10 Ways to Ruin Your Grocery Budget

If staying on budget or lowering your grocery budget is your goal, you'll want to read on to learn how to fix your bad habits. Are you committing any of these grocery shopping faux pas?

Learning how to reduce your grocery bill is one of the fastest ways to start fixing the entire family budget. Since groceries are not a fixed expense like your mortgage or rent, it’s possible to tweak your shopping habits in order to reduce the amount you’re spending on groceries each week/month.

If staying on budget or lowering your grocery budget is your goal, you’ll want to read on to learn how to fix your bad habits. Are you committing any of these grocery shopping faux pas?

Here are 10 Ways to Ruin Your Grocery Budget:

1. Go to the store several times each week.

I’m guilty of this one more times than I’d like to admit! Going to the grocery store more than once a week can be a real grocery budget killer. After all, going to the store for “just a few things” almost always means you’ll be picking up more than “just a few things” because admittedly, grocery stores have enticing sales and products. So by sticking to shopping once a week you can avoid many impulse purchases, especially if you’re prepared with a list and meal plan.

2. Go to the store around meal times or when you’re hungry.

One of the golden rules of grocery shopping on a budget is to never shop when you’re hungry. Trying to stick to a grocery list when you’re hungry is nearly impossible. Soon you’ll find bags of chips or expensive granola bars hopping into your cart because they’re easy to eat as soon as you get to the car. The best course of action is to shop right after you’ve eaten a good size meal.

3. Don’t plan a menu

I’m a firm believer that planning a menu each week is a big key to sticking to your budget. When you have a plan laid out, you will know exactly what you need to buy at the grocery store in order to execute the meals you have chosen. That way, if something jumps into your cart that isn’t needed, it’s easier to put it back in order to stay within budget because you know that your eating needs are met with your meal plan.

Need an easy way to menu plan? See how I put our menu planning on autopilot.

4. Never use a list

Going hand in hand with planning a menu, creating a grocery list is crucial to staying within your budget. I keep a running grocery list on our fridge so I can write down pantry items that I need to replace as soon as the item runs out. As I’m planning our menu for the week, I grab the list from the fridge and jot down everything I need to buy to complete each meal. Sometimes my list is small because I have many items already on hand in the cupboards thanks to some sales in previous weeks on staples.

You can see my Basic Pantry Staples list here.

5. Don’t bother looking at the store flyers for sales.

Reviewing the grocery store flyers and noting what is on sale will save you tons of money. Especially when you buy the sale items and then plan your menu around them. Over time as you regularly buy items that are on sale and stock up on them as much as you can, you’ll always be eating “cheap” food, and your grocery budget will be very happy.

6. Take the kids with you.

Kids can be pretty good negotiators (at least mine can!), especially if you want to be as fast as you possibly can in the grocery store. Sometimes it’s really tempting to buy them something (anything!) just so they’ll be quiet. Even if it’s something little, it all adds up and may not be a good healthful choice.

7. Don’t take inventory of what you already have on hand.

Buying unneeded items can be wasteful. Especially if they’re fresh items that can spoil. Take a few minutes to review what you already have in your pantry and fridge and you can save hundreds of dollars each year.

8. Don’t pay attention as the cashier is processing your purchase.

Put down the trashy magazine and pay attention to what is being rung through. I was recently charged for two watermelons when I had only bought one. Thankfully, I noticed and it was fixed right away. But imagine if each week there was an error on your bill, that could add up to hundreds of dollars that were literally spent on nothing. So do yourself a favour and pay attention as the cashier is processing your purchase. Also, if you bought items on sale, watch closely, you may get several items for free if they scanned wrong since many stores have a scanning code of practice.

9. Throw the food into the fridge without any rhyme or reason.

By taking the time to carefully put your perishables away and dividing items you bought in bulk into smaller portions will save you money in the long run. Washing and storing produce properly will make it last longer in your refrigerator. Make sure you have designated spots for each item so you can easily find your purchases, or your grocery budget will be wasted on moldy, forgotten items.

10. Throw away leftovers.

Not a fan of eating leftovers? Well, that will have to stop if you want to lower your budget! If you’re throwing away leftovers, you’re almost literally throwing your money in the garbage too. There are plenty of recipes online that can help you reinvent leftovers into something tasty. Maybe it’s not that you don’t like leftovers, maybe you simply forgot they were there. One solution is to put leftovers in clear containers with a dated label so you can visually see what’s there.

