Ashtree Wildcrafting

From Frugality and Foraging to Small Business

It’s been awhile since writing another blog post here. Physical health has not been good for months first with a damaged foot and then with a broken collarbone. This has strained already tight finances and made it difficult to get out and forage. Even if mobility had been available, the Okanagan got socked in with heavy smoke so bad at one point that our air quality was worse than Bejing’s!

Ashtree WildcraftingBut all was not lost. Various friends began telling us that we needed to start selling the teas my daughter makes from some of our dried foraged wild ingredients. Being laid up after surgery was the perfect time to start researching necessary licenses and paperwork to get the idea off the ground. Ashtree Wildcrafting was registered with the Canadian government by the end of July, and our first sale of tea from the website took place this very weekend in September! Once the smoke cleared and mobility began to return, we got out there foraging not just for ourselves this time, but for the business as well, on property whose owners granted us permission for a wide swath of their property. What began as meeting a need to stay healthy on a limited budget, has morphed into a small business!

The beauty of online business was brought home to me in the first three weeks after my collarbone surgery, when I received a couple active sign-ups over at SFI! One of those is still active, and because of these two, I was able to upgrade my affiliate status for a month in August. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to repeat the upgrade for October or not, but we’ll see. These two people saw ads I’d already posted around the ‘net prior to my accident, and saw the opportunity the way I see it, BUT had money to do more with it than I’ve been doing.

SFI recently added a couple new features to their online empire as well. Astro Auctions is one of them, and I’ve been playing those whenever I win a T-Time contest to win T-Credits. T-credits are necessary to enter these online silent auctions. Because of making EA back in August, I was able to receive 10 T-Credits in September, and spent most of those on one daily silent auction entry for several days. Those drastically boosted my Rewardical stash, because each T-credit spent on a silent auction earns you at least 10 Rewardicals, if not more. I’m saving them to help me go EA in the future.

I spent a couple T Credits playing one of the games over at Eager Zebra, and they have a new word game there as of this month, called HIDDEN. Foxes are hiding letters of a word and offering clues to what the word is. But the hints aren’t always easy to guess. If you spot a red, silver or the rare white fox, you get extra game points and other rewards as well. I’ve spotted the rare white fox twice now and have a badge to show for it. I’ve also “outfoxed” the foxes once so far, meaning I successfully guessed at least 10 words before my 30 clues ran out. If you like word games, you need to check out Eager Zebra. They have trivia, card, and sports picks as well.

The one source that seems to send me sign-ups more consistently than others continues to be InfinityTrafficBoost. I get eyeballs from other sources, but ITB continues to be the one that sends me regular sign-ups. I even changed my SFI gateway to one that says income doesn’t come without work and effort. This means there are actually people out there who honestly do want to work, and this is a good thing. There are many more out there who want money for nothing, but that never works.

The Poor Man's BudgetI recently ran across an article claiming you can’t live on $75 per week for a 3-member family with two teenagers. If you’ve taken my course: The Poor Man’s Budget (or anyone for that matter): A 5 Week Course – Learning to live within your means, you will know that I actually do teach how to feed your family on what I refer to as LESS than a shoe-string budget! In fact, it was those thoughts that spawned this blog to begin with. Too often, people’s ideas of saving money or spending on a shoe-string budget assume you have more income coming in than I typically do. I felt it was necessary to start this blog to show how I teach this concept, how I live this concept, and what can come of this concept. The neat thing is when figuring out methods to feed my family better turn into a business concept like they did this summer.

It’s amazing how much money people find when they strip their expenses down to the bare essentials. For my household, that stripping down means less stress trying to figure out how to pay essential bills. it is my hope that my online endeavors begin to change our financial picture, but in the meantime, how we’ve learned to live will continue to be something we share with others to help ease their loads as well.

Do almost nothing all day

Infinity Traffic Boost Update 9 Mo Into Using the Service

Update report on how InfinityTrafficBoost has been doing since I joined in early August 2017:

Marketing efforts online can take anywhere from one to three months to get decent trends developing that one can work with. I spent most of the past year more focussed on the earning side of surfing than I did on the marketing side, although a free member does have their share of links and banners they can promote on the traffic exchange. However, in the past several months, I began noticing trends that I found rather encouraging on the advertising side of life.

simple chart illustrationCourses I’ve taken in marketing for on and offline efforts generally state that you have to show someone something at least 7 times before they take action. These courses also teach that you need at least 1000 views to your product or service online before you start seeing action. Some say in more recent years that this number has ballooned to 10,000 views or more. This is due to the fact that so many more websites are out there and so many more viewers to get over to your site who are now largely jaded by most advertising.

Safelists are coming back into vogue in a huge way to get human eyeballs back on company advertisements. Traffic Exchanges have become another big item on the scene again, to get real human beings viewing ads and websites once more. Many offer 2:1 or 4:1 or other odds whereby a free user of these services can get so many other eyeballs sent to their site in exchange for the number of sites that user surfs themselves. Safelists offer free members so many email sends in a week whether once per day, once every 3 days, every 5 days, etc. Some offer as little as 1 credit per email viewed while others offer up to 50 email credits per email viewed.

