Saving Money

July 28

Back To School Shopping: What To Buy & When

Posted by on July 28, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Back To School Shopping: What To Buy & When

I used to love back to school shopping.  My mom always took me shopping and we would purchase a new special outfit that I got to pick out on my own, which I was always so proud of.  I’ve got to be honest- some years were more successful than others in terms of style, but at least she let me express my creative spirit through my clothing.  Both my girls are in school in the fall; my oldest in grade two and my youngest starting junior kindergarten.  The time is flying by, and I have mixed emotions about them both being in school.  It seems like every year my oldest daughter requires more and more school items, and every fall we are hit with a bill totalling a few hundred dollars which we never plan for.  Clothing, crayons and lunch bags… there are lots of items to buy and prepare, and there are only five weeks left until school starts. I want to plan my purchases now, so that I can budget for them appropriately.

Tech gear

According to this article from CNET, July and before-school is the best time of year to purchase computers, so if you’re in the market for a new laptop for school, right now is a perfect time to make a purchase.  I found a great deal at Apple.ca; if you buy an iPad, Mac or iPhone, you get a gift card for $55 or $110 depending on your purchase. Check out this link for more information. Additionally, they have excellent financing options available. Another good option for tech gear, like computers or phones, is to purchase them through a seller on Kijiji or Craigslist.  Why pay for an item at an off-the-shelf price when you can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing it used? Also, keep in mind that if the primary use for your computer is school work, you might not need the latest and greatest computer with all the bells and whistles. By purchasing last year’s model you will save hundreds of dollars, so be open to older models. Also consider floor models- sales reps will be more likely to negotiate with you on these older computers as well, so don’t be afraid to haggle.

School supplies

Every year I think that all I need to buy is a pack of crayons and a box of tissues, and I’ll be set for school supplies for my daughter; I am always proven wrong when I get the page-long list of items required by my daughter’s teacher.  Crayons, tissues, markers, hard-cover pencil cases, etc, are all items which are required on a yearly basis.  Check out this wiki on How to Save on School Supplies for some great ideas to save you money.  I like tip #5, which is to check the weekly store advertised specials.  I know roughly what the items are that both girls need, so I will start, beginning now, picking up items when they go on sale.  I’d much rather make some smaller purchases leading up to the start of school then have to buy everything at once.  It will be much easier on my wallet this way.  I might also be able to re-use some of my daughter’s supplies from last year, specifically, her pencil case and her lunch bag.  I’m sure we could re-use her backpack too, as it’s in decent shape, but I like the tradition of shopping for a new backpack with her. It makes her excited about the beginning of the school year, and she takes pride in her stylish pack.

End of summer clothing sales

Let’s be honest, what time of year don’t kids wear plain t-shirts, golf shirts or sports clothing?  I think it makes sense to stock up on clothing at the end of summer, as basics like t-shirts, shorts and light sweaters can be worn at any time throughout the year.  I know where I live, summer clothing is already starting to go on sale.  I will be purchasing clothing for my kids in a size larger than they are now, so we have “new” clothes they will fit into midway through the winter and at the beginning of the school year.  I want to continue my mom’s tradition of purchasing my girls one special first day of school outfit that they get to choose, and I will be sure to purchase these on a day when the store I am purchasing from has a special, or I have a store coupon or an AirMiles extra miles coupon.   I could always be on the lookout for a sweet online deal, but I love the tradition of going back-to-school shopping with my kids, having them try on their new duds, bringing them home in their shopping bags etc.  I get excited just thinking about it!

Don’t forget that there are lots of needy children who don’t have the luxury of being able to afford new school supplies, so be sure to pick up a few extra packs of crayons or markers and donate them to your local food bank or charitable organization.

Online shopping is a fantastic way to pick up some super deals, so be sure to check out Bargainmoose regularly to take advantage of some amazing sales.  There are often entire tax-free weekends at stores like Loblaws and Superstore, consider stocking up on supplies then.  Also remember to price match all of the great deals at places like Walmart, No Frills and Target- they have excellent price match policies and they want your business.  If you regularly shop at one of those stores, why not bring along your flyers and price match school supplies?

Bargainmoosers, how have you saved money on school supplies?

(banner image credit: Heather Elias)

Moose Rating (1 votes)
July 25

Keep Cool In The Summer: Save Money On Air Conditioning

Posted by on July 25, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Keep Cool In The Summer: Save Money On Air Conditioning

With the summer weather in full swing, many people are having to turn on the central air conditioning because they can’t sleep at night without it on.  Air conditioning, much like heating your home in the winter, can suck up a lot of energy, pollute the environment, and most importantly, it can put a dent in your utility bill unnecessarily.  According to Wikipedia, 88% of single family homes constructed in 2011 in the United States have built in air conditioning, along with 99% of homes in the Southern United States and 62% of homes in western United States.  That’s a lot of air conditioning (and a lot of energy use)!  Of course, if you (like me) don’t have air conditioning in the home, these tips will help you keep cool. I am happy that I do not have air conditioning; I keep the thermostat at zero in the summer and enjoy my low energy bills.

Here are a few ways in which you can save money on air conditioning, by having to avoid the need to turn air conditioning on.

Close the Windows

Contrary to popular belief, if you close your windows during the day you will keep cooler than if you opened them.  If you think about your home like a container that absorbs heat, when you open the windows it allows the heat to get into your home and stay there.  This also applies to closing your blinds and shades once the sun rises, since the suns rays will heat up your home if you leave blinds and shades open.

Of course, this is easier said than done, because who doesn’t want to keep their window open to smell the fresh air, see the blue sky, and hear the birds chirp?

Use a Fan

Fans are a great way to keep cool and use significantly less energy than air conditioning.  For example, a ceiling fan uses about 10-100 watts of energy whereas a central air conditioner uses about 2000-3000 watts of energy (source:  Yahoo Shine).  That is at least 200 times the amount of energy!

If you don’t have a ceiling fan, stand-up or table top fans are great too. Another way to maximize your fan is to put a bowl of cool ice in front of it to circulate cool arctic frozen air.  How fun is that?

Check Your Lighting

If you haven’t already, switch your regular joe incandescent light bulb over to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL’s). If you think about it, over 90% of an incandescent light bulb’s energy is wasted on heat instead of producing light (source: eBay Green).  When you have a whole household full of incandescent light bulbs, that’s a lot of energy wasted and a lot of unnecessary heating in your home.  Of course, make sure you turn off any lights or electronics that you do not need turned on to save on energy and to prevent any unnecessary heating in your home.  When your electronics are in standby mode, they still emit heat unfortunately.

