Wednesday, 16 December 2015

How We Saved Money On Our Trip to Las Vegas and Disneyland

Hi Savvy Saving Travellers,

This year I turned the big 3-0! I couldn't believe how much time has passed and how my 20's were over just like that! I guess I must of had a mini freak out because I felt like it's time to be a grown up and the fun times was over. It's easier to explain why you did this or that cause you were 20 but at 30, it felt like people just expect you to smarten up and mistakes are harder to swallow. It's strange cause I mentally still feel like a kid and want to do fun "kid" stuff! So, I do what I do best... plan a getaway trip to ring in my new decade. When you don't know where you want to go and everything is based on budget, it seems so much harder to pin point where to research a trip. I've searched for cheapie one week vacation to Cuba, Mexico, Dominican, even NYC. Everything was just way out of budget when you add up the accommodations, food and spending money. Then one day, I got a notification that Las Vegas trips were $500 all in for hotel and flight for 3-4 nights. I have a cousin living there and was trying to figure out some tips on places to stay and eat. He's one of my closer cousins and I didn't want to infringe on him and his family. I also haven't really seen or spoken to him in about 12 years since I was last on the West Coast. He told me all the ones in my budget sucked and just to stay in his new house. Amazing! So, our trip went from a few days to approximately 10 days. We took red eye flights to save some money and not lose an extra work day. I also wanted to go to Disneyland and see some other family in the area.

The flight was about $472 per person. Ouch, it was a lot more than previous sales I've seen for about $300, but if we were saving on accommodations then it would make up for the cost. We also made a decision to rent a car so we'd be able to get around on our own without having to rely or burden my relatives. I got our cheap rental online from Costco for just under $200 for nine days. It was an amazing deal! But, here's the kicker as a novice car renter, theres the matter of insurance. Ouch again! As we were unfamiliar with our credit card/insurance policies we decided to get the insurance which was over $200 USD for full coverage. It more than doubled our cost, but I was thinking this is the US, health care is crazy expensive if we got in an accident and someone needed care, or the car got totalled. We decided to pay for it anyways as a hard lesson learned. The one good thing about Vegas, is that there is tons of free parking as long as you self park. If you get valet service, it's technically free but you do have to tip out the dude. And that adds up real quick! Gas wise, we got a Toyota Corolla and definitely spent less than $100 in gas including topping it up before dropping it off. For the amount of driving we did, this car was amazing on gas mileage!

                                              Our brand new rental a 2015 Toyota Corolla
                                        (It was so new, we didn't even have a license plate!)

Arriving in Vegas, my cousin offered to pick us up and take us to his restaurant to have dinner. My cousins honestly were so generous, we ended up eating there almost every day we were in Vegas and saved a ton of money. We made sure to let them know how greatly we appreciated everything they did for use and took them out to some fancy dinners and offered to pay for stuff when we hit up the town. It was great to see family and catch up on old times. My cousin's kid also flew in from DC just to meet me. We haven't seen each other since I was about 7-8 years old and we are both about the same age! My cousin's were also very cool too, they let us do our own thing and everything was very chill. I guess it's a contrast of how I would spend my summers over there previously, when they scheduled family dinners/outing and stuff was more rigid.

Here are some money saving tips on your trip next trip to Vegas or OC!

There are two main areas of Vegas you'll want to check out. The Strip, which is the main area with all the large hotels, casinos and shops. It's walkable but it's pretty big and pretty far. And there is even a ton more walking involved because there are only a few designated crosswalks to get to the other side of the street. It can be brutal, especially in the heat! You can also bus, cab or uber around. Trust me, I would of been happy to jay walk but the fences are so high you can't jump over them and just cross the street! Hahaha!

                         Crossing using the designated walkways. You can see how high some
                          points of the fence are and the use of bridges to get across the street.

The casinos are mostly filled with luxury, high end stores that I didn't even want to bother going in. Outside on the actual strip, there was a ton more affordable stores like Marshalls and Ross. Ross is like Winners and there are so great finds for designer purses and clothes. There are also some novelty stores which are pretty pricey like Hersheys, M&M's and the Coco-Cola store. There are always clearance sections and sales so you can grab a few souvenirs for pretty cheap. Coke store was very cool because you can sample drinks they have around the world for about $15 and included trays of drinks that you'd have to share with friends.

                                                Tastes from around the world with Coke!

                         There are tons of people on the street trying to sell you shows and tours

I don't gamble and I'm all about just hanging out and a bit of shopping. If you want to see shows or do anything, it's probably best to walk the strip in person and get some discounted day of tickets. They pretty much sell tickets throughout the Strip. There are tours for helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon, gun ranges, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Theres a ton of competition so if you have the time, take a walk and have a browse and try to deal them down further if you can. Also, if you have a friend with a Nevada ID, you can have them grab you tickets to get the local discount. This is for pretty much everything too! We saved $10 a head when we took my relatives to a big Vegas type buffet for dinner. Also, another thing I've noticed for the past 10 years or so. When you buy a Starbucks gift card or top up your card on your phone, you can still use it anywhere in Canada or the US. I usually like to pick up a few gift cards from Groupon when they sell $5 for $10 credit. Best part is there is no currency conversion, so your dollar goes a lot further! Especially now, when our dollar is so crappy!

   Fremont Street

The other area is called Fremont Street. It's great! It's outdoors but there is a cover that is pretty much like a giant screen with lights! It's definitely walkable but you can't walk from The Strip to Fremont. You can see everything they have to offer here in a few hours or less. Same deal as the Strip, valet is free if you're a member or you have pay for street parking or in a lot. Membership is free so just go in and spend 2 mins to sign up for their points card. There are lots of places for cheap and quick eats. We bought three deep fried Oreos for $1! It's about $6 here at the Ex.
                                                                   Some cheap eats!

Off the Strip
With a car, everything is relatively close as long as you don't hit traffic. We did once and it was incredibly brutal and my aunt almost missed her flight! There are plenty of cheaper hotels off the strip and fast food joints like In and Out where you can grab a burger for $3.50. I love their food, the fries not so much but everything is fresh, cheap and tasty! They have a secret menu and you can ask for grilled onions as well.

                                                            Current In and Out prices

If you do as much walking as we do, you'll probably want to hit Chinatown for the cheap $20 massages! It's one hour and they do your full body and they usually include a few minutes with hot stones and stuff. Downside, you have to tip them $10 a person or they will cuss you out (as told to us by my cousins). I love hitting up Lee's Sandwiches for late night eats and bubble tea type drinks and slushies. They have these baked Deli Manjoo's that are the best things in the world. They are like those HK style pancake balls but with custard inside. Super addictive treat!

                                                                     A Deli Manjoo

Orange County
It's hard not to head to Little Saigon for some affordable eats and cheap $15 massages! My aunt use to make us drive one and half hours all the way here from San Diego to go grocery shopping and drive back home! My other cousin now lives like ten minutes from Disneyland and offered her place for us to stay and even offered to drive us so we save $17 USD on parking and a crazy amount on AirBnb. We made pit stop by the 99 cent store for a few items like straw hats to wear to Disneyland. Honestly, it was the best 99 cents I spent all trip! I hate hats but it really saved me from the sun, and I didn't want to go with an umbrella for shade (insert old Chinese lady joke here). They have everything you could want there. It's like a full dollar store and grocery store but it's not as cheap as I remembered!

Line up for security check, done! Now line up to enter with pre-bought tickets!

Visiting Disneyland: You can imagine the countless articles and websites I found just on this topic. It was really intimidating. I wanted to get the most out of the day I could. At $100 USD a person, and with our incredibly sad Canadian dollar the cost of the tickets came out to about $270 for two entrance tickets. It's best to pre-buy and pre-print the tickets to avoid another line to buy them in person. There are people and lines ups everywhere! I thought September would be easy since most kids are in school, but nope! This is F&*^ing Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth! Believe me, I looked up every which way to find discount tickets and even asked my little cousins who go all the time to help me. No such luck! The good news, you are able to bring in food and drinks as they don't really search your bag too through. We took in frozen water bottles that we drank from through out the day. It was so bloody hot, that I was surprised I didn't pass out from the intense heat.

Food wasn't as expensive as I remembered when I went about 12 years ago, but I also didn't have a job and any money back then hahaha. We were able to get a burger and small fries for $11 USD. Not bad, considering we split the mini-meal. My cousin made sure to feel us well at breakfast to brave the hot day on our feet. It also got a bit chilly at night so I'm glad I brought a sweater. Comfortable shoes and clothes are an absolute must! It was a weekday and it was still rammed, we still waited about an hour for some rides. The best part of Disneyland are the fast passes. You are able to grab one ticket per admission ticket every couple of hours. It pretty much gives you a time you can come back and go straight into a by pass line that is way shorter! We didn't know how important the admission ticket was until we lost one and was so sad we couldn't fast pass together, but we found out you can go to customer service and they'd assign you another one for free. It's so great! Not all rides have fast passes, and you just go to a machine and put in your admission ticket. It then spits out your ticket and another bypass ticket with the time you are to return. If you're late, but super nice and they will still let you through, but don't lose your fast pass as they collect them in line!

