My Pusheen Box … Finally!

I loooove Pusheen the cat.

I use the Pusheen stickers on social media, bought the book by Claire Benton and last year, ordered a single Pusheen box ($42 USD + shipping*), as a treat for myself. I sent the order to my friend’s house in Albany, New York, hoping to receive it while I was visiting. However, the shipping went out later than originally scheduled and I returned to Toronto without the box.

Eventually, M.’s parents visited Albany and kindly hauled it back to Richmond Hill**. Since I was working in northern Quebec, I wasn’t able to pick it up. At Christmas, I ended up spending most of my time in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. At Goose (Hunting) Break***, I was trying to sort out my paperwork for the Waterloo Regional District School Board, research the Yoga Teacher Training Program and take care of my Gramma because of a fiery fridge incident.

Last night, I finally picked up my box! I was sooooo happy to see all my new toys and am really excited that I waited a year for it, since most of the stash was summer gear. In total, I received:

  • Sunglasses
  • Blow-up beach ball
  • Cup with straw
  • Beach towel
  • Iron-on patch
  • Ice cube tray
  • Flip flops
  • Duffle bag

I have to say that I likely won’t use everything. I’ve decided to give a pair of sunglasses to my best friend, B. and possibly post a few items on Bunz to trade. However, you can’t take this uber cute cup away from me!!!

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*The shipping and the US-CAD conversion combined probably meant that I paid about $65 CAD overall.
**A city north of Toronto.
***The equivalent of March Break at the native school board I was teaching at.

Using Work Travel for Rewards

Made my last travel claim with my school board. I will miss getting the money back!

Our school board always gave us the option of having the Finance department make hotel reservations for us, but I liked booking with Hotels.com and Ebates.ca at the same time for the small bonuses and working towards collecting free rewards. I mean, I am a math teacher so I like calculating these things.

Honestly, it’s not much and probably I spend way more time than it’s worth for the amount I get back – I’m not going to be delusional about this – but it’s sort of fun too.

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Also ordered some contact lens off Clearly.ca this morning. With the 8% cashback, I’ll add another $6.77 to this. Yay!

Do you collect points for rewards or use cashback programs?

*My late father would also sit around crunching points for Air Miles. I probably get it from him.

Mindset Around Grocery Shopping

Since living in the north for the past 5.5 years, I stopped paying attention to prices at the supermarket. I never spent a great deal of money, and already having a restrictive diet as a vegetarian, I wanted to make sure I purchased what I wanted and needed.

Running the credit card at the checkout without thinking about the total was pretty normal. Mind you, I did consider prices as I picked up items but I knew that if I wanted to make tacos for dinner, I was going to have to pay for peppers regardless of the price.

Yesterday, I grabbed a bunch of salad items and some veggie burgers for lunch at home. This $26 bill up north would probably be something like $40 or $45 up north. Occasionally, we’d buy online through IGA – it was delivered 7 hours away from Amos, Quebec – but even then, we rarely thought too much about the price.

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As I will be living in the city again this coming school year, I am going to be more aware of food prices and try to shop for better deals. It’s a habit I need to develop again. I downloaded Flipp to explore – an app that shows savings of major retailers – and try to make mental notes of items I purchase frequently*.

*Avocados, tomatoes and apples are staples of mine

Indian dish of the Day: Rajma

Back in January, I bought the Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen cookbook. I’ve made spiced roasted tofu and vegetables (p. 48)*, Dad’s favorite cauliflower potatoes (p.60) and easy curried green beans (p. 84). Tonight, I tried making rajma for the first time, otherwise known as kidney bean curry (p. 124).

Unfortunately, I was missing amchoor, dried fenugreek leaves and carom seeds. Several websites I found suggested that carom seeds can actually be substituted with thyme instead!

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I used canned kidney beans and canned tomatoes, since I didn’t have time to soak beans and fresh tomatoes in the north are very expensive. The preparation was fairly straight forward and the final product was still tasty; J. was a bit fan and had a hearty serving. This was a success – simple and nutritious. I could easily make a big batch of this for my workweek.

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I’ll have to retry this recipe with all the ingredients, just to see the difference.

*I made this recipe with cow’s milk yogurt as I didn’t have vegan options

 

iOS Apps: Monument Valley 2

Two years ago, I purchased Monument Valley, a beautifully designed puzzle game for the iPad. ustwo Games Ltd finally realized Monument Valley 2 ($5 USD/$7 CAD). I haven’t bought any iOS games in over 6 months – this was intentional – and had to reset my password so I could get it.

Just finished chapter 5 today and I am enjoying it as much as the first one. Here’s the screenshot:

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Highly recommended, if you’re looking for a light puzzle game.

 

Using Pivot Tables to Analyze Expenses

Back in February, I bought Caitlin Flander’s Mindful Budgeting planner. I hadn’t done any analysis or looked at how much I was spending yet.  I spent the first 3 months, simply collecting data, but decided to use my long weekend to do some analysis as Q1 comes to a close. This afternoon, I punch all the data points into an Excel spreadsheet and tried my hand at pivot tables and charts.

I actually have no experience with pivot charts or pivot tables, so I worked my way through a tutorial by Excel Campus off of YouTube. I found it fairly straightforward and produced two bar graphs.

Graph 1 – Personal Expenses by Category: This chart summarizes my total spending, including shared expenses for both J. and I. The Daily category includes mainly day-to-day expenses, but is comprised mainly of groceries. The Fun category includes shopping, alcohol and eating out. Transportation covers car expenses, including my financing and car insurance, but also travel. Unfortunately, I did not split the shared expenses, so the total value is slightly inflated. Here are a few observations:

  • Transport was high in Feburary as I paid for some tune-ups at the Honda service centre ($709), as well as a plane ticket to go to the job interview ($1077).
  • Health expenses are mainly Cody app plans that I purchase. There is a negative value from a refund that I received.
  • The professional category was higher in February because I had to pay my annual membership to the Ontario College of Teachers ($130) and I bought a lot of food from my own pocket to cover a few classroom parties.

