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This is a storytelling space that focuses on documenting life experiences, ranging from motherhood, to travelling, and every inspirational idea in between.

Finance

Tips and Apps to Help You Shop Savvy

Sultana Patail

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In an age of the sharing community and social media, it's easier than ever to creatively save while you shop. Whether it's consignment shopping, buying secondhand, or using trading apps, you can make purchases without breaking the bank.

Consignment Shopping

Before buying that cute summer dress, why not dig into your own closet first to see what you can sell? That's precisely the concept behind consignment shopping—give a little to get a little. These stores will buy your gently used clothing and accessories, which will put a bit of extra cash in your pocket, or let you shop from their selection at a fraction of retail cost. In most cases, you can get back about 25% of your original purchase price. It's also best to do your research online before taking your goods in, because some of these stores can be very specific with the brands they'll buy.

"They were quite selective. They only took about 2 pairs of shoes and 5 articles of clothing of my 3 full bags," says frequent consignment shopper Annastasia Liu of her experience at a Toronto store. "They'll make an offer based on how much they can resell the items for. Typically I'll get back around 25%. I bought things from their store with my cash back. The quality was good and the prices were great—some still had the price tags on."

Secondhand

Buying secondhand from thrift stores can save you a bundle, and often items are as good as new. Reusing gently used goods and valuing what we already have instead of throwing things away is good for the environment, in addition to our wallets. Shoppers will find anything from 50 cent books to $5 dresses, and anything in between.

"The best thing I ever got was a perfectly fitting $8 dress. Aside from the savings, the real added value is the uniqueness. You'll never find the same thing twice," explains Armida Ascano, who's found a few secondhand gems.

Trading Apps

Other trendy money-saving options include trading apps, which take money out of the equation altogether. The concept behind an app such as Bunz is akin to a bartering system, in which you post items you no longer need online and try to trade them for something of equal value.

This method is unique as it doesn't involve any money. For instance, you may trade something as big as a couch for a table, or something as small as bus tokens for dish soap. These apps offer a sense of shared community: users create a forum for conversation, helping one another find what they're in search of. Also, no money changes hands, and with any luck, two people will both walk away with something they need.

Whichever method you chose, we hope these ideas help you stay savvy while you shop!

How to Enjoy a Zero Budget Birthday

Sultana Patail

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There's nothing better than receiving presents on your birthday – except receiving them for free! So what better way to spend your special day than to pamper yourself with a day of birthday freebies? Between loyalty programs, gift cards, and special birthday promos, it's easy to plan. All you need is a bit of research and saving. Take it from birthday budgeting expert, Lorita Ho, Tangerine's own Content Marketing and Design Specialist.

Saving Gift Cards for a Spending Spree

A few years ago, Lorita decided to do something different for her birthday. Realizing she had several gift cards set aside and a few loyalty cards un-stamped, she thought "why not put these toward a gift card spending spree day?" And that's exactly what she did.

Compiling all of her gift cards and certificates, Lorita set out on her day of pampering. She started her day by treating herself to a decadent Starbucks® breakfast, followed by a soothing full body massage. After her relaxing morning, lunch was on Tim Hortons®, followed by her favourite – a mango slush bubble tea – courtesy of an old loyalty card on its 10th stamp.

Having enjoyed a morning of relaxation and food, it was on to shopping! Any girl with a Sephora® membership knows that a birthday means a special birthday gift. Lorita was no exception. She ended up getting her free gift and buying a cute ring. In her specific case, she had also scored a few gift cards for Apple® and Holt Renfrew®, helping her to walk away with an iMac Pro® and an adorable purse! Finally, she ended off her day with dinner and dessert, compliments of her family and friends.

Finding the Right Birthday Deals

Lorita's story is one way to spend a relaxing birthday at zero cost. But what if you don't have 10 gift cards saved up? There are many companies that believe in celebrating your birthday. It's just a matter of finding the right deals for you.

Feed your inner foodie with restaurants that offer meals when you sign up for their newsletters or loyalty programs. Better yet, scour your city for places that promote buy-one-get-one deals and celebrate with a friend! Food not your thing? Try retailers that treat you with a complimentary birthday gift or discount when you join their membership. Whatever your indulgence is, there are many opportunities to take advantage of to help you enjoy your special day.

Whether you have gift cards saved for a rainy day, or you love to find deals in your city, you can definitely get creative when it comes to celebrating your birthday without breaking the bank. Take a page from Lorita's budgeting book and spend this birthday pampering yourself for free!

How I Saved by De-Cluttering My Life

Sultana Patail

In a generation bombarded by viral videos and followers, the line between our wants and needs often becomes blurred. Over time, the dialogue has changed from "I need a phone for emergencies" to "I have to get the iPhone 7®, in rose gold."

With advancements in technology and shifts in culture, this progression is inevitable. However, for some it's also a source of unhappiness. Whether it's a phone, a house, or filling that house, we seem to be constantly trying to "keep up with the Joneses." In doing so, we're incurring more debt and clutter in our lives. As a result, a search for simplicity has sparked what's known as the "minimalist movement."

Living with What You Need

Stemming from Japanese culture, the concept of a minimalist lifestyle is to live only with what you need. For some this may be as bare bones as a cup, plate, and spoon in their kitchen cupboard, while for others it may be a full library and wardrobe. It's not necessarily about throwing out everything in your life, but rather, consuming only what you need.

In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, author Marie Kondo popularizes the notion of ridding yourself of items in your closet that don't bring you joy. Similarly, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is a film that inspects the lives of people who are undertaking the practice and how it's brought them a sense of peace and happiness.

Why De-Clutter?

