Adjust Your Attitude

If you’re still of the opinion that a budget is the equivalent of cement shoes, then it’s time for a shift in attitude. Part of why you can’t use a budget successfully may be because you are taking the wrong approach. If you look at a budget as a constraint, you’ll always feel squeezed. A budget should not be viewed as a stop sign for spending. Nope. It doesn’t tell you what you can’t do. Think of it as telling you what you CAN do. It’s your plan for how you will spend your money on the things that matter to you the most.

Whether you make $25,000 a year, or $250,000, you still have only so much money you can spend. And while you may think $250,000 is a lot of money, it gets chewed up pretty darn quickly.

I remember back when I was making $8,500 a year. I couldn’t wait to make $20K. I got there and then thought that if I made $30,000 a year, I could never run out of money. Yes you can. Because it’s never really about how much you make. It’s about what you do with the money.

If you want to maximize your sense of satisfaction about how you’re putting your dollars to work for you, you need a budget. That’s the only way you can plan to use them on the things you value most. That may not mean buying a new Whatever when you see one. Instead, it may mean having the kind of financial security that ensures you have a roof over your head and food in your belly.

While you probably don’t LOVE paying the mortgage, you probably really enjoy having a home you can call your own. And while grocery prices may be squeezing your ability to buy a new Whatever, it’s nice to know you don’t have to subsist on KD and wieners. Perspective is everything.  Knowing your parameters – read “having a budget” — means you can work within those parameters to make every dollar you have really count.

Y’all have heard me rant on about the difference between Wants and Needs, right? Having taken care of the Needs, you then can look at your Wants. But if you’re like everyone else, you likely have far more Wants than money, leaving you feeling deprived. Then you end up hating the budget, your income and your life, so you grab a credit card and head to the mall.

How do you avoid the frustration? By shifting your attitude so that the things you Need also become the things you Want. It’s a reality of life for many that the things we Have are of far less value to us than the things we have yet to acquire. Sad, but true. If we are always taking the things we Have for granted, then it becomes easier to focus on the things we Have Not, leaving us dissatisfied and ripe for an over-spending spree.

Start approaching your budgeting with this new attitude: The things I am spending my money on are the things I want the most. Now it won’t be about what you don’t have, and your budget won’t feel like drudgery or something that restricts how you spend. Instead, it’ll be about keeping the things that you truly value front and centre in your mind so you continue to enjoy them, instead of taking them for granted. 


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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52 Responses to “Adjust Your Attitude”

  1. I think gaining debt, like weight for some, doesn’t happen overnight, but when you’re armpit high in it the thought of dealing with the numbers becomes overwhelming. I know when I looked at my debt last year it took my breath away, but I kept in spending and spending. Was it to assauge my own guilt of having dug a hole so deep? Maybe, but sometimes it was purely because there wasn’t the emergency fund but there was an emergency! Other times it was just a mindset of “Oh, I’ve got thousands on the credit card, so really, what’s a $20 lunch gonna hurt at this point?”

    From coming here daily along with some other regular sites, I am focussed on aggressively paying down debt, not-so-aggressively building up savings, and I’ve stopped looking at the numbers as overwhelming but instead as a goal to reduce one leap at a time. Comparing myself to others in terms of nice homes, cars, luxurious vacations, etc. still happens, sure. But I feel better sleeping at night knowing just for today I took another bite out of the debt and will be able to get that nice car or vacation (already got the house and gadgetry to go with it!) once I’m debt-free again. And I no longer compare my debt to others to see what end of the scale I’m on. Instead, I look at my own debt and imagine everyone else is doing very well and is debt-free. It’s an incentive to not be left behind and feel like I’m the only person still paying things off when the sky falls while everyone else “got it” before I did and prepared for a long, hard winter!

  2. To be honest, I look around my apartment and can’t imagine spending more money on things we don’t need.

    I used to have knick-knacks, which only contribute to clutter, and if you move, you then have to deal with it all. I dislike packing and I don’t want to have anything new in our already little apartment! The more junk you accumulate, the less space you have to live in!

    I’d rather keep our space open – besides, it’s easier to clean! We just have to sweep, mop, dust a bit and we’re done.

    The one area we need to work on is the kitchen though. We have more than enough baking pans and the like, but it still seems so easy to acquire things without getting rid of something we don’t need.

    As for us, we budget to spend $800 each monthly for rent, food, entertainment, laundry, toiletries, bills, joint expenses, etc.