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Graph 2 – Shared Expenses by Subcategory: The data source is actually the same as the first graph, but the information is filtered to show only the expenses that I share with my boyfriend. Unfortunately, there are still some discrepancies from the numbers we calculated on Sunday, specifically under groceries, but ultimately, it`s not about the details, it`s seeing the trends that is most important. Some more observations about this data:

  • We had a party in March and went out a few times, therefore spending more. We also wandered in and out of the grocery store out of boredom after work.
  • We don`t eat out very often, but I know there is at least one meal out that I forgot to mark down because J. paid in cash … I shall be more diligent next time.
  • J. pushed me to walk more to work, so we use a lot less gas now. Mind you, we only use one tank of gas in a month. It`s about $65 for a full tank up north, and you only have one gas station to go to, so you can`t be fussy about prices!

 

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All in all, this was a fun exercise. I still don’t really care to create a budget, but like observing my data. The only area that really might need to be reeled in a bit are groceries, but we cut back in the other areas that I feel like we need a bit of give there.

Anyway, I’m happy to have done this. It’ll be interesting to see how my spending will change when I go south in a couple of months!

Lotion Before Bed

I don’t have many regular rituals before bed, but on occasion, I put lotion on my legs after my shower. My favourite brand for the past couple of years has been Parkdale Butter, which is based out of Toronto. Frankly, I don’t care that their ingredients are mainly organic, but I like that there are really only 3-4 ingredients and the product is quite pure.

My cousin, A., first bought it for me a few years ago as a thank you gift when I showed her around Toronto. She picked it up at Evergreen Brick Works, which, as we all know, sells incredibly expensive artsy-fartsy hipster stuff.

But dammit, I really like this cocoa shea butter lotion! When I finished using the first jar, I waited until there was a sale on Well.ca and then picked up a new jar for $20. Sighhhh. I wish I didn’t like things that were pricey.

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Linking Yarn Together

I had started an infinity scarf with a double-crochet back in December, but had only purchased one ball of yarn. When I went for my interview last week, I made it a point to pick up a second ball at Walmart* last Saturday. Too bad each ball is $8! That means one scarf alone costs me $16 + tax, not even calculating the time to do it**.

Since I am fairly new to crocheting, I had no idea how to connect that new ball of yarn to my old one! Thank goodness it’s 2017; just go onto YouTube and you can find any information without awkwardly phoning a friend*** at odd hours of the day.

Eventually, I found a copy of tutorials that were consistently using this technique:

 

Friday after work, I gave it a go. It didn’t take the first time but it worked the second time! Woohoo! More crocheting this weekend.

*A place I have vowed not to shop at for many years, but having limited options when I drive up north, occasionally make purchases there.

**Ahhh, but it still gives me satisfaction and of course, the additional bonus of warding off mental decay …

***Old-school Google

Taking Steps Towards Budgeting

On Wednesday night, feeling restless and unable to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, I sat on the couch with my laptop and stumbled across Cait Flander’s Mindful Budgeting Planner ($40).

I recently heard about Cait through one of Jessica Moorhouse’s podcast and was also impressed with Cait’s articles, namely one on the privilege of financial advice; I’ve since admired her and have been following her on Twitter.

Even my personal definition of what minimalism means to me is a privilege. Being able to decide what adds value to your life and letting go of what doesn’t – how fortunate am I to be in the position to apply that to any area of my life!? If my diet is making me feel bad, I can walk into a grocery store and buy better food. If the work I do is leaving me unfulfilled, I can find other work. If I need/want to learn a new skill, I can take a class. The list goes on and on.

Since then, her blog has intrigued me.

And seeing her planner, I suddenly wanted it. At the moment, it felt a bit like a sleep-deprived impulse buy, but given the impeding changes coming up in 5 months, moving back south, I’m going to have to start budgeting … soon.

I’ve never really budgeted and hated doing so. I really just spend as much as I feel is necessary, occasionally buying a treat for myself (i.e. leggings, bath bombs). Even when I travel, I don’t budget.

Anyway, I ended up ordering the planner, which is printed on demand and then shipped in Canada. With the shipping charges, it was a bit steep at $58. I balked when I saw the price and nearly changed my mind, but the biggest draw for me is to have an online Facebook community where I can share thoughts and tips as I being using the planner.

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Other the past month, I’ve really been enjoying participating in Jessica Moorhouse’s Facebook group, Money. Life. Balance. and also got included in a recent group chat with some old high school friends on investing (I got roped in due to the posts I’ve been sharing on social media). It’s the social support that I need the most. I also occasionally bounce ideas with family and friends, but love the diversity of information that comes to me when I can connect with people of different backgrounds, situations and privileges.

Really looking forward to the planner. It should, hopefully, arrive here by next Friday. Fingers crossed!
 

New Annual Goal: Media Expenses

Two things I really like to spend money on are Cody App fitness plans and books. I know that while I don’t go crazy, I will have to cut back if I move down south.

For this year’s set of annual goals, I thought I would try to track how much I spend on these two things. I thought I would put a personal budget of $750 and added this to the financial trackers on the side of my page.

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I didn’t plan on spending money right away, but on the weekend, I did a bit of shopping on Indigo and bought these books:

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I’m hoping that my friend will give me her old Kobo and that I can figure out a cheaper way to access books (without stealing them from authors, still paying them so that they make money). I might also have to cut back on buying audiobooks, as I have a stash right now that I need to work at.

If you have any tips on how to purchase, please let me know!