Reality Check


This blog has always been about living within my means. While I chat about frugal tricks I employ and have dug myself out of my consumer debt, I also speak about luxury items such as re-decorating my home or going on holiday.

I am very fortunate and though I have worked hard it would be a mistake to not recognize that some of my experience is due to luck or that word that sometimes rubs people the wrong way…privilege.

Image result for images: privilege

Some people get quite worked up about privilege, insisting that they check all the boxes but are no better off than so and so. While I can’t speak for others I can tell you that I have won a lot in the privilege lottery.

I recently was involved in a United Way meeting in which they had us ‘play’ Make the Month. It was a stark reminder that while I waffle over whether I spent too much on cosmetics or vacation others are battling with if they can make rent or afford utilities & food for the month.

I did it a few times and sometimes I had money and made it to the end of the month but more often than not I didn’t. it’s realistic in the sense that there are hidden costs to choices so though you think you’re making a good choice sometimes you lose additional  money because your work sends you home or you need to purchase parking, etc.

It also served as a reminder that I really need to keep my savings accounts up so that I don’t fall into the norm of living paycheque to paycheque and will be able to keep my head above water if anything horrible happens.

The benefit of being me is that I have:

  • a full-time job with benefits
  • The time and health to explore good deals
  • The ability to do a lot of my own work so that I’m not paying others to cover basic needs
  • A supportive partner
  • Network of family and friends who provide emotional support

It’s important for me to have these wake up calls and recognize that my stress about going over budget while appropriate and something I should work on being good at it is a result of my own privilege. I often go over budget because I’ve indulged over the course of the month.

I’m not going to try to rectify this in August as I’m hosting 2 friends and will be touring with them but will make it the focus of the latter part of my year. What I will do in August is not be stressed about my finances, I won’t complain about the budget and I will recognize that I am choosing to indulge in this final month of summer.


Image from here


The Cost of Decorating

One of my over-arching goals has always been to make improve my home for us. One of my greatest fears was living a certain way and then transforming my home into a gorgeous thing to sell it.

In fact, I went so far to make 2017: Year of the House. We hadn’t done a lot of work on it until June and then suddenly everything seemed to come together. Honestly, we needed a kick in the pants which came in the form of two friends coming to stay with us in August.

I decided that their arrival would coincide with our new and improved home. So of course we made a list! We went through each room of our home and noticed things that needed to be fixed or cleaned.

Once we had a list I put dollar signs beside anything that we needed to purchase. The purchase list wasn’t bad:

  • Paint*
  • Painters tape
  • paint brushes
  • Everything to re-stain coffee set: varnish remover, tools to remove varnish, wood stain
  • Tablecloth for dining room
  • Lighting for foyer
  • Mirror for bedroom
  • Bathroom fan (still to be purchased)

I ended up adding the duvet and curtain later, which meant that we spent a little over $350 giving our home huge face-lift. I also had a gift card to a hardware store that allowed me to spend closer to $300.

I anticipate spending another $100 or so as we need to purchase the fan for the bathroom, pay an electrician to hang the lights, and purchase some cleaning supplies. I’m always a bit terrified when we begin home improvement projects as I feel that they can just keep going as you discover new things you want to do.

I’m thrilled that I’m only taking ~ $400 out of the home improvement budget and that it’s made such a huge difference. With a little luck this means that I won’t wait to do things and instead tackle them head on instead of making it a mad dash of repairs.

Do you have frugal tips to spruce up your home?

* The paint ended up being 7 different colours that we used. I discovered sample sizes which kept the cost down.


The Décor Snowball

Last time, I confessed how my spending can snowball and suddenly I’m diving back into the mess I just dragged myself out of. Well maybe no that bad.

Today is another snowball; some artistic licence has been used to tell this story but the order of events is very accurate!

It all started with painting the baseboards.

“First, we must do the stair railing,” I said.

With a shrug ML agreed.