Check out these 7 Ways to Make the Most of Leftovers.

Are you guilty of any of these grocery budget wreckers? I know that I am. It’s constantly a work in progress for me! But knowing where you’re making mistakes is half the battle to getting your budget on track. Knowing the ways in which we’re ruining our grocery budget allows  us to focus on one area to fix at a time. Baby steps 🙂

If staying on budget or lowering your grocery budget is your goal, you'll want to read on to learn how to fix your bad habits. Are you committing any of these grocery shopping faux pas?

6 Ways to Earn More Money

While spending less is often the best thing to do financially, sometimes it's good to earn more money if it means it will push you closer to your financial dreams faster. Here are 6 Ways to Earn More Money

While spending less is often the best thing to do financially, sometimes it’s good to earn more money if it means it will push you closer to your financial dreams faster.

But before you get excited about the idea of earning more money, it’s important to make sure you manage the money you already have well.  If you’re financially strapped, there’s no point in earning extra cash if you’re just going to spend more money for short term satisfaction.  Focus on getting a monthly budget figured out and learn how to maximize the money you already have before you go out and try to make more money.

Once you have that out of the way, you can read these ideas to help you earn extra money:

Earn money from your hobbies

I’m sure many of you have a hobby that you enjoy and are quite good at!  Why not turn that hobby into extra income?  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Teach coupon classes
  • Sell your photos if you’re into photography
  • Teach art classes, either privately or at a local craft store
  • Sell your work at craft shows or on etsy
  • Design pieces on commission
  • Sell your baking during coffee breaks to local businesses
  • Enter your work in contests with cash prizes
  • Paint business windows for the holidays

Sell things you no longer need

Clear up some space in your home by selling things you no longer need or care for.  Have a garage sale or try selling items on Kijiji, Craigslist, or eBay.  Or give a Buy & Sell group on Facebook a try.

Rent out your space

If your home has an extra bedroom or empty space, you could become a landlord. Students and recent graduates are often especially eager for affordable and small spaces to call “home”. Your extra garage space might also be perfect for someone needing to store their collector car, for example.

Try a paper route

Earn a bit of extra money by doing a paper route.  Get some fresh air and exercise while you’re at it!

Offer to babysit

Give some friends or even neighbourhood families some time away from the kids so they can go on a date or get errands done by offering your services as a babysitter.

Start a part-time business

If you have a bit of time to devote to money making, why not consider starting a part-time business from home?  You could try these ideas on for size:

  • Start a blog
  • Dog walking
  • Tutoring
  • Baking/Meal provider
  • Music lessons
  • Errand runner
  • Personal shopper
  • Cleaning
  • Graphic design work
  • Mow neighborhood lawns/shovel snow
  • Life/Business Coaching – are people always asking your advice on a particular subject?  Consider charging a fee for your advice.

All in all, get creative or meet a need you see around you to earn a bit of extra money you can put towards reaching your financial goals!

What are your ideas for earning extra money?  Do you have any stories to share about how you’re currently earning extra cash?  Please share in the comments!

Ways to Save Money with Your Smartphone

I'm sure that those of you that have smartphones know just how useful they can be. They help keep you in touch with friends and family, help you find a destination and even tell you the weather. Now, I'm also sure that those of you with a smartphone know that they can help you save money! This post details How to Save Money with Your Smartphone.

I’m sure that those of you that have smartphones know just how useful they can be. They help keep you in touch with friends and family, help you find a destination and even tell you the weather. Now, I’m also sure that those of you with a smartphone know that they can save you money! Yep! I’ve got a few favourite apps that I’d like to tell you about that save me money regularly.

The best part is that they only require about 15 minutes or less of my time each time I use them. Almost anyone can find that amount of time, I think! 

Find 15 minutes in your day to focus on one of the apps featured in this series and I can guarantee you’ll find some extra cash in your pocket over time! Let’s get started…

Cash-Back Apps

Canada has several great cash-back apps that offer you an alternative to physical coupons that help you save on groceries. (Or you could combine your coupons with the rebates from the cash-back apps to save even more!)

These apps include:

These apps are a great way to save money on groceries and more — without clipping coupons! You can download these apps to your smartphone or use most of them straight from your home computer.

