The Upside of Renting

We’ve had pharaoh ants in our apartment pretty much since we moved in last June. I thought it was just because it was summertime, or I just wasn’t cleaning enough. Then they persisted through the fall, and I spent hours hunting them down. Where did the lines of ants come from/go? What are they attracted to?

I would find them on the cat’s plates a few hours after they’d been fed, swarming the leftover bits of meat. So we started washing those right away. I’d find them floating in our electric kettle, which we then had to make sure to empty after each use. I found them marching in lines from our cupboards behind the fridge, and hanging out by the sink faucet. I’d see one trying to blend into a painting on the wall, or crawling along the bathroom towel bar.

I felt like I was being stalked by ants. Where were they while we slept? *shudder*

So I put down traps, after learning about their sugar/water and protein/grease feeding cycles. I did excessive/obsessive research on pharaoh ants (key takeaway: they’re dicks, and they go wherever there’s pooled water), I wiped our counters and the sink down every night to get rid of any water, and I pulled out every appliance in the kitchen many times looking for food sources. I determined on my own that the fridge was leaking onto the floor, and that the sink was a haven with all its wet cloths. So in December I rigged a contraption behind the fridge to direct leaking water away from the wall/floor, and then we got notice that Pest Control would be coming to deal with the ant issue in the building. It wasn’t just me! Someone is actually going to come deal with this!!!

So they came. We had to take off all of the outlet covers, and clear out under the sinks. For the next week I watched and hoped the ants would finally be gone… but they were not. There were fewer, but they were still there…

This month, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered a curtain rod we had in the storage closet that we hadn’t needed when we moved in, and in 5 mins I installed it above the kitchen sink so all of the cloths could actually dry.


No more ants.

I’ve also converted almost all of our open pantry items to airtight Tupperware containers, to keep any future pests out of our food. After I watched some ants crawling around our open pasta boxes… that was it. Nasty.

Pest Control came by for a follow-up today and this time I was home… waiting. Like a creep.

I chatted with them (we work for competing companies, turns out), I told him all of the methods I had employed to curb the ant problem. Then I pulled out the fridge, and showed the guy in charge what I believed the problem was. He left and told our super, and then I yanked the fridge out again to show the super who said, “I’ll tell the manager it’s just broken. Too old. You’ll get a new fridge!”

I told him I loved him. I might have even bowed to him, with my hands clasped. I nearly cried.

This stupid fridge is leaky, rusty, and older than the hills. I mean, all of our appliances (based on their colour schemes alone) are likely from the 70’s/80’s. But at least the oven and dishwasher still work just fine. This fridge is a thorn in my side! And now I might get a new one.

The key is complaining communicating. It’s the only power you have as a renter! If you’re a homeowner and something breaks, it’s on you to deal with it. As a renter, if something breaks, you get repairs and replacements for “free” (that’s what rent money is used for)! But you need to SAY SOMETHING.

I told our building manager (many times, because she’s very forgetful) that two of our windows wouldn’t stay open, and one wouldn’t close. So they’ve been replaced. I told them about the questionable black mould in the bathroom ceiling, and (after I killed most of it with 100% undiluted bleach), they came and repainted the ceiling with what I hope was mildew-resistant paint. The mould has stayed away so far.

At the old apartment, I called our building manager ALL. THE. TIME. Everything was dealt with very quickly. I even asked if I could paint the kitchen cabinets white, and they said “just fill out a form, we’ll do that.” And they did. It was incredible.

We may feel like we only have a little bit of power as renters, but we are not just paying for a place to sleep and store our stuff. We’re paying each month for upkeep, so it’s our right and responsibility to bring up any problems. Maybe it’ll take forever to have fixed because your building manager couldn’t locate her own head half the time (*ahem*), but at least it gets fixed eventually. You’re already paying for the repairs and replacements every month with your rent. You might as well ask for them! And if you don’t? They’ll get fixed and replaced after you leave… which means you never get to enjoy it. Booo.

And yes, I wrote this entire post just to celebrate getting a new fridge all because I complained enough to the people who have the power. ๐Ÿ˜›


Winter Cleaning: Because There are Better Things to Do in the Spring

I don’t know what’s going on, but this past few weeks I have been cleaning and organizing on overdrive. Maybe it’s the spring-like weather we’ve lucked out with, maybe it’s my new habit of walking to the gym and back instead of driving. Either way…

The cats are mad because I never sit down, Joe is amused because he comes home to find me waist-deep in the cabinets or standing on the kitchen counter surrounded by cans of beans, and I am pleased because I’ve eliminated so many cluttered areas and come up with solutions to several recurring messes.