- Stock your bag on snacks and frozen water bottles. You can save most of your money by not eating park food and the crazy line ups that come with them. Who doesn't like saving time AND money? Do what I do, eat in line, the whole two birds with one stone thing. It was so hot that I didn't want to eat anything and just drink cold water. (Side note, bottled water everywhere we went was insanely expensive.  It's about $3.99 USD for a small 12 pack and that's if it's on sale!)
- Go to city hall and ask for a free button. They have one for almost every occasion. Winton and I got birthday badges as ours are so close to each other. All day Disney employees made sure to say Happy Birthday to you and it was nice!
- Buy your Disney merchandise before going into the park. It seemed like everyone was wear or sporting Disney apparel. It is so expensive! I wanted some Disney ears and they were $20 USD. They had some cool Mickey balloons and I almost crapped my pants that they were $14 USD. I later found out that some of them can light up at night, so you can a cool glowing balloon. If you're with a small child. I'd probably pre-buy them a disney toy they would like and stuff it in my bag. When they get too antsy for not buying anything I'd bring it out without them noticing and tell them I bought it when they went to the bathroom. Smart huh? hahaha
- Stick around for the Electric Parade. I wasn't interested in seeing a parade at the end of the day, but the streets were so crowded there was no room to walk around. Then we saw the park dimmed their lights and a crazy parade of lit up floats and characters walk by with crazy infectious music. It was so much fun and made the $100 ticket worth every penny.
- There are a bunch of photo spots with Disney photographers to sell you prints, but they are more than happy to take a photo with your own phone or camera for free so you don't have to buy anything.
- If you do have to eat before you enter, there are a bunch of restaurants on the street before the entrance. Entrance is probably at least a five minute walk from the street to the turnstile to enter the park.
- If you want to take pictures with the popular characters, prepare for a line up! Line ups are inevitable and it takes so much longer as they "play" with you for a couple mins. I just wanted my picture and leave. There are less popular characters walking around everywhere and they are usually good for a quick selfie!

Hope that gives you some insight in planning your trip!

Eros and Pookie

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Ramping Up The Savings

Hi Everyone,

I'm back!

I LOVE our new car, but since we got it I've tried to make an effort to really ramp up my savings to fill the giant hole it made in my various funds. We are also eating much better quality foods, so our food budget's gone up slightly. Don't worry, I still love getting items on sales and with coupons, but if it's only a bit more for organic I'm more open to grabbing it. We also celebrated both our birthdays recently and had a pretty big bonanza for it. It was my 30th birthday and I wanted to go to Las Vegas to visit my cousins and show Winton the sites, go to Disneyland, see more cousins and even drove to San Diego to see even more cousins! They were very generous and we didn't blow any money on accommodations and even saved a ton of money with local discounts, offers to give us rides to places and even eating for free. Winton and I made sure we bought a lot of meals when my family would come out to eat with us to show our gratitude for their generosity. I'll write another article about how we saved money on our trip. Anyhow, long story short, our vacation fund is low now and I want to stretch out every dollar I am currently bringing in to throw into my various savings account and in particular my retirement fund.

Here are some of the steps I've been taking to reduce my living costs

1. I love my junk food! I love it so much that I would never say no when I wanted something unless it was too pricey! I've stopped buying tons and tons of junk food and am trying to buy even more fruit and veggies as my snack. If I really want something, I'll get one or two items but I walk by a lot of items on the shelves instead of just throwing them in my shopping cart. It's so very hard but I'm determined to save money and hopefully my waistline as well. I think this is my biggest weakest and my biggest financial leak in my budget.

2. I've re-jigged my budget to show a more realistic amount of what portion of my income was going to where and have set weekly goals to meet. Before I would just pay off an important fund for the month and then the next. I'm paying off each of my funds each week no matter what. This way, each fund is important and is getting what's owe instead of one or two funds getting shafted at the end of the month if I happen to run out of money.

3. I'm made a huge jump and everyone is giving me crap for it. I'm made the switch from Fido to Wind Mobile. So far, yes there are issues with signal and how slow the data is but I've had it less than a week. I remember a time where I refused to jump on the data bandwagon to save $$$, and then I don't know what happened. I know the coverage is smaller but I never go outside the city and I'm paying almost half of what I'm currently paying and for far more perks. I've tried to negotiate with Fido on three different calls to customer retention but they wouldn't budge and it was still going to be more money. Yes, it's not part of the Big 3 but I'm getting 10 GB's a month before they cap it and slow me down! Plus, I'm willing to go with a smaller provider and give a chance to the little guy than letting Fido rip me off. On a serious note, I know I'm not going to use all my services and I expect some frustrations but my expectations were set too high with my Fido account and I was gladly paying for it. They had pretty decent signal and yes LTE is much faster than 3G. I don't talk on the phone anymore unless I'm at work, I just email and text. Mostly iMessaging with friends, just now they have to text my email than my number. I'm either at work or at home so wifi is usually not a problem there. But, I'll be saving about $30 a month! That's A LOT and worth the frustrations and some inconvenience. Fido offered me $30 in savings spanned over 6 months of service. C'mon, that's ridiculous!

4. I also upgraded my President Choice MasterCard to the World Elite. How does this save me money you ask? I pay my card in full within a few days of usage, so I never carry a balance and avoid the shock than if I let it rack up the entire month. The card's interest rate, limit, and fee (or lack there of) for the card hasn't changed. All that's changed for me was a physical new card, with a new number I have to learn and POINTS! I'm all about the points to get free groceries and I would be getting 50% more than my current rate and new places to acquire even more points like at Shoppers Drug Mart. There are also other perks that I would probably never use like concierge service but it's cool to have. With PC, I love that I don't just get free food but I can use my points to buy gift cards for other stores and services. It's great for Christmas time when money can be tight for all of us!

5. While this may not be so much of a savings measure, it is a reducing stress one. I'm going to be relying more on funds to cover expenses. I have to admit that once I've saved some money, I can be pretty stubborn about using money in that fund. I would find ways to make even more money or stall a payment on another fund to cover those costs. It actually would hurt if I had to pull out money from a fund. Sometimes it feels like I'm in constant survival mode and I will never have enough money to feel secure. It's a strange feeling! Part of my anxiety I suppose! I know I will never go hungry and that bills will always be paid but it can be hard to escape that mentality. Just some more work to do on my part!

6. Friends! As I get older my group of friends become smaller. I'm just more selective. I truly believe your friends can make or break you. When I first started writing about saving money and couponing I had a natural fear of being judged by my peers. Then I grew a backbone and said screw it. It's something I was interested in and wanted to share. Since then, tons of friends have come out to help me and ask for advice and I love it. I grew closer with some people and let others go. What I love more is that I can be me and not ashamed about how important this was to me. Having good friends who share similar views is so important, life became more about spending time doing whatever with them, than who spent more money on what. It also might just be an age/life thing but who knows!

I'm happy to say that four months after purchasing the car, I've been able to replenish most of the funds I had to borrow from. I still have a bit of work to do and with the holidays around the corner trying to derail me I'm determined to stay focus and on track.

Happy Saving!

Eros And Pookie

Monday, 13 July 2015

Car Shopping

Last month, the inevitable happened! Our beloved 13 year old Ford Escape was scrapped and we had to get another car asap! It was an incredibly stressful time but we were fortunate to have support from our family and friends. We survived on a Toyota Corolla rental for almost two weeks and supplemented the next few days by borrowing cars from family members. I was actually shocked that everyone in my family and Winton's offered their car to us. It was very generous!

Buying a car is a big decision and there are so many variables to factor in. We didn't want to rush in and buy a car only to regret it later on. And to be honest, any car we choose would have had significant improvements from our old one. Technology changes so fast!

After two weeks of researching, driving to dealerships and test driving cars. We decided to buy new. We narrowed it down between the Honda CRV EX or the Honda Civic SI. Winton was so in love with the Civic but I absolutely hated it. I loved the design and price but I didn't like the idea of owning a Civic because of all the stigma attached to it. All I thought was 20 year old Asian guys drag racing and souping them up, pretty much the whole Fast and Furious franchise. And other thoughts of people stealing the car or breaking into it for parts and what not. The CRV was much more practical for us. We were coming from an SUV, and didn't want to downgrade in terms of cabin space. I asked around to friends who had children with cars and many said they wouldn't survive without an SUV. Kids take up a lot of space in terms of child seats and strollers, that there would be barely enough room for the trips to Costco. And that's if we wanted kids! The CRV also wasn't too high that our short and aging parents would have problems getting in and out of the car.