These Cash-Back apps help you save money on the brands you love or things you’re already going to buy, like bread, eggs, milk, or produce. There are usually at least a few offers each week that are not brand dependent at all. Such as, get $0.25 back when you buy any vegetables. Talk about a great offer!

For an in depth look at how to use these apps, take a look at this post I wrote: Use Those Cash Back Apps to Save.

Gas Buddy

While gas stations in our city, don’t really have gas wars, I can tell with the Gas Buddy app whether or not gas prices will be dropping or going up by taking a look at the app! If there’s one or two gas stations with a different price on gas I can almost be sure that the rest of the gas stations will be following suit shortly. I’ll aim to hit a gas station that still has the “low” price if I’m in need of a fill.

Gas Buddy is also a fantastic money saving resource for road trips.  Last year we did a two day trek to Winnipeg and the Gas Buddy app proved to be very useful! It helped us to time our fill ups as best as we could.

From the GasBuddy.com website:

The GasBuddy.com web site and app was developed as an initiative to provide all residents and visitors to the area access to local current gas prices. This is an entirely free service that depends on users to input gas prices on a daily basis to keep the database of prices up to date. Since the price of gas is often extremely volatile, posted gas prices may vary as much as 20% within only a few blocks of each other. By having access to the most recent prices at GasBuddy.com consumers now are able to locate the most inexpensive fuel price in the city and fill up on a budget.

Flipp

The Flipp app allows you to look at all your local store flyers so you can see the best deals of the week, saving you money on each shopping trip!

While I’m mostly a pen and paper kind of girl when it comes to creating my shopping list, I’ve been trying out the shopping list feature in the Flipp app. It’s pretty neat because I can add something like cheese to the list and the app will pull up all the sales on cheese that week. Neat! That allows me to pick one or two stores with the most sales that I can hit up for our groceries.

Another feature that I use often is the coupon matchups. While browsing through a flyer, at the bottom, you’ll see if there are any coupons available for any items that are in that week’s flyer. While I don’t think the coupon matchups are a comprehensive list, I still find some coupons and sales that I may have missed otherwise!

Something I haven’t used, but the Flipp app allows you to save your loyalty cards so you have them all in one place. (and maybe not taking up room in your wallet!)

So there you have it, my three favourite money saving apps for smartphones!

Are there any apps that you use to save money that I missed? Let us know in the comments!

7 Tips For Grocery Shopping On A Budget

Grocery shopping on a budget doesn’t have to mean you only eat rice and beans each day. You can have a wonderful well rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, meats and great sides when you plan accordingly. While I always recommend you menu plan to help stay on top of your pantry and freezer supplies as well as your shopping list, these tips are really where the savings come into play.

Don't miss our top 7 Tips For Grocery Shopping On A Budget.  Practical advice that gives you amazing meals while staying in budget with ease. 

7 Tips For Grocery Shopping On A Budget

Make a list before you shop. Going into a grocery store without a list is setting yourself up for failure in the biggest way. A list is vital to making sure you are grocery shopping within your budget. Divide your list by aisles and categories. If you know approximate or sale prices on items, list those to the side so you can easily track your expenses while you shop and verify prices are as stated in sale advertisements.

Keep a calculator on hand while you shop. As mentioned before, sale prices are important when grocery shopping on a budget. Make note of what is suppose to be on sale and watch not only for that price to be reflected on store shelves, but also at the checkout counter. For all other items on your list, use the calculator you have on hand to make sure you aren’t going over budget. Make notes as you add things to your cart and add up your purchases as you go so you know when you may need to choose a different size or brand because you are nearing your budget limits.

Utilize coupons as much as possible. Using coupons is a pretty obvious suggestion coming from Simply Frugal. But while using coupons is a great way to save money, it can also cause you to spend more when you are buying things you don’t need or won’t use. Use coupons only on items you would normally buy, and always verify pricing on generic equivalents to make sure you are getting the ultimate best deal possible.

Shop sales and loss leaders when applicable. Sales are a great way to save money on big purchases like meats and of course produce. There are things called loss leaders often in sales. These items are usually far below regular price and are designed to entice you to make a purchase in a store. They believe if they entice you with a low price on one item you are more likely to purchase additional items. These can often be great prices to stock up your pantry for things like pasta, sauces, soups and other pantry staples. Also consider stocking up on seasonal sale prices of meat and produce to freeze or can for off seasons.

