5 Ways to Manage Your Holiday Expenses

Last year I posted some of the gift packs I purchased for those special people in my life and they were all under $50. This didn’t mean one item for $50 but rather a few to create a little gift pack. You can check them out HERE.

I was thinking about the holidays this long weekend as there are only six weeks to go and I have barely started! I didn’t want to list a handful of items to buy this holiday season but rather share a few tips to make your dollar go further and to ensure you won’t go into debt before the holidays.

These tips are about helping you make a plan (I will never get tired of saying this!!) If you have a plan in place it takes the guesswork out of shopping and streamlines the process.

1. Figure out your budget. Although the holidays are quite commercial, that doesn’t mean you have to spend more than you can afford. A few years ago I heard a woman in a line buying some gifts say to the clerk she was still paying off last Xmas. What? I think she might be missing the point of the holidays if she works all year to pay off her holiday debt. Don’t you? Make a budget first because I think it’s the most important.

2. Make a list of all the people you need to buy for during the holidays. Then check it twice! Make sure you only have those close people on there and are not adding the dozen people at the office! Once you have a list created, start writing down ideas for each person.  With ideas written down it’s easy to look for items, compare costs and cross them off when you’ve found the perfect gift! If you really want to do something for your coworkers, set aside a small amount of the budget to bake or buy a special treat!

3. Split up your budget. Once you know your budget, the number of people and a few gift ideas, then you can divide your funds. Now this doesn’t necessarily work out evenly. Look at the people and base your budget on what you’re looking for as a gift. Last year I spent almost $60 on one person and only $30 on a other but their gifts were equally great! You’re the only one that will know how much the gifts you are giving cost.

4. You don’t have to spend your full budget. Do you ever set a budget and then feel like you have to spend the whole thing? I do, and I honestly don’t know why! I think it’s more important to purchase a gift you love rather than worrying about the cost. A few Christmases ago I only spent $30 each on my niece and nephew but was so happy with their gifts. I then tried to find another gift to spend the remainder of the budget, but couldn’t find anything. I finally gave up and that extra money I saved went to holiday party with our friends!

5. Think outside the box. By this I mean big box stores and online shopping, look closer to home. I found really affordable items at a few craft markets and local shops last year, plus these items were a nice quality and unique. Whenever possible I try to shop local. I know it is easier to go online after a long day, but carving out some time to go shopping with your partner or girlfriends can be really fun, then you are not only getting all your Christmas shopping done but creating some great memories.

I hope these 5 tips to managing your holiday expenses were helpful!  I know the holiday season can feel overwhelming so if there is a way to take some of the stress away that is a great place to start!  Have you set your holiday budget yet?  Is it a number you feel comfortable with or are you spending more because you feel you have to?  If this year has a tighter budget ask some family members to do a secret Santa so you only have to worry about one gift instead of six!  There are always option.

Don’t forget to check out my amazing finds from last year and see how I pulled together nice gift packs for everyone in my family.

See How You Can Get 2 Halloween Costumes for $10!

Do you have a last minute party to attend, or do your kids need a costume but you have been so busy you haven’t had time to get anything!  Don’t worry, there’s an easy solution.  The Salvation Army Thrift Store has a Costume Party Zone is full of costumes, masks, accessories and more!  I easily found both of my costumes in minutes.

For my first costume I found this red hood for $4.99 at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store’s Costume Party Zone.  I thought it would be fun to wear to work.  I knew I had the white shirt and leather pants, and thought a modern day Red Riding Hood would be fun!

My next costume was a simple solution to a last minute party I had on the weekend, the Grim Reaper. I found the black cloak for $3.99 and the axe for $1.99 at the Costume Party Zone.  What a score.  The cloak was brand new and it was really easy to throw together with some black and white make up.

Both looks took under 15 minutes for me to get ready and were a hit at both of my Halloween parties!  I am a big fan of saving time and money!