Insulate Your Home

This strategy and home improvement is a win-win for both summer and winter, so it’s a no-brainer to implement.  Attic insulation can help keep your home cool by not allowing the cool air to escape. Although this does not necessarily decrease the heat in your home per se, it helps keep it cool.  According to Good Housekeeping, if you have central air, you should make sure you use seal ducts at vents and registers to prevent the cool air from escaping- if you do not do this, you can allow up to 20% of the cool air to escape.

In addition, Conde Nast also recommends that you seal your air leaks with caulk.  A simple job (grab a caulking gun at your local hardware store) will give impressive results.

Cool Down with a Drink

Despite using these tips you may still want to turn on the air conditioning.  If all else fails, head to your local lemonade stand and support your neighbourhood budding children entrepreneurs!  I love seeing children sell lemonade- wish I did that as a child.

Bargainmoosers, what is your favourite tip to keep cool in the heat of summer?

(banner image credit: Kenneth Lu)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 21

Weddings: Do It Yourself Or Outsource?

Posted by on July 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Weddings: Do It Yourself Or Outsource?

I have a friend at work who is getting married in a few weeks.  She is super excited about starting a new phase in her life, and she is ecstatic about getting married and possibly starting a family.  She has been living with her partner for a few years, and they have been together for a long time.  She is planning on having an intimate backyard celebration at her father’s house. I was flabbergasted at the cost of her nuptials (read, the cost is very cheap!), and super impressed with how they are keeping their eye on the prize, that is, they are saving their money to buy their first home.  Weddings can be extremely expensive, and lots of people these days buck that trend by having a destination wedding, a backyard celebration or a small get-together at a restaurant. Which wedding particulars can you save on, and which things should you pay money for?

Food

Food preparation and food safety is one aspect of a wedding that I would not tackle myself.  I know that I would be extremely nervous about food safety and to ensure that none of my guests came down with food poisoning! Check out the principles of food safety from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for helpful tips on keeping food preparation safe. My friend was going to have a catered breakfast but decided it was too expensive and opted to have sandwiches catered for lunch. She and her family will make a number of side salads to go along with the sandwiches, which will save her a bundle of money. By choosing to have her wedding and reception during the mid-morning timeframe she will save a lot of cash, as she is not serving any alcohol, and she doesn’t have to worry about serving a multi-course dinner.

Flowers

I think that making your own flower bouquets is a really easy way to save a lot of money on your wedding, but the only downfall is that you really need to prepare them the day of the wedding.  I know for myself, I was way too stressed out and busy the day of my wedding to be worried and preoccupied with putting together flower arrangements. But, I think it would be totally do-able if your ceremony was later in the day, or if you had a great friend/family member who was willing to help you out. Check out this article on how to Make your own bouquets from The Knot, and this video from Sassafras Flowers on how to assemble your own bouquets. They make it look so easy! When I got married I chose a small florist who was recommended by another bride I was friends with. Because she was an independent florist her prices were much less expensive than the larger florists I received quotes from. Also, I chose primarily in-season and local flowers to reduce the cost. Another option to reduce your flower cost is to use artificial flowers instead of real ones. I’m not a huge fan of fake flowers, but maybe I just have never found good-quality artificial flowers.

Cake

Would you ever make your own wedding cake?  Given that I’m not naturally gifted in the kitchen, I’d typically say no, but I found some amazingly easy do-it-yourself options that anyone can create.  You can save yourself a ton of money by making your own cake.  I was married 13 years ago, and even back then my cake cost around $350.  It was a simple, three tier cake which fed 100 people, so it wasn’t as large or complex as many different options available, so I can’t imagine the cost of those larger cakes. Check out this Pinterest page with lots of simple cake ideas.  I especially like this Donut cake idea- what could be simpler or more delicious? And how much fun is a donut cake that your guests can enjoy, it is so whimsical!

Venue

I love that my friend is having her wedding at her dad’s house.  The cost for the venue is pretty cheap- it’s free!  Her dad’s house is beautiful and has a gorgeous backyard, and it’s the perfect venue to accommodate her small number of wedding guests.  We went to another wedding a few years ago which was held at a city-run arboretum which was absolutely beautiful, required very little decoration, and was inexpensive.  In total their wedding cost under $5,000 which included the ceremony, appetizers and cocktails.  Think about city-run venues, neighbours and friends’ houses, and restaurants as excellent options for a wedding venue.

Dress

Since my friend’s wedding is pretty low-key and informal, her dress is following suit.  It is an off-the-rack dress which isn’t actually a wedding dress. However, it is white, it’s beautiful, and it is much less expensive than many of the dresses found in wedding gown specialty stores.  She is pairing her dress with flip-flops for her backyard wedding, and she will be very comfortable.

There are so many ways to lessen the cost of your wedding.  You can make your own flower bouquets, make some of your own food (or better yet have other people volunteer to make the food), and think outside of the box for different, less-expensive options for the various components of your wedding.  I was just looking at my wedding pictures today, and honestly, my best memories of my wedding were being surrounded by my friends and family celebrating the best day of my life.

Bargainmoosers, how did you save money on your wedding?

(banner image credit: TheDuffers)

Moose Rating (1 votes)
July 20

Five Ways To Save Money On Books

Posted by on July 20, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Five Ways To Save Money On Books

Both my husband I are major bookworms. We have three bookshelves filled with amazing finds and fantastic reads. While he loves traditional fantasy books, I gravitate more towards manga and graphic novels with a healthy mix of classics. No matter what genre of text, books cost money. Here are five ways to save money on your reading habit.

1. The Library

Libraries are one of the most wonderful places in the world. They allow you read endless books for free (or a small library card fee). Better yet, you do not keep any of those books. All those books you think are going to be great that turn into mediocre reads: you can just return them! If you do find any gems, then there is nothing stopping you from putting it on your ‘to buy’ book list. I find that most books I read are one-timers: it takes a very special book to become a repeat occurrence in my word. The library is like a dating website: I weed through all the possible options until I find the one.

2. Library Book Sales

Every library that I have lived near has a large library sale at least once a year. Books are super cheap and condition varies depending on how popular the book was and how many copies they have. My old library had a ‘fill a box’ option on the last day of their big sale: fill a box full of books for a flat $10. Library sales are an inexpensive way to add books to your own collection without paying full price. They are also a wonderful way to support your local library and keep it open for the next generation. Library sales also include incredible diversity from children’s books to manga to biographies and more. Expect to pay only a few dollars per book.

3. Go Used

While it is so incredibly tempting to buy books brand new with companies like Amazon.ca and Chapters Indigo giving us books at just a click away, try going used. This is not only for the benefit of your pocket books but also for the benefit of the environment. Every used book taken home is a used book kept out of a landfill. Get to know your local used book stores very well and see if you can leave a list of ‘wants’ with them. Check out local garage sales, local classifieds like Kijiji and Craigslist, and online used bookstores. I purchased The Complete Winnie The Pooh off of Kijiji for 50% off the retail price and have spent many an hour in my local used bookstores. I also like purchasing from scratch and dent sections at places like Book Outlet because these books, unless bought, will probably end up in a dump somewhere. Used books tend to be 50 – 75% off their original retail prices.