“Not white, though,” I Continued,

“You’ll never know I worked at it!”


Together we looked at the chips and found the perfect colour:

A soft green that goes so beautifully with that painting in the hall.


“I like it!” ML announced while I hemmed and hawed.

“Too light? It looks off white.” I declared

“Let’s do the baseboards a slightly different colour.”

With a shrug ML agreed.


Together we looked at the chips and found the perfect colour:

A mint green that highlights the railing and flows beautifully.


“I like it!” ML stated.

“Me too! But those doors are looking sad.”

I stared balefully at the offending off white.

With a shrug ML agreed.


Together we looked at the chips and found the perfect colour:

A deep teal that will make it feel tropical.

“I like it!” ML professed.

“Too dark for all the doors though,

Can we paint them all a different colour?”

With a shrug ML agreed.


Together we looked at the chips and chose all the colours:

Cousins of the teal that make me feel like I’m surfing a wave.


“I like it!” ML announced.

“Me too! But the bedroom doesn’t live up

To the promise of the door. Should we add?

With a shrug ML agreed.


I went to lunch today,

$120 I spent on lunch:

1 duvet cover, 1  mirror, 1 curtain.

“I think I should stop.”

“Definitly!” ML agreed


All because the baseboards needed some love.


Hitting a Slump

I haven’t been posting a lot because I’ve spent the last couple of months hiding from my budget.

My frugal re-set over the course of the last few years has worked in the sense that I always seem to have a bit after my paycheque even if I exceed my budget. However, I have been spending on things and then not wanting to hold myself accountable.

Here’s an example: I would like more summer dresses. The season is so short and I’d like to really enjoy it when I can.

Step 1: Pull out all my clothes and assess the number of outfits I have. It turns out I have a lot of casual, weekend dresses  but only a few work appropriate dresses

Step 2: Figure out a realistic number of dresses that would help me fill the gap. To wear 2 dresses/ skirts per week I would need 5 more dresses.

Step 3: Set a budget. I thought $75 would be good as one good work dress at a big box store at the mall ranges from $70 – $120.

Step 4: Hit the thrift store.

This all sounds great, right? If the cycle ended here it would be alright.

Step 5: Find lots of dresses and have a bill that goes up to $99.36. That $0.36 counts as my goal then became spending less than $100.

Step 6: Avoid looking at my budget as $75 was already tight in the budget but the extra $24.36 is making it worse.

Step 7: Since I haven’t looked at my budget, completely forget that I had already spent my entire fashion and miscellaneous lines so I spend a little extra at the grocery on some seasonal items.

Step 8: Find the Thrift Store bill and resolve to not look at my budget but also not to spend another cent.

Step 9: Forget the resolution and buy Bunny the jumbo version of her pet food and throw in the jumbo version of birdseed for the outdoor families of birds, chipmunks and squirrels that raid the feeders.

I’ve only done half my budget so I’m not actually sure where I’m sitting right now. That’s a job for tonight.

My only resolution at this point is to re-instate my weekly budget dates!


June 2017 Debrief


  •  # Buy nothing days : 13
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 6 uses in 2017): 0 – though we did have s’mores over the fire
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 8
  • # activities with loved ones: 6 (I’ve gotten bad at tracking this)
  • $ saved at Costco: $30
  • % over or under budget: 19% over budget



  • Home renovation line for a new shower head, mattress for visitors and room dividers


June is traditionally one of the months that I just fly over budget.  This year my major culprits were my fashion line and entertainment. I had figured, incorrectly, that I would be too tired to entertain this month. While I was tired this meant that we purchased convenience to entertain people rather than cooking a lot.

I must be more careful with Costco! My entire overage was spent in Costco. While I’m confident that the money was well spent and I did stick to lists all 3 times I went. It’s a lot.

