Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frugal Weekend

Well, maybe not so much as the Hubs did some last minute "supply getting" for the Relay For Life which included a bunch of stuff I would never buy. But such is life sometimes. We had a great time on Friday! Then yesterday I took all the kids to a movie and we watched the UFC pay per view at my sister's place with most of the family {we are such rednecks LOL}. And now today the Hubs wants to car shop and we have a birthday party. Such a full weekend! So when you have a weekend like this when do you fit in last minute shopping for the birthday present? I don't. And that's the frugal tip I have for you today.

I don't shop just to shop. That can get you into a lot of trouble. But when I am out on my weekly missions I do keep my eyes open for anything I can stow away in the "Gift Closet". I have a cold storage room in my house and I reserve some of the highest shelves for extra things I pick up through the year. This actually serves 2 direct purposes. 1) It eliminates the last minute over-spend when you are faced with "That party is today???" and 2) it really helps around Christmas time with staying on budget. So throughout the year I watch the flyer sales. It has to be really, really on sale for me to pick it up but when I do find some good scores it always gives me a sense of satisfaction! For instance, I was at Toys R Us the other day for one item. I can't just browse in that store LOL I have to go in with a plan or I bust the bank! On my quest for the one item I saw a large bin with 50% off all ages and types of ColorWonders. THAT is a great deal. So I got one for each of the kids including nieces and nephews. That's half their Christmas gift right there! Woo Hoo!
Other ways I augment the gift closet is by re-gifting. Yes, I do this but in a tasteful, considerate way. The only way a gift to us makes it into the gift closet is if we already have that item (I almost never return items to the store in this case) or if it is not age appropriate for my kids and will take far too long for them to grow into it to be worth saving. A good example is this past Christmas my 5 year old got this really cool juggling set. It wasn't your conventional juggling. It was metal balls attached to the ends of colourful strings and you swung the balls around and around in different patterns. There was even an instructional DVD and glow in the dark strings. It was a really neat set, no kidding. But more appropriate for a teenage only child. Could you imagine if I let the 5 year old open that? It would be an instant concussion for the 2 year old. I am just looking into the future here people. So when your kids are opening gifts, don't let them take them out of the package unless you are sure this is something you want in your home. On that same note the 2 year old received a set of Little Tikes toys that we happen to already have. I love Little Tikes, they are fabulously durable and well worth the money! So I tucked that away in the gift closet and will be thrilled to give it to another little munchkin somewhere down the line. And not all the gifts I set aside from my kids birthdays and Christmases are given away to other people. How many gifts do your children receive? And how many do they actually play with at once? Kids will inevitably cling to one or 2 of their immediate faves and that's that. So I gather up the others to be pulled out on the next rainy/snowy day. "Remember? Grandma gave you this for your birthday!" And all of a sudden a toy that probably would have gotten lost at the bottom of the toy box has become a new favourite and will get far more use. It's all about thinking ahead. As I've said before, ongoing instant gratification is NOT a good thing. If something is worth having, it is worth working for. And the same goes for our kids. One of the biggest mistakes we could make as aspiring frugal parents these days is teaching our children that instant gratification is normal. Especially in this "All about me" generation. It's the little steps that make a big difference.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A little last minute effort

If you are a long time reader you may remember our dear friends the Thiele family: Back in the Spring of 2007 their darling oldest daughter Emily was diagnosed with cancer. You can read all the blog posts under the archive label "Emily" starting with THIS ONE. We prayed hard for this little angel and she beat the crap of that cancer!
That was at age 3 1/2 and now she is turning 7 this summer! God is good! Emily has decided to take on the Relay for Life along with her family and she is doing an excellent job raising support. She has a large goal in mind all on her own...but she isn't there quite yet. She has been canvasing and has a page on the relay website. My family is of course part of the "One KIDney Wonder" team and we would so appreciate your support. We will be joined by Emily's BFF Jenna and her family as well. Who just happen to be our BFFs too.

Aren't they adorable? Inseparable. The walk is on Friday and we want Emily to reach her goal!!! If you feel moved to help us bump up Emily's amount of support please visit this link. There is a "Make a donation" button right under the picture by the goal thermometer. It's as easy as 1-2-3. Thank-you so much for the prayers and good wishes for Emily throughout her battle. Now she wants to help others! GO EMILY GO!!! xox

A scrapbook page? Shut UP!