4. Go Digital

The digital world is blossoming with potential. Buying eBooks from companies like Amazon.ca and Kobo can save you both money and shelf space. While I have not found Kobo’s options substantially cheaper than the physical copies, the coupons and sales they have can certainly tip the scales in favour of eBooks. If you love the classics, then I highly recommend eBooks. You can get a plethora of classics for free because the copyright has expired on them. There is also the option of audiobooks. Companies like Audible are popular and you get a book credit for a set price. Depending on what you want to read, this can be another option for saving money.

5. Book Trading

When knee-deep in your own library, do not forget about your friends. Lend books out, ask to borrow books, and exchange books with your friends and family. Not only will you spend $0 on your next good read, you will also be able to talk with someone who has already read the book. I also encourage you to offer books you no longer want to friends and let them know you are open to adding new books to your collection if they are getting rid of any.

Do you have any tips on saving money on books?

(Image Credit: Danarki - picture of author Neil Gaiman doing a reading at a Library)

Moose Rating (3 votes)
July 19

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Posted by on July 19, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Sometimes it takes me the entire month of September to get back on track to get organized and ready for back to school.  Sometimes it just takes me a week or two.  No matter the amount of time it takes for you to get you and your family organized for back to school,  organizing for it is a necessity for a productive and happy school year.  There are great ways to get organized, and most of these do not require that you spend a fortune to do so.

Here are some ideas and way to save money while you are organizing for back to school.  Many of these are do it yourself projects and do not require expensive supplies.  In fact, most of these supplies can be picked up at your local dollar store.

Magnetic Lunch Chart

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

This great idea from the Martha Stewart website is a fantastic way to get your children involved in their weekly meal planning.  This will likely reduce the chance that they will swap their lunch or not eat their lunch because they are the ones involved in decision making (well, one hopes, anyway!).  All you have to do is download the template and print it on magnetic paper.  Another added bonus is that it makes grocery shopping easier because you have the week planned out.

Set up a Craft Closet

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Arts and crafts necessities such as pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, felt markers, scrap paper and construction papers tend to adhere to Murphy’s Law and create a big mess in your home.  Laura’s Crafty Life has a great idea to use a clear shoe organizer to store the arts and craft supplies so that they are easy to spot and easy to access.   Shoe organizers are very cheap and are usually under $10, and $10 for peace of mind and organization is well worth it, in my opinion.  I am a big fan of shoe organizers behind the door, but mine is filled with shoes rather than arts and crafts for now.

Backpack Central

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Another great idea is to create a back pack central area (much like the cubby holes and jacket and backpack area that your child has at school).  This idea from Pinterest incorporates your children’s names, a cork board, and a list of chores or homework that they need to do that evening.  It’s a great way to regroup and refocus once they return home from school.  It might also make mornings a little more manageable because things are organized and in the right spot!

Create a Command Central

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Another great idea from the Martha Stewart website is to create a command central.  This is where all the schedules are, where the calendar is kept, and where the organization is at its finest.  A check list for each child is helpful and encourages your children to set goals for themselves, mark their checklist and feel like they accomplished something.  It is also a great way for them to develop skills to get organized.  Another reason this is a great project idea is that all the stationary essentials are easily accessible and visible, you’ll be replacing less things that get “lost” all the time.

Mason Jar Organization

Save Money Organizing For Back To School

Mason jars are beautiful and very reusable.  This great idea from the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog teaches you how to create cute mason jar holders labelled with chalkboard paint to keep your children’s pencils, crayons, and other stationary organized.  Not only are these jars functional, they are beautiful to look at and super easy to make.  All you need are mason jars, chalkboard paint, and some chalk.

Back to University Apps

For those of you who do not have children, but are going back to school, CBC has a great list of apps that are free but are great for back to school.  My personal favourite for organization is Dropbox.  It has saved me from a ton of clutter and it is free.  Here are five free cloud computing services to consider if you’re not a fan of Dropbox but are in need of some organization.

Bargainmoosers, do you have other DIY organizational tips for back to school?

(banner image credit: Lyn Lomasi)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 18

Canadian Shipping Explained & New Shipping Icons!

Posted by on July 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Canadian Shipping Explained & New Shipping Icons!

When ordering online, sometimes Canadian shipping can be a tad confusing to the average shopper. There seem to be many methods, shipping could be from all over the world, and sometimes you’ve got no idea how much you are actually going to be paying.

I’m writing this article to put down some of my knowledge to show you what I look for when ordering online, when I find a new store and I’m trying to suss out their Canadian shipping policies.

How to Find Out About a Store’s Shipping Policies

When you’re browsing a store, you can try to find shipping information in their help pages, on their customer service pages, or on their about us page. Sometimes the information can be very lacking, with the company not even stating which country their items ship from. In some cases, you may need to reach out to the company through live chat, their contact us link, or even their twitter page, if you want to ask a question about Canadian shipping that isn’t clearly explained on their site.

 

Shipping Choices

There are three main methods that you need to look out for when you are researching a store’s Canadian shipping methods.

 

1. Shipping from within Canada to Canada

The majority of Canadian based stores will ship their items from a warehouse within Canada. When you’re going through checkout, you’ll see either free Canadian shipping or the actual shipping charges and that’s the final total you’re going to pay. Obviously this is the best option for Canadian shoppers. There are no extra fees to pay; what you see is what you get.

Example

Shop.ca: All items on Shop.ca ship from within Canada so you never have to worry about any extra charges or fees. What you see at the checkout is all that you’re going to be paying. Shop.ca also offer free Canadian shipping on everything too, that’s even sweeter!

 

2. Shipping from outside Canada to Canada, with all fees included at checkout

The second method of shipping is companies that ship from outside Canada, but they include all fees at the checkout. The amount shown will definitely be all you are liable to pay – it covers shipping, customs, duties, taxes and any other fees.

Example

Macys.com: At the Macy’s checkout, you’ll see all shipping, customs and duty fees there on your order. For example, if ordering this Tag Fairfield III 5 Piece Luggage Set for $123.90, using coupon code SUPER for an extra 15% off (bringing it down to $105), the final cost at checkout is $137.32. That’s all you’re going to be paying. Nothing more!

 

3. Shipping from outside Canada to Canada, potential fees at your door

The final category of shipping are those companies which ship from outside Canada and don’t include all the fees at checkout, but you may be liable for any extra fees at your door.

