September Spending Fast

Happy September! September always marks the end of summer for me, and since Fall is my favorite season, I couldn’t be more excited. I’m hoping it doesn’t start snowing until late October, but I am looking forward to that chill in the air, pumpkin spice lattes, scarves scarves and more scarves, and teensy tiny bit of happiness about going back to school.

Originally the end of summer meant the end of my MBA summer internship, but employer has extended my contract which means I am NOT going back to school broke! I am taking this week off to complete a block week class, but as of next week, I’ll be working ~30 hours per week and completing 2 evening classes. It’s about 400% easier than last term, with less than half the academic workload and nearly 3x the income. So many wins.

Having a job this Fall changes a lot of my spending plans for the better, so you might be wondering why I’m starting of the school year with a drastic budget cut.

But what is a spending fast?

It’s the practice of reducing your spending to only essential bills for a fixed period of time. This means giving up spending on things like new clothes, dinners out, coffees, house decor, magazines, movies, etc. in the interest of saving money. 

It is drastic but it is NOT permanent. 

The spending fast is not a new concept, but I think one of the most popular champions of the practice is And Then We Saved, who did a year-long spending fast. I’m not quite that enthusiastic and feel a 30-day reset will be sufficient.

Why bother with a Spending Fast?

  • Temporarily reducing your spending forces you to evaluate your wants vs. needs, and more often than not you come our realizing you really didn’t need to buy everything you wanted to and are doing just fine without it.
  • Procrastinating the purchase of things you really want by 30 days makes buying them later a bajillion times sweeter, because in addition to getting something you really want, you’ve added in the element of delayed gratification. The only thing better than getting something you want is getting it 30 days later.
  • You will keep more money in your bank account by avoiding spending on non-essentials. Having more cash leftover at the end of the month means more money to meet your financial goals such as paying off debt or putting extra cash towards an emergency fund, travel, or retirement savings.

I need a spending fast this month for a number of reasons. First, I’m completing a block week class the first week of this month, which means I won’t be in the office. Since I’m still paid hourly, I’m losing a week of work and therefore half my pay on my next paycheque. The easiest way to cope with a drop in income is to spend less!

Furthermore (and perhaps more importantly), I want to go on a vacation! I cut travel from my budget as a grad student, but with a full-time income again I’m looking forward to getting on a plane to somewhere new again. Lastly, having a wedding or party to attend all the time threw a wrench in my meal plan every damn week. Whenever I ate bad on Friday-Saturday-Sunday, it took me until the following Thursday to feel better — at which point it was time to indulge once more. My fitness goals demand that my body is fuelled appropriately, so I’m using September to hit the reset button before Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas.

How I am managing the September Spending Fast:

  • I already eat at home most evenings and bring a lunch to work, so I don’t need to drastically curb any dining out.
  • My house is so well-stocked with wine from my housewarming, I don’t have to show up empty handed to any MBA parties.
  • My Starbucks card is at $23 with one free drink only 2 more beverages away. Since I loaded the card up weeks ago this money was “spent” before the spending fast started. Phew!
  • I have tons soaps, lotions, and just ordered fancy schmancy shampoo so I can stay out of Sephora. But I also have 6 empty MAC container which means I can get a free eyeshadow if I feel the spending itch!
  • I’ve pre-ordered both Taylor Swift’s and Maroon 5′s new albums, as well as Margaret Atwood’s new book, so I’m not going the whole month without anything new.
  • I am pretty sure my mascara can make it another month.

But the real secret to cutting my September spending? I don’t need anything I can’t buy on October 1.

Frugal Beauty Steal: 16% eBates cash-back when you buy Wen hair products

Unscheduled post to alert you to a great deal!

I’ve been whining about washing my hair with cheap shampoo (“Noooo! Why do I have to use Tresemme!!”) for a few weeks now as I got back on my financial feet post summer school tuition. One of the ways I’m treating myself now that I’ve reached some goals in my emergency fund and RRSPs is to splurge on some nice shampoo. I typically buy Bumble &  Bumble, but for a few months now I’ve been wanting to try Wen.

Wen is a series of haircare products Cara of MaskCara, one of my all-time favorite beauty blogs, is always singing the praises of. Because I trust Cara with everything from how to contour my super round face to trying new shades of eyeshadow, I felt like I could trust her when it comes to haircare so I’m skipping my Bumble & Bumble purchase and giving Wen a go. She’s actually hosting a Giveaway for a Wen starter kit right now, but I don’t know what my chances of winning are so I opted to just go ahead and buy.

Like a proper frugalista I checked eBates for a cash-back opportunity and LOOK WHAT I FOUND:

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Want to get free cash-back for your online purchases? Sign up for eBates right here!

Amazing! With that much cash-back, I was even less hesitant and placed my order immediately. I also selected the free travel pack as my bonus. Now my “splurge” shampoo isn’t even a budget buster ;)

I’ll let you know if Wen lives up to its shiny-hair promises!

