Monthly Archives: April 2011

Stay-cation Recap

(Photo source)

You may remember in my budget for March and April, I set aside $300 for a mini-vacation for BF and I.  Well, we finally got around to taking that vacation a few weekends back.  At the last minute, we turned it into a staycation, and we couldn’t have been happier :).

A Sneak Peak at What we did

The weekend we stayed in the City was beautiful.  Warm, and sunny.  Just like how spring should be!  We spread out some blankets on his amazing deck, soaked in the sun and drank some beer.  I also attempted the newspaper’s crossword and Sodoku (my latest obsession).  It was the perfect mini picnic.

Food

We had the perfect pizza at a little Italian pizzeria in Little Italy.  If you’re ever in the City, please check out this Cafe/Pizzeria.  The food was simple and yummy.  It’s not fancy, but being inside made me feel like I was in a little cafe in Europe.

We discovered a new breakfast place in the Market.  This lovely crepe place had delicious crepe and coffee.  It was perfect for a rainy day.  Then, we curled up on the couch and watched way too much television.  We also made some delicious sandwiches – avocado and jelapeno Havarti, anyone?

On Monday, our last day, we went for a walk and practiced some volleyball at the park.  It felt so weird to be out and about when “everyone” was working.  It reminded me of this post from Millionaire Mommy Next Door, of when Jen and her husband discovered they were millionaires, and they took a walk in the park while all their neighbors were working.

Then, BF and I ended off our staycation with a wonderful meal at our favourite Thai restaurant.  Of course, I had to snap a few pictures to capture the moment.

Spending Recap

BF and I usually take turns paying, so this is just my portion of it.  I think we split things pretty 50/50.  I spent $131 that weekend on food.

Thoughts

This staycation worked well for us, because BF and I were able to spend time doing stuff with each other instead of driving a few hours each way.  We also spent our money on food, food and more food, instead of accommodation, rental car, gas and food.  I would still like to take a cabin adventure vacation, one day, but this staycation was pretty fun and more budget friendly. 🙂

Have you done a staycation before?  What did you end up doing? 

Cheers,


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$2.50 for 411

Last week, my co-workers and I decided to try a new lunch place.  But since we weren’t sure of exactly where it was, she suggested I try calling 411 on cell phone.  I asked her if it cost money, and her reply was, “Yea, but like $0.25.  I use it all the time and it’s great!”

Side note: 411 is like a talking phonebook service where you can call in looking for a business, and they direct you to a number.  

Fast forward to this week when I got my phonebill.   My cell phone usually comes to about $40 (including everything), so you can imagine my surprise when my bill was higher than expected.  It turns out that the 411 call I made cost me $2.50 plus tax!

Holy moly.

I didn’t want to sound like a complete cheapskate, but I also found it a bit alarming that my co-worker has been using this service for however long without realizing how much it was costing her.

Do you check your bills for everything?  Have you had any similar “surprises” that has happened to you?

Cheers,


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Link Love

Some of my favourite posts  🙂

Life

Personal Finance

  • Should you close your Mint Account?  Money Sense thinks so.  Giving your information to third party data aggregators (such as Mint), may leave your account security in peril.
  • Cooking Schedules and Budgetting.  Jen talks about how she cooks all her groceries right when she gets home.  This is what I do on any given Sunday night.  Batch cooking for the week 😉
  • The Dark Side of Giving shared by Frugal Dad.  I totally agree that some gifts just come with a very long string attached.  It’s why I was determined to pay for my own education.
  • 12 Ways you are Wasting Money on your Car by Gail.  I was really inspired by #10 since I am one of those people who don’t turn on my A/C in the summers.  Time to think twice about that!

Minimalism

Fashion

  • Prom Make-up by Jen from From Head to Toe.  I love her make-up tutorials (though, I have yet to try one!).  I definitely did anywhere near this good for my prom.  Though my (little) sister did curl my hair and apply my make-up.
  • Playing with Colours by Wendy’s Lookbook.  Have I mentioned how much I love this girl’s blog?!  She writes a very touching piece about re-uniting with her little brother after they were separated as kids through foster care.
  • Crochet Lookbook by Extra Petite.  Love this dress on her, and love this girl’s style!  I gotta get myself one of them yellow belts – maybe that will help me be more stylish 😉

Other

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Rogers Sucks

For the longest time in Canada, there were only two major providers for wireless services – Rogers and Bell.  Until only recently, smaller wireless service providers, such as Wind Mobile, Public Mobile and Mobilicity were not available, and there was an oligopoly of outrageous wireless bills but nothing we could do about it.

