked about officially becoming a step-mom to his adorable and kind-hearted little girl, too!

But giving this up is so heart-breaking for me. I want what's coming, but I'm mourning what I'm leaving behind.

For almost 3 years, I've turned my life into a protective egg shell around my precious little boy so that he can grow up safe and well. I've become a very different person in these last 3 years.

When Scott helps me, even with little things like changing Riley's diaper or putting him to bed when I'm just too done with the day, it's weird for me. It's awesome, but it's an exception to our normal.

Now, our normal is changing. It's not just my dishes, my laundry. It's not just my kid or my responsibilities. It's not just my feelings.

lol, oh feelings...

Getting married is totally a mixed bag for me. That's what I'm really trying to say.

I can't wait to marry this man who makes me feel like it's okay to be me when I never have felt that way before in my life. I'm so excited to keep on laughing together, flopping onto the couch in exhaustion together, and growing together. I love him, and I'm going to marry him.

But in that moment when I finally release that fierce, protective, lonely egg shell identity, I'll change again.

As much as I don't like it, change is okay.

[slow breaths; repeat]

Change is okay.


31 December 2014

14 Things I Learned in 2014

[insert some sort of meaningful intro that most people will skip anyway... oh wait. #pointless]

1. It's okay to be a nerd. In school, I was always a nerd. I cared more about grades and learning than most people. Now that school is behind me (at least for now), my nerdiness has leached its way into other aspects of my life, especially in things like budgeting and writing, and I'm not ashamed.

2. Relationships take investment. Being a working mom basically takes up my whole life. I've had lots of friendships more or less dissolve because I simply haven't had time to put toward them. Slowly, I am hoping to invest time in friends that "get" this more.

3. Blazing trails is way more fun. My nerd self wants to see everything organized into boxes with all sorts of algorithms to put reason to random. Especially with my freelancing, I've seen that existing templates don't necessarily encompass everything. Just because there's no job title doesn't mean a task can't be done. Sometimes, you just need to make it up as you go along.

4. I'm actually pretty good at certain things. The adult world is different... There are no grades or classes. There's just existing, doing, and growing. I used to take some of my unique skills for granted, but opportunity has taught me that my strengths are pretty cool!

5. Feminists can enjoy baking. There is little I hate more than people limiting themselves because of gender roles. I believe in empowered people. That doesn't mean that enjoying activities "typical" to your gender detracts from that empowerment.

6. I was wrong about most of motherhood. This weekend I realized that, despite aiming to be easy-going, I used to be rather adamantly anti-regime. The thing is, a good mom parents their kid based on their KID, not the things they decided to care about before even meeting their kid.

7. Becca at 25 is NOT Becca at 20. I don't stand on chairs anymore (often). My giggle fits are over different things, and I'm far less inclined to swear as a linguistic tool. Drama bores me, and I'd rather drink red wine at home than socialize at a pub. Life changes you, and that's okay.

8. Daily task lists are the key to productivity (for me at least). Most mornings, unless I don't want to be productive, involve writing out everything I need to accomplish in the day. The delight I get from scratching everything off my list makes forcing myself to accomplish tasks worth it.

9. Multi-tasking makes for low quality work. "One thing at a time" is my new refrain when I get overwhelmed. Not only do you do a better job just focussing, but you save tons more time on top of it.

10. Humans respond to capacity building. I've always believed in this one, but this year, I have seen the impact of personal investment like crazy! Giving people growth opportunities can have huge impact.

11. Growing with another person feels amazing. One of my favourite things ever is hearing Scott talk about things that we both deeply care about, and realizing that we have spurred each other on to want to make a difference. It just feels good.

12. Family is a different kind of happy. There's nothing else I've ever experienced that comes close to the whole-mind encompassing happiness of just having good moments with my little family. Some of the simplest moments were among the happiest of my life.

13. Jesus loves me. I know it's a simple one, but God has just been incredibly good to me this year. I can't help but feel like he just wants to be nice to me for the fun of it.