So what's the point of the minimalist movement? What am I achieving by throwing out that old comfy sweater from 2005? On the surface, it may seem as though you're just cleaning up. But what you're actually doing is de-cluttering your life, keeping only those things you actually use.

This in turn creates a positive ripple effect. As you lighten your load, you'll be able to find your things more easily, which saves time and energy. Instead of searching through 20 mediocre outfits for 10 minutes, you can quickly choose one that you really like in no time. As this becomes routine, you might find yourself with an extra 10 minutes in your mornings. Pretty soon you'll find that every item you own falls into its own place and has its own purpose. As you find a purpose for each of your belongings, you may begin to value them more. And in valuing what you have, you may start to realize that you can live with less, which means you'll also spend less.

Less is More, As it's Often Said

In a consumerist society, a simplistic lifestyle can seem challenging at first. It's difficult to let go of the instant gratification we get from buying into the latest craze. But once you see the rewards — more time, increased energy, a satisfying inner peace, and less debt — it may seem worthwhile to give it a try.

A couple's dream of homeownership on a freelancer's income

Sultana Patail

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For many, the importance of homeownership has been passed down from previous generations. We follow suit by working hard at our 9-to-5 jobs and saving for our 20% down payment.

But times are changing, and so is the workforce landscape. Some of us no longer work the standard 40 hours per week. In 2015, over 2.75 million Canadians were self-employed. This may mean more hours and more money, but it also means inconsistency and instability of income. That can be an issue when you're trying to arrange financing for a home purchase.

House hunting

In July 2015, when Kiran Singh and Michelle Wong Ken began house hunting, they were like many other couples. They had been married for a year, were expecting their first baby, and had saved enough to make an offer on their first home. Michelle worked as a full-time environmental planner. Kiran, on the other hand, freelanced as a television and movie production coordinator. While Michelle had a steady salary and a T4 slip to present to their mortgage broker, Kiran worked on various projects for uncertain time periods throughout the year.

“My contracts technically say I'm employed weekly, so there's no guarantee of how long I'll be working," said Kiran. "They wanted 3 years of work history, letters of employment, and notices of assessment. I was one of the lucky ones because my project lasted from January to September 2015."

The curveball

Kiran felt fairly confident because he had been in the industry for several years, and he knew his project would last the majority of the year. What he didn't know was that he had to be employed at the time of closing.

“The person making $60,000 annually looks much more attractive to the lender than the freelancer making $80,000 over the course of 3 months," he said. "I thought the ultimate goal was proving how much I made. I didn't realize I had to actually be employed at the time of closing."

Once they understood this, they had to speed up their process, as Kiran knew his project would be wrapping up in September and his next one wouldn't begin until November.

Final purchase

They ended up being approved for $700,000 on a two bedroom, fully detached house in Toronto's East End. However, had they known the pitfalls around homebuying as a freelancer, they would have avoided the tight, two-week deadline to close the deal, which found them spending a little over budget.

Being rushed into such an important decision wasn't something they wanted when purchasing their first home.

Lessons for others

The couple suggests these tips for those in similar positions:

1. Have all of your financial paperwork and tax information readily available. Lenders will want to see your history for 3 consecutive years or more

2. Pay off any debt, and save for as much of a down payment as you can

3. Plan ahead. If you know you'll be purchasing a home, take on contracts over a long time frame or around the time you wish to purchase, to ensure stability and positive cash flow

Tips for parents-to-be on buying your baby's essentials

Sultana Patail

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So, you're having a baby—congratulations! Now the fun begins, with cribs, strollers and sleepers to buy. Where do you even start? First time bundles of joy can be overwhelming, so here are some essentials for any new parents out there.

1. Assess your situation

Before the unsolicited advice begins rolling in and you start looking at $500 gliders, you should start by assessing your situation. What's your budget? Allocate money to the big ticket necessities first, such as a stroller and crib, and then work your way down. What type of space are you in, a four bedroom house or a shoebox condo? If you're tight on space, look for collapsible items, such as bouncers and bathtubs, that can be stored in closets or under couches and beds. Do you have anyone in your circle of family/friends with babies? They can be a great source of hand-me-down clothes. You may not have the answers to all of these questions, but the more blanks you fill in beforehand, the easier it will be to plan. There's a lot of marketing directed at expecting parents, so it's easy to go overboard buying things that may not be needed.

2. Research

One of the first things you'll learn when you become a parent is that everyone has an opinion!"Oh my God, are you using a crib bumper? Don't you know that contributes to SIDS?" or "You're not using cloth diapers? Don't you care about the environment?" It can be easy to get caught up in the opinions of the world. Before you invest your money, do your research through your own selected sources. Weigh the pros and cons of things that matter to you, and don't be scared to have your own opinion. Are you more comfortable with disposable diapers? Can your schedule accommodate the demands of breastfeeding? Do what works for you, so that you feel justified in spending your money wisely.

3. Test items

When baby comes home, the last thing you'll want to do is worry about returning things. Avoid this by going in person to test out items, as opposed to relying solely on online reviews. Important items to test are baby carriers, car seats and strollers. Many stores will let you try on carriers or feel the weight of car seats. Test products to ensure that you find the ones that are most comfortable and ergonomically correct for you.

4. Buy secondhand

We know you just adore that brand new matching crib set, but there are a lot of things that can be bought secondhand. You can find great deals on gently used baby gear online. Search buy and trade websites and apps such as Kijiji®VarageSale, or Facebook mom groups®. Not only will you meet other parents in your community, but you'll often save a bundle and items are usually as good as new. An important tip when searching for secondhand gear is to check the manufacturing year. Many big ticket items such as cribs and strollers have a five-year lifespan before they're legally outdated. If you plan on shopping for a used car seat, exercise caution and consult the Federal Government's tips for buying second-hand car seats.