Breaking Up with Amazon

When I was younger, my family and I would take road trips to outlet malls around Ontario or across the border in the United States. For a weekend, we’d explore new towns, peek in to tourist traps, drop in on a museum and try some local family restaurants. The one destination that we were never allowed to take off the itinerary was the outlet mall.

For years, I didn’t realize how much this was a firm part of my family culture. There was  great satisfaction in having found a great deal or picked out a new outfit. We didn’t buy a lot and we tried to aim for items that we needed as a family. At the end of the weekend, we proudly shared and told relatives and friends about our newfound purchases. This was and likely is a pretty exciting and normal for Canadian immigrant families, many who may have struggled financially when initially moving to Canada. Overcoming a plethora of barriers and experiencing both financial stability and disposable income gave us a feeling of pride and peace.

But it’s 2018.

More and more are we aware that consumer culture has had a large hand in climate change. As we’ve grown and matured, my family and I have started to explore ideas of minimalism, kicked started by shows like Hoarders and Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. In 2017, I started bartering on Bunz.com and in the fall, my family and I have spent a great deal of time clearing out the basement. On top of that, the biggest challenge has been the clothing shopping ban that I started in January 2018.*

It would be laughable if anyone ever said it was easy. It has been tough for me mentally and emotionally. I’ve considered quitting many times and have had dreams of sneaking purchases without telling anyone. I haven’t yet. What’s prevented me from going berzerk is being able to acquire new pieces off of Bunz.com.
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What this ban has done is forced me to acknowledge patterns of behaviour which I wasn’t cognizant of. Yesterday on Saturday, I went to a local craft show, Stitch ‘n’ Kitch, in Waterloo and I nearly bought myself a simple black t-shirt with the print “Kitchener-Waterloo”. I completely forgot – as shocking as it sounds – that I was even on a shopping ban until I began to reach for my wallet! I’ve done this many times before: trying to acquire a thing that I don’t need.** The high you experience from the thought of owning something novel, while you perform a wondrous set of mental gymnastics to convince yourself, of COURSE I need this new hipster sweater, I don’t have anything in this colour yet.

Since the shopping ban, I’ve begun to shift my time and energy in new ways. On the rare occasion, I crave a mindless walk around the mall but don’t succumb to it anymore. And while I used to label myself as someone who didn’t go shopping frequently, I’ve since acknowledge that that’s just a boldfaced lie that I hung onto; for the better part of my life, my suburban family and I went out just to crawl the mall on the weekends.

Living in the remote north for the past 5 years also helped me acknowledge these patterns of behaviour, because I had no where to go***. However, I ended up shifting my energy towards online shopping, which wasn’t unusual, consider I had to do it out of necessity. I never really made purchases on a whim and could spend months pondering a purchase before even pulling out my credit card***.

And now I’m back in the city and on a clothing shopping ban.

I’ve spent my money this year on better things; things that I wanted to but wasn’t able to because the services weren’t available for me. I have no health benefits or an active health plan, but I’ve paid for a counsellor ($60/hour), masseuse ($80/hour), physiotherapist ($75/session) and a personal trainer ($485/month). What I’ve learned is that no one questions how you’re using your money until you tell them you’re not on a health plan.

What?! You’ve got a personal trainer? Isn’t that expensive? I only have $500 worth of benefits so I can only have two massages a year. I can’t believe you’re paying out of pocket!

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Yet people won’t question you purchasing some shitty ass clothing that’s probably produced by horrible companies such as H&M, which cuts up clothes they can’t sell, and Zara, which steals designs from independent artists.

In a single year, you’d likely absentmindedly spend the same amount on stupid shit that won’t change your life and no one will say anything. Yet trying to invest in my health and wellbeing – taking preventative measures that will ensure a higher quality of life in the future – is something the other people will scrutinize you for.

What does that say about our society?

I can only conclude that we have our values fucking backwards.

I’m continuing to search for better conversations on how we spend our money. While I have found myself going to Amazon, which treats its staff members like crap and encourages its employees to spy on and backstab each other, I decided recently that I

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am looking for alternatives.***** While I’ve been itching for a new bullet journal, I decided I’ll go back to a A5-sized Peter Pauper Press grid-lined notebook. I researched the dimensions, called the local bookstore in Waterloo, Wordsworth Book, and made an order. Since they order directly from Peter Pauper Press, it will take a couple of weeks but the price is the same as what’s listed on Amazon and I won’t be making Jeff Bezos a richer asshole.