For instance, we have no good places to hang cloths around our kitchen sink. The oven handle is solid, so nothing can hang there. There are no hooks, or racks. So since June, we’ve been draping our soggy cloths over the kitchen faucet… which of course never fully dry. Every time we turn on the tap, or move the faucet right or left, the cloths all fall off. ANNOYING. But I had a lightbulb moment the other day, wherein I remembered a curtain rod we bought at the dollar store in the summer, thinking we’d need it at the new apartment, but we didn’t. So we stuck it in the closet. Around midnight the other night, while Joe laughed his head off at Grace & Frankie, I got out the screwdriver and the curtain rod, and mounted it over the sink. PERFECT. Dry cloths, tidy sink, happy me. And it cost $1-2. Hard to beat that!


After that success, I went a little haywire. I cleaned up the “junk corner” to the left of that sink. I cleared out our “plastic bag and potato” cupboard (yes, that was a thing) underneath the counter where we do food prep and make coffee/tea. The cupboard is now empty (bags relocated, potatoes sadly… didn’t make it), and awaiting a new slide-out rack from Amazon that cost about $40 (inc. shipping) – a small price to pay for my sanity. I plan on using it for potatoes/onions/garlic on one shelf, and canned items underneath. The more stuff I can move from high cabinet shelves to low cupboards the better. I hate climbing on counters.

I also attacked the coat closet, the container cupboard (only kept things I found lids for), and bought a Rubbermaid tote today to keep our compost in – which I plan to convert to a vermiculture bin for the balcony in the spring! On the same trip, Joe and I donated a bunch of stuff that we had cleared out from junk corners/the closet over the past couple weeks. Felt so good to get rid of more unnecessary stuff!

I feel accomplished, definitely, and also pretty excited!

My friend held a Tupperware party on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and I ordered…. many things. Mostly containers. I was invited to one a year or so ago, and used it as an opportunity to get Mom a new salad dressing shaker like the one she had when I was little, but lost. At the same time, I wound up getting myself the niftiest ice cube tray that has a silicone bottom (to pop the cubes out), a giant cereal container with a flap seal for pouring, and I also won a “Medium Wonders” bowl – basically a 500mL container. I didn’t think anything of the container until we started feeding the cats their raw food, and then I pretty much consistently used it to store their chicken patties in – since they’re EXACTLY the right size. So… when my friend invited me to her party last month I was pretty amped to get more of those containers. And I did. And much more… I also got a Oval & Square set of Modular Mates for our dry goods, a 12″ round container (for pie, quiche, etc), FridgeSmart containers (I’m tired of throwing out wilted or forgotten produce – such a waste of money!), spaghetti noodle/Breton cracker containers, and a set of Smidgets. Eep!

I’m pretty excited to get those things, both from Tupperware and Amazon. Very, very excited. ๐Ÿ˜› You might be thinking ‘that’s a s***-load of Tupperware, that must have been expensive’. Uh, well, yeah. No lie. I added up all of the regular prices of the things I ordered, and tallied up what I paid (I only buy Tupperware if it’s significantly marked down, as a rule). It’s exactly $400 worth of stuff, but I paid $215, taxes included. That’s still a lot, but we all know they last forever. My mom and aunt still have and use Tupperware that they bought in the 80’s. I saw a set today at Value Village, in perfect condition, from at least the 70’s. I mean… it’s pricey, but it lasts. I’m hoping it’ll also save us a ton on wasted food. So that’s my justification!

Next on my list – aside from putting all of my dry goods in containers when they arrive – I’m planning to attack the “junk corner” of the office, the bedroom closet, and under the bathroom sink. I’m also in the middle of making a master grocery list to put on the fridge so we can just highlight the things we need as we run out, instead of writing it down on a random scrap of paper or in a forgotten phone app every time. Or worse, making it up as we go and forgetting half the things we needed.

Again, I’m not sure where this spurt of obsessive organizing came from, but darn it… I’m riding the wave as long as it lasts!

Have you also been taken hostage by a spring cleaning demon? What’s your most creative solution to a notoriously messy spot?

A Big Year Ahead

So much has happened since I last wrote on Dec 3rd about my final loan payment.


Joe proposed on December 13th, with my late grandmother’s 75-yr-old diamond ring. I said yes, of course. That was very exciting and unexpected (in that I didn’t see it coming at that very moment)! I was worried about how much resizing it would cost, but we went to a local, retired jeweller and he resized, cleaned and polished it for $40! Such a nice guy, and he did a fantastic job.



Christmas was a whirlwind of family, belly laughs, storms, back-up plans and hikes. I managed to stick to my budget for gifts, except for a wonderful (and pricey) backpack/suitcase for Joe that I realized was technically a “trip expense” and I had money saved for it after all. #winning ! We were very lucky to have Joe’s mom join us at my folks’ place for Christmas, and then stay with us for a few days. It definitely made the holiday more fun, especially considering only a few years ago, Christmas was just me, Mom and Dad!