Like most people, I have a 3-year contract with Rogers to get a better deal on a plan.  My contract is up in a few months, and after my last experience with customer service, you can bet your last loonie that I will be forking my money over to someone else.

Here’s why.

Last week, I get an e-mail notification from Rogers informing me my bill is due, and the amount in which it was due.  Since it was over my usual amount, I wanted to see what charges I got dinged for (this time).

I log into “myRogers” account, and (poof!) there is no information on my profile.  Usually, I see a little picture of my (dumb)phone, and pretty bar charts of how many daytime minutes/text messages I have left.  This time, there was nothing – nada.

However, there was a nice message at the side, informing me that I have not signed up for a “myRogers” account, or my profile was been deleted and I was to call Customer care at 1-888-blahblah, e-mail them at blahblah@rogers.com.

And hence, my journey through customer service hell begins. 

1. Called Customer Care at 1-888-blahblah

This number takes me to an automated machine which tells me that I should call 1-800-Rogers1, if I want to speak to a representative regarding my bill.  Or I can chat with a representative at http://www.rogershelp.com/chat.

Customer service chat?  No thanks.

2. Called 1-800-Rogers1

After being put on hold for 5 minutes, I reiterate my story of losing my profile information.  I want to know why my information is gone and where it is.

The representative I speak to says they can’t help me because it’s an “internet” problem.  They tell me to call the 1-888-blahblah, their customer service line for “internet” stuff.  I inform them that I called that number and it told me to call this number.

The representative says they can’t help me and suggested I live-chat (ummm, is there any other way to chat?!) using their live chat customer service.  They give me the link for live chat.

3. Chat with “Tony”

“Tony” has a bunch of pre-written text that he just seemed to copy and paste.

And the best part?  Tony can’t help me, because I need to live-chat with a representative who deals with the “internet” stuff – he just deals with the wireless stuff.  He sends me to another link for live-chatting.

Great.  See below for a screen shot of our chat.  It’s a whole lot of BS and waste of my time.

4.  Write an email to blahblah@rogers.com

While I was in queue for live chatting with the representative who does the “internet” stuff, I write an email to Rogers asking about my profile and why it was deleted, where it went, and how I can get it back.

I got this response.

Of course.  Go live chat with the call centre from a third world country, because Rogers couldn’t care less.

5.  Live chat with “Tracy N.”

Finally, after waiting in queue after 3 people (and sending off my e-mail), I get to live chat to Tracy.

Turns out that is was glitch.  She suggested I try another browser (I was using IE), and it worked.

Eureka.  After going through 5 people, I finally get my answer.

Conclusion

Rogers, you suckered me for 3 wholes years.  No more.  After my contract is up, you’re not seeing this girl again!  And I am never recommending this service, EVER.

From my knowledge, it should take no more than TWO transfers to get the user to the right representative.  This is a huge fail for Rogers.  Despite it being a “tiny” problem that was easily fixed.

Does anyone have recommendations for other wireless carriers out there?  I’m esspecially interested in the smaller carriers.  Please share in the comments 🙂  Thanks!

Cheers,

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Link Love

Some of my favourite posts  🙂

Life

  • MoneyRabbit talks about how 381 square feet helped her re-evaluate her decision on a condominium investment and her relationship with her now ex.  (You go, girl!)
  • Laura’s story brough tears to my eyes of her struggles and how much she loved her son.
  • How Women and Men see Colours shared by Geek in Heels.
  • I’m the Girl… by Girl and City.  I’m also the girl who devoured books like candy when I was in elementary school – it’s probably why I wear glasses and have no cavities 😉

Personal Finance

  • SingleMomRichMom talks about her journey and how she was able to get to where she is today.  What a story, check her out!
  • Frugal Dad shared 25 Things his Grandparents Lived Without (and we probably could, too!).  I really agree with tanning beds and GPS.  Even though I am horrible with directions, a map is really all I need!  He also brings up a good point about student loans.

Minimalism

Fashion

  • These Italian Cruise outfits are making me drool.  I am going to try to recreate as many of these outfits as I can with my own wardrobe!
  • This Milly Piped Trench is to die for!  I think the Milly one is way nicer than the LookforLess.
  • Katie Holmes looked gorgeous in this polka dot dress with jean jacket and red pumps.  I’m stealing this look, also.  As soon as I get my grubby hands on those three items 🙂
  • Wendy shares the work behind her awesome 25 ways to wear a scarf video.  I’m loving her blog and her lovely pictures!  There is actually only 24 ways (repeat of infinity knot), but it’s an amazing video.
  • Natural Look Lesson by Suzie Wuzie.  She takes us through step by step of the products that she learned at a make-up class to look natural.

