Tuesday, August 5, 2014

One Week In...

Last week I posted the new budget I was going to try and stick with to help me get used to a lower income.  What I didn't consider was that this new budget will also have to cover car payments and THAT made me realize my hope of getting a new crossover is basically a pipe dream.  I still have to go and speak to someone at a dealership but I really can't imagine I have enough income to cover the payments on a vehicle in that price range.  A dealership would argue with me on this and tell me they can get the monthly payments down to an affordable number but that would mean extending the financing past 5 years which is something I won't let myself do.  Selfish Kris really wants a fancy new ride but practical Kris seems to be winning the argument when it comes to the finances.  If all the scribbling I've done on scraps of paper while waiting between flights is correct, I likely *could* afford a new car but if I bought an SUV, it'd have to be previously owned.

This epiphany was kinda a downer but I still have a bit of time before my current car dies which will help me save more money and hopefully, convince my brother to help me out while looking at used cars.

As far as sticking to the budget...well, it's only day 6 and I've been flying a lot so it's not like I've had to deal with a lot of temptation.  I didn't plan my evenings out with friends very well so although I went out with a buddy for dinner tonight, I'm also going to be going out tomorrow night with a girlfriend.  Ordinarily, I'd try to space those events out more but tomorrow's dinner is basically my friend's attempt at setting me up so there wasn't any wiggle room with the timing.  I'm really going to have to be creative later in the month to get this money to stretch until September!!

The non-financial side of things is actually doing well.  As usual, I'm working a bit too much but I'm now putting those hours in to try and pay down debt/save up money for car/reno's/travel/secret goal so, as ugly as it is...keeping my eye on the prize is getting me through it.  I've been trying to get back to eating well and exercising regularly too.  The flying hasn't made that easy but I feel very motivated and optimistic.  Today was also a "rest/cheat" day for me.  I think I need to be more flexible with my plan since, in the past, minor setbacks have completely destroyed my resolve and led to a lot of backsliding.

Anyways, it's late and I should be sleeping!!  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The New Budget

I'm not an extravagant spender.  My home is furnished with thrifted items, furniture that is now 10 years old and the occasional item that was purchased new, either on sale or from the clearance section, at Ikea when I simply couldn't find a secondhand item that would work.  The majority of my clothing was purchased secondhand and most of the knickknacks that you'd find in my home have either been given to me or were souvenirs from my global travels.  I'm not really known for "throwing money away" but in order to make my new goal a reality, I have to adjust my budget in a major way.  As mentioned in my last post, I'm anxious about this because for so long, I haven't had to watch my spending.  I made enough money that my minimal spending wasn't about to break the budget.  My new situation involves paying down some debt, saving up for a down payment on a car, paying to have some renovations done AND getting used to what could become a lower monthly income.  Doesn't that sound like *fun*?

Being brutally honest, I don't know if I can make this work.  The budget I'm going to attempt to live on doesn't accurately reflect the breakdown amounts that will be used if I make the crazy life changes I'm contemplating but the $3000 *does* represent the reduced income I'll likely be forced to accept.  I need to prove to myself that I can manage on that amount in order to make the other changes required.  Below is the first version of the reduced budget I'll be living on as of August.  Any income above the $3000 will go to paying off my debt, saving for a new car and all the other major expenses I have lined up.  *shakes head*  There are so many other major expenses coming up...

August 2014 - $3000
Mortgage/property taxes/buffer $1405.00
Electricity $45.00
Gas $88.00
Water $35.00
Cell $90.00
House insurance $58.00
Car insurance $99.00
Fuel $220.00
Car Repair $0
Groceries $180.00
Layover expenses $82.00
Internet $60.00
Cats $60.00
RSP $300.00
EF $0
Life insurance $30.00
Netflix $8.00
Clothing $0
Personal/Recreation/Misc $240.00
Gifts $0
Long Distance $0
Health $0
Travel $0
Reno/House Fund $0

You see all those categories with zero amounts???  They all have to be covered from the Personal/Recreation/Misc amount of $240.  Ugh.  Fortunately, some of these amounts will accumulate and roll into other months (roll over amounts will be kept in a separate account to help keep all the figures clear) and some of these amounts are really just estimates since I haven't kept a budget in so long, I'm not sure how much some of these categories need.  I'll have to become obsessive about tracking everything again but I think after the first few months, I'll get back into my old budgeting groove.  Wish me luck and I'll keep you updated on how things are going.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Adapting to new priorities

So as I hinted at in my last post, my priorities have shifted since May.  There are some big changes coming in my life, basically related to the fact that I really need to achieve a better work-life balance.  In the past, when I had major life goals in mind, I could become an excellent saver and would stick to a very strict budget in order to save money to achieve my goal.  It was that focused mindset that allowed me to save up a down payment for the townhouse I currently live in and, before that, to pay off a car loan in an exceptionally short period of time.  So what is this new goal???  Although I can't elaborate too much, there are a few big financial roadblocks. 

First off, my car (Betty, the rusted out Mazda3) is dying and not in a minor way.  My brother is my mechanic and when I had him investigate some rattles, I was told that there were a multitude of mechanical issues that will be occurring soon.  In short, I was told the condition of the vehicle didn't warrant the thousands of dollars of repairs that will be needed to keep Betty on the road.  His advice was to drive this car until it died and, in the meantime, save up as much money as possible to purchase my next vehicle.  I was excited at the prospect of a new car but had hoped Betty would last until next year so this is a *major* purchase that I'll have to incorporate into my budget sooner than anticipated.