I am a free member of over 12 different safelists, several classified ad sites, and InfinityTrafficBoost as the only Traffic Exchange that I am actually working. I think I joined a couple others, but with ITB not merely giving me credits to send other surfers to my site, but also paying me to surf, I got spoiled and only really hang out there compared to the other TE’s.

But as I was saying, recent months began showing trends that I wanted to share today. The first is that I get, on average as a free member, roughly 750 views per month to the various links I’ve put up on ITB. The main link goes to SFI and is the one actually being surfed by other members as they participate in the TE. While I was getting sporadic sign-ups to SFI from my safelist efforts, I could go for up to two months or more at a time before anyone would sign up. Meanwhile over at ITB, I am averaging roughly 2 sign-ups to SFI per month! That totally blows those marketing stats I mentioned earlier out the window!

A friend of mine recently signed up in April 2018, and is promoting her husband’s blog. Hardly a week into using ITB, she reported that Google Analytics was saying surfers from ITB were spending on average, 2+ minutes each at the blog link she’s promoting. Now keep in mind that an ITB surfer must sit at each website for 15 seconds before they earn another .25 ad credit and work toward their surfer reward pool shares. A free member can earn up to 25 full ad credits per day minimum, and up to 10 surfer reward pool shares that pay them at midnight EST every day. With those stats, my friend got excited and asked if she could surf more than her 100 daily sites. I replied that yes, you can, as long as you understand you will only get paid on the first 100 sites.

There’s more to InfinityTrafficBoost than what free members can do for sure! Advertisers can purchase any of 11 Traffic Package Options (TPO) and each one lets them advertise more links the higher they go, and purchase more ad credits the higher they go as well. One of the co-founders of ITB recently began doing comparison research to see how ITB’s traffic packages compare to other traffic exchanges out there and discovered that ITB’s prices are anywhere from 30% cheaper to over 50% cheaper than many of the TE’s he’s already looked at. In addition, advertisers wanting to save even more money can now make use of a brand new feature on the site called “The Ad Credit Auction”. This is where surfers make accumulated ad credits available for sale starting in 1000 ad credit increments, for prices well below ITB’s usual TPO pricing. Of course all you’re buying at the auction are ad credits. No additional link capabilities come with it or other benefits. But the potential for purchasing human views of your site drops significantly in this auction room.

I got thinking recently myself, that ITB will now be attracting two types of users: The earner, and the advertiser. Earners can advertise, and advertisers can earn, with 80% commissions possible, but each type of user will have a larger focus. Advertisers can even turn off the earnings capability if they choose, in their settings. This step alone boosts the number of eyeballs they can get on their websites.

10 Steps to Financial Freedom

My own focus is primarily on the earnings side of things. if I can find 4 active referrals who will do their 100 sites every day for a month or more, the snowball will start roughly 30 days later and then I can start working my way out of debt! Earnings are in BTC, but can be paid out in Etherium or Litecoin. Coinbase, the service ITB uses to pay in BTC still has high fees even though other places have dropped theirs to almost nothing, so ITB is recommending users get paid in Etherium or Litecoin and then exchange that to BTC to send to their primary wallet. Qoinpro is a good place to go for those kinds of transactions by the way. I’ll be making use of their services in this regard hopefully soon.

I could have cashed out in BTC within a month or so already, but decided to take another stab at “TPO my way up” which lets you automatically purchase TPO’s based on what you’ve earned, rather than purchase out-of-pocket. If I can find 3 other active referrals between now and the end of June, that will be great. Otherwise I’m looking at my first potential cash out this coming summer. If I hadn’t been attempting the TPO my way up method all last year, I’d have cashed out twice by now. But the months where I only accumulated my earnings instead have been some very interesting months on the advertising end of things!

If you want these stats for yourself, sign up here using my referral link. I’d love to have you on board!

tiny salads

Passover and Bitcoin ~ As Seasons Change. . .

Spring has sprung, which means now you’ll start seeing more about foraging again as well as my BTC adventures and financial budgetting tips, thoughts and adventures.

Around our house, we celebrate Passover instead of Easter, which made the incredibly early lunar holiday a bit of a challenge for us this year. We visited one of our usual foraging grounds to see if any plants were poking above the ground yet, and managed to come home with a few samples to at least use in the ceremony portion of the meal if we couldn’t have them as an actual salad yet. Combined with a ground-ivy my daughter’s been nibbling on at work, we managed to have very cute symbolic salads this year!