All in all, we ended buying the 2015 CRV after FOUR hours of negotiations! It was brutal and honestly I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked. After all, I've never negotiated anything on this scale for myself in my life. Winton has bought a car before so he was a bit wiser on the whole process. As you know, I'm all about cents and dollars and every cent I keep is a cent that stays in my pocket.

Sitting down to crunch numbers is incredibly tedious, especially when they can literally make up any number they want and hope you settle. They added up the seven year extended warranty and minus some admin fees. They play all these mind games on you, to make you think the sales guy is helping you out and bringing the your offers to his managers to see if they would approve a lower price. It's all set up to make you feel intimidated. Why couldn't we just cut the middle man and talk to the manager directly? I was so on to them and every business class I took in school came into play.

As we were far from closing a deal, a second salesman came over to try another tactic on us. We actually found him off putting, he was too abrasive and tried to use the Asian numbers of 88 in the price to make us feel better. Not knowing that Winton and I are totally Canadianized, it totally flew over our heads and we didn't realize it until we got home. We were both thinking that isn't much savings and why the weird numbers with so many friggin' 8's? I was insistent that we were going to Toyota after this meet to crunch numbers with them and that this was basically a numbers game. We didn't care which car we got as long as it was cheaper. This was totally a lie and we wanted the CRV, but it doesn't hurt to try. I sucked up some courage and low balled them with an offer that would make me sign the contract and buy this car on the spot. They were all shocked and told me that it wasn't doable because it was below the invoice price, which is the cost the dealer pays for the car. And Bingo! So, I knew to aim for a little bit higher! After some more back and forth and all the staff putting on their coats ready to go home, the manger comes out and tells us he agrees to $1000 more than what we low balled. As we were about to shake hands, I said I wanted the cargo tray added as well! Hahaha doesn't hurt try right? But, they expressed how they are giving us the car below cost and that they couldn't do it. Our sales guy was super nice and offered us his employee discount on any Honda accessories we wanted. In the end, it was a happy ending and we got an amazing price for our car. It's been two weeks and we are very happy! After four hours we ended up saving about $4000 from the initial quoted price. Four hours well spent! I feel like each hour I negotiated I made $1000! The one thing I'm a bit peeve about was the worksheet we were working on included wheel locks. But when we signed we didn't notice they were missing on our bill of sale so we didn't end up getting them. It slightly ticked me off to have let a small thing slip when you're exhausted but it wasn't the money but the feeling of being ripped off a bit. I'm not too hung up about it as we did get a deal but it was more the principal for me. I've learned so much from this experience that I wanted to share some tip for you when buying a car.

Tips when buying a car
1. Be practical
How much driving will you be doing? Is it a gas guzzler? How much space do you need for people and cargo?
2. Budget
How much can you realistically afford? Will you pay cash, finance or lease? What are the payments, interest rate, and extras you have to pay for? Learn about compound interest. I didn't know that companies tack on about $3000 for PDI, freight, admin fees, OMVIC, and the list goes on and on. I swear most of them seem made up!
3. What features are important to you?
Back up camera for tight parking spaces downtown? Trunk space to lug groceries or kids? Air conditioning? Can you believe some base models don't even include this just so they can advertise a lower sticker price?
4. Ask everyone and learn as much as you can
Friends and family are the best! They give you an honest opinion about their cars, cars they've had in the past and their experiences in general. Take each with a grain of salt, you want an overall opinion. One person may love their car to death and the other hates it just as much! Even new cars can sometimes be lemons. We even went up to complete strangers in parking lots to ask how they like their cars.
5. Walk into the dealership from a position of power
Go in saying "what will you guys do for me to buy this car?" Remember you are paying them! They want your business more then you need theirs. Don't think they have all the power and you have to do what they say. As long as you didn't sign anything, you can always walk away from the deal.
6. Everything is negotiable
I hate that dealerships don't advertise the actual price of the car. I don't go to the mall and have to work out a price with the sales person for a dress or a smoothie? I need straight numbers so I can input them into my Time, Value, Money calculator and find out what I'm really paying over time. If you don't know why that is, google it right now! It'll help you with your budget, loans and pretty much anything that has to do with money. In our bill of sale, we saved a ton by not paying for the admin fee and various other miscellaneous and pretty BS charges they added.
7. Test Drive
It's important to try out the car before you buy it. Photos are great but they most likely will only show the highest trims. I noticed in some cars it was hard getting in and out and sitting in the driver's seat in general was uncomfortable. I'm tall so I've actually hit my head a few times getting in and out. Or if I push my seat back then the back seat passengers possibly have no leg room.
8. Read over everything before you sign
Even the fine print. Make sure everything you want is listed on the bill of sale or lease, and everything you don't want is not on there. Take your time, you shouldn't be rushed into signing a big contract that you would be held accountable for many years!

We'll here's my top points I could think of when getting a new to you car! I hope it's helpful for your search or future search. Oh, and if you're a female, think about bringing a male friend. The car industry is still very sexist. Most of the time I would walk into a car dealership first and was never greeted but when Winton walked in they would be all over him. It was really weird! I felt like I was in Asia somewhere, where people just didn't think women were people. It was really disheartening to see and be in that position. But then again, that may have been what Winton felt when we went to buy a mattress or washing machine! The world is weird!


Eros and Pookie

Friday, 29 May 2015

Dealing With Anxiety

Hi! My name is Julie and I'm a worry wart!

There was a great post about worry on Gail Vax-Oxlade's blog today that inspired me to write. I've never admitted to my family and friends that I deal with anxiety but I realized recently that it is more common than I thought. I guess most people chalk it up to being impatient or anal or what not and kind of shrug it off. It really sucks that there is a lot of social stigmas telling people you deal with anxiety, only a handful of my good friends know and now you! Honestly, at first I didn't even know I had it, I just thought it was just the way I was and there wasn't much I could do about it. I figured it was how I was raised, growing up with parents who were polar opposites but both hardcore worriers. For instance, my mother is constantly late, she doesn't care who you are or where she is going, you are going to wait an hour minimum for her ALWAYS. My father strongly believes in punctuality, so he is always on time no matter what and has to leave incredibly early. I remember when we would show up to someone's house earlier than they were expecting us, that we would sit in the car and wait until it was the proper time. Honestly, I think he learned that from Uncle Bob thinking it's a Canadian custom. Uncle Bob as we affectionately call him, helped sponsor and take care of my parents when they first immigrated to Canada. He was invited for dinner one time and was seen walking around our neighbourhood cause he was too early and my dad wonder why he didn't just come over, but I digress.

My anxiety had got to the point where it became mentally and physically exhausting. Worrying about being late, having no money to cover the bills, what my parents thought about, pressures from friends and family to get a place and start popping out babies. Ummm, you need some serious dough for all that! Have they seen how much daycare is now? I grew up poor with a single mom with three kids and a grandma to support. I remember when we didn't have air conditioning and couldn't afford it, so on super hot days my mom would give me 50 cents to buy and ice cream and hang out at McDonalds and the mall for the free cool air. If I can prevent a hard life by spending a few extra years saving who the hell says I can't. I hated feeling unprepared and that the worst would happen to me if I couldn't control situations. I was having trouble falling and staying asleep, working long odd hours in the day and night, and preferred to stay home and watch Netflixs because I didn't feel like I had the energy to do anything. Overtime, I grew incredibly unhappy and I decided to change...

I sought out therapy to help me learn to chill out and enjoy life again. I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing or thinking I was a crazy person cause I had a shrink. I had let my life get out of hand and didn't know how to find my way out the mess. It was honestly the second best decision I've ever made in my life (first, was getting my money shit in order)! In a few short months, I've learned to breathe! It's amazing how learning to change your way of thinking, re-training your brain, and even challenging your thoughts can influence your life. I basically lost confidence in myself and I didn't want to admit it. I was the ambitious girl who travelled the world on my own since I was 17 and dared to rebel against my parents and their old world thinking of what women should be and do. Imagine being 12-13 years old and being told to wait outside because you're not allowed into Tip Top Tailors because your a girl and it's a man's store? WTF!?! Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that I grew up with divorced parents who understood that a child needed both parents. My mom never once told my dad that he wasn't allowed to see us. I was able to call and go over to his house anytime I wanted and he always made an effort to spend lots of time with us. And I digress again! I'm good at that huh?

Anyhoo, I received tons of great material from my doc that really helped me out. I was given readings and homework to understand where anxiety came from, techniques to try, audio guides to help me relax and fall asleep. I got great tips on how to deal with stressful family relations that I just never thought about. It's hard to see clearly when you are in the thick of it, so it's nice to have a professional opinion from someone who's on the outside to help you deal with it all. Plus, it's very cathartic to get crap off your chest. I'm happy to say now that it's a lot easier for me to fall asleep and get a good nights rest. Swimming and just taking time to do thing's for Julie has really felt like an infusion of energy and happiness. I don't think I'm cured from my anxiety but I'm glad that I have the tools to help me better deal with everyday situations.