Secondly, the past few months of half-time flying at my primary employer have completely drained my savings and put me in a tiny bit of debt.  I should have this debt cleared up in a month or two but that means money that would otherwise go towards savings or a new car is being diverted for awhile.  I'm frustrated with this because I hate debt so much but, as much as I regret my financial situation, I actually really needed to take a step back from flying for those six months and most of what I spent my savings on (snowboarding equipment and lessons, lift tickets, travelling) was actually money I consider well-spent.  Its a crappy situation but considering some of the alternatives, was actually the best choice.

Finally, I need to adjust my budget and get back to living *well* below my means if I want to make the proposed changes and not put myself in another bad situation.  I'll also need to save up a significant amount  I'm basically going to have to pretend to have a low income, in preparation for some changes that might cause a low income.  It's really hard to think about that at my age when I feel like my income should just be steadily rising!!

For the next few months, I'm going to have to pay off my debt, save up money for a down payment on a car and restrict my budget (I'm going to aim to live below $3000 each month which is less than what I make now but any extra will go to the two previously mentioned goals).  I used to relish these types of challenges but I'm actually dreading this one.  There's been some significant lifestyle inflation in the past few years and I'll have to drastically change the way I live in order to make this do-able.  It's hard but really, if I'm hoping to honour my new priorities, it's simply the way it has to be.  I'm currently trying to crunch the numbers to see how a $3000/month budget will look for me and will post one here soon as well as updates on how well I'm able to follow it.  Wish me luck!

Happily (ok, maybe with a tiny bit of stress!),

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I've been away but with good reason :(

So a few days after my last post I received news that my grandmother passed away.  Working for an airline usually means that when people have to travel, I'm the one delegated the responsibility of arranging tickets, hotels and rental cars.  Once I got back, between things being hectic at work and taking some time to process her passing as well as some other family issues meant I certainly wasn't in the mood to be blogging.  I didn't hate my life but my priorities dramatically shifted away from screen time.

Most recently, I've been working on getting through my To Do list.  I was able to strike the following items off the list (which is constantly being added to):
  • I redecorated the guest room.
  • My powder room reno is finished.
  • I've painted the foyer and hung up most of its decor items.
  • I had the giant tree growing in my backyard that kept hitting my house *finally* cut down.
  • I have started the kitchen "refresh" so I'm about halfway done painting the cabinets, have installed the new range hood, have installed new lighting fixtures and will hopefully be able to get going on the backsplash soon.
  • I replaced the broken light fixtures in my basement.
Not bad, right?  So yes, I've been away but I have at least been using that time productively!!

Due to all the personal issues that happened shortly after my last post there have been some shifts in my priorities and I'm trying to align my choices/decisions with those new priorities.  I've only discussed these changes with a few very close friends but as things develop further, I'll be sure to keep you informed.

Anyways, I'm off to go and slap another coat of paint on some cabinets!!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Running Away: A story of minimalist travel

That headline makes this post seem much more dramatic than it actually is.  As you may have noticed if you've read some of the other posts on this blog, I've been feeling a little worn out, a little overwhelmed.  I had what *should* be my last real estate exam this past Saturday (assuming I passed, fingers crossed) and I had been getting antsy from being on the ground so long (haven't flown since the end of March since things are so slow at the airline).  One of my closest friends, we'll call her E, calls Edmonton home and my sister and a few other friends live in Calgary.  I used to see these people fairly regularly since I could pick what flying I did and would opt to have layovers in those two cities.  Since I lost the ability to choose my schedule when I took the Service Director position, I haven't seen them for long time and I was *not* enjoying the time apart.

I had contacted E and Sis and told them if it was at all possible, I was going to be flying in for a whirlwind visit this past weekend.  Since I was couch surfing between several people, 2 cities and would potentially be spending a lot of time on my own, carrying everything with me while waiting to meet up with my next host, I knew I'd want to pack light...even lighter than I normally do.  I made a list of what to pack and then edited it down to what I thought were the essentials for a 3-4 day trip.

What you see in the above picture is EVERYTHING I brought with me (except for 1 thin paperback which I left behind at a thrift store since I had finished reading it and my iPhone which was being used to take the picture).  I apologize for the quality of the pic but I'll list everything here and then comment on how this packing experiment worked out for me.  