On the Bitcoin front, Uquid still doesn’t have a replacement debit/credit card yet, but for Canadians that’s not a terrible thing just yet. Today I paid a tiny amount that was placed on a new high-interest-charging Canadian Tire MCRD, through This service lets Canadians pay their bills directly with Bitcoin! The service exchanges the funds on the spot and if the bill is below a certain threshold, there is no transaction fee at Bylls. You may still have to pay a transaction fee at your wallet’s end however, so if you live in Canada and want to use BTC to pay bills, make sure you are ok with the transaction fee your wallet wants before sending your funds through Bylls or any other service for that matter. In the same way you have to decide if it’s worth $5 to have someone else shop and deliver your groceries or spend $2.5 in gas to go do it yourself, you need to make similar decisions when spending your Bitcoin. Is the convenience of using a service such as Bylls wise for you, or is the convenience costing more than you wish to pay?

Always choose the option that leaves the most funds in your wallet. If that means a little extra work, or a little longer wait time, the delayed gratification of knowing you didn’t have to spend more than necessary will pay off. Fees add up and many people forget this, wondering where their funds went.

Comparison Shopping

Comparison Shopping in the Modern World

comparison shopping Marilynn Dawson budgetingComparison Shopping: Discovering the benefits and differences of a product or range of products before making a purchase.

The art of comparison shopping has saved many people money, and it can save you money too! If you’ve never done it before, this is typically how I do it:

1) Know exactly what you’re after. Sometimes figuring out exactly what you’re after is a step all by itself if you were told by a doctor or friend or co-worker or family member that you really should get such and such because you need/want it for some particular reason. In the old days, as recently as the ’80’s and into the ’90’s even, this step was accomplished by walking, biking or driving downtown and checking out the stores that might contain what you thought you were after. Occasionally this step meant stopping a store worker and asking them where to find something, only to be told it was referred to by a different name. Once you knew the exact name of what you were after, you could assess if it was what you were told about, or if you had to keep looking.

These days, figuring out exactly what you’re after can take place online using search engines and search functions of favourite stores or manufacturers’ websites. Sometimes an email or click of the live chat button is still required to figure out exactly what you’re after, but this step in today’s world can be far less time-consuming and far less of a drain on your gas tank.

numbers money calculating calculation2) Have a budget in mind. You didn’t expect to come across an article like this on THIS blog without some mention of that all-important financial word, did you? Once you know what you’re looking for, build an understanding of how much this product typically costs and assess whether or not it can fit into your budget right now. If the price is all over the map, ask yourself why? Sometimes the item can come in different sizes, quantities, quality, list more or fewer benefits, come with sales, deals, add-on’s, member-only pricing, etc. Narrow down the criteria you are after, then compare pricing to your budget again. If you only have a certain dollar value you can put toward the purchase, this will narrow the field all by itself. You may have to choose between quantity and price, or quality and price, just as two examples of the decisions you may have to make.

Shopping decisions3) If you are shopping solely online, you also have to factor in shipping. Compare the cost of purchasing online versus going to the local offline store to get it yourself. Is there enough of a price difference between in-store and online to warrant paying the additional shipping charges, or is it cheaper to drive down there instead? Depending on what you are shopping for, this answer will vary, particularly when considering outlets where it may be purchased.

An example of this kind of shopping from my own life involves looking at adrenal support. For more than 10 years, I suffered from adrenal fatigue without knowing it, and it finally caught up with me in a bad way in May of 2013. Adrenal health books and advice from the local natural healthfood store led me and family to a range of products to get my healing kicked off to a solid head start. Two of those products were 5-HTP and later when my budget didn’t allow for 5-HTP, swapping to L-Tryptophan supplements instead, and products containing it.

One of the local stores I can drive to in town also has a website where I can buy this online. Out of curiousity, I looked up these products on their website and found the following:

NOW FOODS 5-HTP 60caps 200mg Tyrosine NEW ROOTS L-TRYPTOPHAN 220MG 90 VC NOW FOODS 5-HTP 60caps 200mg Tyrosine $32.99


I added them to a shopping cart to check out what the shipping would be like, and learned it would cost $10.00 to have them shipped to me for a total cost of: $57.98

I could drive to the local store, spending roughly $5 of gas round-trip, and save myself roughly $5.

However, what if I didn’t live here where this store is available, and my only option was to get it online? There are so many stores online to choose from! I’d originally been curious if the local store had the NOW version of L-Tryptophan because I’d found it on another online store. Unfortunately, they don’t, so my comparison shopping couldn’t give me an exact comparison. A different store however, did, but not the same quantity.

NOW FOODS L-Tryptophan 500 mg 60vcaps $13.59NOWFOODS L-Tryptophan 500mg

Shipping at that location was $9.99 to get this product to my door.

The online store where I found both NOW FOODS items was over at Tripleclicks. How did vendors there compare?

L-Tryptophan supports relaxation
Pharmaceutical grade (USP)
Vegetarian formulaL-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid important in human nutrition for the synthesis of melatonin and serotonin, hormones regulating sleep, positive mood and immune function. As an essential amino acid, it is not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet. NOW L-Tryptophan is pharmaceutically pure–every lot is tested to be free of Peak E and microbial contamination. Contains no sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.