I have been working my way through a 100 project pledge. My friend Barb suggested it {did you get it from another blog Barb?} and I thought why not? Commit to doing 100 projects before purchasing any amount of new scrapbooking supplies. Except adhesive of course. And the Tim Holtz die I already had on order at the LSS. If it's already on order, consider it bought. LOL I've been plugging away at it pretty well I think. This layout makes me happy because it's dedicated to the simple things I love. Cloth diapers. My clothesline in the summer. And I love teal felt. Everything just works for me! Are you overrun by your stash of scrapbooking goodness? Do a little purging and a little scrapping and you'd be surprised how refreshing it can be! I won't post all 100 projects here...but I am well past 20. Think I can pull off 80 or so more by Christmas? 2010 is the year of the 100 project pledge. 2011 brings a 365 project a la Jenn over at Aspergertopia and Karen of KAGS life. What inspirational gals!!! What are your goals this year?

Friday, May 21, 2010

No matter how frugal you are...sometimes you just can't avoid it.

This edition of Frugal Friday is dedicated to those *wonderful services that you can't live without and only use in emergency type situations.

*And by wonderful I of course mean annoying, dishonest, highway robbery types of things.

No, this was not my originial Frugal Friday post for today. Was it spurred by an incident? Why of course it was. After the school assembly this morning I was wrestling the small one into his seat {it has been quite a wrestle lately} with my keys in my hand. I must have hit the button by accident {and not heard the beep due to the screeching} because I got him in, threw my purse and keys on the front seat, shut both doors and went to get in on my side...CRAP! Totally locked everything in. Keys, cell phone, toddler. Everything. In that second a wave of panic comes on. My only frugal tip here is to take a breath and calm down. What are your options? Where are you? Far from home? Do you have a spare set of keys? Anyone you can call to help you? Quickly review all the free options in your head and execute your plan of action. My plan of action consisted of my Hubs being out of town and nobody having a spare key to my house which is 5 minutes from the school. Sigh. I ran into the school to call a tow truck. The dispatcher said it would be not even 10 minutes {I was a tad agitated by then and was blunt. If you can't get here NOW don't bother as I had a baby in the van}. She assured me they would be quick. Over 15 minutes later this dude comes rolling up and sloooowly gets out of his truck. Are you kidding me? By this time my little man is screaming blue bloody murder even with me making goofy faces at him which 10 minutes ago was making him laugh. I politely made the impatient face {can you do that politely?} and he got on with business. All of 23 seconds later the van was open. And then I braced myself, for I knew what was coming. That will be $36.75. Wow. I am certainly in the wrong darn business. I knew it wouldn't be cheap. I knew it would make me mad. Maybe if the dude looked like this:
it would have been a little easier to handle. So I already have steam coming out of my ears as I hand him my credit card and he has the audacity to say "If you have cash I could cut you a deal." Oh have no idea what you just did. You just annoyed the dragon. And you are crunchy and delicious with ketchup. Don't rob me blind {Completely a dishonest business practise if you ask me} and then on top of it try to get me to actually break the law and rip off the company you work for. I gave him a firm set down about what I thought of that and he quickly did up the paperwork.
Now don't get me wrong...I am not a person who thinks every service in the world should be free. People have businesses...they need to make money. I am all for that. But what I am against is the type of services who prey on people's desperation. I dsperately needed to get my son out of a locked van. $36.75. You desperately need to fix your vehicle so you can get to work. It goes on the 12% credit card. You desperately need your pay cheque early so you can feed your children. Pay day loan places charge as much as 30% interest {or more}. Some things we can't avoid. Break downs, furnace issues, etc. But we can try to be smart about them. If you find a cycle of these things happening, try to break that cycle of paying more than you have to. Ask yourself "Is this really an emergency or do I just think it's an emergency? Baby locked in van...emergency. Furnace explodes in the middle of winter...emergency. Sally's birthday party isn't big enough, let's rent a band...not an emergency. New scrapbook supplies...not an emergency. Do you see where I am going with this? There is a definite line between needs and wants and we have to be honest with ourselves. Institute one or two frugal tips per week to stretch those actual pay cheque dollars so you don't have to go for that payday loan. Take $20 per cheque and put it away so you have a small fund set aside for emergencies. Ideally, you should be saving 10% of your wage for such emergencies. But really, when you are starting out to try to get things on track $20 is plenty. You won't miss it. Because really, don't we spend $20 per cheque on silly things you can't even remember the next week? Yes we do. So beat yourself to the punch and put it away before you give it to Starbucks. You'll thank me for it later.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vay-cay the frugal way

I don't really consider summer "vacation time" but to the majority of people it is. I like to have my off time when it is freakiin' cold here and I can go somewhere like...oh, I don't know...Jamaica. That was my fave spot so far. Breathtaking. And warm. LOL Now that's what I am talking about. But this is Frugal Friday so you know where I am going with this.