What's in the pic (even if not perfectly visible):
  • Jackets: Spring-weight knee length jacket, black, lined blazer
  • Tops: long sleeve quick-dry style athletic shirt with a paisley design, plain white t-shirt, black tank with sequins
  • Bottoms: skinny jeans in a dark wash, black knee length jersey skirt, yoga capris
  • Intimates: convertible bra, flesh toned, sports bra and 4 prs undies (packed away in the black bag you see *under* the bra in this pic)
  • Hosiery: 1 pr black tights and 3 prs thin socks
  • Accessories: light, pashmina style scarf, black belt, sunglasses, beaded cuff bracelet, watch, claw-style hair clip
  • Footwear: flat, knee-high leather boots and black ballet flats
  • Travel conveniences: water bottle, travel mug (there were tea bags tucked into the travel mug), 2 paperback books (I left the one I finished behind, it was good but it wasn't one I was going to bother reading again), purse-size umbrella, phone charger, ear bud earphones, luggage lock, eye mask
  • Travel necessities: wallet (containing the standard wallet stuff), passport and security pass (since I work for an airline, travelling with my security pass gives me access to extra seats that the public is unable to use), 2 pens
  • Makeup (non-liquids packed into a tiny makeup pouch): powder foundation, 1 blush with travel brush, 1 lipstick, 1 cream eyeshadow, 1 tinted moisturizing lip gloss, 1 eyeliner (I've had it for awhile so it's basically just a stub now), 1 tube of mascara
  • Personal care: 1 sample size deodorant (super happy I found that in my HBA stash), 1 travel size toothpaste tube, toothbrush,  1 bar of soap (gentle enough to use on face as well as body), 2 sample pouches of shampoo/conditioner (only ended up using one), hair brush, tweezers, compact mirror, 3 hair elastics, razor, medicated ointment (for my psoriasis...boo, packed a bit in a sample container instead of bringing the normal tube), hand lotion, pill box containing ibuprofen, tiny bottle of dish soap
  • Black purse and LeSportsac tote
Some comments on the items:
  • The yoga capris and sports bra functioned as my PJs while sleeping at my friends' places and, had I been able to spend more time with my sister, would've actually been used for a yoga class (along with the long sleeve top I brought)
  • Notice the boring colour scheme (black, white, grey and denim)?  It was deliberate...everything went with everything else.  This just happened to be what was in my closet (I LIKE black, white, grey and denim!) but sticking to the same colour group when packing will achieve the same thing.
  • My makeup looked the same everyday and that's perfectly okay!!
  • Visiting Alberta always means pack for a wide range of weather possibilities; the longer black jacket, white scarf and boots (instead of just black shoes) were all packed because I was keeping that in mind.
What I'd edit further in the future:
  • Tiny bottle of dish soap - I carry that as an FA to use in a pinch if something (travel mug, clothing, etc) needs to be washed.  Staying at friends' places means it wasn't necessary since I had access to laundry facilities if something got dirty or if I was extending my trip.
  • Travel mug - again, this was from my FA habit of always carrying a travel mug so all I need to do if I want tea is find hot water.  As I walked through Calgary, I *welcomed* the opportunity to step into a cafe to buy a tea and relax for a few minutes.
  • Water bottle - this IS an essential for me since I try to avoid bottled water but I wouldn't mind having a smaller sized bottle if I can find one.
  • Footwear: if I was making this trip again later in the Spring, I'd switch out the boots for a pair of black heels and leave the longer jacket at home.  The scarf is handy on the plane since wrapping it around exposed skin helps keep you warm if you feel a bit chilled so, since its so small, it still would've made the cut.
  • Little things: bring 1 book instead of 2 (thought I'd do more waiting around!), leave the eye mask and bracelet at home - I didn't really need them.  I did use the hair clip but, if pressed, could have left it behind and just stuck with ponytails and messy buns while I was travelling.
  • Personal Care:  I really did have the option of leaving behind the shampoo/conditioner/toothpaste and just asking to use what my various hosts had.  If every ounce of weight was critical, that would've been done but it clearly wasn't terrible to carry around the samples I had found at home.
I wouldn't say I'd choose to do all of my travel with a minimalist packing style but it was certainly a different experience to be able to put ALL my belongings under the seat in front of me during a flight.  It was actually very freeing to not feel bogged down by a lot of stuff (and I usually squeeze everything into a carry-on suitcase so I wasn't packing excessively to begin with).  I spent one day walking around Calgary on foot (yep, I walked from just north of Prince's Island Park to Richmond & Sarcee in the SW) and although, it wasn't ideal carrying everything with me, it was completely doable.  However, if your trip involves having to trek around with all your belongings, I would suggest using a backpack instead of a tote so you can carry the weight spread across both shoulders instead of having to carry it all on one side, alternating every so often.

So now I'm back home, feeling more refreshed after my adventure and very happy to have been able to see my loved ones, even if only for a short time.  I'm back to the office tomorrow (probably should have gone in today) but am looking forward to the next time I can run away.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

I'm a hypocrite...because of my dining room wall.

I'm a hypocrite...

To the right, you'll see a (poor-quality) photo of my dining area.  *Please ignore the piles of stuff on my dining room table.*  I, the girl who says she's trying to be a non-consumer and avoid excess packaging, went to Ikea yesterday to browse.  My first mistake was going to an Ikea to browse since I get a high off of Ikea that most people need drugs to attain.  My second mistake was not running out of there at top speed when I picked up when one of their yellow shopping bags.

In my defense (excuses, excuses!), I had planned something for my dining room wall that had always involved Ikea components.  You can see the general idea taking shape in the photo.  I wanted to have my exhibition poster hanging above the sideboard, with some shelving and the Ikea wine racks you see in the pic.  I could've purchased or acquired shelving and brackets somewhere else and then painted them to match.  THAT would've been the non-consumer thing to do but apparently, I'm a hypocrite.  When I saw that Ikea had shelves that would match and brackets that had the sleek style I was going for, I caved.  It wasn't the cheapest way to accomplish this plan, it wasn't the non-consumer way to achieve this goal but it was easy and between being stretched thin time-wise and just wanting some of the things on my list to finally get done...I did it.  I bought the shelves.  How do I feel about this?  Honestly, not as guilty as I thought I would feel.  That little voice inside is saying "Tsk tsk." but I know if I had waited to find shelving, find the right paint colour, find brackets, paint the shelves and then hang them, finishing this task would be a lot further away.  As it stands right now, I just need to hang the poster (easy peasy, that's a one screw job) and the second wall shelf.  I'll have to get a friend to hold the poster at various heights so I can figure out how high it, and the second shelf, need to be hung.  If I didn't need to wait to do that, the whole job would be done by now.