2 Halloween Costumes for $10

Red Riding Hood:

Red Hood: $4.99 (Salvation Army Thrift Store), Zara White Shirt (already owned): $4.99 (Salvation Army Thrift Store),  Black Pleather Pants (already owned): $135 (Aritzia), Boots: $50 (Winners), Vintage Holt Renfrew Purse: $5.99 (Salvation Army Thrift Store)

Grim Reaper:

Black Cloak: $3.99 (Salvation Army Thrift Store), Plastic Axe: $1.99 (Salvation Army Thrift Store), Necklace (already owned): $30 (H&M)

Have a last minute party or event or want to scare little kids at your front door?  Head to the Costume Party Zone at the Salvation Army Thrift Store.  Maybe you will find one piece like my red hood for under $5 and use clothing you already have to create a great outfit or find a whole costume for a fraction of the price.

Happy thrifting!  Show me your great finds from the Costume Party Zone.

 

Simple Ways to Start Saving Money and Time with Meal Planning

Meal Planning Made EasyMeal Planning, I think it’s time to start again.  We were on a roll last year with planning and ordering groceries online, then we were very busy with no time to plan ahead.  With fall finally arriving, we’ve talked about getting back on track.  Meal Planning is valuable in two ways, it actually saves time as well as money.  I have written a few blog posts on the subject and will link them in this article.

How to get started?  I think the first step is to think of how much added stress and time cooking each night can add to your week.  I wrote a blog a couple years ago comparing Penny Planner vs Lizzy Last Minute.  In the comparison Penny Planner saves money, but she also saves time and energy by making a plan for the week ahead.  Planning is a simple step to get back valuable time, while also staying on budget.

Ok, then what?  Make a plan!  Seems simple enough.  I think where people fail is believing they can look up a few recipes and be set for the week!  Oh no, it doesn’t work that way.  You need to write down the meals you want to prepare, then check to see what ingredients you require.  This way the whole week is laid out for you, no need to look up recipes each day or go grocery shopping, you’ve already done that work. Plus you won’t find yourself halfway through cooking only to realize you are missing two ingredients (we’ve all been there).  I wrote a blog post with a sample menu I used to give you an idea of how specific I am with my plan.

To help you get started here is a menu planner I created! Print it off, make notes, get planning!  Share a photo on social media tagging @aplentifullife! I would love to see what everyone is making.

Ok so you have made a plan, now what? Here is where I may lose a few people.  This year I took it next level and started batch cooking which means I cook everything on Sunday for the entire week.  What?  Yes, it’s true (search Batch Cooking on the blog to read the three part series). It takes less time than you may think, roughly 2 to 3 hours.  What I gain back is huge.  I have every night free during the week, no need to worry about finding a recipe or picking up groceries or cooking or cleaning up a huge mess.  I simply throw a dish in the oven or heat it up on the stove.  I use the same menu planner to list out my meals and to make a plan.  Also if we are really busy, the Meal Plan is in the kitchen so Mark or I know what is for dinner that night.

Batch cooking might not be for everyone, I totally understand.  In that case I would suggest doing a large grocery shop so you have everything you need for the week.  Then if there are snacks or meals you can prep on Sunday, that will be a huge help.  For example, making quinoa on Sunday for salads during the week or baking muffins for snacks or making overnight oats for breakfast.  These simple steps will also help during the week to save time.

Lastly, stick to your plan!  I think it is easy to pick up sushi on the way home or go out for appy’s after work, if that’s part of your plan, great!  If you bought food that will go bad because you are too lazy to cook it, not so good.  There is a happy medium, if you do go out then freeze the food you don’t use or cook it and freeze the meal.  I’ve done it before where I go out and then say, “Oh, I will cook that meal later” and it never happens, then I end up throwing away food, which I hate.  Sticking to your plan will save money, time and food!  All very important.

You can do this!  I believe in you.  I also know after meal planning for a week or two, you will already see some benefits and be telling everyone else to try it!

To start if you live near a Save On Foods, they delivery groceries for around $6.  It is really simple and saves even more time.  Plus it is very easy to compare costs online and select products with ease.

THREE STEPS TO TAKING THE STRESS OUT OF COOKING:

1. Meal Plan: Download my free printable Weekly Meal Planner to create your list of meals for the week.

2. Shop Online: There are a lot of grocery stores that offer delivery now.  All you have to do is a search in your area and you will find one.

3. Batch Cooking: This step may not be for everyone, but I encourage you to try it one week and see how you feel.  For us we gain so much time back during the week not worrying about cooking or picking up groceries.

GOOD LUCK!