Stick to the outside rim of the store. It is commonly known that the outer rim of the grocery store is usually the healthiest and cheapest. These areas will include fresh produce, fruits, dairy, meats and similar items. Interior aisles will have pantry staples, but also unnecessary expenses like candies, cookies and chips.

Sign up for rewards clubs and programs. Many grocery stores offer reward programs and club promotions. These can give you high value coupons specifically for their store, great VIP day discounts and insight on upcoming sales. They are a great way to be in the know and get rewarded for shopping at a favorite store.

Buy in bulk when possible. Bulk purchases are often a great way to manage grocery shopping on a budget. Just make sure to check the unit prices to make sure they really are cheaper to buy in large quantities versus individual packages.

These tips for grocery shopping on a budget are great reminders for how to make the most of your money in the grocery store.

5 Easy Ways To Get Free Grocery Coupons

Finding free grocery coupons can be tough in Canada, but not impossible. While pricing and coupon values are all vastly different in Canada versus the US, it isn’t impossible to save. In fact, it is easy to find great deals and save money using coupons on a regular basis. You simply have to know where to find the coupons. This list of ways to get free grocery coupons is just the beginning. Think outside the box to find great coupons available for everything from restaurants to your cat food purchases.

Canadian shoppers look no further than these 5 Easy Ways To Get Free Grocery Coupons!  Great easy free grocery coupons for anyone to use!

5 Easy Ways To Get Free Grocery Coupons

Contact the manufacturer. Most brands are more than happy to send you coupons when you send them a letter or email them about their products. It’s never a waste of your time to send a simple note to Canadian companies telling them why you like their product and asking if they distribute coupons to Canadian residents. You can check the back of packages for mailing addresses, or websites for a contact form or email.

Print coupons online. There are many coupons available to print online. As soon as I discover a new coupon of any sort, I post about it here on Simply Frugal. Printing coupons is a great option that can easily give you significant savings on your purchases. Just make sure to know your store coupon policy since many don’t accept all printed coupons.

Ask grocery stores and markets. Many chain grocery stores provide you with coupons or digital coupons when you sign up for their reward programs or email programs. You may also ask at their customer service desk to see if they have extra coupons on hand. You would be surprised at how many coupons are left behind by manufacturers for customers to use.

Newspaper coupon inserts. While this isn’t totally free if you are paying for the newspaper, it is a great way to get coupons. To get them for free, ask friends, neighbors and family members who already receive the newspaper to save you the Smartsource and Redplum inserts that come out regularly. To find out when to expect new coupons, you can check out the post about the Canadian Coupon Insert Schedule for this year.

Watch on social media. Facebook has become one of the best places to grab coupons from brands. Follow your favorite brands on social media, and double check to see if they have a Canadian specific page. This is often a great way to grab free grocery coupons with little to no effort. A simple like of a page and email address on a form can often leave you with some high value printable coupons from brands you love.

If you’re looking for free grocery coupons, this list is a great place to start for Canadian residents. You can also consider asking your friends and family, checking with local store bulletin boards or joining online coupon groups that offer coupon swaps to help increase the number of free grocery coupons you are able to acquire.

45 Free & Cheap Summer Activities

Summer doesn't have to be boring for anyone when you're armed with these 45 free & cheap ideas!

1. Bowl for FREE — Kids can bowl 2 games for FREE every day throughout the Summer.Visit KidsBowlFree.com to see which bowling alleys are participating.

2. Get a FREE Slurpee — July 11 is always FREE Slurpee Day at 7-Eleven. Take your family out for a free tasty treat that will help cool you off during the Summer heat!

3. Make Slime — Both my daughter and I have so much fun creating and playing with this Inside Out Sensory Slime. It’s just so fun to see how it works.

4. Make Homemade Iced Tea — Try brewing a batch of my favourite sun tea. You’ll have fun watching the water change colour and even more fun adding your favourite flavourings like lemons, mint or even raspberries.

5. Visit a Park — Why not visit a nearby provincial park that you’ve never visited before? You could explore the trails or just do some day camping by bringing along the hot dogs and marshmallows.

6. Visit the Beach — Living in the Okanagan, we have a ton of beautiful beaches at our fingertips. We like to grab a book or magazine and head to one to relax while our daughter plays in the sand or on the playground.

7. Go Fruit Picking — One word. Cherries! We love to get out as soon as our favourite fruits are in season. U-Picks are a great way to spend an afternoon with friends or family and are always much cheaper than the grocery stores!