So, if you're dealing with anything like anxiety or depression, I encourage you to seek help. There are some free mental health clinics out there, but you'd have to be put on a huge wait list. If you've got any medical coverage from work, find someone who'd they cover and work with what you got. There are so many kinds of therapist out there, so you really need to research the one that's going to work with your specific needs. There's also a misconception that you have to go for a long time. You can do a few sessions to help you deal with a certain problem and cut it off after that. And if you don't have the dough to pay for sessions, some will even work on a sliding scale based on your income. You just gotta do a bit of homework and call around. Not to scare you but just an fyi, an Ontario psychologist is suppose to charge $225 an hour. And that's the fee set by Ontario Psychologist Association.

Happy Friday!

Eros And Pookie

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Swimming = Increased Productivity

     Well, it's been an interesting few weeks! I've progressively adapted to my new swimming, hot tubbing and sauna-ing regime. I've been aiming to go every other day, following my hair washing schedule. It's weird I know! The pool is salt watered and apparently it's suppose to be a lot better for me sans the chlorine. If you ask me, I really couldn't tell the difference minus the salt flavoured gulps I accidentally ingest up my nose here or there. And the weird texture in my hair from all that time in the water. I feel so good after the fully body workout, swimming laps is fun for me not boring, tedious work. Change up the techniques you use and you end up working out different muscles. When, I'm tried I swim on my back so I'm still moving but not as vigorous. Plus, the whole if you don't keep going, you could drown helps keep me motivated enough to get to the other side. I use to absolutely hate swimming because I was always the smallest person in swim class. I hated certain techniques and being the one everyone had to practice "saving" from drowning. The extremely cold water was so torturous, that my lips were always a constant blue/purple hue. My teachers always asked me if I was ok, but it was brutal to swim in what would probably be equivalent to an ice cubed filled pool. You could just never get warm enough until you hit the showers.

     In the hot tub and the dry sauna, I like to bring a book and a large bottle of iced water so that I'd be able to read and have something to do. Having low blood pressure, I make sure to keep very hydrated and not get too over heated. Feeling like you're going to pass out absolutely sucks! Especially, since the saunas are in the change rooms and Winton can't come with me. To be honest, at first, I actually hated the dry sauna since I didn't seem to sweat fast enough and my skin would feel like it was completely drying and burning. But, between reading and stretching in there, I've actually learned to enjoy it. It took a few trips to figure out how long and how hot I liked it in there. I've debated a bunch of times whether or not I should pour some water on the hot rocks just for a little steam. So far, I've met a couple of interesting women in there. One woman just moved to Toronto, so I gave her some advice about what's in the area etc. Another elderly Chinese woman, ended up giving me advice on life and what to expect etc. It was pretty amusing cause there was the standard Asian parent bashing their kid. When I'm alone, I love to practice some yoga poses! I love being able to stretch further in the hot atmosphere. I'm super fidgety so sitting still and meditating doesn't work for me, but in a way I feel like being alone with no phone access in a completely quiet sauna is like meditation for me. It's Julie's quiet time, and that's what I feel like all of us are missing in our lives. Even when we are alone, we aren't really alone. It's really easy to text your friends and listen to a podcast. But, being completely alone to contemplate your thoughts is like digesting the information from your brain instead of your brain constantly ingesting information.

     The best part of this whole experience was the change in my attitude. I always thought I didn't have enough time for anything and I "tried" to make time here and there. Whereas, when I just sucked it up and went swimming and forced myself to go the first few times, I found myself coming home and it was still early to do things. I had so much time and energy to cook dinner, make my lunch and snacks for the next day. I did so much more, but didn't feel as exhausted as when I sat around on the couch and did nothing all evening. It's pretty bizarre! And now, I crave going cause I love that high you get from feeling healthier and stronger. Try something new that's good for you! I bet you'll love changing up the boring daily routine. Besides, it doesn't hurt trying to get that six pack while having fun and enjoying yourself.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Progress and Contemplation!

I've been doing a ton of learning in the past little couple weeks! I've ramped up my savings games in some areas and faltered a bit in others. I've tried to cut out all my miscellaneous spending habits, but cracked on the no junk food rule. I'm surprised I was able to hold off on buying junk food for a couple weeks but when I caved I caved pretty bad. On the bright side, packages of cookies will sit in the cupboards and eaten pretty slowly by my normal standards. With the nicer weather, I'm back to the daily 45 minute walks to work. Some people think it's excessive, but with my podcasts they feel like 20 minutes. I actually feel like I'm reducing stress on my walks, as I like to see the elderly doing Tai Chi in the park while the bright sun is shining on my face. I'm one of those people that need to be in the sun! I love basking in it and working on my non-existent and impossible tan, but that's another story! I'm also happy to report that I've survive another year biking through the harsh Canadian winter. I absolutely refuse to take the TTC home during rush hour, I just can't deal with the cramped and grumpy crowds who push and shove like it's life or death to get on the train. Weather permitting, I've biked home every single day in the blistering cold! Some days when the snow or rain falls pretty hard I will end up walking for safety reasons. Even with bike lanes, they are rarely shovelled all the way to permit us bikers to ride safely in our own lane and cars for some reason don't mind driving so close you can reach our your arm and touch them! Even with my helmet, it's not worth the risk to easily slip on some rain or snow and get into an accident.

     Last week, I started back tracking and reading all the interesting blogs from Mr. Money Moustache. He's great! If you haven't heard of him, give him a google and check out his blog. He talks about living a frugal, simple life that isn't about consumption and more about being happy and enjoying life. It made me do a lot of contemplating about my life and reinforcing what I was doing was good for me. For all the shiny things I wanted to buy, at the end of the day they didn't really increase my happiness. If I had one day left on this earth, the last thing I'd want to do is go shopping for shiny new things. So, I went out and created new experiences that would increase my happiness and hopefully my life span. Usually, on Sundays its my catch up and clean up day but instead I took out an hour or so to sit in a cafe and enjoyed a hot chocolate, my favourite crepe and start a book I bought on vacation way back in November. I took another half an hour and spent it going to the condo pool to do some laps. I HATE exercise but I love to swim! The hot tub doesn't hurt either hahaha! It was hard at first since I'm so out of shape but I've gone a few times since then I can slowly do more laps than the previous trip. Best part is it's in the condo, so I don't have to leave the building to enjoy a quick swim and post relaxing session in the hot tub. Sometimes, I forget and take for granted that we are so lucky to be living downtown and are paying for all these amenities that most people don't use. The pool is always dead and I've never seen more than 5 people or so at anytime. Most of the times we've gone, the pool is empty and that's the best! Starting this year, there also has been a myriad of fitness and fun programs hosted by the condo and they are all free! I am fortunate enough that I work from home on Mondays, which is also my errands day and it just happened that I was offered set work. I'm usually tired on Monday's but I felt a nice sense of new energy that came over me from changing up my routine. I've gone a few more times after work to jump in the pool and you really get an extra jolt of energy to get you through the rest of the day. My days are longer but they are more fulfilled and feel like I accomplished a lot more. The worst feeling for me is after a crazy long work day, and spending a few hours on the couch binging on shows you think "what the heck happened to the day?" Don't get me wrong, I love tv binging and there is nothing wrong with doing it in moderation. But, I really did notice what I could do if I get off the couch for a couple hours and do something else instead and it's great!

DIY Re-Caulking the Bath Tub
Lesson learned: Silicone is better than general caulking material

We had to caulk the tub this week since our first attempt, however well done, the material did not hold up to the water assault we gave it over a couple of showers. The tube said it was caulk made for the tub and needed 36 hours to dry. We gave it more than two days and started to notice it peel right off the wall after the first shower. I suppose the fact we picked it up from Walmart, instead of an actual home repair store should have been a sign. Luckily, we were able to still reuse the tools we bought the first time around to scrape off the off the old stuff and re-apply with the recommended silicone by the Canadian Tire guys. It was advertised as three hour ready but we gave it a good 24+ hours to fully dry. It's appears a bit shiny/wet but when you touch it it's nice and dry. It's been almost a week and it's nice and solid with no signs of wear or tear. The best $3 we spent! I would definitely recommend buying a scraper and applier, we got ours from Walmart for about $5 each. They are reusable but after two uses the scraper seems to be a bit dull. The applier tool gives you a nice professional, clean and straight look. This tool is definitely a keeper! You just need to make sure to use a wet paper towel to wipe off the excess silicone before it dries to avoid it drying up on your tool.

Tip: wipe the tool often to avoid the silicone over flowing on the sides and smearing all over your tiles and tub.