    Then we each keep the rest of our money for our own purposes. Mine I further break down and put $500 to savings or student loan (with the current economy, I’ve decided to max out my TFSA and bring my savings to 8-10K before I go back to aggressively paying down the student loan). Then I have my loan, bus pass, and personal spending for entertainment, shopping, etc. I always find it interesting that I give myself a budget for spending, but still manage to not spend it. Somethings just aren’t as important to me anymore. I’ll still go out with friends or spend money on frivolous food purchases at times, but I’m ok with that since it goes into my personal entertainment budget.

  3. While I’ve been budgeting kinda sorta for a couple years now, I’ve been on the money jars since Dec 25 for most of my variable spending. Absolutely it’s still in the honeymoon phase, but rather than it being constraining, right now I find it actually quite liberating. To know how much goes to each pot, and to have money left at the end of the month is a novelty. While my Emergency Fund is small, it exists!! I’m excited about continuing this journey. Thanks Gail.

  4. I love my budget! It gives myself and my fiancee choices and flexibility. Right now we’re paying off debt, but we know that once the debt is gone we have a bit of flexibility to start saving for the snow machine my fiancee wants and for the down payment for our house. If our needs change, then we just recalculate the budget. We even do the budget with having two totally separate bank accounts… it just takes some planning. We are very proud that we have come a long way.

    Gail – Next time you’re in Saskatoon… we need a hug. I think we would make you proud!

  5. Gail:
    I wanted to share my experience with the jars, since I started it on Jan 1st and we are now starting a new month.
    Our total budget per week of variables: 247.39 (250)
    At the end of the month we had: 80 left over from it (this is going to be saved on a “surplus from budget” account (High Savings) as we are planning for a bed purchase by this December.
    We also started our EF: it now has over 100
    We also re-started our RRSP Savings: It’s got over 240
    We also started a Vacation fund: It’s funded with our paid vacation and any extra money we get from part-time employment.
    Our son’s got a RESP that is funded with the Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Benefit as well as monetary gift he has received.

    For the people that are reading, go ahead and live on the Jars…. I tell you we had gotten some looks from “friends”… but when we tell them that we are going on a Vacation next January, and that we are paying our debts, saving for retairment and for our son and saving for our purchases, guess WHO gives the looks now? Our household income is moderate, but I tell you, no matter how little you make, if you have a budget and follow it, even the poorer can get richer.

  6. avatar goal"0" debt Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 9:55 am

    We live most of last year on a budget and have only just started the “Jars” Feb 1st. I think the visual effect is a big part of the process, as I filled the jars with the weeks monies based on the “Interactive Buget” I was thinking how can I spent this all and it’s only $250 per week. Letting go of the loot will be hard and savings in some of the misc. jars will be the result from what I can see just a few days in.

  7. avatar Kandfamily Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 10:50 am

    We recently made our budget with Gail’s worksheet. My income varies month to month. Using the budget shows me exactly how much income I need to pay myself to keep things exactly as they are. We are working to eliminating debt which will then mean the whole house could operate on my husband’s income. Mine then would move to be primarily EF, RSP, RESP and planned spending (read: vacation).

    The best thing about having a budget that is balanced is that you know exactly where money is going and that bills will be paid on time, in full. That makes it easier to sleep and helps keep us focused on the long term goals. Yep, we do without many wants, but we have what we need which, by comparasin, isn’t so bad!

    Thanks for another great post, Gail. Visiting your sight daily not only keeps me focussed, it keeps me inspired: by you and all the readers who reply!

  8. *waves to Charlene, fellow Sk gal*

  9. Emma wrote:
    “I dislike packing and I don’t want to have anything new in our already little apartment!”

    I’m with you on that one Emma. Having recently moved out from the nest, I became overwhelmed with how many boxes of personal stuff I had, and tried limiting the number of boxes I was bringing into my “new world”. I never realized how much clothes I have. Not to say I ever thought I had a small amount, but never realized just how big it was. I ended up donating about 4-5 grocery bags worth, plus I still have clothes for every occasion – working out, work, going out, etc. – to last me a good while although I do need a better winter jacket for these Winnipeg winters….brrr.

    I do have a recommendation for you though Emma. Given the current economy why NOT pay down the student loan aggressively? With the low interest rates, aggressive payments allow you to attack more of the principle, so that when rates go up, you’ll have very little principle left. I’m not saying don’t save at the same time, but just flip your thought process on what you attack aggressively. Just my opinion though and some food for thought.

    Anyways, great attitude and seems to be working for you well, so keep it up!

