YouTube Series: Vantage Credit Union

Was looking for information for a former student, who recently graduated. She is considering buying a brand new car.

In my humble opinion, especially for someone who does not have a high-paying full time job with lots of security is not to buy brand new. I was digging for information to comparing leasing versus financing and came across this super cute YouTube series from Vantage Credit Union. They are based out of Missouri, USA, but I found the explanations very captivating, succinct and informative. Check them out and pass it on if you know anyone looking for personal finance information:

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Bedtime Care Package

Sometimes, I’m bad at putting myself to bed. Like a lot of people who take their cellphones to bed, I get distracted on social media or scrolling through a news feed. In order to break the bad habit, recently, I started putting together a “bedtime care package”.

This is similar to my teacher self-care package, which I used to stash in my drawers. After a long stressful day, I would close the door after the last bell and pull out a small box. I’d take a bit of time to put on hand lotion or use aromatherapy oil to destress. Occasionally, I’d pull out a piece of candy or chocolate.

Here’s what my bedtime care package consists of. The purpose is just to focus on getting ready for bed:

  1. Eyemask – Pretty self-explanatory. It often comes off in the middle of the night and I have to fumble for it in the morning.
  2. Wooden hair brush – One of my favourite brushes. I received it as a present when I lived in South Korea.
  3. e.l.f. lip exfoliator* – My lips can get pretty dry, so this is nice to have. It has a bit of oil to moisturize and a nice, light scent that is fairly neutral. The best part? This is only $5 on Well.ca! Plus it’s vegan.
  4. Clinique eye cream – A few years ago, I tried a variety of random eye creams and had a lovely time with skin rashes. Thus, I defaulted to Clinique, because it is hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, it’s also not vegan, so I may have to go back and look for a new brand. I like Dr. Gross products, but it’s so ridiculously expensive.
  5. Vanilla incense – Occasionally like to use incense. It sets the tone to relax and wind down. I got this off of a Bunz trade last month.
  6. Cocoa shea butter – My cousin A. gave me a jar of The Parkdale Butter Co. as a present a few years ago. I was hooked on this Toronto-based brand and bought a second jar. I used this on my calves. There are minimal ingredients, maybe just 2 or 3.
  7. Paperback copy of Meditations from the Mat – S. gave me this book a few years ago. I didn’t think much of it at first but it has been good bedtime reading. Rolf Gates brings to life the yamas and niyamas through his personal stories and reflections of his yoga practice. Very easy to read, but has depth if you’re feeling contemplative. It’s not a bad substitute for a Bible if you’re an atheist yogi seeking spiritualism.
  8. Bag of lavender – Grown by my mother and dried. She stitched a small bag for me. Lavender has been known to help relax the body. I crush the bag and take a few whiffs of it just before bed.
  9. Pacific hand cream – I don’t use this much except during the wintertime when my skin is fairly dry.
  10. Basket – A cute cloth basket I got for $2.50 at Dollarama.

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*Vegan products

New Tiffin from Ten Thousand Villages

I have been wishing for a tiffin for years!!

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought a metal tiffin ($30) at Ten Thousand Villages*. Iit was treat to myself. If I’m going to get into a habit of not buying lunches – this was initially happening in September, oops – then I want to feel excited about eating my lunch too!!

Yes, my family and I are still purging a lot of household goods through bartering on a site called, Bunz, but when I do purchase something now, I think a lot harder about it first.

You’ve no idea how patient I can be! Having lived in the north means that I often wait for many, many months before I buy something. So this tiffin was no different and was not an impulse buy; I’d actually first saw it back in July and waited until I had moved to Waterloo, unpacked, reassessed what was in my possessions and started working before I picked it up. I love it!!!

The only downside is that I can’t microwave it of course, but now, I just dump the food on a plate if I do need to heat anything up. All the school staff rooms have microwaves. Plus it’s also super easy to clean and I only deal with one lid!

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*This shop focuses on selling fair-trade items at sustainable and fair wages.