According to Canadian law, make any order of $20 or less and you won’t have to pay duty or taxes on the item. If it’s a gift, the exemption limit raises to $60. Keep these figures in mind – anything above that, you could be liable to pay a charge that you were not expecting.

Sometimes it’s a bit of a lottery when it comes to this category of shipping. Our long-time author Avigayil has shopped from Asos.com, the UK fashion retailer, over twenty times. She hasn’t once been hit with any extra fees on those orders. However, she’s ordered from the super-cool tee shirt company Threadless a few times too, and been hit by fees at the door.

Example

Moo.com: This stationery and business card company only charges you the international shipping fees as you are going through checkout. You may potentially have to pay extra at your door. This is what happened to our author Eva when I ordered her a batch of cute business cards.

 

Related Information

Some other related shipping resources on Bargainmoose that you might find useful:

 

The Bargainmoose Coupon Pages

Over on our coupon section, we’re adding a small new feature today. It’s simply an icon in the sidebar that tells you a little bit more about the shipping fees. You’ll see it on the right hand-side of coupon pages and we’ll shortly be adding it to all of the thousands of coupon pages on site.

Here are some examples of the three shipping categories I mentioned above, click through and you’ll see the new shipping icon in action:

The Source – ships from Canada to Canada

Canadian Shipping Explained & New Shipping Icons!

Teavana – ships from the US but all fees shown at checkout

Canadian Shipping Explained & New Shipping Icons!

Threadless – ships from US, potential fees at your door

Canadian Shipping Explained & New Shipping Icons!

I hope this article and the additional icon to the coupon section will be useful to you in making judgements for your online shopping!

Moose Rating (7 votes)
July 14

Get the Most Beef Bang For Your Buck

Posted by on July 14, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Get the Most Beef Bang For Your Buck

I have a large amount of ground beef, which we purchased on sale a few weeks ago, which is sitting in the freezer.  For tonight’s dinner I am going to use the ground beef, but I want to make a dish which my family will love, yet is delicious and cost-effective (plus I’m lazy and don’t really want to go to the grocery store today if I don’t have to).  My lovely hubby does most of the cooking in our household as he “prefers his own cooking” (his words), so when it’s my turn to cook I get it over with as quickly as possible.  What are options for dinner using ground beef as my main ingredient, and how can I make the meal as cost-effective yet healthy as possible?

Shepherd’s pie

I am a die-hard shepherd’s pie fan.  My mom was never an avid chef when I was growing up, but shepherd’s pie was one dish she got right 100% of the time that she made it.  Her dish has the classic full-fat mashed potatoes on top with a mixture of ground beef and frozen veggies on the base.  I’m pretty sure her recipe is full of sodium and fat, but it tasted oh-so-good.  So, you get the picture that I love shepherd’s pie.  My current healthy lifestyle really isn’t conducive to my mom’s recipes and I try to keep our meals dairy-free, with lots of whole, fresh ingredients included.  This recipe from Skinny Taste is a strong contender, as it’s easy to make it dairy-free (subtract the sour cream in the potatoes), and is low calorie with a relatively high amount of protein per serving.  I also found this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats, and she uses cauliflower in her mashed potatoes, which really increases the nutrition value in the dish.  I have made cauliflower pizza crusts before, but I have never made it as a mashed potato-like substitute.  For tonight I would be making the Skinny Taste recipe so let’s evaluate how much this recipe will cost me:

  • 2x cartons of broth $1=$2 (I bought these on sale a while ago)
  • 2 pounds of lean ground beef =$4
  • 1.5 pounds of potatoes= $1
  • Onion, celery, spices = $1
  • Frozen veggies = $1

Total cost for shepherd’s pie is around $9

Picadillo

I have never made picadillo before, but on my goodness, it looks amazing.  It seems like it’s a popular dish, as there are lots of recipes for it on the web.  This recipe from My Recipes looks lighter than some, and seems incredibly easy to make.  It is packed with healthy, colourful veggies, and has olives in it, which my smallest daughter will love.  It is supposed to be served on rice, and I would make that for my family, but I would also make Cauliflower rice for myself to go with this dish.  The macro nutrients are slightly better in this dish with less carbs and more protein, however, those do not include rice if you choose to serve it alongside the picadillo.  How much will this dish cost me?

  • 2 pounds of ground beef= $4
  • Onion, garlic, carrot= $1
  • Tomatoes= $1
  • Tomato sauce= $1
  • Peppers= $1
  • Raisins= $1
  • Other miscellaneous ingredients= $2

Total cost= $11

Meatballs

Meatballs are extremely versatile, and I can make them into a few different meals: spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, rice and meatballs, etc.  I usually don’t follow a recipe when I make meatballs, but for the purposes of this article let’s say I do!  This meatball with spicy tomato sauce recipe comes from My Recipes, and they recommend serving it with pitas on the side to soak up the delicious-looking sauce.  My mouth is watering just looking at the recipe.  I think meatballs are one of my favourite things to make.  To keep things consistent I will assume that my meatball recipe will have all ground beef and no ground lamb.  Let’s see what the cost of the meatballs will be:

  • 1 pound ground beef= $2
  • Onion, garlic, herbs= $1
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs= $0.50
  • 1 can tomatoes= $1
  • 1 egg= $0.50
  • 3 pitas= $1.50

Total cost= $6.50

Beef Tacos

Tacos are a weekly dinner for us at the Robinson household.  They are a hit with both kids and adults alike.  Who doesn’t like tacos?  While we usually cook with ground chicken or turkey when we make tacos, we do mix it up from time to time by using beef instead.  The great thing about making tacos is that it is so easy to make, and people like stuffing their own shells or tortillas.  It’s an easy meal to sneak in some vegetables to with kids as well; through guacamole, salsa and fixings.   Honestly, if we’re cooking tacos we usually use a kit, but for the purposes of this article, let’s cost out a delicious yet healthy taco recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart.

  • ¾ pound ground beef= $1.75
  • Onion, garlic and spices= $1
  • Peppers= $1
  • 12 soft tortilla shells = $3
  • Fixings= $3

Total cost = $9.75

It looks like making meatballs with my ground beef is the cheapest bang for my buck.  I made some cauliflower “rice” tonight with my dinner, and that was a hit with the entire family.  I will definitely try to make the meatball recipe very soon.  I’m also really interested in trying the picadillo recipe, even though it is slightly more expensive to make, I really want to try it out.

Bargainmoosers, how do you cook your ground beef? What cost-effective recipes do you use?

Photo credit: B3d_

Moose Rating (2 votes)
July 11

Save Money On Working Out

Posted by on July 11, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money On Working Out

Since the beginning of this year, I have made a conscious effort to work out and to incorporate personal fitness and exercise into my weekly routine.  It all started with training for the half marathon that I did earlier this year.  I realized that incorporating exercise does not have to be expensive – you just have to have the will power and the motivation to do it.  Motivation is free (and simultaneously priceless).

