Thursday, May 22, 2014

Travelling on the Cheap

Growing up my family didn't travel.  So I didn't know what I was missing.  Until recently.  Last year my family and I took a trip across Canada in our beat up tent trailer.  We saw the mountains, teal blue glacier water, and wildlife I didn't even realize existed in Canada!  I was hooked. I wanted to make these kind of memories with my family more often! Problem is, travelling can be expensive.

This year we are staying closer to home. BC is just not in the budget this year. (but believe me, it's on the list to happen again. :) )  However, I wanted to travel a bit still.  We decided there were some areas in Ontario, our home province that would be great to explore.  We are planning on going to the Bruce Penninsula this year as it is an area we have never been.  Here are some tricks we are using to be able to afford a small trip.

1.  Combining it with work.  I sell tie dye.  I am taking part in a craft show in an area close to where we want to explore.  So I will spend the weekend working while we camp, and then we will move on and use the following few days to take our mini vacation.

2.  Canadian Tire money.  Gas is expensive.  And you can't use Canadian Tire money to purchase gas.  But you can use Canadian Tire money to purchase a gift card, and you can use a gift card to purchase gas.  We always get our gas at the Canadian Tire gas station so we have a nice chunk that should get us almost 40 dollars of gas.

3.  PC Points Card.  If you have a bank account at President's Choice Financial, and you use your card at various places such as No Frills or Independent Grocer, you get points.  You can then redeem those points for groceries.  It takes awhile to accumulate them, but 20 dollars of free groceries is 20 dollars of free groceries! :)  We will be using that towards our food purchases for camping.

4.  Swagbucks.  Swagbucks is a site online where you can accumulate points and then redeem them for gift certificates for various stores or for paypal money.  While laying in bed putting my toddler to sleep I have used this site on my mobile phone to gain some points.

5.  Mystery Shopping.  I have done a few mystery shop assignments.  It is not huge money, but again it is a little extra that goes into my paypal account for our trip.

6.  Airmiles.  Recently I heard that airmiles have changed their program so that your points can expire after 5 years.  Apparently in 2016 points can start expiring.  We have been collecting the odd point here and there since we were first married.  We don't use the card enough for it to be enough for a flight, but it turns out you can redeem them for other purchases such as gift cards, or gas. :)

All of this combined with cheap camping, doing free or cheap activities, and eating food you pack all helps towards being able to take the family on a trip to make memories. :)

What ways do you save so you can take your family on a vacation?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Know Your Audience

I don't really like to write controversial posts.  I worry that I will hurt someone's feelings, or open a can of worms that just isn't worth being opened.  But every once in awhile I get worked up enough that I write something and hit the post button, wondering if I really should be posting it.  So, fair warning, this is one of those times.

A very good friend of mine and I often have chats that often include one of us saying to eachother, "know your audience."

If it took you 6 months to get pregnant, don't complain that it took you forever to get pregnant to people who have dealt with fertility issues for years.

If you get straight A's in school, don't complain that school is such a struggle for you to someone who works their butt off and still struggles to only pull in Cs.

If you make $80,000 or $100,000 dollars yearly, don't complain that you have no money and finances are slim to someone who pulls in $20,000 annually.

If you find yourself in the first group of these statements and other situations like this, I am not saying you don't have struggles in this area.  I am saying that you most likely can't fully understand what the person in the latter part of these statements is really going through.  And by saying these types of things it can sting in the heart of the other person.

Honesty alert(because, really, sometimes you gotta be real): My family and I currently pull in roughly $20,000 a year at this time.  And if I had a nickle for everytime someone who makes $80,000 or more complain to me about how tough finances were, well, i might actually be rich.

I don't pretend to know what is going on in everyone's life. I don't always know if a crisis has happened in your life that has momentarily put you in a bad spot financially.  What I do know is that when I hear you say you have no money, and I see your lifestyle or I know what your annual income is (because friends, sometimes we do feel okay to share that number which is okay), I wonder what you must think of me in my $3 Value Village shirt purchased on 50% off day, if you are feeling bad about your own money situation while looking like a rockstar in your designer boots.

Here's the thing.  We have one vehicle.  We live in a small, OLD home. My kids are blessed with being able to take swimming lessons because I walked into the YMCA and applied for subsidy.  Not the funnest moment, let me tell you.  But my kids are worth it.  When I do buy clothes it is 9 out of 10 times from a thrift store, and soccer is paid for by Christmas money given to the children by relatives.  We don't have cable.  When we travel this Summer we are combining it with work to make money and using CHEAP camping accommodations. I don't go to the salon, or buy fancy lotions or makeup or creams.  Actually, I make my own bar soap to save money.  I hang laundry often. And in the winter we keep our temperature in our house on average around 16 or 17 degrees.

And I don't tell you this so you feel sorry for me.  Actually, I would HATE it if you did.  Because this kind of stuff doesn't make my life horrible.  Sometimes it enriches it.  Sometimes it strengthens my character.  And yes, sometimes it does cause me to complain because I am human and no matter where we are in our life, we are caught complaining about something that we shouldn't be complaining about.  But I imagine if I was in a conversation with a homeless person and started complaining to them about  how finances were tough that they might feel frustrated with what was coming out of my mouth.  Because to them, having a warm bed, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and never going hungry....well, that is something they dream of. I have all those things, and feel so fortunate! And for me, I often see these financial struggles as a temporary situation because one day my kids will be older and I will have more time to work and bring in income for the family when they won't need constant supervision or have such an attachment to their parents. But for now, when I hear those comments it makes me feel like there is this huge totem pole, and that I must be on the very bottom because if you feel like you don't have enough, it makes me think you look at me and just pity me and my children.

And you know what?  I am HAPPY for you that you make a comfortable income.  I think that is something you should feel proud of and thank God for.  I think it is something you should celebrate! I would love to hear how you were able to take a much needed vacation, or you were able to add renovations to your home you were dreaming about, or how you finally could put your child in those horse ridinng lessons they wanted so much.   All I am saying is, when we share our struggles, let's work together to know our audience.  I am guilty of this too...oh, how there have been times in mid-sentence I have realized I have said something that just shouldn't have come out of my mouth. There are many struggles people around me are going through that I really have no idea how hard that valley is they are walking through.   I want to learn to be sensitive to those around me.  Let's do this together. :)