More Bunz-ing!

Since August, I’ve been obsessed with bartering on Bunz.com!

It’s been super fun, taking stuff that is completely useless to me and turning it into something else I want. Unlike selling items on Kijiji, it also gives me some satisfaction of leaving a smaller carbon footprint; you’re allowing someone to use the item and you also get something that doesn’t require new production of it.

Since I’ve moved to Waterloo, I can’t barter as much. I still set up trades for my upcoming weekends in Toronto. On Sunday, I picked up these items over an hour and a half:

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In case you’re curious as to how Bunz works, I’ll describe these three trades and the reasoning behind the negotiations, as well as why I choose these items:

  1. Fireproof safe – We had a late night fire scare a few months ago, when the compressor on the fridge heated up and we ended up calling the fire department at 3 a.m. The plastic casing had melted and while the potential for a fire was there, thankfully, we discovered it soon enough. Since then, I’d been planning on buying a fireproof safe, since the local bank does not have safety deposit boxes available. I was happy when I saw this posted a few days ago. I paid $10 for this, since I didn’t have anything in the other person’s ISO*. Normally, it would cost $36 at Home Depot.
  2. iPad case and one senior/student TTC ticket – Literally a few hours after I posted a picture of a beautiful hardcover Aesop’s Fables storybook, someone inquired about it. I got the iPad case – a lighter option if I’m carrying a briefcase to work – and the ticket was an additional freebie, which I passed it onto my grandmother.
  3. Graphic novel, Invincible – Volume 1: Family Matters: While getting rid of more books, I had multiple people ask me about an old hardcover Where’s Waldo book. In the end, I settled and negotiated for this graphic novel, even though I knew nothing of it. I read it cover to cover in the afternoon and loved it! The other person, who was a Grade 3 teacher, looking for ESL resources, was pretty happy with this trade. We agreed to stay connected, since we both work in the same profession and have similar interests.

I was happy with all of these trades. I have to say I am better at choosing items I want and need. I actually even made a list of everything that I’ve ever acquired from Bunz:

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All the highlighted items are ones that I have gifted to family and friends. Crossed out items were re-Bunzed or tossed out**; underlined items are ones that I’ve used currently or frequently. As you can see, there are still a handful of items I have not actively used yet. This feedback also gives me an idea that I need to be more careful about acquiring items. Of course, they may also be items that I can’t use yet due to other restrictions (i.e. I currently do not have access to squash courts).

The rest of my family have also been involved in The Great Purge too, which has become a shared activity the past few weeks. Lately, we’ve been dredging up boxes from the basement and going through everything bit by bit. It’s been fun to sit around and reminisce over old junk, but it’s also cathartic to know that you don’t need it anymore and are willing to toss it.

My mom has been going through a minimalism phase (while my sister and I just rotate through stuff, we are, by no means, minimalists). I know I can definitely toss more stuff out.

Have you done any bartering? Have you ever used Bunz in Canada?

*This is a list of items that someone “is [in] search of”
**The Tarte eyelash primer, I discovered, was not vegan.

Goodbye Party at D-Beatstro

Threw a little get-together on Wednesday, just before the move yesterday. Had a few friends come out to D-Beatstro, which is a vegan cafe / restaurant and community centre by Lansdowne Subway Station. It is wheelchair-accessible and queer-friendly, and formerly the space for Bike Pirates. Read about the BlogTO review here.

OMG! I love this place! I wish I had know about it before. Enjoyed a cheez and cauliflower soup with a buffalo-tofu wrap. The iced Americano was spot on too. Altogether 7 people showed up, and a few others weren’t able to make it. It’s nice to be see friends, even if it’s only once a year, and despite the distance and time apart, I feel honoured that they would come out to see me.

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Just had a wonderful time and even got two stickers ($3/each) from the shelf at the back. They sell t-shirts, zines, stickers and buttons. This was my favourite one, so I stuck it onto my bullet journal!

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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.