The Karate Kid and Mother Goose on Christmas morning (Joe got me a tea cozy).


I started working on wedding plans after Christmas, and decided that if I did not have the cash to pay for a deposit, I would not book/buy it. It has worked! I have a caterer, a yurt, portable toilets, and a confirmed equipment rental (inc. chairs, tables, linens and dance floor). So far I’ve only had to pay deposits on the yurt and the equipment rental, which I had the cash for. Otherwise, the menu is still being worked on, so no payment required yet, and the toilets don’t require payment until June. I still need a second-hand dress, and Joe will need a suit (I accidentally shrunk his nice linen suit pants last summer, not realizing after the first wedding we attended that linen can’t be put in a dryer…). We’ll also need to rent speakers, rent/buy the tableware/dishes, and pay for our marriage licence/officiator.

One of my closest friends is the photographer, but she knows I only really care about one photo in particular (one to match the wedding photos of my grandparents and parents), and the rest are at her leisure, so she can take part in the festivities without any pressure. I’ve witnessed her at events where she is a casual attendee but brings her camera anyway, and she somehow manages to enjoy herself/dance/eat/etc. while also snapping the most incredible candid photos of everyone.

I think if I didn’t have my parents/Joe on board with a low-cost wedding, it would be quite difficult to achieve. It would be so easy to put it on a credit card and get “all the things you ever wanted” with the justification of it being your “big day”. But I just don’t feel like it’s necessary, and it’s so nice to be supported in that. I refuse to incur any debt over it, so we’re saving everywhere we possibly can. As hard as it is to resist some things, the money we save is going to be such a relief later on. There is no way I’d feel comfortable spending tens of thousands of dollars on a single day, when most of the stuff isn’t even purchased but rented, or gets thrown out, or never gets used again… Joe and I agreed that we’d much rather save for a house downpayment, or put more of our money in an emergency fund. That, I’m comfortable with!

Other than the wedding, I’m also still saving for our trip and for repaying Dad. I love how easy it is with Tangerine to create new savings accounts instantly, and name them all. It makes divvying up my paycheques so much better. I don’t have to remember how much of one savings account is dedicated to what goal. So I have my Wedding Fund, ย Europe Fund and Dad Fund.


Dad was very pleased with his Christmas gift (I gave him $1000 cash, in different denominations, split up and hidden in each gift with a riddle/poem). I’m almost to the point where I can send him another $1000. So exciting! It’s my only remaining debt, and it feels incredible to pay him off. I never actually thought I’d get to, because I figured my student loans would be around for another 5-10 years! He’s pretty happy about it too. It’s his retirement fun money. ๐Ÿ˜›


We haven’t done much in the way of Europe planning since I booked our flights/AirBnBs/rental car. I’m still monitoring one flight to see if the price goes down, and every once in a while we’ll think of/learn of things we should see while there and I’ll write them down. We do want to visit two national parks in Croatia, which are close to our planned route. The passes will cost us a total of $88 CAD (two different one-day park passes, for two adults).


On January 1st, due to reaching a milestone with my company, I was finally signed up for the company pension plan and also sent information for starting RRSP contributions. We are allowed to contribute a maximum of 6% from each paycheque, which will be matched at 50% by the company. After discussing it with Joe and my folks, and figuring out all the fancy terminology on the paperwork, I signed up to contribute the maximum. So with my contribution, plus the matched amount from the company, I’ll be contributing a total of 9% of my income to RRSPs annually, and I’m allowed to add lump contributions if I want to. Very exciting stuff! It’s definitely one of those things that sounds so boring when you’re a kid listening to your parents discuss it, and even in your early 20’s you just think “Gross. Glad I won’t have to think about that for a long time.”, but then when it actually becomes a thing you have to decide on… it’s actually really cool…



In previous posts, I’ve talked about reducing our internet expenses, and changing the cats’ diet to raw meat. In the new year, our internet bill went up about $8, due to the cheapest option no longer being available. Luckily they reduced the price of the next-fastest speed so us “budget folks” would still be happy. Now we pay $63.19/mo (tax included) for 100 Mbps, instead of $55.14/mo for 25 Mbps. Before we switched providers, we were paying $98/mo for 100 Mbps. As for the cat food, after months of buying a bag of 10 patties every 10 days, they finally came out with bulk boxes of 30 patties! The bags of 10 cost $17.99 + tax each, and a box of 30 is $29.99 + tax. So instead of paying $62 each month and having to go the pet food store every 10 days, we pay $35 and go once a month! Amazing.