Meal-Planner Meal Planner

 

 

 

3 Ways to Stay on Budget with the Costume Party Zone

On Halloween I think it is very easy to go overboard!  Who’s with me?  Here’s how it always happens, you end up with multiple parties to attend, then there’s dressing up for work and purchasing candy to hand out on the actual day! The list never seems to end.

I wanted to discuss a few affordable options using the Salvation Army Thrift Stores Costume Party Zone.  I am very lucky to be working as  Creative Expert with the Salvation Army Thrift Store and before this I didn’t know they had a Costume Party Zone!  You can find anything you need for your Halloween festivities from décor to costumes to wigs and more!

3 WAYS TO STAY ON BUDGET WTIH THE COSTUME PARTY ZONE.

* THE COSTUME| I recently went to the Costume Party Zone, as I have a Halloween party to attend and also wanted to find something to wear to work.  I am not a huge fan of going full out at work so wanted a piece I could wear over my every day clothes.  I was very excited to find both!  I spent a total of $15 for a full Halloween costume and a small piece to wear during my workday.  I will be posting my Halloween costumes later this month on the blog so keep an eye out for them!  All the items above and more were at the Costume Party Zone!

* THE DECOR | I was very surprised to find so many options at the Costume Party Zone.  I ended up buying some pumpkin lights, a full glow in the dark skeleton, a couple crows, a tombstone and a half dozen skulls all for $12.  We currently don’t have any Halloween décor so I am starting from scratch and was really happy to find all of these items at one store.  The lights were brand new and the other items were in very good condition. You have to remember with items such as these they are used for a couple weeks and then stored the rest of the year.

* THE DIY’s | Perhaps you are looking for a look that is more cohesive look, when shopping for secondhand items it’s a little harder so going the DIY route will help to create the look you are wanting.  A few options is using spray paint, which can transform your items in a matter of minutes.  Check out my DIY Skulls, it’s a really easy and affordable DIY to upcycle your Halloween décor with spray paint.  Or perhaps you want a theme with all ghosts, a really simple DIY would be to make ghosts out of sheets, a quick search resulted in 100’s of tutorials.

These are only a few ideas on how to use the Costume Party Zone at the Salvation Army Thrift Store.  Remember to start with a plan.  Whether you are looking for décor or a new costume, make your dream list and stick with it!  Make a budget!  It’s easy to overspend at the Costume Party Zone!

Want a new costume for Halloween?  Comment below with your dream costume idea and you could win a $20 gift certificate to the Salvation Army Thrift Store!  Winner selected Friday, October 20.

5 Ways to Navigate a Thrift Store

I post about thrift shopping often and people always ask me how I do it!  I figured it was time to share a few tips on thrifting and it turns out The Salvation Army Thrift Store is having a $2 sale this Friday and Saturday so you can put these to the test! The photo above, everything except the jeans are thrifted!

  1. HAVE A PLAN | It can be overwhelming walking into a thrift store if you don’t know what you want.  If you are new to thrift shopping I think having a plan is key!  It will help you focus and hunt for items easily.  Even if you don’t know the style of shirt you want, having colour inspiration or style of clothing can simplify shopping.  I love the Salvation Army Thrift Store because all of their clothing are organized by colour! TIP: We are now transitioning into fall, what are a few key pieces that would complete your wardrobe?  Write them down and when you go thrifting specifically look for those items.
  2. LET THE SIZE GO | When looking for clothing don’t limit yourself to one size, branch out!  You would be amazed how many times I find clothing that fits great in a different section.  You have to remember some of this clothing is vintage or may be an odd size or sometimes people move the clothing around so it ends up in the wrong section.  Take a chance on a different size, you might be surprised! TIP: Forget about the label!  If you are always a medium but find a shirt you love in a large, try it on!  There is only one so it won’t hurt to try.
  3. TRY IT ALL ON | Unlike a department store where you look in your size and pick out one or two items, the thrift store is a numbers game. Every piece of clothing you are attracted to or really like the style, take it with you.  I usually go into the changing room with an arm load of clothing, it guarantees I am going to come out with a few items. TIP: Don’t think about items too long, if you are attracted to a piece of clothing, grab it and try it on, you never know what will work!
  4. LOOK AT THE TAG | When I am thrifting I always feel the material and check the tags.  You might see a great shirt, look at the label and think it’s cheap, but when you check the material tag it’s actually silk.  Also checking the brand is a great idea since you can find quality items for a lot less.  I recently found a pair of Free People faux leather pants for $4 at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store. Looking at the pants I might have passed them up, but when I checked the tag I was thrilled! TIP: Material is more important than the brand.  If you find a 100% silk shirt but don’t know the brand, that’s ok.  It’s probably a really nice one.  Material will make sure the secondhand item is good quality and will last.
  5. EVERY PURCHASE IS A WIN | If you walk into a thrift store with a plan, try on a handful of clothes and only walk out with 2 pieces, you’re doing really great.  Thrifting is a process.  Maybe you have your fall clothing dream list, it might take you four trips to the thrift store to find everything you want, but that’s part of the fun! At the end when you have refreshed your wardrobe, it’ll feel like a win! TIP: You probably won’t find everything you are looking for in one trip, but don’t be disappointed, wait for the right piece of clothing!