First things first: Ask yourself "Can we afford this?" Now don't close your eyes, put your hands over your ears and start singing row row row your boat. We are all adults here and believe it or not, vacations are a luxury not a right. I know, hurts to hear doesn't it? Vay-cay time is here and you have planned an amazing trip so go on and ask yourself that big question. Come on, you'll feel better afterwards...can you really afford it? No? Then it's a good thing you are here! Vacations should never be taken on the credit card. Ever. Honestly, do you really want to be paying it off a year or two down the road? And with the interest, instead of costing you $3000 it costs you more like $4200 depending on your rate. That's where that whole instant gratification thing comes in and it can get us into a lot of trouble. So whether you are craving a hot sunny beach, a long roadtrip across the border or a quick weekend at the lake here are a few hints and tips to get you started within your own realistic budget.

Overseas excursions

*The internet is a wonderful resource for trips like this. My first stop is always to check out the reviews of different places before I choose. Then when I sort of have in my head where we want to go, I give Dawna a call at Yes, that was a shameless plug but that lady seriously knows what it means when I say budget. You wouldn't believe the last deal we got to Mexico. Wow. In short...research, research, research. Going by the seat of your pants can be very expensive in a foreign country. Now, I am talking familiarize yourself with the area and what you want to do. Don't go buying everything up on the internet. Which leads me to my second point.

*Isn't it enough that you are in a beautiful location with delicious food, fabulous entertainment, a warm beach and great company? Do you really have to swim with the dolphins? Go ziplining in the jungle? Drink all day on a catamaran with a bunch of strangers? I'm not saying don't have fun. But choose your fun wisely. And in all our travels I have learned a valuable piece of advice: ask the locals. If you are bent on going scuba diving, horseback riding, whatever, we have found it's cheaper to ask around in town before committing to anything. And don't fall for all the excursions the reps try to sell you the morning after you arrive. I listen politely, smile, put my sunglasses back on and saunter out the door after the meeting is over. My beach chair is lonely.

*If you do an all inclusive, stick to the resort when eating. You've already paid for it so why go somewhere else? And lots of places have so many restaurants to choose from you can't possibly get bored.

*Take advantage of each and every single thing your resort has to offer. City tours? I am in! Spanish lessons? Si, por favor! Dancing? Let's cut up that rug baby! See what I mean? You can make your own all inclusive fun.

So enough about that...because we are talking frugal holidays here. How about roadtrips? The lake? Camping? What do you like to do? I've done it all and loooove it all! I am a traveller through and through. Let's start with the fabulous:

cross-country roadtrip

*Probably better when your kids are older and can appreciate all the interesting stops. What interesting stops you ask? Oh, I hope you googled your map before you left! Your fun here relies on research {is there a theme happening?} If you map out your route ahead of time and check out the spots along the way you will be fully prepared with a long list of free to cheap fun to keep your vacation rockin'! Check out local points of interest, parks, recreation sites, pools, museums, etc. It doesn't always have to be the huge touristy spots that are the most fun. And you know they are usually the most expensive.

*Bring on the food! Restaurants every meal, every day can blow your budget faster than a diamond tennis bracelet. But there are grocery stores everywhere. Plan a few special meals out at restaurants and come on people...get interesting! Don't go to the same old thing you can find at home. Then for other "on the road" meals make sandwiches, cut up some fruit, veggies and dip and good old fashioned jerky will keep your crew happy! A plug-in cooler for your vehicle is a very sound investment. Watch the flyers for sales at this time of year, they are worth their weight in gold.

*If you are travelling in the USA, be careful where you buy gas. They actually have competition there! I know, shocking isn't it? You can find gas at one price and then 2 blocks down it will be a few cents cheaper.

*A well tuned car is a happy car. It will be cheaper for you in the long run if you are nice to your vehicle and get it looked at before you leave. Get an all points inspection, oil change, fluids topped up, etc. These services don't have to be expensive though so make sure you are well aware of what you are getting for a set price before you commit to anything.