I have never been one to join the gym (I prefer to be outdoors rather than cooped up indoors) so I never was suckered into buying $30 to $100 monthly gym memberships.  This is probably the key to saving money on working out.  I believe that if you are going to join a monthly membership you should join something that has a set schedule or set times that you need to make a commitment to.

The recommendations for a healthy fitness level is 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week (four to seven days a week).

Here are some ways in which you can add some fitness to your weekly routine without breaking the bank:

Free or Frugal Fitness Ideas

  • Take up running:  There’s a reason why there are so many runners out there.  It is a relatively cheap workout that allows you to have high aerobic activity and a high amount of cardio.  The only costs are initial ones, as you have to pay for running shoes and running gear.  Run clubs are usually free to join and a great way to meet people.
  • Work out as part of your commute:  This is probably one of the best ways to incorporate fitness into your weekly routine without adding to the budget and without adding too much to your already busy schedule and US News agrees.  If you live within biking distance to work, biking is a great way to put in a workout.  Also if you live within running distance you can also run to work.  Check out if your office has showering facilities.
  • Workout at home:  Although this is probably difficult to stick to for most people, if you have the self-discipline, working out in the privacy of your own home is a great idea.  Pilates videos, yoga videos, even P90X videos are low cost and can continue to help you work out for years to come.  I have used the same yoga video for the past eight years and haven’t gotten sick of it yet.
  • Utilize your Amenities: If you live in a condominium or another facility with amenities such as a gym or a pool, make full use of it!
  • Check out your local community centre: When I needed to use the treadmill to get my run in during the cold icy winter, I often went to the local community centre gym.  To work out it only cost $2.50.  That’s pretty good if you don’t plan to go that often and you just need to use the gym facilities infrequently.  Oftentimes, pool access is also similarly priced and reasonable.
  • Check out daily deals sites: Fitsugar suggests that daily deals sites often have great workout or intro classes available.  I purchased a kayaking weekly session for half of the regular price (saving $50)  just by doing a quick google search.

Although frugal and free fitness suggestions are great, sometimes it can be hard to stick to these, which is why people often go for the expensive workouts and gym memberships – to get the motivation and external accountability. There are ways to increase your self-motivation and internal accountability; Huffington Post shares how to increase motivation and will-power:

  • Write it down. This announces to the universe your intentions and keeps you accountable.
  • List reasons why working out is important to you – list the benefits, list the importance of achieving these goals
  • Reward yourself when you reach sub-goals.
  • Predict sabotage thinking and think of ways to act on these thoughts – for example, making excuses for not to exercise.
  • Put reminders in your calendar. This works well for me because if I schedule it into my calendar, it increases the likelihood that I will complete the exercise task.

Bargainmoosers, do you have other frugal and fun fitness ideas that you use?  More importantly, how do you motivate yourself and keep yourself accountable?

(banner image credit: Heather Dowd)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 8

What Are The Best Shopping Deals Over The Summer?

Posted by on July 8, 2014 at 8:00 PM

What Are The Best Shopping Deals Over The Summer?

Being the frugal Bargainmooser that I am, I like to plan out my shopping expenditures throughout the course of the year.  To be honest, planning out my purchases is a fairly new concept for me, as I have never had the storage and organization  required to purchase things in advance. But this year is different, I have turned a new leaf, and I am now the queen of organization!  It’s tough being married to a semi-hoarder, but I’m doing my best to clear things out of the house each season, and to add anything new we need when we purchase it on sale at the end of the season.  This year at the end of the winter we purchased various items in advance for next year, like winter snowsuits in a larger size for my girls, and hats and mitts for the entire family.  We managed to score these items at a price of nearly 70% less than what the original retail price would have been.  Score!  What should we purchase this summer in advance of next year, and what are some frugal items to purchase through the summer?

In-season produce

I absolutely love eating fruit and veg that are in season.  They taste so much fresher and more delicious than produce that has been delivered from other parts of the world.  Plus, I love that I am lessening my carbon footprint by buying local, fresh produce.  Here is a list of Ontario seasonal produce, which I find particularly helpful, as I can look at it month by month and plan some of the meals my family can enjoy.  Here in Ontario we are at the tail end of the strawberry season.  It seems like it doesn’t last long, but when it does, it is outstanding.  One of the things I like to do with seasonal strawberries is to make Freezer Jam with it.  This year we picked our own berries at a price of $2.00 per pound, and we usually pick at least 10 pounds of berries.  With this I made jam, and from the 10 pounds of berries I made at least 40 jars of jam.  This will last me for nearly the entire year, with enough to gift to friends and family.  The pick your own experience is super fun for the entire family, and I like that I’m teaching my children about where their food comes from.  Towards the end of summer I always make a few peach pies and peach crumbles and freeze them for the winter, using the delicious local peaches.   A friend at work grows her own zucchini, and she always brings me in her produce.  Who can beat free?  Not this Bargainmooser.   With her luscious zukes I always make Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries, and I usually make some zucchini muffins or breads and put them in the deep freeze.

Go on a trip

The summer is absolutely the cheapest time to go to a warm destination, with the exception of Disney.  If you don’t like crowds, whatever you do, don’t go to Disney over the summer.   If I’m going on vacation to an all-inclusive resort I’m only going to do a 5 star resort, and there are tons of fantastic deals leaving from Toronto this month.  If I am ready to fly out of Toronto on July 11, I can get a deal at a 5 star resort in Punta Cana for only $400 plus tax. Our very own Krista White wrote about how to Get the Best Deals in July, and she mentioned going on a trip, along with some other awesome tips on what to buy in July.  I am seriously thinking about going on a last-minute trip with my hubby next summer, as typically the summer season is not busy at my work and I am always in need of some rest and rejuvenation by the summer time.

Camping gear, patio furniture and seasonal items

We are planning on putting in a pool next spring, so I will be starting to purchase pool toys, noodles and other necessities at the end of this summer season.  The prices are at least half of their cost at the beginning of the season.  We will also be planning on camping a few times next summer, so I will be waiting until the huge end of season sales this year to purchase a good quality tent and other camping necessities such as new sleeping bags for the family.  We will likely need new patio furniture next year, but given that I don’t exactly know what our new backyard space will look like next summer, I really shouldn’t make those purchases this year.  Jessica wrote an article a while ago about the summer sale cycles, and wrote about camping gear, be sure to check it out.

I do admit that it is tough to be conscientious enough to plan purchases months and years in advance, and I am certainly not an expert on it, but I do think it’s best for your budget to know about sales cycles and plan in advance.  Here are articles from Figuring Money Out and Life Hacker about specifics to buy during the months of June, July and August.  For me, I will be purchasing pool supplies, barbeque accessories and summer clothing at the end of the summer season.