When I was thinking of all the thrifting tips I had, a few popped up that were in the Don’t category.  See below for a list of thrifting don’ts.

  1. DON’T GO SHOPPING ON A WHIM | I think where thrift shopping can get frustrating is when you walk away empty handed.  This happens most often for me when I stop in and think I can magically find something amazing.  The thing is, I don’t know what I am looking for or what I really want, I am simply hoping to find something. TIP:  Do go shopping on a whim if you saw a killer off the shoulder sweater earlier in the day and would love to find something similar, it might not be on your fall list but you know what you are looking for.
  2. DON’T BUY ITEMS THAT DON’T FIT | I think this is an easy trap to fall into, I am definitely guilty of it!  You find an amazing designer top, it’s beautiful, you want it, but it’s two sizes too big.  You reason with yourself by saying oh I can tuck it in or wear a belt or maybe alter it, they never work!  It’s best to walk away. If not that piece of clothing will most likely end up back at the thrift store. TIP: Buying items that don’t fit is essentially throwing money away, even if it is a $5 shirt!
  3. DON’T BUY SOMETHING JUST TO BUY SOMETHING | Sometimes I walk into the thrift store with a plan, knowing exactly what I want, I try on an armful of clothing, but nothing works.  Maybe it doesn’t fit or the colour isn’t right or it’s too big.  It’s really easy to buy a piece of clothing that kind of works, saying to yourself, it’s only $4.  The thing is, those $4 purchases add up.  They also sit in your closet and can sometimes make you feel like you have nothing to wear.  TIP: Best to leave empty handed than make a purchase you’ll regret.

Ok so start thinking about what you need in your fall wardrobe and hit up the sale at The Salvation Army Thrift Store this weekend! Here are some pieces I found this year as I was refreshing my wardrobe.  My plan was to add some shirts I could later into my summer wardrobe and retire some of my old beat up shirts!  For fall I want some cozy sweaters, new shoes and a nice pair of jeans.

Leather jacket above was thrifted for $20 at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store.

Love this leopard print shirt, it goes great with a sweater and is fun for a girls night out.  It was only $4 which is a great deal!

Loving this brown vintage purse I found at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store!  At only $8 it will definitely be a new fall staple.

This BCBG jumpsuit was a great find last year for only $15 at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store, great all year round.

 

 

 

All words and phots by Tijana Popovic of A Plentiful Life

 

 

 

 

4 Decor Pieces You Can Find at the Thrift Store

Whether you are heading back to school this fall or thinking of making over a room in your house or moving, it’s always nice to decorate on a budget.  When decorating a room I think the décor budget can get out of control if you let it.  With some planning and budgeting, you can easily create a  room you will love.  The Salvation Army Thrift Store is the perfect option to help with decorating a room.  They always have new décor and home items in stock.

Remember to know what you are looking for before you go thrifting!  What style do you want?  What dreams items are you looking for?  Is there a colour scheme for the room? Here are a list of great every day items you can find at your local Salvation Army Thrift Store to bring any room to life.

STORAGE – We all need places to hide our phone chargers, bags or mail.  The Salvation Army Thrift Store close to my house always has great storage options.  There are baskets, vintage boxes and small boxes.  All of these are great to keep your room tidy.