We are still all about dem PC points, and using them for free groceries. We made a promise to each other last week to say NO when either of us (usually Joseph…) wants to get chips, ice cream, candy, take-out, etc., and sticking to a meal plan instead. I am very good at saying, yelling, or jauntily singing the word NO while flitting about the grocery store. Joe is very good at being a scamp, and trying to wear me down. But so far, he listens and we haven’t wasted any money lately on junk food or take-out. I think if we get some significant storm days this winter, we might find it more difficult to avoid getting snacks, however I am really good at making popcorn on the stove, which is a decent alternative (I think).

I’m still loving my gym, and even purchased some sleek-looking snow pants so I can walk there even on gross/very cold days. I’m learning that the key to avoiding my usual winter hibernation is be adequately bundled. I also upped my Fitbit step goal, now that I can walk comfortably in any weather.

In the job department, my performance in 2017 was “outstanding”, so I’ll be awarded a bigger raise than last year. I’m pretty excited about that, and it’s excellent motivation to keep up the good work! ๐Ÿ™‚ I also made some good progress with my side hustle. This month, I taught a food handling course to a large group of community college students, which was really fun and brought in a little extra $$. I’m slowly adjusting my costs for teaching, as I get used to the cost of materials/room rentals/shipping, in order to pay myself a reasonable hourly wage on the day of the class. It’s hard though! I want to make it affordable for the people taking the course, but I also need to make sure it’s worth it for me to continue doing.

I think that’s it for now. Plans are chugging along, life is good, we’re happy and healthy, the boys are still fluffy little nuggets of cuteness, and we’re busy preparing for a fun little life together. Not too shabby. โค

As of Dec 1st: No Student Debt!

It’s very strange to say, but my student loans are… GONE!

The last automatic payment of $200 came out of my account Nov 30th, and the very same day, I added a lump payment of $600 to finish it off. Like an innocent little jab, followed by a knock-out right hook.

Ok, so the boxing is also going well. ๐Ÿ˜‚

I can’t believe I did it! I made a plan after we moved in June, to get my loans to $0 by the end of the year and I achieved that goal a month early!

It’s crazy to think that if I had just left my monthly automatic payments at $75 instead of increasing them to $200, and if I hadn’t made any lump payments at all, that debt would have stuck around for another 4-5 years!! Yowza.

So I’m pretty happy. It’s a great Christmas present to myself. Now I get an extra $200 each month to put toward other things! Like savings! And paying my Dad back!

Or, paying off Christmas??

Doing my best to keep Christmas affordable this year without feeling like a cheap scummy scumbag. We’ll see how that goes! ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ˜œ

In the meantime, I’m enjoying being debt-free this December.

Rejoice! ๐ŸŽ‰

Europe Trip 2018 – Planning Stage 2!

Last week was a big one. Many deep breaths were taken.

While it’s pretty fun and exciting to actually book flights and reservations, it’s also nerve-racking to a) confirm something at a price that’s ever fluctuating, like stock prices, and b) actually spend the money you’ve been saving, even though you’ve been saving it for this exact purpose… go figure.

So by the time I pressed the “Confirm Payment” button on our major flights to and from our European destinations, I had taken many deep breaths, tired out my calculator fingers, paced the apartment for a few days, asked my Mom “is that a good price?”, warned Joe “I’m gonna do it tonight” several nights in a row, and if I was a smoker I would have burned through a pack every hour…

It was exhilarating. Our flights are booked. We leave for Brussels next May, and fly out of Croatia a few weeks later.

So what of that giant gap of time?

Well… if you give a mouse a cookie (boarding passes to Europe), it’s going to want a class of milk (a place to sleep once there).

So I spent a couple days after the flights were booked checking out AirBnBs for each city we’re travelling to.

Of course, I booked all of them within days, excitedly showing Joe all of the photos.

Then I booked a rental car in Zagreb.

Then I used my Aeroplan miles to book a flight from Prague to Ljubljana.


But you know what? We have the money.

I had $6550 saved last week. And I have $2775 left after booking our flights (inc. the one between Prague and Ljubljana, for which I only paid the tax) and all 6 AirBnBs!

I was really impressed with the AirBnB prices and locations, and hopefully we’ll be impressed with what we actually get! Overall, the average cost per night is about $86 for the two of us, or about $43 per person! That’s about the same price I paid for hostel beds last year! I’m very happy with that.

The rental car will be paid upon arrival, but I was happy with that price too! I think it’s โ‚ฌ215 for 4 days (though we’ll likely return after 3), and all of the insurances are included. We’ll just have to pay gas and tolls. We’re picking it up in Zagreb, going down the coast for a few days, then coming back up to Zagreb to return the car the day before our flight home, which is out of Zagreb.

We’re very excited. It hardly seems real so far, and I’m still adding to the savings pot (about $1500 left to my trip savings goal of $8000), but having all of that already taken care of, and knowing I can pay for it now instead of paying interest on it for 6 months, is a major relief! Phew!!