My savings may be greater than the $30 noted but I don’t compare brand to brand I compare grocery brand to costco brand. The reason for this is that generally I select the least expensive option. If I’m in a grocery store looking at canned vegetables I’ll choose the cheapest one so when I’m in Costco if the cheapest  option doesn’t beat the grocery brand I don’t consider it a savings.

An example is the shower head. I paid $40 for it. That’s an awesome deal! Especially as it’s valued at $70, however, when I had gone to the hardware I realized that I would have happily purchased the $40 option they had. Would it have been as nice? Not by a long shot! Would if have done the job? Absolutley! Therefore the ‘savings’ recorded are $0.


I did really well. I knew that keeping to my budget would be impossible this month. July, however, is my chance to re-set.

There’s going to be lots of re-setting as I start back eating properly, exercising and spending frugally.

Choices and Shame

I’ve been avoiding my budget and, therefore, blogging in June.  I’ve been shopping and I know that I haven’t been making great frugal choices.


It also doesn’t help that ML has been doing a great deal of the shopping so I don’t have a record in my own bank account of things that I have purchased. I currently owe him about $500.

Here’s how it breaks down, I think:

  • Skin care (more on that later) $300
  • Shoes $50
  • Groceries $70
  • Bunny $40
  • Gas $40

We decided he’d shoot me a bill this weekend so I can have a breakdown in my budget and reimburse him.

The skin care line is what has been shame inducing for me. I tend to be a drugstore girl, I’ll purchase Oil of Olay or Clean & Clear when it’s on sale. Now that I’m getting older I’m seeing that those who pamper their skin have better results in general. I’m currently battling mild acne, acne scarring, and wrinkles!

I also am a woman of colour in a city in which the drugstore clerks try to ‘whiten me’ by selling me foundations that are a shade or two lighter than my skin. To get my colour I need to mix 2 foundations. If one of my colours isn’t in it’s a trial and error adventure as not all stores will offer samples on the less expensive lines.

I wanted to purchase products that are made for my multiple needs, skin colour and were not tested on animals.

So this time I decided to head to Sephora, I often avoid Sephora because their products are great but much more expensive than my usual fare. Thank goodness ML went with me and was able to hold my hand through the process. The woman who helped me was wonderful and did the exact opposite of what I expected: she told me to purchase less things than I anticipated.

She refused to let me purchase a toner, extra moisturizer, eye cream, anti-wrinkle serum, concealer, and scar correcter.  Instead she worked with me to get two moisturizers (day & night) that would address different concerns, cleanser, acne serum and a foundation in my colour. I also purchased the foundation brush she was using as my current brush would waste the expensive product. This purchase in a drugstore may cost me $100.

While thrilled with my purchases I began to feel vain and spend-thrifty immediately. How can I claim to be frugal but throw down $300 on things that no one would even see? I don’t have an answer to that.

Do the products work? Yes! I just went through a week that often sees me having multiple breakouts all over my face and instead I just had 2 small blemishes. Using just 1 foundation has made a huge difference! I’m no longer leaving splotches of foundation on everything that touches my face and I don’t feel like my skin is completely hidden.

I am going to track how long it takes for these products to finish. I purchased them mid-June and with a shelf life of 12 months I’m hoping that based on the amounts they last for at least 7 months. If they do, the monthly breakdown would mean that I would have spent ~$40 per month on them which is the amount I allocate monthly to ‘fashion’ items.

The goal has always been to spend money on things that matter to me. Being able to purchase from a skincare line that does not test on animals is extremely important to me and now that I have the money to do so I am happy with this purchase.

Are there things you purchase that feel exorbitant but worth it?


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles via

May 2017 Debrief



  •  # Buy nothing days : 9
  • # times used S’mores Maker (aiming for 6 uses in 2017): 0 – I suspect this will be pulled out in the summer
  • # times ate out/purchased take out: 11
  • # activities with loved ones: 18
  • $ saved at Costco: $52
  • % over or under budget: 3.5% over budget


  • I had budgeted $300 for my gardening (including materials) and it came to $222
  • I spent a lot of time with people I care about this month


  • Car line was used to replace the muffler
  • Life Happens line was used for the gardening supplies
  • Gifts was used for birthday presents


June is traditionally one of the months that I just fly over budget.  While I have a decent plan I need to be forgiving next month as I realize that I have tightened my purse strings from what it was.