500 MG, 60 V-CAPS

21 USD

Shipping on this product costs $10.08 from this vendor.
Neurotransmitter Support
Supports Positive Mood
With L-Tyrosine5-HTP, the intermediate metabolite between the amino acid L-tryptophan and serotonin, is extracted from the bean of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia) . Contains no sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.
200 MG, 60 V-CAPS

24.99 USD

 Shipping on this product was not listed. Normally shipping is listed in the product’s right-hand sidebar if it is being charged to the customer.

So the total cost of ordering both these items from Tripleclicks would be: $68.03. That’s roughly $11 more than getting similar products from the website of a local store. It’s $2 more if I bought one from the local website and the other from another website and paid shipping at both. So for an extra $2 more, if I was living in a small town without a local affordable health food store, I could get both products from one place.

Fortunately for me, I can save myself $15 by driving down to the local store. Comparison shopping needs to take all these details into account, or all it becomes is expensive window shopping. Remember what I’ve said in the past, that a few minutes spent with a calculator can mean the difference between a runaway budget, and having funds to spare at the end of the month. Back when I used to be an affiliate for Tripleclicks, if I chose to add these to a standing order, I’d pay an even cheaper rate than the retail member prices I already shared. Yes, all the stores I did my research at had both member and “regular” prices, offering the guest visitor the better of the two prices assuming they wanted to become a member of course. I also quoted you Canadian totals, because I am Canadian and interested in doing my comparison shopping in my own currency.

4) That’s actually a point worth making because of the international nature of online shopping these days. Always ensure the website you are on is showing you their prices in YOUR country’s currency! Your efforts will be meaningless and quite unhelpful if you don’t at least have a conversion site up helping you make sure you are comparing prices online to what you might buy at your offline store.

5) Member pricing goes a long way when comparison shopping! Take Amazon for example. As a Prime Member, you can eliminate shipping altogether on orders over certain amounts, or ask for shipping to be expedited to within 2 days of your order. This is only available in certain countries of course, but membership has its perks! You could continue today’s illustration by searching for the above two items there and comparing brand, quantity, price etc. just as I did for the three sites linked to here. I am an affiliate of Amazon’s as well, but I’m not too happy with how they are doing things these days, so I’m not as keen to take a piece of their pie at the moment. However, if you wish to use my affiliate link I’ll start you at my course for budgeting: (paid links)

From any of those links, you can continue today’s example, or do your own comparison shopping for something entirely different.

So what are those points again?

1) Know exactly what you’re looking for, and get help narrowing that down if required.
2) Have a budget and stay within it.
3) If comparison shopping online, factor in shipping costs.
4) If comparison shopping online, be sure you are getting prices in your own currency.

Always settle on the location that will give you the best price for the quantity and quality you are after. Sometimes your budget will have you settling on price more than quality or quantity. If you are in that boat, don’t be upset by it, but work within it to make life easier in the long run. If you have the money, settle more for what gives you the best quality for your money. Lastly, remember that membership has its perks. You could save yourself even more money simply by signing up at the site of your choice as a member. Not all online stores work this way, but many do and more are coming onboard with the idea in order to get and retain customers. Use it to your advantage when you find it!

6 Habits of the Wealthy – a Low Income Perspective

I read an interesting article on CTV News last night!  The lady was talking about the attitudes of the wealthy and was impressed that most wealthy people she interviewed, discussed wealth outside the terms of money.  Whenever money did come up, a list of generally accepted mindsets or attitudes began to develop and she shared them in her article here:

When I read this list, I was suddenly amazed at how my own family often accuses me of having a poverty mindset!  I had to add my own thoughts to the author’s 6 main points in the article above.  Before writing these out however, I showed my daughter this list and asked her how many of them are present in our home.  She responded with “most if not all of them”, although current finances prevent us from enacting one of the sub-points in this list.  It hasn’t however, stopped us from trying in the past, nor will it stop us from trying in the future.  Here are my own thoughts.  Anyone who has purchased my course “The Poor Man’s Budget: a Five Week Course – Learning to live within your means” (paid link) will recognize some of these points.

Change your money mindset: Have a positive attitude, increase your knowledge base, have goals and get disciplined ~ This begins by being thankful for what you have and following that Biblical concept that if you have two of something, give to him who has none.  It can be tempting to hoard when you are financially struggling, living below the poverty line, or desperately battling debt.  But if you honestly end up with more of something than you realistically know you need (not want), giving it away to someone else in need also contributes to a more positive attitude.

