Archive for ‘tips and tricks’

February 29, 2012

Why I love my iPhone

by Robyn

I’ve had a personal cell phone for 9 years, and in that 9 years, only once have I paid for my phone. That was for my last contracted phone. I grudgingly paid the $100 for an LG Rumor because I didn’t like any of the free phones they offered. I’ve been putting off getting a new phone for over a year. My contract expired in February 2011 and I refused to sign another 2 year contract knowing that I might have to buy out of it if I travelled before my contract was up.

After a lot of research and “justification,” I’ve finally given in and purchased an iphone. Knowing that, fingers crossed, I’ll be travelling in just over a year, I opted not to sign into a new contract and paid full price for an 8G White iPhone 4.

So how have I justified spending $630 on a cell phone? Almost $100 more than what I pay in rent? An iPhone is clearly more than just a phone. It can do so much more that what my LG Razor could ever do for me. Here are some of my favourite apps that I use on a daily basis.

MyFitnessPal: I love this app and I use it everyday, multiple times a day. I want to be healthier and this app is helping me do that. I can track what I eat, how many calories I’m consuming, how many calories I’m burning, and whether or not I’m getting my recommended daily vitamins and nutrients. Without this app, I would never have known that I don’t get nearly the amount of daily iron I should be. With the help of this app I’ve been able to adjust my eating habits to lower my calorie intake and I’ve started taking vitamin suppliments so that I get all my daily nutrients.

Spendings: I’ve actively used the MyFinancialTracker feature of RBC since it was first introduced a few years ago, and this app is another excellent way for me to track my spending. It’s simple and easy to use. I track everything I spend my money on from groceries, trips to the salon, drinks with friends, even what I spend on postage. The disadvantage to RBC’s MyFinancialTracker is that it only tracks debit/credit purchases. With this app I can track all of my income/expenses, regardless of the form of payment.

HoursTracker: I work 2 jobs, one of them being a serving job, where technically I get paid down to the minute, so every minute counts. I’ve always kept my weekly timecard but usually just looked at what is deposited into my account and figured “that looks about right.” I’ve only been using this app for a month and noticed on my last paycheck I was shorted almost 10 hours in pay. That’s just shy of $100 that they neglected to pay me. When you work in an industry where you work random hours and split shifts, tracking your hours is a must. This app allows me to track the hours that I work, my breaks, make notes on shifts and it tells me how much money I have earned after every shift. At the end of every week, I email my hours to myself so that I always have a quick reference of my weekly earnings.

P Tracker Lite: This little app is pretty self explainatory. It’s a period tracker. I haven’t been on the pill in a few years, therefor am not as regular as I used to to be. Or at least I don’t have a pill pack to tell me if I’m regular or not. This App allows me to track my period, how long it lasts, when I’m fertile (not that I care – no babies for me), and it’ll predict my next period. Other features include the ability to track symptoms, moods, weight, and best of all, you can set the App up to be password protected.

UrbanSpoon: I can’t help but love this App. It was an amazing tool to have on my recent trip to Ottawa. You can find reviews and pictures for almost any and every restaurant in any given city. It use it constantly to find new places to eat in my own hometown and to find affordable, new places to eat when I’m on vacation.

Rage Comics: This App is a great way for some good laughs and an excellent way to kill some time. The comics that people create from real life are so funny, and there are always new comics.

Some of my other favourite Apps include Twitter, instagram, facebook, DataMan & Shazam. I’m becoming a bit of a phone addict but how can I not? It’s everything, phone, texting, camera, music, social networking, all wrapped into a $630 piece of awesomeness, and when I’m travelling, I’ll just drop my phone plan. Unlike every other phone I’ve ever had, it won’t become a paper weight.

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August 30, 2011

Extreme couponing is an extreme waste

by Robyn

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve watched Extreme Couponing a few times on TLC. I can’t help myself. I am drawn to nearly every form of your stereotypical bad tv. Wedding shows, design shows, having abnormal quantities of babies shows, weird jobs, hoarding,  addictions, you name it, I probably watch it. I don’t follow these shows regularly but if I can’t find anything else to watch, it’s almost a given I’ll end up watching the newest episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive, or Intervention or what have you.

When is comes to watching Extreme Couponing, I can’t help but be in total awe and disbelief. What these people are able to achieve is without a doubt, impressive. Although these people clearly have compulsion issues (see image below), at least they are channeling these urges into something positive. I guess? Sort of?

Seeing the insane stock piles amassed by these individuals just leaves me stunned. Does any single family household really need hundreds of tooth brushes? Or boxes of deodorant, body lotion, soap, etc? Who needs 40 bottles of relish? 100 cans of soup? 50 bags of chocolate chips?

Beyond bursting at the seams, how much of these massive collection will still be good 5 years?

On a cleaning kick last night I started going through my fridge and pantry, throwing out everything that’s expired. I moved into my apartment in February of 2008, so anything in my apartment, food wise, is no more than 4 years old. Until recently I never knew how quickly, even canned goods went bad.

This is a short list of what I threw out:
butter (I didn’t even know butter could go bad)
4 cans of soup (2 years expired)
3 bottles of salad dressing (1 unopened)
an almost-full bottle of corn syrup
hot sauce
plum sauce
molasses
lime juice
bbq sauce
baking powder

What on earth are these extreme couponers doing hoarding these ridiculous quantities of food products? Is your family of four really going to eat ALL of that food before it expires. Not likely, unless you are going to eat a bowl of soup with instant mr. noodle on the side every day for a year. For a kick of flavour, add some relish? You’ve got 40 bottles. Why not have a bag of chocolate chips for dessert? And just throw your toothbrush away after using it. You’ve got another 1000 to last you for the next 3 years.