What about the shorter roadtrips? A weekend at the lake isn't expensive, is it? Wrong. A weekend at the lake can break your bank if you are not careful. So let's talk

camping, cabins and the lake

*Research. Again with the research! But really, it's the best way to get the best deal. If you aren't a roughin' it type of family be realistic about things. Don't decide that this year is the year you teach your teenagers how to camp and go clean out Canadian Tire. Be honest with yourself about what will be fun for your family. But then also be realistic about your bank account. Renting a cabin can get pricier than a resort hotel without the all inclusive meals! Be sure you know the reputation of the site, what it includes, what you need to bring {some places require you to bring everything but the kitchen sink. Even your own toilet paper. Be careful!} and at what price before you sign on the dotted line. This is where it pays to know people. Ask around and see if someone is willing to lend out their cabin. Ask, ask, ask.

*There are some wonderful out of the way campsites in our fair province. It just takes a little {say it with me now} research. Camping rates can vary by a lot. And it's no fun taking your little ones for a quiet weekend at the lake when there are a bunch of partying teenagers 2 sites down ripping up the campground on ATVs. Ask a bunch of questions of the site manager. If they are not helpful, they obviously don't want your business that badly.

*Friends and family are a wonderful resource. Have they been anywhere good lately? Did they like it? What were the pros? The cons? Would they go back? Keep in mind that places often up their prices yearly so don't rely on Uncle Buck's price quote from 1997. Hop on the computer or get on that phone. Many places have comprehensive websites with virtual tours and everything.

*So you've decided on a campground. Do you have tents? A trailer? What are your sleeping arrangements? Is it fully equipped for the needs of your family? And now the big question: Where to park yourselves? Over the years I have learned a number of great tips when at campgrounds. And again, it all comes down to grilling the manager upon booking. {People love me, can't you tell?} Are there any large groups there that weekend? You want to be far away from that. Where are the bathrooms? Are there pay showers? Where are the outhouses? {Being parked next to an outhouse in +30 weather=well, you can do that math}, is it a long walk to the beach? Does it even have a beach? Study the map and choose the best parking spot for you.

*Here is the most important phrase I will teach you. "Do you have any discounts or specials?" Don't be embarrassed to ask. Ask. Ask some more! "We are a family on a budget, do you think you can do better than that price?" Prices are rarely set. Hotels are famous for this. For our mini honeymoon right after our wedding we went to Edmonton and stayed in 2 different rooms at the FantasyLand hotel over 3 nights. For around $180. Not a night. Total. We went from Tuesday to Friday and even got a bunch of passes and coupons thrown in for free. All I had to do was ask.

*Spend a little to save a little. Often there are sports teams or other charities who sell coupon books for your area. They are anywhere from $25-$50 and are an excellent investment for some good summer fun. But of course buyer beware...flip through it before you purchase it! Lots of 2 for 1 dinners and passes that can be used on your vacation.

*Keep in mind vacations do NOT have to break your budget or be very far away. There are campgrounds within the city limits {I like Holiday Park} with fab golf courses. Do you enjoy the links? Book a room for 2 nights during the week {discount!} and play a round, see a show or hit a pool. It's still a vacation. You don't have to take out the garbage, make the beds or answer the phone!

*For a fun, silly little getaway trade houses with a good friend across town or in a different town. Have you heard of those trading holidays? Check out the movie The Holiday. You can google this topic all over the place. There are whole websites dedicated to people trying to find others to trade with. I don't know how I would feel about strangers staying in my house but wouldn't it be a fun project with the kids to set up like a little bed and breakfast with mints on the pillows and swap houses with your friends for a night or two? It's practically free but still out of the ordinary!

What I am saying here in my loooong rambling is that we need to rewire our brains about what defines a "vacation". Ask questions, find the deals. If you are dedicated to saving money and getting yourself out of any debt you may be in, it's important to be realistic about what you are able to spend. No need to keep up with the Jones'. They are probably drowning in debt and you just don't know it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Everything but the sink

I am armpit deep in scrapbook projects that I can't post here just yet. But what I will post is a fabulous little find I came across while junking last weekend. I loooove junking. Not just for the frugal aspect {yes, I check garage sales before purchasing certain items} but for the chance that you might come across something mighty fine. I love me some vintage stuff. Anything really. Paper ephemera, old hats, shoes, really old magazines, you name it, I love it. So in my travels last weekend my friend Saucy had me on the look out for watches. All kinds of watches. So she could make THIS. Isn't it fabulous? Saucy can pull off some pretty amazing pieces of jewellery. It's just a Saucy thing. So this year she has inspired me to be more accessorized. Which really just means I am trying to wear earrings every day. LOL But I am working on it. I came across a bag of about half a dozen watches for $2 and bought them up for Saucy. But when I got them home, I decided {and the Hubs ordered me} to keep one of them for myself. It just caught my eye. And if there is one thing Saucy has taught me it's to always keep something if it catches your eye! So here is one of my sweeter junking finds in the last few weeks.