Bargainmoosers, do you purchase things seasonally?  What are your favourite summer-time purchases?

Moose Rating (3 votes)
July 6

The Quick & Dirty Guide To Duty

Posted by on July 6, 2014 at 5:00 PM

The Quick & Dirty Guide To Duty

There are many great opportunities for cross border shopping lately with companies like Nordstroms, Freshpair, Kate Spade, and more attempting to catch the eye of Canadian consumers with lower shipping rates. However, the question of duty always weighs heavily on the minds of Canadians and I am here to give you the quick and dirty info on duty.

What is Duty:

We think of duty in terms of ‘import duty’, which is associated with customs. It is a tax levied by the Canadian government when a package enters Canadian soil containing products manufactured in other countries.

Exemptions:

  • Anything that costs $20 CAN or less is exempt from duty.
  • Any gift valued at $60 CAN or less is exempt from duty (cannot be sent by a business).
  • Anything manufactured in Canada, the United States, or Mexico is exempt from duty when being brought into Canada under NAFTA: the North American Free Trade Agreement.

How much is Duty:

Excluding those the above, duty will vary depending on what the product is and where it was manufactured. The rule of thumb for duty is 18% + GST + PST (or HST). However, for a more accurate estimate use this Duty and Taxes Estimator designed by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

On top of the actual duty, you have to pay the handling fee (also known as the brokerage fee) of whichever postal service is importing your product. This is why prepaying duty on websites that allow it actually saves you money: you do not have the extra brokerage fee, which can really add up.

For example, Canada Post charges a flat rate of $9.95 to clear your package through customs. However, UPS starts at $7 and goes up to $85.80 depending on the value of the package. For example, if your package costs $40.01, they will charge you $19.45 just to broker your package… we are not even talking duty and taxes yet. This is highway robbery as it only costs $5 to clear a package through the port.

Acting as your own broker:

Now, if you live near the port of entry or near a CBSA (should be one in most major cities), then you can clear your package yourself (it is a right!) if it is shipping with UPS/FedEX or any other courier company (except Canada Post). I have not had the pleasure of doing so yet, but I did find this informative article at Border Bee (from Feb 2014) for everything you need to know about clearing your own customs package. Keep in mind that to self-clear you will need the manifest/waybill and the invoice.

Customs can be tricky, so it is good to know your way around them and know what your rights are. You have a right to clear your own package and that is a right that many courier companies do not want you to know about.

While I prefer pre-paying my customs at stores that allow it, sometimes the deals are at other stores that do not do that. Using calculators and carefully choosing couriers allows me still to get amazing deals without the threat of customs eating all of my savings.

Moose Rating (6 votes)
July 5

How To Save Money On Sunscreen

Posted by on July 5, 2014 at 8:00 PM

How To Save Money On Sunscreen

We go through a lot of sunscreen every summer in the Robinson household.  I have two little girls, myself and my hubby who all slather ourselves in the stuff before we venture outside.  I have extremely fair skin as I have Scottish ancestry on both sides of my family, so I need to be super protected when I’m in the sun.  I don’t want my kids to be burned the way I was when I was a kid, so we are very careful with applying ample sunscreen on them too.  My aunt has a pool which we visit regularly, and we are especially careful when we are preparing to go to the pool, as it’s so easy to get burned while you’re in the water.  Here is an excellent article from The Skin Cancer Foundation about the importance of sunscreen. Given that we go through about a bottle a week, I have been wondering how to save money on sunscreen. Usually I go into the drug store when we’re out and I pick one that is on sale, and I usually get an SPF 30.  Is SPF 30 enough?  How do I get the best bang for my buck with the sunscreen I purchase?

How much protection do I actually need?

For a nearly albino person like me, I am always attracted to the idea of a higher SPF protection rating: 100 SPF, yes please! The more protection I have the better, right? Maybe not. According to this article on FitSugar, an SPF blocks 99% of UVB rays while a sunblock which has SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays. Depending on the price of the sunscreen you are considering, it might not be worth paying an additional amount of money for an extra 2% of skin protection. This article also talks about the importance of choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against harmful UVA and UVB rays.  I was looking online at different sunscreen brands that have an SPF 100, and for the most part, they are much more expensive than sunscreens that are SPF 30.  It’s a personal choice as to which protection you want, but I will personally stick with either SPF 30 or 50.

Different ingredients do different things

Given that I’d like to keep my kids as natural as possible, I’d like to purchase sunscreen that is effective, affordable and better for their skin.  According to this article from Prevention magazine, I should look for natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead of chemical-based sunscreen ingredients. I also try to stay away from parabens in my skincare products, and they recommend staying away from synthetic perfumes.  The article outlines some recommended healthy sunscreen options, which I really appreciate.  I use Environmental Working Group’s sunscreen guide as a comparison for the products, and I think my best bets are Aveeno Baby Natural Protection SPF 50, and Banana Boat Kids Natural Reflect Sunscreen SPF 50.  They both have an excellent safety rating with the EWG, and they are available in my local drug or grocery store.  I found the Banana Boat sunscreen at Amazon for around $9 per 120 ml bottle.  The Aveeno product is also on Amazon, but is much pricier at nearly $18 for a very small container.

Preventative measures

The best preventative measure we can take is to reduce the time you spend in the sun between the hours of 10am-4pm, when the sun is the strongest.   You may or may not believe it, but certain foods can help prevent sun damage, like garlic, pomegranates and green tea.  I never thought I’d ever go onto Lauren Conrad’s website, but I stumbled upon it when researching this article.  She outlines to top Top 10 foods that fight sun damage.  Most of these foods are regulars in our household, but perhaps I should whip up some fresh lemon, pomegranate and aloe vera juice this weekend.

Purchase it on sale

Once you have determined what type of sunscreen you would like to purchase, keep an eye on the flyers that come out and wait until the sunscreen goes on sale.  According to this MSN article on sunscreen, Consumer Reports say that the best value in sunscreen is Target’s Up +Up Sport SPF 50 sunscreen which costs $1.16 an ounce, and the runner up is Walmart’s Equate Ultra Sport Sunscreen SPF 50 at $0.47 an ounce.  Note that this article is American, although the information is still very relevant to us Canucks.  I looked online, and it appears that in Canada Target’s Up and Up Sport sunscreen costs $0.79 an ounce, and WalMart’s Equate Sport Sunscreen is simiar in price, at about $0.81 an ounce.  In Canada, Target’s product is a better bang for your buck.  I would also check to see whether the sunscreen you want to buy is available at Shoppers Drug Mart.  Check out our very own Eva’s article on SDM’s Rewards program.  If you time your purchases right and combine a sale with a bonus Optimum points event, you can earn enough points for free sunscreen!