14. Sea turtles are the coolest animal. No further explanation required.

20 October 2014

Intentional Thought Patterns

When Brian decided he wanted to teach on positivity training, I got excited, since it's one of my favourite topics ever.

It wasn't that long ago that I was more or less ruled by anxious thoughts, coasting along a roller coaster of feelings and not knowing what to make of them. I assumed that my feelings represented the world around me, but there was a problem. They didn't.

I often felt like everything was terrible. My stress was going to break me, and there was nobody I could trust, but that was only a tiny fraction of the picture!

Here are two truths I was missing:

1. There was a lot of great stuff going on.

2. I had a say in how I felt.

It was actually a Twitter bio that sent me off in a new direction. Some person described herself as "a busy woman." I was offended by it. It made me feel competitive and critical at the same time. After that, every time a person called themselves busy, it irked me.

There was one problem. I was doing it, too.

So I stopped.

Instead of whining about my self-inflicted busy-ness, I cut the word out of my vocabulary and began to change my habits to become more organized so that the amount of stuff I was doing no longer controlled my life.

It changed things.

Because I'm all into metacognition (thinking about thinking), a formula emerged in my mind.

Limiting negative thoughts + focussing on positive thoughts = increased happiness/satisfaction

Naturally, increased happiness/satisfaction was appealing, so I took it further. 

More and more, I cut out the negative descriptions of how I was doing. It wasn't so much pretending there was no negatives, but choosing to be more affected by the positives. 

So what. I hadn't gotten as much sleep as I would have liked, but I got to talk to some random dude on the street about philosophy and it kinda made my day! I have a headache and my legs are killing me, but I just found out that we got that grant we were trying for! The sun is shining! The trees are pretty! I saw a sweet little bumblebee full of personality!

What's your go-to complaint? Stop focussing on it and see what happens. 

I am truly a happier person because of this. 

Sometimes, you have to choose to take notice of all of the good things. Why not appreciate some creative graffiti? Why not enjoy scarf weather, or that first sip of morning coffee, or the eccentricities of your favourite people? 

Don't waste those things by being distracted with negatives. Look up, move forward, and breathe deep. 

Brian proposed a 21-day challenge where you journal, list out at least 3 positives from your day, meditate on Scripture, take care of your body, and be kind to people. Do those and you'll see a huge change in your attitude. 

Shawn Anchor talks about the secret to better work (positivity) here:

18 October 2014

16 Tips to Improve Your Volunteer Coordination Skills

I've been heavily involved in the volunteer realm since I was a kid. It's huge in church culture. Between nurseries, service trips, and work days, there's a set expectation that people should just do things for free because strong communities depend on volunteerism. 

For the last 10 or so years, I've increasingly been put in charge of other people. Between work, training leaders, event planning, service trips, sports, clubs, community organizations, and a dozen other things, I've learned a lot. Like the majority of learning experiences, I had to make mistakes to start getting it right. Here are a bunch of tough lessons I've learned as a volunteer coordinator:

1. Get your numbers right. When you've got too few volunteers, they get stretched too thinly. It makes for a negative experience. On the flip side, too many volunteers can make some feel like they are wasting their time. Either way, they're less likely to help you again.

2. Know their roles. Leaders have got to support their volunteers. Communicate what you expect of them, and be there to help them to understand the details within their role. Nobody likes not knowing what they are supposed to be doing. Role/job titles help a lot with this. Always have a back up "wish list" for smaller, lower priority items that they do done so that their time isn't wasted.

3. Empower them. As comfortable as you may be in a given role, your volunteers might not be. Even asking a volunteer to speak with a guest might be outside of their comfort zone. Be there for them, whatever their needs may be. Most volunteers need your support, be it extra direction, encouragement, or scaffolded expectations.

4. Have realistic expectations. In every group of volunteers, there are people who will work harder than they should, people who don't show up, and people in between. Protect your hard workers, have back up plans for those who will be flaky, and do your best with everyone else.