Now for learning some key phrases in a few languages, and figuring out the must-sees… ๐Ÿ˜Š One of my favourite parts of travelling!

Closing In On Loan #2

For the past few months, since the summer spending was quelled, I’ve managed to put $2279.50 on my last student loan. That’s $1879.50 more than my automatic $200 monthly payments. Significant progress!

The loan is now down to $1675.00, and I plan to have it at $0 by the end of this month! That’s crazy exciting. It would only be possible by keeping my personal spending to a minimum, and taking extra work to boost my hours… so I’ll be travelling a great deal this month (three times!) to the prairies – BRRRRR!!!!! That also serves to help keep my own spending down since I won’t have time for anything but work! ๐Ÿ˜„

I’m doubly glad to be rid of this student loan… let’s see… 49 months (~4 years!) ahead of schedule, since it means I can start paying my Dad back waaaaayyyyy sooner than expected, and I can also contribute more to my/our trip savings each month as well.

All of this basically means that I’ve been keeping my own fun to a minimum, spending time at home with the boys on my days off, with my credit cards safely tucked away in my wallet. That’s ok with me though. It’s self-induced house arrest, and it’s not so bad. Netflix, cat snuggles, snacks, and endless hours of crunching numbers to make sure my goal is attainable/practical. My idea of a good time! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Joe: “You have a good day?
Me: “Yeah!”
Joe: “What did you do?”
Me: “Spreadsheets. Math.”
Joe: “Sounds about right.”



How could you not want to hang with these bros? โค๏ธ

Re-evaluating Internet โ€œNeedsโ€

Do we even need 120 Mbps?

What IS 120 Mbps?

Like, what speed do I need just to watch Netflix?

Turns out, 120 Mbps is really fast, and Netflix only requires like… 10-20 Mbps.

Our internet bill snuck up by $3 again on us, and was costing us $96 each month for 120 Mbps, which we never even questioned. When I called and complained about the sneaky increase, they said โ€œit was mentioned on your bill, the month before the increase.โ€ 

Who even reads the bill?! As long as the amount is the same in the statement email I get, I donโ€™t need to log into my account and open the bill. So how would I know about the increase? 

They didnโ€™t see it that way.

So we switched to a discount provider, and reduced our internet speed to around 20 Mbps. Now weโ€™ll pay $55 per month instead of $96, and we notice absolutely no change in our internet experience (including Netflix). 

There was a significant activation cost and the cost of the equipment (~$150 total), but we didnโ€™t have to make an appointment and arrange to be home during a large window of time so someone could plug something in. Everything was mailed to us, I set it up and got connected within about 5 mins. Pretty slick. 

As Dad would say โ€œgiddy-up!โ€

Due to the up-front costs, the switch wonโ€™t actually save us any money for a few months, but after that it will save us about $500 each year! 

If all that you use the internet for is emailing (aka repeatedly unsubscribing from newsletters), Googling weird medical symptoms (๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿป) just to learn that youโ€™re probably dying, and Netflix binging of Forensic Files, you should definitely be looking into what speed youโ€™re paying for, and searching out discount providers. I wish Iโ€™d known sooner!

Now I can Google symptoms, delete annoying emails, and learn that there is no such thing as a perfect murder… all for about $40 less per month. Bliss! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Little Surprises

Earlier in the summer, I purchased a 4-month pass for my favourite fitness studio in the city, which is also the only “gym” that does kettlebell, TRX and barre classes (although I think Goodlife does TRX, but the boot camps cost extra).

I got pretty good use out of my pass (which even discounted, still worked out to about $100/mo), though of course with work travel, some weeks I couldn’t make it. Fortunately, I have the next couple weeks either free (vacation time) or all of my work is local so my days are a bit more open. So I booked a class at the studio nearly every day! My pass expires Oct. 5th, so I was going to get as much out of it as I could before then. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford the regular priced passes after that.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, all of the studio’s members received an email. Due to an out-of-the-blue and not at all sustainable rent increase, they were going to close… effective Monday morning. So.. that was it for my classes! ๐Ÿ™

Mega sadness. Not just for my lost $ and the loss of my favourite classes, but also sadness for the owner, who is a very passionate and energetic entrepreneur and instructor. I can’t imagine how she’s feeling after such a blow.

But now I was at a loss… what to do? I mean, I can always run. That’s free! So is yoga at home. But I can never really get my ass kicked during a home workout. Either I take it too easy on myself, or I’m incredibly bored. Like, “when is this freakin’ video over so these people will shut up” kind of bored. Haha!

