Making it Through Mat Leave

August 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm 4 comments

With Kiwi’s due date quickly approaching (3 ish more months, guys, totally insane), I’ve been racking my brain to either figure out a) how to make more money in a short amount of time b) how to realistically and without TOO much effort make money doing something fun (such as a hobby?) while on mat leave to have some extra cash or, the more practical and probably more likely option being c) how to live more frugally within our means.

When I go on maternity leave in November, I will be making 60% of my regular wages.  Given that we’ve certainly adapted to a standard of living that we’re at now, it’s going to be tough.  I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t created anxiety explosions within me more than once.  I am confident and know that we will make it work, but I know there are things we could be doing differently to assist with this change.

I guess for starters is that some elements in our life right now are somewhat non-negotiable.  Not entirely, but I guess I just feel that they are.  We bought a car in May of 2009 that we are financing.  At the time I had not planned on Kiwi blessing our lives as soon as Kiwi is going to, and so I really did not think much about how much of a money grabber it would be.  With that being said, it’s wonderful to have a reliable vehicle with amazing gas mileage and  warranty (which will extend even after we’re done paying for the car).  Given that I foresee a lot of travelling in the near future, getting rid of the car really isn’t an option.  And plus – you can take babies on the Greyhound, but you can’t take dogs.  When we first found out Kiwi was going to be in our lives, we had talked about finding a vehicle that was more affordable.  We dismissed that idea after doing some calculations and weighing the pros and cons, however the thought comes up now and then and I wonder if this still may be something to consider.

Add to that the fact that we’ve both got student loan debt.  Dirty, dirty student loan debt.  I need to look into it further, but I may be able to ‘freeze’ my student loan payments while I am on maternity leave.  I’m kind of banking on this, otherwise that money-making scheme I wanted to come up with?  I’ll need to seriously put it into action.  Luckily I’ve been working in my field basically ever since I convocated, however, Kyle hasn’t been so lucky, and so his debt is even more of a “HIIIIII I’M HEREEEEEE OBNOXIOUS AS HEELLLLL AND FREAKY FOR YOUUUU” sentiment that sort of just drapes all over your shoulders and hangs out.  Like those people that overstay their welcome.  BUT BUT BUT!  Kyle starts an archaeology position on August 16 SO some of that will be dealt with!  It’s sort of temporary — full-time until November when the ground freezes up, and then depending on artifacts and things they find in the field, there could be lab work throughout the winter.  So uhm, basically I’m thinking about going on a ‘plant artifacts’ mission.  Any ideas?

And then there’s RENT.  Even dirtier than student loan debt.  Saskatoon is ridiculous, as is many other places in Canada.  Makes me want to hurl, actually.  Over and over and over again.  Every so often I look at places to rent to see what the ‘going rate’ is and it’s not really that much less than what we pay now.  And we’re in a pretty good situation I’d say.  We have amazing landlords who live next door to us.  I know, could be a recipe for disaster, but it’s been great and we couldn’t be happier.  Might I say best landlords I’ve been fortunate to deal with?  Truly.  We had planned to move out of this place when we found out we were pregnant, however they made us a deal – they took back the garage and are using it for their own storage/work space, and cut back our rent $250 for doing so.  So, no garage, but $250 less rent.  Still have the huge fenced yard and whole house to ourselves.  And we live in a superb neighbourhood that we’re extremely happy with and feel safe as safe could be in.

To sum it up – I’m not sure how those ‘major’ expenses could be cut back, however I am willing to grab some ideas about other areas in life where people have had success.  I do know we have to come up with a strict and rigid budget that is realistic.  We need to be honest in what we’re spending our cashmoney on, and we need to be honest about where we need to claw back.  I really need to do some research in terms of frugal living – little ways to save money, as well as larger ways to save money.  Meals that are nutritious, time-efficient and affordable.  I’ve become fairly productive in terms of food – buying vegetables and fruits that are in season, chopping them up so they are easy to grab and we are less likely to grab convenience or fast-foods, and cooking in larger quantities so that we have left-overs and food will probably not go to waste.

I’d really like to generate some discussions around what y’all do in terms of frugal living and establishing a sensible budget.  I don’t want to be extremely rigid in that we limit our recreational activities, though it’s not like Kyle and I are extremely social individuals.  We spend a lot of our ‘recreational activities’ going for walks, going to the dog park, or socializing with people in a non-consumer environment.  One drawback I suppose would be eating out in restaurants or grabbing food because we didn’t plan a meal ahead of time, for example.  We’ve certainly improved in this area and eat out maybe once a week, however I know this can be reduced to even say once every two weeks, or once every three weeks.  Anything to save a little bit of money, really.  I’ve become very careful about not using my credit cards as well – I try to spend money only when I know I have it.  I completely paid off my cards in April and I haven’t really used them since.  When I have, it’s been for small amounts (such as parking via cell phone/credit card) and I am sure to pay the balance off immediately.  Basically right now we are adjusting to a new lifestyle, and will be adjusting to a newer one come probably the middle of November.  Since Jenna moved out, we’ve been forking out a little bit extra each month to cover the extra bills and rent, and it’s taking some time to become accustomed to the new ‘budget’ – that really is yet to be developed.  We’ve started to stock up on diapers and wipes, and will continue to do so so that we are good to go for at least a few months.  Little things like that will I’m sure make a difference.