5. Recognize their strengths. Everybody loves having the chance to thrive. In the youth centre where I work, when I've got volunteers who are gamers, I get super excited! They can fill in a gap that I simply can't. My gamers get to champion the game room. When I hear about weight lifters and musicians, I always encourage them to bring in their equipment and show the youth some of their hobbies.

6. Recognize their preferences. I can't tell you how many times I've asked volunteers to take on child care roles because they are great at it and been asked if there was anything else they could do aside from work with kids. Just because a person is good at something doesn't mean they always want to do it. Switch things up, especially for those who always end up in the same type of position. Photographers, this one is for you, too.

7. Provide opportunities for advancement. Clearly, you can't offer every volunteer a paid position, no matter how amazing they might all be. However, there are ways to honour them and show them that you value their contributions. Increased responsibilities (within their ability/availability), leadership opportunities, or even specialized roles all really help in this area.

8. Communicate clearly. It is very rare that your volunteer team knows even close to as much about the event/program that you do. Don't assume they know all of the pertinent information (like location of the washrooms, how to use Excel, the program agenda, or even how to use a microphone). There's a thin line between over-communication and condescension. Just do your best.

9. Keep them informed. Sometimes people give up their time just because you asked them to, but most of the time, they are volunteering because they believe in the project. Because they're invested, they deserve to know if your team has achieved your goal for your project. Obviously, not all information is appropriate to share, but even a bit of information can keep up that investment. Volunteers should ideally know public announcements first as well. It sucks when someone is invested enough to give up their time and has to hear updates about their cause from somebody who doesn't even help with it.

10. Create champions. You don't have to know everything as a leader. One of my favourite things to do in events, especially, is to create champions. When I don't know everything I can know about an event area (e.g. the best way to give out t-shirts, organize the clothing bank, or plan a craft), show your volunteers you trust them and give them ownership of a situation by making them the champion of that area. I love letting my volunteers know that within a few minutes, they are going to know more about their area than I do. It involves a lot of trust, but I really believe in this one.

11. Let them teach. You don't have to micromanage to see things done well. Many volunteers are more than capable of teaching fellow volunteers the information and tasks they need in order to be competent in an event area. Partnering a seasoned volunteer with a rookie is a great way to do this.

12. Provide learning opportunities. Especially in a tough job market, many volunteers appreciate when leaders invest in them and teach them new skills. Just because they didn't get paid for it doesn't mean they can't brag about their new skills in a job interview. Things like social media marketing, grant writing, event planning, and team leading are all super marketable skills that all of your keeners would be happy to receive through practice.

13. Make it fun. Your volunteer wants to bring a friend? Let them (if that's possible). Be strategic in how you partner your volunteers. Whenever possible, let them volunteer with people they get along with. Give them time to hang out, and keep their spirits up. Make jokes. A stressed out volunteer is a bad thing. A good leader leads from a support role the majority of the time.

14. Don't abuse their help. It's far too easy to ask your most reliable volunteers over and over again for help. When you ask them, rate how badly you need them and make it simple for them to opt out. When they're willing to stay for extra time, thank them sincerely. I've had the privilege of forcing volunteers to go home after long days. A burnt out volunteer very easily becomes a non-volunteer.

15. Be available. At events, I have a hands-empty policy for myself. If solving a problem or completing a task will take more than a couple minutes, I delegate it. My job is to make sure the event runs smoothly, and that always depends on my volunteers. I hop from station to station, making sure they have everything they need, solving problems as I go, and making sure I don't get myself stuck behind a registration table (for example) where I can't help with other important situations that may arise. As a leader, you need to be available.

16. Put them first. Aside from keeping yourself alive, their needs need to come before yours. If you've done your job well, your event should be running well without you having to run around with a chicken like your head cut off (aside from a handful of hitches, which you should always expect). Volunteer care needs to be a priority. If you can't do it yourself, get a volunteer to champion volunteer care!

This list isn't exhaustive, but it is really predicated on one thing: RESPECT. All of the most influential organizations of which I am a part are absolutely dependent on volunteers. The type of person who volunteers is already a cool person. Make sure they know you realize that.
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