8. Plan a Picnic — Picnics are one of our favourite things to do. We’ve got a system down to make things easy: It’s always bunwiches with deli meat, cheese and pickles. I always throw in some fruit and veggies too. As a treat, I pack some cold pop and a bag of chips. Simple!

9. Fly a Kite —  Well, I haven’t flown a kite since I was a kid, but it still sounds like a fun idea! Don’t own one? This one has great reviews on Amazon.

10. Pitch a Tent in the backyard — Give the kids a fun experience by pitching a tent in your own backyard. Build a campfire, or use a propane fire ring like we do (because of campfire bans) to roast marshmallows.

11. Make Art with Sidewalk Chalk — Sidewalk chalk is something I always have on hand so Sienna can go out to create some masterpieces on the sidewalk or the basketball court we have at our townhouse. This is something she likes to do on her own so I can get a little work done. 😉

12. Plant Flowers — Now, you have to be careful with this one as buying “only a few” plants can really add up! (Trust me, I know!) Rather than planting an entire garden, you could concentrate on filling up a planter to keep costs down. While you’re at it, why not create this Milk Jug Watering Can so the kids can help water.

13. Plant an Herb Garden — Another fun planting project is to plant an herb garden. Fresh herbs are so great to have on hand to make meals delicious. Growing your own herbs can also save you a bundle at the grocery store.

14. Plan a Scavenger Hunt — Want to get the kids outside? They can spend their summer outdoors with a fun scavenger hunt! Buggy and Buddy has 30 free printable options – you’re sure to find something appealing!

15. Run Through the Sprinklers — Cool off in the backyard with sprinklers or even the garden hose. Even water balloons would be a blast! You can pick up water balloons at the dollar store or even one of these neat Fast Fill kits from Amazon.

16. Blow Bubbles — Bubbles are always a hit around here! When I see them for the first time in the spring, I’ll pick up a few of those bubble wands that cost only $1. You could even try whipping up your own bubble solution for the kids to play with in the yard or at the beach.

17. Have a Garage Sale — Gather up all your unwanted items and host a garage sale one weekend to make some extra cash. Let the kids join in on the fun by setting up a lemonade stand for customers. Here are some garage sale tips from Simply Frugal readers that you may enjoy!

18. Visit a local Festival or Event – Our city hosts regular free music events, movies in the park and even summer festivals that are fun for the whole family. These events are free for everyone to enjoy. Check your newspapers and city website to see what’s being offered this year near you!

19. Visit the Library — The library is a great place to visit over the summer months. I believe most libraries offer reading challenges that are sure to encourage reading even while school is out. Check out this post for more ideas on how the library can save you money.

20. Head to the Farmer’s Market – Support your local farmers, and check out a couple of the markets in your area throughout the Summer. You really can’t beat the quality of the produce and the neat homemade items. Here are 5 reasons to buy local produce.

21. Go Swim in the Pool — Since most of us don’t have a swimming pool, head out to one in your community to cool off. Some may require a small entrance fee, but can be loads of fun for the kids.

22. Stop By a Splash Park — Another fun option for the especially hot summer days is to stop at a local splash park. We like to meet friends there since my daughter has a bit more confidence when she’s not surrounded by strangers trying to get her wet. 😉

23. Play on a Sports Team — Love to play sports? Why not gather a group of friends and put together a beach volleyball team? Or maybe ultimate frisbee? If you’d rather, you could sign up your group of friends for a weekend tournament instead.

24. Go to the Movie Theatre – Every Saturday, Cineplex movie theatres offers family favourites for just $2.99 per person.Take a look here for more details.

25. Snag a Daily Deal — Keep an eye out on Groupon and WagJag for deals and local activities for huge savings. You might be surprised at everything that’s offered in your own city!

26. Go Hiking — Our family loves to go for hikes, they’re not quite as long now that we have kids, but it’s still an enjoyable activity! Visit a local bookstore for trail maps or check CanadaTrails.ca for hiking trails near you.

27. Attend a Home Depot Workshop — The Home Depot offers these great FREE workshops where kids can build a different project each month. Check this page for the schedule.

28. Watch Fireworks — Canada Day is known to be a day where fireworks will be involved. Why not find a special vantage point to enjoy this year’s show?