Overall, I had a very good couple of weeks! Had some great new experiences and fun, all while reinforcing my good financial habits. It's hard to start a new savings habit and the best thing you could do is start TODAY! Right now! Put away $5 into an account and once you see it grow you'll get addicted! That's what happened to me. I made a good chunk of change as a teenager but with no financial foundation I blew it all on eating out and having fun with my friends. I still regret it and wished someone sat me down and taught me about personal finance! No one will care more about your finances and future more than you will (ok, maybe your mom). But even then, if you ever get into a pickle, most people won't or can't help you. Thanks to Facebook/Instagram etc. most people seem so happy in their big houses, new cars and what not but you never see the bill attached to those items. How much debt do they really carry to keep that facade? So, what if you don't have the newest whatever! Trust me, it feels a MILLION times better to be able to stand tall and know you owe nothing to nobody! The onus is on you to take care of yourself and family (if you have one). Sadly, some people think their parents will be around forever and are so dependent on them that they never learn to grow up and become independent. So, I say STAND UP, GROW A PAIR, and GET YOUR SHIT IN ORDER!

Eros and Pookie

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Diaper Cake Baby Carriages

Diaper Cakes

This week I have a couple orders for a diaper cake baby carriage.

 Above was made for a baby girl last minute. And by last minute, I mean they wanted it right now and to pick it up as soon as I was done. Luckily, I was home and it was a Saturday morning and I was able to pull it off. I've never been so happy to have sewn extra bibs and supplies already and just needed a couple hours for assembly.

This one I had ample time of just under a week! More than enough time online shop for diapers. Thank goodness for online shopping and free delivery! Unfortunately, some time after I had handed off this cake I heard that this had fallen apart. I was sad to hear that the recipient wasn't able to receive her gift as intended. I guess I should really stress to each person how delicate these are. Because they are made with completely usable baby stuff, things can not be glue or adhered to permanently in anyway that can damage anything. Since I use mostly elastics and safety pins to keep everything together, transport has to be somewhat careful. I've never had an issue with any of my previous cakes. This week I'm going to sew up a couple of extra baby stuff and give it to the woman as a nice gesture.

Low on some supplies, I'm happy to see that Fabricland has opened up a temporary shop in Honest Ed's. I was able to pick up some really nice material that was on sale this week, and I'm excited and slightly stressed to have to sew and assemble another cake for this weekend from scratch. I always thought stress was bad, but there is definitely good stress. I get a good rush from having a deadline, it keeps me on track and I gives me an opportunity to work on my time management skills.

The hallways and condo are completely dry. Fans blew 24 hours for almost a full week before they were taken away. Imagine the lack of sleep I had that week! The condo replaced all the baseboards they ripped out that were soaked, however they are of a different size and colour as the rest of our place but I guess we have no say in that. We also had to deal with a broken shower handle this weekend and are waiting the plumber to come by some time today. I've never been so happy that our condo offers two different areas in the gym and pool for a public shower. And I LOVE that no one ever uses them and they are so clean! On the bright side of a broken shower, the bath tub has been dry and we spent a couple hours late one evening to caulk the tub. Another errand we had put off too long!

Eros and Pookie

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Last Friday just as dinner was being prepped, the fire alarm went off. It goes off at least once or twice a month and usually from the monthly fire alarm testing. We weren't really alarmed since 99.9% it's a false alarm and maybe someone over cooked something and the smoke got out into the hallway. After about 10 mins we heard a lot of shouting and running back and forth outside our door, so we checked it out and this is what we saw.

 I was shocked to the hallway completely flooded. We'd have some flooding previously from Rabba next door but never to this extent. We later found out because of the extreme cold, a heating pipe from the next apartment had burst and hot water had flooded her place.

 This is what it looked like after a few people had walked in and out of her apartment trying to find where the water was coming from and trying to shut it off. The steam from the hot water made it almost impossible to see. I felt like I was in a scene out of Titanic as water started slowing crawling from one side of the building and continuing down the hallway. Water then started seeping into our place and I did the best I could to control it. I spent about 2 hours putting down towels and wringing them out until my hands were raw and in pain. Lesson learned here was to use small hand towels, they make for easy wringing. Large bath towels are great to quickly soak up large amounts of water but the biggest hassle to squeeze out.

After a few hours the condo had a special company come in to suck up the water one apartment at a time, then they left us with some dryers. It's extremely inconvenient to be sleeping inside your place and have three large industrial fans running 24/7, as well as a super huge dehumidifier. I'm the super lucky one that gets to sleep within arms reach of a fan. Our place is small and space is such a valuable commodity. It's now Wednesday, so it's been almost an entire week of loud fans. Have you ever been on a plane and you hear the constant loud buzzing sound and doesn't let you sleep? That's me! Even after having been checked up upon the last two days, there still seems to be some moisture. Unfortunately for now, our new fan room mates get to stay. 

The only thing I don't understand, is why of all the base boards being ripped out, is the wall attached to our place been cut out. It's strange, you can see what looks like fluffy dirty stuffing inside the walls.

Any advice and or tips to deal with this situation are welcomed!

Thanks in advance,
Eros And Pookie

Friday, 27 February 2015

Keeping Up The Savings Game!

Hope everyone had a good week and keeping warm during these freezing times! I've been wearing long johns every day to the office to stay warm. Clothes have been a bit more snug but it beats having to go outside unprepared. I can't wait for summer!

Just wanted to give you all an update of what's been going on:

I've been pretty good at cutting out most of my miscellaneous expenses. It's brutal to walk down the aisles of a grocery store and want to buy everything you feel like eating but instead just walk away. It takes a lot of will power to keep moving on. It's horrible! I've refrained from online shopping, buying things I know I'll need eventually and just holding off until I actually need them. I've been better this week saying no to friends and functions, it's very hard when you want to be there for birthdays and to see people you haven't seen in ages but it's what has to be done until I get out of this rut. Winter months are usually the worst times for me financially and I do my best to plan accordingly. But man, when crap happens it's hard to predict exactly what you'll need to take care of it. The last two months I've had plumbing problems, unexpected health care costs, and computer issues. The one thing they don't tell you about having health care benefits from our insurance is that they make it incredibly tedious to make your claims. My doctor can print copies of his invoice for me or email them. I offered to have my doctor submit them directly to my insurance for me but unfortunately they want a physical copy mailed to them, two weeks for processing and then time to mail it back. I mailed my first bill on January 15th and I just received the first of many cheques yesterday. So, I'm out the dough until the cheques come in and its hurts my wallet so very much. I have my emergency fund to cover expenses but that's not what I want it for. It's my "I'm very sick and can't work" and absolute last resort money. Stupid stuff like this I notice will always happen and I don't want to keep dipping into other funds to cover it. My solution is building a slush fund, a buffer for unexpected expenses that aren't real emergencies. Starting one is honestly one of the smartest decisions I made and gives me a nice buffer for my budget.

Re-organizing My Saving Accounts

Did you know you can have as many saving accounts as you'd like for free? I certainly did not! I have a PC Financial Account and Tangerine Account. PC is great for daily banking and has lots of machines available in Toronto, thanks to their partnership with CIBC. I am obsessed with getting PC points for free groceries and getting a free cheque books for the odd cheques I have to write for work. I don't have a Tangerine chequing account, but it has a feature where you can take a photo of a cheque to make a deposit. With a partnership with Scotiabank it's a bit more inconvenient for me since there are not many locations around my neighbourhood. Transferring funds from PC to Tangerine takes a couple days, which at first was sort of a hassle but I like that I can't easily dip into it. I only use the Tangerine TFSA account and regular savings account. The main thing when I was figuring out how to better organize my moolah was convenience. I currently have one account and via a detailed excel sheet, I kept track of all the money in the account and which fund it belonged. I wanted to simplify everything! I want to open my account and see exactly how much money was in each fund. I believe when you make budgeting simple and easily accessible, you are more likely to keep up with it and stay on track. It's hard at first, but it gets easier and builds up the habit over time. Sometimes, I feel like throwing out my budget but it's constantly evolving and updating to fit my lifestyle. I find reading articles everyday about personal finance helps keep me motivated, educated and on track to reach my goals.

Ideally, I would have liked to go with PC for all my funds but when I spoke to them they told me the accounts could not be named and I would have to remember the account by numbers. That is really crazy when you think I'm planning to open like 10 accounts! I can't even remember phone numbers, how will I remember bank account numbers? So, when I called up Tangerine all you have to do is open up to the 5 account limit online, and they will have a manager to override the system and give you the additional number of accounts you'd like. And you can easily name them and name them in order to your preference! I had to rename some of the accounts so the important funds are near the top. Small stuff like this may seem kind of OCD, but you'll thank yourself for doing it right the first time.

Hope this helped get you a bit closer to your financial freedom!

Eros And Pookie

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Another Day, Another Diaper Cake!