  10. I just started actually budgeting this year, and I’m enjoying it. I think it’s all about your attitude, as you say. If you’re doing something because you choose to, because you want to reach a goal or live a lifestyle, it’s not a deprivation. It’s a choice you’re making, and it can be very empowering.

  11. I agree that it’s a matter of turning needs into wants. If you think you’re getting nothing you want, you feel deprived – but if I think that I WANT to pay my bills on time and have the financial freedom to make tough decisions down the road, it doesn’t seem so bad that I can’t buy the little things like a new Xbox 360. It’s all about prioritizing wants.

  12. Erran:
    I do intend to start back on the aggressive payments come April, but our office is having some trouble right now, and I just want to make sure I have a safe stash in case something happens. While I may be relied on for getting everything done at the office and keeping people on track, you just never know what could happen over the next few months.

    So, over the next three months I’m upping my savings and then the money that was being put into savings will just go to my student loan (though leftover money at the end of the month will still go to savings)- if I pay that full $500 extra to my loan, I’ll be able to pay off my loan that much sooner (I had anticipated paying my set 255 and 250 with 250 going to savings) and having my loan done by 2012 – 5 years from graduation! I may be able to shave a year – 18 months off if I’m really aggressive though 🙂

    How have you found living on your own now? Have you had to make any changes that you hadn’t expected with your budget?

  13. avatar Stephanie H. Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I have had a rough budget since my second year of college. Every year after I would get my financial aid package I would sit down and do the math for the cost of school and living for the next year. I would calculate the cost first then subtract grants, scholarships and earnings from my summer job. Then I would figure out how much I would earn from work during the year and subtract that. What ever was left is what I would take in a student loan. With the exception of one year I turned down a good portion of my student loan money because I didn’t really need it. Since college I have paid off my higher interest student loan, saved for a down payment and bought a house. Every paycheck I contribute to my 401k, move money to my car account and fund the account that pays for all of my bills related to my house including my mortgage payments. I am in the process of increasing my EF (I currently have about 5 months worth). Any money that is left over goes into life. Generally I pay off my credit card as I use it. I love having a budget because I don’t have to worry about if there is money in the bank because I know there is enough money in the bank. I couldn’t imagine going through life without one.

  14. Fantastic Post!
    It is all about state of mind (and mindfulness).
    One of my favourite things to remind myself of my goals….

    “It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the life you want to lead.”

    So I ask myself is this thing that I am wanting going to contribute to the life I want to lead? Or is it going to contribute to more stress down the road?
    That’s why I still have a VERY ugly hand-me-down couch in the family room. It is in perfect shape that I can’t justify replacing it with something new and pretty — it just will not give enough life value per dollar spent. I will have spent X amount of dollars AND have to worry about the kids playing on it — a WANT (certainly not a NEED)! SO I live with the ugly couch that owes me nothing until it is not in such good shape or the kids are easier on things (wink-wink).

  15. Emma:
    Fair enough. Given your uncertainty, your plan seems rational, and would back that up. Again, sounds like you got things well planned. That’s awesome!

    Living on my own is nice, although not as a dramatic change as I envisioned from a personal/emotional angle. Even though I was lazy while at home, not doing much of the cleaning,etc., I can cook/clean/etc without any issues. I’ve always been an organization freak, including with money. Never one to spend much, so that has allowed me to pay off my student loan and a used newer car in a quick manner (use your tax refund to pay down your loans…that’s what I did) while at home – and I did contribute rent money when I started my career (granted cheaper than reality).

    My biggest fear is that while I’m a great saver – so much so that I’m one of those people who oversaves (yes, it can exist and it is not healthy) – that I do not know how to manage money on a daily basis. It seems to contradict itself, but really they are two different things. So far, I’ve been going over my set budget/net income stocking up the place with first-time necessities (i.e. couch, bookcase, kitchen supplies, etc.), but because I’ve saved a lot in the past, it’s not a concern. I have RRSPs and other investments, no debt, so I’m sitting well. But the hardest part for me is letting go – i.e. learning how to spend money (sounds stupid doesn’t it?). Being 30, one of the challenges is finding a balance between the simple “student-life” living (stocking household items on the cheap) that someone gets at 22 and feeling that at 30, there should be some accumulation of nice material goods. I bought a Dyson vacuum (which I love to pieces now) because I needed a vacuum. But it is an expensive brand that I’m not sure I would have bought had I not been able to buy one on boxing day clearance sale for $200 less than normal price. Had my friend not literally pressure me into buying it (she knows me too well), I probably would have missed out. That line between wants and needs is sooo fine sometimes. But otherwise, my dining room table/chairs, dishes and some other things I got for free.