29. Take a Craft ClassMichael’s Canada offers classes for adults and kids featuring all sorts of different projects. I have noticed that every once in a while they offer a substantial discount on classes so keep your eyes open for that.

30. Volunteer — Why not take some time to give of yourself this Summer? Volunteer at a local food pantry, woman’s shelter, or soup kitchen. Ask around, I’m sure the opportunities are plentiful!

31. Find the Best Ice Cream — Go on an ice cream date once a week in an attempt to discover the best ice cream in your city. Places like Marble Slab have coupons often and locally owned shops may have daily specials for you to save.

32. Take an Evening Walk An evening walk in the summer is just so, so nice. The temperature is somewhat cooler. Plus, there’s just something so nice about the evening light.

33. Try GeocachingGeocaching is an outdoor activity of searching for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website. We thought this sounded so much fun, so we borrowed my parent’s GPS to give it a try!

34. Do a Puzzle — Puzzles are a hit in our household. Both my husband and I enjoyed doing puzzles growing up and now our oldest daughter likes them too!

35. Learn a New Skill — Summer is a great time to learn something new, whether it be gardening, knitting, or discovering your artistic talent. Read 52 Things to Learn for Free to get started.

36. Start a New TV Series — Why not use Netflix to start a new TV series during the Summer, and catch up on all the seasons just in time for the Fall premieres. While there won’t be a Fall premiere, I think I might try to finish watching Downton Abbey!

37. Do a Science Experiment — Help your kids learn about our fascinating world by trying their hands at a fun science experiment? KidsActivitiesBlog.com has links to a ton of fun projects!

38. Have a Family Game Night — Dust off some of the board games in your closet and have a family game night. Our favourites are Chutes & Ladders, Gone Fishin’, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne.

39. Make Homemade Playdough — This is my current favourite no-cook recipe for playdough. Sienna can play for quite some time making me “food” to eat. You probably have all the ingredients on hand already!

40. Go for a Bike RideRather than walking, why not put those wheels to good use! Go for a ride around the neighborhood or ride along a nice path your city may have. You could make a day of it if you pack lunches and lots of water.

41. Make a Sock Puppet – This adorable monster sock puppet is anything but scary. Plus, it uses dollar store items to make for a cheap summer activity!

42. Sort Through Clothes — Maybe I’m weird, but I actually get a hankering to do more organizing projects in the summer. (Not just in January.) I find Summer is a great time to clean out my closet and donate what I don’t wear anymore.

43. Paint Your Nails – Summer time means I must have my toe nails painted in pretty colors all the time! I don’t normally put nail polish on my finger nails, but my toe nails are fair game for anything bright and fun. Why not have a simple spa time by giving yourself a pedicure?

44. Color a Picture – Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore! Print off coloring pages for adults, and pull out the kid’s coloring books for a fun family time. Play some music for hours of good relaxing fun!

45. Have a Nap – Finally, why not have a nap? No better spot than outside in a nice shady area!

I also whipped up this printable Summer Activity sheet that you can print off and hang somewhere convenient so you’re always full of ideas.

Summer doesn’t have to be boring for anyone when you’re armed with these frugal ideas! Leave your fun and frugal ideas in the comments below!  

Summer doesn't have to be boring for anyone when you're armed with these 45 free & cheap ideas!

20 Recyclable Ways to Wrap Gifts

Recyclable Ways to Wrap Gifts

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there always seems to be gifts to wrap for one occasion or another! I know that I happen to enjoy when I’m given a gift and I can tell the gift giver spent a little bit of time making the wrapped gift look beautiful. Interesting wrap does two things:

  • It gives the recipient of a gift the feeling that the giver went the extra mile.
  • Even though wrapping paper generally gets ripped to shreds, it add more suspense to the surprise.

So when it comes to your loved ones, friends, or even business associates on any special occasion throughout the year, think twice before you settle for some cheap wrap from the dollar store. Think outside the box!