Will I slip and buy from Amazon in the future?

Probably.

Will I enjoy the indulgence of buying new clothes once I end my ban?

Duh, of course. I love clothes!!!

When I decided to get a new bullet journal, it took about 2 weeks of me mulling before I acted on it. Of course, it would have been easier for me to make a purchase online, but I know I can do better. We are all human, but part of it is just trying to be a better human.

And that’s what makes all this worth it.

*I have had self-imposed shopping bans for  3 or 4 months in the past.
**There really is no reason why I would need a new black t-shirt to tell me where I currently live.
***Unless my ex-boyfriend, J. and I would drive 7 hours down to Rouyn or Val D’Or, Quebec, just to go to the mall.
****I held off of buying Vibram Five Fingers for nearly a year. I currently own two pairs – one for hiking outdoors and one for the gym.
*****I still make purchases on Audible as I haven’t figured out an alternative yet. 

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End of March Update

It’s been a great few three days in Toronto, but it’s also a huge relief that, as I was cruising up Highway 85 on Saturday afternoon, I am headed back to my home.

Toronto can feel like home in some ways and it always will, but honestly I find it stressful to be there for more than 3 days at a time. Traffic definitely contributes to it! Kitchener-Waterloo is where I live now, year-round and these days, I don’t “go home” for the summer. I finally have a place where I’ve got my own social life and independence as an adult and it’s not in the middle nowhere (sorry, Waskaganish)! My introverted self is very happy to have my own space where I can enjoy my solitude.

Here are a few end of March updates:

Financial literacy: Zipped back to North York on Wednesday night to see Dan Bortolotti, of Canadian Couch Potato fame, speak at the Fairview Library. It was pretty cool and I’m glad I was able to catch the talk as I missed it last year while living in the far north. I need to go over some of his podcasts and look at my portfolio again. Thinking of shutting down Questrade as I want to consolidate what I’ve got to just two brokerages or roboadvisors. Speaking of money …

Transferring my pension to Ontario: Trying to transfer my Quebec pension over to Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. Argh, I got a rejection as my last school board has still not filed that I resigned. Super annoying. Will have to reapply in July.

Bartering and clothing ban: Still going strong 3 months into my clothing ban. I’m actually doing quite well as I’m managing to get new pieces every few weeks or so. Yes, it’s bit more effort to set up the trades, coordinate and run around for them, but I feel much better knowing that my carbon footprint is smaller. It’s also cool to meet other Torontonians that I might not normally cross paths with!

On Friday, I picked up an Old Navy plaid shirt that I’m head over heels with. My only complaint is that shoes are harder to find, but I’ve got a pair of boots waiting for me next month. I’ve made about half a dozen trades in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, but still mainly bartering, mainly in Toronto. Got myself a beautiful metal teapot and a lidded bucket to handwash some laundry (now I can stop using my salad bowl to wash my bras). Picked up a pair of Sailor Moon leggings for a friend.

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Shopping:
Bartering has become the equivalent of shopping. I don’t buy much these days but I love locally-produced sticker art. They’re affordable for a few dollars and this is a great way to support local artists. I picked up two stickers from Cry Wolf Clothing on Ossington, between Dundas and Queen West. One is a racoon, a.k.a, “trash panda”, sitting in a garbage can that says “City of Toronto”; I adhered it to my very banged-up Macbook Air. The second is “Turonno” in Blue Jays font, which I happily stuck to my bullet journal. You can take the girl out of Toronto, but you can’t take the Toronto out of the girl!

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Practice teaching: Still need to practice teaching a full yoga class. Hard for people to commit the time … sigh. Mainly been doing short lessons on hips, glutes and quads with friends and family. Last night, I even did a Skype session with my friend. It was a little awkward but hey, I wanna pass on what I can as I care about my friends’ health!

Not needing my therapist: If you followed me on Instagram earlier in the fall, you’ll know that I took on a counsellor/therapist. I was seeing her about once a month and we had a lot to discuss and sort out, especially how I approach my relationships. At this time, I’ve decided not to return to her. Our last session was good, but it made me realize how much more mentally strong I am since October. I don’t really have many stressors these days. I haven’t “broken up” with her or anything, but I haven’t booked any future appointments.