    Actually, a note for Gail, it probably would be a good idea to write a blog on how to setup a place – i.e. budget – when someone is moving out on their own for the first time. Car payments, rent, etc. are easy to manage on a month-to-month basis, but how do you account for so many small one time hits? I’ll be alright, but I’m sure others could gain from Gail’s knowledge.

  16. avatar Lexi in Victoria Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    My partner and I have some debt and have been working to pay it off for a year. Starting to see some results! About six months ago, we “discovered” Gail and her budget jars and started using them and I just can’t express how much stress this has alleviated. Anyway, to respond to Gail’s blog today – last night, my partner and I went to dinner with a group to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. In the past we would have thrown it on a credit card and stressed out about it later. Last night, we paid cash out of our entertainment budget jar and it felt so good.

    I noticed the only other couple to pay cash was my friend’s retired parents. I thought it was really interesting that this was a couple who lived through the depression and other hard times. Food for thought.

    Another thing that has happened recently: my grade 10 daughter is taking a “Planning” course that includes financial planning. Recently the teacher asked the class to put up their hands if their parents use budget jars (or similar) to plan their expenses. She was the ONLY one! So, either the parents are not budgeting or they are not talking to their kids about it. This is an affluent neighbourhood, by the way and we are among the least affluent of them all. Alarming, don’t you think?

  17. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    “The things I am spending my money on are the things I want the most.”

    Now that is a great mantra!

    I want a roof over my head and heat to keep me warm, a safe car to drive with gas in the tank, food in my pantry, electricity, clothes on my back. I want internet, cable & phone for entertainment – so I spend my money on these things. They are not all needs, but they are what I want most.

    Michelle: I have fallen to the mindset of “Oh, I’ve got thousands on the credit card, so really, what’s a $20 lunch gonna hurt at this point?” at times myself. It’s hard not to sometimes. Congratulations on your new focus!! You will be debt free before you know it – because you are focused and you know what is important to you.

    Emma: I am at the point where I really think about a purchase before I bring it home because I don’t want anymore clutter either. How many “things” do we really need to spend our money on??

    Jolie: Good job getting started with your jars! You are on the way!

    Everyone seems to be doing so well! It’s very inspiring.

    Pol: I swore growing up that I would NEVER put a blanket over my sofa. Guess what? Kids came along! My 3 yr old really tests the wear & tear of the furniture. My DH is just as hard on the furniture. The throws on the sofa & chair help a lot. I’m determined not to buy another sofa & chair for atleast 4-5 years.

  18. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Lexi, It’s great to hear your daughter has the option to take a course in “planning”. It’s too bad more parents were not setting good financial examples for their kids. Hopefully we can all help to change that.

  19. *great* explanation. i totally believe that budgets are not about restrictions, they are about conscious living – putting your money where it really belongs. and by budgeting in money for yourself, you can enjoy what you spend, not get bogged down feeling guilty about it.

    Melaniesd and Lexi – and any others – I am trying to compile a good list of books for children and teens to learn about money – anyone have a suggestion?

  20. Erran – I know what you mean when you say that now you are 30, you are starting to look at your life a little differently and wonder if some accumulation of material goods are in order.

    I’m a big saver too, (obviously) and it’s been an active transition for me to move towards a “lifestyle upgrade” – a shift upwards from the student type living. For me, this means actually buying furniture and other things that are my own, as opposed to subsisting on handmedowns (i mean *everything* i owned was a handmedown). now i’m trying to make a change by establishing my own sense of style and accumulating some good quality items that are important to me. This included a new bed, complete with a headboard and footboard – a big step up from sleeping on the floor – leather furniture ( intended to give my back more support, as you know i suffer from chronic pain) – and an antique tea trolley (my first real collectors peice) etc.

    It’s tough to give yourself permission and find a balance between creating that lifestyle you want/ deserve and present that mature vision of yourself – while saving and being responsible too.

    it’s not easy drawing the line.

  21. Quick question, I’m in Australia, what is KD???? I know what weiners are, they’re hot dogs right?


  22. Sarah – KD = Kraft Dinner. Think pre-cooked noodles with a cheese sauce that you make at home. Go to wikipedia and type in Kraft Dinner for greater details.

    In Canada, it’s almost a rite of passage for a young adult to be able to rhyme off the instructions to cooking KD, especially if they’re on their own for the first time (it’s cheap).

  23. Sounds yummy Geoff!!!!

    We have something similar in Australia, 2 minute noodles with the sachet of flavouring, when I was just out of high school they were 17c a packet.