Food

Other

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My Car Free Life (so far)

The last 3 months I have been living a car free life.  I first explored the cost of owning a car when my parents needed their car back.

Since giving my parent’s back their car in early January, I’ve been taking public transportation or walking for all my usual tasks, which include:

  • Getting to and from work;
  • Getting to and from volleyball games
  • Grocery shopping;
  • Visiting BF downtown; and
  • Visiting my parents out in the suburbs.

I also car pooled (read: got rides) from friends to the nearest subway stops or to my destination (if it was along their way), whenever it was convenient for them.

Thoughts on Being Car Free

Perhaps I could have picked a better season to dive into this “car free” business, but life happens :).

Initially, I dreaded the thought of walking to and from the bus, and sit through traffic as the bus stopped at every. single. stop.  Or I would dread when I missed a bus/train and trigger the domino effect or messing up the meticulous planned travel itinerary.  But it wasn’t that bad!

Sure, there was that 3.5 hour commute from Hamilton to Toronto on a Sunday after a no-show city bus, which lead to me missing the GO train (domino effect in full effect here).

30 minutes to work

On average, I took about 30 minutes to get to work, including walking to and from the bus stop (about 700m).  The bus comes pretty often during rush hour, most of the time, and the bus ride itself is only about 20 minutes.

On the other hand, if I were to drive, I would take about 15 minutes.  In the winter, it would take  me an extra 5 minutes to clean off all the snow from the car, so this is definitely a win.

Planning Ahead

If I was going to volleyball after work, I would have need to make sure I packed my gym clothes.  If I was going to stay at BF’s that night, I make sure I bring an extra lunch for the next day.  If I was expecting to stay late, I try to bring a dinner, as well.

I’ve learned to pack a small make-up bag, and usually have that in my purse, just in case.

Sometimes, I find it overwhelming, having to think 2 – 4 days in advance and plan what  what I need to bring with me.  But, things have worked out pretty well, so far.

It’s Less Flexible Getting Around

I admit, it has been tedious getting to volleyball (50 min bus commute vs 25 min drive), and even more tedious getting to see my folks in the suburbs (2 hr bus commute vs 40 min drive).  Pain. Ful.

Instead of just picking something up on my way home, I either pick up my groceries on weekends or at the corner Italian grocery store.  Since I don’t have a Metro pass (I use tokens), it would cost me two fares to make a stop.

Conclusion

Living a car-free life is certainly do-able, especially in the city – and even where I live – at the outskirts.  Especially in the summers, walking and busing can be supplemented with biking for more exercise.   Living car-free requires planning, exercise and being patient.

Having said all that, I do miss having a car.  But even though I miss it, I have also accepted it and learned to deal with it.

If there was an opportunity where I can have a free car…  well, that’s a post for another day. 😉

What are your thoughts on being car-free?  What did you miss most about not having a car?

Cheers,


Photograph source

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Review: Pure and Simple Spa

Disclosure:  I was not endorsed or compensated by Pure and Simple for this review.  I decided to do this review to share with my readers my experience, which I paid for entirely.  These are my honest opinions.

Pure and Simple is a spa based in the Toronto area and specializes in facials using holistic treatments and natural products.

I first found out about this spa from reading Fabulously Broke’s review of her experience.  If you haven’t already checked her out, you gotta get over there (after this post 🙂 )!

I have never had a facial before.

My skin had also been acting up in the last few months.  My face felt really oily in the middle of the day, and I was breaking out more.  I was also interested in using more natural and holistic methods to treat and repair my skin.  And I was interested in how Pure and Simple could help me.

The Consultation

Prior to going for my first facial, I booked a complimentary consultation at the Yorkville location.  The consultation consisted of meeting with an aesthetician who asked me a few questions, and looked at my skin under a bright light.   She asked me how I was feeling, how I take care of my skin –  including what products I used.

She diagnosed my skin as dehydrated and “congested” around my t-zone area.  She said the dehydration in my skin was causing it to produce more oils, and I was in some dire need of extractions (of old and current blacks heads).