I WAS better than I could've been an the Ikea.  I used to end up with a cart full of decorative accessories and trust me, there was a lot of temptation but I just kept thinking that I could probably find very similiar vases/pitchers/knickknacks secondhand at a thrift store.  Ikea keeps its prices really low (I'm intrigued how much of this is due to the size of their orders vs. externalizing the costs of manufacturing) so buying secondhand might not have a huge cost benefit but at least it wouldn't trigger the production of more items.

So yes, I'm a hypocrite because of my dining room wall but this was a guilty pleasure, I can't say I'd have chosen differently if I had to do it over again.  I'm going to go ahead and take "Finish Dining Room Decor" off my to do list now since the next step will likely get finished off tonight.

Do you make conscious decisions to go against your general philosophy every so often or do you have the willpower and determination to stick to it 24/7?


Monday, April 28, 2014

Toot n Holler 2014

Booooo.  The weather for this year's Toot n Holler was cold and wet.  I bravely set up my tables and dragged my stuff outside but there were few buyers.  This might also be because my address didn't seem to make it onto the poster of participating homes despite the fact I had called the Chamber's office...

As it was, I made less than $100 and was left with a lot of the items I had wanted to declutter, still in my garage when the drizzle became an actual downpour and my  neighbour and I called it quits.  Here's a shot of my garage once the stuff was dragged back in.
It doesn't seem like much was gone but some of the bulkier items found new homes.  I debated keeping the items aside and trying to hold another garage sale again later in the summer but a) I will likely only have one or two more weekends off during the summer and I'd prefer not to have to spend them standing in my driveway trying to sell used goods and b) I just want this crap GONE!  I sorted through the items and packed them up again according to their destination (ReStore vs. colleague's charity garage sale vs. community thrift shop).  I'm hoping that all the items that fit in my car (pretty much everything except those leftover trim pieces on the ground) will be gone by the end of the week.

My other exciting event of the weekend was baking bread.  It didn't turn out but I have two delicious, wheat based bricks.  I think it was a combination of weak yeast and a bit too much flour but the results are edible so, in the spirit of not wasting resources whenever possible, I'm eating the bread anyways.  I don't eat much bread normally so it'll be a few weeks before I need to attempt again but I was trying to cover off my desire for bread (to go with chili and soups) without having to buy bread packaged in plastic so my heart was in the right place.

Have a great week!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Living Locally: Bistro Seven Seven in Alliston, Ontario

I'm lucky enough to work two jobs.  I'm both a Service Director (the "head Flight Attendant" on a flight) for a national airline as well as a Realtor.  To accommodate my flying schedule, although I'm licensed as a Registered Salesperson, I choose to work as a Licensed Assistant to another Registered Salesperson in my area.  He's a great boss, it's a great brokerage and loving both my jobs makes my life somewhat difficult because I DO overschedule myself.  Recently, my brokerage decided to treat the administrative staff for dinner as a token of appreciation for the work we do.

Our manager took us out to dinner at a great local restaurant called Bistro Seven Seven.  I had noticed this restaurant, located on Victoria Street East in Alliston, while driving around town and put it on my list of places to check out "some time" and of course, never got around to it.  I'm SO thankful I was given an opportunity to dine here, especially since this lovely dinner was on someone else's dime.  :)

The restaurant is set up in what appears to be a century home.  I didn't get a chance to really check out the interior since our party was seated in a private room upstairs.  I was lucky enough to score a seat next to the room's gas fireplace (the girl who is always chilly was toasty warm!!).  Eating here is definitely an experience, it's not a restaurant that you'd pop into for a quick meal.  While we conversed our tables were provided with fresh bread as well as some salmon croquettes and sweet potato fritters as appetizers.  I didn't have a chance to try the fritters but the salmon croquettes, served with a spicy mayo, were delicious.  Between the courses, we were offered a coconut sorbet to cleanse our palettes.  It was light and refreshing...a welcome addition that is often forgotten at restaurants these days.

The restaurant has their regular menu as well as a table d'hote or prix fixe option (I'm actually not sure what the english equivalents are for those terms).  I ordered the crab cakes to start, followed with their herbed gnocchi.  The food was fantastic and although it's not a cheap restaurant (for someone with my budget) it's DEFINITELY somewhere I'm going to try and hit up again if I ever have an occasion that warrants a nice meal.  I thoroughly enjoyed my evening!!

I'd recommend making reservations as, even though we were there on a Wednesday, the restaurant seemed to fill quickly.  Bistro Seven Seven was a wonderful reminder that you don't need to leave New Tecumseth to find fine dining options.  Check out their website at www.bistrosevenseven.com!

Happily (and with a very contented tummy!),

Monday, April 21, 2014

FINALLY got to use my drill today!

I had my drill and some time free between my workout and when I needed to show up at the office so I hit up the hardware store, got the wall anchors I needed and finally got it done.  :)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Raising the Bar

Happy Easter!!

