The Power of Paying Cash

2007 - Honeymoon in Paris paid for on multiple credit cards

Here we are. Newly married and on a dream honeymoon of two weeks in Paris with a quick jaunt to Rome for a night. We are walking up and down the Seine and eating a lot of chocolate croissants. We are happy, euphoric and yet… something nags at me as I fall asleep at night.

Something isn’t quite right. I’m not as carefree as I should be. I’m not enjoying this vacation as much as I could. The coffee isn’t as soothing, the sleep isn’t as restful and the great meals often leave me with a heavy feeling in my stomach.

The not quite right feeling: the whole vacation is on credit.

Yes, we were those people. We saved some cash for our wedding, we had a bit of help from family, but most of it including our honeymoon was on a credit card.

Despite getting a lot of Aeroplan points it didn’t feel good. It was stressful. It knocked some fun out of the honeymoon and when we got home I was not awash with honeymoon love but awash with credit card dread.

It was a hard but good lesson to get.

While we didn’t pull ourselves out of consumer debt we did start saving for vacations. We opened a travel savings account and had a designated change jar.

In the next two years we saved all of our change and any random income for a future vacation. Canadian change adds up fast with $1 and $2 coins so we made progress quickly.

When we had a healthy amount in our account we used all those Aeroplan points to book air travel for a trip to Italy, Spain and Morocco. As we accumulated more savings I booked more pieces of the trip and took our change into the bank and exchanged it for Euros. It felt good.

Flights to Rome and Morrocco, ferry travel from Tanjiers to Spain, our spending money, rental cars we picked up in Rome and Marbella, entrance into the Alhambra and Segway tours in Florence, all paid for in cash.

enjoying the Coliseum on our cash vacation

While I will always cherish our honeymoon, the trip we saved our change for for two and a half years is my favourite travel memory so far. There were no dark thoughts on that trip, except maybe when I was throwing up on the rocky ferry taking us from Northern Africa to Southern Spain (pregnant + easily sea sick), and we didn’t return home to buzz killing credit card bills from our adventure (though we did still have consumer debt).

Paying with cash is powerful. We’re going on a beach vacation next month, a want not a need, and while it was a huge chunk of our annual travel budget, we were able to pay cash. We booked it five months ago and had enough in our travel account to pay the deposit. Last month we made the remaining payment. With cash.

While we haven’t given up credit cards completely we have given up buying anything we don’t have cash on hand to cover at that very moment. We don’t carry credit card balances and we don’t buy something unless we can pay for it that month.

It might sound boring or restrictive to some people but it has been the most freeing financial rule we’ve made. It gives us all the power in our spending and our financial life. It takes away any discussions or disagreements on if we can afford something. Either we can or we can’t. There is no maybe only yes or no.

Anyone else living cash only? Anyone trying to make the transition?


Take Advice from an Expert

Source: via Rachel on Pinterest


The other weekend I went bra shopping.

Yes, I am getting far too personal on this blog.

I went bra shopping to finally replace my post-nursing hand me down bras from my sister.

The experience taught me a few things.

First, I really don’t like the act of shopping. I do enjoy that I have my new bras now, that they fit well and look good but, man, I hate the crowds. And trying things on and spending a lot of time in a store with other people searching and trying things on.

I tried on 30+ bras before finding the right one and then had to go to another store to find it in black. Per my own advice I got a nude bra and a black bra.

Second, I am not an expert. On bras or, really, most things. So I if I’m not an expert why do I refuse expert advice?

I was measured by a store assistant and advised I could try two different sizes: 38 C and 36 D.

I’ve been many bra sizes in my life. In high school and through my rowing career I was a (barely) 38 B. When I retired from sport my body fat composition changed and shifted and I became a ‘real’ 38 B. When I got pregnant I had to buy new bras as a 38 C and as a nursing mom I was a 40 D.

That’s a whole lot of bra sizes. Despite all the fluctuations I was convinced there was no way that I was a D cup right now. I’m not nursing and things have, uh, deflated.

So I tried on a lot of 38 C bras. None fit right so I kept going back to try on more styles. Eventually the head of the bra department saw me and asked me what size I was looking for.

I said, 38 C.

She looked me over and said, you’re not a 38 C.

You’re a 36 D.

After trying on over 20 bras I was ready to give her expert status some credence.

And yes, lo and behold, I am a 36 D.

I am not an expert on bra sizing. And thinking that I knew better than women that size bras for a living wasted a lot of my time (and Katy’s). I’ll also admit to buying poorly sized bras in my 20’s, things I really wanted to fit but ended up gouging me with under wire or being painfully tight on my broad rower back.

No more. I’m going with the expert’s advice from now on and I’ll continue to go to a store that offers sizing services and knowledgeable staff. I want my undergarments to be both comfortable, flattering and functional. Very happy to report that this style is doing all three for me.