So a) I needed to find a way to do kettlebells at home, because I actually quite like those workouts, and no other gym around here does those classes.

and b) I needed to find a place that would kick my ass. One that was fun, but would leave me feeling totally wiped.

finally c) I refuse to join a meat-factory (aka Goodlife, Fit4Less or really the “classic” gym). There is too much to choose from, and no matter what you choose to do when you go… it feels like someone is judging your choice, or leering at you. No thanks. Been there, done that.

And of course, bonus criteria d) it’s close enough to walk, bike or drive to!

I began my search online for a fitness studio in or around Bedford. The only one that SEEMED like maybe it would fit all of the criteria, was a 5 minute drive away.

30 Minute Hit. A women’s only boxing/kickboxing gym.


Is that something I could do/that I would like? I didn’t know. But it checked all the boxes!

It promised to kick my ass, it isn’t a meat-factory, it’s close, and it has locations across Canada that any member can use! Great for me while travelling!

No kettlebells, but I solved that problem on my own (I went and negotiated for affordable – ergonomic! – kettlebells at the Fitness Depot on Akerley). Major win.


The boxing gym offers a free trial, during which one of the trainers leads you through the circuit, showing you all the moves at each station and trying to kill you encouraging you to give it 150% at each one. So I went to try it out. If I liked it, I’d see if it fit in my budget.

Yesterday, I made my way there for the trial. Extra bonus: it has an actual parking lot. That’s fantastic. No more struggling to find a meter downtown!

The trainer greeted me, got me to read and sign a waiver, showed me the check-in process and then we got going. I put on boxing gloves.

I don’t know why. But I’ve always secretly wanted to learn how to box. No idea why. Probably saw a movie when I was a kid that planted that seed. But I’ve never actually hit anyone. This was a totally novel experience! ๐Ÿ˜œย 

So I was a little giddy when I put on the gloves.

We got started with jabs, then kicks, then crunches, then hooks, roundhouse kicks, more crunches, uppercuts, and then “knees-to-the-groin” (the first of a series of self-defense moves that followed). Then we got into self-defense for two stations. Kicks from the ground, then locking an assailant on top of you and alternating between kicking him/the bag in the kidneys and punching the crap out of him/the bag. Hahahahaha. I really enjoyed this one! The last station, you go into the middle of the room for 2 minutes with Bob, the rubber dummy. I tried my damnedest to knock that guy over, but no success this time. His platform did lift a couple inches though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

(I gave Bob a hug afterward. He’s very supportive).

All in all, I had the most fun I’ve ever had during a workout. I was never bored, and I rarely glanced at the clock. I didn’t even make a fool of myself with my amateur boxing skills! I like that I kicked my own ass, felt the lactic acid burning with 15 seconds to go at each station, and smiled the entire time! The trainer, bless her, said “for a non-violent person, you seem to really enjoy punching the crap out of things!” ๐Ÿ˜‚

I was probably imagining everyone who ever cut me off in traffic.

I knew before I even stepped off the floor to talk “terms and conditions” that this was my kind of gym. Today, I am sore in the best way. Muscles I have obviously never used before are calling out to me every time I stand up.

When I got home, I opened up my budgeting spreadsheet to see if I could make it work, and it looks like I can, even during a slow work month. Also, now that the heat of summer is nearly gone, I can run again (I am not a hot-weather gal). I can do non-cardio resistance with the kettlebells at home, and then I can go to 30 Minute Hit and beat the s*** out of Bob. I can’t wait! ๐Ÿ˜„

Europe Trip 2018 – Planning Stage 1

Skyscanner App – my fav for comparing/tracking flights!

As I’ve mentioned in a few posts already, Joe and I are planning a 3-week (I campaigned for 1 month, but he has confirmed 3 weeks is the max he can leave work) vacation to Europe in May 2018.

I love planning pretty much anything, so the planning responsibilities rest with me. Joe has made his wishes clear. So I’m planning the trip to fit both of our wants.

For him:

  • He wants to spend some time at a beach, or many beaches. The man loves sand.
  • He wants to try as much different coffee as possible.
  • He wants to AirBnB (which I’ve never done before).
  • His must-sees: Amsterdam, Bruges (Belgium) and Prague.

For me:

  • Amsterdam, Brussels, and Slovenia are cities/countries I want to see.
  • I am happy hostelling, and when you’re solo or with a friend the dorm rooms are usually the cheapest accommodation around. BUT since it’ll be Joe and I, we’d want a private room (rather than be separated into male and female dorms, or separated into two bunk beds! Hahaha). Alas, private hostel rooms are similar in price to an AirBnB, so AirBnB it is!
  • I don’t care about the beach, I’m all about lakes, mountains, amazing scenery, old cities, architecture, history, etc. But hey, I’ll take a beach too! ๐Ÿ˜›

So, seeing as how beaches aren’t too plentiful in the cities he listed (or it’ll be too cold in May for that), I added Croatia to the list. It’s just below Slovenia, with beautiful historic cities, and beaches galore. Win-win-win!