I've a huge fan of the blogs The Non-Consumer Advocate and Zero Waste Home and through one of their readers, just found a new blog to follow; My Plastic Free Life.  Beth's website has a wealth of resources and now I'm laughing because it adds another dimension of difficulty to the life I'm striving to live.

So, I want to be a mindful consumer, try to lessen the waste of resources and avoid plastics as much as possible while working two jobs, attempting to improve my fitness, slowly tackling projects around my house AND taking a course?  Hell's yeah!

I mean..."No."  :(  I am willing to set these as goals but I've already mentioned I'm feeling stretched.  Things won't always be this tough...the course WILL end, the projects around the house WILL *eventually* be completed but I need to not bite off more than I can chew or else I'll simply get frustrated and give up on everything.  Although I do find Beth's challenge to be completely amazing and *do* want to try and work that in when making decisions, I'm not going to beat myself up if I can't manage it too well right now.  I'm hampered by a few things, most significantly, Bulk Barn and the other grocers in my area do not allow you to use your own containers when bulk-buying so I'm forced to use their plastic bags (which at least get reused when I clean the cat litter).  I do suspect that my desire to cut down on excess waste means that I'll be reducing the amount of plastic brought into my life quite a bit anyways.

This is just another thing to consider, this journey will be constantly evolving!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Non-Consumer Review - Plato's Closet Newmarket

If you've spent more than a few minutes glancing around my blog you'll have noticed I'm in a bit of a decluttering phase and attempting to move towards a more minimalist, non-consumer lifestyle.  I've put some time into sorting through my wardrobe and culling out what no longer fits, what is damaged/worn-out and what I just never end up wearing.  Due to my weight gain over the last year and a half (why must food be so delicious?!?) there was a lot that was pulled to the side and put in boxes marked "Sell at garage sale, unsold gets donated".  

I was talking about this to a co-worker the other day and he suggested I try taking some of my stuff by Plato's Closet.  Honestly, I've heard their radio ads and just never thought to drop by when I was out thrifting.  Apparently, there are two locations that are semi-near me.  Keep in mind, I live in a small town, there's not a whole lot thrift-wise within a 15 minute drive so it's normal for me to have to drive 30-35 minutes if I need to go clothes shopping.  Their Newmarket location was definitely within that range so I sorted through my boxes and picked what I thought *might* be accepted.  I had looked at their website so I knew my business casual wear wasn't going to cut it but wasn't so sure about some of my other stuff.  You never know until you try, right?

I hopped into my (t)Rusty Ride, Betty the Mazda3, and headed over.  The plaza (look for the plaza behind the Mandarin) was unpleasantly busy for this wannabe country girl but I am SO. FREAKING. GLAD. I finally checked this place out.  I have to give some serious kudos to the people behind Plato's Closet.  The store was tidy, the aisles weren't crammed together, the staff was incredibly friendly (shout out to Kristen who welcomed me, explained the process and cashed me out), all of the merchandise I checked out was in great shape, items were fairly priced, even the music they were playing was leagues better than what you have to listen to at other secondhand shops.  It was an amazeballs (read: great, if you don't like made-up words) shopping experience with only one itty-bitty negative.  I guess the staff forgot to write my  name on the "Your buy is ready" board so I kept shopping, wondering how long it would take for them to finish evaluating the clothes/accessories I brought in.  No biggie, since I would've gladly spent more time perusing their racks if I hadn't needed to head into work.

Plato's Closet is probably THE place to shop for budget-conscious or non-consumer girls and guys in their teens and twenties.  (I know, I know, it's not cool to be budget conscious or a non-consumer...)  For someone around my age, *cough* 33 *cough*, its still an extremely worthwhile thrift location to add to your list.  You're going to find a much better-curated selection of denim, athletic wear and fast-fashion type casual wear than you'd find at stores like Goodwill or Value Village.  I'm not knocking those stores (I shop there too!!) but there are only so many pairs of ratty sweatpants, "mom jeans" and stretched out t-shirts you can sort through before frustration sets in.  Price-wise, I haven't done much hardcore thrifting lately so my impression may be off but I found the pricing to be comparable, or even just a bit lower, than what you'd expect to find at Value Village or the Salvation Army Thrift Stores.  Considering that the items are much more current and in better shape than what you might find elsewhere...the pricing is fantastic.

As far as the bin of clothes I took in...only 11 items were purchased but I'm not surprised after seeing their inventory (my stuff wasn't in horrible shape, just not really what their target demographic would buy).  I'd likely have gotten a bit more money for those items if I had gone to a regular consignment shop but a) consignment shops seem to be getting harder to find in my area and b) you have to wait and see if the items actually sell whereas Plato's gives you cash on the spot.  I picked up 2 "new" pairs of yoga pants (actually, one pair was NWT!!), cashed out for the difference and headed on my way.  I'm actually itching to go back  (especially since there was a beaded necklace I loved and I forgot to grab, boo) and pick up some jeans and tees for spring.

Check it out! - Plato's Closet Newmarket - 16655 Yonge Street, Newmarket (905) 853-8880


**The Plato's Closet logo at the top isn't my property.  If it's yours and you'd like it removed, let me know. :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Minimalism Through Attrition is Frustrating as Heck

Hello, hello!