I’ll save my expert status for things like living car-free with a toddler and let the bra experts do their thing.

Anyone out there have a drawer full of ill-fitting under things? Did you impulse shop or just think they would fit better after some use?


7 Awesome Frugal Blogs


Do you consider yourself frugal?

I’m no maven of thrift myself but I do try. What’s helped me get on the bandwagon is finding ways that I enjoy saving money.

I’m not great at shopping sales at the grocery store but I am good about limiting food waste.

I’ve been turning the heat on this winter instead of putting on an extra sweater (it’s been cold) but I live in a small home that is relatively inexpensive to heat.

Instead of catching the 5:15am bus to the airport, I’ll let myself get an extra 30 minutes of sleep and get a cab. But I don’t have a car so my transportation costs are very low.

My other nod to being frugal: I’m always open to new ideas on how to save a buck and keeping an eye on my money management situation, while living well.

Here are some awesome women that can give you ideas for how to live well on fewer dollars.

1. The Frugal Girl

I’ve mentioned Kirsten here before. She is a mom to four and has a wealth of ideas and inspiration for saving money at The Frugal Girl. You can learn about everything from making your own yogurt to getting a discount on beautiful boots with a few simple clicks.

2. Frugal Mama

Amy has lived in the most expensive city of them all: New York. Her tips on budgeting are especially helpful (same with her free downloadable worksheets) and I like her simple approach to cutting costs. As a writer and expert for TLC’s Parentables she advises other families on how to make their dollar stretches.

3. Money Saving Mom

There is a lot to this website. A lot. Everything from coupons, money saving tips and a detailed series on blogging for business. Particularly interesting are the We Paid Cash series and the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

4. Penniless Parenting

This is a site my friend Vicki sent me to (thanks Vicki!). This family of four downsized from a 950 sq ft home to 525 sq ft to save $100 a month. WOW. Lots of the tips here are what I would consider in the extreme range. But they work. If I need a kick in the pants to save a few dollars I can read about cooking down 50 pounds of tomatoes and I’m motivated. Maybe not motivated to cook down all those tomatoes but definitely to skip takeout on the weekend and cook from scratch.

5. Frugal Babe

Frugal Babe’s tag line is a rich life without a lot of money and she documents everything from nutritious (and frugal) homemade breakfast cereals to an inexpensive way for new moms to give back (loved this). Again, if you’re looking to start a home based business this post on how FB and her husband started an insurance company has a lot of good information.

6. The Small Notebook

This is one of my favourite websites. Rachel simplifies home managing and those little details we bog ourselves down with. Her recent Clear the Clutter series is a good place to start if you want some prompts for tossing out expired medications and a reminder to switch in new dish scrubbers. While the focus isn’t on frugality, the tips are sure to save you some cash.

7. The Non-Consumer Advocate

Have you heard of The Compact? It’s a movement of people who commit to not buying anything new for a year. Katy Wolk-Stanley of The Non-Consumer Advocate is part of the movement and shares details of her frugal life on her blog. One thing I really appreciate about Katy’s writing is that she includes a lot of posts about the benefits of her frugality. She works part-time, her children have money for school trips overseas and she can easily host friends and out of town guests. Less work and more giving from a frugal lifestyle.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be as frugal as some of these writers but I do enjoy trying to save a few dollars. Dollars I can put in a savings account or towards a vacation or give to someone in need.

Anyone else have a money saving site that they find useful? I’m always on the look out for tips that work for my family and lifestyle.


game changer - It's not a period. It's a fountain of red wine. That's why I get so crazy. The more wine my body loses the crazier I get.

WARNING: for male readers or women that don’t want to read about “female troubles” or “aunt flow” or the experience that billions of us have once a month, stop reading now. I am sharing a simple living find that has literally changed a week of my life every month and saved me a lot of money. Back to normal programming after this post.

My friend S has told me many times that something would “change my life.”

Sometimes the thing that was going to change my life was an olive tapenade or a face cream. I do love her exuberance for the little things.

But here is where I tell you, this could change your life.

I’m going to be frank in the next few paragraphs. You might feel that you know me too well by the end of this.

That’s okay.

If I even get a handful of you to consider making this switch, if even one person does make this switch, well then, being candid about my menstrual cycle and the complete and utter failure of traditional feminine protection products will have been worth it.

Today I feel like shouting from the rooftops, I am free. No longer will I deal with pad or tampon failure. No longer will I be stuck wearing panty liners  for that utterly annoying pre-period spotting.

I am done with you Tampax and OB. I am done shelling out a lot of money for your expensive products and I am done carting a handful of them around in my handbag. I’m done using bulky pads that leave me wanting to shower five times a day. I’m done with tampons that are uncomfortable and shift and become painful while I’m running or doing a workout.