I’m really glad I wrote this article, as I had been purchasing sunscreen blindly up until now.  I never would have taken the time to research different sunscreen options, or to evaluate what was best for myself and my family.  Now that I’m getting a little wiser (ahem, older!), I am taking more time to discover the best, most cost-effective options for my family.  I will definitely start purchasing Banana Boat Natural Reflect Sunscreen from my neighbourhood Walmart since is it has such a high consumer rating, it has a good rating from EWG, and it’s cheap!  I’m going to keep an eye on the Walmart flyer each week, and when it goes on sale I will stock up for the rest of the summer.

Bargainmoosers, what tips do you have to save on sunscreen?

(banner image credit: Robert S. Donovan)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
July 4

Save Money & Time: Buy Your Groceries Online

Posted by on July 4, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Save Money & Time: Buy Your Groceries Online

As someone who works fifty hours a week (and sometimes more), I often have trouble making sure I am well stocked up on food for the week.  If it weren’t for the grocery stores close by, I don’t think I would be able to batch cook for the week like I am doing right now to save money on my food budget.  I often try to wait until it is a 20 times the points day at Shoppers Drug Mart before I make purchases like shampoo and conditioner, or even dish soap.  However, even when it is a 20 times the points day at Shoppers, sometimes I don’t have time to go there to shop.

That is why when my friend sent me a referral code to save $40 on my $75 purchase for something called Spud.ca, I was quite excited. Being able to browse from the comfort of your own home and have the food delivered to your door while you are at work is kind of amazing!

Spud

I had heard of Spud for a few years, but never used their services.  I know that they deliver your groceries in a Rubbermaid container and have a set delivery date.  I know that they have locally produced groceries and a lot of organic groceries selection.  Also, they are conscious of the carbon footprint and let you know how far your groceries traveled to get delivered to you.

Spud is available in:

  • Vancouver (lower mainland)
  • Victoria to Nanaimo
  • Edmonton
  • Calgary
  • and even Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles

Unfortunately, Spud is not available in Eastern Canada yet, but perhaps there is something similar to Spud in the east.

I signed up for Spud and bought my $75 worth of groceries and was only charged $45 after taxes because of the promotion.  Unfortunately the promotion is over, but they have an ongoing referral promotion that if you refer your friends to Spud you get a $20 credit for your groceries (and they get $20 off of a $75 purchase).

The process was easy and straight forward, and my groceries came packaged with great care, including some ice packs (that you can re-use or return to Spud!) to keep my yogurt and meat cool, and some dry ice packages to keep things extra cool.  It was a great feeling to come home from work and have my grocery shopping all done for me. I think this feeling is much akin to the feeling you get when you come home and dinner is already made with the slow cooker.

I was very happy with my Spud purchase; the prices (if the items are on sale) are very reasonable.  I don’t know if I would purchase the produce from Spud because I like to make sure I select my own produce.  However, my friends who used Spud were very happy with their produce purchases and say the produce is very fresh. The only downside is that in order to qualify for free grocery delivery, you need to spend $35.

Amazon.ca

For a few months now, Amazon.ca has launched a pilot project of grocery delivery.  Check out the Grocery section of the Amazon.ca store here.  However, the items available on Amazon.ca are non-refridgerated grocery products (that means no milk or yogurt unfortunately).  They even have an organic and natural section.

Personally, I am not a fan of having more boxed products and cardboard being delivered to my home. Because I live in an apartment it would be difficult to have UPS or Canada Post deliver groceries via Amazon.ca to me.  I would have to go to the local postbox holding company and pick up my parcel there.

Might as well go grocery shopping, if you ask me.  However, I can see this working well for people who live in houses where packages can be left on the doorstep.

There are also a bunch of local grocers who can do delivery, but you may have to pay a delivery charge or purchase a minimum amount of groceries.

Bargainmoosers, have you tried online grocery shopping?  What do you think?

(banner image credit: eddie welker)

Moose Rating (3 votes)
June 27

4 Ways To Save Money On Your Next Camping Trip

Posted by on June 27, 2014 at 8:00 PM

4 Ways To Save Money On Your Next Camping Trip

Summer is undoubtedly here, and so is the warm weather.  Summer is my absolute favourite time of the year because it is the best time for camping.

Camping can be relatively cheap, and camping can be expensive, depending on the type of camping that you do.  For example, if you take a trip to Mountain Equipment Co-Op, you will spend a pretty penny there, guaranteed.  The freeze dried meals are convenient because you can just add water, but at $7 to $9 for a package of two, it can really add up.  So if you aren’t too concerned about the weight of  your backpack (if you are going wilderness/ backpack camping instead of car camping) then you will definitely save some money with alternate food options.

Although camping is considered a frugal vacation in comparison to other trips like flying to Mexico or going to Europe, there are still ways to save money when you go camping. Here are four ways that you can save money on your next camping trip:

Buy Used

One of the best ways to save money when you go camping is to buy your gear used.  MSN Money also shares the same sentiment in this article.  The most expensive aspect of camping is often the gear.  The tent, the tarp, the stove, the sleeping bags, and the sleeping pad can all add up.

Search out Craigslist for some great deals, check out garage sales, and go to your local used sporting goods store.  There are some great deals to be had at sporting good stores where people place their items on consignment.  I bought an entire set of camping cooking gear through the local sporting goods consignment store and was very happy with it.

Borrow Gear if You Can

Of course, if you’re just trying out camping and you’re not sure if you should be invested in it (and if you should invest your family’s precious time in it) borrow some of the camping gear from your family or friends.  Most people barely use their camping paraphernalia regularly and are happy to share some of their gear to increase the use.  Just make sure you return it clean and in a timely manner.

Make your Own Ice Pack

A great tip form the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog is to save money by not having to buy the ice bags.  They get messy, water leaks all over the place, and your bacon in the cooler ends up getting soaked because of the ice bags leaking.  Instead, she suggests getting a milk jug, filling it with water to three quarters of the way up, and leave the caps off when freezing it.  This saves you from having to spend $6-$10 (money is still money!) buying ice in a plastic bag.  It also saves you from having to deal with the watery mess of bacon water that you’ll have to get rid from your cooler.  Why not reduce, re-use, and recycle where you can?

Meal Plan

Just like it is helpful to meal plan when you’re not camping and busy living the day-to-day grind, it is helpful to meal plan for your next camping trip.  Think about the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and the snacks that you will need to plan for.  Things usually taste better when you’re camping because everyone is relaxed and just focused on camping and cooking and eating, so don’t worry about bringing expensive steaks for your camping trip (unless of course it’s a gourmet camping trip).