Hi Everyone,

As Winton said it before on FaceBook, "It's Baby Month!" Truer words could not have been said.

Baby Carriage
 Here's one of the hardest diaper cakes I've made in awhile. I bought a bunch of baby outfits from Children's Place that I wanted to incorporate to this cake and they are just so oddly shaped. It took some time figuring out how and where things would go but I'm happy to say I'm proud of the results. It took a lot more safety pins to hold all the tiny baby clothes together in place but I think it's adorable.

Star Wars Owl
Here's a new owl creation I tried! I had some instructions I found online but I avoided on giving baby #2 more receiving blankets as per the instructions. Being a middle child, I was very familiar with getting everything second hand from my brother. It sucked big time! So, I thought it'd be nice to get new bibs and burp clothes made just for him. Plus, I found out that babies go through bibs like nothing and are constantly bought and tossed out from wear and tear. The only thing I would of changed with this is finding nice fake flowers for the eyes. This is a cute design but practically not very good. I love making cakes that can balance on their own. It makes transport 1000x easier!

Eros And Pookie

Friday, 13 February 2015

Changing Our Lifestyle While Upping Our Savings Game

As I try to stay warm on this blistering cold day sitting in our office dressed in my thermal everything! I reflect back on what's been new and happening with us the last couple months. And I wanted to give you all an update!

I hate making New Year's Resolutions. I think they never work. If you want to change something, do it now and not wait until the new year. Winton thinks different and enjoys making resolutions, so I jumped on his bandwagon, hoping I'll encourage him and we can keep the momentum going. We both decided this will be the year where we both lose weight, eat healthier/eat at home and save money. I was pretty sure this will be the hardest decision I make in my life. I love eating convenience foods! I love picking up a pizza on the way home and going out for dinner with my friends. I love not working out and instead sitting at home binging on the next popular tv show. I love picking up a package of cookies and other junk foods to snack on when I'm sitting in front of a screen. I'm also a notorious hot chocolate drinker, it's my version of everyone's coffee. It was a brutal decision! I'm lazy and I like clipping coupons and save money on everything I can, but if some dessert went on sale then I'd cave. It's a pretty bad addiction.

In our second month, I have to say we are doing a really good job. Better than we both expected. We are spending more on groceries, getting more food and more quality food as well. We save so much by not eating out anywhere near as much as we use to. We did indulge and went out a few times but even so I've noticed that everything at a restaurant is so incredibly salty and I hate it. It actually turns me off from going out to eat.

I've also been getting up earlier and practicing some yoga in the mornings before work. I'm far from buff or anything but I'm working on building the habit of getting up early more than working on killing myself with exercise in the mornings. Hopefully and slowly, I can increase the intensity but it's pretty hard as it is to wake up while it's still dark and cold out and you are freezing doing some planks on a mat. I'm happy to say I've lost a few pounds right off the bat but have since kind of been stuck for the last couple weeks. I'm trying not to deprive myself as much as I try to substitute my cravings. I've been spending a lot of time chopping and filling tupperware of ready to eat fruits like cantaloupes, grapefruits and oranges. I like to leave them at the top level of the fridge in plain site. I'm taking a note out of grocery store logic, those at eye level are purchased the most. So, if I see a box of oranges and not the slice of chocolate cake in the back bottom shelf, I'll be more likely to eat the oranges and forget the cake is even there. By no means, never not reach and eat that cake in the back. Eat it and enjoy it, maybe try to just eat half? I'm trying to portion control, so I will eat until I'm satisfied and not stuffed. Makes a huge difference, since it's so easy to overeat all the time! If I don't satisfy my cravings after a long time and force myself to go without, it doesn't end up well and I end up binging on a tons of junk foods and I just can't stop.

It's sort of an oxymoron when I say we are spending more on groceries while we want to save money, but it's not. Because we eat at home we save a ton more money as opposed to going out to eat. It all adds up! The amount we spend buying better groceries is only a fraction of what we would have spent at a restaurant. Not to mention, the gas, parking, and tips we'd also have to pay for on top of our meals. We also love making our own pizza's at home instead of getting delivery. We can throw on all the topping we love and substitute the dough for pita bread. Less carbs but we also can make it in a few short mins. It's so simple! Cooking food at home means you get way better lunches! Leftovers are the best! I hate eating boring cold sandwiches at work, but with left overs I can bring in and nuke some curry from the night before or toast up my own pre-made pizza. I make a point to never buy lunch at work. It's not really feasible where I work and we have a microwave, a toaster oven, and a hot plate. I even leave a small pot and my own cleaning sponge at the office. Personally, there really isn't any good reason I'd need to leave work and buy lunch unless it's a special occasion, which is probably once or twice a year. If I'm every desperate for food, which happens sometimes when I can't get to the grocery store I can easily make instant noodles or heat up a canned of something. Even without doing groceries we always have a of various canned food, dry pasta and sauces, and even frozen food.

It's never too late to start a budget, lay out a financial plan and start saving. This article comes at a perfect time as a day ago our kitchen sink trap rotted through. Attempting to replace it ourselves we discover the damage is bigger than we thought and might have to replace more of the piping. I'm not worried, I'm happy to say I'm not losing sleep over it as the old Julie would have. We have a home maintenance fund and it'll easily take care of the cost of a plumber. I'm not particularly happy about spending the money but I know it's the cost of living and has to be done. Impossible to avoid stuff breaking down and having to be repaired or replaced, but at least we are ready for it.

Stay Warm!

Eros and Pookie

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Finished Crafts This Week

Hi Everyone, 

This week I finally finished my baby projects and are all ready to go for three pregnant friends. Crazy timing huh? What are the odds of all three due in the same month? I'm also trying something new and typing this blog on my phone instead of my computer. It's pretty strange! The draft saved on my blogger app is no where to be found when I log in on my computer. First world problems! Haha

The Projects
I made my usual baby bibs but spruced them up a bit by using some pleather. I was terrified about using such a non-forgiving material but it was much easier than I thought. Once you poke a hole in pleather, it's pretty much there permanently. Scary thought!

I was so happy to have found pleather from a clearance sale hosted by a designer closing up shop in my neighbourhood. It was $2 for a roll of scraps, which perfectly fits for one Bapron. 

Here is the other scrap piece of pleather I used to make one standard sized bib. It just makes my bibs look so fancy and as if you bought them from a store, and I'm just in love with it. 

I also worked on a special request for a baby carrier arm handle cushion. I Pinterest and googled around for ideas and patterns to no such luck. I also wasn't willing to pay for a pattern that was so easy and pretty much wasn't tested on a large scale. So, I made up my own, which I think was a pretty simple and practical design. I must say however stressful it can be, I love figuring out how to design and make things up on the spot that works for me. I love problem solving! 

Arm cushion without the foam

This is meant to be wrapped around the baby carrier handle and held together with velcro. Once on, there is an opening that allows you to still grab the handle if needed when locking and unlocking the carrier into a car seat or stroller. The opening pretty much gives you a study grip on the baby carrier when you need it without taking off the cushion. 

The cushion is two inches of high grade sponge and springs right back into shape. Is high grade sponge even what it's called? I don't know but it's dense and feels to be made of really good quality. I made sure to buy sponge that was thick enough that you felt comfortable but not too thick that it was bulky. I guess only time will tell when the mom's give me feedback of how well it worked out. 

I also had a request after I posted my numbered flash cards for alphabet ones. So, here it is! It's time consuming to get all the letters and cards traced and cut out but it's pretty cool. This is great when you are teaching kids to spell simple words that doesn't incorporate double letters. I made two sets hoping it's would be a time saver but now I have so many extra cards and am going to make a third and possibly fourth set. 

Colour coordinating the letters and cards all while ensuring to not repeat colours. It was actually much harder than I thought it would be. 

Finished product! 

Eros And Pookie

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Around The World in 18 Days!

Good afternoon and Happy Hump Day!

     Last November, I came home from one of the most amazing trips of my life! Usually, when I come home from a trip friends are always asking me "how do you afford to travel?" I always say because I found a deal and then researched the heck out of the trip! Then they gruff about how they don't have the money, but they do! It's all about what's important to you and your priorities.

     Travelling is a great way to explore and experience everything out of your comfort zone. I believe it's an integral part of finding ones self, it opens your eyes to life outside your bubble. This is one area I disagree with most financial blogs and its ok to get into some debt to travel while you're still young and have relatively no responsibilities. I first got into debt trouble after coming back from spending the summer studying in Italy, living on a small inheritance my grandmother left me after she had passed. With all the hardship I endured years later paying back my credit card and a full OSAP loan, I have no regrets! In fact, if I could have a do over I wouldn't change it at all. Yeah, there are some small things I would of done differently, like pay off the credit sooner but hard lesson well learned! Let me show you how you can do it too!