I get it, these people “buy” these items in mass quantity because they can. The high. The thrill. The rush they must get knowing their walking out of a store, legally, with hundreds of dollars worth of product that they didn’t pay a cent for. But seriously? Why are you spending 40 hours a week searching for coupon deals so you can stock up on food that will likely expire before you can consume all of it?

I’m feeling pretty bummed knowing that I just threw out probably $50 worth of expired food. I don’t have the patience to coupon. Plus it’s a lot harder to coupon to the extreme in Canada because our stores don’t “double up” deals like they do in the states. I will admit since watching this show I have learned some really important things that I can apply to my personal spending habits. Such as, as good of a deal as it may be, don’t stock up on unnecessary quantities of items that have an expiry date. And a LOT of things have expiry dates. Even if it’s free, it always makes me sad knowing something is going to waste.

From now on, I’m going to be more selective when buying items to stock my fridge and pantry. I’ll ask myself  “If I buy this will I use 10% of the product before it goes bad and I have to throw it out?” If the answer is yes, I’ll spend the money to drive out to my parents place to “borrow” some from them. Or I’ll be a little less anti-social and introduce myself to my neighbours to borrow a cup of _______.

Since the debut of this series, these “extreme couponers” have been getting quite a bit of media coverage . You can find a few amusing, and kind of ironic news stories here and here.

April 25, 2011

8 Unique Ways to Save

by Robyn

1.Grocery Shop Frequently – especially when looking for fresh produce. Some people (like my boyfriend) get grossed out by it, but buy fruits and veggies off the sale rack. The last 2 weeks I’ve picked up a 1lb box of strawberries for 50% off. I went through them, picked out the odd one that was mushy and froze the rest to make smoothies. If you pick up veggies, use what you bought that day to make dinner that night.

2.Join Group Buying Websites – such as groupon.com, or teambuy.ca. These websites are free to join and are great places for deals over a vast array of products and services. Although I haven’t used it that much, for the times that I have it’s been for a great savings. I paid $25 for $50 worth of prime cuts of beef, pork and poultry. I ended up getting so much food I had to store half of it at my parents house. Other great deals to look out for are restaurant deals. That way you can still dine out from time to time without breaking the bank.

3.Avoid Malls and Thrift Shop Instead– Sometimes you really need to clothes shop, especially if your a girl. Aside from a few sample items I picked up off the sale racks at the mall a few months ago for cheap cheap cheap, I always buy my clothes second hand. I take pride in being able to say that out of any outfit I can put together, each piece likely cost me less than $10-20. I think it would be safe to say that at least 75% of my wardrobe is either a thrift find or was bought on sale. Bottom line, never pay full price for your clothes, because it’s going to be out of style in 6 months anyways. Buy it off the sale rack, or better yet, when thrift shopping, wait until they have 50% sale days like Value Village does in Canada. It’s like a sale on top of a sale. If you can, sign up to be on email lists so you know when stores have promotions and sales coming up.

4. Hide your Clothes – this one may seem weird but it works. After wearing the same few outfits day in and day out, you start to get bored and want to shop for some new outfits. Or at least I do. So hide some pieces for a few months, then trade them up for different outfits down the road. I was living with my boyfriend on weekends over this past summer while I was working at a remote resort the rest of the time. Gradually a good portion of my clothes made it’s way over to his house and never came home with me when I moved back to the city. Now, months later, I’ve finally brought that clothes back to my house and it’s like I have a whole new wardrobe to work with. I haven’t worn these clothes in forever. My desire to shop, for the time being at least, is gone. In my opinion, that’s money in the bank.

5.Stash your Plastic Bags – jackets and purses are usually full of little pockets that never really get used. Take some of your plastic bags, smoothe them out, fold them up and tuck them away into those pockets. Now every time your in line at the grocery store and they ask you if you need a bag, you can say “nope, I’ve got my own.”  This will save you the 2 cents they would have charged you for a plastic bag, and might even make you money because sometimes store will give you a rebate when you bring your own bags. And you don’t have to spend money either now on reusable cloth bags.

6.The Dollar Store is Your Friend – you can buy so many things at the dollar store for a fraction of the price that you will pay at a grocery store. Toothpaste and toothbrushes for example. $1 each at the dollar store, compared to $3+ at the grocery store for the same thing. I bought a lot of my kitchen utensils from the dollar store when I moved out on my own and over three years later, I don’t think anything has broken or been replaced yet.

7.Make it a Game Night – this is something my friends and I did all winter and had a blast. It was never really a money issue, but we did it more just because we were getting bored of the weekly bar scene. We played a lot of board games and would usually switch it up with a different game each week. If you or friends don’t have a lot of board games, go out and buy some or  play card games. Avoid buying board games brand new, as the prices for board games are insane, ranging from $25 to over $100. Rather keep an eye out for finds at local thrift stores and garage sales. You can usually pick them up for a fraction of the retail sale price, and sometimes you can find some really cool classic, vintage, or just plain weird games. Always make sure to peek inside the box to ensure the instructions and all the playing pieces are there.

8.Swap your cash for foreign currency – living a 3 hour drive from the US/Canadian Border, I encounter American currency from time to time, either from serving or through friends and co-workers. Since American and Canadian currency is pretty much on par with one another, I always swap out my Canadian funds with American when the opportunity arises. That way I’m never going to spend that $5 or $20 and I can put it towards future savings, or avoid paying high exchange rates when I make a trip down south.