If you’re backpacking camping, save money by bringing meals like bagels and cheese or peanut butter.  These keep well for a few days.  For breakfast, the separately packaged oatmeal is a great idea and easy to make (just add water and some of your favourite trail mix).

In addition, book well ahead of time for the provincial and federal parks.  Most of these allow online bookings nowadays.  If you are going to the United States for camping and decide to go the private campground route, the KOA’s (which I personally call luxury camping because some KOA’s provide you with ready-made breakfast for a fee) offer discounts if you become a member or if you frequent the KOA’s often.

Bargainmoosers, do you have any other ways where you save money while camping?

(banner image credit: Christopher Michel)

Moose Rating (4 votes)
June 25

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

Posted by on June 25, 2014 at 8:00 PM

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

While other people might be planning trips away to faraway locales or their cottages this summer, you just might not have that in the budget. A staycation might be just as fun as going away, but you’ll keep your money in your pocket instead. But, you might wonder what else do on a staycation rather than sit and watch tv or do housework. My suggestion is to turn off all electronics, put the laundry basket down and partake in these seven fun activities for a exciting day of staying home!

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

Have a board game tournament. Get out all of your board games and play every single one! I have about 50 board games, so that would pretty much take up the whole day and lead to lots of fun. This is best for rainy days or when it is just too hot to go outside. Photo Credit: Tristan Martin

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

Spend the day making a fort, then stay in your fort all day. It could be inside or outside, but the basic premise is that you took the time to build it and that you’ll stay in your fort doing fun stuff all day. Have a picnic, do some drawing, play some games. Have a fort day! Buzzfeed has five steps to building an epic blanket fort if you need some inspiration.

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

Bring the spa to you. Get yourself some luxurious products (or make some yourself), close the curtains, put on some wilderness music and relax. Do treatments on each other like facials, mini massages and mani/pedis. Girls Guide To has some great ideas on how to have a spa day at home. You don’t just have to do this with the girls. I fully intend on doing it with my boys and husband and I know they’ll love it!

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

Spend the day making all those recipes you wanted to try, but haven’t had time. Even if you make too much food, freeze it, give it away, or just pig out (hey, you’re on vacation). I’d love to spend a day cooking with the family, as it is one of my favourite pastimes and I want to teach my boys how to cook. Photo credit: Nicole Abalde

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

Have a family masterpiece day where all you do is create art. Put up a sheet or extra large piece of paper in your backyard and let your whole family paint it how they’d like. Or find objects you want to paint. You could also check Pinterest for some great ideas on art projects. Inner Child Fun has some good ideas on splatter painting and How Wee Learn has some amazing ideas for art projects.

6 Ideas For Fun Staycation Days At Home

How about hosting a family sports day? You could schedule the ball hockey tournament at 10, the ultimate frisbee challenge at noon and the ping pong competition at 2. Of course, take a break with some sports-themed snacks too. I got this fantastic idea from Parents.com.

Bargainmoosers, how will you spend your staycation?

Banner photo credit: Jesse Millan

Moose Rating (2 votes)
June 24

Buying Art On A Budget: How To Do It

Posted by on June 24, 2014 at 8:00 PM

Buying Art On A Budget: How To Do It

My husband and I love original artwork.  My sister and brother-in-law are avid art collectors, and we really started to appreciate original artwork through them.  They have moved back and forth between Canada and England a few times, and in the process they have asked us to store some of their art between moves, which meant that we had some beautiful original pieces in our house, which we didn’t have to buy.   Unfortunately we had to give it back, but it was an eye opener for us in terms of what kind of art we like, and how much we value it.  Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t educated in the complexities of art, we simply like what we like.  We have been able to build a small original art collection ever since we came to the realization that it makes us happy.  How have we been able to do it on a budget?

Local art shows/artist studio tours

Every year our city holds something called an artist studio tour.  It occurs each spring, we take the kids, and it is an amazing opportunity to actually meet the artists you are considering purchasing a piece of artwork from.  Because the tour is in their actual homes you can see their studio, how they create their works, and where they live.   There are studio tours across the country, in Quebec, London and PEI.  During the tours the artists will usually have a variety of different sized pieces, and they usually have small prints to purchase, which are generally quite affordable.  The art we bought this year was a beautiful piece we saw on the wall which was already framed, which for us is a huge bonus since framing of art can be expensive and sometimes difficult to find a reputable supplier.  Generally if we have framing that needs to be done we will take items to Costco.

New/young artists

Artists who are still in school or have just graduated are usually struggling to start their careers.  It is very difficult to make a living as a working artist especially when you are just starting out.  Because of this, the prices of pieces from new and younger artists are cheaper than purchasing a piece from an established artist.  Usually the art community in your city will be tight knight, so ask around and get recommendations from family and friends.  Check out university or college art shows as well, you never know what great deals you can find.

Consider different genres of art

Art comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and textures.  This year when we went on our local artist studio tour there was an artist who specialises in woodcut pieces of art, and she had some small prints available to purchase.   Another artist on the tour this year did woodwork, and had the most beautiful wood bowls which he hand crafted. One of his unique bowls cost around $100, where most of the paintings we were looking at started at around $300.  Usually there are lots of options for different budgets, but sometimes you have to be open minded to different options.

Check out local auctions

We bought items from our first auction 2 years ago, and we have been hooked ever since.  We love the online auction called MaxSold.  MaxSold customers are generally older people who need to clear out their contents as they are downsizing or moving into a nursing home.  You can get some absolute steals if you have the time to bid on the auction, and if you have the flexibility to be able to pick up the items on your own.  During our first auction experience we scored a huge deal: two original paintings of Paris which came framed cost us only $65!  We weren’t sure if the frames would match our décor or not, but they match perfectly, and we love them.  We also love the story that goes along with the pictures. I’m always so proud of my frugal finds.

Etsy/online suppliers

Etsy has a ton of different art options you can purchase online.  It has suppliers in decorative glass, watercolours, photography; the sky is the limit.  If you don’t need to see the piece of art you are considering purchasing in person, Etsy could be a great option for you.  Ebay has lots of art you can purchase directly from the artist.  Be sure to check out each seller’s approval rating and check to ensure items can be shipped to Canada.

When we first decided to collect art we started off small, purchasing a print from a local artist. We decided that every year we would budget a certain amount towards purchasing a new original piece, and that we would support local artists as much as possible.  It has become a super fun annual family event that our girls participate in, and it is something that we look forward to.  We don’t usually have a particular genre or colour scheme we’re going for- we become inspired and make a purchase based on how we feel that day.  This is unusual for us, as we generally like to plan our purchases, and do extensive research on what we buy.  My husband and I both have a creative side, and this is one outlet for that creativity.

Bargainmoosers, do you buy original art?  What tips can you share?

Photo credit: Dustin Gaffke

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