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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ho Ho .. Holy cow, that's a lot of tuna !

So, we know you've all been sitting around with baited breath, anxiously waiting for this post.   Well, with the holidays fast approaching, we've been quite busy... spending money. With all the gift buying, entertaining and visiting (remember, no matter how tight, there is no excuse to be an empty-handed guest),  money just seems to quietly and quickly disappear.  Something about this time of year however makes this okay;  it is happy spending (I can't wait until sis sees the ____ that we bought her !).  But, as we sat, listening to Christmas music and sorting through our receipts, a thought dawned on us  - that we're actually pretty fortunate to be in a situation where living frugally has become a choice, and not a necessity.     

For those of you who have not kept up with our entries (really folks....there have only been 2 so far!),  in our last post we challenged ourselves to survive on less than 100$ worth of groceries for the week.  Well, last week, our grocer loved us a little less, because we did it ! Now, now, put down the phone.  There is no need to call child welfare, we promise that the children did eat!  (Well, they were offered food. Whether or not they ate depends upon whether or not you consider pushing  peas around on a plate and feeding the dog your chicken "eating"...but we digress).  In fact, after a 90$ grocery trip last Sunday,  we managed to stay out of the market until Friday evening, when Economia Nia popped in to pick up some milk, bread, eggs and ham (breakfast for supper may be the wisest thing we did all week ). 

Now, there are reasons of course as to why this was so effortless. Reason 1: On Thursday, supper was provided for Frugal Fred and the girls by Economia Nia's mommy and daddy (while E.N. went out to her workplace holiday party).  Reason 2: This past weekend we headed to Ontario to spend the weekend with family - and they were kind enough to feed us.  The rest of the time we were actually, quite easily, able to provide healthy and balanced meals for ourselves and our children, three times a day, with nutritious snacks in between. How is that possible you ask???  Ahhh, that brings us to Reason 3.  You see, we have a pantry that is as deep as it is high (and it's pretty high).  Not only is it big, it is also original to the house, and, well, 50 years ago, pantry's didn't have fancy pull out shelves and drawers.  If you are lucky enough to have a pantry like ours (sarcastic grin),  then you know that what goes in, doesn't necessarily come out - instead it gets lost somewhere behind the tomato sauce and canned beets.  Our pantry is full of stuff that we didn't even know we had!  We actually thought about posting a picture, but figured that would be too embarrassing (plus, we don't know how to load pictures onto the blog yet :)).  Oh, and along with our scary pantry, we have two refrigerators (each with a freezer) and a second chest freezer (Reasons 4, 5 and 6).  No wonder we were able to subsist on only 100$ worth of groceries last week - we had enough food squirreled away to feed a small country.

Which got us to thinking about all the people (most of the people in fact), in the world who don't have the luxury of not even knowing what is in their pantry.  And then, on the drive in to work one morning, we heard that a local food bank was having to ration their Christmas food baskets more than ever this year.  Instead of getting a dozen eggs, families would have to make do with 4 eggs.  Gulp.  This got us to thinking about the 7 cans of black beans, 9 packages of pasta, 2 cans of artichoke hearts and about 12 cans of tuna just sitting, forgotten and lost, in the back of our pantry.  So we grabbed a bag (a big bag) and filled it with our excess.  What had been neglected in our kitchen was delivered to Sun Youth (the struggling food bank) and has likely already made it's way into someone's needy kitchen.  Now, we're pretty convinced that we are not the only people who suffer from pantry overload (remember when the oatmeal was on many bags did you buy??).  So, this holiday season, take the time to go through the stuff you already have, and donate it to those less fortunate.  It won't cost you a penny!  If you don't have the time to do this before the problem - people are hungry all year round.

To all of you, we wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy, loving, peaceful and joyous 2011.  

The Tightwads

Monday, December 13, 2010

And this is why the grocer loves us our first post we mentioned that this week (from Monday to the end of Sunday (yesterday)) we would keep careful notes about all of our spending in order to examine what we're actually spending on, where we could save, and what we've been doing a pretty good job with (let's be optimistic and imagine that we are doing a good job somewhere!).

By the end of Monday last week (Day 1), I thought that this was actually going to be a silly exercise, seeing as how neither of us had spent a dime.  Lunches had been packed, coffees from home traveled with us in travel mugs (which every hot beverage drinker must own). We worked while the girls were in school, and then we came directly home and made supper.  I should mention that on Day -1 we had spent 120$ on groceries - keep this number in's important !

Day 2: Same deal, coffees from home, lunches packed.  We're on a roll.  Weekly piano lessons for our eldest set us back 20$.  So far so good! Ahhhh, but the next day I, Economia Nia, was invited to a potluck at a colleague's place.  I love potlucks (and should really consider entertaining this way).  Having volunteered to bring dessert, I found myself needing to go to the grocery store for a few (key word "few") missing ingredients for my carrot cake with cream cheese icing...yum. So, 90$ (!!!!) later, I was ready to bake.  Now, of course, no cake requires 90$ worth of ingredients (well, that's not exactly true, but that's another post). I'm getting the impression that for me the grocery store is, quite simply,  a spending danger zone.  (Frugal Freddie is nodding his head in firm agreement.  He reminds me that he cringes every time I tell him I am going to buy groceries. Plus, he calls Loblaw's, "blah blah's",  because I say I'm going for milk, but come home with milk, and crackers, and organic beans, and imported cheese and marinated olives and blah blah blah blah blah...)