Sweep away your financial dustballs or myths:
a) Self worth equals net worth (Clearly it doesn’t but some might think it does) ~ I run into many people who believe this lie.  Your self-worth is not found in things, nor in others around you.  Your self-worth is found in the One Who made you!  Your self-worth is found in Jesus Christ.  Believe what He says about you in His Word and lack or plenty won’t affect your view of yourself.  Secondarily, look after yourself no matter how much or little you have.  You can always use water from a public fountain to wash up in the morning if you live on the streets.  You can brush your hair and straighten your clothes.  Walk with purpose rather than ambling aimlessly.  Shake hands firmly and meet people eye to eye when greeting them.  Don’t let life’s problems define who you are.  Everyone, rich and poor have issues they battle with.  Hold your head up and don’t let your particular issues drag you into the dirt.

b) A little debt never hurt anyone (Yes it will) ~ Financial advisors will tell you on one hand that it isn’t wise to get into debt.  They will turn right around in the very next sentence and tell you to get a credit card so you can build up a positive credit rating.  They will then go into detail about how to manage that credit card so that you ideally never slip into debt.  Human nature, being what it is, will invariable see the credit limit, see an emergency, what Christmas approach, and decide to spend just a little bit more than they can pay off at the end of the month.  They will justify it by saying now they have a debt load against which to build that credit rating, because creditors will see the monthly efforts.  Now this is true to a point, but it will come back to bite you eventually.  Yes, unfortunately the modern financial world won’t sell you a car or house if you don’t have positive credit ratings, but a little debt has and will continue to hurt people.

c) I need at least $1 million to retire (No, you don’t) ~ What you need is to assess the lifestyle you want when you retire, what would it cost now and what is the current inflation rate?  Based on that inflation rate, how much will you need to have in savings when you retire to lead that kind of lifestyle month by month?

d) I need to be a math major (Also, not true) ~ No, the above calculations are basic math.  Addition and multiplication and maybe some division.  If you graduated grade 6, you have what it takes to figure out the previous answer.

e) I don’t have enough money to start investing (How about $25 a month?) ~ Most people can afford at least $25/mo.  Those living on fixed incomes may not be able to however, nor those living below the poverty line, but whenever possible, it is advisable to set aside even $5 a month if you can manage it.  What I find in our household is that I can get up to $3 or $400 saved up, then an emergency comes along or income takes a dive and I need the funds to buy gas and groceries.  I am looking forward to the day when income is steady and I can get that savings account above that particular threshold.

f) It’s too late for me to start building a nest egg (No it isn’t, and retirement could last a third of your life) ~ It’s true, you can start saving at any age, the earlier the better, but any time is a good time as long as it is sooner to your present than later.

g) Personal finance is all about investing (It is so much more encompassing: debt management, insurance, retirement planning and more) ~ The biggest point in personal finance, is budgeting based on what you are regularly earning at the time.  Then learning to stick to that budget.  Failure to get this step down will make any other financial management task more difficult.

h) I can do it alone (Maybe, but start by asking for help) ~ If you understand how to set money aside and not touch it, if you know about TFSA’s or RRSP’s already, sure, go it alone, but be almost religious about the plan you put into action.  Asking for help often involves paying an advisor for their time or using their ongoing services from which they get paid a commission. If you can’t afford to pay someone for help, start small and work from there.

Eliminate the spending habit: Live below your means and ditch your bad debts ~ Hear, hear!!!  This is the second worst problem I am seeing among those who claim to be struggling in their finances.  They still visit the corner store regularly.  They still buy cookies and candy bars regularly and sugary or other unhealthy food choices when grocery shopping.  They still think they can engage in bad habits that cost them anywhere from $200/mo to $500 or more and they wonder where their money is going!  Newsflash! You don’t need that jacket on sale when you have two others at home already.  You don’t need sugary drinks or foods when because you are struggling, you need healthier food options instead.  You don’t need to waste gas with extra-curricular activities when you can’t afford the gas to begin with.  Start walking more.  Cancel the Cable TV subscription and watch all your shows online.  If this step isn’t mastered, the previous ones will all be derailed by some justification to spend!

Create a savings habit: Pay yourself first ~ See the previous comments about saving and spending.

Embrace the investing and compound habit: Learn more to earn more and compound your earnings ~ This may be where you want to ask for help, but in a standard savings account, if you leave your money there, the interest accrued will compound based on what stays in the account, previous interest and all.  This can work in your favour.

Choose a destination: Get real and set goals ~ Revisit this entire list, master the other points and when you get to this one, write down those goals.  In a quick-fix, instant-access society, long-term gratification seems like punishment.  But if you can get over the need to spend and start actively saving toward your goals, you will discover the pride and personal joy in having achieved those goals on your own!  Start with small goals that you can reach if you are disciplined in a month.  Say perhaps you can get $25 put aside into savings.  Reward yourself with a hot bath that night.  Say perhaps you went for three months putting that money aside?  Take $5 and go buy a booster juice smoothie (remember the poor spending point above).  Say perhaps you managed to maintain your new saving regimen for an entire year, take $20 and go have pizza!  These examples are merely for savings goals, but you might have other goals, like paying for a college course, replacing a dieing vehicle, maybe even owning your own home and saving up for a down-payment.  Once you realize you can meet your smaller goals, these larger ones will become easier to achieve and you’ll have the necessary patience to see them through.

Black Friday: When is a Deal a Deal?