She recommended the “Clear Complexion” facial for me, but told me that if that wasn’t in my budget, even any facial would be better than nothing.  She recommended that I may need at least 3 facials to get my skin re-balanced and that I should be using natural moisturizers (and serums) as they are less irritating on the skin.

I took her advice and booked the Clear Complexion facial.

The Environment

The main foyer had all their skin care products and make-up lined up on shelves and along the walls.  The staff were very knowledgeable and samples were available for most of their products.

The spa spanned several split stories, and the room I was in was in for the facial was in the basement.  When I went in for my facial, they brought me to a clean, dimly lit room.  They had nice heavy blankets and soothing music playing which helped to relax me.  They also had all their products lined up along the counter top.

The Clear Complexion Facial

According to their website, this facial:

Specially designed to help achieve radiant complexions, this facial purifies skin leaving it clear, hydrated + glowing. A combination of intense natural peels as well as the LED light, will help clear skin, revealing its natural beauty. This facial also includes a scalp, decollete + arm massage.

Before the aesthetician started on my facial, she warned me that this facial would not be very relaxing, but it would yield results.  So that’s what I concentrated on.

My facial started off with the aesthetician cleaning my face and using the lactic acid peel. Then came the extractions – and there was a lot of them.

There was a brief sea salt microdermabrasion where she went once over my entire face.  The microdermabrasion felt like sand paper with a small vacuum at end, and

Then approximately 30 minutes of LED lights.  The aesthetician explained the blue lights were to kill bacteria, the red lights  and green lights were to help with scaring and pigmentation.  At this time, they also gave me a nice arm and head massage that felt amazing. 

After the lights, I also got a complimentary moisture mask because my aesthetician said that I really needed it! 🙂

At the end of my facial, I was afraid of looking in the mirror because I thought my skin might be all blotchy from the extractions, but this wasn’t the case.  My skin just looked really shiny from all the moisturizing goodness they put on it.

I asked my aesthetician how often I should have these facials, and she said that I needed them more often at the beginning of my treatment to repair my skin, and after that I can just come in for “maintenance” facials – pending I am properly caring for my skin.   She recommended a facial every 2 weeks to start, and then every month thereafter.

Products

The products my aesthetician recommended for me were the ones that she used on me during the treatment.

  • Lactic acid exfoiliator
  • Mild wash (so not to dry my skin)
  • Collagen serum (to seal in moisture right after I wash my face)
  • Blue Mud Mask Moisturizer (for acne prone skin)
  • Physical sunscreen SPF30

I was overwhelmed by the list of products they recommended to me, both during my consultation and after my facial. Although, they did not pressure me to buy anything, I think that it would have been more helpful had they only recommended the top 2 or 3 products.

They did provide me with samples of the mild wash, collagen serum and the blue mud mask to try.

Cost

My Clear Complexion facial costs $149 before tax for a single visit.  Pure and Simple also offers 3-pack, 5-pack and 10-pack facials and that brings the average cost of each facial down.  I decided to buy a 5-pack of the Clear Complexion facial.

From surveying my friends and colleagues, this is not outrageous for a facial, though it is on the higher end of the spectrum.   Personally, I would rather pay a bit more for a good facial from knowledgeable professionals.

The spa also called me back about 4 days after my visit to check on how my skin was doing.  I was really impressed with this part of the service.

Conclusion

Four days later, and my skin has healed from the acne and damage I had right before the facial.  I’ve also noticed there is an improvement in my skin’s pigmentation.  I’ve had a few post facial break outs – and it’s a little annoying, but I’m not sure if this is expected.

I’ve been using the sample products religiously for almost a week now.  And I find that my skin is less oily and more moisturized (I love the way that blue mud mask lotion smells).

Note: I will be researching on the products I am sampling and figure out if it  purchase.  I already use a light cleanser – SpectroJel, and I have been faithfully using my moisturizer (Marcelle) for years.  I will do another post on this.

I would  definitely be going back for a few more treatments.  I think that  my skin needs a few treatments before I can go into “maintenance” mode, however,  I thought that my aesthetician’s recommendation for facial frequency was too frequent for my budget (and schedule).  For me, I would start with a facial every month, and then ease off to about 4 to 6 facials a year.

Recommendation

I would recommend that anyone with a bit of wiggle room in their budget, and would like to try a more holistic approach to skin care with give Pure and Simple a try.

Additional Resources

I also found some great information from their website while I was browsing around for pictures to include in this post.  They also had a book which was available at their spa locations, in addition to the condensed forms of information online.   I really enjoyed reading about acne here.