I've been back on call for the past few days and either nobody has been calling in sick or the airline has forgotten about me.  I can't say I'm complaining, its given me a lot of time to catch up on my Real Property Law reading so I'm basically back on track for being ready for my exam in May.  I've also been continuing to go through drawers, cupboards, boxes, etc. every so often to sort through what I want to keep and what is unnecessary.

Let me tell you...minimalism through attrition is CRAZY frustrating.  I keep finding random stuff that I actually DO use and my much-tighter-than-usual budget means I need to use these things instead of passing them on.  I've found half-pads of post-its (I use them a lot while flying), sample sized shampoos/conditioners/lotions, about a thousand tea bags grabbed from hotel rooms (as I leave to head to work and then never end up using).  There is just a lot of "stuff" that I'm choosing to organize/sort and prioritize to use before opening up new packages.  Even in the areas where I'm not finding more stuff (like my cosmetics), it seems like its just taking forever to use things up which is ironic because I *should* be trying to make things last as long as possible.  For example, in an attempt to finally use up a lipstick that was about 3/4s used, I've been wearing pretty much the same makeup look for over a month...and that lipstick refuses to die!!  I shouldn't be conflicted as a mantra I admire and actually usually try to live by most of the time is "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" but I feel as if, having decided that I don't want to be surrounded by mounds of stuff, I can't seem to get rid of it quickly enough.

Things are good though;

  • May is my last reduced flying month so I'll be back to my regular budget shortly (and not a moment too soon, based on the repairs/work around my house I'll need to pay someone to do).
  • My *final* real estate exam is May 10th and then all the really time intensive courses will be out of the way.
  • The community garage sale is at the end of the month so hopefully most of the stuff I've corralled into my garage will be turned into at least a little bit of cash.
It's not as if I'm about to enter some magical phase of my life but a few things that I have been counting down to are finally getting close to happening!!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Finally, a vaguely productive day!

Hey All,

So I've booked off from flying for awhile due to an injury...I was "attacked" by a drunken friend and injured my knee to the point where I was using crutches for the first few days afterwards.  My knee had improved to the point where I could go back to work but I needed a doctor's note for my absence (thanks Air Canada for helping to clog doctor's offices with non-essential visits!).  I took a day off work at the office so I could make it to the clinic and managed to get some other errands done too.  Nothing glamorous but I managed the following:

  • dropped old kitchen sink and old pedestal sink off at Alliston's ReStore.
  • dropped off a bag of clothing at Chez Thrift
  • dropped off a bag of miscellaneous clutter at the Bolton ReUstore (to be honest, if I had sorted through it better I could have dropped it off at the ReStore or Clothes Line in Alliston)
  • had my taxes done
  • finally returned something to Home Depot
  • read my law textbook
  • moved patio furniture back outside
  • opened up all the windows to air out my house
It was NOT an exciting day but some of those items have been making me feel guilty for awhile now so it was nice to finally get them done.  My To Do list is still redonkulous (no, that's not a real word...yes, I still use it all the time) but I'm slowly getting through things.  Finishing up my real estate law course is a pretty big item on the list as is hosting a garage sale during Tottenham's 2014 Toot n'Holler community wide garage sale.

Side note:  When I first moved here and people mentioned the Toot n'Holler I thought they were exaggerating.  Seriously though, the most traffic I see in this town is actually on Toot n'Holler day and it should be considered a national holiday for those who love thrifting.

I've also picked up more paint so I can finish painting my foyer and stairwell and really need to get my butt in gear over the work being done in the kitchen.  Finally, there are just a few more steps to having my powder room completed (putty and paint the trim, re-hang the mirror/towel rack/toilet paper holder) - thankfully, it's at least functional in its current state.

I have been pretty stressed and down lately as I've been stretched a bit thin.  I'm not sure if its simply been the change in weather but things seem a bit better now.  I'm still busy to an ungodly degree but I feel like I have a better handle on things.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Just stopping by...

Oops!  Between flying and putting in time at the office things have been CRAZY around here so even when I've found a few minutes of downtime, admittedly, blogging was low on the priority list.

Unfortunately, I haven't really gotten much accomplished.  This is a full hour flying month so there hasn't been a lot of time to try and tackle many projects but I have done some of the things I've been trying to cross off the list:

  • I've gone snowboarding a few more times and although I still fall down almost constantly, I'm getting better.  I'm still terrible, believe me, but now I can turn and stop about a third of the time while before, I would fall if I even thought about turning.  
  • I managed to get my guest room painted.  I was trying to be mindful of spending and opted to go with a brand other than Benjamin Moore for the paint and I regret that decision now.  The colours are fine but the paint was a lot thinner than I'm used to so there are some spots where the paint ran (yes, I know, that also means I had too much paint on the roller but that doesn't happen with BM paints!!).  I still have some hooks, a mirror and some art to hang in the room but painting was the biggest job and that's done now.
  • I've continued de-cluttering around the house.  Every so often I'll see something and think "Yeah...that can go."  I'm actually really happy that I sorted through my clothes the other day because getting dressed is SO MUCH EASIER when I can see what I have.  It doesn't look like I'll be losing much, if any, weight so the items that are on notice are probably going to be making an exit but we'll see if I'm suddenly motivated to get really strict on my diet and exercise regime.
Today I had to help my parents out with rides to and from a medical clinic (don't worry, everyone's fine!!) and while I was waiting, I popped into the local Goodwill.  Not exactly the wisest thing to do when I'm trying to cut down on material things but I saw something I had been lusting after for probably a few years and decided I'd let myself get it.  