I’m done with menstrual products that remind me every freaking minute that yes, I have my period and yes, I’m uncomfortable.

That’s no way to live for a week every month.

I’ve found the Diva Cup and I am never going back.

This is a game changer. A GAME CHANGER.

I was hesitant at first. I tried something similar, an early version of a menstrual cup, back in university. It never fit right and at one point I stood up and the thing moved and emptied. Luckily I was at home at the time. I swore off trying alternative menstrual products after that.

But since having a baby I’ve become even more unhappy with what the drug store has to offer. Tampons were painful, didn’t fit right even after testing out going up and then down a size, and let’s just be blunt here: you have to change the thing every time you go pee or you’re walking around with a urine soaked tampon string. Expensive and not a lot of fun.

I tried using pads more but they have their own down falls. Bulky and on a long walk I’d get chaffage. They’re also fantastically messy. No skipping through a field of wild flowers when all you can think about is taking a bath.

The Diva Cup changes all of this. I literally forget I have my period. Sure there has been a learning curve for inserting it and for emptying it. Especially for emptying it. Be patient. Your bathroom might look like a crime scene the first few times. But after some practice I am now on easy street.

The other amazing perk of this system: put it in when you think you’re about to get your period. No more SURPRISE, you need to ditch that lunch date to rush home and change everything below the waist and find some upholstery cleaner for your car. No more wearing a stupid panty liner for three days hoping to “catch it” and then it comes on full flood and you’re up red creek without a paddle.

And I think it’s totally minimalist. Just this little cup that you can get up to a decade of use out of. It has it’s own little bag and is very small. Easy to tuck into a handbag or a cosmetics case while you’re on vacation. Again, no more last minute dash to a corner to store for very overpriced (because they’re already overpriced) tampons.

Okay, I’ve said my bit.

If you are interested in knowing more I’ve linked to sites where you can read more about the Diva Cup. These are not affiliate links and I haven’t been compensated by Diva Cup for writing this. I just feel more women need to know about this awesome alternative so I am shamelessly using my blog to get the word out.

To Purchase Canada & Worldwide: Luna Pads

To Purchase in the UK: Moon Times

Has anyone else tried the Diva Cup?


It’s just 24 hours.

A week unplugged is a lot. But could you do a day?

The National Day of Unplugging is an initiative from the Sabbath Manifesto, a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.

Sounds like my kind of project.

I’ll be taking part and if you’d like to join in you can sign up here. I can’t figure out how to sign up if you don’t have a Facebook account. If anyone figures it out let me know.

Recently I found this post on a blog called Last American Childhood after the writer left a comment here. It was Internet serendipity. I just reread the Pressfield book the writer quotes below. I just wrote a few hundred words the other night after closing my Internet browser. I just renewed my commitment to acting with intention and no more Zombie surfing.

Rachel (there are so many of us) writes about her decision to cancel her Facebook account but it could be about anything that we’re giving our time and attention to that isn’t nourishing us in some way. From Don’t be scared at Last American Childhood:

… how to explain to a four year old why you are staring at the computer looking at pictures of someone you just saw that morning who lives across the street rather than playing trains with him. A question I’m no longer willing to put myself in the position of having to answer. It is one thing to bat a child away because you have to work, talk to a friend, make dinner, relax or work on a song or a story. But to do it for no other reason than to find out a friend you haven’t seen in 10 years got a chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream with too much vanilla is unconscionable. There is no explanation. As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art,It’s one thing to lie to yourself, it’s another to believe it.” Am I going to let yet another decade go by without publishing a novel? Yet another 5 years go by before I finish the last Dimestore EP? Another year go by before I put Wally’s baby pictures into something resembling a scrapbook? The first daffodils of the season are in full bloom. There’s opera in the air. I’m canceling my Facebook account, and I’ll see you outside in the world, or in my memories, or in my dreams. (I’m totally fine — this is not meant to sound dramatic, but worse than dramatic is the giving away of your life and your time gradually, by degrees, in a series of tiny, undetectable degrees.)

This is a gifted writer. I’m glad she’s finding more time to work on her art. I want to read that novel. I want to listen to those songs.

Join me this weekend?

Put away your smart phone and shut down the family computer on Friday night.

Take that time you would have spent checking email, browsing JCrew or pinning craft projects on Pinterest and use it to feed yourself in some way. Cook, read, rest or create. Take those tiny undetectable degrees back.

They don’t feel like much in a day.

But in a month, in a year, in a life time, they add up.

Those small degrees are novels, half marathons and vital sleep. They are sex and fun and love and finding something new and wonderful.

They are yours.

Take them back.

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