    Thanks for the info.

  24. Much appreciated Gail. Your blogs put words to a lot of the thoughts I have! Especially the starting of this year, I’ve definitely put a lot more thought into what are needs and avoiding things in the world that don’t have much substance to it. I convinced my partner at the beginning of last year to get rid of his cable plan and stick to the free antenna reception. He did and although it can be frustrating at times, we remind ourselves that little things like this are providing us savings for a place to call our own. Plus, we can still watch Gail on the free Canadian channels :o)

  25. What a timely post!

    After a few attempts at keeping to a budget without Magic Jars (didnt work), I finally announced that we were doing the jars from now on. I deposited the paycheques, spent every penny on paper (as Gail recommends), and distributed the cash into the appropriate envelopes (in our case).

    Well, after wondering how it was that people on the show who were hemorrhaging money every month suddenly got to the end of each week with MONEY LEFT OVER — that is exactly what is happening for us!
    They really are magic. It just. . .works. You can barely even put into words why it works, but it;s a bit like a game — it;s actually FUN to try and roll money into the next week. And you are completely free of any gnawing anxiety that something wont get paid, or you wont save that month or whatever, because it;s already done!!!

    If you are hesitating taking the magic jar plunge, as I did for so long, do it today! It is AWESOME!

    PS Stupid computer wont let me do normal apostrophes, hence the weird punctuation choices. . .:-)

  26. Love this post, Gail.
    I think it’s so cute how there’s a request for help on the moving out costs, etc. from Gail. Yes this is realistic, so maybe not so cute : ). It’s too bad so many of us never had this step-by-step help from our own parents, myself included.
    As a momma myself, I’m will be ensuring that my own kids know all about what it takes to live on their own before that time comes due, how to pay yourself first, etc.,etc. This is part of being a how did some of our parents manage to skip this??? whether with intent or not?? We now have to educate ourselves & figure it out as we go and rely heavily, maybe too heavily, on Gail for help & guidance.

    Great post Gail, we love ya!

  27. We are a high-low income family of 3 making 28 000 a year. We always said” we don’t make enough money to save!” God, half the time we didn’t pay rent on time and were months behind

    Now after using the magic jars which we started in January, We have a savings – mind you minimal of 45$, but its 45 more than we ever have had. and our rent is paid- and our bills.

    Change is hard. So we are proud of the little steps we have made to get ahead in finances.

  28. Saver Queen–

    re: books for kids–depends on the age. My kids are 6 and 8 and one book we have used for “money talks” is the “Berenstain Bears and the Trouble With Money”. I did a search at the library and came up with quite a few hits, but they were mostly for parents to teach their kids, not for kids to read themselves–still worth reading.

    We also use jars for allowance–buying (85%), saving (10%) and giving (5%) jars. When appropriate (i.e. the jar is full), we deposit savings money in the bank. At the end of the year, the kids decide what charity to donate their “giving” money to (one adopted an animal at the zoo and the other donated the Sick Kids Hospital). When events come up at school (pizza lunch, Scholastic book orders) they use money from their buying jars. If the school is fundraising and they want to contribute, it comes out of their giving jar (e.g. Toonie for Terry Fox day in September). It works well for us and now when they want something and it comes out of “their” money, they think a little harder before spending it.

  29. Am I the only one who LOVES paying my mortgage???!! I am a single, under 30 female who just bought a new house last spring, and I am SO stoked every two weeks to go online and see that almost half of my payment is going directly to my principle thanks to the insanely low interest rates right now!! All of my crazy lifelong renter/no budget/no savings friends think I’m insane when I get giddy about seeing those results, but they just don’t get it. It is THE BEST feeling. Ah, I’m happy just thinking about it!

    And ad me to the list of “new to the jars concept”. I don’t use actual jars, I find tracking it in my TDDUP planner is good enough for me. I started Jan 1 and came out $14 under budget for the month in the “life” category, only used debit cards (no credit), as well as making my first $100 deposit into an EF, and making big strides on paying down my small remaining consumer debt by applying my “savings” and unexpected funds here. Gail – THANK YOU! I’ve tried budgeting before but just really didn’t understand HOW you were supposed to meet those numbers that you IMAGINED UP at the start, until I found you. I can’t thank you (and your willingness to share) enough, seriously!