Ta DA!!
I really shouldn't be getting this excited over a cake stand.  

I've seen this style of stand in magazines many times.  I was very happy to see one and be able to snag it.  It wasn't as cheap as I'd have liked ($10) but I've never seen them in retail stores for less than twice that.  I also picked up a stainless steel colander (no picture because it's not exciting at all) to replace my plastic one.  The plastic one is still in great shape (and will either be sold at a garage sale or donated to a thrift store) but I've gotten a bit wary of using plastics in my kitchen and am hoping to slowly make the switch to other materials.

Anyways, I *had* to make some treats to put on the stand for its photo op.  These are Banana-Nut Oat Bran muffins, a recipe I found at "two peas & their pod".  The muffins turned out moist with a beautiful banana flavour.  I used corn syrup since I had some I wanted to use up but otherwise I followed the recipe.  I'd add cinnamon next time and probably throw in more walnuts but they are great as is.

Hopefully it won't be so long til my next post but until then, make every day count!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Aiming for Minimalism: Cosmetics

Although some people who are trying to lead a more minimalist lifestyle might find it easier to simply purge their home of surplus items, my budget doesn't necessarily allow for that.  I suppose you could call my process "minimalism through attrition" as I've chosen to use up what I have that IS suitable and then, if replacement is necessary, I'll try to find a more practical version.  A perfect example of this is my cosmetics stash (please pardon the thrifted, repainted and dinged-up-over-time dresser that is being used as the backdrop).
I've been working on cutting my collection of makeup for some time now.  I think, at one point, I had four times what's pictured here.  I loved, LOVED buying makeup because of the promise it held...it was going to make me beautiful!!!  Yet I still stuck to a few basic shades, feeling uncomfortable and not quite myself if I wore anything more extreme.  The first major cut involved hauling most of my makeup to the bar where I worked part-time as a waitress.  I showed the other girls the makeup and offered them whatever had been brought in.  We were all close and often wore each other's products anyways so it was a quick way to pass these products on to other people who might use them.  I've bought little in the way of makeup since then although some of the unopened packages I had at that time have finally been unsealed for use.

I'm still working on making further cuts/changes to the collection you see in the picture.  Here are my thoughts on my existing makeup:
  1. I use a mineral foundation and, very rarely, MAC concealer.  I'm on the fence about switching to a pressed powder type of mineral foundation simply because its a smaller package and easier to pack in my travel bag.
  2. Highlighters - I have pressed powder highlighter and a sample of highlighter by Benefit.  I like the simplicity of the powder but I *much* prefer the size of the Benefit sample.  I don't use it often (only on nights out or special occasions) so a small size is more than enough.
  3. Lip Glosses - I have 6 items that I lump into the lip gloss category although some of them are more like tinted moisturizers.  In the future, I'd like to keep choosing products that add colour and keep my lips from drying out and I only want two shades, a lighter one for more casual looks and a darker shade (for when I know I need to wear makeup but am feeling lazy...lol).
  4. Lipsticks - I have 6 lipstick shades that I use and the really amusing thing is 3 of those shades are almost identical, a just-slightly-darker-than-my-lips pink (one is MAC, one is a Sephora long-lasting lipstick, and one is Rimmel but has more shimmer to it).  The other 3 shades are more dramatic; a dark berry shade, a shade which is aptly called "Wine" (which I LOVE and can't seem to find a similar shade to act as a replacement) and a bright red.  Ideally, I think I can eventually get this down to 3 or 4 shades.  I have 3 lip liners (one is AWOL from this pic) but once 2 of them are gone, should be able to stick with a neutral or "clear" lip liner.
  5. Blush - I have 3 blush compacts right now but 2 are very similar so I look forward to cutting this down to 2 shades; a rosy shade and a slightly warmer shade of blush (I choose my blush based on my planned lip and eye shadow).
  6. Eye shadows - I can wear fairly conservative/neutral makeup at both of my jobs without any problem so the nude shades of eye shadow I have, combined with a brown or black liner (why do I have 3?!?) are more than acceptable.  When I go out, I prefer a smokier eye so darker greys are helpful and the shimmery shades I have are used to dress up my "day" eyes when necessary.  If I had any really strong willpower this could probably be cut down to 3 shades but I'll be quite happy if I bring it down to 5.
I used to regularly fall into the trap of buying a set of new makeup whenever I had a special occasion.  Now I just grab the colours I'm comfortable with because I know I'll look good.  I'm hoping that by not buying additional makeup and replacing only the shades I love, that my makeup collection will be cut down and will someday, ideally, fit into a small makeup kit.  I'll take another picture of my makeup closer to summer as some of these items (notably the lipsticks/glosses) will likely be used up.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent and Mindful Sacrifices

Although I'm not a practicing Christian I thought I'd try to observe Lent this year as its elements of sacrifice and introspection coincide nicely with the purging and simplifying I'm trying to do.  

So what am I going to sacrifice?
  • Restaurant meals (when I'm not flying).  Going hungry for a few minutes because I have to take time to cook really isn't THAT much of a sacrifice when you think of how many people in this world simply go hungry.
  • Mindless shopping.  I like to think I don't have a major issue with this but now that I'm trying to simplify my wardrobe and finish decorating parts of my house it could be very tempting to "just pick up a few things".
  • "Screen time" (TV/movies/social media/etc). I'm smirking as I type this since this blog is an excellent way to get stuck on the computer.  This includes using my phone to access these things but excludes work-related screen time or dedicated time for checking/paying bills.  I'm hoping to limit my time to an average of 1.5 hrs per day.  That seems like a lot of time to use up but it goes quickly so it will be quite challenging.
Wish me luck!!