Where to start:

     All you need is $20! Twenty bucks! Stop buying Starbucks and a cookie twice a week and BAM there's your moolah. Start by saving $20 a week in a vacation fund. What works for me is picking a day of the week you have to put money into your fund. I like Sunday because it starts a fresh week and groceries for us is usually Monday. If you can't muster that much, start less maybe $5 or $10 and increase it when you can. Winton and I started with $20 each a week for a Bahamas fund for our anniversary, but when we didn't have enough after a few months we went to Collingwood and had a blast! The following year we had even more money since we didn't spend it all and could afford to go to Cayo Coco, Cuba. We never did end up going to the Bahamas but it helped a ton to have picked a place we were envisioning when we were saving. Fingers crossed that we'll eventually make it to the Bahamas one day!


     This step is huge! It can really make or break your trip! You can spend as much or as little time you want here but the more you spend researching the more you'll be knowledgable about your trip. Research not only helps you save money but it can help you save face when it comes to other cultures.

     Wifi is super important while travelling. You can look up directions, keep in touch with friends and family and even book tickets online. A great example of this, is when I went to Mexico I found a cheap $30 USD tour of Chichen Itza but my mother who had been there before suggested to go there and I'd find cheap tours all over. Unfortunately, I stayed in a hotel outside of Cancun where the competition was almost non-existent and all the tours were about $100 USD or more for the same thing. We had paid for a week of wifi and after searching around all the tour operators in our hotel lobby that I decided to just buy it online. We saved $70 USD per person per tour! That's an insane amount of savings! And sometimes, research doesn't just save you money but saves you time. Best example of this are the museums of Europe. Do you really want to wait two hours in line to see the Vatican museum? Isn't time well spent having a gelato and roaming the streets of Rome until it's your entrance time?

Here Are My Top Sites for Travel Info: - After I found this site I stopped booking hotels for my trip if I could help it. Here you can find single rooms, apartments, and even houses for rent to fit all sorts of budgets. You also get the knowledge and help from a local person, which is practically priceless to me. I have pretty high standards in this regard and must book with someone who has multiple reviews, photos and a rating of at least 98%. - Keep up to date on travel deals going out of YYZ. There is also great travelling advice here. They also have a Facebook page where you can post and read questions/advice from fellow travellers. - Lots of great useful information for popular tourist places, from currency, customs, safety and what to see. - pretty much same as lonely planet - Reviews and photos for practically anything you want to visit, eat or do. Also, has a great forum for questions and advice.

Our Trip:

     As some of you may know, I was one of the lucky ones who took advantage of the Priceline mistake fare that happened last May. For those that don't, I was able to pay $200 inclusive of all taxes, fuel charges etc. for a flight from New York City to Milan, with another flight from Prague, with a 21 hour layover in Amsterdam and ending in Bangkok. It was a deal of a lifetime that I could not pass on! I quickly texted my girlfriend and she and her boyfriend were in! The four of us booked the same trip right away before they had shut down the deal.

Here's How We Took A Trip Around The World And Make It Affordable:

     We tried our best to save money at every turn but we do have some standards. I'm happy to say being older now, I can afford to not choose to live in the cheapest accommodations out there! There was a lot of travel time in many countries and we were determined to get the most bang for our buck and even did the entire trip with only carry-on luggage. Plus, with the four of us the cost go down significantly for shared items such as cabs and accommodations etc. For the sake of this article, I'll list everything in Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated.

Tips From The Trip:


     We needed to travel to New York City to catch our first flight. So, we decided to take the overnight Megabus as it was our cheapest option for four people. For just under $42 each and 12 gruelling hours of your life this was the best option for us. We wanted to avoid paying $200 each just to fly in and possibly an overnight hotel stay. I'd have to say I've done this trip a couple times before in my youth and it wasn't so bad, but this past trip was the worst. There were loud announcements and lights  on every couple of hours and made sleep almost impossible. The bright side was we did get to enjoy a few hours in the city and hit up my favourite stores like Century 21, Uniqlo and Muji and to check out the new Freedom Tower and The Ground Zero memorial. We then took a flat fare special of $52 USD from Manhattan to JFK airport.


     For our AirBnB, we stayed in someone's attic for just one night and it was lovely. The thing I love about AirBnB is meeting local people and getting the inside scoop of what to see and do. It's a more personal touch I enjoy and I love being in a home instead of a hotel room. These are usually cheaper, with wifi included and theres usually a kitchen! The best part about most church's are they're usually free! We wandered the Duomo and found the cheapest tickets to see the Last Supper for just under $12 each. We were surprised that the majority of sites online lead you to tours, where they are at least 30 euros. With a 15 minute limit to see the painting, that just was not worth it.


     I LOVE Rome! It was my home for a summer while I studied abroad at York University. We took the bullet train to arrive here in just over three hours. Another great thing about AirBnB was that we paid extra to have our host pick us up, dropped us off at the Vatican, and take our luggage back to our apartment. Time was tight as we had all our baggage and trying to make it to our appointment was almost impossible. We went back to stay in my old neighbourhood of Trastevere and my how times have changed. What once was a small homely neighbourhood, quickly became a huge touristy area. Our apartment was very central with a few issues with the bathroom, but we were later told they were in the middle of repairs. The next day we headed to the coliseum and I can't stress enough how important it is to buy tickets in advance when you are doing trips in Europe. The lines are always insane and I love bypassing everyone to go pick up my tickets and walk right in. I'd been to the Coliseum before and it was sort of disappointing and boring, but this trip I was going because no one else had been. If you go on your own without a tour you get to walk around in a giant circle on a couple different levels but there isn't much but visit a few gift shops. I happen to stumble upon a tour that wasn't costing an arm and a leg. We found one hosted by the Coliseum that was about $14 (on top of the entrance fee), it took us to the lower level and to see the behind the scenes of the famous ruin. It's run by the coliseum and there are no bookings online, you have to actually call them and book over the phone. It was pretty cool to see what's left of the elevator type pulley system they had and where the gladiators would walk through to get to the arena from the various gladiator schools. They also took us to the highest level, which is a great spot for better pics of the surrounding area. Rome is a great city where you can take in all the famous sites and not spend your pretty pennies doing so. All the famous fountains, churches, and piazzas are all free!


     I don't know why but I alway thought this was an expensive city. It certainly was not at all! We asked our AirBnB to arrange a private transport to pick up and drop us off at the airport. It was a great affordable service that was well worth the money! The AirBnB apartment was THE BEST apartment I've ever rented! It was new, clean and spacious! It was so nice that we all agreed we could live there! The design was very open with lots of bright light and two big bedrooms. We were here for about 3 days and was able to get comfy and cook our breakfasts! Location being three tram stops from the main shopping strip and subway. The metro was very affordable, I believe it was something like $2 for a 60 minute limited ticket. The zoo was $10 and it was great! We even bought these Prague cookies wafers that were $.75! I couldn't believe it! Never at the Toronto zoo would a snack be 75 cents! By time of our trip, I was started to have a lot of back pain from my travels. I'm not sure why but usually on a big trip like this either my back goes or my stomach will after eating lots of strange foods.

     Luckily and strangely, Thai massages are huge here! For $15 you can treat yourself to one of the many Thai massage parlours in the tourist area. Some are very shady, where you walk through a narrow shop and behind a hidden door and go up one or two flights of stairs. Food wise, dinner our first night was pretty pricey and I thought I was expecting to spend at least $20 for each  meal, after all it is Europe! One night, we happen to go back and forth at all the restaurants looking for somewhere to eat in the main tourist area with the Astrological clock (I forget what it's called). After finding a place with food we were interested in and didn't have a price tag of about $30 a plate, we opted to sit indoors instead of freezing and inhaling second hand smoke with the rest of the crowd. By sheer dumb luck, they had a completely different menu inside with specials of the day! Who knew! I got a roasted chicken and potatoes for $4 and the portions were filling! It was so cheap that I balled out and got an alcoholic drink and dessert too! Don't get me wrong there are tons of street stands and small shops you can pick up some great local food. This street food below cost us about $1.50 and was more than enough to snack on.


     By far the most expensive AirBnB of the whole trip! We spent one night here and just under $60 per person for a small apartment. The location was great, it was right in the shopping area and surprisingly the cheapest that would accommodate four people. We had about 21 hours in this city from landing to take off and we had a good time. Just sucks I couldn't take as many photos as I would of liked, as there are no photos allowed in the Red Light District and inside Anne Frank's house. It was $14 to visit The Anne Frank museum and I booked it about 3 months in advance. Apparently, that's the farthest out you can book and since spots book months in advance, if you're not on top of it you can lose a chance to go. I booked right at the opening for 9am the next day and arriving about 10-15 minutes early, there was already a line up of about 20 people. Thank goodness I asked the workers before joining the long line up, I was the first to arrive and start another line up for people with pre-bought tickets. We still ended up waiting a bit as they prepared to open for the day but it was nice and pretty empty when I went in. The space is tight in the museum and there are tons of steep stairs but never did I see more than 10 people at once.