The important things to me while living comfortably and financially feasible are:

1) Continuing to eat healthy, wholesome meals

2) Living in a safe neighbourhood with easy access to amenities

3) Having physical space to move around and not feel claustrophobic

4) Attempting to not live paycheque to paycheque, though this is the one we struggle with the most – I’ve recently started having money off of every cheque deducted so I do have some savings, but not ideally as much as we’d like

5) Eventually owning a house, though I foresee that being a 3-4 year plan yet given the way the market is presenting itself

6) Having a positive sense of family and being able to provide our child and each other with love, nurturing, comfortable living, learning opportunities and fun

Given that I am in a definite pregnancy-induced nesting state, I am planning on essentially ripping our closets, drawers and storage areas apart in search of things that we can sell on Kijiji, or even just donate if it’s really not deemed as being ‘sellable.’  My plan is to eventually have an online garage sale of sorts, and hopefully make a few bucks off of that that we can put towards bills, upcoming expenses, or savings.  I don’t see this as being unrealistic, it’s really just a matter of going ahead and doing it.

So back to square one, how do you save money?  How do you live frugally and practically?  What are some money-saving tips around the house, the supermarket, and the community?



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Why Lily is Cooler Than a Lot of People. Humble is as humble does.

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elizabeth  |  August 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I can’t believe you only have one trimester left till Kiwi is heeeeere!!! Well, there…but hopefully here one day so I can meet him or her in person =)

    I don’t know if I should even comment on being frugal because I tend not to be very good at it…though I guess it’s all relative since compared to a lot of people I really don’t spend a whole lot of money. But still…

    I was going to say you tend not to eat out very much once baby arrives because a) a lot of places you don’t think twice about going to sans child you soon realize aren’t so baby-friendly once you have one and b) it takes a lot more effort to pack up a baby and go than to whip something up and eat at home! But you said you guys don’t eat out much anyway, so you might not save much there.

    We’re pretty much home bodies ourselves but we ate out waaay more before Andrew came along than we do now, so I think we save a bit of money on eating in. Although I like to buy things for Andrew (clothes, toys) so maybe we’re not really saving much since I just end up spending the money elsewhere!

    I’m not helping here, am I?!

    But realistically, you just work around what you have. I went down to about 50% of my wage when I was on EI for mat leave and then lost my wage altogether when I decided to stay home, and we definitely notice the lack of my income but we adjusted somehow. I don’t even know how, we just sort of fell into a new pattern and thought more about what we were spending things on. It might help to do up a proper budget (before baby arrives and you don’t have the time or energy to think about it as much) and try to stick with it. I wish we’d done that but we didn’t and now we talk sometimes like we’re going to but neither of us wants to take the time to actually do it!!

    I’m intrigued by Kyle’s archaeology job, sounds interesting, and even though temporary he must be excited to be working on something in his field. Awesomeness!

    Good luck with the money stuff…Sorry I wasn’t more help with this but I know you’ll make it work somehow. And I totally think you’re doing the right thing staying in the place you’re currently at – for one thing, you don’t want to be moving when you’re going to be having a baby soon, and also you’d move into a smaller place only to find you’re crammed in there with tons of stuff for baby and not enough room to breathe and you’d want to find something bigger again anyway. It sounds like your place is going to be perfect for a family!

    PS Do you have a Superstore nearby? Joe Fresh is THE BEST for baby clothes, super cheap but really great quality, a lot of Andrew’s clothes come from there. They often have older stock on sale, too, and it’s AMAZING what you can get for just a couple of dollars. Shirts and pants for, like, $2.50, seriously – you couldn’t even get that deal buying 2nd hand!

  • 2. Lojo  |  August 4, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Money sucks :( Here are some of my personal Jew habits.


    -Buy in bulk. I am a big fan of Wholesale. The produce sucks, but it’s a good place for pretty much everything else. It costs about half as much and you walk out with twice as much food. Plus, not having to run to the grocery store often saves on gas. And you don’t need to pay for a membership like Costco.

    -Eat all the food you buy. Make it stretch. Learn to eat for survival and not necessarily pleasure. It actually feels good, like ridding yourself of an addiction. Perceive every trip to the grocery store like it steals a tiny piece of your soul. This is what I do and it works well. Celebrate elaborate meals or take-out like it truly is a special treat.

    -Coupons are great, including online coupons. Try and — that’s a tip from my girlyfriend who is a single mom of three.