    Just one word of advice – BMO’s TFSA is a total turd as an EF… unless you want to make monthly fixed payments. If you want to add any additional funds or withdraw funds, you have to go through an investment advisor, even if you’re just using it as savings and not GICs, etc. WHAT A PAIN! I tried to ad my second $100 yesterday and I have to go see an investment person. Ridiculous. I thought I had done my research well ahead of time, but I didn’t see this coming! I’ve heard the ING one might be better… don’t really want a second account, but it might be a good idea…

  30. avatar optimistic Says:
    February 5, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Just curious… I’ve been having success with the jar method, except for FOOD! I budgeted $120.00 per week for myself and my 2 sons (15 and 18) We have only had take-out one time since Jan.1, 2009, as I have been much better organized about meal planning and cooking. Well, the $120.00 didn’t cut it; I ended up spending another $30.00 before the week was over. Then I increased the budget to $140.00, and then to $150.00 I have spent the $150.00 for the week ( will fill the jar again on Sat) and today my son called me to ask me to pick up more milk on the way home! I am getting frustrated. Vegetarian meals do not go over well; they are just a waste of time and money, because they end up in the garbage. FYI, I am a little on the chubby side, but the boys are not fat, or even chubby. We live in Southern Ontario… my food budget realistic or am I being cheap with my growing boys? What are other families spending on food?

  31. As usual, another great blog! I don’t start my day without reading Gail’s newest shared wisdom. It IS a great feeling to have a budget that works, because one knows that all the necessary ‘things’ are taken care of, and if there are wants, one knows how much is available, therefore, one also knows how bad the want must be to make the purchase. Regarding making the move to one’s own place upon leaving the nest – my nephew lived at home after high school, but paid his mom rent. He made a list of things he would need to set up his own place, and every single payday he would make a purchase. One month might be a toaster and cutlery, the next month a table and chairs. We were all impressed with his determination and vision. I remember my first grocery shopping trip when I went out on my own (1975)!!! It cost hundreds of dollars for the original kitchen set up. We all need to make sure our kids know what is waiting for them. And, has anyone checked out the cost of KD lately??? It is NOT cheap, at over $1 per box. You can buy 2Kg of macaroni for about $3, and a jar of Cheez Whiz on sale for maybe $5, and have the equivalent of 2 dozen boxes of KD.

    Lea, I just set up accounts at PC Financial, with a TFSA Interest Plus account. I have it so I can just make deposits into the account at my discretion. I don’t plan on taking anything out, (kind of defeats the purpose), so we’ll see how it goes. Jury is still out on the TFSA. My payroll will go directly to the “Interest First” savings account, then I will transfer what I need for rent, etc to chequing as required. This way, my dollars will earn more daily interest in savings rather than sitting in chequing earning squat – the jar categories like medical/dental, clothing, etc. that are not needed that often. I will say, tho, that this method will require some dedication on my part, as there is a 24 hour delay on transfers – good thing my budget tells me when I need to make payments and how much!

    It’s great to have this site available to everyone – so many good ideas, and encouragement for all of us. Way to go, everybody!!

  32. Sarah, Kraft Dinner (KD) is the brand name, but it’s the same as macaroni and cheese. Basically, the box comes with macaroni noodles and a powdered cheese packet. You cook the noodles, sprinkle the powder on it, mix in some butter and milk, and you’re good to go. Hmm…now that I think of it, sounds kind of sick…lol

    SaverQueen, I’m sleeping on an air mattress that I got from my friend two months ago. Sad isn’t it?! Just can’t seem to find a bed set that I like…correction, I found one, but I’m having a hard time with the $4,000 price tag on it…with the mattress…le sigh

  33. avatar Trying to be thirify Says:
    February 6, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Hi I like the other post from Optomistic find it hard to spend anything less than about $160.00 per week on groceries. We are a family of 4 and I make almost everything from scratch. My crockpot is my family friend, we use it almost daily. I make my own cookie dough and freeze in rolls just like the Pillsbury ones. Pizza made quickly from frozen bread dough (about a $1.00/loaf plus toppings). Stir fries (use up all the odds and ends in the fridge). Soup in the crock pot, put all your goodies in before you go to work and come home just add left over noodles or rice. Left over potatoes always get used for hashbrowns on the weekend for a big breakfast.

    Are there statistics in Canada for the the average Canadian spends on groceries per week. (or should spend)

    Would love to see a regular post here on how families save money. Would like to see others ideas. How do you save the kitchen?

  34. avatar an ostrich named sam Says:
    February 6, 2009 at 4:44 am

    I’ve been roughly following the jars for about a year now, and have been a fan of Gail for a few years. I work 2 nights a week as a waitress, plus my FT job and I use my tip money for gas, groceries and my DD’s allowance. My average tips/week is 110 + my hourly wage. I’ve learned that my wants can take the back burner for a few years, while I take care of my needs.