As for today's activities...I've been sorting through my wardrobe.  Unfortunately, only about 15 items have made it to the definite sell/donate pile while about 40 items are on notice.  Due to my weight gain, I have a lot of duplication in my closet.  For example, I have multiple skirts but half of them are size 6 and half of them are size 8.  My deadline for deciding on those items is the Toot n' Holler community garage sale that takes place at the end of April.  If the items still don't fit, they have to go (I'll probably allow myself 10 "pardons" but that still means 30+ items will be eliminated).  I have yet to tackle shoes, purses, jackets and other accessories but it was tricky enough to go through the clothing, I thought I'd give myself a bit of a breather before digging further into my wardrobe.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed

I have felt really overwhelmed lately.  I feel as if I'm working too much, that I've started too many projects and that I ultimately, I'm only treading water.  Its very discouraging.  This whole scenario was capped off by me *missing* a flight I was supposed to work this past Friday.  I was called by Scheduling, got off the phone and hopped into the shower, determined to get ready quickly instead of dragging myself around.  Dressed and ready, I headed into the kitchen to make breakfast and glancing at the clock, noted I had a lot more time than I thought.  I slowed my pace, happy that I didn't need to feel stressed before work.  I had so much time in fact, that I was able to read a book for a short while.  A friend texted me, I picked up my phone to read the message and my heart sank when I saw the time on my phone.  It was 9:45am and I needed to be AT the airport at 10:10 am.  The clock I had been looking at earlier was off by an hour.

I had to call Scheduling back and tell them there was no way I could make the flight.  This is a really, REALLY bad thing to do when on reserve (I'm supposed to be the person replacing the crew member who booked off due to illness).  I wanted to cry, missing a flight like that is NOT an indication that I'm becoming more organized.

I know that I need to get things under control again.  I'm tired of not really knowing where my money is going, living in a home where things are disorganized and generally just feeling overwhelmed.  Although I have a list of on-going projects on the right sidebar, I'm *really* going to focus on getting my budget back on track (it's not that I'm wildly overspending, rather I'm just not tracking my finances), getting my house decluttered and organizing my "paperwork" (the warranties, receipts, bills, tax info that seems to have just ended up in a shoebox instead of the files I have set up).  Unfortunately, I believe this means you'll be forced to read about my attempts to get these things under control!!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homemade Vanilla Extract

One of my lifestyle goals is to create less waste.  I noticed recently that I'm running low on vanilla extract and thought this would be a good time to attempt making my own instead of buying small, expensive bottles.  As this was a spur of the moment decision I didn't research sources for vanilla beans and I just used the alcohol and glass bottle that I had on hand.  Normally, the frugal side of me wouldn't recommend using Grey Goose to make vodka. ;)

This is probably a good time to note that the wall in my kitchen doesn't always look like that...that is Unfinished Project #872 - "Replace Kitchen Backsplash".

Back to the topic at hand!  The recipes I've seen usually recommend using 3-5 vanilla beans for about a cup of alcohol (can be vodka, rum, bourbon).  The vanilla beans I bought were packaged 2 per tube (at $5 a tube...not cheap but then, neither is vanilla extract) so I cut the liquid by half instead of buying more beans.  To make, cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds inside.  Place both the seeds and the slit pods into a glass bottle containing the alcohol.  Shake it up and hide the bottle away to infuse. The vodka and vanilla need to infuse for at least 6 weeks (the longer the better).  I chopped my vanilla pods into shorter pieces so they'd fit in the bottle I had on hand but I'll likely try to find a nicer glass bottle while it infuses.  After 6 weeks, test the vanilla extract.  If you'd prefer a stronger flavour, continue to let it infuse.  Otherwise, you can strain the seeds and beans from the extract using cheesecloth or a coffee filter.  This extract will keep indefinitely.  The seeds and vanilla pods can be used more than one time although the amount of vanilla that can be extracted will obviously lessen.

Was this necessarily a huge reduction in waste??  Nope (I bake but not obsessively).  The little tube the beans were sold in is glass (which I considered a less harmful form of packaging when compared to plastic, even though both are recyclable), the alcohol was from my liquor cabinet and the bottle was from honey I purchased years ago.  Even if my waste reduction wasn't significant, I feel like it was a tiny step in the right direction and its letting me try out a technique that I can use to make other sorts of baking extracts so ultimately, I'd say it's a win.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

What am I doing here?


I'm not really sure why I've decided to try blogging.  I suspect its an attempt to reach out to the blogosphere to try and find others with a similar mindset.  My desire to live frugally and my disdain for today's consumerist lifestyle puts me at odds with most of Western society.  I tend to live happily, looking at everything I've been blessed with while most look at what others have and feel disappointed.

In person, I'm chatty, a little goofy and constantly joking.  I hope that I can convey my quirky personality to you and that hearing about my busy, little life is at least vaguely amusing.

Photo: Taken at Istanbul Modern, on the shores of the Bosphorus by an unknown but kindly German tourist.  Danke!