Budgeting, Consumer products

Do you treat yourself?

I thought that the timing of this post was quite relevant, as I sit here at my kitchen table, typing away and eating Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream  🙂  I can feel the beginnings of a chest cough creeping up on me, so in addition to cough medicine, I thought that some gourmet goodness would help banish the yuckies. Of course, this decision was cemented by the $2.99 price tag on the ice cream; the regular price is $6.99. For a piddly 500 ml (about 17 oz; wow, that does not sound like a lot)!!! Of course, across the border in Calais, Maine, the same container of ice cream retails at about half of the Canadian price (however, that is a whole separate post!).

My definition of “treating” myself is a) buying myself some thing that I usually wouldn’t; or b) paying a price that I never usually would for a certain item. You see, I grew up in a family with an accountant as a father, and a stay-at-home mother who could have been the nutritional and financial coordinator for a large city. She was, and still is, extremely good at both stretching a dollar, making healthy, nutritious, delicious meals with what she does have, and, best of all, very rarely paying full price for name-brand items. Don’t get me wrong; we had PLENTY of treats, but they were not all manifested as food; very often, buying name-brand clothing and food coincided with a family vacation to Maine or New Hampshire, when we would stop at Marden’s.I learned my lesson when I paid nearly $100 for a pair of Adidas sneakers at a store here in Canada; 6 months later, I saw the EXACT same shoes in an outlet store in the States for $19.99!

Taking all that into account, I firmly believe in buying yourself something to cheer yourself up when you’re not quite feeling yourself, or when you need a pick-me-up. We all have those days, and if you’re a sufferer of depression like myself, there can sometimes be more bad ones than good. I’ve found that if I go online and chat to friends, Tweet, or read some of my favorite blogs, that often helps. However, if you REALLY want that full-price Ben & Jerry’s, go ahead; you have my permission!

Budgeting, Funny

Remember budget decorating???

OK, breathe…breathe…

Do you all remember the post from a couple of days ago when I said it was just a great idea to accept used items from friends and family if you are decorating on a budget? Here is a picture of the rather nice couch my parents generously donated to my cause (sorry for the yellow tint; this was taken using my iTouch!):


Let’s play “What’s Wrong With This Picture”! Take a close look at the near armrest and the end of the couch. I WAS relaxing on it tonight, watching a movie, when all of a sudden…I felt myself fall! Lest you think my mother buys furniture of inferior quality, I will mention that this couch is definitely older than me; my parents bought it when they moved to New Brunswick from Vancouver in 1980. It withstood 2 kids, numerous visitors, 1 more kid, and more visitors, before it was retired in 2005 in favor of a nice brown leather replacement. Hmmm…wonder if my parents are willing to get rid of THAT one… 🙂

P.S.- This one’s for you, Stephen, to  prove that there IS furniture in my place now! Hey, it might be broken, but who cares!!

Budgeting, Depression/Mental Health, Shopping and Saving

Drugs…they’re not all bad, but they sure cost an arm and a leg…

This is a pretty good representation of how I was feeling when my family doctor recommended that I start taking Effexor for my newly diagnosed depression. I’m one of those people who delighted in NEVER being sick; I’d buy a bottle of cough medicine or a pack of throat lozenges, and they’d frequently expire before I finished using them. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the last prescription I had filled for myself at a pharmacy before this one.

Luckily, at the time, I had a very good health insurance plan that covered 75% of the cost of my prescriptions. I balked at the cost of the medications, but once I saw the “insurance pays” versus the “patient pays” price, I calmed down a bit! Fast forward to this winter, when a) I started a new job without health benefits, and b)my doctor tripled my medication dosage…well, I was NOT feeling so happy.

Now, before I go on, I will say that I know I am very, VERY lucky compared to some. My doctor advised that I go to a large chain store’s pharmacy to get my medications versus getting them from smaller establishments, which is saving me a fair amount of money each month. However, I recently moved into my apartment on my own, and I also have rent, power, insurance, and groceries to pay for. Medication definitely puts a strain on my budget; however, without it, things are not good in the mood department (to say the least!).

I’m not one to complain without offering a solution, so here is mine; there should be a universal drug plan based on level of income, regardless of place of employment, if the employer does not offer one. I’m certainly not opposed to paying for my drugs, but since they’re necessary for me to lead a normal life, I don’t think that I should have to pay full price for them when I’m just starting out in the working world.


Decorating on a budget!

I recently joined the ranks of the working world, after spending *cough* years in university; yay, me! I als0 decided to get myself into the quintessential 20-something single woman housing situation; a 1-bedroom apartment, sans roommate. I’ve lived in apartments before, but have always had a roommate, and have never been a money-earning, non-student with loans to pay off and bills to pay.

When I first decided to move out on my own, I knew that money would be tight between rent, power, insurance, food…the list goes on and on. Coming from a family of design gurus (my grandfather was an architect, my mother a home economist), I also knew that I didn’t want my small space to be completely devoid of personality. Luckily, various members of my family have taught me a lot about a)shopping smartly; b)decorating; and c)budgeting. Now, I’m sure not House and Home, but I do have a few tips for those just starting out like I am!

1) Take as much help as you can get!

10 years ago, when I moved into my very first apartment, some very generous neighbors “donated” a variety of items to me; bedding, lamps, even a stand-alone BAR (which is still sitting in the basement!). Over the years, I have gotten dishes, furniture, pillows, and numerous other chattels from family and friends, and I appreciate every bit. Sure, some of the items have been worn, less-than-perfect, or slightly out of date, but I’ll tell you: Pyrex bakeware passed down from my mother via my great-grandmother (making it, oh, 40+ years old) is a heck of a lot more well-made than the junk they sell today!

2) Tasteful does not mean $$$

Admittedly, I haven’t quite got my decorations up on my walls yet, but I have done some preparation! As mentioned above, I love taking hand-me-downs. When I was a child, my mother had a large canvas pint hanging in our living room that I absolutely loved. She mentioned that she was going to sell it in a yard sale, and when it didn’t sell…I claimed it right away! As well, I absolutely love classical art, especially that of Salvador Dali. While I can’t afford the multiple dollars it would cost to get even one of his prints, I DO have the money for a 75% calendar featuring 12 of his most popular works! I plan on ripping the pictures out, trimming off any rough edges, and finding some second-hand frames in a thrift shop to display them.

3) It’s not what you buy, it’s how and where you buy it!

The biggest mistake I see people making when shopping in general is not taking enough time to think about what they are buying. Is it good quality? Will it last? Is it on sale? Will it be on sale soon? It might sound like I’m sort of spendthrift cheapskate, but I swear that I get a thrill from getting a “deal”! If I’m shopping locally, I will drop by the local thrift store first to see if what I want is there. For example, I was looking for a shower curtain for my new place. Most people would probably run out to WalMart and get a vinyl one that is a)overpriced and b)way too hard to clean. The one I found at the thrift store cost $6.99; my mother told me it would retail for $30+!

Those are the main points in the quest to decorate my apartment; I hope they help anyone who is looking to beautify a space on the cheap! When I have everything up and ready, I’ll be sure and post a picture  🙂