The $0 Weekend

Back by popular demand (and my own return to full-time student status!)…

The $0 Weekend – How to spend your weekend on the tightest budget ever: free

The-Mindy-Project-poster1. Watch The Mindy Project I’ve liked Mindy Kaling since her time on The Office. Last year I read her book and it was laugh-out-loud funny, and she delivers even more in her show, The Mindy Project. Now on Netflix and only 21 minutes per episode, you can occupy yourself for the next 48 hours in a full Mindy-Marathon — and you won’t regret it. I’m already finishing up season 2.. and I just started watching 2 weeks ago!

126051572. Borrow The $100 Startup from your library I will likely be devoting a whole post to this book on its own, but you’re going to want to get a head-start, because if you’re anything like me you’ll be reading it a few times over. I keep going back to use the checklists or ideas, or even just to get a kick of motivation on a project. Even if you don’t borrow the book, you might find something on the website, which provides everything from a 1-page business plan to a 39-point product launch checklist. IMG_90312-768x1024

3. Learn to cook a Paleo recipe Paleo is so trendy right now, you might as well get on board because without a doubt, next time you have people over at your house, one of them will be Paleo and they’re still going to need to eat. I totally dig Paleo from a distance and love the theory behind it, but in practice I just can’t give up my favorite foods, which consist almost entirely of baked goods. Nevertheless, the great thing about Paleo foods and recipes is all, yes ALL, of them fit into the healthy diet I maintain for my gym routine so even I’ve found myself taking down the details for a Paleo meal even though all I did was google “healthy recipes. If you can’t fight them… Well I found these Coconut & avocado grasshopper bars that don’t look too bad!

4. Pick a yoga pose and start working on in for at least 5mins/day The secret to achieving any challenging posture in yoga is consistency, but it’s unrealistic for most of us to visit a yoga studio for a full class every day. It is not, however, unrealistic to practice one pose for only 5 minutes a day. Now that I’ve gotten my arm & chest strength up to a level that can bench-press a weight that is more than that of a small dog, my current focus is nailing advanced variations of crow pose. If I can just get my balance to match my killer core strength, I should be able to get flying and side crow any day now… and I’m striving towards this a little bit at a time, at 5 minutes per day.

5. Check out Taylor Swift’s new music video When I heard the iTunes preview on this song, I didn’t really like it, but once I listened to it straight-through and saw the music video is was the good ol’ TSwizzle we know and love. This is the perfect house cleaning song, so it’s worthwhile to put it on full blast and give your place a good scrub. My parents arrived from Salt Lake City on Wednesday so I have Taylor to thank for motivating me through housekeeping duties to make my apartment meet my parents standards. Have a great weekend!

Online Back To School Essentials For Frugal Students

I was really annoyed by all the back-to-school BS surrounding me lately until I realized school starts next week. To celebrate, I overpaid my tuition by $150. Oops! I expect they’ll apply that to Winter term or send me a cheque 6-8 weeks from now. In the meantime, I’m looking for ways to make up my $150 self-induced deficit. This is my last year (I swear) of studenthood, thank god, and I’ll make a frugal one in the spirit of Money After Graduation.

All of the following I’ve blogged about before, some sorta recently, so if you skim over and see something you’ve already seen before, please skip over — there’s a $0 Weekend post coming for you this Friday! If you’re like me and going back to school, and you don’t want it to cost an arm and a leg and your first born, read on.

Online Back To School Essentials For Frugal Students

A no-fee chequing and high-interest savings account with Tangerine

Giving up your summer job to go part-time or no-time as a full-time student sucks, but you can soften the blow by banking with Tangerine. Most banks offer no-fee chequing accounts for students, but Tangerine offers them to everybody, which means even when you graduate, you’re not going to have to pay a monthly fee to access your own money. Additionally, you will be paid interest, albeit a small amount, to money in your chequing account — 0.25%, but if you’re depositing a large sum to pay your tuition bill at the end of September, this might net you a few dollars, and something is better than nothing! Of course, Tangerine gives you more than something: sign up with my Orange Key (32251507S1) and receive a $25 bonus for opening a new account plus $10 every Friday for the next 4 weeks.

A scholarship search on StudentAwards.com

StudentAwards.com is a perfect aggregator site of many scholarships and bursaries available. They say a bajillion dollars of scholarships go unclaimed every year, and one of the reasons is because when you’re studying you don’t have 600 hours per week to devote to scouring the web for money. Thankfully, StudentAwards.com puts them all in one place, selects ones you’re most likely to be eligible for based on your field of study, hobbies, and other data you put in. It will even sort them based on application due date. This is where I’ve found some extra money for my MBA, though there is more scholarships available for undergraduate students then grad.

A CourseSmart account

CourseSmart was popular in my MBA program last year. With tuition for the year over $20,000 the price of a textbook almost seems insignificant by comparison, but truthfully, once you’re down tens of thousands of dollars, you’re first goal is not to let go of any more money. CourseSmart offers online versions and ebooks of required textbooks, often at half the cost of the paperbound version. Given the weight of your conventional textbook, and e-version is infinitely better anyway because who wants to carry a backpack of books from which you will maybe read 40 pages? No one, that’s who.