DECOR – Everything from artwork, mirrors, vases, rugs and more can be found at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Are you looking for an antique mirror or a vintage rug or maybe a new piece of art for the wall?  There are so many treasures at the thrift store.  The other week I found a great vintage rug for our guest room and it was only $20.

SMALL FURNITURE – Depending on the Salvation Army Thrift Store near you, there may be more options.  The one near me only has small furniture.  You can easily find a desk chair or a small ottoman or a side table.  Remember with thrifted finds that a little paint can bring them back to life and totally transform a piece.

GLASSES – I love thrifted glasses.  If you need glasses for entertaining or are moving into your first apartment or trying to style a bar cart, you have so many options.  You could find a vintage set or mix and match, there are so many great finds.

Those are a few of the items you can find at your local Salvation Army Thrift Store to help bring any room to life.  Remember to make your dream list so you know what items you are looking for in store. Happy thrifting!

 

All words by Tijana Popovic of A Plentiful Life

My Mom Talks Money

A few weeks ago my Money article sparked quite the response.  I had some great conversations about other people’s money journeys, how they didn’t understand why money wasn’t talked about in schools and the choices they are making now to educate themselves.  This is where I am at, educating myself.  As I mentioned in my previous article, the way I make money has changed which means the way I deal with money also needs to have a shift.

Money is a taboo subject for most, it gets the same response as asking someone their favorite sex position, see you cringed.  Most people would.  I feel it’s the same response if you were to ask someone how much money they made and what they do with it?  Did you feel the same reaction? Probably. No one talks openly about money. We don’t sit around a dinner table and say, I made X amount last year, invested 20%, saved 30% and the rest I spent.  It simply doesn’t happen.  If it does in your circle of friends, please invite me over for a dinner party.

I have always looked up to my parents.  They knew the life they wanted and made it happen.  I couldn’t tell you how they did it, because we never talked about money.  I knew they had savings, I once saw my mom’s bank statement, (sorry mom), I knew they made investments because every so often I heard the word RRSP, but again I couldn’t say what their plan was.  Whatever the money plan was, it worked. My parents retired last year in their late 50’s, because they made good choices.  Some of the things they did saved money and I don’t think they even realized it at the time. Meal planning and bulk grocery shopping for example, which my mom still practices today and you know I have adopted for my life as well.  Family trips every year that were not extravagant, but as a kid I wouldn’t have known the difference, they were wonderful adventures. I look up to my parents and the life they lead, the money choices they made and how as kids we had every opportunity available to us, sometimes at a sacrifice to them, but I never knew that until recently.

For part two in my money series I asked my mom if I could interview her about money…dead silence.  The caveat, I would have to let her read the article first, I thought it was a fair trade.

Q: Who taught you about money?

A: No one. My parents weren’t necessarily money savvy, that wasn’t something they did, I had to teach myself.

Q: When did you decide it was important to make a money plan?

A: Well, your dad and I worked for five years before we had kids, and then I took 10 years off to raise you guys.  The money we made then went towards life, and we had enough.  If we ever needed more during that time your dad would go and work with Grampa on the weekend. I don’t think we made a money plan until we were both working again around 35.  We were making more money and needed to make that money work for us.  We started by making a monthly contribution to an RRSP.

Q: What key decisions did you make that have created a successful retirement plan?

A:  It was really a threefold thing.

  1. We both stayed in the same job since we were 20, even though I took time off to raise kids I was able to buy back my pension when I went back to work. I have 28 years into a pension and your dad has 35.
  2. We made monthly contributions to our RRSP’s for many years. We were not able to max them out, but it made a difference.
  3. Our CPP is almost at the highest payout.

Between our pensions, RRSP’s and CPP we were able to retire easily.

I would like to say we have been retired for a year now and we are not living an extravagant life.  We don’t go out for dinner all the time, maybe the occasional coffee, we go on small trips, we don’t really purchase any new clothes, it’s a simple lifestyle, but it works. (I would like to note here they are definitely not people to purchase anything they don’t need.  Also she says small trips but they visited Vancouver this year and have several camping trips planned, yes a budget trip but they are still able to go on them. Also their dream was to travel across Canada when they retired, which they did last year, and that was worked into the retirement plan.) Plus there are savings you don’t even think of like dad’s coffees every day, gas for work, buying work clothes, those little things add up.