Therefore, the plan is:

Itinerary (subject to change :P)

  1. Halifax to Amsterdam (flight)
  2. Amsterdam to Brussels (train/bus) – with a day trip to, or overnight stay in, Bruges
  3. Brussels to Prague (cheap flight)
  4. Prague to Ljubljana, Slovenia (flight or train) – with a day trip by bus to Bled & Bohinj from Ljubljana
  5. Ljubljana to Dubrovnik, Croatia (cheap flight)
  6. Dubrovnik to Halifax (kicking and screaming flight)


About $8000 total, or $4000 each. That includes all flights, meals, accommodations, etc. The calculations done to get this number are extensive, but when all was said and done, this is pretty much exactly what I spent on 3 weeks in Europe last year. We’ll be hitting up cheaper countries, but with a lot more bus/train/air travel to get around, so it should be roughly the same.

Right now: we have $4000 saved

Ahem, and that would be MY $4000 hahahaha! But I’ll save Joe’s too, since he can’t right now. I know future Joe is good for it. Besides, if I depend on him to save his half, and he can’t, then I’ll have to go without him! Booooo. ๐Ÿ˜‰


I’ve looked at AirBnBs in each city, and there are really good rates! Better than a private hostel room, sometimes! I like the idea of AirBnBs, because we can buy cheap, local food when we arrive (enough eggs, bread, cheese for each morning) and cook breakfast/relax in the mornings before venturing out. Joe is a sleeper-inner… so I don’t imagine our mornings will be very productive.

That being said, I’m ANTSY in the morning, even at home. No doubt I’ll be off exploring for a couple hours while he rests, and bringing home coffee to wave under his nose! Hahahaha

(I already do that at home, actually… works like a charm).


Since flights within Europe are relatively cheap and simple to book, I’m only going to look at booking the flights to and from Halifax for now. Right now the tickets (Halifax to Amsterdam and Dubrovnik to Halifax) per person are about $1400 total, and I know they’ll likely get cheaper if I just remain patient and wait another 2 months or so… Penny and I saw that happen last year. We got our tickets (Halifax -> Iceland -> Stockholm, then Copenhagen -> Halifax) for a total of $997 each, which we thought was AMAZING, and it STILL dropped about 200-300 each by mid-fall.

So, I may have to duct-tape my hands and freeze my credit card in a block of ice until then… I just gotta hold on two months!!! Torture. ๐Ÿ˜›

Handling Expenses

Speaking of credit cards, while Penny and I were travelling last May, she had a card that had no foreign exchange fees which she used for all of our train tickets, bus tickets and any other big expenses (so when I paid her back, overall we each got a good deal). I didn’t really think much of it at the time, as I wasn’t overly shocked by any of the amounts on my credit card statement. The fees can’t be that high? But as I researched for this trip, and remembered her card, I looked into credit cards with no annual fee and no foreign exchange (FX) transaction fees. Turns out there are only 2 in Canada!!! Geez.

So, I applied and got approved for one of them, the Rogers Platinum Mastercard (I know, Rogers has a bank?? Surprised me too). This card still charges a 2.5% FX transaction fee like most other cards, BUT gives you 4% cash-back on all purchases in foreign currency. So you essentially are rebated that 2.5%, plus get another 1.5% in cash-back. It also gives you 1.5% or 1.75% (can’t remember) cash-back on any purchases in CAD. It does show an annual fee, but the first year is always waived and then subsequent years may be waived if you put pre-authorized payments on the card. Overall, it’s a sweet deal and has received some glowing reviews. I don’t plan on using it at home for day-to-day purchases, as I’m wary of Rogers Bank, but I’ll keep it for Europe and use it to book accommodations beforehand (in whatever the local currency is, if possible), within-Europe flights, food, etc. That will be extra convenient since all trip expenses (except the two big flights) will be on ONE totally separate card, and I can view/add up everything on one statement.

Another benefit of a card that rewards you for purchases made in the local currency while abroad – is that some places can/will add any old exchange fee onto your purchase if you ask them to charge your card in your home currency. So if you have a card that rewards you for charging purchases in the local currency, you have all the more reason to ask that they charge the card in their currency. You avoid potential scams in that regard, and you get some cash back. Bonus!

But why wouldn’t I put the major flights on this card? Well, because this card is essentially free and has great cash-back incentives, it can’t really afford to also offer you travel insurance, cancellation insurance or basically any travel perks whatsoever. If anything were to happen, and you need to access travel insurance/make a claim, you have to have bought the tickets with the credit card that has the insurance benefits associated with it.

So, I’ll be using the most insurance-laden card for the flights (right now that’s the CU card that I’m still waiting for, though I no longer really want, but it actually has amazing travel benefits… so… we’ll see), and any other travel-related expenses (especially in foreign currency) will be on the Rogers card.