It needs to be cleaned up before wearing but I love it. And I basically paid a quarter for it. Do you like to junk? Share your good finds here!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Don't save it all...but a few things help

A Frugal Friday on thriftiness...or better yet, "How thrifty should I be?" My Grandmother who I miss dearly always had a rubber band around her wrist and a tissue in her sleeve. She saved everything from bread tabs and twist ties to each and every dry heel of bread to put in the paperbag under the cupboard for her delicious stuffing at Thanksgiving. She was a waste not want not kind of lady. But how much is too much? I try so hard to be reasonable about the things I save. Yes, you could use that rubber band again but do you really need 11,675 of them? Yes, that re-sealable bag has a lot of life left in it but if you can't cram it in the drawer is it really worth finding them a new home just to store more? And the big one...Yes, you could probably use that on a scrapbook page some day but really...are you actually going to do it? The answer to all three of these questions {no matter what} is a resounding NO! Let's expand on the last one with a few frugal tips I use myself. I keep one medium sized bin of "ephemra" and if it gets too full, well, I just have to prioritize. I also started looking at my stash with an opened eye wondering what I could re-purpose or start to make on my own. You know Mod Podge? It's watered down white glue. {Thanks Sasha!} There was a time when I asked myself if I really needed to keep spending the money on my yearly membership at my local scrapbook store. I wasn't shopping there all that much anymore {trying to use my stash!} and it was $28. That's a haircut. So I was seriously considering letting it expire when a friend showed up on my doorstep with an armload of cardboard. If you think the two are not related, you apparently aren't a scrapbooker. One of my fave embellishments is chipboard. It comes in all shapes and sizes, colours and finishes and will cost you a pretty penny. And a HUGE dent was made in my budget purchasing said chipboard. Oh how I love it so. But if you want to go the frugal route, you can start saving the cardboard you come across in your daily life like cereal boxes, the packages enlarged photos come in, calendars {thanks Barb!} and the like. With a little imagination, some paint, ink and glossy accents and a $28 yearly membership at Just Scrap It I turn all that scrap cardboard into anything my heart desires. They have a very large selection of diecuts there and let me tell ya if they don't have it, you don't need it. I think over the last few years there has only been once that they didn't have the shape I was looking for. That's worth the price of admission right there! So skip all the over priced pieces of chipboard. Scout around, you just might have some sitting in your recycling bin waiting to be transformed!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Usually I'm not this much of a nerd

I have many friends saying this to me today...LOL Reason for nerdiness: I {heart} Daughtry. I've been a fan since his very first audition on American Idol! They will be here in town on the 14th and I am SO DYING TO MEET THEM that I have put myself into a radio contest on Facebook. Oh the shame, I know. LOL It's so funny reading all the stuff on the C95 page. So, if you want to enable my nerdiness, go to the C95 page on Facebook HERE. "Like" them and then write on the wall that Kate Kading sent you!

So this is Cary Howe from C95. The man with the power. Send him an e-mail at and tell him how crazy I am!

Maybe I should scrapbook something for Cary the DJ. You think that would get me any closer? :0)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Let's leave John Hancock out of this

Frugal Friday...finally! I scrapbooked tonight trying to slide some last minute stuff in for the Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine call for Fall. It was worth being late for the whole blogging thing.