Day 3: nothing much .... oh, except that I had my hair done :) .... cut and dye about 140$.  I have inherited my premature gray hair from my seriously considering forwarding him all future bills. (Frugal Freddie laughs as he remembers the time when he was discussing the cost of Economia Nia's hair maintenance with her father.  Dear father-in-law suggested that since Economia Nia has short hair, she should use Just For Men...about 5$ at the drugstore!)  Very funny!  Actually, since we're bringing up my dad...I should mention that my moniker (sshhhh...Economia Nia is actually NOT my real name), pays homage to him.  My parents were working class folk who raised 3 kids on very meager salaries.  Still, we never went without; always had new clothes, plenty of food, and enough special treats to never feel deprived.  My parents also paid most of my way through university, allowing me to graduate without carrying burdensome student loans, a gift for which I am eternally grateful.   When I started working, despite the salary I was making at the time, my dad would always say "remember....'economia'"...which translates your money, spend wisely (and not much), and stop buying shoes.

So, back to Wednesday (aka Day 3).  After my haircut, I finished up some Christmas shopping.  Spent about 60$ at Dix Milles Villages, which sort of makes me feel as though I was making some sort of charitable maybe that doesn't count.  Bought 6 metro tickets for 12.50$ in order to get to my potluck party.  Frugal Fred was alone with the girls that evening and they went out for supper and ordered about 50$ worth of food.

Day 4: Economia Nia's good friend turned 25 :)...and so we went out to celebrate.  Drinks and supper = 50$ Considering that I bought 4 drinks (not all for me silly), and paid for my both my supper and my girlfriend's meal, this is a great deal !). Where did we go? you ask.  Dining out on the cheap...the topic of a future post.

Day 5: Our eldest darling turned 9!!!  She asked to have Toquitos for supper (a processed, unhealthy frozen food that I never buy - but which she has had at a friend's place). It's her birthday, so I trek to a grocery store to find her desired supper.  Stop one - no Toquitos...but I manage to spend 90$.  Stop two - found the Toquitos..spend 40$ (box of Toquitos only 8$). Something is definitely wrong here.

Day 6 - 7: 9 year old's birthday weekend!!  This year our darling decided that instead of a party, she wanted to rent a hotel room downtown and spend the weekend with her sister and bff (with adult supervision of course). How does she come up with this stuff?? Downtown hotel, room service supper, breakfast buffet and a few treats along the way, with taxes, totaled about 300$.  Now, for those of you who don't throw birthday parties, this may seem crazy...but believe me, this was probably one of the cheapest kids parties we have ever hosted. And, there was absolutely no stress involved!  Downtown hotel however (which obviously is more expensive than something not in the downtown core) was not necessary, as the girls had no desire to leave the hotel and all it's amenities.  Frugal Freddie, who did not spend the night at the hotel, went to a party on Saturday night.  10$ ticket (which someone bought for him, in order to convince him to attend said party) included dinner and an open bar - way to go Freddie!

And finally, on Day 7 (Sunday ... yesterday) Economia Nia once again made her way to, you guessed it, the grocery store, and bought 90$ worth of stuff.
So, that brings us to today, and the realization that the majority of our spending (this week at least...but I'm sure it is the same every week), goes to our friendly neighborhood grocer.  How could 4 people, two of whom are children and barely eat anything, spend SO MUCH MONEY on food !!????... particularly this week, when we didn't even eat at home every night. We (ahem...says Frugal we notice who is the one actually going to the grocery store??) are obviously doing something wrong...especially since we're not eating filet mignon every night.  (Oh, and speaking of filet mignon, remember when I mentioned going out for my friend's (25th) birthday and spending about 50$ on two meals and four drinks...I had filet mignon that night, and if was superb :) ! )

So, our challenge then is this: we are going to try to survive this week on 100$ or less of groceries.  Now, given that I already spent 90$ at the market yesterday..we are left with 10$, which will likely go for milk mid-week.  Can we stay away from the grocery store until next Sunday?  What do you think?  Expect a post mid-week in order to update you on our progress..and keep your eyes open for any pleas to invite us for supper.

Economia Nia and Frugall Freddie
The Tightwads

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Up, up.... and we stay

It's about to get more expensive to live in the city of Montreal. This was the lead-in last week to a story posted on about the budget hikes which will be implemented across the island of Montreal in 2011.  Nice.  Property taxes are increasing (a substantial 4.8% in our borough), in part due to large property value assessment increases, and we will be introduced to a new vehicle registration tax.  Sweet.
So what is a nice nuclear family to do?  We considered marching to city hall and giving someone heck.  We thought of starting a petition stating that we, the undersigned citizens, were against said tax increases and as a result, would not pay up.  We contemplated moving.  Although we may still follow through on our first two ideas, this nuclear family is not naive; we know that unless we wake to a state of anarchy, our taxes will increase.  Taxes are going up, cost of living is going up, and yet we stay, because there really is no better city in which to live - besides, it's not like the rest of the world is basking in financial stability.  So, instead of commiserating over things we cannot change, we've decided to focus on the things that we can. 
And that brings us to this, the beginning of our tight lifestyle.  We have spent years spending freely and thoughtlessly, secure in the knowledge that we both have job security and good, stable incomes.  As a result, we often wonder: "but...where did the money go?" (Frugal Fred would like to point out that this question is easily answered by taking a peek into the shoe closet - causing Economia Nia to kick him in the shins with her designer heels).  Seriously though, it is easy to say that we will spend less money by shopping less, or shopping less extravagantly, but the real challenge is to save daily, to cut costs in ways that are less obvious. Changes that can positively impact any household, regardless of income or spending patterns. We  will spend this first week closely tracking our spending habits, without making any changes to our typical routine.  Then we have some "experiments" that we're going to try out - and we'll both give you our perceptions of how they worked out (or didn't). So, come along and follow us...who knows, maybe cheap can be cool.
Economia Nia and Frugal Freddie
a.k.a. The Tightwads