Family time: I made sure to spend some time with each of my family members. On Friday, my mom had lunch together. We do this about once a month. Took her to Golden Turtle off Ossington. I enjoyed some vegan bánh xèo, which is a Vietnamese crepe served as an appetizer. Looks like egg, but it’s not!

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December Goals

Really didn’t focus too much on goals in December, and only really worked on a few. I ended up migrating some of the others to January instead:

Health and Fitness

  • Go rockclimbing 3 times (5/5): Twice in Kitchener and once with friends in Toronto. On all occasions, I just bouldered.
Finance and Auto
  • Use the parking brake (2/5): I tried as much as I could to always have the parking brake on but I didn’t always remember …
Other
  • Find a good lipstick colour (5/5): Over the past two years, I’d been working on building a basic make-up set. Originally thinking of buying a Pacifica brand, but my wonderful sister actually ended up gifting me a large box set from Tarte* for Christmas/Winter Solstice. There are 8 sticks in total, but I threw one out as it had mould on it. I didn’t want to return it, get a new box and make unnecessary waste. I’m okay with having 7; it’s probably more than I can use anyway!

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*Has beeswax, not vegan but I was okay with this. I buy a lot of Tarte products

A Resolution for 2018: No More Clothing Purchases

I’ve been thinking about minimalism. I’ve been thinking about my carbon footprint. I’ve slowed down on bartering on Bunz, but am still making about 3 to 5 trades a month – mainly in Toronto – as there isn’t much of a community in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Mainly, I’ve been thinking about the clothing industry. I still need to watch the documentary True Cost, but am already aware that this industry remains the second dirtiest economy, after the oil industry,, on a global scale. It also has a lot of human rights violations and donating used clothing to charities that sell them overseas is actually hurting African nations. It really doesn’t do much more than make us feel some warm fuzzies.

As I reflect on my current wardrobe, I’m pretty well stocked. I have all the work clothes I need. As a substitute teacher, I can get away with similar outfits as I’m often at different schools each day (and really, do kids care?). I spent the summer throwing away pants and leggings that no longer fit my 34-year-old waistline and purchased replacements that are fairly comfortable and not restrictive. I have pretty much what I need right now* and now I’m aware that I’m privileged living this way.

In terms of winter gear, some of my pieces are new (i.e. my snowpants and heavy-duty gloves are less than a year old) and I have older items that act as backup when I need to toss the usual into the washing machine. I’ve got a plethora of functional footwear** and replaced a lot of my undies recently. The last thing I bought was a pair of rain pants ($100 CAD) at Mountain Equipment Co-op; the last pair I owned were well over 10 years old and I ended up giving them to a student in the rural north.

So here’s the question: Can I get away without buying anything in 2018?

Of course I can!

This isn’t a new idea. Lots of bloggers have written about going a year or more without buying clothing (such as The Frugalwoods, as well as Eden Ashley). If you’d asked me the same question a few years ago, I would have flinched and recoiled. But as I already buy very few clothes, this doesn’t feel like an insurmountable challenge for me. And what’s even better, is that I can look for items on Bunz if I want to feel as if I’ve got something new. In fact, I got this American Eagle sweater this morning and it feels great!

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It’s still hit and miss when I barter. I’ve gotten a few items that didn’t work out for me, but I’ve gotten some really great stuff, like the Lululemon hoodie I picked up in November. Last week, I picked up a pink work top … I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t even had the chance to wear yet! But what is important is I can switch up my wardrobe with secondhand clothing without leaving a significant carbon footprint.

So I’ve decided to make zero clothing purchases in 2018! That also includes no gifts of new clothing from family and friends (used items or second-hand are fine). I won’t be buying any more jewelry, nor accessories, like purses or belts.

Still feel like you can’t live without a big and varied wardrobe?

Check out Jennifer L. Scott’s TED Talk, which is the reason I reworked my wardrobe over the summer. This is such a great video that I had shared with a lot of friends.

What are your clothing shopping habits like? Do you use it as an emotional outlet? Do you have a big or small wardrobe? Are you a fashionista?