A Campus Book Rentals account

If you are one that likes to have a physical version of your required textbook (I was just kidding before, I am actually one of these people) the next best option is Campus Book Rentals. As many of you know, I try to adhere to the 45 minute rule: if you are not going to use something for at least 45 minutes every day, you do not need to own it. I’ve probably never read 45 minutes of any textbook in seven years of post-secondary education, so obviously there is no reason for me to buy textbooks ever. Enter Campus Book Rentals which lets you RENT YOUR TEXTBOOKS. Free shipping both ways and you’re allowed to mark that baby up with a highlighter to your heart’s delight.

amazon-student-logoAn Amazon Student Prime membership

I blogged about Amazon Student before, and now that I have it for myself I’m even more pleased with the service. I’ve been using Amazon Prime for a year, which gives me free 2-day shipping on my orders plus a whack of other great features that I don’t utilize because FREE TWO-DAY SHIPPING. The Amazon Student membership is FREE for your first 6 months then only $39 per year after that. I’m all over Amazon because I order almost everything online. Now that Amazon carries way more than just books, it’s my go-to before I make any purchase — because I know I can find it cheaper on Amazon. Most recent purchases? Protein shaker bottle, screen protector for my boyfriend’s phone, and a jar of PB2. Amazing.

An eBates account

eBates is another service I’ve blogged about before, and now I’m using it more than ever. It’s free and you get cash-back (usually 1%, but as high as 7%) for shopping online. Amazon is one of the vendors you get cash back with, so I always click through via eBates and then I get it shipped for free, in 2 days, and I get cash back. Win, win, win. Seriously I love eBates. There is just no downside to eBates.

A plan to pay off your student loans and other debts with ReadyForZero

ReadyForZero is an online resource to help you tackle your debt. It provides beautiful charts to track your progress, reminders & notifications to keep up with upcoming due dates, and all together an overall plan and strategy to pay off what you owe and begin building wealth. ReadyForZero is a great tool to organize an often overwhelming burden and help you achieve your financial goals.

Any other online resources for students?

How To Manage A Joint Chequing Account

My boyfriend and I opened a joint chequing account the day we moved in together. It’s made managing our household finances a total breeze instead of a war zone, and we have yet to have a money squabble. There’s no right way to do couples finances, but this is what is working for us!

 How My Boyfriend & I Manage Our Joint Chequing Account

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  1. Each of us contributes $1,250 per month ($625 per paycheque) to the joint chequing account for a total of $2,500 per month.
  2. From that account, we pay for our shared expenses such as rent, utilities, internet, laundry, and groceries.
  3. Sometimes we also pay shared costs such as dinners out, vacation expenses, gifts for weddings we’re attending, etc.
  4. Each of us has the joint chequing account linked to our debit cards so it can be accessed any time, but usually we don’t make purchases without the other partner present.
  5. Individual purchases less than $10, such as picking up a treat at the grocery store or some other needed item with our regular purchases, don’t count. We’ve found it’s too much of a hassle to remember to “pay back” the joint account small sums withdrawn on a regular outing.
  6. Any extra or left over cash in the joint chequing will be used towards joint “fun” purchases like more furniture/decor for our place or weekends in the mountains, but thus far we’ve found our $1,250/mo each has been right on the money (ha!) for our living expenses.

(We currently do not have a joint savings account, and contribute individually to our own TFSAs and RSPs.)

Truthfully, going forward it might make sense for us to contribute more to the joint chequing account. The $1,250 each was what I calculated based on our fixed expenses and our regular grocery shopping, but what I didn’t account for is how much we spend on things we do together. Whenever I go out to dinner or to an event or concert, my boyfriend is usually right there with me. Since so much of our discretionary spending happens together, increasing our contributions to and our spending from the joint account makes sense, but for now we’re sticking with the $1,250 each.

Why this is the best system ever:

Easiest Emergency Fund Balance calculation ever: need to save up 3 months of expenses? 3 x $1,250 = $3,750 needs to be set aside.

After I transfer my $625 to the joint account, I know that my living expenses and food are taken care of and the rest of my paycheque is entirely “mine”. This makes it budgeting simpler than ever because I don’t have to think “I better leave $60 in my account for food..”

Each partner is paying the exact same amount, so there’s no feelings of resentment about expenses being distributed unevenly. Because my boyfriend earns a higher salary than me and has less expenses, we discussed splitting bills proportionately to our incomes. However, because my income isn’t that much less and my student status is temporary, it wasn’t worth the hassle. Furthermore, $1,250 actually works out to less living expenses for me than before we lived together thanks to the reduced costs in splitting rent, internet, utilities, and groceries.

This is the first time I’ve shared finances with a partner and I can’t believe how easy it is — it’s even less of a headache than managing it all myself! How do you manage your finances with a partner, or plan to do so when you live with someone?