Q: Why did we never talk about money at home?

A: I don’t know. I guess for me, as a private person, we never had those conversations.  We always did what we had to do to have enough money.

Q: Why did you and dad not teach us about money or saving or investing?

A: I wish we had taught you.  We didn’t know what to do when we started out, we went to a firm for our taxes and investing because Grampa referred them.  We didn’t know where to start.  It changed at 60 when we retired because we had to make different choices and look to the future.  I wish we had changed earlier because we have learned so much since moving to a new investment firm.

Q: If kids are not taught about money or it’s never discussed how do you think they can succeed?

A: I don’t know that they can.  I don’t understand why this is not taught in schools.  I guess they need to start by doing their own research or from a recommendation or talking to someone they know.  I think kids should know the opportunities available to them.

Q: Who should be responsible for teaching our children about money? Parents or schools or should they figure it out on their own?

A: It would be great if parents could teach their children, but not everyone is good with money.  Maybe it’s a combination of different avenues.  I definitely think it needs to be offered in schools.  With today’s technology it might be easier to start on your own, researching online or looking up your different options.

Q: If you had taught me about money what would you have wanted me to know?

A: You need to save money for a rainy day, that’s always a good idea.  I guess the value of money, what it takes to live.  Also how important it is to have savings. Do you want to work forever? Then you have to think about that.

Q: Do you think my life as an adult would have been different if I had a money education?

A: Probably not.  (OK I am adding this in, it’s nice when your mom brags about you)  You are amazing.  Since the time you graduated from high school, you have always followed your own path and did what you wanted to do.  You didn’t need a lot of money.  You never had 10% to put away.  But you also didn’t buy frivolous things, you only bought what you needed.  You’ve had a few lump sums over the years and spent it doing what you wanted to do, you needed that money to live.  Every person is different.

Q: What money advice do you have for everyone reading this?

A: Make smart choices.

  • Our first house was really small, then we bought property and built our own house, so our mortgage was very low. We built half of the house ourselves, and slowly over time finished it.
  • Stay with the same job. The majority of people change jobs or now work from home which doesn’t offer them the same pension benefits we had.
  • Zero debt. We never wanted a huge debt and this was something we always knew, so if we wanted something we saved for it.
  • Don’t always want the newest and most expensive. We had a few new vehicles over the years, but didn’t feel the need to upgrade every couple years.  We wanted a trailer for when we retired, we didn’t purchase a brand new one, we did research to find the best brand and value for what we were looking for and it was a third of the cost.

As someone who is only starting down my money journey, I started reading the Wealth Simply Money Diaries which made me feel normal.  I thought I was really bad with money but managed to work with what I had.  Reading these articles I realized I was doing ok.  This one by Jon Chevreau really stood out to me because as someone who will most likely never have a pension, he showed me a way to retire without one.  What kind of life do you want to lead?  Then that’s how much money you need to have.

I want to thank my mom for being game to talk money with me and open about their money journey.  I am glad this is something we can talk about now as adults, maybe when it’s even more important.  I was not asking these questions to blame my parents for not teaching me about money, I simply wanted to know why.  Many other people my age were also not taught about money or how to deal with it.  This was a way for me see what worked for my parents, and how the choices I make now can affect my future.

Part Three of the Money Series to follow with amazing Dad Quotes on money.

Balance

Lately I can’t seem to figure out this work/life balance thing. It sways one way then the other never finding a middle ground. In the chaos of life the blog is always the first thing to go and this is the most disappointing to me because it’s what I love to do the most. 

I regularly talk about living your best life on a budget but what happens when I’m sticking to the budget but not living my best life? 

In case you think I have the luxury of blogging full time, let me fill you in on my current schedule. I work full time during the week in an office (40+ hours), audition on my lunch hours, wedding planning on the side, work on the blog after work or on weekends and other times at 5am. If I don’t take time on the weekends for the blog and go away or take time for myself the blog doesn’t happen. And sometimes I honestly feel like what’s the point? I go online and see blogs that are someone’s full time job, they are lucky enough to spend their days creating, possibly with the support of a team and think I’ll never be able to keep up or produce the same content, it’s just impossible. That’s my own side note, pity party, but I had to include it! Lol!