    I’m no longer falling behind every month ( by using my credit card), and I’ve now opened a Christmas savings account, a regular savings account and my TFSA ( which will be my emergency fund). The Christmas account has a minimum of 50/month added to it ( 4 pays + 10.00 from CTC).

  35. Erran:
    I bought a mattress set from Sleep Country for under $400 (plus tax) – they have mattresses that people took home and decided they didn’t like (they have that 60 day sleep guarantee thing)/incorect deliveries – and these “second best” mattresses are much cheaper! etc.

    If there’s a sleep country near you, try looking into that option 🙂

    As for the bed set, mine’s hand-me-down things 😛 However, I’ve had luck going to the Brick and checking their clearance section (in person). Our couch was marked down to $275 because of a rip on the arm. Your luck might vary, but ask if there is anything else they can do for you, and tell them what you’re hoping to spend.

    Or, ask if that $4000 set will be going on sale anytime soon. Never buy full price! 😛

  36. @ optimistic:
    my experience with the food portion of the budget was…. I checked how much we had spent in groceries for the year before, and it turned to be about $ 120…. BUT… the week after we had to increase it to $ 140. $ 140 seemed to be the right number, because now when we are doing groceries, it’s always 132, 138, 125, 139… We are 2 adults and 1 baby… our food budget includes diapers…. We make a lot of different soups, pasta, meat, chicken (buy a whole chicken and portion it) and you can use all the bones for soup, etc… This seams to be working fine for us.

  37. avatar Melaniesd Says:
    February 6, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Optimistic, Trying to be Thrifty & Emiliano:
    I spend an average of $150/wk on groceries. That cost includes diapers, dog food and household cleaners. We bring our meals to work so we don’t spend extra on take out. We try to avoid a lot of convenience foods. Thankfully, I really enjoy cooking so I cook from scratch a lot.

    I’m SO HAPPY that my son is now using the potty almost regularly. Once he no longer needs a diaper for night time my bill will reduce by $30+/month. It’s great!

  38. Emma:

    Ha ha…thanks for the info/insights. I admit that work has kept me busy and tired, so my bed shopping hit a brick wall a month ago (give or take).

    As for your tip “never buy full price”, of course, I completely agree, but from what I’ve uncovered, you probably don’t need to wait for sales either…just some good ol’ fashion market haggling. Don’t let the website name fool you, but has some interesting info regarding furniture shopping (weird I know!). Here’s the link (for you and everyone one of Gail’s army 😉 ):

    It’s also good for tips on buying cars – new and used. Just keep in mind, his reference point is the US.

  39. Emma, congrats on your current saving successes, and with your upcoming aggressive payments on that student loan. Erran, you have some seriously good advice and I’ve come to enjoy reading your thoughts.

    Gail, I love this post. Just love it. I will really help me when it comes time to sit down with my boyfriend (Tuesday after he returns from a camping trip – winter camping in Canada – I still don’t quite get it!) We have decided to begin the process of buying a house. For us it starts with getting him on board with a thing called a budget. i began, with gusto, the jar’s on Jan. 1/09, and with the help of that awesome planner I won form you, I have began the journey to financial abundance (debt still rings to negatively for me). My first month on the jar system I saved $170 for the month. my variables budget in a month is $634.56 so the first month in I saved about 25%!!!! Not too bad I’d say. I’ve found that as long as I keep up with the tracking, and not carrying my debit or credit card around with me helps remind me I don’t have the money to spend.

    I am aggressively paying off my car loan, and the silly credit card debt I have saddled myself with. While buying a house is a major process, this budget thing is the first part of the journey for me. It may take us some time to find something and get our down payment saved, but we will be doing this. To completely get out of the credit debt I need two years. To have my car paid off I need 5 more months. I’ve been making larger than required payments for a year now and will have that car done with 9 months sooner than was expected. I called the credit card company and they switched the card I had to a lower interest one so now I’m accruing less interest that I was which helps.

    All this is great and the posting I’ve printed for my newly converted-to-saving-and-budgeting boyfriend since he needs a budget before I feel comfortable pooling our money for a down payment. He knows this – we are very open with each other about it, and since he’s been watching you every night with me, he even comes home and tells me about everything he has purchased when he makes one, and has even begun rethinking some of those purchases after I remind him that the guilty feeling he has is not because of what I’ll necessarily say about how much he spent, but because he really didn’t need the item in the first place and it was just one of those things that is neither here nor there whether he owns it or not.

    this is going to be a very interesting journey.

    thanks for the post – everyone else – thanks for your thoughts and advice. I’ve got to get a Gail Club going in Kitchener/Breslau!!