     This is my favourite city of our whole trip! We had the best AirBnB host, whom was from Canada and super helpful when we were planning our trip. She would respond so fast and her father who we met in the city took very good care of us. He even bought us lunch after our 12 hour flight and checked up on us often. He even showed us a spot where there was $3.50 hour long massages that the locals would get. The norm everywhere else was about $7-10 an hour. As you can imagine we got one everyday and some days even two hours long! It was amazing and really helped with the constant walking and back pain. Bangkok was very inexpensive, you can buy and barter for pretty much everything. The local markets sell everything from cheap street food like insect delicacies to knock off merchandise.  You can grab a small bag of fresh cut fruits for just under $1, or even fresh coconuts for just over a $1. Cabs are incredibly cheap, one night Winton and I were starving and took a very long cab ride that was at least 20 mins to the only restaurant open and it cost less than $2! If you want a more authentic way to get around you can easily hail a tuk tuk, but expect to pay much more. Everything is negotiated and you'll get the tourist "discount" of about $5 per ride for short distances. Even cabbies will try to rip you off and ask for a flat rate that is incredibly higher than if you were to ask them to use the meter. Stick your grounds as there are plenty of cabs and tuk tuks around, eventually someone will cave to make some dough and you can get a fair price. Also, don't expect to get any change so carrying amount small bills is a must.

     Sometimes the quickest way to get around is by taking the boat bus (I have no clue what its called). For $1.50, you can get down to the tourist areas within minutes of hopping on one of these. The entrance fees for temples were pretty reasonable except for the Grand Palace, that was about $18 per person. That was by far the most expensive entrance I've ever paid for a temple, but for Wat Pho and Wat Arun we paid about $3 each person. Some temples do not provide change so be sure to carry the right amount, on top of this there is a strict wardrobe on visitors. The Grand Palace allows you to "rent" pants for a small fee, the other two temples we visited were not as strict but still had lots of displays around showing what is acceptable and what is not. Eating out was pretty cheap, we stuck to more touristy restaurants so we could avoid getting sick. We even brushed our teeth with bottled water back in the apartment. We ate like kings every time we could, which was hard since snacking on cheap street foods are tempting you every which way.

     The two big shopping areas we visited are MBK, which is a large mall and Asiatique River Market a semi inside and outside mall by the harbour front. What I liked about MBK was the metal detectors as you come in for safety, as well as a tourist taxi stand so you can avoid getting ripped off. Everything in this mall was decently priced, the best thing was that each floor had a specialty. For example, one floor was all cell phone accessories and another was a huge international food court, kind of like how we have Marche/Rich Tree here. There are many cheap clothing stalls in Bangkok, so there is really no need to pack very much. Considering how hot it is here everyday, you'll want to change your clothes frequently from all the sweating you'll be doing. We saved a ton of money by bringing our own small bottle of liquid laundry detergent. Only one place of all our AirBnb's was equipped with a laundry machine, the rest we had to hand wash. Except in Thailand, where we balled out $7 to wash every piece of clothing we had minus what we wore for the day. If you want some traditional Thai shirts and pants you can pick those up for about $2-3 each, with plenty of sizes and colours to choose from. Just remember Asian sizes are much smaller, so a large in Canada is most definitely not a large in Thailand. You'd be surprised that people with storefronts are still willing to barter with you for a good price if you're willing to buy multiple items. The Asiatique is surprising modern, clean and something you'd expect to see in Canada. The prices are a touch higher but it's still relatively cheap to eat and shop here. I was in need of some sandals and was able to pick up a fake pair of Birkenstocks here for $15. They call them "copies" and are pretty upfront to tell you that. If you really want to buy something, just keep walking around as you'll find lots of vendors selling the same stuff and the prices can vary quite a bit depending on where you are.


     To be honest, I had a horrible AirBnb host and place this trip. My first ever bad experience in all my trips, so that really dampened my time in this city. Expect to be lied to, cheated out of your money, and meet really aggressive sellers. They are hardcore hustlers in this city. By aggressive, I mean the sellers will physically grab your arm and try to pull you to their stall. The city is very much filled with the haves and the have nots, with tons of the latter and homeless people everywhere and even with small children. You will even see children hustlers forced by parents to hock their souvenirs and packs of tissue. I had a very interesting discussion with a local cyclo driver that people in Vietnam are so poor that most children don't go to school, which was so incredibly sad to hear.

     After our arrival and after much research, we hopped on a cab to our apartment on one of two designated cabs that are metered to not rip you off. Apparently, there is a toll you have to pay on the way to the city which is not mentioned and we were taken for $2, we found out later it should have been 50 cents. Meh, no biggie! But, at ever turn to fight and get a fair price was exhausting. Yes, I understand it's their livelihood and it's all about survival for them but still it did not paint a very good picture of the people there for me. Even being able to speak Vietnamese, I could hear the insults of walking down the market and hearing stall owners complain how we didn't buy enough. The people are very materialistic and all about the money, more so than any other Asian country I've ever visited. Good thing is everything is pretty cheap, food, t-shirts, fake purses, even booze with scorpions and snakes in it are all affordable if you're fine with a bit of wheeling and dealing. Beware though, many restaurants don't give you napkins with your meal. Many actually give you an individual wet nap and if you use them they will charge you about 25 cents. It's strange to eat and not have any dry napkins, but if you're a season traveller in Asia you'll know you always carry your own tissue papers incase you need to make trips to the public restrooms. Massages here are very cheap as well at around $7-10 an hour for a foot massage. Be wary though, that some places ask you to fill out a form at the end asking if they did a good job and what your name is. The catch is that you see "other peoples" reviews and there is a section to say how much they tipped. One place that did an okay job, hinted for us to tip them 100%. We tipped them what we felt they deserved, left and remembered to not return to that place.

     Tours are also very cheap here if you are interested in checking out the local sites and there are tons of places you can go and get quotes in the backpackers district. We did the Cu Chi Tunnel tour for $6 and paid an extra $4 entrance fee. You basically get a tour guide, water bottle and transport to and from the tunnels which is about an hour away. I think it was a great deal since you are not allowed to visit this site without an escort. There are apparently many undetonated bombs in the area and makes it very dangerous to wander off on your own. Transport wise it's cheap to hop on a cab, take a cyclo or even ask anyone with a moped hanging around to give you a lift for a couple of bucks. Alternatively, you can rent a moped with no licensed required for $7 per day. You do need to hand over your passport, which I could never do or give the $200 USD cash to hang on to in case you don't return. Museums here are very cheap, we saw the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and the War Remberants museum and both were about 75 cents each for admission. The latter is a must see! I thought it was full of actual items from the war but it mainly consisted of photographs. Very powerful photograph! I have to admit sadly that I didn't know very much about the war prior to this trip. Essentially, all I knew was that the war forced my parents to flee their home and head for any country that would take them. Most of my education on the war was pathetically what I saw in major Hollywood films. Boy, that so very wrong! I also learned a very good lesson on perspective, although the museums are educational they do very much skewed towards the victimization of the Vietnamese and how brutal the Americans are. It was interesting to see how both sides portrayed themselves in history.


     The total trip cost me about $2500 broken down to $1500 for all the flights, trains, apartments, entrance and visa fees etc. I would say it was all the fixed cost of sightseeing, living and transport. It also didn't help that the flight home ate up half that cost. Big ouch, but it was the best price I could get at the time with the shortest travel time home. There was another $1000 for cabs, bus fare, food, shopping and massages etc. Basically, all fun money we spent while there. I surprisingly even brought home money. I know $2500 may sound like a lot of money but its actually super affordable for a trip around the world that we took. Most fares to Europe and back are about $1000, with hotels easily costing almost $200 a night for a hotel. Not to mention the food and sights you need to pay for. Some of the best ways to see multiple places are to wait for fares that include a stopover. A few years back, Winton and I were planning to go to Paris and I happen to find a sale that included a stop over to other cities in Europe. Essentially, for $50 each person we were able to also fly to Berlin and back.

    Travel is affordable and yes there are deals posted online all the time. Even if you can't afford to fly somewhere far, there are trains and busses that can take you to cities closer to home.  You have to distinguish what is a real deal and what is advertised to look like a deal. Saving $100 off isn't much if you have to spend $2000 each person. As of today, a similar flight to what we paid $200 all in for is listed as $2535. That's a savings of $2,335 per person! I'm not advising people to go out and just spend their hard earn money on a trip and get into too much debt. If it's debt you can handle and pay off in a reasonable amount of time then do it! If not, it might be best to sit that deal out and wait patiently for the next one and give your vacation fund some time to grow.

Eros and Pookie