The truth is, there are plenty of recyclable materials around that make crafting your own wrap easy with barely any cost. Wrapping can even become great projects for kids.  Take a look at these recyclable ways to wrap gifts:

  • Flowers or flower petals. How awesome and sweet smelling would this be!
  • Old family photos you don’t want anymore.
  • Photos printed out from a digital camera.
  • Old posters are great for wrapping.
  • Leaves. New or just fallen there’s no cost, no problem finding them (depending on the time of year), and they are biodegradable.
  • Old mail: Most of it goes into the recycling bin but there could be some great pieces to cover a gift. For example, make an envelope for a check out of old bills!
  • A collage from newspapers and magazines.
  • Cereal boxes: remember the prize in the box when you were a kid!
  • Old fabrics, cloths or clothes the recipient of the gift can reuse or donate.
  • Toilet and paper towel rolls. Cut up and paint them creating an unusual texture with their cylindrical shape.
  • Tea bag wrappers. Tape them over the box of a new kettle.
  • Carpet samples or leftovers from an installation make a furrier presentation.
  • Old cassettes: stack and glue them together making a box for a gift.
  • Reuse old greeting cards.
  • Egg cartons. Need I say more? Paint them, glitter them, just go wild with them.
  • Old sheet music for a musical surprise. You could even write out a song as part of the gift.
  • Paper bags can go a long way when wrapping.
  • Milk or juice cartons: wash out, decorate and use them as a gift box.
  • Maps. These can be great for travel related gifts like a new bike helmet or backpack.
  • Scraps from a wood shop, metal shop, or printing company. There’s usually a lot of waste at these venues that can easily be converted into something useful like wrapping up a gift.

While some items listed above are simple to use as the main wrapping material others may need some help being attached. If you’ve chosen one of the latter here’s a suggestion:

  • First use newsprint or other recyclable material to encase a gift. Older used wrapping paper will also do and it’s the perfect time to recycle it.
  • Apply the chosen material such as flower petals, leaves, or photos with, glue, tape, or string, as you see fit.

Good luck gifting, wrapping, and making others happy! Do you have any other creative wrapping ideas to share?

7 Inexpensive But Unique Baby Gifts

Next time you’re invited to a baby shower, some of these inexpensive but unique baby gifts may just be what you are looking for. They’re fun, useful and most importantly can fit into nearly any budget. From the nearly free to low-cost ideas listed here, you can present a unique baby gift to you friends or family members to help welcome a new member to their family.

We have listed 7 Inexpensive But Unique Baby Gifts that are amazing choices for any baby and family!  Check out these ideas today!

7 Inexpensive But Unique Baby Gifts

A diaper cake. A diaper cake is a great way to gift a useful item and stay in budget. Even a small box or bag of diapers can be rolled and tied together using inexpensive ribbon to create a cute gift. Tuck in a few things like baby washcloths, baby wash or pacifiers to give it a bit more color and personality.

A baby hygiene and emergency kit. Many new moms find themselves without some basic baby tools for those things like clipping nails, cleaning noses and ears or even reducing a fever. Use a travel hygiene bag and stuff simple items into each pouch that will work for an easy to keep together baby hygiene and emergency kit.

You may wish to include a few of the following items:

  • Vitamin D

  • Gripe water

  • Infant fever reducer (acetaminophen or ibuprofen)

  • Syringe for cleaning noses

  • Thermometer (forehead or rectal for accuracy in an infant)

  • Nail clippers or nail file

  • Infant saline nasal spray for congestion

A lullaby “Mixtape”. Those late night feedings often need something soothing to help relax a baby and mother. While a play list is more common in this day and age, a hand made CD including some of your favorite lullaby choices is one of the most fun and unique baby gifts to give. You can even look for great classical or instrumental albums and purchase for this purpose.

A coupon to come do chores for the new parent. A new mom and dad are definitely going to need a bit of help in the early days. This could include an offer to clean their home before or after the baby arrives. It may be offering up some freezer meals, or even babysitting older children so they can sleep. Find out what needs they have and offer a coupon to the new parents to use when they need it most.

Gift cards for restaurants that deliver to their home. This may not seem like one of the most unique baby gifts, but it is a great choice that will be appreciated. Sometimes the very idea of cooking is overwhelming, not to mention trying to load an infant into a car and drive to buy dinner. Gift cards for take out that will deliver are an excellent way to help a new parent. They are especially great for those moms who are facing a c-section at birth and may be stuck at home longer than most due to healing. Or you could gift a pre-made meal like the one in the picture above. Perhaps a homemade soup mix or two full of beans, lentils and spices that the new parents can just add water to.

A womb sound bear. This gift is invaluable in early days to help a baby fall asleep easier. While more expensive than others on this list, it is still relatively low-cost and a great choice as one of the best unique baby gifts. These animals house a recorder that plays the sounds made inside the womb. This soothing noise is comforting to a newborn and can help lull them back to sleep.