On my author blog a few years ago, I shared a few articles on managing home finances where I didn’t merely discuss savings or budgeting, but when to tell a deal from a ruse.  Those three articles are as follows:

I shared two examples in Part 3 that had been major learning tools in my children’s lives as they were learning how to manage their own finances as teenagers.

A few years later, I ran across a blatant example this very Black Friday weekend!  Not everything touted as a sale, actually truly is a sale!  Sometimes stores will merely place things in a sale flyer to get your attention, rather than have any real correlation to the sale featured by that flyer.  Other times, sales may offer some reduction in price, but only because prices had risen a month or two prior.  Then there is the issue of research!  In today’s example, it must be understood that many Canadians actually go south of the border to go shopping on Black Friday weekend.  To prevent this loss of customers, Canadian stores have begun offering their own Black Friday deals, door crashers, etc.

Staples is one such store to try keeping Canadian shoppers in Canada!  Unfortunately, Staples did not check all potential competing sources for prices before putting their flyer together, because I made the following discovery:

Their photo products mousepad, ornament, blanket, and puzzle at supposedly “sale” prices, are equal to or just a dollar or two less than the same items in my Cafepress store!  Check out these images:


The image to the left is the local Staples flyer for Black Friday weekend.  The image to the right is my comparison drawn between Staples and my store at Cafepress.  This image is taken from a clickable PDF where you can visit the following links:

Mousepads $1 USD more than Black Friday pricing

Ornaments $3+ USD cheaper than Black Friday pricing

Quail Throw blanket $2+ USD more than Black Friday pricing

Quail puzzle similar price USD to Black Friday pricing

The lack of research really shows up when you also consider Cafepress regularly has their own coupon codes across their entire site.  The current site-wide offer: Black Friday Deals! 25% Off* Your Order! Use Code: BLKFRI25 So this makes the above price comparison even more of a goof on Staple’s part!  Canadians can still shop south of the border without ever leaving the comfort of their living rooms!

You’ll hear with various sources that its important to compare apples to apples.  Therefore, I will point out that these prices at these two sites, are using the same feature:  personalized items.  At Cafepress, I have uploaded photos I have taken around my area and turned them into useful products people buy every day in housewares and office supply stores everywhere.  I even have jewelry items personalized for purchase.  Staples doesn’t get into the jewelry, but their photo centre is where their offers on this flyer page are coming from.  You can visit any Staples store, or their online photo centre and create these items to purchase.  You are also able to do that at Cafepress too.  Other online sites also exist for this kind of thing with a friend of mine selling her wares on Zazzle, while I’ve seen local businesses use VistaPrint.

As a consumer in a widely-fluctuating economy, even your Christmas shopping should be shrewdly managed!  Always do your homework before settling on where you’ll spend your holiday budget.  Failure to do so will hoodwink you into believing you got a deal, when in fact the store you shopped at was not really offering a deal at all.

How Organizing Your Home Will Save Both Time and Money

Today we wrap up our little series saving money through organization. Food and clothing aren’t the only things around your home that can save you money if you look after them properly.  If you take the time to look around the house, you’ll discover more areas as well.

Cleaning supplies
If you’re like most people, what you don’t see can lead to duplicate purchases because the item either couldn’t be found in a reasonable length of time when you needed it, or it apparently “got lost” only to be found again after you got home from the store.  It pays to take inventory occasionally of your cupboards, closets, and other locations where cleaning supplies are stored so that you know what you have, how much you have, and when you’ll need to buy more.

The Garage
Yes, that place reserved for the vehicle, if it should ever be able to fit inside, the lawn care machinery and products, tools, left-over materials from repair projects, etc.  Keeping your garage organized will let you see what you have at a glance and keep it from filling up with unnecessary purchases because the fertilizer got buried under a pile of craft boxes left over from the last major patio upgrade.  Go through your garage periodically and toss out what is irreparably broken, expired, or otherwise completely unusable.  Give away or hold a garage sale for stuff that is in good condition but not used anymore, grown out of, etc.  You might even earn money from your garage this way, not merely save it.

Organizing the AtticThe Attic/Shed/Crawl space
The longer you live in a place, the more likely you are to accumulate things and the more prone to losing and replacing things you’ll become.  Just as with the garage, go through these areas periodically to remind yourself what’s there, clean out what’s not needed anymore, and rearrange the stuff you do need so that you don’t forget you have it the next time the need comes up.

Organization saves both time and money.  Whether you are organizing your time, or organizing your things, knowing what you have, how much, how long it’s good for, etc will go a long way to keeping money in your pocketbook.

Entire books have been written about time management.  Just as many if not more have been written about organizing everything from your kitchen to your garden shed and everything in between.  You can find entire isles of products aimed at helping you get organized around your home from storage units under the bed to closet organizers to shelving units, you name it!  The trick is using all these aids wisely and not spend more than you’re saving.