I hope this was helpful for my Toronto readers.  Please feel free to share your recommendations or thoughts in the comments of what you’d like to see in my reviews.

Cheers,

All photographs are from the Pure and Simple website (or taken by me).

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Link Love

I’ve been bad at posting links, but I wanted to share some of my favourite posts this week 🙂

Life

Personal Finance

  • Personal Finance is Personal
    Amber at Blonde and Balanced talks about how she plans to let her fiance take care of the nitty gritty budgetting stuff.

Minimalism

  • Minimalism Quotes
    Becoming Minimalist has some great quotes about minimalism spanning several centuries.  One of my favourites,  “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
  • Simplify Your Life Series
    The Everyday Minimalist has a great series on how to simplify your life, from your wardobe to office to home.

Fashion

  • Thrift Shopping Tips
    The Little Dust Princess shares some great tips for thrift shopping.
  • Funny April Fool’s peculiar blogger
    Extra Petite and her boyfriend are too cute and funny.
  • Life Lessons from the shortest kid in class Alterations Needed shares some lessons from being the shortest kid in class.  Reminds me of my childhood.  Sitting in the front row (always!) for class pictures.  Standing the front row for choir.
  • Striped dress
    I love stripes, and love how chic this short dress looks.

Food

Career

  • Emails that are too long
    Zen Habits says that if we can’t say what we need to in five sentences or less, the message is too long and not clear.

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April Budget and Goal Recap

I’m going to try posting my budget and set new goals at the beginning of every month and see how I do at the end of the month.

Budget

This month won’t be under $1,000 and it won’t be a frugal month.  Though, it will be fabulous 😉  I’ve got volleyball fee’s, possibly a weekend trip with BF, a new hair cut and my first (in 3 years) facial .  Did I also mention it’s also my birthday this month? So, I get to indulge a little.

March Goals Recap

  • Send in my taxes (I’m done my taxes, just waiting for my forms to come in) – Check! (Return $1,676:D)
  • Complete my reference forms for professional designation. – Fail
  • Incorporate more legumes in my diet. – Check! (Made lentils)
  • Cook quinoa. – Check!
  • Exercise 2 times a week in addition to volleyball. – Fail (I have been walking a lot more, though…)

I kept thinking that I failed majorly in my goals, since I hadn’t written my reference letter for my professional designation.  I’m glad I actually checked what my goals were, because I was able to check some off and that felt really good.  Note to self – must focus on the whole picture, not just my failures 🙂

I’m so glad that April is FINALLY here.  (I know I said the same thing last month about March).  It’s just that in April, I finally allow myself to be hopeful that winter is finally gone.  No more taunting us with a warm day, then a snow storm the next.  (I’m looking at you, March!)

Even though I said that I was looking forward to biking to work, the lack of a car has really taken a toll on me.  It’s tough getting to and from volleyball (I always have to plan in advance), and getting to visit my parents is brutal (2hours each way vs 40 minute drive).

April Goals

  • Eat fruits daily
  • Complete my reference forms for professional designation
  • Start studying for GMAT
  • Write a letter to HR to promote car sharing

How is your budget and goal(s) looking for April?  And are you looking forward to spring as much as me?

Cheers,

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Shopping Ban: March Success… sorta

This year, I decided to embark on a self-imposed shopping ban.  You can read more details about it here, and hereand my January update here.  To sum it up, no shopping for clothes, jewelry and make-up for a whole year.  I am allowed 3 exceptions, including a pair of black boots, an iTouch, and a winter jacket.  This challenge is to help me shop my own closet, and be more creative with making items, and re-using items.  I am also allowed to shop at thrift stores with my “reward” money ($25) for staying within my $1,000 monthly budget.  This is my monthly update.

Ladies, this was a sort-of-success!  I stayed away from malls – except to get my co-worker a gift where I almost fell prey to temptation.

I also bought a dutch oven pot (I’ve always wanted one!  And it was on sale $99.99 $34.99), and some organizing boxes for my room, closet and cupboard.  I felt like this was kinda cheating, especially when my sister called me out on it, “Frugirl, who is the one on a shopping ban??”

I’ve also compiled a list of shopping banners, to keep one another motivated.  I’ll link to them in this post, and if you’d like, send me your updates and I can link there here, as well!

And Rosie from Financially Fabulous just completed self-imposed shopping ban!  Good for her! 🙂

Please let me know if I’ve missed anyone, or if you’d like to be added to the list!  Just send me an e-mail or leave a comment.

Cheers,

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