    -If you buy pop or milk or anything bottled, make sure to take them in to the bottle depot. Ask friends if they will contribute to your bottle fund. BearFace 2 and I had many bags stocked up, but were out of a truck for months to transport them in one trip, so I pawned them off on my co-worker– he took them in and got close to $50.

    -Hand me downs from mom or other relatives are awesome. 90% of my place has been accessorized with unwanted items from relatives, including decor, kitchen items, linens, and some furniture.

    -Go second hand for as much stuff as possible–without getting gross, of course.

    -Yep, Wal-Mart is totally evil, but so are student loans. Sometimes you gotta watch out for yourself, first.


    -Yep, Kijiji is great for selling unwanted stuff. Boyfriend and I are in the process of doing this now since we both suddenly owe the government and the condo nazis a combined total of $5000.

    -Make money jars or envelopes for different expenses to help you budget throughout the month: one for groceries, one for gas, savings, etc. This also forces you to do a lot of your spending in cash, which can be a good thing if things are particularly tight. It basically forces you to count dollars. Some months I do this, some months I don’t. Really depends on what’s going on in my life.

    -Try to save up and buy bigger purchases straight out instead of doing monthly payments, particularly if you’re paying interest. More than anything, this is how people get bad credit if something unexpected happens and they no longer have the coinage to pay it.

    -Keep doing what you’re doing with your credit cards. Use them a bit to keep establishing credit, but always pay them off. No matter what, don’t establish customer debt. That’s the best complication to avoid when it comes to cash.

    -Don’t feel frustrated about the house buying thing at this point. The housing bubble in Saskatoon *will* eventually pop, it might just take awhile. And when it does you guys will get a good bang for your buck. Even if you could, you don’t want to buy now. Nowadays it’s just….. ridiculous. Also, there are a lot of hidden costs to home ownership, like insurance, taxes, and upgrades if anything shits out on you. If you don’t have much to put down as a down payment, your monthly mortgage could be twice as much as your rent in. So if you have a good landlord and a comfortable home, then feel good about that. You’re not missing out on anything at this point.


    -Get rid of cable TV and download instead. I know, this sucks. Especially when you’ll be home a lot with mini nugget. But if things get tight enough, it’s an option.

    -Steal all your multi media off of the internet: movies, music, etc. This is why God created the internet. Lets utilize it.

    -Get rid of your home phone if you have one and just use your cells

    Also, keep working on your photography in terms of learning as much as you can, honing your skills, and figuring out ways to market it. It could possibly act as a nice supplementary income.

    Seems like you guys are doing well, already. So chest bump. Best wishes!

  • 3. Lojo  |  August 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    *consumer debt.

    Not customer debt. :)

    Although I guess that would work, too.

  • 4. tristadawn  |  August 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Elizabeth: I am intrigued by Kyle’s job, too! I really don’t know much about it, and he doesn’t know a whole lot either. They’ll be out in the field most days, digging up hopefully interesting artifacts. I think a lot of the field work they do is for oil companies who are going to be digging up land and putting in lines. They have to check and make sure that it’s not a heritage site or that there are no cultural artifacts on the land before they go digging like mad.

    We do have Joe Fresh and Kyle and I have looked at the baby clothes a LOT. They are absolutely adorable and great prices too! We will definitely be hitting that place up for clothes, and same with hand-me-downs – TONS of people have been saying “oh if you have a girl….. oh if you have a boy….. ” etc etc.

    It’s always reassuring to hear other people’s experiences. I know we will adjust and things will be fine, it’s just that impending feeling of UHHH OHHH. But we’ll make it. Like you said, you re-evaluate a few things and live more within your means, really. xo!

    Lojo: Kyle and I definitely have to do the money jar thing and budget specific amounts for specific things. We’ve got ourselves into a decent routine that we have a good idea of what to expect in terms of gas, groceries, etc. It’s usually pretty consistent. The whole ‘jar’ thing reminds me of ‘Til Debt Do Us Part. I actually remember finding online, and think I saved a copy on my computer, of calculations to figure out how much to put in your jars, etc.

    Thanks for all your great tips! A lot of them I’ve definitely considered before, it’s all really a matter of self-discipline and going forward with them. There’s definitely ways we’re doing well, but there’s definitely ways we can be more frugal as well. Things such as student loans, etc aren’t exactly negotiable, however I don’t regret getting them and they will get paid off!

    Oh yeah – the ‘eat everything you buy’ tip is interesting and definitely makes me think. We’ve been a lot better at emptying the fridge, freezer and cupboards out before we get groceries, but it is amazing to see how fast stuff goes. We typically grocery shop once a week to re-stock on produce, etc. I’m going to have to go with your shop in bulk tip. We currently go to Costco, and honestly, I’ve never really even thought about Wholesale! Definitely have to check that out. I’m sure it could save us tons of money.

    xo to ya both!


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