What if a Simple Concept Called “Storage” Could save Money? Part 2: Your Clothes

Interesting question, huh? But the ramifications of what I’m about to share may just aid in putting you on the road to more savings. Let’s consider several types of storage that can aid in this endeavour:

Last week, we covered several types of food storage. This week we’ll cover clothing storage, beginning in your closet!

Many articles have been written about closet organization. Companies such as Canadian Tire sell DIY closet organizers that you can install and configure yourself. The goal is to arrange your clothing so you always have easy access to it. When it comes to saving money with your clothing, the other major reason for keeping an organized closet is to keep yourself from buying clothing you already have. You need roughly three changes of clothing for each season at a minimum. If you are the type to dress up for various occasions, you may want an additional three changes of dress clothes for each of the four seasons as well. Any more of this and you’re spending based on wants now and not needs.
When you can see at a glance what you have in your closet, you’ll reduce the impulse to run to the store to buy more. Being able to see what you have also means you have room to manage the freshness of your hanging clothes via mothball bags hung on hangers or placed on shelves to further ensure your clothing is not enjoyed by the local bug population. This too will reduce the need to head out and buy more clothing.

dresser storageDresser
Similar suggestions exist for managing your dresser drawers. Good clothing management begins with optimal folding techniques. You can find various folding instructions for everything from socks to shirts to pants and even linens for your linen closet that will not only keep your clothing looking nice, but allow you to pack more into smaller spaces. Just like your closet, you should organize your drawers so that you know what you have at a glance. Seasonal clothing gets stacked at the back of the drawers to make room for the current season’s outfits up front. Again, you only need a minimum of three changes of clothing to get through a week of showering roughly every other day or so. Only those who have incredibly dirty jobs need more clothing than this. Anything above this is in the want category. Wants cost money too and can eat away at your family budget. Knowing what you have available will, ideally, lower your perceived need to always get a new outfit, saving you money.

Proper care and storage of your clothing (see the hotwater article) will reduce how quickly your clothing breaks down and requires replacing. Clothes do age and reach a point of no repair. Only at that point should you consider going out to buy more clothing.

If you are the type to store your clothing in cubbies, do the same thing you would do for drawer storage, keeping in mind the front is fully open. In either case, a well-organized and properly folded drawer or cubby will have room for mothball bags as well, so that critters getting into those areas won’t eat and prematurely wear out your clothing.

These concepts can be applied to other areas of the home as well, such as the gardening shed, the garage, Christmas storage, etc. The idea is to organize your home’s closets, cupboards, shelving, cubbies, etc, in such a manner that:

  • a) nothing spoils
  • b) things are used up before they go bad
  • c) clothing doesn’t wear out before its time
  • d) impulse buying is reduced to a minimum
  • e) items aren’t “replaced” because you can already see that you have them.

What if a Simple Concept Called “Storage” Could Save Money? Part 1: Your Food

Interesting question, huh? But the ramifications of what I’m about to share may just aid in putting you on the road to more savings. Let’s consider several types of storage that can aid in this endeavour:

In this article, we’ll cover types of food storage. We’ll cover clothing storage in the next article.

Songdove Books - Author's freezerFreezing your food
Many articles have been written about sealing your food properly when placing them into storage, but what about accessibility? I saw a Pinterest photo how-to about ensuring you don’t have to thaw out and cook an entire frozen block of meat just to have homemade hamburger patties. That how-to spawned this article.

The first step in managing your frozen food, is solidly related to how you buy it at the store. If you buy large portions of meat that are already frozen, you won’t be able to engage in the money-saving tips mentioned here. Try to buy your meat fresh. Buy it in bulk, but buy it fresh.

Your second step occurs when you get your fresh meat home. Consider just how much meat is necessary at each mealtime, then break up the fresh meat package into meal-sized portions. If you have a family of three, each portion will include enough meat for all three of you at one meal. Carefully wrap each portion so that no meat is exposed and juices stay trapped within the package.

Your third step occurs as you open the door of your freezer. This step is the same whether discussing a deep-freeze, or a little freezer at the top of your fridge. Older purchases must be brought forward and the newer purchases placed in the back. This ensures that meat is eaten within it’s best-by date, or within a reasonable time frame after that. Meat can suffer freezer-burn if left too long, and should be thrown out when that appears. Allowing freezer-burn throws your hard-earned money in the trash. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of throwing my money in the garbage can! If I paid for it, I want it eaten, not wasted. If someone else paid for it, I want it eaten and not wasted.

Canned and boxed goods (see top image) also need care and attention when storing for later access. While it is quite true that canned goods and dry packaged goods last a very long time, it is also true that improper storage can waste them just as much as wasted frozen foods. This is perhaps more true of canned goods than of packaged goods. The danger with canned food in storage, relates to a) what is in the can and b) whether or not the can has been damaged in any way. A dented can should have its contents eaten sooner than later to avoid the contents becoming contaminated and growing such problems as botulism. If the can is bulging, toss it out! The contents have already begun to grow unwanted bacteria and the food is spoiled. If neither of these conditions exist, then the big point to cover when storing these forms of food, is placing newer purchases at the back of the shelf and bringing the older purchases forward.