*The only thing I might need to acquire are leggings without logos if I start teaching in a yoga studio, but I’ll deal with that once I cross that bridge
**Two pairs of ice skates, a few casual shoes, enough work shoes, three pairs of summer heels, two pairs of Vibram FiveFingers, two pairs of hiking shoes, three pairs of winter boots, two pairs of galoshes … I’m embarrassed to say that this is “trimmed down”.

 

Wintery Updates

Just some financial updates:

Sirius XM: Canceled my annual subscription (~$250), since I moved back south.

TSFAs: As I’m not working every single day, and I still have a habit of eating out, cash flow is a bit tighter. For the second time in my life, I withdrew about one year’s worth of contributions from my TSFAs. I don’t feel particularly guilting for eating out with friends or on my own. If anything, I’m just focused on being good to myself and enjoying my life. I’ve lived for 4 years without being able to do this much.

RSPs: I cancelled my ASP transfers ($333/month) to Wealthsimple for the reasons stated above. Going to reassess what my finances look like this coming January. For now, I am depleting my TSFAs and not making that much, so putting RSP contributions on hold for a little bit.

Auto: Recently had to make a CAA service call, when my battery wouldn’t start on a cold morning. The battery itself is only 3 years old – on average, it should last 5 – but I believe living in the north, where it can be -30 C for many days at a time, wore it down a lot more quickly. I did get a DriveClean test today, since my vehicle is now just over 7 years old, and will be renewing my license stickers ($240).

Books: Just finished Roxane Gay’s memoir, Hunger, as I was inspired to read it after seeing her TED Talkafter seeing her TED Talk. This is definitely one of the best memoirs I have read (it’s not necessarily my favourite genre). Highly recommended. She really is a good writing and choosing words is quite the craft.

Desire Mapping: I’m still working on this Cody plan, that was put together by Danielle LaPorte. I put it down for about a month and am at the halfway mark right now, module 5. If you’re a Cody App member, you’ll know that everything is switching over to subscription ($20 USD/month*), since Alo Yoga bought out the company. You won’t be able to buy individual plans after December 2017.

Happy winter solstice!

*I’m paying a special rate of $10 USD/month as a long-time member. It’s been, what, 3 years?

Winter Car Issues

Yesterday, my car wouldn’t start.

This sucked, considering I had stacked 5 full substitution jobs into my schedule this week, I had to call the school and make the cancellation at 7:30 am in the morning. Then I called CAA*.

Since I wasn’t on the road and just sitting at home, the wait was quite long. After 20 minutes, I hung up and went to do something else. Eventually I downloaded the CAA app. The initial wait time that was suggested was one hour, but as they can track your location and the type of job that you need (i.e. battery boost), they can prioritize you more efficiently. The wait time quickly dropped down to 20 minutes! Therefore, if you’re waiting for CAA, you should use the app! Don’t wait on the phone because there’s no way you can tell them what is happening. The app will get you help much more quickly.

The battery on the Honda CR-V is about 3 years old right now, but since it was used to having a block heater in Waskaganish, suddenly not having it plugged in this winter may be the reason it’s been struggling.

I ended up going to Canadian Tire after work and picking up NOCO’s Genius Boost Jump Starter ($125/USD or $155/CAD). This specific model is called the GB40 and delivers 1000 amps. NOCO products – a variety of them – have been popping up all over the shelves, since the technology for the battery jump starters have come a loooooong way. The old ones, which my ex had bought up north, were the size and weight of a large watermelon. You had to carry it with two arms and charge them every 3 months. If you forgot, too bad … now you have a paperweight!

The NOCO only needs to be charged, at minimum, once a year. The entire unit is about 2.5 pounds, fits into your purse or glove compartment. The jumper cables are beautiful quality and the whole package comes with a bag to hold it all. The unit even has an extremely strong double-headed flashlight on one side and can signal SOS.

Still don’t think it’s all that useful? You can even use it to charge your iPad or phone!

Overall, I’m really happy I picked this up. I’ll likely have to go in and get a battery check on the car** or perhaps a cable so that I can use the block heater in during cold mornings. And while I’m not much for Christmas presents these days, this would be a good one if you’ve got a friend or family member who’s on the road a lot.

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*I have the Plus membership, which is approximately $141 a year.
**Canadian Tire does battery checks for free if you bring it into the store. If it’s the garage, they’ll charge.

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:

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.