So let's talk about your John Hancock. Not into obscure references to politicians past? This is the post where I harass you about fees and tell you not to rush into contracts. We live in such an advanced age that really, you don't need to sign your life away anymore even if that's what the companies want us to do. If you are trying to get your budget under control, the worst {and I mean WORST} thing you can do to yourself is get into a lengthy contract no matter how inexpensive you think the payments are. Cell phones, gyms, cable, vehicles, you name it...there is a contract for it. Usually they are taking advantage of people with less than glamorous credit by making them commit to a year {or 2 or 6} of payments right up front. So as a frugal gal, I am telling you to STOP SIGNING FOR STUFF. If you need a cell phone, get a pay as you go. Yes, in the long run they are more expensive per minute of talk...I've crunched those numbers. But if you are rearranging your finances and need to cut back for now, the pay as you go {of course paired with limiting your talk} is the path to take. And on that same topic...don't get sucked into the cycle of constantly upgrading your phone because the company gives it to you for free if you sign another contract. I have a great cell phone story. And must post a photo because you won't believe me until you see it. I have had the same cell phone package for a little over 10 years. Nope, not kidding. And I've had the same cell phone {yes, the very same one} for about 8. Years. Yup, you read that right. I love technology but the only reason I have a cell at all is for emergencies. So I can call the Hubs if I get a flat tire. So my son's school can always reach me. So my Hubs can keep track of me when I am out of town. So I can call my girls when I find an amazing sale. My cell has saved me many, many times. But let's face it, I am not Ivana Trump. I don't need to be that hooked up all the time. I am a SAHM who does not need to check Facebook while in line at the grocery store. And I'm pretty sure I won't die if I don't receive my e-mail the second it is sent to me. Even though I have complained many times about "The shoe" {it's as big as my hand} has served me well and I have saved money sticking with what I have. But Kate, strangers make fun of you when they see it. Friends snicker when it rings. People have asked you {more than once} "Your house phone works this far away from it's base?!" And I take all the ribbing with good humour because of one thing and one thing only: I am billed month to month {no contract} and by the second people. Nobody has that's all by the minute now. This is the reason I have not changed my package. Oh sure, my company tries to entice me to change all the time with new "Free" phones, offering me a bunch of free minutes on a new package, even going so far as to send me personally addressed letters in the mail explaining all the wonderful technology I am missing out on. They will do anything to get me to change because I pay $30 per month (including all fees, taxes, etc) for 150 anytime minutes and I am billed by the second. It's sweet. And I have only ever gone over my minutes twice. Once the month I got married and once the month my sister got married. That's it. And they hate me for it. LOL So analyze your use, is your large package really that vital? Is your fancy phone all it's cracked up to be? If you are trying to cut some corners this is a great place to start.

Gym? I touched on that yesterday and highly suggest you ask around to see if they have a babysitting program you could volunteer for. Works for me. Or check out your local community association classes that are held in neighbourhood school gyms. Waaaay cheaper! Right in my area there are aerobics and Step classes!

Vehicles...don't even get me started here. Now there are certainly situations where your need for something far outweighs the best possible scenario for purchase. We've all been there. However, don't let that warp your belief of what you are actually in need of. If you are having a baby and want to get something bigger than your Civic Hatchback there probably isn't a huge need to jump right into a Cadillac Escalade with the pimped out rims. Catch my drift? This falls under the category of just because you can doesn't mean you should. The banks and finance places want to lend you lots of money. The longer it takes you to pay it back, the fatter their pockets get due to those two wonderful words: Interest and Late Fees. Ok, so that's 3 words.

This all goes together with things like overdraft protection. They call it protection...but what it really is is a chance to take a bit more money from you. This is something I learned the hard way. Going into overdraft is like bouncing a get in less trouble but end up paying way more. When we moved up North our finances were screwed up for the better part of 4 months waiting for reimbursement. I thought overdraft was my friend, "protecting" us when we were a tad short for a day or two. We'd be in OD for a few days, get out then the next week slide back in. What I didn't realize was those nifty little "NSF-$25" charges coming out of my account. YIKES! There was one month I paid $75 in fees because of going in and out of overdraft so many times right around my billing date. It was nasty so I started asking questions. Believe me...overdraft is not your friend...knowledge is your friend. Ask your bank about different accounts and packages and what is right for you.

One last point...don't get caught up in the cycle of late fees and collection charges. And gym memberships are a great example here. When you let something lapse or are consistently late there are extra charges involved. And at the time you think "Well, it's only $1.25" Let's say you are late with 2 seperate bill payments per month for a year. Quick math...{oh who am I kidding, I used a calculator} you just wasted yourself $30. $2.50 in late charges every month x 12 months. $30 pays for a haircut, dinner out, a movie night or if you want to hit a little harder on the heart it pays for a box of diapers, a whole lot of baby food or could be put away towards some other big event your little one had her heart set on. It all adds up. So leave John Hancock out of it for a while and see how frugal you can be.