Bringing older purchases to the front allows the food to be eaten in a timely manner and prevents the food from going past it’s best-before date. Some people are more sensitive to how foods taste following the best-before date than others. If you are the sensitive type, arranging your shelving in this manner will always ensure you are not eating anything that tastes old or stale. For the rest of us who will eat almost anything provided it isn’t growing, managing your dry food storage in this way merely keeps you from tossing out food that could have been eaten before it went bad. Either way, you’re saving money by ensuring you eat food while it is good.

Songdove Books - fridgeRefrigerated foods
Refrigerated foods follow similar guidelines to the above methods of food storage, with the added concern that refrigerated foods generally have a shorter shelf-life. Their ability to go bad before or after the best-before date will be contingent on how cold the fridge is, how often it’s accessed in hot climates, and whether or not it gets pushed to the back and forgotten. Some fridges come with shelving systems that allow for greater organization than others. For those that have little to no shelving assistance, you are the one required to remember why you placed something where you did, and keep it there. Educating the household on the importance of this is crucial!

Older foods should be near the front while newer foods should be near the back. The only time this won’t be true is if the back of your fridge tends to freeze things. Your point of organization then will stop around the middle of the shelf instead of going all the way back for leafy items, vegetables, fruit, etc. Breads, cheeses, and other items that can handle accidental freezing can be placed near the back of such fridges.

The goal of organizing your fridge in this manner is again, to save money and not throw it in the trash can or compost heap. Taking care to only buy enough perishables to last till the next grocery run also avoids unnecessary spoilage. Plan your grocery trips so that you aren’t overstocking or understocking your fridge.

The concept of saving money by proper organization extends beyond food to other areas of the home as well. Take clothing as yet another example. We’ll cover that in our next article.

Pour a Little Cold Water on Your Personal Finances!

Sometimes finances, particularly personal or domestic finances, gets to be a very  hot topic!  Heated arguments, er, debates, can inflame discussions so badly that nothing gets accomplished.  It may be time to add a little cold water.

Seriously.  Laundry is the worst offender.  Most loads of wash can now be handled quite well on the cold water cycle, rather than the hot water cycle.  Stains don’t get set in as badly, clothes don’t shrink as readily, the hot water tank doesn’t have to work as hard or as often to keep hot water available,  and money is saved in the process.

This one trick has also saved money at the clothing store or thrift store as well.  You’ll be amazed at how many care-tags on clothing say to wash in cool or cold water.  When I was growing up, such clothing was lumped into the “special care” category, but these days, the tag that says to wash in hot water should be in the “special care” category instead.

Using hot water to wash clothing or linens should be reserved for those times when you’re disinfecting the house, killing pests, etcetera.

Hot water showers should be kept to under 10 minutes as well.  Figure out time-saving methods to get clean that don’t involve standing there letting the hot water rush over you.  A little time management combined with a little task management in this very private aspect of life can also mean the difference between a constantly-working hot water tank and money saved on your gas or electrical bill (depending on how your tank is fueled).

Choosing to shower every other day not only will save your hot water bill, but will also be kinder to your hair and skin.  Many people are unaware that their societal habit of showering every single day is actually contributing to their dry skin and straw hair.  A whole industry has sprung up offering body creams, hand and face creams, lotions, oils, etc. in an effort to continue perpetrating the myth that you MUST shower every single day!  But I have news for you!  Unless you have a severe health issue or work in an absolutely filthy job, you do NOT need to shower every single day!

Not regularly stripping your body of its needed oils will reduce your need to buy supporting products to rehydrate and remoisturize.  When you let your body do what it was designed to do instead of interfering with it every day, you’ll save money in the personal care section of your favourite grocery store.

If we combine the two suggestions above with one more, the comment earlier about saving money at the clothing store will become even more apparent.  I’m talking about only changing your daily outfit when you shower, or when it’s too soiled for presentable use, such as receiving a stain, heavily sweated in, etc.  The other social taboo seems to be wearing your clothes for two days in a row, or more.  This social behaviour is wearing out clothing unnecessarily fast.  When clothes are constantly going through the washing machine, the fibers wear out, colours fade, and usability lowers faster than if the clothes only entered the wash once a week or less often than that.  Much of our socially-accepted/expected behaviours when it comes to cleanliness and presentability are unnecessary.  Is it important to be clean? Yes!  Must your clothes be presentable? Yes! Should you wear something different every day? No! Does being clean mean showering every day? For most people the answer is also no! The truth is, most people don’t care what you’re wearing, only about their interaction with you.  The rare person might be turned off by your thrifty behaviour and appearance, but most people honestly don’t care if you wore the same clothes three days in a row. (I live out this test on a regular basis)

Saving on your hot water bill will by extension, save money on your clothing bill and your personal care bill as well.  Gotta love it when addressing one issue solves several others in one fell-swoop!