Custom framed birth announcement. If the baby has already arrived, a custom framed birth announcement is easy to create on your computer and can be framed inexpensively. You only need the details of their birth, a piece of card stock, a frame and a program like PicMonkey or Canva to make this. To make this an an even more unique baby gifts idea, you can create the birth announcement and include the baby name meaning. Try to match to the nursery colors for a great option to gift to the new parents.

These are some great inexpensive but unique baby gifts ideas that are easy to fit into any budget. Gender neutral and easy to accomplish, these ideas are sure to make it easy for you to send a gift for any new baby announcement you receive.

When You Are Tired of Being Frugal

What to do when you are tired of being frugal.

We live a frugal lifestyle. For the most part we are okay with it, and even thrive with this lifestyle, but sometimes it can be exhausting. Sometimes we get tired of making meals from scratch, cutting coupons, price matching, and doing whatever we need to do just to save some money. Sometimes we just want to throw caution to the wind and buy some brand new furniture for our house, or put a vacation on a credit card, or eat out as a family at some local restaurants. In those moments it can be easy to throw our hands up in the air and say “I don’t care” and make foolish decisions. But in the end we would regret those decisions. So what should you do in those situations?

1. Treat yourself to something SMALL and AFFORDABLE.

The other day we went out for “Loonie Shakes.” Under 5 dollars for milkshakes for our family, yet it still felt like a splurge for our family.

2. Remind yourself of your goals.

On the inside of my wallet is a piece of paper I taped to it that says “Do you want more stuff, or do you want to travel?” so that every time I open up my wallet to buy something I am reminded of my goals.

3. Take a social media break.

Sites like Facebook can heighten our desire to spend our money on things we can’t afford when it may feel like everyone else around us are able to make those purchases at the drop of a dime. But the truth is, you don’t know the back story of the pictures you see on Facebook. You don’t know if they’ve been saving for months or years to make that purchase, or if they are up late at night stressed at how they are going to make payments on their purchases they bought on credit. So give your heart a break and turn off the social media.

4. Do something fun that is free.

Invite some friends over for coffee and board games, go for a nature walk trail, go star gazing, or go for a bike ride. Finding some free fun will remind yourself that life can still be fun on a budget.

Related: 10 Things to Do Instead of Spending Money

5. Browse the internet for inspiration.

Read frugal living blogs. One search on Pinterest will reveal tons of articles written by people who have successfully conquered their financial dreams by living a frugal life. When you are starting to feel like you can’t live frugally anymore you will be able to draw strength, motivation, and inspiration from these articles.

Remember that “this too shall pass.” These feelings of fatigue will end, and if you stick with your budget and your saving goals, you WILL reap the benefits.

Author Bio:
Amanda Carew is a mom to three small, very rambunctious kids. When she isn’t busy finding ways to save more money, she is making tie dye clothes and pallet signs. Amanda blogs over at www.tiedyelemonade.com

The Ultimate Frugal Okanagan Summer Activity Guide

The Ultimate Frugal Okanagan Summer Activity Guide

This was such a big hit in past years, that I took the time to update it with this year’s dates!  Hope you enjoy 🙂

Are you living in the Okanagan or planning on taking a trip there this summer?  The Okanagan happens to be the place I call home, so I thought I’d create a guide full of fun, frugal activities that take place in the land of sun.  The goal is for this to be The Ultimate Frugal Okanagan Summer Activity Guide.  If you have an event or know of a really cool place to visit, let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

Farmer’s Markets:

Food & Wine:

The Okanagan is well know for its award winning wines and wineries.  Many of them offer free tours and wine tastings. See a huge list of Okanagan wineries, here.

Canada Day:

Arts:

Beaches:

U-Pick Fruit & Fruit Stands:

Sports:

Golf Courses

The Okanagan has many amazing golf courses to play!  Enjoy one round or make a vacation out of it!  See this list of Okanagan Golf Courses.

Hiking Trails:

Festivals, Fairs & Community Events:

Father’s Day Events:

Places of interest:

Vernon & Area:

Kelowna & Area:

Penticton & Area:

Okanagan Tourism Websites:

Looking for deals?

Groupon has a ton of local discounted restaurants, spas, things to do and more! Check it out for great savings on the things you want to do in the Okanagan.

kalamalka lake