I am definitely sticking to my budget and have saved a lot of money recently but now need to focus on living my best life. Don’t get me wrong I am very fortunate and have a wonderful life, I simply want to bring more of what I love to do into the every day.  It doesn’t mean what’s been happening is wrong, it simply might not be working now and I need to make a shift. Perhaps you’re living your best life but not on a budget so are stressed about money or maybe you’re living a frugal life but working so hard to save you don’t find time for fun. Whatever is going on in your life if there’s an area that’s not working then maybe taking a minute to see how you could make a change might create a shift in your current situation.

This is where I am at, producing a shift.  Taking a moment to step back and think about where I want to focus my energy.  I have been going above and beyond at work, with extra hours and skipped lunch hours, but that leaves me depleted and not really further ahead.  As of this week I am no longer going to do this unless absolutely necessary.  I am also going to look at my time each week so I am allocating it before the week starts and can set aside space for what I love like yoga, the blog and perhaps a little me time.  If I take time to schedule conference calls, I can set aside time to book myself into the schedule.

I thought one day life would magically fall into place and I wouldn’t have to do anymore self-work or evaluating.  I know now this journey is never ending, ever-changing and will constantly need adjusting.  I am ok with that.  It means I am growing out of where I have been and moving into something bigger.

Can we commit to embracing the everyday struggles together?  If you have anything to add please comment below.  I would love to know I am not alone. 🙂 

 

Bringing the Party Outside

Is summer almost here?  We’ve had a long winter and I am looking forward to sunshine and outdoor dining!  I’ve always been very lucky to have homes with outdoor spaces, from living in a small apartment with a tiny deck to a rental with a yard to our current townhouse with a lovely outdoor oasis.  I think I have learned a lot from these various spaces and wanted to share some tips on bringing the party outside.

The updated patio is coming up this week (see inspiration photo above) and before the big reveal I thought I’d share some tips on how to get your outdoor space ready for summer gatherings!  No matter what your budget is or how big of space you have, there are always options! First figure out what works for the space, what your budget is for new items, how you can refresh pieces you already have and go from there!  Like I always say, make a plan!

TIPS ON HOW TO BRING THE PARTY OUTSIDE

1. LIGHTS – I think lighting makes a huge difference.  We have string lights throughout our yard (our old yard is featured above) and I always make sure to plug them in before the party starts.  Then you can transition the party from day to night without anyone noticing.  I found these string lights on sale at Wayfair, they are the same brand as mine and have been very reliable as we keep them up all year long.  Not sure where to start?  Check out the outdoor lighting section to see what would work with your space.

2. ZONES- I love separating the various areas and creating the illusion of more space.  I have previously tried to put furniture out without defining the areas and I think it can look messy.  Outdoor rugs, like this one from Wayfair, are key.  By placing an outdoor rug under your dining table or in front of your patio furniture, you’ll notice how it defines the space, makes it cozier and it’s also wonderful for bare feet in the summer.  Have a large space?  A large rectangular rug would go nicely.  Only a small space?  A round rug would work great.

3. SERVING – An outdoor cart or small table or even a cooler are your best friend during the summer months.  As a host the last thing you want to do is spend all your time running in and out of the house.  If you create a place you can use during the party for ice or snacks or as a mini bar it’ll not only look stylish, but you’ll have more time to spend with your guests.

4. SEATING – Whether you have a small patio or large yard, bringing the party outside is always possible, the key is to have extra seating. Last summer we seemed to constantly run out of seats.  I wanted to incorporate some extra seating without cluttering the yard. I bought some side tables, like these ones, and guess what?  They double as stools so we always have extra seating on hand.  Do you need something more than a stool?  I think it is always a great idea to look at the seating section.  From there you can easily choose a category or see what will work in your space.

5. STORAGE – This is a must!  We live in a rainy city so frequently need to cover or store our outdoor cushions.  If you have space for a small outdoor storage bench, they look great and can also double as seating.  If you don’t have room for outdoor storage, I would suggest investing in a cover for your cushions.