We’re also increasing the amount of hosting we do, though a lot of this will be covered by ML some will come from our grocery line.


This is month 2 of the tighter budget and though I’m still over I’m getting better each month. Our savings really came in handy and helped us

Image courtesy of arztsamui at

Kitchen Savings Update

In the middle of my post yesterday I decided to see how the kitchen fund is doing. I had written a pep talk on the realism of kitchen goal in March.

Goal Savings
Kitchen  $2,231.00
Home  Renovation  $2,184.00
Sky is Falling  $4,900.00
Total Savings  $9,315.00
New Goal  $10,685.00

That’s really exciting! I’ve been saving for quite some time in these accounts so I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve saved $10G in less than a year. Though all the power to you if you can do that!

With 10 more months to go this means that I’m aiming at saving $1,000 in my kitchen fund. I’ve picked up a small side hustle that should bring in some money that can be put there. ML’s got one that will most likely contribute $4,000.

This bring my goal of $1,000/month down to $700/month. While still a bit of a stretch this feels more realistic. I’ve gone from talking about a new kitchen to really feeling like this could be our reality!

Anticipated hiccups:

  • Hosting friends for 2 weeks in August
  • Multiple summer weddings (showers, gifts, travel, hotel)
  • Christmas spending (we always use our buffer here)

I can’t do a whole lot about those but it helps to remember them so I’m not thrown when they occur. This year I’ve been please with how frugal we’ve been.

Here’s to the kitchen becoming a reality!

When Dreams meet Reality

I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat!  It’s filled with amazing beats, good advice and American History so there’s lots to love. There’s one lyric that makes me think of life after debt:

aaron burr

This has been our life this year! Getting out of debt was our brand new beginning. We were going to do lots:

  • Accelerate mortgage payments
  • update the house
  • get a new kitchen
  • save for a new car
  • build our emergency fund
  • go on a vacation

All of those are great goals but let’s be honest they’re not going to happen at the same time. Once we both got debt free we really had to face reality and figure out what it is we really wanted to do.

While most of our money is going towards the kitchen we are trying to work on the other points as well. This has ended up with me feeling as though I don’t have enough. I know it’s ridiculous so when I heard that line I finally had an explanation!

When I began this blog I thought it would take me 30 months to repay my own debt. I hadn’t even considered helping ML. In less than 2 years we were both consumer debt free. That’s an awesome achievement!  However,I hadn’t emotionally prepared myself for a realistic life after debt.

This year has been a year of learning how to set realistic goals again. It’s also realizing that I still choose not to have money for certain things. Maintaining my consumer debt free life and achieving my goals means that I still have to make choices.

I don’t think I had really anticipated that. Somehow in my dreams debt free meant that I could have my cake, eat it in one sitting and not have a tummy ache. Definitely a fantasy!

The reality is that maintaining a debt free life has been very similar to living with debt. This time instead of me paying the bank with interest, I’ve been paying myself and getting interest.

Which is a pretty awesome way to live. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to redistribute my debt payment so that I can fund my new start.


Home Insurance

At the beginning of May I got my home insurance billing notice. It’s a big number  but I’ve been socking away a bit each month for it.

Tiny problem: I under-saved.

Yep, completely did my math wrong and I’m now $180 short of what I need to pay up next month.

I was surprised at how upset I was by this hiccup. It wasn’t so long ago that I was forgetting that this would be due and putting the entire  amount on my credit card. An extra $180 is much more realistic! I can re-arrange my finances so that it won’t affect my budget numbers.

Next step: up my budget as of July in this budget line and remember that I have 11 months to save not 12!