Sigh. My whole adult life, I’ve only ever had one credit card at a time. Now I feel like a crazy person, applying for different cards for each facet of my life. Heavens to Betsy. Here’s hoping it actually does help me stay more organized!

General Excitement Level

Currently: Moderately High, peaking in the hours I’m home alone perusing AirBnBs and obsessing over flight prices.

Lingering stressor: what to do about the CATS?!?

Are you in the planning stages of a major trip? What parts of planning do you stress over or dread? What aspects of planning a trip do you looooove? 

There’s Always the Mattress

I decided to cut ties with RBC last year, on ethical grounds, after being a customer with them for over 10 years. I switched pretty effortlessly to PC Financial, opening up chequing, savings, and TFSA accounts, as well as getting a credit card with them.

All was well!

Then PCF announced that the debit portion of the business was being taken over/taken back by CIBC, under the new name “Simplii Financial” and the credit card would remain under PCF. Essentially splitting my business between two different companies. I am also not a fan of the new name “Simplii”. It sounds idiotic, and looks illiterate. Maybe it will be great! But there is not much information on it right now. If I’m patient (which I’m not), and wait until November to see what it’s all about, perhaps it will be exactly the same as my PCF chequing/savings now. Perhaps it won’t.

So, admittedly on impulse, as soon as this information was sent out to PCF clients (which also includes Joe), I went in search of a replacement that met both ethical and affordability standards. I soon found myself signing up with our nearby credit union, which is somewhat affordable, but as Joe has started calling it… “clunky”.

Everything. Takes. So. Long!!

For me, that’s unacceptable. I deposited my first cheque into my CU account about 9 business days ago… and it’s still being held. Mercy.

I applied for a credit card with them… which was not at all a user-friendly process, and took forever, and they didn’t even understand which card I wanted, even though it’s right there on their website. *insert major eye-roll here* Once we got that sorted, it’s still going to be another 7-10 days for it to arrive. Probably around the same time my funds are released into my account…

So… even though it will probably cause my credit score to take a hit… I’m already searching for a replacement bank for my replacement bank!

We’ve looked at the EQ bank website (didn’t like the ‘no debit card’ idea), I’ve checked out what BMO has to offer, found myself perusing ol’ RBC again (I know. I KNOW!), but I think we’ve finally settled on Tangerine. Even though their parent bank is Scotiabank, which is not innocent in its investment choices… unfortunately, they just have what I want.

Sanity trumps idealism, I suppose.

Joe said, “you can make up for it by donating to causes that fight against what the bank invests in”. I suppose he’s right. Yep, I put that in writing. Joe is right! ๐Ÿ˜€

What I like about Tangerine:

  1. No fees for unlimited transactions
  2. Lower Interacยฎ e-Transfer fee than both of my current banks
  3. The nearest ABM is very convenient to our apartment
  4. First book of cheques is free (for those times when you need a void one, or when you forget that your RMT doesn’t accept debit :P)
  5. Competitive interest rates
  6. Multiple different investment, financing and savings products (aka opportunities to keep banking with them as our income, needs and family expand)
  7. Great customer service (any time I’ve called to ask questions, I’m pretty sure I’ve spoken to the exact same dude, who is very helpful)
  8. Lastly… beautiful branding and an intuitive website! That matters to me. It’s not the most important thing, but if the app/website is an eyesore or slow or hard to use… (*cough* CU *cough*), I’m not going to trust it, or want to use it, and I’m going to get frustrated.

What I don’t like about them: owned by Scotiabank. :/

I’ll wait until I get things sorted with the CU though before making the leap. Of course, I’ve already submitted all of my payroll changes to work. ERGH. So I have to undo that mess. I’m just trying to decide if I keep my CU account open until I open a Tangerine account and then update my info then? Or update it now to my old bank info, then close CU account, THEN update payroll again to new Tangerine info.

Oh my lordie. What a pain in the arse.

Of course, I’m also still waiting on my CU credit card to arrive… which I suppose I’ll cancel without bothering to activate it and hopefully avoid paying the annual fee (only $35 anyway). The Tangerine credit card is free, with cash-back rewards and purchase protection. Simple. I like that.

So that’s it. That’s where I’m at. A member at 2 (soon to be 3) banking institutions, one of which is slow as molasses, one of which will soon have a stupid name, and one of which is great but as of November will only provide credit cards. So annoying.

On the bright side, being in credit card limbo means debit only for personal expenses which means… very few personal expenses. So I’m saving money, while trying to decide where is best to keep my money.

And as Joe pointed out today, if I’m just not satisfied with any of the banks, “there’s always the mattress”. Haha. So true. Hopefully it won’t get that bad!