6. BBQ – If you want to move the party outside, you need to be ready to cook outdoors!  Get the BBQ area prepped before summer kicks off!  Set up a space for your BBQ, clean it up, get your tools ready, making sure to define a space for outdoor cooking. We like to leave a jug of oil by the BBQ, along with some plastic serving dishes, again saving those trips back into the house.  Don’t have a BBQ area? Make one!  We use an old electrical spool as our BBQ table, added some hooks for tools and it really brings character to the yard.

7. DINING – Whether you have patio furniture or an outdoor dining table I would highly suggest plastic plates, and as you can see from the photo above outdoor plates have come a long way!  We have a set like these ones and I don’t have to stress about broken plates, the clean up is easy and they bring a wonderful summer vibe to the party.  I also recently purchased some plastic wine glasses that look really great!  You’d think they were glass.

Hopefully these tips help you get your outdoor space ready for those summer get-togethers and easily expand your living space during the summer months no matter how big your outdoor space is!

Thrifting Tips

I post about thrift shopping often and people always ask me how I do it!  I figured it was time to share a few tips on thrifting and it turns out The Salvation Army Thrift Store is having a $2 sale this Friday so you can put these to the test!

  1. HAVE A PLAN | It can be overwhelming walking into a thrift store if you don’t know what you want.  If you are new to thrift shopping I think having a plan is key!  It will help you focus and hunt for items easily.  Even if you don’t know the style of shirt you want, having colour inspiration or style of clothing can simplify shopping.  I love the Salvation Army Thrift Store because all of their clothing are organized by colour!
  2. LET THE SIZE GO | When looking for clothing don’t limit yourself to one size, branch out!  You would be amazed how many times I find clothing that fits great in a different section.  You have to remember some of this clothing is vintage or may be an odd size or sometimes people move the clothing around so it ends up in the wrong section.  Take a chance on a different size, you might be surprised!
  3. TRY IT ALL ON | Unlike a department store where you look in your size and pick out one or two items, the thrift store is a numbers game. Every piece of clothing you are attracted to or really like the style, take it with you.  I usually go into the changing room with an arm load of clothing, it guarantees I am going to come out with a few items.
  4. LOOK AT THE TAG | When I am thrifting I always feel the material and check the tags.  You might see a great shirt, look at the label and think it’s cheap, but when you check the material tag it’s actually silk.  Also checking the brand is always a great idea since you can find quality items for a lot less.  I recently found a pair of Free People faux leather pants for $4 at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store. Looking at the pants I might have passed them up, but when I checked the tag I was thrilled!
  5. EVERY PURCHASE IS A WIN | If you walk into a thrift store with a plan, try on a handful of clothes and only walk out with 2 pieces, you’re doing really great.  Thrifting is a process.  Maybe you have your summer clothing dream list, it might take you four trips to the thrift store to find everything you want, but that’s part of the fun! At the end when you have refreshed your wardrobe, it’ll feel like a win!

I also wanted to add some tips on what not to do when thrift shopping.

  1. DON’T GO SHOPPING ON A WHIM | I think where thrift shopping can get frustrating is when you walk away empty handed.  This happens most often for me when I stop in and think I can magically find something amazing.  The thing is, I don’t know what I am looking for or what I really want, I am simply hoping to find something.
  2. DON’T BUY ITEMS THAT DON’T FIT | I think this is an easy trap to fall into, I am definitely guilty of it!  You find an amazing designer top, it’s beautiful, you want it, but it’s two sizes too big.  You reason with yourself by saying oh I can tuck it in or wear a belt or maybe alter it, they never work!  It’s best to walk away, if not that piece of clothing will most likely end up back at the thrift store.
  3. DON’T BUY SOMETHING JUST TO BUY SOMETHING | Sometimes I walk into the thrift store with a plan, knowing exactly what I want, I try on an armful of clothing, but nothing works.  Maybe it doesn’t fit or the colour isn’t right or it’s too big.  It’s really easy to buy a piece of clothing that kind of works, saying to yourself, it’s only $4.  The thing is, those $4 purchases add up.  They also sit in your closet and can sometimes make you feel like you have nothing to wear.  Best to leave empty handed than make a purchase you’ll regret.

Here are some pieces I found last year when I was refreshing my summer wardrobe.  My plan was to add colour into my summer wardrobe and retire some of my old beat up shirts!