  40. Also – with ING, it’s online, so you simply apply for the account, and you can set up automatic withdrawls from your current bank account to it on a regular day of the month, or make any kind of transfer whenever you want to the ING savings account…you can also do telephone transfer with them if you prefer not to do the online thing. I have been with them for 7 years and not ever had a problem. I get excited about the day the money moves from one account to the other. The thing you need to know though is, if you are doing on line transfers, it takes 2 days for the money to show up in the account you are moving it to, so there will be some planning necessary when you want it – and very few Canadian Tire locations actually have an ING teller machine in them.

    I’ve loved my accounts with ING since I got them!!!

  41. Yes, I too would like to see a spot for kitchen/eating tips/suggestions/ideas – saving money on food; make your own; eating in; recipes, recipes, recipe. Yes, I know there are books galore out there on big pot cooking, cooking for the freezer, but I’d like to get some real tried and true stuff from the folks here. I’ve asked for a food section a couple of times now. Gail, what do you think? You’re a great cook – could you share some of your favourites as well?

  42. Mary & Optimistic (and all Gail’s Army):

    Here’s one site I’ve used a couple times for recipes (I’m a vegetarian):

    The two I’ve tried have been pretty good, and cheap, AND there is usually alot left over for lunch (solo eater, but can eat like a garberator…haha).

    Here are the two I tried, which I liked:

    I think both have cost me about $3-4 to make (and I used no name cans for the chickpeas and beans, but if you go dry bulk, it will be slightly cheaper too). Plus the good thing is that they both require the same “Indian” spices so once you have the spices, you can make both.

    For the chickpea curry, just serve with rice (about 2 cups dry), and you’ll easily feed a family of 4 (same with the black bean recipe – and quinoa is so healthy! do a search on youtube and you’ll find out why!). I’m sure even non-veggies will eat this up. Great flavour!

    But a recommendation: go about half of the cayenne pepper with the curry dish – as much as I love spicey hot foods, and can tolerate the amount in the recipe, it’s just too strong to make it a pleasant experience. Enjoy!

  43. Thanks Erran. Yes, is a great site. I have quinoa pretty much every day, and make many Indian dishes. I have a great recipe for a casserole using pork tenderloin (which is often on sale at No Frills), black beans (which I cook from dried and keep in freezer) and sweet potatoes (which we have almost every day as well), if anyone is interested. Those two recipes sound delicious – will definitely put them on my list. Your suggestions and tips are very welcome!

  44. Pam…Im in Kitchener myself :).

    Also…I would really appreciate if anyone has any food/money saving tips for in the kitchen…always looking to save money on groceries. 🙂

  45. Pam & Fiona – I am in Cambridge.
    As for the grocery/kitchen tips – my sister told me about this book called “The Big Cook” we borrowed it from the Library and I loved it so much that I asked for it for my birthday. The idea is to get several people together and split the cost and then have many dinners prepared in the freezer. I did it myself in a smaller version but found that I although I spent a bit more initially (I started at the beginning of Jan”09) if I keep up with it a bit each week it doesn’t cost quite as much and now I have been able to shave a bit off my weekly grocery bill since I am not buying meat each week. Meal Planning is a big help. However, I use my jars based on monthly rather than weekly as there are some weeks that are not as big as other weeks since I tend to buy some stuff in bulk (Costco etc).


  46. Joanne….your welcome to email me if you want to, @ Maybe we can share some tips/ideas. None of my other family/friends are the least bit interested in this topic. Im the odd ball… 🙂

  47. Fiona & Joanne – I’d love to get a group going out this way and would really like to set up a meeting with the two of you. Fiona – before I send I ‘ll be emailing you. It looks like Joanne will also be emailing you.
    Joanne – I too am an “oddball” and PROUD of it!

    Fiona – so you have it, and Joanne so you have it (and any other people in the Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo area my email address is

  48. avatar Lucie Da Costa Says:
    February 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    I watch your show everyday. I love they way you work and would like to know where we can buy a budget planner. You usualy give your clients a bidder, where can we have a copy of how it is made.

    Thank you very much.

  49. Just found this site and thought it would be nice to share.

    I am treating us to pizza and found a coupon code for a free 2L of pop! Bonus!

  50. You have built a mass of great content here and i have enjoyed surfing around. I was trying to find information about fine dining vegetarian recipes and your post Adjust Your Attitude « has been a great help. Ben

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